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Monday, August 26, 2013

NEWS: Why the World Should Help Mongolia Save Its Endangered Gobi Bear

Originally posted at Asia Society on April 26, 2013
by Damdin Tsogtbaatar Tweet

The Mongolian Gobi Bear, shown here in the wild, is one of the world's most endangered animal species. (Carlos Alperin/YouTube)

In late 2012 Mongolia's Ministry of Environment and Green Development designated 2013 as The Year of Protecting the Gobi Bear, a critically endangered native species whose extant population was most recently numbered at 22. Mongolia prohibited Gobi Bear hunting as far back as 1953, but more recently environmental degradation of its habitat has been cited as a major reason for its decline.
To address this issue, and to frame it in terms laymen around the world can understand, Asia Blog welcomes Damdin Tsogtbaatar, Mongolia's former Minister for Nature, Environment and Tourism and former State Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to explain what's at stake in the survival of this extraordinary mammal.

The first impression one gets upon hearing about the Gobi Desert is one of endless, lifeless terrain sizzling with heat and buffeted by sandstorms. The reality is far from that, however. The Mongolian Gobi nurtures a few rare animals — like the wild Bactrian Camel, the Przewalski's Horse, the saiga antelope, and the snow leopard — whose populations range from the hundreds to only a few thousand. But judged by the risk of extinction, none of them matches the Gobi Bear (Ursus arctos gobiensis), which the locals call Mazaalai.

Mention of an endangered bear inevitably evokes thoughts of the cuddly panda first. Not many people would realize, however, that pandas outnumber the Mazaalai by something like 60 to 70 times. There are only 22 Mazaalais left in the whole world; nevertheless, a survey of "Top Ten Endangered Animals" lists on various international green websites doesn't turn up the Gobi Bear, although only a handful of the species that are listed (e.g., the Giant Galapagos Tortoise) could challenge the Mazaalai in terms of rarity.

Why, one may ask. First, the animal is understudied. The final genetic determination as to whether the bear is a species or a subspecies hasn't yet been reached. So far, analysis of its hair DNA suggests that the Mazaalai is related to the Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus). Also, the concern voiced by 2.8 million Mongolians about their rare bear, unlike the concerns of the two billion about the panda, simply dissipates in a global chorus of seven billion.

We should remember that even if Gobi Bears are proven to be a subspecies of brown bear, none of the latter are fit to live in the Gobi. (No bear, regardless of its relation to the Mazaalai, can naturally adapt to the desert.) Hence, it should be protected regardless of whether it is a subspecies, for many subspecies (the Black and White Rhinoceros and Amur Leopard, for instance) are listed in the international top ten lists.

The Mazaalai is indeed different from other bears. If the forest bears' habitat varies between 12-15 square kilometers, the habitat of the Mazaalai ranges between 650-1200 square kilometers. In contrast with other bears, the Mazaalai is almost non-carnivorous: less than ten percent of its diet consists of insects and reptiles, with the rest comprised of plants, roots and berries. Lastly, the Mazaalais are smaller than their "brothers," weighing 70-140 kg.

At the same time, many characteristics make them bears as well. Their morphology is similar — and they hibernate in winter, for instance.

In short, it took nature thousands of years of evolution to produce this wonder of the Gobi. If we put that extended time into a 24-hour time frame, then this animal, given its population drop and ever-worsening habitat, is arguably now facing the final seconds of its countdown to extinction.
It doesn't have to be that way, however. Relevant examples are right there in Mongolia. In the 1960s, when the Przewalski's horse went missing in Mongolia, only around 12 heads were left in European zoos. From that number we were able to breed the current number of the horses, whose wild population in Mongolia only exceeded 200.

Therefore, with respect to Mazaalai, I would say there's hope — if we care. This animal is the heritage of the whole of humanity — and therefore shouldn't be left to the mercy of only the Mongolian state budget, whose top priority, given the significant poverty in the country, lies in increasing people's incomes. Therefore, over the last 20 years the government rarely put aside per annum a conservation budget exceeding (in U.S. dollar terms) $5000.00. Only in 2005 did it allocate funds worth approximately US$140,000. However, the lack of adequate subsequent financing made those investments inefficient. Only this year is the government allocating roughly US$200,000, and the odds are that it can't maintain such a sum permanently.

