Saturday, March 29

Grain having 2 prices in the same day, place, time?

The markets are inefficient and strange? you dont say!

Economists note there should not be two prices for one thing at the same place and time. Could a drugstore sell two identical tubes of toothpaste, and charge 50 cents more for one of them? Of course not.

But, in effect, exactly that has been happening, repeatedly and mysteriously, in trading that sets prices for corn, soybeans and wheat — three of America’s biggest crops and, lately, popular targets for investors pouring into the volatile commodities market. Economists who have been studying this phenomenon say they are at a loss to explain it.

Whatever the reason, the price for a bushel of grain set in the derivatives markets has been substantially higher than the simultaneous price in the cash market.

When that happens, no one can be exactly sure which is the accurate price in these crucial commodity markets, an uncertainty that can influence food prices and production decisions around the world.

Obama and Hillary have converted to Hinduism

Hat Tip: Sepia Mutiny

My views on death penalty

Somebody asked me about this so I sent him an email (copied here).

The death penalty is wrong, one reason that I do not like is is the fallibility of our justice systems and second, one cannot violate fundamental rights even for people who violate fundamental rights. So, for example, you cannot remove the right to a fair trial from people who have removed the right of a fair trial (as with despots). Similarly, you cannot remove the right of life even for people who have removed life from others....

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Friday, March 28

A sign of decreasing terrorism - increase in alcohol consumption

Now this is a very interesting situation. As and how the Islamist terrorism in Kashmir is getting under control, the alcohol consumption is going up. Now that's an amusing way of getting a picture of the level of terrorism.

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

Goodbye to rip-off Britain

This column spoke to me so much that I cannot believe it. When i first came to England, I was gobsmacked at the prices and at this moment, I am still gob-smacked. I no longer purchase water, just a glass of tap water would be just fine. I am ok with tea, I have my PG Tips tea bags, and would like a bit of hot water and a bit of cow juice and I am fine. I dont like spending too much, but when the cost of a day out at the movies with the family pushes £50 quid, then one wonders what on earth is happening. Ok, so I can afford it, but I am not stupid.

But read this and weep. And know why I am not going to be voting Labour this time. Gordon Brown is useless and I have no confidence in him.

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

Machine Gun use is not gun-crime, its WAR!

I was gobsmacked when I read this.

The Garda Commissioner is to deploy the Emergency Response Unit to Limerick in the next few days following his discussions with the Justice Minister this afternoon.The decision follows an escalation in feud activity, including a machine gun attack on six houses in the St Mary's Park area of the city on Tuesday.The Commissioner briefed Brian Lenihan on Garda efforts to combat criminal activity in Limerick when they met earlier today.Commissioner Murphy said the ERU would provide back-up to existing armed patrols in an effort to crack-down on gun crime in the city.

When machine guns are used, for crying out loud, that's a war going on, not gun crime. Come on folks, this is not a joke!

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

Thursday, March 27

Why these photos just tear my heart apart...

I wrote earlier about one of my childhood memories about Bangladeshi refugees fighting over food.

And now I got another photo which just killed me and I am enclosing another one from Sudan. This is what we force our children to do. Criminal.

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

Finding Health Insurance if You Are Self-Employed

This problem with Health Insurance is strangling USA, its entrepreneurship and the competitiveness of its economy. If such wide swathes of its population are un-insured or under-insured, then it is in trouble!

Read and Weep!

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

Hedge Funds versus Charities

I first read this article where the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali told off hedge fund managers for not being charitable enough and I quote:

“The turmoil in the markets is almost certainly the result of amoral forces,” Nazir-Ali told his flock. “Those with power need to ensure that the poor are not disproportionately affected.”

“From possessiveness we need to move to gratitude for what we have,” he added. “When that happens, hedge fund managers and directors of companies can indeed go into the kingdom of heaven ahead of the chief priests and elders.”

I was quite amused by this statement. Are you really sure that hedgies and Directors are motivated by the possibility of entering heaven earlier than priests and elders? I dont think so, Bishop.

But then, it got me thinking. Bear with me...

Let us compare them with a charity, ok? A charity generally spends about 13-14% on management and administration fees. In other words, out of £100 that it gets in contributions and grants, on an average, it manages to spend £86 on the objective (on food, orphans, animals, starving rare dung beetles, or what have you). I have not heard of charities investing their own funds so I am presuming that whatever comes in, goes straight out less admin fees. (If they do invest, say in gilts, assuming 1.2% return, you are looking at perhaps a quid or two more maximum).

But look at hedge funds. Hedge funds generally charge 2% management fee and 20% of the return. Last year, the average hedge fund return after fees was about 13%. So lets apply those figures to a theoretical £100 investment in a hedge fund. £100 less 2% management fee =£98. A return of 13% gives me £12.74 and I take away 20% from it leaving me with £10.192 return. So I withdraw £98 as my principal, add £10.192 and I end up with £108.192 compared to £86 from a charity.

