Saturday, January 12

Cut off Mickey's tail and earn 2 Rupees!!!

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Rats devour rice in Indian state

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

Gaza's American school attacked

Wonderful, more enlightened behaviour from the world's great educators in the Gaza City. Now this was as heinous an attack as any other as they are targeting education and future citizens.

I quote:

The school is run by Palestinians and has no American teachers, but is part of an association of American schools in the Middle East and uses a US-style curriculum.

Two foreign teachers from the school were kidnapped in 2005, prompting international staff to leave.

In a leaflet left after the attack, the gunmen claimed affiliation to al-Qaeda and vowed to attack similar targets.

"Polytheists and enemies of Islam are pursuing each day their work to destroy our youths, who are falling by the dozens into the swamps of vice and moral decadence," the statement said.

The Glasgow connection with Terror

There is no longer just a Londonistan, but also a Glasgowistan, as it seems. Read this and worry. I quote:


STRUGGLING for that last-minute Christmas present this year, many Scots will have succumbed to the tempting offer in the pub or work canteen of a cheap DVD of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. A useful stocking filler, thank you very much. It might be an illegal knock-off, but really, what's the harm?

That question has a chilling answer. Anyone who handed over their fiver may inadvertently have been funding a organisation responsible for dozens of killings, bombings and political assassinations, thousands of miles away in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The sale of fake CDs, DVDs, clothing and perfumes in Glasgow and other British cities is helping to raise money for one of the world's most-notorious terror outfits – the group held responsible for the slaughter of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
MI5 is now targeting British-based supporters of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a pro-Kashmiri group dedicated to gaining the disputed territory its independence. Its aims include the "destruction" of the United States and India.

MI5 estimates that there are about 50 hardcore JeM sympathisers living in Scotland, responsible for shipping half a million pounds abroad every year to fund the militants' murderous activities halfway across the world.
News that JeM is operating here follows closely on other disturbing revelations about terrorist-linked activity within Scotland. In September, Mohammed Atif Siddique, from Alva, Clackmannanshire – described as al-Qaeda's man in Scotland – was convicted of creating websites that taught bomb-making. In the summer, there was the failed car bombing attempt on Glasgow Airport, and only last month came the revelation from senior Scottish police officers that 200 Islamic terror suspects are currently under surveillance.

Up until now, the UK Government may have been content to look away from JeM's British-based supporters backing a group whose offences occurred thousands of miles away.
One security source said: "I do not think it is completely true to say we deliberately took our eye off the ball because JeM's activities were not hurting our own interests. It was a case that we could not be everywhere at once and we needed to prioritise. However, the news of a link with al-Qaeda would appear to indicate that things have taken a very dramatic turn for the worse."

The Kashmiri community in Scotland is well-established, having first settled here two generations ago. Although not as big as either the Indian or Pakistani communities it is still a substantial presence, numbering thousands, most of them living in Glasgow.

Left Handed Girls!



I gave Diya, my little girl, some alphabet stickers and she has learnt how to spell her name. Now she is left handed (so is my wife and son) and this was so curious. She spelt the name right, but look at how she placed the letters? Fascinating, eh? I wonder if some research has been done on this?

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Photo Essay: Man Power versus Petroleum Power

Who wins? A scene on the Indore Bhopal Highway.

it looked very funny, looked like the guys are pushing the tanker to the temple, the tanker was broken down so much that it required divine attention?

as I drew closer, noticed more people on the other side pushing it hard.

but its actually a garage / workshop on the left. The tanker is all dented and stuff, possibly a water tanker rather than an oil tanker.

Mind you, the orange lettering on the tanker cab says, "Ram Sita", the divine couple. The dust is ever present in India, I was very conscious of it this time. Even in garden cities such as Bhopal and small villages, the dust has appeared.

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Photo Essay: Parrot

I went for dinner with an old friend of mine and he has an Indian Ring Neck parrot. It was night time so in the first movie he didn't say much.

But in the second, he says his name "mithu" (a slang word for parrot that i have usually heard in UP and MP) and "kya hua" (what happened?). Amazing mimicry, I tell you!

Apparently he converses with Freddie the Lhasa Apso doggie but unfortunately, I was not able to capture that. Check out his cool Burberry style winter clothing!


But nothing beats Einstein.


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Friday, January 11

One reason behind the high German and French Youth unemployment!

If you want to find a reason for the stubbornly and scarily structurally high youth unemployment in Germany and France, read this.

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

Women Priests in Judaism - good step!

In a step that marks a major change in gender roles within modern Orthodoxy, women will be ordained as Orthodox rabbis. Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, founded by Rabbi David Hartman, himself a modern Orthodox rabbi, will open a four-year program next year to prepare women and men of all denominations - Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and also Orthodox - for rabbinic ordination.
Ordination will be provided within the framework of a teacher-training program that prepares graduates to serve in Jewish high schools in North America.
“For too long now we have been robbing ourselves of 50 percent of our potential leaders; people who can shape and inspire others,” said Rabbi Donniel Hartman, co-director of the institute and son of David Hartman.
“The classic distinctions between men and women are no longer relevant. People who come to the Hartman Institute to study are committed to making gender equality in Judaism a reality.”

Excellent news!

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

The rise of the Daily Me threatens democracy

Very thought provoking article but I dare not say more because I have a full length essay just waiting to be published on this topic, lol. I disagree with his supposition actually because this is a uniquely american perspective. If you look at elections and democracy in the other planet (as opposed to the one where Americans live), democratic life with blogging, 24 hour TV news and technology is great and nicely evolving.

More than a decade ago the technology specialist, Nicholas Negroponte, pro­phesied the emergence of the Daily Me – a fully personalised newspaper. It would allow you to include topics that interest you and screen out those that bore or annoy you. If you wanted to focus on Iraq and tennis, or exclude Iran and golf, you could do that.
Many people now use the internet to create something like a Daily Me. This behaviour is reinforced by the rise of social networking forums, collaborative filtering and viral marketing. For politics, the phenomenon is especially important in campaigns. Candidates in the US presidential race can construct information cocoons in which readers are deluged with material that is, in their eyes, politically correct. Supporters of Hillary Clinton construct a Daily Me that includes her campaign’s perspective but offers nothing from Barack Obama, let alone Mitt Romney.
What is wrong with the emerging situation? We can find a clue in a small experiment in democracy conducted in Colorado in 2005. About 60 US citizens were put into 10 groups. They deliberated on controversial issues, such as whether the US should sign an inter­national treaty to combat global warming and whether states should allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The groups consisted of predominantly either leftwing or rightwing members, with the former drawn from left-of-centre Boulder and the latter from Colorado Springs, which tends to be right of centre. The groups, not mixed, were screened to ensure members conformed to stereotypes. (If people in Boulder liked Vice-President Dick Cheney, they were cordially excused.) People were asked to state their opinions anonymously before and after the group discussion .
In almost every group, people ended up with more extreme positions. The Boulder groups favoured an inter­national treaty to control global warming before discussion; they favoured it far more strongly afterwards. In Colorado Springs, people were neutral on that treaty before discussion; discussion led them to oppose it strongly. Same-sex unions became much more popular in Boulder and less so in Colorado Springs.
Aside from increasing extremism, discussion had another effect: it squelched diversity. Before members talked, many groups displayed internal disagreement. These were greatly reduced: discussion widened the rift between Boulder and Colorado Springs
Countless versions of this experiment are carried out online every day. The result is group polarisation, which occurs when like-minded people speak together and end up in a more extreme position in line with their original inclinations.
There are three reasons for this. First is the exchange of information. In Colorado Springs, the members offered many justifications for not signing a climate treaty and a lot fewer for doing so. Since people listened to one another, they became more sceptical. The second reason is that when people find their views corroborated, they become more confident and so are more willing to be extreme. The third reason involves social comparison. People who favour a position think of themselves in a certain way and if they are with people who agree with them, they shift a bit to hold on to their preferred self-conception.
Group polarisation clearly occurs on the internet. For example, 80 per cent of readers of the leftwing blog Daily Kos are Democrats and fewer than 1 per cent are Republicans. Many popular bloggers link frequently to those who agree with them and to contrary views, if at all, only to ridicule them. To a significant extent, people are learning about supposed facts from narrow niches and like-minded others.
This matters for the electoral process. A high degree of self-sorting leads to more confidence, extremism and increased contempt for those with contrary views. We can already see this in the presidential campaign. It will only intensify when the two parties square off. To the extent that Democratic and Republican candidates seem to live in different political universes, group polarisation is playing a large role.
Polarisation, of course, long preceded the internet. Yet given people’s new power to create echo chambers, the result will be serious obstacles not merely to civility but also to mutual understanding and constructive problem solving. The Daily Me leads inexor­ably also to the Daily Them. That is a real problem for democracy.
The writer teaches at the University of Chicago and is the author of 2.0

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

Islamic Insurance now!

