Jul 26, 2008

Lifestyle - Let them eat bugs

A new, abundant and environmentally friendly source of protein is creating some buzz

The world is getting hungrier. After years of falling food prices, eating is suddenly getting expensive. With price-tags now rising some 75%, the World Bank estimates that the soaring cost of food will push 100m people into poverty. What with rising fertiliser prices, increasing concerns about deforestation and unreliable rains brought on by climate change, how will we find new sources of nourishment?
Scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have an answer: entomophagy, or dining on insects. They claim the practice is common in some 113 countries. Better yet, bugs provide more nutrients than beef or fish, gram for gram.
Meat provides just under one fifth of the energy and one third of the protein humans consume. But its production uses up a hugely disproportionate share of agricultural resources. Feed crops gobble up some 70% of agricultural land, while a quarter of the world’s land is devoted to grazing. Brazil’s burgeoning livestock industry is responsible for huge swathes of deforestation in the Amazon.
As developing countries get richer meat’s ecological footprint is set to get even bigger. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at the United Nations considers livestock “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” It predicts that the world’s demand for meat will nearly double by 2050.
Eating insects does far less damage. For one thing, the habit could help to protect crops. Some 30 years ago the Thai government, struggling to contain a plague of locusts with pesticides, began encouraging its citizens to collect and eat the insects. Officials even distributed recipes for cooking them. Locusts were not commonly eaten at the time, but they have since become popular. Today some farmers plant corn just to attract them. Stir-frying other menaces could help reduce the use of pesticides.
But insect populations vary with the seasons, and it is hard to control the amount on offer at a given time. “There is very little knowledge or appreciation of the potential for managing and harvesting insects sustainably,” notes Patrick Durst, a Bangkok-based senior forestry officer at the FAO. Those looking for a reliable source of protein might prefer to farm them. Protein makes up a high proportion of most insects’ weight. That makes them much more efficient at converting feed to protein than livestock. For example, a cow yields only 10lb (4.5kg) of beef for every 100lb of feed it eats, whereas the same amount of feed would produce tens times as much cricket.
Academics at Khon Kaen University in Thailand have developed a low-cost cricket-rearing technique, and taught it to some 4,500 families. On just a few hundred square feet of land a single family can raise crickets in numbers large enough to increase their income significantly. Or they can rear them on a smaller scale inside their homes, within large containers. The insects do not require much food or water, grow fast and reproduce quickly. And if they somehow perish, the financial impact on a poor family is far less devastating than the loss of a cow or pig.
Earlier this year the FAO held a conference in Thailand to investigate the benefits of eating insects. The mood was optimistic. “In certain places with certain cultures with a certain level of acceptance”, insects could be seen as part of a solution to end hunger, Mr Durst said.
Environmentally and nutritionally, insects are more appealing than meat: you get more for less. But persuading flesh-loving, ento-phobic westerners of this is going to be tricky. “We’re not going to convince Europeans and Americans to go out in big numbers and start eating insects,” Mr Durst concedes. The trick might be to slip them into the food chain on the quiet. Supplements composed of insect protein could be added to processed food and perhaps also to animal feed. That might help to make meat a little more environmentally palatable.

World - No Smooth Sailing to Africa

As China wades deeper into the continent’s economies, the turbulent pull of African politics grows stronger

“Adopt a low profile and never take the lead,” was an axiom of China’s elder statesman, the late Deng Xiaoping. When it comes to foreign policy, China’s leaders still usually stick to it. So it is odd, perhaps, that an African country of less than vital economic and strategic importance to China has brought it out of its shell.
China’s decision on July 11th to veto an American-led resolution in the United Nations that called for sanctions against Zimbabwe was an unusual move. By voting the same way as Russia, China still managed to avoid taking the lead. But its normal preference is to abstain from voting rather than veto Western initiatives in the UN. This time it decided to make a stronger point.
Chinese officials and the public generally have shown little sympathy for Western concerns about election-rigging in Zimbabwe. On the sidelines of a summit of G8 leaders in Japan this month, President Hu Jintao met South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and relayed no more than China’s “concern” about the Zimbabwean crisis. China has avoided direct condemnation of Zimbabwe’s leader, Robert Mugabe. (His message of condolence over China’s deadly earthquake in May was politely noted by the state-controlled media.) At a summit of African leaders in Beijing in 2006 and during a week-long state visit to China in 2005, Mr Mugabe was received politely.
Chinese diplomats are worried about the precedent that would have been set by the proposed UN resolution: for foreign intervention in a domestic political dispute. (China does not want any such attention focused on its own internal problems, to say nothing of its putatively internal disputes with Taiwan.) It has been similarly unsettled by charges of war crimes brought by the International Criminal Court against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in The Hague this week. Sudan is of considerable strategic importance to China because of its oil production, much of which China buys.
But there is no sign that China’s alarm over these developments will lead to greater confrontation between it and the West over Africa. China appears as anxious as ever to convince the West that it is trying, behind the scenes, to persuade Mr al-Bashir to rein in the violence in Darfur (though it will not be helped by allegations just aired by the BBC that, in violation of a UN arms embargo, China has been supplying trucks to Sudan’s military and training its pilots in Darfur). During the build-up to the Olympic games in Beijing next month China has a particularly strong incentive to appear cooperative with the West on Sudan. It does not want another public embarrassment such as it suffered in February when Steven Spielberg, a Hollywood film director, resigned from his advisory role to the games because of China’s (harmful, as he saw it) involvement in Sudan. It was embarrassed by the discovery in South Africa in April of a shipment of Chinese small arms destined for Zimbabwe. Chinese officials said the delivery was subsequently aborted.
Amid widespread Western disquiet over its engagement with Africa—especially in its willingness to turn a blind eye to corruption, authoritarianism and other political problems there—China will take some heart from a recent World Bank report that notes an “encouraging trend” in its rapidly growing economic engagement with Africa. China is helping to finance infrastructure projects in more than 35 African countries, says the report, with Zimbabwe and Sudan among the big recipients (Sudan has received about $1.3 billion from China so far). Only 7% of this finance is related to resource extraction, the bank says. The rest is for “broader development”. There will be, as the bank points out, a learning process for borrowers and financiers alike in this emerging relationship. Among issues that need to be grasped, it says, are how to enforce “environmental and social standards” in the projects concerned. China pays at least lip service to such issues, but it is far from fanatical about them. Turbulence in countries like Zimbabwe may well remind China that it is plying choppy waters in Africa. It will not be able to ignore the domestic politics of its friends there forever

World - Violent Britain

The angry men of Europe—and how to calm them down

LONDON, once seen as a quiet and respectable sort of city, is in the grip of a culture de poignard, the French press have taken to reporting. On June 29th two students from the University of Clermont-Ferrand were found horribly murdered in the British capital. The bodies of the young men—bound, multiply stabbed and set alight—have inspired horror on both sides of the Channel. A grisly run of teenage murders before this episode had already caused Britons to wonder what is up.
England and Wales are not unusually murderous.The homicide rate is higher than anywhere in western Europe except Finland, Belgium and indeed France (though Britain edges ahead of France when Scotland and Northern Ireland are included). But Britain looks gentle next to former colonies such as Canada, New Zealand and especially America. And it compares favourably with the EU average, thanks to the new eastern European states: in Latvia and Lithuania homicide is five times as common as it is in Britain.
But there is more to life than avoiding death. When it comes to non-deadly violence Britain soars alarmingly ahead of the rest. Cross-country crime comparisons are tricky, but the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS) is the best of the non-homicide bunch. In it people from 28 rich countries are asked if they have been attacked or threatened in the past five years. Britain comes second (after tiny Iceland), ahead of countries with much higher murder rates.
It is tempting to say it was ever thus, summoning Caesar or Chaucer to prove it. But in 1988 the ICVS placed Britain only eighth in Europe for the incidence of threats and assaults, well behind America, Canada and the Antipodes. The subsequent catch-up is not due just to a fit of the jitters: Britain maintains its lead when assaults only, minus threats, are examined. A New Yorker visiting London is less likely to be murdered than he would be at home. But he is more likely to be beaten up.
The evolution of Britain as a low-murder, high-violence society is in evidence every Saturday night, when many, stoked by alcohol, prefer an after-dinner fight to mints. Much of this goes unrecorded, as the British Crime Survey ignores victims under 16; yet even so, against a backdrop of generally falling crime, the figures for attacks by strangers remain stubbornly high. Doctors say that their wards see more stabbing victims, and injuries from guns have almost trebled since 2000. At the same time, however, homicide has been falling since 2003. Those guns that are injuring more people are killing fewer, and the number of those stabbed to death is stable.
So murder is not the problem. But it might suggest what is. Take London, where murder is at a nine-year low. A recent study by King’s College London shows that the over-35s are being murdered less frequently but those under 17 are being murdered more often. From 2000 to 2006, between 15 and 19 teenagers were killed in the capital each year. Last year the figure hit 26; this year, only half-complete, 19 have died.
This changing profile might explain why, overall, injuries are up and murder is down: serious violence is becoming an amateur pursuit. “I was 16 eight years ago and it wasn’t like that then,” says Brooke Kinsella, a soap actress whose brother Ben was murdered on June 29th. Politicians “don’t know what’s going on. It’s the people that live in their local communities that know and hear about these attacks every day,” she told an interviewer. The day after her remarks, the Metropolitan Police said that knife crime had become their priority, ahead even of terrorism.
Ms Kinsella got five and a half minutes on the BBC to put her case. That is more say than most people have in how they are policed. Britain’s 43 forces are answerable only to the home secretary and their local police authority, a weedy board of councillors, magistrates and assorted other appointees with little clout. Policemen may hold surgeries for local people, but they can take or leave whatever requests such meetings throw up. Instead, they are subservient to a rigid system of central targets, which has inadvertently encouraged coppers to focus on busting minor offenders rather than on keeping their patches safe.
This centralisation of control—which dates back to the 1960s, when corruption was a problem in many local forces—has also meant that the debate about how to deal with violence, or any other crime, takes place nationally. Everyone has ideas: the government wants a “presumption of prosecution” of those caught with knives; the Tories have trumped that with a “presumption of imprisonment”. Cherie Blair, a former Downing Street spouse, weighed in on July 6th; Anglicans pondered the subject at their General Synod; and Catholics are planning a vigil. The only people who haven’t had much of a voice are voters. Unlike America, whose elected sheriffs enjoy (and sometimes abuse) real power, Britain’s police chiefs do not take orders from the people they protect.
Those savages: maybe not so dim
That is soon to change—a bit. A policing green paper, expected later this month, will introduce some kind of directly-elected local control. Various options are on the table. The Tories want to replace police authorities with elected police commissioners, who would set policing priorities as well as signing off on budgets. The government seems to be leaning towards a tamer option: preserving the police authorities that now exist, but insisting that their members be elected. Home Office research shows that the “vast majority” of Britons have never heard of police authorities, and most of those who have don’t know what they do. It is hard to imagine chief constables being bossed around by anonymous people elected on a minuscule turnout.
Ministers may fear that local control of the police would lead to populist law enforcement. That is a danger, but two things mitigate it. For one, the existing criminal-justice system, led by a government in distress, is not exactly un-populist. (A recent Cabinet Office review recommended that those undergoing community punishments should wear fluorescent vests to shame them publicly.)
More importantly, the public is quite often ahead of the game. The level of street violence is one example; another is the public obsession with putting more bobbies on the beat, once ridiculed by criminologists but now all the rage in the form of “neighbourhood policing”. If the public can be given more say, ideas such as these might surface a bit faster.

