The Tusker named Ganesha

Sounds too good to be true, but then elephants are funny creatures (and this is not the first time this has happened, see below).
At least it is heartening to know that the baby has survived the attack and is out of danger.

The bad news is that elephant and their habitats are under siege (from villagers locally and Chinese globally).   
Will there be any wild life left by the time this baby grows up? Ganesha will then live only in paintings and temples. That will be a profound tragedy.

A tusker
smashed a house to bits in a village in West Bengal’s Purulia district on
Monday night but when it heard a 10-month-old baby crying under the debris, it
turned back and carefully removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar
from the infant’s body before heading back to the forest.

…Mother Lalita Mahato said: “We
worship Lord Ganesh (the elephant god) in our village. Still, I can’t believe
that the tusker saved my daughter after breaking down the door and smashing a
wall. We watched amazed as it gently removed the debris that had fallen on her.
It’s a miracle.”

The child’s father, Dipak Mahato, said they were having dinner around 8pm when
they suddenly heard a “cracking sound” and then a huge crash from the
bedroom. “We ran over and were shocked to see the wall in pieces and a
tusker standing over our baby. She was crying and there were huge chunks of the
wall lying all around and on the cot,” he said. “The tusker started
moving away but when our child started crying again, it returned and used its
trunk to remove the debris.”

They took the girl to Deben Mahato Sadar Hospital. She has some external
injuries from the debris falling on her but is not in danger. Hospital
superintendent Neelanjana Sen said the infant is stable but they will keep her
under observation for 48 hours.

A similar incident had been reported in Jalpaiguri’s Madarihat about six months
ago when an elephant herd carefully removed a little girl from harm’s way
before smashing several houses.



Many of us are likely to suffer from dementia as we drink, breathe and wallow in an ever more poisonous environment (SAsians more than most). It is imperative to be able to predict this condition in advance. Once the tell-tale signs are confirmed, we can go out and have a gala party, sign off on the will (please do that anyway), take a boat out to the sea and…jump in with the fishes.

Only one small question: 90% accuracy sounds very impressive (also likely to improve over time), but is it??

study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, identified 10
molecules in blood could be used to predict with at least 90% accuracy
whether people will go on to develop mild cognitive impairment or

“The lipid panel was able to distinguish with
90% accuracy these two distinct groups: cognitively normal participants
who would progress to MCI or AD within two to three years, and those who
would remain normal in the near future,”
said one of the study’s
authors, Professor Howard Federoff.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at
the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “Having such a test would be an
interesting development, but it also throws up ethical considerations. “If
this does develop in the future people must be given a choice about
whether they would want to know, and fully understand the implications.



Glaxo Smith Kline has a billion dollars to spare

At this stage when India is grasping for breath any small investment should be considered good news. Others are watching and (as our moneyed friends tell us) businessmen like the fact that other businessmen are planning to invest. As the “market sentiment” is boosted more money flows in….and then one (not so) fine day the tide recedes and the money flows out again.

But then what is this we hear about the recent patent dog fights and the imminent threat of sanctions? Big pharma being (very) displeased with India? Guess it is all a riddle wrapped up in an enigma.

Glaxo Smith Kline
said on Monday it had paid 64 billion rupees ($1.05 billion) to
increase its stake in its Indian pharmaceuticals unit to 75 per cent,
it banks on rising demand for medicines in emerging markets.

Britain’s biggest drugmaker first announced plans to lift the holding in
Glaxo Smith Kline Pharmaceuticals from 50.7 per cent in December. It held
an open offer to buy the extra shares at 3,100 rupees each from Feb. 18
to March 5. Final payment for shares tendered and accepted will be completed by March 20, GSK added. 

David Redfern, GSK’s chief
strategy officer, said the decision to increase exposure to the Indian
market was “a significant vote of confidence” in growth prospects for
its business in India.

GSK, which has had a presence in India
for 90 years, is keen to secure a bigger share of India’s growing $14
billion-a-year market, which it views as promising despite recent moves
to impose price cuts and limit patents on some medicines.
The open offer was managed by HSBC. 



Sweet as Sunny

Hand on heart, when we were talking about 21st century jobs for women this is NOT what we had in mind.
This is truly the end times, folks those of you who have daughters (or those who are interested in raising daughters) sign up for this pledge below. Right now. 

Perchance, if you think that the pledge is a bit harsh, be warned- your sweet little girl may one day turn out like the sweet little girl below. Her family has been left devastated by the revealings. However there is always hope for redemption. Following Sunny, Bollywood will surely be beating a path to this lady’s door. In that event she can stop worrying about those pesky tuition fees. Over time it will enable her to set up a fund to ease the pain of (college-going) upper-class Americans. We wish her all the best.

My daughter will not step outside the home till she is ready for (arranged) marriage. If she goes out (on emergencies) she must wear a burqa and will always be accompanied by (at least) one parent. She will not have access to cell phone and face-book. She will have ankle monitors at all times providing accurate locational data (unlike that flying object that no one can find).

The Duke University
undergraduate who entered the porn industry ostensibly to meet the high cost of
her college education and has caused a minor storm in America turns out to be —
like the Canadian-Punjabi-Indian Leone — of part Indian-parentage. Her father
is an American physician who has just returned from serving as an army doctor
in Afghanistan; her mother is from India.


In media interviews, including an appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan show, the
young woman, whose porn identity is ” Belle Knox”
or “Lauren,” has given some insight into the circumstances that
propelled her into the $15 billion US adult film industry, where actors earn
upwards of $1000 per session.
While she initially claimed that she was forced
to enter the porn world because her parents cut off her education funds, it turns
out the situation is more complex, and her decision was based partly on her own
sense of sexual repression, and later, sexual liberation.

The parents certainly gave all three children a good school education, sending
them to an expensive prep school where tuition fee is about $11,000 a year. The
youngest daughter was a straight A student. But as they entered college, the
costs got out of hand for their reasonably well-off parents, even with the
physician father earning at least $200,000 per year. The eldest son’s $40,000 a
year music degree was mostly bankrolled by the parents, who didn’t want the
children to be burdened by student financial debt that is endemic in the US
They were also paying for the education of the two younger daughters.

Somewhere along the way, it all got too much for them, probably when they
bought a house for $477,730, with mortgage on $460,607.
“I have siblings
in college, who are being supported by my parents, and my parents are paying
$1,000 a month just for their own student loans and my dad graduated 20 years
ago,” Belle Knox/Lauren explained in an interview to the website “One of my parents is recently unemployed. I was
offered $13,000 in financial aid. That wasn’t enough — that’s $47,000 still
unaccounted for.”

That’s when, she said, she decided to go into adult films, particularly since
she enjoyed sex and had no animus against the industry.


Her rant against the current college education finance system expressed on
Realcleareducation is as follows: “People have this perception that if you
cannot pay for college, financial aid will take care of you, and that
perception is wrong. If you are very low income, you can get a full ride to
Duke, no problem. If you are middle or upper-middle class, you will get screwed
in the process.
So many middle class students have not gotten sufficient
financial aid because on paper, their families look like they have money. Just
because I’m not poor doesn’t mean I can afford $60,000 a year for college.
Other students from middle and upper-middle class families have said the same

On why she didn’t do what most students do — service jobs: “Go to the mall
and talk to somebody who works at a hot dog stand and ask them about their job.
They go to work at 9am, work until 6pm, maybe get two five-minute breaks in the
day, make $6.25 an hour before taxes, and they’re on their feet all day.
They’re working in conditions that are physically and mentally draining. So
they’re making maybe $100 a day before taxes for doing 9 hours of hard physical
work. You look at that and look at what I’m doing, making $1,000 for two hours
doing what I really love doing, which for me is not degrading and is something
I feel safe in, you tell me which industry is demeaning?”

“People say the porn industry is demeaning, but being in a service
industry is degrading in and of itself. You’re basically being stepped on. Any
job I would’ve gotten as a minimum wage worker would’ve been exploitative,
degrading to me, and not provided the money I needed to make, which was $4,000
month. So why would I work 80 hours a week, struggle with school, barely get
any sleep and be treated like a second class citizen, when I can do porn for 14
hours a day , make thousands, set my own hours, and have a ton of fun doing it?”

Arms for hugging, diplomacy for fighting

Based on the recent gun fight that transpired between the diplomats, the powers that be should consider shuttering the embassies and opening arms purchase liaison offices (APLO) which also happen to deal with visas and stuff (as a side business).

Truth be told, I have never understood how this things work. The same fighter plane that the USA sells to Pakistan was being offered to India as well (and caused a lot of hurt Stateside when St Nickolaus refused to buy). Perhaps this is to create confusion in war-time, you would not know if the approaching plane is a friend or foe (until it is too late). Perhaps they will be providing different jerseys for different teams (just like football).

Also, is it too much too request that we consider NOT buying any more of this expensive crap (with all the associated corruption). Why not simplify the matter: India pays an annual fee to the USA for protection against foreign invasion (Pakistan can pay China). Maybe we are actually seeing things upside down, it is corruption that is the cake (everything else is just decoration and icing).

A 26-member delegation led by General Vincent K Brooks,
commanding general of the US Army Pacific,
will be here on March 18-20 for the 18th meeting of the India-US executive
steering group (ESG). The Indian delegation, in turn, will be led by
director-general of military operations Lt-General P R Kumar during the talks.


“The ESG will discuss measures to further crank up military-to-military
ties through joint combat exercises, doctrinal and operational exchanges. The
two armies are slated to conduct their annual Yudh Abhyas counter-terrorism
exercise at Chaubatia (Uttarakhand) in July-August this year,” said an


The exercise, the last edition of which was held at Fort Bragg in the US last
May, was to be held earlier this year but got delayed by a few months amid the
diplomatic wrangling during the Devyani Khobragade episode.


The expansive India-US defence cooperation over the last decade has seen the
armed forces from the two countries conduct over 70 exercises, including the
high-end Malabar naval combat exercises. India has also invited Japan to join
the Malabar wargames in August-September this year, an offer which was extended
during Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visit here in January.


The US has already bagged defence deals close to $10 billion over the last
decade in the lucrative Indian defence market, with the latest being the $1.01
billion one for six additional C-130J “Super Hercules” aircraft.


The other deals on the anvil are the ones for 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15
Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and 145
M-777 ultra-light howitzers, together worth another $4 billion or so.


Desperate to displace Russia as India’s largest defence supplier, the US is
promising to treat India on par with its closest allies like the UK and
Australia for providing cutting-edge military technology




The Prince finds his voice (finally)

That is the spirit!! Take the fight to the enemy camp etc. Unfortunately, as with many other things, it seems to be a day late and a dollar short. He found his voice only after our home-made AK-272 (Arvind Kejriwal) went to the lion’s* den in Amdavad and raised a royal stink.

And mind you, AK-ji did that without making any lame references to long dead German thieves. Seriously, why refer to Hitler when you have the all-time favorite- Mahmud of Ghazni- the burglar of Somnath? Gujaratis are well versed in his exploits, (as rumors have it) they study not much else in history from Std. I – X!!!

Addressing a large crowd in Balasinor in Gujarat’s
Panchmahal Lok Sabha constituency, Rahul hit out without taking Modi’s name but
his target was unmistakable: “Congressmen follow Mahatma Gandhi and meet
people and visit their homes. Other leaders are like Hitler. Hitler believed
there was no need to learn from the people.
Whatever will happen in Germany
will be done by Hitler.”

Ridiculing Modi for his request to the people to make him the
“chowkidar” of the country, Rahul said, “This man says make me
the chowkidar and corruption will go. How can he be the chowkidar of India when
in Gujarat he has stolen farmers’ land and gifted it to select
Rahul added, “Chor ko chowkidar kaise bana dein?”


* apologies to the king of the jungle for taking HIS name in vain



Comrade Prashad battles the (Gir) Lion

Makes a well reasoned (non hysterical) appeal in the name of India’s tradition of secularism and helps underline the role of the Left in keeping the forces of darkness at bay. 

He is correct in noting that the choice is not between leaders, but fails to emphasize that the choice is more conceptual:  if you want growth vote for Modi, if you want harmony vote for someone else. 

That IMO is an improper choice as well because of the dubious nature of claims on both sides- Modi has no magic wand for the economy and the so-called secular parties have (in recent times) an even poorer record of preserving communal harmony than the BJP.

Prof Prashad should have done the right thing and confessed that he and other fellow travelers of the left seriously f**ked up matters by not joining hands with the Indians Against Corruption folks (now morphed into Aam Aadmi Party) and channelizing the popular anger into a broad-based movement when they had their chance 2 years ago. That would have given them exactly what they wanted: a secular, third Front with the urban middle-class on board (and prevent the false choice above from gaining ground, it can be argued that corruption harms the economy as well).

The IAC movement was boycotted by the left for supposedly having right-wing connections. More to the point the left just cant stand nationalists like Anna Hazare (who in turn has abandoned AAP and is now promoting Mamata Banerjee because he has ego issues with Arvind Kejriwal).

The failure of the left (always has been) is short-sightedness and arrogance, and now the entire house of cards (third front) has fallen apart in Tamil Nadu and everywhere else. Could not happen to a nicer bunch of people.

What will save India from the Modi juggernaut is that it doesn’t have
a presidential system. The people will elect 543 new members of
parliament. The winning bloc will have to secure half the seats, not
easy for the Congress (206 seats in the last parliament) or the BJP (117
seats). Since 1967, the Indian government has been formed out of
alliances that include regional parties with deep roots in the Indian
states. The old days of a single party ruling the roost are gone;
regional parties are now able to dictate terms for the coalition. It is
what moderates the extremism of the BJP – but only out of necessity.
Modi’s toxicity has turned off core allies, leaving the BJP with the
confidence of a lion but the alliances of a skunk. To complicate
matters, a new anti-corruption party – the Aam Aadmi Party
– promises to directly challenge the Congress and the BJP in their
north Indian heartlands. If they are able to do so, it will strengthen
the hand of the Third Front.

Third Front, under various names, has made an appearance in each
election since 1967. It brings together regional parties and the Left
Front, which is often its backbone. They are united by their antipathy
to both the Congress and the BJP, and their commitment to secularism and
social justice. No easy common programme can be produced, largely
because the parties in the Front differ hugely in their assessment of
how the country should develop. Nevertheless, one of its contributions
has been to move India in a federal direction to empower the states
(Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has a population of 200
million, larger than most countries in the world).

In a country of
India’s scale, federalism is a pathway to democracy. In a fractured
parliament the Third Front could broker a government committed to social
justice and secularism – as it did in 2004 when the Congress was pushed
to create social welfare schemes such as the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act. When the Left broke with the Congress in 2009, the
alliance that remained – the UPA – departed from any commitment to
relief. Only when the Left is a vital part of the Third Front has this
alliance been able to push for reforms to rebuild the hopes and lives of
hundreds of millions of Indians who live below any given standard of a
poverty line. Only when the Left and its allies are stronger yet will
they be able to chart an alternative direction for India.



Thailand is Paradise (for passport fraud)

Be careful while visiting Thailand. Apart from the fact that your passport may be (mis)used for serious crimes (and terrorism) simple identity fraud is a big concern.

On 30 November 2010, a 39-year-old Pakistani national named Muhammed Ather
“Tony” Butt was detained with his Thai girlfriend, Sirikalya
Kitbamrung, as they were crossing into Laos from the north-eastern Thai
province of Nong Khai. Later that same day, officers from Thailand’s Department of Special
Investigations arrested a second Pakistani, Zezan Azzan Butt, 27, in the Rat
Burana district of Bangkok. At about the same time, on the other side of the
globe, Spanish police were swooping on a series of addresses in Barcelona,
arresting six Pakistanis and one Nigerian.

The raids were the culmination of a major joint operation, codenamed
Alpha, between Thai and Spanish investigators, prompted by the discovery that a
suspected member of the al-Qaida-inspired terror cell responsible for several
attacks in Madrid – including the 2004 M-11 train bombings, which killed 191
people and left 1,800 injured – was traveling on a false passport.

Information from that suspect would lead, several years later, to the arrest
in September 2009 of an Iranian-born Briton, Ahboor Rambarak Fath, at Bangkok’s
Suvarnabhumi airport – and, eventually, to Tony Butt. Stopped as he got off a
flight from Spain, Fath was carrying a bag of 103 stolen European, Canadian and
Israeli passports destined, he confessed, for the veritable “small forgery
factory” that police found at Butt’s apartment in the hours after his

In one room of the flat, an unnamed DSI agent told the Bangkok Post,
officers discovered computers, a high-definition scanner and printer, and more
than 1,000 stolen passports, photographs and counterfeit data pages for EU,
Canadian, Chinese and Israeli passports, plus assorted sets of US and Schengen visa stickers and stamps.

