Save A Mother in Uttar Pradesh, India

UPDATE May 7, 2010: Last chance to give a little bit to this worthwhile charity! Please do. I did.

We at 3 Quarks are proud that our own Dr. Shiban Ganju does so much more than write brilliant essays for us. I will let 3QD friend Ruchira Paul explain what I am talking about, as she is directcly involved with Shiban's work. This is Ruchira in her own blog, Accidental Blogger:

The Indian or Indian American charities that I support are usually small, and their sponsors are often people that friends, family members or I myself know and admire. Recently I became involved with Save A Mother, a foundation that does most of its fundraising in the US to benefit rural outreach programs in India that promote, facilitate and raise awareness of maternal health care.

ScreenHunter_04 Apr. 27 11.35 The organization was founded and is spearheaded by Dr. Shiban Ganju, a gastroenterologist in Chicago. Dr. Ganju and I first became acquainted through my frequent comments on 3 Quarks Daily where he is a guest columnist. A few months ago he invited me to join Save A Mother as a volunteer. After a couple of meetings with Dr. Ganju and his sister Veena Kaul who heads the Houston chapter of the charity, during which they educated me about the structure and the operational methods of the foundation, I agreed. I am impressed by the ambitious objectives of the program and the simple solutions it offers for a problem which affects a vast number of poor women in India. Here they are in a nutshell:

India Development Service (IDS) Save-A-Mother project aims to minimize suffering and death associated with pregnancy and child birth. We have been working in partnership with local NGOs in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Many other regions in India and rest of the world are in a similar situation where this program can be replicated.

Every day, over 160 women die in India from pregnancy and complications of child birth.

Save-A-Mother programs educate women about pregnancy, nutrition, immunization, delivery and care of the child. Save-A-Mother has a complementary benefit in saving the child also.

Our Objectives

1. Decrease maternal mortality by 50% in Sultanpur in 5 years. (Pilot Project)
Replicate this model to two more districts in 2 more years and institutionalise the program.
Replicate the program to vulnerable districts where mortality exceeds the national average.
Partner with NGOs in other high MMR countries

More here. We have also placed the ChipIn widget below in the right-hand column to help raise funds for Shiban and Ruchira's organization (it is just below the BlogAds). Please give generously to this worthwhile charity if you can. Thank you.

THE PEOPLE v. BUSH & Company

H. P. Albarelli Jr in News From the Underground:

ScreenHunter_02 May. 07 15.32 That small group of people in the United States attuned to the ever-evolving sounds and gyrations coming out of both Washington, D.C. and the country’s heartland are becoming keenly aware that something new is amidst the land of the free and brave. Of late, there is a new elemental sense at play across the country. Occasionally, through the billowing dust of social and economic turmoil and misery there is spotted a rough beast of sorts plodding across the landscape toward the general populace; a previously unseen harbinger of forthright principles and convictions strongly laced with courage and perseverance. Last week, master political observer and analyst Brent Budowsky remarked on the same when he wrote, “The battle in truth has only begun. On many of our great issues we stand with the center of America. Our numbers are huge, our potential is unlimited.” Budowsky is spot on.

With a little bit of luck, maybe, just maybe, a woman named Charlotte Dennett may end up riding the crest of the approaching wave of conviction that may push an old and new generation of fed-up Americans toward affecting real change across the nation. Who is Dennett? And what is her message in these times of mixed-messages and all around turmoil?

The best answers to these questions, and more, can de discovered in a new book intriguingly entitled, The People v. Bush. The book is the remarkable story, told in her own words, of attorney Charlotte Dennett’s fight to bring President George W. Bush to justice for his crimes while in office and the “national grassroots movement” she encountered along the way.

More here.

two carvers


Vladimir Nabokov referred to editors as “pompous avuncular brutes.” T.S. Eliot said that many of them were just “failed writers.” And Kingsley Amis, that laureate of cantankerousness, spoke of how the worst kind

prowls through your copy like an overzealous gardener with a pruning hook, on the watch for any phrase he senses you were rather pleased with, preferably one that also clinches your argument and if possible is essential to the general drift of the surrounding passage.