World - Windows Live OOH

Imagine driving down Tulsi Pipe Road in Mumbai and seeing a bus shelter that reads ‘Cooking Classes, Matunga’. You actually spot the institute on turning your eyes in the opposite direction. Cool, isn't it? Microsoft grabbed the attention of passers-by and commuters through innovative bus shelters in order to popularise its Live Search service. Live Search is a unique search engine featuring an innovative and friendly user interface and powerful organisational tools designed to place the user in control. The service features simple precision tools such as search preview, a detail slider bar that increases the level of result information on the results page, and a smart scroll that enables people to view search results without moving pages. The service helps people to customise their search results by preference, and extensive search categories deliver better and more customised results.
The innovative OOH campaign, titled ‘Think It, Find It’, was done in Mumbai. It consisted of bus shelters featuring a Live Search bar with search keywords. What's interesting is that these keywords were customised to a specific location. For example, a bus shelter in Bandra read 'Tattoo parlour, Bandra', while the one in Kandivali read 'Power yoga classes, Kandivali'. Maya Hari, head, consumer marketing, online services group, Microsoft India, says, “The objective of the ‘Think It, Find It’ campaign was twofold. One was to get some visibility for Live Search in the market, given that in May we launched a host of exciting additions to our Live Search product, such as local search, differentiated video search, celebrity search (including the most popular searches by Indian consumers) and Image search with cool sorting ability. Cool sorting ability enables the user to specify searches, for example, only images with faces or only black and white images. Secondly, we wanted to get consumers curious about something fun and yet relevant and then drive users to try Live Search.” Hari says that the customisation was done to tickle the curiosity of consumers in a way in which they found the creative intriguing and relevant. “Seeing a Live Search bar on a bus shelter with the search keywords tattoo parlour, Bandra, or PG accommodation, Vile Parle, are examples of the kind of information that people are searching for today in any case,” says Hari. In fact, the creatives on the bus shelters were placed close to the points displayed. For example, if it said 'Tattoo parlour, Bandra', one could actually spot a tattoo parlour close by.
The displays were put up at approximately 30 locations across the city, mainly popular youth hotspots and arterial roads. The initiative was a two month activity in Mumbai and options are open to carry it to other major metros and mini metros. Live Search also offers a unique video search experience. “Say you search for Hrithik Roshan or Beyonce in the video search, you will get a whole bunch of relevant videos as results. What is extremely appealing to consumers is that when they run their mouse over any of the video results, the video plays right there, so you don't actually have to click on the video, go to the page and then find out whether this video is interesting or not,” says Hari.As for the creative, the aim was to use humour to arouse curiosity about the video search. Hence the line on a creative tells users interested in 'Bollywood, Hollywood, Tollywood or any other wood' to try searching videos on www.live.com. The creatives were done by McCann Bangalore, while the media duties were handled by Lodestar Universal.Other media exploited for this campaign includes extensive online marketing on www.live.com and advertising on cybercafé monitors in five cities.

World - Why does Russia cooperate with Rogue States

Russia does not deny international cooperation, including that of judicial agencies, but has some misgivings about possible interference in domestic affairs.
“Rogue state” is a term applied by some international theorists to states considered threatening to global peace. This description might typically include certain criteria, such as being ruled by authoritarian regimes that severely restrict human rights, sponsoring terrorism, or seeking to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
In the late 1980s, U.S. officials considered North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Libya “rogue states.” Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq were removed from the list in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Libya achieved success through diplomacy and is not included on the list today.
The concept of a “rogue state” was replaced by the Bush administration’s use of the term “axis of evil” (when referring to Iraq, Iran and North Korea). U.S. President George W. Bush first spoke of this “axis of evil” during his January 2002 State of the Union Address.
Both phrases have become obsolete because of their arrogant connotations. Nevertheless, Washington and part of the international community are still treating some countries with suspicion.
Over the years, the United States has blacklisted such countries as Belarus, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Serbia, Syria and Sudan. The U.S. administration believes that any other countries that cooperate with them are not quite civilised and are unfriendly towards Washington.
It appears that Russia is purposefully streamlining ties with countries, international organisations and movements (for example, Hamas) implementing anti-American policies.
Instead of generalising, it might be more constructive to try and understand the Kremlin’s international law, political and economic motivations in specific cases.
Moscow’s notion of international law includes its opinion regarding the nature of a system for international relations. Russia advocates the primacy of national sovereignty, believing that supranational bodies should be established in accordance with collective decisions and should adhere to legal procedures.
Moscow believes that the views of the great powers are no more valid than those of anyone else. This explains Russia’s stand on Zimbabwe, Sudan and Myanmar and various international tribunals and investigations, including those of the bloody May 2005 riots in Andijan, in Uzbekistan, the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005 and the International Criminal Court’s recent decision to seek an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Russia does not deny international cooperation, including that of judicial agencies, but has some misgivings about possible interference in domestic affairs. The experience of the last 20 years shows that efforts to restore justice or to protect human rights standards are often undermined by political motives, including the overthrow of undesirable regimes.
Political motives imply concepts for more effectively tackling international issues.
As far as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes, the Israeli-Hamas and Israeli-Syrian peace talks and the situation in Zimbabwe are concerned, Moscow believes that the isolation of “problem states” merely deadlocks any crisis. This is particularly true of situations when ideological approaches prevail.
Russia believes that efforts to involve the parties concerned in negotiations, to facilitate mutual trust and gradual advances are far more constructive than open coercion or intimidation. Still, pressure tactics should not be discarded but merely serve as an element of a wide-ranging and diversified strategy.
The international community’s approach to North Korea validates this strategy. The Iranian nuclear problem is also being solved, albeit with difficulty. Even the United States and Israel have realised that a policy aimed at isolating Hamas is wrong or, at best, pointless. Active and diverse diplomacy has turned Libya from a “pariah” state into an acceptable member of the international community.
The commercial factor is also very important. For instance, Venezuela is an ideal partner for the Russian defence industry. Venezuela, which has sizeable financial resources and whose ambitious leader Hugo Chavez wants to buy state-of-the-art weapons, is not covered by any international sanctions or restrictions. Although the Kremlin disagrees with the views of President Chavez who wants to build socialism in his country and to set up an alliance against U.S. regional domination, it sees no reason to ignore Venezuelan requests.
Although Russian weapons could be used in conflicts, Moscow would not want to support any of the belligerents. There have been allegations that some weapons bought by Caracas have fallen into the hands of the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), or that Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamic political and paramilitary organisation based in Lebanon, gets some of its weapons from Syria. Before signing any contracts, Moscow should insist on fair play and on screening all prospective clients.
Politics always have some emotional aspects. Moscow reacts appropriately when the United States actively invades traditional Russian spheres of influence or supports countries allegedly implementing anti-Russian policies. Until now, Russia has managed to behave soberly and to choose a more tactful approach to foreign policy issues.