Assume tax equalisation happens and even if charities are tax free and hedge fund returns for charity taxed, taxation is not that much. So if you consider that the return is taxed at 20%, we will still be quids-in compared to a charity.

So, basically, if the objective was value addition and giving the maximum possible benefit out of contributions, then you will be better off giving money to a Hedge Fund and getting that money to the ultimate recipient. I know this is very simplistic, and you cannot really invest say a typical £10 donation into a hedge fund, but that's just logistics, a collection logistics system can be easily established which feeds small sums of money into the fund.

This reminds me of the day when I was asked by somebody to advice on investment opportunities around the world while their cost of capital was about 10% and expected return was about 14%. They particularly wanted to invest in Russia and my suggestion to them was to forget about setting up a manufacturing plant in Russia and to invest their cash in Russian Government Bonds, which were, at that time, providing over 35% return....

As a matter of fact, the Bishop should consider his own backyard. His pension fund is £125 million in the deficit with assets of £325m (as at 30/9/05). The actuarial letter of 15th of February 2006 is predicting that they are working on the assumption that the current return would be about 1.2% (if invested in index linked gilts) or 2.2% (if invested in equities) (See here for details of the Anglican Church's pension fund from where I am quoting these figures). So actually, I would rather suggest to the Bishop that he doesn't moan about the hedgies but take his £325 million and quietly go to a fund of funds fund and ask them to pretty please improve his pension otherwise they are looking at a massive gaping hole of almost a third of assets. And you cant really sell off the Rochester Cathedral to fund pensions, can you?

But that said, hedge funds are massive philanthropists. Take for example, The Children's Investment Fund. A very large proportion of its profits are given to The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, one of the largest charities in the UK. (Disclosure: I am currently working in an institution which is linked to this hedge fund) (Take a look at some of the external links on the charitable activities on the wiki page here). So before he takes off and blames hedgies, he might want to rethink the benefit of hedge funds!

Wednesday, March 26

African Union Troops help take back Anjouan

I am not sure how many of you know but there is a wee bit of a war going on in a tiny corner of the world in the Indian Ocean(See here for a bit of a background to this war). So some of the regional African heavies got together, threw their weight around, created an army and went to kick out the chaps who declared independence. Now this step was very interesting for so many reasons. But as usual, I had some stupid questions:

  • So this step was carried out without UN blessings. How many of the howlers at the Iraq war out there are howling equally at this imperialistic step? Speak up, guys, I cannot hear you loud and clear....

  • So this was a dump on a secessionist self determination exercise. How many of the secessionist self-determinist howlers are howling equally at this step? Hello? cant hear you..

  • So Anjouan declared independence. I must have missed the announcements of recognition by USA, Germany, UK etc. just like they did for Kosovo. Where are the police forces and aid convoys from the EU?

  • When is the African Union going to deal in a similar way with Congo, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Western Sahara..?

  • Typically, Anjouan is the island which is most economically active and rich. So this is basically a fight over resources... basically, it was the people who do not have money who went to kick out the people who have money because the people who have money were refusing to pay the people without money....

  • The country was sent to the dogs by some exceedingly stupid economic policies of the state directed kind. Who will repair this and provide aid to fix these issues? The invasion has immediately mucked up the economics of that island for the next many years anyway. The only basis remaining is, whoops, we mucked up again, because of our political, economic and military policies, our people are AGAIN starving, please help with money, food, equipment.... (tens of coups since independence, welcome to paradise on earth...)....

Thinking about all these questions, the quote "is hammam me hum saab nange" (In this bathhouse we are all naked) comes to mind.

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

Real MBA's of genius

This was so funny, saw this in the dealbreaker today. And I was actually corresponding with old school mates of mine and offering them the possibility of co-authoring a case study! But there you go

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for those who were thinking the worst is over, read on...

h/t: fintag.

Goldman Sachs forecasts global credit losses stemming from the current market turmoil will reach $1.2 trillion, with Wall Street accounting for nearly 40 percent of the losses.
U.S. leveraged institutions, which include banks, brokers-dealers, hedge funds and government-sponsored enterprises, will suffer roughly $460 billion in credit losses after loan loss provisions, Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a research note released late on Monday.
Losses from this group of players are crucial because they have led to a dramatic pullback in credit availability as they have pared lending to shore up their capital and preserve their capital requirements, they said.

