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.




Dogs barking mightily at the caravan

As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going…straight to prison.

These are indeed desperate times and desperate measures are needed to concentrate the minds of voters.

That said re: recent reports on rapid muslim population growth (relative to Hindus and others in selected states) it is interesting to hear of Masood’s claims that UP is 42% muslim (wiki claims 18.5% in UP, 9% in Gujarat). 

The census data will be awaited with great interest.

Lok Sabha candidate Imran Masood was on Saturday arrested on charges of
hate speech in which he threatened to “chop” Narendra Modi “into
pieces”, remarks that led to an FIR being filed against him by police
besides sparking an outrage.

“If Modi tries to make
Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat, then we will chop him into tiny pieces…I
am not scared of getting killed or attacking someone. I will fight
against Modi. He thinks UP is Gujarat. Only 4% Muslims are there in
Gujarat while there are 42% Muslims in UP,” he had said.

However, he later apologized for his remarks, saying, “I should have
been more cautious with my words” and that the same were said in the
heat of electioneering.



Monsters Inc

The Americans are cutting their losses (who can blame them), Karzai is straddling the fence (he is fooling himself) and the evil people are free to scare little kids.

It sounds just like a fairy (horror) tale but there will be many more true stories like this from Taliban controlled Af-Pak territory.

It is beyond belief that the powers that be (from America to Afghanistan) are waiting (for what?) to designate the Taliban as terrorists. They will feel bad, the poor dears. Nelofar’s life is presumably lost in vain.

The story is heartbreaking. A Facebook status update on July 16, 2013,
from Ahmad Sardar, the Afghan journalist in Kabul. Nelofar, his
5-year-old daughter asks her dad, “Do the Taliban kill animals too?” The
father answers no, and the little girl says: “I wish we were animals.”

Little Nelofar is dead now, brutally murdered
by the Taliban – shot in the head – together with her dad, her mom and
her 8-year-old brother. Of Nelofar’s family, only her 2-year-old brother
has miraculously survived, in a coma with three bullets in his body.


On March 20, 2014, on the eve of the Persian New Year, the Taliban
managed to enter the highly fortified Serena Hotel, located just a
kilometer away from the Afghan presidential palace, where Nelofar and
her family were celebrating the Nawrooz, the arrival of the spring and
of the New Year.

The Taliban suicide mission left nine people dead and many more
injured before Afghan forces killed the four attackers, who had managed
to sneak pistols and ammunition inside the hotel, despite the tight
security measures.

The deadly attack on the Serena Hotel occurred on the same day that yet more Taliban fighters were freed from Bagram Prison,
complete control of which was transferred to the Afghan government
exactly a year ago. Since, then, most of the prisoners – considered
dangerous members of the Taliban – have been let go without formal trial
and over the strong protests of both U.S. officials and a majority of
the Afghan people.

Despite the fact that the Taliban’s use of deadly force against the
civilian population is widely branded as “terrorist attacks” inside and
outside of Afghanistan, neither the Afghan government nor the U.S.
officially recognizes the Taliban as a terrorist organization.

There is no sign that Karzai will put aside his vain hopes of winning
the hearts and minds of his “dissident brothers”; not even at the cost
of the many lives taken during the bloodshed perpetuated by the Taliban
on a daily basis. Karzai has lost the faith and trust of the Afghan
people on this.

It is an open secret that Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the Bilateral
Security Agreement with the Americans is purely political, with an eye
to winning the Taliban’s favor.

The Afghan public meanwhile worry that the withdrawal of
international forces from Afghanistan will mean a return of the Taliban
to power. There is an increasing need for the international community,
led by the United States, to take a clear stance with regards to the

In short, it is time for Washington to put objective facts above
political wishful thinking and officially recognize the Taliban as a
terror organization.
Many other members of the international community
would then surely follow suit, resulting in real and effective pressure
on the Taliban and its supporters, both inside Afghanistan and at a
regional level.
Acknowledging the Taliban as a terrorist entity will
also facilitate more cooperation between the international community in
their fight against terrorism, based on universal legal conventions and
international law.

