Saturday, October 27, 2007

Peace and Climate change: Linked?

In his last and final will Alfred Nobel asked for the whole of his remaining estate to be constituted into a fund to be annually distributed in the form of prizes, five in all. Among them the peace prize was to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

How then does awarding the Nobel Peace prize to Al Gore and the IPCC for their work on Climate change constitute an execution of Nobel's will as he deemed it? Many see it more as a political statement meant to rebuke President Bush, unable to see how the their work qualifies them for a Peace prize.

Here are two qoutes that seemed aimed to quell the dissent or at least afford an explaination.

Adam Smith, Editor-in-Chief,
"In awarding the Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global body responsible for scientific assessment of climate change, and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore, the phenomenon's most renowned campaigner, the Norwegian Nobel Committee are highlighting the link they see between the risk of accelerating climate change and the risk of violent conflict and wars."

Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
"The fact that the Nobel Prize committee has awarded this prize to IPCC for peace is a clear recognition of [the fact] that if we allow things to run out of hand, it can lead to conflict. Where you have water scarcity, you obviously have conflict. Where you have floods and droughts, obviously there will be hardship and that can lead to conflict. If the sea level rises and people are displaced, they will overrun political boundaries and that will lead to conflict."

(The above quote is from an interview for Newsweek with Fareed Zackaria)

While the prize will and has helped raise concern and awareness for Global warming, a true planetary emergency, the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal carried an article "Not Noble Winners" that lists some candidates for the prize in 2008 that might be more of what Alfred Nobel had in mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Narendra Modi: Face of Religious Terrorism or Modern Gujarat?

On 27th February 2002, 58 people, including 25 women and 15 children were burnt alive in a train coach at Godhra Station during an altercation between Kar Sevaks on board the train and local Muslims. In an act of retribution execution squads composed of the cadre of Hindu organizations — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bajrang Dal, the Kisan Sangh, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party, carried out the carnage of innocent and unarmed Muslims. Prominent political and religious leaders orchestrated one of the greatest tragedies India has ever seen. Their directions were to inflict the maximum possible destruction to Muslim property and life in any way possible. The barbaric mobs murdered Muslims by shooting, stabbing, mutilating, lynching and burning. All these cold blooded murders were carried out with a sense of pride and duty. One suspect recorded by "Tehelka" (in a recent undercover hidden cam expose) describes how a Muslim Member of Parliament was lynched limb by limb until the pile of his body parts were set on fire.

Sitting at the helm during the three days of bone chilling murders and violent riots was Gujarat’s Chief Minister (CM) Narendra Modi. He and his government have been accused of everything from inciting, perpetuating and enabling the incidents. The Tehelka tapes provide further credence to these views. The CM was also refused a visa to visit the US citing his role in severe violations of religious freedoms. Mr. Modi has been a hero among the hardline Hindu parties for his unabashed pro-Hindu stance. His complicity during the riots has most likely further strengthened his clout. His website claims he is on "a ceaseless journey in quest of progress of the society". Clearly his quest for progress has been stifled by his hardline Hindutva agenda. The Hindutva ideology is supposed to be a way of life that is based on the cultural and spiritual ethos of Hinduism, instead it has morphed into an intolerant form of fascism. People like Modi clearly also use their misguided beliefs towards a political end. On one had he is willing to accept the gains for society through modernity (science, technology and industrial development) but on the other hand he adopts and advocates an archaic, extra-religious and conservative form of Hinduism. His love for expensive clothes and designer accessories or that fact that he married a woman who teaches in a poor Muslim area of the Gujarat capital are either ignored or dismissed as not relevant. (Hindutva promotes bachelorhood)

The Hindutva ideology has also become institutionalized with a well-defined structure of several political and religious parties that work together in great coherence. There ability to communicate quickly and effectively through all levels of the institution- from Modi to its foot soldiers- was evidenced during the riots. There was a systematic flow of information, dispersal of orders and weapons and in some cases actual directing of the mobs to Muslim dominated areas.

