Today’s Carnegies? [Was “More money for karmaceuticals”]

Today’s business news had me thinking of two things: Andrew Carnegie and whether there are any significant brown philanthropists.

Carnegie was a self-made man who went from rags to riches, creating a steel empire which made him the wealthiest hombre alive. Three men in today’s paper might be seen as present day Carnegies — Laxmi Mittal, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet — the three richest men around. Laxmi Mittal is the most literal aspirant to the title since Arcelor-Mittal will soon be the largest steel company in the world. However, the other two capture what is to me Carnegie’s best attribute, his philanthropy.

Just as Carnegie gave away 90% of his fortune [he built a university, several thousand libraries around the world, and did various other good works], Warren Buffet announced that he will be giving away 85% of his wealth with most of it going to more than double the endowment of the Gates Foundation, now the largest charitable foundation in history.

Are rich brown people simply more selfish than rich white ones?Compare Buffet and Gates to Mittal, the next richest man in the world. Mittal is famous for his personal spending. He owns the world’s most expensive house, which he purchased for $128 million. He recently spent more than $55 million dollars on his daughter’s wedding. But his charitable giving rarely (never?) makes the news, and is not in the same league as either his personal consumption or the donations of his “peers”.

The question is, why not? Mittal competes on every level with his white counterparts except that of his charitable giving. Is this a desi thing? Are brown philanthropists as generous as white ones? Who are the major brown philanthropists anyway?

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Where’d you get those peepers …

When I want to feel good about charitable giving in South Asia, I look to ordinary people, not the super rich. Despite religious and cultural taboos against organ donation, there is one town in India where tens of thousands of people have pledged to donate their eyes when they pass away. And it’s not just talk, the people of Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh have already given sight to 3,000 others across India.

This large scale kindness to strangers started out in a more modest and typically desi way, with a gift of a cornea within a family:

Neemuch’s reputation as the town of eye donors began some three decades back when a venerable local politician Shyammukh Garg pledged his eyes before passing away at the age of 55. Mr Garg had pledged his eyes for a simple reason: his grandson had lost his vision after his birth, and he was keen that the little boy should try regaining his sight with his grandfather’s corneas… his grandson … received his grandfather’s eyes and got his vision back.

Inspired by Mr Garg, all his family members donated their eyes. [Link]

Where this story becomes unusual is that this tradition went beyond the family, and prevailed over superstition to become a local tradition:

The Garg family persuaded a local club to push a campaign for eye donation – newspapers, billboards, door-to-door visits – were used to extol its virtues.

It was not an easy mission. There were religious taboos to counter, including one that held that an eye donor is born blind in his next birth. The club members were also attacked by family members when they turned up at homes where somebody had died with a plea to donate the deceased person’s eyes.

But people soon began converting to the good cause – so much so that even the police began allowing removal of eyes before post mortems were conducted on people who had died unnatural deaths. [Link]

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Postcards from the 2006 Artwallah Festival

I spent the entire day yesterday at the Artwallah Festival in Los Angeles. Since many of you couldn’t be out here for the festival I thought I would do my part to relate the experience through some pictures that I took. I bought a new camera recently so forgive me for going overboard with the colors. :)

Micro Pixie soothes the crowd with her ambient sound.

Adnan does his thing while Micro Pixie does hers.

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Nepali student missing in Colorado

A correspondent passes on the news that a 20-year-old Nepali sister who has gone missing in Estes Park, Colorado, for a week. The Rocky Mountain Friends of Nepal has an alert and contact phone numbers for anyone with information on the whereabouts of Pratishta Budathoki. Here is some background information from the Rocky Mountain News:

The 20-year-old was last seen about 9:30 a.m. Sunday as she left for a new job at the Munchin’ House, an ice cream parlor on the main drag of this tourist town.

Budhathoki headed out of her apartment door wearing a white Munchin’ House T-shirt, jeans and white shoes.

The woman, who doesn’t own a car and was walking, was carrying a black backpack, police said. But she left other valuables, such as her passport, at home, friends said.

Family members and friends said it is extremely uncharacteristic for Budhathoki to disappear without telling someone where she was going. Friends reported her missing Monday after becoming increasingly worried when she didn’t return home Sunday night. …

“She’s the kind of girl, if she’s late to work five minutes, she’ll give me a call,” said Ashwin Pandey, another Nepali friend and her boss at the Subway sandwich shop where Budhathoki has worked for the past two summers.

Khakurel said she last saw her friend about 2 a.m. Sunday when the two shared a cigarette at Budhathoki’s apartment. She said it didn’t seem like Budhathoki was depressed.

