Saturday, July 05, 2008
So, am delighted that the LA Times has done a story on the show and the two faculty behind it. Cool.
Friday, July 04, 2008
After gaining citizenship, the Fourth of July is, of course, way too special. To quote from the musical, West Side Story, “I like to be in America, okay by me in America.” Perhaps it is a typical immigrant story after all when I think that my love for this country is out of the ordinary because I consciously weighed the alternatives and worked to come to America. Hey, American citizenship was not my "birthright."
Immigrating to America or any other country has never been as easy as it is now—unlike a few generations ago when most of the world’s population stayed in, or close to, the places where they were born and raised. Now, we move from state to state in this country, and we relatively effortlessly migrate across international borders, and make ourselves new homes in strange places.
In our family, my grandfather was offered a job in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) because of his valued metallurgy qualifications from a reputed Indian university. If my grandfather had sailed on that ship, for sure my family’s history would have taken a different turn. However, he was compelled to reject that offer and stay back in India, and it was not because the job did not pay enough. His mother, who was deeply rooted in traditions, threatened to commit suicide if he crossed the sea—considered as grounds for excommunication only eighty years ago!
The distance between my grandfather's hometown and Ceylon’s capital city, Colombo, was nothing—a mere 250 miles. In contrast to that, a few decades later, my wife and I travelled half way around the world—independently—in order to be here in the US. And America has been home since the day we landed in Los Angeles.
Rudyard Kipling remarked that we are not able to call the entire world our home “since man's heart is small”.
Kipling, too, was a product of globalization—he was born in India to British parents, and spent his early childhood in Bombay (now Mumbai), which he described as “mother of cities to me.”
Of all the places he had been to, Kipling felt that one place was special. He wrote about that in a poem entitled “Sussex”:
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground—in a fair ground—
Yea, Sussex by the sea!
Happy Birthday, America!
The UN aims to reduce by half the number of people without basic sanitation by 2015.
But in India alone they face a huge task.
It's estimated that around 700 million Indians to do not have access to safe and hygienic toilets.
Experts say that scavenging in India is most prevalent in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Similarly, when we have minimum age requirements to be an elected official, how come we do not have maximum age limitations? I remember Strom Thurmond never making any sense.
So, while in a prior blog entry I referred to the discussion on whether death can become optional, I am equally concerned about politics, and the benefits of political decisions, being dominated by the elderly, leaving the dwindling younger generations to pay the price.
Sharmila Wheelan, an economist at CLSA, a brokerage firm, forecasts that India’s current-account deficit will rise to almost 4% of GDP in the current fiscal year, and to 5.5% next year. Not only is the trade deficit soaring, largely as a result of higher oil prices; the overseas earnings of Indian IT services companies (two-fifths of which come from the financial sector) are likely to shrink this year.
The nature of the capital inflows financing a deficit also matters. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is less volatile than speculative capital inflows. If we assume that net FDI continues at last year’s pace, then it would more than finance the expected current-account deficits in Brazil and Mexico this year. In contrast, net FDI might finance less than one-third of India’s deficit and only one-sixth of South Africa’s, implying that their currencies are more at risk. The rupee has fallen by almost 10% against the dollar since late last year. Ms Wheelan forecasts that it will drop by another 9% by March 2009.
While in Foreign Policy, Yasheng Huang writes that India is the "Next Asian Miracle."
The only way both can be correct? The Economist is looking short-term, while Huang is looking at a much longer time horizon.
I think that Huang is overselling India. In fact, a perfect storm is brewing in India: elections are due in a few months; the ruling coalition is facing problems over the treaty with the US; inflation has kicked up to double-digits; and Pakistan seems to be getting more unstable. If India were a stock, I would sell now when it is high.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Nouriel Roubini warns about the coming global stagflation:
Today, a stagflationary shock may result from an Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This geopolitical risk mounted in recent weeks as Israel has grown alarmed about Iran’s intentions. Such an attack would trigger sharp increases in oil prices – to well above $200 a barrel. The consequences of such a spike would be a major global recession, such as those of 1973, 1979, and 1990.
The poor are not only being hurt by the food crisis more than anyone else, but they are also being blamed for it. U.S. President George W. Bush, for example, noted that when poor countries like India prosper, people there “start demanding better nutrition and better food.” Therefore, he said, “demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.” This view is widely shared by politicians, economists, and journalists alike. I echoed it myself in a recent column. But although the emergence of a global middle class is undoubtedly a factor in driving up food prices, it is not as important as most commentators think. We are blaming the wrong people.
