The trial of Teodoro Obiang: son of the president of Equatorial Guinea   
The trial of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the president of Equatorial Guinea, is being h
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Zetland 2017, Australia
Posting to: Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia Excludes: Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Mauritius, Western Sahara, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan Republic, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guam, Guernsey, Jersey, British Virgin Islands, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Macau

          OPEC Output Reaches 2017 High As Libya Reaches 1 Million Bpd   
OPEC oil output reached a 2017 high in June as Libya and Nigeria continue a production recovery despite the bloc’s efforts to ease a global supply glut, the results of a new Reuters survey shows. The African duo is exempt from an OPEC deal to limit output to 32.5 million barrels per day through March 2018, but the June rate will surge to 32.72 million bpd – marking a 280,000 bpd increase from the previous month. This figure includes production from Equatorial Guinea, which only officially joined OPEC in May. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait…
           The hidden role of women in monitoring nineteenth-century african weather. Instrumental observations in Equatorial Guinea    
Cruz Gallego, M. y Dominguez Castro, Fernando y Vaquero, José M. y García Herrera, Ricardo (2011) The hidden role of women in monitoring nineteenth-century african weather. Instrumental observations in Equatorial Guinea. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 92 (3). pp. 315-324. ISSN 0003-0007
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Zetland 2017, Australia
Posting to: Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia Excludes: Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Mauritius, Western Sahara, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan Republic, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guam, Guernsey, Jersey, British Virgin Islands, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Macau

          Techniques for probability estimates   
Submitted by Yvain • 58 votes • 58 comments

Utility maximization often requires determining a probability of a particular statement being true. But humans are not utility maximizers and often refuse to give precise numerical probabilities. Nevertheless, their actions reflect a "hidden" probability. For example, even someone who refused to give a precise probability for Barack Obama's re-election would probably jump at the chance to take a bet in which ey lost $5 if Obama wasn't re-elected but won $5 million if he was; such decisions demand that the decider covertly be working off of at least a vague probability.

When untrained people try to translate vague feelings like "It seems Obama will probably be re-elected" into a precise numerical probability, they commonly fall into certain traps and pitfalls that make their probability estimates inaccurate. Calling a probability estimate "inaccurate" causes philosophical problems, but these problems can be resolved by remembering that probability is "subjectively objective" - that although a mind "hosts" a probability estimate, that mind does not arbitrarily determine the estimate, but rather calculates it according to mathematical laws from available evidence. These calculations require too much computational power to use outside the simplest hypothetical examples, but they provide a standard by which to judge real probability estimates. They also suggest tests by which one can judge probabilities as well-calibrated or poorly-calibrated: for example, a person who constantly assigns 90% confidence to eir guesses but only guesses the right answer half the time is poorly calibrated. So calling a probability estimate "accurate" or "inaccurate" has a real philosophical grounding.

There exist several techniques that help people translate vague feelings of probability into more accurate numerical estimates. Most of them translate probabilities from forms without immediate consequences (which the brain supposedly processes for signaling purposes) to forms with immediate consequences (which the brain supposedly processes while focusing on those consequences).

Prepare for Revelation

What would you expect if you believed the answer to your question were about to be revealed to you?

In Belief in Belief, a man acts as if there is a dragon in his garage, but every time his neighbor comes up with an idea to test it, he has a reason why the test wouldn't work. If he imagined Omega (the superintelligence who is always right) offered to reveal the answer to him, he might realize he was expecting Omega to reveal the answer "No, there's no dragon". At the very least, he might realize he was worried that Omega would reveal this, and so re-think exactly how certain he was about the dragon issue.

This is a simple technique and has relatively few pitfalls.

Bet on it

At what odds would you be willing to bet on a proposition?

Suppose someone offers you a bet at even odds that Obama will be re-elected. Would you take it? What about two-to-one odds? Ten-to-one? In theory, the knowledge that money is at stake should make you consider the problem in "near mode" and maximize your chances of winning.