Raymond Carver, at least to begin with, was on altogether better terms with his editor, Gordon Lish, to whom he once wrote, “If I have any standing or reputation or credibility in the world, I owe it to you.” Elsewhere Carver acknowledged his debt to Lish by saying simply that his editor held an “irredeemable note.” This brief, eloquent tribute is paid in the essay “Fires,” which Carver wrote during a stay at Yaddo, the artist’s colony in upstate New York, in the summer of 1981. He had every reason to be feeling grateful. A few months earlier his second short-story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, had been published and was still being hailed and heralded by the literary world.

more from Giles Harvey at the NYRB here. My own thoughts on the Craver/Lish thing (Will You Please Stop Editing, Please?) here.

short on cubism


It took the Metropolitan Museum of Art nearly 50 years to wake up to Pablo Picasso. It didn’t own one of his paintings until 1946, when Gertrude Stein bequeathed that indomitable quasi-Cubistic picture of herself—a portrait of the writer as a sumo Buddha—to the Met, principally because she disliked the Museum of Modern Art. Yet even this didn’t provide the Met a shot in its curatorial arm. (As late as the fifties, Met director Francis Henry Taylor was still calling MoMA “that whorehouse on 53rd Street.”) Only in 1979, after hiring the curator William S. Lieberman away from MoMA, did it start its long game of catch-up. Today, after relying on the kindness of donors and spending untold millions, the Met owns more of his work than any American museum except MoMA. “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” includes 300 works—nearly all the Picassos it owns. Given the fitful way this collection was assembled, it’s not surprising that it provides an uneven view of the artist’s singular career. Certain bodies of work (notably the Blue- and Rose-period paintings; several fantastic works on paper from the early teens; a handful of stunning masterpieces from the thirties) are jaw-dropping. Other periods, like his Cubist years and the late decades of his life, are practically absent. Yet in its meandering way, the Met’s show keeps an important revisionist ball rolling. Along with two other stellar Picasso exhibitions currently running, it’s helping sweep away the ridiculous, pernicious conventional view that Picasso was mediocre before Cubism and washed up afterward—that after his one huge paradigm shift from about 1906 to 1914, he sputtered through a sad, 60-year end.

more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.

The dolphin as our beast of burden

D. Graham Burnett in Orion:

ScreenHunter_01 May. 07 14.58 Tursiops truncatus—a slate-gray, slick-skinned net thief, which coastal fishermen of the late nineteenth-century Atlantic sometimes called the “herring hog” in disgust—would, by the 1970s, leap in the vanguard of the Age of Aquarius, enjoying an improbable secular canonization as the superintelligent, ultrapeaceful, erotically uninhibited totem of the counterculture. And to this day, for many, the bottlenose—mainstay of aquatic ecotourism, beloved water-park performer, smiling incarnation of soulful holism—represents a cetacean version of our better selves. If, as Thoreau wrote a few years after the slaying of the Dart River dolphin, “animals . . . are all beasts of burden, in a sense, made to carry a portion of our thoughts,” then there are few creatures that have done more hauling for Homo sapiens in the twentieth century than Tursiops truncatus.

How? Why? Answering these questions demands a turn through the strange history of postwar American science and culture, and the unbraiding of a set of unlikely historical threads: Cold War brain science, military bioacoustics, Hollywood mythopoesis, and early LSD experimentation. Recovering our strange and changing preoccupations with the bottlenose dolphin across the twentieth century is, in the end, an adult swim.

