Happy New Year!

All the very Best for 2019 for you, family, friends and the world.
Peace Happiness, Health and Wealth is my wish for all.
Every day is the beginning of the future and the years to come.

ඔබ, ඔබගෙ පවුලෙ සියලුදෙනාට, මිතුරන්ට හා මුලු ලොවට ඉතාම සුබ අලුත් 2019 වසරක් පතමි.
සාමය, සතුට, සෞඛ්‍ය හා ධනය මගෙ ප්‍රාත්තනාව ඔබ සියළුදෙනාට
සැම දවසක්ම ඉදිරි වසරෙ හා අනාගතයෙ ආරඹයකි

Its been good discussions, regards to all sereno/barr-kum

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A Historic Picture (and some reminiscences about 1971 BD War)


From Dr Hamid Hussain

IMG_1589 (005)

General Sam Manekshaw speaking to two Pakistani Air Force officers in plane bringing him to Pakistan for negotiations after 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. Gentleman sitting in suit is a public relations officer of Indian Ministry of Defence and gentleman standing in white overall is a sergeant of the Indian Air Force. Photograph courtesy of Brigadier Behram Panthaki.

This picture is dated 29 November 1972, when Indian army Chief General (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw flew to Pakistan for negotiations after 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. The two Pakistani Air Force (PAF) officers were prisoners of war and brought by Sam as a good will gesture. Both officers were shot down in western theatre of war. The one near Sam with handle bar moustache (matching Sam’s own impressive moustache) is then Squadron Leader Amjad Ali Khan. His F-104 was shot down on 05 December 1971 by anti-aircraft fire while attacking Amritsar Radar. He retired as Air Vice Marshal. The other officer is then Flight Lieutenant Wajid Ali Khan. His F-6 was also shot down by anti-air craft fire during a close air support mission over Marala headworks on western border. After repatriation, he left air force and settled in Canada. He became member of Canadian parliament serving from 2004 to 2009.

Indian Air Force (IAF) TU-124 VIP plane brought Sam Manekshaw to Lahore. When plane was taxing to reach the parking bay, it passed the skeleton of the burnt Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship aircraft, ‘Ganga’, that had been hijacked on January 30, 1971 on its flight from Srinagar to Jammu and brought to Lahore. On February 02, the hijackers had set the aircraft on fire. Sam was received by Pakistan Army Chief, General Tikka Khan. Tikka was wearing his famous dark glasses. Continue reading “A Historic Picture (and some reminiscences about 1971 BD War)”

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Book Review: Flat Earth News by Nick Davies

One of the many things in life that fascinate me is the way something becomes news. In my previous life in Pakistan, I had the opportunity to explore this issue further. I interacted with plenty of journalists, both as a source of news and sometimes as a reporter. I was never involved in decisions that happened in the newsroom or any particular editorial decisions but I saw journalists working at close quarters. I was intrigued by many things and asked a lot of questions. One of my friends who used to work at BBC Urdu service once said that BBC’s way of reporting a story is to give everybody a chance to speak. If a bicycle is stolen from an apartment complex, BBC journalists would like to talk to the owner, the thief and if possible, even the bicycle. BBC’s standards are not widely followed in Pakistan (based on my limited view) and a lot of local reporting by correspondents of major newspapers and TV channels is cursory. I also became aware of this issue when I talked to people working at Punjab Lok Sujag, a non-gvovernmental organisation with local roots which had previously worked in making Punjab’s culture more popular (by staging plays in Punjabi, translating major works of fiction in Punjabi and holding an annual Punjabi mela [fair]).

I recently read a excellnt book that dealt with issues of all things ‘news’. It was published in 2007-8 by British journalist, Nick Davies. He spent most of his career working at the Guardian and The Observer in England but he did oversees stints in Australia and United States as well. The book starts off with an exploration of the ‘millenium bug’ story that gripped the attention of a lot of people at the turn of the twentieth century. I’ll let Mr. Davies do most of the talking here.

Where did the millenium bug story start?

