Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Aral Sea No More


The Guardian reports that a large section of the Aral Sea has completely dried up for the first time in modern history, according to Nasa. Images from the US space agency’s Terra satellite released last week show that the eastern basin of the Central Asian inland sea – which stretched across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and was once the fourth largest in the world – was totally parched in August. Images taken in 2000 show an extensive body of water covering the same area. In the 1950s, two of the region’s major rivers – the Amu Darya and and the Syr Darya – were diverted by the Soviet government to provide irrigation for cotton production in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, starving the Aral. Water levels are believed to be down to less than 10 per cent of what they were five decades ago.

This is a disaster for the region. The region around the Aral Sea is said, by some historians, to be the birthplace of Zarathushtra (Zoroaster). The fate of the Aral Sea seems to be linked to the fate of the Parsi Zoroastrian community which is also slowly decreasing.


Digital Desire in India: Internet Addiction in India


Times of India reports that 56% of Indian web users can't stay 5 hours without Internet according to a study. "Indian women (21%) outdo men (16%) in feeling anxious or lost when not connected to the Internet," says the study.

Obviously then Indian women need to feel more connected than Indian men :) Indian women need to do digitally more often than Indian men :) Or another way to put it is that Indian women have a greater digital desire than Indian men :)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Financing the Expansion of Legal Jurisdiction

BBC News reports that a US judge has ruled that Argentina is in contempt of court for refusing to obey an order to repay the debt it owes to two US hedge funds. Argentina has been mired in a US court dispute with the funds, which bought the country's debt at a discount after its default in 2001. In July, Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that Argentina must repay the funds before it can repay other bondholders. Argentina refused, sending the country into default.

The territorial jurisdiction of US courts seems to be getting wider and wider. There was a case earlier of a politician in India being charged in America because it was alleged that he was involved in transferring money improperly and that US banks, not in India, had been used. In both these cases the financial industry seems to be the catalyst for expanding the jurisdiction of the American courts.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Innovating Your Religion in Iran

The Guardian reports Mohsen Amir-Aslani has been executed in Iran after being found guilty of heresy and insulting prophet Jonah, according to human rights activists. Mohsen Amir-Aslani was arrested nine years ago for his activities which the authorities deemed were heretical. He was engaged in psychotherapy but also led sessions reading and reciting the Qur’an and providing his own interpretations of the Islamic holy book, his family said. Amir-Aslani was hanged last week for making “innovations in the religion” and “spreading corruption on earth”, but human rights activists said he was a prisoner of conscience who was put to death because of his religious beliefs. He had interpreted Jonah’s story in the Qur’an as a symbolic tale. Iran’s judiciary, which was responsible for the handling of his case, has since denied that Amir-Aslani’s execution was linked to his religious beliefs. Instead, the authorities allege that he had illicit sexual relationships with a number of people who participated in his sessions and the type of activities he was involved in did not follow an official interpretation of the religion. It was not clear if Amir-Aslani had official permission to conduct his sessions.

It seems Iran's judiciary does not like religious innovation. “innovations in the religion” is a strange phrase to use. The news report doesn't say what the innovations were. The authorities are perhaps trying to portray that Mohsen Amir-Aslani had a kind of small cult going on? Should religion and innovation mix?

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Catching the Sun in Mumbai - India Photo Library

Confused by Indian Politics? - India Photo Library

Confused by Indian Politics? - IdeaIndia.Com

The recent political farce in Maharashtra between the Shiv Sena and the BJP has left voters confused 



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Black Money Wealth in India: BMW Nation

Jayalalithaa's conviction and imprisonment have brought to light the staggering wealth, in terms of black money, that politicians in India have. According to some estimates in the media, Jayalalithaa's black money wealth (BMW) is more than the market capitalisation of some FTSE 100 companies in Britain. I am sure there are other Indian politicians who are worth far more than her. The Rs.100 crore fine is probably pocket change for her. We should rank politicians on a BMW Index.



Saturday, 27 September 2014

Taking Liberties with Human Rights

Under new plans proposed by the Conservatives the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be prevented from overruling decisions made by British courts. The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, said that the Conservatives wanted to scrap the Human Rights Act so that the final decisions in controversial cases could be made by the Supreme Court rather than the ECHR.

In 2009 the Constitutional Reform Bill  was going through the UK Parliament that sought to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Communities Act 1972. Some decisions of the ECHR have caused consternation with right-wing politicians in Britain. It is not just the UK Human Rights Act that the Tories don't like it is also the ECHR. Some decisions of the ECHR like in the 'Death on the Rock' case have really annoyed the Tories. This is now Tory revenge.


Friday, 26 September 2014

Slogan Sarkar: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Times of India reports that ease of doing business, focus on Public-Private partnerships, harnessing the potential of Democracy, Demography and Demand - that's what forms the key focus of PM Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' campaign. Calling development of India a 'collective responsibility', PM Modi said, "We must stress on two FDIs - First Develop India and Foreign Direct Investment ... For Indians FDI is a responsibility, it means to First Develop India  ..."

These programmes: Digital IndiaMake in India and First Develop India are good slogans for the new PM to start with but carrying them through will be the real test of NaMo's administrative and political skills. We will have to see if he can turn these slogans into actions.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Thursday, 25 September 2014

My Enemy's Enemy: Who Will Do the Dirty Work?

The Guardian reports that a UK's prime minister has held talks with the Iranian president for the first time since Iran's 1979 revolution. David Cameron and Hassan Rouhani's meeting in New York is being taken as a sign of a thawing of relations. The meeting came after the US and five Gulf and Middle East countries began bombing Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. The UK parliament is expected to be recalled on Friday to discuss taking part in military action in Iraq.

This may be a sign of thawing relations but it may also be a sign that the West needs Iran's help in combating the Saudi inspired ISIS. Iran may have a crucial role to play in this situation. Who is going to do the dirty work in fighting the IS? Mr Enemy's Enemy?


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Cat that got the Cream: England Keeps Scotland

BBC News reports that David Cameron, Prime Minister of UK (including Scotland), was caught on camera saying the Queen “purred down the line” when he told her to that Scotland had voted no to independence. The Prime Minister’s remarks suggesting the Queen was pleased with the result are a rare breach of the convention that the Prime Minister never speaks about his conversations with the monarch. It also jeopardises her traditional neutrality, which she maintained throughout the referendum campaign except when she was overheard telling a member of the public that she hoped people in Scotland would think carefully about the future. Cameron’s exchange with Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, was picked up by Sky News as they walked through an office in the businessman’s media empire.

In my view, this paints a very slightly sinister image of the Queen - like the character Blofeld stroking the cat on his lap in the James Bond films. Also this can't be the only breach by a Prime Minister of this convention.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Iran's Digital Evolution: The Message Isn't Getting Through

Times of India reports that Iran's hardline judiciary has given the Iranian government one month to block WhatsApp and other popular instant messaging services, as pressure mounts on reformist president Hassan Rouhani to scale back his social and political liberalisation. In the severest warning yet to Rouhani's one-year-old administration, chief prosecutor Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei accused communications minister Mahmoud Vaezi of failing to unplug social networking sites and apps 'with immoral and criminal content.'

Iran's hardliners fear the digital mobile revolution that is taking place elsewhere. The digital world is slowly taking over, for good or bad. Iran's hardliners will not be able to hold out for long.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Monday, 22 September 2014

Shia-Sunni Meet in New York: Oil Talks

The Guardian reports Iran and Saudi Arabia have held their first foreign minister-level meeting since the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, official Iranian media have reported, signalling a possible thaw in relations between the rival Gulf powers. Shia Muslim Iran and the conservative Sunni kingdom have been engaged in a bitter contest for influence in the region, evident in political and military struggles in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen. The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, suggested after his meeting in New York with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, that the talks could lead to an improvement in relations.

This meeting between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia (and probably the Western powers also taking part as back-seat negotiators) may be good publicity but is the gulf too wide between the Iranians and the Saudis to bridge? Although the Americans are usually supporters of the Saudis, with the Saudis support of the Sunni IS, do the Americans now need the support of the Iranians to tackle the IS in Iraq and Syria? The situation in Iraq and players involved has become an hash (or kichdi as they say in Hindi) for historical reasons, including Blair's Iraq War. Can the parties learn any lessons from the situation in Ireland or is the equation not the same due to oil being involved? Whose God will prevail (if it's not the same God?)

Ivan the Terrible, Boyars and Ras-Putin


Times of India reports that the arrest of one of Russia's richest men last week was an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to protect himself from a palace coup, according to one of his most vocal critics. Bill Browder, the hedge fund manager who has become a crusader against Russian corruption, said the arrest of Vladimir Yevtushenkov was intended to send a message to any oligarch plotting moves against Putin, as the value of their assets drops in the wake of western sanctions. Yevtushenkov was released on Friday, after being put under house arrest for three days on charges of money laundering. As the richest man to fall into the hands of the Russian justice system since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, Yevtushenkov's detention heightened speculation that the Kremlin wanted to take control of his oil company, Bashneft – one of the few Russian energy companies still in private ownership.

Russia seems to be moving back to the time of the Tsar Ivan the Terrible and the Boyars. No Rasputins allowed in the palace, only Putin.


SJP @DigitalAsian

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Pakistan Gets Kashmir, India Gets ... Pakistan?

Times of India reports India has dismissed PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto's remark that his party would wrest entire Kashmir from India as "far from reality'' saying India's territorial integrity was not negotiable.

Even if Bhutto is right, Pakistanis will eventually want something better than they have already and will see that India is better for them. Don't Kashmiris also have a say in this? India is relatively stable and has more opportunity for progress. Pakistan, the Prodigal Son, may eventually return to India.  (If outside forces like China and others don't divide and rule). So what if Pakistan gets Kashmir for the time being? Pakistan gets Kashmir, India gets Pakistan ... eventually?

SJP @DigitalAsian

Indian Diaspora: The Way to a Better India?

Economic Times reports on Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to America and the reception he will receive from the Indian diaspora in New York and the reception he will get in Washington DC from the politicians. I think the Indian diaspora in America is much more politically active than the Indian diaspora in UK. The Indian diaspora in Britain should get a lot more involved in mainstream politics both locally and nationally - this will help build on relations with India. In America, the diaspora seem more successful in politics than they are in UK - why is this?


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Advertisers Finding Fanny in Mumbai - IdeaIndia.Com

IdeaIndia.Com
Advertisers Finding Fanny in Mumbai - IdeaIndia.Com



The Indian film Finding Fanny gives advertisers Ideas

Photos from IdeaIndia.Com

IdeaIndia.Com
Digital India @ IdeaIndia.Com


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SJP @DigitalAsian

Jihad Against Economic and Foreign Policy?

Times of India reports that top US diplomat John Kerry on Friday made a passionate plea to wipe out poverty and improve health and education as the most powerful antidote to the "toxic" beliefs of extremists. "Whether it's ISIL or Boko Haram or Al-Shebab, their ideology does not include a plan to build a nation," Kerry said, addressing a forum dedicated to global development. "They don't have a plan to create jobs or deliver opportunity. They don't have any of those things that people most want. But they do have a strategy to capitalize on the grievances of those who feel under-represented and left behind," the US secretary of state said.

"But they do have a strategy to capitalize on the grievances of those who feel under-represented and left behind," This sounds like an admission from Kerry that extremists are fighting in part because they are economically disadvantaged and have no opportunity to progress - this is a jihad against economic policy and indirectly against Western foreign policy. I'm sure American Neo-cons would criticise Kerry for saying this.