Free HIV Drugs in India

With statistics being released last month of IndiaÂ’s HIV rate of 5.7 million total infections the following news makes me want to yelp with joy. Yelp!

India plans to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to combat HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — to around 100,000 people by early next year, a top health official said, as this nation struggles with the largest number of AIDS infections in the world. [Link]

Armed with a budget of about $200 million U.S., availiability of free ARV drugs is going to expand from 52 clinics supplying 35, 000 people to a whole 100 clinics:

“By August, we will be able to reach anti-retroviral therapy drugs to around 85,000 people infected with the virus,” Rao told journalists. “But by early 2007, we will have drugs made available to 100,000 people with HIV.”

According to Sujatha Rao (Director General, National AIDS Control Organization), treatment is going to supplement a newly strengthened AIDS awareness campaign:

Among the new initiatives is a program to reach out to pregnant mothers so that mother-to-child transmission of AIDS can be controlled. So far, only 4,500 pregnant mothers had been given doses of nevrapine — a drug that prevents the transmission of the virus from an HIV-infected mother to a newborn infant.

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Getting Into It With Niall Ferguson: Facts About Empire

I know Priyamvada Gopal slightly from Cornell, and I’m always happy to read something she’s written. A recent editorial she published on neoconservative imperial historians in the Guardian provides lots of food for thought. I think she makes some important points about the current conservative fad for praising British imperialism, but I wanted to supply some quotes from Niall Ferguson’s book Empire that might challenge some of Gopal’s assertions. My own goal is to use this discussion as a learning opportunity, rather than a chance to throw around more polemical language; there’s been quite enough of that as it is.

(Incidentally, there are quite a number of intelligent comments in respone to Gopal’s essay at the Guardian site linked to above [check out especially the the comments by “Sikanderji”], as well as a lively discussion at Pickled Politics.) Continue reading

Colonized clothing

When I was in India last, I acquired a new pet peeve, one that irritates me far more than it should:

Why is desi clothing called “ethnic” in India itself?

In the USA, sure, we’re different, we’re quaint, we’re ethnic. Salwar Kameez/Kurtas/Saris/Lehngas/Sherwanis are our traditional ethnic (read funny-looking)dress. We’ve all had this conversation with a non-desi at a desi wedding:

“Why is the bride wearing red?”
“Well, some brides wear white, but for others, wearing red or pink is our ethnic tradition.”
“Oooooh, that’s so exotic”

Ethnic means we’re different from them.

But in India, why are Indian clothes called ethnic? Ethnic connotes the other, the habits of the minority, things that are unfamiliar to mainstream society. None of this applies in India for Indian clothing. There is no them to be different from.

Why not call it “Western” vs. “Indian” clothing? Or (although this is not accurate) “Western” vs. “Traditional Clothing”? Or, if you think the term ethnic refers to the fact that various types of clothing have regional roots, why not say “Gujarati Lehngas” and “Punjabi Salwar Kameez” etc? Better yet, why not just say Sherwanis rather than “ethnic Sherwanis”? I just don’t get it.

Then again, if you consider the breadth of my ignorance about fashion, the fact that I don’t understand this one little thing is really the least of my troubles

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An Ode to My [Least] Favorite Auntie

I always ran into you on the days I least wanted to. You knew how to cut to the core of me, of everyone, of the weak- and strong-willed alike. Your bullshit detector was unsurpassed.

Foolishly, for a time, I thought I could anticipate your moves and quickly learned I would never be fast enough: you were always one step ahead. I tried valiantly to dodge your never-ending stream of inquisitions over standardized test scores, cumulative grade point averages, class rank, college major, graduate school, first job, starting salary, rent payment, home purchase, and potential spouse — I always failed miserably, stuttering, shot down and wounded on topics I would have never even thought to imagine. Like how much my student loan payments were. It always seemed easier to surrender immediately to your poison bite than to fight it and prolong my own demise, snared and tangled in a weak web woven of my own lies.

I always suspected you knew the color of my underwear, how much I’d paid for it and strongly disapproved.

I avoided Indian functions my entire senior year of high school because of you… Continue reading

Fox News apologizes for Toronto terror error

[Don’t you expect this post to start: “Man hit by flying pig” ? ]

Earlier this month, Fox News reported on the Toronto terrorism arrests with a story shot in front of the Ontario Khalsa Darbar, “the largest and busiest Sikh gurdwara in Canada“.