The events of those days brought to the forefront the threat that Hindutva has become to the nation. Instead of being reflective of the morals and peaceful ideals that make up Hinduism, its self-professed protectors take to brutality and murder. Karma is the centerpiece of Hindu philosophy. If its retribution they wanted then who better than the torchbearers of Hindutva to know Karma would take care of it.

Unfortunately the Hindutva agenda has the likes of Modi to call their own. Modi has great political appeal. His oratory skills are impressive and he has proved to easily rally the supporters and earn new ones. Under his leadership Gujarat has also attracted huge financial investments that makes him popular among the business community. After the riots, Modi was re-elected to power as Chief Minister and yet again he finds himself in a favorable position in the upcoming elections. He has muted his religious views and claims to be for all of Gujarat. Political power must be a strong drug.

Hindu's and Muslims in India suffer from a great mistrust of each other. It is not uncommon to find a loathing for each other even among the educated elite. The divide is historical and not a recent phenomenon. A country that prides itself on its secular nature and is home to people of all the world's religions is being torn apart from inside in the name of religion. Modi’s action or inaction on those fateful days is inexcusable and directly or indirectly the man has blood on his hands.

His popularity among Indians and politicians is a poor reflection on our society. It shows the apathy of many Indian citizens towards the underprivileged minorities that face grave and excessive forms of brutality. In that thirst for dollar investment and industrialization many see Modi as the face and hope of a new modern Gujarat rather than the face of intolerance and religious terrorism. Hopefully history will get the story right and Modi will get his place in the pages of infamy and injustice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Most Dangerous Nation in the World?

The great cocktail that would make Osama Bin Laden drool is apparently being served up daily in one country.

The mix of "political instability, a trusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry young anti-Western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state-of-the-art electronic technology, regular air service to the West and security services that don't always do what they're supposed to do.. and ...a large and growing nuclear program" makes this country more dangerous than any other.

For these reasons and more Newsweek's cover story "Where Jihad Lives Now" (October issue) calls Pakistan rather than Iraq, Iran or Korea (the Axis of evil favorites) "the most dangerous nation in the world". The authors Ron Moreau and Michael Hirsch detail what is considered widely accepted knowledge that "Islamic militants have spread beyond the tribal areas and have the run of an unstable, nuclear-armed nation".

The article calls Pakistan a hot bed of Taliban activity with scores of supporters among the intelligence officers and military men. It calls the truce deals named "treaties with tribal elders" in the areas near the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders an eye-wash. The authors claim that the deals were made directly with militant leaders who either coerced fearful tribal leaders or had willing tribal heads as their frontmen in making the deals.

Retired Army General Talat Massod is quoted as saying that most Pakistani people and senior politicians are ambivalent about the jihadist threats to their country and livelihood seeming to believe this is solely Musharaff's war not theirs. As such people are even accepting of a Taliban presence in their cities.

Benazir Bhutto's arrival in Pakistan was marred by two suicide bombings that killed over a 100 people attending her welcome parade. Bhutto's return to active politics following several corruption charges and a self imposed exile is not entirely popular considering her willingness to cut a deal with Musharaff. Many see the deal with a military dictator as contradictory to her eagerness for the return of democracy and possibly an indication of a her being overzealous for power.

Newsweek paints a very grim picture of Pakistan. If its story holds true it could have grave consequence for the world. It remains to be seen if Musharaff with or without Bhutto can do much to steady the country and steer it away from becoming a vast sanctuary for global jihadists. India stands precariously close to Pakistan and instability of the kind being reported could have huge consequences of the like we are yet to see.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rag-time Blues - Is Ragging in tune with college culture?

Ragging (also known outside of India as Hazing) is a form of ritualistic social induction into a group usually in an educational setting. Depending on whom you ask the induction can be described as anything from fun to abuse.

