Happy countries

The the first ever United Nations World Happiness Report, commissioned for the April 2nd United Nations Conference on Happiness (mandated by the UN General Assembly) ranked Denmark at the top of the happiness scale, ahead of Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada.

At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial. On the social level, political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption were important factors in predicting happiness.

Now one should always be careful to draw rash conclusions, but it does give us some food for thought… It’s obvious is that being especially poor or religious does not get you to the top of this list. The top 10 happiest nations are all wealthy and pretty much a bunch of heathens (and relative to the USA which is not in the top 10, the same holds for Canada). In the words of John Lennon: “Imagine all the people…”

Top 10 happiest nations on the planet:

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Netherlands
5. Canada
6. Switzerland
7. Sweden
8. New Zealand
9. Australia
10. Ireland

This report reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness and absence of misery as criteria for government policy.
Do you think happiness (as measured in this report) is important? Do you think this kind of research is important? I do.

[This article has since been updated to incorporate information from user comments]

Yesterday morning I was shocked to hear about the attack by Israel on the Mavi Marmara, a civilian ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. In the ensuing bloodbath 10 civilians were killed by Israeli special forces. All over the web it was reported that the ship was attacked in international waters. This is a crucially important and surprising fragment of information, but is reported widely enough to be credible: use of the term “international waters” occur on the sites of the New York Timespravda.ru, Asia Times Online, The Guardian, the Washington Post, to name a few.

Map showing the interception site, which lies about 150km offshore.

To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare. This seems like a really stupid thing for Israel to do. Even if you discount the morality (or lack thereof) of attacking an aid convoy, surely they risk the wrath of the world for flouting international law? Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, is on record calling this incident “tantamount to banditry and piracy; it is murder conducted by a state.”

But where are these “international waters” which Israel violated, exactly? I googled it, and it is surprisingly hard to find a good definition. Wikipedia has a nice article and coloured world map showing international waters (a.k.a. the High Seas). International water (where no country has any claim whatsoever) generally starts 200 nautical miles (370 km) offshore, but the Mavi Marmara seem to have been intercepted a mere 150km offshore (falling in Israel’s exclusive economic zone)

International waters (blue), according to Wikipedia

According to this map there are no international waters in the Mediterranean Sea! Every square inch of it seems to belong the the surrounding coastal states.

But where are the International waters where Israel stormed the ship? Turns out this map doesn't show the whole truth - see below.

So, if there are no international water in the Mediterranean, in which water did this attack take place? If not Israeli waters, then maybe in those of Egypt or Cyprus? But why then not say so directly? Or is this merely a term parroted by all the news sources to make the story sound more dramatic and controversial?

Turns out that all those news sources are right – the exclusive economic zone, although not completely neutral in terms of economic rights, cannot be enforced by the national laws of the coastal state, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

However, this is not only about transgressing territorial waters, but about running a blockade. A blockade is a recognized legal construct, and must be formally declared (it was), for a plausible reason (Israel gave one), and be effectively enforced (it is). But, the quarantined area may not extend too far beyond the coast, although the law isn’t specific on distance. (Many scholars interpret the language of the London Declaration to limit blockades to the standard 12 nautical miles that define territorial waters.) A longer discussion on the blockade’s legal status can be found here.

Therefore Israel’s violent “defence” of the blockade is built on shaky (international) ground.

I have a new post on fpixel entitled “The dangers of having a big camera”

Please remember to add (or replace) your rss feeds so that it points to http://fpixel.wordpress.or

Having moved the photographic content of this blog off-site, I can now come back to some of the other topics close to my heart. I will start by repeating a post I came across on Johan Swarts’s blog:

The twitter tagline for the topic of this blog post is #SpeakZA. Please read the following article by Sipho Hlongwane, written to protest against the ANC Youth League (ANCYL)’s treatment of, and action against, journalists.

Last week, shocking revelations concerning the activities of the ANC Youth League spokesperson Nyiko Floyd Shivambu came to the fore. According to a letter published in various news outlets, a complaint was laid by 19 political journalists with the Secretary General of the ANC, against Shivambu. This complaint letter detailed attempts by Shivambu to leak a dossier to certain journalists, purporting to expose the money laundering practices of Dumisani Lubisi, a journalist at the City Press. The letter also detailed the intimidation that followed when these journalists refused to publish these revelations.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprisals against journalists by Shivambu. His actions constitute a blatant attack on media freedom and a grave infringement on Constitutional rights. It is a disturbing step towards dictatorial rule in South Africa.

