Saturday, November 24

City Pigeons!

I was walking around today in central London and noticed something amazing, thankfully, I had my camera and took the following pictures.

Pigeons eating chocolate! Can you see the sweet wrapper on the right of the picture? and a small chocolate piece on the left of the pigeon?



then his girlfriend arrived! so he lost interest in the chocolate!

But can you imagine? a bloody pigeon eating chocolate? never heard of such a thing before! Only in London!

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South Africa's Poor Whites and Whiteness Studies: Afrikaner Ethnicity, Scientific Racism, and White Misery

This confused the hair out of me. I am sure it means something to somebody but it doesn't mean anything to me. lol. forget about the whole paper, just the abstract is confusing as hell!

This article introduces a new way to evaluate the political and theoretical significance of the Carnegie Commission Poor White Study conducted from 1927 to 1932 in South Africa. Building on the recent literature on whiteness and the older literature on scientific racism, I argue that the scientific language about biology and physiognomy that is usually linked to scientific racism must be brought back into conversation with the literary, historical, legal, and cultural analysis of critical whiteness studies to be a more effective scholarly rejoinder to white supremacy. Critical whiteness studies must track the institutional and professional investments in the creation of white supremacy and white nationalism through various colonial relations across geographical and territorial space. In a productive turn toward the specificity of South African history, this essay also makes claims about the nature of whiteness vis-à-vis Afrikaner and British identity that provide powerful antidotes to the historiographical obsession with autochthonous ethnic identities among white supremacists. Finally, through close attention to the actual experiences of “poor whites” a set of moral directives and knowledge claims emerge about the urgency of anti-racist research that makes this racial formation more than simply an add-on in the litany of radical projects.

JO - New Political Science
PB - Routledge
AU - Willoughby-Herard, Tiffany
TI - South Africa's Poor Whites and Whiteness Studies: Afrikaner Ethnicity, Scientific Racism, and White Misery
SN - 0739-3148
PY - 2007
VL - 29
IS - 4
SP - 479
EP - 500

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An Iranian upset with a Moroccan in Mexico!

Sounds like a bloody globalisation joke to me! Read and wonder!

MEXICO CITY - Iran’s ambassador angrily demanded that a Moroccan artist withdraw from an art exhibit in Mexico a photograph he deems offensive to Islam, before it provokes a diplomatic crisis, exhibition organisers and media reports said.

The photograph of a vagina covered by a Mosque-like dome "is considered an offence to Islam" by Iran’s Ambassador to Mexico, Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri Abyaneh, and "he has addressed his protest to (the artist) Fouad Bellamine...asking him to withdraw it," an organiser of the Puebla Festival told AFP.

"The two had an argument and the ambassador left in a huff," said the source, who asked not to be identified.

The Proceso weekly said the ambassador has accused Bellamine of insulting Islam and has warned that "if the picture continues to be exhibited it could provoke a diplomatic crisis between the two countries."

The exhibition organiser said the matter was out of his hands, saying: "It’s up to Fouad Bellamine and Mexican authorities to decide what to do."

The 57-year-old artist, in a statement given to AFP in Rabat, said there was no profanity in his work. "Its very serious and unacceptable to turn my work into an act of provocation that demands to be censured under the threat of a culture war."

He added that he never intended any harm to Islam. "My work is open to all interpretations. The viewer is free to see in it whatever he wants."

Puebla state culture authorities told AFP that so far there has been no official demand from the Iranian Embassy to take down the photograph.

They organised the Mirages exhibition of contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa to run from November 16 to February 3 at the San Pedro de Puebla museum.

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A Bedouin Tent in Paris????

You couldn't make it up! Perhaps Sarko can ask for Can Can dancers next time he is back in Tripoli to welcome his guests in French style.

PARIS - Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, due to visit France for the first time in 34 years, has asked his hosts to put up a tent near his hotel so he can receive guests in Bedouin style, a source close to the French presidency said.

Kadhafi has made "this request so that he can receive his guests in his Bedouin tent as he normally does and not to sleep in it" during the December visit, the source said.

"Nothing has been fixed as yet, it is being considered by the French and Libyan protocol services," the source said.

The official guest house is the Hotel Marigny, a stone’s throw from the Elysee Palace, the official residence of the French president.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has confirmed that he will receive the Libyan strongman before the end of the year.

Sarkozy earlier said Libya had abandoned three "appalling" approaches by ending its quest for nuclear weapons, renouncing its support of terrorism and freeing the Bulgarian medics whom it had accused of infecting children with the HIV/Aids virus.

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Trade and the structure of cities

Now this is a very interesting take on how cities develop and grow based upon the interplay between trade costs, commuting costs and communication costs. I quote:

Our starting point is that firms’ performances are affected by the level of housing and commuting costs, which we call “urban costs”. This occurs through the land rent they pay to occupy central urban locations, and through the higher wages they have to pay to their workers to compensate them for their longer commutes and/or higher land rents. Hence, high urban costs render firms less competitive on local and foreign markets alike. As a result, despite scale economies arising from urban agglomeration (Duranton and Puga [5]), increasing urban costs could shift employment from large monocentric cities either to their suburbs or to distant and smaller cities, where these costs are lower, at least once trade costs have sufficiently declined to permit largescale exports to distant markets. In other words, economic integration could well challenge the supremacy of large cities in favor of small cities. The main point we wish to stress in this paper is that the emergence of subcenters within cities is a powerful strategy for large cities to maintain their attractiveness.

They develop load of mathematical models, which I am seriously not going to review, if you wish, I can send the paper to you for you to mathematically masticate over, but the results are very interesting. And the final para:

Finally, our analysis also has an important policy implication. It is well known that quite a few American and European cities have lost employment and population for a few decades. This state of affair has led city managers to seek local policies that would prevent the decentralization of industrial activities toward small and/or remote places. However, most of them did fail. This paper suggests that urban decision-makers would have been better inspired to foster the development of SBDs, endowed with high-quality business-to-business services and consumption amenities that attract both firms and workers.

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A Crime-Terror Nexus? Thinking on Some of the Links between Terrorism and Criminality

An interesting argument in this paper. Nothing to add so will let the abstract speak for itself.

JO - Studies in Conflict & Terrorism PB - Taylor & Francis AU - Hutchinson, Steven AU - O’malley, Pat TI - A Crime–Terror Nexus? Thinking on Some of the Links between Terrorism and Criminality

SN - 1057-610X PY - 2007 VL - 30 IS - 12  SP - 1095 EP - 1107

AB - Decreasing state sponsorship for terrorism in the post-9/11 environment has pressed terrorist groups to find alternative sources of financial support. Some groups have created their own “in-house” criminal capabilities, for example FARC, the LTTE, and Al Qaeda. Several analysts have argued that this “mutation” in organizational form may lead terrorist groups to ally with organized crime, whereas others have suggested that distinct organizational and ideological differences between the two will preclude cooperation. Drawing on both accounts, it is argued in this article that the degree of a terrorist group's organizational capacity and need are key predictors of the types of crime they will engage in, while ideological (political) distinctiveness will preclude fully symbiotic cooperation between terrorists and organized crime groups.

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Curious juxtaposition of religion, repression and technology

This was really outside my realm of usual internet sniffing around, but after reading it all, I found the paper rather interesting. So we have a Christian backed news source which is broadcasting over the internet to Central Asian republics, aiming to proselytise and influence the elite of these CAR's.

I never thought of proselytisation from this angle, that too from Norway. But why not? The same kind of pap is being spread by the Jihadi websites as well. On the other hand, this kind of foreign influence is killing the repression of the various assorted tinpot dictators in these CAR's.