Budathoki is a student at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Her parents live in Kathmandu. There are contact numbers for her family and the Estes Park police department on both of the pages linked here. Continue reading

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Traditional Indian Architecture: Vicarious Traveling via Flickr

While browsing the deeply-discounted “remaindered” aisles at my local Barnes & Noble, I came across Satish Grover’s Masterpieces of Traditional Architecture. It’s a coffee-table book with beautiful photographs and appreciative descriptions of fourteen of India’s ancient and medieval architectural masterpieces.

In his introduction, Grover points out that the ancient sites in India are all religious (Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Muslim), not because India was traditionally especially devout. In fact, only the religious structures were carved in stone, so they are the only edifices to survive. The secular architecture of ancient India might have been pretty wonderful too, but those brick and timber buildings have all vanished.

Since I can’t do any real traveling this summer because of work, I thought I would link to images on the web of the various monuments in Grover’s book as a kind of vicarious travelogue. A lot of people have tagged these sites in their Flickr photos, though for slightly more obscure places like the Karle Caves you have to search on the open internet to see what comes up. Continue reading

It Sounds Like Bologna To Me, But…

pudgesicle10mos.jpgUsually, an article related to the process of sex selection would sadden me because I think the brown preference for boys blows, but this one which was submitted to our news tab (Thanks, Premii!) had me laughing, because I immediately thought of celebrity evidence to back it up. Apparently, it is possible to choose whether you are going to have a male or female…calf:

Want to have a baby boy? Tuck into the burgers, fries and ice cream. Want a girl? Then go on a diet and lose some weight.
It works for cows, according to John Roche, a scientist at New Zealand’s dairy research organisation Dexcel. “And we would expect what holds true for one mammal will hold true across the board,” he said.

Also, if it can be applied to celebrities, it must be true. Angelina stayed rather sleek while incubating the most attractive celebrity baby possible, to the point where useless weeklies which cost $1.99 and all run the same story (though with slightly different covers) speculated that based on the lack of fat around her elbows, the lippy star was way too skinny. (I kid you not. I read this while waiting for my train.) Angelina, the magazines screeched, was “dangerously thin”. She had a girl, in case you haven’t had access to television, radio, newspapers, the internet, carrier pigeons, flaming arrows etc.

Meanwhile, Kate Hudson put on an amount which was almost equivalent to my mother’s entire body weight pre-pregnancy-with me; Hudson gave birth to a boy, Ryder. Britney…well, we all know about Britney. Do not read anything in to the fact that the quote I’m about to use contains the word “heifers”. I am establishing no connection between Britney and one of those. If you are currently thinking that thought, it’s your bad, not mine. ;)

They found that cows that gained weight before conceiving were more likely to give birth to bull calves. Those shedding kilos before conception had a better chance of producing heifers (females).
Roche told the Waikato Times , published in Hamilton at the heart of New Zealand dairying country, the research underlined the theory that humans had some control over the sex of their children…Roche said it was not clear exactly why weight affected the sex of a cow’s offspring.

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Love will save the day

I hope you’re sitting down for this news flash: “Poll Finds Discord Between the Muslim and Western Worlds,” headlines the New York Times. But said poll comes from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which is one of the most reputable and interesting polling projects out there. And there is some interesting material beneath the uninformative headline. For instance, “only” 43 % of Americans said Yes to the question “Are Muslims fanatical?” 50% of French agreed, as well as a rather amazing 83% of Spaniards.

Meanwhile, asked whether non-Muslims were fanatical, 68% of Jordanians and a surprising 67% of Turks said yes. Only 24% of Pakistanis felt that non-Muslims were inherently fanatical.

Perhaps the most discouraging number cited in the article is that anti-Jewish sentiment reached 98% in Jordan and 97% in Egypt.

But don’t get too depressed about the clash of civilizations, for direct citizen action may yet save the day. ABC’s “Good Morning America” has featured the uplifting story of Michigan teenager Katherine Lester, who fell in love with Abdullah Jimzawi, a 20-year-old Palestinian, over… MySpace:

A Michigan teenager who met a man on the Internet and secretly flew to the Middle East to meet him before being captured by the FBI still plans to marry him, she says. Lester, who turned 17 on Wednesday, first met Abdullah Jimzawi, 20, seven months ago on the popular Web site She said she fell in love with him, and together they devised a plan so the two could be together. Lester lied to her parents, told them she needed a passport to go to Canada with friends, and then disappeared from her mother’s home on June 5.

