Saturday, August 4

Iran to reform its banking system

You know what I think, sanctions are an inefficient weapon to use anyway but if the country is corrupt and the economy is inefficient, there would be short term pain. But what I found very funny was that President Ahmadinejad is telling his deputy about the proper functioning of banks in an economy. The reason why I find this funny is because I think the President is totally economically illiterate and a dangerous populist to boot. He goes about making spending commitments without reference to funding, he is busy pushing banks to lend more while not worrying about demand curves or inflation or money supply, he is busy cocking a snook at the world with his nuclear weapons programme while not worrying about his economy, its imports/exports, he is busy talking about the poor and increasing subsidies while rationing petrol (and subsidising it at the same time!). And then he has the unmitigated cheek to tell others on how a bank can help create a flourishing economy? D'oh!!! But here's a prediction, in 6 months to an year, despite his lofty wishes and hard directives, the Iranian Banking system will be in far dire straits than it is right now. And all because of him


Iran to reform its banking system
Sat, 04 Aug 2007 09:54:38
Source: PressTV
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran's President has ordered his first deputy to establish a working group to study ways to revolutionize the country's banking system.

According to Iran's official presidential website, President Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to his first deputy, Parviz Davoudi, explaining the effect banks have on the economy of a country. He believes banks in Iran need to undergo major changes for them to be able to help create a flourishing economy.

In his letter, Ahmadinejad expressed hopes that the committee will carry out plans to achieve the short term objectives of the working group in the best possible way.

Fair distribution of loans and grants and also promoting national interests by financing development projects are the major missions of the group.

Iran's Finance and Economy Minister, the head of Iran's Central Bank and CEO's of both governmental and private banks will attend the committee's sessions.

Ahmadinejad called on the committee to provide a full report of its activities and achievements in the next two months.

Iraqi attitudes continue to shift toward secular values or are they?

Here are two stories, both from respected organisations, both claiming diametrically opposite views. The first one, based on a survey, claims that Iraqi's are becoming a nation, increasingly secular and nationalistic. The other one is claiming that this nationalism view is rare and despite the football victory, its going down the toilet. How is it possible that such a wide divergence takes place? Well, the clue lies in the survey, as you can see, the survey was primarily carried out in Baghdad, a cosmopolitan place anyway, so one would expect that secularism and nationalism, so close to the levers of power, would be but normal.

But as we have seen, the challenge to the nation of Iraq is coming not from Baghdad itself but from outside. See here for a previous essay on the future of Iraq.

Aug. 2, 2007
Iraqi attitudes continue to shift toward secular values

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The political values of Iraqis are increasingly secular and nationalistic, according to a series of surveys of nationally representative samples of the population from December 2004-March 2007.

Findings from a July 2007 survey are expected to be released before the end of the summer.
Click image to see slideshow of charts

So far, the surveys show a decline in popular support for religious government in Iraq and an increase in support for secular political rule, said sociologist Mansoor Moaddel, who is affiliated with Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"Iraqis have a strong sense of national identity that transcends religious and political lines," Moaddel said. "The recent out-pouring of national pride at the Asian Cup victory of the Iraqi soccer team showed that this sense of national pride remains strong, despite all the sectarian strife and violence."

In the March 2007 survey, 54 percent of Iraqis surveyed described themselves as "Iraqis, above all," (as opposed to "Muslims, above all" or "Arabs, above all") compared with just 28 percent who described themselves that way in April 2006. Three-quarters of Iraqis living in Baghdad said they thought of themselves in terms of their national identity, as Iraqis above all.

"This is a much higher proportion than we found in other Middle Eastern capitals," said Moaddel, adding that such high levels of national identity may counteract tendencies to split the nation based on sectarian differences.

The surveys conducted in December 2004 and April 2006 were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to U-M political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Mark Tessler. Moaddel collaborated on those surveys, then added some of the same questions to an October 2006 survey of 7,730 Iraqis supervised by the Multinational Forces Assessment Effects Group. In March 2007, Moaddel collaborated with Iraqi social scientist Munqith Daghir, adding the same questions to another survey of 7,411 Iraqis. The surveys were conducted by a private Iraqi research group headed by Daghir, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies.

The proportion of Shi's, Sunnis and Kurds interviewed in each of the surveys was roughly representative of their presence in the population, according to Moaddel.

Overall, only 18 percent of those surveyed in October 2006 thought that having an Islamic government where religious authorities have absolute power is "very good," compared with 26 percent surveyed in December 2004.

About a third of those surveyed in March 2007 strongly agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated, compared with 24 percent in December 2004.

Additionally, Moaddel found a significant increase from April 2006 to October 2006 in the percent of Iraqis who gave six religious political parties a very unfavorable rating.

"The escalating violence in Iraq gives a bleak impression of that country's future," Moaddel said. "Sectarian conflict seems to be increasing on a daily basis, with militias massacring hundreds of Sunnis and Shi'is solely on the basis of their religious identities.

"Yet it would be a mistake to think that this bloodlust represents widespread sentiment among Iraqis as a whole. While neither American nor Iraqi security officials have yet found a way to tame the militias, the Iraqi public is increasingly drawn toward a vision of a democratic, non-sectarian government for the country."

Related Links:

U-M Institute for Social Research

Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies

Mansoor Moaddel

Contact: Diane Swanbrow
Phone: (734) 647-4416


A winning goal, then back to war

Aug 2nd 2007
From The Economist print edition

The euphoria of a footballing victory faded fast

JUST when it looks as if salvaging a unified Iraq will be hopeless, there comes a reminder of how strongly many Iraqis still want to live together in a single nation. Iraq's 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the final game of the Asian Cup in Jakarta on July 29th set off a wave of celebrations. Fans ignored the danger of car bombs (which had killed 50 after the Iraqi victory in the semi-finals) as well as the risk of falling bullets (fired into the air to celebrate despite a ban) and poured onto the streets. After the semi-finals, crowds waved the Iraqi flag in the northern city of Arbil, where it is normally denounced by the Kurds as the symbol of the army which waged genocidal war against them. And children in the militantly Shia Baghdad slum of Sadr City chanted the name of Younis Mahmoud, the striker whose goal won the game and who is a Sunni.

Such outpourings of Iraqi nationalism are rare, but they happen. Often they follow a tragedy, such as when Sunnis risked their lives diving into the Tigris to save hundreds of Shia pilgrims who fell into the river after the collapse of a bridge in 2005. At other times they act to prevent a tragedy, such as when Shia clerics called on their followers, apparently successfully, not to retaliate against innocent Sunnis after the second bombing of the al-Askari shine in Samarra in June of this year. Iraqis will also occasionally speak of smaller, more private acts of national unity, such as Sunnis caring for their Shia neighbours' houses after the latter have been run out of them by insurgents.

In honour of the win, the Sunnis' main coalition, the Iraqi Consensus Front, put off a decision on whether to withdraw from the Shia-led government, so as not to spoil the day's joy. A lovely sentiment. But on August 1st it decided—and it withdrew.

The footballing victory has therefore done little to overcome a political deadlock that has stymied proposed legislation on oil sharing and a partial roll-back of the purge that threw many members of the former ruling Baath party out of their jobs. The glow of sporting glory faded further when Iraq's parliament announced that in spite of the continuing strife it would take a month's break in August. And on the first day of that month the bombers were back. More than 60 people were killed in two bombings in Baghdad.

South Korea turns against 'arrogant' Christian hostages - Independent Online Edition > Asia

So are these Christian missionaries brave or stupid? Are they out to do God's work or are they being stupid? I talked about this strange human behaviour earlier. But it is still not the same.

If you think these are all hero's, then compare these missionaries with Rachel Corrie. She was killed after she was protesting against the demolition of a house by an Israeli bulldozer while these missionaries were killed by the Taliban who were presumably upset about their proselytising activities. Worthy of a "hmmm", no?

