Sacrificing humans easier than goats

Why did the US ambassador to India suddenly resign? Is it because of the need felt by the Imperial Court to have a reset with this particular mansabdari? Since no public explanations are given, private speculations are helping to fill the vacuum.

Moving beyond business, if one was to look at other areas in the
bilateral relations between India and the US, then the Devyani
Khobragade issue was definitely one that became a major stumbling block
for meaningful progress in their ties. And for this, the US government
and the ministry of external affairs of India should both be blamed. If
the US “mishandled” the Indian diplomat and treated her like a “common
criminal,” then the jingoistic reaction in India contributed to its
snowballing into a major controversy.
While the American government was
being blamed for the humiliation of the Indian diplomat, the fact that
she had also violated a domestic law in the US was totally ignored and
brushed off the Indian table.

If, in this drama, Powell is to be blamed then it is perhaps for the
decision of one of the US diplomats in the consular section to give a
visa to the Indian maid Sangeeta Richard’s husband and children to
travel to the US even as a case against her was pending before the
Indian court.

The US diplomat involved in the consular section was since
withdrawn and taken back to Washington. But some of the Indian
decisions that include stripping US diplomats of special privileges and
removing the barricades from in front of the embassy in Chanakyapuri,
remain in force.

The third reason being cited for Powell’s removal from the post is
because of her handling of Gujarat chief minister and BJP’s prime
ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
The US continued to be the last
“holdout” among western diplomats to engage with Modi. Even though the
European Union ambassadors broke their post-Godhra moratorium of
engaging with Modi, the US embassy in Delhi only decided to do so early
this year after all the others.

By all indication, Nancy Powell’s departure from the scene may allow
the US to re-set its relations with India.
But it may soon find out that
making a scapegoat of Powell only solves half its problem relating to
India. The other half may well prove to be much tougher to resolve in
the coming days.



Please vote for the illiterate millionaire

Rakhi Sawant is an ordinary lady with extra-ordinary assets (she is also worth US $ 2.5 million) and a dedicated voice for the downtrodden. She has marked herself “illiterate” under educational qualifications while filing papers for standing as a candidate. Taking a close look at the whole picture we would have to say literacy is over-rated. We also wish her the best for the elections (and in her avowed goal to wake up leaders from deep sleep) and fancy her chances of winning the (young male) vote.

starlet Rakhi Sawant who is contesting from Mumbai Northwest seat has
declared herself an “illiterate” with total assets of Rs 14.69 crore.

The actress has invested Rs 61.26 lakh in bonds and shares and Rs 2.12
crore in insurance and postal savings. She owns a Ford Endeavour worth
Rs 21 lakh and jewellery worth Rs 7.55 lakh.

Her immovable
property includes a residential flat and offices in suburban Mumbai. The
flat was purchased at Rs 5,03,12,500 and its current market value is
stated to be Rs 11,12,59,000.

Rakhi has marked herself “illiterate” in the educational qualifications column in her nomination papers.

The actress, who launched Rashtriya Aam Party, had said she was
entering politics “to wake up MPs from their deep sleep and to solve
problems of people as they have deep trust in me”.



Heavenly abode prefers a secular icon

The rumors are louder than ever that Hindus in Kerala have become a minority (majority: Muslims + Christians). It is also true that Rahul Gandhi’s grand-father was Feroze Jahangir Khan (Parsi from Mumbai) and his mother is a Roman Catholic (from Italy). What has one thing to do with the other?

Kerala is the only one out of 4 southern states where peeps prefer Gandhi over Modi as PM.  Indeed on present mood, Congress may sweep 17 out of the 20 seats. That is simply amazing and probably also underlines the sidelining of the Communists in this election. In addition, Congress is likely to win as many as 18 seats in Karnataka (out of 28)- which can be attributed to the lingering memories of the horrendously corrupt BJP state govt under Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyruppa (he is back in the BJP after having been expelled…as short term greed overcomes long-term need). In Tamil Nadu, however the Grand Old Party will get no satisfaction as the Dravidas are completely, head-over-heels in love with their foreigner (and) Brahmin lady leader (her party is likely to win the majority of seats- 21 out of 39). Finally Congress should expect no more than 8 seats in Andhra Pradesh (including Telengana). Thus, a max total of 43 seats, approximately 40% of the Mission 115 seats are due to come from the south. In more than one way it is significant that it is the (southern) end of the nation is where the GOP has vowed to take its last (secular) stand and the people are still loyal followers (and voters). Good for them.



