Museum National - A Fascinating Archeological archive  

Posted by Rezwan

Visiting the national museum in Jakarta. Indonesia - a land of so many ethnicities and archeological wonders.

On board of a Trans Jakarta bus towards Monus, the national Monument  

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Minimum Wages Raised For Garments Sector In Bangladesh  

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Ever wonder where were your T-shirts or pants made? If you are living in North America or in Western Europe, there is a high chance that you are wearing a cloth made in Bangladesh. And no wonder Bangladesh’s export earnings are mostly determined by the export of ready-made garments (RMG) which is about 75% of the total export earning of the country.

But in recent times the textile sector has seen some confrontation between the workers and their employers over wages related issues. Bangladesh's competitive advantage had been skilled workers and low wages but due to inflation the old minimum wages has become an absurd figure now. The garments factory owners associations have long been able to halt the talks of raising of minimum wages claiming that if wages are raised they will not be able to maintain competitiveness and lose market especially during the global recession. Their bargaining point was that because most of the workers do overtime they actually earn one and half to twice the amount of the minimum wages. But this has also increased the unhealthy practice of exploiting more labor hours from the workers.

They make your Tshirts. Image by Flickr User Niloy. CC BY

Around 3 million labors work in approximately 5000 garments factories across the country and almost 80% of the workforce are women. Mahfuzur Rahman Manik provides a background on the minimum wages issue:

সর্বশেষ ২০০৬ সালে বর্তমান বেতন কাঠামো নির্ধারণ করা হয়। সর্বনিম্ন বেতন স্কেলের জন্য তখন মজুরি বোর্ডের সুপারিশ ২৩০০ টাকা থাকলেও মালিক পক্ষের চাপাচাপিতে নির্ধারণ করা হয় ১৬৬২ টাকা। বর্তমান মূল্য ও মুদ্রা; দুইয়ের স্ফীতির এই বাজারে একজন শ্রমিকের নিজের পক্ষেই শহরতলীর বস্তিতেও দিনযাপন করা অসম্ভব। তিন বছর পার হলেও সে বেতনের আর পরিবর্তন হয় নাই।

The last pay scale was fixed in 2006. The wages board recommended an wage of Tk. 2300 per month (US$ 33) but after the hard bargaining from the employers Tk. 1662 per month (US$23) was fixed as the minimum wage. Due the inflation of currency and prices it has become difficult for the workers to live with this pay even in the slums of the towns. After three long years no change was made to the minimum wages scale.

Mohammad Golam Nabi advocates for the increase of wages:

বেতন বৃদ্ধির দাবীতে গার্মেন্টস ফ্যাক্টরিগুলোর উত্তাল হয়ে উঠার বিষয়টি বেশি করে শুরু হয়েছে ২০০৭ সালের শেষ ভাগে। [..]

আমাদের গার্মেন্টস শ্রমিকদের একদিনের বেতন ৫৫ টাকা থেকে শুরু। এই টাকায় খাবে, ঘর ভাড়া দেবে, সাবান কিনবে, গোসল করবে আমরা কি করে আশা করি। [..] প্রজনন স্বাস্থ্যের যত্নবিহীন এই নারীরা যে সন্তান জন্ম দেবে, সেই সন্তান এই দেশের আগামী প্রজন্ম মনে রাখুন।

The protests for raising wages started since the end of 2007. [..]

The wages of one day of any garments worker starts from Tk. 55. They will have to use this meager amount to pay their rents, meal, personal hygiene etc. [..] All these ladies will have to give birth to children without proper reproductive hygiene, these children will be the future generation - please beware.

