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Showing posts from May, 2009

Ahmed Rashid on Pakistan in NYRB

Ahmad Rashid on Pakistan and President Zardari.

To get to President Asif Ali Zardari's presidential palace in the heart of Islamabad for dinner is like running an obstacle course. Pakistan's once sleepy capital, full of restaurant-going bureaucrats and diplomats, is now littered with concrete barriers, blast walls, checkpoints, armed police, and soldiers; as a result of recent suicide bombings the city now resembles Baghdad or Kabul. At the first checkpoint, two miles from the palace, they have my name and my car's license number. There are seven more checkpoints to negotiate along the way.

Apart from traveling to the airport by helicopter to take trips abroad, the President stays inside the palace; he fears threats to his life by the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda, who in December 2007 killed his wife, the charismatic Benazir Bhutto, then perhaps the country's only genuine national leader. Zardari's isolation has only added to his growing unpopularity, his indecisiv…

Spelling Bees

This is quite funny, on how hyper competitive Indian parents are.

And I watched a rerun of the spelling bee yesterday. Kavya Shivshankar won the competition. I liked the way she thought about the word, asked all the questions, like what is the language of origin, what is the tense, any alternate pronunciations? and then broke it down and patiently finger wrote each word and then said it aloud.

More here from the Washington Post.

And here's a more gushing post by the Kansas Star.

Tenacity, discipline and diligence aren’t the toughest words to spell, but they all describe Olathe eighth-grader Kavya Shivashankar.

The three-time top-10 finisher in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship aced 40 words and bested 292 competitors to claim the winning trophy before a national TV audience Thursday night in Washington, D.C.

The 13-year-old champion from California Trail Junior High School spent years studying the pronunciations, meanings and roots of the dictionary’s most convoluted words…

Conspiracy Theories

Alternet lists the most popular and durable conspiracy theories.

Agatha Christie once famously said, "The simplest explanation is always the most likely." However, when something shocking or catastrophic happens in our lives, simple explanations just aren't satisfying. We crave deeper reason and meaning and when that isn't given to us, sometimes we create our own. This is how conspiracy theories are often born -- someone doesn't like the official account of a major event and challenges it with a different version. Conspiracy theories can attract a wide array of people, from vehement supporters to those who just like a good story. Whether they're somewhat believable or completely ridiculous, the most popular conspiracy theories got that way for a reason -- they're just plain fascinating.

1. Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone (or possibly at all).
Perhaps only 9/11 comes close to matching the multitude of theories and interest surrounding JFK's assassi…


Asia Times talks about the LTTE leader Prabhakaran and Sri Lanka. The article is written by an Indian diplomat.

The rise and fall of Prabhakaran
By M K Bhadrakumar

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran's death circa May 19, 2009, in circumstances we will never quite get to know, concludes a morality play.

As the curtain comes down and we leave the theater, the spectacle continues to haunt us. We feel a deep unease and can't quite figure out the reason. Something rankles somewhere. And then we realize we have blood on our hands.

Not only our hands, but our whole body and deeper down, our conscience - what remains of it after the mundane battles of our day-to-day life - are also dripping with blood.

Prabhakaran's blood. No, it is not only Prabhakaran's, but also of

70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils who have perished in the unspeakable violence through the past quarter century.

All the pujas we may perform to our favorite Hindu god, Lord Ganesh, for good…

Women unhappier than Men today Liberated but Unhappy

NYT has a great op.ed about women's unhappiness, and single motherhood with all the responsibility of raising a child is one of the leading causes.

American women are wealthier, healthier and better educated than they were 30 years ago. They’re more likely to work outside the home, and more likely to earn salaries comparable to men’s when they do. They can leave abusive marriages and sue sexist employers. They enjoy unprecedented control over their own fertility. On some fronts — graduation rates, life expectancy and even job security — men look increasingly like the second sex.