Much more to come!!!! current write off by banks? about 100 odd billion. Where's the rest of the 360 billion going to come from? To put this into perspective, this amount is more than the TOTAL foreign exchange reserves of India or about 70% of that of the entire Eurozone or three times the size of the German foreign reserves.
If you want to put in another way, to fix this entire 1.2 trillion problem, you will have to liquidate UK Plc's 20% of total assets.

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

Tuesday, March 25

Here's something you can do in a democracy but not in a theocracy

Laws in a democracy are open to change by the people's representatives. I spoke about this earlier. But more importantly, they can sunset and remove laws as well as, as it happened in England recently.

It is my personal belief that all laws passed by parliaments should have an automatic sunset or expiry clause. This helps in two ways, the first is that it forces people to think whether the laws are still fit for purpose and secondly, it makes sure that their time is taken up with fixing old problems rather than creating new ones.

Having a low legal impact society has loads to say for it, it makes life easier, cleaner and basically tells the world that they do not have to write things down to tell their citizens as to how to be good people. More laws, the more law breakers, the more law breakers, the more laws... (see my previous essay here on the granddaddy of legal systems).

Whether we are talking about civilian life, criminal life or corporate life, too many laws means that your freedom to act is circumscribed. Instead of man being free, he is told what he can do and what he cannot, and day by day, law by law, the freedom of man is being squished down. So yes, a bonfire of laws is great.

Laws, by themselves, are controls and for an old hoary libertarian like me, I find them troubling if necessary. And no, before you ask, every law generally becomes obsolete. Whether you are talking about civil, corporate or criminal law, it becomes obsolete. And if it is really supposed to be permanent and immutable, then, erm, why do you need to write it out? Like, try not to kill anybody, old chap. Now, you need a law to tell people that?

But I think that you should keep a law which states this: The King or Queen of England right to claim the tail of any whale washed up on the shores of England or Wales, or of any whale washed up in Scotland that proved too large to be dragged off on a "wain with six oxen."

And this law should be there for every law MAKER, before you make laws, you have to drag the whale personally over the ground previously covered by the six oxen. Will stop those bloody legislators from legislating everything in sight!

But more importantly, this compares very favourably with theocracies who can only add to laws, but not remove them because that will bring the edifice down. You see the entire edifice of theocracies is based upon some original scripture which is sacrosanct and the literal word of God. Now you being a mere mortal cannot go about removing bits from the word of God, can you? hence if there is something medieval or Neanderthal in a scripture, then I am afraid you are stuck with that for donkey's years in a theocracy. Are you not glad you are not living in a theocracy ?

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Kill one teacher and you murder thousands

The influence of a teacher stops at eternity so if you kill a teacher, you stopped human development and killed thousands.