The problem with this method is that it only works when utility is linear with respect to money and you're not risk-averse. In the simplest case I should be indifferent to a $100,000 bet at 50% odds that a fair coin would come up tails, but in fact I would refuse it; winning $100,000 would be moderately good, but losing $100,000 would put me deeply in debt and completely screw up my life. When these sorts of consideration become paramount, imagining wagers will tend to give inaccurate results.

Convert to a Frequency

How many situations would it take before you expected an event to occur?

Suppose you need to give a probability that the sun will rise tomorrow. "999,999 in a million" doesn't immediately sound wrong; the sun seems likely to rise, and a million is a very high number. But if tomorrow is an average day, then your probability will be linked to the number of days it will take before you expect that the sun will fail to rise on at least one. A million days is three thousand years; the Earth has existed for far more than three thousand years without the sun failing to rise. Therefore, 999,999 in a million is too low a probability for this occurrence. If you think the sort of astronomical event that might prevent the sun from rising happens only once every three billion years, then you might consider a probability more like 999,999,999,999 in a trillion.

In addition to converting to a frequency across time, you can also convert to a frequency across places or people. What's the probability that you will be murdered tomorrow? The best guess would be to check the murder rate for your area. What's the probability there will be a major fire in your city this year? Check how many cities per year have major fires.

This method fails if your case is not typical: for example, if your city is on the losing side of a war against an enemy known to use fire-bombing, the probability of a fire there has nothing to do with the average probability across cities. And if you think the reason the sun might not rise is a supervillain building a high-tech sun-destroying machine, then consistent sunrises over the past three thousand years of low technology will provide little consolation.

A special case of the above failure is converting to frequency across time when considering an event that is known to take place at a certain distance from the present. For example, if today is April 10th, then the probability that we hold a Christmas celebration tomorrow is much lower than the 1/365 you get by checking on what percentage of days we celebrate Christmas. In the same way, although we know that the sun will fail to rise in a few billion years when it burns out its nuclear fuel, this shouldn't affect its chance of rising tomorrow.

Find a Reference Class

How often have similar statements been true?

What is the probability that the latest crisis in Korea escalates to a full-blown war? If there have been twenty crisis-level standoffs in the Korean peninsula in the past 60 years, and only one of them has resulted in a major war, then (war|crisis) = .05, so long as this crisis is equivalent to the twenty crises you're using as your reference class.

But finding the reference class is itself a hard problem. What is the probability Bigfoot exists? If one makes a reference class by saying that the yeti doesn't exist, the Loch Ness monster doesn't exist, and so on, then the Bigfoot partisan might accuse you of assuming the conclusion - after all, the likelihood of these creatures existing is probably similar to and correlated with Bigfoot. The partisan might suggest asking how many creatures previously believed not to exist later turned out to exist - a list which includes real animals like the orangutan and platypus - but then one will have to debate whether to include creatures like dragons, orcs, and Pokemon on the list.

This works best when the reference class is more obvious, as in the Korea example.

Make Multiple Statements

How many statements could you make of about the same uncertainty as a given statement without being wrong once?

Suppose you believe France is larger than Italy. With what confidence should you believe it? If you made ten similar statements (Germany is larger than Austria, Britain is larger than Ireland, Spain is larger than Portugal, et cetera) how many times do you think you would be wrong? A hundred similar statements? If you think you'd be wrong only one time out of a hundred, you can give the statement 99% confidence.

This is the most controversial probability assessment technique; it tends to give lower levels of confidence than the others; for example, Eliezer wants to say there's a less than one in a million chance the LHC would destroy the world, but doubts he could make a million similar statements and only be wrong once. Komponisto thinks this is a failure of imagination: we imagine ourselves gradually growing tired and making mistakes, whereas this method only works if the accuracy of the millionth statement is exactly the same as the first.