How fascinating, this promises to be even better to keep track of! I am not very sure how this link to insurance will work but will investigate further.

Lloyd’s chairman Lord Levene has today spoken of the group’s desire to enter the Islamic insurance market, which provides insurance services that comply with the strict financial prohibitions laid out in the Muslim Shariah law that prevent betting or gambling on future outcomes.
Expressing his interest today with Bloomberg, Lord Levene suggested that the market for Islamic insurance was growing rapidly and was one of the key areas for expansion of the industry in the coming ten years, particularly as services become more widespread and more developed by Western insurance groups.
Amongst the firms already offering Islamic insurance are Swiss Re, Allianz and AIG, who all have their own range of products that comply with the requirements of the Islamic faith.
A proportion of the Muslim faith believe that traditional insurance contravenes Shariah law, which forbids certain cornerstones of Western financial practice like interest payments, and specifically the perceived ‘gambling’ element of insurance that relies on certain future outcomes.
As a result the demand for Islamic insurance is increasing, which would offer a faith-sensitive alternative to traditional insurance to ensure there are no ‘holes’ left by a lack of cover derived from religious points of view.
It remains to be seen whether Lloyd’s move into the market will prove to be successful commerically, following steps by a number of other insurers to already offer Islamic financing and insurance, which is seen as a hotspot for future development of the industry on a global scale.
With just 1% of the world insurance market coming from the Middle East, it is possible that the introduction of more widespread alternatives to Western insurance could open a massive and lucrative hidden market for cover in the Eastern regions and in some emerging economies.

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


The problem with counter-factual history or what if scenario's is that the number of assumptions, decisions and choices rise dramatically as you proceed to add more and more factors and time. So, for example, this is an interesting exercise but frankly a bit silly. Islam is, by a very large number, practised more outside the Arab and Middle East lands. So this entire discussion is very sterile. Hinduism has existed and has managed to live on for a long time, even in the countries where it is no longer the prime religion as in the south east Asia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, etc.

If Islam had not been there, one can logically argue that Hindu or even Buddhist Kingdoms could have moved to the left (west of the world) and basically civilised the middle east, something that none of the Abrahamic religions seem to have done. It is a strange thing that the cradle of human civilisation, the middle east, was destroyed by its own children, its religions. Those countries who have been successful, had to remove religion from their constitutions. Look around you, every time we talk about Christianity, Judaism and Islam, it is with respect to problems, massacres and silly sod things. When you talk about eastern religions, its more mystical, religious, and faithful.

Not that these eastern religions did not have problems, but overall, they rarely have had the kinds of issues like Islam and Christianity had. If you look down the ages, think about it, the massacres and genocide that these 3 religions have done on each other and on others is blindly big. If Islam and frankly the other Abrahamic religions had not been there, then perhaps the world would have been a much better place. But that is ruminating and masticating the past. Remember one thing, this century is supposed to be the Asian, Modern or Technology century. Watch and learn how the human trajectory based upon Buddhism, Hinduism, "Asian values", technology, secularism will work out.

So no, if you remove Islam, the world would indeed be a very very different place indeed.

Just idle ruminations! :)

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

Jan-Feb 2008

What if Islam had never existed? To some, it's a comforting thought: No clash of civilizations, no
holy wars, no terrorists. Would Christianity have taken over the world? Would the Middle East be a peaceful beacon of democracy? Would 9/11 have happened? In fact, remove Islam from the path of history, and the world ends up pretty much where it is today.

Book Review: The Turks haven't learned the British way of denying past atrocities

Very cynical review of a rather interesting book. I am extracting some quotes but surprised that the role of the british in other incidents such as the Cossacks or the Jalianwalla Bag massacre or even the aftermath of the 1857 mutiny has not been mentioned at all. Still, interesting stuff!

Atrocities? Which atrocities? When a Turkish writer uses that word, everyone in Turkey knows what he is talking about, even if they deny it vehemently. But most British people will stare at you blankly. So let me give you two examples, both of which are as well documented as the Armenian genocide.

In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy.

Three recent books - Britain's Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson, and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis - show how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise - some of them violently - against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps.

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

More links on Risk Management in Islamic Finance

Risk Management:

1. Growth in Islamic Finance Spurs Need for New Risk Management Methodologies

Two globally recognizedorganizations have teamed up to take on this challenge -- the GlobalAssociation of Risk Professionals (GARP: and the Banque du Liban( They will jointly develop a first-of-its-kind Certificatein Risk Management for Islamic Financial Institutions due to be launched inlate 2008.
The expertise on Islamic finance from the Banque du Liban combined withGARP's proficiency in creating globally accepted standards on risk managementmethodologies, such as their globally recognized FRM program, will result in abenchmark approach to assessing risk around Sharia'a-compliant financialproducts. "There will be much input from experts around the world to make surewe get this right," said Chris Donohue, PhD, Head of GARP's Research Center."We will have a Technical Committee that will work on developing the contentfor the Certificate and an Advisory Group comprised of Islamic banking andderivative product experts to give us feedback throughout the process." The Advisory Committee will be co-chaired by Dr. Ahmed Jachi, ViceGovernor of Banque du Liban and Dr. Anthony Saunders, Professor of Finance atNew York University's Leonard Stern School of Business.

2. Book on financial risk management and Islamic Finance:

Risk management for Islamic banking financial products and services is one of the greatest challenges that many westernized, as well as Islamic Banks, are facing today.As a result of this market growth in Islamic financial products there is a high demand to understand how to assess and manage the risks arising from applying these products and services. Credit, operational, market and liquidity risks together with the risk of non compliance with the Shariah law are becoming very hot issues for financial institutions. This book presents a common framework of how to efficiently manage the risks faced and minimise the overall degree of Islamic financial risks. This book is a valuable guide for those working in both non-Islamic and Islamic finance.

Contents Principles of Islamic FinanceRisk Management Issues in Islamic Financial ContractsBasel II & IFSB for Islamic Financial RiskMarket Risk in Islamic FinanceCredit Risk in Islamic FinanceOperational Risk in Islamic FinanceConcluding Remarks

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

Islamic Finance, an email which I wrote:

I was discussing with somebody on the internet and this is what I wrote to them.

Think about it, the accountants and financial training institutions are coming up with courses which are open to all so that they can do what these mullah's are doing. I estimate that there are about 100 odd experts in this field, and they are paid millions. When this is the situation, and their performance is not consistent, then the market will fix this problem. Hence you can very well end up having a degree like CFA Islamic Finance. And then anybody and his dog can get this degree and be qualified to determine what is islamic and what isnt. So their power will go slowly. Not vanish, but it will diffuse to a point where hopefully sanity reins.

Second, it will be regulated by regulators who dont give a toss about how you invest, but the only thing that they care about is consumer protection. So its their wild and wooly ideas which have to modify to satisfy this test, not the other way around as is till now. In other words, up till now, its like this. I am Shiekh....., i SAY this is right on a Sharia basis. Live with it. End of story. But now, you cant say that, at least, here in the UK. If you say that, then the FSA asks, ok, prove that your financial instrument is safe for BRITISH consumers. And that's why it took such a long time for the Islamic Bank of Britian to get its licence, but people are learning, I belive there are 4 now and more different kinds of institutions coming up simply because of the certainty this kind of regulatory regime provides.

Third is the risk management side. Again, there is a very big push to provide risk management aspects which cater for islamic banking, starting from PRMIA ro GARP to books by Palgrave MacMillian, etc. etc. For crying out loud, we even have awards for best islamic banking software provider!!!!. This again shows that the market has incorporated this different measure of investmenting and will standardise it. Again, the obscurantists will lose out.

Early days yet, but we are currently going through what I call as the 2nd stages of the gartner hype cycle, namely the Peak of Inflated Expectations! :)

but i reiterate, it is my firm believe that if somebody wants to invest according to his / her own faith, we should not stop that. :)



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

Thursday, January 10

Fighting terror requires huge, painstaking and frankly boring police work as well

So when you ask, how come most of the world's Islamist terrorism seem to have a direct or indirect link to Pakistan, and why on earth are they not able to stop it despite their protestations, one possible angle is because well, its the military which is doing the police job. About as well as how you would expect a policeman to do a soldier's job.