South Korea turns against 'arrogant' Christian hostages
By Daniel Jeffreys in Seoul
Published: 04 August 2007

The kidnap of South Korean church volunteers by the Taliban has caused deep divisions back home, forcing into the open a dark truth: many Koreans resent Christians and the speed with which they have become a dominant force in the upper echelons of society.

The captive missionaries - 18 women and five men - who were seized in Afghanistan two weeks ago hailed from the Saemmul Presbyterian Church, which is based in an affluent dormitory town south of Seoul.

After they were taken hostage, the church's online bulletin board was deluged with negative statements. Many called the missionaries "arrogant" for trying to proselytise in a Muslim country gripped by conflict.

When the group's pastor, Bae Hyung-ku, was killed last week, the hostile messages increased and the church decided to close its site rather than endure what a press release from Bae's family called "more hatred and misunderstanding."

But this did not halt the critics. A news bulletin board at Naver, Korea's leading portal, attracted vicious denunciations. "Yes, let's pray for the hostages' safe return, only to see these missionaries kneel down and apologise to the people for the Protestants' arrogance," wrote a man who described himself as a "humanist teacher."

Whang Sang-min, a psychology professor at the prestigious Yonsei University, said: "There is growing resentment toward Christians. Many Koreans feel oppressed by the power of the church."

Korea was a Buddhist country 120 years ago, with only a few thousand Christians, mostly Catholics, who faced intense persecution. By the 1960s, Korea had about a million Christians, but their numbers exploded in the decades that followed.

Christians now make up 31 per cent of South Korea's population. At night, the Seoul skyline glitters with video billboards and neon lights but all the commercial illumination is rivalled by the thousands of bright red crosses that shine from the churches found on almost every street corner.

Korea now has more than 36,000 churches, and many of them are loud and proud with a firm commitment to missionary work and a passionate zeal for evangelism.

A typical example is Somang church in the Apgugeong district, Seoul's equivalent of Knightsbridge. It attracts over 15,000 worshippers every Sunday, and the weekly church collection plate rakes in more than £30,000, much of which is devoted to funding overseas missions. The choir is packed with professional and semi-professional opera singers, and the conservative presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak is a member of the congregation.

Saemmul, the captive missionaries' church, was formed by a breakaway group from Somang and it has grown so big it recently converted a five-storey shopping centre into a new church - the Yeoido Full Gospel church in central Seoul, which has 750,000 regular attendees, making its congregation the largest in the Christian world.

Korea has 16,000 missionaries working overseas, second only to the US.

The chairmen of all South Korea's top-10 companies are Christians, as are the majority of National Assembly members.

If the Taliban kills another one of its hostages there will be great sadness here, but also more anger against Christians. A posting on Naver earlier this week gives a taste of the degree of resentment some Koreans feel: "The missionaries are getting what they deserve," wrote a woman who described herself as a secular Buddhist. "Maybe now some of them will stop trying to ram Jesus down our throats."

Kang Sung-zu, South Korea's ambassador to Afghanistan, has arranged to meet with Taliban forces within the next few days to begin negotiations for the release of the remaining 21 church workers.

The Taliban have already killed two of its captives, but it announced yesterday that no more will be executed before the direct negotiations with Mr Kang take place.

A death unmourned: the lonely end of the failed bomb-maker

Do you remember the film, The Day of the Jackal? At the end, nobody knew who the Jackal was and he was buried in an unmarked grave. If one thinks back, perhaps that's the worst end. I once asked my uncle, Ajit Dasgupta, a very erudite and intelligent man (I bawled like a baby when he died and we were taking his body to the hospital for organ donation), about the point in life? He said, well, son, all you leave behind is your name (in terms of your deeds) and your children.

If that is applied to this terrorist, then think about it, he has been abandoned by his own family, his own faith, his own people. He has been unsuccessful and died the most painful death you can (by burning, and you saw how he was dragged off the car, with his skin and flesh peeling and dropping off). And if Luxemberg is right, if he does reach heaven, all he will get are 72 white raisins.

A death unmourned: the lonely end of the failed bomb-maker
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 04 August 2007

Kafeel Ahmed's parents were praying yesterday that it was not him who died in a hospital bed, thousands of miles away. They were not disowning him, they said, but they just hoped the man who carried out the attack on Glasgow airport, and had been lying in a coma since, was not their son.

There was no expression of mourning over the death, no one has come forward to claim the remains. The end came 33 days after images of Kafeel, engulfed in flames as he tried desperately to ignite the explosives in the jeep that had been rammed into a terminal, were shown around the world.

The 27-year-old engineer, believed to be the bombmaker for the planned blasts at Glasgow and London, and the central figure in the terror plot, suffered 90-per-cent third-degree burns.

His companion in the Glasgow incident, Bilal Abdullah, an Iraqi doctor also aged 27, is among four people who are charged with terrorism related offences, as is his brother, Dr Sabeel Ahmed.

A cousin, Dr Mohammed Haneef, was arrested in Australia after it emerged that he had given his sim card to Kafeel for use on a mobile phone which was allegedly used in the attack. He was subsequently freed, selling his story to an Australian TV channel before being deported to India protesting his innocence.

Police in India searching through Kafeel's computer were later to find Islamist messages celebrating what happened that day.

Kafeel had received extensive treatment at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Surgeons grafted on substitute skin made of shark cartilage and cow tendons. It was a system developed to treat the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Medical staff dealing with the case privately said that there was little chance of recovery. Ahmed had been in a coma and there were signs of kidney and liver failure. There had also been some criticism of the money spent on the suspected terrorist. The "shark skin" treatment - called Integra Dermal Regeneration Template - alone came to over £20,000, and the total cost of security and medical care is estimated to have been more than £100,000.

Kafeel's parents, Moqbool and Zakia Ahmed, who live in the Indian city of Bangalore, had also pressed for doctors to switch off his life support machine, at one stage saying they would take legal action to enforce this if necessary. Some Muslim groups had claimed that the prisoner was being deliberately kept alive "for medical experiments".

Yesterday a spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "It was perfectly right that he should have received the appropriate treatment our health service could offer as this reflects the value our society places on human life."

The investigation has been piecing together the role played by Kafeel in the alleged terrorist plot, and the evolution of a young man angry about Iraq and Afghanistan into someone who was prepared to carry out mass murder.

The Glasgow attack followed two days after an alleged attempt to blow up a car outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London. The two Mercedes cars used in the attempt are believed to have been driven down from Glasgow to the scene by Kafeel and another man.

Following the Glasgow attack, Kafeel was found to have high dosages of morphine in his bloodstream, leading to the conjecture that they had taken the drug in preparation for "martyrdom". People there at the time spoke of how Kafeel, slightly built and 5ft 7ins tall, seemed oblivious to the blows being rained on him by the police and members of the public.

Investigators now believe, however, that the Glasgow attack had been carried out "in a panic" after police began closing in on Ahmed's Glasgow cell following the recovery, intact, of the London "bomb cars". Kafeel and his companions, they are convinced, were planning further attacks.

They had bought the Mercedes saloons and the Cherokee Jeep used at London and Glasgow. They had also talked to a dealer about the possibility of buying up to 10 more cars.

Police have been checking CCTV footage at the St Enoch shopping centre on Argyle Street in Glasgow after reports Kafeel and another man had been seen reconnoitering the place.

As well as the general shock at the revelation that doctors were involved in the bombing plot, there was also surprise that the Ahmed brothers, coming from a professional family, had taken the road to jihad. Kafeel had spent much of his youth in Bangalore, India's IT hub which is seen as a broadly secular city, and studied aeronautics at Cambridge and Belfast.

However, examination of their background showed that the family had always been followers of a hardline, albeit non-violent, form of Islam. The brothers lived in Iran and Saudi Arabia while their parents had worked there. And, after returning to India, the brothers had tried to persuade their local mosques to adopt a more hardline, Saudi inspired version of Islam.

Following the Glasgow attack, Indian police examined hard disks Kafeel had stored in his computer. They showed keen interest in events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. They are also said to have found speeches by Osama bin Laden and graphic scenes of violence, including footage of a Russian soldier being tortured by Chechen separatists.

