India introduces solar-powered rickshaws

The “soleckshaw,” unveiled this month in New Delhi, is a motorised cycle rickshaw that can be pedalled normally or run on a 36-volt solar battery.

Developed by the state-run Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), prototypes are receiving a baptism of fire by being road-tested in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area.

“The most important achievement will be improving the lot of rickshaw drivers,” said Pradip Kumar Sarmah, head of the non-profit Centre for Rural Development.

It will dignify the job and reduce the labour of pedalling. From rickshaw pullers, they will become rickshaw drivers,” Sarmah said…

The makeover includes FM radios and powerpoints for charging mobile phones during rides.

Electric motive power makes so much sense you have to wonder at the complicity and connivance of politicians the world over – at holding this sort of progress back.

Pakistan’s Zardari looks to China for support

Photo from Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has reached trade deals with China, raising hopes that Beijing would help his country through difficult economic and diplomatic times…

Zardari, on his first visit to China as president, made clear commercial ties with Chinese companies were foremost on the Pakistani delegation’s agenda, according to Xinhua news agency.

“I chose China as my first country to visit to say to Chinese companies that I will provide favorable treatment to you,” Xinhua quoted Zardari as saying.

In the official Liberation Daily, a Chinese analyst suggested recent discord was forcing Zardari to look elsewhere for more help.

“Although the United States has repeatedly declared it remains as supportive as ever of President Zardari and the Pakistan government, up to now there has not been action on these vows,” wrote analyst Wu Yongnian.

“Especially with the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, Pakistan feels troubled and neglected by Washington and Zardari would want to remind the world that he expects equal treatment,” said Zhang Li, the expert from Sichuan University in southwest China.

But Beijing does not want to become embroiled in fresh rivalry between India and Pakistan and any agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation would be a “gesture of goodwill,” rather than a substantive agreement, Zhang said.

Picking sides used to be the name of the game in Cold War days. And still encouraged by the dimwits in Washington, DC.

Just as the prospect of 21st Century diplomacy may appear in the doorway to the White House in January, the continuing growth and expansion of a leading role in politics – as well as economics – must guide the regional ethics and decisions for China. 

As much as China can do to bring India and Pakistan to mutually-beneficial relationships – China will gain, as well.

Afghan national forces hit by defections

Sulieman Ameri and his 16 men were until a month ago serving the Afghan government as police patrolling the border with Iran. Now they answer to the Taliban and their goal is to drive all foreign troops out of Afghanistan.

Ameri, now a Taliban commander, told Al Jazeera that he joined the Taliban because of what he called anti-Muslim behaviour by international soldiers.

“I have seen everything with my own eyes, I have seen prostitution, I have seen them drinking alcohol. We are Muslim and therefore jihad is our obligation,” Ameri said in the mountains south of Herat.

Our soil is occupied by Americans and I want them to leave this country. That is my only goal,” he added…

Abdul Rahim, another new recruit, said he received training from American military contractor Blackwater for 45 days.

“I can use the training to save my life in these mountains and I can also use it to fight them,” he said.

The Afghan people have suffered through seven years of mediocre politics, lying politicians and the same broken promises outlanders have been making for a century.

Afghans keep relearning the same lesson. Western politicians learn nothing.

Mainstream news outlets relent – start linking to other sites

“Thou shalt not link to outside sites” — a long-held commandment of many newsrooms — is eroding.

Embracing the hyperlink ethos of the Web to a degree not seen before, news organizations are becoming more comfortable linking to competitors — acting in effect like aggregators. The Washington Post recently introduced a political Web site that recommends rival sites. This week NBC will begin introducing Web sites for its local TV stations with links to local newspapers, radio stations, online videos and other sources. And The New York Times will soon offer its online readers an alternative home page with links to competitors.

These experiments exemplify “link journalism,” an idea that is gaining traction in other newsrooms across the country. “It is a fundamentally different mindset” for journalists, said Scott Karp, chief of the Web-based newswire Publish2, who coined the term.

For years, newspapers, television station Web sites and magazines have hesitated about linking to outside Web sites because, the logic goes, they want to keep the users on their own site. More internal page views and longer time-spent-viewing can equate to larger advertising revenue for Web sites.

Karp argues that Google, the leading search engine, is a direct rebuttal to that logic. “It’s all about sending people away, and it does such a good job of it that people keep coming back for more,” he said.

“If we can provide them great content, that’s wonderful. If it comes from somebody else, that’s fine, too,” Buchwald’s quote applies to diarist sites like this one or Dvorak Uncensored. It’s the how and why of returning viewers that builds a cumulative audience.

Read the article and hope – as I do – that more editors and publishers read it, as well.

Swimming pool rescue – for a drunken pony

The pony, called Fat Boy, broke in to Sarah Penhaligon’s garden in Newquay, Cornwall, to get to the fruit, which had fallen from trees. He ate so many apples that he became confused.

Penhaligon, 28, from said she was woken at around 3am yesterday by the sounds of an animal in distress.

She said she looked out of her window to see a large creature in the pool, adding: “When I looked outside, I saw this massive animal in the dark and I thought the Beast of Bodmin Moor was in the pool.

“I was terrified, but when I took a closer look I realised it was a horse. I didn’t have a clue what to do next. Who do you call when there’s a horse stuck in your swimming pool?”

Penhaligon called the emergency services and a team of firefighters managed to rescue Fat Boy, who was unharmed, using harnesses.

I’ve seen drunken deer in orchards; but, never a drunken pony. Especially in a swimming pool.

Oil watchdog agency run by a ‘cult of corruption’

Bobby Maxwell kept a close eye on the oil industry for more than 20 years as a government auditor. But he said the federal agency he worked for is now a “cult of corruption” — a claim backed up by a recent government report.

Maxwell is referring to a tiny agency within the Department of the Interior called the Minerals Management Service, which manages the nation’s natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on federal lands.

A report, conducted by the Interior Department’s inspector general and released earlier this month, found that employees at the agency received improper gifts from energy industry officials and engaged with them in illegal drug use and inappropriate sexual relations. It looked at activities at the agency from 2003 through 2006…

Maxwell is now retired from the government and teaches at the University of Hawaii. He said it was just a matter of time until the agency’s behavior was exposed. He feels vindicated now in the wake of the inspector general’s report, but is still disgusted by what he was happening at the Minerals Management Service.

“Their job is to protect United States taxpayers’ interest. It’s like they completely forgot that, like they just became part of the oil companies,” he said.

I’ve been away from the oil biz for quite a while. Just sounds like the way Louisiana was run on behalf of the Oil Patch Boys finally had a chance to be put in place with the election of the Bush & Cheney local branch.

Nothing I didn’t expect. Nothing Congressional oversight couldn’t catch – if they weren’t busy with their hands out in the first place.

Pic of the Day

Not an ego trip, today, putting up one of my own photos.

Happened to be doing a monthly run-through with my inkjet printer, yesterday, and chose to print this as a test. It came out pretty enough that I decided to post it.

If you click on the image, you’ll get the larger .tif version – which is about 3mb.

Burdocks are New Mexico’s answer to sunflowers. At their peak just at that boundary time where summer is ready to become autumn.

The “Bradley Effect” is a last hope for losers

Now that polls indicate Senator Barack Obama is the favorite to win, some analysts predict a racially biased “Bradley Effect” could prevent Obama from winning a majority on November 4th. That is a pernicious canard and is unworthy of 21st century political narratives. I should know. I was there in 1982 at “ground zero” in California when I served George Deukmejian as his general election pollster and as a member of his strategy team when he defeated African-American Democratic California gubernatorial candidate Tom Bradley, not once but twice, in 1982 and again in 1986.

Bradley Effect believers assume that there is an undetectable tendency in the behavior of some white voters who tell pollsters that they are “undecided” when in fact their true preference is to vote against the black candidate…However, it is indeed a “theory in search of data.”

The other reason I reject the Bradley Effect in 2008 is because there was not a Bradley Effect in the 1982 California Governor’s race, either. Even though Tom Bradley had been slightly ahead in the polls in 1982, due to sampling error, it was statistically too close to call…

The Field Poll inaugurated the speculation that led to the baseless Bradley Effect theory when, after the 1982 election, Field said “race was a factor in the Bradley loss” (AP 11-4-82). Mervin Field cited no data, but only speculated that white conservative voters of both parties were more undecided and that he may have over-represented minority voters in his polling. Thus, the Bradley Effect was born amidst some major polling errors and a confusing array of mixed predictions, hardly a firm foundation to construct a theory.

The Deukmejian campaign tracking polls did not confirm any Bradley Effect and to interject this type of speculation into the 2008 presidential election is not only folly, but insulting to the political maturity of our nation’s voters. To allow this theory to continue to persist anymore than 25 years is to damage our democracy, no matter who wins.

RTFA. The data is in the details. The “conclusions” live on in the minds of those looking for excuses.

Thanks, VoteMaster

Buckley leaves National Review after Obama endorsement

“Hell was bad enough.. and now this.”

Christopher Buckley, the son of conservative icon William F. Buckley, said Tuesday he’s resigned from the conservative National Review days after endorsing Barack Obama’s White House bid, among the most powerful symbols yet of the conservative discontent expressed this election cycle.

In an online column, Buckley said he had decided to offer his resignation from the magazine his father founded after hundreds of readers and some National Review colleagues expressed outrage he was backing the Illinois senator.

“While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for,” Buckley wrote….

In his column Tuesday, Buckley expressed disappointment the magazine, and conservatives in general, were not more open to dissenting opinions that his own father once championed.

My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman,” he said, adding later, “My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much.”

There comes a time to make a statement. I think his is a fairly powerful one.

What do you think Dad would say?

British rubbish for recycling ends up in disused well in India

Mail went into the bin to be recycled

A businessman from the English city of Leeds says that he is “shocked” that rubbish he put out for recycling has ended up being dumped in India. Junk mail sent to Paul Sharman’s home was found by environmental campaigners to have been dumped in disused wells in the state of Tamil Nadu.

They say that it is not environmentally or socially fair for rubbish from the UK to be shipped to India.

Environmental campaigners say that companies contracted by British councils to recycle waste often end up sending it to India.

They say that it is supposed to be sorted out before shipment into paper, plastics and cans. But they say sometimes this is not done properly, which means that when it arrives at re-processing plants in India it is impossible to recycle.

As a result, much of it is dumped in disused agricultural wells hundreds of metres deep on farmland in places like Tamil Nadu – in this case near the southern port of Tuticorin.

The most distressing yarp was the blather from local politicians who insisted this simply didn’t happen. Someone should stuff Mr. Sharman’s junk mail up some convenient orifice in the council member’s fundament.

It’s happening, dude. Get over the excuses and work at solutions instead.