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Showing posts from February, 2009

World's Largest Solar Deals

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Sunny California is leading the way to tap solar energy. Can sunny Pakistan follow to deal with its crippling energy crisis?

California based BrightSource Energy, which already has a deal to build a series of huge solar power plants in the Mojave Desert for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), announced an even larger project recently with Southern California Edison. Brightsource, with its roots in Israel, launched its first big solar project last year in the Negev desert.

The World Economic Forum voted BrightSource as a 2009 Technology Pioneer. It was the only solar company to win this year's award, and is recognized for helping industrial customers reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

By 2016, the two companies said, BrightSource will build a series of solar-thermal power plants that will generate 1.3 gigawatts of electricity for Southern California Edison's customers. That's enough power for 845,000 homes, said Stuart Hemphill, the utility's vice president o…

Stimulus Triggers Lobbyists Boom in Washington

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With Washington on an unprecedented spending spree to stimulate the economy, President Barack Obama has repeatedly promised unprecedented transparency. "Instead of politicians doling out money behind closed doors, the important decisions about where taxpayer dollars are invested will be yours to scrutinize," the President said in a video announcing the opening of the site called recovery.gov.

While polls indicate that most Americans support their new president in his sincere efforts to revive the US economy, it is clear that President Obama is up against the massive power of Washington's corrupt political-industrial elite that has brought American economy near collapse. And many of the same people are still in charge on the Hill.

As the stimulus package is getting the nod from the US Congress, the lobbyists on K-street say that their phones are ringing off the hook. "There was this unique opportunity that government was handing out money and anytime that happens, c…

Slumdog Should Spark War on Child Poverty

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Decried by many as "racist poverty porn" and condemned by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachan in his blog for showing India as "a third world dirty under belly developing nation (sic)", the movie Slumdog Millionaire has been greeted by howls of protests in India. But it has been widely acclaimed in the West. It is sparking international interest in the vast slums of Mumbai. “Slumdog” may take in $100 million during its run in U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. The low-budget movie had $43.9 million in receipts before collecting 10 Oscar nominations on Jan. 22, 2009. There have been charges of child exploitation against Slumdog producer and director which have been denied by Danny Boyle. “The actors were paid very well. We have not released any figures — either what they were paid or what they will receive when they complete their education — because it would make them vulnerable to certain elements, because they are quite large sums of mo…

WiMax Broadband Growing in Pakistan

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Motorola announced in 2006 that Pakistan planned the world's largest WiMax roll-out. "The deployment is a milestone in the spread of WiMax, a superfast wireless technology that has a range of up to 30 miles and can deliver broadband at a theoretical maximum of 75 megabits per second. The 802.16-2004 standard, which is used in fixed WiMax networks, is being skipped in favor of a large-scale introduction of 802.16e, which was only recently agreed upon by the WiMax Forum," the 2006 announcement said.

Let's examine the state of WiMax deployments and subscriber growth around the world since the Motorola announcement more than two years ago.

The broadband wireless access (BWA) industry has grown significantly in the last few years due to increased availability of spectrum for commercial services and the desire to close the digital divide, according to Wimax.com. A major shift from the industry has been the migration towards standards-based products.

The largest wireless I…

Is This the End of American Capitalism?

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As the modern system of capitalism faces the most serious challenge of its existence since Adam Smith, the name of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) is being regularly invoked by economists, politicians, bankers, and the media. And with good reason. Born in Cambridge, England, in 1883, the year Karl Marx died, Keynes probably saved capitalism from itself and kept Communists at bay. Keynesian Economics advocates the use of government monetary and fiscal policy to maintain full employment with low inflation.

Keynes described Capitalism in the following words: "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone."

A well-known anti-Semite, Keynes once said, "It is not agreeable to see civilization so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and brains." As in the past financial crises, powerful Jews on Wall Street and in Washington are being held re…

Pakistan Textile Industry Hits Rough Patch

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Pakistan has a diverse economy that includes textiles, chemicals, leather products, food processing, financial services, telecommunications, retail, automobile manufacturing, light and heavy armaments, agriculture and other industries. It is the 45th largest economy in the world in terms of official exchange rates ($144b) and 25th largest based on purchasing power parity ($410b PPP). Its service sector accounts for more than half of its GDP.

Pakistan’s textile industry is a major contributor to the national economy in terms of exports and employment. Pakistan holds the distinction of being the world’s 4th largest producer of cotton as well as being the 3rd largest consumer of the same. In the period July 2007 - June 2008, textile exports were US$ 10.62 Billion and accounted for 55% of the total exports.

As the economies in the US and Europe slow down, Pakistan's key exports of textiles and leather products are experiencing a slowdown in growth as well. According to APTMA, textile e…

Coffee, Tea or Pee?