Bearing this constraint in mind, the international green caucus, along with Mongolia, should join hands in saving the animal. Although some U.S. and Canadian bear research institutions have supported Mongolia, however, their means were not unlimited. And besides being a sustainable source of co-financing, the knowledge and expertise of the broader international scientific community is of great importance.

Concerted action now can reverse the Mazaalai's "final countdown" into a countdown to end the ignorance about it. Such a reversal would be a tribute to the thousands of (sub)species that went extinct because of us. Saving the Mazaalai will mean that we are not helplessly regretting the mistakes of our past or indifferently shrugging off the issue, but that we are learning from them and aspiring to become better, less destructive beings.




Word List:
  • extant: still in existence
  • laymen: a person who does not have expert knowledge of a particular subject
  • sizzling: very hot
  • buffeted: to knock or push somebody/something roughly from side to side
  • cuddly: you want to hold somebody/something close in your arms to show love or affection
  • morphology: the form and structure of animals and plants, studied as a science
  • hibernate: to spend the winter in a state like deep sleep
  • caucus: a meeting of the members or leaders to decide policy
Pronunciation MP3:
= extant
= layman
= sizzling
= cuddly
= morphology
= hibernate
= caucus

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mongolia Taps North Korea Oil Potential to Ease Russian Grip

Originally posted on Bloomberg.com on June 18, 2013
By Michael Kohn & Yuriy Humber

Women sit on the ground at the Zaisan Tolgoi observatory in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Mongolia has limited reserves of oil and relies on its neighbors, Russia and China, for fuel, which can periodically lead to shortages. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
A Mongolian company has tapped one of the world’s most closed markets by taking a stake in a North Korean oil refinery, to help Asia’s fastest growing economy ease its energy reliance on Russia and China.

HBOil JSC, an oil trading and refining company based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, said it acquired 20 percent of the state-run entity operating North Korea’s Sungri refinery, according to an e-mailed statement yesterday. It intends to supply crude to Sungri, which won’t be fully operational for up to a year, and export the refined products to Mongolia.

“Mongolia has had diplomatic relations with North Korea for many years,” Ulziisaikhan Khudree, HBOil’s chief executive officer, said in a June 12 interview in Ulaanbaatar. “There are certain risks, but other countries do business with North Korea so I am quite optimistic the project will be successful.”

The investment comes as ex-communist Mongolia seeks to power its mining-led boom while offering sanctions-hit North Korea a bridge to economic reforms. Since Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un took over the leadership of the totalitarian regime in December 2011, Mongolia has pledged to help its Soviet-era ally implement an economic transition similar to its own of the 1990s.

In March, Mongolia offered to play peacemaker after North Korea said it’s in a “state of war” with its neighbor to the south.

Landlocked Country

Mongolia, a landlocked country squeezed between Russia and China, adopted democracy and free elections in 1990, opening up to foreign investment that has focused mainly on its commodity riches. Rio Tinto Group Plc has invested about $6.2 billion in the country’s Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine that’s due to start exporting this month.

Although Mongolia has become one of China’s main suppliers of coking coal, used to make steel, the nation of 2.9 million has limited reserves of crude oil and relies on its two neighbors for fuel, which can periodically lead to shortages.

Mongolia has in the last year encouraged what it saw as signs of economic change in North Korea. After a meeting with Kim Young Nam, the North Korean president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, in September, Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj said he saw the isolated nation taking steps towards economic reform.

Outside of Mongolia, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has so far failed to improve international relations since succeeding his father. A rocket launch last year broke a food-aid deal agreed with the U.S. in February 2012. North Korea’s proposal for peace talks with the U.S. on June 16 was met with skepticism.

Economic Change

The HBOil deal looks like a “one-off” at this point as rhetoric for economic change in North Korea has not translated into real investment -- a sign that “real reform” has yet to come, said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Still, like Mongolia, North Korea needs to diversify its sources of supply, technology and investment away from China, and business offers that try to improve its own energy security problems will be seen as favorable by the Kim regime, Pinkston said. “I can see all the incentives for North Korea to desire this kind of arrangement,” he said.

Under the transaction, worth as much as $10 million, the Mongolian Stock Exchange-listed HBOil would swap shares for full ownership of Ninox Hydrocarbons (L) Berhad, a private Malaysian company that owns 20 percent of KOEC International Inc., and issue convertible notes to fund investment at Sungri.

Exploration Rights

The rest of KOEC International is held by North Korea’s national oil company, Korea Oil Exploration Corp., which also has oil production and exploration rights in North Korea.

“This is a chance to take an equity holding in a foreign entity, and will allow us to import petroleum products, which could be lower than the current price,” said HBOil’s Khudree.

HBOil jumped by the daily limit of 15 percent to close at 253 tugrik (18 cents) on the Mongolian stock exchange today.

The deal will be the first purchase by a Mongolian-listed company of a foreign asset, according to Joseph Naemi, chief executive officer of the Ninox parent, Ninox Energy Ltd. The company is in compliance with international sanctions levied against North Korea, he said.

“If the sanctions change, and if they target the oil and gas industry, that would put us out of business, and we will have to comply,” Naemi said. “That is a risk one takes.”

Naemi said he had briefed his North Korean partners on the transaction and that “they are supportive.” No one was available to speak about the deal at North Korea’s embassy in Ulaanbaatar, which is in the middle of a renovation.

Under Orders

North Korean entities are currently under orders “from the top” to boost international deals, attract foreign trade and earn more, according to Pinkston.

North Korea has three onshore oil basins with “proven working petroleum systems” and the country is conducting exploration for new fields, BDSec brokerage, Mongolia’s largest and the underwriter of the bonds HBOil plans to offer, said in a note to investors yesterday.

The Sungri refinery, located in the Special Economic Zone of Rason City in North Korea’s northeast, has a refining capacity of 2 million tons a year and is connected to the Russian railways system, HBOil said in its release.

Oil production in Mongolia rose 42 percent to 3.64 million barrels in 2012 compared with a year earlier, and it exported almost all of that, according to government data. The country, which has no major oil refineries, consumed about 22,000 barrels a day of refined petroleum products in 2011, according to CIA’s World Factbook. That is equivalent to about 1.1 million tons a year.

Alternative Proposal

HBOil has an alternative proposal for delivering petroleum products to Mongolia. The company will offer to sell the North Korean refined oil to the far east of Russia, where there are no local refineries, Naemi said. In exchange, Russian oil companies, most of which own refineries, could send their petroleum products to Mongolia, a shorter route than delivering cargo to the country’s far east, Naemi said.

“We can deliver what they need on the east coast of Russia, and they can deliver the same like product into Mongolia,” Naemi said. “From a Russian perspective it makes sense, so the swap strategy would be the ideal scenario, but sometimes that does not happen.”

HBOil, which recycles fuel used by mining companies in Mongolia, is also “studying the potential to expand its oil product processing and manufacturing business into” North Korea, the company said in the statement.

HBOil is part-owned by New York-based private equity firm Firebird Management LLC, according to CEO Khudree. Firebird also owns stakes in Mongolian companies including coal miner Sharyn Gol.
Additionally, HBOil has signed an option to buy 51 percent of Blacktip Energy Inc., another Ninox Energy Ltd. subsidiary and owner of Korex Ltd., which is an offshore explorer focused on the sea east of North Korea, it said.

Mongolia’s economy grew 12.3 percent last year, compared with 17.5 percent in 2011, according to its central bank.



