Showing posts from September, 2013

UN climate report draws grim picture

Scientists predict disturbing future for the Earth, saying by 2100 the oceans will be between 26 and 97cm higher.

It was a long night and the delegate's coats were still hanging in the cloakroom. Some spent all night on the final night, going line by line through thousands of scientific papers, putting the finishing touches to the science report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Now it is released, what does it say about the state of the Earth's climate system?

There is no disputing that it is a grim picture: a world with more frequent heatwaves, an ice-free Arctic in the summer, devastating floods, and sea levels rising fast.

"Warming is unequivocal," IPCC vice-chairman Jean-Pascal van Ypersele tells me. "It is extremely clear that most of it is due to human activity. The good news is that we can now act to reduce emissions and protect climate for future generations."

But is that too optimistic? And can the world's governments an…

UN calls on Sri Lanka to probe war crimes

Britain and Australia urge engagement with country as UN accuses Sri Lanka of drifting towards authoritarian system.

The UN has said that Sri Lanka could face an international probe unless it properly investigates suspected war crimes and other abuses from the civil war that ended in 2009.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Wednesday she had seen no new or comprehensive Sri Lankan effort to properly and independently investigate as the UN's 47-nation Human Rights Council had repeatedly demanded.

As Australia and Britain were encouraging engagement, rather than isolation of Sri Lanka on Wednesday, Pillay said in the report that Sri Lanka might be sliding towards an authoritarian system, as President Mahinda Rajapaksa gathered power around him.

Her report said that she would recommend that the Council establish its own probe if the South Asian island nation does not show more "credible'' progress by March.

Pillay said the largely Buddhist So…

Miss America and the Indian Beauty Myth

Nina Davuluri made history Sunday night when she became the first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America. Much of the media coverage since has focused on the entirely predictable racist comments tweeted after she won ("OMG Miss America is a terrorist!" -- wow, I didn't see that one coming). Of course, that only lasted a few hours before public shaming websites popped up exposing the bigoted tweeters and encouraging followers to spam them back. The pushback is heartening and well-intentioned, but misses what ought to be the real shame target: India. After all, despite being a country of almost a billion people, India has left it to America to crown the first Indian beauty queen who looks... well, Indian.

The Indian beauty myth has its roots in the so-called history of the Aryan-Dravidian divide, which has permeated Indian consciousness for decades. As the story goes, Aryans invaded India sometime in 1200 B.C., driving Dravidians, the original Indian race, farther sou…

Give Moyes some Fergie time

Don’t expect any trophies from English champions Manchester United this season, as David Moyes rebuilds the team.

Manchester United fans won't want to hear it, and David Moyes certainly won't be thinking it, but it might be best for them to write this season off. Give him time.

If they win a big trophy of any description it will be a huge bonus.

This is no ordinary club and Moyes is no short term solution. He has been put in a desperately difficult situation which in the short term will be a nightmare, but which in the long term he can succeed.

As I wrote in this column, when news of Ferguson's retirement broke the great Scotsman's superlative reign could well have been cut short before a trophy was won. He is the best - but far from the only - example of time being given and faith being shown. Time is of course the last thing anyone in football is prepared to give, especially the over-excitable types on Twitter and phone-ins, egged on by swivel-eyed self-professed fo…

Mankind’s lifestyle in the year 2250

In 1776 Adam Smith published his “Wealth of Nations” which has guided economists and political thinkers ever since. It marks the start of the Industrial Revolution that began in England and then spread throughout most of the world. That was 237 years ago.

It is not that long ago - only 4 life-spans or so, the time of your great, great, great, grandparents. Where would we be 237 years hence? Presumably just as today we listen to Mozart, born 257 years ago, and watch or read Shakespeare, born 439 years ago - they have survived all changing tastes and spread well outside their original orbit of European culture to countries as varied as Japan, China, Argentina, Tanzania and South Korea; we can be sure that generations to come would have much the same cultural interests. In all likelihood in 2250 we would probably still enjoy tastes picked up from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, perhaps the Beatles, Picasso, some of the outstanding Nigerian and Indian novelists writi…

INDIA: The ruling won't end violence against women

Women in India's capital say the guilty verdict handed to four gang-rapists will change little in their society.

Let us take a look at "What next"? and What they have to say...

When a 23-year-old student died from injuries sustained during a gang-rape aboard a bus in this city, huge protests erupted across India, and in several other countries.

Newspaper columnists sought to expose the epidemic of rape in India, while public opinion turned vehemently against those men held for the prolonged attack.

Four men on Tuesday were found guilty of the rape and murder of the student in the December 2012 attack. They are due to be sentenced on Wednesday, and may face death by hanging. A fifth defendent, found to have been aged only 17 at the time of the attack, was last month sentenced to three years in jail.

A further suspect hanged himself while in prison awaiting trial.

The seven-month trial was held in a special fast-track court in south Delhi, with more than 100 witnesses call…

8-year-old Yemeni child dies at hands of 40-year-old husband on wedding night

Al Nahar, Lebanon, has reported that an eight year old child bride died in Yemen on her wedding night after suffering internal injuries due to sexual trauma. Human rights organizations are calling for the arrest of her husband who was five times her age.

The death occurred in the tribal area of Hardh in northwestern Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia. This brings even more attention to the already existing issue of forced child marriages in the Middle Eastern region.

"According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides. Furthermore, of the 140 million girls who will marry before the age of 18, 50 million will be under the age of 15."

It is reported that over a quarter of Yemen's young girls are married before the age of 15. Not only do they lose access to health and education, these child brides are commonly subjected to physical, emotional and sexual violence in their forced marriage.

One o…

Malaysia cuts subsidies on fuel

Malaysia has cut fuel subsidies for the first time in more than two years as it tries to reduce its budget deficit.

The subsidy on petrol has been cut by 20 sen a litre and on diesel by 20 to 80 sen a litre.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the cuts would result in savings of about 3.3bn ringgit ($1bn; £650m) a year.

The government spent 24bn ringgit on fuel subsidies last year, which contributed to a widening budget deficit.

Malaysia's budget deficit was 4.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

Ratings agency Fitch cited the high budget deficit as one of the factors that led it to cuts its outlook on Malaysia's credit rating to negative from stable in late August.

"It's a process of fiscal consolidation," Mr Najib said. "The market will feel more confident if we can bring down our fiscal deficit."

"The fact the announcement was made just weeks before the annual budget shows that one of the objectives is to defend the ringgit” - Song Seng…

Why monkeys misbehave?

A dearth of female monkeys, environmental damage and the shrinkage of their natural habitat have caused male monkeys to misbehave.

This has caused them to attack and bite human beings and also damage property.

Is Australia racist?

The 'lucky country' has its fair share of race issues, but no more than anywhere else.

One of the most common questions I am asked as an Australian abroad is, “why is your country so racist?” I answer by acknowledging that Australia has some race-based problems but no more than any other country.

In fact I often tell people I’ve seen far less racism and cultural disharmony at home than I have abroad, particularly in various parts of Asia.

Growing up and working in Australia, I can count on one hand the number of raw racist comments I have been subjected to.

The follow-up questions often focus on my Indian family, my upbringing in Australia, and how we’ve fared living in the land of plenty for the past 25 years. So, this is how I describe my island home and my family’s very "Aussie" existence.

My family held itself to one interesting house rule during my childhood: To raise me as an Australian first and as an Indian second. This does not mean that Indian culture and t…