The gangs have targeted Thailand mainly because of the very large numbers of
European, US and Australian holidaymakers who travel there every year.
But the
Bangkok Post’s interview with an unnamed DSI agent quoted him as saying the
country was also attractive because it is relatively easy to enter and leave;
“you can negotiate with some law enforcement people”; and –
importantly – some local officials have not tended to see the forgery of
foreign (as opposed to Thai) passports as a particularly serious offence.

He said an undoctored stolen passport…
typically sells for between $1,500 and $3,000, depending on its condition,
nationality, and the number of years it has left to run. Italian, British,
Spanish and other European passports fetch about $1,000, Tinawut said, while
Israeli passports cost $1,500-$2,000 and Canadian can go for up to $3,000.

International border control authorities were last reminded to tighten up
procedures in 2010, when an Air India Express flight crashed on landing in
Mangalore and it transpired that 10 of the 158 passengers and crew on board –
all of whom were killed – had been traveling on forged or stolen documents,
leading to serious concerns about security checks in Dubai,
where the flight



(21st century) jobs for women

For Indian society to progress we need more and more women to be liberated from domestic slavery and provide both men and women the ability to shift from back-breaking, tedious jobs to 21st century jobs (in part by incorporating technology and upgrading work practices, see article excerpt below).

Armal Ali lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India.
The family of 11 occupy a breeze-block shack with no windows. Ali works
all day at a hand loom, sitting cross-legged on the ground, making
embroidered saris that are highly prized across the subcontinent. But
local residents know too well that such work wrecks eyesight and causes
chronic backache.

Ali hopes that his daughter Ousma, 9, will lead a
different life. “Nothing special,” he says, “but at least sitting at a
desk, for instance, with plenty of light around her.” He would also like
her to speak English, like “the people in suits who talk about money
all day on television”.

When you are lacking in “good jobs” women can progress only at the expense of men. Fortunately, the private sector already values women as employees and is responding strongly. Unfortunately, violence aimed at women is causing immense harm by restricting employment hours, especially the peak hours during evenings/nights when clients/teams in the west are available for interaction.

The formal/organized sector is the benchmark for middle class gender
It is here that employment is stable; compensation is adequate
and working conditions bearable. It is not as if nothing has changed
since 1947.  

Formal employment has increased, albeit marginally, and
today is around 29 million or just 5% of total employment. Whilst women
have benefited disproportionately, their share in formal employment
increased inadequately from a low 15% in 1995 to a miserable 20% today.

The private sector which has lower institutional and
labour market rigidities, is already responding, on a strictly “value
for money” basis to enlarge women employment. Since 1995 the formal
private sector added 2.8 million jobs, of which 39% (1.1 million) went
to women.
Their share has increased from 20% in 1995 to 24% today. 

It is in public sector formal employment that more needs to be done.
Public sector formal employment shrank by 2 million jobs since 1995 to
17.5 million today. Despite the shrinking pie of government jobs, jobs
for women increased by 0.6 million to 3.3 million or 18% of total public
sector employment:
way behind their share in the private sector.

It will hurt men directly but government must reserve 50% of entry
level positions for women across the board in the civilian cadres of
government, including within the existing quotas for scheduled caste,
scheduled tribe, other backward caste, and minorities (a few states).
Income based “brownie points” in selection and a “one-time quota
benefit, not transferable to children” can serve to churn the ensuing
benefit better. 

The average Indian woman looks for succour from just four public
horrors; (1) the lack of public safety in the street and often also at
home; (2) informal gender bars for education; (3) biased job recruitment
and assessment and (4) rigid work environments,
which do not recognizes
their multiple roles as bread winner; home stabilizer and comforter.
Their effective participation in the public space needs to fit in within
this framework. 

….technology is the biggest gender bender but the government
does not use it strategically.  

Monitoring outcomes effectively and
improving access to services are two sorely neglected areas.

Policing in
India continues to be a low tech, “danda” swinging profession.
cannot an FIR be filed electronically, with a phone number attached for
authentication, thereby putting the onus on the police to follow up with
the complainant? Why are mixed gender police patrols, armed with smart
phone access, to record and report crime and access the crime database,
not visible to citizens? 

Why are blood samples not collected at home in
rural areas by mobile agents of laboratories and reports sent
electronically to users? Why are interactive phone based health and
education counselling services, on the Tamil Nadu pattern, not scaled up
nationally? Why do development babus still not have specific household
specific, annual targets for the multiple social benefit schemes of
government? Why do they have the discretion to fish for beneficiaries?