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Showing posts from October, 2007

Human Rights in "Great" Saudi and "Great" Britain

In the afternoon BBC was broadcasting Saudi King Abdullah with Queen Elizabeth II, exchanging their speeches in languages of Arabic and English in a royal banquets, where the glitters of riches from shiny palace decor had matchings of both monarchs' seemingly spotless groomed hair. After their pleasantry filled speeches, camera showed the king and the queen, briefly, in conversations with the help of their interpreters. One may wonder, what were they talking about? When the cameras are off, public views are restricted, what goes through the lips and tongues of royalties? Did they exchange notes on their respective nations' human rights' abuses?

Saudi Arabia is a nation, where human rights violation and discriminations reported to be pervasive. In the name of protecting the religion, self appointed for being keeper of the "keys" of "holy" places, Saudi Arabia's records in keeping women subjugated by denying the very basic rights of movement, placing s…

Jon Stewart's Daily Show

Conscience and Eugenics

What is the name of the disease that evaporates conscience from human mind? Where is that rumbling hyena, with its blood soaked teeth, scavenging the flesh from carrions, mingling in a disciplined pack of brethren, in ecstatic delight from the pure joy of ripping last bits of life out of a weaker prey? Law of jungle, animal's basest instincts are in shrouded display from pioneer scientists, in measured words of reductionism, propelling the age old prejudiced notions of inferiority of fellow human beings from distant places, or perhaps having not so lighter color of skin. Who are we to judge the make up of next generations of our world? What determines the criteria for the selection of "superior genes"? Would the "extreme social application of genetics" be ever be "fair" and non-predatory like the howling hyenas? Would there be expendables, undesirables be classified and sorted out for the sole dictates of power elites?

Scientists with enormous impact…

Making Globalization Work: Stiglitz Lecture

Joseph Stiglitz won Nobel Prize in economics a few years back. The following link has his lectures delivered in Chennai in India earlier this year, in mp3 file format, courtesy of The Hindu newspaper from India.

Link:
Stiglitz lecture

Scientists a step closer to steering hurricanes

Steering hurricane from one city to another city, or to a neighboring nation is getting more promising in computer simulations, even a small scale weather system will be employed for further experiment. The moral and ethical questions remain though: "If a hurricane were coming towards Miami with the potential to cause damage and kill people, and we diverted it, another town or village hit by it would sue us. They'll say the hurricane is no longer an act of God, but that we caused it."

Here is a brief description of how hurricane forms:
Hurricanes form when air warmed over the ocean rises to meet the cool upper atmosphere. The heat turns to kinetic energy, producing a spiral of wind and rain. The greater the temperature differences between top and bottom, and the narrower the eye of the hurricane, the faster it blows.One solution for steering hurricane would use aircraft to drop "soot into the near-freezing cloud at the top of a hurricane, causing it to warm up and so …

Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest

Who to believe?

According to a spokesman UK's Department of Business and Enterprise "Over the next few years global oil production and refining capacity is expected to increase faster than demand. The world's oil resources are sufficient to sustain economic growth for the foreseeable future."

In contrast to above "all good" scenario, "The German-based Energy Watch Group will release its study in London today saying that global oil production peaked in 2006 - much earlier than most experts had expected. The report, which predicts that production will now fall by 7% a year, comes after oil prices set new records almost every day last week, on Friday hitting more than $90 (£44) a barrel."

What is the outcomes if oil supply indeed cannot catch up with the grown energy demands?
"Anticipated supply shortages could lead easily to disturbing scenes of mass unrest as witnessed in Burma this month. For government, industry and the wider public, just muddl…

Something new under the sun

An interesting article from The Economist and an interview with Vijay Vaitheeswaran argue that "Innovation is becoming both more accessible and more global. This is good news because its democratisation releases the untapped ingenuity of people everywhere and that could help solve some of the world's weightiest problems."

When we think about "Innovators", automatically we perceive them as long white lab coat wearing scientist in a spotless laboratory, most likely funded by either government or rich companies. However, according to Vijay Vaitheeswaran "Now the centrally planned approach is giving way to the more democratic, even joyously anarchic, new model of innovation. Clever ideas have always been everywhere, of course, but companies were often too closed to pick them up. The move to an open approach to innovation is far more promising."