Sharif Kafi writes that the reason for recent unrest in the garments industry is not because of wages issue but the exploitation of few of the employers:

এসব ঘটনা ঘটার মূল কারণ শ্রমিকদের অত্যন্ত কম বেতন দেয়া, গার্মেন্টস মালিক কর্তৃক বেতন বকেয়া রেখে পরে তা শোধ না করা, বকেয়া বেতন ও বকেয়া ওভার টাইম এবং বকেয়া ভাতাদি পরিশোধ না করে হঠাৎ করে ফ্যাক্টরি বন্ধ করে দেয়া এবং ঈদের আগে সময় মত বেতন-বোনাসের টাকা পরিশোধ না করা অথবা না করে ফ্যাক্টরী বন্ধ করে দেয়া। অথচ এক শ্রেনীর গামেন্টস মালিকরা এসব ঘটনাকে বিদেশী চক্রান্ত বলে সবার চোখে ধুলো দেয়ার চেষ্টা করছে।

The main reason for these unrest are underpaying the workers, defaulting on labor payments, shutting down the factory without paying their dues and not paying bonus during Eid festival. But a few garments factory owners are trying to fool people by blaming these incidents as politically motivated.

After long bargaining with the employers and the workers, the Government has finally decided to raise the minimum wages to Tk. 3000 per month ($44) which is approximately double of the current minimum wages. The wages structure will be formally announced tomorrow.

Arif Jebtik, blogger, writer and an entrepreneur provides a list of FAQs regarding the wages and garments industry from management's perspective. Some excerpts from his post at Sachalayatan:

* নতুন বেতন যদি নূন্যতম বেতন ৩০০০ টাকা করা হয়, তাহলে এই সেক্টরে কী সমস্যা দেখা দিতে পারে ? গার্মেন্ট শিল্প কি বন্ধ হয়ে যাবে ?

: নাহ, আদতে তেমন কোনো ক্ষতি হবে না। কারন তখন সব গার্মেন্টই বেতন বাড়াতে বাধ্য হবে, সুতরাং তারা মূল্যও বেশি দাবি করবে। বায়ারদের হাতে এই মুহুর্তে কোনো বিকল্প নেই, তাই তারা বেশি দামেই কাপড় কিনতে বাধ্য হবে। মনে রাখতে হবে আমরা যে কাপড় সেলাই করি, সেটি খুবই বেসিক এবং কম দামের, সুতরাং এই কাপড়ের চাহিদা দুনিয়াতে থাকবেই।

* নতুন বেতন বৃদ্ধিতে গার্মেন্টের লাভ কমে যাবে বলে অনেকেই ধারণা করছেন। গার্মেন্ট শিল্পগুলো কিভাবে চলবে তখন ?

: আসলে বেতন বৃদ্ধি আমাদের জন্য এক ধরনের আশীর্বাদ হিসেবে আসবে বলে আমার ধারণা। এখন গার্মেন্টগুলো বাধ্য হবে নতুন প্রযুক্তির প্রচলন করতে এবং বৈজ্ঞানিক পদ্ধতিতে উৎপাদন ব্যবস্থাপনা করতে। এটি এই শিল্পের জন্য ভালো হবে। প্রোডাকশন ইঞ্জিনিয়ারিং চালু হবে, দক্ষ শ্রমিক ও মিড লেভেল ব্যবস্থাপনা তৈরীর জন্য প্রশিক্ষনের ব্যবস্থা করতে হবে।

* If the minimum wages is increased to Tk. 3000, what problems will this sector face? Will many factories be closed?

: No I don't see the chance of incurring huge loss. Because every factory in the sector will have to increase wages, so the competitive prices will be at the same level. The buyers don't really have many options, so they will have to accept the increase in price. You have to keep in mind that the cloths we manufacture are very basic in nature and of low cost, so worldwide they will continue to have demand.

* People say that the profit of the garments companies will decrease causing them to shut down. How will they survive with the increased costs?

: I think the increase in wages will come as a blessing. The factories will have to embrace new technologies and deploy scientific production methods. this will be beneficial for the industry. The sectors like production engineering will be revitalized, skilled workers and mid level management will require more training.

(Also published in Global Voices Online)

Power And Money  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

This is a story of any developing country where the rich and powerful reign and the the people do not exercise or do not have their equal right.

I was surprised to see some street vendors trying to sell a photocopy version of an edition of Tempo news magazine (in Bahasa) . I did not understand what the vendor was saying but the news was allover in the media in the following days. It turned out that on 28th of June Tempo published a report on huge bank balances of certain high police officials and the cover showed a caricature of a policeman holding ropes tied around three pigs. The report titled "Fat Account Police Officers" analyzed central financial transaction reports and found that there are tens of billions of Indonesian Rupiah transferred from unspecified third parties in the accounts of at least seven high-ranking police officials.

