Saturday, January 17

What a shame, police posted in schools

This is indeed shameful, what are we doing to our schools?

Every secondary school in Leeds is to have a dedicated police officer as part of a drive to cut crime.

Eight of the city's 38 schools will have a full-time police presence. Another 16 officers will cover the remaining 30 schools.

More than 250 offences were committed in Leeds schools in 2008, figures show.

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Business Holy War???? Say what?

this totally bewildered me. There is this Islamic Economic Congress which was held recently in Malaysia, it passed 29 resolutions, but one of the resolutions sort of got me gibbering. I quote:

The congress also passed a resolution to pursue the "business holy war" for Muslim traders to strengthen their socio-economic status by promoting entrepreneurial skills.

hehehe, didnt find any more details, but just that statement made me giggle away like crazy. Really, some people...

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I dont like the idea of there being no God

There is a small skirmish in a remote corner of the world, where people are fighting over whether or not there is a God. Typically, it is in England, where a bunch of chaps have raised sufficient money to put advertisements on buses and tube trains claiming that there is no God. So you can drink, enjoy and be merry without worrying about what an old man sitting in heaven somewhere thinks of you. Atheism.

But typically, we now have the situation that a bus driver did not like driving a bus with that advertisement. Here are some more examples of people being spectacularly stupid and confusing the line between public provision and private beliefs:

  • I refuse to drive the bus because I do not like Blacks/Asians/Vietnamese on my bus
  • I refuse to drive the bus because I do not like men wearing skirts on my bus
  • I refuse to drive the bus because I do not like women breastfeeding on the bus
  • I refuse to drive the bus because it conflicts with my prayer times
  • I refuse to drive the bus because I hate internal combustion engines and they ruin the atmosphere
  • I refuse to drive the bus because I do not like gays on my bus.
  • I refuse to drive a bus after dark because my mother told me not to stay out after dark
  • I refuse to drive a bus because I do not like the uniform.

Here's a link to a video to the offending situation. What a joke.

Very good resource for South Asia Studies

Just stumbled over this resource, pretty good stuff here..

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What's YOUR sign?

Instead of Astrological Signs, how about: What's Your Business Sign?

MARKETING:  You are ambitious yet stupid. You chose a marketing degree to avoid having to study in college, concentrating instead on drinking and socializing which is pretty much what your job responsibilities are now. Least compatible with Sales.

SALES:  Laziest of all signs, often referred to as "marketing without a degree." You are also self centered and paranoid. Unless someone calls you and begs you to take their money, you like to avoid contact with customers so you can "concentrate on the big picture." You seek admiration for your golf game throughout your life.

TECHNOLOGY:  Unable to control anything in your personal life, you are instead content to completely control everything that happens at your workplace. Often even YOU don't understand what you are saying but who the hell can tell. It is written that Geeks shall inherit the Earth.

ENGINEERING:  One of only two signs that actually studied in school. It is said that ninety percent of all Personal Ads are placed by engineers. You can be happy with yourself; your office is full of all the latest "ergo dynamic" gadgets. However, we all know what is really causing your "carpal tunnel syndrome."

ACCOUNTING:  The only other sign that studied in school. You are mostly immune from office politics. You are the most feared person in the organization; combined with your extreme organizational traits, the majority of rumors concerning you say that you are completely insane.

MANAGEMENT/MIDDLE MANAGEMENT:  Catty, cut-throat, yet completely spineless, you are destined to remain at your current job for the rest of your life. Unable to make a single decision you tend to measure your worth by the number of meetings you can schedule for yourself. Best suited to marry other "Middle Managers" as everyone in your social circle is a "Middle Manager."

SENIOR MANAGEMENT:  (See above - Same sign, different title)

CUSTOMER SERVICE:  Bright, cheery, positive, you are a fifty-cent cab ride from taking your own life. As children very few of you asked your parents for a little cubicle for your room and a headset so you could pretend to play "Customer Service." Continually passed over for promotions, your best bet is to sleep with your manager.

PARTNER, PRESIDENT, CEO:  You are brilliant or lucky. Your inability to figure out complex systems such as the fax machine suggests the latter.

Sunday, January 11

Pakistan's Taliban - thinking about you..