In any case, the technique is only as good as the ability to judge which statements are equally difficult to a given statement. If I start saying things like "Russia is larger than Vatican City! Canada is larger than a speck of dust!" then I may get all the statements right, but it won't mean much for my Italy-France example - and if I get bogged down in difficult questions like "Burundi is larger than Equatorial Guinea" then I might end up underconfident. In cases where there is an obvious comparison ("Bob didn't cheat on his test", "Sue didn't cheat on her test", "Alice didn't cheat on her test") this problem disappears somewhat.

Imagine Hypothetical Evidence

How would your probabilities adjust given new evidence?

Suppose one day all the religious people and all the atheists get tired of arguing and decide to settle the matter by experiment once and for all. The plan is to roll an n-sided numbered die and have the faithful of all religions pray for the die to land on "1". The experiment will be done once, with great pomp and ceremony, and never repeated, lest the losers try for a better result. All the resources of the world's skeptics and security forces will be deployed to prevent any tampering with the die, and we assume their success is guaranteed.

If the experimenters used a twenty-sided die, and the die comes up 1, would this convince you that God probably did it, or would you dismiss the result as a coincidence? What about a hundred-sided die? Million-sided? If a successful result on a hundred-sided die wouldn't convince you, your probability of God's existence must be less than one in a hundred; if a million-sided die would convince you, it must be more than one in a million.

This technique has also been denounced as inaccurate, on the grounds that our coincidence detectors are overactive and therefore in no state to be calibrating anything else. It would feel very hard to dismiss a successful result on a thousand-sided die, no matter how low the probability of God is. It might also be difficult to visualize a hypothetical where the experiment can't possibly be rigged, and it may be unfair to force subjects to imagine a hypothetical that would practically never happen (like the million-sided die landing on one in a world where God doesn't exist).

These techniques should be experimentally testable; any disagreement over which do or do not work (at least for a specific individual) can be resolved by going through a list of difficult questions, declaring confidence levels, and scoring the results with log odds. Steven's blog has some good sets of test questions (which I deliberately do not link here so as to not contaminate a possible pool of test subjects); if many people are interested in participating and there's a general consensus that an experiment would be useful, we can try to design one.

          Tadcaster Albion 3 Brocton 2   
FA Vase, fourth round
Attendance: 637

Steely grey skies, dripping, bare trees and a repeat of Bridgit Jones’s Diary on the telly instead of talent shows. Welcome to a January Saturday - and welcome to the Vase. Now that raises the spirits. Just as the FA Cup disappears in the rear view mirror (I didn’t bother watching the highlights of last week’s third round replays) the signs start appearing for the latter rounds of my other favourite FA competition.

I’d need signs for Brocton too. I’d never heard of the place but it’s a village in Staffordshire and The Badgers, as they’re known, currently lie in 17th place of the step 5 Midland League following promotion last season. A reporter from their local paper explained how until recently they’d essentially been the youth side for Stafford Rangers, having to bolster their ranks this season for the higher division. Their best player – and manager – is David Berks, an ex-Aston Villa youth.

It’s not just the geography that challenges in the Vase. I overheard fans seeking to clarify what stage we are at (the last 32) and which divisions the respective teams were in. Getting your bearings in the Vase is all part of the competition’s novelty and charm. Regardless of exactly where we all were in space and time after an outing to Huddersfield it was a joy to be back in non-league where the Taddy scarf I bought for £8 cost £3 more than the admission.

The logo these days is everywhere, part of the improved marketing and overall rejuvenation of the club that has taken place under the current and previous owner. After decades in the doldrums you really get the impression this club is going somewhere which, judging from The Brewers’ six-point lead at the top of the NCEL, is the Northern Premier League, all being well come May. Since my last visit 2½ years ago, the ground has been improved. Jerry-built dug-outs have been replaced with shelters in a continental style and the clubhouse is very smart too. The wonderfully ramshackle seated stand (and I use the term loosely) remains, however. It looks like it could collapse easier than a child’s buggy.