We call on the ANC and the ANC Youth League to distance themselves from the actions of Shivambu. The media have, time and again, been a vital democratic safeguard by exposing the actions of individuals who have abused their positions of power for personal and political gain.

The press have played a vital role in the liberation struggle, operating under difficult and often dangerous conditions to document some of the most crucial moments in the struggle against apartheid. It is therefore distressing to note that certain people within the ruling party are willing to maliciously target journalists by invading their privacy and threatening their colleagues in a bid to silence them in their legitimate work.

We also note the breathtaking hubris displayed by Shivambu and the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in their response to the letter of complaint. Shivambu and Malema clearly have no respect for the media and the rights afforded to the media by the Constitution of South Africa. Such a response serves only to reinforce the position that the motive for leaking the so-called dossier was not a legitimate concern, but a insolent effort to intimidate and bully a journalist who had exposed embarrassing information about the Youth League President.

We urge the ANC as a whole to reaffirm its commitment to media freedom and other Constitutional rights we enjoy as a country.

Blog Roll



OK, so I’m just re-posting some news, but my blog has been dead for some time now. I thought I’ll let it reflect the fact that I’m still alive…

“Citizens of the Russian town Chelyabinsk calculated when the satellite, QuickBird, which takes images for Google Earth and Google Maps, would cross above their city and used people to make a giant smiley face. A rock concert on the main square attracted many people and everyone got a yellow cape. It looks like someone at Google was quicker than usual to put up the new data. Maybe Google likes the idea of an entire town working hard to get its 15 minutes of fame. The article has a screenshot of Google Maps and images taken directly at the event.”

Pretty cool, eh?

Re-form and reform

Thoughts on Werchter again… For me, one of the many* highlights was The Verve.

Recently, seemingly more than ever, it’s become the done thing for bands to re-form (and sometimes reform). Recent examples include: Ace of Base, Alice in Chains, All Saints, Atomic Kitten, Backstreet Boys, Genesis, Medadeth, The Police, Sex Pistols, Spice Girls and Stone Temple Pilots, to name a few. Worryingly, even Michael Jackson is said to be working on a new album, and I’ve seen his name on a poster of an upcoming festival…

That said, I was very impressed with The Verve’s performance. The old classics like Bittersweet Symphony, Sonnet, Lucky Man and The drugs don’t work were popular, but some of the most powerful stuff came from their upcoming album.

A personal favourite was the song “Sit and Wonder”, seen here at Coachella 2008:

It’s true that bands often sound better live than on a clinical recording, but let’s hope for the best!

*other amazing shows included The Chemical Brothers,
Neil Young, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and even dEUS.

Ons almal weet wat aangaan in Zimbabwe, en elkeen maak maar ‘n grappie of skud sy kop daaroor. En so is dit ook dat ek weer vandag so ‘n foto in die pos gekry het.

Middagete in Zimbabwe

Hierdie foto van 10 April 2008 kry ek by my oom, wat dit by vriende in Zim gekry het. 12 Miljoen Zim$ vir 6 mense se tweegang geregte en ‘n paar bottels bier by die plaaslike Mammas Mia’s. Tip ‘n mens nog10% in Zimbabwe?

‘n Carte Blance Video wys hoe die situasie gelyk het met inflasie van 1200% in Augustus 2006. Intussen het inflasie gestyg tot oor die 1 miljoen %, en ons kyk maar almal met morbiede fassinasie hoe die land verkrummel. Dis soos op TV – dis interessant om te sien hoe slegte dinge met ander mense gebeur.

So, kan ons die rekening kry?

Hello world!

It finally happened. After being inundated by, oh, it had to be literally two requests for me to start a blog, I succumbed. From this day onward the vast clutter of the world wide web will have one more little dust bunny, if you will.

Here you will find some thoughts, ramblings, things I like, things I think are important, and especially, the fruits of procrastination.

I will probably post in Afrikaans (sorry international ppl) alternating with English, depending on the topic and the mood. I will also link to some other worthwhile blogs, mostly of friends.

Instead of intermittently (whenever you’re procrastinating) checking to see how much I’ve procrastinated, I suggest using a “feed aggregator”, like the excellent Google Reader, or whichever one tickles your fancy.