A tribute to Dr. G. C. Dev

Mohammad Abdur Rashid
THE government of Bangladesh has awarded the Independence Day Award 2008 posthumously to the late Professor Govinda Chandra Dev, popularly known as Dr. G. C. Dev or Dr. Dev, of Dhaka University. Dr.G. C. Dev, one of the most learned philosophers and intellectuals of Bangladesh, was brutally murdered by the Pakistan army on the fateful night of March 25, 1971.
Dr. Dev was born on January 1, 1907 in the village of Lauta in Biyani
Bazar, Sylhet. He passed Matriculation with first class in 1925 and
Intermediate with first class in 1927 (with letter mark in logic)
from the Pancakhanda Horo Govinda High School in Biyani Bazar.
He completed his BA (Hons) in philosophy with first class from the
Calcutta Sanskrit College in 1929, and MA in philosophy with first
class first from Calcutta University. Dr. Dev completed his PhD in
philosophy from Calcutta University in 1944.
His PhD thesis titled "Reason, Intuition and Reality" was later
published as a book named Idealism and Progress. He carried out his
PhD research under the late Dr. Savapalli Radhakrishnan, one of the
most learned philosophers of India, who later became vice president
and president of India.
Dr. Dev started his academic career as a lecturer in philosophy in
Ripon College, Calcutta. He founded the Dinajpur Surendra Nath
College by collecting donations from the people, and became its
founder principal.
In 1953, Dr. Dev became reader (now known as associate professor) in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Dhaka University. He was appointed provost of Jagannath Hall in 1957, and continued in this position till 1970. He was appointed head of the department in 1963 and became professor in 1967. During this period, Dr. Dev became known as a highly-reputed scholar of philosophy and eastern
religions, including Islam, through his writings and publications.
Dr. Dev had in-depth understanding of many branches of knowledge. He was an avid reader and great thinker. He was very good at public
speaking, and gave scholarly and enlightening speeches, often
extempore, on a range of topics that included Sufism and Muslim
He was an idealist, and wrote a number of books on idealism. He used
to call his philosophy "synthetic idealism," combining idealism,
spiritualism and materialism. Some of his books are Idealism &
Progress, Idealism: A New Defence and New Applications, Aspiration of the Common Man, Buddha-the Humanist, Parables of the East and My American Experience (the last two were published posthumously from Dhaka University). His way of writing articles and books was very fascinating. He would walk in his room from one corner to another while framing his thoughts and giving dictation.
His understanding and thinking skills were incredibly high. He was
also able to do lengthy and complex calculations without paper and
pencil. We were often amazed at how quickly he was able to grasp what we had written, point out our mistakes and give his learned comments on what had taken us hours and days to write.
He used to narrate real life experiences to illustrate theory. Some
of these narrations were often humorous, and contained practical
lessons that I still remember today. He never belittled or ridiculed
anyone, and was always respectful of others, irrespective of
religion, ethnicity and social status. This was itself a critical
value for us to learn and uphold for the rest of our lives.
I will always remember Dr. Dev for his simple, modest and self-
effacing nature. I remember how he humorously commented on his own unassuming appearance while giving us an example of how appearance and reality may not always be the same.
During an official trip from Dinajpur to Dhaka, as the principal of
the Dinajpur Surendra Nath College, he was travelling in a first
class compartment. He had, as usual, put on a dhuti, punjabi and
shawl made of simple material. The ticket checker thought he did not have a first class ticket and complained that he was sitting in the wrong compartment. Dr. Dev showed him the first class ticket and humbly replied: "Although my appearance is third class, in reality, my ticket is first class." The ticket checker felt embarrassed and apologised to him.
Dr. Dev used to lead a simple life, residing in the small one-story
official residence of the provost of Jagannath Hall. He was a life-
long bachelor and lived with his adopted son Jyoti Prakash Datta. He
also adopted a Muslim girl as his daughter. Dr. Dev was very non-
communal in his outlook and used to love all of us very much. We
benefited greatly from his affection and guidance. We never needed
prior permission to see him at his office or residence, and could
meet him anytime to discuss any matter. He always welcomed us warmly.
As far as I remember, he was a vegetarian. As the provost of
Jagannath Hall, he used to be regularly invited to the monthly feasts
and dinners in all the halls. I had the privilege of accompanying him
to some of the feasts in my hall, Dhaka Hall. As he could not eat
many items, he normally had a meal of muri mixed with mustard oil and onion before going to the official dinners. Often, he would make
enlightening and humorous after-dinner speeches. The students and
teachers of the department used to celebrate his birthday annually,
when we used to have a cultural function in which we all
participated. He enjoyed spending time with students and teachers
very much. He was very much a man of the people -- always there for us.
Like many other teachers of Dhaka University at that time, he did not have a car. He would walk from his house to Dhaka Hall, and was always accompanied by students discussing various topics and issues with him. If he was in a rush, he would take a rickshaw.
Occasionally, he used to visit some of his colleagues, and loved to
have home-cooked meals at the house of one of our teachers, Dr. Abdur Rab.
He was very particular about physical exercise. He used to a walk lot
in the university area, and in the open space in front of his
residence. We would often walk with him in this place and discuss our thoughts with him. He remained a mentor and guide for me till his untimely death.
Dr. Dev was a very selfless man, who dedicated his life to his
university, colleagues and students. He was least interested in
wealth. He founded the Bangladesh Philosophical Society and donated the only piece of land that he had in Dhaka city to this
organisation. He was also elected general secretary of the All
Pakistan Philosophical Congress.
Most importantly, Dr. Dev was a man of great human qualities. He had always treated students and colleagues in a spirit of equality. He never discriminated against anyone, whether they were from East
Pakistan or West Pakistan, or whether they were Muslim, Hindu, or
Buddhist. One of our colleagues, Mr. Kazi Abdul Kader, was from
Karachi. Mr. Kader joined the Department of Philosophy at the
University of Karachi around 1966. Dr. Dev appreciated his ability as
a scholar and teacher, and took him as a PhD student under his
supervision. Dr. Dev went to the United States to give some lectures
on philosophy in late 1970, and stopped by in Karachi to finalise his
thesis on mathematical logic and conduct his oral examination for the PhD degree.
Dr. Kazi Kader worked at the University of Karachi for many years and became a professor of philosophy in that university. I was then
serving as additional deputy commissioner of Karachi. Dr. Dev visited
me at my official residence in Karachi. I was happy that my eight-
month old daughter Ripa was able to meet my beloved teacher. He
returned to Dhaka in January 1971. I did not know at that time that
this would be the last time that I would meet the great man who had
an everlasting impact in so many people's lives.
Dr. Dev, my teacher, was a man of simple living and high thinking. He neither had any political involvement nor political ambition. He was a humanist who concentrated on the pursuit and spread of knowledge.
The Pakistani forces killed many great intellectuals of Bangladesh in
1971 to cripple us permanently, along with weakening our physical and economic resources. Dr. Dev was one of the unfortunate victims of this unforgivable war crime. He was brutally killed on the night of
March 25, 1971. How could such a saint-like person who loved all be
killed so ruthlessly?
The government's decision to award Dr. Dev the Independence Award
posthumously is a praiseworthy and laudable decision. We mourn his
death and celebrate the award today to a selfless man who contributed so much to our lives as well academic discipline. It is most unfortunate that he met an untimely death, but the knowledge, values and human qualities that he taught us remain relevant not only in our lives but also for our successive generations. May Allah grant eternal peace to his departed soul.

