Saturday, September 30, 2006

Climate refugees

" Harsh conditions await those who are forced to move to the slums

"Climate refugees is a term we are going to hear much more of in the future," observes Saleem-ul Huq, a fellow at the London-based International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED).

He says many Bangladeshi families escaping floods and droughts have already slipped over the Indian border to swell the shanty towns of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.

"The problem is hidden at the moment but it will inevitably come to the fore as climate change forces more and more people out of their homes.

"There will be a high economic cost - and countries that have to bear that cost are likely to be demanding compensation from rich nations for a problem they have not themselves caused," Mr Huq predicts. "

Microbes to solve drinking water problems?

"Australian scientists have discovered a comparatively cheaper and environment-friendly solution – microbes! Yes, microbes found in old waste sites in Australia. They can not only tolerate lethal soil and water cocktails created by waste petroleum and chlorine, but can also break them down to a non-toxic matter for humans, the scientist informed.

Megha Mallavarapu, from a government-backed environmental research centre based in South Australia state, told Reuters,

"We have isolated bacteria which can live on those waste compounds… Anywhere there has been a fuel dump, a munitions store, an old chemical factory or heavy manufacturing plant, there is potential for toxic substances to leak into groundwater underneath." " has several articles of this type ( the blog is run by Irani Sen). Search under 'Irani on bacteria' gave several artcles on the uses of bacteria including possibilties of cleaning nuclear waste:
Irani has also various artcles on sources of bio-fuel;

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Discussion on capitalism

Marginal Revolution's latest post discusses capitalism:
The best comment (in my opinion) so far is my one m :
"capitalism is an abstraction, albeit useful, that helps
modeling some aspects of human relationships. in pure
form it has never existed for extended periods of time
because of inherent problems (like externalities) that
plague it. studying its moral grounds is nonsense.
kinda like studying moral grounds of classical

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Immortal bacteria


"Bacteria were long thought to enjoy a sort of immortality, because they simply divide symmetrically into identical "daughter" cells, neither of which is more likely to contain older components. This sets them apart from multi-cellular organisms, which contain non-reproductive cells that are doomed to age.

Then last year, microbiologists in France found that Escherichia coli bacteria divide asymmetrically, with one daughter cell receiving older components than the other. Over many generations, the “older” cells grow more slowly and eventually die (see Bacteria death reduces human hopes of immortality).

Long live immortality

Now, researchers led by Milind Watve at Abasaheb Garware College in Pune, India, have run a mathematical model that simulates the success of cells that develop either symmetrically or asymmetrically. This predicts that whether bacteria age or become immortal may depend on how well fed they are.

Under good growth conditions with lots of nutrients, asymmetric division is favoured because the “old” cells die off but the “young” ones grow faster. When nutrients are scarce, however, symmetric cell division gives better overall survival and growth across both daughters.

“Natural selection can favour symmetric division under certain conditions, so immortality is not dead,” says Watve. "

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Eight Americas

" The study also highlights that the complicated tapestry of local and cultural customs may be more important than income in driving health disparities, said Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Aging, which co-funded the research.
“It's not just low income,'' Suzman said. “It's what people eat, it's how they behave, or simply what's available in supermarkets.''
Murray analyzed mortality data between 1982 and 2001 by county, race, gender and income. He found some distinct groupings that he named the “eight Americas:''
—Asian-Americans, average per capita income of $21,566, have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.
—Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.
—Middle America (mostly white), $24,640, 77.9 years.
—Low income whites in Appalachia, Mississippi Valley, $16,390, 75 years.
—Western American Indians, $10,029, 72.7 years.
—Black Middle America, $15,412, 72.9 years.
—Southern low-income rural blacks, $10,463, 71.2 years.
—High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.
Longevity disparities were most pronounced in young and middle-aged adults. A 15-year-old urban black man was 3.8 times as likely to die before the age of 60 as an Asian-American, for example.
That's key, Murray said, because this age group is left out of many government health programs that focus largely on children and the elderly."

Dawkins takes on religion

Richard Dawkins has a new site"Foundation for Reason and Science": and a new book "The God Delusion".
See for a review of the book.
A comment from the review:
"If nothing else, his book should help bring the atheists out of the closet."
The site has links to articles by others; there are a couple of articles on the recent speech by the Pope:

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Scavengers in India

Frontline ( vol.23, number 18) and the otherindia group
are bringing the plight of scavengers to the attention of the public. has information about scholarships to students from scavenging families.
Please have a look at these.