Who is Mudassar Bukhari?

In the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup, the Netherlands just defeated England by a margin of 45 runs. England, chasing a modest total of 133 crashed out for 88 instead.  

After recovering from the initial shock, we note that a Dutchman named Mudassar Bukhari has been responsible for the devastation (3 wickets for 12 runs).


It turns out that Mudassar is actually from Pakistan (born in Gujarat in 1983).  It is surely a memorable milestone for him, but the thought arises that his home country could have also benefited from his services.

Another Pakistani player who has taken the cricketing world by storm is Imran Tahir (South Africa), who incidentally helped South Africa escape from an embarrassing defeat against…Netherlands.

This sort of “brain drain” in cricket is nothing new (Kevin Pietersen is a South African who was one of the best players ever to play for England in modern times). However in Pakistan’s case the lack of home tours (by international teams) may create a sense of despondency and encourage players to try their luck elsewhere. It would not be a good thing to lose a bunch of promising youngsters to the opposition.



Fish rots from the head

Especially if it is as regimented as the Chicoms. Unfortunately the good times will now come to an end and the last man Zhou will see is the hang-man.

And if people ever want to understand what crony capitalism is this would be a text book example.

Head spy is a good job to have (if you can get it). Total assets of $14.5 Bil is not bad at all.

It would be nice to know here did he stored all the money?
Due to stringent regulations, Chinese prefer storing (ill-gotten) money in mattresses- this (poor) lady lost $65k in all, when termites developed a taste for Yuans.

In all the gallons of ink that will be now spent on this man the most important question will remain un-answered: how many rhinos (and tigers and..) have been laid waste because of the boss’s long term plans to keep his young ladies happy?

Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90bn yuan
($US14.5bn) from family members and associates of retired domestic
security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest
corruption scandal in more than six decades, two sources said.

than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have
also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, the
sources told Reuters.

Prosecutors and the party’s
anti-corruption watchdog had frozen bank accounts with deposits
totaling 37bn yuan and seized domestic and overseas bonds with a
combined value of 51bn yuan after raiding homes in Beijing, Shanghai and
five provinces.

Investigators had also confiscated about 300
apartments and villas, antiques and contemporary paintings and more than
60 vehicles, the sources added. Other items seized included expensive
liquor, gold, silver and cash in local and foreign currencies. According to the sources, the seized assets had a combined value of at least 90bn yuan

Zhou, 71, has been under virtual house
arrest since authorities began formally investigating him late last
year. He is the most senior Chinese politician to be ensnared in a
corruption investigation since the Communist Party swept to power in

“It’s the ugliest in the history of the New China,” said
one of the sources, who has ties to the leadership and has been briefed
on the investigation.

rose through the ranks of China’s oil and gas sector before joining the
elite politburo standing committee in 2007, where as domestic security
chief his budget exceeded defence spending. He retired in 2012 and was
last seen at an alumni event at the China University of Petroleum on 1

The first two sources added that more than 10 of Zhou’s
relatives had been detained. They included Zhou’s one-time television
reporter wife Jia Xiaoye, his eldest son from a previous marriage Zhou
Bin, Zhou Bin’s in-laws and Zhou Yongkang’s brother. About 10 officials who held a rank equivalent to at least vice minister were also under investigation, the sources said.

More than 20 of Zhou’s bodyguards, secretaries and drivers
had also been detained, the sources said. Many other family members and
associates had been questioned. 



Erdogan cant bowl (can he throw?)

The man behind the screen usually comes off as pitiful when the spotlight lights up the (dark) spots.

In the ICC T20 World Cup ongoing in Bangladesh here is an excerpt from the Guardian live commentary during the India-Australia match which just got over:

Geoff Lemon (commentator for the Guardian) writes: So may I enquire who’s out there, following along in the graveyard hours
of Australia, the sunset hours of India, or the high-street hours of
the United Kingdom? Or in other nooks and corners around the world where
cricketing enthusiasts go to hide?
Drop me a line via [email protected], on any subject that stirs your gravy.