Once the terrorist genie is out of the bottle, it is well near impossible to stuff it back inside. Blow Back is a bitch, as they say. Now this is a pretty good overview of what the Pakistani Counter Terrorism unit is doing to combat the issue, but the existential problem is there. When both the Army and Terrorists claim to be fighting for Islam, who is right?

Read and wonder. Some interesting snippets that I did not know. This particular step is quite interesting specially because of the links between the UK and Pakistan. We already know a significant proportion of the British Muslim terrorist sympathisers/radicals have links to Pakistan. So it does make sense to keep close tabs on them. This should help:

Zardari was intent on pushing through an ambitious counter-terrorism strategy. It centred on the elite Special Investigation Group (Sig) - a squad that Musharraf had originally set up to investigate assassination attempts against himself and his officers. The new president intended the Sig to model itself on MI5's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, Britain's response to 9/11, and to acquire the forensic skills of an Islamic CSI. For that he needed cash and outside help. Since his first days in office, Zardari had been lobbying foreign secretary David Miliband to fund a joint terrorism initiative. The sweetener was an offer by the Pakistan High Commission in London to open up an intelligence cell to monitor British Pakistanis travelling back and forth, to which the British security services would have access. Downing Street was intrigued, especially as MI5 had briefed Gordon Brown in the summer that three-quarters of 30 major terror conspiracies in the UK had links back to Pakistan. However, it was only after Zardari's energetic responses to the Marriott and Mumbai attacks that Brown put his faith in the new Pakistani president.

On December 14, the British PM flew to Islamabad to announce a £6m "pact against terror", saying he wanted to "remove the chain" that led from the mountains of Pakistan to the streets of Britain. A significant part of the funding was intended for the Sig currently a tight-knit cell of 37 full-time specialists that was to be expanded into a 300-strong force with an investigation division, an armed wing, an intelligence department and a research section. In return, Britain asked for access to the Sig's raw data and captured extremists who might illuminate British plots.

And just like the locus of terrorism is Pakistan, the source for suicide bombers is the Mehsud tribe of Central Waziristan. I quote:

From the 26 suicide attacks where we recovered a head in 2007, we made a startling discovery," says the Sig analyst. "The vast majority [of suicide bombers] came from just one tribe, the Mehsuds of central Waziristan, all boys aged 16 to 20." Until the Sig team analysed the 2007 bombings, no one realised how successful the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been in recruiting his extended clan to the martyrdom business.

In an attempt to glean an insight into why so many young Mehsud men were willing to die, Pervez co-opted police officers from the tribal areas on to his team. One of them, now a senior investigator, pokes his head around the door. "The Mehsuds have a predisposition to fight," he says. "Young Mehsud lads used to fight for the Afghan Taliban against the US. Before that, they fought the Soviets. And before then, they fought the British Empire."

The officer found out more when a few Mehsud boys, who escaped a suicide training camp, recently contacted him. "They told me, 'We have nothing. Simple things would make a difference. We are fond of football. Give us a ball and we won't bomb.' " The officer is working to recruit informers, but tentatively. Those who resist Baitullah Mehsud have been brutally dealt with - like the 600 elders who spoke out against him in 2005 and were, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, each sent a needle, black thread and 1,000 rupees with which to buy some cloth to stitch their own shrouds; all of them were then killed.

Pretty clear, eh? not much use of giving a football then?

What if the New York Times did not exist?

I was reading somewhere (and now I have forgotten and am too old to rack the 2.3 neurons I have to worry about where) that the New York Times is one of the most hyperlinked and commented upon source for news for bloggers. It is indeed the most visited newspaper site in the USA. Yes, I would tend to agree. It has great quality, great coverage and is what I would call as a great newspaper. Here's a graphic showing the NYT's coverage of the world from here.



Pretty amazing coverage across the world, wouldn't you say? If you compare that with other newspapers (and I dont have any pretty graphics to show unfortunately), i would have said that this bubble graph is pretty good when you compare other newspapers ranging from the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, The Times, Guardian, Le Monde, etc. etc. You can forget the sub continental papers anyway. The only exception would be the English language papers in the gulf but they appeal to the expat population so I am not sure if that is applicable as a comparison.

But I digress. But blogging and web 2.0 bits (such as facebook, my space, twitter, etc. are changing the world) check out these two graphics which illustrate this issue. View from the blogosphere and from NYT. Quite an interesting difference, no? But life is changing rapidly and the financials of the newspaper world are changing rapidly. The future is not as good, have written about this issue before (see here, here, here, etc.).

But now its the economics of the situation which is seriously blighting the situation. Circulation in the USA is dropping rapidly. and there is simply not enough money. Newspapers after newspapers are simply folding or changing their business model or laying off people what have you. And I am not talking tiddlers, the LA Times and Chicago Tribune have gone bankrupt, but what about the NYT? The NYT has pawned its headquarters and the numbers are not looking good. Here's a bit of an analysis which will send shivers down any US newspaper proprietor's backside.

Take the New York Times Company. It generated $74.4m in online advertising in the third quarter, 10.2 per cent more than in the same quarter in 2007. But the $6.9m increase in online ad sales was dwarfed by the $73.7m decline in print advertising revenues, which plunged by 18.6 per cent. Even if it managed to halve its $677m quarterly operating expenses by dropping the hard copy, online ad revenues would cover just 22 per cent of its running costs.

Strip out the NYT’s other sites, such as, and assume those third quarter online ad sales were generated only by That makes the 20.3m unique readers who used the site worth about $1.22 each per month, a fraction of the value of a print subscriber. To break even as an ad-funded digital-only business, with a quarterly cost base of, say, $338m, – already the number one newspaper site in the US – would either need four times as many unique users or ad rates four times as high as today’s, or a bit of both.

The recession is biting and biting hard, which means that the pressure on the advertising segment is fierce. The revenue/costs scissors are simply yawning wider and wider. A Deloitte report in December 08 predicts that one out of every 10 print publications predicted to half frequency, go online-only or close down in 2009. Plus in such an IP driven business, you cannot change the costs that easily. The solutions as given by the FT are obviously not possible, they cannot quadruple their readership nor can the current (or even the 2 year future at least) think about increasing ad rates. Forget about increasing, currently even the online advertising rates are diving like a dingo down its hole. See the Ad Price Index report from October here. I quote

  • Throughout the year, display advertising pricing has generally trended downwards across website sizes and verticals
  • All categories moved down from last quarter, with the exception of Technology which stayed flat
  • Entertainment had the most significant drop of all verticals, dropping 42% from 57 cents in Q1 08 to 33 cents in Q3 08

And its not just in USA, the impact of the drop in advertising is felt across the pond as well with certain titles reporting drops of more than 50% per year. See the impact on Journalist numbers here with thousands of redundancies in the UK itself so USA will be impacted correspondingly more. You can merge newsrooms, you can adjust staffing levels, use better technology to reduce telecom costs, travel costs, etc. outsource news production to India, reduce training costs, and so on and so forth, but its not going to help much.

But to go back to the title of the post, the chances are high that the NYT is going to go under. And that will indeed be a shame. One of the crucial aspects and guarantors of a free, just, fair and democratic society is the presence of a free and transparent press. If the media suffers as it is doing now, it will cause issues for our society. Would a BBC model help? A model of publicly funded media generation and broadcasting? Hmmm, can the BBC model be enhanced? Such as splitting the production, commissioning, broadcasting and distribution arms? Something of that nature will be required because the loss of NYT will indeed leave our society a poorer place.

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Boycotts do not work, Ms. Klein

Typically, Ms. Naomi Klein, has proposed to go after Israel to boycott, divest and sanction, and the 4 points that she mentions are so blindingly stupid that one regrets reading it. But then, she has never been one to be intellectually incoherent and prefers to be the shout out and drown out school of political activism.

For example, would she agree to do punitive measures against the USA for doing the same thing with other countries? Would she agree for the same measures against USA for the still continued prevalence of racism? How about using this BDS tactic against USA? and how will you communicate without Israeli inventions? And to think that even sober people have brought into this idea that sanctions work. But then, there is no dearth in people following stupid crazy ideas. The idea that boycotts work is endlessly recycled. I mean, Israel has been boycotted for decades and frankly nothing much work. But then, we need useful idiots to back economic illiterate and politically stupid arguments.

If you go for the reductio ad absurdum principle, then you think that USA is supporting Israel, so it should be boycotted and since she is an American, presumably she is asking for a boycott of herself? Here's my previous full length essay refuting main argument.

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Self Explanatory


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