India - Mumbai,a modern babel downgrades english

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Earlier this month, a Mumbai city official stood up to make a presentation on water meters only to be heckled and jeered into silence by his colleagues.
He had tried to make his presentation in English.
India's capital of commerce speaks in many tongues but from this month, when it comes to official communications within the municipal authority, English will no longer be one of them.
The decision to ditch English, the global language of business, in favor of Marathi, a language largely restricted to the surrounding state of Maharashtra, has left some officials struggling to express themselves.
"I love Marathi. I am Marathi," said Ashish Shelar, an elected official. "But Mumbai city has become a global city now. The language of Mumbai city has changed."
He recalls being briefly dumbstruck when, in the middle of a Marathi speech, he wanted to urge colleagues not to "cherry-pick" his ideas.
"Converting this idea of cherry-picking into Marathi is not an easy thing," he said.
India has long grappled with the problem of Babel. Its constitution recognizes 22 official languages, including English. Mumbai in particular, a cosmopolitan harbor city and a magnet for Indians across the country, is helplessly polyglot.
Movie stars film in Hindi by day, and party in English by night. Diamond dealers and stock traders swap tips in Gujarati. Politicians send their children to English-medium schools, but whip up rallies with speeches in Marathi about the erosion of Maharashtrian culture.
The move was pushed through without debate by Shubha Raul, the mayor, who is a member of Shiv Sena, a political party that encourages the nativist pride of Marathis and chastises Indian immigrants who fail to behave like good guests in the city.
No city official is against Marathi communication -- although Marathis make up less than half of Mumbai's population the language is understood to some degree by many long-term residents.
But some officials say that while the Marathi of the bazaars is easy to understand, the officialese version of the language is confusing, and a poor substitute for English.
Like the Academie Francaise in Paris, city bureaucrats are increasingly on guard against English loanwords, even when they are more widely understood than the Marathi equivalent.
Many Mumbaikars will know what the Internet is; fewer will immediately grasp the meaning of "sanganakiya jaali", which translates as "computer-based net".
"It's very difficult to go through the documents," said Amin Patel, another elected official fighting the move. "I have a translator who translates for me -- this is not the solution."
Proponents of the move say the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is working for the "common man", and so must not waste time speaking anything but his language.
"It's only this urbanized elite which have been ruling the corporation who are opposed," said Jairaj Phatak, the city's municipal commissioner, who is in charge of the BMC's 160-billion rupee budget ($4 billion).
He says the move is not as insular as critics make out. International tenders will still be in English. Mumbaikars can still write to the BMC in Hindi, and expect a response in the same. His press conferences will still be proudly trilingual.
He concedes it will take time for people to get used to typing documents up in Marathi. But he says people are already adapting, and soon the BMC will be back up to full speed.
"I am an employee, I have to obey," said P.K. Charankar, the deputy municipal commissioner heckled during his water meter talk. He spent two or three days translating his presentation into Marathi before returning to the scene of his embarrassment.
He found his audience had become much more receptive.

Mktg - Likeable celebrities best for Branding

TORONTO (Reuters) - Forget popularity and recognition. Celebrities who are likable and can be trusted have the most influence on what consumers buy, according to a new study.
While actor Brad Pitt and pop singer Britney Spears are the most recognized stars among 200 famous faces tested in a survey, they failed to crack the top five for likability, according to New York-based market research company NDP Group, Inc.
Actors Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Halle Berry and George Clooney were the most likable celebrities.
Oprah Winfrey's interior designer Nate Berkus and Will Smith topped the chart for eliciting trust, followed by chef Mario Batali, golfer Tiger Woods and chef Paula Deen.
"It's not about fashion and it's not about beauty that's necessarily connecting the celebrity and the product anymore," Marshal Cohen, an analyst with the group, said in an interview.
"It's really more about getting exposure for reasons that go beyond just the glamour shots."
Will Smith dominated the likability list with 83 percent of the 4,500 online respondents saying they liked him "strongly" or "somewhat".
The trust factor - a celebrity's ability to appear believable or authentic when pitching a brand - was also noted as a strong motivator to get individuals buying celebrity-promoted products.
Nine out of the top 25 most-trusted celebrities were chefs, including Batali, Deen and Rachel Ray.
"It's the believability that that person knows what it is they are talking about, which is why so many celebrities in this particular year emerged from the network cooking and crafts businesses because they are the ones who are hands on," Cohen said.
But the rich and famous are not always a perfect fit for product endorsements, the study showed.
Celebrity impact in the fragrance market is beginning to slump for women while some of the most tried and tested endorsements in sportswear are not enough to get consumers into the stores.
"The power of the celebrity, in many cases has really transitioned. Now, what's driving beauty is the doctors and prescriptive cosmetic brands that are more about someone who has a PHD and is warranted in talking about cosmetics and not just a woman with a pretty face."
(Reuters Nielsen)

World - Transfats banned in California Restaurants

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation on Friday making California the first U.S. state to prohibit restaurants from preparing food with trans fats, which clog arteries and raise the risk of heart disease.
The bill will be phased in starting in 2010 across California, a trend-setting state where diet-conscious legislation has been gaining momentum in recent years.
New York City and Philadelphia are among other U.S. jurisdictions with laws banning trans fats.
"California is a leader in promoting health and nutrition, and I am pleased to continue that tradition by being the first state in the nation to phase out trans fats," said Schwarzenegger, a former bodybuilding champion.
"Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," he added.
Last October, Schwarzenegger signed a bill banning artificial trans fats in food served at public schools.
California Restaurant Association members will comply with the new law, said spokesman Daniel Conway. "Many of them are already voluntarily moving away from the use of trans fats," he said.
The association opposed the legislation because it believes such rules should be made at the federal level by agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Conway said.
Trans fats are used in fried foods as an alternative to other healthier oils that break down faster under high temperatures, and in baked goods to extend their shelf life.
The consumption of trans fats -- often in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils -- increases the risk of coronary heart disease, according to health authorities.
McDonald's Corp, the world's biggest restaurant company, will have phased out the use of trans fats at its restaurants before the California bill goes into effect, said spokeswoman Danya Proud.
"We will be in compliance by the end of 2008," Proud said, noting baked goods at McDonald's restaurants in the United States should be trans fat-free by the end of this year.
Fried menu items at McDonald's restaurants in the United States are no longer prepared using trans fats, Proud said.
Wendy's, the third-largest hamburger chain, switched to trans fat-free cooking oil in 2006.
Yum Brands Inc's KFC and Taco Bell chains in the United States completed such a switch last year.
Burger King Holdings Inc, the second-largest burger chain, has promised to switch its U.S. outlets to trans fat-free oils by year-end.

Columnists - Vir Sanghvi

The real deal about Haute Couture

Have you ever wondered, when you see pictures of models on the ramp: “Which normal person wears these clothes?” As the Paris and New York fashion shows have got more and more outrageous, it is a valid question. After all, these shows are organized by multibillion-dollar conglomerates which are in the business of selling garments. Shouldn’t they be more concerned with making clothes that people actually want to buy? Many ramp fashions are simply unwearable.

I was at the Christian Dior haute couture show in Paris in the first week of July and watched John Galliano, Dior’s celebrated designer and one of the fashion world’s most outrageous major figures, take his flamboyant bows at the end. Galliano’s clothes usually attract the who-buys-this-stuff-anyway kind of question. Even though few fashion critics dispute that he is among the world’s most talented designers, his propensity for drama and his flair for over-the-top fashion have led to questions about the commercial viability of his clothes.
I discovered in Paris that the answers to those questions are more complicated than we may think. First of all, there’s the phenomenon of haute couture itself. These days only around 200 women in the whole world can afford couture, where the gowns start at over $100,000 (around Rs43 lakh). No house makes money from couture even at those prices so the shows are used for promotion and to make news.
At Dior, the couture line is an opportunity to show off Galliano’s genius rather than an attempt to sell too many clothes. This marks a shift in emphasis. In the old days there were more women who could afford couture (which was less expensive because skilled labour was cheaper) and Christian Dior (the man, not the brand) made his reputation as a couturier. His successors (and former protégés) Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Bohan kept to the same approach.
But by the time Bernard Arnault took over Christian Dior in the 1980s, couture was dying and the house was in decline. He sacked Bohan and hired the more contemporary-minded Gianfranco Ferre. But while Ferre’s clothes were trendier, he never pleased the old couture customers or made a mark on the ready-to-wear market.
Dior was revived only after Galliano’s appointment in 1996. The shows made news internationally because of their flamboyant presentation. And because the clothes themselves were such masterpieces of design, the fashion press finally offered Dior the respect that it had withheld for decades.

But who bought the couture clothes? Well, first of all, they didn’t need to sell all of them. Many were meant only to make a splash on the ramp. Secondly, they aren’t all quite as outrageous as they seem on the catwalk. Many can be tweaked or worn differently so that they seem less shocking. For instance, some of the outfits at the Paris show this year seemed to leave panties worryingly visible. But if the gowns were worn with slips (which, of course, they were not on the ramp), then the panties easily were hidden and the gowns suddenly seemed less shocking.
Even within the couture range, considerations of commerce are rarely absent. When Galliano conceives of his collection, he takes the idea to Sidney Toledano, Dior’s chief executive. The actual designing does not begin till Toledano has signed off on the vision. Then, before the dresses are made, Toledano is shown versions of each dress cut in simple white fabric so that the corporate side can have its say.
Like all houses, Dior is shifty about revealing what inputs Toledano gives Galliano. But can it be an accident that the collections always follow the mood of the times? At times of prosperity, Galliano is outrageous and exuberant, knowing that people will buy clothes they don’t really need or which they can only wear once. When the public mood is more sombre, the clothes are less shocking and more subdued so that people can buy classic looks that will last forever. This year’s collection was brilliant but, given the fears about the health of the global economy, it was also much more wearable and timeless.
For all fashion houses, the big money lies in accessories (handbags etc.) and fragrances (though Dior Perfumes is a separate company). But the ready-to-wear lines are also expected to turn a healthy profit. Those clothes are shown separately and though they may draw inspiration from the couture, they have their own — more commercial—identity. When most people say they are wearing Dior or Chanel, it is the ready-to-wear lines they are referring to, not the super-expensive couture (I’ve met only one woman in India in the last few years who had a couture gown made — and she paid in excess of 100,000 euro or Rs68 lakh) for a single dress at Chanel).
The genesis of the ready-to-wear line, which is rarely as outrageous as couture, is very different. Before Galliano starts designing, he will consult with a delegation from the commercial side. They will tell him what sold well last season and what did not; how many jackets they need and how many dresses; whether the line has become too focused on gowns; whether more working women are coming in to buy office clothes etc.
After he has all this information, Galliano will design the clothes. And even then, the commercial side will be consulted on the designs before the garments are made for the show. Once the clothes have been shown on the catwalk at the ready-to-wear shows and buyers have said which ones they like, only then will Dior decide how many pieces of each garment it needs to produce.
My previous experience of Paris haute couture had been at Chanel where the couture line is not dramatically different from the ready-to-wear collection. But watching the Dior show and talking to Toledano the next day, I realized how complicated the business of fashion really is.