The broadcast story showed the front of the Ontario Khalsa Darbar – a Sikh Gurdwara … as the house of worship the terrorists frequented and also showed members of the local Sikh congregation. [Link]

That’s right – a story about suspects from “Somali, Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian, and West Indian backgrounds” and what do they do? They choose to shoot using a Gurdwara and Sikhs as a backdrop, misidentifying them in the process. They all look same, massah, here, use the generic other!

To be absolutely clear, I am not saying “beat them up, not us!” I find that kind of talk completely abhorrent. If I was producing the segment, I would have used one of the targets as a backdrop rather than a mosque, precisely because of the fear of hate crimes and vandalism.

To their credit, Fox News responded and apologized when contacted by SALDEF:

In an email to SALDEF, the Fox News Correspondent noted, “I did pull our entire crew into the satellite truck and explained to them the difference between a Gurdwara and a mosque. I can assure you they realized the gravity of this situation. I’m very, very sorry. “

Additionally… John Stack, a FOX NEWS Vice President, … expressed similar regret in the mistake and vowed to make a personal inquiry into the matter to assure that it would not happen again. [Link]

By the way, if you need further evidence as to why “beat them up, not us” is not just morally bankrupt but also tactically ineffective as a response to hate crimes, it turns out that even in multicultural Canada, bigots are ignorant:

Hindu temples, including those where Guyanese worship, were attacked in Toronto last week. The temples were apparently mistaken for mosques and the Hindu worshippers as Muslims. [Link]

All hate crimes are bad, people, all of them (And that includes terrorism). Don’t make Pastor Niemöller return from the dead to kick your kundi.

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It’s up to you, New York New York (updated)

There is only one thing of which I am a rabid fan and that is my home city, my ancestral homestead, New York New York. This is where my heart is (although I did leave a piece in San Francisco). It is the place that I feel safest post 9/11, safest from both terrorists and violent bigots, despite the fact that both have been active there. What can I say? It’s home.

Not only is it home, but New York is what I think of when I think of America. In a freudian slip, the other day I said “when I’m in America next” when what I meant was “when I’m in New York next,” particularly ironic since I am currently based in the midwest. And why not? New York was America’s first campital and 40% of Americans are descended from at least one person who came through Ellis Island. Growing up, if somebody told me to “Go back where I came from” I would reply “After you!” We’re all immigrants here.

This is why these two news stories from this month have been sitting in my craw, and I’ve put off posting them. In the first week of June, Assemblyman Hikind introduced legislation that he had been promising for some time, legislation that would allow:

law enforcement officials to “consider race and ethnicity as one of many factors that could be used in identifying persons who can be initially stopped, questioned, frisked and/or searched.” [Link]

Hikind is very clear about who he wants stopped — brown people:

The individuals involved look basically like this,” Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) said … brandishing a printout of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists – all with Arabic names, most with facial hair, some wearing turbans.

“Why should a policeman have to think twice before examining people of a particular group?” Hikind asked. “They all look a certain way.” [Link]

[Hikind’s website shows no reaction to recent accusation that seven black men may have plotted to blow up the Sears Tower, nor to the fact that half the London bombers were black, nor to various reports from the US government about SouthEastAsian plots.] Continue reading

Posted in Law

Hamdan, Katyal, and Swift beat Rumsfeld

As we have blogged about several times before, The Supreme Court has been considering the case of Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld for most of this year. Today the court handed down a 5-3 decision (Chief Justice Roberts had to recuse himself) in favor of Hamdan. It was also a victory for his two lawyers, Indian American attorney Neal Katyal, and Cmdr. Charles Swift. It has been the most awaited decision of the year.

A great victory…at least for now

The Supreme Court today delivered a sweeping rebuke to the Bush administration, ruling that the military tribunals it created to try terror suspects violate both American military law and the Geneva Convention.

In a 5-to-3 ruling, the justices also rejected an effort by Congress to strip the court of jurisdiction over habeas corpus appeals by detainees at the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

And the court found that the plaintiff in the case, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, could not be tried on the conspiracy charge lodged against him because international military law requires that prosecutions focus on specific acts, not broad conspiracy charges. [Link]

The Court split along idealogical lines and Roberts had to recuse himself because The Court had overturned his ruling on this case when he was a still a lower court judge. Thomas hasn’t been this unhappy since the Coke incident:

Justice Thomas took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench, the first time he has done so in his 15 years on the court. He said that the ruling would “sorely hamper the president’s ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy…” [Link]

Hamdan’s other attorney, a JAG officer, issued a statement after the ruling:

Cmdr. Charles Swift, the Navy lawyer assigned by the military to represent Mr. Hamdan, said at a televised news conference held outside the Supreme Court that the logical next step would be for Mr. Hamdan to be tried either by a traditional military court martial, as provided for under the Geneva Convention, or by a federal court.

