Imagined in America, Tiger tale, Britain’s imperial past, Child obesity in India, and more

1 Paul Krugman writing in The New York Times, ‘Imagined in America’. I am typing this column on a Dell laptop that says “Made in China” on the bottom. In fact, it was assembled in China — but the design, memory board, screen, casing and dozens of other parts were all made in other countries. And while the machine says “Made in China,” the lion’s share of its value and profit goes to the firm that conceived the idea and orchestrated that supply chain — Dell Inc. in Texas. We are never going to get those labor-intensive assembly jobs back from China — the wage differentials are far too great, no matter how much China revalues its currency. We need to focus on multiplying more people at the high-value ideation and orchestration end of the supply chain, and in the manufacturing processes where one person can be highly productive, and well paid, by operating multiple machines. We need to focus on “Imagined in America” and “Orchestrated From America” and “Made in America by a smart worker using a phalanx of smarter robots.” In total value terms, America still manufactures almost as much as China. We just do it with far fewer people, which is why we need more start-ups.

2 A tiger tale from San Francisco Chronicle. The plan was to bring home only one tiger. But then Oakland Zoo staffers got a look at the four yarn-chasing, ball-pouncing tigers that a Texas zoo was giving away. “There’s no way we could take just one,” said Erica Calcagno, an Oakland zookeeper who made the trek to Brownsville, Texas, where the tigers – all sisters – had been rescued from a roadside freak show. “They’re gorgeous. Even when they’re sleeping they’re gorgeous. And we thought their story was an important one for us to tell.” The Oakland Zoo will formally introduce to the public Molly, Milou, Ginger and Grace – who join 12-year-old Torako, a female whose mate died a few months ago. Beyond entertaining visitors, zoo staff hopes the tigers serve a broader purpose: to educate the public about tiger mills. Owning tigers is legal is 21 states, including California. More than 8,000 tigers live in the U.S., far more than live in the wild globally. Of the 8,000, only a few hundred live in accredited zoos. The rest live in backyards.

3 The Guardian on Britain’s imperial past. David Cameron would have us look back to the days of the British empire with pride. But there is little in the brutal oppression and naked greed with which it was built that deserves our respect. Many early campaigns in India in the 18th century were characterised by sepoy disaffection. Britain’s harsh treatment of sepoy mutineers at Manjee in 1764, with the order that they should be “shot from guns”, was a terrible warning to others not to step out of line. Mutiny, as the British discovered a century later in 1857, was a formidable weapon of resistance at the disposal of the soldiers they had trained. Crushing it through “cannonading”, standing the condemned prisoner with his shoulders placed against the muzzle of a cannon, was essential to the maintenance of imperial control. This simple threat helped to keep the sepoys in line throughout most of imperial history.

4 Dawn story, ‘Can’t change history? Rewrite it’. Some people change history, others censor it. A much-acclaimed 1987 essay by Prof A.K. Ramanujan about the many written and oral legends of Lord Ram was deleted last week from the history syllabus of Delhi University. The tinkering with high academia had an insidious purpose. Previous assaults on scientific history writing in India occurred when the Hindu revivalist Bharatiya Janata Party was in power. The latest outrage came under the Congress’s watch. Some background would be useful. As a young boy in Lucknow I was exposed to the legend of Ram as a benign god. Allama Iqbal and Hasrat Mohani were regarded among his better-known Muslim fans. The nawabs of Awadh had ensured enough amity between upper-caste Hindus and Muslims to last a century or more. The standard greeting among ordinary Hindus of Lucknow or when they met their Muslim friends was either Aadaab or Ram Ram, occasionally Jai Ramji Ki, long live Ramji. In the 1990s, the phrase suddenly turned into Jai Shri Ram. One could smell social engineering. It is akin to turning Khudahafiz into Allah Hafiz in Pakistan. Hindutva has a political agenda, whereas Hinduism is a way of life with countless variables in beliefs and customs.

5 Dawn, on unpaid Pakistan Railways staff. With the retired workers’ protest against non-payment of pension entering its 19th day on Wednesday, most serving employees of the Pakistan Railways in Lahore could not get salaries for September. Carrying pension books and cheques that were not honoured, the elderly former workers of railways held a demonstration in front of the PR headquarters for two hours. A number of pensioners told Dawn they had not been paid for the last two to three months and were on the verge of starvation. (Heard of any railway company in the world not paying salaries?)

6 Khaleej Times on the melting of the Arctic ice. Largely unnoticed, a silent drama has been unfolding over the past weeks in the Arctic. The drama – more accurately, a tragedy – playing out in the North is the rapid disappearance of the polar ice cap, the Arctic Ocean’s defining feature. In September, the sea-ice cover on the Arctic Ocean melted all the way back to the record-low level recorded in September 2007. At 4.4 million square kilometers, it was the smallest ice cover since satellite observations began 40 years ago, with 40 per cent less ice than in the 1970’s and 1980’s. If this continues, we will probably see an ice-free North Pole within the next 10-20 years. Yes, that sounds shocking. But there is good reason to fear that the rate of decline will indeed continue to rise, and that satellite images of a blue polar ocean will grace the covers of news magazines sooner rather than later. Global warming, caused by our greenhouse-gas emissions, is thus far continuing unabated. 2010 was one of the two hottest years on record globally, despite extremely low solar activity. Thus, it is almost certain that warming – including in the Arctic – will continue in the coming decades. And the ice will continue to melt.

7 Straits Times on unregulated mining leading to collapse of a part of Great Wall of China. Unregulated mining has caused part of China’s ancient Great Wall to collapse, setting off alarm bells for the Unesco World Heritage Site. The damaged portion is located in a remote area near the county of Laiyuan in Hebei province, about 200km south-west of Beijing. Villagers and local cultural heritage protection officials said about 700m of the wall, which was built during the reign of Emperor Wanli in the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620), had collapsed.

8 Straits Times reporting that the number of Singapore’s millionaires will rise by more than 100% by 2016. The number of millionaires in Singapore is expected to more than double by 2016, from the current 183,000 to 408,000. Singaporeans are also the second richest in the Asia Pacific region, and the fifth richest in the world, with an average wealth of US$285,000. This is a 32.1 per cent increase from the figure of US$215,000 in Jan 2010, less than two years ago.

9 TK Arun in The Economic Times, rubbishing the traditional idea that power derives from three things – GDP size, magnitude of trade and the extent to which a country is net creditor to the rest of the world. In the modern day, the four key determinants of power are the ability to innovate technology, cultural influence, the gap between current levels of national military technology, and the ability to muster and lead international coalitions. In all of these, the US is far ahead of others.

10 The Economic Times’ profile of Malayalam writer Kakkanadan, who lived in Delhi, Germany and Kollam. He was surrounded by people who dropped in from everywhere. They included drunkards and strangers. His doors were always open for whoever walked in. We will miss the smile of the anarchist who taught us a thing or two about the magic of words.

11 The Economic Times editorial, ‘Walk the talk’, on childhood obesity becoming a problem among the prosperous classes even in India.

12 Business Standard editorial on dealing with the grain glut. This year’s paddy procurement season in India has started with foodgrain stocks being more than double the buffer stock norms. An increase in grain stocks will put a strain on the already-scarce warehousing space. Maintaining a stockpile of nearly 55 million tonnes would mean locking up resource worth Rs 1 trillion. This is a clear sign of flawed food policy and bad economics. Government now has a monopoly and private trade has been marginalised. All limits on stockholding, movement and external trade of foodgrain should be lifted so that private trade can play its role in purchasing grains from producers, storing them and delivering them to consumers in a competitive market.

13 Business Standard on Himachal Pradesh struggling with a monkey menace. The state has over 3,00,000 monkeys and the government has a target to sterilise 2,00,000 of them in the next eight months. There will be 25 monkey-sterilisation centres to do the job. People are offered an incentive of Rs 500 for each monkey they catch. (Another reason for a holiday in HP?)

14 Financial Chronicle story that Rs 560 billion of the total bank exposure of Rs 4.8 trillion to the Indian power sector is in serious threat of default and restructuring unless power tariffs are raised by at least 50% (Yes, 50%).

About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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