Read and wonder!

The Stiff Upper Lip Despite all the loose talk by retired army officers, who were inducted into the ministry of the interior and the police, the Pakistan army and ISI have been maintaining a discreet silence on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The Oulook, India

The Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have been maintaining a discreet silence on the assassination of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto by as yet unidentified elements at Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), was on a visit to Army establishments in Karachi at the time of her assassination. He immediately cancelled his engagements and returned to Rawalpindi.

He and his officers in the General Headquarters (GHQ) as well as in the ISI have avoided any comments or statements or background briefings for the media on her killing. Gen.Kiyani is keeping a tight control over his officers in order to ensure that they do not add to the messy sequel as a result of the loose talk emanating from the Ministry of the Interior, which was responsible for her protection.

Most of the controversy relating to the circumstances surrounding her killing, the cause of her death and the alleged responsibility of Baitullah Mehsud for her death, which has been denied by a spokesman of Baitullah, has been caused by the retired Army officers, who were inducted into the Ministry of the Interior and the Police by Gen.Pervez Musharraf after he seized power in 1999.

After coming to power, Musharraf had inducted a large number of retired military officers into the police of the provinces as well as into the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which is part of the Interior Ministry, and into the Ministry itself. He appointed Brig. (retd) Ijaz Shah, who was the Home Secretary of Punjab at the time of the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in January-February,2002, as the Director of the IB. Omar Sheikh, the principal accused in the Pearl case, had surrendered to him in Lahore when he was the Home Secretary.

Musharraf also inducted Brig. (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema, another crony of his, into the Interior Ministry and made him in charge of the crisis management cell in the Ministry, which also co-ordinates counter-terrorism actions and investigations. Many other retired military officers were inducted at different levels of the Ministry and the IB. Of course, Mr.Nawaz Sharif also, as the Prime Minister (1990-93), had made Brig. (retd) Imtiaz, a highly controversial retired army officer known for his dislike of Benazir, as the DIB, but there was no systematic militarisation of the IB under Nawaz, similar to what one had been seeing under Musharraf.

As a consequence of Musharraf's policy of militarisation of the Police and the IB, there was a steep fall in the professionalism of these agencies. They were neither able to prevent the increasing number of acts of suicide terrorism nor successfully detect them. The number of acts of suicide terrorism have shot up from six in 2006 to 55 in 2007, including the one involving the murder of Benazir. Most of them have so far remained undetected.
The police in Rawalpindi, where she was killed, come under the dual control of the Ministry of the Interior and the Punjab Government, both hotbeds of Zia-ul-Haq loyalists. Chaudhury Pervez Elahi, who was the Chief Minister of Punjab till December,2007, and his cousin Chaudhury Shujjat Hussain, who is the leader of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), have always been bitter enemies of the Bhutto family. Ijaz Shah and Lt.Gen.(retd) Hamid Gul, who was the Director-General of the ISI for some months during her first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988 to 90), are also known Zia loyalists.

There are presently not many remnants of the coterie of Zia loyalists among the serving senior officers (Lt.Gens. and above) of the Army and the ISI. Most of the remnants are to be found in the Ministry of the Interior, the IB and the Punjab administration.That is why Benazir apprehended a threat to her security to emanate from these elements. In a letter to Musharraf written before she returned to Pakistan on October 18,2007, she had allegedly named three in particular-- Ijaz Shah, Pervez Elahi and Hamid Gul. Musharraf disregarded her allegations and concerns and entrusted the responsibility for her security to the very elements from which she apprehended a threat to her security.

A careful reading of the comments of Mr.Asif Ali Zardari, her husband, and other leaders of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), known to have been close to her, would indicate that they have been taking care not to implicate the Army and the ISI as institutions in her murder. Instead, they have been directing the needle of suspicion at the persons named by her.

There has been a steady infiltration of Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda elements at the lower and middle levels of the Army and the Air Force and into the GHQ itself. Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations were unhappy with her statements that she would allow US troops to hunt for bin Laden in Pakistani territory and the International Atomic Energy Agency at Vienna to interrogate A.Q.Khan, the nuclear scientist. Benazir and her associates were aware of the threat to her security from these Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), but they strongly believed that these organisations would not be able to carry out their threat without the complicity of the Zia loyalists in the physical security apparatus.

While there is no evidence so far of any active complicity by the Zia loyalists, there is clear-cut evidence of glaring negligence in physical security, which made the assassination possible. In their frantic efforts to cover up their responsibility for her death, the retired military officers in the Interior Ministry and the Police--particularly Javed Iqbal Cheema-- have been disseminating one contradictory version after another. During an interaction with the media on December 31, 2007, Mr.Mohammadmian Soomro, the caretaker Prime Minister, is reported to have indicated his embarrassment over the clumsy manner in which Cheema had handled the sequel to her killing. But, intriguingly, Musharraf has remained silent in the midst of all this controversy and not taken any action against these officers.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

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

The word Allah reserved for Muslims!

I found this funny! I quote:

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Malaysian government has reiterated that non-Muslims cannot use the word "Allah," sparking concern Friday among Christians who use it to refer to God in their Malay-language Bible and other publications. Abdullah Zin, the de facto minister for Islamic affairs, told reporters Thursday that the Cabinet is of the view that "Allah" refers to the Muslim God and can only be used by Muslims, who comprise about 60 percent of Malaysia's population. "The use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims in the country," Abdullah said.

If that happens, then the word "bhumiputra" cannot be used by Malay's as that is based upon sanskrit which in turn is a Hindu origin language!, lol. How funny! Why is that many times people get involved in religion and their brains dribble out of their rear ends?

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

Chi-X gets more shareholders from 13 banks

Something very interesting and curious is going on in this little corner of the equity world in Chi-X. See here. Now you might wonder, why on earth would various institutions such as BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Société Générale, UBS, Deutsche, Citadel, Fortis, Getco, Lehman Brothers and Optiver want to invest in what I would ostensibly call as a competitor to their own business and to other units they have setup such as Turquoise?

If I have my thinking on right, its as follows. First is that market fragmentation does not really matter to a client to that extent because the broker will provide best execution. Second, multiple exchanges does not matter in the day and age of electronic trading where the incremental cost of trading is frankly near zero. And in the age of volume related fees, market depth, icebergs, algorithimic trading, etc., (if you plonk in your operational research or nonlinear optimisation model), you can split up your market facing trades suitably that the cost of trading (both explicit cost and transaction cost) on multiple exchanges is no different from trading on one. Third, additional shareholding is not that expensive in the longer scheme of things, compare the market capitalisation versus say the revenues earned by any of these big bank's equity operations in europe, massive ratio's. Fourth, sometimes it is easier to trust an outsider (in this case Instinet) than each other! :), and so on and so forth.

In any case, I am all for this, good work by these plucky chaps!

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

Finally, Blasphemy Law to be abolished!

Very good news! There is absolutely no reason to keep this stupid law on the books!

I quote:

During the debate, Dr Harris described the laws as "ancient, discriminatory, unnecessary, illiberal and non-human rights compliant". He said the last conviction under the law was 1979. "So it's not needed any more, old-fashioned, ancient and out of time," he said. "The Almighty does not really need the protection of these ridiculous laws and that's why large numbers of people of a religious perspective share the view that these offences need to be abolished," he said.

Its director, Nicholas Hytner, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "What we have now is essentially a secular country based on a common bond of decency which includes free speech.
"And free speech includes the expectation that there should be mutual respect between those with different beliefs. "And I don't believe that the law should address what people believe. The blasphemy laws protect belief; they don't protect people."

and finally for Don Horrocks, of the Evangelical Alliance, agreed that there was "no real argument" for retaining the law, saying: "Everybody knows it's not really going to be used again." But he warned that changing the legislation could "send out a signal" that "gratuitous abuse and offence" is acceptable.

Yes, it is acceptable, and if you dont like it, follow what Jesus said, turn the other cheek or ear in this case :), complain by all means, but agree to freedom of speech! :)

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

Nature's garbage disposal - Scavengers eat Kenyan bodies!

But before you get all scandalised and stuff, see this story about how the Parsi's dispose of their dead bodies in their Towers of Silence.