Taddy boast the support to go with their lofty status. Today’s season’s best gate was 177 more than Harrogate Town’s home Conference North fixture and the fans are vocal too. In fact I’ve seldom heard such singing from supporters at this level. A choir of around 40 boisterous youngsters was led in choruses of ‘Tad all Over’ and other ditties by two older fellas. One sported a stetson and comedy Elvis sideburns attached to sunglasses and the other, known to his friends as Captain Chickers, was dressed as a sea captain in a white jacket and trousers with gold braid and matching white cap. Fantastic.

The start didn’t go according to the script. Brocton took the lead after four minutes when a slip by a Taddy defender gave a striker a one-on-one with the keeper. Taddy levelled it soon after when a cross was headed back into the six-yard box and stroked home and went ahead on the stroke of half-term with a header from a cross. Not to be out-done, Brocton started the second half as the started the first by scoring against the run of play. I struggle to remember another clear chance for the visitors in a match which Taddy continued to dominate. Fisticuffs saw a player from each side sent off and two booked. Soon after Taddy got what turned out to be the winner when Ward followed up a rasping drive from the edge of the box that was palmed away by the goalie.

They didn’t half make hard work of their victory, though. Credit must go to the Brocton keeper who made five fine saves in the second half, single-handedly repelling wave after wave of Taddy attacks. It says a lot about his performance that the hosts were reduced to playing keep ball by the corner flag in the closing stages. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The contest reminded me of Shildon v. Norton in the FA Cup in October but in this case, the more strongly fancied northern side prevailed against their Staffordshire opponents and reached the fifth round for the first since 1978. My scarf will be out again for the next round.

Star turn: Jonathan Greening, ex-Man U, Middlesbrough and West Brom, played four times for the Brewers earlier in the season. He wasn’t in evidence today but his much younger brother and top scorer, Josh, was. Among the crowd I spotted Harrogate Railway legend, Steve “’ugger” Davey, who scored in Rail’s famous FA Cup tie against Bristol City in 2002. (I know: how would I recognise him?).

Programme notes: The Badgers’ origins are described thus: “Brocton was formed in 1937 when Arthur Mayer, the then owner of Chetwynd Arms, gave a football to the boys of Brocton and asked them to form a football club.” Can’t get simpler than that. Among the advertisers is local MP Nigel Adams who also has a pitchside hoarding. That’s what I call nailing your colours to the mast.

Ray of sunshine: Yesterday Palestine lost 1-5 to Jordan in the Asian Cup being staged in Australia. What a ding-dong derby! Jordan are bossed by Ray ‘Butch’ (love that nickname) Wilkins assisted by ex-Man U teammate Frank Stapleton (all together now: “Wo-ah! Frankie, Frankie; Frankie, Frankie, Frankie, Frankie Sta-ple-ton!”. Looks like the gents are loving their time in the sun. I don’t know why Five Live bothers reporting the Africa Cup of Nations. I would’ve drifted off to sleep quite happily on Saturday night not knowing that Equatorial Guinea drew 1-1 with Congo.

Further reading: I haven’t described Taddy’s ground much as I’ve done that twice before – for their biggest FA Cup tie and a thrilling promotion decider. Finally, here’s a pic from my maiden visit in August 2003 which shows how things have changed. I should also credit Ian Parker of the club for the pic of the brawl in this post.

          Oil spill off Pulau Tekong in Johor waters 15 Jun 2017   
An oil tanker MT Putri Sea sank in Johor waters off Pulau Tekong, after an explosion on board on 15 Jun 2017 before dawn.
Location of incident from TODAY
When authorities arrived at the accident area, the tanker not in sight, "but there were traces of an oil spill in the area". Earlier reports said the tanker was believed to be carrying 'crude oil', later amended to 'fuel'. So far, no updates on what was spilled, how much and what was done about the spill.