That is one of the surprising conclusions of Donald Mitchell’s analysis of the food crisis. Mitchell, who is the World Bank’s expert on agricultural commodities, argues that while the poor, especially in Asia, are indeed eating more meat, this increased consumption is not the cause of the spike in food prices.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
we must stop seeing everything in life through the narrow lens of gender. If women expect equal treatment in society, they must stop asking for infantilizing special protections. With freedom comes personal responsibility.
And then, I thought I would read the Guardian, which I have not done for a while. There too was a lengthy piece on feminism, but from a completely different perspective.
The sex industry is booming, the rape conviction rate is plummeting, women's bodies are picked over in the media, abortion rights are under serious threat and top business leaders say they don't want to employ women. It all adds up to one thing ... an all-out assault on feminism.
I liked this paragraph there:
the obsession [with pregnant celebrities] is such that one magazine editor has said that "it's at the point now where some stars might decide to have more kids just to collect the money from their photos". We've seen Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, former child star Melissa Joan Hart and Myleene Klass all pose naked and pregnant in the past few years - as Keri Russell, an actor who has played a pregnant woman in two films in the past year has said, there is "this weird, crazy pop-culture infatuation with all these actresses being pregnant. Have you ever seen so many pictures of [pregnant] actresses?"
Indeed not. The message that these images strike home is that women's worth is directly tied to childbearing,
FROM farmers' markets to happy chickens, sales of organic food have rocketed in recent years. And to meet this demand, the share of farmland used for organic production has also increased in many rich countries. Switzerland has upped its share from under 2% in the mid-1990s to over 10% today, the highest in the OECD. But as global food prices soar, hurting the poor in particular, environmentalists may find organic farming trickier to promote. Organic farming produces far less than conventional intensive methods, and so more land must be farmed for the same yield.
I don't think continuing the current administration's foray into mixing religion and government is a good idea:
Obama will create a President’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
As Barack Obama has said many times, he believes that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. And many of the challenges we face today—from saving our planet to ending poverty—are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.
That’s why Obama will help draw on their strength of these groups through the creation of a new President’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
July 2nd uppdate:
The headline of a beliefnet blog says it all: Obama: Bush's Faith-Based Plan Didn't Go Far Enough!
Monday, June 30, 2008
I am not sure if I would have ever expected David Brooks to end an opinion piece of his this way:
Over the past few years, people from Goldman Sachs have assumed control over large parts of the federal government. Over the next few they might just take over the whole darn thing.
So here's what to do. Have a look at the university's Web site. Get some decent volumes together, pass the word to your friends and co-workers to do the same, and send them off to:
The American University of Iraq—Sulaimani
Building No. 7, Street 10
It's important to include the number
Cancer is undesirable. Heart disease is undesirable. So are type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and a thousand other debilitations that predominantly afflict those over the age of 40. Is it not then bizarre that we should have any hesitation in declaring that aging in general, being the molecular and cellular root cause of all these phenomena, is just as deserving of the attention of our medical research efforts? Here is the essay, and reactions
Remember "life extension" in the movie "Vanilla Sky?"
And, from MSNBC:
But if commercial surrogacy keeps growing, some fear it could change from a medical necessity for infertile women to a convenience for the rich.
"You can picture the wealthy couples of the West deciding that pregnancy is just not worth the trouble anymore and the whole industry will be farmed out," said Lantos.
Or, Lantos said, competition among clinics could lead to compromised safety measures and "the clinic across the street offers it for 20 percent less and one in Bangladesh undercuts that and pretty soon conditions get bad."
Is there an end in sight to this economic nightmare? And what might that end be?
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Well, the paper has published a few letters in response to that piece. I found this to be the most interesting:
To the Editor:
After a career in public service, I regretfully say, I would not do it again.
Philosophy and point of view led me to doing good instead of doing well, so I never expected to become rich. But now that I’m in my 10th year of a frozen judicial salary — less than summer students are being paid at law firms — I have concluded that whatever I may have accomplished for the public, I have wasted 25 years of my life by serving on the bench.
Emily Jane Goodman
New York, June 23, 2008
The writer is a New York Supreme Court justice
Here is an excerpt from Seymour Hersh's piece in the New Yorker:
L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.