An interesting response below:  Zachary Taylor is as confused as Shaun Pollock with a Duckworth-Lewis

“Following from Istanbul, where no one is quite sure what time of
day it

You see, daylight savings was supposed to begin last night, but
there’s an election on for today, and the government
announced out of nowhere that the spring forward would be put off until
tomorrow (presumably to increase confusion). 

The problem is, everyone’s
cellphones and computers went ahead with the time change regardless. It
appears no one in the government thought to inform the telecom
companies. So there it is. Maybe it’s 4:30 pm right now, or maybe it’s
in fact 3:30.”



Ink more expensive than perfume

It is the font, stupid!!! Just change to Garamond and watch Uncle Sam pocket a cool $400 million/year.

Bam!!! just like that, all budgetary donut-holes mysteriously disappear, and the lions (republicans) and the lambs (minorities surviving only on food stamps) can relax together in peace (under influence of legal pot of course).

If it seems too good to be true….it may be true after all.

A 14-year-old Indian-origin boy has come up with an unique plan that
could help the US save nearly USD 400 million a year by merely changing
the font used on official documents.


Suvir Mirchandani, a student in a Pittsburgh-area middle school, claimed
that if the federal government used the Garamond font exclusively it
could save about USD 136 million per year, nearly 30 per cent less than
the estimated USD 467 dollars it spends annually on ink.
An additional USD 234 million could be saved annually if state governments also implemented the change.


Mirchandani said the idea came to him when he was trying to think of
ways to cut waste and save money as part of a science fair project at
his school, CNN reported.
The youngster noticed that he was getting a lot more handouts than he
did in elementary school and decided to figure out if he could minimise
use of paper and ink.
While recycling paper was one way to save money and conserve resources,
Mirchandani said little attention had been paid to the ink used on the


“Ink is two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” he
said, adding that he then decided to focus his project on finding ways
to cut down the cost of ink.


As part of his experiment, he collected random samples of teachers’
handouts and focused on the most commonly used characters such as e, t,
a, o and r.
He noted how often each character was used in different fonts like
Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans and then
measured how much ink was used for each letter, using an ink coverage


From his analysis, Mirchandani figured out that by using the Garamond
font with its thinner strokes, his school district could reduce its ink
consumption by 24 per cent and in turn save as much as USD 21,000

He repeated his tests on five sample pages from documents on the
Government Printing Office website and got similar results that changing
the font would save money.


Mirchandani’s findings have been published in the Journal for Emerging
Investigators (JEI), a publication founded by a group of Harvard
students in 2011 that provides a platform for the work of middle school
and high school students.


One of the journal’s founders Sarah Fankhauser said that of the nearly
200 submissions they have received since 2011, Mirchandani’s project
stood out.
“We were so impressed. We really could really see the real-world application in Suvir’s paper,” Fankhauser was quoted as saying.


JEI challenged the teenager to apply his project to a larger scale,
preferably the federal government, to determine how much real savings
his idea could generate.

The government has an annual printing expenditure of USD 1.8 billion and
implementing Mirchandani’s idea on such a massive scale was more
challenging than a school science project, the CNN report said.


Media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office
Gary Somerset described Mirchandani’s idea as “remarkable” but said it
was concentrating on saving money by publishing documents online instead
of hard copies.


“They can’t convert everything to a digital format,” Mirchandani said. “Not everyone is able to access information online. Some things still
have to be printed. I recognise it’s difficult to change someone’s
behavior,” he said.
But “I definitely would love to see some actual changes and I’d be happy
to go as far as possible to make that change possible,” he said.



Lying liars are “playing with fire”

Trust us. Really, we never snoop, or share your personal data, except this one time when we slipped up. Please believe in our mea culpas and re-invest your faith in us.

In today’s closely knit relationship between security states (USA is proud to be #1, even ahead of China) and strongman companies, it is reasonable to assume that whenever you stroke a key on the inter-webs, some automaton somewhere is paying close attention.   
What we are seeing is a trailer of how the future will be shaped- the word privacy will be absent from all languages and dictionaries.

Also, it is not just the muslims anymore.