More here. [Thanks to S. Asad Raza.]

the shudderer


So Eliot was sensitive to certain manifestations of the uncanny, and to terrors that might well cause shuddering. We have now to ask a more difficult question: why did those lines of In Memoriam affect Eliot so exceptionally, move him to use ‘shudder’ as a laudatory critical term? Of course we may say that Victor Hugo had already done this when he told Baudelaire that in writing Les Fleurs du mal he was creating ‘un frisson nouveau’. And many of us remember the days when ‘the metaphysical shudder’ was a stock term in discussions of Donne and his contemporaries. But in the In Memoriam passage the shudder is not a metaphysical shudder. In what is as far as I know his only essay on Tennyson, Eliot certainly intends praise. His first sign of enthusiasm is for a line or a fragment of a line from ‘Mariana’, which, he thinks, offers something ‘wholly new’: ‘The blue fly sung in the pane.’ So far the youthful Tennyson has excelled as a metrist and indeed is credited with most of the attributes of greatness without quite deserving to be called ‘great’. Yet, Eliot says, this line or fragment ‘is enough to tell us that something important has happened’. Now the line has many clear merits, it conveys a recognisably melancholy, apprehensive mood of waiting; and it may conceivably be true to say, as Eliot does, that its effect depends finally on reading ‘sung’ for ‘sang’. The line belongs to a good poem, rightly praised as a whole; but there was still something distinctive about it: it got itself chosen. The only explanation offered is that ‘something important has happened.’

more from Frank Kermode at the LRB here.

Friday Poem

The Immigrants

They are allowed to inherit
the sidewalks involved as palmlines, bricks
exhuasted and soft, the deep
lawnsmells, orchards whorled
to the lands contours, the inflected weather

only to be told they are too poor
to keep it up, or someone
has noticed and wants to kill them; or the towns
pass laws which declare them obsolete.

I see them coming
up from the hold smelling of vomit,
infested, emaciated, their skins grey
with travel; as they step on shore

the old countries recede, become
perfect, thumbnail castles preserved
like gallstones in a glass bottle, the
towns dwindle upon the hillsides
in a light paperweight-clear.

They carry their carpetbags and trunks
with clothes, dishes, the family pictures;
they think they will make an order
like the old one, sow miniature orchards,
carve children and flocks out of wood

but always they are too poor, the sky
is flat, the green fruit shrivels
in the prairie sun, wood is for burning;
and if they go back, the towns

in time have crumbled, their tongues
stumble among awkward teeth, their ears
are filled with the sound of breaking glass.
I wish I could forget them
and so forget myself:

my mind is a wide pink map
across which move year after year
arrows and dotted lines, further and further,
people in railway cars

their heads stuck out of the windows
at stations, drinking milk or singing,
their features hidden with beards or shawls
day and night riding across an ocean of unknown
land to an unknown land.

by Margret Atwood
from Marget Atwood Selected Poems;
Simon and Shuster, 1976

Death Penalty: Shehzad should get same punishment as McVeigh

Moin Ansari in Dawn (Karachi):

Faisal The rapid arrest, prosecution, and detention of Mr. Faisal Shahzad and the way it was handled makes us all proud of America and its judicial system. The FBI did the right thing in reading Mr. Faisal Shahzad his legal rights. Mr. Shahzad is no different than Timothy McVeigh or Jeffery Dahmer. American society knows well how to deal with humans and with animals. The FBI did not resort to torture, yet it accomplished its goals–of preventing damage to life and property of Americans, and preventing the escape of “person” who has truly lost his right to call himself human.

Mr. Shahzad should have known that there is no discrimination, or war that justifies the killing of innocent human beings in Times Square. There is no excuse for parking a car laden with murder in the heart of New York. There is no calamity great enough to try to justify the plan to kill the hard working and the innocent in the commercial hub of America. No matter how bad the grievance, there is nothing that can ever justify anyone to take the law in his own hands.

Murder is murder.

There is no excuse for murder.

The Bible says “Thou shalt not kill”. The Quran says “the murder of one human being is like the murder of all humanity”. No religion on this planet allows a human being to target bombs and shrapnel at passersby. commuters, shopkeepers, strollers, women, children and simply people going about their business.

These people have not harmed anyone.

Mr. Shahzad you are not one of us–we are all human beings first–you have fallen below that category. We are all Americans, you sir do not qualify either as a human being, or an American. And for the love of God, you certainly do not qualify as a Muslim.

Don’t even try that—you are not my brother–and we want nothing to do with your credo. You have brought shame to your family, to your country of birth and to America–which was hospitable and generous to you.

More here.