He called today’s ruling “a return to our fundamental values.”

“That return marks a high-water point,” Commander Swift said. “It shows that we can’t be scared out of who [we] are, and that’s a victory, folks…” [Link]

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Posted in Law



Since Abhi my colleagues at Sepia Mutiny have apparently stopped doing their earlier hourly updates on what Kal Penn is up to, I feel it is incumbent upon me to remind readers that second-gen actor Kal Penn plays one of Lex Luthor’s henchmen in the new film Superman Returns (aka, the “American version of Krrish“). Reviews have been pretty positive, though there are still some signs that the film may be a load of “Kraptonite” (or, in a nod to Manish, Krraptonite!), but how can that stop me from loyally supporting the ABCDeNiro?

And no, he doesn’t play a vaguely middle-eastern terrorist type. Nor does he speak in a bad Indian accent. In fact, in the final cut of the film, I gather, Kal Penn doesn’t have any speaking lines at all. Also, his character is named “Stanford.” Ah well: if they don’t have you playing the demonic terrorist, they’ll have you whipped as the “model minority.” Sigh.

At least he’s on the right side. From the trailers, this version of Superman seems like one of those movies with a hero so annoyingly earnest you end up rooting for the bad guys to win. Of course, with bad guys as charismatic as Kevin Spacey (or indeed, Kal Penn), that comes pretty easily. Can you think of other examples in this genre? Bad guys so diabolical and cool that you’re practically depressed when they’re finally vanquished at the end? Continue reading

In Captivity

Renowned Iranian-Canadian scholar Ramin Jahanbegloo was arrested in Tehran by Iranian authorities this past May under suspicion of espionage. He has been in detention for close to two months now without access to a lawyer and without any formal charges being laid against him. Jehanbegloo had returned to Tehran just days before his arrest after completing a four month professorship at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in New Delhi.

Canadian authorities have thus far been unable to secure Jahanbegloo’s release:

OttawaÂ’s campaign to have him either formally charged or released has consisted mainly of stern letters from Foreign Minister Peter MacKay to the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, and futile entreaties. A letter co-signed by the EU, which has greater diplomatic and economic ties to Tehran, protested the lack of due process, the fact that no charges have been laid, and that he has not been granted a lawyer. But it has made no difference. Canada has not been allowed consular visits. “Iran does not recognize joint citizenship, so theyÂ’re not in any way acknowledging his Canadian citizenship or connection,” MacKay said. “In fact, by some bizarre assessment, having Canadian or American or any other foreign connection is feeding perhaps the reasons for his detention.” [Link]

In addition to his visiting professorship at CSDS, Jahanbegloo recently published a book of dialogues with Indian thinker Ashis Nandy. Given his close ties to India, Jahanbegloo’s arrest has raised serious concern among his colleages there. CSDS director Suresh Sharma wrote an appeal to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in May: Continue reading


Yet another in the everything comes from India (etymology) series. Have you ever noticed how desi college students all congregate around the punch bowl in the corner? It’s not because they’re alcoholics too cheap to buy their own brew and too goody-goody to get a fake ID (well, maybe it is), it’s really because punch comes from India. In fact, it’s not really punch, it’s paanch [Thanks Sameer]:

Originally, the word punch was a loanword from Hindi. The original drink was made from five different ingredients, namely arrack, sugar, lemon, water, and tea. Because of this it was named panch which is the Hindi for five. This name was adopted by the sailors of the British East India Company and brought back to England, from where it was introduced into other European countries. [Link]

In Germany, they call it ‘Punsch‘ and it (of course) includes wine or liquor. And in Scandanavia the meaning has morphed yet further, losing the other ingredients to the point where it is just an arrack based booze. Surprisingly enough, the custom used to be to drink it with (what else?) daal:

The first ready-made punsch was sold in 1845 and initially the custom was to serve it warm, often together with yellow pea soup. [Link]

If the drink “punch” is an Indic loanword, then what about the action “punch”? Shouldn’t that be desi too? After all, it takes five fingers to make a fist in order to punch, and desis tend to throw punches after drinking too much of the same. And of course a “paunch” is what you get from drinking punch. Step aside, Noah Webster! We’re Indian givers and we want our loanwords back!

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