Even Steel Goes Soft…

As the global, finance-led recession winds its way through world markets, some particularly exposed sectors have been construction, durable goods and their suppliers – notably steel. As a consequence, one SM favorite, Lakshmi Mittal, has seen his fortunes take quite a hit of late

“Son, global steel production is a game I’m confident we can play & win… American politics on the other hand…”

Over the past eight months, Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s wealthiest man, has lost around $51bn (£35bn). Mittal, who controls steel producer Arcelor Mittal, has profited from the construction boom of the past decade, driven by the emerging economies of China and India. His stake in the business in June was worth $65bn. But, as demand for steel has crashed, so has the Arcelor Mittal share price. His holding is now worth $14bn – a staggering loss, although he is not exactly on the streets yet.

And, as if punishment from the market wasn’t enough, a strongly Democratic Congress, empowered by a frenzied effort to pass a hastily-conceived stimulus may be ushering in new protectionist winds

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Missing: Bollywood Movie Awards

Nassau County Police in New York are seeking information on the bolly_awards_2007.jpg whereabouts of the Bollywood Movie Awards, last seen on May 26, 2007, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island.

The BMAs, as they were affectionately called, were reported missing last May and have not been found, despite frantic efforts by American and Indian search and rescue teams.

“We’ve searched by land, by water and by air,” said Nassau County Police spokesman Scott Hansen. “We even sent divers to the bottom of the East River. The only thing they found was a rusted trophy won by David Hasselhoff at the 2005 BMAs.”

Hansen said the police department has received dozens of calls from concerned citizens about the BMAs. “One man was particularly distraught,” Hansen said. “He said he cannot survive another year without seeing Bipasha Basu in a tight dress.”

Hansen said foul play is not suspected, but police are looking into various possibilities. They have interviewed a number of past BMA nominees who didn’t win an award. But most did not attend the show, so their disappointment, if any, was minimal, Hansen said.

“That’s the thing about the BMAs,” Hansen said. “They always strived to make people happy. Almost all celebrities who were willing to attend the show were given an award. Special awards were created for them if necessary.”

But he acknowledged that police had questioned Aamir Khan, who they suspect has held a grudge since 1999, when Shahrukh Khan won a BMA for “Best Sensational Performance.”

“I don’t know much about Bollywood,” Hansen said, “but I hear that Aamir believes he’s more sensational than Shahrukh.”

Action hero Steven Seagal, who won the BMA’s “Humanitarian Award” in 2001, is among several Hollywood celebrities who have expressed shock and concern about their disappearance.

“I hope we can find them,” Seagal said. “As far as I’m concerned, the BMAs are better than the Academy Awards. They gave me an award and they even let me sing. The Academy Awards won’t even let me in the building.” Continue reading

The Lord Mayor of Leicester

Pray silence and all rise for the Right Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Leicester Councillor Manjula Sood! booms the Civic Attendant. She enters the hall wearing a blue and gold sari and the symbol of her office around her neck, a heavy 18-carat gold chain set in velvet with a medallion, dated 1867, bearing the crest of the city of Leicester. Manjula Sood is the first Asian woman Lord Mayor in Britain, the rotating civic post on the Leicester City Council. The office is ceremonial, but as Leicester’s first citizen and chair of the council, the Lord Mayor is the public face of Britain’s most diverse city. By 2011 Leicester is expected to be Britain’s first minority-majority city, with black, minority, and ethnic groups (BMEs in British parlance) outnumbering whites. The East Midlands city’s population is heavily Asian (the British use the term to refer to immigrants from the subcontinent), with arrivals from North India and East Africa. Manjula Sood’s story parallels the growth of Leicester as a model for Britain’s increasingly complex relationship with its Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Caribbean immigrants, and its new arrivals from places like Somalia and Zimbabwe.


Manjula Sood was born into a wealthy family in Ludhiana, in the Indian state of Punjab. Her father was a doctor, her mother a teacher, and the family placed a high value on education, especially for women. After earning a master’s degree in sociology at Punjab University, she became a senior researcher in a program sponsored by Johns Hopkins University that worked on women’s and children’s health issues in rural Punjab.

“My spirituality developed at a lot,” she says of her time working in the villages. “I had so much at home; these people had nothing to eat.”

She came to Leicester in 1970, joining her husband, Vijay Paul Sood, who had arrived six years earlier to pursue an engineering degree and had begun working for General Electric. She came on a snowy December day at a time when Britain’s tolerance for immigrants was under strain. Leicester’s Asian population had been increasing by over fifty percent annually for a decade, with many arrivals from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The whites-only National Front party was agitating against immigration, stoking nationalist and racist fervor. This was the era of Enoch Powell’s famous “rivers of blood” speech, in which the Conservative MP railed against the influx of immigrants, blaming them for the breakdown of Britain’s social and physical infrastructure.