Though more "democratized" innovations mean more fierce competition around the world, "it is not ne…

Pressuring the Generals

All the collective sanctions by U.N., United States, European Union may not put enough pressure on Burmese military junta who are still flexing their muscles and brandishing guns and bayonets on unarmed Burmese civilians and monks who have dared to protest against their autocrats. Without Chinese and Indian full hearted support behind the international communities' combined efforts, no diplomatic efforts have the possibility of success.

Both China and India are Burma's major trading partners, thus surely these both nations have enormous leverage on Burmese junta and elites. Here is an excerpt from The Hindu's today's editorial:
"There can be little question that as a leading democracy India must join the international community in its efforts to pressure the Yangon regime to move urgently towards democracy and national reconciliation. While practising good neighbourliness, and taking care to ensure that its actions do not constitute an unwarranted interference in My…

Afraid of the Dalai Lama?

Why is China so afraid of Dalai Lama? This frail looking old man whose charming smile and humorous observations on nature, spirituality and peace have inspired millions many, still causes kind of a frenzied chaotic reaction from China whenever this old man comes to the forefront of world news. Dalai Lama's receiving of Congressional Medal of Honor from U.S. Government has sparked similar knee jerk comments filled with fumes from Chinese one party communist leaders. Why is China so afraid of Dailai Lama? Here are a few points that may enlighten this subject on Tibet, the repressed land that China had forcefully occupied many years ago:
"Why is the mighty People's Republic of China so petrified of this 72-year-old Buddhist monk? True, the Dalai Lama is no ordinary scholar and teacher; he is the living symbol of the Buddhist faith. It seems that Beijing's cadres fear his moral authority and do not want the international community to examine their record in Tibet, because …

Zoellick: Globalization Must Benefit the World’s Poor

For many, Globalization provides huge opportunities, creating staggering wealth in places where it was unimaginable in the past. "Yet exclusion, grinding poverty, and environmental damage create dangers. The ones that suffer most are those who have the least to start with – indigenous peoples, women in developing countries, the rural poor, Africans, and their children.” These words were uttered by the current World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick.

A few excerpts:
In discussing how the World Bank Group can support developing countries, Zoellick pointed out:"It is the purpose of the World Bank Group to assist countries to help themselves by catalyzing the capital and policies through a mix of ideas and experience, development of private market opportunities, and support for good governance and anti-corruption -- spurred by our financial resources.”“It is the purpose of the Bank Group to advance ideas about international projects and agreements on trade, finance, health, povert…

Swiss Votes to Use 'Unbreakable' Code

Even in "most developed" nations, lower voter turn out plays a significant role in not so representative democracy. Especially, the working class, who is tied with work during the voting hours miss out in abundance, as does other segments of societies. Switzerland "will use quantum technology to encrypt election results as they are sent to the capital on Oct. 21", which is "A new "unbreakable" encryption method will be keep votes safe for citizens in the Swiss canton (state) of Geneva in the country's upcoming national elections."

Perhaps, in the next few years, citizens will be able to vote at the comfort of their homes, and even during the busy work days. If this new "unbreakable" cryptography technology holds true for voting machines and can be adapted by other nations, then, democracy will get a boost, since it will help "democratic nation" be represented by everyone, even by the marginalized ones.

Link:
Swiss Votes to U…

Peace and Global Warming

Critics raises question: what Nobel Peace prize has commonality with Global Warming? The answer from Nobel committee was profound:
"climate change, if unchecked, could unleash massive migrations, violent competitions for resources and, ultimately, threaten the “security of mankind.”"Al Gore's sharing the Nobel Peace prize with United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can be seen by the "skeptics" as the slap on Mr. Bush's face, but, the clear and present danger from global warming, its far reaching disastrous impacts for the entire globe is above and beyond the mere slap on petty science deniers.