Just before the London and Glasgow attacks, Kafeel had told his parents in Bangalore: "I am involved in a large-scale confidential project. It is about global warming. It involves a lot of travelling. The project has to be started in the United Kingdom ... Various people from various countries are involved in this ... I will not be available by any means, phone or internet, for a week, so please don't worry."

Yesterday the Ahmed family's lawyer in Bangalore, BT Venkatesh, said that they were all "very upset" and still clinging on to the hope that it was not their son who had been involved in the terrible events in Britain. "As long as there is no confirmation from the British authorities, there is hope," he said. "But after that, what will happen will happen."

Friday, August 3

China to raise three "squadrons" of starlings in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Biological warfare with a starling air force on locusts. And no, I dont mean the private equity players in Germany, but the real live locusts. Pretty neat, and I am sure countries ranging from North Africa to China would appreciate having some more squadrons of starlings to take care of these absolutely voracious insects. I have seen this swarm once and they are like nothing I have ever seen. Utterly destructive to agriculture and can ruin local economies in a jiffy.

Federal Reinsurance for Terrorism Risks:

Terrorism Insurance is a crucial pillar in the fight against terror. You see, if you know that you are insured against loss, the element of terror is reduced. It is like wearing an armour vest, you are better able to fight because you are not always worried about getting injured. Here's an older essay which I wrote on this subject.

Referenced here is a paper from the Congressional Budget Office of the US Congress which talks about Federal Reinsurance for Terrorism Risks: the Issues in Reauthorization. Good overview, but I stand by my original opinion, the government has to be the insurer of last resort! I just hope politics does not raise its ugly head in such a crucial national and international issue.

The Thayer System of teaching cadets at the United States Military Academy

written by an Air Force officer, it talks about how the cadets at the USMA need to move away from a pure mathematical and scientific education to a mixed and broad education, something which concentrates on culture, language, arts, and other topics. This will make the officer a better leader and better able to handle not only his own men, but also situations where s/he has to be a peacekeeper or civilian leader. We saw how US Army Officers had challenges in Iraq. Good suggestion indeed. Something that the British Army has got in droves for centuries, a liberal arts education was a must !

Queen star hands in science PhD, 36 years late

Quite a nice human interest story, but well, better late than never. I never managed to submit the first one which I started way back in 1990. But that's such a long time back, I was going to do an analysis of the capital asset pricing model as applied to Indian stocks. Took me 8 months to physically create a database by typing each end of day price for the top mumbai stocks! and well, then got to get to Manchester to do a real one!, lol. I wonder whether I can go back to Indore, finish that piece of work and submit? or wait for another 15 years like this chap?

But at Manchester, they were extremely pushy to make sure we graduate out in 3 years. In any case, my scholarship would have finished, but more importantly, Karn was conceived between the 1st and 2nd chapters of my dissertation and born between the 8th and 9th chapters. And since you cant raise a child on a scholarship, had to finish it. To top it all, I am crazy enough to go do another one!.

But nice story none the less :)

Queen star hands in science PhD

Brian May (left) handed over his thesis to Professor Paul Nandra Queen guitarist Brian May has handed in his astronomy PhD thesis - 36 years after abandoning it to join the band. May recently carried out observational work in Tenerife, where he studied the formation of "zodiacal dust clouds". The subject forms the basis of a thesis for London's Imperial College, where May, 60, had been studying before deciding to pursue a career with Queen. The musician may have to wait several weeks before he finds out if he will be awarded his doctorate.
"I have no doubt that Brian May would have had a brilliant career in science had he completed his PhD in 1971," said astrophysicist Dr Garik Israelian, who worked with May in La Palma in Tenerife. "Nevertheless, as a fan of Queen, I am glad that he left science temporarily," he added. May recently co-authored a book with Sir Patrick MooreMay handed in the thesis, called Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, to Imperial's head of astrophysics Professor Paul Nandra. He is scheduled to discuss his thesis with the examining board on 23 August, his spokesman said. The results should be known some time shortly after that date.
The rock star is also preparing a concert to mark the inauguration of a telescope at the Observatory of the Roque de Los Muchachos in La Palma, where he completed his studies last month. May made his first astronomical observations for his thesis at the Observatorio del Teide in Tenerife in 1971, before his rock career took off. He recently published a book on astronomy with The Sky at Night presenter Sir Patrick Moore.

A Bill In Tajikistan To Block The Activities Of Religious Minorities

Now this is curious, why would Tajikistan put in such a draconian bill to control religious activities? I think this is a wrong step, too much repression in religion never works, it needs to be gently guided, and any wild, foamy and violent extremists firmly held down and bathed till they become nice and quiet. I suspect this is an over-reaction. I got this news from a Turkish newspaper and obviously they have old links to this country. Bears keeping an eye out on them! Central Asia is a very very sensitive area indeed. I wonder what the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (the local neighbourhood watch organisation) will say or do about this?

FutureGen project being set up to generate power and hydrogen from clean coal technologies and sequestration of carbon dioxide in danger

Surely something good and new that comes out of this project that is so crucial to mankind relating to climate change should be in public domain rather than belong to just one country? no wonder this is causing problems in India, China and South Korea.

The 10 most dangerous species of IT manager

Come on, its the silly season, why do you expect me to work hard on somber profound boring old stuff? check this out!!!!

Species one: Procurator Martyrus
Species two: Procurator IlligitimusMaximus
Species three: Procurator Teflonius
Species four: Procurator Absentia
Species five: Procurator Insignia
Species six: Procurator Headinsandia
Species seven: Procurator Buzzwordia
Species eight: Procurator Amicus Potissimus
Species nine: Procurator Impatiens
Species 10: Procurator Condescendia

Economic War and Democratic Peace

Now here's some additional insight on the oft quoted statement that democracies rarely go to war with each other. The author has picked up on another dimension on this by checking out whether the democracies go after others via economic sanctions and they have found it is indeed so. Curiously, sanctions have been provent hat they rarely work, see here for an argument that economic boycotts and sanctions rarely work!

The graph is quite interesting with the democracies living in the lower part of the saddle!

Economic War and Democratic Peace
Cullen F. Goenner, Department of Economics, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA
Conflict Management and Peace Science, Volume 24, Issue 3 September 2007 , pages 171 - 182

Research has shown that democracies rarely, if ever, engage each other in war and are less likely to have militarized disputes than when interacting with authoritarian regimes. Economic sanctions are an alternative to militarized conflict viewed by the masses as more acceptable. The conflict-inhibiting effects of democratic norms and institutions are thus weakened with respect to the use of sanctions. This paper examines whether a country's decision to initiate sanctions is influenced by its regime type as well as that of the potential target. The results for the period 1950 to 1990 indicate that the more democratic a country is, the more likely it is to initiate sanctions. Democracies, however, are less likely to target other democratic regimes relative to nondemocratic regimes. With respect to sanctions use, pairs of democracies are not peaceful.

Indian envoy pens historic love story

One of my friends referred to her father's book, which is unfortunately in Korean so I cannot get to read it. But I love this genre', its very evocative and well, strange mixture of nostalgia and historical interest. When i read history, it was dusty, dry and always associated it with examinations, not a good thing. But now, if I read something like this, its brilliant, love it. This is the last book which I read, Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar. lovely! Cant wait for Indian Ambassador to South Korea, Shri Nagesha Parthasarathi to come up with the english edition of his book, sounds like a brilliant read!

Made in India: Low-cost care for ailing parents

One assumes that direct personal services jobs such as nursing, medicine and intensive care jobs cannot be offshored or outsourced. But you have to remember that the assumption underlying this point is that the service requester cannot move to lower cost locations. See the story for an example.

But then, you will exclaim, "ah! ha!, but this is just one example". At which point, I will reply, "ah! ha!, then how do you explain the 300k Brits who emigrate every year? or the 50k who move to france? or the 80k who move to spain? or the 30k who move to USA? or the 20k who move to Australia?

