Tag Archive for 'Nobel Prize'

Is this the end for Muhammad Yunus?

In Foreign Policy:

The last hope for Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the path breaking microcredit institution Grameen Bank, rests with a hearing in the appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh that on Tuesday was postponed for two weeks.

Last week, after three days of argument, a lower court, the High Court upheld the legality of an order given the previous week by the country’s central bank that required him to leave his post of managing director because he was over 60 years of age. Yunus is now 70, and the High Court held that Grameen Bank’s own staff regulations required employees to retire at 60, including him.

Yunus’s own lawyers reject that interpretation of the law and hope now to persuade the appellate division that the High Court decision was “entirely perverse,” “a total departure from all ordinary norms of practice,” and “a total denial of justice,” as they write in their appeal filing.

If the High Court decision stands, not only will Yunus be out of a job, it will also mean that at the time he received his Nobel prize in October 2006, he was illegally holding the position of managing director at the bank. Who knows what would be the legal status of decisions and agreements that Yunus made since 1990?

The charge that Yunus unlawfully stayed in his post is just one of the government’s many allegations.

Last week, Sajeeb Wazed, the prime minister’s son, who has also been appointed as her advisor, sent out an email setting out a series of allegations against the bank including “fraud,” “theft,” “tax evasion,” “draconian” methods of loan recovery and “embezzlement.” He admitted that the source of these allegations — which are forcefully denied by Grameen Bank — are government legal papers. More:

What if Arundhati Roy won the Nobel Peace Prize?

Rupa Subramanya Dehejia in WSJ:

“This year’s Nobel Peace Prize goes to Arundhati Roy for championing the cause of oppressed minorities in India, particularly Kashmiris and Maoists.”

This may be a dream for some and a nightmare for others but how would Indians react to this scenario? After all, in recent years, to most observers, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has been making bold and politically charged statements in their choice of laureates. So it would not be an outlandish possibility if Ms. Roy were to win or at any rate be shortlisted in the near future.

Much has been said, mostly critical, of China’s reaction to the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident and pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo. China has called him a “criminal” guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” and doing “everything possible to sabotage China’s development and stability.” Many national leaders, much of the international media and political activists all over the world think of Mr. Xiaobo as a champion of human rights and democracy through non-violent protest and therefore fully deserving of this prize.

Optics are everything and all depends on your perspective. Outside India, Ms. Roy is a darling of social activists on the left but is decried and reviled by many in India for her provocative statements that appear to question what many consider sacrosanct Indian values. Most recently, at a convention of political activists on Kashmir, she stated that Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. And earlier this year, she made remarks that were widely construed as sympathetic to the Maoist insurgency. More:

The dissident Mahatma who never won the Nobel

Shashi Tharoor in The Times of India:

With the Nobel Peace Prize presented in the absence of this year’s laureate, the imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, it might be wise to think of a man who never won the prize: Mahatma Gandhi. Despite that omission, there is no doubting Gandhiji’s worldwide significance – including for Liu.

The Mahatma’s image now features in advertising campaigns for everything from Apple computers to Mont Blanc pens. When the film “Gandhi” swept the Oscars in 1983, posters for the film proclaimed that “Gandhi’s triumph changed the world forever.” But did it?

The case for Gandhi-led global change rests principally on the American civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, who attended a lecture on Gandhi, bought a half-dozen books about the Mahatma, and adopted satyagraha as both precept and method. In leading the struggle to break down segregation in the southern US, King used non-violence more effectively than anyone else outside India. “Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence,” he memorably declared. “We must meet the forces of hate with soul force.”

King later avowed that “the Gandhian method of non-violent resistance…became the guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, and Gandhi furnished the method.” Last month, Barack Obama told Parliament that were it not for Gandhi, he would not be standing there as America’s president. More:

Nobel winner Venkatraman Ramakrishnan not worthy of phone without deposit

Amit Roy from London in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan feels he has been deliberately humiliated by the mobile phone company O2 which treated him less favourably than most customers by forcing him to pay a £325 deposit and refusing to budge even after he had explained he was an established scientist with an impeccable record of paying his bills.

“I am actually slightly suspicious that there is an element of racism at play here as well, since I can’t think of a logical reason why I should be denied credit,” said Ramakrishnan, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for chemistry, worth $1.4 million, with two other scientists.

The problems began on December 2 last year when Ramakrishnan, a US citizen settled with his wife in Cambridge for the past 10 years, went to a city centre O2 store to buy the highly recommended iPhone 3GS black, 32 Mb.

Ramakrishnan had no difficulty with the young white assistant who served him but the store’s manager insisted he would have to pay a deposit if he wanted the phone. Customers considered credit-worthy are not usually asked to pay such a deposit. More:

A little less nationalistic hero worship, please

When India-born Venkatraman Ramakrishnan won the Nobel Prize for chemistry with two others, he was flooded with adulatory emails from India. He expressed disenchantment with people from India “bothering” him, “clogging” up his e-mail box and dubbed as “strange” their sudden urge to reach out to him. “There are also people who have never bothered to be in touch with me for decades who suddenly feel the urge to connect. I find this strange,” he said.

In a subsequent article in the Times of India, he clarified what he meant:

I am distressed by the reaction to my comment about being deluged by emails from India, and realize I have inadvertently hurt people, for which I apologize. I hope people realize that I have no personal secretary and use my email mainly for work, so finding important communications became very difficult.