The author is Professor of Human Resource Management, Independent University Bangladesh, Member of the Board of Governors, Civil Service College, and former Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh.


Why are Jews so powerful?

Now this is about a fascinating argument which I keep on seeing floating around. The sheer intellectual challenge behind this argument is so powerful that I think it just slips people by. Some questions?

1. What is the link between Judaism and success? What are the Jews doing according to Judaism that the Muslims are not doing? Since the factor of identification is religion, then there is something obviously better in Judaism than in Islam, no? Or did I get that wrong? or was the author wrong in slicing people by religion?

2. If being successful is that easy to belong to Judaism, then a simple answer, just convert to Judaism, and bingo, you will immediately become rich, famous and successful. No?

3. If Judaism is indeed the common factor and reason for all these being rich and famous, then why is Islam missing it? Surely that's the common element that these authors miss?

4. Gosh, what happened to the Christians and Hindus and Buddhists? I suppose their religions are also not good, eh?

5. But looking at say most of the Nobel Prize winners, they are Christians, so the Jews should convert to Christianity and so should the Muslims and the Buddhist.

I can go on, but I suppose you get the point. By pointing to human scientific progress and charitable giving as being purely linked to religion, these people condemn their own people to a lifetime of failure. Why? because they will look for answers in their religion. No, that is not the case, science, knowledge and success is religiously independent. Speak and talk to people in China if you want to learn and be successful. The author identifies the problem and the cause but because his eyes are simply focused on Muslims, his answer and solution are useless.

And this keeps on happening, again and again, wake up, Muslims (and others who want to be successful and knowledgeable) get away from these religious peddlers of false hope. If you dont believe me, then try to imagine the link between Jesus, Albert Einstein, Israel and US Foreign Policy. Soft brains, I tell you, bizarre. Here is a version of this document which are floating around, but the email added this bunch of rot.

To be certain, Washington is the capital that matters and in Washington the lobby that matters is The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. Washington knows that if PM Ehud Olmert were to discover that the earth is flat, AIPAC will make the 109th Congress pass a resolution congratulating Olmert on his discovery.

William James Sidis, with an IQ of 250-300, is the brightest human who ever existed. Guess what faith did he belong to?

So, why are Jews so powerful?
Answer: GOAL, DISCIPLINE, EDUCATION, UNITY & NETWORKING are their KEY to POWER...  All including Jews agree that Muslims are more intelligent but AREN'T TEAM PLAYERS and a have short sightedness problem.
--------- --*EDUCATE MUSLIMS *----------- --------- -------
*Make a 5, 10, and 20 and 25 years Plan but it must start from today.

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What was the point of this?

Ok, so let me understand this. My tax pounds went to fund a trip by some foreign office mandarins and associated hangers-on of Bangladeshi extraction to go to Bangladesh to extol image of United Kingdom to Bangladeshi's? The mind boggles as to why on bloody earth are my tax dollars being used for this totally insane, inane and idiotic endeavour. What was the benefit? To get students in our educational courses?

Tell me something, how on earth can one of the poorest and most corrupt countries have so many students which can pay foreign student fees of tens of thousands of pounds in the UK? and most of them will stay back in the UK. How many Bangladeshi undergraduate and postgraduate students has this kind of programme attracted? I can understand going to China or India (see the picture here which I took in Lucknow, India). And as it so happens, there were only 2 blog posts here on the entire trip and only 1 occasion to visit an existing university.



I went to the website here, and I cannot still understand what was the point of this trip? So assuming 10 people, at £3000 per business class plane ticket per head, 1 week trip, with £500 per day expenses all in and then say 10,000 per head honorarium (for 8 people), that comes to approximately £130,000. Now, on a normal investment basis, compounded every 1 week, with one additional similar trip per year, over 5 years will give me £993,576.12. That's a million quid roughly. If my back of a fag pack calculations are right, how is the FCO and Ms. Haq going to justify this jolly?

So this was funded by the Foreign Office. What Foreign Policy objectives did this fulfil? I am totally unclear about that as well, reading the blog did not enlighten me either.