Mr. Bush's last seven years have seen the "questioning the science of global warming and undermining efforts to do anything substantive about it. His recent efforts to demonstrate leadership -- from finally recognizing global warming as real to hosting a climate summit with the major emitters of greenhouse gases -- are undermined by his …

Immigrants and Laureates

A few welcoming facts and alarming trends from Washington Post:
Foreign-born researchers are common in the U.S. academic and scientific communities. In fact, more than a third of American Nobel laureates in the sciences over the last 15 years were born outside the U.S. These scientists are conducting research with extraordinary promise for improving lives, as well as great potential to produce commercialized therapies and technologies that drive U.S. innovation and economic growth. The U.S. should welcome these highly skilled researchers and innovators. Unfortunately, recent trends in immigration policy are making it more difficult for foreign-born scientists and engineers to put their skills to work in this country -- and that could have profoundly negative implications for the U.S. economy.Link:
Immigrants and Laureates

King Anand

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Viswanathan Anand has become the undisputed World Champions in chess. He had won it once before seven years ago, and his successes in chess for the past two decades is stunning. Unlike other ego shouting champions and challengers of the past, Anand takes pride in his gentle manner and humility.
"What makes Anand such a lovable champion is his gracious demeanour. In triumph, he is quick to remember those who offered him a helping hand on the way. Even in adversity, Anand maintains grace and dignity. He has dealt with fans and critics with equal attention. Though at the top of the chess world, Anand remains grounded. Indeed, after a long time, chess has a worthy “undisputed champion” of the world.Link to article:
http://www.flonnet.com/stories/20071019508813200.htm

No job for life

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This rings bell for many, including the humble me. Very few people these days can boast holding the same job for their entire life. The Economist's chart on the right shows the average job tenure country by country basis.

Striking accomplishment for Capecchi

The prize is a particularly striking accomplishment for Capecchi (pronounced kuh-PEK'-ee). A native of Italy, he was separated from his mother, a poet, at age 3 when the Gestapo took her to the Dachau concentration camp as a political prisoner in 1941. He spent a year with a peasant family, until the money she'd left for his care ran out. At age 4, "I started wandering the streets," he recalled Monday. For about four years, he lived on the streets or in orphanages, and he ended up in a hospital with malnutrition. Dachau was liberated in 1945 and his mother survived. "Then she set out to find me," searching through hospital records. "I was in a hospital and when they keep you in a hospital, they didn't want you to run around. They took your clothes away. She came and bought me an outfit." She showed up on Capecchi's 9th birthday. Soon thereafter, "we were on a boat to America ... I literally expected roads to be paved with gold. What…

Jaroslav Seifert - A Wreath of Sonnets

I don't hear his name in poetic world. But not too long ago, in 1984 he was awarded Nobel prize in literature for his "work which, 'endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness, provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man.''

From Wikipedia:
"Seifert was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984. Due to bad health, he was not present at the award's ceremony, and so his daughter received the Nobel Prize in his name (Some sources say, that the government didn't let him go accept the Prize). Even though it was a matter of great importance, there was only a brief remark on the award in the state-controlled media. He died in 1986 and was buried at the municipal cemetery in Kralupy nad Vltavou. His burial was marked by a high presence of secret police, who tried to suppress any hint of dissent on the part of mourners."From Nobelprize.org site here are a few links on Jarslav Seifert:

Biography
http://nobelpri…

New Telomere Discovery Could Help Explain Why Cancer Cells Never Stop Dividing

A promising discovery it seems. If it holds true on further verification by the scientific communities, it can very well open new scope in the fight against all pervasive cancer.

A few excerpt from this article given below:
"Inside the cell nucleus, all our genetic information is located on twisted, double stranded molecules of DNA which are packaged into chromosomes. At the end of these chromosomes are telomeres, zones of repeated chains of DNA that are often compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosomes from fraying, and thus genetic information from getting scrambled when cells divide. The telomere is like a cellular clock, because every time a cell divides, the telomere shortens. After a cell has grown and divided a few dozen times, the telomeres turn on an alarm system that prevents further division. If this clock doesn't function right, cells either end up with damaged chromosomes or they become "immortal" and continue dividing endle…

Chill out. - Stop Fighting over Global Warming

Bjorn Lomborg has many dissenters. After his publication of Skeptical Environmentalist, a few of his fellow Danish scientists accused him for "scientific dishonesty". Here is an excerpt from the ruling on that case cited by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty:
"Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. ...In view of the subjective requirements made in terms of intent or gross negligence, however, Bjørn Lomborg's publication cannot fall within the bounds of this characterization. Conversely, the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice."Lomborg's controversial book's main thesis was that "many of the most-publicized claims and predictions of environmentalists are exaggerated." For which "outrageous" claims, he got rebuked by his fellow scientists, branding him unethical for his "deliberat…