Two years after Sood arrived, during the crisis sparked by Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians from Uganda, the Leicester City Council (over which Sood now presides), placed advertisements in the Uganda Argus, the state-run newspaper, claiming that Leicester’s housing and schools were overloaded: “In your own interests and those of your family you should not come to Leicester.” Continue reading

Boy don’t try to front…

William Dalrymple has a must read book review of Ahmed Rashid’s “Pakistan in Peril Descent into Chaos,” in the New York Review of Books that I should summarize for SM readers. Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga has published a short story in The New Yorker this week titled, “The Elephant” that I should also critique. Finally, Foreign Policy magazine has an article about how India scuttled Richard Holbrooke’s potential involvement in the Kashmir conflict that I know would make for a great debate on our site. But honestly, I am just tired of trying to front like I am smart or something. Instead, I just want to blog this trashy clip from my girl Tyra Bank’s show earlier this week. It features a desi guy that now goes by the porn-king sounding name “Shawn Valentino.”

Part 1

Part 2

The first thing I am going to do is to re-do my SM business card now and put a picture of me blogging shirtless on it. I’ve “traveled the world.” I am “open minded.” I just want to “teach other people to be comfortable with themselves,” too! This guy really is a guru. He has convinced me too stop pretending to be something I am not. From here on out its business time all the time.

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No Really, South Asians Against Obama ;-)

In stark contrast to Anna’s picts of pro-Obama Pakistani kids, Reuters recently published some picts of less than happy Pakistani adults –

Obama! Keep Your Hands off my “Tribs”!

Supporters of the Pakistani Islamist party Jamat-e-Islami protest in Karachi, January 25, 2009. The protest was organised by Jamat-e-Islami party against military operations and drone attacks in tribal areas. U.S. drones fired missiles into Pakistan late on Friday killing 17 people, intelligence officials and residents said, in the first such strike since Barack Obama became U.S. president. REUTERS/Athar Hussain (PAKISTAN)

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USA + India = BFF, y’all

A few hours ago, a mutineer who covers the Executive Branch sent me this:

For Immediate Release
January 25, 2009
Message on the occasion of India Republic Day
As the people of India and people of Indian origin in America and around the world celebrate Republic Day on January 26, I send the warmest greetings of the American people to the people of India. Together, we celebrate our shared belief in democracy, liberty, pluralism, and religious tolerance.
Our nations have built broad and vibrant partnerships in every field of human endeavor. Our rapidly growing and deepening friendship with India offers benefits to all the world’s citizens as our scientists solve environmental challenges together, our doctors discover new medicines, our engineers advance our societies, our entrepreneurs generate prosperity, our educators lay the foundation for our future generations, and our governments work together to advance peace, prosperity, and stability around the globe.
It is our shared values that form the bedrock of a robust relationship across peoples and governments. Those values and ideals provide the strength that enables us to meet any challenge, particularly from those who use violence to try to undermine our free and open societies. As the Indian people celebrate Republic Day all across India, they should know that they have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States. It is in that spirit, that I also wish Prime Minister Singh a quick recovery.

Incidentally, if you were unaware of the latest regarding the health of Prime Minister Singh, here you go (thanks, Manoje):

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday successfully underwent a coronary bypass surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Science in New Delhi as doctors removed 10 blockages in his heart…
Dr Ramakanth Panda, the chief of the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, headed the surgical team comprising doctors that performed the beating heart surgery. The prime minister had undergone his first heart surgery in 1990 and then had an angioplasty in 2004. This week, he complained of chest plain and the angiography revealed 10 blockages, which prompted the doctors to opt for a surgery. [rediff]

I am ridiculously delighted to learn that the surgical team was headed by a panda. I love pandas.

For those who crave some learnin’ about the reason for the thoughtful press release: Continue reading

Diary of Barack Obama’s desi roommate

The ongoing search for all photos and documents from President diary.jpg Obama’s past has turned up a diary that his desi roommate kept in the early 1980s. Some of the entries are quite revealing:

Aug. 28, 1981: Barack and I went searching for furniture today. We found a couch that someone had dumped on the street. It doesn’t look too bad, once we turned the cushions over. It doesn’t smell bad either, once Barack sprayed it with his Brut.

Sept. 14, 1981: Barack and I have been eating pizza, macaroni and cheese, and Ramen noodles for dinner. But today, I decided to make chicken karahi for a change. Barack tasted it and said, “Mmmm … This is a good change. Did I tell you how much I believe in change?”

Oct. 2, 1981: I tried to get Barack to give up cigarettes today. I said to him, “Why smoke cigarettes when you can smoke pot?” But it didn’t work. Poor guy. He really needs some help.

Nov. 13, 1981: Barack is a little too square. I’m trying to get him to be more stylish, more cool. Yesterday, I took him to see Sholay at a friend’s house, hoping that Amitabh Bachchan’s style would rub off on him. And today, Barack is walking around wearing a wide-collared shirt and saying, “Tera naam kya hai, Basanti?”