I remembered Gandhi's 'infatuation' about cleaning toilerts and googled 'Gandhi on cleaning toilets' and found several articles which seem to substantiate Annie Zaidi's core assertions. Some links and excerpts below.

"Gandhi had deliberately not permitted toilets in private homes, so that everyone had to use the row of public toilets at one end of the ashram. Gandhi’s reasoning was that cleaning public toilets was the contentious issue on which the caste oppression was based. So, the best way of getting rid of the prejudices, equalizing society and teaching people a lesson in humility was to make them do the work they so despised.

Millions in India are labeled "untouchables" because of the work they are forced to do by the caste system. Only the low castes must do the lowly jobs like street cleaning, garbage pick-up and cleaning public toilets. Because the jobs are menial and considered "unclean" the pay is negligible, forcing the "low caste" to live in abject poverty and ignorance, the vicious cycle that condemns them forever.

Untouchability, and the seeming inability of Hindus and Muslims to get along, are the two major conflicts that divide the Indian community. Both these issues were given appropriate emphasis in the training schedule at the ashram.

Everyone, without exception, was required to participate in the cleaning of the toilets. Each person, like the "untouchables", had to carry buckets of nightsoil and urine to the fields, empty them in trenches, cover the trenches, wash the buckets clean and replace them for use. Sometimes this work had to be done twice a day, which meant having a second bath and this time washing your own clothes.

The first time I was assigned this duty at the age of 12 I found it revolting. But, when everyone, including grandfather, was doing it who could you complain to? I performed the chore obediently and found that with time the work became less revolting. It helped me, and the others, understand the value of work and become truly humble.

Shriman Narayan once confessed his extreme revulsion at having to do this work. He was born into a rich Brahmin family and had just returned from England with a doctorate from the London School of Economics. His family members, like millions of others, were ardent followers of Gandhi. He came to Sevagram Ashram to pay homage to Gandhi and seek guidance for future work. However, like everyone else, from the day he stepped into the ashram Shriman was assigned the duty to clean the toilets. Gandhi did not spare anyone. Shriman was not used to this type of work, or any work for that matter, since he came from a home where they had servants for each member of the family. However, not even he could refuse to do this work. The first day he did it with utmost reluctance.

Then he sought an excuse. "I hold a doctorate from the London School of Economics," he argued. "I am capable of doing great things. Why do you waste my time and talents on cleaning toilets?"

Gandhi replied: "I know of your capacity to do great things but I have yet to discover your capacity to do little things. So, if you wish to seek my guidance and blessings you will have to observe all the rules of the ashram." "

"A clean-up caste:
There have been some persuasive arguments to pin the origin of the scavenger class on Muslim conquerors of India: it started for the convenience of their ladies in purdah. There is some truth that they used captured warriors as porters of night-soil. There are clear references however, in ancient Naradiya Samhita and Vajasaneyi Samhita to designated slaves —Chandals & Paulkasas, for example— for cleaning up toilets. Those two castes are referred to in Buddhist times also. The Mughals may however have introduced the bucket-privy and created a new caste label called Mehtars. Finally, the catch-all, derisory name, Bhangi for these abused people emerged."
"And softly, he adds: "Gandhiji used to be furious about our treatment of scavengers. "In my next birth I want to born a Bhangi," he raged. I am working to make sure he need not be born again for this." There's a good chance Gandhi is less angry today."

"Middle class Indians in cities, flushed with metro and mall-generated excitement, are wont to dismiss the caste system as a relic that no longer holds sway, at least in urban areas. Yet, the steady stream of jamadars who spend their days cleaning out the toilets of houses both modest and grand, a job that other domestic staff resolutely refuse to consider, is indicative of just how deeply rooted caste consciousness is. Gandhi himself identified toilet cleaning as key to revolutionizing society. He stressed repeatedly that in a society's approach to private and public sanitation lay its commitment to true freedom and dignity. But if Gandhi was correct in his beliefs, then it is authoritarian China, not democratic India that has in fact achieved self-respect for its citizens.

Yu Bao Ping started work as a public toilet cleaner and attendant in Beijing's Jiao Dao Kou neighborhood last September. Originally a rice farmer from Anhui province, the 38-year-old is ecstatic at having landed such a good job. He says that compared to the backbreaking labor of farming, cleaning toilets is a cinch. It gives him a stable income, and more importantly, a chance to broaden his horizons in the big city.

