Thursday, April 24

Not just X, Y

For all these years we have known that the child's sex is determined by the X, Y chromosomes. But now a new report suggests that dietary habits may have something to do with it too. While this may help explain demographics in some countries, I fear it could be misused.

We all know those anti-sex determination or anti-female infanticide ads on Doordarshan. The doctor would always show the couple a chart and explain how the father is responsible for the female child and not the woman. The intention being to stop people blaming and harassing the daughter-in-law for having daughters. However, we know that not everyone gets the message and women continue to suffer for having girls. And in spite of sex-determination laws female fetus abortions continue.

Though the new study may need more scrutiny before it becomes a 'fact', the sheer mention of it should be enough for such people to blame the woman again. Of course another extreme could be that people modify diets in the hope to have a girl child. But I do hope that the study helps to increase awareness about eating habits, and study demographic patterns rather than to serve the interests of anti-girl-child monsters.

Thursday, April 10

Overemphasizing intent

Here is James Acton* talking at the New America Foundation on Iran's nuclear intentions and the IAEA.

It is a long talk but he makes some very interesting, and to some extent obvious points that a lot of debate on Iran has overlooked. Acton begins of by explaining how the purpose and legal obligation of the IAEA is not to analyze the 'intent' of a violating country. However, the IAEA reports on Iran tend to be looked at with a view to finding an answer to the question of Iran's intention behind violating the safeguards.

With the larger non-proliferation regime enforcement view he says that we are sending out a wrong message to future violators by harping upon the motive factor. The violating state should be punished for 'what' it has done and not 'why' it did so. Irrespective of good or bad intent the violator should be punished. By concentrating on the motive the signal being sent out is that if you violate with good intent, you can be excused. The deterrence value is diminished in the process. I think this is an important aspect to be considered given that it is almost impossible to prove 'intent' with 100 percent confidence or even beyond reasonable doubt.

*"James Acton is a lecturer at the Centre for Science and Security Studies in the Department of War Studies at King's College London. He holds a PhD in theoretical physics from Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory."

Wednesday, April 9

Drudge does it again

The Drudge Report has been a good substitute for the morning tea-time newspaper for me. However, there are times when he leaves me flabbergasted by his word twisting that can turn a whole story upside down. If you do not read the story and are to go by his headlines, you are sure to have a whole different picture of some situations.

Like today the banner headline runs, "Dems want Iraqis to pay up: With oil." My first reaction was 'height zhali!' And then I made up the story as anyone does upon reading a headline. My story ran something like this,

In wake of the increasing oil prices and sacrifices made by US soldiers in Iraq, the Democrats want the Iraqi government to provide subsidized oil to the US as payment.

And it turned out to be this,

"Democrats plan to push legislation this spring that would force the Iraqi government to spend its own surplus in oil revenues to rebuild the country, sparing US dollars."

Tuesday, April 8

Another FP list

I love the FP lists and have linked them before. This one today on the world's worst religious leaders is equally interesting. It is striking that it lists only five names especially when not all of them are 'religious leaders' in the sense that the Pope is. And even he sometimes makes comments that can be termed 'religious' and 'hateful'.

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

That it was taken out of context and without an understanding of the Byzantine Emperor's situation did not stop it from creating an uproar.

So back to the FP list. The Joseph Kony guy is a Commander of the Lord's Resistance Army. Just because the word Lord appears does not make him a religious leader. And look at that quote, it sounds more superstitious than religious.

"[The spirits] speak to me. They load through me. They will tell us what is going to happen. They say ‘You, Mr. Joseph, tell your people that the enemy is planning to come and attack.’ They will come like dreaming; they will tell us everything.

I wonder what other commander of forces on a "crusade" makes 'religious' comments?

Pak Nuke plant accident

This is interesting.

"The government claims Khushab produces electricity. Last year, the Washington-based Institute of Science for International Security said the plant has three reactors, including two that were still under construction last June. It cited satellite photos of the sprawling site that is under military control.
The development of the reactor and other nuclear-related activities ''imply'' that Pakistan has decided to ''increase significantly its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons,'' the institute said in a report analyzing the images."