Mind you, this will also provide grist to the mill that religious fundamentalism is on the rise, whether Christian or Islamic! Now it is quite possible that the CAR's try to become more Islamic than others, that's how other tinpot dictators operate in the Muslim World as well. Not good.

Some interesting quotes:

Whether religion and religious rights issues in Central Asia receive press coverage beyond Central Asia and how the media communicate that news carries important public policy implications. As Ovsiovitch (1993) explains in his study of press coverage of human rights, such reporting can informally document violations and educate the public which, in turn, may lobby and motivate legislators and policymakers; coverage can also help correct shortcomings of international NGOs. Even more broadly, the public depends heavily on the mass media for information about international affairs, and exposure to international news may significantly shape public attitudes toward other countries (Brewer et al., 2003).

Forum 18 stories have limited direct readership in the five Central Asian countries, partly because its stories are posted only in English but also because of limited internet access there. The web remains inaccessible - physically, technologically and economically - to a large proportion of Central Asians (Blua, 2005). However, those in the region who do read Forum 18 stories are apt to be better educated, more influential and, perhaps, leaders or potential leaders in government, business, academia, mass media or NGOs. Bukharbaeva and Samari (2003) note that 'with the arrival of the Internet, information has become accessible to more people - certainly the elite - and officials are more likely to be forced to react to controversial reporting that digs up facts they would prefer to bury'.

Another component of Forum 18's mission statement - promoting implementation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - is more ambiguous and more difficult to measure. Journalists in every news organisation hope that some of their work will influence public policy and public opinion and either promote social, political or economic change or reinforce the social, political or economic status quo. As a Christianity-rooted news organisation, Forum 18 coverage may be interpreted as promoting not only religious freedom generically but Christianity in particular. That interpretation may undermine its intended image as an objective news organisation. As for assessing how effectively it serves as an instrument to implement Article 18, the news stories it produces may be used in the formulation of governmental or multinational policies, but Forum 18 stories will be only one of many sources of information in the policymaking process.

Table 1.    Self-identifying religious breakdown of the population of the five Central Asian republics (percentages)


Muslim  Orthodox  Other
Kazakhsta  47 44 9
Kyrgyzstan 75 20 5
Tajikistan  90 0 10
Turkmenis 89 9 2
Uzbekistan 88 9 3


JO - Religion, State and Society
PB - Routledge
AU - Freedman, Eric
AU - Chang, Kuang-Kuo
TI - Religious news and controversies in Central Asia: a case study of a Western ‘Christian Initiative’ news service
SN - 0963-7494
PY - 2007
VL - 35
IS - 4
SP - 355
EP - 371
AB - Religion, politics and public policy are tightly interwoven in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, where regimes tightly control religion and domestic and foreign media. This case study examines how one Christian-oriented western news organisation, Forum 18, covers religion-related news. It finds that religious-affiliated news sources are cited more frequently and more prominently than official sources, that Forum 18 stories cover Christian more often than non-Christian religious groups, and that discrete events are covered more often than broad policy or issues.

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Estimating systemic risk in the international financial system

Looks like according to this paper, the current regulatory system is pretty good in managing systemic risk. I would tend to agree, but one needs to be careful, I am not very happy with the incidence of international banks and the cleavages between regulators, central banks and governments (as seen with Northern Rock in the UK, Saschen LB in Germany and and and).

Sohnke M. Bartram, Gregory W. Brown and John E. Hund, Estimating systemic risk in the international financial system, Journal of Financial Economics Volume 86, Issue 3, , December 2007, Pages 835-869.()Abstract: This paper develops three distinct methods to quantify the risk of a systemic failure in the global banking system. We examine a sample of 334 banks (representing 80% of global bank equity) in 28 countries around five global financial crises. Our results suggest statistically significant, but economically small, increases in systemic risk. Although policy responses are endogenous, the low estimated probabilities suggest that the distress of central bankers, regulators and politicians about the events we study could be overstated and that current policy responses to financial crises could be adequate to handle major macroeconomic events.

Now this is a testament to man's vision!

Now can you imagine new religions springing up? that too in the land of the romans and Paul's? But see the vision and grandeur! The dedication and imagination. I am definitely going to go see this once I get a chance in Italy.

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Friday, November 23

What a huge undertaking!

The battle for ayurveda: India is racing to record the details of its traditional medicine
By Andrew Buncombe
Published: 23 November 2007
They range from the everyday to the decidedly obscure, from items with a specific, specialised use to those with a host of applications. Their common heritage is one of the world's oldest cultures, and their details are being gathered together to guard against theft by the West.
For several years the Indian authorities have been collating information about hundreds of thousands of plants, cures, foods and even yoga poses to create a vast digital database of traditional knowledge dating back to up to 5,000 years ago, available in five international languages. Now, the first part of that database – relating to ayurveda or traditional Indian medicine – has been completed and it is set to launch the fight back against what some have termed "bio-colonialism".
"The ayurveda part has been completed," said Dr Vinod Gupta, the chairman of India's National Institute for Science Communication and Information Resources (Niscair), which is overseeing the project. "Now we are negotiating an agreement with international patent offices [for access to this database]."
The database, totalling more than 30 million pages and known as the Traditional Knowledge Data Library, has come about for one very simple reason: to prevent Western pharmaceutical giants and others using this traditional Indian information to create a product for which they then obtain a patent.
The danger of such "misappropriation" is all too real. In 1994 an American company was granted a patent for a product based on the seeds of the need tree, an item that had for centuries been used in India as an insecticide. It took the Indian authorities more than 10 years to have the patent overturned. Similar battles were fought over a product based on the spice turmeric – traditionally used to heal wounds – as well as a Texan company's attempt to trademark its strain of rice as "Texmati".
"In 2000 we did a study of the US patent database. We found there were 4,986 patents for products based on medicinal plants," said Dr Gupta. "Of those around 80 per cent were based on plants from India ... 50 percent of those patents should never have been given – there was no change to the traditional knowledge."
Under international guidelines, patents should not be given if it is shown there is "prior knowledge" or existing information about the product or item. In the United States – where many of the patent applications have been made – this prior existing knowledge is only recognised if the information has been written down. It does not consider information passed down for centuries by means of oral tradition to be valid.
Unlike many cultures from which traditional information has been misappropriated, India has an extensive written tradition. But most of the writing was in languages not widely read in the West. For example ayurvedic texts were written in Sanskrit or Hindi, writings about unani medicine – based on Ancient Greek practices now only practiced in the sub-continent – were in Arabic and Persian, while writings about another form of traditional medicine known as siddha was in the Tamil language.
To get around this challenge, Dr Gupta called in more than 100 practitioners of Ayurveda, siddha and unani to help compile the information using computer software. The database is being made available in Japanese, English, German, French and Spanish and the contents will be made available to patent officials once agreements on protecting the information and preventing it from being passed to corporations, are reached.
Also included within the database are more than 1,500 positions or asanas of yoga. This is because in recent years several yoga teachers in the West have tried to copyright methods of teaching yoga that they are argue are unique but which have existed for centuries in India.
One high-profile case involved Los Angeles-based Bikram Choudhury, the self-styled "yoga teacher to the stars". Mr Choudhury, who moved to America in the 1970s, first obtained a copyright for a book he wrote. But when other teachers began copying the way he taught yoga – with 26 specific poses performed in a room heated to 41C (105F) – he sought legal advice and was told to obtain a copyright for the moves themselves. It has been recognised by the US courts despite India's objections.
Dr Dinesh Katoch, an adviser on ayurveda within India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said more than 50,000 different ayurvedic formulations for treating everything from heart disease to memory loss had been entered into the database. Some of the information is mentioned in the Vedas, the ancient Hindu texts that date back several thousand years.
"We want to use this information for the global benefit but it should be done in a judicious way, not by stealing," he said, sitting in his office in central Delhi. "We want to prevent misappropriation. Prevention is the most important thing because it is not easy to repeal a patent."
In addition to the considerable cost incurred by the Indian authorities fighting patents they do not believe are genuine or fair, there is a widespread feeling that Western corporations should not be making vast profits from traditional knowledge while the people who discovered the information receive no benefit.
But campaigners say the misappropriation also has cultural and political implications. "I have termed it bio-colonialism," said Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmental activist and author.
"The international intellectual property laws as promoted by the World Trade Organisation [WTO] promote bio-colonialism because while they say there should be a global system to patent everything, the reality is that patent inspection is done at a national level. If you want to have a global system you have to have global inspection," she said. "This would involve setting up a global database. This will take a decade and cost billions of dollars."
Vital ingredients
* Arjuna Tree
The bark is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal cure for a variety of ills and is now widely used throughout the world as a high-blood pressure treatment. It is thought to improve the function of the cardiac muscle and to stabilise cholesterol levels, and it contains anti-oxidant properties.
* Basmati Rice
Authentic basmati rice is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and the Indian government has tried hard to protect the grain. A patent granted by the US Patent Office to a local company for new strains of rice similar to basmati was revoked after a legal battle with the Indian government.
* Turmeric
It is grown mostly in Bengal and other areas of south-east Asia but, in addition to a curry spice, it can be used to heal wounds. In 1995, the US Patent Office granted a patent on its healing properties but Indian scientists protested and it was revoked.
* Brahmi
This creeping herb is used in many Indian preparations and has gained global recognition for its ability to improve mental acuity and fight cognitive decay. It is thought that brahmi boosts the memory and has calming properties. In India, the plant is often used in salads and soups.
Jeremy Laurance: Little evidence, but much tradition
It is an ancient form of therapy with 5,000-year history and a string of modern celebrity followers but there is "no convincing evidence" that ayurvedic medicine works.
Enthusiastically promoted by users including Cherie Blair, Madonna, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow, ayurveda has become more of a brand than a treatment in the West. There are ayurvedic recipes and it embraces meditation, diet, yoga and herbal medicine, as well as featuring a lexicon that defines consciousness as the "dream state of the cosmic being".
Offered in hotels, spas and retreats, as well as in the charitable Ayurvedic hospital in west London, its underlying principle is that the body and mind must be maintained in balance. Ayurvedic medicines are combinations of different herbs, tailor-made for each individual, which are given to correct imbalances that would otherwise lead to physical or psychological ill health.
In Britain, practitioners must undertake a three-year BSc degree course, followed by a 1,000-hour internship with an ayurvedic doctor, in order to be registered with the British Association of Ayurvedic Practitioners. They charge £50-60 on the first occasion and around £30 for follow-up appointments.
Despite the long training, scientific peer-reviewed evidence for the effectiveness of what ayurvedic practitioners do is scant. The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee investigation into alternative medicine concluded in 2005 that the case for ayurvedic medicine was "not proven".
Some studies have suggested that certain herbal combinations may be effective for heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Triphala, the most popular ayurvedic remedy in India, made from the powdered and dried fruit of threeplants and taken as an aid to digestion, has been shown to slow cancer growth in mice.
Max Pittler, deputy head of the department of complementary medicine at Exeter University said: "There may be individual trials that suggest certain herbal combinations may be effective but there is no really convincing body of evidence that specific ayurvedic mixtures have specific effects. There is no good evidence that it is beneficial.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Banks warn against single EU watchdog

Britain's international banks have warned against creating a single European financial watchdog, and have called on the EU to crack down on member states' different approaches to legal and accounting issues and takeovers.
The British Bankers' Association has told the EU that banks should be supervised by the lead regulator from the country where they are based, which would then co-ordinate regulation of the bank in other member states.
"Moves to introduce a single regulator in Europe would not only be disruptive but also could result in inappropriate compromises and a remote and unresponsive regulatory system," the BBA said in its proposals. A super-regulator would make little positive difference while adding an unwelcome further layer of regulation, it added.
The BBA is trying to shore up the UK's position as Europe's financial centre and head off attempts by other countries to capitalise on the shambolic response to the Northern Rock crisis. France, under President Nicolas Sarkozy, is seeking to build Paris into a rival to London as a financial hub.
International financial reporting standards (IFRS) are being undermined by European guidance that lets national banking supervisors ask for extra information, the BBA said. "National authorities should not be permitted to amend or add to the requirements of IFRS due to the cost, complexity and lack of clarity that will result," it said.
A proposed rule on contracts for consumer transactions could force banks operating in many jurisdictions to choose where to do business according to consumer protection legislation, the BBA said. A waiver for financial instruments should be extended to retail financial services as a whole, it added.
The BBA said the European Commission should ensure that cross-border mergers between EU banks are not prevented by restrictive regulation designed to protect domestic institutions or build up "national champions".

How do you measure faith in performance related pay?

This promises to be very interesting!

A statement late on Wednesday said a meeting presided over by the cardinal - effectively, the Pope's prime minister - had agreed the introduction "into the Vatican pay system of an element of incentive and remuneration that takes account of - factors such as dedication, professionalism, productivity and politeness".

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Japan does its first Islamic Finance Real Estate deal

Its catching fire, I tell you. I talked about stuff happening in South Korea and Japan but now I read that

On Monday, the first real estate transaction compliant with Islamic law was struck in Japan, with the asset manager Atlas Partners Japan partnering with Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank to buy three office buildings in Tokyo for 4.38 billion yen ($40 million).
The transaction follows a decision in September by the country’s central bank, the Bank of Japan, to deepen its knowledge about Islamic finance by joining the Islamic Financial Services Board, an international standard-setting body, as an observer. Another government agency, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, also sits on the board as an observer.
he buildings that Atlas and Boubyan bought on Monday were vetted thoroughly according to the standards of Islamic finance, which bars tenants such as interest-taking financial institutions, restaurants that serve alcohol or pork, hotels, cinemas and record companies, and businesses that deal with arms, animal genetic engineering or pornography.
The deal was designed to avoid loans involving interest payments, which are forbidden under Islamic law, or Sharia.

At the end of last year, Japan’s largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, forged an alliance with Malaysia's CIMB Group to provide Islamic financial investment banking services, such as issuing Islamic bonds to Japanese companies operating in Malaysia.
Daiwa, Japan’s second-largest securities broker announced in August that it would list a Sharia-compliant exchange-traded fund in Singapore based on an index benchmarked to the equities of the 100 largest Japanese companies by market capitalization.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

HALO Video Conferencing - a review

In the past 15 odd years, I have seen perhaps about 25 odd corporate video conferencing systems. This is excluding the professional media video conferencing systems. They have ranged from the dinky desktop ones to ones which have a whole big unit sitting under a big TV, a gigantic Boeing 747 cockpit sizes remote control, etc. etc.

I have spent literally millions on these systems and frankly, if you asked me how much benefit I got out of it? I would have said that I got about 2 out of 10 and reduced perhaps 1 trip out of 1000. There were many complaints on these systems. That you had to be seated just right, too fiddly to setup, many times they would not work, it felt too formal, couldn't do it for more than 1-2 hours at a stretch, impossible to read fine emotions, etc.

But since the few months ago, I have been exposed to what I would call as the HP HALO system which we are currently implementing across the firm. I have been meaning to write a review since the beginning of the year ever since Aaman mentioned product reviews, but there you have it. It is a video conferencing system, but the difference is like that between the old rotary fixed line Bakelite phones and a modern mobile phone.

It needs a special room in every location, usually about 12 feet by 20 feet, tastefully done up in a neutral beige colour. All rooms have exactly the same decor, lighting, colour, layout, etc. You walk in and you are faced with a slightly curved table, sort of like a half of an oval table, capable of seating 6 people, in blocks of two each.

Facing you are 3 flat screens in a row, a tilted screen on top of the middle one. There is a camera on top of each of the 3 screens in a row and one on top of the desk (recessed inside the ceiling). The table has recessed microphones, connections for laptops (which can be used to display on the tilted screen). The camera on the ceiling can be used to show stuff that you draw on the table.

So you can effectively have a video conference with multiple locations (four maximum), with multiple channels, different time zones, for hours on end and not feel tired. I have done 2 days at a trot and it was ok. Don't get me wrong, it is not cheap, but frankly, if it doesn't pay off in a matter of months, then you do not have control over your travel budget. It saves a heck of a lot on CO2 emissions, tension, operational risk, etc. etc. See what the clients are saying.

And you feel just with them. You see life sized images. You joke, kid, move around, be very natural. Instead of having to move very slowly otherwise the image will blur, etc. etc. I think it has made an huge impact on senior management. On an average, I would waste 50 hours per week on avoidable commuting time (taxi to and fro airport, airport time, etc., excluding normal London commuting time).

Even if I can replace 20% of that wastage, then I have gained 1 full working day in the office (roughly!). The chaps have great business cases, so they can work out the savings for you. Just a word of warning, you need loads of training, communications and senior management pushes to make sure that people use it, if not, then it is a nuclear powered paper clip. Best is to start with top management meetings and then get them to action to push them down. That's what we did, got the top management hooked and then slowly moved down the chain.

But then, its very futuristic. See here for what I compared this with very favourably. If you can get away with it, do get a demo at least.

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Thursday, November 22

So how much do Islamic Finance Scholars earn?

Here's an interesting article on how much would Islamic Scholars earn?

Pay may be down for the average agnostic banker this year, but Islamic scholars are on a roll.
Just how much of a roll isn’t entirely clear, given that most people involved in the Islamic finance industry seem unwilling to stick their heads above the parapet with any firm figures.

Garry Envis, a consultant with Dar Al Istithmar Institute, a London-based agency which rents out four scholars as required, assures us the profession is “very lucrative”.

Last year the Financial Times ran an article claiming Islamic scholars were earning six-figure sums for their pronouncements on whether Islamic finance products adhere to Shariah law.

Given the FT says the market for Shariah-compliant financial products has risen 30% since then, and that the global supply of top Islamic scholars has apparently stagnated at 50, we deduce that the fees they collect for their services must have increased exponentially.

As a measure of their scarcity, Envis says there are no Islamic scholars at all based in the UK – most reside in the Middle East and fly in (allegedly on private jets) as required. This is despite the proliferation of Shariah-compliant products at the likes of HSBC, BNP Paribas and Merrill Lynch, and the launch of new organizations such as the Islamic Bank of Britain.

Unfortunately, becoming an Islamic scholar is no easy matter. Mohammad Khan, Director of Takaful, ReTakaful and Islamic Financial services at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP says it’s all down to reputation: “You need someone who combines an understanding of Islam with modern finance and economics and, where relevant, complex financial products.”

Most people aspiring to work in Islamic finance will need to go for something a little less high powered. Bill Allen, a consultant at search firm Napier Scott, says there’s plenty of demand for people who can structure Shariah-compliant products or work as CFOs, CEOs, treasurers or traders at Islamic banks.

Allen says a Shariah structurer in London can command £100k as a salary, plus multiples of this as a bonus.

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A beautiful short story

Check out a beautiful short story that my friend has written. Very true and very moving.

Do not be with a man otherwise you will get lashed

You recall the note which I wrote earlier about the difficulties of some Muslim men in determining what to do when faced with a non family lady? Well, I jokingly said that they get conflicting signals.

Well, I now change my stance, stay away from ALL strange women, you guys. If you do, then you can get lashed and that's according to the heart of Islam, Saudi Arabia. One would expect that their judges would know about Islamic Law, no? :). How medieval and how sad.

The fight against corruption in 4 countries

First, UK gets publicly humiliated that it's fight against corruption is pathetic, no convictions, prosecutions or investigations. Heck, forget about investigations, they give up open and shut cases of corruption such as that of BAE. Solution? Why doesn't the OECD demand documents and have a public inquiry?

Second, the World Bank defers approval of a $232million loan because of alleged corruption in infrastructure spending. This country is one of the poorest and steadily getting poorer in corruption scales. Then this kind of stuff happens. What shame! Solution? Give the money to a private company to build operate and transfer. Have open, public tendering. Publish invoices and payment slips on the web!

A kickbacks scandal last month forced Mrs Macapagal to cancel a $330m government supply contract with a Chinese telecommunications group and order a review of all Chinese government-funded projects.

Third, small signs of hope in Kenya where the Kenyan Tax Agency, a hotbed of small scale corruption, has been cleaned up a bit and its revenues have nearly doubled since 2003.

Anti-corruption activists and diplomats say hundreds of millions of shillings collected by the KRA are still being “leaked” in other parts of the administration due to high-level corruption which, they say, remains rife under the Kibaki government, even though new measures have made it more difficult.

Fourth, ex President Chirac was under formal investigation as a suspect for embezzlement of public funds when he was the Paris Mayor. VERY GOOD!, you cannot escape! throw the guilty into jail!

Four of Mr Chirac's chiefs of staff from this period are formal suspects in the investigation, which began nine years ago. In 2004 Alain Juppé, former prime minister and ex-deputy mayor of Paris, was given a suspended prison sentence for his role in the affair. The punishment was reduced on appeal.

Dancing with God!

Remember what i said about dancing in front of the goddess? Here's a great poem sent to me by my sister.

Dancing With God
When I meditated on the word Guidance,
I kept seeing 'dance' at the end of the word.
I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing.
When two people try to lead, nothing feels right.
The movement doesn't flow with the music,
and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky.
When one person realizes that, and lets the other lead,
both bodies begin to flow with the music.
One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back
or by pressing Lightly in one direction or another.
It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully.
The dance takes surrender, willingness,
and attentiveness from one person
and gentle guidance and skill from the other.
My eyes drew back to the word Guidance.
When I saw 'G: I thought of God, followed by 'u' and 'i'.
'God, 'u' and 'i' dance.'
God, you, and I dance.
As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust
that I would get guidance about my life.
Once again, I became willing to let God lead.
My prayer for you today is that God's blessings
and mercies be upon you on this day and everyday.
May you abide in God as God
abides in you.
Dance together with God, trusting God to lead
and to guide you through each season of your life.
This prayer is powerful and there is nothing attached.
If God has done anything for
you in your life,
please share this message with someone else,
for prayer is one of the best gifts we can receive.
There is no cost but a lot of rewards;
so let's continue to pray for one another.
And I Hope You Dance

Jestin John

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

85% of sukuks (Islamic Bonds) are non-compliant with Sharia!!!

Remember what i said about Islamic Scholars being in short supply as well as not being consistent or fully knowledgeable? Well, this is the proof that they are actually selling stuff that's not really fully Islamic althought this is very debatable. The problem is that there is not one globally agreed form of sharia, and interpretations differ.

So this is the problem, this Association says that the 85% of the Islamic Sukuk bonds are unislamic. But then, when these bonds were originally issued, they did come with a rock solid fatwa from a rock solid group of Islamic Sheikh's who guaranteed that they were Islamically correct. Now who is right?

Well, I would strongly suggest that the BIS get involved and start establishing standards otherwise we will have severe financial dislocation across large swathes of the global market and that's the last thing which we need.

Almost all the Islamic bonds sold by companies in the Gulf region do not entirely conform to the religion's law, according to an Islamic finance industry body, casting doubt over the legitimacy of a multi-billion dollar market that is growing rapidly.

Islamic bonds, or sukuks, are structured in a similar way to conventional bonds, but offer coupon profits instead of coupon interest, as interest is banned under Islamic law. Nearly $40bn (€27.3bn) of these bonds have been issued this year, from virtually nothing in 2001.

However, the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions has said some 85% of so-called sukuk bonds do not comply with Islamic law, principally because they have been structured with a repurchase agreement.

This promise by the company to repay the bond’s face value at maturity, or in the event of default, actually violates the Sharia principle of risk, according to Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, chairman of AAOIFI’s board of scholars. The AAOIFI is a non-profit organisation responsible for developing accounting, auditing, ethics, governance, and sharia standards for the international Islamic banking and finance industry.

Islam bans lending on interest as usury and returns derived from underlying physical assets are paid to bondholders instead. These physical assets may be financed through a profit-sharing venture, in which proceeds are distributed to investors.

Usmani told Reuters at an Islamic banking conference in Bahrain this week: “You must face the actual consequences of your investment. For current sukuk, risk is not shared and reward is not shared according to the actual venture proceeds. About 85% of sukuks are structured in this way.”

He added that scholars on AAOIFI’s board are set to discuss the structure of bonds backed by repurchase agreements in January, when they may take a decision on whether to tighten the rules surrounding the structure of the transactions.

Bankers said any decision to by AAOIFI to explicitly prohibit repurchase agreements in the structure of sukuks could seriously impair the market, which also spans the south-east Asian region.

Without a repurchase agreement at a set price, a sukuk bond’s return would depend upon the performance of the underlying asset, which may deter issuers and investors seeking stable and predictable returns, bankers said.

Harris Irfan, a director of Deutsche Bank in Dubai, told Reuters: “The sukuk would become more of a profit sharing instrument…from a debt-like instrument to equity, and that’s a fundamental change of mindset for investors and issuers.”

Separately, Standard and Poor's Index Services, a unit of the rating agency, and Tokyo Stock Exchange have launched a new Japanese equity index, which gains exposure to sharia compliant leading companies in the Japanese market.

The offshoot of the S&P and Topix 150 sharia index, which will include 79 Japan-traded stocks selected from the original index, will start publishing from December 3 this year.

Sharia indexes exclude businesses that offer products and services which are considered unacceptable or non-compliant according to sharia law, such as advertising and media, alcohol, financials, gambling, pork, pornography and tobacco.

These indexes are monitored on a daily basis to ensure that the indexes maintain strict shariah compliance.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Private Equity and Islamic Banking!

A very interesting report on PE and islamic banking. I quote:

Core basic tenets of Islamic finance that Sharia' scholars draw upon:

  • If something is immoral, one cannot profit from it
  • To share reward, one must also share risk
  • One cannot sell what he or she does not own
  • In any transaction, one must clearly specify what he or she is buying or selling and one price is being paid

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Green IT - What are the investment banks doing?

A very good article on how Investment Banks are working on Green IT!. Usually the same culprits across the board.

  • Power consumption
  • Lghting
  • Cooling
  • Re-use and recycle of equipment
  • CO2 emissions
  • Electronic communications over physical travel
  • Charitable exercises

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

An Asian Currency Bloc?

Now this is extremely interesting news indeed. An Asian currency bloc?

I quote:

Asian central banks appear to be adopting similar monetary policies in a way that suggests they could be preparing for an eventual currency union for the region, according to Deutsche Bank.
Twelve Asia-Pacific currencies – including the yen, the Korean won, the Indian rupee and the Australian dollar – have increasingly traded as a bloc since 2005, the bank’s research has found.
There is an increase in the correlation between the value of Asian currencies as central banks try to keep their export-led economies competitive internationally and also reduce foreign exchange volatility within the region.
This trend is a result of the wider use of trade-weighted currency baskets in India, China, Singapore and Malaysia, the bank says, adding that the patterns show similarities to movements in some European Union currencies in the years before the euro was created in 1999.
“Asia is beginning to look a lot like Europe in the 1980s and the start of the 1990s,” said Martin Hohensee, Asian head of fixed income and credit research, who led the analysis.
“Policymakers and politicians are talking seriously about the possibility of Asian currency union, even if there isn’t a single currency,” he told the Financial Times in an interview.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

And AIDS numbers dropping as well!

Today seems to be the day for dropping numbers, first it was Iraqi Violence Counts and now its AIDS numbers. I dont think it is that big a number to significantly impact public policy, funding or strategy, but on a much more granular level, one needs to check out where the discrepancy is arising from and why. I understand the challenges of data collection in countries in Africa and Asia but this is expensive business and needs good data, to have a variance of 17% is not good as it can be.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Iraq Violence Dropping

Well, seems like the surge is impacting the violence in Iraq in complex ways, but its showing up in reduced violence.

The figures show the numbers of suicide attacks, roadside bombings, mortar and other attacks on US forces and on the Iraqi population have more than halved since 30,000 extra troops in June.
The figures show the numbers of suicide attacks, roadside bombings, mortar and other attacks on US forces and on the Iraqi population have more than halved since 30,000 extra troops in June.

Very very cautious optimism, but about 15 years to go yet!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Chinese Firm in Afghan mining initiative

Now this is very curious indeed. This will indeed set a smallish cat amongst the geopolitical pigeons, specially after the Chinese oil investments in the Central Asian Republics, the Shanghai Cooperation Council and now this. I quote:

A state-owned Chinese company has won the right to develop a large copper deposit in Afghanistan after agreeing to invest $3bn (€2.02bn, £1.45bn) in the project, the Afghan mines minister yesterday announced .
The deal is the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan's history and will give China Metallurgical Group (MCC) the right to extract high-quality copper from the Aynak copper field near Kabul.

The company will pay the Afghan government $400m a year to exploit what some geologists think could be the world's biggest copper deposit.
"This is the biggest investment in Afghanistan's history and 10,000 people will be employed to work there," said Ibrahim Adel, Afghanistan's mines minister.
"We estimate there are 13m tonnes of copper present," said Mr Adel. The minister said that figure might rise to 20m tonnes. At today's prices the value of the copper would be $30bn, according to some estimates.

Years of war in Afghanistan have ensured that the deposit has remained largely untouched since Soviet geologists surveyed the field in 1979.
Enormous obstacles need to be overcome before the site, which lacks either power or transport links, can be properly exploited.
MCC will first have to build a power station to run power to the mine and find coal deposits to fuel the power station. Excess electricity from the station will power Kabul, which, at present, enjoys only a few hours of electricity a day.
The Chinese offer beat four other shortlisted bids -Strikeforce, part of Russia's Basic Element Group, the London-based Kazakhmys Consortium, Hunter Dickinson of Canada and US copper mining firm, Phelps Dodge. The $3bn bid surprised some analysts in Kabul who were expecting the tender to go for less than $2bn.
The high-profile Aynak deal has been seen as a litmus test of how the country deals with the international mining industry. Concerns were raised by the World Bank about the bidding process, which had been ongoing for more than two years. Yesterday, the bank said it was broadly happy with the way the process had been conducted.
MCC is one of the largest state-owned companies in China, with activities ranging from engineering and property to pulp and paper and mining.
The group, which made net profits of more than Rmb3bn ($404m, £196m, €273m) in 2006, says it has invested $1bn in overseas mining operations in countries including Brazil and Pakistan and in resources ranging from iron ore and copper to gold and nickel. Its largest division is in equipment manufacturing, where it is one of the world leaders in manufacturing machinery for steel plants.
According to reports in the Chinese media, MCC bid for the contract in Afghanistan in collaboration with two other Chinese mining groups, Jiangxi Copper, the biggest copper producer in the country, and Zijin Mining Group, China's leading gold mining company.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

London School defines what is a Hindu!

I was chuckling away when I read this.

LONDON, Nov. 20: Britain's first state-funded Hindu school has come up with
a unique definition of "practising Hindus" as part of its admissions policy
~ those who pray daily, do voluntary work at temples, follow a vegetarian
diet and don't get intoxicated.
According to the admissions policy, among the criteria to be used while considering applications are: "Looked after children from Hindu families, 10 nominations by Bhaktivedanta Manor of
practising Hindu families, children from practising Hindu families, children from Hindu families who are broadly following the tenets of Hinduism." According to the policy, "broadly following" the tenets of Hinduism is defined as: at least monthly visits to the temple, attendance of key
festival programmes (Diwali, Janmashtami and Ramnavami) at a local temple, following a vegetarian diet and avoidance of intoxication. Asked if children of Hindu families who preferred non-vegetarian food or may not be ritualistic Hindus or who followed traditions within Hinduism that went against the school's definition of practising Hindus would be ineligible for admission, a spokesman of the I-Foundation told IANS: "The rules do not exclude anyone who does not qualify under the criteria. The policy is not meant to exclude people... Under the rules of funding of faith schools, the school is obliged to have a set of criteria for admission that is relevant to the faith.

Now I cant recognise that as a Hindu! :)

Here's another legal view on what is a Hindu.

And then, there is the view that you are Hindu if you say you are! :)

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Tariq Ali, Chomsky, Zinn and company - really praiseworthy letter! - NOT!

I bellowed against the pogroms taking place in West Bengal before. But then, you had the most amazing situation that a group of Left Leaders decided to write such a statement, given below:

Text of Statement
To Our Friends in Bengal.
News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned about the rancor that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive. We continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the state (land reforms, local self-government).
We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation. This is what we favor.
The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the left. We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.Noam Chomsky, author, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assult on Democracy.
Tariq Ali, author, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope and editor, New Left Review.
Howard Zinn, author, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.
Susan George, author, Another World is Possible if, and Fellow, Transnational Institute.
Victoria Brittain, co-author, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back, former editor, Guardian.
Walden Bello, author, Dilemmas of Domination. The Unmaking of the American Empire, and Chair, Akbayan, the fastest growing party in the Philippines.
Mahmood Mamdani, author, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War and the Roots of Terror.
Akeel Bilgrami, author, Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity.
Richard Falk, author, The Costs of War: International Law, the UN and World Order After Iraq.
Jean Bricmont, author, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War.
Michael Albert, author, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, and editor, ZNET.
Stephen Shalom, author, Imperial Alibis: Rationalizing US Intervention After the Cold War.
Charles Derber, author, People Before Profit. The New Globalization in an Age of Terror, Big Money and Economic Crisis.
Vijay Prashad, author, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World.

I found this letter absolutely amazing. The mealy mouthed hypocritical statement simply tells me that these leaders are basically intellectually bankrupt. More in tune with the party than the people they profess to support. To give you why I say so, just compare their statements on the BJP versus the CPI-M. There was fire and brimstone on the BJP while the statement above looks like a letter written by a kindergarten teacher to the parent of an unruly toddler. I suppose when the left does pogroms its ok for these giant intellectuals, they reserve their intelligence for the far right.

Here's another detailed rebuttal!


, I am taking the liberty to copy the entire thing in full.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Now South Korea wants in on the Islamic Finance train

Very amusing, the hype cycle on Islamic Finance is nearing the top of the "Peak of Inflated Expectations", i would say :) Now South Korea wants to get into the game! I quote:

Korea should work to attract investment from Muslim nations which are enjoying increasing prosperity thanks to soaring oil prices, a report released by the Bank of Korea on Wednesday said.

The Islamic financial industry has been posting annual growth of around 15 percent since 2000 as Muslim oil-producing nations benefit from increasing oil prices.

In the report "Strategies of Global Countries for Dealing with Islamic Finance and Lessons," Korea's central bank said Islamic financial markets have great potential for growth, despite problems such as religious restrictions and under-developed infrastructure, because they account for a mere 0.8 percent of the world's financial assets. That's low given that Muslims take up 28 percent of the world population and the economies of Muslim nations are growing over 4 percent annually.

Japan, where Muslims account for 0.1 percent of the population, issued Islamic bonds in Malaysia in January. Muslims make up 0.2 percent of Korea's population.

The report also said that Korea should not only seek a way to raise funds using Islamic funds which offer favorable purchase conditions and low interest rates, but also work to attract Islamic investment.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Where's the vision? eh? eh? you tell me!

At a dinner at Claridges recently, the room was heaving with the great and good of European Consulting, Telecoms, Government, regulators, TV, manufacturers, media, and a few industry bodies. The topic of the Business Week Roundtable Discussion 2007 was, Next Generation Networks for Next Generation Business. So I was quite excited about going there and listening to the pearls of wisdom about the future of business and what kind of networks will be required to support them. Unfortunately, I did not walk away with the feeling that there was a vision thing going on.

I went there to learn about Next Gen but all these guys were talking about copper, fibre and ADSL and Wi-Max. Gosh, guys, where is the vision thing? What about web 2.0? Where is the monetisation of online transactions? The impact on tax takings of internet based transactions? Economic activity moving into the virtual world? changes in value chains in various industry models because of Web 2.0 and technology changes? Utility pricing? Social valuation based pricing? Usage of traffic data to drive analysis? Bundling up of services?

They were patting themselves on the back about having good stuff about the steadily growing broadband penetration in UK. While one guy talked about people seeing TV soaps on their mobiles in the Korean underground while the minister for FDI for Macedonia explained how they jumped from a single fixed line provider to 99% digitally connected / fully wireless and in 18 months will be the first country in the world to be fully Wi-Maxed!!

I told them that you need to drive investments in the public sector in networks. Think sewers and waterworks, guaranteed return, and push for investments much faster via the government. The problem we have, I further pointed out, was that the deployment cycle is now longer than the new product / technology cycle. In other words, before you have managed to get the tech out from the labs, deployed and start generating money (forget payback) new tech has come around and nobody is willing to pay for the old tech any more. Copper took 27 years to payback in the UK, fibre is less but they are starting to roll it out while countries like Macedonia are two generations ahead!!!!

How about the fact that USA has just agreed to exempt all internet transactions from sales tax. So if you are going to fund essential national infrastructure from general taxation, where on earth are you going to get the money from if more and more economic activity is moving into internet transactions which are footloose and tax free? How about the fact that there are now different value systems such as the Linden Dollars, values for World of Warcraft user id's, etc.? These have a real life value, capable of being traded on an exchange or on e-Bay, and its value has been determined completely independently of any government or regulator. So what is the future of national currencies?

I gave the example of my son's comment to me when I moaned about paying £8.00 per month on his World of Warcraft game. Flash came the reply, Dad, I can sell my userid on eBay for £300. So at this moment, I am in profit if you want your money back. I was so dumbstruck at the very conceptual beauty of the idea that I completely forgot to take advantage of the idea. But do you see what has happened? He has created value electronically, it is not a physical product, not a CD, not a software product. It is but a user-id with a certain efficiency level, for which people are willing to pay real life pounds sterling. So if this is the future of one part of business, then what is the future of financial institutions, network providers, advertising agencies, regulators, central banks, credit rating agencies...

So to create the business case, you need government sponsorship and pushes to create a different way of working, funding, operating and regulating these kinds of networks. Business cases cannot just be created on the basis of fibre or WiMax networks, it has to be created on the basis of eco-systems as the old ways of measuring value are going to fast disappear. I would say that in my estimation, we will start seeing the bundling of financial services with telecommunications with mobile devices with social networks, and that sort of made people look at me as if feathers were growing out of my tongue.

An interesting comment was from the regulator; "we want people to think of networks as utilities, do not worry about broadband speed and contention ratio's, like you don't worry about size of water pipe or distance from pumping station!" Very smart thinking that, and something that should be covered much more. I also heard about how the Americans are desperate to get more European style of telecommunications regulations into USA. As you know, European regulators are very much independent of the politicians unlike the FCC which is totally entangled inside the Government. Bad mistake, but there you go.

But to conclude, I am very disappointed, forget about thought leadership, they were simply talking about last generation technology deployment and challenges. I mean, I walked out and I still not clear as to what exactly is a next generation network. I think I have a pretty good picture of what a next generation business will be and a bit of a hazy idea of what the networks and telecommunications support we will require, but I didn't get any idea that it was widespread or that far seeing.

I then goggled the dratted thing, and found this link. When you read it, you will see the mistake that they are doing. This isn't next generation at all. This is 1.5 generation. A very very silo driven, technically lead, vague framework to wrap some technical infrastructure bits. Sorry, this is not next generation at all, this is just a newer, better and fatter pipe. You could call it next version, but to call it next generation? No Sir. The business and the young generation have already consigned this technology to the same level as we did to the plumbing and sewer works.

If you do want to call it new generation, then you have to extend the value chain to include the customer (both retail and business) at one end and on the other end, you need to include the content generators, the mashers, the financiers and the social network framework providers.

But more about that later! I will be developing these arguments further as we go on.

Farm subsidy junkies fight attempts to wean them off!

Well, it was perhaps far too much to expect that they will be economically literate and voluntarily stop sucking on the public purse subsidy tit. Irrespective of whether they are cooperatives or owned by single owners, I see no reason for subsidies to be given in a rich country. What on earth do you want subsidies for? And now they are claiming environmental benefits (just shut down the farm!).

Look at why UK and Germany hates it? While the UK fears losing the comparatively little money it gets from the CAP, Germany worries that thousands of workers on farms in the former communist east could lose their jobs, adding to high unemployment.

Do you see anything that has to do with actual farming? Nope.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the European Union farm commissioner, had attempted to slay one of the CAP's many demons - that the rich get most - by proposing less money for the biggest farms from next year. "We are raising this issue partly because the public raises it again and again," she saidof the €45bn ($67bn, £32bn) a year policy.

About 80 per cent of the money goes to a fifth of the EU's 7m farmers.

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Hong Kong to climb on the Islamic Finance bandwagon

See here, now the Hong Kong guys are climbing on the Islamic Finance Bandwagon. It will face fierce competition from Malaysia, one of the originators of this type of instrument

But again, Malaysia should not be complacent. For 2 reasons. the Malaysian Financial System needs to be brought up to par much more before it can compete with HK. In terms of doing business, HK is streets ahead of KL, so if you were a newcomer wanting to setup a business and raise Islamic Finance, you may indeed find it much easier to go to HK.

Second reason, the Chinese and HK government's own public financing needs are so great that they can literally create an Islamic Finance market on their own.

So London, Malaysia, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai, be warned!

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Wednesday, November 21

Oxford Street Lights




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To shake or not to shake!

I follow this blog very closely, Umar Lee provides a fascinating perspective of American Muslims. Yesterday, he posted a fascinating note and then there was a very good and interesting debate about what exactly is the right way to greet and treat Muslim women. From what I understood, there is not one way. Greet her and she (and as it happens, many of their husbands) might get upset because you greeted her. Do not greet her, and she gets upset because you are not respecting her. If you do not look at her by being modest, well, some think it is being disrespectful. So there doesn't really seem to be any Islamic ruling per se, only tradition, and that too based upon which country, culture, time, circumstances the situation is based upon. Incidentally, check this link out for a rather interesting article on Yvonne Ridley not liking handshakes and then somebody else telling her off for having unislamic thoughts. Very beautifully argued, and typically, Yvonne Ridley's bizarre unislamic thought processes come through.

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Tuesday, November 20

Minorities and Poverty - a comment

So if a first or second generation immigrant is poor, it is the host government's fault. And they have to go about doing silly things like affirmative action and equal opportunity. Oh!, and have minimum wage which is supposed to be decent. Who defines decent? As for minimum wages, there is a very hot debate going on about whether minimum wages depress employment or not. Even if it did not, the idea that a government agency will tell me how much to pay my workers is anathema to me as a libertarian!

But to go back to the article. They seem to be saying that it is to do with race. What utter rot, to put it politely. And this made me laugh, apparently there are people now called as visible minorities. I presume it refers to skin colour, social habits or such like. I would be curious to see what or who are visible majorities? or invisible majorities? But besides this frankly spectacularly stupid terminology, here is something to think about.

The mother country to Canada, United Kingdom which has a somewhat similar ethnic, immigration and minority background gives these figures for education:

Pupils achieveing 5 or more A* - C at GCSE by sex and ethnic group, 2004, England

Can you see the 2 lines which are beyond 70%? those belong to visible minorities - the Indians and Chinese, who significantly over take the visible majority (the whites, I guess). I wonder where Jews fit in? or how about Polish? But I presume they are too white to be minorities, yes?

Now look at economic activity here.

Percentage of people of working age who are economically active by ethnicity and gender, 2004

Can you see the second set of bar's? that's whites. Where are Indians? just a tiny bit below them. And so are Blacks.

How about employment (full time, part time, employment rate and unemployment rate?) see page 15 of this report. More Indian extraction women are in employment than white women. The % of full time employment is the same for Indian men and White men. Here's another interesting study on relative earnings by minority status.

For those who refer to the test of sending cv applications with different names, has anybody tried the reverse experiment? (I haven't seen it, so would love to hear about it). Send Christian and Hindu name cv's to say Hindu employers and see the results. I dare say that you will find group behaviour, that people prefer to work with people of their own kinds.

A very good overview of this entire issue of ethnicity and poverty in the UK is in this paper. See Table 4.1 and try to tell me that it is clear that just being visibly different causes differences. How is that that % differences are more than 100% across minorities? Or take a look at Table 4.4 where you will see that the hourly pay for Indians is greater than that of the white British population? Or that more Indians and Pakistani's get their income from self employment than whites as given in Table 4.6? Or in table 4.7, Indians and other ethnic groups take less benefits than whites?

Public policy should not be driven by blunt instruments such as skin colour. And why aren't people trying to push these people to setup their own businesses rather than look to the government to support them? I am totally not convinced that it is skin colour or religion that is the cause of poverty or be a significant explaining factor in government public policy. If say the government starts off doling out cash, then why on earth would they dole it out to say Indians who are earning more than Whites anyway? But then you have to start defining what a minority is, etc. etc. Wouldnt it simply be better to give cash and benefits to poor people? irrespective?

Did you know only 57% of US private sector employees get paid sick leave?