Nov. 20, 1981: Barack is such a dreamer. He talks about being leader of America one day. I told him that he needs to shoot for something more realistic, such as leader of the church choir. I mean, the day a black man becomes leader of America is the day I need to give up weed. Continue reading

No, really, South Asians for Obama

Someone on my GChat list had an intriguing link included in their status message. I saw “inauguration”, and since that historic event is still very much on my mind, I clicked it. I was led to the Boston Globe’s website, to a feature called “The Big Picture: News Stories in Photographs“.

Yesterday was a historic day. On January 20th, 2009, Barack H. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America – the first African-American ever to hold the office of U.S. Commander-in-Chief. The event was witnessed by well over one million attendees in chilly Washington D.C., and by many millions more through coverage on television and the Internet. Collected here are photographs of the event, the participants, and some of the witnesses around the world. (48 photos total)

Picture number 38 caught my attention, setting my browndar off before I could even read the caption underneath it (which I’ve quoted, well, underneath it):

Pakistani Christian children.jpg

Pakistani Christian children hold portraits of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama during a prayers ceremony for global peace in Islamabad, Pakistan on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. (AP Photo) [Globe]

At first glance, I didn’t notice the word “Christian”. I just saw “Pakistani children”. I thought I’d just post the picture plus a quick blurb about where I found it, and isn’t it sweet, etc. But for obvious reasons, I started surfing around, and a rambling post was born. Continue reading

Arguing with The Nine

President Obama hit the ground running today, his first acts designed to remove some of the moral stain on our nation:

In the first hours of his presidency, President Obama directed an immediate halt to the Bush administration’s military commissions system for prosecuting detainees at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [Link]

Not only that, but guess who the new lead prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay is? David “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH” Iglesias:

Fired New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias will be a lead prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when and terror trials resume there, he told a New Mexico television station this morning.

The move has doubly powerful symbolism: Iglesias is recently famous for being fired for refusing to compromise his political independence, but he knows Guantanamo Bay well: He was the Navy defense lawyer played by Tom Cruise in the film, “A Few Good Men,” one of three who defended marines at the naval base.

Iglesias, a Naval reservist, said he’d been activated as a Judge Advocate General “prosecuting terror cases out of Guantanamo.” [Link]

Shutting down Gitmo and appointing an attorney fired by Alberto Gonzales wasn’t enough though. Obama then asked Osama bin Laden’s driver’s lawyer (the oft-blogged about on SM, Neal Katyal), to serve as the Deputy Solicitor General of the United States:

It’s good to see that the grownups are back in charge at the Justice Department…

Neal Katyal, the Georgetown Law professor who successfully challenged the military trials in Guantanamo while representing Osama bin Laden’s driver, will be deputy solicitor general. He’ll join Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law School, who has been nominated to be Solicitor General. [Link]

This puts Katyal one step closer (although it is doubtful it would happen in the next four years) to having a serious shot at becoming the first desi appointed to the SCOTUS. What is more likely is that Kagan will eventually be appointed to SCOTUS and Neal will take over as the main man. The thought of Nina Totenberg regularly quoting a Katyal argument (as he jousts with Roberts or Scalia) on NPR as I drive to and from work excites me to a level that is uncomfortable to admit.

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Books and movies you shouldn’t miss

I was chatting with a friend –- let’s call him Varun –- about books and movies. Varun considers himself an expert on almost everything. So I asked him to name his favorite books and movies.

VARUN: “Well, one of my favorite books is Salman Rushdie’s M. M. Night book.jpg Night’s Children.”

ME: “Don’t you mean Midnight’s Children?”

VARUN: “No, M. Night’s Children. It’s the story of two brave girls who delete a movie script on their father’s computer, saving the world from another disaster.”

ME: “Wow, Salman is amazing. Give the man a Nobel already! What other books do you like?”

VARUN: “I really love Jhumpa Lahiri’s first book Interpreter of My Laddoos.”

ME: “Don’t you mean Interpreter of Maladies?”

VARUN: “No, Interpreter of My Laddoos. It’s the story of a woman named Anjali who owns an Indian restaurant in New York and tries to win the attention of a handsome IT specialist by giving him two free laddoos after every meal. She keeps wondering if he will get the message.”

ME: “Jhumpa is fantastic. Where does she get her ideas?”

VARUN: “Yes, she’s fabulous. I also like her latest book: Unaccustomed Girth.”

ME: “Don’t you mean Unaccustomed Earth?”

VARUN: “No, Unaccustomed Girth. It’s the story of a skinny lad from Kolkata named Gopal who comes to America to study at Boston University and falls in love with the all-you-can-eat buffet.”

ME: “Another winner from Jhumpa! What other books do you like?” Continue reading