The officers implicated in the article include Insp. Gen. Budi Gunawan, the head of internal affairs and a former adjutant to the president during the Megawati Soe-karnoputri administration; former Mobile Brigade chief Insp. Gen. Sylvanus Yulian Wenas and lecturer at the Police Leadership School Insp. Gen. Bambang Suparno and former National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji.

What followed can be the plot of a thriller: the magazine publications were purchased outright by groups making the edition unreachable to readers and the police threatened to sue Tempo (which they dismissed later) on charges of disrespectfully making caricatures of them. The police interpreted the Tempo report as depicting the police force as animals especially swine, which is forbidden to Muslims. But people are cleverer than them - the photocopy editions were in circulation in the following weeks and Tempo decided to reprint the edition. Widespread protests followed and the president was under pressure to announce an investigation.

On 6th of July the corruptors divulged their power by throwing a number of Molotov Cocktails in Tempo office. The National police spokesman said that the attack was intended to shine a bad light on the police as if the staffs orchestrated the attack. Later in the month four 'Tempo" staffs were interrogated by the police as if they were the suspects. One staff received threat from a third party.

Not only that Tama Satrya Langkun of Indonesian Corruption Watch, who contributed to the report was brutally assaulted and stabbed.

According to public demand the police investigated into 23 suspicious bank accounts of police officers and only found 2 problematic accounts. Indonesian police also claimed that they have made progress in the investigation of the attack on Tempo magazine and the anti-corruption activist.

However people are calling for independent police probe to authenticate such claims. The president said there is no need to involve other organizations such as anti-corruption commission (KPK).

The conclusion of the story can be perceived by many. You can fill in the gap with your experience. Unless there are a radical upheaval of people asking for accountability, justice and equality, the rich and powerful will continue to do what they do and get away with their crimes.

And We Missed This Important News  

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Bangladesh sets a world record – 5 million CFLs distributed in a day
- Ashok Sarkar at World Bank Blog

If you were in Bangladesh in June, you would have found teachers in schools, preachers in mosques, and ads in newspapers, television, loudspeakers and pamphlets, encouraging people to bring in their incandescent bulbs to exchange with new Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) – and encouraged they were! On Saturday, June 19th 2010, at over 1,400 rural and urban distribution centers spread across 27 districts, manned by teachers, utility workers and other volunteers, Bangladeshis collectively took home about five million high quality CFL bulbs, in the first round of distribution.

CFL bulbThey broke a record set by the British in January of 2008, for the most number of CFL bulbs distributed in a single day―some 4.5 million. In June, the Government and people of Bangladesh were inspired to do even better … and they did!

and an exciting future awaits:
More is yet to be done in Bangladesh. There are five million more CFLs to distribute in September, under the first phase of ELIB. An additional 17.5 million CFLs are expected to be deployed in the next phase. Collectively, ELIB could nearly halve the current supply-demand gap in Bangladesh’s power sector.

Read the rest here.

Irregular Verbs  

Posted by Rezwan in

These are some verbs that are slow like a turtle
I conjugate
You conjugate
He conjugates
And since everyone is afraid with the lack of constitutional rights
I don’t write
You don’t write
He doesn’t write
For if one writes all the thoughts under the veil
I go to jail
You go to jail
He goes to jail

- Venezuelan Poet Aquiles Nazoa

Image by Flickr user Incessant Flux. CC BY-NC-ND 

Pizza Hut in Mall of Indonesia  

Posted by Rezwan

Good Food - But they don't have an English Menu.

The Story of Cosmetics  

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In a new episode from the The Story of Stuff Project Annie Leonard tells The Story of Cosmetics.

"The seven-minute film reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives. The film concludes with a call for viewers to support legislation aimed at ensuring the safety of cosmetics and personal care products."

Via Osocio Weblog

Water Security And Regional Disputes In South Asia  

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The Himalayan River Basins (Ganges, Bramhaputra, Indus, Yangtze) in China, Nepal, India and Bangladesh are inhabited by around 1.3 billion people. Yes, we are talking about almost 20% of the world’s population and almost 50% of the total population of these countries. These rivers were the lifelines of the ancient civilizations formed in this region. And these civilizations of present day are under threat.

In a recent report by Strategic Foresight Group, a Mumbai-based think tank, titled "The Himalayan Challenge - Water Security in Emerging Asia" some alarming statistics were presented. In the next two decades, the four countries in the Himalayan sub-region will face the depletion of almost 275 billion cubic meters (BCM) of annual renewable water, more than the total amount of water available in Nepal in present day.

Water availability is estimated to decline in 2030 comparing to present level by 13.50% in case of China, by 28% in case of India, by 22% in case of Bangladesh and by 35% in case of Nepal. The factors contributing to this decline are:

  1. About 10% to 20% of the Himalayan Rivers are fed by Himalayan Glaciers and studies say 70% of these glaciers will be melted by the next century as a result of accelerating global climate change.
  2. Glacial melting will eventually reduce river flow in the low season and increase in temperature in some areas leading to deforestation.
  3. Disappearance of thousands of lakes.
  4. Depletion of water resources due to pollution and natural reasons
  5. The reduced riverflow induces more deposit of silt in river bed narrows the depth of river thus causing flooding.

(Narrowing of depth of river caused by silt deposit, is the reason for floods in Bangladesh. Image taken by the author last month from an airplane)

The implications of depletion of water resources are:

  1. The agricultural sector is the major consumer of fresh water. However this sector will be using less water due to non-availability of water leading to less productivity.
  2. The cumulative effect of water scarcity, glacial melting, disruptive precipitation patterns, flooding, desertification, pollution, and soil erosion will be a massive reduction in the production of rice, wheat, maize and fish.
The consequences of the scarcity of water has prompted many countries to train rivers and manage water flow by building dams. But dams effect the river basins downstream. So it has become an issue for regional disputes. China alone has developed plans to build over 200 dams which will effect the downstream flows of the river in several countries.

India vs. China:

The 2,900 km long Brahmaputra River flows through China, India, and Bangladesh, and its watershed includes Nepal, Bhutan, and Burma as well. In 2000, India accused China of not sharing flood data of the flows of Brahmaputra River through the Chinese territory. This resulted in widespread devastation and floods in India killing many people. In 2002 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the countries to coordinate water related data sharing.

In early 2003, China conducted a feasibility study for a major hydropower project along the China section of the Brahmaputra River. This project was supposed to divert 200 billion cubic meters of water annually to the Yellow River. This would result in 60% reduction of water flow downstream in India and Bangladesh. In 2006, the Chinese government denied the existence of the plan however this remained a reason for the strained relationship between the two countries. However it was found later that China was building a dam on Brahmaputra.

In April 2010, China assured that the dam on river Brahmaputra will have no impact on the downstream flow of the river into India Bangladesh.

India vs. Bangladesh:

The Indian government has plans to get India’s 37 major river interlinked by 2016 implementing its interlinking of rivers (ILR) project. 25 new dams are planned for the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. According to experts the impacts of the ILR on Bangladesh will be the function of many variables, including the alteration of hydrology, river dynamics, ecosystem changes, agricultural productivity, intrusion of salinity and public health. The reason for dispute between both the countries is that Bangladesh have not been officially notified of plans for the ILR project.

India vs. Pakistan:

Pakistan is worried about six rivers (Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi) that flow into Pakistan through northern India, including the disputed state of Jammu & Kashmir and the state of Punjab. Their disagreements lead to the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, which has come under an increasing strain in recent days. India completed a hydroelectric power project on the Chenab River in the Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir by building a dam on 2008. Pakistan is wary of facts that the shortage of flow of water in rivers could cause rapid desertification.

Water issues are not only raising the political temperature between countries but also between states within a country like the river Kaveri is the reason for serious contention between Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Karnataka states.