It is indeed possible and lends credence to my oft stated views that offshoring and outsourcing are no longer driven by cost, but are becoming independent of service provision, providers. All parts of the supply chain, from the demand sink to the supply source are now independent because of (1) improvements of technology, (2) availability of communications, (3) cheap transport, (4) use of english, (5) flattening out of the world's demand characteristics (almost every barber around the world can give you a haircut like David Beckham or a hairdresses can give you a hair style like Jennifer Anniston, why not? they usually have their pictures hung up on the wall!).

Thursday, August 2

Moroccan-Born Mayor Dispenses Tough Love to Immigrants in Amsterdam, Netherlands

I wrote earlier about the recommendations made for countering islamist terrorism in Europe. But as this case in Amsterdam shows, it is not easy, even for one of their own, to push this minority to integrate further. And for people who think that this is islamophobia, do recall the success of other non Christian, non white minorities to integrate into European society. Then again, Jews were pretty much as much integrated as possible, and still ended up with the Holocaust, and despite huge attempts to stop it happening again,, the level of anti semitic attacks is way up there again in so many European countries. And the tragic irony is that because it seems to be linked to developments in Palestine and Lebanon, the attacks are being carried out by the Muslims, the very same people who are facing discrimination. ah! what a tangled web we weave.

Iran Condemns Israel for Violation of Human Rights | Wake Up From Your Slumber

There is a quote in bengali which when translated goes something like this, "the collander tells the sewing needle that there is a hole in your bottom". This is the best bit, Israel and Iran are accusing each other of human rights violations!!!! I am posting this under Humour! :)

Ten Things Your IT Department Won't Tell You -

The Wall Street Journal recently published a list of 10 things that are commonly banned in the enterprise but still manage to get done.


This blog has talked about facebook in the past and has referenced JP Rangaswami's excellent series of articles on this subject. But this is a serious issue because organisations expend a huge amount of energy, resources and money on how to get controls in place. You see, in this day and age, we are having more and more processes which are automated. Supply chains are giant, long, complicated and very often do not have any human intervention. So breaks in the chain are extremely difficult to resolve, so IT and operations departments try to keep things as safe as possible.

Take an example of an operating theater. The human body is complicated and they keep the doors sealed, with no dust or infection coming in. They ask doctors to wash and clean their hands and wear masks. Now a doctor might skip the wash and might not shampoo, so in some cases, the controls do not work and the downside is, the patient gets sick and in some worst cases, the patient dies!. its the same concept, nobody dies, but there is a huge amount of issue and IT controls are to provide a nice, clean, low risk environment for everybody to work in. Operational Risk CAN bring down firms (remember Barings?) so for people circumventing controls (whetehr IT, operational or process), be warned, the controls are there for a reason. See here for a survey on Rogue IT.

OIC: On the UN Security Council Resolution authorizing deployment of a United Nations-African Union ‘Hybrid’ Peace Operation in Darfur


Further to the Darfur post below, here's the OIC response. So another question answered, there is no way that the OIC will allow any form of support from the OIC itself for OIC troops. Does that just leave India to contribute troops??

An event study of institutions and currency crises

This is what I would call as a d'oh study. The authors study many institutional variables ranging from corruption, conflict, bureacratic ability etc. before and after a currency crisis. And well, the d'oh conclusion is that they do find that there are severe institutional issues around currency crisis. But it is clear that if a country has weak institutions and institutional frameworks, then the chances of having a currency crisis is much higher.

Pattama L. Shimpalee and Janice Boucher Breuer, An event study of institutions and currency crises, Review of Financial Economics, Volume 16, Issue 3, Exchange Rates and International Financial Assets: A Special Issue in Honor of Stanley W. Black, 2007, Pages 274-290.
Abstract: We use event study methodology to examine the behavior of seven institutional variables eighteen months prior to and after a currency crisis. Our data on institutions include bureaucratic quality, corruption, ethnic tensions, external conflict, internal conflict, government stability, and law and order over the period 1984-2002. Our country coverage includes forty industrial, emerging market, and developing economies for various regions of the world. The graphical event study shows that there are many instances where institutions are weaker in periods before and after a currency crisis than during tranquil periods. The evidence is most compelling for government stability, law and order, bureaucratic quality, and corruption. We also test for differences in the mean values of institutional variables in turbulent periods around a crisis event and tranquil, non-crisis periods. Results from our tests generally complement evidence from the event study.

India climbs up the income ladder

Poverty is extremely distressing but one of the quiet aspects of the world development over the past decades is how poverty has been killed off. Based upon 2004 figures, the World Bank reports that "The proportion of people living in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day dropped by almost half between 1981 and 2001, from 40 percent to 21 percent of the global population. In absolute terms, this means that the number people living in poverty fell from 1.5 billion in 1981 to 1.1 billion in 2001. "

Can you imagine that? 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty in a mere 20 years!!!! that is like raising the WHOLE population of Europe up by a level of magnitude of income! And for all its faults, the increased trade, capitalism and increased opportunities are helping to do so. Look at the story referenced in this post, a poverty striken country like India is now moving into the middle of the income ladder of countries. For a billion population, that's a huge deal! But still a long way to go, check out the latest figures here. / World - Russia plants its flag on North Pole seabed

quite interesting move actually. Reminds me of how the antartica treaty came about. The main itnerested countries came around and hammered out a treaty to share the ice continent equally. Mind you, the convention on the regulation of antartica's mineral resource activity has never come into force even thought it has been signed. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the United Nations to get involved and hammer out a good treaty to look after both the poles. Otherwise this has all the signs of a festering sore which will erupt the next time a country decides to go drill into some icy wastes for oil and gas.

The World from Berlin: 'Darfur Will not Be Pacified by Military Means' - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

The World from Berlin: 'Darfur Will not Be Pacified by Military Means' - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Ok, we get another view on this issue which I talked about before. The view from the german camp is that Darfur would not be controlled by military means. Which means, this is a far bigger and complex issue than previously thought. This is looking like another big mess in the making

French bill opens universities to business funding

Wow, Sarko has managed to do it!!!, he has managed to open the clam shell of french universities from those poxy unions!!!! See what they say? "However, according to a group of 25 trade unions and associations, including the French association of researchers "Sauvons la Recherche", teachers' and students' unions, the reform would "lead to the unequal development of universities due to the race for funding and the disengagement of the State". In the end of July, the group asked the government to drop its plans on university reform."

I mean, which world do they live on? do they want all the universities to be universally mediocre? how bizarre. Despite all this wonderful egalitarian principles, France still ended up with a very tiny coterie of Enarque bureaucrats, businessmen and politicians running the country for most of the fifth republic. See here for a previous analysis of this french elite. Typical, mediocrity is for the masses, but the elite get away with privilege and gobbling up resources.

A different way to look at al Qaeda images

A different way to look at al Qaeda images Technology Guardian Unlimited

A fascinating insight on how these brilliant IT chaps can dig into technology and help drive counter terrorism forensics!, I quote, "Krawetz examined an image from a 2006 al Qaeda video of Ayman al-Zawahiri and reckons it was videotaped in front of a black sheet; a desk and banner were added later." It sounds simple, but this is how they build up intelligence! :)

The future of the financial institution

Many different aspects came together for this post. First was reading this IBM report which talks about 4 things

1. That the global opportunity is large but not in the same old places,
2. Firms are not prepared to capture this emerging opportunity,
3. The business model executives generally believe is best may actually be the wrong bet and
4. The people side of financial markets firms may be getting short shrift

#1 no problems, we know that developed markets are generally flat to a few bps on growth. Most of the rapid growth is coming from the emerging markets hence the attraction of China, India, BRICS, etc. Whether or not the firms are prepared to capture this is again open to debate. See here for an explanation of what financial firms are doing, in a particular segment and I quote, "“Citi customers expect innovation in financial products and global consistency,” says Evans, who will oversee teams in the U.S., London and Asia. “We’ve been regionally silo’d in our approach until now with electronic execution as a business in the U.S. and alternative execution as a business in Europe so we’re working to bring that all together.” Evans explains that as electronic trading has matured in the U.S., there is a great opportunity to leverage the product and knowledge base built up and extend that out to Europe, Asia and beyond. “Even though the U.S. market place is the biggest market in terms of opportunity, the rate of change is not the same as it is now in Asia and Europe,” says Evans. He adds that with MiFID in Europe and Reg NMS in the U.S. he sees the markets starting to converge in terms of the way people trade. "

By the way, I used to work with Richard once upon a time when it was called as Schroder Salomon Smith Barney, now Citigroup Corporate and Investment Bank.