Scavengers eat Kenyan bodies
It is feared the bodies may have been consumed by animals and birds of prey
Related Content
Kibaki visits strife-torn town
NAIROBI - Kenya’s world-famous carnivorous wildlife - big cats and scavenger mammals and birds - may have made off with and devoured the bodies of human victims of recent post-election violence, said the Kenyan Red Cross.
"There are also an unspecified number of uncollected bodies due to accessibility difficulties, and it was feared the bodies may have been consumed by animals and birds of prey," the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said in a statement.
Aid workers fear that the Kenyan dead toll could overshoot at least 600 killed after they confirm the number of bodies in the bush mainly in the country’s Rift Valley province, which hosts more than 80 percent of the 255,000 displaced.
The society said at least 1,300 people had been injured across the east African nation.
"The destruction and loss of property and crops worth millions of shillings have aggravated the situation since many people are affected and lack their means of livelihood," the statement added.
"The affected communities cannot buy commodities after business premises were completely destroyed. Government peace building efforts are yielding fruit as calm slowly returns in the violence plagued areas," it added.
Much of the fighting occurred in the Rift Valley province, home to a mosaic of tribes, and known as an "Arc of Fire" owing to repeated tribal fighting during electoral periods.
President Mwai Kibaki, while visiting the region on Wednesday, pledged to assist the displaced and deliver justice to the perpetrators of the violence in the country.
Foreign governments have intensified diplomatic efforts in order to keep Kenya from sliding into chaos. The crisis has damaged Kenya’s safe reputation in an unstable region of Africa and hurt economic sectors including tourism and tea.
African Union chief John Kufuor is in the country to talk Kibaki and opposition chief Raila Odinga out of the crisis, spurred by allegations that the president rigged his way to victory in the December 27 polls.

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

European bank equity risk: 1995-2006

Quite an interesting paper here, which reviews the changes in bank equity risk after the EMU formed. As expected from classical economic theory, the authors find that the bank equity risk has decreased rapidly. Once you have the same currency, remove barries, flatten regulation and increase cross border trade and cooperation, the systemic risk will reduce.

The interesting exception is Germany and I quote from their conclusion:

While equity risk reduction is apparent in most countries in our sample, an important
exception is the German banking industry, where we observe an increase in bank equity risk an average. The German banking industry is dominated by Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe which
includes savings and Landesbanken. This peculiarity of the German banking system is said to
have limited bank consolidation, lowered market concentration, and facilitated continuing
fragmentation in the market and may well explain the risk increases that we observe in this

Mamiza Haq and Richard Heaney, European bank equity risk: 1995-2006, Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and MoneyIn Press, Accepted Manuscript, , Available online 9 January 2008.

We examine changes in bank equity risk following the formation of the Economic
Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999. With the exception of Germany, we observe a decline
in bank risk across euro-zone countries. Total risk decreased for 70% of the euro-zone
banks in our sample with a statistically significant decrease in total risk observed for 51%
of the sample. Similar results are found for idiosyncratic risk and systematic risk. These
results are robust to financial crisis effects and test specification. Moreover, we find some
evidence of a decrease in bank equity risk for a sample of neighbouring non-euro-zone
European countries, consistent with the existence of some spill-over effects.

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

Halal Food in British Schools

My sister asked me as to what this fuss was all about? Apparently, one British school decided to serve Halal food without consulting with the parents and needless to say, that got some parents all upset. She said and I quote, "uhmmm, why would they protest? I mean what's the difference? and in any case it's healthier that way, drained of the blood and the meat is more tender, I don't get this"

To which I replied, I think you would get upset as well if you suddenly found out from the newspapers that your son's school has suddenly decided to serve South Korean Delicacies like this?

You know how some Muslims hate dogs, yes? So it is not surprising that some of the British parents protested. The school should have consulted the parents before, but seriously, I have to think that the headmaster is a bit of an idiot to try to roll this kind of thing out specially in this politically and media charged atmosphere!

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Wednesday, January 9

Yes Please, I would love to have free home delivery of grenades!

LOLified image

The sign says: Nasralla coldstore, folks! Free home delivery! Grenades! Israel! Lebanon! Fat people in capes!


I am absolutely gobsmacked!!!! Until and unless grenades mean something else in Bahrain, I would presume grenades are those things which go boom.

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Hurrah!, the women win the right to make a clean breast out of it!

I have been very anxiously following this case as this goes to the heart of equality of sexes, women's liberation and all that nice stuff.


So now the swimming pool has decided that if the women want to bathe topless, then it is perfectly fine. And I quote the lady: ""The only sensible thing is to have the same rule for men as for women. If women can't be without a top, then men shouldn't get away with it either," she said."

Way to go!

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More funny cartoons!

This is apparently an extract from a missionaries manual, and not proven provenance. So be warned. If it is true, then this is hilarious, think about it, it shows a hindu pundit prostate in front of a statue of Gautam Buddha. Now the text says

Here is a man of India
He is praying to his god
His god cannot help him
This man must know about Jesus
Can you think of some ways to help him?

can you imagine the sheer ignorance and stupidity of the chap who wrote this and I pity the chaps who have to read it. This is absolutely hilarious! :) He doesnt know India, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity and this is the chap who is training missionaries?

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

Banking Crisis in Second Life!

This was so interesting and frankly a very interesting view of where life is heading in the banking world. If you remember the lines in front of the Northern Rock branches, now you have the start of a banking run online. Read this and wonder. I quote some bits:

To begin with, Second Life banks have something of an iffy reputation. Although most have acted responsibly, there have been some well-known disasters such as Ginko in which investors lost hundreds of thousands of Lindens. My own banking has been with JT Financial. After an event about discussing business in Second Life months ago, I was approached by one banker who invited me to do business with his institution. I put only a little cash it, wary that it might disappear. But it didn’t. Later on after winning some cash in a trivia contest, I put a little more in, investing a fraction of it in a little stock. The idea was for emergency funds in case something happened to the Lindens on me. I suppose another reason was some real-life habits are hard to break. Still, my funds were only a small fraction of the total amount of Lindens I’ve usually had.

See the picture of the online virtual banking run?

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

Companies could be forced to reveal off-balance sheet vehicles

This is such a d'oh statement that I cannot believe it, even after so many years in the financial markets. The concept of off-balance sheet is so ludicrous that there are frankly no logical or economic justifications for it. But we still have gigantic financial institutions with billions of dollars of exposure sitting in these off balance sheet vehicles which actually do impact the stock price and the assets/liabilities of the company. So what was exactly the point of having it on off balance sheet? So this attempt is a very good attempt. I quote:

Companies could be forced to develop a "parallel" balance sheet to better explain their off-balance sheet vehicles if preliminary ideas being discussed by international accounting standard setters are developed further.
The International Accounting Standards Board is discussing the issue and is due to publish a consultation paper - the first public step in its standard-setting process - later this year.
Off-balance sheet accounting practices have been criticised for their role in the credit crunch, where they are blamed for potentially obscuring the true risks banks face.
A number of leading banks, including Citigroup and HSBC, have announced they will be bringing structured investment vehicles back on to their books as a result of the market turmoil, sparking questions as to whether they should have been allowed to use the special accounting treatment in the first place.
The IASB project was launched before the credit crunch began and the IASB's technical staff are discussing the issue internally.
Some have suggested a form of parallel balance sheet on which entities such as SIVs could be explained in greater detail and the numbers would reconcile directly with those on the main balance sheet. This would mainly affect financial institutions.
Some details of off-balance sheet holdings are disclosed in footnotes to the accounts, but these are scattered throughout long reports and in many cases do not clearly match the actual balance sheet numbers, according to experts. The issue is due to be discussed by the board in the coming months and the full proposals have not yet been drafted. The parallel balance sheet is one possible option.
"At this stage, we're not trying to zero down to an answer. We'll be discussing this with a large number of interested parties," said Sir David Tweedie, head of the IASB. "What we're trying to do is simplify the accounting so banks can say, 'if it all blows up, this is what we face, but here are the reasons it won't'. That way, people have the information."
Auditors are conducting year-end audits of many of the biggest banks and have warned they will be paying particular attention to off-balance sheet activity and fair-value accounting - the practice by which banks mark their assets to current market prices.
Agreeing fair values has been made tougher this year by the complexity of the instruments and the drying-up of markets.