What would be a worth-while exercise is to have an authentic member of the upper management at Microsoft (and all the other selfish giants) write out these lines a hundred times on the chalk-board.

“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.”


days after Microsoft acknowledged that it read the personal emails of a
French blogger in 2012 to catch an insider who had leaked code related
to Windows, the company said that it would change email policies and
would no longer read emails hosted on its servers without a warrant.

According to a few court documents related to a case that involves
former Microsoft employee Alex Kibkalo, who reportedly leaked code
related to Windows, Microsoft went through the Hotmail inbox of the
blogger who was in touch with Kibkalo to identify the leaker.

In the wake of uproar and privacy concerns, Microsoft said that its
“terms and conditions” for Hotmail accounts allowed it to look into the
content of private emails in order to protect its intellectual property.

On Friday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said the
company has decided to change its email policies. “Effective
immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using
our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from
Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves.
Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action
is required,” Smith wrote on the company’s office blog.

our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent
that we should rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations
involving people who we suspect are stealing from us,” he added.

Incidentally, the case of snooping on the French blogger came at a time
when Microsoft was running its “scroogled” campaign against Google,
arguing that Google read emails of its users so that it could serve them

After the details of the Kibkalo case came out
in public, Microsoft was criticised by Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF), a well-known non-profit organization that argues in favour strong
privacy on the web.  “The search in the Kibkalo case may have revealed
criminal activity, but it was also conducted in Microsoft’s
self-interest, which is an exceedingly dangerous precedent. Combined
with the kangaroo court potential of the company’s new internal Warrants
for Windows policy, Microsoft is playing with fire,” said EFF.

On Friday, Microsoft revealed it is also starting a project that will
“identify, flesh out and discuss important issues (related to privacy on
the web)”. The company said that for discussions on the issue of
privacy, the Center for Democracy and Technology has agreed to convene
stakeholders and the EFF will be a key participant.

interesting bit here is that Google, which runs Gmail, and several other
technology companies have policies similar to that of Microsoft when it
comes to their own intellectual property. A few days ago Michael
Arrington, founder of Techcrunch, wrote that he suspected Google snooped
on his Gmail inbox to identify his sources within the company.

Though Google denied the allegations, it is yet to follow Microsoft in
changing the email policies that gives it right to go through the
private emails of a user if it is probing theft of its intellectual



The nine sisters of the North-East

We, the denizens of North-Eastern India know that it is considered as a backward area that most  Indians will never visit over their lifetimes. Man Mohan Singh is supposedly the Rajya Sabha MP from Axom but he remains a stranger to his (adopted) state.

The North-East has large cohorts of non-Hindus (majority Protestant denominations) who are not expected to align with the “Manuvadi” party (aka BJP). The Congress (with a Roman Catholic at the top) should be a natural fit (unless one digs deep and discovers historical rivalry between Protestants and Catholics).

As an aside the BJP supremo has been busy cultivating the Syrian “Brahmins” from Kerala and they seem to love him back (probably united by animosity against muslims). 

Also as expected, the Hindu communities are divided in their loyalties. Bengalis in Tripura will vote for the Communist Party (CPIM) while the Axomia (in the Brahmaputra river valley) will vote for an Axom-first party. The Bengali Hindus of Barak river valley switch their allegiance alternately between the Congress and the BJP.

If we include Sikkim and North Bengal in the N-E kitty, the Lok Sabha seats are laid out as follows: Arunachal Pradesh-2, Axom-14, Manipur-2, Meghalaya-2, Mizoram-1, Nagaland-1, Sikkim-1, Tripura-2, Bengal- 3 (north bengal seats). Total- 28.

As late as July 2013, Congress was optimistic about collecting 20 seats (not including Sikkim/North Bengal). This would be vital for the Mission 115 plan (114 was the minimum no for Congress in 1996).

Now there is a major problem, the local mansabdars have ganged up against the Delhi durbar. 

The back-story is as follows: Purno Sangma (pix above, with daughter Agatha Sangma- MP) was originally a Congress leader who was expelled in 1999 (along with Tariq Anwar and Sharad Pawar) for having the audacity to question the leadership of the Grand Madam. Sangma was also the 2012 presidential candidate chosen by the BJP (against Pranab Mukherjee). Thus the personality clash goes far back and the break-up may be permanent at this point. 