The Solution:

One thing is for sure if India and China race for building dams to control flow of river within their boundaries without consulting their downstream neighbors then the situation will be volatile leading to unnecessary confrontation and war. The threats cannot be addressed by the unilateral efforts of nations, only regional cooperation can mitigate such tensions.

The Dhaka Declaration on Water Security has proposed an expert committee to prepare a road map for data-sharing and scientific exchange and to prepare guidelines for introducing transparency regarding relevant data.The declaration urges "greater political commitment and data exchange among Himalaya basin countries for collective approaches to the region's water challenges".

Dialogues between the citizens of the countries concerned are needed so that unnecessary escalations can be avoided.The region has to commit to agreements like the Dhaka declaration so that a Regional Information Sharing Network on water resources can be achieved.

(Also published in Future Challenges)

Global Warming: Melting Of Himalayan Glaciers  

Posted by Rezwan in

Pictures tell a thousand words on global warming..

More in Treehugger. Image courtesy of Environment 360.

I write Like  

Posted by Rezwan in

I write Like is an website which analyzes your writing and assigns it with the style of a notable author. Here's what I found by pasting an old writing.

I write like
Arthur C. Clarke
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Try yours!

Red Herrings Awards In Asia - An Important Event To Watch  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

Asia is generally perceived as a tough ground for Technology startups as there are many barriers for the entrepreneurs and often they complain about slow returns. But analysts say that Asian tech startups are still worthwhile investments.

Red Herring Inc. is a media company since 1993 "whose mission is to cover innovation, technology, financing and entrepreneurial activity." It is based in San Mateo, California. For over a decade technology industry executives, investors, and strategists have valued the Red Herring 100 lists as an instrument for discovering and advocating the most promising private ventures from around the world.

Red Herring has been organizing Tech Startup awards since long and this year they are again organizing the Red Herring 100 Asia awards which will highlight the exciting startups in Asia.

Chip Huyen from Vietnam writes:

I’ve heard of Red Herring for quite a while, both good and bad things. Though I wouldn’t say that it’s the most prestigious award in the field, nor try to compare it with Tech Crunch Award, I think it’s a great exposure for local start-ups to be in the list. The award event is also a precious opportunity for ambitious young entrepreneurs to meet, exchange ideas and find partnership opportunities with other entrepreneurs, venture capitalists as well as other big names in the region. As stated on their website, “Red Herring 100 Asia will bring together 300 C-level technology entrepreneurs, corporate strategists, and venture financiers from across the continent.”

The last date of submission was June 30, 2010. However they have contacted me to provide some tips about some upcoming startups from South Asia. I have sent them contact details of few startups from Bangladesh and India.There are some interesting startups like Leevio which needs Venture capitals to go on a big scale.

From Young Upstarts:

On August 10th to 12th, around 300 C-level technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporate strategists from all around the world will gather in Hong Kong to celebrate the accomplishments of Asian technology companies and entrepreneurs in the past year at the leading technology event organized by Red Herring.

The conference will also highlight some of the latest, exciting cutting-edge Asian technology startups, who will be carefully selected by Red Herring‘s vaunted editorial team. The agenda, over three days, will be comprehensive: exploring the market’s appreciation of innovation as a fast-track to success, discovering how Asian firms are leading the charge in many tech sectors, as well as discussing the drivers for successful entrepreneurship in Asia, and demonstrating how innovation is creating business opportunities for challengers and incumbents alike.

If you’re interested to be an attendee, you can register for the event here.
I hope we will see many interesting ideas and exciting startups from Asia highlighted this year.

We're All Going To Die  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

'We're All Gonna Die - 100meters of existence' - By Simon Hoegsberg
Click here to see the full slide show

This image is 100 meters long. There are 178 people in the Picture, all shot in the course of 20 days from the same spot on a railroad bridge on Warschauer Strasse in Berlin in the Summer 2007.

"It’s meant to point out that life is beautiful, and unless we open up to each other instead of keeping our longings, hopes and experiences to ourselves we’ll fall into the grave with a lot of valuable information and love that we never got around to sharing with the people we’re in touch with. I believe that it is meaningful to let the thought that we’re going to die into our heads once in a while because it brings into perspective what we’re actually doing with the life we’ve been given." - says Simon in an interview with Digital Photography School

The camera used for the project was a Canon 1D Mark II, and the lens a Canon 400mm. The post processing was done in Photoshop.