The next time you see a photo of some outrageous Galliano creation and wonder “who would wear that?”, don’t worry about Dior’s commercial prospects. They don’t want very many of us to wear the couture clothes. They are just happy that we noticed them at all

World - Rape,there is never an excuse,ever!

Julie Bindel
The Italian ruling that it is not possible for a man to rape a woman wearing tight jeans was finally overturned this week, but Julie Bindel finds little to celebrate while sexual assault trials still focus on the behaviour of the victim.
It has taken almost a decade of feminist campaigning to overturn one of the most ridiculous rulings on rape in Europe, so forgive me if I don’t sound too grateful. This week, judges at the Italian Court of Cassation reversed a ruling that went like this: if you wear tight jeans it is impossible to be raped, because you would need to help the man get into your knickers.
Seriously, this belief has been enshrined in case law since 1999. It is a bit like the old saying here that goes, “If you don’t want to be raped, just cross your legs.”
The ruling came about as a result of a line of defence run by a 45-year-old man accused of raping a young woman during a driving lesson. He was convicted, but on appeal put forward a defence that the victim must have consented, as her jeans were too tight for him to get into by himself. The judges agreed, and his conviction was quashed.
The same defence has been used successfully in rape cases since, but luck ran out for the latest man to try it when he was accused of sexually assaulting his partner’s daughter, aged 16, by pushing his hands down the front of her jeans. Using the 1999 case, he argued that he could not have committed the alleged acts against the will of the girl because her jeans were too tight. But the court did not accept his excuse, ruling that “jeans cannot be compared to any type of chastity belt.”
It would be comforting to think that Italian attitudes to rape are behind the times. Unfortunately, though, there are countless examples from around the world of women being blamed for rape. It’s either because of what we wear or how we behave; it’s who we sleep with, or it’s what we drink.
“Blame culture” attitudes towards rape victims are widespread: according to a poll of young people carried out by Amnesty International last year, more than a quarter of those asked said that they thought a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing.
A survey in Ireland earlier this year on attitudes to rape found almost 40 per cent of the 1,000 adults questioned believed rape victims themselves bore some responsibility in certain circumstances — if, for instance, they wore sexy clothing or were flirting.
Even the director of public prosecutions for England and Wales, Ken MacDonald, told the London-based Guardian that young women’s “promiscuity” and heavy drinking contribute to low rape conviction rates. And one of Scotland’s most senior lawyers, Donald Findlay, recently commented that in cases of sexual assault, courts should no longer assume that a girl under 16 is “vulnerable”. He claimed that “many such girls know more about sex at 13 than [he] did at 23”, and that defence lawyers should, in certain trials, be able to refer to how an alleged victim was dressed.
The myths
All this helps reinforce the myths that rape can be due to a “misunderstanding”. Rubbish. Men are not “confused” about what is consent and what is not: but many will use it as an excuse, and many more let them. And however much pressure is on women to dress sexily to titillate men, they are severely punished for it.
In South Africa in February, for example, four women wearing miniskirts were sexually assaulted at a taxi rank in Johannesburg by a group of men. They were forcibly stripped and paraded naked, while the attackers shouted to passersby that the women “wanted” this treatment.
Some men seem almost hysterically worried about preserving women’s honour and chastity and yet more than a few of them commit acts of rape. Either way, it is all the fault of women. In Nigeria, a senator has drafted a bill which would result in women being imprisoned for three months if they display their belly buttons, breasts or wear miniskirts in public places. In Poland, meanwhile, one legislator has announced plans for a bill that would ban miniskirts and other “enticements” with the goal of reducing street prostitution and rape. He called for the miniskirt ban as part of an overall crusade against the “enticement to sex” by women in public. In northern Malaysia, a directive from a conservative city council has forbidden women from wearing high heels or brightly coloured lipstick in order to “preserve their dignity” and avoid “incidents like rape and illicit sex”.
Debates about Muslim women and the veil often centre on women making themselves vulnerable to assault. Sheikh Taj Din al-Hilali, the most senior Muslim cleric in Australia, was criticised for a sermon in which he likened women who did not wear the veil to uncovered meat that attracted predators. But where is the message to men, telling them that a woman displaying her arm or ankle does not mean she wants to be forced into sex with anyone who has a mind to?
In Britain, we hardly need wonder why the rate for rape convictions is so low when we hear stories like the one that came from some mock jury trials, staged as part of a research project on attitudes to rape and documented in a report by the Economic and Social Research Council in 2006. A “juror” said that, “a woman’s got to cooperate with a man to be able to do it, to have intercourse, unless he thumps her or what, and he didn’t — there was no bruising on her body anywhere. I would say she was probably pissed but at the same time she more or less consented.”
The problem is clear: but what do we do about it? Will women have to give up and walk around encased in a full suit of armour? No: instead, we need to challenge these views: to take, for example, the U.K. government to task when it, on the one hand, admits we are at crisis point with the pathetically low rape conviction rate but, on the other, creates public awareness campaigns around drink-spiking that put the onus on women to protect themselves.
Right idea
Scotland has the right idea. This summer a new campaign challenging people’s attitudes to rape is being launched by Rape Crisis Scotland with funding from the Scottish government. Posters will be displayed across the country in an attempt to challenge the idea that women are somehow to blame for being raped if they have been drinking, wearing revealing clothes or have been sexually active.
Scotland’s justice secretary said that it was “hard to believe” that in a modern Scotland there are people who still think that if a woman is dressed in a certain way or has been drinking it’s her own fault if she is raped. For how many decades have feminists being saying this? Why has the message not got through? And how many more women will be raped because men can pretend they are “confused” at the “mixed messages” put out by women who dress up to the nines for their own enjoyment?
Let’s be clear; women have the right to go out, dressed outrageously and be gagging to pull a man for sex. Consensual sex. Women do not want to be raped. Ever. All rape is “real rape,” even if she is wearing a skirt up to her neck, has her breasts on show and is drinking and flirting like crazy. Rape is sex without consent. Which part of that is difficult to understand

Columnists - Khushwant Singh

I have have done my very best to understand the Communists’ objections to government’s proposed nuclear deal with the United States. I have failed to do so. They say it will compromise our sovereignty and will make us subservient to America in our foreign policy. That makes even less sense to me. America has never tried to dictate our relations with other nations and has often regretted our growing friendship with countries hostile to it.
We have ignored those protests and made our own decisions. If any country has questioned our sovereignty over our territories, it is Communist China. It never accepted the sanctity of our northern borders with it: it waged a war against us, inflicted a humiliation on us, and to this day lays claims to territories that are ours. Our Communist comrades had never a word to say against the Chinese. Ask them why.
Do we need nuclear power? The answer is yes, we do desperately, and the sooner the better. We cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices of oil, petrol or gas which we have to import to run our cars, buses, trains and aircraft. We cannot produce enough hydel or fossil-produced energy to cope with our ever-increasing demand for more power to run our factories and keep up the pace of development.
Comrade Prakash Karat is of the opinion that the government must first go to the people before signing the nuclear deal. I am not sure what he means by people: does he mean people who know what nuclear energy is and why it is needed, or just everybody who has a vote? If it is the former, then those who know about it have already spoken in its favour. They include the scientist — ex-President Abdul Kalam (Bharat Ratna), most nuclear scientists, many leading industrialists and Brajesh Misra, the most trusted political adviser of ex-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP.
However, if he means the common man who understands nothing about it, he clearly means an earlier election, which he says he does not want. Whatever it be, he is in for a nasty surprise. Whenever the next general elections take place, it will be a significant diminution of votes for the Communists and gains for his sworn enemy, the Hindu-Sikh communal parties. And hopefully comrade Prakash Karat will fade into the background of the Indian political scene.

India - Teach India,Degree of Difference

Think of 787 million people among whom male literacy is 88% and female literacy is 75%. Then think of another 314 million with only 71% male literacy and 50% female literacy. Looks like two different countries, one much more developed than the other? Actually both are in India — the high literacy rates are in urban areas while the low ones are in rural areas. In 2004-05, one fourth of rural families had no literate member of age 15 and above while in urban areas, there were only 8% such households. Over 82% of urban people are literate compared to just 61% in rural areas — a daunting gap of over 21 percentage points. Consider the fact that it took 20 years to raise the national literacy rate by 22 percentage points, from 43% in 1981 to 65% in 2001. One can only imagine how long it will take to bridge the rural-urban divide. While more than half of urban literates have studied beyond class VIII, for 70% rural literates middle school is the end of the road. Only 4% of rural literates have a college degree and only 1% have formal technical education compared to 18% graduates and 5% technically qualified persons in urban literates. It is not as if there are no schools in rural areas. In 2005, India had 10.2 lakh primary and middle schools of which, 9 lakh were in rural and 1.2 lakh in the urban areas. As a result, attendance rates in rural primary schools have increased from 69% in 2000 to 80% in 2005, moving closer to the urban attendance rate of 89%. But this heart-warming story ends at the primary stage. By the higher secondary stage, attendance drops to 40% and dips further to a meagre 8% for college level, in rural areas, while in the urban areas nearly 58% students were attending higher secondary schools and around 20% were in college. For every stage of education the gap keeps widening. In the primary stage (age group 5 to 14 years) the dropout rate is 4.4% for rural and 3.7% for urban India. But by the higher secondary stage, 42% rural students of 15-19 years age group drop out compared to 34% urban students of the same age group. Poor infrastructure, which plagues rural as well as urban schools, is a more acute problem in rural areas and this remains a major obstacle in bridging the divide. Moreover, in rural areas government-run schools are often the only option. Not too many private schools exist as is the case in urban areas where many people, even the poor, opt to send their children to the mushrooming private schools. This makes it all the more imperative that government-run schools in rural India have adequate infrastructure. A school with merely one classroom and a single instructor teaching every student from class one to five may sound bizarre, but more than one lakh schools in rural India have only one classroom and 1.3 lakh schools are run by a single teacher. Another 87,000 schools don't even have a single classroom. More than 6.1 lakh rural schools have three or fewer classrooms compared to 43,000 similar urban schools. Nearly 80% rural schools don't have electricity and only 7% have computers compared to 68% urban schools with electricity and 26.41% with computers. Nearly 5 lakh schools in rural India don't have a regular headmaster and teachers and 7.3 lakh schools have five or fewer teachers. Apart from the fact that schools are already suffering from a shortage of teachers, nearly 20% of them are also involved in non-teaching assignments. Although the average number of instructional days are higher in rural schools as they have 209 working days compared to 201 working days in cities, students of different classes study in the same class and the data for class-wise instructional days is not available.

Business - Colour TVs to become costlier

NEW DELHI: A steep rise in prices of colour television is on the cards with manufacturers gearing up to pass on the burden of anti-dumping duty imposed on imported colour picture tubes by the government. "The prices of colour television are set to go up due to imposing of anti-dumping duty," Consumer Electronic Appliances Manufacturer Association (Ceama) president R Zutsi said. Government on Friday slapped a steep anti-dumping duty on imported picture tube for colour TVs from China, Malaysia, Thailand and Korea after it found that these countries were "dumping" it into India. The punitive duty will range between Rs 878 and Rs 4,369 on a cathode ray colour picture tube (CPT) depending on the size of screen. Zutshi, who is also the Deputy MD of Samsung India, said the impact would differ depending on the size of colour televisions. "It could be as high as 12% for a 21-inch colour television, while it could be 22% in case of CTV set of 29-inch," he said. Korean rival LG Electronics is already planning an increase in prices. "We are increasing the price of colour television sets by around 3-4% from August 1 to pass on some burden to consumers," LG Electronics business group head, consumer electronics, Amitabh Tiwari said. He said the anti-dumping duty imposed is very steep and would impact production costs. "For every increase of Rs 800 in raw material cost, the end price of the product will go up by around Rs 1,450. Thus import duty of such magnitude would definitely have adverse impact on the prices of CTVs," Tiwari added. The government has imposed anti-dumping duty on imported colour picture tubes from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and China. The companies affected by a notification of the department of revenue include Samsung (Malaysia), LG Philips (Korea), Irico Group Electronics (China), Shenzen Samsung (China). The consumer electronic players, who are already struggling to push sales due to negative market sentiments, will have to face a double-whammy now. "We cannot pass whole burden entirely to consumers as this would result into slump in sales but some of these impacts will definitely have to pass on to the consumers," Tiwari said. When contacted Western Electronic also said they have to go for the price hike. "With the imposing of anti-dumping duty, we have no other option but to pass on it to the consumers," Western Electronic V-P marketing Sunil Shetty said. The decision to impose the anti-dumping duty was based on preliminary findings of the designated authority in the commerce ministry. The findings showed that the goods were being exported to India below their normal value causing "material injury to the domestic industry". It was also found that the "injury had been caused by the dumped imports from the subject countries".

Columnists - Barkha Dutt

Now that the political orchestra has hit a noisy but compelling crescendo, and the high notes are beginning to give way to well-rehearsed and oft-sung songs, it’s time to step back and ask ourselves which tune was humming in our head when we left the hall.
I have to confess to some very mixed feelings. The obvious disgust and distaste at the ugly underbelly of what makes Indian politics work was tempered by some real delight in the quality of the parliamentary debate. Yes, this was a drama without any major heroes. Yet, it had some fascinating twists and turns, a few riveting performances and enough reason for those in the supporting cast to be admired and applauded. (Omar Abdullah would get my vote for the Oscar.)
The end of this week may have meant six more months for the UPA in government. But don’t treat this as closure. Instead, what we witnessed was a preview of the uncertainties that will define the general elections in 2009. If you thought this was a cliffhanger, wait till April.
Now that Singh has been anointed King again, there is already frenzied speculation in Congress circles over whether the PM has bought himself another bash at the job, were it the UPA’s for the taking. Quite apart from the fact that Manmohan Singh would have always been the candidate for the top job (Rahul Gandhi is still one election away), the PM must ask himself whether the new tag of being ‘political’ is one he considers a compliment or a curse. There is no doubt that a man once written off as naïve and apolitical even by his own party has emerged to be a canny and smart political risk-taker.
The BJP will find it impossible to ever snidely describe him again as India’s “weakest Prime Minister”, images of a once-diffident man waving the victory sign at eager camera crews combined with a hard-hitting and unusually aggressive reply to both Advani and Karat completed the transformation of Manmohan Singh from technocrat to neta. His party colleagues who were once so quick to undermine him are now nervous and deferential about his influence. And those of us who have always admired his integrity are glad that good men can also survive to tell the tale.
But there’s a catch. Once upon a time, an apolitical PM could have stood apart from and above the dirt and din of politics. Congress managers could have been blamed for the amoral machinations of the party and most of us would have bought it. But in his new avatar, as politician, Manmohan Singh may find it difficult to stand at one arm’s length from the grime of electoral survival. When Shibu Soren returns to the Cabinet, the PM can’t disassociate himself from a decision he once so bitterly opposed. And if it turns out that the BJP MPs who brandished bundles of cash in Parliament were telling the truth about being bribed, the PM’s squeaky clean image could take a knock as well. That, sadly, is the flip side of wielding political influence; is the ‘King’ now wearing a crown of thorns?
L.K. Advani, the man whom the BJP believes will be ensconced in the throne of power by next year has some reason to be unsettled right now. It was a move of Machiavellian brilliance to turn Parliament into the set of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ just 40 minutes before the vote was scheduled. The Congress may question the morality of the timing. But since the UPA has just negotiated ten abstentions — obviously at a price, whether political or monetary — it should know that everything is fair in politics and war.
Those who suggest that the BJP MPs, who are alleging bribery, should have first gone and knocked on the door of some hapless sub-inspector are being ludicrous. It was entirely legitimate of the Opposition to use the issue of cash-for-votes to stall Parliament. And there are serious implications for the credibility of the trust vote if any of these charges turn out to be true. But, when the news channel in possession of the sting-operation tapes opted not to telecast the footage, on the plea that the investigations were still “incomplete”, the BJP’s case was automatically weakened. Add to that the seven defections, and you have a very angry Leader of Opposition whose war plan was poorly executed.
And then, most importantly, there is Mayawati. The well-heeled elite of urban India may laugh (half fearfully) at her aspirations to be Prime Minister but the Congress and the BJP know that she is the one who will keep them awake at night. The BSP may have got only 2.6 per cent and 7 per cent of the vote in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh last year, but it split the traditional Congress vote and hurt it in at least 14 seats in Gujarat alone. In Delhi, the BSP vote share cost the Congress the municipal elections. In the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, Mayawati won a little over 5 per cent of the national vote. If she manages to double this in 2009, she can preside over a kitty of 50 seats across India and happily topple the Congress applecart. Yes, a strategic tie-up with the NDA is not ruled out. But then she would want to be PM, wouldn’t she? The BJP has bravely brushed away the possibility of this as “hypothetical”. But it is, in fact, more real than anyone cares to admit.
So, this week of high drama is really only the beginning. The boiling cauldron of Indian politics may have been brought to a low simmer for now. But the fire is still on, and as the churning contradictions cook in their own steam, you never know what may finally make its way to your table.
Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

Entertainment - Television's Big Cheese

Will Studd has run shops selling farmhouse cheese, fought lawsuits and written books on his favourite food. Radhieka Pandeya on his TV debut.