Little Nelofar was surely not the only Afghan child to be so
frightened of the Taliban; the fear has paled the face of every Afghan.
The first step in overcoming that fear, however deep and complex, is for
people to know what they are dealing with: insurgents or terrorists.



Raza Rumi survives terror attack

…but his driver is dead. The guard’s condition is critical. We hope he survives and regains good health.

As for Raza, it is clear that the thugs will try again and again…they are ruthless and relentless…and they will not be satisfied with just sending a message…they need to see (and feel) the blood on their hands.

This is the fourth attack on Express Media Group. Three staff members of
the group have already lost their lives. The Taliban will control the message by destroying the messengers.

Nadeem Paracha complains that most TV channels are taking the cowardly way out and not covering the incident. It is indeed a sad day for journalism.

People (Arundhati Roy et al.) who offer comfort to the
“resistance warriors” (Gandhians with Guns in her words) should look deep inside their own hearts and issue an appeal for sanity. Who gains if girls dont go to school? What is wrong with non-violent struggle for a better

After all the original great man of the Pakhtuns- Khan Abdul
Gaffar Khan- believed in these principles.

As proof of how critical things have become, excerpted below is a communique from the IMF-Pakistan meeting which was held in Dubai…because of security concerns in Pakistan.

Come to think of it, there is no early date for cricket to be resumed in Pakistan. People have become so blase that tragedies like this dont even count any more.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Friday that
Pakistan’s key economic indicators were showing modest improvement but
warned militancy and crime could threaten growth and investment.
The IMF warning came in its country report reviewing Pakistan’s performance under a $6.7 billion bailout loan package.

Pakistani government is in talks with the country’s Taliban faction to
try to end the militants’ bloody seven-year insurgency, which has
claimed thousands of lives.

“For the fiscal year 2014-15, growth
is forecast to accelerate to about 3.7 per cent, and will continue to
accelerate in the medium term,” the report said. “Security
conditions in Pakistan remain difficult with significant terrorist
activity, as well as sectarian violence and urban criminal activity,
which could depress investment and growth.”

As well as the Taliban threat, Pakistan is also
facing a rising tide of sectarian bloodshed mainly targeting minority
Shia Muslims, and rampant criminal violence in the economic capital

The report was prepared after the IMF team met Pakistani
finance minister Ishaq Dar and other officials in Dubai last month to
discuss the economic performance, approval and release of the $550
million third installment of the loan.

The meeting was held outside Pakistan because of security worries, the fund said.



Every smile you fake (they are watching you)

The dilemma of being a Muslim-American- you are presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

Your intimate family and friends are in the pay of the NSA (and so are you). It is a re-run of the East Germans and the Stasi- mothers spying on kids and the like.

Arun Kundnani has written a book on Islamophobia that highlights many aspects of what it means to be a Muslim in America today.
How come when we talk
about spying we don’t talk about the lives of ordinary people being
spied upon? While we have been rightly outraged at the government’s
warehousing of troves of data, we have been less interested in the
consequences of mass surveillance for those most affected by it – such
as Muslim Americans.

In writing my book
on Islamophobia and the War on Terror, I spoke to dozens of Muslims,
from Michigan to Texas and Minnesota to Virginia.
Some told me about
becoming aware their mosque was under surveillance only after
discovering an FBI informant had joined the congregation. Others spoke
about federal agents turning up at colleges to question every student
who happened to be Muslim.
All of them said they felt unsure whether
their telephone calls to relatives abroad were wiretapped or whether
their emails were being read by government officials.

are the types of people whom the National Security Agency can suspect
of being two “hops” away from targets. These are the types of “bad guys”
referred to by outgoing NSA director Keith Alexander.
Ten years ago, around 100,000 Arabs and Muslims in America had some
sort of national security file compiled on them. Today, that number is
likely to be even higher.

A study
published last year by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition
documented the effects of this kind of mass surveillance. In targeted
communities, a culture of enforced self-censorship takes hold and
relationships of trust start to break down. As one interviewee said:
“You look at your closest friends and ask: are they informants?”

Underpinning all
the surveillance of Muslim Americans is an assumption that Islamic
ideology is linked to terrorism. Yet, over the last 20 years, far more
people have been killed in acts of violence by right-wing extremists
than by Muslim American citizens or permanent residents.
The huge
numbers being spied upon are not would-be terrorists but law-abiding
people, some of whom have “radical” political opinions that still ought
to be protected by the First Amendment to the constitution. Just the
same, there are plenty of other minority Americans who are not would-be
“home-grown” terrorists – but they still live in fear that they might be
mistaken as one.

So let’s reform the NSA and its countless collections. But let’s not forget the FBI’s reported 10,000 intelligence analysts working on counter-terrorism and the 15,000 paid informants helping them do it. Let’s not forget the New York Police Department’s intelligence and counter-terrorism division with its 1,000 officers, $100m budget and vast program of surveillance.

Let’s not forget the especially subtle psychological terror of being
Muslim in America, where, sure, maybe your phone calls won’t be stored
for much longer, but there’s a multitude of other ways you’re always
being watched.



Missing God…in God’s own country

We believe this wholeheartedly- if there was a God, a supreme being who feels for her children (as we all are) she would not allow such an abomination to stand.

Normally we get along very well with people of faith, we truly enjoy the varied cultures that shine through during the ceremonies and we absolutely relish the food. Every dish is prepared with an abundance of love and it is a pleasure to share the joy. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian…this may be a cliche…they are all the same.

Then there is the sinister aspect of religion (they are all the same, again). It breeds zealots who turn into monsters on the pretext of acting as angels. In  this sense, religion is a veritable poison, tolerable in light doses, at higher doses will kill both friend and foe without discrimination.

In this case highlighted below, the greatest culpability (in our opinion) lies with Joseph’s own people at the high table.  They are supposed to (at the minimum) stand by their brother in times of need. Instead what we see is a full and complete betrayal, condemning a lady (and a loyal wife) to death and her husband who is now amongst the living dead.
After a
four year long legal battle with college authorities for his
reinstatement, Prof T J Joseph, whose right hand was chopped off by
fundamentalists in 2010, rejoined service at the church-run Newman
college in Idukki on Friday morning, three days before his retirement.

However, since annual examinations are going on, he could not take classes.

Students clapped and his colleagues shook hands as the lecturer, who is
recovering from the shock of his wife Salomi’s suicide few days ago,
rejoined service.

Joseph, head of the Malayalam department, was
suspended from service following the controversy over framing of a
question paper in 2010. Alleging that the lecturer had hurt
their religious sentiments, a fundamentalist outfit had brutally
attacked the lecturer as he was returning with his family after a Sunday
Mass on July 4, 2010.

The hand was later sutured back and he slowly recovered from the brutal attack.

The family was going through tough times with the sole bread winner
having no job. Salomi (48), who stood by Joseph during his trying times,
last week ended her life as the family was facing severe financial

Within days of her death, the college decided to take him back before his retirement on March 31.

Joseph was escorted to the college in Idukki district from Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district by police.




After a long 8 months a (partial) return to sanity. If a stable govt is not formed (hint, hint) then the rates may go down again.  As far as the stock market is concerned, analysts are forecasting a big crash coming up, so if you have enough money to play with please proceed but with caution 🙂

Continuing its rising streak, the rupee
on Friday strengthened to below 60 level at 59.90 for the first time
since July 2013 against dollar in late afternoon trade on sustained
foreign fund flows.

Dealers said sustained selling of the
American currency by banks and exporters and ongoing bull-run on the
domestic equity markets also buoyed the rupee sentiments.

Indian currency resumed higher at 60.18 per dollar as against the last
closing level of 60.31 at the Interbank Foreign Exchange (Forex) Market
and firmed up further to break the crucial 60 level to trade at 59.90 in
late afternoon trade, a level last seen in July 2013.  

Meanwhile, the benchmark
BSE sensex gathered 125.60 points, or 0.57 per cent to close at a new
lifetime high of 22,339.97 after climbing to an all-time intra-day high
of 22,363.97.