In 1992 when I entered dental school as a freshman, Ragging was not only necessary but an inevitable part of social interaction and familiarization. Avoiding it meant social isolation and a very low place on the popularity scale. Every freshman dressed themselves up in a senior mandated uniform of slippers, formal pants and shirts. We shaved often to maintain a clean hairless face and cropped our hair close to our scalps. Like animals nearing extinction we were tagged with these easily identifiable features and our actions on and off campus were closely monitored for non-freshman like behavior. The session of ragging lasted almost six months or until the end of the first semester.
In this article I attempt to understand two of the supposed justification and incentives to engage in Ragging:

Ragging promotes Camaraderie and Friendship?

Although the justification for ragging was the eventual familiarization between freshman and senior it is hard to see that as the strongest incentive for one to engage in it. "I want to get to know you, therefore I must rag you" sounds almost preposterous. Surely we are and have always been aware that there are more innocuous ways of making friends. But with ragging having become so ingrained in the college culture, interacting with a freshman in any other way makes it almost awkward. This method of social interaction has worked for years that simple introductions or an evening at a bar getting to know one another becomes uncharted territory. You simply did not get to know a senior if he doesn't rag you! It is easy to see how over the years everyone including those being ragged believes it to be a necessary tool for eventual friendships.

When ragging is either curtailed or banned often students complain that they go through their college years without ever knowing their seniors. This is consequence of fear among seniors of of being reprimanded for even casual conversation with the freshman and/or the lack of any alternative organized social interaction. When ragging is suddenly not an option, other forms of interaction are new and unexplored. It takes time to integrate other forms of communication into the college where ragging has been the norm for years.

Ragging is fun to all?

Within a really small boundary ragging can be fun. But it takes a lot of parameters for that to happen. Most importantly the freshman has to accept ragging as inevitable or even necessary. Since a lot of the amusement comes from subjugation, humiliation and mockery, a freshman also needs to shed all of his ego and inhibitions. Finally he needs to trust the ragger to find limits that would be acceptable for him. When all this comes together, harmless acts such as serenading an unsuspecting stranger, dancing to imaginary music etc become amusing to all the players.

But not all freshmen are alike and often have a harder time dealing with the mockery or trusting a stranger they only know as "Senior". Even the slightest form of ragging can make them anxious, fearful and sometimes angry. Often the resistance to ragging becomes an annoyance and the seniors begin to push the boundaries. Simple amusing tasks transform into physical assaults or taunts. Some raggers become notorious for being harsh and physical from the get go. Unfortunately they bask in the notoriety and remain unchecked.

Ragging has no rule book of what is allowed or disallowed; seniors get to make them as they go along. Ragging can be anything a "ragger" decides where the only things constant are the freshman and the senior(s). And that is where this argument for ragging falls apart. If there is no way to contain the harmlessness of the act then there cannot be any justification for it.

After my freshman year, I tried my hand at ragging the new batch. I wanted to build friendships and have some fun. I had strict boundaries and stayed clear of anything I had thought of as unacceptable during my year as a freshman. But none of that made it right and I realized a bit late that there were plenty of other ways to befriend the juniors and definitely a lot better ways to have fun.

To engage in something that can easily get out of hand is helping perpetuate it further. There might not have been any tragic consequences of ragging at our college, but do we have to keep at it until something like that makes us stop?

Almost all of us have been involved in some form of ragging. Please leave your comments regarding your present opinions on the issue so as to start a meaningful debate.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The battle for reserved status: Dalits vs Neo-Dalits vs OBCs

Dalits are finding Christianity and Islam especially attractive and are converting in droves to escape their branding as Dalits. They are often referred to as the "Neo-Dalits" in the media.

