Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sail the 7 seas (on iceberg boats)

...the evolutionary history of ostriches, emus and rheas does not match the break-up of the continents....scientists believe that their common ancestor could fly.....New World monkeys rafted to South America on a clump of earth.....these three groups represent 73 percent of the land mammals living there.....
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It was Darwin who first suggested that wolves arrived on the Falklands Islands by floating on icebergs. For making such an extraordinary speculation the greatest biologist ever was criticized in the strongest terms. Now there is fascinating evidence of snakes swimming 120 miles across the open ocean (and many others). Forget the boring old stories of human colonization, this is the exciting new story of animal colonization of the the planet we all call home.
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We are reminded here of Jurassic Park (the novel) where female dinosaurs had escaped from their habitat and had found a way to breed. Nature - it was famously said - will always find a way. And nature has found a way for creatures as immobile as snails to migrate from one continent to another by clinging on to the feet of birds.
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In June 2000, Alan de Queiroz became curious about an enormous, ragged-looking garter snake that lived on the tip of Baja California. Like many other biologists of his generation, de Quieroz had been taught that species traveled the Earth to new habitats on slowly drifting continents.  
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This snake had relatives on the other side of the Sea of Cort├ęz on Mexico’s mainland, and de Queiroz assumed that this population ended up on Baja 4 to 8 million years ago, when the peninsula split from the mainland.

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But using a new method based on genetic sequencing to estimate when the two populations split, he found that it had occurred in the past few hundred thousand years. In other words, one or more pioneering garter snakes had probably floated across 120 miles of open ocean.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

"My dad is from Jullundur"

....the President was relieved to have at least one Indian person in the receiving line.....Prime Minister looks at me, and says oh you are Indian, I said yes...the President nodding approvingly....Prime Minister Singh asks: Where are your parents from? I said...Punjab. my dad is from Jullundur.....The Prime Minister said, "Oh, his father and I are from the same place...."


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The Viceroy-elect to India has been declared after long months of intense deliberation:  Richard Rahul Verma is a very close associate of the next-in-line-to-the-throne. 

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In our opinion this is quite a master-stroke by our overlords. After all, "yellow" China and Japan are promising filthy cash, here is truly a bonding of souls, "white" and "brown." If proof was ever needed on this point, we point to Exhibit #1: US Congressman Curt "Bollywood lover" Clawson (Florida-19) who got confused by brown skinned officials representing the United States of America.
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Honor restored

....Biswas's lawyer Ravi Batra said in a statement to PTI that the "honour" of Biswas, Indian diplomats and India has been has been "vindicated" with the court order. The settlement acknowledged that Biswas was an "honor student" at the time of her "false arrest".... 
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As a stereotype this is at least half true, Indian students in the USA (and elsewhere) will be focused on grades and are expected to do well in studies, while Americans will look at high-school and college as more of a life experience.

Indians are likely to be unfamiliar with US harassment laws and zero-tolerance principles and the fact that the criminal justice system will not hesitate to take action against elites (unlike in India where things can be hushed up).

As a daughter of a diplomat Krittika Biswas is not a typical case.  She benefited from strong support from the Indian diplomatic establishment and (we presume) did not lack in financial backing. This will not be true for middle class Indian kids in search of "US degree" who may be wholly destroyed by their own thoughtless actions or malicious behavior forthcoming from fellow (american) students.

We understand the need for emotional closure (and lawyer-ly hyperbole) but we are uncomfortable about all the drum beating about violated honor being restored of Ms Biswas, Indian Foreign Service and India (it is a bit like how Dr Aafia Siddiqui is described by patriots as a daughter of Pakistan....also unfairly targeted by the Americans). It was a false case against a civilian who was not representing India officially, and the "crime" was probably upgraded due to zero-tolerance principles adopted by US schools. 

Still the question remains, why was the student who actually committed the crime not charged? Without any other exculpatory information it does lend credence to the charge that the indictment (and arrest) was driven by "ethnicity" and/or a "tragic rush to accuse."


Naw (55) beats Aye (45)

The British have always loved partition...for other people. In each case the justification was that the sub-nations are unable to co-exist side by side. This is when the British played not an insubstantial role in stoking the communal fires - the (in)famous divide and rule policy.

The two nation theory which is best summarized as "our heroes are their villains" has no doubt been hugely successful....in compounding misery of all the communities involved.. The wrongs of the past should have been dealt with a truth and reconciliation commission (just like in South Africa).  

The irony is that separation did not reduce the rancor one iota: Pakistan-India and Israel-Palestine have fought four (official) bitter wars, things are not too much better in Northern Ireland.

But when it comes to Britain herself, the answer was made clear today. Partition is never a solution to the problems, it also makes all of us poor as people. The cultural lines are never clearly drawn and purity is over-rated. Speaking of India specifically, the answer to a prosperous future is to encourage more secularism (and mixed marriages aka love jihad) not to create more ghettos and breed intolerance.

The bad blood that has been created over this partition fight will not (easily) go back into the bottle. The polls are clear on this point: the English now resent the Scots just as much as the Scots look down upon the English. The dividing lines will be sharper once a vote is announced for a Brexit from the European Union. Alex Salmond and Nigel Farage are smart ambitious politicians, they are unlikely to take no for an answer.

All that said we are happy for the Brits. Yes, it is certainly better together.
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Scottish voters have rejected independence, deciding to remain part of the United Kingdom after a historic referendum that shook the country to its core.The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Appeal for Alan

Even if we are a bit too cynical and feel that (a) the appeal for Alan Henning by British Imams and muslim organizations is an exercise in public relations (not in my name etc.) and that (b) the Caliphate folks are unlikely to listen to anyone (heck, even Al Qaeda has requested them to let the hostages go free), the important point still remains that a man is (maybe) alive now, he will certainly be dead later. If it really helped we would recommend sorcery and magic (not really).

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It is a terrible time for his family as they live in zero hope from day to day. Our sympathies would be meaningless, so the best we can do is watch and wait in silence.
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Henning, a taxi driver, was kidnapped within 30 minutes of crossing from Turkey into Syria. He had volunteered to drive an ambulance full of medical aid as part of a community-funded charity trip organised by volunteers from Bolton, England, and the UK Arab Society.