The Most Powerful Desi Women in the World

Forbes‘s annual “100 most powerful women” list names Indra Nooyi, Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo the #5 most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful Desi woman. She edges out #6 – Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress Party — thus creating a pretty impressive showing in the top 10. The final desi on the list, and a previously unknown one to me – #97 Vidya Chhabria – hails from the UAE.

A hearty SM congrats all around.

Worth noting – Pratibha Patil gets a nod as a “powerful woman behind the woman”; now that will get some SM tongues wagging.

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India’s Defense Budget and Counterterrorism: A Thought

The recent article in the New York Times on India’s defense has some eye-popping numbers. The main news event is, India is looking to buy new fighter planes, and may spend as much as $10 billion on them. American arms manufacturers are chomping at the bit, especially as there are probably other big arms purchases in the pipeline. (For reference, last year’s entire defense budget is between $20-25 billion, according to this source; it may be an underestimate, however.)

I was thinking about this with last week’s terrorist attack in Hyderabad in mind, as well as with the ongoing problems with the Naxalites in the east and south. While I’m not by any means suggesting that India cut back on its defense spending, I do wonder whether the investment on hardware such as advanced fighter jets is really addressing India’s current (and likely future) military needs. Especially with a serious terrorism problem as well as ongoing internal uprisings, isn’t it possible that other kinds of military expenditures might be warranted? How do fighter jets help with terrorism or guerilla warfare?

India is developing and moving forward in many ways, but in controlling terrorism in its cities I think it has been relatively unsuccessful. Previous bombings in Mumbai and elsewhere in the past two years have usually followed a similar pattern: 1) intense police activity for a few weeks coinciding with nonstop media coverage, 2) possibly some suspects are detained who may or may not be the right people, and 3) everyone forgets, coinciding with a new media obsession. Security measures to prevent repeat attacks are generally not instituted.

There is a similar failure in suppressing the activities of Maoist rebels, who continue to inflict serious casualties on police as well as civilians; meanwhile police in some districts struggle to get adequate funding.

I’m not saying I have a pat answer to these problems. Rather, I’m wondering if a change in thinking about military spending and technology might be advisable. Admittedly, it could be argued that counterterrorism and Maoist rebels are really police, rather than military, issues, but given the number of deaths involved and the tactics used by rebels and terrorists alike, isn’t it possible the thinking should change? Aren’t there creative ways to use military resources to improve domestic programs to handle Naxalite insurgents in the countryside and terrorists in the cities?

I also wanted to state that I’m not saying India doesn’t need modernized jets. They serve a strong deterrent purpose, and I’m actually not opposed to the current proposed purchase. It’s more the overall budget picture and emphasis on hardware and technology for “the last big war” that concerns me. I do not see any future military conflicts in the nuclear-armed Indian subcontinent playing out along in conventional form. I think there will either be more Kargil-like small wars, proxy fighting via guerilla fighters armed by one or another state, or — and I hope to God it never happens — full-on nuclear annihilation. Continue reading

Yay! More Suck-age on Celluloid.

On our News tab, Haldiram writes:

Noureen DeWulf (of “Americanizing Shelley“) is featured in a new spoof of sports movies (a la ‘Not Another Teen Movie’) called “The Comebacks” – while she plays a football player (who wears part of her sari over her uniform in one shot??) her character’s name (why do people think confusing American Indians and South Asian Indians is funny?) and the other bizarre scenes in the preview do not make one optimistic. Time will tell if it’s another Harold & Kumar-like breakthrough – or just offensive.

In The Comebacks, Noureen plays Jizminder Featherfoot.


There are so many things wrong with that character’s name, my head is paining. But it gets better– they don’t just mash up Native Americans with desis; one scene depicts faux athletes training…while Jizminder gyrates like a belly dancer, up on a platform.

Maybe I am getting anxious about further filmy humiliation for no reason. Over at WorstPreviews, they don’t even mention Noureen/Jizminder, despite her memorably madcap adventures on the field, during which she tackles someone while wearing her helmet AND a chunni!

Eh, what am I so upset about…East is all East, right? Aladdin, turbans, Ayatollahs, Jasmine, Ali Baba, Taj Mahal. I wonder, since we’re conflating everything, could we claim Esther as one of our own? I have always loved her. Persian, Indian…close enough. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must wrap up this post. I’m running late– I was supposed to bhangra outside my teepee, for no discernible reason, a full hour ago. Continue reading

Gregory Clark @ GNXP

Gregory Clark is quickly becoming the economist du jour due to his recently published (and quite controversial) A Farewell to Alms. Late last year, Sepia Mutiny had a preview of some of the book’s content and, as schedule permits, we will likely cover more of it moving forward. As we said back then, for Mutineers Clark is definitely an economist to watch relative to others due to his outsized focus on Indian economic history.