European and Asian genomes have traces of Neanderthal

From Nature:

Neand The genomes of most modern humans are 1–4% Neanderthal — a result of interbreeding with the close relatives that went extinct 30,000 years ago, according to work by an international group of researchers. The team, led by Svante Pääbo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, is reporting only 60% of the Neanderthal genome. But sequencing even this much of the genome was thought to be impossible just a decade ago. “This will change our view of humanity,” says John Hardy, a neuroscientist at University College London who was not involved in the research but studies genetic neurodegenerative diseases.

The drive to sequence the complete Neanderthal genome began about five years ago following the invention of better, faster methods for sequencing DNA. From three Neanderthal bones found in Vindija Cave in Croatia, the team extracted a total of about 300 milligrams of bone. The bones date to between 38,300 and 44,400 years ago, and some have been broken open posibbly to remove their marrow — a sign of cannibalism. Countless fragments of degraded ancient DNA were extracted from the bones, used to create libraries of sequences and then reassembled by computer into the draft Neanderthal genome comprising nearly 2 billion base-pairs. The researchers used the genomes of modern humans and the chimpanzee as references to get the sequence in the correct order. They publish their work in Science this week.

More here.

the lord


The writer Thomas Mann, responding by letter to a young James Lord, wrote that he possessed ‘the gift of admiration’ which ‘above all enables a talented person to learn’. James was the third of four sons, born to Albert, a stockbroker, and Louise, whose family had made their wealth manufacturing stoves. He spent his early childhood in a tranquil suburb of New York – holidaying in Paris, Maine. By the age of just eight Lord already displayed a talent for writing, completing a biography of Beethoven before his early teens. But he struggled with the strictures of his private education and eventually left Wesleyan University, Connecticut, without graduating. Lord served as an officer in the intelligence services and by the age of twenty-two found himself in recently liberated Paris on a three-day pass. Wasting no time, he located Picasso’s address on the Rue de Grands-Augustins in Montparnasse. Lord writes ‘[I] braced my brashness at the pinpoint of Picasso’s doorbell.’ Shortly afterwards he was sharing breakfast with the artist and his long-time muse and mistress, Dora Maar, who was a photographer, poet and painter in her own right, as well as the inspiration for many Picasso masterpieces, most notably The Weeping Woman. It was start of a relationship that would have defining consequences for all three. ‘It is important to know,’ wrote Lord later of the experience, ‘how perverse, cruel, ruthless, sentimental, and promiscuous Picasso could be. Indeed, how could anyone honestly study his work and imagine him to be otherwise?

more from Ted Hodgkinson at Granta here.

In 1905 modernism and fantasy met in the jungles of colonial Ceylon


We know a lot about Woolf. He couldn’t have realized it then (though he probably had his suspicions), but his destiny lay with the inner circle of the ruling literary caste of the twentieth century. He was a harbinger of modernism, the school of Virginia Woolf and Joyce and Faulkner and Hemingway. But who was B. J. Dutton? There was no word for him in 1905, but we have one now: he was a nerd avant la lettre. And he was a harbinger, too, in his tiny, ineffectual way, of another of the twentieth century’s dominant literary traditions: fantasy. So far as I can tell, Woolf scholarship, at least of the Leonard variety, has until now remained innocent of Dutton’s full name, probably because nobody ever bothered to look him up. But he is eminently findable, even by an amateur literary sleuth. Woolf remarks in Growing that Dutton was four years older than he was. Woolf was born in 1880. Public records show many Duttons born in England in the 1870s, but only a handful of male Duttons, first initial B. And there is only one B. J.: Bernard Joseph Dutton, born 1876, bang on time, in Stoke on Trent. He is beyond a doubt, for reasons that will become clear, our B. J.

more from Lev Grossman at The Believer here.

Drawing means honesty! Drawing means honour!


