India cannot pin all the blame on outsiders

Maria Misra in The London Times:

Misra But despite the multi-religious and multi-ethnic origins of terrorist violence the Indian authorities have, until recently, tended to treat only Muslims as terrorists. So while Muslim “terrorists” have been subject to extraordinary laws of detention and trial in special courts, Hindu nationalist “rioters” have been tried in regular courts, or, more usually, not been punished at all.

One of the principal complaints of Indian Muslim groups is the failure to bring to trial any of the Hindu ringleaders responsible for pogroms in Bombay in 1993 and Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 4,000 Muslims died. While the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, and international jihadist groups have undoubtedly trained and funded Indian Muslim terrorists, the chief recruiting officer is often the Indian State.

This is especially true at regional and state level where the police and judiciary are often “captured” by Hindu political interests that have used anti-terrorist laws to pursue political vendettas. The extreme poverty of many Muslims in India, whose status, according to a recent report, was below that of the “Untouchable” caste of Hindus, has increased frustration. While “Untouchable” and other low-caste groups are actively promoted into universities and prestigious state jobs, India's 150 million Muslims, who make up 13 per cent of the population, hold only 3 per cent of state posts. They are even less well represented in the police.

More here.

The terrorists attacked my city because of its wealth

Suketu Mehta in The Guardian:

Mehta The Taj was born out of a slight: because a man was turned away from a fancy hotel. When the prominent Parsi industrialist Jamshetji Tata was refused entrance into Watson's hotel in the 19th century because he was a native, he swore revenge, and built the Taj in 1903. It is less a hotel than a proving-ground for the ego. The Taj lobby and its adjoining toilets are where you test your self-worth; theoretically, anyone can come in out of the heat and sit in the plush lobby, or relieve themselves in the gleaming toilets. But you need that inner confidence to project to the numerous gatekeepers, the toilet attendants; you need to first convince yourself that you belong there.

The terrorists who swarmed the hotel on Wednesday ignored the gatekeepers, or shot them dead. They marched into the lobby with confidence, and in a rage. If, as seems likely, they are Muslims, then they are only the latest manifestation of the original sin of modern south Asia: the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan.

India has been congratulated, and has congratulated itself, for not supplying recruits to al-Qaida. India's 150 million Muslims are different, it was thought. During partition, they voted with their feet; until recently, there were more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. But Muslims are poorer, and less educated, than other Indians. Urban Muslims have a poverty rate of 38% – much higher than any other segment of the population, including the lower castes. The 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat, just north of Bombay, made many Muslims think that if the state could not or would not protect them, they would have to take matters into their own hands.

More here.

Terror Strikes in Mumbai

Jyoti Thottam in Time:

Mumbai_sniper_1127 As the debate over terror continues, various parties have been trading blame. The BJP has accused the Congress of cooking up charges against the arrested Hindu right-wingers, while the Congress has been accusing the BJP of playing a double-game of pointing fingers at the Congress while lending a hand to Hindu-fundamentalist terrorists. Mumbai has been a focus of the tension between the parties, as several of the so-called “Hindu terror” arrests have taken place in or near the city. Perhaps the size and scale of this most recent attack will force the country's political leaders to finally push through a long-shelved proposal to co-ordinate intelligence on terror incidents between the states and prevent a repeat of Wednesday's bloody spectacle.

More here.

After Mumbai, an end to complacency?

M J Akbar in The Guardian:

M_j_akbar_140x140 Some three years ago India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, rather smugly told President Bush in Delhi that Indian Muslims were not involved in any act of terrorism. The implication was that they constituted a success story, healed by the virtues of democracy, a conclusion that Bush happily repeated. Singh certainly did not fool any terrorists, some of whom may have read his self-congratulation as a challenge.

I am an Indian Muslim and proud to be both. Like any Indian, today I am angry, frustrated and depressed. I am angry at the manic, rabid dogs of war who have invaded the commercial capital and fountainhead of business energy. I am frustrated by the impotence of my governments in Mumbai and Delhi, its ministers tone-deaf to the anguish of my fellow citizens. And I am depressed at the damage being done to the idea of my India.

More here.

dispatch from mumbai


As columns of smoke rose from the Italianate dome of the Taj Mahal hotel in downtown Mumbai on Wednesday night, I came upon a woman standing a short distance away from the building, waiting for her friends trapped inside. She’d just ordered a steak when she heard gunfire as terrorists stormed through the establishment. The woman, who had been rescued through a window by the fire brigade after hours of hiding under a table, said that her name was Dalbir Bains. I recognised it from the society pages of the newspapers. She’s the owner of a fancy lingerie store in the beachside neighbourhood of Juhu, and, amidst the chatter of gunfire, I found myself involved in a brief discussion about edible underwear. Everything that evening had been surreal.

more from TNR here.



The Ethiopian cooks had two antelopes brought in from the zoo. They gutted, skinned, and roasted them in spices and butter. Twenty turkeys — stuffed with herbs and bread — were thrust into the antelopes and the empty crevasses filled with hundreds of hardboiled eggs. A bleating camel, feeling something sinister in the room, was soon slaughtered as well, his innards replaced with the antelopes, whose innards had been replaced with the turkeys and eggs, whose innards had been replaced with breads, spices, herbs, and fish. And the Emperor of Ethiopia ate only just a little. Bawdy, exorbitant, unethical. In the most mythic banquets, everything is permitted, nothing impossible. Mile-high desserts carved to resemble palaces, grapes served upon platters of young boys, vomit buckets. But aside from the slaves, drunkenness, and orgies, it is perhaps the dining upon outrageously prepared animals — much like the stuffed camel Bohumil Hrabel describes in I Served the King of England — that is most…indelible. Heliogabalus enjoyed ostrich brains and eels fattened with Christians. The Emperor Vitellius once served a dish including flamingo tongues and lamprey milt in the name of Minerva. Hampton Court under Henry VIII was often the stage for feasts of whale, peacock beaks, and the ever-popular flaming boar’s head. No organ was left unturned. The home version of this is the Turducken…

more from Table Matters here.

Don’t Wet-Brine Your Turkey. Do Stir-Fry Your Sweet Potatoes


It’s already Christmas in print—this week, the mailman started delivering frost-kissed, cookie-strewn, tinseled December issues of my food magazines. But online, the media are content to let November persist until at least Thursday with lavish guides to the biggest eating holiday of the year. The Thanksgiving food advice on the Web is plentiful, copiously illustrated with videos and slide shows, and, best of all, free. I’ve sorted through the avalanche of online guidance and compiled a digest of cyber-Thanksgiving with trends of note—and the recipes that stand out as probable winners. The biggest turkey trend this year is a push-back against wet brining, which the gastronomic press corps has promoted enthusiastically for the past decade or so.

more from Slate here.

Still At Sea

From Outlook India:

Cops_mumbai_20081127 If anyone needed a lesson on how to conduct special operations from the sea, they could take a leaf out of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai late on Wednesday, November 26, night. With two magazines taped together, strapped to their AK-47s, the men who arrived on speed boats from the sea could have easily been mistaken for naval commandos carrying out exercises off the coast. But they weren't, and as a security expert told Outlook, “this is a quantum jump in terrorism in India. Global terror has finally come home.”

In many was, this was India's 9/11, an attack on mainland India on a scale it has never witnessed. For a nation that has dealt with armed insurgency and terrorism soon after independence, this was still an unprecedented scale of attack. It was just not prepared for anything even remotely like it. “It is one thing to plant bombs and melt into the crowd. It is another to come in from the sea and launch an attack such as this,” a senior intelligence official told Outlook.

So far what is known is that the email sent by the terrorists, claiming a group called the 'Deccan Mujahideen' carried out the attack, has been traced back to Russia. Senior security officials say that it was, in all likelihood, sent by a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative and this is perhaps the strongest indication of the real face behind the attack. Intelligence sources also point out that the current group of terrorists could have also got help from the Mumbai underworld as well as Chechen elements within the Russian Mafia which has already found a foothold in India.

More here.

Mumbai Under Attack!


It is difficult to express the horror that one feels at the ongoing events in Mumbai (which I just found out about, not having looked at the news since yesterday). Here at 3QD, I am sure that I can speak for all of us when I say that our stunned thoughts are constantly with the victims, hostages, and their families. We fervently hope that no more innocent lives are lost and that the hostages are quickly rescued. The enormity of this crime is mind-boggling and one hopes the perpetrators of this disgusting outrage are swiftly identified and brought to justice.

Today, we are all Indians, and all of us, especially those of us from Pakistan, stand in resolute solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the border.

Longitude forged

Pat Rogers in the Times Literary Supplement:

Longitude Most people know something of the events in 1714 when the British government instituted a prize for the discovery of a successful way to find longitude at sea. The aim was to reduce the heavy toll of shipwrecks caused by the crude navigational method of dead reckoning. Dava Sobel gave new life to this episode in her bestselling book, Longitude: The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time (1995), which inspired the widely viewed television programme Lost at Sea (aired in 1998). After these came a feature film directed by Charles Sturridge in 1999, starring Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons. All these versions place at their centre the heroic figure of John Harrison and his struggles to perfect a clock which would finally carry off the prize of £20,000. Meanwhile, an early rival who figures in the tale has gone down in history as another projector from Yorkshire, named Jeremy Thacker. Unfortunately Thacker never existed and his proposal now emerges as a hoax.

More here.

The Numerati

Gregory M. Lamb in the Christian Science Monitor:

ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 27 10.36 The Numerati is a book about math that won’t cause liberal-arts majors to heave it across the room. The slender volume contains not a single esoteric Greek letter or mystifying equation.

What’s more, writer Stephen Baker artfully conjures up vivid images to explain what he’s talking about and why a reader should care.

“The Numerati” is a more literary name for what used to be called “number crunchers,” the mathematicians and computer geeks who understand programming, probability, and seemingly incomprehensible theorems. Teamed with ever more powerful computers linked to the Internet, they’re on a mission.

“They’re looking for patterns in data that describe something almost hopelessly complex: human life and behavior,” Baker writes. “The audacity of their mission is almost maddening.”

They aim to figure out what we’re going to buy, who we’re going to vote for, how well we do our jobs, perhaps even who we’re likely to fall in love with, by analyzing the statistical patterns of data.

Think you carefully guard your privacy? Think again. It’s becoming an almost impossible task.

We all leave a trail of digital bread crumbs from our cellphone calls, Internet searches, credit card purchases, and blog entries, or on our home pages at social-networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook.

Even withholding our names doesn’t necessarily make us anonymous anymore. Eighty-seven percent of Americans can be identified by name if only their gender, birth date, and postal zip code can be determined, one recent study found.

Data whizzes, Baker concludes, “are adding us up. We are being quantified.”

More here.

Slumdog Millionaire and India’s “Maximum City”

Slumdog Amitava Kumar in Daily Beast:

In the warren-like rooms that line the narrow, winding alleys of the Madanpura neighborhood of Mumbai, neat rows of bare-chested men sit cross-legged on the ground, sewing leather suitcases, or hammering soles into ladies shoes, or making tiny toys that will be sold by children on the city’s streets.

On the opposite side of the alley, sparks leap out of a lathe machine as a young man wearing protective goggles sharpens metal. It is late evening, and the entire area is a hive of activity. The heat is more unbearable than the smell of raw sewage.

Dense entrails of electrical wires hang in my path. A radio broadcasts cricket commentary, and behind a blue curtain a group of young men, clad only in loin clothes, stare glassily at a TV broadcasting the porn movie “Queen of the Himalayas.”

On the pavement outside, a man is a selling pirated copies of English pulp fiction and a cheap, Hindi translation of the Starr Report with a bodice-ripper illustration entitled “America’s President Bill Clinton and Monica’s Sexual Relationship.”

I have come to this neighborhood to meet Suketu Mehta, author of Mumbai, Maximum City. Mehta’s book, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for non-fiction in 2005, vividly describes a city teeming with slum-dwellers, cops, activists, actors, bar-girls, prostitutes, and mafia dons—a city in heat that is seething with energy.

habermas chats on the global crisis


You recently lectured at Yale University. Which images of this crisis impressed you most? A seemingly endless loop of melancholic Hopperian images of long rows of abandoned houses in Florida and elsewhere with “Foreclosure” signs on their front lawns flickered across the television screens. Then you saw buses arriving with curious prospective buyers from Europe and wealthy Latin Americans, followed by the real estate agent showing them the closets in the bedroom smashed in a fit of rage and despair. After my return I was struck by the sharp contrast between the agitated mood in the United States and the calm feeling of “business as usual” here in Germany. In the US the very real economic anxieties coincided with the hot end-spurt of one of the most momentous election campaigns in recent memory. The crisis also instilled a more acute awareness of their personal interests in broad sectors of the electorate. It forced people to make decisions that were, if not necessarily more reasonable, then at least more rational, at any rate by comparison with the last presidential election which was ideologically polarised by “9/11.” America will owe its first black president – if I may hazard a prediction immediately before the election – and hence a major historical watershed in the history of its political culture, to this fortunate coincidence. Beyond this, however, the crisis could also be the harbinger of a changed political climate in Europe.

more from Sign and Sight here.

wood navigates naipaul


The public snob, the grand bastard, was much in evidence when I interviewed V. S. Naipaul in 1994, and this was exactly as expected. A pale woman, his secretary, showed me in to the sitting room of his London flat. Naipaul looked warily at me, offered a hand, and began an hour of scornful correction. I knew nothing, he said, about his birthplace, Trinidad; I possessed the usual liberal sentimentality. It was a plantation society. Did I know anything about his writing? He doubted it. The writing life had been desperately hard. But, I said, hadn’t his great novel, “A House for Mr. Biswas,” been acclaimed on its publication? “Look at the people’s choices for the best books of the sixties,” he said. “ ‘Biswas’ is not there.” His secretary brought coffee, and retired. Naipaul claimed that he had not even been published in America until the nineteen-seventies, “and then the reviews were awful—unlettered, illiterate, ignorant.” The phone rang, and kept ringing. “I am sorry,” Naipaul said in exasperation. “One is not well cared for here.” Only as the secretary showed me out, and novelist and servant briefly spoke to each other in the hall, did I realize that she was Naipaul’s wife.

more from the New Yorker here.

death of journalism?


But then the bloggers appear, writers of no training but natural talent, positioned by chance to see events and parts of the world which the news machines cannot reach. Fox never asks the question raised by his huge box of witnesses: were the professionals any better than the amateurs? The answer matters for the future as well as for the past. With the spread of digital technology, anyone can now be their own publisher. In these new circumstances, what defines journalism? What are journalists for? Many bloggers and operators in new media have already answered the question by declaring the “mainstream media” redundant. They predict that newspapers will close, deprived of advertising income and young readers, both migrating to the internet. The power of the separate priesthood of journalists, created because newspapers were capital-intensive businesses only a few could own and because governments wanted tame journalism, evaporates. “Citizen journalists”, enjoying instant peer-to-peer communication, storm the ramparts of the decaying old media regime. Was the age of the reporters just a passing final phase in Fox’s 2,500-year survey?

more from the TLS here.

How can evolution explain both the appeal and recent failings of negative campaigning?

William Wells in Seed Magazine:

ScreenHunter_01 Nov. 26 19.48 Negative campaigning plays off deep-rooted pathways in the human brain, which may explain its effectiveness as a tactic and its lure to politicians. Humans evolved to remember negative events not because they faced electoral choices but because they faced possible death. For example, “it matters exactly what the snake looks like — if you see it again, you can respond,” says Elizabeth Kensinger, a neuroscientist at Boston College who studies the strength of negative memories. “There is this threat to survival from negative emotions. What the chocolate cake looks like is not going to be so important.”

Negative campaigning, at its simplest, is an attempt to exploit this evolutionary response and make a strong impression on a distracted voting public. Indeed, in Kensinger's controlled laboratory experiments, negative words create the strongest memories. “When things are negative is when people feel that they vividly remember the experience in a really crisp way,” she says. Katherine Kinzler of the University of Chicago has found that negativity also gets priority when remembering faces and actions. She thinks the responses are hardwired by evolution rather than learned via culture, because the phenomena are present even in infants. An ancient origin is further suggested by brain studies: Fear and negativity light up the amygdala, a primeval part of the brain.

But how, if at all, does the negative-memory bias apply to political campaigns?

More here.

Bailout costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA’s lifetime budget — combined!

Barry Ritholtz, via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Liberty_trillion_dollar_billa In doing the research for the “Bailout Nation” book, I needed a way to put the dollar amounts into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars.

People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

The like problems behind molecular gastronomy and modern artmaking

Our own Mogan Meis and Stefany Anne Golberg in The Smart Set:

Morgan and Stefany 2 1811: a French confectioner named Nicolas Appert publishes The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances for Many Years. He discovers that if you boil your mutton and eggs in sealed glass jars, you can eat them much later. Napoleon, in person, gives him a prize and canned food is born.

Early 1970s: American schoolchildren are introduced to thermostabilization, rehydration, and freeze-drying via space food. Tang becomes an American staple and likewise, the Tang moustache.

1974: The National Food Processors Association examines a 40-year-old can of corn found in the basement of a California home. Far from being just a rancid memory of food, the corn was, in fact, safe to eat, full of nutrients, and moreover, tasted just like freshly canned corn.

1986: The compact microwave is introduced into the family kitchen. Mothers around the nation proceed to make the driest roasts in world history with sides of flaccid broccoli.

Such are the trials and tribulations of food in the industrial age. They illustrate the obvious — industry and technology have had a massive impact on what we eat and how we eat it. The focus, however, has generally been convenience and cost rather than taste and gastronomic pleasure. Mass populations need mass-produced food as well as cheap and efficient means to package and transport them. The cuisine of classical fine dining, by contrast, tends to ignore all such developments. At most of your finer restaurants, canned foods and microwaves are not to be found, much less liquid nitrogen or a dehydrator. For 500 years, Western fine dining has been primarily dominated by a focus on fresh ingredients and authoritative (generally French) skills.

During the ’60s and ’70s, however, people started to play around a little.

More here.