Even more exciting than the thought of butter melting in your mouth is the thought of cheese melting in it leaving behind a lingering taste of salt and juice... A different region, a different cheese and a different taste.
Now while the staple bread and butter may not enjoy the same status, cheese, for its exquisite methods of preparation, has found its way into the world of luxury foods. But what happens when luxury takes the form of passion, and passion of extreme loyalty?
Well, if you are “master of cheese” Will Studd, you simply fight in a court of law for your cheese, and upon losing, give it a teary-eyed, informal requiem. Then, you write a book on cheese and follow it up with a first-of-its-kind television series.
In 2003, having spent AUD 80,000, Studd lost the case he was fighting in Australia for the right to sell cheese — or at least the kind he liked. The case stemmed from different rules and restrictions surrounding the manufacture and import of cheese made from different forms of milk.
Australia, for instance, disallows the sale and consumption of uncooked cheese made from raw milk — a regulation that Studd decided to challenge. The result was a case slapped against him and an eventual ruling to destroy 80 kg of imported Roquefort cheese.
So Studd destroyed the cheese in an unprecedented burial that brought to life issues that had been shot down in court. Studd’s passion and dedication created a revolution of sorts.
Studd’s journey started in London, where he worked in fancy food shops and broadened his knowledge. It has now culminated in a television series — Cheese Slices — that kicked off on Discovery Travel & Living in India this week after having been successfully aired all over the world, including in Australia. It has been billed as a one-of-its-kind show.
For the filming, Studd travelled across continents to various cheese farms, looking at different cheese-making processes and, at the same time, collecting “folktales” that surround the discovery of cheese.
“In almost all these folktales there is a pattern. You fall in love, leave your cheese somewhere and forget about it. You come back later and it’s turned into some other form of cheese with fermentation,” he says with a mischievous glint.
More seriously, Cheese Slices is not so much about what to do with cheese as it is about how to enjoy your cheese.
“Milk tastes different in every region and so, cheese from every region has a distinct taste to it. And once you get the process right, handmade cheese can be the most delightful of foods.”
In his journey for Cheese Slices, Studd was pleasantly surprised by the strides the cheese industry has taken in the US. But even more revealing was his trip to Holland.
“When I decided to go to Holland to shoot, I kept questioning myself about the decision. On my list, this was the least favourite place for cheese since it’s the most advanced in processed manufacture.” But it was a lesson waiting to be learnt. Holland managed to stun Studd’s prejudice. Away from the mad cities he found a thriving community of artisan and farmhouse cheese manufacturers.
“The other surprise was Japan. The way they go about perfecting everything they touch, I should have known they would do the same with cheese,” he says.
On the list of exquisite cheeses being showcased in the 10-episode series in India is the blue Gorgonzola from northern Italy, goat’s cheese of Poitou from France, Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy again, Pecrino from Tuscany, Camembert, the original Cheddar from England, Comte Gruyere and Farmhouse Morbier from France, Quesos from Spain, and what Studd calls the grand-daddy of all cheeses — Roquefort —the most popular blue cheese in France.
“Not only does it taste lovely, but being one of the oldest manmade foods, each cheese has a fascinating story to tell,” he points out.
Studd’s own passion for cheese has been a lifelong affair: On completing his university, he opened cheese shops across the UK and aptly named them Relish even though he recalls that those days, cheese production in the UK was nothing to talk about. It was in 1981 that Studd moved to Australia, where he opened another chain of cheese stores, tried to develop a domestic farmhouse cheese industry and, in the process, imparted a lot of his knowledge of cheese to the locals.
He could have lost interest or simply developed a niche market for his imported cheese in Australia but Studd decided to tackle the manufacture of cheese and it were the battles and struggles to achieve success in Australia that took him to farther places in search of knowledge.
“If I hadn’t gone to Australia, I would never have come this far in my journey with cheese.” His first book Chalk and Cheese was published in 1999 and is out of print now, having become a collector’s album.
More recently, his second book Cheese Slices forms the basis of the present series by the same name. But from selling cheese to writing books and now to hosting a television show, the focus of Studd’s world has remained constant.
When the idea to create a television show from his book first occurred to Studd, he approached Discovery Travel & Living with it. Along with the team there, the show was conceptualised. But his biggest hurdle came in the form of a lack of sponsorship.
“Large, commercial cheesemakers were not willing to sponsor a show on domestic, farmhouse cheesemakers,” explains Studd and adds, with a laugh, that considering his show is against processed and packaged cheese, they were right in their stance.
But a lack of funds for a show that was unique by any standards did not dampen his enthusiasm. Studd decided to reach into his own pockets and ended up funding the show. You can watch the result every Tuesday, 8 pm on Discovery (T&L).

India - Afghan students adapt well in Kerala

Kozhikode: Nine students from Afghanistan, part of the first batch of 500 students that came to India in 2006 under Central government sponsorship, are doing well in various degree courses here.
The students, doing their BBA and B.A. courses at Farook College, have adapted well to the local situation.
“They are brilliant in studies and converse well in English, showing their willingness to learn by fully making use of the opportunity,” said College Principal A. Kuttialikutty.
Sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Research, the students feel proud to gain education in India. “The educational set-up here is excellent and far better than what we have in our country.
“The number of educational institutions at the higher level in India cannot be dreamt of in our nation,” says Mohammad Zakir Mustafa, a third year BBA student, who also wants to do his MBA in India.
“We are careful to ensure that these students do not lose their direction in any manner other than gaining education, the purpose for which we have sponsored them,” says ICCR official M.R. Krishnamurthy.
One of the students was offered placement by the technology company Nokia, but the ICCR did not clear it as that would have amounted to violating the government directive.
“We come from cities like Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharief and Jalalabad after passing a written test and interview conducted by the ICCR,” says Sieyal, a final year student, from Kabul.
He had scored over 75 per cent in the higher secondary examination in his country.
His parents decided to send him to India to help him gain quality higher education.
Besides meeting the students’ fees, the ICCR grants Rs. 6,000 a month as scholarship to each student.

Jul 25, 2008

Lifestyle - Advantages of Pen & Paper

Handwriting will never be replaced as an instrument of thought, any more than writing could displace talking out loud.
Tomorrow I leave for somewhere without any internet. I will have a fortnight on my own with three books, no television and no neighbours. There won’t even be any darkness, since I will be just below the Arctic Circle. And I’m wondering why or whether I should take a laptop with me. The question may sound quite absurd: why take an instrument of work on holiday? I certainly don’t want it for playing films or anything like that. There is some music on the hard drive, but it’s coming with me as a writing implement and as a way of storing and “developing” photographs. All of a sudden, as I thought about weight and bulk in luggage, I wondered whether I might not just buy a paper notebook out there and write in that, by hand.
I’ve always kept a pen and paper to one side of my typing implements since I started to use a manual typewriter 30 years ago. In the beginning, this was because I typed slowly and painfully and could handwrite fleeting illuminations at the speed of thought. Typewriters also taught me to think out a sentence before I wrote a word. Even electric ones were difficult to correct, and manual ones make it more or less impossible to change what has been written tidily; so the bad habit I had acquired of writing half a sentence out in longhand and then scribbling and re-scribbling until it came to an end somewhere was painfully eradicated.
Of course, with word processors it’s easier to dither. The first macro I write for any new program deletes back to the beginning of a sentence that’s got lost, so I can start it again. But at least I now try to have the whole of it clear in my mind before I start and I now type more quickly than I can write legibly by hand.
So now my use of pencil and paper has changed round. I need it for when I want to write slowly and when there will only ever be at most one reader, me, and sometimes fewer. Nor do I nowadays keep a special notebook for such jottings. I just grab the nearest piece of paper with an empty space on it, which makes it even harder to find and collate notes afterwards. Nonetheless, the very simple if hardly crude technology has real advantages over anything invented since.
It may be different for people who learnt to type early in life, but for me there is an extraordinary direct connection, almost bypassing my consciousness, between brain and ballpoint. It’s as if I hear my own voice as I watch it emerge on the paper. That’s not true at all with a keyboard which is always noisy and always produces regular results. But thought isn’t regular, and doesn’t come in lines — at least mine doesn’t. It comes in gouts, or flurries, falling at different places on the page and different angles. Later, when I go back to these pages, there is all sorts of metadata encoded in the way the patches of writing are arranged. Looking at each one, I remember not just what I wrote, but what I was thinking while I wrote it. There’s a richness and complexity in these notes to myself that no other medium can surpass.
For public communication, this doesn’t work as well. Old-fashioned bureaucrats learned a regular standardised hand. Quirks, trills and elaborations were quite taboo. For that sort of purpose a typewriter — and, later, a computer — really was an advance, though from the executive’s point of view there was nothing so satisfying as paying someone else for turning your thoughts into something that could be read and even understood.
But I don’t think handwriting will ever be replaced as an instrument of thought, any more than writing could displace talking out loud. Even handwriting hasn’t entirely replaced talking for me. I still try to say the sentences I write out loud as someone will have to hear them in their head sometime.
No new technology can ever entirely improve what it replaces. In the case of handwriting these are probably the most intimate and important thoughts we’re ever going to have. Even being hard to copy is an advantage sometimes — you don’t have to remember passwords for your privacy, just scribble. This is a technology so far ahead of its time it even has built-in encryption.
(Andrew Brown is the author of Fishing in Utopia (Granta). He blogs at thewormbook.com/hlog)

World - The truly powerful find no space for cyberspace

John McCain, Carl Icahn: Perhaps they don’t need to do cyberspace.

Hedge-fund billionaire Carl Icahn, who has this week been given three seats on the board of internet company Yahoo, does not, it has been revealed, have a computer. Email, Icahn suggests, is a distraction. Republican presidential candidate John McCain doesn’t email or know how to use the net. He told the New York Times recently: “I am learning to get online myself.” Instead, the senator currently has the cyberspace equivalent of food tasters, namely aides who direct him to happening sites such as the Drudge Report and his daughter Meghan’s blog.

Democrats argue this shows that Mr. McCain, who turns 72 next month, is out of touch with the modern world. “My five-year-old niece can use the internet,” said one gloating Barack Obama strategist. Mr. Obama, by contrast, is regularly photographed in-flight hunched over his BlackBerry.

But is Mr. McCain’s admission really damaging? Like the Queen not carrying money, only really powerful people don’t do cyberspace. They sit at computer-free desks thinking outside the inbox, while their crack team of microserfs battle with spam or Google their way through virtual forests of information.

After Tony Blair left office, he had to adjust to a baffling new world of mobile phones (he didn’t have one as PM), texting (“Who are you?” was the reply to his first message) and email. The Bill Clinton Archive in Little Rock, Arkansas, has nearly four million emails from the former President’s staff and only two from the President himself. Admittedly, one of the latter was to astronaut John Glenn, who was aboard the space shuttle at the time, but even then Clinton’s staffers had to help him.

True, some titans of business reply very quickly to emails, as their inboxes are uncluttered by spam. Three hundred emails a day is the curse of the middle manager. But, as Stanford professor Donald Knuth, one of the world’s leading computer scientists, writes, “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration.”

Mr. Knuth hasn’t checked his emails since 1990. Maybe Mr. McCain shouldn’t bother to familiarise himself with the web and, if elected, perhaps Mr. Obama should check his BlackBerry at the Oval Office door.

World - Iran's increasing influence in Iraq

Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq and Lebanon is part of a major political transformation in West Asia which has reached a decisive stage.

Within the space of one week in July, Iran recorded two major successes in West Asia. Through skilful diplomacy, it upstaged persistent efforts by Americans to consolidate their influence in two theatres of conflict — Iraq and Lebanon.
In Iraq, which shares a 1,458-km border with Iran, the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki announced that American troops would not be stationed in the country permanently. Iran saw this momentous decision as a big strategic accomplishment. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 brought hostile American forces to Iran’s doorstep. This resulted in grave anxiety for Tehran as American troops were already positioned in Afghanistan. With the invasion of Iraq, the world’s best armed military force marked its presence along Tehran’s eastern and western borders.
However, by early July, Tehran had tangible reasons to conclude that it had achieved a stunning success. On July 7, Mr. Al Maliki told the region’s ambassadors in Abu Dhabi that Baghdad was not interested in an open-ended Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) with the Americans. Such an arrangement, on the lines of post-World War-II U.S. agreements with Japan and Korea, would have meant a permanent American troop presence in Iraq.
On July 11, a new national unity government was formed in Lebanon, in which Iran’s allies, Hizbollah and Amal, acquired a position which insulated them against moves that could undermine their interests as well as those of their allies.
Elaborating Mr. Maliki’s remarks in Abu Dhabi, his National Security Adviser, Muwaffaq Al-Rubaie, said during a visit to Najaf on July 9: “We will not accept any memorandum of understanding [with the Americans] if it does not give a specific date for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops.” The government’s call had the sanction of the highly influential Ayatollah Ali Sistani, top Shia cleric in Iraq, who is a revered figure throughout the country. Why did the Maliki government defy the American script in Iraq?
It appears Iraqi nationalism and sectarian fears of being overwhelmed by the Sunni neighbours were some of the major factors that led to the move. However, astute and persistent Iranian diplomacy appears to have clinched the issue. Tehran relied on two major government factions — the Al Dawa party, to which Mr. Maliki belongs, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) — to safeguard its interests. Iran had patiently cultivated the groups in a marathon effort that dates back several decades.
The tide was not necessarily flowing Iran’s way in Iraq during 2005-06. The former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had worked hard to diminish Iranian influence in the country. The envoy specifically targeted the SIIC, which had acquired a high profile in Iraq’s security forces. The Interior Ministry, behind which the SIIC was the real force, was accused of using the state apparatus to achieve sectarian goals. The Ministry was blamed for operating torture chambers, where grave human rights abuses were perpetrated against Sunni groups.
After assuming that the SIIC had been chastened, the Americans invited the group’s leader, Abdulaziz Al Hakim, to Washington. In December 2006, he was feted in the White House by President George Bush. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met him again in November 2007.
During their meetings, the Iraqis reassured the Americans that they were restricting Iranian activity in Iraq. Mr. Maliki told the Americans that the Iranians had been persuaded to work on the Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. This, according to him, was the key factor that led to the cleric declaring a ceasefire in August 2007. By November 2007, negotiations on stationing U.S. forces in Iraq began. In the next three months, American, British and Iraqi military forces planned a large-scale joint operation in Basra for summer 2008.
However, by March 7, the situation changed dramatically. The Americans sent the SoFA draft to the Iraqi government. The proposed agreement alarmed the Iraqis. There were glaring loopholes which raised suspicions about Washington’s real intentions in Iraq. For instance, the agreement did not provide Iraqis explicit security guarantees against a military attack. The omission aroused fears among Iraqis that they would be highly vulnerable to attacks by their Sunni neighbours, especially Turkey, Washington’s NATO ally. The Iraqis were also uncomfortable with the draft provision that excluded them from exercising any jurisdiction over American forces to be deployed following the accord. Besides, the clause that the Americans would control the Iraqi airspace was unacceptable. Both issues challenged Iraqi sovereignty and aroused deep nationalist feelings.
For the Iranians, the agreement crossed all “red lines” and was totally unacceptable. Tehran saw in the draft a U.S. plan to use Iraqi soil to implement the Americans’ “regime change” design. Iranian diplomacy, therefore, went into top gear once the Iraqis received the American draft.
A shift in Mr. Maliki’s position towards Americans now became visible. The first tangible sign came in March. Instead of waiting for the full-scale joint assault planned for summer, the Iraqi forces led an attack on Basra. The premature strike achieved two major objectives. It allowed the Sadirist forces to survive as Mr. Maliki’s forces were in no position to overwhelm them. More importantly, it opened the door for Iran’s emergence as the chief mediator in resolving intra-Shia disputes in Iraq. On the request of the Al Dawa and the SIIC, Iran negotiated for peace between Mr. Maliki’s government and the Sadirists.
The bonding between the government in Baghdad and the Iranians became transparent on other occasions as well. In late April, the Americans said the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, was preparing a document that would prove Iran’s complicity in fomenting “instability” in Iraq. The argument was that the weapons captured during the Basra operations and in Karbala bore Iranian hallmarks. The “international media,” according to the plan, would be taken to Karbala, where the weapons would be displayed. It was apparent that the document and the media circus that was to follow were part of a carefully choreographed exercise to drum up support against Iran, and weaken the sceptics in the U.S. Congress who were challenging the Bush administration’s version of events on Iraq.
However, Mr. Maliki’s government played a major role in foiling the U.S. plan. An Iraqi delegation which had just returned from Iran stated publicly that Tehran had another version that countered U.S. claims. On May 4, Mr. Maliki’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, told journalists that the Prime Minister was forming a Cabinet Committee that would probe Washington’s allegations on its own. As for the weapons, American experts who independently examined the cache in Karbala could not find any evidence that linked it to Iran.
The Iranians, who were now fully involved in intra-Shia confabulations, also helped Mr. Maliki’s government defuse tensions in the Sadirist stronghold of Sadr city in Baghdad. Aware that an all-out American assault on Sadr city was imminent, the Iranians encouraged the Iraqi government to hold talks with the Sadirists. The negotiations resulted in an accord that removed the raison d’etre for an American assault.
Like Iraq, Iran has registered substantial success in Lebanon. Its chief ally, the Lebanese Hizbollah, has grown from strength to strength in recent weeks. The Americans, with the help of the pro-western forces in the Lebanese establishment, stonewalled the Hizbollah’s efforts to translate its military achievements in the war against Israel in summer 2006 into concrete political accomplishments. The standoff between the Hizbollah and the pro-western March 14 forces, which reflected a larger rivalry between Iran and Syria vis-À-vis the U.S. and Israel, paralysed the functioning of the government in Beirut for over a year. The final showdown came in May when the government of Fouad Siniora decided to decommission the Hizbollah’s secure telecommunication network. The Hizbollah was also accused of monitoring flights from the Beirut airport. It retaliated aggressively against the move. Within hours, its forces had established physical control over Beirut and other key areas. The assertion of power by the Hizbollah finally forced a major policy change in the West. The Doha accord, which followed a month later, was a major achievement, as it allowed the formation of a new government in which the Hizbollah and its ally Amal were in a position to veto any major legislation. Following the formation of a new government, the Hizbollah successfully brought back from Israel all Lebanese prisoners and bodies of fighters who died in previous conflicts, as part of a swap with the Israelis.
Iran’s consolidation of influence in Iraq and Lebanon is part of a major political transformation West Asia is undergoing following the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the war the Hizbollah fought with Israel two years ago. With the established order in West Asia already unravelling due to the string of successes that Iran and its allies have registered, the political transition in the region has reached a decisive stage.

