Monday, July 30, 2007

Encouraging stories from 'Outlook'

Backward Babus http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070806&fname=Cover+Story+%28F%29&sid=1
Excerpt:
'Who's Getting Into The Civil Services?

Less than 2 in 10 entrants were from a metro or a state capital in '04
More than 5 were born in a tehsil or district town in '04
One out of four are kids of fathers who have not studied beyond matriculation
4 in 10 were engineers, techies or medics
New recruits are older. About 50% in '05 were over 25.
4 in 10 now sit for the exam in Hindi, but English-types still have the upper hand
12 of top 50 rank-holders in the latest (2006) civil services exam are OBCs
32.5 % of IAS officers inducted in the last five years are OBCs
Despite reservation, only a tiny fraction of civil servants are first-generation learners
More women are making it to the IAS
Tamilians and UP-ites dominate the last three years' IAS intake"
The ninth point is the main discouraging one. OUTLOOK also has a write up on the Vice Presidential nominee Mamid Ansari by Arundhati Ghose:
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070726&fname=arundhati&sid=1
He seems to be the second person from the Indian Foreign Service to earn such a nomination and may not have the communication skills of the president who apparently can communicate with some dead people.

Tara Smith reviews Danica McKellar's

"Math Doesn't Suck" in http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/07/danica_mckelllars_math_doesnt.php
Danica is an actress (The Wonder years) who has a theorem to her name. See also the interview:
http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2007/07/interview_with_math_whiz_autho.php

Emmy Noether and Hermann Weyl

Both are so well known in mathematics and physcics circles that the following may come as a surprise to many. From:
http://www.weylmann.com/weyl+noether.pdf, a recent article by Peter Roquette posted in the site
http://www.weylmann.com/ honouring Weyl:
" The writing of the obituary was a very natural occurence. Hermann Weyl was considered by the mathematicians as the mathematical leader of the time and at the peak of his productivity and he had probably the greatest knowledge and understanding of her work. Einstein had begun to slow down and Von Neumann was relatively young and still growing. It was, therefore, obvious to all the mathematicians that Weyl should write the obituary which he did. He, furthermore, sent it to the New York Times, the New York Times asked who is Weyl? Have Einstein write something, he is the mathematician recognized by the world. This is how Einstein's article appeared. It was most certainly "inspired" by Weyl's draft.These facts were told to me at the time by Mrs. Wheeler who was indignant that the New York Times had not recognized the mathematical stature of Hermann Weyl."

Emmy Noether's contributions are described in several places and there is a brief description of her work and a link to an English translation of her famous "Invariante Variationsprobleme," in:
http://cwp.library.ucla.edu/Phase2/Noether,_Amalie_Emmy@861234567.html

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Watching Tendulkar

I watched Tendulkar bat after a long time. I grew up in villages without cricket and do not know much about cricket. My first acquintance with cricket was from Jack Fingeleton's articles in 'Sport & Pasttime" about the Australia-West Indies Series, the magical tied test in Adelaide, with some Indian names like Kanhai, Ramadhin popping up and articles by Neville Cardus on West Indian cricket with a picture of Kanhai hitting a six and falling on his back. But it never really caught on for me until Tendulkar came along. May be because he was just a middle class boy enjoying himself and gave pride and hope for so many Indians. I remember trying to follow Sharjah matches on the internet and dozing off and dreaming that Tendulkar scored 134 and India won the match and finding the next day that it did happen. From then on there have been too many disappointments and I tried not to watch much cricket since I felt too tense when Tendulkar was batting. I kept hoping that he would bat ok if I did not watch. I did watch last night. Rahul was soothing but I still felt tense when Tendulkar batted. He did not seem to be the same batsman as he was during Sharjah days. He did score a patient 50 and was still not out at the end of the day. Somehow, no other Indian sportsman enchanted me more since Dhyan Chand.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Abi seems to be expecting high standards

from bloggers http://nanopolitan.blogspot.com/2007/07/i-received-some-flak-for-previous-post.html
I use my blog mainly as a scrap book and do not plan to aspire to such standards.

New blog from Australia?

http://bayesianheresy.blogspot.com/ may be from Australia. It usually gives lots of links, links to free downloads e.g.
http://bayesianheresy.blogspot.com/2007/07/course-in-microeconomics.html
and very few opinions apart from the quality of some of the products. Off and on it has links to Indian topics. After a while, I found many standard blogs like Marginal Revolution, Greg Mankiw boring and trying new blogs like this and 3quarksdaily.

That is math

From http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/07/science_and_math_in_the_high_s.php
"Oh, and the gray bars in the graph? That's math. Math is the #1 most effective preparation for doing well in all sciences, across the board; the more math you can get in high school, the better you're going to do in any science class you might want to take. Look at those giant gray bars — it makes almost a 2-grade point difference to be all caught up in math before you start college. Parents, if you want your kids to be doctors or rocket scientists, the best thing you can do is make sure they take calculus in high school."
I remember being quite avearage in school (it is not that I am a great success now); may be doing algebra thrice in the 9th grage helped. Here is a proof that my math brain is still functioning http://front.math.ucdavis.edu/0703.5890. But the problem seems to be thinking about other areas where the methodology is not so clear cut.

Girl Scientist on the scent of death

From http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2007/07/can_animals_predict_impending.php#more
"According to an article that was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a two-year-old cat that lives in Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, can correctly predict impending death among the residents. Oscar the cat has a habit of curling up next to patients who are in their final hours, and so far, he has been observed to be correct in 25 cases.
...
However, I know that many mammals (and even a few bird species) have a very acute sense of smell, and are probably relying smell to detect small biochemical changes in sweat, for example, that enables them predict health events in humans such as impending death or seizures, or to detect malignant cancers."
Look at the comments too'
Also lots of articles on bonobos in science blogs. Here is a link to one by a young researcher who actually worked with them:
http://primatediaries.blogspot.com/2005/11/bonobos-behind-enemy-lines.html

Friday, July 27, 2007

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks quits

at the age of 52 follwed by Victorian Deputy Premier John Thwaites. From
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2007/07/27/1185339209648.html?from=top5
"He said he had given "everything" to the job.

"I have given everything, body and soul to this job. I love what we achieved. I couldn't have given any more than I have given over the past eight years to this state."

Mr Bracks then confirmed that family reasons were a part of his decision.

His son Nick was in the news earlier this month after he was involved in a car crash near their Williamstown home while allegedly driving drunk.

"The events of the last couple of weeks meant that I made that decision at an early juncture," he said."
We wish him good luck and happy years with his family.

Krishna Dt. in the news

The current issue of Frontline ( July 14-27) http://www.flonnet.com/ has some news about the developments in Krishna District ( my father was from Krishna Dt. and worked in Guntur Dt. I was born on a small island in the river). While I seem to be still strongly rooted in rural Andhra and my heart still skips a beat when I listen to Telugu conversations in foreign countries, I am sucker for diversity. It is pleasing to find names like Navin Mittal (District Collector), Gulzar Natarajan ( Vijayawada Municipal Commissioner) among the names of the officials. Natarajan has an economics blog http://gulzar05.blogspot.com/
I still hanker for the multilingulal states of my younger days.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Grandmothers and evolution

From http://sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=C0D3CD91-E7F2-99DF-3D5399013D3691D5&sc=WR_20070724\
"The 33-year-old Finnish biologist, aided by genealogists, has pored through centuries-old tomes (and microfiche) for birth, marriage and death records, which ended up providing glimpses of evolution at work in humanity's recent ancestors. Among them: that male twins disrupt the mating potential of their female siblings by prenatally rendering them more masculine; mothers of sons die sooner than those of daughters, because rearing the former takes a greater toll; and grandmothers are important to the survival of grandchildren. "I'm trying to understand human reproductive behavior from an evolutionary perspective," Lummaa says."

Nidadavolu Malathi discusses Malapalli

in the July 2007 issue of Thulika: Telugu stories in English http://www.thulika.net/

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Julie Rehmeyer on 'Math as Civil Right'

From http://blog.sciencenews.org/mathtrek/2007/07/math_as_a_civil_right.html:
"Mathematics literacy is a new civil rights battleground, according to the renowned activist and political organizer Robert Parris Moses. Using the same ideas and methods that he once used to fight for voting rights in the South, Moses is working to increase access to quality mathematics education through the Algebra Project, a nationwide program that he founded.
.....
The ubiquity of computers makes abstract, quantitative reasoning skills critical to a wide range of job opportunities. "Information age technology put math on the table as a literacy requirement in the same way that industrialism made reading literacy a requirement," says Moses. For that reason, he says, the country needs to raise math education standards for all students.
Moses founded the Algebra Project in 1982 with funds from a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" that he received for his work on voting rights. Initially, he focused on the goal of making sure that all students learn algebra, which he calls "the gatekeeper of citizenship." When students learn algebra, he says, they make a leap in their ability to manipulate abstract symbolic representations.
......
In Jackson, Miss. and Miami, Fla., Moses has started a program for ninth-graders who are performing in the bottom quartile of their peer group. Students commit to spending 90 minutes a day in math class throughout their four years of high school, including six weeks each summer. In 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, 56 percent of students in Jackson who participate in the Algebra Project passed the state algebra test, compared to only 38 percent of their peers who are not taking part."
My father was transferred thrice when I was in 9th grade. The syallabus was covered in different orders in the three schools and I ended up studying algebra thrice that year. May be that helped. But Calculus was more difficult.
I got the link from http://bayesianheresy.blogspot.com/2007/07/algebra-and-civil-rights.html which gives a few more links to math. literacy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mahe Jabeen in Melbourne

I have uploaded some photographs, mostly taken during a lunch for Mahe Jabeen hosted by Mustapha Sayyad on 22nd July and some from a dinner in my house on 24th July.

'Sesh Prasna' by Sarat

When I was growing up in coastal Andhra (40s and 50s) Sarat Chandra Chatterjee was one of the most popular novelists. I remember that his novels were full of 'padadhuli' and tears with women putting up with all kinds of nonsense. One of his novels which was different was 'Sesh Prasna'. I do not remember much of the novel now except the protogonist Kamal was unconventional and there were lot of 'intellectual' discussions and Kamal saying towards the end "This is the price people pay for stupidity; let us go Ramdhin." I remember mentioning the novel to Kalyan Mukherjea a few years ago and his response was that his mother did not allow him to read that novel. It would be interesting to read it again. I find that it has been translated in to English. A review is here:
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020505/spectrum/book2.htm
Excerpt:
"Perhaps it is the woman protagonist, Kamal, who is the most memorable of the lot. Clearly, she is emancipated, much ahead of her times and manages to jolt the polite Agra society out of its complacencies. It is she who makes them (and also the reader) take a second look at patriarchal norms that go unchallenged in society, questioning traditions that have been followed blindly. Upholding the banner of female emancipation, she lives by no rules but her own, frequently changing partners, ripping apart the fabric of social hypocrisy, flinging reality in the face of orthodoxy. Kamal is the one who gives life to an otherwise placid narrative, highlighting the problems of the individual in relation to love and marriage, nationhood, society, and womanhood.

Here, perhaps, lies the answer to a very pertinent question that may confront the reader: why was this novel, first published in 1931, not translated earlier? We are aware that Saratchandra’s popularity has been unflagging right from the beginning of his career. Sesh Prasna, however, was an exception: widely appreciated by women readers, the conservative (read male) reader strongly disapproved of the avant garde ideas presented through its heroine. Perhaps for this reason the novel had to wait for 70-odd years to be available to the reader in English."
Some other stories and novels I remember from those are "Mahesh" by Sarat, "Nirmala" by Prem Chand and "Asamardhuni Jeevayatra" by Gopichand and the perennial favourite "Sreekant" by Sarat.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

An economics blog from Vijayawada,

one of the towns where I studied (54-56): http://gulzar05.blogspot.com/
Looks impressive. Found it via http://bayesianheresy.blogspot.com/
The blogger Sri Gulzar Natarajan seems to be the Municipal Commissioner of the Vijayawada corporation and there is a link to the corporation website: http://www.ourvmc.org/

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Links July 18, 07

1) Steve Hsu gives several links to the Many world theory of Hugh Everitt http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/07/50-years-of-many-worlds.html and quotes extensively from Max tegmark's aricle in recent Nature.
2) Steve Hsu discusses Behavioural Economics http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/07/behavioral-economics.html
3) John Quiggin on the risk management aspects of social democracy http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2007/07/16/risk-and-social-democracy/
4) 3quarksdaily links to Matt Castle's article on William Coley's cancer killing concoction http://3quarksdaily.blogs.com/3quarksdaily/2007/07/coleys-cancer-k.html
5) Mark Thoma links to an article by James Galbraith on the decline of good governance in the US http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/07/government-will.html
6) Mirror neurons again. From http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-07/uoc--urs071607.php (via Mark Thoma):
"The researcher’s used two actors, one an American, the other a Nicaraguan, to perform a series of gestures--American, Nicaraguan, and meaningless hand gestures, to a group of American subjects. A procedure called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to measure the levels of so-called “corticospinal excitability” (CSE)—which scientists use to probe the activity of mirror neurons.

They found that the American participants demonstrated higher mirror neuron activity while observing the American making gestures compared to the Nicaraguan. And when the Nicaraguan actor performed American gestures, the mirror neuron activation of the observers dropped.

“We believe these are some of the first data to show neurobiological responses to culture-specific stimuli,” said Molnar-Szakacs. “Our data show that both ethnicity and culture interact to influence activity in the brain, specifically within the mirror neuron network involved in social communication and interaction.”"

Ichthyotherapy as Alternative Treatment for Patients with Psoriasis

(via New Scientist) http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/3/4/483
Abstract:
Ichthyotherapy (therapy with the so-called ‘Doctorfish of Kangal’, Garra rufa) has been shown to be effective in patients with psoriasis in the Kangal hot springs in Turkey. This study evaluates the efficacy and safety of ichthyotherapy in combination with short-term ultraviolet A sunbed radiation in the treatment of psoriasis under controlled conditions. We retrospectively analyzed 67 patients diagnosed with psoriasis who underwent 3 weeks of ichthyotherapy at an outpatient treatment facility in Lower Austria between 2002 and 2004. Main outcome measures are as follows: overall relative reduction in Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) score; proportion of patients with an improvement in their PASI score of 75% (PASI-75) and 50% (PASI-50); patient-reported outcomes assessed with a custom questionnaire; and patient follow-up with a questionnaire sent out in March 2005. Safety was evaluated by reviewing adverse events and vital signs. Overall there was a 71.7% reduction in PASI score compared to baseline (P < 0.0001). Of the 67 patients studied, 31 (46.3%) achieved PASI-75 and 61 patients (91%) achieved at least PASI-50. Patients reported substantial satisfaction with the treatment. The reported mean remission period was 8.58 months [95% confidence interval (CI) 6.05–11.11]. A total of 87.5% of patients reported a more favorable outcome with ichthyotherapy, when asked to compare ichthyotherapy to other previously tried therapies. Sixty-five percent stated that after the relapse their symptoms were less severe than before treatment. There were no significant adverse events. The benefit demonstrated in this study along with the favorable safety profile suggests that ichthyotherapy could provide a viable treatment option for patients with psoriasis.

Athar Osama on Cluster Policy Interventions

from http://www.scidev.net/Opinions/index.cfm?fuseaction=readOpinions&itemid=641&language=1:
"There is no certain recipe for successfully creating and sustaining clusters of technology-based industries.

Yet time and again new initiatives are announced. They purport to create synergies and efficiencies, share best practices and reduce the overall cost of doing business. Yet many of these are little more than glorified real-estate projects designed to attract foreign investment or empty sloganeering aimed at gaining political mileage. Few come to fruition and even fewer can claim to have mirrored Silicon Valley's success.

Taking a fresh look

This poor record does not mean the concept itself should be rejected. But a change in approach is needed.

Policymakers should focus on helping clusters develop naturally, rather than attempting to create them from scratch."
More at : http://tbed-journal.blogspot.com/ and http://techno-economics.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Intercropping

From http://www.scidev.net/News/index.cfm?fuseaction=readNews&itemid=3751&language=1
"The practice of intercropping — which Chinese farmers have practised for thousands of years — involves growing two or more crops in alternate rows in the same place and at same time, and can greatly increase grain yields.

In many intercropping practices, legumes are planted with crops. The legumes fix nitrogen in the soils, which then fertilises the crops grown with them.

But other benefits of legumes in intercropping are not clearly understood.
..........
They carried out field trials in the western Chinese province of Gansu over four years, and showed that intercropping with faba bean increased the maize yield by an average of 43 per cent.

"The benefits are obvious when they grow together. The underground biological processes play an important role in yield increase," Li told SciDev.Net.

The researchers found that the roots of the faba bean plant released organic acids into the soil, which increases the solubility of inorganic phosphorus, a plant nutrient. Plants take up soluble phosphorus more readily, which explains the increase in the crops' yields.

Enzymes released by the faba bean plant into the soil also decomposed organic phosphorus into an inorganic form, which could then be used by both plants.

Faba bean yield increased by 26 per cent due to more available phosphorous, its roots being a different length to those of maize, and the crops having different growth seasons."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Links: July 15, 2007

1) The software used by Hans Rosling in "http://roslingsblogger.blogspot.com/2007/06/debunking-myths-about-world.html
is freely available at http://www.gapminder.org/
More about Hans Rosling here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Rosling

2) Mark Thirwell of Lowry Insitute discusses the rise of China, India and developing protectionism in the west:
http://www.lowyinstitute.com/Publication.asp?pid=614
and an earlier artcle "Roaring Tiger or Lumbering Elephant" about India here:
http://svc168.wic006v.server-web.com/Publication.asp?pid=452
Another optimistic post here: http://bayesianheresy.blogspot.com/2007/07/it-makes-sense-to-invest-in-india.html

3) Indranil Dasgupta and Ravi Kanbur say that 'Philonthropic acts do not necessarily reduce inequality':
http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/342
Preprint here: http://www.arts.cornell.edu/poverty/kanbur/EgalExpropPhil.pdf
See http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/bwi-wto/critics/2000/kanbur2.htm about 'Ravi Kanbur's Resignation as World Development Report Lead Author'.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dr. Mohammed Haneef charged

From http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/14/1978526.htm:
"He has been charged with recklessly supplying a mobile phone sim card to a terrorist organisation.
.....
Commissioner Keelty says the AFP has had more than 300 lawyers and police working on the investigation, who had to examine a considerable amount of material.
"The allegation is that Dr Haneef provided support to a terrorist group, the specific allegation involves recklessness rather than intention, the allegation being that he was reckless about some of the support he provided to that group in particular the provision of his sim card for the use of the group," he ( Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty) said."
Some updates here:http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070723&fname=Cover+Story+%28F%29&sid=1
Update (17 July, 07). From http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/17/1980469.htm
"Decision 'politically popular'
Meanwhile, a former Liberal politician says the Government's decision to revoke the visa of Haneef will be politically popular.

Former New South Wales attorney-general John Dowd, who is now with the International Committee of Jurists, says the decision will appeal to sections of the public.

"This is a vote-winner for the Government," he said.

"There's no doubt that the people, a lot of the people out there - they say 'yes, well he ought to be kept away', and how the Government's got to protect us and so on - this is politically astute.""
A current news poll says that 60% people support the Aust. Gov. decision.
Update 27th July: Hanef to be released http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/haneef-will-be-released/2007/07/27/1185339232877.html

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Competition in science

Bill Hooker starts with a quote from a political blog about corporate America and discusses competition in science:
http://3quarksdaily.blogs.com/3quarksdaily/2007/07/competition-in-.html
The post has several links to misconduct in science including a special issue of Nature this year. The article ends with a quote from Brian Martinson "Competition and privatization are the great American way, but we've not stopped to ask ourselves whether we may have engendered a level of competition in science that has some dysfunctional consequences."

Seed magazine discusses Ioannidis' essay entitled "Why most published research findings are false":
http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2007/05/dirty_little_secret.php

For those with statistics background the aricle 'The most dangerous equation in the world" by Howard Wainer may be of interest: http://stat.wharton.upenn.edu/~hwainer/2007-05Wainer_rev.pdf

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Locating some science blogs

There seems to be a tagging game going on:
http://evilutionarybiologist.blogspot.com/2007/06/8-random-facts.html
This seems to be one way to locate some interesting science blogs. One of the blogs that I occasionally visit is "This week in Evolution" and it was tagged in the above post.

Neckties in summertime

From http://www.samefacts.com/archives/_/2007/07/la_cravate_a_la_lanterne.php (via Ezra Klein):
"Today's FT reports that the European Commission is proposing to ban the wearing of neckties by Eurocrats in the summertime. The excuse is energy conservation; men with open collars (and no jackets) presumably can tolerate warmer offices, saving on air-conditioning."
I am pleased since I do not have a jacket or a necktie.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Desalination in Karavatti

From scidev.net http://www.scidev.net/Features/index.cfm?fuseaction=readFeatures&itemid=625&language=1:
"The Karavatti plant, built by India's National Institute of Ocean Technology, uses a process akin to rain formation. Warm surface water is pumped into an onshore vacuum chamber, where some of the water vaporises.

Cold water drawn from 350 metres below the sea's surface then condenses the vapour in an adjoining chamber.

Using this process, called low-temperature thermal desalination, the plant produces 100,000 litres of fresh water a day. Although the process consumes 30 per cent more energy than its rival technologies, installing more chambers should make it more efficient and — at US$1 per 1,000 litres — cheaper."
P.S. The usual name is "KAVARATTI"

Chagossians still waiting to go home

From http://www.flonnet.com/stories/20070713001205000.htm:
"Between 1845 and 1965, Diego Garcia and the surrounding islands were the territory of Mauritius. In 1965, when the Mauritians were negotiating for independence, the British made it clear that Diego Garcia would have to be ceded in perpetuity. The British and United States governments secretly made the decision in the early 1960s to convert it into a military base. Just before granting Mauritius independence in 1968, the British government unilaterally handed over Diego Garcia to the US. After that, they went ahead with their plans to depopulate the islands. More than 2,000 Chagossians, as the islanders are called, were evicted between 1967 and 1971. They were packed off to Mauritius, with only one item of baggage each. The British government claimed that the Chagossians were actually migrant workers from Mauritius, more than 2,000 km away.

"It was an act of late colonial arrogance, breathtaking in its execution," a British commentator observed. The Chagossians are the descendants of the African and Indian indentured labourers who worked on French plantations. According to colonial records, the first inhabitants settled in Diego Garcia in the early 18th century.

Diego Garcia today hosts one of the US's biggest military bases and a satellite spy station. The base played a key role in US military actions in both Gulf Wars and in Afghanistan. If hostilities again break out in the Gulf region, planes and ships based in Diego Garcia will play a pivotal role. More than 2,000 US troops and 30 warships are stationed there. Chagossians, in the course of their long fight for justice, gave up their claims to being resettled on the island on which the base exists. They are willing to set up home on other islands, which are more than 200 km away from it. US and British officials have objected to this, arguing that their presence would be inimical to the security of the base and that secrecy about the movement of ships and planes would be endangered. A US State Department official said last year that allowing civilians on the archipelago could "potentially lead to terrorists infiltrating the islands".

Seven years ago, the British High Court ruled that the expulsions were illegal, but the British government continues with its stonewalling tactics. In 2004, the government resorted to an archaic law, "the Order of Council", to prevent the islanders from ever returning home. The centuries-old royal prerogative allowed the government to overrule court judgments. In May 2006, the High Court described the government's conduct in the case as "outrageous, unlawful and a breach of accepted moral standards".

The government is still playing for time in the hope that there will be very few Chagossians left to return to their homeland. Many of them have died; the survivors are over 50. But there is a young generation, of more than 4,000, that is keen to return to the land of its forefathers. The bench that ruled in the petitioners' favour ordered the British government to pay their legal costs. The government has already announced its intention to appeal to the House of Lords to thwart the refugees' return. It could take some more time for the islanders' dreams to be fulfilled. They may never be able to see Diego Garcia, but they could be resettled on other nearby islands."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Publicity as a deterrent to corruption

From http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/345:
"The authors study a newspaper campaign in Uganda, which aimed at reducing capture of public funds by providing schools with information to monitor local officials’ handling of a large education program. Survey evidence showed that on average only 20% of the funds for primary schools’ expenditure reached the schools in the mid-1990s, most schools received nothing and the bulk of the grants was captured by local government officials in charge of the distribution. Traditionally, anticorruption programs target the problem through building legal and financial institution for control, however in poor countries these prove to be weak and among the most corrupt. For this reason, the Ugandan government decided to begin publicizing information on amount and timing of disbursement of the school grants.
The authors find that public access to information can indeed be a powerful deterrent to capture of funds at the local level. Head teachers in schools closer to a newspaper outlet were found to be more knowledgeable of the rules governing the grant program and the timing of releases by the central government. These schools also managed to claim a significantly larger part of their entitlement after the newspaper campaign was initiated. Furthermore, the reduction in capture had a positive effect on both enrolment and student learning."
The authors are Ritva Reinikka Jakob Svensson and a non-gated version of their paper "The Returns from Reducing Corruption: Evidence from Education in Uganda" is available here:
http://econ.lse.ac.uk/staff/rburgess/eea/svenssonjeea.pdf

Will Gordon Brown change Iraq policy?

From Jhttp://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1702674,00.html:
"Gordon Brown has personally endorsed a new book on faith in politics which lambasts the 'unjust' Iraq war - and portrays the Chancellor as a great spiritual thinker."

From http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/101704A.shtml
" A few months later, on Feb. 1, 2002, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners stood in the Roosevelt Room for the introduction of Jim Towey as head of the president's faith-based and community initiative. John DiIulio, the original head, had left the job feeling that the initiative was not about "compassionate conservatism," as originally promised, but rather a political giveaway to the Christian right, a way to consolidate and energize that part of the base.

Moments after the ceremony, Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. "Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'!" he exclaimed. Wallis was taken aback. Bush excitedly said that his massage therapist had given him Wallis's book, "Faith Works." His joy at seeing Wallis, as Wallis and others remember it, was palpable - a president, wrestling with faith and its role at a time of peril, seeing that rare bird: an independent counselor. Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, "'but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism."'

Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.

"No, Mr. President," Wallis says he told Bush, "We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism."

Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that."

But that was another book and another leader.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Growth of Music in Tamil South India

From link in http://www.tamilnation.org/culture/drama/index.htm (check also http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/3596/1/MusicIntheAgeofMechanicalReproduction.pdf) about the article "Music in the age of mechanical reproduction: Drama, gramophone and the beginnings of Tamil cinema" by Stephen Putnam Hughes":
"This paper takes on the issues of why and how film songs became such an important and persistent feature of Tamil cinema. The specific focus is on how the relationship between Tamil musical drama and the south Indian gramophone business preceded, mediated and was, eventually, transformed by the emergence of Tamil cinema as a dominant commercial entertainment during the 1930s. This is, in part, an attempt to reconsider conventional explanations for why the first Indian talkies featured songs as the main, if not defining appeal of their entertainment. "
The paper does not seem to be freely accessible now. I have downloaded a copy when it was free and it is an interesting article.

Managing waste

Video from vkas Kendra (courtesy of Rahul Banerjee):
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8600337152533335705&pr=goog-sl

Friday, July 06, 2007

A site for Indian topics

http://www.ignca.nic.in/new_main.htm
(Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts). The section http://www.ignca.nic.in/ebk_0001.htm
contains some downloadable books.
The book "Life Style and Ecology" (http://www.ignca.nic.in/cd_08.htm) has a paper "Sacred Groves and Sacred Trees of Uttara Kannada" by M.D. Subash Chandran and Madhav Gadgil discusses in passing the origins of temples but it is not an exhaustive discussion.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Oil news from Australia

From http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,22021450-601,00.html

“THE government has admitted the need to secure oil supplies is a factor in Australia's continued military involvement in Iraq.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said today oil was a factor in Australia's contribution to the unpopular war, as "energy security" and stability in the Middle East would be crucial to the nation's future.

Speaking ahead of a key foreign policy speech today by Prime Minister John Howard, Dr Nelson said defence was about protecting the economy as well as physical security, and it was important to support the "prestige" of the US and UK.”

From http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/mideast-crucial-to-our-future/2007/07/05/1183351341853.html

“In an address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra today, Mr Howard highlighted the fight against terrorism and the need to secure a major oil supply as reasons to stay the course in Iraq.”
Updare: From http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6272168.stm
"In comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Mr Nelson admitted that the supply of oil had influenced Australia's strategic planning in the region.

"Obviously the Middle East itself, not only Iraq but the entire region, is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world," he said.

"Australians and all of us need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq.

"It's in our interests, our security interests, to make sure that we leave the Middle East, and leave Iraq in particular, in a position of sustainable security."

This is thought to be the first time the Australian government has admitted any link between troop deployment in Iraq and securing energy resources.

But Prime Minister John Howard was quick to play down the significance of his defence minister's comments."
Meanwhile a poll by Sky News said that at one stage 47 perecent of the people polled supported the idea of linking energy security with withdrawal from Iraq.

Could you pass 8th grade science?

See http://mingle2.com/science-quiz. I passed but did not do too well. More links at the same site.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More on blogging economists

Andrew Leonard in http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2007/07/03/net_economists/index.html:
"The econo-blogosphere is more than a collegial coffee-room discussion. It's closer to an internationally-distributed graduate seminar, in which the lucky students get to watch -- and participate in -- a round-robin debate featuring scores of professors duking it out. It is also an early-warning system for new academic papers of note and an instant provider of context and analysis for each new blip of economic data. It is, to put it most simply, an education.

Does that mean it has an impact on policy? That's where it gets tricky. Politics, especially as practiced in the United States, appears to care little for the consensus opinion of economists, especially when that runs counter to polling data and focus group results. But maybe it's just too early in the history of the Internet to make a definitive call. We need more data."
More links before I loose them. Jared Bernstein Responds in The Coffee House to "Why are Economists’ Predictions So Often Wrong?" http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/coffeehouse/2007/jul/02/predicting_with_a_handicap_why_are_economists_predictions_so_often_wrong
An excerpt "There are other things economists do well. Our empirical methods, in the right hands, can be highly informative and useful. But, like Yogi said, prediction is hard, especially when it comes to the future. When you’re carrying all this baggage along with you, it’s even harder."
More links at http://angrybear.blogspot.com/2007/07/more-on-old-joke-about-why-economists.html
But economics is more than weather prediction and economists and bankers seem to be getting better at preventing big disasters. See the views of Brad De long and Mark Thoma in http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/07/brad-delong-hat.html
Another interesting post on morality and economics http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2007/07/morality-and-ec.html goes back to Adam Smith. P.J.O'Rourke says in http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/401ngehx.asp "It's a mistake to read The Wealth of Nations as a justification of amoral greed. Wealth was Smith's further attempt to make life better. In Moral Sentiments he wrote, "To love our neighbor as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity." But note the simile that Christ used and Smith cited. The Theory of Moral Sentiments was about the neighbor. The Wealth of Nations was about the other half of the equation: us.

It is assumed, apparently at the highest level of moral arbitration, that we should care about ourselves. And logically we need to. In Moral Sentiments Smith insisted, paraphrasing Zeno, that each of us "is first and principally recommended to his own care." A broke, naked, starving self is of no use to anyone in the neighborhood. In Wealth Smith insisted that in order to take care of ourselves we must be free to do so. The Theory of Moral Sentiments showed us how the imagination can make us care about other people. The Wealth of Nations showed us how the imagination can make us dinner and a pair of pants."
Apparently 'the invisible hand' already appears in "The Theory of Moral sentiments":
"[The rich] consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity…they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species."

Scott Bayman about his 14 years in India

Excerpts from a speech delivered by Scott Bayman, the outgoing chief of GE India, after 14 years in the country http://www.ciionline.org/events/3087/sb.pdf:
"Some argue that India's path has distinct advantages. MIT'sYasheng Huang points out that India's companies use their
capital far more efficiently than China's; they benchmark to global standards and are better managed than Chinese firms are.
Despite being much poorer than China, India has produced dozens of privately owned excellent companies like Infosys,
Ranbaxy, Tata Steel, Bharat Forge and Reliance. Huang attributes this difference to the fact that India has a real and deep
private sector (unlike China's many state-owned and statefunded companies.) India has a well-developed, well-regulated
financial system and a rule of law. Jeff Immelt explains, “China got the infrastructure right. Its government is superb at
developing infrastructure. However, China has not developed a banking system, rule of law or private enterprise to the extent
India has. India’s government, on the other hand, has failed to deliver the infrastructure that governments typically are required to supply in developing countries. But, its executives are proving to be world class. Their abilities to build and lead businesses far exceed what we see in China.
Another example: every year Japan awards the coveted Deming Prizes for managerial innovation. Over the last four years, 12
Indian companies won the award… more than any other country, including Japan.
......
I don’t dispute the fact that the country must tackle huge social issues as pointed out in the Mishra article. I also don’t dispute that more could have been done and more needs to be done. However, there is progress. The incidence of
poverty has declined from 44% in the 1980s to 36% in the 1990s to 26% in 2000. Literacy rates improved from 44% in the 1980s to 52% in the 1990s to 65% in 2000. In addition, over this same period, life expectancy increased from 56 years
to 60 to 69.
In India, we have a woman born a Catholic / leading the most popular party /stepping aside so a Muslim president / could swear in a Sikh as Prime Minister / to lead a nation that is 82% Hindu / but has the second largest Muslim population
in the world. And by the way, some of the wealthier Indians residing in the country are Muslim. I defy anyone to cite another country with such diversity and tolerance."
P.S. The article was sent to me by an economist Grama Sitaram. A list Deming Application prizes:
http://www.juse.or.jp/e/deming/10_prizelist.html#02
More about Deming prizes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deming_Prize