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In late 1970s when I was in graduate school in New Jersey, the late prime minister of India, Mr. Morarji Desai, was the focus of a CBS 60-minutes interview extolling the virtues of drinking urine. It provided Pakistani students an opportunity to embarrass our fellow students and friends from India. When our Indian friends showed up for a visit, my roommate politely asked them whether they would like to have "coffee, tea or pee". It was all in good fun and we all laughed it off.

Fast forward thirty years. The joke appears to be turning into reality with the expected launch of a drink "Gau Jal" in India. It is being touted as the "Hindu Nationalists' answer to Coke" by the RSS.

"Don't worry, it won't smell like urine and will be tasty too," Om Prakash of the RSS told The Times from his headquarters in Hardwar, one of four holy cities on the River Ganges. "Its USP will be that it's going to be very healthy. It won't be like…

Corruption Rampant in Construction Industry

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On September 1, 2007, the newly constructed Sher Shah Bridge in Karachi, Pakistan, collapsed killing 14 people, and injuring many, including three police constables. The bridge was inaugurated by former President Pervez Musharraf less than a month before it fell down. Shoddy construction and corruption are suspected but the investigation has produced no results yet. Official cover-up appears to have succeeded.

In 2003, S.K. Dubey, Deputy General Manager of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), was assassinated by unidentified gunmen after he wrote to the Prime Minister of India highlighting several instances of "loot of public money" and "poor implementation". He requested anonymity but, tragically, the confidentiality of Dubey’s letter and the identity of the ‘whistle blower’ were both violated as Dubey’s letter was passed down from file to file through the bureaucratic maze.

Earthquakes that hit China and Pakistan in the last few years have caused massive d…

Insurgencies in South Asia

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In recent years, militant groups in the beautiful Swat valley, led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, have been attacking and killing civilians as well as security forces in scenic Swat. In some 60 villages, the militants have set up a de facto "parallel government" with Islamic courts imposing sharia law. The region is effectively under militant control despite the presence of 20,000 Pakistani troops. Local opponents of the militants have been harshly critical of Pakistani civil society for its lack of concern for their plight as well as critical of the military and provincial government for their ineffective measures for controlling the tide of militancy.

Media reports indicate that the Taliban are enforcing a complete ban on female education in the Swat district. Some 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls have been shut down. At least 10 girls' schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the tow…

Bollywood-Hollywood Hybrid Film Genre

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Bollywood and Hollywood are joining forces to produce a whole slew of hybrid movies with money, stars and scripts flowing in both directions. The motivation is clear: Both purveyors of entertainment are looking to expand their audiences. "It's the right time for these two giants to shake hands," Mr. Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Indian writer and director, told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Hollywood stands to benefit from India's large movie audiences. "We have stars like Aamir Khan, who has more eyeballs than Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, anybody."

Though it is dwarfed by Hollywood's $10b in sales last year, India's domestic film industry is growing much faster at 15% annually and is projected to hit $4 billion by 2012, up from $1.9 billion in 2007, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Wall Street Journal is reporting a number of joint projects currently in development: Screenwriter Paul Schrader, famous for such films as "Taxi Driver" and "…

Pakistani Dollar Reserves Rise

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There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train.

Pakistan's dollar reserves are climbing again and its currency stabilizing, after more than a year of monthly declines. The nation's foreign exchange reserves rose by $260 million to $10.21 billion in the week that ended on Jan. 24, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

This included $500 million Pakistan received from China to help build foreign reserves, said Syed Wasimuddin, chief spokesman for the Pakistan's central bank.

Pakistan's foreign reserves hit a record high of $16.5 billion in October 2007 but fell to $6.6 billion in November, largely because of a soaring import bill. There has been a dramatic decline in the cost of imports such as oil during the last few months, spelling relief for Pakistan and other non-OPEC developing nations. The price of oil has dropped to about a quarter of what it was last summer.

Pakistan signed a $7.6 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fu…

India's Green Energy Giant Hits Rough Patch

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Suzlon, India's wind power giant, has reported a quarterly loss after years of expansion and profit growth. It was hurt mainly by the ongoing global credit crunch, slowing wind turbine sales, and by rising costs and a provision to do repairs stemming from the widely reported quality problems at the wind-turbine manufacturer's overseas plants.

Suzlon reported a consolidated net loss of 589.7 million rupees ($12.1 million) for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a net profit of 1.52 billion rupees a year earlier. Consolidated total revenue more than doubled to 68.93 billion rupees from 31.7 billion rupees, while consolidated total expenditure surged to 63.19 billion rupees from 28.48 billion rupees, according to media reports.

Chairman and Managing Director Tulsi Tanti said the global credit crunch is likely to hit sales growth in the wind-energy sector, which had a compounded annual growth rate of more than 34% over the past five years.

But Suzlon said it expects the industry…