"I have made so many friends through the toilet," he says. In several older sections of Beijing, homes still lack private bathrooms and an entire lane uses the communal facilities. Yu works in one such community latrine. "Everyone in this neighbourhood comes through these doors," he says, "and I have met so many different kinds of people, including foreigners.
1) has this to say about Sulabh (second link above):
Sulabh International is a social service organization which works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, health and hygiene, non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education, training and awareness campaigns. The organization has developed the Sulabh Shauchalaya-technology, which is technologically appropriate, socio-culturally acceptable and economically affordable.

2) Annie Zaidi mentioned that Gandhi’s opinions on the above issue were controversial and that he had differences with Ambedkar. From
"Ambedkar told Gandhi in October 1932 "that I have no interest in the temples being thrown open, common dinners and the like, because we suffer thereby.... I only want that social and economic hardships should end". Ambedkar said, "It is a mistake to suppose that it (untouchability) is only a religious system.... It is also an economic system, which is worse than slavery.... History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics”.

Mahatma Gandhi wanted the `untouchables' to continue as helots but better helots with improved knowledge of their work and greater devotion to their "sacred duty" -- more contented, cleaner, and free from weaknesses like drinking and meat-eating, for which he often upbraided them. He said, "I would, therefore, suggest to reformers that they should not persuade Bhangis and Chamars to leave their occupation but they should, on the contrary, give them proper knowledge about their work”. "Under Gandhism", said Ambedkar, "the untouchables are to be eternal scavengers”. "

This seems to be due to Gandhi’s adherence to some sort of profession related caste system for a long time. Gandhi’s opinions on several issues seem to have evolved and changed over time. After his often bitter discussions with Ambedkar, Gandhi seems to have finally changed his opinions on caste. Here are a couple of Gandhi quotes taken from “Castes of Mind” by Nicholas Dirks, Priceton Uni. Press , 2001 (page 234).

” When, years later, Gandhi defended himself against attacks by Ambedkar over his views of caste, he wrote that “Caste has nothing to with religion. It is a custom whose origin I do not know and do not need to know for the satisfaction of my spiritual hunger. But I do know that it is harmful both to spiritual and national growth.” At roughly the same time, he stated that “Caste has to go”"

These statements of Gandhi do not seem to be well known. The references that Dirks gave are: Gandhi, Collected works, vol. 63, p.153, vol. 62, p.121

Free Wiki Textbooks Project

Pl. check

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A mathematician funds math. education

James Simons pledges anoth 25 million dollars to Math for America. See
"Math for America addresses a simple, but profound problem: Nearly 40 percent of all public high school math teachers do not have a degree in math or a related field. Even the best curriculum in the world, the reasoning goes, isn't going to inspire students if unqualified individuals are teaching them. (In a recent round of testing, the U.S. placed 24th out of 29 nations in math proficiency.) If knowledgeable teachers exude passion for the subject, they stand a greater chance of pushing students toward careers in math in science that are the technical backbone of the country's economy."

"Simons' idea for persuading more graduates to become educators is a no-brainer: Pay them more."
"Together, Simons and his colleagues devised a plan to pay for each of the program's participants (known as "fellows") to receive a master's degree in education and also provide them with stipends of $90,000 each, on top of their salaries, spread over their first five years in the program."

MfA Executive Director Irwin Kra, Simon's long-time friend and colleague in the mathematics department at SUNY-Stony Brook says:
"This is a problem that doesn't just affect education, but also the economy, our security, and, because I am an old Jeffersonian, I believe it affects our democracy,"..."People should know basic concepts in math and science in order to make informed decisions about the issues."

A mathematician goes public

S.T.Yau goes public and asks The New yorker to apologize. More details in
and the post 'Some Links' of
I hope that a similar discussion will take place on Tarski problems on free groups; if those results are correct I can probably use some of them.

Farmers' problems has continuous updates on farmers' problems in India. There is a quick overview in New York Times

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pankaj Mishra's response to Martin Amis

Pl. check:,,1874132,00.html
"For the 'war on terror' is not just a political and military fiasco but also an intellectual one, combining fatally the arrogance of power with the arrogance of mind."

"Shocked, like many Europeans, by the ferocity and unexpectedness of the First World War, French poet and essayist Paul Valery was one of the first to warn against intellectual over-reaching in a world grown bewilderingly complex and intransigent. 'The system of causes,' he wrote, 'controlling the fate of every one of us, and now extending over the whole globe, makes it reverberate throughout at every shock; there are no more questions that can be settled by being settled at one point.'

Valery could sense that the West was no longer the sole engine of global history. 'Nothing,' he asserted, 'can ever happen again without the whole world's taking a hand and for this reason no one will ever be able to predict or circumscribe the almost immediate consequences of any undertaking whatever.' "
(Pointer from Jo. I rarely read Martin Amis))

S.N.Bose on popular science in vernacular

"Bose was a great populariser of science. He strongly felt that it was duty to present science to the common man in his own language. For popularizing science Bose wrote in Bengali. This is the reason why his contribution in popularizing science is not known outside Bengal. It were largely Bose’s efforts which led to the establishment of the Bangiya Bijnan Parishad (Science Association of Bengal), a registered society with the sole objective of promoting and popularizing science through the vernacular. The Parishad was formally inaugurated on January 25, 1948. The circular announcing the formation of the Parishad stated: “We need science at every step, but our system of education does not prepare us for it, so that we are not able to utilize science in our everyday life. The main obstacle so far was a foreign language through which education was being imparted. Today the ties have changed. New hopes and aspiration are emerging. Now it is the duty and the responsibility of our scientists to popularize science through the medium of vernacular and thus help to create a healthy scientific attitude among the people. As a first step to this effort it has been resolved to form a `Bangiya Bijnan Parishad’. It was mainly through the inspired leadership of Professor Satyendranath Bose.” The Parishad started a monthly magazine on popular science in Bengali, Jnan O Bijnan (Knowledge and Science). As part of his attempt in popularizing science through the vernacular Bose even started teaching Relativity to post-graduate students in colloquial Bengali."
( I omitted a bit from the quotation which seemed to be a repetetion).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Deepavali songs in Telugu

Sreenath jonnavithula, one of the persons responsible for oldtelugusongs and Ghantasala sites, wants to know of Telugu film songs about deepavali for the coming Deepavali celebrations. I know only four, two from Shavukaru (around 1952) and Pellikanuka (around 1960). Those who know more recent ones can post at

Saturday, September 16, 2006


From a recent speech of the Pope
"Logos means both reason and word-- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason."
" “Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university."
UPDATE: Two commentaries, one by Johann Hari and another by Sam Harris are available at the Dawkins site:

Marshall on mathematics in economics

Greg Mankiw has a post on mathematics required in economics:
Long ago Marshall said (taken from 'Economics for Mathematicians' by J.W.S. Cassels, Cambridge University Press):
"But I know I had a growing feeling in the later years of my work on the subject that a good mathematical theorem dealing with economic hypotheses was very unlikely to be good economics: and I went more and more on the rules-(1) Use mathematics as a shorthand language, rather than an engine of enquiry. (2) Keep to them till you know you are done. (3) Translate into English. (4) Then illustrate by examples that are important in real life. (5) Burn the mathematics. (6) If you cannot succeed in 4, burn 3. This last I did often."
I wonder how many in these days of 'Publish or Perish' are prepared to do (6). Long ago, I was asked to learn and lecture on a sophisticated piece of mathematics ('iterated maps of interval', Sarkowski's Theorem etc.) by some economist friends to understand a paper by a professor from a prestigious American University. Finally, when we read the paper, we found that the conclusion was ' in a market economy with a certain utility function, poor people's choices are rational whereas the rich people's choices are whimsical'.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A charity group for profit

According to The Age, Google hasstarted a charity group which will try to make profits and spend it on attempts to tackle poverty, disease and global warming. Pl. see:
"Ventures that grow out of could be seen to have a competitive edge because they do not need to show a financial profit.

But financial returns from a project like the high-mileage car are not necessarily the aim.

"I think how you count profit is the issue here," said Peter Hero, president of Community Foundation of Silicon Valley, a charitable foundation with about $1 billion in assets.

" is measuring return on cleaner air and quality of life. Their bottom line isn't just financial. It's environmental and social.""

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Madhukar Shukla has another blog

Pl. check
The first post is "Revisiting the 'Bottom of the Pyramid'".

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A common paradox

About 2-3 years ago I tried to learn some Statistics and got stuck in Simpson's Paradox at the very beginning. This seems to be a very common paradox which still causes problems in various arguments:
A very simple example is in Pearle's article
It is this: A drug tried on 30 males and 18 recovered and with no drug in a sample of 10 males 7 recovered.. So the recovery rate is 60% with drug and 70% without the drug.
The drug was tried on 10 females of whom only 2 recovered and in a sample of 30 females with no drug 9 recovered giving success rates of 20% and 30% respectively.
Now if we take the total number of both males and females for the trials with and without drug, it is 40 in both cases. With the drug, 20 out of 40 recovered giving a success rate of 50% and without the drug 16 out of 40 recovered giving a success rate of 40%.
So, even though the recovery rate for both males and females separately is 10% better without the drug, yet it seems beneficial to population as a whole.
Apparently this was first observed by the geneticist Pearson who warned about looking upon correlations as cause and effect in mixed populations.
I could not understand the rest of Pearle's article. If anybody does pl. let me know.

Monday, September 11, 2006

100th anniversary of satyagrapha

For a brief recall and an interview with Arun Gandhi, pl. check:

Sunday, September 10, 2006

On education

A blog around the clock is wondering about education and teachers:

Owen Dixon, a justice in the Australian Supreme Court reminded in 1954 that a university's responsibility remained unchanged: to produce people whose " minds have become better instruments of thought, whose intellectual interests have been stimulated and will often be sustained, and above all who can combine knowledge with reason and both with experience so as to meet the problems of real life."

I think that remains a good descrption of the aims of education and what teachers should strive for. Awareness of the lack of this in current education in most countries and the opportunities provided by internet may be why lot of people are flocking to blogs. But many popular blogs seem to be contesting with each other popularity and reacting to each other. I hope that some of them will take the new found opportunities to become more responsive teacher-philosophers.

Academic blogging

I have not gone through this carefully yet but Abi and others may be interested:
There also discussions in a blog about law etc. I do not understand many things here but browse through once in a while after Crazyfinger convinced me ( that legal studies are imortant and that a large variety of “free-market failures” are really failures of the law.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What made them different?

Some periods in history seem to be throw up groups of remarkable people, who are different from each other but can work together, can see beyond their times and show some wisdom relevant in all ages. India and USA have seen such a groups during their freedom struggles and as one would expect many more studies are available about the Americans and Tom Paine. Gore Vidal has written extensively about the founding fathers. There is a recent book by Gordon Wood "Revolutionary characters: What made the founders different" which gives a clue. From the excellent review
by Fred Anderson ( this needs subscription):
"Wood finds the key to the Founders' leadership in the hierarchical world into which they had been born. Eighteenth-century British America, like Britain itself, was dominated socially and politically by "gentlemen" —a comparatively tiny minority of men whose liberal education and public spirit, so it was thought, enabled them to perceive the common good, and whose fortunes gave them the leisure to pursue it without compromising their livelihoods. Such advantages of wisdom and wealth obliged gentlemen to take the lead in public life. Those who did so demonstrated their "virtue," or ability to rise above the self-interest that absorbed the energies and limited the views of lesser men. All of the Founders, Wood argues, aspired to this kind of leadership, and all the more intensely because none was a gentleman by birth."
"The Founders' consciousness that they acted on a public stage, defending the common good and pursuing fame, explains much about their leadership in the 1770s and 1780s. Unfortunately for them and their values, Gordon Wood writes, the Revolution released acquisitive, individualist energies that no one had foreseen, and which could not be contained. As the nineteenth century began and ordinary Americans seized the opportunity to pursue private interests without restraint, the disinterested aristocratic ideal central to the Founders' identity crumbled. In a scrambling, self-interested, petit-bourgeois America, the common good became a concept that somehow arose from the sum of all individual strivings. The self-sacrificing political virtue that had been the supreme attribute of a gentleman fragmented into the private virtues of honesty, temperance, charity, prudence, and piety."
I hope that there will be a similar study about the Indian stalwarts.

A meeting of stalwarts

Seed magazine has a transcript
and a video of a discussion between Noam Chomsky and Robert Trivers. When two such stalwarts meet one expects sparks of insights to fly. The conversation is interesting but a bit tame. Some excerpts:
Chomsky: "And that's a large part of what I think education is—it's a form of indoctrination. You have to reconstruct a picture of the world in order to be conducive to the interests and concerns of the educated classes, and this involves a lot of self-deceit."
Interesting and mostly true, I think. But, did not Gramsci say such things before? what are the alternatives?
There is a quite a bit about self deception, a topic about which Trivers had some insights in the 70's but never really got down to a careful analysis.
Trivers: "So let me ask you, when you think about the leaders—let's say the present set of organisms that launched this dreadful Iraq misadventure—how important is their level of self-deception? We know they launched the whole thing in a swarm of lies, the evidence for which is too overwhelming to even need to be referred to now. My view is that their deception leads to self-deception very easily."
Chomsky's reply:" I agree, though I'm not sure they launched it with lies, and it's perfectly possible they believed it."
Is Chomsky getting old?

Moral sense

There seem to be continuous discussions about whether there is a universal sense of right and wrong ( usually more discussions if there is a review in The New YorK Times):
There seems to be universal sense of right and wrong ( though the content may be different for different groups. What is right for Bush and many Americans does not seem right to me):
An excerpt:
"Those who were given an opportunity to wash their hands after recalling incidents of immoral behaviour showed signs of a clearer conscious than those who had not washed."
Do they mean Conscience?
"This final experiment establishes a link between moral and physical cleanliness, says Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, US, who was not involved in the study.

“When you have been associated with something immoral, there are two ways you can cleanse yourself – engaging in moral behaviour or physically cleaning yourself,” Tetlock says. “We talk about things being dirty, slimy, or rotten. A lot of people would say those are just metaphors, but this study shows that there is a connection on a visceral level.”"
What about consciousness? I have my own doubts. Just like Russell's paradox in set theory, there may be questions that one cannot ask in a system.

Friday, September 08, 2006

On math. topics

I will post on some mathematics topics here:

Some blogs that I follow regularly:
I follow and comment often here:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some friends

Pl. check this
These seem to happen in our family on a regular basis.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Granddaughter Leila with Jhansi

Granddaughter Leila with Jhansi
Originally uploaded by jhansil.

Devaluing the race card

It seems to me that the feeling that one is underprivileged while growing up may contribute to poor performance. The following study, still in preliminary stages, seems to support the view. It may also be useful in experimenting with strategies to improve the lot of underprivileged classes in India.
( via Evolutionary-Psychology group)

Devaluing the Race Card

By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
ScienceNOW Daily News
31 August 2006

The life of African-American middle-school students can be pretty stressful. From the moment they step into the classroom, some must contend with not only coursework but also the anxiety that performing badly might confirm negative stereotypes. That fear can itself lead to poor performance, researchers have known for a while; now they've come up with a simple antidote: getting students to reflect on their sense of self-worth by writing a personal essay about what they value.
Geoffrey Cohen, a psychologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his colleagues tested the strategy among 243 seventh graders at a northeastern U.S. school that had a roughly 50:50 ratio of African-American and white students. Each student was asked to complete a 15-minute writing assignment that included a page with a list of values such as one's relationships with friends, athletic ability, and creativity. Students circled their top two or three values. On the next page, they wrote a few sentences explaining their choices and describing moments when they had felt the importance of the chosen values. The researchers designed a similar assignment for a control group in which students had to circle the value they thought was least important to them and explain why that value could be important to other people. The students were not told the purpose of the assignment.

At the end of the term, the researchers found that African-American students in the treatment group got significantly better grades than same-race students in the control group. Low-performing African Americans seemed to have benefited the most. The assignment didn't have any effect on white students. Overall, the intervention closed the racial achievement gap by 40%, the team reports tomorrow in Science. "The results exceeded our expectations," says Cohen. "It was remarkable."

To find out how the treatment worked, the researchers had the students complete 34 word fragments, seven of which--such as _ACE--could be completed to form either a stereotype-relevant word such as RACE or a stereotype-irrelevant word such as FACE. African-American students who got the intervention formed fewer stereotype-relevant words than did African Americans in the control group. This suggests that the intervention allowed students to distance themselves from racial stereotypes, Cohen says.

The researchers also found that African Americans in the control group did progressively worse as the academic term went on, while those in the treatment group stabilized or started improving after the intervention. "There is something about the stereotype threat that feeds off its consequence: You are stressed that you'll do badly, and so you do; then you get even more stressed and do even worse," Cohen explains. "Our intervention seems to halt this downward spiral."

"These are very exciting results," says Claude Steele, a psychologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who was among the first to show that the threat of reinforcing negative stereotypes can impair performance among minority students. "They suggest some powerful and simple ways of fixing things in American education." Cohen warns, however, against viewing the intervention as a silver bullet for improving minority-student performance. "It worked in this particular school," he says. "Whether it'll work in a predominantly minority school or at a different grade level, we can't say."

Why are breast pumps so expensive?

In Australia it costs abpout 30 dollars to rent one for a month. they do not seem to be cheap in USA either:
As more and more women work at various levels, there is a need to produce these cheaply and for lactation centres in work places.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Left and right

After Daniel Bell, I thought that the division between left and right is over and it is only arguments between different defenders of 'truth'. Dilip D'Souza has this blurb on his blog; 'I am not leftist, I am not rightist, I am a typist". But looking at the alignment in Indian blogs, there seems to be a division. Apparently in USA too. Greg Mankiw in the post "Are rich a form of pollution?" ( says

"Brad DeLong reveals his inner Veblen:

"I'm enough of a touchy-feely sociology-lover to believe that a good chunk of the utility the rich derive from their conspicuous consumption is transferred to them from the poor."
This quotation goes to the heart of one reason left-leaning economists like Brad and right-leaning economists like me differ in their policy views".

"The Age" on Indian women

The Australian newspaper "The age" has a couple of articles on Indian women. The first about Jasmeen Patheja and her project fighting back against the 'Eve teasers'. An excerpt:

"At first, in her own personal revolt, Mr Patheja would yell at any men who stared at her. She refused to avert her gaze and suffer passively as most Indian women did.

But it had little impact. The perpetrator would grin at her, amused. "It was only when I took out my camera and photographed them that the dynamics changed and the power situation was reversed," she says. "The camera instantly transfers power to the woman. Instead of being amused, the man felt threatened." She remembers the humiliation of being on a crowded bus once where a man cupped her breast. Furious, she whipped out her camera and started clicking. A few stops later, he got down and apologised.

Apart from her "lechers' gallery" on the website, Ms Patheja is collecting the clothes that women were wearing when they were pestered, squashing the idea (popular among Indian males) that women "ask for it" by wearing skimpy clothes.

Blank Noise has another weapon — the "street performance", which its members put on in busy places. Reversing the normal situation in which groups of men stand around and stare at the women, it is Ms Patheja's female "warriors" who do the staring.

They stand in a group, about a dozen of them, wearing T-shirtswith the slogan "Y R U Looking At Me?". When a man leers, they surround him silently and stare right back.

Most men, faced with a dozen pair of eyes boring into them,retreat. When a camera is trained at them, most panic and beg the women to put the camera away, insisting they are "family men withchildren".

Curious onlookers are given leaflets, explaining how sexual harassment violates a woman's self-respect and dignity. Blank Noise activists also board buses to read out letters from victims ofsexual harassment. With the permission of the bus conductor, agroup of women get on and start reading out loud the testimony that victims of sexual harassment have posted on the website.

A Bangalore journalist, Nirmala Ravindran, who witnessed a bus reading, says the men were shell-shocked.

"Sometimes women would jump up and applaud," she says. "They said that their own experiences were identical."

The official statistics support these personal testimonies— 90 per cent of female college students suffer harassment.

Government figures released in June show that a woman is raped every half-an-hour in India.

Such behaviour is primarily the outcome of a sexually repressivesociety, which segregates the sexes from childhood onwards,forbidding even innocent contact.

Laura Neuhaus, 23, a Texan who works in Bangalore and supports Blank Noise, is appalled at the Neanderthal habits of many Indian men.

"Because they've had so little interaction with women while growing up, men here are totally uninformed about women," she says.

"There is a deep-seated awkwardness. They don't realise what is acceptable or what the boundaries are."

With women like Ms Patheja around, they will soon learn."

Tjhe second is an old article from The Observer about hair trade,,1805328,00.html
There is not only 'legitimate' trade from places like Tirupati but also coercisin in some places. an excerpt:

"Away from the crowd sits 19-year-old Uma, one of dozens of girls living close to Chennai's main Egmore suburban rail-line, who have had nastier experiences with more unscrupulous hair collectors. 'I was held down by a gang of men who hacked at my hair,' she says. 'I'm not the only one who has been attacked. I know other women who have been blackmailed and threatened to shave their own heads, in some cases their husbands have received money for their hair and ordered their wives to have their heads shaved. There is a lot of money to be made from hair not just from temples but from villages like ours, the police don't care, they will do nothing to protect women.'"

There is another article comparing how women managers are faring in different western countries: