Bye Bye Bangalore!

02 November 2006 |

Interesting article on renaming the most-talked about city in India, published in NY Times.

You Say Bangalore, They Say Bengalooru

BANGALORE, India, Nov. 1 — In Boston, San Jose, London or elsewhere, if you were being “Bangalored,” it meant your job was being shipped half a world away to someone who would toil for a tiny fraction of your salary.

Even the local politicians had come to resent the global attention. The commercial focus was westernizing Indian culture too quickly for them. So Wednesday, officials in this city changed its name to Bengalooru, the vernacular original, and the sparks are flying. The change is actually part of a trend in India and a sign of its newfound confidence. As the economy blazes ahead at growth rates of more than 8 percent, the local governments in India are trying to shed the country’s colonial names, adopting local language names instead.

Bombay is now Mumbai, for instance, and Madras has been quietly renamed Chennai. But turning Bangalore into Bengalooru is causing the greatest stir.

It probably does not help that Bengalooru is a shortened version of “Benda Kalooru,” or “city of cooked beans.” The myth goes that a starving warrior king was fed beans by a kind old woman on the very site of this city, which is now the country’s technology hub.

“Bangalore represents a cosmopolitan, multicultural brand,” said Nandan M. Nilekani, chief of Infosys Technologies, the outsourcing company, adding: “It is not prudent to abandon the name of India’s most global city.”

Infosys and its domestic rival Wipro, each with thousands of employees, are among the companies credited with building the city’s brand name around the world. Bangalore is now home to more than 1,000 technology firms, ranging from tiny two-person start-ups to large multinational companies like Intel, Texas Instruments and Cisco Systems. In a teeming city of seven million, the industry employs about 300,000 workers, who are turning into a rising middle-class that is giving rise to some resentment.

U. R. Ananthamurthy, 73, a noted writer in Kannada, the local language, first proposed the name change, suggesting that it would awaken the consciousness of people to the existing inequality.

“In this city, people can study French or Spanish, shop in a fancy supermarket full of goods produced by multinationals, and ride in cabs driven by English-speaking drivers,” said Mr. Ananthamurthy, adding, “But do these people living in ‘Bangalore’ know that there is a ‘Bengalooru’? ”

Young, comparatively well-paid technology workers, many in their 20s, dress in the latest American and European clothing labels, speak in accented English, drive foreign cars and shop in fancy malls. Home prices are shooting up in the city, and in the last couple of years, local newspapers advertise apartments and villas costing more than $1 million.

But the salaries of many of its citizens working in jobs other than in the high-growth sectors have not been keeping up. There is a distinct divide between “people who dress in a certain way, speak in a certain way and drive a certain type of car,” and the rest of the city, Mr. Ananthamurthy said.

Any resentment is natural in an evolving society, said S. Sadagopan, director of a leading technology school, the International Institute of Information Technology, which is based in Bangalore. “When people are not busy creating wealth, it logically follows that they are busy distributing poverty,” he said.

Others are not convinced that a name change can bridge the divide. “Working towards the welfare of the underprivileged ought to be the priority rather than a name change,” said Alexius Collette, chief executive of Philips Innovation Campus.

In the coming year, Philips will employ 2,500 workers in a new facility in the outer fringes of Bangalore. A name change would diminish Bangalore’s international brand value, he said.

Josh Bornstein, a director at the venture capital firm Footprint Ventures, which is based in Bangalore, has been working in the city for three years. “By changing its name,” he said, “will the pressing issues afflicting Bangalore such as clogged roads, bad traffic and an inadequate airport get sorted out?”

Anna gave her best...

08 October 2006 |

Copyright: Washington Post

Anna gave her best to this world, till three bullets put an end to her life. The cowards who murdered Anna is trying to silence the voice of freedom, decency and dignity.

Anna, there is a place for you in heaven -- in the hearts and minds of people, who will remember you forever as a brave woman who had the courage to demand truth and justice. reports: The Moscow prosecutor’s office says they’re investigating her death as a possible murder.

Would we be surprised if the prosecutor told us that Anna shot herself thrice?

This is how the Economist reported.

A suspicious death in Russia

Oct 8th 2006


Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, was shot dead on Saturday October 7th, aged 48

SHE was brave beyond belief, Anna Politkovskaya, reporting a gruesome war and a creeping dictatorship with a sharp pen and steel nerves. It may be a chilling coincidence that she was murdered on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, but her friends and supporters are in little doubt that her dogged, gloomy reporting of the sinister turn Russia has taken under what she called his “bloody” leadership was what led to her murder in the lift of her Moscow apartment block.

Ms Politkovskaya’s journalism was distinctive. Not for her the waffly, fawning and self-satisfied essays of the Moscow commentariat. Nor the well-paid advertorial now so pervasive as to be barely noticeable. She reported from the wrecked villages and shattered towns of Chechnya, talking to those on all sides and none, with endless patience and gritty determination.

She did not sentimentalise the Chechen rebels, nor did she demonise the Russian conscripts—ill-armed, ill-fed, and ill-led—who have crushed the Chechens’ half-baked independence. She talked to soldiers’ mothers trying to find their sons’ corpses in military morgues where mangled bodies lay unnamed and unclaimed—the result of the Russian army’s unique mixture of callousness and incompetence. And she talked to Chechens whose friends and relatives had disappeared into the notorious “filtration camps” to suffer torture, mutilation, rape and death.

Few journalists, from any country, did that. The second Chechen war, which started in 1999 and still fizzles on now, made that mountainous sliver of territory in the northern Caucasus the most dangerous place on the planet for a journalist. Most Moscow-based reporters went seldom, if at all, and then only in daylight and well-guarded. Ms Politkovskaya was unfazed, making around 50 trips there, often for days at a time.

Chechens, and many Russians, adored her. Piles of post and incessant phone calls came, sometimes from people wanting to give her information, more often from those wanting her help. Could she intercede with a kidnapper? Trace a loved one? She always tried, she said, to do what she could.

She loathed those responsible for the war: the warlords who had misruled Chechnya during its brief spells of semi-independence, the Islamic extremists who exploited the conflict, the Russian goons and generals, and their local collaborators. She particularly despised the Chechen government installed by Russia, for what she termed their massive looting of reconstruction money, backed up by kidnapping.

The worst effect of the Chechen wars, she reckoned, was the corrosion of Russia itself. Her reporting from all over Russia made her see her native country in what many regarded as an unfairly bleak light. Mr Putin’s regime was utterly brutal and corrupt, she would say in her soft, matter-of-fact voice. He represented the worst demons of the Soviet past, revived in modern form. Hundreds had died to bring him to power, and that was just a foretaste of the fascism and war that was to come.

The latest twists in Russia’s vindictive fury towards Georgia for wanting to join Nato make her pessimism seem less extreme. Russians with Georgian surnames are now experiencing the some of the sort of retribution from officialdom that their Chechen counterparts have suffered for the past ten years.

Ms Politkovskaya suffered death threats aplenty. On more than one occasion, Russian special forces threatened to rape and kill her, leaving her body in a ditch. Each time she talked them out of it. In 2001, she fled to Austria after receiving a direct warning to leave Russia or else. In 2004, on her way to the siege of a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, where she hoped to mediate between the Chechen hostage-takers and the Russian military, she was poisoned, and nearly died.

But whoever got into her lift on Saturday October 7th was a professional, intending not to warn her, but to end the problem she presented. She was shot once in the body, once in the head; the pistol was a Makarov, the assassin’s favourite. It was left by her side: in that trade, weapons are used only once.

She was well aware that her murder would be a logical reaction from the authorities. In conversations with your obituarist, she brushed this aside, saying that her sources were in much more danger than she was. Journalists had a duty to report on the subject that mattered, she said no matter what—just as singers had to sing and doctors had to heal.

Ms Politkovskaya’s approachability did not mean that she was easy company. Her fondness for both sweeping statements and for the intricate details of the stories she covered sometimes made conversation heavy-going. She was both disorganised and single-minded; that could be unnerving too.

But she will go down as a martyr, in the beleaguered causes of free speech and public spirit. It would be nice to think that Russians will find her example inspiring. Sadly, they may well conclude that speaking out on unpopular topics is best avoided.

About 8,000 foreign students are studying in India. In Australia, on the other hand, there are about 350,000 — and remember, we add to our numbers every year more than the total population of Australia. Nor is it just that foreign students studying in India are less than a fortieth of those studying in Australia. The number of students who come to India has actually been going down: according to government figures, in 1990/91, there were over 12,765; last year there were 7,745! (By contrast, the increase in 2004 in the number of foreign students studying in China was three times the total number of foreign students that came to India: China hosted 141,087 foreign students in 2005.) We could be educators to the world — just as we could be surgeons to the world. But here is another opportunity missed: while Dubai, Singapore, Australia, to say nothing of distant US, etc. are positioning themselves as education hubs, we remain mired in that bog — the HRD Ministry.

It isn’t just that we are missing an opportunity. We are paying a huge cost every year. One estimate puts the amount that is spent on Indian students studying abroad at a figure that would be sufficient to set up 30-40 IIMs or 15-20 IITs every year. And going abroad to study is just the first step. Having studied in that country, having got familiar with the place and people, most decide to take up work there. Soon enough, they settle down there. Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006, reports that of Indian students who received doctorates in Science and Engineering between 2000 and 2003, close to 90 per cent said they planned to stay on in the US; two-thirds had firmed up “definite plans to stay.” The proportions were the same in one critical discipline after another: 91% and 62% in biological and agricultural sciences; 92% and 72% in mathematics and computer sciences; 90% and 70% in engineering...(Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006, Appendix tables, A2-96 to 100.)

The fault is by no means that of the youngsters. And there is no doubt that those who have stayed on in the US, etc. have also done much for India — they have, among other things, helped change the world’s perception of India, and, thereby, India’s perception of itself. But imagine how much our country would have gained in actual productive potential if we had educational institutions of such quality that these youngsters did not have to go abroad. Imagine how much our country would have gained if they worked here, that is if the work environment here had been such that they had felt confident they could develop to their fullest potential, and reap rewards commensurate with their capabilities and with the effort they put in.

And if we persist in the obscurantist policies and practices that mar our educational sector, this drain will only increase in the coming years. Countries are straining to develop themselves as the more attractive destinations — for students, for investors, for firms. Nor is the matter confined to choice, there is a compulsion too, a compulsion of which these leading countries are well aware and to counter which they are taking focused steps. In regard to the US, for instance, National Science Foundation data reveal that in 2003, 85 per cent of those holding Science and Engineering doctorates and working were above 55 years of age; 76 per cent were above 60 years; 20 per cent were 70 and above. The proportions for those holding Master’s degrees were equally significant: they were 85%, 65%, and 16% respectively. (Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006, Appendix tables, A3-43.) And this is just one among many reasons on account of which these countries will continue to aggressively court researchers and skilled workers from India and elsewhere.

Indeed, the threat now is not just that individuals will be wooed away. Countries — from Singapore to South Korea to Taiwan to China to the EU-25 — are making even greater efforts to woo entire firms away, in particular R&D firms. Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have already become significant research-hubs. But the suction for entire R&D firms can come from farther a-field too. We think of the US as a high-cost economy, as one that is now compelled to outsource R&D efforts to a country like India. But that is just one side of the picture, and that is true only for one end of research. In 2002, US firms spent around $ 21 billion doing research in foreign countries. As against this, foreign firms spent close to $ 26 billion doing research in the US. (Science and Engineering Indicators, 2006, Volume I, 0-4, 0-5, 18.) And that stands to reason: researchers are less costly in countries like India, but today a great deal of research, and almost all of frontier research, involves such high-technology infrastructure that it is best executed in countries like the US.

Things to do

The first thing to do is to stop counter-positioning primary, universal education against higher education. We need both. We can afford both. Second, we must see both — the threat as well as the opportunity: the threat that we may lose our best minds at an even faster rate than the rate at which we have been losing them in the past decades; on the other side, the opportunity that we can be educators to the world.

Third, to ward off the threat and to tap into the opportunity, we require the same sort of measures. To arrest and reverse the alarming deterioration of standards in most of our institutions of higher learning. To ensure that in regard to both - students as well as faculty - merit, performance here and now, alone counts. To ensure that rewards are strictly commensurate with performance.

And resources. A large proportion of these will have to come from the government - for instance, private entrepreneurs just do not have the long horizons that basic research requires. Equally, government alone will just not have enough resources for this sector. Thus, one service that finance ministers can do is to give the most generous incentives and tax-breaks for industry to invest in education and in R&D. For every trifling misuse, a Manipal will come up.

And the resources have to be defrayed not just on equipment - that is what is done ever so often: and by the time the underpaid, under-motivated faculty learn to exploit the equipment to its full potential, the equipment is obsolete. A good proportion of the resources have to be set apart for making salaries and allowances of faculty and researchers and their work-environment attractive enough for them to forego careers in private industry and to choose instead to be in universities and research institutions.

It is obvious that we cannot do any of this so long as higher education and research is dominated by governmental institutions. China, for instance, has launched an aggressive drive to bring back the very best Chinese faculty who are working in universities in the US, Europe and the like. To attract them back, China is giving them remuneration and allowances and work facilities that are better than what they have in universities where they are working. This is being done irrespective of what existing faculty get in the Chinese establishments in which these returnees will be lodged. Can such a thing be done in a governmental organisation in India - what with its scales and unions; what with the fact that the salary of a professor cannot be higher than that of the vice chancellor, and the salary of a vice chancellor cannot be higher than that of secretary, HRD...? I am, therefore, wholly against the current rush for affiliation, etc. We should encourage institutions to de-affiliate, from existing universities and the like. Colleges and research departments and institutions will come to be known by the work they do, by the standards to which they adhere. Along with this movement to de-affiliate we should develop first-rate, wholly objective and reliable methods to rank institutions.

But the gaps are so vast that mere resources will not do. We need to adopt unconventional methods to scale up this sector. The remarkable success that F C Kohli, one of the fathers of IT in India, has achieved with the “total-immersion” method in making absolutely illiterate persons literate enough to read a newspaper within 8 to 10 weeks; his analysis of “gaps” between the best engineering college in Maharashtra and other colleges in the state, and how these can be bridged by using modern IT and communications technologies - these are the sorts of measures we need to put in place. And, instead of stuffing IITs and IIMs with mediocrities just because they were born to one set of parents than another, we should induce them to multiply faculty, and to upgrade existing faculty in other institutions.

Two prerequisites

But for any of these measures to be executed we need two prerequisites. The first is to outgrow clich├ęs. “Do not make a commodity of education,” our politicians shout every time there is the slightest effort to make educational institutions self-sustaining. “Do not sell ma-Saraswati,” they shout every time there is an effort to induce industry to take up education. All such shouting ensures is that existing scarcities continue, and the existing education-czars rate off the lolly. All it accomplishes is to enable a dental college here, near Delhi itself, to pocket a “donation” of Rs 28 lakh from every entrant...Is the way to deal with the fact that 150,000 students have just applied to the IIM, Ahmedabad, for 250 seats in its two-year course, to force it to take in 27 per cent additional students — that is, sixty two more students — on the basis of birth? Or is it to give incentives to industry to set up 62 institutions of comparable worth?

And then there is the even more urgent task — to reverse the recent trend in regard to the few islands of excellence that remain: the recent trend of interfering in the IITs and IIMs. The recent edicts regarding reservations are just one — though by itself fatal enough — lance of such interference. Appointments of directors; hauling them up before Commissions because some congenitally disgruntled employee keeps writing letters to high-ups; the insistence of a legislative Committee that they switch to Hindi as the medium of instruction...There is an all-round assault to breach their autonomy.

To ward off such senselessness, three things are required. First, do not temporise: do not think that the way to meet the assault is to concede a bit - those concessions will not assuage the grabbers; on the contrary, they will become the reasons for the political and bureaucratic class to grab all: “See, the director himself is saying that they are ready to abide by our order - all he is asking is that he be given a little time to do so...” Second, as those who are working in these institutions are in a sense under the thumb of government — and I have been struck dumb by fear to which faculty themselves testify in open meetings — outsiders, in particular the alumni of these institutions, have an important duty: they must constitute themselves as firewalls around these institutions.

But the assault on such institutions is but an instance of the general assault on excellence in India today: from legislatures to civil service to educational establishments, mediocrity is being asserted as norm, vulgarity as right, intimidation as argument, assault as proof. Two classes today stand in counter-position to this assault on standards - entrepreneurs and the professional middle class. Accordingly, the pan-Indian organisations of professionals should get together to contain, roll-back and eventually eliminate this assault.

by Arun Shourie -- Based on the Foundation Day Lecture, IIT, Kharagpur, Alumni Association, Delhi.



Should India Kill a citizen?

02 October 2006 |

Should the Government of India kill one of it's citizens? Aren't we civilized enough to abolish Capital Punishment?

Today is Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. What happened to Gandhi's India? What happened to the India I love so much?

What do we achieve by hanging a man? In 1989 the Indian Government killed Kehar Singh for conspiring to assassinate Indira Gandhi. Yes, for conspiring to.

We haven’t even heard Afzal’s story

Nandita Haksar

Mohammad Afzal has been sentenced to death by hanging for the offence of conspiring to attack the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. The news that the date for his hanging has been fixed for October 20, 2006, has been greeted by most of the media with approval, if not celebration. But before we endorse the decision to hang Afzal we need to inform ourselves of the hard facts of the case without emotion. It is important to remember that we are not discussing whether Afzal was or was not a part of the conspiracy to attack the Parliament. He has already been found guilty of the crime and convicted. The question is on the sentence.

There are three principal reasons why hanging Mohammad Afzal would violate basic principles of natural justice and equity.

First, the charge sheet was against 12 persons: three Pakistanis (Masood Azhar, Tariq Ahmed and Gazi Baba) who were said to have master-minded the attack (none of the three were arrested or brought to trial. If Pakistan were to extradite them they would be protected from death penalty); five Pakistanis who actually attacked Parliament and were responsible for the death of nine members of our security forces; and the four people who actually stood trial. Afzal was not responsible for anyone’s death or injury. He did not mastermind the attack. The Supreme Court has noted that there is no direct evidence of his involvement.

Second, all the three courts, including the Supreme Court, have acquitted him of the charges under POTA of belonging to either a terrorist organisation or a terrorist gang.

Third, he was denied a fair trial. The investigation was full of illegalities and the courts noted with concern that evidence was fabricated and he never had a lawyer who represented him. The Designated Judge passed an order giving Afzal the right to cross-examine witnesses but even a person with legal training without knowledge of criminal law would find it difficult to conduct such a trial. The Supreme Court has held that “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

Can the collective conscience of our people be satisfied if a fellow citizen is hanged without having a chance to defend himself? We have not even had a chance to hear Afzal’s story. Hanging Mohammad Afzal will only be a blot on our democracy

The writer is a civil rights activist, closely associated with the rights of defendants in the Parliament attack case and is leading the public campaign for mercy in this case.

'It smells of sulphur still today'

21 September 2006 |

CHAVEZ (through translator): "Representatives of the governments of the world, good morning to all of you. First of all, I would like to invite you, very respectfully, to those who have not read this book, to read it. Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious American and world intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, and this is one of his most recent books, 'Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States.'" [Holds up book, waves it in front of General Assembly.]

"It's an excellent book to help us understand what has been happening in the world throughout the 20th century, and what's happening now, and the greatest threat looming over our planet. The hegemonic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species. We continue to warn you about this danger and we appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our heads. I had considered reading from this book, but, for the sake of time," [flips through the pages, which are numerous] "I will just leave it as a recommendation.

It reads easily, it is a very good book, I'm sure Madame [President] you are familiar with it. It appears in English, in Russian, in Arabic, in German. I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is right in their own house. The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.

"And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here." [crosses himself]

"And it smells of sulfur still today."

Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.

I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday's statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.

An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: "The Devil's Recipe."

As Chomsky says here, clearly and in depth, the American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its system of domination. And we cannot allow them to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated.

The world parent's statement – cynical, hypocritical, full of this imperial hypocrisy from the need they have to control everything.

They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that's their democratic model. It's the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that's imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons.

What a strange democracy. Aristotle might not recognize it or others who are at the root of democracy.

What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?

The president of the United States, yesterday, said to us, right here, in this room, and I'm quoting, "Anywhere you look, you hear extremists telling you can escape from poverty and recover your dignity through violence, terror and martyrdom."

Wherever he looks, he sees extremists. And you, my brother – he looks at your color, and he says, oh, there's an extremist. Evo Morales, the worthy president of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him.

The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It's not that we are extremists. It's that the world is waking up. It's waking up all over. And people are standing up.

I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.

Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the empire, against the model of domination.

The president then – and this he said himself, he said: "I have come to speak directly to the populations in the Middle East, to tell them that my country wants peace."

That's true. If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Diego, in any city, San Antonio, San Francisco, and we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace? They'll say yes.

But the government doesn't want peace. The government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.

It wants peace. But what's happening in Iraq? What happened in Lebanon? In Palestine? What's happening? What's happened over the last 100 years in Latin America and in the world? And now threatening Venezuela – new threats against Venezuela, against Iran?

He spoke to the people of Lebanon. Many of you, he said, have seen how your homes and communities were caught in the crossfire. How cynical can you get? What a capacity to lie shamefacedly. The bombs in Beirut with millimetric precision?

This is crossfire? He's thinking of a western, when people would shoot from the hip and somebody would be caught in the crossfire.

This is imperialist, fascist, assassin, genocidal, the empire and Israel firing on the people of Palestine and Lebanon. That is what happened. And now we hear, "We're suffering because we see homes destroyed.'

The president of the United States came to talk to the peoples – to the peoples of the world. He came to say – I brought some documents with me, because this morning I was reading some statements, and I see that he talked to the people of Afghanistan, the people of Lebanon, the people of Iran. And he addressed all these peoples directly.

And you can wonder, just as the president of the United States addresses those peoples of the world, what would those peoples of the world tell him if they were given the floor? What would they have to say?

And I think I have some inkling of what the peoples of the south, the oppressed people think. They would say, "Yankee imperialist, go home." I think that is what those people would say if they were given the microphone and if they could speak with one voice to the American imperialists.

And that is why, Madam President, my colleagues, my friends, last year we came here to this same hall as we have been doing for the past eight years, and we said something that has now been confirmed – fully, fully confirmed.

I don't think anybody in this room could defend the system. Let's accept – let's be honest. The U.N. system, born after the Second World War, collapsed. It's worthless.

Oh, yes, it's good to bring us together once a year, see each other, make statements and prepare all kinds of long documents, and listen to good speeches, like Abel's (ph) yesterday, or President Mullah's (ph). Yes, it's good for that.

And there are a lot of speeches, and we've heard lots from the president of Sri Lanka, for instance, and the president of Chile.

But we, the assembly, have been turned into a merely deliberative organ. We have no power, no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world. And that is why Venezuela once again proposes, here, today, 20 September, that we re-establish the United Nations.

Last year, Madam, we made four modest proposals that we felt to be crucially important. We have to assume the responsibility our heads of state, our ambassadors, our representatives, and we have to discuss it.

The first is expansion, and Mullah (ph) talked about this yesterday right here. The Security Council, both as it has permanent and non-permanent categories, (inaudible) developing countries and LDCs must be given access as new permanent members. That's step one.

Second, effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts, transparent decisions.

Point three, the immediate suppression – and that is something everyone's calling for – of the anti-democratic mechanism known as the veto, the veto on decisions of the Security Council.

Let me give you a recent example. The immoral veto of the United States allowed the Israelis, with impunity, to destroy Lebanon. Right in front of all of us as we stood there watching, a resolution in the council was prevented.

Fourthly, we have to strengthen, as we've always said, the role and the powers of the secretary general of the United Nations.

Yesterday, the secretary general practically gave us his speech of farewell. And he recognized that over the last 10 years, things have just gotten more complicated; hunger, poverty, violence, human rights violations have just worsened. That is the tremendous consequence of the collapse of the United Nations system and American hegemonistic pretensions.

Madam, Venezuela a few years ago decided to wage this battle within the United Nations by recognizing the United Nations, as members of it that we are, and lending it our voice, our thinking.

Our voice is an independent voice to represent the dignity and the search for peace and the reformulation of the international system; to denounce persecution and aggression of hegemonistic forces on the planet.

This is how Venezuela has presented itself. Bolivar's home has sought a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council.

Let's see. Well, there's been an open attack by the U.S. government, an immoral attack, to try and prevent Venezuela from being freely elected to a post in the Security Council.

The imperium is afraid of truth, is afraid of independent voices. It calls us extremists, but they are the extremists.

And I would like to thank all the countries that have kindly announced their support for Venezuela, even though the ballot is a secret one and there's no need to announce things.

But since the imperium has attacked, openly, they strengthened the convictions of many countries. And their support strengthens us.

Mercosur, as a bloc, has expressed its support, our brothers in Mercosur. Venezuela, with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, is a full member of Mercosur.

And many other Latin American countries, CARICOM, Bolivia have expressed their support for Venezuela. The Arab League, the full Arab League has voiced its support. And I am immensely grateful to the Arab world, to our Arab brothers, our Caribbean brothers, the African Union. Almost all of Africa has expressed its support for Venezuela and countries such as Russia or China and many others.

I thank you all warmly on behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of our people, and on behalf of the truth, because Venezuela, with a seat on the Security Council, will be expressing not only Venezuela's thoughts, but it will also be the voice of all the peoples of the world, and we will defend dignity and truth.

Over and above all of this, Madam President, I think there are reasons to be optimistic. A poet would have said "helplessly optimistic," because over and above the wars and the bombs and the aggressive and the preventive war and the destruction of entire peoples, one can see that a new era is dawning.

As Sylvia Rodriguez (ph) says, the era is giving birth to a heart. There are alternative ways of thinking. There are young people who think differently. And this has already been seen within the space of a mere decade. It was shown that the end of history was a totally false assumption, and the same was shown about Pax Americana and the establishment of the capitalist neo-liberal world. It has been shown, this system, to generate mere poverty. Who believes in it now?

What we now have to do is define the future of the world. Dawn is breaking out all over. You can see it in Africa and Europe and Latin America and Oceanea. I want to emphasize that optimistic vision.

We have to strengthen ourselves, our will to do battle, our awareness. We have to build a new and better world.

Venezuela joins that struggle, and that's why we are threatened. The U.S. has already planned, financed and set in motion a coup in Venezuela, and it continues to support coup attempts in Venezuela and elsewhere.

President Michelle Bachelet reminded us just a moment ago of the horrendous assassination of the former foreign minister, Orlando Letelier.

And I would just add one thing: Those who perpetrated this crime are free. And that other event where an American citizen also died were American themselves. They were CIA killers, terrorists.

And we must recall in this room that in just a few days there will be another anniversary. Thirty years will have passed from this other horrendous terrorist attack on the Cuban plane, where 73 innocents died, a Cubana de Aviacion airliner.

And where is the biggest terrorist of this continent who took the responsibility for blowing up the plane? He spent a few years in jail in Venezuela. Thanks to CIA and then government officials, he was allowed to escape, and he lives here in this country, protected by the government.

And he was convicted. He has confessed to his crime. But the U.S. government has double standards. It protects terrorism when it wants to.

And this is to say that Venezuela is fully committed to combating terrorism and violence. And we are one of the people who are fighting for peace.

Luis Posada Carriles is the name of that terrorist who is protected here. And other tremendously corrupt people who escaped from Venezuela are also living here under protection: a group that bombed various embassies, that assassinated people during the coup. They kidnapped me and they were going to kill me, but I think God reached down and our people came out into the streets and the army was too, and so I'm here today.

But these people who led that coup are here today in this country protected by the American government. And I accuse the American government of protecting terrorists and of having a completely cynical discourse.

We mentioned Cuba. Yes, we were just there a few days ago. We just came from there happily.

And there you see another era born. The Summit of the 15, the Summit of the Nonaligned, adopted a historic resolution. This is the outcome document. Don't worry, I'm not going to read it.

But you have a whole set of resolutions here that were adopted after open debate in a transparent matter – more than 50 heads of state. Havana was the capital of the south for a few weeks, and we have now launched, once again, the group of the nonaligned with new momentum.

And if there is anything I could ask all of you here, my companions, my brothers and sisters, it is to please lend your good will to lend momentum to the Nonaligned Movement for the birth of the new era, to prevent hegemony and prevent further advances of imperialism.

And as you know, Fidel Castro is the president of the nonaligned for the next three years, and we can trust him to lead the charge very efficiently.

Unfortunately they thought, "Oh, Fidel was going to die." But they're going to be disappointed because he didn't. And he's not only alive, he's back in his green fatigues, and he's now presiding the nonaligned.

So, my dear colleagues, Madam President, a new, strong movement has been born, a movement of the south. We are men and women of the south.

With this document, with these ideas, with these criticisms, I'm now closing my file. I'm taking the book with me. And, don't forget, I'm recommending it very warmly and very humbly to all of you.

We want ideas to save our planet, to save the planet from the imperialist threat. And hopefully in this very century, in not too long a time, we will see this, we will see this new era, and for our children and our grandchildren a world of peace based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations, but a renewed United Nations.

And maybe we have to change location. Maybe we have to put the United Nations somewhere else; maybe a city of the south. We've proposed Venezuela.

You know that my personal doctor had to stay in the plane. The chief of security had to be left in a locked plane. Neither of these gentlemen was allowed to arrive and attend the U.N. meeting. This is another abuse and another abuse of power on the part of the Devil. It smells of sulfur here, but God is with us and I embrace you all.

May God bless us all. Good day to you.


Courtesy: © 2006

Hedge Fund makes $4.6 disappear


Conn. hedge fund loses billions

The $4.6-billion loss by Amaranth Advisors may spark activity by Congress or regulators.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bloomberg News

Amaranth Advisors LLC, the Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund whose wrong-way bets lost about $4.6 billion this month, reached an agreement yesterday to transfer all of its energy trades to an unidentified third party, according to a letter sent to investors.

Nicholas Maounis, Amaranth's founder, said in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News, that more details will follow "shortly." The firm was in negotiations with Citadel Investment Group LLC as of late yesterday, two people with knowledge of those talks said.

Amaranth was forced to unload the trades after swings in natural-gas prices last week turned it into the biggest hedge fund meltdown since Long-Term Capital Management LP's 1998 collapse. By transferring the bets, Amaranth would stem its losses and the new investor would be at risk of any further declines in the gas market.

Also yesterday, 3M Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and San Diego County's retirement fund say the meltdown of Amaranth may cost them millions.

The $9.2-billion pension fund of 3M, maker of Post-it Notes and electronics and cleaning products, gave less than $92 million to Amaranth, according to Jacqueline Berry, a spokeswoman for the St. Paul, Minn.-based company. Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Partners LLC has about $13 million with the firm, according to a regulatory filing.

"This will spark activity by Congress, or by regulators, for some oversight of an area that has not been watched," said Dan McAllister, a board member of the $7.2-billion San Diego County Employees Retirement Association. The fund invested $175 million with Amaranth last year.

The San Diego County pension board invested in Amaranth on the recommendation of consultants Rocaton Investment Advisors in Norwalk, Conn., McAllister said. The San Diego County fund is unconnected to the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System, which has a deficit of more than $1 billion.

"We are aware of the Amaranth situation, and we are in dialogue with our clients," Rocaton spokesman Todd Miller said, declining further comment.

It will take weeks to find out how much pension money melted away with Amaranth's bad trades, Damon Silvers, associate general counsel of the Washington-based AFL-CIO, said.

The largest U.S. labor association, whose member unions hold more than $400 billion in pension assets, has criticized provisions of the pension-reform law signed by President Bush last month that loosened restrictions on pension-money flows into hedge funds.

"This shows what an appalling decision that was," Silvers said.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he's examining Amaranth's losses.

"We are taking some initial steps to investigate what went so terribly wrong, whether there was a truthful and accurate disclosure to investors," he said.

Tom Carson, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor in Connecticut, declined to comment, as did Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington and SEC spokesman John Nester.

Amaranth, named for an imaginary flower that never fades, had gained more than 25 percent earlier this year on bets that natural-gas prices would rise. Prices tumbled this month, triggering losses that grew as it scrambled to unwind trades.

"Potentially, [the new investors] bought at a very good price," said Mark Williams, a finance professor at Boston University and former risk manager of electricity trader Citizens Power. "If they have a longer time horizon and they can withstand the volatility and the short-term fluctuations, they then have a good chance of making some serious cash."

Amaranth spokesman Shawn Pattison declined to comment. A call to Scott Rafferty, managing director at Citadel, wasn't immediately returned.

Some of Amaranth's energy investments consist of positions in gas futures, options and over-the-counter contracts that would gain in value as prices rise, according to one person with knowledge of the situation.

Amaranth, which made so-called spread trades that aim to profit from price discrepancies among different contracts, was at least the second hedge fund to be rocked by bad investments in natural gas. MotherRock LP, a $400-million fund run by former New York Mercantile Exchange President Robert "Bo" Collins, closed last month.

"It's certainly a reminder that investing in certain hedge funds is a risky business," Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox said yesterday. "It's not for mom and pop."

So-called funds of funds that invested with Amaranth may bear much of its losses. Goldman Sachs Dynamic Opportunities Ltd., a London-based fund, reported that it sustained losses on an investment whose description fits Amaranth.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group, Bank of New York Co., Deutsche Bank AG and Man Group PLC all run funds of funds that had investments in Amaranth as of June 30.

Amaranth was founded by Maounis, a University of Connecticut finance graduate. After working at Greenwich-based Paloma Partners for 10 years, Maounis, 43, left to found Amaranth with 27 employees and $450 million in 2000.

The firm occupies a beige, four-story office next to a pond and manicured lawn with a fountain in Greenwich, home to more than 100 hedge funds, private pools of capital that allow managers to participate substantially in the gains on clients' investments. The building houses a gym and a game room, with pool tables for employees.

After starting in convertible-bond trades and betting on stocks of merging companies, Maounis expanded into energy, hiring former Deutsche Bank trader Brian Hunter. As of June 30, energy trades accounted for about half of the capital in Amaranth's funds and generated about 75 percent of its profit.

Earlier this month, Amaranth bought a portfolio of gas trades from Amsterdam-based ABN Amro Holding NV, which itself had taken them over from MotherRock. It was Hunter, 32, who orchestrated the bets that triggered Amaranth's losses.

"If one is speculating in that kind of market, there's going to be some downside risk," said Shannon Burchett, who traded oil for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. in the 1990s and now runs an energy consulting firm in Dallas. "They should have the controls and risk management strategies in place to mitigate those kind of outcomes."

Pulitzer prize winner in illegal US custody

20 September 2006 |

AP photographer held by U.S. military for months without charge

New York, September 17, 2006

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by news that a Pulitzer Prize-winning freelance photojournalist working for The Associated Press in Iraq has been held by U.S. military forces for five months without charge. "U.S. authorities who have detained Bilal Hussein in Iraq must either charge him or release him from custody," said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. :::more:::

My Shout:
What was AP doing for the last five months?

US Senator John McCain knows what it is to be detained and tortured by the 'captors'. He has been fighting a battle within the ruling Republican regime in the US. I urge all readers to email senator McCain asking him to voice his support for the immediate release or charge of Bilal Hussein.

Click on the picture below to view the Pulitzer winning photo-series. The photos do capture the dreadful nature of war and violence. There is a picture of a 18-month-old boy's body in a coffin, if it doesn't break your heart - you ain't got one. How could Iraqis or Americans support this mindless violence.

(Photo by Bilal Hussein, November 8, 2004.)
Fallujah - Iraqi insurgents fire a mortar and small arms during the U.S.-led offensive against insurgents in the city.

How Bilal found himself in the desert with the insurgents 'killing' the Italian could be one of the reasons why the Americans have taken Bilal into their custody. But not to charge the man for six months is illegal.

Insurgents stand next to a body they claim to be that of Italian national Salvatore Santoro, 52, in the desert outside Ramadi, Iraq, Wednesday Dec. 15, 2004. The statement by the group identifying itself as the Islamic Movement of Iraq's Mujahedeen said it was announcing the killing of an Italian citizen. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

AP chief calls on U.S. either to charge or release photographer

By The Associated Press

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned an Associated Press photographer for five months, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing.

Military officials said Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for "imperative reasons of security" under United Nations resolutions. AP executives said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system.

Hussein, 35, is a native of Fallujah who began work for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained on April 12 of this year.

"We want the rule of law to prevail. He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable," said Tom Curley, AP's president and chief executive officer. "We've come to the conclusion that this is unacceptable under Iraqi law, or Geneva Conventions, or any military procedure."

Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide — 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few have been charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom.

In Hussein's case, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him, Curley and other AP executives said.

The military said Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. "He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces," according to a May 7 e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, who oversees all coalition detainees in Iraq.

"The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities," Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski.

Hussein proclaims his innocence, according to his Iraqi lawyer, Badie Arief Izzat, and believes he has been unfairly targeted because his photos from Ramadi and Fallujah were deemed unwelcome by the coalition forces.

That Hussein was captured at the same time as insurgents doesn't make him one of them, said Kathleen Carroll, AP's executive editor.

"Journalists have always had relationships with people that others might find unsavory," she said. "We're not in this to choose sides, we're to report what's going on from all sides."

AP executives in New York and Baghdad have sought to persuade U.S. officials to provide additional information about allegations against Hussein and to have his case transferred to the Iraqi criminal justice system. The AP contacted military leaders in Iraq and the Pentagon, and later the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The AP has worked quietly until now, believing that would be the best approach. But with the U.S. military giving no indication it would change its stance, the news cooperative has decided to make public Hussein's imprisonment, hoping the spotlight will bring attention to his case and that of thousands of others now held in Iraq, Curley said.

One of Hussein's photos was part of a package of 20 photographs that won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography last year. His contribution was an image of four insurgents in Fallujah firing a mortar and small arms during the U.S.-led offensive in the city in November 2004.

How Hussein came to work for AP

In what several AP editors described as a typical path for locally hired staff in the midst of a conflict, Hussein, a shopkeeper who sold cell phones and computers in Fallujah, was hired in the city as a general helper because of his local knowledge.

As the situation in Fallujah eroded in 2004, he expressed a desire to become a photographer. Hussein was given training and camera equipment and hired in September of that year as a freelancer, paid on a per-picture basis, according to Santiago Lyon, AP's director of photography. A month later, he was put on a monthly retainer.

During the U.S.-led offensive in Fallujah in November 2004, he stayed on after his family fled. "He had good access. He was able to photograph not only the results of the attacks on Fallujah, he was also able to photograph members of the insurgency on occasion," Lyon said. "That was very difficult to achieve at that time."

After fleeing later in the offensive, leaving his camera behind in the rush to escape, Hussein arrived in Baghdad, where the AP gave him a new camera. He then went to work in Ramadi which, like Fallujah, has been a center of insurgent violence.

In its own effort to determine whether Hussein had gotten too close the insurgency, the AP has reviewed his work record, interviewed senior photo editors who worked on his images and examined all 420 photographs in the news cooperative's archives that were taken by Hussein, Lyon said.

The military in Iraq has frequently detained journalists who arrive quickly at scenes of violence, accusing them of getting advance notice from insurgents, Lyon said. But "that's just good journalism. Getting to the event quickly is something that characterizes good journalism anywhere in the world. It does not indicate prior knowledge," he said.

Out of Hussein's body of work, only 37 photos show insurgents or people who could be insurgents, Lyon said. "The vast majority of the 420 images show the aftermath or the results of the conflict — blown up houses, wounded people, dead people, street scenes," he said.

Only four photos show the wreckage of still-burning U.S. military vehicles.

AP says it checks work for signs of bias

"Do we know absolutely everything about him, and what he did before he joined us? No. Are we satisfied that what he did since he joined us was appropriate for the level of work we expected from him? Yes," Lyon said. "When we reviewed the work he submitted to us, we found it appropriate to what we'd asked him to do."

The AP does not knowingly hire combatants or anyone who is part of a story, company executives said. But hiring competent local staff in combat areas is vital to the news service, because often only local people can pick their way around the streets with a reasonable degree of safety.

"We want people who are not part of a story. Sometimes it is a judgment call. If someone seems to be thuggish, or like a fighter, you certainly wouldn't hire them," Daniszewski said. After they are hired, their work is checked carefully for signs of bias.

Lyon said every image from local photographers was always "thoroughly checked and vetted" by experienced editors. "In every case where there have been images of insurgents, questions have been asked about circumstances under which the image was taken, and what the image shows," he said.

Executives said it's not uncommon for AP news people to be picked up by coalition forces and detained for hours, days or occasionally weeks, but never this long. Several hundred journalists in Iraq have been detained, some briefly and some for several weeks, according to Scott Horton, a New York-based lawyer hired by the AP to work on Hussein's case.

Horton also worked on behalf of an Iraqi cameraman employed by CBS, Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, who was detained for one year before his case was sent to an Iraqi court on charges of insurgent activity. He was acquitted for lack of evidence.

AP officials emphasized the military had not provided the company concrete evidence of its claims against Bilal Hussein, or provided him a chance to offer a defense.

"He's a Sunni Arab from a tribe in that area. I'm sure he does know some nasty people. But is he a participant in the insurgency? I don't think that's been proven," Daniszewski said.

Accusations of kidnapping refuted

Information provided to the AP by the military to support the continued detention hasn't withstood scrutiny, when it could be checked, Daniszewski said.

For example, he said, the AP had been told that Hussein was involved with the kidnapping of two Arab journalists in Ramadi.

But those journalists, tracked down by the AP, said Hussein had helped them after they were released by their captors without money or a vehicle in a dangerous part of Ramadi. After a journalist acquaintance put them in touch with Hussein, the photographer picked them up, gave them shelter and helped get them out of town, they said.

The journalists said they had never been contacted by multinational forces for their account.

Horton said the military has provided contradictory accounts of whether Hussein himself was a U.S. target last April or if he was caught up in a broader sweep.

The military said bomb-making materials were found in the apartment where Hussein was captured but it never detailed what those materials were. The military said he tested positive for traces of explosives. Horton said that was virtually guaranteed for anyone on the streets of Ramadi at that time.

Hussein has been a frequent target of conservative critics on the Internet, who raised questions about his images months before the military detained him. One blogger and author, Michelle Malkin, wrote about Hussein's detention on the day of his arrest, saying she'd been tipped by a military source.

Carroll said the role of journalists can be misconstrued and make them a target of critics. But that criticism is misplaced, she said.

"How can you know what a conflict is like if you're only with one side of the combatants?" she said. "Journalism doesn't work if we don't report and photograph all sides."

ICC -- A bunch of jokers

13 September 2006 |

Time and again International Cricket Council makes it a point to reveal its true glory to the millions of cricket fans around the world. Cricket administrators are usually politicians who don't make the cut in the political arena or they are failed lawyers who cannot win a decent case in a court of law for their clients.

After reading this report, you would start to wonder whether ICC is an administrative body or a club of a bunch of jokers.
Ponting hit by fine for dissent

Ricky Ponting has been fined his match fee for showing dissent at an umpire during Australia's 78-run one-day win over the West Indies in Kuala Lumpur. Ponting was charged by the umpires with breaching cricket's code of conduct relating to dissent at an umpire's decision by action or verbal abuse.

The Aussie skipper pleaded guilty at a hearing led by match ref Chris Broad.

Broad said: "It is not acceptable for any player, let alone a captain, to question an umpire's decision."

It was Ponting's second dissent offence within the past year - the other was in April against Bangladesh during the second Test at Chittagong. The latest charge followed his reaction to the calling of a wide by umpire Asad Rauf in the 33rd over of West Indies' innings. Ponting walked up to Rauf to query the decision.

Dissent is unacceptable says ICC. That sort of a law is an ass. Malcolm Speed and Percy Sonn (two lawyers, ironically) who run ICC should know that there is nothing wrong with dissent as long as it is not violent or abusive.

A captain should be allowed to speak to the umpire. If Ponting insulted the umpire - then yes, by all means don't fine him, suspend him.

International Cricket is played by adults who are eligible to vote, perform a surgery, so on and so forth. To enforce a diktat that international cricketers should not disagree with the umpires is NONSENSE.

Dissent: the fact of having or expressing opinions that are different from those that are officially accepted. (In this case, umpire's decision is final!)

If a batsman is given out, and the captain of the fielding side calls him back, isn't that dissent too?

ICC has no f&%king clue about the world they live in.

What sort of a society wouldn't accept dissent? Chris Broad, the match referee, who says, "It is not acceptable for any player, let alone a captain, to question an umpire's decision."

Broad should throw away his British passport and take up an honorary citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

The right to dissent is the very essence of equality enshrined in democracy. If ICC and its officers like Broad keep behaving like feudal lords, then the real stakeholders of the game (the ones who play and watch it) should get rid of the ICC through democratic means.

All the ICC member countries (with the exception of Zimbabwe and Pakistan) have excellent democratic record. We shouldn't allow the existence of an anti-democratic institution within a democratic space.

It is a pity that some people think: enforcement of authority ensures respect.

Exxon's efforts to put Greg Palast in jail

12 September 2006 |

It’s true. It’s weird. It’s nuts. The Department of Homeland Security, after a five-year hunt for Osama, has finally brought charges against… Greg Palast. I kid you not. Send your cakes with files to the Air America wing at Guantanamo.

Though not just yet. Fatherland Security has informed me that television producer Matt Pascarella and I have been charged with unauthorized filming of a “critical national security structure” in Louisiana.


Campus in crisis


The current chaos in BITS Dubai resembles a great deal to the storyline of a C-grade bollywood movie; providing livelihood to a few and entertaining the general public.

There has been a great deal of media coverage over the last one week on the 'campus crisis' in BITS Dubai campus. Mainstream media (newspapers) and parallel media in the form of blogs have brought out many aspects of the 'BITS Dubai circus.'

It all started with 7Days publishing a story on the 8th of September:

In yet another case of a school administration trying to ban student blogging, three engineering students at a campus in Knowledge Village in Dubai have been suspended indefinitely, raising questions about freedom of speech and expression. A notice on one of the boards at the ‘Birla Institute of Technology and Science – Pilani’ campus in Dubai lists the names of three suspended students. [more].
On the 10th September, 12 more students were suspended.

Hundreds of students assembled in front of their college yesterday (10 Sep) after 12 of them were temporarily suspended for bullying, or ‘ragging’, the new entrants. According to the director of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani, the action was taken after first year students complained that senior students asked them to perform “unnatural acts”.

“All the senior students were assembled on the excuse of signing some documents and an identification was conducted with the first year students standing behind a dark glass." [more]

On 11th Sep, BITS campus in Dubai saw four private security guards keeping an eye on senior students (not that they can't see junior students).

Bullying clampdown [link]

Authorities at the BITS-Pilani campus in Knowledge Village have hired the services of a private security company to clamp down on bullying of new students. Four security guards from the private company were yesterday keeping watch at the institute, where 12 seniors were suspended this week for ‘terrorising juniors’.

The Director of the Institute Dr M Ramachandran yesterday told 7DAYS that new students were asked to simulate sex acts as part of an initiation. “Freshers were scared to even go to the canteen and some parents even wanted to withdraw their kids… BITS-Pilani is one of the most reputable institutions in India and… it is unfair to let 12 students damage the reputation,” he added.

Too many questions remain.

Is Dr. Ramachandran worried about the institution in Dubai or about the reputation of BITS-Pilani?

The image of BITS has been tarnished anyway. BITS-Pilani was not founded to be a money-making monster.

In 1964, the Birla Colleges of Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Pharmacy and Science were merged to form the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS). In this period of inception (especially during 1964-1970), BITS Pilani received support from the Ford Foundation and benefited from an alliance with the MIT.
I just cannot find any good reputation when an institution takes the path of profiteering through the trade of higher and technical education. It is like the naked emperor trying to cover himself with a transparent cloth.

From reading these news and blog articles, I wonder whether the security guards have been deployed to protect juniors or to bully students in general.

From a management's point of view there has been a disciplinary breakdown in the campus. Getting students to sign a sacred document when they join the course is not simply good enough. The campus atmosphere should be one of peace and creative excellece.

This can only be achieved by teachers and management providing a supporting system to all the students. From the comments and blogs I have read so far -- it seems the institution has managed to create an extremely hostile environment in the campus - through some draconian regulations.

It is about time that the Ministry of Education, UAE, conducted an enquiry into the whole affair. Dubai's reputation also gets damaged just because it has a 'problem tenant' in its Knowledge Village facility. Today, after reading the 7days report a friend told me, "With the private security guards and parading of senior students for identification -- with the first year students standing behind a dark glass... it sounds very unprofessional and conspiratory in nature. It doesn't sound like what happens in any of the university campuses around the world."

Reasoning should prevail. To expect students to behave like young army cadets is wrong. It is up to the mature and responsible Teachers and Officials to provide the right kind of atmosphere of friendship and peace. It is sad that some people think that enforcement of authority ensures respect.

The current ruler of Dubai is a glowing example. He has ensured that Dubai is a friendly and peaceful place for all nationalities to live, work and prosper.

Let good reason and peace prevail in BITS Dubai too.

Winning a Katrina Lottery

06 September 2006 |

Katrina was a big lottery for the powerful and rich of the United States of America.

Top Hurricane Expert Says Officials Threatened His Job Over Pre-Katrina Warnings

On the eve of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, investigative journalist Greg Palast reports that a top hurricane expert says government officials threatened his job over his warnings about the impending disaster. [includes rush transcript] Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that ravaged the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The storm was the most powerful and expensive natural disaster to hit the U.S- killing more than 1,500 people in New Orleans alone, displacing some 770,000 residents and destroying over 300,000 homes. The federal government's response to the disaster was widely condemned - images of the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents piling into the city's superdome stadium pleading for food, water and aid became symbolic of the government's inaction.

In the aftermath of the storm, it become increasingly clear that the effects of Hurricane Katrina were made far worse by government incompetence and neglect. Warnings about the severity of the storm were ignored and the levees which were supposed to prevent New Orleans from flooding were grossly inadequate. And, as investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals in his new report, there were major holes in the city's evacuation plan.

Greg Palast, investigative reporter and author of "Armed Madhouse" reports from New Orleans. Produced by Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films and Matt Pascarella.

Read more on Democracy Now!

Put Zaheer Abbas in the dock

30 August 2006 |

Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove awarded five runs to England (penalised Pakistan) as they found out the ball has been tampered with. Pakistan did not stop play at that point. There was no fury, national pride, no nothing. The game went on. During the tea-break, in the comforts of the pavilion, a storm started to gather in the Pakistani tea-cup. Suddenly, Inzi and his team realised that it is their national pride that has been questioned not by the umpires but by one umpire - Darrell Hair!

Pakistani team, by refusing to go out and play -- let the game down. After a little while, Pakistani team came down to continue playing cricket. It is a fact that Pakistani players played after being penalised, and they expressed a willingness to play after the umpires decided to call the match off.

Something happened in the Pakistani dressing room. Was there a call from Pakistan -- asking them to stop playing? If you check the TV images, you'll notice that Inzi is clearly confused about what is going on. It is a completely different matter that Inzi has to bear the responsibility for the silly politics that was played out in the dressing room.

There is clear evidence of Zaheer Abbas talking on his mobile phone -- as he walked in and out of the dressing room. ICC stipulates that mobile phone cannot be taken into the dressing room (After the match-fixing episode that tarnished cricket forever). Who will take action against Zaheer Abbas? Why was he carrying a mobile phone? Was he passing on information to bookies?

Azhar's three dropped catches

27 August 2006 |

I came across this article written by Ayaz Memon in DNA Sunday.

LK Advani’s decision to revive the Ram Mandir issue during his current rathyatra brings back vivid memories of December 6, 1992 — when the Babri Masjid was demolished — and its aftermath.

We were in Cape Town where India was playing a one-day international against South Africa in a day-night game. During the break between innings or thereabouts, news filtered in (through the All India Radio commentary team, I think) of the mayhem in Ayodhya. There was hushed silence for a while among the Indians in the press enclosure, followed by agitated discussions, and then a flurry of calls back home to check if everything was all right.

When the match resumed after the break, India were fielding and seemed to be making things difficult for the South African batsmen till things suddenly began to go haywire. India’s best fielder — and captain then — Mohammed Azharuddin dropped three catches, two of them skiers, which he would normally have held in his sleep. The stranglehold over the South Africans had collapsed, and India crashed to defeat.

It is unknown whether the dramatic developments back home had anything to do with Azhar’s distracted performance — though how he could have been unaffected is difficult to imagine — but when I returned to India in late January 1993, after being stranded in Nairobi for a few days because of riots in Mumbai, there were a fair number of people I knew who had been devastated.

Very touching commentary of life after the Babri Masjid demolition. Memon could very well be guilty of batting for the tainted Azhar (matchfixing?) - I remember seeing those three dropped catches. To say that the news of Babri Masjid demolition during the innings break could have distracted the India captain is a bit too much to digest.

Babri Masjid came down at about 1100 hrs Indian time on the 06th December 1992. The match in Cape Town was a day/night game on the 07th of December. The innings break would have been at about 1800 hrs IST. That was 31 hours after the incident.

Maybe Ayaz bowled a doosra at the readers. Or could it be that CricInfo has the wrong date on the scorecard.

If anyone has the right answer, post a comment.

Giving the game a bad name


On 21st August, it was published on the ICC website:

Changing the condition of the ball

Inzamam has been charged, as captain, with a breach of Level 2.10 of the ICC Code which relates to changing the condition of the ball in breach of Law 42.3 of the Laws of Cricket.

This charge was brought by the on-field umpires Billy Doctrove and Darrell Hair on Sunday.

If Inzamam is found guilty of breaching this provision he faces a fine of between 50 and 100 per cent of his match fee and/or a one Test or two ODI ban.

Bringing the game into disrepute

Inzamam has also been charged, as captain, with a breach of C2 at Level 3 of the Code which relates to conduct that brings the player or the game of cricket into disrepute.

This charge was brought by the on-field umpires Billy Doctrove and Darrell Hair along with the third and fourth umpires Peter Hartley and Trevor Jesty following a meeting on Monday morning.


If the ICC rewards Hair for keeping quiet, it means Pakistan is guilty and the ICC is covering up. Shouldn't Billy Doctrove also get paid for keeping quiet?

The umpire at the heart of cricket's ball-tampering scandal who demanded $500,000 (£254,000) to resign is likely to be paid off but to be banned from talking about the affair.
By refusing to take to the field after the tea break, Inzi and his boys made a big mistake. Later on, Inzi and his players made to the ground to continue playing... just that the umpires had by then awarded the game to England.

If it was everything about national pride which Inzi and PCB is talking about, why did they come back to the ground to continue playing without resolving the ball-tampering issue?

Looks like the ICC do not wish to punish Inzi or Hair. They want everyone to smile and be happy. The only way the ICC will ever achieve it is by punishing themselves by disbanding the organisation. Cricket needs a better authority to administer it, and a better adjudication system to deal with charges such as ball-tampering, doping and bringing the game to disrepute.

Strictly speaking, if one of the international players were to call Percy Sonn an idiot -- it can be construed as bringing the game to disrepute.

In India, if you criticise a court judgment or even a judge-- you can be arrested and put behind bars on charges of 'contempt of court.' The judge considers himself to be the justice itself; hence he is an untouchable. If you appeal successfully and get the judgment overturned by a higher court -- there is absolutely no contempt.

Laughable isn't it?

By delaying the 'hearing' on the issue and letting the media circus go on and on. Imran Khan called Hair a Hitler, some journalists called Hair a racist (everyone conveniently forgets poor ole Billy who has a 50% share in the decision making "This charge was brought by the on-field umpires Billy Doctrove and Darrell Hair on Sunday.")

The ICC brought the game to further disrepute by disclosing internal emails; the email correspondence between the ICC and Darrell Hair.

Are all the ICC internal emails archived on the ICC website for public consumption? Speed's speed for setting new levels of transparency is pretty much similar to the king wearing the transparent attire.

Not everything that matters to the public is made available: the ICC has a certain Umpire Assessment system, which is not published on the website or given to the media.

In this whole tampered ball controversy, the current ICC management has discredited itself and the game of cricket.

Charges of 'bringing the game to disrepute' and 'covering up a crime' has to be levelled against the current ICC management. In fact, before the trial, thee entire top management should be kicked out and fresh elections have to be held.

Former Scotland yard chief - Sir Paul Condon should be asked to search for the ball in question, and the ball has to be sent to the university in Perth to verify whether it has been tampered or not.

Darrell Hair finds some support

Under-fire Darrell Hair received support from a former Indian colleague S Venkatraghavan, who said it was unfair to doubt the Australian umpire's integrity as he did not seek controversies purposely.

"Umpiring is a tough job, decisions are to be made in split second and you have to go by what you've seen by eyes," said Venkatraghavan, who retired as an Elite umpire a couple of years back.

"Hair does not seek controversy purposely, but yes his decisions are controversial sometimes as he gives an impression that he is arrogant on the field," he told a TV channel on Saturday.

Venkatraghavan justified Hair and his fellow umpire Billy Doctrove's action which led to Pakistan's forfeiture of the fourth and final cricket Test against England a week ago.

"What happened on the field that day was Pakistan refused to play and the umpires had no other way to go about... (But) it is difficult to comprehend and the episode is difficult to forget," he said.

Cricket's big cover up act

26 August 2006 |

ICC wants to shove the ball tampering controversy under the magic Arabian carpet in their Dubai office.

Malcolm Speed the CEO of ICC says, "Did the Pakistan team change the nature of the ball in an illegal manner under the Laws of Cricket and did its refusal to take the field after the tea interval bring the game into disrepute?"

He must be kidding, why is he having second thoughts when all it takes is to take a look at the ball. If he finds it smooth and shiny, he should get rid of the controversial Hair.

Further evidence of ICC's spineless character was revealed today when Speed said, "We also need some advice about the power of the executive board to in effect overturn a properly laid Code of Conduct charge by an umpire."

If the ball was not tampered why didn't Prcoter or ICC do anything for all these days? Where is that ball now? This is a major cover up -- no transparency at all.

Whether these half-baked lawyers are competent to run the game is what everyone should be discussing.

The weirdest thing about this issue is that ICC is an executive body. When faced with a tough situation, Mr. Speed comes up with this statement, "This has become a big issue, an international issue, and there are all sorts of ramifications that have occurred that we wish hadn't occurred."

This has become an issue just cause the ball was not shown to the public. ICC cannot be the police and the judge.

Percy Sonn, President, ICC, says: "The two teams, England and Pakistan, have produced some superb cricket this summer and the best result for everyone now would be for them to produce more of the same in the forthcoming NatWest Series.

"We have been assured by the Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman, Mr Shaharyar Khan, that his side intends to contest the series as scheduled and we welcome that decision as the first step on the road to a return to normalcy.

"I now call on both sides to go out and put a smile back on the face of the world's cricket lovers with some superb action and remind everyone why this is such a great game."

We just don't have to hear from a Percy Sonn whether the game is great or not. I love this game, more than you do Percy. What Percy is saying is that both sides should 'put a smile back on the face of the cricket lovers'. Big cover up is what ICC wants.

Again, all he has to do is stop scratching his balls and look at the tampered ball. If Hair was wrong, fire him. If Hair was right, ban Pakistan for six months for cheating.

Wasn't there another South African, one Percy would know too well, Mike Procter, who had a look at that ball on that particularly dramatic day at The Oval?

By publishing Hair's internal emails, ICC has brought the game to disrepute.

There is an effort to deflect the main issue here, which is all about the tampered ball. It is not clearly whether Hair is a racist, whether Hair is an idiot to have emailed to the bigger idiots in the ICC, whether half a million is a decent compensation for an umpire to be hung out to dry... etc etc.

The current ICC Management is a bunch of jokers. Why there be legal advice and hearing and all that? Photographs and video recordings of the condition of the ball should be published first.

How can we expect this bunch of idiots to save the game?

The Police Raj of ICC is similar to the dictatorship of a certain military ruler who overthrew democracy and captured power in Pakistan. Yes, ICC and Pakistan will understand that sort of language.

This is the time to save cricket.

A Hair and a tampered ball.

22 August 2006 |

Umpire's decision is final. Every cricket player knows that. If given out, no batsman indulges in a sit-in hoping that the umpire would reverse his decision.

Final. Full Stop.

At the Oval, on a Sunday afternoon, the umpires were convinced that the Pakistani players played a little too much with the ball – which means they tampered the ball to make it reverse-swing.

Pakistani skipper also removed Umar Gul from the bowling attack. Did he do the unthinkable to the cricket ball like Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis and Mohammed Akram did in the last few years? Not to forget the tricks of the great Imran 'bottle-cap' Khan, who says he mastered the trick in the English soil – while playing county cricket for Sussex.

Too many Champions and Winners have been caught doping in the last two months. Floyd Landis, Justin Gatlin, Marion Jones – all have turned the whole idea of participating in sport into a shameful act of winning at all costs.

But hey, Pakistan cricket team hates umpire Hair. The argument is that Hair is prejudiced against all Asian cricketers. ICC has an evaluation system for all international umpires, if found inefficient – Hair would have been drinking beer at his favourite pub in England (Darrel Hair bid adieu to Australia to enjoy the pleasures of the different seasons in England).

If a certain has a problem with a certain umpire based on racial or historial prejudices... then those players should be playing backyard cricket. It is amazing how all these experts have been accusing ICC for being ineffective. ICC is the parent organisation, which is formed by the board officials of all the international playing nations. ECB, PCB, BCCI, Cricket Australia and the rest form the ICC. To suggest that ICC is a creation of the CIA/FBI or a company that manufactures WMDs to destroy innocent Asian cricketers is way too wrong.

When Wayne Rooney tried to tamper the balls of the Portugese player (who definitely play-acted as if he had been castrated), the Argentinian referee (Remember England and Argentina have a history of hatred thanks to the Falkland War) did not hesitate to show Rooney a red card. Rooney had to go, the Argentinian's decision was final. If you wish to complicate things further, as some of the experts and officials have tried to do after Pakistan forfeited the game, what happened to Rooney can also be described as the result of a Catholic-Protestant divide.

The Argentinians hate the Brits, on top of it – It was a catholic Cristiano Ronaldo who urged the referee Horacio Elizondo, who is also a catholic, to eject the protestant Wayne Rooney.

I just cannot see any class/race prejudice in what happened at the Oval. I don't see any conspiracy on the part of umpire Hair to deny Rupert Murdoch another day of cricket telecast and advertisement revenue.

Geoff Boycott writes, “The ICC must be blind or stupid not to have realised that there is history between Darrell Hair, the umpire who accused them of changing the nature of the ball, and Pakistan.” Oh well Boycs, Fifa should have never asked an Argentinian to referee England’s game!

Why look for a conspiracy when there has been a crime? The evidence of that crime can be seen on the tampered ball.

Another crime is that the game has been tanked. From a winning position, Pakistan threw the game away. The odds for an England win was so slim that many bookies would have lost a lot of money. No one would have expected Pakistan to pull of a loss from the jaws of victory in such bizarre fashion. Inzi has done crazier things in his career, once he ‘innocently walked back on to his stumps’ after smacking a six. His dismissal triggered a bizarre collapse and South Africa won the one-day game. For the record this game was played in Morocco and it was also the last time any international game was played at that venue. ICC had enough of it.

Almost every former cricketer and even the president of Pakistan have an opinion on the current crisis: Blame Hair, save Pakistan’s skin, and screw the ball.

Jonathan Agnew is the one person who has bothered to give a sensible explanation:

The penalty is imposed by the on-field umpires, and as long as they are as sure as they can be that the ball has been tampered with, they can act without any consultation with the captain of the fielding team.

Ball-tampering is notoriously difficult to prove.

In this case, there is no evidence from television cameras to support the umpires, and it is very hard to tell the difference between an innocent scuff mark, or deliberate skulduggery.

However, the umpires are trained to detect the difference where possible, and Pakistan's claim that the ball had been damaged by being hit to the boundary - and for six - is not entirely credible.

The ball in question had not been hit for four during the previous three overs, and was never hit for six.

Nasser Hussain on the other hand, probably coached by the Murdoch spin-doctors says,
“Did Darrell Hair actually see a member of the Pakistan team tampering with a cricket ball? Has he got proof? If he hasn't then he has made a massive mistake.”
Nasser is an honourable man, so was Brutus. It is not a must that Romans had to see Brutus stabbing Caesar. Is it a must that the judge has to witness a murder to punish the murderer? Nasser Hussain, the proof is evident: there is a dead body which tells us there has been a crime; in this case the dead body is the cricket ball. Another tragedy for the game is that Hussainism has replaced Sidhuism.

Hussain goes on to say, “If I had been accused of cheating in this way then, as long as I was sure of our innocence, I would have done exactly the same thing as Pakistan.”

According to Brutus, he killed Caesar for the greater good of Rome. Clearly Brutus didn’t think he cheated Caesar!

Simon Barnes, the Chief Sports Writer of The Times came up with pathetic piece of observation.

Cricket is tremendously keen on the higher morality. That is why controversies in cricket are so virulent, so far-reaching, and raise such extraordinarily high emotions. Yesterday, a small judgment about a small infringement of the laws created a day of outrage, distress and fury at the Brit Oval yesterday.

Pakistan were not accused of ball-tampering yesterday. They were judged and found guilty by the umpire, Darrell Hair, as they sought to halt England’s second-innings resurgence. This is a profoundly serious business in cricketing terms. It is not like calling a woman a tease. It is like calling her a whore. Well, there are women who are whores, but you’d better be bloody sure of your facts before making the accusation.

It’s not the legality of her actions you are calling into question, but the morality. Pakistan were punished not for breaking the law but for — as cricketing people see it — attempting to subvert the higher morality of sport and human conduct. No wonder there is a fair amount of distress.

It’s not the legality of her actions you are calling into question, but the morality. Pakistan were punished not for breaking the law but for — as cricketing people see it — attempting to subvert the higher morality of sport and human conduct. No wonder there is a fair amount of distress.

… Hair, the umpire at the sharp end of this extraordinary incident, knew when he made his decision. He knew it was nothing like telling a batsman: look, you got a touch, you should have walked, now I’m telling you to go. He knew that it was going to cause a massive rumpus. He knew he was calling the Pakistan players the equivalent of a whore.

No wonder Simon Barnes is a faithful slave of the Murdoch Empire. Maybe in Barnes’s Victorian England he finds only female whores! What sort of morality is he trying to slap on the face of humanity by writing these words, “Well, there are women who are whores, but you’d better be bloody sure of your facts before making the accusation.”?

I think writers in England are more qualified to respond to Barnes accusing female prostitutes of breaking the sacred moral code of Old Blighty. I have always wondered why these sexist beasts get away by accusing women of a moral crime. Is it because she accepts money in return for a sexual favour? If prostitution is an immoral act, a crime, then the man who buys sex should be punished first.

Simon Barnes proclaims, “Well, there are women who are whores.” I really don't know what morality Barnes upholds by suggesting that Hair knew “he was calling the Pakistan players the equivalent of a whore.”

I just wish people like Barnes and all others who are crying wolf and desperately trying to save the pride of the Pakistani cricket team realise – there is a tampered ball. And that the umpire made a decision based on the tampered ball. He did not award the game to England, all he did was to change the ball and award England five runs. Hair did his job as per the rules. If a group of former and current cricketers want to play under a regime of flexible rules – of appeasing television channels and sponsors – of putting up a smiling face for more money – they are more than welcome to do it in their backyard.

If you want to play Test cricket – stick to the rules. Ian Chappell says the law is an ass – there are too many laws that are useless. That doesn’t mean captains, former captains, and TV pundits can decide on an ad-hoc basis how rules should be interpreted.

It is interesting what Pakistani international player Shahid Afridi said in February this year, “If any team tampers with the ball then I don’t think there’s anything wrong in that.” In fact, Afridi wants ICC to make ball tampering legal, “They shouldn't make it so official that teams start doing it from the 3rd or 4th over itself. I don’t think any rule can make it official. But you should be allowed to do some tampering after the 30th or 40th over. The game and its rules are changing so this should also be allowed.”

Oh well, I wouldn’t take Afridi’s words too seriously. He is a young boy, who has been stuck on seventeen for the last ten years.

The law, for now, is crystal clear. You can’t mess around with the cricket ball.

ICC has the tampered ball in their custody. The question now is not whether Simon Barnes finds a moral whore or whether Nasser Hussain will find any substantial proof to convince him in the SKY archives (Murdoch’s Fox News was the first to declare that George Bush won Florida). The big question is – does ICC have the balls to kick Pakistan for breaking the rules?