India - Violent Religion

If lakhs of people were to block all the roads between Haridwar, Delhi and surrounding areas for nearly a month, torch a few dozen trucks, buses, tractors and petrol pumps in retaliation for a few deaths in road accidents, the government would have responded with alacrity and sent in the army. But if these vandals were on a mission of religious piety no political party would dare to interfere. The kanwaria season is upon us again. An estimated seven lakh devotees will block most of the roads from Haridwar to their home towns and villages in a 300-km radius during the lunar month of Shravan. They are called kanwarias because they carry small pots of Ganga water on their shoulders on a bamboo pole called a kanwar . For the most part the short pilgrimages are peaceful but the advent of a new custom of dak kanwars with groups of running kanwarias who run in relays to quickly get to their destinations is causing serious problems. While one devotee runs with the pots on his shoulder, the rest of his team follows on motorcycles, buses or cars and get violent if their passage is delayed. For about four weeks, it will be nearly impossible for children to get to school, for mourners to take the ashes of their departed ones for immersion. Ambulances will be virtually immobile and fire brigade, police and other emergency vehicles will find it difficult to operate. This custom was unknown a decade ago and was transplanted here from a similar practice that began years earlier in Sultanganj in Bihar. This annual migration with its raucous religiosity is a far cry from the quiet spirituality of true religion. The custom has no place in any of the scriptures but is a popular act of public piety in which both the devotees as well as the numerous supporters providing them with food, refreshments and shelter believe that they will gain punya or good karma for a better next life. Professional priests of all religions have for many centuries exploited gullible devotees persuading them that numerous heavenly or otherworldly rewards would be available to them in exchange for donations, pilgrimages, fasts, sacrifices or austerities. With surprising speed, many new religious customs develop. Soon even the less credulous succumb to the comfort of going with the current. Paradoxically, such customs were seldom at the command of the sages, prophets or founders of any religion. None of them had asked for temples, mosques or churches, let alone the trappings or demonstrations of religion with sacred robes, triumphant flags, loud music or colourful processions. But power corrupts and the priests of every faith are easily intoxicated by the power that religiosity gives them. Politicians happily support religiosity that can serve their political agendas. With amazing speed, the social and moral ideas of the founders become lost in an ocean of meaningless rituals and superstitions. Outward form becomes more important than inner substance and religiosity masquerades as religion. Curiously, it is at this stage of most feverish religiosity that religions have collapsed. History shows that new reformers disgusted with empty rituals, superstitions and the arrogance of priests have appeared to break away from the old order to become the founders of new faiths. Zoroaster and Buddha, disgusted with the sacrifices of the old Avestan and Vedic priests, founded simple new faiths. Jesus, horrified by the excesses of Jewish priests founded Christianity. Muhammad, appalled by the rituals and offerings to 365 idols at Mecca founded Islam. But the insidious influence of ritual and superstition is difficult to eradicate. Rituals, penances, processions and offerings packaged as joyous distractions cost much less than the effort of understanding and practising the deeper moral, social and philosophical tenets of religion. So populist ritual and superstition have crept into Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other faiths.

India - When Dhyan Chand defied the Fuehrer

NEW DELHI: They had the gift to mesmerise opponents and crowd alike. Few know that Dhyan Chand and his teammates had the guts to defy the Fuehrer in his backyard.

A new book suggests that India was one of the only two contingents, America being the other, which refused to salute Adolf Hitler during the opening ceremony of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Olympics: The India Story by Boria Majumdar and Nalin Mehta sheds light on an obscure but glorious chapter of Indian sports and relives how a bunch of mostly unsuspecting, rustic Indians went on to make a stupendous political statement in a grand gesture of defiance.

The book narrates the opening ceremony of the Berlin Games, which was as much a Nazi propaganda vehicle as a sporting extravaganza. Hindenberg, the giant Zeppelin, whirred over the stadium as Hitler arrived for the guard of honour amid great fanfare.

The Indians, Dhyan Chand carrying the flag, were arguably the most dazzling contingent in their light blue turban and golden outfit, resembling a marriage procession, as one of the players later remarked.

"But this was no ordinary marriage procession. Its members were about to make a huge political statement by becoming one of the two contingents to refuse saluting Hitler," the book recalls.

The crowd watched in dismay as the Indians did not salute the Nazi. While their gesture went largely unnoticed back home, it created quite a stir in Germany, the book claims.

For the record, India crushed Hitler's Germany 8-1 in the final to complete their golden hat-trick in Olympics.

India - Kolkata's graveyard tourism

KOLKATA: The dead are an unlikely tourist attraction, but authorities in Kolkata are promoting the graveyards of India's former colonial capital to woo foreigners trying to trace their roots.

At one end of Park Street, lined on either sides with bars, night clubs and chic eateries, lies a walled cemetery with rows of mossy graves shaped like pyramids, pagodas and obelisks. Many of its occupants were interred during the British Raj.

A rising number of tourists, especially from Britain, who are looking for ancestors in this cemetery and a bigger one in the same neighbourhood have spurred the "tourism of the dead" drive.

"Graveyard tourism sounds gross but we want the graveyards to be part of the city's heritage tourism circuit," said Manab Mukherjee, tourism minister of West Bengal.

He said authorities were keen to promote the graveyards as a tourist draw similar to Highgate Cemetery in London or Pere-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

And to make it easier for tourists, the Christian Burial Board (CBB), which runs four major cemeteries, has begun transferring the burial records of graveyards where many Britons were interred, some nearly 200 years ago, into a computer.

"An arduous process to digitise records of more than 100,000 burials and 20,000 graves has been undertaken so that the foreigners visiting the city to trace their ancestral roots can locate them at the click of a mouse," said Ranojoy Bose of CBB.

Every day, at least 20 foreigners visit the cemeteries in Kolkata, formerly called Calcutta and the capital of British-ruled India from 1772 until 1911.

The city, home to about 15 million people, bears vestiges of its British past through its grand Victorian architecture, buildings, churches and cemeteries.

Michael Grover, a middle-aged Briton who now lives in Australia, says he found his grandparents' graves in Kolkata.

"It was a great feeling," said Grover, whose grandfather was a sergeant in the British army in India.

Among the many tombs are those of famous Britons like William Jones, the educationist who founded the Asiatic Society, and unorthodox poet Henry Louis Vivian Derozio.

People could search the digitised database using date of burial and, in more recent cases, names.

Arijit Mitra, whose firm is involved in the data transfer, says the process would be over by the end of the year.

"Tourists can locate the graves from abroad and plan their visits, unlike in the past when they had arrived here clueless and searched aimlessly," he said

World - Zimbabwe has no banknote paper

Harare: Zimbabwe’s government is struggling to find enough cash to pay its workers, and more importantly the military, after it was forced to cut back on printing money because sanctions have severed its supply of banknote paper from Europe.
Officials involved in the printing said the regime fears the presses could be shut down altogether if further political pressure causes the withdrawal of software licences used to design and print notes.
Paper money is already in short supply because the state-run Fidelity Printers & Refiners in Harare cannot keep up with demand created by the hyperinflation and rapid devaluation that causes notes to lose almost their entire value within weeks of being issued.Highest denomination
On July 21, the central bank issued a Z$100-billion note, the highest denomination to date but worth seven pence, printed on what remains of stocks of the German paper. The cash shortage is contributing to the rapidly deepening economic crisis and further threatening Mr. Mugabe’s regime.
The government needs to ensure money reaches the Army. Zimbabweans are limited to withdrawing just Z$100 billion a day from their accounts, less than half the cost of a loaf of bread.
The trade unions wrote to the Central Bank asking it to remove the daily limit, describing it as a “joke.”
“As you may be aware, transport alone, costs around Z$150 billion, on average. How then do the monetary authorities expect an ordinary employee to report for duty and go back home when he or she is allowed to only withdraw a maximum amount of Z$100 billion,” asked the unions.

Business - Kinley's packaging revamp

Kinley, the bottled-water brand by Coca Cola, has undergone a significant revamp. Apart from new packaging, a new piece of integrated communication, sporting the new packaging and tagline, 'Boond Boond Mein Vishwas', has also been rolled out. This is the first concerted effort for the brand in the past three years.The bottle now comes in a new 'easy to hold' shape; and the label has changed from the previous blue to a transparent one.Kinley was launched by Coca-Cola India in the end of 2000. In the eight years of existence, this is the first time that the brand has reconsidered its packaging. Says Avinash Pant, director, marketing, still beverages, “It's not only about a new look, it’s more about the functionality. The transparent label conveys what the brand stands for.”
Talking about Kinley’s communication over time, Pant reveals that apart from talking about purity, the communication has also managed to connect with the audience in an Indian manner. The importance of water in life has been talked about too.The 'Boond Boond Mein Vishwas' concept has been with Kinley for five years now. In the first three years of the brand, the communication was more about safety and how a packaged-drinking-water brand needs to be trustworthy enough for the consumer to accept it. The communication evolved with time and with the changes in the category, Pant says.Talking about the TVC, Titus Upputuru, senior creative director, O&M, Delhi, the agency which handles the creative duties for the brand, says, “The creative depicts that those whom we really know and trust have nothing to hide. This feature of trust and purity is equated to the quality of Kinley packaged drinking water.”Upputuru revelas that the brand had a successful campaign some years back (Koi Rang Nahi, Koi Aakaar Nahi) and Coca Cola was looking at refreshing the premise of the communication.
The film is in the form of a travelogue, where a young boy keeps the faith by going through a long journey to meet his grandmother. The film opens on the boy, who is en route to his ancestral home. The background score says, 'Mann Kaanch jaisa, Aar Paar Aisa, Aasman Sa Khula Saaf Dil Hai Tera'. Somewhere along the journey, he is looking for drinking water, and is skeptical about finding pure water. A shopkeeper, on sensing his dilemma, calls him and gives him the new bottle of Kinley. The boy, on seeing the trusted quality seal on the bottle, is happy that he has found his trusted Kinley. All along the journey – on the bus, at a roadside dhaba, he uses Kinley to quench his thirst. At his grandmother’s home, he is welcomed with lot of love and affection. His grandmother asks him to wash his hands (a symbol of purification) with Kinley. The film closes on the shot of the old lady and the grandson catching up with each other, with the super — 'Boond Boond Mein Vishwas'.The lyrics for the film’s background score have been penned by Upputuru. From the creative side at O&M, Suman Adhikari and Preeti Kaul Chaudhary have worked as part of Upputuru's team. The film has been shot by Shashanka Chaturvedi of Good Morning Films, on the Mumbai-Pune highway. Apart from television, outdoor and on-truck advertising would be used as part of the communication.In the Rs 1,250-crore packaged-drinking-water market, as estimated by industry experts, Rs 1,000 crore accounts for branded packaged drinking water. Bisleri, the market leader, holds 21-22 per cent share of the market. Kinley has around 19.5 per cent, and Aquafina accounts for 18 per cent. Average advertising and marketing spends for the category is around Rs 50-60 crore. The market is growing at 25-30 per cent every year.