But Christian and Islam Dalit converts stand to lose not just their name tags but any benefit they received while they were legally Dalits. As such many Dalits shroud their conversion in secrecy. Recently there have been increasing calls from non-Hindu and social advocacy groups for the government to continue affirmative action for Dalit converts. The Sangh Parivar has been most exuberant in their opposition to affirmative action for the "Neo-Dalits". The Sangh Parivar is a body of institutions and political parties with the common ideology of "Hindutva".

The Indian National Commission for Schedule Caste has been examining the issue regarding the need for affirmative action for Dalit converts at the request of the Indian Government. Recently it announced its decision of favoring the "reserved" status for Dalit converts to Christianity and Islam.
(Source: Times of India)

But what makes this decision more complex and controversial is the caveat than went along with it. The NCSC favors the reservation without encroaching the benefits of those already under the umbrella of reservation! Currently the Government earmarks 15% reservation for the Scheduled Castes. Implementing the NCSCs recommendation would mean reducing the benefits for the Other Backward Castes (OBC) or having to challenge the Supreme Courts directive of a maximum of 50% reseravtion. The Supreme court might actually be less of a formidable adversary than the Sangh Parivar. The Sangh has shown to have immense capability of causing loud protests with possible large scale disruption of normalcy within the country.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal ran an article (In India Dalits convert to Christianity and face extra bias - Yaroslav Trofimov) rightfully critical of the caste system but also calling the absence of extended protection to Christian Dalit converts as a double bias against them.

Before the NCSC delivered its decision I had mulled over the issue of " Neo-Dalits" and if by extended reservation to ex-Dalits were we also diluting the efficacy on those that need it the most, Dalits who remain Dalits.

NCSC seems aware of the dangers of diluting the benefits to Dalits by adding the caveat but chooses to be ignorant of the effect it will have on the OBCs and the non-reserved population of India.

You can read my review of the WSJ article and my opinion on the reserved status for "Neo-Dalits" at "India Indeed: Indepth".

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Indians hungrier than most of the developing world- Global Hunger Index 2007

US based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released a 60-page report, titled "The Challenge of Hunger 2007", that uses a measurement tool known as the Global Hunger Index to rank 118 countries on their progress towards meeting the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG); reducing extreme poverty and hunger by 50 percent and the fourth reducing child mortality by two-thirds. (There are 8 MDGs)

Global Hunger Index 2007 ranks India 94th of the 118 countries behind China and Pakistan. Nine of the ten countries with the highest levels of hunger are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although India has fared poorly on the index, it is expected to reach the two MDG goals by 2015.

This index provides a particularly comprehensive measure of global hunger because it ranks countries on three leading indicators and combines them into one. The three indicators are: child malnutrition, child mortality, and estimates of the proportion of people who are calorie deficient. By combining these indicators, the index considers the food supply situation of the total population. It takes into account the special vulnerability of children to nutritional deprivation including its most tragic consequence; death.

The report claims that the slow progress on alleviating hunger and poverty are in part due to the lagging economic growth in the Indian agricultural sector and discrimination towards lower castes and ethnic minorities that have provided them with less educational and labor opportunities. Interestingly it attributes the practice in some parts of India where the male family members eat first and women make do with the leftovers as one of the cultural habits contributing to malnutrition. (Children of undernourished and anaemic mothers have a higher risk of being born underweight)

The United Nations' World Food Program claims that "nearly 50 percent of the world's hungry live in India, a low-income, food-deficit country. Around 35 percent of India's population is considered food-insecure, consuming less than 80 percent of minimum energy requirements."

What causes the persistence of food deprivation in the country that shows tremendous growth and surplus food stockpiles? Either the food production and/or availability are failing the people (Food Security) or the people that are hungry cannot afford to the buy the food that is available (Financial Security).

If it can be argued that these are the root causes of hunger, then a society that ensures minimal financial security and provides food security through a well governed public distribution system, hunger could possibly be eradicated.

