Wednesday, April 16, 2014

283 children lost at sea (South Korea)

This is horrible!!! SoKo is (almost) a developed country. Disasters of this magnitude are expected only when Rohingyas escape on leaky katamarans to Malaysia.

It is an unimaginable loss for the parents whose children were out on a pleasure trip. Hopefully more people will be rescued, however chances are much reduced after a few hours (water temp is only 12C).
....
A ferry carrying 462 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving more than 280 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.

The high number of people unaccounted for — likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean — raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry disasters since 1993, when 292 people died.


The decline and fall of Islamic science

More accurately, science as practiced by people who happen to be muslims.The conventional wisdom that Islam was responsible for choking off the march of science in the Middle East may not be quite true.
.....
According to Thomson Reuters' Science Watch, the Arabian, Persian and Turkish Middle East produces only 4% of the world's scientific literature. Paltry by almost any standards, that value is even more diminutive when paired with the fact that the Middle East, at one time, led the world in science.

....
So what happened?


(slow) Train to Ernakulam

We are familiar with strange truth (stranger than fiction). Here is an example of plain scary truth (not as scary as flying by Malaysian Airlines, but still....)


Above we have the map of (Indian Railways) South-Western Zone. The original rout was along the west coast (Konkan Railway shown in green). Instead the train got diverted to Pune (top left corner in yellow zone). At that point it should have moved directly south to Miraj and from thereon turn west to reach Goa. Instead it traveled south-east (right-wards in the map) to Solapur and then on to Gulbarga, a few hundred km on the wrong track.

Not a single official noticed (the passengers eventually did). BTW Udupi is a town on the west coast near Mangalore.


Atheists please STOP (beating your wives)

What do Americans think of atheists? They are tolerated but not celebrated. The latter would be difficult because most Americans consider atheists to be living an immoral life. They are likely to be serial murderers even!! And here is a shocker, even hard-core atheists would agree with this sentiment!!!! 
.......

Atheists have been speaking up more loudly in recent years, adding a fresh perspective to debates over meaning and morality. But in spite of this new visibility, the way Americans view non-believers remains extremely negative, according to a newly published study.

Participants in the first experiment—237 Americans—read a description of a man engaged in unambiguously immoral behavior. “Dax” was described as someone who harmed animals as a child, and then went on to kill a series of homeless people as an adult.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ugly duckling hopes to be a swan

Many many people question the value of democracy in a country like India filled with poor, illiterate, low information people. This thinking can be logically extended to the necessity of a popular ballot. After all the elections will consume of the order of $5 Bil. Why do it?

One answer to the above question is that it demonstrates at least one area where the Indian state does a gargantuan job reasonably well (also getting better with time with further scope for improvement). Heavy-weight candidates lose elections by a 1000 votes and accept the result without comment. This is such a remarkable fact...that it is ignored for the most part. 

The Economist is inspired by the election process (if not the headline candidates) and inspects the functional parts of the Indian state and considers how to improve the non-functional parts. Excellent advice for the most part.

One thing that did not merit a few bytes is the importance of (appearance of) non-partiality. The reason the Election Commission is so widely respected because it calls out ALL the bandits in equal measure. Thus both Azam Khan (muslims won Kargil war) and Amit Shah (hindus should consider taking revenge) have attracted the maximum penalty. In a country like India it is essential that the government is fair and seen to be fair. Nothing else will do.


Vijay-anna ki Pulitzer vijay

Congratulations are in order for (one more) distinguished Tam-B (Anna is elder brother in Tamil). 

Perhaps it would be right and proper to question him on his views of the Indian elections (if any) and how it is creating cracks in the creative community, to the point where a publishing house which owes its living to the First Amendment will black-list its own star author for the crime of holding politically incorrect opinions.

We discovered a 2005 link from Sepia Mutiny (which died 2 years ago this April) and a separate link from Amardeep Singh (one of  the mutineers). VS is referred to as a 2nd gen (1.9 gen) gent because he migrated to the USA at an early age.


....
Bangalore-born Vijay Seshadri, who moved to America at the age of five in 1959, has won the 2014 Pulitzer prize for poetry for his collection of poems 3 Sections (Graywolf Press), which was described by the jury as "a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless."

Dravidas united against Dalits

Joe D'Cruz is possibly the greatest living Shudra author and he has now proudly declared his love (scroll to the bottom) for the tallest Shudra leader of India: Shri Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi. 

The liberals are outraged and have promptly declared Joe to be an out-caste (untouchable).


Just like the historic divisions between Shias and Sunnis will not remain buried under anti-idolatry passions (non-Sunni muslims may even vote for the BJP as a protest vote against Sunni-led acts of discrimination), similarly the divisions between the Middle Castes (Shudras) and Lower Castes (Dalits) will also sharpen as both communities come out of the shadow of the upper castes and take their rightful place under the sun.  