What happens on the internet can impact your election results

I had a big argument many moons back with one of my editors, she said that the chatter on the internet has no impact on real life. I argued back saying that if I am willing to bash the keyboard on a political matter, then i am willing to vote differently. And if you as a political party are not engaged with me on this medium, why on earth would I know or talk to you?

But you ignore the internet at your peril, see here for what happened in Malaysia. I quote:

Malaysia's premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Tuesday his "biggest mistake" in disastrous elections was to ignore cyber-campaigning on the Internet which was seized by the opposition.
The opposition, which was largely ignored by government-linked mainstream media, instead waged an enormously successful online campaign using blogs, news websites and SMS text messages. "We certainly lost the Internet war, the cyber-war," Abdullah said in a speech to an investment conference. "It was a serious misjudgement. We made the biggest mistake in thinking that it was not important," he said. "We thought that the newspapers, the print media, the television was supposed to be important, but the young people were looking at SMS and blogs." The comments are a major about-face for the government, which had vilified bloggers, calling them liars and threatening them with detention without trial under internal security laws.

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

Bathe once a week to save fuel costs

What a state of affairs! I quote:

South Korea’s soldiers will be asked to make do with one bath a week, while its air force pilots will have to do more training on computers instead of real fighters as record oil prices force the country to take drastic steps to slash its fuel usage.
The measures are among several that arose from an emergency meeting last week where senior officials in the army, navy and air force discussed ways of reducing their fuel bill, a military official said.
“We had to seek emergency steps to save fuel costs because oil prices have gone up too much,” the defence ministry said. It estimated that the military could save about Won77bn ($76m), or 11 per cent of its annual fuel bill, with the moves.

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

More beggar thy policies in agricultural imports and exports!

Read this and weep. I quote:

World rice supplies are reaching dangerously tight levels as stores of South Asia's staple food fall to 25-year lows and governments strive to stabilise domestic markets.
The United Nations has called for richer nations to assist Bangladesh, where 40 per cent of people live below the poverty line, in tackling surging prices of foodstuffs. It said that poor households in the country spend nearly 70 per cent of their income on food.
On Thursday, the World Bank lobbied India to export rice to Bangladesh. However, Indian officials have their eyes fixed on their home markets and on the same day slashed import duties on several types of edible oil and rice in an effort to clamp down on a recent jump in inflation that is threatening the country's economy as a whole.
The Indian Finance Ministry said that the international price of crude palm oil has increased from $770 a tonne to nearly $1,220 in the past six months. “Retail prices for rice in Delhi markets increased from 15 rupees [19p] per kg to 18 rupees per kg over the same period,” it said.
Yet other countries are profiting. In January and February, Vietnam made $150 million through rice exports, an increase of nearly 80 per cent over a year ago.
World rice consumption has increased by 40 per cent in the past 30 years, from 62kg per person to 86kg, and only about 7 per cent of production is traded internationally, compared with 18 per cent for wheat. Rice productivity varies widely between countries. In 2000 Vietnam's rice yield was nearly twice that of Thailand.
Across Asia, pre-harvest losses of rice, mainly to rats, stand at as much as 17 per cent in some countries, with a 6 per cent loss throughout the continent representing enough to feed 225 million people, roughly the population of Indonesia, for a year.

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

India's Intelligence framework to fight terrorism

A great article on the challenges facing India's counter terrorism intelligence framework. I quote the conclusion:

Difficulties like these and the tepid response of the state governments to a 2007 Supreme Court directive ordering improvements in the functioning of police and intelligence agencies continue to bedevil India’s attempts to fashion an effective counter-terrorism strategy. Meanwhile terrorist groups continue to display a marked advantage in adapting to newer technologies and modes of operation, allowing them to function more quickly and quietly than the Indian intelligence community.

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

Kenya facing starvation and famine

Food prices are already creating havoc with the food budgets and public distribution systems of various emerging markets (and creating problems with inflation in the developed countries as well). So the last thing you would expect is for countries to add to the problem, no?

No, Kenya has now managed to do that after the near civil war in the country. I quote:

Kenya, recovering from months of political violence, faces a looming food shortage and the current grain reserve could last only until August, a newspaper warned on Monday.
The Daily Nation said tribal fighting and revenge killings touched off by the disputed December 27 presidential elections had depopulated the countryside with farmland left fallow during the current planting season.
Scant rain had exacerbated the problem, it said.
"Although rain has fallen in some parts of the country, these are not auguries of good harvests this season, and the country is headed for acute food shortages in the next few months," the Nation warned in an editorial.
It spoke of "insecurity in Kenya’s breadbasket - the vast area in Western Province and North Rift where maize and other grains like wheat do well," adding that rioters had torched granaries while gangs evicted farmers from their land.
"As a result, all the maize-producing areas are about to experience record deficits this season," it said.
According to experts as well as the government, the country may be faced with a five million-bag food deficit, wiping out the current grain reserves by August, the daily said.