I want to make it clear that I was delighted to hear from scientific colleagues and students whom I had met personally over the years in India and elsewhere, as well as close friends with whom I had lost touch. Unlike real celebrities like movie stars or people in sports, we scientists generally lead a quiet life, and are not psychologically equipped to handle publicity. So I found the barrage of emails from people whom I didn’t know or whom I only knew slightly almost 40 years ago (nearly all from Indians) difficult to deal with.

People have also taken offence at my comment about nationality being an accident of birth. However, they don’t seem to notice the first part of the sentence: We are all human beings. Accident or not, I remain grateful to all the dedicated teachers I had throughout my years. Others have said I have disowned my roots. More:

The Nobel prize for economics: crisis of legitimacy

Jayati Ghosh, professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru university, New Delhi, in the Guardian:

The geographical distribution of the award both creates and reflects power hierarchies in the discipline. The economics prize has been awarded 40 times to 62 recipients, 42 of whom have been from the US, while more than 50 were working in the US at the time of the award. The University of Chicago has 11 laureates, leading to the joke about “the Stockholm-Chicago Express”. This does not reflect the actual state of economic knowledge so much as the biases and blindness of the jury. Only two people from developing countries have received it (Arthur Lewis and Amartya Sen) and both worked in the US and Britain. Only three with an interest in the economics of developing countries – which is the economic reality for around three quarters of the world’s population – have received the award.

In recent years the prize has been focused on financial market behaviour. In 1997, the award went to two economists – Robert Merton and Myron Scholes – who were supposed to have discovered a method of valuing derivatives that could reduce or eliminate risk in financial investment. When the hedge fund they ran (Long Term Capital Management) went bust within the year and had to be rescued by the US federal reserve, there was some embarrassment. Perhaps to right this wrong, a few years later the prize was given to economists George Akerlof and Joseph Stiglitz, who had pointed to the imperfect functioning of financial markets. The award last year to Paul Krugman may also have indicated some bowing to changing times. More:

India-born scientist wins Nobel

venkatraman_nobelVenkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan, an India-born structural biologist whose quest for scientific excellence took him from undergraduate schools in India to graduate and post-doc studies in US and research in UK, has been  named a joint winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for helping to discover how cells transform genetic code into living matter. He is currently affiliated with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK

Ramakrishnan, 57, shares the award – and 10m Swedish kronor (£900,000) – with Thomas Steitz at Yale University, Connecticut, and Ada Yonath, the first Israeli woman to win a Nobel prize, at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot.

Ramakrishnan was born in the temple town of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu in 1952. When he was two, his parents moved to Gujarat.

Both his parents, father C.V. Ramakrishnan and mother Rajalakshmi, were scientists and taught biochemistry at the Maharaj Sayajirao University until they retired in the eighties. The elder Ramakrishnan, now 85, lives in Seattle, where daughter Lalita – also a scientist – teaches. Rajalakshmi, who did pioneering work on developing child nutrition in India, passed away two years ago.

More here and here. His Wiki page here.

My son has always followed his heart: Times of India spoke to his father.

Holy man

What does the Dalai Lama stand for, really, wonders Pankaj Mishra in New Yorker

dalailama.jpg

Last November, a couple of weeks after the Dalai Lama received a Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush, his old Land Rover went on sale on eBay. Sharon Stone, who once introduced the Tibetan leader at a fundraiser as “Mr. Please, Please, Please Let Me Back Into China!” (she meant Tibet), announced the auction on YouTube, promising the prospective winner of the 1966 station wagon, “You’ll just laugh the whole time that you’re in it!” The bidding closed at more than eighty thousand dollars. The Dalai Lama, whom Larry King, on CNN, once referred to as a Muslim, has also received the Lifetime Achievement award of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. He is the only Nobel laureate to appear in an advertisement for Apple and guest-edit French Vogue. Martin Scorsese and Brad Pitt have helped commemorate his Lhasa childhood on film. He gave a lecture at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in Washington, D.C., in 2005. This spring, in Germany, he will speak on human rights and globalization. For someone who claims to be “a simple Buddhist monk,” the Dalai Lama has a large carbon footprint and often seems as ubiquitous as Britney Spears.

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A Monk’s Struggle

In Time magazine, Pico Iyer’s startlingly intimate account of the Dalai Lama and what he stands for

“Since China wants to join the world community,” the 14th Dalai Lama said as I was traveling across Japan with him for a week last November, “the world community has a real responsibility to bring China into the mainstream.” The whole world stands to gain, he pointed out, from a peaceful and unified China—not least the 6 million Tibetans in China and Chinese-occupied Tibet. “But,” he added, “genuine harmony must come from the heart. It cannot come from the barrel of a gun.”

I thought of those measured and forgiving words—the Dalai Lama still prays for his “Chinese brothers and sisters” every morning and urges Tibetans to learn Chinese so they can talk with their new rulers, not fight with them—as reports trickled out of Tibet of freedom demonstrations that have led to some of the bloodiest confrontations in the region since similar protests preceded a brutal crackdown in the late 1980s. The violence has left 99 people dead, according to Tibetan exile groups; the Chinese government says 13 “innocents” were killed in the riots. Soon after monks began demonstrating in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, Chinese forces moved to contain the marchers, but the disturbances spread to other Tibetan cities, and their causes clearly remain unresolved. Working out how best to avoid further embarrassment as they prepare for the start of the Olympic-torch relay on March 25 will be a tricky challenge for China’s rulers. As a diplomat told TIME, “They need to get this under control, but to do so without a lot of brutality.”

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