Saturday, August 02, 2008
This essay in the New Yorker further complicates the image I have of China and its youth. And the review essay in the NYRB has many interesting insights. Excerpt from the NYRB piece:
After a century and a half of famine, war, weakness, foreign occupation, and revolutionary extremism, a growing number of Chinese—overseas as well as inside China—had come to look to the Olympic Games as the long-heralded symbolic moment when their country might at last escape old stereotypes of being the hapless "poor man of Asia"; a preyed-upon "defenseless giant"; victim of a misguided Cultural Revolution; the benighted land where in 1989 the People's Liberation Army fired on "the people." In one grand, symbolic stroke, the Olympic aura promised to help cleanse China's messy historical slate, overthrow its legacy of victimization and humiliation, and allow the country to spring forth on the world stage reborn —"rebranded" in contemporary parlance—as the great nation it once had been, and has yearned for so long to once more become.
Not anymore. A story in the NY Times says:
Many economists argue that globalization will not shift into reverse even if oil prices continue their rising trend. But many see evidence that companies looking to keep prices low will have to move some production closer to consumers. Globe-spanning supply chains — Brazilian iron ore turned into Chinese steel used to make washing machines shipped to Long Beach, Calif., and then trucked to appliance stores in Chicago — make less sense today than they did a few years ago.
Meanwhile the cost to transport electronic data? The marginal cost is almost zero!
Friday, August 01, 2008
It appears that Pakistan's ISI was indeed actively assisting the Taliban in the bomb blast outside the Indian embassy in Kabul. Both Afghanistan and India are tightening the squeeze on Pakistan. And the US too is pressuring Pakistan. It is a country with a weak government, a president (Musharraf) pushed to corner. Earlier I commented that Pakistan might be ripe for a military coup, except for the fact that Musharraf is already in pseudo-power.
And, Indian and Pakistani forces traded fire at the Line of Control, raising doubts on how long the five-year old ceasefire agreement will last.
All is not well on that front.
This is from the Scientific American. Yes, that is right. I suppose this means that we can eat the cheesecake and have it too. Excerpt:
Scientists have found a drug that mimics the effects of a workout by, among other things, increasing the body's ability to burn fat.The study shows the pill can also increase endurance; lab mice that took it ran more than 40 percent longer on a treadmill than their untreated peers."It's tricking the muscle into 'believing' it's been exercised daily," says Ronald Evans, a developmental biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in La Jolla, Calif., and co-author of a study published in Cell. "It proves you can have a pharmacologic equivalent to exercise."
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Michael Vick and Mike Tyson both had it.So did Marion Jones and Latrell Sprewell. In fact, so do roughly two in every three NBA players, according to a recently published Toronto Star article that assures that some 60 percent of them are guaranteed to be destitute within five years of retiring.
With that, it becomes clear that the same indomitable spirit most athletes take to the field with themisthe same mindset they carry into their everyday existence.
But in the real world, such 'a-world-is-mine' mentality doesn't translate quite the same.
The one on arms exports is a nasty reminder that the world spends billions on a horrible wasteful item. And, "JUST five countries supplied 80% of global arms exports between 2003 and 2007". Of course, the US leads the pack :-(
The latest issue of the New Yorker has wonderful content--I think the editor made it up for the remarkably awful cover on Obama. The essay on California's marijuana industry, in a legal grey area, provided details I would never have imagined. The short story by Ruth Jhabvala is exactly what I would expect from her--a slowly unfolding narration about regular folk with their own quirks. The memoir essay by Charles Van Doren, of the notorious $64,000 quiz show, is a good read.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I think, if at all, it is only the left that is beginning to make noise about this (not that I always agree with them). A group of ultra-lefties have signed an open letter to Obama, perhaps worried about his slow drift towards the political center. But, better yet is Katha Pollit's piece, on the bizarre response from McCain on viagra v. contraception pills:
There's the basic unfairness of not covering these essential, even life-saving drugs and devices, so fundamental to women's health and well-being, and the added insult of denying coverage while men are lavished with cut-rate erections. And there's the craven submission to religious extremists that moves the politics of that denial. It's a pocket-book issue, too: A year's worth of contraception can cost a woman $600. That's a lot of money. Is it too much to expect the next president of the United States to understand that? Now that every politican in America prides himself on knowing the price of a gallon of milk and talks like he's just finished doing the week's shopping for a family of ten?