Given the fact that the FAO is running out of budgets to purchase food, there is aid fatigue, food exports are being clamped down (see here for example) , where on earth does Kenya think its going to get food aid from? Here's one possible source. And still nothing from the UNSC

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

Where's the beef and where's the pork?

I have been moaning about food prices for some time now on this blog. I have also talked about how Reliance and other firms in India are shaking up the agriculture value chain, and it has to be for the better. People have commented that this will throw people out of jobs, but here's a very good example of when distribution systems go awry, then the costs and inflation go wonky as well.

I quote:

Is it true that pork is cheaper in South Korea than in China? According to the South Korean Embassy in Beijing, it is true: the Embassy said on Monday that pork is traded at far lower prices in South Korea's wholesale market than in China.
According to an Embassy survey of pork prices in the two countries, pork costs less in South Korea's wholesale market than it does in China. But in the retail market, under South Korea's complex distribution system, South Korean consumers pay nearly three times more than what Chinese consumers pay for the commodity.
According to the Embassy, as of Feb. 26, pork was traded at W2,666 (US$1=W997) per kg in the South Korean wholesale market, a mere 88.3 percent of the price in the Chinese wholesale market (W3,020).

But huge wholesale-to-retail marketing margins for pork are added in South Korea, driving the retail price up to W12,000 per kg, more than quadruple the wholesale price. By contrast, the retail price of pork in China, which has a relatively simple distribution system, is just W4,420 per kg. That's a margin of just W1,400.
The average price of beef was W13,588 per kg in the South Korean wholesale market, but the retail price was W62,000 per kg. By contrast, beef cost W3,676 per kg in the Chinese wholesale market, but between W6,500 and W26,000 in the retail market.

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

When chocolate and counter-terrorism collide, chocolate loses

Such a sad story :(

I quote:

Except for crabby parents worried about their kids' dental bills, what could possibly come between children and chocolate?
Step forward the U.S. Bioterrorism Act of 2002.
Thanks to stringent food safety regulations imposed by the Act after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "choc and awe" public visits to the famous factory operated by Rogers' Chocolates are no more.
The Act applies to Rogers because the venerable company, by now a Canadian institution with its century-old store in downtown Victoria an official National Heritage Site, has a thriving mail-order business shipping individual orders of big fat chocolates to salivating customers in the United States.

Companies that export food to the United States are required to ensure there is no risk that anyone can tamper with their products, and who knows what a 10-year-old high on sugar might do.
"Our factory had school buses full of kids pulling up all the time. Sometimes seniors, too," Rogers' president Steve Parkhill said yesterday.
"They'd all been going through without the appropriate level of security. We found it just too onerous to take the measures we would have needed in order to comply with the regulations. So we stopped. It is sad, I grant you."
The company's decision ended years of magical mystery tours that had entranced Vancouver Island kids with the up-close view of melting, dripping and pouring of chocolate, not to mention the sweet aroma and fresh samples at the end.

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

Monday, March 24

The most civilised sound in the world

This is the most civilised and happiest sound in the world, more than any religious or political leader combined!

Traffic down at national newspaper websites

Quite an interesting result: I quote:

National newspaper web traffic declined month-on-month in February, falling back after high visitor levels the previous month, according to figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulation Electronic. All five UK national newspapers reporting monthly figures saw a drop in unique users visiting their sites in February. However, the long term picture was more rosy with most recording large year-on-year increases in site traffic.

So I guess it means that less numbers of new people are visiting these sites but people who already are visiting the site, they are visiting for a longer period. Whatever be the reason, paper newspapers are stiffed!

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Meet the families where no one's worked for THREE generations - and they don't care

Even discounting the hyperbole, this kind of story pushes one to question the whole idea of the welfare state. We are now hitting recession in the UK and in rest of the world, job security is low, inflation is getting higher, commitments increasing, and then on top of that, our tax monies is going to go to supporting scroungers like these? And then Bishop Nazir Ali wants us to give MORE? Calling us greedy bankers, eh? I quote:

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, singled out high-earning City traders such as hedge fund managers as the kind of people who must swap their desire to “make a quick buck” for a commitment to “share [their] wealth generously”.

Really? For people like the McFaddens? Are you freaking out of your bloody mind? I am the son of a refugee, he didnt ask for any help, i did not ask for any help, we both supported and are supporting tons of family members and supporting other charities, paying top whack on our taxes and then we get to hear that we aren’t paying enough? Bollocks.