“As far as I can tell, the story first hatched one Saturday morning in May 1993, in Toronto, Canada. Inside the city’s Financial Post, on page 37, there was a single paragraph. Under the headline, ‘TURN OF CENTURY POSES A COMPUTER PROBLEM’, the story recorded that a Canadian technology consultant called Peter de Jager was warning that many computer systems would fail at midnight at the start of the new century and that few companies had taken steps to head off the problem.

Rather like the B-movie egg which is laid by the alien in the dark corner of the peaceful suburb, this little story broke out of its shell and slowly started to distribute its offspring around the undefended planet. By 1995, it had spread out of North America into Europe and Australia and Japan. By 1997, bug stories were being sighted all over the globe. By 1998, they had multiplied tenfold, infiltrating media outlets of every kind, and they were still mutating and dividing, still penetrating more and more newspaper columns, more and more broadcast news bulletins until finally, as Millennium Eve approached, they achieved a global conquest of the media, tens of thousands of bug stories infesting almost every news outlet on the planet.”

The financial cost of the story

“Journalists reported that the British government had spent £396 million on Y2K protection. They also reported that it had spent £430 million. And that it had spent £788 million. The American government had spent far more, they said – $100 billion, or $200 billion, or $320 billion, or $600 billion, or $858 billion, depending on which journalist you were reading. Anyway, it was a lot. Beyond that, the private sector had spawned a mini-industry of companies selling millennium bug kits, while publishers turned out bug books and bug videos, and estate agents sold bug-resistant homes, and a few families sold their houses and fled to remote cabins in order to give themselves a chance to survive the coming bug-related chaos.”

How he defines ‘Flat Earth News’

“This [millenium bug story] is Flat Earth news. A story appears to be true. It is widely accepted as true. It becomes a heresy to suggest that it is not true – even if it is riddled with falsehood, distortion and propaganda”

An issue that befuddles ordinary consumers of news (like myself) is the difference between objectivity and neutrality. Should journalists be telling the truth (Objectivity) or just giving both sides of the story (Neutrality)?

“Neutrality requires the journalist to become invisible, to refrain deliberately (under threat of discipline) from expressing the judgments which are essential for journalism. Neutrality requires the packaging of conflicting claims, which is precisely the opposite of truth-telling. If two men go to mow a meadow and one comes back and says, “The job’s done”, and the other comes back and says ‘We never cut a single blade of grass’, neutrality requires the journalists to report a controversy surrounding the state of the meadow, to throw together both men’s claims and shove it out to the world with an implicit sign over the top declaring, ‘We don’t know whats happening-you decide’.

The damage goes further than merely abandoning the primary purpose of journalism. It actually transfers the truth-telling judgments out of newsrooms and into the hands of outsiders.”

Mr. Davies mentions that most of the news stories in major newspapers are lifted straight from news agencies, which could be local and global. Two global agencies that he talked about are Associated Press (AP) and Reuters.

“Just like PA (Press Association, England), their concern with accuracy is deliberately different from a newspaper’s concern with truth. One man who has spent many years as a senior executive from Reuters echoed Jonathan Grun from PA explaining to me that Reuters was not concerned about the truth. The agency would try to provide an accurate amount of an opposing point of view: ‘But it isn’t an agency’s job to start choosing between these voices and saying who is telling the truth’. All the great flat earth news stories have travelled via wire agencies into the unprotected global media.  It was AP and Reuters who told the world about the millenium bug and the weapons on mass destruction, who carried the myths about drugs and crime and radiation and education and all the other Huckers, big and small. All these stories were accurate, in that they faithfully recorded what somebody had said; none of them were true”.

The epilogue of the book starts with some golden words from The Simpsons: “Journalists used to question the reasons for war and expose abuse of power. Now, like toothless babies, they suckle on the sugary teat on misinformation and poop it into the diaper we call the six ‘o clock news”.

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Marathas, Mauryas & Moghul

The comments thread talked about the education history of Indian school kids. This is LV’s atlas book that I came across. I found it interesting that India went from Moghul to Maratha to Independence. If only it were so 🙂

On an unrelated topic I have noticed why Desis and third worlders (partially) obsess over skin colour to the extent that we do. People in the third world (generally) have bad complexions in comparison to the West. The skin clarity is poor because of grooming & pollution. So fairness creams are a “hack”‘ to simply improve the “quality” (transparency) of the skin. Also the unfortunate fact remains that colour is correlated with caste & class.