This was shocking news to me, but I have no reason to disbelieve. This is seriously wrong. I cannot imagine how a developed country can allow such a huge hole in labour laws to exist?

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Genocide - Definitional discussions

I was having a chat with a colleague on my previous post about the fact that the Communist West Bengal, India government was conducting pogroms and part genocide against the Nandigrami's. On being asked why I said part-genocide, I pointed to the definition as given in the Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1948. I quote:

Article 2
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Interestingly enough, somebody sent me a paper almost immediately afterwards on this issue. "Can there be genocide without the intent to commit genocide?" I quote the conclusion:

Intentionality is an important element in domestic law. The difference between homicide and murder, for example, turns on the degree of intent that is present in the act of taking life. The negligent killing of a pedestrian by a motorist is not the same as a deliberate assault that aims at the death of the victim. In the same way, I have argued in this essay, there is every reason not to ignore the role of intent in what is often called "the crime of crimes" - the destruction of an entire group of people or genocide. Proof of specific intent is necessary to find an individual guilty of genocide, and the role of intent is similarly crucial when the historian assesses an episode of mass death that occurred in the past. A large loss of life should be the point of departure for a searching investigation to determine responsibility, but in and by itself it should never be sufficient for a finding of genocide. The disregard of intentionality will create an incomplete or distorted picture and lead to false conclusions.
In the absence of a confession, the establishment of intent in mass deaths that occurred in the past is often difficult. Yet many times genocidal intent can be inferred from factors such as the scale of the atrocities committed or the deliberate targeting of victims on account of their membership in a particular group. "The emphasis on intent is important," Kurt Jonassohn has correctly noted, "because it removes from consideration not only natural disasters but also those man-made disasters that took place without explicit planning. Many of the epidemics of communicable diseases that reached genocidal proportions, for example, were caused by unwitting human actions."
61 To the victims it makes no difference whether they died because of a deadly epidemic or as a result of a planned programme of destruction. It does make a difference for the assignment of responsibility and guilt and, more importantly, for historical truth.

Now if this argument is valid, and there is sufficient logic and fact in it to say that it has validity, then it may well be that the Indian incidents of 1984 and 2002 do qualify as genocide. But the main quibble about 2007 would be the identification of Nandigrami's as a discreet unique group. Now there i have issues as the situation is extremely complicated by all news reports as to who all were there. One has heard reports about Maoists, normal villagers, opposition party members, etc. etc. being there. But to quote the other side, the communists actually claimed that all the people there were Maoists. So if the entire Nandigram operation was targeted at Maoists, then does it qualify fully as a genocide? Not sure.

JO - Journal of Genocide ResearchPB - RoutledgeAU - Lewy, GuenterTI - Can there be genocide without the intent to commit genocide?SN - 1462-3528PY - 2007VL - 9IS - 4SP - 661EP - 674

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Data Protection - NOT, again the politicians escape!

We now have perhaps the world's biggest data protection snafu. Anything around 15-20 million odd records of people relating to child benefit (we dont know what data was lost) has been lost in transit. The Head of the division has resigned in taking responsibility but his union says he wasnt personally responsible. What about the minister? Oh! sorry, ministers never take responsibility, specially of the treasury kinds. 15 million records? peanuts, they didnt resign over billions of taxpayer pounds spent on a bankrupt building society, so why would they do it for this?

Shameful, i tell you, shameful!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Communist sponsored violence in India and this time its the Left

The reason why I think 1984 and 2002 are horrible situations in India is because that clearly showed that the state turned on its own citizens. I am sadly cognizant of the fact that Hindu's and Muslims will riot and local leaders do these things.

But as long as the state is clearly not involved and punishes the perpetrators, that's the pragmatic best you can get to!. Unfortunately, we keep on seeing this absolutely disgusting behaviour that the state actively encourages and participates in violence against its own citizens for narrow ideological reasons.

Whether it is religion (BJP and its assorted morons doing this stuff in 2002), secular pure party politics (Congress and its assorted corrupt goons in 1984), or the left (CPI-M and its red goons in 2007), they are all the same, they are doing the same thing, same old murder and rape.

Now in 2007, we see the same in West Bengal, the home of the people, the place where land reform was furthest advanced, where the Chief Minister is feted for bringing in foreign investment and popularising the IT sector. (see the similarities with Gujarat and how the Gujarat CM was feted as well? remember how Modi said about action versus reaction and Buddha saying payback in same coin?).

And now in Nandigram, you have disciplined foot soldiers (only in this time, they are wearing communist red instead of wearing the Hindu red), raping and pillaging. Men, women and children not safe. Police fully involved in shooting innocents. And then the political leadership has the gall to point to dispossessed people as being the cause of their own deaths.

The party which is supposed to be the supporter of the people, dalits, minorities and the like has merrily went about shooting them. 10,000 people are homeless. The area has been described as a war zone. While the number of deaths has not been confirmed (estimates range from 600 to 20 odd deaths) What is this? Why are these communists running riot? And what on earth is the central government not doing anything despite the fact that the Governor of the West Bengal State condemning the state driven violence.

There is a very good reason why the communists rule over one of the two states with near about 100% literacy in India. Their land reform, education and pro-poor policies are perhaps one of the primary reasons why even in this day and age, Communists rule the roost in West Bengal.

Mind you, the current Chief Minister is doing all he can to be capitalist, he is removing labour regulations which remove the right to strike from West Bengal based IT industrial units, he is busy using eminent domain laws to take land away from farmers and reclassify them as Special Export Zones, and so on and so forth which is driving the un-reconstructed left absolutely batty.

But do not forget that underlying all this is a totalitarian ideology. Just like China is capitalist in all but name, and all for the sake of "THE party", same in West Bengal. For the sake of the party, they will not take any prisoners and the very people they profess to represent are ruthlessly squelched. The various CPI-M leaders are spectacularly arrogant and bolshie (pun intended - bolshevism - Communism - geddit???!).

Curiously enough and I think this is bit symptomatic of the elitist media (and I am not making this generalisation lightly as I belong in that category as well!) in India as well as abroad, that the coverage of this incident in West Bengal is still being treated differently from that of 2002 or 1984, all state sponsored pogroms.

What people do not realise is that when you are not fair and unbiased, with malice towards one and all, then you give space for your words to be ignored, to be accused of hypocrisy and finally give rise to extreme ideologies. We have to be against any form of violence, do not really care about who does it. Still, a large number of commentators have rightly castigated both CM's such as in here, here, here etc.

But what further gives rise to hope is the fact that the Indian Judiciary is on the case. Ruling on a previous incident, it said:

In a major setback for the West Bengal government, the Calcutta High Court on Friday ruled that the police firing in Nandigram on March 14 was wholly unconstitutional and could not be justified under any provision of the law.

The police and CPI(M) cadres had fired indiscriminately at villagers protesting against the state government’s attempt to acquire their lands to set up a special economic zone in Nandigram. At least 14 people were shot down, 162 persons injured and 33 women filed complaints of rape.

The irony is that two Chief Ministers, who are pushing forward with economic reform, improving infrastructure, and so on and so forth, are the ones who are also having murderers and goons operating under totalitarian ideologies, one far left and one far right. The communists blamed the Maoists. But that still does not justify the violence perpetrated by the party members. May they rot in hell. No, actually, may all their progeny become capitalist call centre members and they be condemned to read Ayn Rand in jail. I wonder if we can do this to these two sets of murderers and goons?

But joking aside, I hope the court throws these murderers into jail and let them rot!

PS: check out this report of an independent inquiry on Nandigram, 978-81-89654-44-3, Daanish Books,
Delhi, India.

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