Then comes the question of whether financial institutions are organised in the right way. The idea seems to be that while banks think that universal banks are best, but the best returns are provided by specialised providers. I have spoken earlier about this aspect here.

Anyway, an interesting picture of the future based upon a big survey (and yes, i took part in it)

Reg NMS and MiFID: Preparing for the Data Flood

I am a confirmed data freak. I love data. I love to play with data, have very large databases. I talked before about my first attempts at creating a db. But when i came to Manchester, I was near drooling at the financial data series databases. Way back in 1992, i could create databases which were 30-50 megabytes in size, for which we had to upload to the university mainframe and run overnight batches!, oh! joy. And those were end of day prices.

Then I got hold of my FIRST tick by tick database, comprising of 3 months of foreign exchange data relating to the Swissie-dollar rate. I got a tape shipped over and it was a joy to love and behold. 300 megabytes of data, i was drooling over it, near orgasmic state. I ran my neural network models there but couldnt incorporate that into my phd, Professor Wood, my supervisor, told me not to be a greedy beady and just finish the damn thing. Well.........

I got my revenge by working with data in my job. We had data cubes which were gigantic, imagine multi-dimensional data of millions of rows with thousands of columns. Oh! fun and games! :) But those were small fun and games, just end of day runs to determine the greeks and var's. Then when I moved into the pure electronic trading area and we ended up with terrabytes of data, godzilla sized databases with very very smart statistical models to determine program trading strategies, to do transaction cost analysis, etc. With the globalisation of the markets, adding more products to the mix (like mixing the fixed income and the equity markets), the electronic trading desks are becoming more data intensive than before. But life is going to get a whole load worse

And then MiFID / RegNMS is going to make life a whole load more challenging for everybody. As this reports writes, "These mandates will require institutions and trading venues to store massive amounts of market data, even as the volume of trade and quote data continues to grow. As a result, TowerGroup believes these regulations will be responsible for not only creating more sources of market data, but by 2012, could cause a 900% increase in the amount of market data being published."

Financial Institutions have to store data for a minimum of 5 years so that we might need to prove to a regulator that we offered the best execution to our clients. And for various other reasons. So it is quite possible that greater than a terrabyte of data can easily be produced on an hourly basis (you can fit the largest library in the world in that amount!). The physical storage of this much amount of data is not the problem, we have very very good technology available to do so.

Now let me give you one example why I think this is a worry. Look around you and look at your technology. Your mobile phone? your digital camera? your cam-corder? your PC? laptop? think about it, which technology platform is 5 years old? comparatively small. Mobile phones would be 1-2 years, digital cameras about the same, camcorder about the same, PC perhaps 2-3 years old...... So think about the challenges that banks will have to maintain this amount of data, the technology platform to support it....... My first dataset was stored on tapes which I converted to the 8 inch floppy disks, and then the 5 and 1/4 inch, then the 3.5 incher stiffies. My manchester data sets and dissertation documents were stored in the 3.5 inch stiffies and last year I found that I couldnt read them any more. I didnt even have a bloody floppy drive in my pc! But I have wittered on enough. Big challenges (think about the poor museums of modern art who have to maintain working technology platforms from the 1970's!, who the hell knows how that kind of stuff works???)


  • Needham, MA - 31 July 2007
  • Designed to improve competition and level the playing field for investors, the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) and the US Regulation National Market System (Reg NMS) are poised to drastically change the way the global securities industry handles market data. New research from TowerGroup finds that regulatory compliance will ultimately pave the way for firms to completely automate the trading process.

    These mandates will require institutions and trading venues to store massive amounts of market data, even as the volume of trade and quote data continues to grow. As a result, TowerGroup believes these regulations will be responsible for not only creating more sources of market data, but by 2012, could cause a 900% increase in the amount of market data being published. This projected growth, using the NYSE as an example.

    “Discussion in the media has focused on the fact that these regulations mandate best execution, which misses the bigger picture” said Tom Price, senior analyst in the Securities & Capital Markets practice at TowerGroup and author of the research. “The ramifications may not be felt immediately, but once Reg NMS and MiFID are final, they will have forever changed the way financial services firms treat data.”

    • Regulatory compliance is expensive, but the true challenge will lie in determining where to spend – as global market participants juggle the requirements of bandwidth, capacity, latency, and subsequent storage to support the anticipated flood of market data.

    • Trade reconstitution will become crucial “forensic evidence” in proving best execution, and will require gathering and storing every published quote at the time of execution along with any other data points associated with the trade.

    • Except for some regional differences between Reg NMS and MiFID, institutions can achieve compliance through an integrated strategy that encompasses both directives. The success of such a strategy depends on combining consistent policies and procedures with improved infrastructure.

    “Regulatory compliance will pave the way for firms to completely automate the trading process,” added Price. “Once all the players have done so, the winner in the hunt for liquidity will be whoever can process the data the fastest.”

    The new research report titled “Preparing for the Data Flood: Ramifications of Reg NMS and MiFID,” addresses how Reg NMS and MiFID will create more sources of data and drive a greater volume of quote data from each of these sources. The research also analyzes the areas where market participants will have to improve their market data infrastructure and applications.

Currents and Cross Currents of Radical Islamism

A series of conferences have taken place on the issue of radical islamism and this report from a few months back is a collection of conference papers and articles (followed by recommendations) on the following topics. I know what you are thinking, terrorism and counter terrorism conferences are dime a dozen, but this conference, in my opinion, is very worthwhile. If nothing else, I have yet to come across another conference which had such a wide ranging and senior representation (see page 27 of the report) from across the world. So these recommendations are indeed backed up with heavy weight sponsorship.

But while saying that, I am a bit disappointed. The recommendations are typical, more government intervention, more talk, etc. etc. I am very doubtful that that will help reduce the incidence of radical islamism. We within the UK are perhaps one of the greatest multicultural government interventionists with huge amounts of institutional support (see the previous blog about how the British Prison Service is institutionalising Islam within the prison service alongside Christianity) and we still end up with 7/7. I quote from the report from page 12,
"An oft-cited example of how local and global grievances merge, the case of Mohammed Bouyeri, the young Dutch Muslim who murdered Theo van Gogh is frequently cited. In the manifesto-cum-poem that Bouyeri pinned to the chest of his victim, outrage was expressed at the United States, for the invasion of Iraq, and Israel for the plight of the Palestinians, and, interestingly, comparable animus was directed against the Dutch state for considering a proposal to screen Muslim applicants for public sector jobs for radical leanings." Now if this is indeed the motivation of the terrorists then I would find it very difficult to see just what can European governments do to manage this kind of terrorism. I analysed al queda's statements and extracted their demands. See where that ended up and read this report. Best of luck.


Russians Seeking Justice in European Court

Now I am not surprised at all that a country would be irked if its people are going outside the country to get justice, even for such comparatively small civil issues. That is hitting the very base, the very ideology and the very essence of a country, that it is unable to provide a legal system which provides justice, and legal service for the majority of people and cases. Of course there would always be some who do not like the legal system or some cases which the legal system cannot handle (such as terrorism, or international law, or international tax, etc.) but just for this? I would not be happy either. I would be even more unhappy if I am an ex-superpower, looking to regain lost glories.

Russians prefer to invest outside, like to raise capital outside, like to get justice outside, like to have holidays outside, like to emigrate given the chance...., Not doing well, is our Mother Russia?

Wednesday, August 1

A CiF commentary on Muslims in British Prisons

Right after I wrote about how the British Prison Service is treating Muslims and how Islam is becoming part of the institutional framework just like Christianity, this comes up.

It might be worthwhile to consider couple of things, Mr. Bunglawala. 3 instances do not make a rule, so you might want to consider what is the proportion of these 3 incidents to the overall number of muslim prisoners. But that will still not tell you whether or not this ratio is good bad or ugly.

Then you have to factor in the relative ranking of prisoners. For example, child molesters are considered to be the lowest of the low and are frequently attacked by other prisoners. So you need to take that ratio. You will also find that other categories of prisoners such as rapists, women beaters are considered as vermin and are put upon quite frequently. This is anecdotal evidence. I do not have any firm evidence nor could I find anything but surely Mr. Bunglawala can ask for a FOI request to the PS. That will allow him to figure out whether these 3 instances are statistically significant.

Because if he is going to go solely by absolute numbers, then I suggest he complains more about the child molesters and rapists who unfortunately get treated badly in far worse numbers. Presumably since he is so upset with the mistreatment of just 3 imprisoned terrorists, he would go incandescent with rage with the hundreds of other instances :)

PS: the above is obviously tongue in cheek, but there was a reason for it. Now if he had talked about prison violence and prisoner reform from the perspective of ALL prisoners and perhaps mentioned the mistreatment of the 3 muslim terrorists in passing, it would have made sense. But right now? he is coming across more as a person who is solely interested in prisoner violence simply because 3 terrorists got bashed about. Now that's not really the way to go about making friends and influencing people, is it?

How the Shrimp Tariff Backfired

This is a brilliant exposition of how the law of un-intended consequences works when governments try to protect certain sectors against market standards and rules of economics. I have talked about this law many times, but not in this case of shrimps.

So lets see what happened? by taking this action, the taxpayer spent more money on subsidies, the targeted countries got upset with USA, more shrimp came in anyway, and the domestic producers got hammered even more, the reputation of USA as a principled free trader took a knock and at end of the day? USA lost on all counts. Are the democrats listening?

UNAMID Mission: Germany Rules out Troops for Darfur

Well, we are getting some answers (partial) for the questions I raised here. I am afraid I am not very confident about this force and whether it will manage to actually stop the genocide that's happening in Sudan.

Why Hamas will win over Fateh

I have previously written about why Israel has to speak to Hamas, but this article points to 10 reasons why Hamas will eventually win over Fateh.

Quite an interesting read, one can quibble over #1, #2, and #4, specially #4 because I firmly believe that Hamas is wedded to violence but only a velvet glove covering an iron fist can handle Hamas.

Obama might send troops into Pakistan

Holy Moly!!!!

Is this guy mad or what? sending american troops into Pakistan? I think he has not only smoked pot but also inhaled and digested it. Please, Mr. Presidential Hopeful Obama, please please pretty please dont do anything of that sort. Here, read this to get a bit of background.

Disaster stares us in the face. An incompetent president followed by an innocent one?

I am moving to Siberia!

Darfur Force agreed by the UN

Hmmm, quite interesting, wouldn't you say? that a 26,000 strong force will be deployed in a region bigger than France? Its too early to comment but this is what i would be thinking about

1. who will provide the troops?
2. Do the troop providing countries know that they are going into a peace enforcement mission and then peace keeping mission in an Arab Islamic Country?
3. Who is going to provide the logistics?
4. How long is the mandate for?
5. What are the rules of engagement if the troops are fired upon?
6. Does or will the mandate ever include capturing the war criminals?
7. What is the role of the OIC and Arab League? what has been done?
8. How is the logistics chain going to work? geographically? from the north or east?
9. How will France be affected? since it is so heavily involved in Chad?
10. What will be the repercussions on Southern Sudan and implications on the peace accord?
11. Will the UN forces be allowed hot pursuit as part of their RoE?
12. Who is going to foot the bill? say 5 year bill for the UN force and also for humanitarian requirements?
13. Given that USA and UK are heavily extended in Iraq and Afghanistan (inclusive of logistical support), and other NATO countries will only provide troops for kitchen duty as long as the kitchen is 2000 miles away from any potential hostile operation, will the force be made up of Arab / Muslim troops?
14. In case the jihadi's decide that the UN intervention in yet another Muslim country (after Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon) is just too much and start suicide bombing (remember loads of suicide bombers and jihadi's have emerged from Sudan), what will be the response of the African Union and United Nations Security Council?

Islam in the British Prison Service

Now here's an interesting view on how a predominantly christian country handles a sharp rise in prisoners from another religion. All in all, while the author says that good stuff has happened, there is still much to do because the muslim prisoners are still not treated at par with christian prisoners. Happy reading.

I am also taking the liberty to quote the entire conclusion as it makes worthwhile reading

The prison institution is one where Islam is becoming institutionalised to a greater degree than in mainstream society. The PS is in fact pioneering the institutionalism of Islam far ahead of other institutions in Britain. This phenomenon was initiated almost by stealth through ad hoc local arrangements. It was facilitated by the privileged status of religion and chaplains in the PS and generally happened when chaplains well disposed towards minority religions acted as brokers. Race Relations Policy, on the other hand, was introduced at a national level as a consequence of mobilisation, legislation, and policies in wider society. It then permeated down to local establishments. Both have made significant progress in the PS in keeping with the salience of race relations and Islam in the rest of society. However, the PS is unique in so far as its Race Relations Policy incorporates religion as a ground for discrimination while it is not included in the 1976 RRA. This has enabled minority faiths to benefit from the expansion of race relations legislation at every step of its development and considerably strengthened the establishment of Islam at national and local levels. A plethora of policy documents, mandatory instructions, and manuals illustrates this phenomenon. It remains to be seen to what extent this is translated into practice.

This article examines the framework in British prisons, structuring ethnic and religious discrimination. In the first place it looks at policies and practices in prison institutions as they particularly concern populations of Muslim origin. These include dispositions pertaining to Islam and Muslim race relations, ethnic/race monitoring. These arrangements naturally do not stand alone but derive from and reflect policies and practices to be found outside in mainstream society and institutions in varying degrees. The article concludes that a noticeable institutionalisation of Islam is taking place in the Prison Service, ahead of other institutions but suggests that much room for improvement remains in the area of racism and discrimination.

By Danièle Joly, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, The International Journal of Human Rights, Volume 11, Issue 3 September 2007 , pages 307 - 326

Indian Electricity Board - more crossed wires

I wrote some time ago about how you can see crossed wires in Egypt. As it so happens, now I have pictoral evidence that the same thing happens in India as well!, but this time with electricity wires!!! please dont fly any kites around here!

Tuesday, July 31

Palagummi Sainath wins the2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts

I wrote about farmer suicides and coincidentally, the one person who was responsible for publicising the farmer suicides in India was a gentleman called as Palagummi Sainath. As it so happens, he has been awarded the The 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. This is indeed very creditable news. See his citation here.

What did I say about Pakistan being in a world of hurt?

Well, the USA is now on the case of Pakistan to hand over Dawood Ibrahim. Well, Dawood is your typical indian crime boss, who has now added religious terrorism to his list of activities. After the Indians got on his case, he moved to the UAE (Dubai). Then the emirati's cracked down so he moved to (where else?) Pakistan. Since then India has been sending out interpol notices, court cases and and and. Pakistan, of course, has no clue or idea. He has been found responsible for hundreds of murders, the Mumbai Stock Exchange terrorist attack, and various other murderous activities.

Here's a good reference for you academic types. Rollie Lal, South Asian Organized Crime and Terrorist Networks, Orbis, Volume 49, Issue 2, Spring 2005, Pages 293-304. Here's another academic paper, by Sarabjit Singh, The risks to business presented by organised and economically motivated criminal enterprises, Sarabjit Singh, Journal of Financial Crime, 2007 Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Page: 79 - 83. Sarabjit Singh worked in Indian Punjab Police. Or even this one by Marika Vicziany.

For public links, here is your ubiquitous wiki site and here's the BBC site on this chap.

Now poor Pakistan is twisting in the wind. Perhaps this is indeed for the best that the Americans would get him. Looking at the length of justice trials in India, justice will be better served by the Americans.

What would an American Soldier read to be a better soldier?

Soldiers (airmen, sailors, marines, para military forces...) are interesting creatures. They are explicitly trained to kill other human beings. The side which is more efficient and effective usually wins. And in every moral system (atheist, christian, pagan....), killing is generally proscribed. Whether you like them or not, whether you are one yourself or not, understanding soldiers and how they continiously attempt to get better is very worthwhile. One way of trying to understand this is by looking at what they are reading.

And thanks to H-Net, I came across this list of lists of recommended reading. I am copying the first level information to show the variety of sources that this list of lists is drawn from. Absolutely fascinating. Needless to say, I am going to hit with the books on this list and my Amazon wishlist is going to groan and whimper! (I am not going to buy them just yet because my to-be-read pile in my library, toilet, bedroom, outside library, storage box is also whimpering - but if any of you were thinking about my birthday present....... (god I am so shallow, chuckles!!!))

3rd ACR - Brave Rifles Article Reading List for OIF
3rd ACR - Brave Rifles Book Reading List for OIF
Army War College Library's Suggested Reading Lists: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Books for the Military Professional
CAC Commander's Counterinsurgency Reading List
CAC Commander's Cultural Awareness Reading List
CAC Commander's "Jihadism" / Militant Islam Reading List
CGSC Deputy Commandant's Deploying Officer Reading List
Chairman of the JCS Professional Military Reading List
Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Reading Program
Chief of Staff of the Army Professional Reading List
Congressman Ike Skelton's National Security Reading List
JFSC Commandant's Professional Reading List
Lean Sigma Six Initiative - Recommended Reading
Military Classics - by Dr. Robert H. Berlin
Military Deployment Reading List
Military Intelligence Officer's Basic Course Middle East Reading List
Military Survey Reading List
Navy Professional Reading Program
TRADOC Senior Leader Reading List
USMA Officer's Professional Reading Guide
USMA Suggested Historical Readings for OIF
USMC: Counterinsurgency Reading List for Marines deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan (All Ranks)
USMC: COIN (Supplemental List for MAJs and LTCs)

Banking on the Equator. Are Banks that Adopted the Equator Principles Different from Non-Adopters?

The Equator Principles are a series of principles by which financial institutions judge project finance lending so that the projects are socially responsible and environmentally sound. Now we all know what people generally think of "green stuff" in the brutal world of financial institutions and trading. So it is definitely worthwhile to ask, does it make a difference if a bank has adopted these principles? Well, according to this research article, it does! It is a very strong signal and as it so happens, the bank's shareholders love it, or at least, don't hate these principles!

Bert Scholtens and Lammertjan Dam, Banking on the Equator. Are Banks that Adopted the Equator Principles Different from Non-Adopters?, World Development, Volume 35, Issue 8, August 2007, Pages 1307-1328. (
Abstract: Summary We analyze the performance of banks that adopted the Equator Principles. The Equator Principles are designed to assure sustainable development in project finance. The social, ethical, and environmental policies of the adopters differ significantly from those of banks that did not adopt the Equator Principles. They are also significantly larger. Most other bank characteristics do not show significant differences. Shareholders did not react negatively to the announcement of the adoption of the Equator Principles. We conclude that adoption of the Equator Principles is used to signal responsible conduct. Keywords: corporate social responsibility; project finance; banks; Equator Principles; financial performance; event study

Adoption and Impact of Hybrid Wheat in India

You know something? on a near enough daily basis, i get emails about how Genetically Modified (GM) crops are going to create Frankenstein monsters, kill everybody and every species, put people in danger, etc. etc. etc. Reasoned arguments about GM seem to have gone down the same path as that of the Mac versus Wintel or the Israeli/Palestinian arguments. All those arguments are sound, just sound.

But here comes a peer reviewed journal article on adoption and the impact of hybrid wheat in India. The paper itself has a huge amount of references to other peer reviewed and serious research done in this area, so if there are others out there who are interested to learn more about hybrid technology and agriculture, you can do worse than to look at this paper.

Note, the paper does indicate that there has to be some regulatory/governmental function to manage the deployment of this technology. By all means, small farmers are not scaled up to take the benefits of new technology and since the vast majority of farmers in the world practise subsistence farming, one cannot rely on simply the market to protect them. Otherwise, the market mechanisms are simply too fast and the gap between a full stomach and starvation too small for a hands off regulatory system to work.

Ira Matuschke, Ritesh R. Mishra and Matin Qaim, Adoption and Impact of Hybrid Wheat in India, World Development, Volume 35, Issue 8, August 2007, Pages 1422-1435. (
Abstract: Summary In the light of ongoing debates about the suitability of proprietary seed technologies for smallholder farmers, this paper analyzes the adoption and impact of hybrid wheat in India. Based on survey data, we show that farmers can benefit significantly from the proprietary technology. Neither farm size nor the subsistence level influences the adoption decision, but access to information and credit does. Moreover, willingness-to-pay analysis reveals that adoption levels would be higher if seed prices were reduced. Given decreasing public support to agricultural research, policies should be targeted at reducing institutional constraints, to ensure that resource-poor farmers are not bypassed by private sector innovations. Keywords: hybrid seeds; adoption; impact; IPRs; Asia; India

watershed development in rural areas

A very interesting paper crossed my inbox, which related to how one can develop watersheds in rural areas. This is obviously not for countries and regions who are blessed with good irrigation or don't need irrigation. But in the majority of the world, agricultural irrigation and water is required, crucial and becoming dangerously difficult/expensive as time goes on. More importantly, the development of the watershed has vast social implications for any government (emerging or developed country) as it directly hits either food production or rural employment/economies. The measurement of the social impact is difficult but this paper address that need. But I would like to quote some bits from the paper.

“The real area of focus has to be our unirrigated and dry land areas. Watershed development and rain water harvesting hold out immense promise in addressing this issue … I would like to make it perfectly clear that our vision of Indian agriculture continues and will continue to be based on smallholder farming.”
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, March 2005.

“An estimated 27% of farmers did not like farming because it was not profitable. In all, 40% felt that, given a choice, they would take up some other career.”
National survey of farmers in rural India, July 2005.

Quite interesting as to how the government in the form of the prime minister is aiming at and what a very large proportion of the farmers are thinking about. This is a major gap, and this is why countries such as India are so heavily interested in agriculture. Just because farmers would like to take up another career does not mean that they CAN! (because of lack of opportunities, lack of education, lack of funding.......). This also explains why India is so anal about the current WTO round negotiations. There is NO WAY that India can lower barriers to agricultural trade to the extent demanded by the EU and USA as we are talking about the impact being on hundreds of millions of very poor farmers. With a non-existent to zero safety net, India is happy to live with unproductive (compared to western mechanised farming) farmers, expensive inputs, high subsidy and uneconomic farming.

R.A. Hope, Evaluating Social Impacts of Watershed Development in India, World Development, Volume 35, Issue 8, August 2007, Pages 1436-1449. (
Abstract: Summary Watershed development is an important policy instrument for rural development in many developing countries. However, evidence of the distribution and magnitude of social impacts attributable to watershed interventions is often ambiguous. This study uses a propensity score matching method to estimate social impacts on gross agricultural returns and domestic water collection times from treatment and control watershed data in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. Results illustrate how matching methods can objectively estimate social impacts of watershed development across intended beneficiary groups. This promotes improved understanding of the performance of current watershed projects and provides inputs for the appropriate design of future rural development interventions.
Keywords: Asia; India; propensity score matching; rural development; watershed development

Should you hire a consultant or an interim manager?

Well, as the title says, what you select will depend upon so many factors. Besides the job itself, it depends upon whether there is a concept of interim management/contracting anyway in your region/location/country as I know in many countries, this does not exist.

Also, the company ethos matters hugely. Many firms are dead set against having any kind of consultants and prefer to purchase in interim managers for a limited period of time, then train up internal resources to take over from the interim manager. I personally would go for this option, but I have seen firms being consultant heaven. The reasons are varied but my simple question is this, if you havent planned for these skills or resources to be in place and available, then you arent a good manager or you have been hit by an act of god. Which one is it for you and/or your firm?

Monday, July 30

Religious Places and sensitivites thereof

So after the Lal Masjid imbroglio in Pakistan was brutally squished, some other militants have apparently now taken over another mosque and have called it the new Lal Masjid or the Red Mosque. Many news reports are reporting that up to 600 suicide bombers are now in Islamabad (the capital!).

Let that be a lesson to all states, play with religion at your own peril, even those states who are religious in the first place. Saudi Arabia had issues with the Iranian militant takeover of the Holy Mosque in Mecca; Israel had issues with its holy places (all three types, Christian, Jewish and Muslim); India has had issues with its mosques, temples, gurdwaras; Pakistan has now issues. What is more important for Pakistan to realise is that now Lal Masjid has become a symbol, the physical location is no longer important, it will continue to attract jihadi's, militants and other assorted Islamic rage boys. Which means that it can no longer have the benefit of negotiations, I am afraid. When it reaches the symbol stage, only physical eradication can work. See how India managed to resolve its Punjab terror (ironically, Pakistan was poking that fire as well!).

You see, the militants and terrorists cannot lose. They are in a place of worship (the fact that every religion would say no to having arms, ammo and terrorism in there is ignored), if the army attacks it, it faces approbation because it attacked a religious building (never you mind that the attack was because there were some brainwashed criminals inside). So it is a complete lose lose situation for the state, every time.

I am afraid Pakistan is now in a world of hurt and this world is going to last for a long time.

Nigerian 419 Fraud

Generally I junk the Nigerian 419 fraud emails (see the UK Metropolitian Police website above) straight away
but sometimes my eyes catch some very imaginative stories told by these scammers. Here's one which caught my eye today. Read this and see how imaginative and up to date these chaps are!, very amusing indeed! And dont think that people dont get caught up in these scams, they do. My aunt got caught up in this, and she had seriously booked flight tickets from India to Nigeria for herself and her husband!!!, it was lucky I heard about it and managed to convince her to stop, she was out of pocket for the airfares, but there you go, lucky escape indeed!

Some other good sites on this fraud type are here (this is the best one, the scammers get scammed in return, this is violently funny, strongly suggest you taking a look at it) and then there is the wiki site :)

-----Original Message-----
From: sgt dave godwin []
Sent: 30 July 2007 19:45
Subject: Sgt. Dave Godwin

From Sgt Dave Godwin

via email :

Good Day,

I found your contact particulars in an E-mail address guide they provide us here, as I desperately needed an urgent help to do this deal. I am seeking your kind assistance to move the sum of $12m {Twelve Million
U.S Dollars only} to you in your country, as far as I can be assured that my share will be safe in your care until I complete my service here.


A lot of money in various currencies were discovered in barrels at a farmhouse near one of Saddams old palaces in Tikrit in Iraq during an operation Conquest in Fallujah north of Baghdad, and it was agreed by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Buff and I that some part of this money be shared among both of us before informing anybody about it since both of us saw the money first. This is quite an illegal thing to do, but well tell you what? no compensation can make up for the risk we have taken with our lives in this hell hole, of which my brother in-law was killed by a road side bomb last time.

The above figure was given to me as my share, and to conceal this kind of money became a problem for me, so with the help of a British Contact working here, at Southern Basra British fortified green zone, whose office enjoys some immunity, I was able to get the package out to a safe location entirely out of trouble spot. He does not know the real contents of the package, and believes that it belongs to a British/American medical doctor who died in a raid here in Baghdad, and before giving up, trusted me to hand over the package to his family in United States. I have now found a very secured way of getting the package out of Iraq to you, for you to pick it up, and I will discuss this with you when I am sure that you are willing to assist me, and I believe that my money will be well secured in your hand because you have fear of God.

I want you to tell me how much you will take from this money for the assistance you will give me. One passionate appeal I will make to you is not to discuss this matter with anybody, should you have reasons to reject this offer, please and please destroy this message as any leakage of this information will be too bad and catastrophic for soldiers here in Iraq. I do not know how long we will remain here, but I hope to have
a shift very soon for me to return back to the States. I have been shot and wounded twice and I have survived two terrible suicides bomb attacks just by special grace of God, this and other reasons I will mention later has prompted me to reach out for help, I will honestly want this matter be resolved immediately, Please contact me as soon as possible with my private email;address which is my only way of communication for now.

I thank you so much for everything and anticipate that you will be trustworthy and handle this transaction to the best of your ability to benefit both of us.

God Bless you and your Family


Sgt. Dave Godwin

The Squeeze is on

The Spiegel Online is reporting how the USA is pressurising the German firms to stop trading with Iran. While the German government is resisting, the German banks are quietly agreeing. Personally speaking, I dont think that boycotts work in the long term and i have said this before. But in the short term and for economies which are badly managed or are lopsided, sanctions can bite. Of course, the leaders, rich and powerful would never get impacted. Its the commoner who gets hit.

But going after the banks is a very very effective weapon for gumming up the nation's financial system, even if it is another country. And it could potentially only be done by very large economies such as USA and the EU. So effectively, the USA can say to a bank, fine, you go ahead and trade with Iran but if you do, then we wont let you trade in the USA. Now any bank with ANY kind of international activity will have to deal with US dollar transactions (since that's the main trade, reserve and pricing currency of the world). And that means that it has to deal with US financial institutions. And the SEC can lock you out. Result? no trade, no transactions, no import/export, no guarantees, no loans, no hedging, no insurance, no nothing. To further put on the pressure, the SEC can do this.

Given the economic illiteracy of the Iranian President, the vast amount of corruption, the lopsided structure of the Iranian Economy, the huge amounts of subsidy, bad banking system with large amounts of non-performing loans, the very heavy hand of the public sector/republican guards and other opaque state firms, financial pressures such as this can slowly and steadily ratchet up far more pressure than any UN Security Council resolution. The question is, which will come first? the fall of President Ahmadinejad, the stopping of the Iranian Nuclear Weapon Programme, the launch of a military strike by USA and/or Israel?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Update: The Jerusalem Post has a rather tilted op-ed on this issue, so read with a grain of salt.

Ummah Trading System

I again came across one of the concepts which just does my head in. The association of strange things with religion. This shows up in many manifestations. Like the idea that the jews are behind everything. Or that the Jews are extra-special because they have got a huge number of nobel prizes. Or that Hinduism had something to do with the decades long low economic growth rate in India (thank you, Mr. Mahalanobis for that gem). And now we see a post by Yahya Brit bemoaning about the fact that intra OIC trade was pathetic.

Trade happens because somebody wants to buy something and somebody has something to sell. Governments, as is their wont, put in barriers to trade. So if the trade between 2 countries is not high enough, the reason (ceretis paribus) is that nobody wants/can buy things, nobody has things to sell or there are government barriers such as not purchasing olives and oranges from Israel (But merrily using Israeli patented medical equipment - lets not go there, never you mind)

And these barriers are not Islamic, they are stupid economics (proving the point that stupidity is religion independent - trade barriers have been put up by Hindu, Christian, Shinto, and and and... countries). So the fact that the OIC countries are not trading between them is not due to the common religion or the common ummah but because they are either not able to purchase stuff, or make stuff which people want to buy or have stupid barriers.

If this basic logical and economics argument does not come across properly, then think about the flip side of the argument, Mr. Brit. The only thing which is common across these OIC countries is the fact that they have the same religion. Now if you are really interested to link economics and trade with religion, then the fact that the trade is low becomes the fault of the religion or the followers or both. Now you see how strange this position is?

No Sir, stick to basics, transparency, education, productivity, venture capital, low tariff barriers, democracy, rule of law, etc. etc. and you will see trade increase :)

Happy trading :)