In 1937, the American art critic Walter Pach edited and translated the first English-language version of Eugène Delacroix’s Journal. In his introduction he recorded a story told him decades previously by Odilon Redon. In 1861, the young Redon, yet to make his name, had gone to a ball at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris with his musician brother Ernest. When presented to Delacroix, the two hardly dared speak, so instead followed him round the room “from group to group in order to hear every word he had to say”. Famous men and women fell silent at the approach of the famous painter who, though not handsome, carried himself like “a prince”. When Delacroix left the ball, the two Redons followed him: We walked behind him through the streets. He went slowly and seemed to be meditating, so we kept at a distance in order not to disturb him. There had been rain, and I remember how he picked his steps to avoid the wet places. But when he reached the house on the Right Bank where he had lived for so many years, he seemed to realize that he had taken his way toward it out of habit, and he turned back and walked, still slowly and pensively, through the city and across the river, to the Rue de Furstenberg where he was to die, two years afterwards.

more from Julian Barnes at the TLS here.

Thursday Poem


He threw away this trash
I envy his saying no to this work
to this cheerless masturbation
I don't give a damn about beauty
with her chancre
I don't care about perversion or conversion.
No to magic. Yes as ever to the ever-deceiving proof of
……what is
and what words scratch, and that
I also poetize
This is a bad habit you can only break the way he did,
and he could, in fact, block himself in his neurosis
and lose his tongue at the hands of the plague
and that not being a yes to the lust of the plague

All roads lead me to the impenetrable
to what's good for nothing
Poetry guilty perhaps of what exists
So many words for each thing
such an excess of rhetoric even on the least little ant

But he threw away this trash once and for all
his fierce hat in the woods.

by Enrique Lihn
from The Dark Room;
New Directions Books,1963

translation: Jonathan Cohen, John Felstiner, and David Unger

Read more »

Does the moon affect how a wine tastes?

From The Telegraph:

Wine This might sound crazy, but there are those who believe that a wine can taste very different depending on whether or not it is sampled on a so-called “fruit” day or a “root” day – those days in the lunar calendar when water and saps rise or fall. “I was sceptical at first, but then had a eureka moment,” says Jo Aherne, winemaker at Marks & Spencer. “Our wines showed beautifully at a press tasting one day and far less well the next. We couldn't understand it. The wines were all favourites of ours and the bottles were all from the same case. Someone checked the calendar and we found that the first day had been a fruit day, when the wines were expressive, exuberant and aromatic, and the second a root day, when they were closed, tannic and earthy. Further rather unscientific tests have confirmed our view.”

More here.

The code within the code

From Nature:

Rna One of the most beautiful aspects of the genetic code is its simplicity: three letters of DNA combine in 64 different ways, easily spelled out in a handy table, to encode the 20 standard amino acids that combine to form a protein. But between DNA and proteins comes RNA, and an expanding realm of complexity. RNA is a shape-shifter, sometimes carrying genetic messages and sometimes regulating them, adopting a multitude of structures that can affect its function. In a paper published in this issue (see page 53), a team of researchers led by Benjamin Blencowe and Brendan Frey of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, reports the first attempt to define a second genetic code: one that predicts how segments of messenger RNA transcribed from a given gene can be mixed and matched to yield multiple products in different tissues, a process called alternative splicing. This time there is no simple table — in its place are algorithms that combine more than 200 different features of DNA with predictions of RNA structure.

The work highlights the rapid progress that computational methods have made in modelling the RNA landscape. In addition to understanding alternative splicing, informatics is helping researchers to predict RNA structures, and to identify the targets of small regulatory snippets of RNA that do not encode protein. “It's an exciting time,” says Christopher Burge, a computational biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “There's going to be a lot of progress in the next few years.”

More here. (Note: For Abbas who loves the elegance and beauty in nature more than anyone else I know.)

Adam Smith wasn’t the free-market fundamentalist he is thought to have been

It’s time we realised the relevance of his ideas to today’s financial crisis.

Amartya Sen in the New Statesman:

ScreenHunter_06 May. 06 10.38 Smith discussed that to explain the motivation for economic exchange in the market, we do not have to invoke any objective other than the pursuit of self-interest. In the most widely quoted passage from The Wealth of Nations, he wrote: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love.” In the tradition of interpreting Smith as the guru of selfishness or self-love (as he often called it, not with great admiration), the reading of his writings does not seem to go much beyond those few lines, even though that discussion is addressed only to one very specific issue, namely exchange (rather than distribution or production) and, in particular, the motivation underlying exchange. In the rest of Smith's writings, there are extensive discussions of the role of other motivations that influence human action and behaviour.