But all the achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness. In the 1960s, when Betty Friedan diagnosed her fellow wives and daughters as the victims of “the problem with no name,” American women reported themselves happier, on average, than did men. Today, that gender gap has reversed. Male happiness has inched up, and female happiness has dropped. In postfeminist America, m…

From 3qd, my experiments with cooling by Aditya Dev Sood

My Experiments with Cooling
by Aditya Dev Sood

This is Delhi in its glory. Hotter, even, than when I knew it as a child, the temperatures these days scratching past the 45 degrees Celsius that were their absolute threshold then. Every day the earth baking, every night the atmosphere billowing in response, plumes of invisible heat unsettling the skies, a sudden imbalance and extreme of the natural order, corrected by crazy dust storms in the late afternoon, whose special, threatening light, one knows, will never break to rain. The dust is everywhere. On window sills and on the floors of my home, on doorknobs and banisters, and even hidden atop curtain rods and high shelves. The body is always tormented by the heat, always seeking respite, coolness, moisture, a wet towel, ginger-lemonade, the direct draft of an air-conditioner.

Last summer, when I was remodeling this house, I had six air-conditioners installed, one for each room, most of them split units, their umbilical tubing buried wi…

Sikhs in Vienna

Upper Caste fundamentalist's attack lower caste gurdwara and kill Sikh preacher. This caused riots in Punjab.

May 25 (Bloomberg) -- Police opened fire in India’s Punjab state and authorities imposed curfews to quell violent protests by Sikhs angered by the death of a preacher in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Demonstrators blocked roads, set trains ablaze and torched buses in several towns in Punjab and neighboring Haryana state. Troops patrolled streets in Jalandhar district, Gurmit Singh, a Punjab state police official, said by phone. Two people died in separate incidents in the state as police opened fire, Press Trust of India reported.

“Everything is under control now,” Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said in comments made to the Times Now television channel.

The violence was triggered by the death of visiting Indian preacher Sant Rama Anand, 57, shot during a brawl between rival Sikhs at a temple in Vienna’s Rudolfsheim-Fuenfhaus district yesterday.

Anand had b…

Amitava Kumar

Minnesota review has an article about post colonial criticism in the US and it being experienced by an Indian subjected to an "indifferent education" in Delhi. Sounds very familiar!

I'm in an overheated hotel room in Beijing, reading a New Yorker travel piece about China by Jonathan Franzen. The essay is describing the ecological devastation caused by rapid development, but what stops me is a remark that Franzen makes about his Chinese guide. David Xu has "the fashionably angular eyeglasses and ingratiating eagerness of an untenured literature professor." In that throwaway phrase, in its quick malice and wit, I come home. Whether this is revealing of the traveler's loneliness abroad or not, I find myself thinking that I belong not to India or to the United States but to the academy. I realize that I'm a sad provincial; for years, I've been living in a place called the English Department.

Which leads me to declare my first credo. The most significant …

Quote from the mother

When one hears music, how should one truly hear it?
For this - if one can be completely silent, you see, silent and attentive, simply as though one were an instrument which has to record it - one does not move, and is only something that is listening - if one can be absolutely silent, absolutely still and like that, then the thing enters. And it is only later, some time later, that you can become aware of the effect, either of what it meant or the impression it had on you.

- The Mother [CWMCE, 6:381-82]

Profiles in Courage

Madre profiles the following Afghan women that have been assasinated in Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan are routinely denied basic human rights, including education, healthcare, freedom from violence, and freedom of movement. Afghan women who fight to change this reality are attacked and even assassinated by ultra-conservatives.

Meanwhile, US airstrikes that kill civilians further endanger Afghan women and their families. They also increase the power of the Taliban and other reactionary forces as more Afghans turn to them for protection from the United States.

Each woman who is targeted and killed is meant to serve as a warning to any woman who would dare to stand up for her rights. Yet Afghan women continue to do just that. MADRE is supporting their courageous struggle through our Afghan Women’s Survival Fund.

Below, we profile a few of the women who have been killed or threatened for daring to demand their rights.


Mothering Magazine on Divorce

The other day a friend of mine, recently divorced, told me, “When I met her, I stopped living day to day, and started planning for the future.” Then, after a series of unforgivable transgressions, he accepted the inevitability of their divorce and realized the transiency of the future. He is, once again, living day to day and enjoying every moment he can with the knowledge that nothing is permanent. As Alisa Holleron says in “The Woman in My Seat,” “I cried because life often turns out so differently than you imagine it will.”
That doesn’t mean the changes, as difficult as they may be, are not for the best. Articles editor and product reviewer Candace Walsh recently released an anthology called Ask Me About My Divorce. “As a mom and a woman,” explains Candace, “I made a very specific decision to divorce my own experience of our family's shift from the old-school, stigma-ridden general perception of divorce.” Her anthology is a collection of essays by women who have experienced divo…

Some amusing images from Pakistan