Katherine made it as far as Amman, Jordan, before the FBI picked her up. Both she and Abdullah remain adamant that they are destined for each other. For now they are communicating under family supervision, and a judge has confiscated Katherine’s passport. But next year Katherine turns 18 and if she still wants to marry the brother at that point, she can’t be stopped. Apparently, she feels no need to meet dude in person before they marry:

Lester says she doesn’t intend to try to meet Jimzawi in person until she is 18. She hopes he will come to the United States to marry her. “Now that our relationship is out in the open, I feel like I don’t have to go there to talk to him or to be with him,” she said.

And here’s my favorite part:

Lester did not say whether she would convert to Islam to marry Jimzawi, but said she was researching the Middle East and its culture at her parents’ suggestion.

I think this sort of citizen diplomacy is just what we need to avert the clash that extremists on all sides so desperately want to see go down. Thank you Rupert Murdoch, owner of MySpace, for opening these channels for new-millennium Romeos and Juliets to reconcile their warring tribes, even if their own love perishes in the process. Though to hear Abdullah, the romance is eternal:

Jimzawi also says talking is enough for now but sooner or later they will be together. “No one can stop us, you know,” he said. “I can wait forever and ever and ever. Â… Till the end of the world.”

Hail the power of green cards love!

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A brown Justice League?

All of a sudden the desi comic book scene seems to be blowing up. It has led me to pose the timely question, “is the world ready for a brown Justice League?”

Let’s meet some of the candidates. First we have Sonic. No, not the hedgehog. This one is all woman as you can see. Sonic is featured in the new comic book series titled Guardian Heroes by Kevin Grevioux, who was one of the folks behind the movie Underworld.

There are three questions that immediately came to mind:

1) Does this woman workout at Manish’s gym in Mumbai?
2) What are the tunes she be spinning from those long fingered hands?
3) Does the oversized bindi have any special powers associated with it?

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Is it Possible to Justify Corruption in Some Cases?

I’m always curious to see how people justify or explain official corruption. How do some societies end up corrupt while others are “clean”? I don’t believe for a moment that it’s some kind of inbuilt genetic (sorry Razib) or cultural thing, nor does religion have anything to do with it (sorry, Max Weber). Also, how much damage does small-scale corruption really do? Slate has an article by Joel Waldfogel summarizing a recent study that was done with 800 people who needed drivers’ licenses in Delhi. Right off the bat, Waldfogel gives us a possible advantage to corruption while waiting in line:

The Department of Motor Vehicles, here and in many foreign countries, is a place of long lines, sour bureaucrats. . ., and bleak interior decorating. By the time you get to the front of the photo line, you need to shave again. Since access to government clerks is normally allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, people pay with their time rather than their money. This is inefficient: Suppose you’re in a big hurry and would be willing to pay a lot to avoid waiting, while I don’t mind waiting. Then you could go ahead of me, making you a lot better off and me only a little worse off, which reduces our collective frustration. One way to achieve this efficiency would be to charge a higher price for expedited service. Yet, an expedited government service option typically does not exist. So, in some countries, the offer of a bribe in exchange for quicker processing is a common form of corruption—reducing the social cost of waiting in line. (link)

There are some real advantages in that, just as there are to the “Lexus Lanes” many American cities are thinking of introducing on highways to give drivers the option to get out of traffic jams on the regular highway if they’re willing to pay to be on a specially constructed, parallel toll lane. What if you really need to be somewhere, and you’re willing to spend $10 to get there? Continue reading

Everything Brown Is Better ;)

even our crustaceans are prettier.JPG
This is going to seem highly random, but I was meandering about Wikipedia thanks to this thread, because I thought I’d read more about Bigelow teas after this comment. Whenever I wiki, I always peep the main page to see if there is something interesting and or brown (since I’m the one who named this category).

Today’s featured picture of mictyris longicarpus captured my attention for two reasons:

1) I am absolutely terrified of crustaceans and think eating them is just gross. They remind me of insects and one of you more useful (read: non-poli-sci major) types told me that the two groups of ickiness are actually related.

2) LOOK at those COLORS. Have you ever seen a prettier icky creature?

Here, learn something:

The light blue soldier crab (Mictyris longicarpus), inhabits beaches in the Indo-Pacific region. Soldier crabs filter sand or mud for microorganisms. They congregate during the low tide, and bury themselves in a corkscrew pattern during high tide, or whenever they are threatened.

I googled a bit more and found out that this thing (more formally known as the “soldier crab”) scurries about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This proves my E.C.F.I.-Uncle-esque theory that everything South Asian is prettier. ;) Continue reading