After 247 Days A Win For Bangladesh  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

Photo of the Day courtesy the Sun UK.

I will remember this day as Bangladesh beats England for the first time in ODI cricket.

Social Media Stats From Asia  

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International advertising, marketing and public relations agency Ogilvy & Mather's digital team has uplaoded this video which rounds up the activities of internet social media across Asia-Pacific region.

Interesting stats:

- 59 million Asians on Facebook and 68 millions on Facebook equivalents (in China and Russia)
- Indonesia has 22.9 million Facebook users alone
- South Korea with the highest broadband penetration
- 75 million mobile internet users - 95% 3G
- Hong Kong 48.6% population own a smartphone

Steamboat soup and rice combo for lunch  

Posted by Rezwan

At Platinum reto - a cool Indonesian food joint with reasonable prices. Yummy!

KidZania city - Hospital, Race track, Flea Market  

Posted by Rezwan

To drive a Kids car children have to go to the hospital for health check up, take a photo in another booth and make a driving license. Hmm... that's a time consuming process as there are queues.

Noodles Factory at KidZania  

Posted by Rezwan

At Kidzania  

Posted by Rezwan

Kidzania is a Mexican chain of family entertainment centers currently operating in 10 countries.

Every Kidzania center is themed after a child size replica of a real city with pedestrians, cars, shops and theatres. Here the kids learn the value of money as they have to purchase service of each of the over 50 activities. They even have special ATM cards from bank with which they can draw money from ATM machines.

In the photo Rianna learning the operations of a Icecream factory. Language is a problem because they speak only Bahasa.

Pacific Place Food Court In Jakarta  

Posted by Rezwan

Its a nice food Court with real boats on water in which you can seat and have food. Nice variety and wide choice of food. One of the coolest place in Jakarta.

Voice Of The Tribals  

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CGNet SwaraSwara, is a mobile-based news service which enables the tribals of Chhattisgarh in India to tell their version of stories, in their language. It is an initiative of former journalist Shubranshu Choudhury which gives daily news snippets of a region that is typically ignored by the mainstream media.

The South Asian reports:
Dial 080-40952044 and you are transported to another world in a village in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon. A reporter, Bhanu Sahu, tells you how women panches in a village are not getting payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as their names are not in the muster roll. She says male panches are getting paid even without working under the scheme. The reporter says this is the state of affairs in other parts of the district too where genuine payment claims are being denied.

In barely two minutes, you listen to the story of this far-away village as mobile-based news service.

In Chhattisgarh only 0.7 per cent of the population has internet access and many people are illiterate. So only logical measure was deploying a technology which is already available - mobile phones.

Indian Tribal Blog informs:
There are no tribal journalists in the mainstream media in Chhattisgarh. The number of journalists who speak any of the tribal languages are very few. The major media in the state are owned by people with interests in coal, power and steel. That shapes how they report the public hearings that are frequently held on locating projects in a particular area. “The owner, writer, reader — they are all on the same side of this war.” Radio is the ideal medium for a state with a population scattered across a forested interior, but All India Radio has no news service in a tribal language.

How do you democratise journalism? By getting people to give their own news, even if the only language they speak is Gondi or Kuruk. By designing a telephone news service with moderators who will both vet incoming stories, and translate them into Hindi. So in February this year C G Swara went into operation, Choudhury's pet project evolved with help from Microsoft and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Swara is essentially a citizen journalism platform using voice xml technology which links a website to many phone lines.

I wonder when we will see these kinds of services available in Bangladesh?

Germany slams Argentina 4:0 in Worldcup football quarterfinal  

Posted by Rezwan in ,

A picture tells a thousand words:

#arg fan vs #ger in #worldcup - GIF on Twitpic

The result means literally:

即席ですが。 #arg x #ger on Twitpic

And this make the team close to God to some fans:

#GER #Germany #Deutschland #Alemania #DFB on Twitpic

Brazil Vs. Netherlands match.