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Bangladesh elections

Update: This win seems too big to be credible. But I don’t really know…. Bangladesh Prime Minister Wins 3rd Term Amid Deadly Violence on Election Day

End Update
Bangladeshis Must Choose ‘Lesser of Two Evils’ in Election:

Per capita income has increased by nearly 150 percent, while the share of the population living in extreme poverty has shrunk to about 9 percent from 19 percent, according to the World Bank.

Electricity generation has also increased drastically under Mrs. Hasina’s rule, helping to boost factory production and spreading out to homes in rural areas. The rates of maternal mortality and illiteracy have also declined.

Sultana Kamal, a Bangladeshi activist who was once close to Mrs. Hasina but has become increasingly wary of her, said a win by the current government would be seen as an indifference by voters to rights concerns.

From what I know most of my family generally supports the Awami League. My parents do, and I have an uncle who is an activist in that party. As an atheist I sympathize more with parties less keen on allying with Muslims who are excited to kill atheists. But….the Awami League seems to have gotten quite a big head, and Sheikh Hasina is becoming Bangladesh’s Indira.

If it’s the choice between economic growth and human rights, I think voters would choose the former. But I suspect that many will bet that economic growth is due to endogenous forces which are not controlled by the government, and will switch parties to rebalance the political system.

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Tony Joseph’s Early Indians

My review of Tony Joseph’s new book, Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From, is now up at India Today.

In general, I liked the book, and have only minor quibbles with Joseph’s reportage of the genetic results. He has very particular interpretations of results on some questions, but his core audience of Indians will be focused on this, not the minutiae of D-statistics. For example, it seems to me that he gave a great deal of emphasis to the aboriginal heritage of South Asians in quantity and impact. This is a defensible stance, but it’s not a necessary one dictated by the results from the data.

The non-genetic assertions I had less background on, and so did some literature review by following Joseph’s copious citations. In these “fuzzier” fields it is harder to establish a consensus from what I can see (the number of opinions of linguists on any topic seems to equal the number of linguists!). The downside is certain conclusions are not there yet. The upside is there is still scholarship that will be done.

Overall, get Early Indians. But read with some caution and use it as a sourcebook for follow-up queries.

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No such thing as South India

The original article by Mahatma’s grandson is equally intriguing, People of the South constitute an equal and single community: Rajmohan Gandhi.I don’t have too many opinions on this (for a change) but my inclination is that caste (and then creed) have dramatically reduced regional identities in India.

The states that have been most problematic to the Indian Union (East Punjab, Srinagar area, 7 sisters) have more homogenised profiles (and incidentally happen to be on the periphery). Continue reading “No such thing as South India”

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Mother India is Communal

I don’t really know what to say but it’s absurd. I can’t understand what’s so offensive about “Mother India.”

I’m walking around Chennai and so many Muslim ladies are wearing Niqabs (the eyes are only seen).

Continue reading “Mother India is Communal”

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I stand with Sajid on Pakistani Pedophilia

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Javid said stripping offenders of British citizenship would happen only in extreme cases involving individuals with dual nationality.

He was pressed on the issue by the programme’s guest editor, the Pakistani-British writer Kamila Shamsie, who pointed out that the lack of sex offender registers in Pakistan would make it easier for offenders deported from the UK to repeat their crimes.

Javid responded: “I’m the British home secretary. My job is to protect the British public.”

Seeking to clarify, Shamsie asked: “If you are sending members of grooming gangs to Pakistan, knowing that there is not a sex offenders registry, what they do there is not anything to do with you?”

Javid said: “My job is to protect the British public.” Continue reading “I stand with Sajid on Pakistani Pedophilia”

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Demonetisation will lead to DeModisation-

The Indian Property prices took a wobble after demonetisation and despite my admiration for PM Modi, what deeply upsets me is that he attacked the middle classes.

The whole idea of “cleaning up India” is that it needs to be a top down effort. Beyond chasing Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi there are oligarchs in India who cripple the country. Continue reading “Demonetisation will lead to DeModisation-“

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