Thursday, December 24, 2009

The real life showman

MG Ramachandran a.k.a MGR was a real life show man. Of course, there is the small matter of him being a matinee idol of unmatched proportions. On 24th December 1987, fate drew curtains on his illustrious life. After years of struggle, the evergreen hero lost his only battle to fate. For once, he couldn't deliver the deeds like he has done all his life as a screen star and politician. During his last rite, more than a million people joined his last procession and 40 other fanatics killed themselves. Hundreds and hundreds of others shaved their heads as a show of grief. The man was a phenomenon.

MGR's life was not a spotless one and he never claimed it to be one. He had his fair share of detractors and adversaries. But like all his movies, the fight was mostly one sided and the star came out trumps all the time. When people credit his successes as a politician to his status as a matinee idol, nothing can be more insulting. Though he became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in only his first election after floating his political party, he was a hard core member of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan for years before that. His work as a party member and astute choice of roles in films fast tracked his race to Fort St. George.

Even 22 years after his death, he has a faithful fan base. Some of his movies of 1950s and 1960s still pull crowds by hundreds. Take a bow to Tamil nadu's own Don Corleone.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cricket With Balls

A post about Sehwag's brilliant 293 againt Srilanka.

One of the very best I've read.

Biopiracy - A Perspective

"In the Kali-Yuga..The people had all fallen prey to delusion and all pious acts had been swallowed by greed"
--Tulasi Ramayana

Vedas say that during the age of Kali, piety and benevolence will leave way to greed and malice. Biopiracy could arguably be the zenith of man's greed for money and power. It shows the extent to which humans stoop down for material gains.

What is biopiracy ?

The standard definition of biopiracy goes something like this.

"Ways that corporations from the developed world claim ownership of, free ride on, or otherwise take unfair advantage of, the genetic resources and traditional knowledge and technologies of developing countries for commercial gains"

Simply put, it is the ways and means by which large corporations take advantage of poor, unsuspecting third world countries and make money by plundering their traditional knowledge and practices. It is just like stealing candy from a kid on the road, except in this case, the thief has the gumption to go back to the kid, with police protection and sells the same candy for a price.

In 1990s, through treachery and deceit, big companies in US and Europe started patenting life forms like seeds and grains that are common knowledge in developing countries for exclusive production and sale in world market. This violated the sanity of patents and patent laws. A very brief understanding of patents will help here.

Patents and Intellectual Property Rights

A patent gives an individual or a firm the right and the privilege to a limited legal monopoly and control to make, use and sell its invention and/or discovery including the right to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention to the market. To be patentable, an invention must be

useful and

Patentable articles fall under FOUR categories:-

Machine: any apparatus or device with interrelated parts that function together to perform the designed or planned purposes.
Manufacture: manufactured or fabricated items
Process: mechanical, electrical, chemical or other methods that produce a chemical or physical variation in the condition or state of an item
Composition of matter: chemical compounds or mixtures possessing properties different from their constituent ingredients.

As a rule, patent statues does not cover living things and anything deemed obvious.

In this context, patenting seeds or grains is simply out of the question.

But there is one question yet to be answered. How can a US patent affect farmers in India and elsewhere ?

TRIPs and the World Terrorist Organization

In 1994, heads of developed countries and not so developed countries signed an agreement called Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights as part of the framework for present day WTO.

This established few things which gave undue advantage to developed countries like US, UK and Japan.

Any country interested in global trade must be a member of WTO. All WTO member must sign TRIPs. Non-Negotiable.

(1) It essentially made violating a US patent in India as an offense. Also, the terms and conditions of TRIPs were simply copied from US patent laws that was already in favour of large corporations. It made some changes that made a drastic impact on poorer countries.

(2) On statue is moving from process patents to product patents thereby eliminating cheap alternatives to US inventions

Most of the present day social maladies can be traced back to this ill-advised global trade policy.

TRIPs armed the companies in US to snoop in the backyards of poor countries, patent their plunder in USA and get a firm control over them globally. One must be clear on Biopiracy. TRIPs is grand larceny but legal. Biopiracy is outright illegal.

Cases of Biopiracy


In 1994, when the world was spiraling towards insanity over various interpretations of WTO and TRIPS, millions of farmers in India protested the TRIPS agreement. As a sign of protest, they carried neem twigs and branches. Even Dan Brown couldn't have conjured a better symbolism to this.

Beginning from early 1970s Robert Larson, a timber exporter in US started to understand the benefits of Neem. He slowly imported Neem seeds and trees ans started growing them in US. As 1980s wore down, he and his friends have developed ways to extract different compounds from Neem and had products ready for sale. By 1994, around 14 patents were given to Neem based extracts alone. When India started to take notice, The US congress supported these patent approvals on two grounds.

1) The patents were for novel methods to extract compounds from neem
==> The details of these "novel" methods were found to be American version of the methods used by Indian farmers.
2) Patent can be giving to synthetic production of Azadirachtin, a compound, found in Neem
==> It seems that the members of US congress watch too many of those American Sci-Fy movies. As of 1994, USA did not figure out a way to synthetically manufacture Azadirachtin.

Trouble started when the companies started selling products based on those extracts. Many NGOs started the protest, most notably, Navadhanya and Dr.Vandanna Shiva became prominent figures in the struggle

Legal Recourse

When it was found that the issue could not be swept under the carpet, the Indian Government Challenged the patents in US courts. Soon, noted Indian scientists joined the battle and started giving published reports on the uses of Neem documented in India over the years. US Patent office identifies anything published and open to public domain is cannot be counted as innovation and hence are not eligible for patent. The case gathered support and steam and finally, the patents were revoked by the patent office.

Basmati Rice

This is the star attraction in any discussion on biopiracy.

On 2 September 1997, the Texas-based Rice Tec Inc was granted US patent 5,663,484 on Basmati rice lines and grains. Rice Tec gained patent rights on Basmati rice and grains while already trading in its brand names such as Kasmati, Texmati and Jasmati. This patent allows Rice Tec to sell a "new" variety of Basmati, which it claims to have developed under the name of Basmati, in the US and abroad.

The following abstract from patent number 5,663484, issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) demonstrates how broad a patent can be: "The invention relates to novel rice lines and to plants and grains of these lines and to a method for breeding these lines. The invention also relates to a novel means for determining the cooking and starch properties of rice grains and its use in identifying desirable rice lines."

The Basmati variety, on which Rice Tec has claimed a patent, has been derived from Indian Basmati crossed with semi-dwarf varieties, including indica varieties. Thus the patent is for a variety that is essentially derived from a farmers' variety. It is simply cross-breeding. Therefore it should not be treated as novel and the patent falsely claims a derivation as an invention. (Basmati Rice Patent, RAFI Geno-Types, April 1998.) Basmati is unique to the Punjab border region of India and Pakistan; in the same way that champagne is unique to a specific area of France.

According to a dossier by Research Foundation for Science and Technology, the Basmati patent is a clear case of biopiracy and represents a theft in three ways:

— It is a theft of collective intellectual biodivesity heritage of Indian farmers who have evolved and bred Basmati varieties.

— It is a theft from Indian traders and exporters whose markets are being stolen by the theft of Indian aromatic rice varieties.

— It is a theft of the name "Basmati" which describes the aromatic characteristics of the rice.

These are just two cases from India. There are countless other more depressing stories stating the obvious,
"thou shall seek money, who cares about none"

Monday, December 21, 2009

How Unimaginative

I got this junk mail today. Shows how unimaginative and crass the crook is.

Sat, 19 December, 2009 10:31:32 AM
Bel Valves Group
Add to Contacts

I crave your indulgence to permit me introduce myself,am Mr.Donald Powell,the permanent secretary to the CEO of Bel Valve Group here in London.

We are currently preparing the final list of staffs that are due for retirement in our branches North America and London and each of them are entitle to the sum of US$2.5 Million as their total take home package.

I will like to include your name in the pay roll,since am the person preparing the final list of those that is due to retirement.

If you are interested in this offer,quickly get back to me for more details,i am prepared to offer you 40% of the whole fund.

Mr.Donald Powell

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==> Which US company is dolling out $2.5 million dollars as a blanket amount ?