Word List:
  • tapped: to make use of a source of energy, knowledge, etc. that already exists
  • stake: (verb) to risk money or something important on the result of something
  • commodity: a product or a raw material that can be bought and sold
  • skepticism: an attitude of doubting that claims or statements are true or that something will happen
  • one-off: made or happening only once and not regularly
  • rhetoric: speech or writing that is intended to influence people, but that is not completely honest or sincere
  • renovation: to repair and paint an old building, a piece of furniture, etc. so that it is in good condition again
  • swap: to give something to somebody and receive something in exchange
Pronunciation MP3:
= commodity
= skepticism
= one-off
= rhetoric
= renovation
= swap

Monday, August 12, 2013

10 of the Most Effective Ice Breakers for Starting Meaningful Conversations


Originally posted on Lifehack.org on June 3, 2013
by David K. William

Whether you want to start a conversation with a new guy or girl you find attractive or you want to get a training session off to a great start, a good ice breaker can help you make a memorable first impression. It can turn that first encounter with someone new into something wonderful that blossoms into lasting friendships and valuable partnerships.

A bad ice breaker, however, can be a recipe for disaster. It can spiral out of control pretty quickly and at best be a terrible waste of time or worse an embarrassment for everyone involved. So, how do you start a meaningful conversation with someone new and avoid embarrassments or awkward moments of silence? Where do you begin?

Tips for initiating a Conversation

Understand that it is normal to feel a bit nervous when approaching someone new. Everyone gets a little shy at first; after all, you don’t know what this other person is like. The person could be a grumpy, mean guy, but the only way to know for sure what the person is like is to get over being shy and approach them. That person might turn out to be the nicest, kindest person you ever meet.

Start by filling your idea vault with possible ice breakers to start a conversation and follow-up questions to sustain the conversation. Listen attentively to the other person’s responses because this can make or break your follow-up questions. To help you out with ideas for starting a conversation, here are ten of the most effective ice breakers you can use in different scenarios to get a conversation off and running.

1.  “How are you doing today, miss?”

A genuine hello accompanied by a heartwarming, three second smile is one of the most basic, highly effective ice breakers there is. Often, we brush simple things aside as being too simple not realizing the simplest things can have the biggest impact in life.

Think about the people who say “good morning” or “howdy” to their neighbors. This simple greeting is usually followed up with “how are you” or “how are the kids?” Before long, the two parties are talking about their families and even favorite sports teams.

2.  “Nice earrings!”

This comment represents a classic technique that is quite effective for starting a conversation. Regardless of whom you are talking to, saying something genuinely nice about their outfit, accessories or even mood will usually be received well.

The person receiving the compliment will thank you and possibly say something nice about you in return. In doing this, a dialogue begins. Keep the dialogue going by asking a question like “Where did you buy the earrings? I really like them.”

3. “Does this shop always have such long queues?”

Simply commenting on an unpleasant or uncomfortable situation that you both experience in your immediate surroundings is another effective strategy for starting a conversation. You can comment about a long bathroom line or wobbly waiting-room chair.

By focusing on an unpleasant situation that you both find yourselves in and subtly complaining about it, you cleverly suck the other person into an unwitting pact that unites both of you against a common enemy.

4. “Chicago really is the windy city!”

Yes. Talk about the weather. It may sound clich├ęd, but it works wonders in real life. People talk about the weather all the time—It’s a topic everyone has an opinion on. Think of how you have an opinion about what dress or fashion choice is right for different weather.

Once the person responds, you can ease into the conversation with “small talk” like, “The wind is so strong; it nearly blew me over!”

5.  “Oh, did you hear about…”

Kick-start a conversation with a description of an interesting, entertaining and/or funny story. Get right in to your story description and then allow the other person to make a remark or share an opinion of the story.

If your story is interesting enough, there really is no telling where it could take the ensuing dialogue and for how long you could stretch the conversation once your new friend gets on board.

6.  “What kind of drink is that?

People love eating and drinking. If the person you want to start a conversation with has a nice-looking drink or a delicious-looking burger, comment on how delicious (or not delicious) the burger is. Alternatively asks her what kind of drink she’s having.

When she replies, follow up with something like “Do you really like it?” or ” Can I buy you another?” Introduce yourself and don’t forget to flash your best charming smile.

7.  “That’s a lovely name; are you named after someone?”