A beautiful quote about Yiddish the language

Here's what Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer had to say about the language in his 1978 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

"Yiddish language - a language of exile, without a land, without
frontiers, not supported by any government, a language which possesses no words for weapons, ammunition, military exercises, war tactics ...There is a quiet humour in Yiddish and a gratitude for every day of life,   every crumb of success, each encounter of love. The Yiddish mentality is    not haughty. It does not take victory for granted. It does not demand    and command but it muddles through, sneaks by, smuggles itself amidst    the powers of destruction, knowing somewhere that God's plan for Creation is still at the very beginning ...
   In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful Humanity."

Hat tip: Wotd

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Sunday, March 23

Dealing with sins!

This was so amusing. For all those who think that shortcuts such as praying, bathing in a river, wearing an amulet, or other rituals will simply get rid of your sins, read this. No other way but to work on your sins, short cuts never work!

There is an incident in Ramakrishna's life. He was very simple, uneducated, but a man of tremendous insight. A man came to him and said, "I am going to the Ganges -- it is the twelfth year -- and I want your blessings. And is it true that all sins that you have done are washed away?" Ramakrishna said, "Yes, it is true. All sins are washed out while you take a dip in the Ganges." The man gave a great sigh of relief. He said, "Then it is good. If you say so, then it is perfect." Ramakrishna said, "But I have not finished, I have to say something more. Have you seen those big trees on the bank of the Ganges?" He said, "Yes." Ramakrishna said, "That is the trouble: when you take the dip in the Ganges your sins jump out and sit on the trees, and they wait for you. How long can you remain in the water? The Ganges is really great and it does purify, but how long...? Finally, you will have to come out, and the moment you come out -- those sins are sitting on the trees, they jump on you. And sometimes it happens that somebody else's sins also jump on you -- just for a change they enjoy it. Those trees are full of sins. So you can go, but beware of the trees." The man said, "This is very difficult. How long can I remain in the water? Finally I have to come out, and I have to pass under those trees." Ramakrishna said, "I can't help you with that. That's why I don't go -- what is the point?"

All religions have found strategies, first to make you feel guilty, then to give you a simple method so that you can be free of guilt. If you have done something wrong, go to the person. Be humble, ask his forgiveness. Only he can forgive you, nobody else -- neither the Ganges nor God. And that is the meaning of the word "sin": forgetfulness. So now, don't forget again and do the same; otherwise, your asking forgiveness becomes meaningless. Now be careful, be alert, be conscious; and don't do the same thing again. That is true repentance. Once you made the mistake -- it was just a mistake. To err is human, there is nothing to be worried about. And to forgive is divine, so if somebody comes to you and says that he has committed a mistake against you, don't miss the opportunity of tasting something of the divine. Or, when you have committed some mistake and you go to somebody else to be forgiven, you are giving him a great chance to have some taste of the divine. It is good for both of you. By forgiving, he tastes something which is impossible to explain; it can only be called divine, godliness. And you also will feel something tremendously beautiful: humbleness, egolessness. But remember not to commit the mistake again. It should become a decision in you; then you are really repentant. It has nothing to do with God, it has nothing to do with any priest; it has something to do with your own psychology.

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Its an amazing practice which has died down now. Here are some recent pics.


Judging reform!!! finally a table!

I suppose this was just waiting to happen, a nicely tabular way of judging who is a radical or a reformer! I have been writing about reform in Islam for some time now (see my main site), but this is a curious little gem from this page. But typically, you cannot simply reduce such a complex phenomena such as Islamic reform down by these factors.

Based upon my research, this is a very simplistic way of looking at reform and will miss out on the wood from the trees. More importantly, using something like this will actively impede reform rather than improve and lubricate reform because life is simply not a matter of putting people in boxes. For example, you can well be against a caliphate but also be anti democratic because what you want is to be ruled by a shura council. And that's reform as well, considering some of the earthworms who inhabit some of the OIC's parliaments.

Anyway, read and wonder

Radical Moderate
Yes No
Pro Against
Criticism of Islam
No Yes
Deceiving non-Muslims
Yes No
Against Pro
Dhimmitude for non-Muslims
Pro Against
Every deed (and word) of Prophet Muhammad (according to Ahadith) was noble and is worthy of emulation 
Yes No to
Freedom of (from) Religion
Against Pro
Gender equality
Against Pro
Pro Against
Religious Secular
Islamic reformation
Against Pro
Islamic supremacy
Pro Against
Against Pro / Neutral
Koran over Constitution
Yes No
Reaction to criticism of Islam or Prophet Muhammad
Anger/Violence Reason / No reaction
Religious equality
Against Pro
Pro Against
Pro / Neutral Against
Pro Against
Universal Human Rights
Against Pro
Use of terms such as  "Islamic terrorism" or "Islamofascism"
Object Accept
Whitewashing terrorism
Yes No

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