Monday, 15 September 2014

Threats to democracy from ISIS in Iraq and now also from ISDS in Europe?

The Guardian reports on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the Europe and the United States. TTIP is being marketed by its supporters as a de facto economic stimulus for ailing Europe, providing up to £100bn in extra growth. It is presented as a free trade agreement. The actual aim of TTIP is to strip away obstacles to large corporations making profits – such as regulations that protect our privacy, the environment, food safety and the economy from a rapacious financial sector. Further, TTIP further opens up public services to private companies motivated primarily by profit rather than people’s needs. The main attack on democracy is a part of the treaty called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). If you are worried about the power of corporations over our democracy, be very afraid: ISDS in effect grants multinationals the same legal position as a nation-state itself, and allows them to sue sovereign governments in so-called arbitration tribunals on the grounds that their profits are threatened by government policies. For example, Australia, signed an investment treaty with Hong Kong in 1993. When Australia’s federal government introduced legislation to enforce plain cigarette packaging, the Asian arm of the cigarette company Philip Morris used the treaty to sue it.


Threats to democracy from ISIS in Iraq and now also from ISDS in Europe?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

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The Digital Idea of India
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Haute Couture from Google: Fashion goes Digital

Times of India reports that in London Fashion Week, the hottest designer heels, the latest fall jacket — or perhaps a tech accessory like Google Glass. Hundreds of models, stylists and fashion insiders descended on the British capital Friday as the five-day whirlwind of catwalk shows kicked off, bringing the usual heady mix of glamor, parties and beautiful people. This season, however, organizers are also focusing on pairing technology with fashion, launching a series of talks and projects with Google to help British-based designers go digital. The aim is for London to be "the most tech-savvy fashion capital in the world," according to British Fashion Council Chairman Natalie Massenet, who paired up with Google's UK sales director Peter Fitzgerald to launch the fashion week.


Looks like Google and other tech firms are now in the fashion business. Haute Couture from Google. Designer Digital wear.

SJP @DigitalAsian

London Endies: Struggling to make ends meet

The Guardian reports that if for London the 1980s was the decade of yuppies, now it finds itself home to the "endies" – Employed but with No Disposable Income or Savings. Endies are becoming disillusioned with their lot, according to a report from the Centre for London that suggests there are now about a million modest earners in the capital. The report 'Hollow Promise: How London is Failing its Modest Earners and What Can Be Done About it' paints an alarming picture of the pressure on "squeezed-middle" households, those on low to modest incomes who are not entitled to most benefits. It finds that most Endies are struggling to make ends meet and few are managing to save. The authors note: "While 'endies' don't complain, they are increasingly disenchanted with the political system. Unless London does better by them, the city's politics could easily turn sour."

Its not just East Endies then. Many people will now remain in debt for most of their working lives struggling to make ends meet. London is increasingly becoming a location of either the super rich or Endies.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Thursday, 11 September 2014

e-India: e-Commerce Craze in India

Times of India reports that Ratan Tata has made a personal investment in online jewellery retailer Bluestone as the former Tata Group chairman scales up his exposure to India's red hot e-commerce sector which has attracted a steady stream of investor money. Tata, 73, now chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, the holding company of the $100-billion steel-to-software Indian conglomerate, has subscribed to fresh shares of the three-year-old e-commerce player which sells jewellery targeted at women buyers.

Investment in e-commerce in India is all the rage now with foreign investors making joint ventures with Indian companies to invest in startups. Retired Indian executives are getting into startups. Modi's Digital India programme has created a buzz in India for e-commerce. Looks like Modi's e-India is on the expressway.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Manufacturing Territory and Disputes: China's Manufacturing Prowess

BB News reports that China is manufacturing Islands in the South China Sea where it is in dispute with several regional countries over the natural resources there. China is building islands on reefs around the Spratly Islands and claiming the territory as its own.

This is a novel way to claim land, waters and territory over your neighbours. Is there anything that China doesn't manufacture?

Compare China's way of accessing natural resources the world and America's methods. Compare China's methods in the South China Sea and Africa and America's in the Middle East.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Social Immobility: UK A Class Apart

BBC News reports that the leader of Britain's trade union movement has warned of creating a "Downton Abbey-style" society in which social mobility "has hit reverse". Frances O'Grady argued that there was "no sign of the economic recovery in most people's lives". The TUC general secretary also said that, under the coalition, "class prejudice" was becoming "respectable". The Conservatives said the party would not take "lectures from a cluster of union bosses on six-figure pay deals". Ms O'Grady's speech to TUC delegates in Liverpool expanded on the annual conference's main theme of living standards.

Are Britons becoming more or less socially mobile? Can the natives compete with the super rich  and the bankers on whopping bonuses in London?

SJP @DigitalAsian

Start Me Up, India: The Fashion for StartUps in India

Times of India reports that the venture capital arm of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has tied up with Microsoft to launch a startup accelerator, which kicks off its first batch next month. GenNext Ventures and Microsoft Ventures have signed a three-year partnership that will look to mentor and offer technical advice to startups.

Recently there have been a number of joint ventures between Indian and foreign companies to fund startups in India. It has become fashionable now to invest in startups in India. With Modi's Digital India programme, these joint ventures should help to startup India.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The West's Next Frankenstein?

The West is supporting the Kurds and others in their fight against the Islamic State. Let's hope the West does right by the Kurds otherwise 10 or 20 years down the line they could turn the Kurds against the West and have created the next version of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. History shows this again and again in Western intervention abroad and even in Indian politics. You can just imagine George Bush and Tony Blair saying "Saddam, all is forgiven. Please come back" (even though Saddam is dead).


SJP @DigitalAsian

Friday, 5 September 2014

Bhopal: Compare the Fate of BP and Union Carbide

BBC News reports that a US judge has ruled BP was "grossly negligent" in the lead-up to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The ruling could potentially cost BP billions more in compensation payments. The New Orleans judge Carl Barbier also found BP subcontractors Transocean and Halliburton "negligent". The 2010 oil spill was the worst in US history, and BP has set aside $43bn to cover fines, legal settlements, and clean-up cost.

Compare the fate of BP here and that of Union Carbide in the Bhopal Gas disaster where thousands of Indians died. There is still no justice for the Indian victims even after nearly 30 years since the tragedy happened.


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Police Insurance Policy for Police to Investigate Crime

BBC News reports that victims of crime are being "encouraged" to investigate offences themselves, an inspection of police forces in England and Wales has found. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said criminal damage and car crime were "on the verge of being decriminalised" because forces had "almost given up". In some cases victims were asked to check for CCTV or fingerprints. The Association of Chief Police Officers said austerity meant forces had to set priorities. The review also found that police community support officers were being used as "detectives" in some forces. The inspector who led the review, Roger Baker, said: "It's more a mindset, that we no longer deal with these things. And effectively what's happened is a number of crimes are on the verge of being decriminalised." He added: "So it's not the fault of the individual staff; it's a mindset thing that's crept in to policing to say 'we've almost given up'."

The Police are becoming like the Health Service where you get a two tier system - the low level service for those who don't pay and the better service for those who can afford to pay privately or via some health insurance. Perhaps the police should start a similar police insurance which will cover you for the crimes that police can't be bothered to investigate. Or perhaps there could be a higher premium on your home and car insurance so police will investigate.

Taxes no longer fund a proper health service or police service. You now should pay privately if you want the same service as 20-30 years ago. It will eventually get to a stage where your taxes will only pay for the Police to investigate murders. If you want any other crime investigated, you'll have to pay privately.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Iran's Gated Community: Opening the Gates to the World

Times of India reports that Iran's president urged the country's clerics to be more tolerant of the Internet and new technologies, which are often the target of criticism by influential hard-liners in the Islamic Republic. Hassan Rouhani made the appeal during a meeting with clerics in Tehran, where he said that the Internet is important for aspiring students and experts trying to access new knowledge and science. "In today's world, one who does not know the Internet and does not apply it is not called an expert, even a student....We cannot close the gates of the world for the younger generation," he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

This seems to be a good move forward by Rouhani. Without good access to the Internet, Iran is in effect one large gated community where the outside world is restricted.


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Alice in Wonderland: Understating Police Collusion

The Guardian reports that "A group of Metropolitan police officers who were sacked over their conduct in the Plebgate affair were involved in a collusion that made it difficult to uncover the truth about the incident in Downing Street, the former attorney general Dominic Grieve has said. As the Met released a lengthy report into Operation Alice, its investigation into the incident in Downing Street on 19 September 2012, Grieve warned that the conduct of some of the officers had challenged the workings of the justice system. He told the Guardian: "I think the report is a very worrying document, because it reveals collusion between police officers in a way that makes the truth impossible to ascertain, when police officers should be witnesses of the truth at all times. When one sees officers behaving in this fashion, in whatever circumstances, it leaves one with a sense that if you can't trust them to tell the truth, then the justice system generally, and law enforcement in particular, becomes very difficult. It is a pretty depressing read." Grieve spoke out after Deputy Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan, who was in charge of Operation Alice, said that allegations that officers had conspired to falsify statements had "damaged public trust and confidence in us". Gallan confirmed that four officers, including one who has been sent to prison, had lost their jobs as a result of their conduct after the incident."

Dominic Grieve is the master of understatement here. This sort of police collusion happens regularly in criminal trials from my experience. And my view is that the judiciary are to blame as they have a tendency to protect the police if such allegations are made against them during criminal trials - and that is also understatement! There have been one or two cases where I suspect judges have colluded with the police. The situation is far worse than Dominic Grieve gives it credit for. Only the judiciary can sort out the criminal justice system. Operation Alice (who comes up with these names?) is the tip of the iceberg.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Indian Guinea Pigs?

Economic Times reports that "In 2009, several schools for tribal children in Khammam district in Telangana — then a part of undivided Andhra Pradesh — became sites for observation studies for a cervical cancer vaccine that was administered to thousands of girls aged between nine and 15. The girls were administered the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine in three rounds that year under the supervision of state health department officials. The vaccine used was Gardasil, manufactured by Merck. It was administered to around 16,000 girls in the district, many of whom stayed in state government-run hostels meant for tribal students. Months later, many girls started falling ill and by 2010 five of them died. Two more deaths were reported from Vadodara, Gujarat, where an estimated 14,000 children studying in schools meant for tribal children were also vaccinated with another brand of HPV vaccine, Cervarix, manufactured by GSK. Earlier in the week, the Associated Press reported that scores of teenaged girls were hospitalised in a small town in northern Colombia with symptoms that parents suspect could be an adverse reaction to Gardasil. A standing committee on health and family welfare that investigated the irregularities pertaining to the observation studies in India tabled its report a year ago, on August 30. The committee found that consent for conducting these studies, in many cases, was taken from the hostel wardens, which was a flagrant violation of norms. In many other cases, thumbprint impressions of their poor and illiterate parents were duly affixed onto the consent form. The children also had no idea about the nature of the disease or the vaccine. The authorities concerned could not furnish requisite consent forms for the vaccinated children in a huge number of cases. ..."

The article goes on to suggest that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding NGOs in India that have connections to multinational drug companies and the implication may be that vaccines are being tested on Indian citizens without proper consent or authority.

Are Indians being used as guinea pigs for testing vaccines and other drugs?

SJP @DigitalAsian