Its Creators Call Internet Outdated, Offer Remedies

Originally, inventors of modern Internet didn't design it for watching TV, using VOIPs, downloading and uploading tons of video and audio files, streaming video conferencing, etc. Here is a quote from one of the inventors, Larry Roberts who "oversaw" the creation of the foundation of Internet ARPAnet back in 1969: "We can no longer rely on last-generation technology, which has essentially remained unchanged for 40 years, to power Internet performance." More and more high demand of bandwidth have already started to create crunch on existing network infrastructure. "To tackle the problem, a slew of start-ups are producing gear and software to accelerate Internet traffic or to increase the network's capacity."

Read more from the following Wall Street Journal link:
Its Creators Call Internet Outdated, Offer Remedies
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119128309597345795.html

Patience, fairness and the human condition

Human being's "fairness" made them come up to "top" as an evolved beings, comparing to other of our close "relatives" like apes. Marc Hauser of Harvard University and his colleagues have published a research paper in Current Biology describing the degree of similarities and differences among various species including human beings. In their experiments they discovered that "Universally, people reject any share lower than 20%—apparently to punish the greed of the proposer. People do not act like Homo economicus. Instead, they are the arbiters of fairness." For many researchers in the field of human evolution, this sense of fairness is the "killer application":
"It is what allows large social groups to form. Without it, free-riders would ruin such groups, because playing fair would cease to have any value. Dr Jensen's previous experiments have shown that chimpanzees are willing to punish actual thieves. But his new data add we…

The Fakebook Generation

A few excerpts from this New York Times article for ruminations:
"I’ve always thought of Facebook as online community theater. In costumes we customize in a backstage makeup room — the Edit Profile page, where we can add a few Favorite Books or touch up our About Me section — we deliver our lines on the very public stage of friends’ walls or photo albums. And because every time we join a network, post a link or make another friend it’s immediately made visible to others via the News Feed, every Facebook act is a soliloquy to our anonymous audience.

My generation has long been bizarrely comfortable with being looked at, and as performers on the Facebook stage, we upload pictures of ourselves cooking dinner for our parents or doing keg stands at last night’s party; we are reckless with our personal information. But there is one area of privacy that we won’t surrender: the secrecy of how and whom we search.

For young people, Facebook is yet another form of escapism; we can turn our liv…

I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer

Craig Venter is not an unknown scientist, his privatized research on DNA in the 90s that was a parallel to publicly funded Human Genome Project using "Shotgun Sequencing", but his goal was to make that project named Celera for commercial purposes. In 2002 he got fired from his own founded company "Celera in early 2002 after it became clear that selling genome data would not become profitable and Venter resisted efforts by the company board to change the strategic direction of the company."

Todays' The Guardian has a news article on Craig Venter and his new ventures. Out of the laboratory chemicals he has created the first artificial life form on earth made from first synthetic chromosome. Within the next few weeks, Mr. Venter will announce more detail on this achievement, surely sparkling more charged debates on ethics and morality issues and possible lack of or inherent safeguard utilized or not for the first artificial life form that can be construed as only t…

Stories of Human Trafficking

An unnecessarily convoluted issue. No clear cut guidance how to deal with this growing problem where profits of billions of dollars are made by under and above ground thugs with sure collaboration of local and international politicians and suited businessmen. Read the following excerpt:
What is clear is that the conditions surrounding trafficked women and children include all the classic elements traditionally associated with slavery: abduction, false promises, transportation to a strange place, loss of freedom, abuse, violence, and deprivation. Those involved are isolated, controlled by various emotional and physical techniques, made dependent on drugs and alcohol, duped and terrorized into submission. Smuggling of migrants, with which trafficking is too often confused, is fundamentally different: smuggled people have consented to travel, and when they reach their destinations they expect to be free; the trafficked, even if they have initially consented, remain victims of continuing e…

Who'll Win the Booker?