This works especially well in a workplace setting, business meeting or conference where people are wearing name tags. If she has an interesting name, walk up to her and say something like “Camille, lovely name. What’s the origin of the name?”

She’ll probably be excited to tell you about her French name and before you know it, a conversation has ensued. If her name is ordinary or common, however, you might not find too many interesting questions to ask.

8.  “Hello, do you work here?”

This also works well at a workplace or business setting where people are wearing name tags. Even if you know the answer, ask whether he works there anyway. If you know some people who work at his company or retail store, mention them to him.

Follow up with related questions like “What do you do here?” “Have you been working here a long time?” “Do you like it here?” “What’s your favorite/worst part of your job?

9. “People call me David, but you can call me TONIGHT.”

Okay, telling a joke is easier said than done. Jokes can be tricky, but they’re some of the best conversations starters you can throw at someone new. They help the other person see a witty, fun and likeable side of your personality.

That said, unless you’re really confident about your joke-telling skills, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them or start with a self-deprecating joke. You can’t possibly offend yourself, can you?

10.  “Excuse me, I just thought I should come over and talk to you.”

Sometimes the best and most fun ice breaker is honesty. Walk up to her and just be honest. Tell her you want to talk to her. Point out how awkward and funny the situation actually is for both of you and that you are trying to make the best of it.

Honesty really can be the best policy. Who doesn’t love a refreshing bout of honesty, any way?

There you have it: ten of the most effective ice breakers you can use to initiate a meaningful conversation with someone new.

Monday, August 5, 2013

LYRICS: C'mon let me ride - Skylar Grey ft. Eminem




C'mon let me ride - Skylar Grey ft. Eminem

And the wheels go round... and round... and round...

If you got a sweet tooth,
You can taste my watermelons
If a swing set bores you
I can show you all my talent
I can wear a tan like other bitches can
You can have all this, boy!
And there's only one thing that I want from you

C'mon, let me ride your bicycle
It's so fantastical on your bicycle
We can get a little more physical
Baby, after all, it's only natural
I feel it coming, coming, coming, oh
Feel it running, running, running, oh oh
C'mon, let me ride your bicycle
It's so fantastical on your bicycle

You want to ride my bicycle
You want to ride my bike (haha)

If the world starts freezing, I can make it hot and humid
If you get a bee-sting, I can suck out all the poison
I can make you last like all the bitches can't
Have I made it clear, boy?
There's only one thing that I want from you, hey!

C'mon, let me ride your bicycle
It's so fantastical on your bicycle
We can get a little more physical
Baby, after all, it's only natural
I feel it coming, coming, coming, oh
Feel it running, running, running, oh
C'mon, let me ride your bicycle
It's so fantastical, on your bicycle

I'm only fucking with you
Fuck you for thinking it's true
I'm not like the sluts in this town
They make me blah in my mouth
I wanna ride on your bike
'Cause you're the boy that I like
It's like I'm a sell out for you
But your bike's so shiny and new (shiny and new)

[Eminem:]
She's distracted by my reflectors, man, I can tell the chick's attracted
My wheels spoke to her, my Swinn is a chick magnet
Bagging up chicks like a bag of chips
With a bag of prophylactics as big as Mick Jagger lips
Shagging's something I'm a pro at, but I ain't practicing shit
Allen Iverson has safe sex, condoms are for practice, man, I skip practice
Flip backwards while I flip this bike on it's banana seat
My fantasy's to have you land where the kick stand is
Got this bitch gagging, they call me the broad killer
I'm the cousin of Godzilla
'Cause I spit fire and my dick is draggin'
Zig-zaggin' up the avenue, pulling these chicks in my antagonist wagon,
Screamin'...

C'mon, let me ride your bicycle
It's so fantastical on your bicycle
We can get a little more physical
Baby, after all, it's only natural
I feel it coming, coming, coming, oh
Feel it running, running, running, oh
C'mon, let me ride your bicycle
It's so fantastical on your bicycle

You want to ride my bicycle
You want to ride my bike (haha)