Beyond self-love, Smith discussed how the functioning of the economic system in general, and of the market in particular, can be helped enormously by other motives. There are two distinct propositions here. The first is one of epistemology, concerning the fact that human beings are not guided only by self-gain or even prudence. The second is one of practical reason, involving the claim that there are good ethical and practical grounds for encouraging motives other than self-interest, whether in the crude form of self-love or in the refined form of prudence. Indeed, Smith argues that while “prudence” was “of all virtues that which is most helpful to the individual”, “humanity, justice, generosity, and public spirit, are the qualities most useful to others”. These are two distinct points, and, unfortunately, a big part of modern economics gets both of them wrong in interpreting Smith.

More here. [Thanks to Shan Manikkalingam.]

Atheists to Care for Pets Left Behind by the Rapture

Mike Di Paola in Bloomberg Businessweek:

ScreenHunter_04 May. 06 10.14 Many people in the U.S.—perhaps 20 million to 40 million—believe there will be a Second Coming in their lifetimes, followed by the Rapture . In this event, they say, the righteous will be spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth. But what will become of all the pets?

Bart Centre, 61, a retired retail executive in New Hampshire, says many people are troubled by this question, and he wants to help. He started a service called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets that promises to rescue and care for animals left behind by the saved.

Promoted on the Web as “the next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World,” the service has attracted more than 100 clients, who pay $110 for a 10-year contract ($15 for each additional pet.) If the Rapture happens in that time, the pets left behind will have homes—with atheists. Centre has set up a national network of godless humans to carry out the mission. “If you love your pets, I can't understand how you could not consider this,” he says.

More here.

Is the Euro a Failure?

GSP. A while ago Barry Eichengreen argued that the breakup of the Euro would lead to the mother of all bank runs, and therefore claimed that the Euro is irreversible. Gilles Saint-Paul suggests that maybe we should try to reverse it, in Voxeu:

During the run-up to the monetary union, many economists were sceptical and warned that it would not work. Their argument was simple. Europe was not an optimal monetary union because it lacked both labour mobility and the fiscal mutual insurance schemes that exist in the US. Also, nominal price formation was rigid so that we could not expect it to offset imbalances and competitiveness differences quickly. Despite those shortcomings, the sceptics considered that the costs of monetary union were not too large after all, because asymmetric shocks are not that important quantitatively.

The Eurozone was formed and it was largely accepted as an irreversible fact. The sceptics refrained from questioning its soundness as an institution for fear of being perceived as unrealistic or extreme. Mentioning that a member country might leave the monetary union some day was considered a political non-starter, so that pragmatic economists who insisted on making a difference in the policy arena did not see the point in ruining their credibility by making such suggestions.

With the Greek crisis, we are brutally reminded that such a prospect is far more real than it was assumed. In order to keep Greece in the Eurozone, other countries must foot the bill, while imposing harsh conditions that – in my view – will be fulfilled only hypothetically. So why do we want to keep Greece in the Eurozone, especially given that membership plays no small role in its current troubles?

Asymmetric trends not asymmetric shocks

The reason why the Eurozone does not work is not asymmetric shocks – their cost is constant over time and therefore unlikely to lead to the single currency's eventual demise – but asymmetric trends. Over the last decade, countries in the Eurozone have quietly but stubbornly diverged in terms of inflation, growth, fiscal performance and competitiveness.

* Some have had 2% inflation on average, others 4%.

* Some have built up trade surpluses, others are increasingly indebted with respect to the rest of the world.

* Some have kept their government budget in check, others have let debt grow.

This divergence comes from different policy choices, different institutions, and different cultures. But the common currency, contrary to the hopes of those who believed such a straightjacket would force member countries to converge in real terms, has in fact added to the divergence.