In that sense the General Elections 2014 will be a reality show that will show-case the puzzle that is Indian society and how it re-arranges itself along and across caste lines. The exercise (and the execution) is nothing but fascinating to observe at a close distance and in real time, and is also the closest that India can get to a social (often violent but at low level) revolution without completely breaking up into so many Pakistans.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Heart-bleed cyclone devastates Mums (and babies)

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Avoid the Internet if you can. Keep changing your passwords on a daily basis. Be prepared for the worst.
....
British parenting website Mumsnet is the latest organization to have been hacked due to the "Heartbleed" bug, founder Justine Roberts revealed on Monday.


NDTV projects clear majority for NDA!!!

The Mod-memtum is gaining speed if opinion polls are anything to go by, and now we have a prediction for majority, as the alliances have been firmed up. We remain unconvinced (200-230 is our estimate).

We do have one wish- whatever govt formation takes place, Mamata Banerjee must not be part of it (Trinamool is predicted  to be the second largest party). She needs to learn how to govern responsibly (without taking recourse to blackmail) first.
...
For the first time in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a poll on Monday predicted a clear majority for any pre-poll alliance with NDTV projecting that NDA would get 275 seats in the 543-member House. This is 16 seats more than the poll had predicted last month.
 

BJP on its own would win 226 seats — the highest tally ever for the party and the best by any party since 1991, the poll done by Hansa Research estimated. UPA would win just 111 seats, with Congress sinking to its lowest-ever tally of 92 seats, it said.
 


$70 Bil (from coolies) for Motherland

Kaushik Basu (Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank) is mighty pleased that India tops the global remittances list. It is remarkable that this $70 Bil grant exceeds India's software exports figure ($65 Bil).

It is indeed the single best possible anti-dote to poverty that our socialist rulers can envisage. Why not create better opportunities for these folks at home who are essentially slaves abroad? That is a bridge too far for our visionaries.

"Billions from Coolies" is a life-line for other SAsian countries as well (Pak #7, Bangla #8 on the list). 

What appears to be a bit sinister is that Bangladesh's receipts declined year on year. It is possible that the lovely GCC nations are punishing Bangla via excessive deportations etc. in response to Awami League's war against the Jamaatis. Since the strangulation of BNP/Jamaat is probably supported (instigated) by India, the least India can do is to try and make up for this loss of "revenue."

Sikhs (15th Ludhiana infantry) save Sahibs

In all the talk we hear about how advantageous it was for India to have been a British colony (no one doubts that) we never hear how Britain benefited enormously from having an Indian colony- as it marched to victory in the World Wars on the back of Indian soldiers. There will be no reparations but even a few words of gratitude (and a few paragraphs in British history books) is still better than nothing.

....
An Indian soldier, immortalized by his act of selfless heroism and valor while fighting for the British armed forces in World War I has come in for heavy praise from UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron has also floated the proposal that British children must be taught "in the years to come about the role that the 1.2 million soldiers from the Indian subcontinent played in World War I".


Desert ports (Singapore dreams)

Duqm, Chabahar, Gwadar....all desert ports of tremendous significance (maybe).

Duqm, Oman may be the American firing post in response to the Chinese held Gwadar.
The advantage for the Americans is that Oman is stable while Baluchistan is not (even if a People's Liberation Army base comes up in Gwadar).  

India under Modi-raj will probably be friendly with Oman as well as Iran. The proposed access point to Afghanistan and Central Asia will be via the Chabahar port, right next to Gwadar).  


There is also a plan for a deep-sea pipeline between Iran and India. USA may not object to Indo-Iran links since there is a strong lobby which wants normalization between Tehran and Washington.
.

Modi-Mao: may a thousand shakhas bloom

Forget the elections, this is the true Modi effect: 2000 shakhas in 3 months!!!

As we have noted before, polarization is not good for the country and never good for the Aam Aadmi.
The zealots who presumably suffer from Islam-envy seem all too ready to commit us to a Taliban asylum.
..... For the last three months, Ravi Tewari, a 22-year-old engineering student, has been waking up at 5am, putting on his white shirt and khaki shorts and rushing to a nearby park for the morning shakha of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
.

His family is surprised. No one in the Tewari clan has ever been with RSS. So, the family can't quite figure what is driving Ravi to adopt this punishing morning drill.


.

Losing my (muslim) religion (voting for BJP)

A very significant question and an (surprisingly to us) enlightened response from Darul Uloom Deoband.

As per Sunita Aaron there is a problem due to manipulative maulanas causing mass confusion amongst the faithful by not speaking in one voice (surely an impossible task).

Reading the report between the lines and it is clear that the main cause for alarm is the wide-as-Ganga division between Shias and Sunnis. In places like Varanasi, the BJP (and specifically Modi) is expected to significantly benefit from Shia votes against Sunni acts of (petty) discrimination.
.....
The Hindustan Times Correspondent in Lucknow Sunita Aaron says in an analysis published on Sunday that the maulanas have had their share of spreading confusion among the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere, and this will inevitably help the BJP in the elections. Have the religious clerics bargained a quid pro quo?