So, until we get a chance to dive into more of the detail here, GNXP (Razib’s home when he’s not a 1-man comments machine on SM) has a great interview with Clark up right now and question #1 hits squarely into desi territory

1) In some early work, you wondered why workers in British cotton mills were so much more productive than workers in Indian cotton mills. You discuss this in the last chapter of A Farewell to Alms. You looked at a lot of the usual explanations-incentives, management, quality of the machines-and none of them really seemed to explain the big gap in productivity. Finally, you seemed to turn to the idea that it’s differences between the British and Indian workers themselves-maybe their culture, maybe their genes-that explained the difference. How did you come to that conclusion?

…When I set out in my PhD thesis to try and explain differences in income internationally in 1910 I found that asking simple questions like “Why could Indian textile mills not make much profit even though they were in a free trade association with England which had wages five times as high?” led to completely unexpected conclusions. You could show that the standard institutional explanation made no sense when you assembled detailed evidence from trade journals, factory reports, and the accounts of observers. Instead it was the puzzling behavior of the workers inside the factories that was the key.

What was this “puzzling behavior”? Well, unfortunately, it appears a good chunk of it was IST.


p>Read the rest, let it whet your appetite for more, and expect to see Clark here on SM in the near future

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Omnivores: More Dangerous Than SUVs

As someone who tries earnestly to be a better citizen of the planet (car-sharing, cloth grocery bags, no printing stuff unless it’s required, turning off faucet when brushing teeth/sudsing hands, obsessive recycling, impressive amounts of reusing, not so good on the “reducing”…sorry), I tend to fume at SUV-drivers and not bat an eyelash at my carnivorous and omnivorous peers, even though I am well aware of all the statistics which Esprit, Sting and other organizations drilled in to me in the 90s regarding how many acres or gallons of water beef requires blah blah blah.

Well, apparently I can’t give H3s dirty looks any more.

Via The New York Times:

EVER since “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore has been the darling of environmentalists, but that movie hardly endeared him to the animal rights folks. According to them, the most inconvenient truth of all is that raising animals for meat contributes more to global warming than all the sport utility vehicles combined.
The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions, but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.

Oy, I don’t see this going over well with the public at all. Amurricans love their flesh. They like to eat meat, too.

Some backlash against this position is inevitable, the groups acknowledge, but they do have scientific ammunition. In late November, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

That sound you heard was my mind being blown. I knew raising animals was less than ideal, I never realized that it was worse than driving, let alone all types of transportation combined! SWEET. I can go back to having naughty dreams about the Veyron, sans shame or guilt. Anyone know how to type that sound Homer makes when he’s contemplating donuts or other yummy things? Because I’m totally doing that right now. Continue reading

Musharraf Agrees to a Change of Clothes

It looks like Pervez Musharraf is planning to step down as army chief before the upcoming elections in Pakistan. He’s also going to allow former leaders who have corruption charges hanging over their heads — namely Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif — to return and context in those elections.

Today, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan’s minister for railways, said at a news conference: “There is no more uniform issue. It has been settled and the president will make an announcement.” The news conference was reported by the state-run news agency reported.

Sheikh Mansoor Ahmed, the deputy secretary general of Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party, said he believed that the agreement had been made. ”My personal information is that President Musharraf has agreed to take off his military uniform before the presidential elections,” he said. “An announcement in this regard will be made very soon. Within the next 72 hours, everything will be clear.”

In an apparent confirmation, Ms Bhutto told the independent Aaj television channel: “Eighty to ninety percent of the issues have been settled. Ten to 20 percent have yet to be decided,”

“Some matters relating to a balance of power between the parliament and presidency are still pending,” Ms Bhutto said in the television interview. (link)

Obviously, this story could change dramatically in the next few days as the details are announced. There will then probably be another gap to see if Musharraf really does what he promises, and then again as we watch and see how the elections go. In the meanwhile, it’s never too early to start gossiping and speculating wildly. Here are my early, completely wild speculations:

1) This agreement could easily fall apart. The language in these early reports is very sketchy. Wait until it comes out of the horse’s mouth directly.

2) Or perhaps, the agreement is for real. Musharraf realizes that neither Sharif nor Bhutto are likely to beat him in an open election, especially if he pits one against the other and the opposition parties are divided. By seeming to give away power, he stands to gain the stamp of democratic respectability on the world stage. That would mean at least five more years in power, and no more whining from Benazir Bhutto about this and that.

3) The agreement is for real, but it might not be as good as it sounds; small matters such as the balance of power between the parliament and the presidency might not be so small. If he throws in a “nuclear” option, the idea of “power sharing” might turn out to be merely a tease.

4) Musharraf has a very friendly cousin who can step in to run the army. The name will be announced the day after elections are held.

5) He’s giving up the uniform, but his business suit is khaki-colored and comes with a gun holster. It’s also made of 100% kevlar, and in large block print on the back it says, “IFTIKAR CHAUDHURY CAN BITE ME.”

Feel free to add your own reasoned analysis and/or wild speculations as to what it means. Continue reading

An Important Message, Which Has Nothing to do with Spelling.

Neale left an important tip on our news tab, about a video which erstwhile-funny-mang Jim Carrey made, in support of human rights. I have quoted the short, AP article, which I ganked from the NYT, below.

NEW YORK (AP) — Jim Carrey has made a straight-to-YouTube video. And it’s not funny at all.
The 45-year-old actor-comedian — in rare serious mode — appears in a new public service announcement on behalf of the Human Rights Action Center and the U.S. Campaign for Burma. The goal: To free Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined by the Burmese government for 11 of the last 17 years.
”Even though she’s compared to a modern-day Ghandi or Nelson Mandela, most people in America still don’t know about Aung San,” Carrey says in the filmed message, posted Tuesday on YouTube.
”And let’s face it: the name’s a little difficult to remember. Here’s how I did it: Aung San sounds a lot like `unsung,’ as in unsung hero. Aung San Suu Kyi is truly an unsung hero.”
Suu Kyi, who is under long-term house arrest in the city of Yangon, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent efforts to bring down the oppressive military regime that rules over the Southeast Asian country.
The regime, led by General Than Shwe, has destroyed more than 3,000 villages in eastern Burma — forcing more than a 1.5 million people to leave their homes — and recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world, Carrey says in his spot.
”People around the world need to come to her aid, just as they supported Mandela when he was locked up,” said Jeremy Woodrum, co-founder of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, in a statement Tuesday.
”This announcement contributes to an upsurge in activism around Aung San Suu Kyi in the United States and throughout the world.”

Now I am tempted to annoy our veddy good, veddy smart Sree-chettan (oh, would that I were three and could get away with calling him SAJA-chetta) and ask him a question which has nothing to do with spelling, at all. If I did ask him a question, which had nothing to do with spelling, I would be inquiring for my own edification about whether an august newspaper like The New York Times is allowed to tweak things which they get from the Associated Press.

I am tempted to bug him (and on what better day than Raksha Bhandan!), but then I remember, the only person who is smarter than a veddy smart Journalism professor is the wife of a veddy smart Journalism professor! And our Roopa-chechi, well, she has twin toddlers. She doesn’t have time for my nonsense. 😉

In any case, I will excuse myself and get out of your way, so you can debate and discuss this most significant news story; I’m being sincere when I say that Aung San Suu Kyi deserves your attention.

And a properly-spelled story. Continue reading

Call the Wambulance! We have a pre-med allergy!

excellent kappi in the ATL.jpg A slightly Anonymous Tipster operating via the chimney which is our News tab gifted me with a robust cup of breakfast-reading which perked me right up.

How’s that for two utterly unrelated metaphors? Huh? Yeeeah, boyee.

Now you are surely not asking, “what got you all twitchy and agitated, Anna?”, but I am going to gift you with an answer anyway! I’m hyper thanks to the latest advice column from Cary Tennis, which is published at Salon.

Today’s edition of Cary-wisdom is inspired by a letter writer (LW) who can be neatly summed up by the title of the column:

I don’t want to be a doctor!

Fair enough, LW. A good number of us did or didn’t, but I want to know more about you, even as part of me groans, knowing I will regret it and get all uber-bitch on your ass by the end of this.

Aug. 28, 2007 | Dear Cary,
I am 20 years old, go to a state university, and am severely confused on what I want to do in life.
When I was little, I wanted to be an “artist.” With the beret, paintbrushes and canvas. Then, I moved on. Sure, I loved art, and enjoyed it, and was good at it, but I realized I wasn’t exceptionally creative in that sense. So I wanted to be a journalist. That idea left as soon as it entered my mind in high school. Then, toward the lag end of high school, I got interested in becoming a doctor. It wasn’t out of some desire I had to cure the world or make lots of money. It was because of my parents.
My parents and my family are from the Indian subcontinent and are Muslim. In their minds, the best thing to be is a professional. Especially a doctor. My father always tells me that I should be a doctor to help people and to be independent. My dad works away from home and flies back to my family every three to four weeks. It’s a hard life for him, because he misses out on our lives. It’s important to him that I become independent and have the ability to work wherever I want to. So, in high school, I took some medical classes. I enjoyed them; they weren’t my favorite classes, but they were, I suppose, “all right.”
When I started applying for university, for my possible majors, I would alternate between political science and English. My mother would ask me to write “pre-medicine” next to the others. Therefore, when I got accepted, I was put into the pre-professional advising. I never truly desired to become a doctor. The only reason I wanted to become one was to help people. To fix them. So I kept going. I took biology, chemistry, bioethics.
Then, my sophomore year, last year, I fell apart. I took physics and organic chemistry. I was doing terribly in both. I made a 48 on my first exam in physics and a 63 in organic. I had to decide whether or not to drop physics. I eventually did, and I was so disappointed in myself. You see, I did well in high school. I took many Advanced Placement classes, made A’s, and was an excellent student. And I got burnt out. I just couldn’t force myself to work. I tried, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t care enough. So I eventually made a C in organic.
It was during this semester that I would get these sort of panic attacks. I would just cry and cry when thinking about how badly I was doing in life, in organic, in everything. This is what really scared me the most. I always prided myself on not stressing out, not freaking out, and doing well in what I was studying for. But here was a class that just broke me down into tears. I couldn’t study when I was like that.
Then, the spring semester began. I took the second part of organic. Struggled through it and was averaging a C in the class. Then I fell apart again. I made a 48 on my last test, which dropped me to a D. I had to make an amazing grade on the final. I didn’t start studying for the final until the night before because I had basically given up. I failed the class with an F. In all my other classes that semester, I made A’s and B’s.

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The Ghosts of Nusrat: Dub Qawwali

dub-qawwali.jpgNusrat Fateh Ali Khan has a new CD out. While that may seem unlikely, given that he passed away ten years ago, it’s true. Italian/British producer Gaudi took old master tapes from the early 1970s in the possession of Nusrat’s original Pakistani record label (Rehmat Gramohpone), and reinterpreted them with Dub/Reggae beats. The sound is fresh, if not technically new — a successful way to bring back the ghost of Nusrat in a recording studio. Dub Qawwali has recently been released on Six Degrees Records; Gaudi was interviewed by NPR here.

Dub Qawwali is a collection of Nusrat songs that, for the most part, I hadn’t heard before, though admittedly my Nusrat collection is hardly definitive. The production quality, for those who pay attention to such things, is flawless, and the sound is “warm” — mainly because Gaudi used live musicians and vintage analog equipment to create a rich soundscape. It’s most definitely not the cheesy Bally Sagoo remix approach, where you get the feeling that the whole thing was put together on a computer by a stoned teenager. Here is how the record label describes the approach:

The use of vintage analogue studio equipment and dub production techniques such as tape echoes, valve amps, Fender Rhodes, spring reverbs, Hammond organ and Moog, characterizes Gaudi’s production style, however it is not without its share of 21st century intervention and wizardry… Individual tracks from the original 70’s multi-track recordings often contained multiple parts together on them. These had to then be carefully cleaned up in order to make them usable in a way that would enable the composition of these new works. (This included much of the vocal parts which were mixed in the same track as the Harmonium and other instruments!) (link)

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SF Meetup Wrapup

Had a *great* meetup last night in SF.

‘Twas a nice bright day in SF…

While not as large as the NYC meetup, ~25 folks swung by Greco’s over the course of the evening. The majority of the attendees were deep lurkers (although, apparently, fanatical comments readers). A handful of folks were visiting SF on vacation or en route to other locales with the Sunday afternoon meetup lining up perfectly with their scheds. Some folks brought the party (thank you DJ Dp). Still, other folks were conspicuous by their absence (best wishes to A N N A ; SFGirl, Camille + a few others)

Two new records were set for IST –

  • Early: Mutineer Dharti figured a “lazy Sunday” might mean that folks would show up as soon as 1:00
  • Very Early: Mutineer Harbeer (wallet chain and all) thought the meetup was supposed to be on Saturday

Post meetup, the hearty select ventured to Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Curry House…

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