Malaysian authorities said: "The tanker ship MT Putri Sea registered in Malabo Port, Equatorial Guinea was carrying fuel and was believed to have sunk 4.6 nautical miles off Pengerang waters after an explosion where fire engulfed the vessel's main engine room."

Update on 20 Jun:

"Malaysia is using chemical dispersants to break up a 3km-wide oil slick after a tanker laden with marine diesel sank last week.

Authorities said all six Indonesian crew were missing and feared dead.

The oil spill is close to Petronas’ billion dollar refinery and petrochemicals integrated development project in Pengerang.

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, natural resources and environment minister said a “tier one” response has been initiated to fight the oil spill.

Tier one is regarded as a minor oil spill that can be resolved within days."

Media articles about the incident on wildsingapore news

What shores in Singapore could be affected?

The nearest shore is at Changi East, which we dubbed "The Lost Coast". It is an artificial sandy shore which had amazing animals the last time we visited in Dec 2012. It was then impacted by massive works in the area in Feb 2015.

The re-routed Coast Road now runs right next to the coast. But it remains 'lost' to us as there are prominent signs warning that we would be arrested if we visit the shore.

Beting Bronok is our last northern submerged reef, further north upstream from the incident site. Our last visit there was in Jun 2016 where we saw signs of the reef suffering from mass coral bleaching. We are scheduled to survey this site next week. Near Beting Bronok are also the mangroves of Pulau Tekong, among the last best mangroves in Singapore.

The shores of Changi and Pulau Ubin are much further west upstream. Let's hope the incident did not release much oil. Our northern shores already suffered from the 300-tonne oil spill in the East Johor Strait six months ago.

          U.S. Investigates Payments To Equatorial Guinea   
The Securities and Exchange Commission has begun an inquiry into payments made by four major American oil companies to the government and senior officials of the oil-rich West African nation of Equatorial Guinea. The companies involved in the...
The Marathon Oil Corporation and the Amerada Hess Corporation said the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating their payments to the government of Equatorial Guinea. The companies are cooperating with the S.E.C., spokesmen for Maratho...
          Alen Gas Project – Noble Energy EG Ltd.   
The Noble Alen Project Consists of Two Platforms that were Fabricated in Amelia, LA and are Currently Installed Offshore Equatorial Guinea, West Africa. VersaTech Provided a Crew of Technicians to Perform Pre-Commissioning and Commissioning Services on the Central Production Platform and the Wellhead Platform.
          The old liberal order is on its knees – I’ll miss it when it’s gone | Nick Cohen   
Putting kleptocrats like Teodorin Obiang on trial harks back to a time when we valued justice but the future looks less encouraging

It is hard to find reasons to be cheerful, but the sight of the law finally catching up with Teodorin Obiang is among them. His trial in Paris ought to represent the triumph of the globalisation of justice. Yet as liberalism shudders under the blows of Trump, Putin and Brexit, support for the values that can check men such as Obiang is fading. The case feels like yesterday’s news, even though Obiang’s prosecution is by any reasonable standard a sensational event.

This is the first time the serving minister of a tyrant has been arraigned on corruption charges. Obiang is something more than a mere official, I should add. Dictatorships can always turn into monarchies, as the strong man decides that only his brats are fit to succeed him. True to form, Obiang became Equatorial Guinea’s vice president as a reward for being the son of a dictator who has been in power since 1979. He is its Prince of Wales in all but name.

Continue reading...
          OPEC Output Reaches 2017 High As Libya Reaches 1 Million Bpd   
OPEC oil output reached a 2017 high in June as Libya and Nigeria continue a production recovery despite the bloc’s efforts to ease a global supply glut, the results of a new Reuters survey shows. The African duo is exempt from an OPEC deal to limit output to 32.5 million barrels per day through March 2018, but the June rate will surge to 32.72 million bpd – marking a 280,000 bpd increase from the previous month. This figure includes production from Equatorial Guinea, which only officially joined OPEC in May. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait…