Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Great Indian Onion Crisis

After the great  European Freeze, read on the great Indian onion crisis.
This is a re-post from BBC India's Soutik Biswas' blog.

Stink over onion crisis is enough to make you cry 
Soutik Biswas | 12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A spectre is haunting India - the spectre of an onion-less life.

Onion prices have shot through the roof this week, climbing to an eye-watering 85 rupees ($1.87; £1.20) a kilo from 35 rupees only last week. Crop damage due to unseasonal rains has apparently led to a shortage. Traders have been hoarding stockpiles of the staple food to make a killing, despite official threats to punish them.

A fretful government has banned exports till mid-January to bring prices down, and cut import duties on the vegetable. The prime minister, we are told, is busy writing letters imploring his farm and consumer affairs ministries to bring down prices quickly. The opposition is breathing fire.

Onions have stormed their way to the front pages of newspapers and the top of TV news bulletins. I counted two dozen stories on onions in a dozen-odd English papers today. One editorial chides the government for the price rise and asks it to "know your onions". "UPA [United Progressive Alliance, another name for the ruling Congress-led government] lands in onion soup", is a particularly colourful banner headline in another paper. "Onions: Weep till March", bemoans yet another headline, alluding to a minister's deadline to fix the crisis. And a tabloid's onion edit - teasingly called "More at work than onions" - is strategically placed between one on a corruption scandal besieging the government and another on the sizzling alleged affair between the British actress Liz Hurley and the Australian cricketer Shane Warne.

Chefs and cookbook writers have come out in droves giving out free tips on how to cope without onions. "My advice, especially to those who want to eat out," says one chef, "would be to shift to different cuisines for a while as onions are primarily used in Indian cooking." So try European and other Asian foods, he advises. At home, he says, substitute onions with tomatoes and curds. Onion lovers may not find that a very convincing answer.

Everyone is concerned about the prospect of life without onions in India. Most worried of all are the politicians. In 1998, onion inflation was partly blamed for the unseating of the Hindu nationalist BJP government in Delhi's state polls. Political pundits insist that steep onion prices also contributed to the now-defunct Janata Party's debacle in the 1980 general elections.

So why do high onion prices drive Indians up the wall and unseat governments? One onion exporter said to a paper: "Why does the consumer never compare prices of onions with those of other vegetables? No vegetable is available at less than 40 rupees a kg in the retail market."

It's simple. Onion is a vegetable that no Indian kitchen can do without. It is also the most egalitarian of vegetables. A poor peasant or worker's sparse meal is incomplete without a bite of the pungent bulb. The onion is pureed, satueed, fried and garnished in the rich man's feast as well. It also occupies a unique culinary space in Indian cooking.

It is a must for adding taste and crunch to many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It is eaten raw as a salad, pureed for flavouring and sauce for meats and garden vegetables; used as a dip; fried as fritters and crisps. Rustic medicinal beliefs have it that it has healing properties and reduces acidity. Indians believe onions cool the body in the searingly hot summers and keep fungal infections away during muggy monsoons. In the old days Hindu widows kept away from onions after their husbands' deaths as the humble bulb was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities. How can you possibly compare such an exalted vegetable with any other?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Manorama IPAD APP is coming!

This is official:  Manorama IPAD APP is coming!
this is a re-post from on kerala by Dr. Mario R. Garcia. 

Kerala: an enchanted land with millions of newspaper readers! 

TAKEAWAY: This is an industry that needs good, encouraging news, right? Well, take a detour to Kerala, in the scenic cone of southern India, a sort of Land of Oz for newspaper readers.

Recent front page of Malayala Manorama

It has been an intense two days here at Malayala Manorama, the newspaper that is read by approximately 10 million readers daily.

Yes, it takes your breath away just to mention that number in connection with a printed newspaper—-or in any platform for that matter.

My visit here this time has nothing to do with print. We at Garcia Media did a full redesign of Malayala Manorama (in Malayalan) and its sister weekly magazine The Week (in English) in 2004.

Figures just released today, tell us the happy story: Malayala Manorama retains the number 1 position among regional language dailies in India with 99.27 lacs readers (approximately 10 million). With this reanking, Malayala Manorama becomes the 4th largest read newspaper in the country, and the only non-Hindi publication in the top 5 list.

The honor of being number one, the most widely read newspaper in India is Dainik Jagran (Hindi) with close to 16 million readers, followed by Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi), 14 million; Hindustan——a current Garcia Media project—-with almost 11 million. The Times of India (English) is #7 on the list and the most widely read English language daily, with over 7 million daily readers.

By the way, another one of our Indian regional newspaper projects, Sakshi (in Telugu), published in Hyderabad, and which we created as a newspaper in March 2008, ranks #15 on the list with close to 5 million daily readers.

Indian readers take their newspapers seriously, and although the use of mobile telephones is widespread, they are used for conversation more than to read newspapers in them, obviously. As I have travelled through the rural stretch that connects the city of Cochin with Kottayam in scenic Kerala, I was impressed by the number of men and women sitting outdoors, or on the floor, with a newspaper open in front of them.

Are you listening, Ross Dawson?

Dawson, as readers of this blog may know, is the author of a much discussed Newspaper Extinction Deadline. In it, India truly got the honors of being the last country to say goodbye to printed newspapers as we know them.

According to Dawson, it will be India that will pull the plug, sell the old printing presses, turn off the light and hang a sign that reads: Gone apping!

Dawson’s website is about “opportunities for business and society in a hyper-connected world.

I am surprised that so many Indian publishers had no idea they were so honored. Twice this month, while conducting sessions, I have joked that I expect to be working in India till the very end of my career. Heck, I will be 93 in 2040 if I make it that far. But I don’t think I, or anyone, will be helping the Indians to hang that sign outside the door. However, I see surprise in the Indians’ faces when I tell them they have been given the honor of being the last country to still have printed newspapers.

“Nonsense,“ a publisher told me here. “Pure nonsense, this prediction.“ (I have heard the same reaction from others outside of India)

Not even an hour after this discussion came the report with those incredible, but true, numbers about Indian newspaper readership: 15 million readers here and 10 million there. The newspaper that was #33 on the list , Punya Nagari (in Marathi) even gets two million readers.

“We at Malayala Manorama see various platforms, and we are going to be represented in all of them,“ says Mammen Mathew, Editor

And, of course, Mr. Mathew made this statement as he joined us in the kick off of the Malayala Manorama iPad app workshop.

Six years after my first visit here to redesign Malayala Manorama, my visit this time is to help Malayala Manorama as it looks to the future in a new platform—-the tablet.
The iPad workshop

Many ask me what my IPad workshop involves. As I have just completed today here in Kerala, let me share the information with you:

Two days, that is what it takes to get a group of devoted members of the iPad project team ready to understand how the tablet works, how print and online relate to the tablet, how to create a model.

First, the workshop is scheduled as Phase One of the iPad project, once the management has decided to go iPad—-or at least to explore its grand possibilities.

The two-day workshop involves the following:

--Introduction: a presentation of about 90 minutes outlining all that we know about the iPad and how to get started in the creation of a news app.
-Exploring the existing publiation’s DNA: a discussion of the strenghs of the newspaper or magazine and how to enhance them and give them longer legs on the app.
Sketching: first basic aspects of sketching. I am a firm believer that the discussion of what will be cannot go too far without screens showing it.
Information architecture: a key part of the workshop, involving the entire team, but especially the technical ones, how navigation will be carried out; how do we move from here to there; the maps that lead us to our destinations inside the app. Perhaps the most important point of the workshop.
A final working sketch: at the end of the two days, we have a full working sketch with the main parts of the architecture, content flow, visual details (tyography, color palette) and the basics of storytelling.

Of special interest

The Great Murdoch iPad Debate | The New York Observer

Why the iPad should rival the web

USA: Wall Street Journal Magazine, New York Section Profitable, CEO Hinton Says

TheMarioBlog post #684

Posted by Dr. Mario R. Garcia on December 02, 2010

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Thursday, 2 December 2010

WikiLeaks Cable Gate and the phophesy of Simon in the temple

WikiLeaks Cable Gate:
 "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, 
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,so that the thoughts of many 
hearts will be revealed...."( Luke 2:33-35)
The Guardian - "Where are the Wikileaks Cables From?

Wikileaks cablegate is an important event in our recent history.
It is important not because of its content alone, but also because  of the reactions it generates, short-term as well as long-term.
It reveals the thoughts of many hearts, to the grand public. This is a way of viewing the world in all its colors possible...the fears, the doubts, the silences, the silent wishes...
anyway, Hello world, have a  great cablegate journey!

a re-post from THE ECONOMIST

point of WikiLeaks Dec 1st 2010, 22:54 by W.W. | IOWA CITY

DAVID BROOK's recent column and Ross Douthat's reply to my defence of WikiLeaks have helped me to pin down and articulate the source of a nagging but previously inchoate sense that somehow we're all missing the bigger picture.

Let me start by suggesting that the politicians and pundits calling for Julian Assange's head are playing into his hands. As all eyes track the international albino of mystery, the human and physical infrastructure of a much larger, more distributed movement continues to expand and consolidate far beyond the spotlight. If Mr Assange is murdered tomorrow, if WikiLeaks' servers are cut off for a few hours, or a few days, or forever, nothing fundamental is really changed. With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.

Yet the debate over WikiLeaks has proceeded as if the matter might conclude with the eradication of these kinds of data dumps—as if this is a temporary glitch in the system that can be fixed; as if this is a nuisance that can be made to go away with the application of sufficient government gusto. But I don't think the matter can end this way. Just as technology has made it easier for governments and corporations to snoop ever more invasively into the private lives of individuals, it has also made it easier for individuals, working alone or together, to root through and make off with the secret files of governments and corporations. WikiLeaks is simply an early manifestation of what I predict will be a more-or-less permanent feature of contemporary life, and a more-or-less permanent constraint on strategies of secret-keeping.

Consider what young Bradley Manning is alleged to have accomplished with a USB key on a military network. It was impossible 30 years ago to just waltz out of an office building with hundreds of thousands of sensitive files. The mountain of boxes would have weighed tons. Today, there are millions upon millions of government and corporate employees capable of downloading massive amounts of data onto tiny devices. The only way WikiLeaks-like exposés will stop is if those with the permissions necessary to access and copy sensitive data refuse to do so. But as long as some of those people retain a sense of right and wrong—even if it is only a tiny minority—these leaks and these scandals will continue.

The basic question is not whether we think Julian Assange is a terrorist or a hero. The basic question certainly is not whether we think exposing the chatter of the diplomatic corps helps or hinders their efforts, and whether this is a good or bad thing. To continue to focus on these questions is to miss the forest for the texture of the bark on a single elm. If we take the inevitability of future large leaks for granted, then I think the debate must eventually centre on the things that will determine the supply of leakers and leaks. Some of us wish to encourage in individuals the sense of justice which would embolden them to challenge the institutions that control our fate by bringing their secrets to light. Some of us wish to encourage in individuals ever greater fealty and submission to corporations and the state in order to protect the privileges and prerogatives of the powerful, lest their erosion threaten what David Brooks calls "the fragile community"—our current, comfortable dispensation.