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

Tuesday, January 8

Eight business technology trends to watch from McKensey’s brainy chaps

Eight business technology trends to watch from McKenzie’s brainy chaps I read this article in the McKenzie Quarterly Magazine which talks about how eight emerging technology trends are transforming many businesses and markets. These trends fall within three broad areas of business activity: managing relationships, managing capital and assets, and leveraging information in new ways. Managing relationships

  1. Distributing cocreation

  2. Using consumers as innovators

  3. Tapping into a world of talent

  4. Extracting more value from interactions

Managing capital and assets

  1. Expanding the frontiers of automation

  2. Unbundling production from delivery

Leveraging information in new ways

  1. Putting more science into management

  2. Making businesses from information

I am afraid I am not impressed by their formulation because of three main factors. The first is the use of the word “cocreation”; second is the rather limp and tentative drawing of trend characteristics/boundaries and finally their conclusion which I quote: These trends are best seen as emerging patterns that can be applied in a wide variety of businesses. I am afraid these trends are spotty at best. For every example they quote to support their case for a trend, there are many cases which do not support their argument for the trend.

The first issue, the use of the word cocreation is clearly from the Martin Lukes School of Management. People who are familiar with Martin Lukes from the Financial Times would know that words such as creovation or cocreation do not really mean anything. The authors use this word to suggest that outsiders help create or innovate a firm’s products and/or processes. Well, yes, but since when did this become a new trend or something emerging? This pattern of new product development has been in economic history since centuries. Take the development of firearms, for example. The development of projectile weapons by firms has been driven by suppliers, customers and other external parties for centuries. How about glass making in Venice? Or how about cooking? Or how about bicycle manufacturing? Or what about weaving? The mind boggles, but neither the word makes sense nor is this an emerging trend. And as I showed with the example of firearms, this technology trend has been seen for a long period of time across a wide swathe of the world. Second, is that the boundaries that they draw are way too nebulous. Even when one talks about factors such as (#5) - expanding the frontiers of automation, they give the example of RFID. Well, yes, but that sounds like a solution going in search of a problem. More automation has issues, for example, if you automate say business processes, you lose firm knowledge of those processes. Why did industry have to pay such horrendous amounts to recover from the Y2K problem? Because ever increasing automation made sure that the knowledge was not captured as time went on. Remember when new automated luggage handling systems went into operations at many airports? They went completely belly up and caused tremendous issues. So automation should not be applied willy nilly. I quote: Automation is a good investment if it not only lowers costs but also helps users to get what they want more quickly and easily, though it may not be a good idea if it gives them unpleasant experiences. The trick is to strike the right balance between raising margins and making customers happy. I can only say, yes, d’oh, but is this is an emergent trend? Nope.

Finally, as I showed above, these trends are not uniquely defined, I am afraid. Again, it felt like they came up with the trends, and then looked around for examples to fit into those trends. Take the automation aspect mentioned above, for example and try to understand how the issue of call centre automation fits in? Think about the time when regiments started getting equipped with firearms? How about the time cavalry regiments started to get replaced by battle tanks? Or how about emails versus letters? Or how HR tasks have been automated to such an extent that you can well go from year to year without having had a chance to see your HR person. Now that’s a clear case of automation without a good business case, because you are increasingly ending up with dissatisfied employees and increasing attrition/turnover rates. Still, it is an interesting read, but would have been richer if it was written in a less pretentious tone and was more grounded in terms of determining a technology trend. Oh, and a bit of knowledge of history of commerce would help as well! All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Man pleads guilty to planning terrorist acts

This is curious. I have written about the lyrical terrorist before but I always thought she was a sole agent, a confused little girl with an atrocious poetry style. But the fact that she was in touch with these would be terrorists makes her and the entire situation much more serious.

Read and worry! I quote:

A 29-year-old man has admitted planning to fly to Pakistan to carry out "acts of terrorism". Sohail Qureshi is the first person to be convicted under a new law covering those found to be preparing terror attacks. He was arrested at Heathrow Airport in October 2006 carrying thousands of pounds in cash, a night sight, medical supplies and computer material for terrorist purposes.......
Qureshi, of Palmerston Road, Forest Gate, east London, was in email contact with Samina Malik, the so-called "lyrical terrorist" convicted in November of storing a library of material for terrorism.

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

Holy Cow!! spooky or what?

Check this out

an advertisement for the Pakistan International Airlines way back in 1979!

Origination here:

10 Outsourcing Predictions for 2008 (and One to Grow On)

A very good article on outsourcing predictions for 2008. No surprises and no quibbles either actually (strange no? lol)

– Stephanie Overby, CIO
December 17, 2007
It's been a dynamic year in the information technology outsourcing industry. The Indian rupee rose to record levels while the U.S. dollar declined against most major currencies, impacting global IT service providers and customers alike. Merger and acquisition activity went into high gear (with the exception of poor Affiliated Computer Services, which tried—and failed— for the second time to go private). The consolidation activity was most notable for the inroads Indian providers made into the U.S. market by buying local providers. And Mumbai-based Tata Consultancy Services announced a $1.2 billion IT service deal with The Nielsen Company, technically the biggest offshore contract to date, hinting at the increasing maturation of the outsourcing market. Buyers of IT services also began to look beyond India to balance their offshore outsourcing portfolio, from Shanghai to São Paulo and more than a few spots in between.
MORE ON Outsourcing
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According to the predictions IT outsourcing analysts are making, the headline for 2008 in the IT service market could be "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Experts expect the rupee to continue its rise, keeping global IT service providers and customers on edge. Industry consolidation will continue. The offshore outsourcing market will continue to develop, in India and beyond.
But don't expect everything to remain status quo in 2008. This could be the year call centers shape up, IT service providers figure out a way to provide more of the innovation their clients crave, and outsourcing customers finally get smart. Read on for more trends to keep an eye on in the new year, and add your own forecasts.
1. That Darn Dollar
The India rupee has risen more than 11 percent in value against the U.S. dollar so far this year. In the absence of government intervention, it has nowhere to go but up. The continued decline of the dollar could be difficult for service providers to absorb. During 2007,
Infosys reported a currency impact of 2.8 percent on Q3 profitability, Wipro contemplated six-day workweeks, and EDS and Mphasis considered billing clients in rupees, while customers kept a close watch for other symptoms of currency stress. If the currency gap widens next year, expect Indian outsourcing providers (and multinationals with a big presence on the subcontinent) to start indexing their prices to local salaries, promoting other offshore locations like China and Latin America, delay hiring of new staff, and building currency hedges into contracts, says offshore outsourcing consultancy neoIT.
Oh, and Canada? With the loonie having edged off the greenback, the U.S. neighbor to the north's days as an attractive nearshore outsourcing destination are numbered.
2. Caution: Consolidation Ahead
They're cash-rich. They have high market valuations. And they're hungry for customers. They're the industry's leading providers and you can expect them to gobble up smaller competitors in 2008.
Tier-2 providers like ACS, Perot Systems and others have struggled, unable to attain the 30 percent growth of global providers and lacking the scale of
IBM or EDS. As a result, they will become acquisition targets for larger providers or private equity firms, says neoIT. (Third time may be the charm, ACS!)
U.S.-based providers may be more likely to acquire midsize providers than their offshore brethren. Wipro got attention for its
purchase of U.S.-based infrastructure service provider Infocrossing in 2007, but caution will rule the day for Indian vendors in 2008. They'll be unlikely to purchase a vendor with more than $1 billion in annual revenues, posits neoIT.
Indian IT service providers, however, will continue to set up local delivery service centers in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, says outsourcing adviser EquaTerra. Likewise, American and European service providers will continue expanding their offshore presence to remain price competitive. PA Consulting Group predicts the emergence of more alliances between Western and Indian companies this year, as well.
3. The Politics of Outsourcing
During the 2004 U.S. presidential election, offshoring was a major topic of debate. Outside of the political arena, leading industry providers and their customers avoided big announcements in hopes of deflecting potentially negative publicity. (They weren't always successful. Thanks a lot, Lou Dobbs!)
The 2008 election? Not so much. Offshore outsourcing hasn't made the short list of issues being debated by would-be leaders in 2007 and neoIT doesn't expect it to gain traction. Nonetheless, industry leaders and offshore customers will continue to hold offshore cards close to chest. NeoIT expects large companies to avoid announcing substantial agreements or employee reductions during 2008. Apparently, the phrase "no publicity is bad publicity" still does not apply in the IT service field. The result could be a backlog of unsigned agreements pushing into 2009, says neoIT (which could put customers in the driver's seat during negotiations this year).
4. Passages Beyond India
Let's just establish this fact first: India will remain the market leader in offshore IT services. Period.
However, as the Indian market continues to be impacted by wage inflation, talent attrition and infrastructure strains, clients are looking outside the subcontinent for alternatives, say experts. Some companies with captive centers in Bangalore worry that the costs there could equal what they'd spend at home within five years, says neoIT. Thus, 2008 will be the biggest year to date of expansion of IT service delivery capabilities beyond India. Think Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, China, and to a lesser degree, the Middle East and Africa.
And while everyone else has been focused on India for the past half a decade, alternative locations across around the world have been quietly investing in the necessary infrastructure (roads, airports, telecommunications, education, etc.) to attract IT and business process services, says neoIT. That's good news for customers who suffered through India's growing pains if, indeed, these emerging locations can leapfrog India on those issues. Of course, none of these new offshore destinations, with the exception of China, has the potential scale of India. But for now, the intent is to supplement India, not replace it.
5. Flight from the Big Cities
In India and beyond, outsourcing hot spots have become oversaturated, so many providers and customers are looking to set up shop elsewhere. Call it the
exodus to the tier-2 cities and expect to see more of it in 2008.
The Indian economy overall is growing at 9 percent a year. A shortage of talent is emerging in the top cities across India, local universities are no longer providing an adequate number of qualified candidates, and recent tier-1 city grads are increasingly wary of starting at the bottom on the graveyard shift because they've got other options, according to neoIT. That's creating movement into smaller, less saturated cities.
And India is not alone. Monterrey, Mexico, for example, is projecting a shortfall of software engineers in 2008. And the same story is occurring in dozens of outsourcing hot spots around the world.
As a result some IT service providers are jumping to second-tier cities from the get-go, in an attempt to sidestep the rush to set up shop in a major metropolis. "You can take some of the best practices from India and look at second-tier cities to set up a large center," says Juan F. Ferrara, chief operating officer for the Americas for India-based IT service provider Genpact. "You're already seeing that in Brazil and Argentina...where [companies] are already in second- and third-tier cities."
6. The New, New Sales Pitch: Transformation
Forget cost cutting and efficiencies. Outsourcers are going to pitch themselves as partners in business transformation. Think you've heard that before?
You have.
But this time they mean it. So say the experts. Customers want more than cost savings. They want access to great talent, vertical expertise, process maturity, flexibility, the great and powerful "value add." IT buyers want an outsourcing provider who can actually enhance the client's revenues and not just their own, says PA Consulting. So if vendors want to keep attracting those clients, they're going to have to pony up.
"All companies are realizing that an IT outsourcing contract is valid for about as long as it takes the ink to dry on the signature page," says Shawn Fields, vice president of managed services at Norcross, Ga.-based Optimus Solutions. "Vendors who understand this and build flexibility into their contractual structure that allows their clients to change services will find themselves distancing their companies from their competitors. Innovation will emerge as a deciding factor for ITO [IT outsourcing] competitors."
Even in areas that are typically cost-centric, like offshore application development and maintenance, the emphasis will shift pure labor arbitrage projects to higher-value work such as process improvement and application portfolio rationalization, according to the Everest Research Institute.
The catch is, of course, you'll have to pay more.
Just like we told you. Forrester notes that rates for consulting services are already on the rise, and warns that IT service buyers can expect to spend more on outsourcing services in 2008 while deciphering which market changes warrant the upcharges and which don't.
7. Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM) Grows Up
Remote infrastructure management (exactly what it sounds like: managing servers, databases, networks and security, and applications from offsite) has been possible for several years. But next year may be the year when buyers really grasp this alternative to infrastructure outsourcing. These asset-light deals—so called because the provider does not take on the assets such as the client's data centers or desktops as part of the contract—will increase as clients get used to the idea that the "command and control" center can be physically removed (and in the case of this largely offshored RIM option very far removed) from the physical data center.
To date, this segment of the outsourcing market has been growing at about 20 percent a year, according to neoIT. The Everest Research Institute predicts the RIM market will pick up to the tune of 60 to 70 percent growth in 2008. Besides increasing comfort levels with the RIM concept, neoIT also suspects that an economic downturn in the U.S. could fuel greater demand for the lower-cost infrastructure outsourcing option. And the transitions can happen on the fly: most data centers and network operating centers (NOCs) are managed with a common set of tools, service providers already possess operational expertise in them, and adaptation to any client-specific needs can happen relatively quickly, says neoIT.
Asset-light deals could be a boon for IT service providers, as the profit margins are better than the traditional infrastructure outsourcing model. However, there is a downside for vendors. An asset-light deal brings in about 70 percent less in total contract value to the provider than the traditional, assets-included deal, says Everest Research Institute. Net result: better profit margins, but less top-line growth. But, experts say it's the way of the future. As a result, traditional infrastructure outsourcing will itself show a decline...but not until 2010, says Everest.
8. Call Center Call to Arms?
Call centers are the most mature segment of the offshore outsourcing industry. And yet...they're not. Clients have become dissatisfied with the sweatshop mentality that leads to turnover levels from 60 to 150 percent a year, says neoIT.
Part of the problem is, of course, the
nature of call center work. One industry provider reports that it loses half its staff during the first 100 days of work, says neoIT, but turnover levels out after that.
Nonetheless, clients are demanding improvement. And providers are beginning to respond, says neoIT, by creating more
"client-centric" solutions, such as unique scripts and efforts to connect employees to the client's corporate culture. NeoIT predicts that call center operators will up the ante in 2008, assessing new locations and allocating personnel to customer-specific solutions centers instead of having massive pools of personnel taking calls for multiple clients.
9. The Death of the Megadeal (Really)
The end of the
outsourcing megadeal—those $1 billion-plus contracts that get the most attention from the media—has been portended for three years now, but this year may be the year those predictions finally come true.
It's simple. "Few Fortune 100 companies remain that could sign new megacontracts," says Ross Tisnovsky, vice president of IT outsourcing Research at Everest Research Institute.
Of course, big outsourcing deals won't disappear. The focus will be on their renewals and renegotiations, and outsourcers will take the pricing gloves off to woo clients away from their incumbent providers. "We expect buyers will gain pricing benefits due to the pressure suppliers will have to grow signings and contend with increased competition for contract renewals," says Tisnovsky. "We also foresee long-term price decline in the (large enterprise) infrastructure outsourcing market due to an influx of new suppliers and increased competition."
10. Green Clauses Hit Contracts
Although "green" IT service is little more than
marketing hype to date, the trend will take root and become measurable and attainable, says neoIT. While that's debatable, one thing is certain—interest is going to increase among outsourcing customers this year. More than 21 percent of publicly traded companies that outsource have added "green policies and performance" demands to their vendor contracts in 2007, and 94 percent plan on adding such clauses during renegotiations, according to the Brown Wilson Group.
That may light a fire under outsourcing providers to decrease their carbon footprints by creating greener data centers, investing in environmentally friendlier buildings and campuses, and developing eco-friendly processes and policies.
This is an area where smart small to midsize IT service firms will put a stake in the ground. "A smaller player can be audited more easily, can take carbon reduction measures more easily and can be more flexible about changing traditional practices," says U.K.-based outsourcing researcher Mark Kobayashi-Hillary. "It could be a great source of market differentiation." .
11. Outsourcing Buyers Get Smart(er)
In 2008, many outsourcing customers will be entering third and fourth generation outsourcing contracts—either renewing, rebidding or restructuring their deals. And according to PA Consulting, many of those IT organizations have honed their internal capabilities for vendor management and governance over the years. That maturity means they're making smarter decisions, negotiating better terms, demanding better business-driven metrics and getting better at outsourcing lifecycle management. They may also start to create contract terms that shift more of the risk to their IT service vendors, says neoIT.
Of course, there will be plenty of new entrants to the outsourcing market in 2008 who may choose to learn their own outsourcing lessons the hard way...and plenty of challenges in this dynamic market to test the veterans' hard-won skills as well.
© 2007 CXO Media Inc.

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

Why Indian CEOs Are in Great Demand?

People should really know about statistics and the fallacy of generalising based upon few samples. Take this post for example. 3 main reasons and I quote:

1. Because of their experience with democracy and markets, plus the English language, Indians seem better able to exist in the ranks of large Western organizations than the nationals of the other BRICs.
2. Indian companies also are proving adept at absorbing Western management practices, particularly from the likes of General Electric. So the companies that started out as mere outsourcers, such as Infosys and Wipro, are now vying to emerge as full-fledged multinationals that can compete against Accenture and IBM.
3. A third factor is that after being starved for capital for so many years, the Bombay stock market is at an all-time high and that is fueling the market capitalizations of many Indian companies.

On the face of it, yes, great news, Indian CEO's rampaging all over, but if you delve deeper, none work out. Look at Malaysia or Philippines, same thing with democracy and markets. Absorbing western management practises, erm, has he forgotten the history behind the East India Company? or the fact that India was generating almost 25% of the world's value addition before the Brits came, so what's this big deal about western management practises? And what practises? And finally, the indian companies were not facing a problem because of lack of capital but because of regulation, see how Tata and Birla expanded before liberalisation took place. Also, a statement like, @money is not a problem because of FX reserves@ is such a stunning economic clanger that I dont even know where to start. And just what does that have to do with Indian Managers?

Bah! If this is the advice one gets for appointing management, then all I can say is to pray to some Gods.

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

Two Islamic Finance Consultation Documents Launched

The Islamic Financial Services Board has launched two documents for consultation, namely on
Capital Adequacy Requirements for Sukuk Securitisations and Real Estate Investment Guiding Principles on Governance for Islamic Collective Investment Schemes. Both are interesting topics. The first talks about better capital and risk management when exposed to Sukuk's (also connected to the Basel II debate, which is a different argument and debate altogether!) and the second one is more about the REIT structures within Islamic Finance.

Do read and reflect. I quote the press release

The ED of Capital Adequacy Requirements for Suk«k Securitisations and Real Estate Investment deals with aspects of regulatory capital requirements for institutions offering Islamic financial services (IIFS) in respect of Suk«k that are not covered in IFSB-1. These include:
capital requirements for IIFS that are holders of Suk«k; and
capital treatment of the exposures of an IIFS where it is, or acts in a capacity such that it is considered to be, the originator of a Suk«k issue, or as an issuer or servicer of a Suk«k issuance.
In respect to real estate investment, the ED deals primarily with:
capital requirements for an IIFS that invests its own funds in real estate investment activities; and
capital treatment of exposures in real estate investment activities where an IIFS either commingles the funds of investment account holders with those of shareholders (and other non-profit-sharing investment account holders) or otherwise invests the funds of unrestricted investment account holders.
The ED of Guiding Principles on Governance for Islamic Collective Investment Schemes aims to complement IFSB-3 and other internationally recognized governance standards, by reinforcing international best practices while addressing the specificities in the governance of Islamic Collective Investment Schemes (ICIS).
The contents of the ED are divided into four parts:
Part I relates to the approach to general governance, whereby the adoption of good governance practices as prescribed in other internationally recognised governance standards is reinforced;
Part II addresses transparency and disclosure and aims to improve the information environment for ICIS investors as well as to build on, amongst other things, the disclosure requirements recommended under the IFSB Disclosures to Promote Transparency and Market Discipline for Institutions Offering Islamic Financial Services (Excluding Islamic Insurance (Takaful) Institutions and Islamic Mutual Funds);
Part III focuses on compliance with Shari'ah rules and principles and addresses various specificities of ICIS that include (a) the process of portfolio screening by ICIS Operators; (b) the role of Shari'ah scholars in monitoring consistent compliance with the Shari'ah; and (c) the process of purification of tainted income; and
Part IV examines additional protection for ICIS investors and highlights the issues of adequacy of representation for investors in the organs of governance of ICIS as well as some prevalent practices (identified from an IFSB survey) that require appropriate oversight

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

First Sharia Compliant ETF's launched in the UK

This news sort of went under the radar but is very very important for many reasons. But first the announcement by Barclays and I quote:

LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays said on Monday its funds arm has launched the UK's first Shariah-compliant exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and that it has formed a panel of Islamic scholars to supervise such products.
Shariah forbids Muslims receiving interest payments and from investing in companies involved in the production or sale of pork, alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling and non-Islamically structured finance or life insurance.
Barclays Global Investors BGI said the panel has issued a fatwah (edict) on the three new ETFs, which will track MSCI indexes of Shariah-compliant companies.
These are the iShares MSCI World Islamic, which consists of 793 stocks; the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Islamic, tracking an index of 306 stocks; and the iShares MSCI USA Islamic, with 276 stocks.
ETFs are index-based mutual funds that trade on exchanges like stocks and which offer investors exposure to a sector or market without the holder having to own the underlying asset.
They have become very popular in recent years, thanks to their low fees.
The panel, which comprises Islamic scholars Dr Mohammed Elgari, Sheikh Nizam Yacuby and Dr Abu Ghuddah, will certify that products are Shariah-compliant, provide advice on fund operations and investment methods, and carry out overall supervision of funds' compliance with Shariah principles. "Islamic finance represents a very big opportunity for the London market, with a growth rate of around 10-15 percent and a market size of 250 billion pounds."

More comments here:
Commenting on the launch, David Shrimpton head of product management and development at the LSE, said “The launch marks another important step in London’s development as a global centre for Islamic finance. For the first time both British Muslims and the growing number of investors from the Middle East accessing our markets can benefit from the low-cost, instant diversification offered by a range of ETFs while investing in a way that is consistent with Shari’ah principles.
“The range of Shari’ah compliant products listed on the LSE’s main market continues to grow. In the past year and a half we have admitted 14 Islamic finance instruments, or sukuk, to trading on our markets, which have raised in excess of £5 billion.”
The LSE is playing a key part in the drive by the UK Government and the City to enhance London's position as a global gateway for Islamic finance, and is part of HM Treasury’s Islamic Finance Experts Group, which is currently examining the feasibility of the UK Government becoming an issuer of wholesale sterling Islamic financial instruments.
The UK was the first European country to develop a tax system designed to remove obstacles to the development of Islamic finance and the first in Europe to authorise wholesale and retail Islamic banks.

For the first time, a common investment product based upon exchange trading, regulated and available worldwide under stringent regulatory protections is available. Very soon, the standardisation of this market will be driven by the market and not by some odd sod scholars who are busy throwing theological stones at each other. ETF's are extremely transparent and since it is market regulated, the imposition of a structure will mean that this rather ad-hoc market will be managed properly.

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

Monday, January 7

The Iranian Pakistani Gas Deal Criticism

I am absolutely against this mare's nest of a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan and have written about this way back in 2004. Nothing has changed. But something caught my eye today. The Iranians are signing a deal with Pakistan itself instead of waiting for the Indians to make their minds up. This is pure politics, no economics nor pure energy! I quote:

Criticism In Iran Over Gas Deal With Pakistan

Iran's ambassador to Pakistan has announced that at the end of this month Iran and Pakistan will sign a deal for Iran to supply gas to Pakistan.

The announcement came a day after the visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Menouchehr Mottaki to Pakistan.

The deal has come under criticism in Iran. Parliamentary committee for National Security and Foreign Policy member Mohammad Mohammedi stated that Iran was supplying gas to Pakistan too cheaply; MPs and economists claimed that the deal was against Iran's own long-term interests; the Majlis (Parliamentary) Strategic Research Center stated that Iran's gas reserves for the next decade are sufficient for domestic consumption only; Majlis Energy Affairs Committee head warned that implementing the deal would force Iran to import oil to meet its own energy needs.

Sources: Fars, Iran, January 5, 2008; Aftab-e Yazd, Iran, January 6, 2008; IRNA, Iran, January 6, 2008

The Assyrians protest against being called as Arabs!

After my essay on Assyrians, I keep a bit of an eye out on what Assyrians are up to. So I was quite curious when i came across this page about Assyrians rejecting being linked with Arabs. I have taken the liberty to quote the full page here. The historical record that this chap is quoting has its holes, for example on the mathematics bit, or the medicine bit, but that is not the reason why I am putting this up. I am putting this up because this shows clearly how history is being used to form national identity. Whether or not the history is actually based upon generally agreed facts is besides the point. Read and wonder!

What Arab Civilization?

May 8th, 2006

By Peter BetBasoo

EDITOR'S NOTE: There is great need for setting the record straight on the history of the Middle East. The revisionism of the last few years will lead Western Civilization into bondage. The following letter by Assyrian scholar Peter BetBasoo is a very important step in the right direction. It was sent by Assyrian scholar Peter BetBasoo to Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard Corporation, in response to a speech she presented in Minneapolis on September 26, 2001. It is reprinted by permission. Please read and pass it on to others.

Dear Madame Fiorina:

It is with great interest that I read your speech delivered on September 26, 2001, titled "Technology, Business and Our way of Life: What's Next" [sic]. I was particularly interested in the story you told at the end of your speech, about the Arab/Muslim civilization. As an Assyrian, a non-Arab, Christian native of the Middle East, whose ancestors reach back to 5000 B.C., I wish to clarify some points you made in this little story, and to alert you to the dangers of unwittingly being drawn into the Arabist/Islamist ideology, which seeks to assimilate all cultures and religions into the Arab/Islamic fold.

I know you are a very busy woman, but please find ten minutes to read what follows, as it is a perspective that you will not likely get from anywhere else. I will answer some of the specific points you made in your speech, then conclude with a brief perspective on this Arabist/Islamist ideology.

Arabs and Muslims appeared on the world scene in 630 A.D., when the armies of Muhammad began their conquest of the Middle East. We should be very clear that this was a military conquest, not a missionary enterprise, and through the use of force, authorized by a declaration of a Jihad against infidels, Arabs/Muslims were able to forcibly convert and assimilate non-Arabs and non-Muslims into their fold. Very few indigenous communities of the Middle East survived this -- primarily Assyrians, Jews, Armenians and Coptics (of Egypt).

Having conquered the Middle East, Arabs placed these communities under a Dhimmi (see the book DHIMMI, by Bat Ye'Or) system of governance, where the communities were allowed to rule themselves as religious minorities (Christians, Jews and Zoroastrian). These communities had to pay a tax (called a Jizzya in Arabic) that was, in effect, a penalty for being non-Muslim, and that was typically 80% in times of tolerance and up to 150% in times of oppression. This tax forced many of these communities to convert to Islam, as it was designed to do.

You state, "its architects designed buildings that defied gravity." I am not sure what you are referring to, but if you are referring to domes and arches, the fundamental architectural breakthrough of using a parabolic shape instead of a spherical shape for these structures was made by the Assyrians more than 1300 years earlier, as evidenced by their archaeological record.

You state, "its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption." The fundamental basis of modern mathematics had been laid down not hundreds but thousands of years before by Assyrians and Babylonians, who already knew of the concept of zero, of the Pythagorean Theorem, and of many, many other developments expropriated by Arabs/Muslims (see HISTORY OF BABYLONIAN MATHEMATICS by Otto E. Neugebauer).

You state, "its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease." The overwhelming majority of these doctors (99%) were Assyrians. In the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries Assyrians began a systematic translation of the Greek body of knowledge into Assyrian. At first, they concentrated on the religious works but then quickly moved to science, philosophy and medicine. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, and many others were translated into Assyrian, and from Assyrian into Arabic. It is these Arabic translations which the Moors brought with them into Spain, and which the Spaniards translated into Latin and spread throughout Europe, thus igniting the European Renaissance.

By the sixth century A.D., Assyrians had begun exporting back to Byzantia their own works on science, philosophy and medicine. In the field of medicine, the Bakhteesho Assyrian family produced nine generations of physicians, and founded the great medical school at Gundeshapur (Iran). Also in the area of medicine, (the Assyrian) Hunayn ibn-Ishaq's textbook on ophthalmology, written in 950 A.D., remained the authoritative source on the subject until 1800 A.D.

In the area of philosophy, the Assyrian philosopher Job of Edessa developed a physical theory of the universe, in the Assyrian language, that rivaled Aristotle's theory, and that sought to replace matter with forces (a theory that anticipated some ideas in quantum mechanics, such as the spontaneous creation and destruction of matter that occurs in the quantum vacuum).

One of the greatest Assyrian achievements of the fourth century was the founding of the first university in the world, the School of Nisibis, which had three departments, theology, philosophy and medicine, and which became a magnet and center of intellectual development in the Middle East. The statutes of the School of Nisibis, which have been preserved, later became the model upon which the first Italian university was based (see THE STATUTES OF THE SCHOOL OF NISIBIS by Arthur Voobus).

When Arabs and Islam swept through the Middle East in 630 A.D., they encountered 600 years of Assyrian Christian civilization, with a rich heritage, a highly developed culture, and advanced learning institutions. It is this civilization that became the foundation of the Arab civilization.

You state, "Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration." This is a bit melodramatic. In fact, the astronomers you refer to were not Arabs but Chaldeans and Babylonians (of present day south-Iraq), who for millennia were known as astronomers and astrologers, and who were forcibly Arabized and Islamized -- so rapidly that by 750 A.D. they had disappeared completely.

You state, "its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things." There is very little literature in the Arabic language that comes from this period you are referring to (the Koran is the only significant piece of literature), whereas the literary output of the Assyrians and Jews was vast. The third largest corpus of Christian writing, after Latin and Greek, is by the Assyrians in the Assyrian language (also called Syriac).

You state, "when other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others." This is a very important issue you raise, and it goes to the heart of the matter of what Arab/Islamic civilization represents. I reviewed a book titled HOW GREEK SCIENCE PASSED TO THE ARABS, in which author De Lacy O'Leary lists the significant translators and interpreters of Greek science. Of the 22 scholars listed, 20 were Assyrians, one was Persian and one an Arab. I state at the end of my review: "The salient conclusion which can be drawn from O'Leary's book is that Assyrians played a significant role in the shaping of the Islamic world via the Greek corpus of knowledge. If this is so, one must then ask the question, what happened to the Christian communities which made them lose this great intellectual enterprise they had established? One can ask this same question of the Arabs. Sadly, O'Leary's book does not answer this question, and we must look elsewhere for the answer." I did not answer this question I posed in the review because it was not the place to answer it, but the answer is very clear, the Christian Assyrian community was drained of its population through forced conversion to Islam (by the Jizzya), and once the community had dwindled below a critical threshold, it ceased producing the scholars that were the intellectual driving force of the Islamic civilization, and that is when the so called "Golden Age of Islam" came to an end (about 850 A.D.).

Islam the religion itself was significantly molded by Assyrians and Jews (see NESTORIAN INFLUENCE ON ISLAM and HAGARISM: THE MAKING OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD).

Arab/Islamic civilization is not a progressive force, it is a regressive force; it does not give impetus, it retards. The great civilization you describe was not an Arab/Muslim accomplishment, it was an Assyrian accomplishment that Arabs expropriated and subsequently lost when they drained, through the forced conversion of Assyrians to Islam, the source of the intellectual vitality that propelled it. What other Arab/Muslim civilization has risen since? What other Arab/Muslim successes can we cite?

You state, "and perhaps we can learn a lesson from his [Suleiman] example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions." In fact, the Ottomans were extremely oppressive to non-Muslims. For example, young Christian boys were forcefully taken from their families, usually at the age of 8-10, and inducted into the Janissaries, (yeniceri in Turkish) where they were Islamized and made to fight for the Ottoman state. What literary, artistic or scientific achievements of the Ottomans can we point to? We can, on the other hand, point to the genocide of 750,000 Assyrians, 1.5 million Armenians and 400,000 Greeks in World War One by the Kemalist "Young Turk" government. This is the true face of Islam.

Arabs/Muslims are engaged in an explicit campaign of destruction and expropriation of cultures and communities, identities and ideas. Wherever Arab/Muslim civilization encounters a non-Arab/Muslim one, it attempts to destroy it (as the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan were destroyed, as Persepolis was destroyed by the Ayotollah Khomeini). This is a pattern that has been recurring since the advent of Islam, 1400 years ago, and is amply substantiated by the historical record. If the "foreign" culture cannot be destroyed, then it is expropriated, and revisionist historians claim that it is and was Arab, as is the case of most of the Arab "accomplishments" you cited in your speech. For example, Arab history texts in the Middle East teach that Assyrians were Arabs, a fact that no reputable scholar would assert, and that no living Assyrian would accept. Assyrians first settled Nineveh, one of the major Assyrian cities, in 5000 B.C., which is 5630 years before Arabs came into that area. Even the word 'Arab' is an Assyrian word, meaning "Westerner" (the first written reference to Arabs was by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, 800 B.C., in which he tells of conquering the "ma'rabayeh" -- Westerners. See THE MIGHT THAT WAS ASSYRIA by H. W. F. Saggs).

Even in America this Arabization policy continues. On October 27th a coalition of seven Assyrian and Maronite organizations sent an official letter to the Arab American Institute asking it to stop identifying Assyrians and Maronites as Arabs, which it had been deliberately doing.

There are minorities and nations struggling for survival in the Arab/Muslim ocean of the Middle East and Africa (Assyrians, Armenians, Coptics, Jews, southern Sudanese, Ethiopians, Nigerians...), and we must be very sensitive not to unwittingly and inadvertently support Islamic fascism and Arab Imperialism, with their attempts to wipe out all other cultures, religions and civilizations. It is incumbent upon each one of us to do our homework and research when making statements and speeches about these sensitive matters.

I hope you found this information enlightening. You may contact me at for further questions.

Thank you for your consideration.

Peter BetBasoo

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