Read more on how I think the present system in India can be fixed or changed to be able to feed India's hungry at "India Indeed - Indepth"

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize not so warming for Mr. Bush

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize for work on Climate Change and Global warming also has the resounding sound of a swipe at George Bush and his administration. Bush's government has been criticized for trying to stifle scientific evidence of the dangers of Global warming and refusing to be a signatory to the Kyoto Agreement. Bush also failed to attend a world summit on the issue at the UN and instead held his own smaller gathering in Washington to advocate voluntary reductions in emissions.

US Ex-Vice President and Ex-Presidential Candidate Al Gore won the Noble Peace Price for his work on Global warming. The award was shared by the UN panel on Climate Change. The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate is headed by India scientist Rajendra Pachauri.

Run Al Gore! Run!

Al Gore's Nobel win has re-energized the calls for a second run for the US Presidency. If he were to enter the fray the present Democratic contenders would find themselves woefully inexperienced and lacking credibility in comparison. Al Gore also won an Oscar for his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and an Emmy for his Cable Channel "Current TV". His presence in the race could also give the Democrats a wide support base and run the Republicans out of office.

US-backed Dr. Pachauri turns his back on the US!

The 67 year old Indian scientist has been the Chairman of the UN Panel since 2002 and was awarded the "Padma Bhushan" Award by India in 2001. He was born in Nainital, India and studied at La Martiniere Boy's College in Lucknow. He obtained a Master's degree and Industrial Engineering followed by a Ph.D. in Economics from North Carolina State University, USA.

Dr. Pachauri became the new Chairman under widely acknowledged controversial circumstances. Environmental group "Friends of the Earth" alleged the expulsion of the incumbent Chairman, Dr. Robert Watson, was due to lobbying by the U.S. government and American energy businesses. Exxon was the environmental group's main target for anger, following a revelation that in 2001 it urged the U.S. government to replace Dr. Watson. Dr Pachauri, the then director of the Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi and Vice Chairman of this UN Panel, was the US administration's favored candidate. .

Dr Pachauri defended his independence and in fact created waves in 2005 when he told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius that he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive". The Bush administration reacted sharply and negatively to his comments.

He is also in favor of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the international treaty on climate change assigning mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the signatory nations. United States has not ratified the agreement and Bush is not in favor of doing so citing its possible negative effect on the US economy.

Congratulations to Dr. Pachauri and Mr. Gore!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wife-beating an acceptable wrong!

India's Department of Family Welfare released the data from Phase III of its National Family Health Survey. Dr Sulabha Parasuraman of the International Institute of Population Studies headed the survey conducted jointly by 18 organizations in 2005 and 2006. 1.25 lakh (125,000) women in 28 states and New Delhi were surveyed regarding their opinions on wife abuse. Here is some of the data that is simply bewildering.

41% of women find wife beating justified if they showed disrespect towards their in-laws.
35% women say being assaulted by their spouse for neglecting household chores or their children is justifiable.
51% of the 75,000 men interviewed found no wrong in assaulting their wives.

In 2000 a survey of ninety-thousand women across the country conducted by the same Institute for the Indian Health Ministry found that a third or more of the women felt that beatings were justified for neglecting the house or children, for going out without informing their husbands, for showing disrespect to in-laws or for being suspected of infidelity.

Clearly more Indian women are accepting of being disciplined by their husbands than anyone ever imagined. With improving socio-economic and academic standards among Indians since the year 2000, this is a surprising disparity. Very sad indeed!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bollywood's Gay Casting Couch is out of the closet!

While many in the industry continue to deny its existence, models Aashish Chaudhary and Rahul Dev, fashion designers Ravi Bajaj and Manish Malhotra and film columnist Bharati Pradhan have told news media of the ubiquity of the gay casting couch while denying ever gracing it.

The Industry has had a still harder time still quelling the rumors with recent revelations of actual incidents. Noted playback singer Sonu Nigam, little know model Surjit Jagdish Singh and actor Sahil Khan have publicly acknowledged sexual harassment at the hands of a journalist, a fellow actor, and a model coordinator respectively.