From the (moderate) left, Daniel Gross:
Naturally, many urban-dwelling, car-hating socialists (as well as suburban-dwelling, Jeep-driving moderates like me) believe this is precisely the time to put more government funds—not less—into alternate modes of transportation: natural-gas powered buses, bicycle-sharing programs, trains, light-rail systems, subways, ferries, and rickshaws. The notion that the government should invest more in mass-transit infrastructure has always raised conservative hackles.
From the right, Peter Gordon:
Robert Reich is a public intellectual, interviewed in today's NY Times by Deborah Solomon. Among his responses is this: "... public transit has been the poor child of infrastructure spending in America."This is beyond silly and easy to check. The quickest check is at Demographia, where Reich and others can find that in 2006 road and highway subsidies per passenger mile were $0.010 while transit subsidies per passenger-mile were $0.686. These are averages. At the margin, we build rail transit that gets much bigger subsidies.Outsized and ineffectual transit subsidies have been in effect for over 40 years. Most politicians and reporters don't care and neither do many public intellectuals.
Not that I have read all the Booker Prize winners over the years. But, really, nothing to beat Rushdie's Midnight's Children for the grand prize? I remember reading Midnight's Children when I was an undergrad, back in India. I liked it a lot. But, I still remember thinking that it could not measure up to Crime and Punishment and David Copperfield, which also I read at about the same time. Of course, these are all different genres, and written in different time periods. But, Midnight's Children did not have that intellectual and emotional depth into understanding humanity that the other two had. After all, isn't literature to help us understand humanity?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The fertility tourists
The ads are brazen: 'healthy young women - superovulated exclusively for you!'. The fees are half those of UK clinics ('flights and hotel included!'). And the industry is unregulated, leaving doctors free of legal and ethical constraints. No wonder more and more Europeans are going to India for fertility treatment.
Read more at The Guardian
I wondered then when retail gas prices will come down, given that oil prices have retreated from the $140 levels, down to $125. Turns out that I did not have to wonder for long; here is the explanation from slate.com:
Oil prices have dropped to about $125 a barrel this week after reaching a peak of $147.27 earlier this month. Meanwhile, gas prices are still hovering around the $4 mark, down just a few cents from an all-time record average of $4.11 two weeks ago. Why does it seem like gas prices go up faster than they come down?
Because they do. Analyses of gasoline economics show that when the price of oil rises, it takes up to four weeks for gas station prices to catch up, with most of the increase taking place within the first two weeks. But when oil prices sink, it takes up to eight weeks for the savings to be passed along to consumers. The phenomenon is known as "asymmetric price adjustment" (PDF) or, more informally, "rockets and feathers."
A busy gas retailer will take delivery on a daily basis, so there's some pressure to pass along price hikes without too much delay. The stations can't raise prices too much, though, because consumers tend to be extra-vigilant about shopping for bargains when oil prices are on the rise. When the newspapers start reporting upwardly mobile barrel prices, drivers tend to comparison shop down to the penny. This keeps gas prices from rocketing even further.
The asymmetry that economists cite comes into play as soon as oil prices start to deflate. Freed from the constant reminders about rising fuel costs, drivers become less invested in looking for a bargain—and retailers don't have to worry as much about the competition. As a result, station owners can keep drivers happy by knocking just a few cents off the "old" price.
Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.
Explainer thanks Severin Borenstein of the University of California-Berkeley, Matthew Lewis of Ohio State University, Mariano Tappata of the University of British Columbia, and Bart Wilson of Chapman University. Martha C. White is a freelance writer in New York.
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2196273/
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Why this remark? Well, I was reading Krugman's latest column, and came across this sentence there: And as Upton Sinclair pointed out, it’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary — or, we might add, his campaign war chest — depends on his not understanding it.
I was sure I had seen it somewhere else in his writings. I remembered it only because I spent a few minutes what exatcly Sinclair was meaning, and what the context might have been. Anyway, a Google search later I located Krugman's earlier usage. But, it was not in a column; it was in his blog.
Crazy couple of days. Two explosions in Istanbul kill at least 15, and injures more than 150.
This was after the series of bomb explosions in Ahmedabad that killed at least 45.
It is not some kind of a common ideology that links all these terrorists. There is no point fighting a Global War on Terror; these are not "global" but "local".
In any case, I can't imagine what kind of horrible people these terrorists are to be able to kill so many innocents. Atrocious.
Update: CNN reports that Four female suicide bombers and a gunmen killed at least 68 people and wounded almost 300 others during a string of attacks in central Baghdad and Kirkuk on Monday