If the North-East coalition matures into a permanent pressure group (as it should, if it had any sense) then the entire region may become out of bounds for the Congress (as an independent player) just like what has happened in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, UP,…..

As of now the distinctive issues that float the North-East boat are (1) migrants from Bangladesh (all provinces), (2) China threat (Arunachal only) and (3) Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Manipur only). Interestingly enough BJP has promised to review AFSPA, perhaps by proposing to dial down AFSPA in the north-east while maintaining status quo in Kashmir. 

Finally what about the famous TINA factor that keeps the muslims permanently locked inside the Congress barracks everywhere? A lot of blood was spilled in the 2012 riots in Goalpara and neighboring regions of Axom (also known as Bodoland). Tarun Gogoi (Congress Chief Minister of Axom) was accused of favoritism as muslims suffered disproportionately. While the outside world does not give a damn, the muslims themselves are unlikely to forgive/forget.  
A newly-formed regional front of parties from the northeast today said
it is in consultations with BJP for support to its candidates for the
Lok Sabha polls.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, whose National People’s Party (NPP)
is part of the North-East Regional Political Front, however, said that
the grouping will have no truck with the UPA.

NPP, Asom Gana Parishad, Mizo National Front and Nagaland People’s Front
are among the 10 regional parties from northeast which have formed the
NERPF against the Congress-led UPA to fight the Lok Sabha elections in
the region. Sangma’s NPP and Nagaland’s NPF are also part of the NDA.

NERPF, floated last October, will contest 21 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats in eight northeast states.

Blaming Congress for the “problems” in the northeast, Sangma said, “NPP
and NPF are very much part of the NDA and other parties of the front are
free to have alliance with any party at national level but definitely
not with Congress.”

The front also expressed its reservation over the functioning of
electronic voting machines and demanded alternative arrangement for
casting votes in the Lok Sabha elections.

“We urge Election Commission to abolish EVM system as it is not
foolproof and we do not have faith in it. We suspect it can be tampered
with,” Sangma, who will be contesting from Tura constituency in
Meghalaya, said. “If at all EVMs will be used then they should be supported with paper slips,” he said.

Raising the issue of frequent incursion of China on Arunachal border, he
said, “We want the government to ensure prevention of such incidents in

Referring to the issue of infiltration of illegal migrants from
Bangladesh, he blamed the UPA government for failing to take effective
steps against influx from across the border. He also demanded immediate
scrapping of the AFSPA



The $2 Billion (virtual) reality

Facebook is on a buying spree these days, enterprising BPites (especially the innovative young hipsters) can also think of pitching their stuff. Good luck!!!

Facebook is buying Oculus VR, a startup that makes virtual reality headsets, in a $2 billion deal.
Occulus VR founder Palmer Luckey explains reality to his young fans: 

always loved games. They’re windows into worlds that let us travel
somewhere fantastic. My foray into virtual reality was driven by a
desire to enhance my gaming experience; to make my rig more than just a
window to these worlds, to actually let me step inside them. As time
went on, I realized that VR technology wasn’t just possible, it was
almost ready to move into the mainstream. All it needed was the right
Facebook first approached us about partnering, I was skeptical. As I
learned more about the company and its vision and spoke with Mark, the
partnership not only made sense, but became the clear and obvious path
to delivering virtual reality to everyone.  
Facebook was founded with the
vision of making the world a more connected place. Virtual reality is a
medium that allows us to share experiences with others in ways that
were never before possible.

little changes day-to-day at Oculus, although we’ll have substantially
more resources to build the right team. If you want to come work on
these hard problems in computer vision, graphics, input, and audio,
please apply! 

This is a special
moment for the gaming industry – Oculus’ somewhat unpredictable future
just became crystal clear: virtual reality is coming, and it’s going to
change the way we play games forever.

obsessed with VR. I spend every day pushing further, and every night
dreaming of where we are going. Even in my wildest dreams, I never
imagined we’d come so far so fast.

proud to be a member of this community – thank you all for carrying
virtual reality and gaming forward and trusting in us to deliver. We
won’t let you down.