This is the time of year when the murmur and rumors begin. Who will win the Booker? The coveted prize that means millions of copies of sales for the winner, even the short-listed books get hefty boosts from this literary world's "prestigious" award. Last year it was Anita Desai's exquisite The Inheritance of Loss grabbed it, many years ago, it seems, Yann Martel won for his splendid Life of Pi. Margaret Atwood had won it for her unforgettable Blind Assassin, a story to remember like her another classic Oryx and Crake published a few years later. Ian McEwan got it not for "Atonement", arguably his best work of fiction, but he had won for Amsterdam, though in my humble opinion both Saturday and Atonement were finer novels. Alice Munro had never won it since her arena is in short stories. John Banville had won it for his The Sea though for many his "Shroud" was his best to this date. No one talks about Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things anymore …

Burma: UN envoy meets top general as regime blames foreigners for violence |

Read the excerpt below:
"The reports follow claims from a former intelligence officer in Burma's ruling junta that thousands of protesters have been killed and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle.
The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand." Mr Win said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men."Link:
Burma: UN envoy meets top general as regime blames foreigners for violence

What Makes a Monk Mad

Among the many recent articles written about the chaotic turbulences in Burma in the recent days, the article published in The New York Times titled "What Makes a Monk Mad" has clearly observed the prior symbiotic relationship between the Buddhist Monks, the upholder of moral authority, and the military Juntas, the ruler of the land by muzzled guns. Now that relationship is in tattered shape, what will happen in Burma in near future? Read the following article for an eloquent observation and analysis.

Link:
What Makes a Monk Mad

Fair Trade in Bloom

Fair trade labeling is catching the trend like organic food. There is a difference, organic food labeling depends on "how the food is cultivated" and fair trade food labeling "is primarily concerned with the condition of the farmer and his laborers."

Here is one excerpt from The New York Times about Fair Trade definition:
The International Fair Trade Association, an umbrella group of organizations in more than 70 countries, defines fair trade as reflecting “concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers” and does “not maximize profit at their expense.”Critics of Fair Trade says that "fair trade coffee is as exploitive as the conventional kind, especially in countries that produce the highest-quality beans — like Colombia, Ethiopia and Guatemala. Fair trade farmers there are barely paid more than their counterparts in Brazil, though their crops become gourmet brands, selling for a hefty markup, said Geoff Watts, vice…

The Blessings of Dirty Work

Human beings boast its achievements freeing most of our species from doing the "dirty work", the muddy work of producing foods from toiled soil is left for 2 percent of world population. Are human beings truly able to get away from these "dirty work"? Barbara Kingsolver, the prolific writer that I have the deepest admiration for, writes the following in her The Washington Post article:
"Industrial farming -- however destructive to the land and our nutrition -- has held out as its main selling point the allure of freedom: Two percent of the population would be able to feed everyone. The rest could do as we pleased. Shiva sees straight through that promise. "Most of those who have moved off of farms are still working in the industry of creating food and bringing it to consumers: as cashiers, truck drivers, even the oil-rig workers who generate the fuels to run the trucks. Those jobs are all necessary to a travel-dependent, highly mechanized food system. And …

Scientists Invent 30 Year Continuous Power Laptop Battery

"Your next laptop could have a continuous power battery that lasts for 30 years without a single recharge thanks to work being funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The breakthrough betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source. As the radioactive material decays it emits beta particles that transform into electric power capable of fueling an electrical device like a laptop for years."To good to be true? According to this article here are more about this super-duper battery:
The reason the battery lasts so long is that neutron beta-decay into protons is the world's most concentrated source of electricity, truly demonstrating Einstein’s theory E=MC2. The best part about these cells are when they eventually run out of power they are totally inert and non-toxic, so environmentalists need not fear these high tech scientific wonder batteries. If all goes well plans are for these cells to reach store shelves i…

Languages Die, but Not Their Last Words

"New research, reported yesterday, has found the five regions where languages are disappearing most rapidly: northern Australia, central South America, North America’s upper Pacific coastal zone, eastern Siberia, and Oklahoma and the southwestern United States. All have indigenous people speaking diverse languages, in falling numbers.
Many of the 113 languages in the region from the Andes Mountains into the Amazon basin are poorly known and are giving way to Spanish or Portuguese, or in a few cases, a more dominant indigenous language. In this area, for example, a group known as the Kallawaya use Spanish or Quechua in daily life, but also have a secret tongue mainly for preserving knowledge of medicinal plants, some previously unknown to science.“How and why this language has survived for more than 400 years, while being spoken by very few, is a mystery,” Dr. Harrison said in a news release.83 languages with “global” influence are spoken and written by 80 percent of the world popu…