But this culture has not limited itself to the fringes of Bollywood. Many "A" list personalities have been rumored to be in same sex relationships and/or accept favors in return for promising film careers.

Bollywood might be born out of a conventional and conservative country but it’s inside story is filled with anecdotes of polygamy, sexual exploitation, sleaze and .............

Read the entire article for an insight into the secret culture and to find out who are the A list celebrities involved at "India Indeed: Indepth"

Monday, October 8, 2007

Binayak Sen : Guilty as Charged?

Dr. Binayak Sen was arrested under the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. He has been accused of passing letters from an imprisoned Maoist leader to operatives outside the jail, possession of materials that show allegiance to the outlawed group and helping rent an apartment for some of its members.

Dr. Binayak Sen’s training as a pediatrician might be the least impressive part of his resume; he is also a noted civil rights defender and the general secretary of the Chattisgarh unit of Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL). He has worked tirelessly to create health care programs for the needy and poor in the area.

On which side of the struggle would a human rights activist pledging his efforts towards the Adivasis find himself? The complexity of that answer would be lost with a quick response. It also becomes necessary to separate the Naxal’s cause from their means when tackling the question.

Read more on Binayak Sen's arrest and if this was a government conspiracy or not at "India Indeed: Indepth"

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Support the Saffron Revolution without leaving your chair

Here are three petitions you can sign to help the Saffron revolution in Burma (Myanmar). Your signature will let the UN, China and the big corporations doing business with the Junta know just how serious the world is about this cause.

The UN needs to pass a resolution for action against the Burma Junta. Sign a petition showing support for such action - Petition

China has the single most influence it can leverage on the Burma Junta, more than any other country. Sign a petition to ask the Chinese government to support the Burmese citizens and not the Junta - Petition

Chevron Corporation is one of the largest foreign investors in Burma (Myanmar) and the only remaining major U.S. corporation with a significant presence there. Sign a petition to tell Chevron to use its influence in Burma- Petition

Also read "Is India being a responsible neighbor"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cadbury to get Indian kids chewing its gum

Cadbury is stepping up its game with plans to steal a large share of the bubble gum/chewing gum market in India.
It will use aggressive market researched tactics to attract both young and old consumers. Apparently Indian kids prefer strawberry flavoring and the teenagers; mixed fruit. We also prefer to have a liquid center to a dry piece of gum. So in keeping with the research, Cadbury will introduce a Strawberry and mixed fruit flavored gum with soft liquid filled centers in specially created wrapping to withstand the rigors of heat and transport in India. And if that does not get the kids emptying their pocket change for the gum, it hopes Bubba, the sunglass wearing cat appearing in ads will lure them further.
Just in case you are worried about how this might effect growing obesity in India, Cadbury's marketing director, Sanjay Purohit, assures us that the issue is " limited to a very, very tiny section of the extremely well-to-do people in large cities".

Source: Wall Street Journal "Cadbury's new Bubble-Gum Battle" Oct 4th, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Is India being a responsible neighbor?

Myanmar (Burma) has been in the news lately for the recent iron hand crack down by the military junta on the saffron clad monk's pro-democracy demonstrations. Myanmar's most prominent allies and trade partners India and China have come under some strong criticism for their low key and muted response. India and China can play a key role in restoring democracy but will the burgeoning trade relations and Burma's strategic geographic location be a strong deterrent for either country to come down heavily on the military regime?

Burma a former British colony gained its independence in 1947. But in 1962, Ne Win; an army general and his military men him overthrew the then elected government. He set up an authoritarian government to smother democracy and realize his vision of a socialist state. He isolated the country from the rest of the world, created a one-party system and cracked down on any expression that detracted from this vision. The once most prosperous part of the British Empire transformed into one of the world's poorest nations.

Ne Win's rule finally ended in 1988 finally after nationwide demonstrations mainly by students calling for democracy that were forcibly and brutally crushed.

India was the first neighboring country to criticise the Burmese military government's actions during people’s uprising. The Indian Embassy in Rangoon is said to have actively supported the pro-democracy student activists.

Yet later that year came the .............

Read the full article for more on how and why India reversed it policies towards Burma and where it stands today at "India Indeed: Indepth"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Creating humanitarians out of computer consumers - THE XO LAPTOP

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Foundation is based on its belief that a computer in the hands of children would allow them the chance to explore the world and delve into the Web's vast resources. It would give them a huge dose of "illimitable knowledge" from their seats in lesser developed countries.

But why a computer, how about money for schools, teachers and educational supplies? OLPC sees itself as supplemental to the efforts that are already ongoing to improve education in these countries. It sees the computer as the window to the world and a means for impoverished children to feel less isolated within their own countries and the world.

The laptop (XO) that hopes to sit on the lap of a deserving child is designed to be distinctive, rugged, efficient but most of all cheap. Initially pegged as the "100$ Laptop", manufacturing and other ancillary costs have the computer priced at about twice that. Initial reports about the computer have been mostly positive and rather complimentary.

With mass production about to begin the foundation recently announced the "Give 1 Get 1" initiative. The initiative calls for the sale of two computers for $400 in America. The purchaser gets to keep one while the other will be added to a pool for donations. Apart from creating a ready pool for donations, the foundation also hopes to create enough buzz to encourage private donations and governments to place large orders. There has been some talk about a luke warm response from governments that initially showed a lot of interest.

Initially OLPC will distribute computers in countries whose governments have made "commitments for the funding and program support required to ensure that all of their children own and can effectively use a laptop."

The Give 1 Get 1 program starts November 12th, until then you can sign on for an email reminder when the the initiative is officially launched.

Hopefully the program will set a trend in helping reach the many other supplies and necessities badly needed in many of the same countries.

Suresh and his "Heroes" return to primetime

Monday, Sept 24th

Mohinder Suresh and the rest of the Heroes returned to prime-time TV with the start of the new season. The premier was disappointing and lacked the intrigue and mystery its episodes are usually choc full of. Instead the show crowded the screen with several new characters many of whom might have special powers. The new characters seemed uninteresting and an unnecessary diversion. It can only get better from here!

Monday, Oct 1st

"Heroes" redeemed itself with an exciting return. The show continued to follow new and old characters spread around the world with interesting developments for each of them. Each of the several plots showed momentum, Peter and the box, the return of the Haitian, Suresh's new job with the "enemy", an assassination attempt on Mrs.Petrocelli and Hiro's part in creating Japanese history as he knows it!

Can't wait for the next episode!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Eklavya to be India's Oscar entry

'Eklavya" is to be India's official entry for Foreign Film Category at the Oscars. The 105 minute film stands apart from the usual Bollywood fare by being devoid of over the top themes or dance sequences in foreign locales. The film is entirely shot in Rajasthan, India with some great cinematography that could have been used for the 'Incredible India" ads. The story is intense and well acted, but does it stand a chance for a nomination?

Only three Indian entries that have been nominated in the Best Foreign Film Category since India began sending entries in 1956 (Mehboob Khan's "Mother India", Ashutosh Gowarikar's "Lagaan" and Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay"). A small number considering the enormity of the Bollywood industry.

The nominations are to be announced early next year.

Rupee out-performs other Asian currencies

The Wall Street Journal quoted the rupee as being "Asia's best performing currency this year" in today's Political and Economics section. The investment firm Credit Suisse bank had said back in April that Indian GDP at the current price level (under 41) was a 1 trillion dollar economy. As recently as 2001 India's economy was 500 billion dollars. India is the 12th country to reach this milestone. While India's growth is something to take great pride in unfortunately this growth has not been evenly distributed among all sections of its population.