Friday, 31 October 2014

Why are Asians under represented in English cricket?

by Girish Menon

A recent ECB survey found that 30 % of the grass root level cricket players were of Asian origin while it reduces dramatically to 6.2 % at the level of first class county cricketers. Why?

When this question was asked to Moeen Ali, he opined among other things, "I also feel we lose heart too quickly. A lot of people think it is easy to be a professional cricketer, but it is difficult. There is a lot of sacrifice and dedication," While some may view Ali's views as suffering from the Stockholm syndrome, in my personal opinion it resembles the 'Lazy Japanese and Thieving Germans' metaphor highlighted by the economist Ha Joon Chang. Hence, Ali's views should not be confused with what in my perspective are some of the actual reasons why there is a dearth of Asian faces in county cricket.

The Cambridge economist Ha Joon Chang has acquired a global reputation as a myth buster and is a must read for all those who wish to contradict the dogmatic neoliberal consensus. Chapter 9 of Ha Joon Chang's old classic Bad Samaritans actually discusses this metaphor in detail. He quotes Beatrice Webb in 1911 describing the Japanese as having 'objectionable notions of leisure and a quite intolerable personal independence'. She was even more scathing about the Koreans: '12 millions of dirty, degraded, sullen, lazy and religionless savages who slouch about in dirty white garments...'  The Germans were typically described by the British as a 'dull and heavy people'. 'Indolence' was a word that was frequently associated with the Germanic nature.

But now that the economies of Japan, Korea and Germany have become world leaders such denigration of their peoples has disappeared. If Moeen Ali's logic was right then Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and Indians living in their own countries should also not amount to much in world cricket. But the evidence is to the contrary. So the right question to ask would be why has English cricket not tapped into the great love for cricket among its citizens from the Indian subcontinent?

If it wants the truth, English cricket should examine the issue raised by the Macpherson report on 'institutional racism in the police' and ask if this is true in county cricket as well. Immigrants, as the statistics suggest, from the subcontinent can be found in large numbers in grassroots cricket from the time they joined the British labour force. There are many immigrants only cricket leagues in the UK, e.g in Bradford, where players of good talent can be found. But, as Jass Bhamra's father mentioned in the film Bend it Like Beckham they have not been allowed access to the system. Why, Yorkshire waited till the 1990s to select an Asian player for the first time.

----Also read

Failing the Tebbit test - Difficulties in supporting the England cricket team


Of course, if the England team is intended to be made up of players of true English stock only then we need not have this discussion. Some of the revulsion towards Kevin Pietersen among some of the establishment could be better understood using this lens. However, now due to its dwindling base if the ECB  wishes to get the support of Asian cricket lovers it will have to transform the way the game is run.

Secondly, to make it up the ranks in English cricket it is essential to have an expensive well connected coach. Junior county selections are based on this network and any unorthodox talent would be weeded out at the earliest level either because of not having a private coach or because the technique is rendered untenable as it blots the copybook. So, many children of Asian origin from weaker economic backgrounds are weeded out by this network.

This is akin to the methods adopted by parents in the shires where grammar schools exist. Hiring expensive tutors for their wards is the middle class way of crowding out genuinely academic oriented students from weaker economic backgrounds. Better off Asians are equally culpable in distorting the grammar school system and its objectives.

So what could be done. I think positive discrimination is the answer. We only need to look at South African cricket to see what results it can bring. My suggestion would be that every team should have two places reserved: one for a minority player and another for an unorthodox player. This should to some extent break up the parent-coach orthodoxy and breathe some fresh air and dynamism into English cricket.

Personally, I have advised my son that he should play cricket only for pleasure and not to aspire for serious professional cricket because of the opacity in the selection mechanism which means an uncertain economic future. He is 16, a genuine leg spinner with little coaching but with good control on flight and turn. Often he complains about conservative captains and coaches who were unwilling to gamble away a few runs in the hope of getting wickets. Many years ago, when my son was not picked by a county side, I asked the coach the reason and he said because, 'he flights the ball and is slower through the air'. With what conviction then could I have told my lad that you can make a decent living out of cricket if you persevere enough?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Today, males under 40 are three times more likely to kill themselves than women

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: We must wake up to the silent suffering afflicting too many young men

We were discussing terrorism at a private seminar two weeks ago when one of the attendees – an academic – wondered aloud whether jihadis had found their own way of expressing grave and growing male despair: “They go off to kill others, while here in the UK an unprecedented number of men under the age of 40 are killing themselves. Do both these come from the same source?” The question stunned us all. It was bold, astute, lateral and exposed the inadequacy of the national discourse on terrorism.
Muhammad Mehdi Hassan, only 19, was killed in Syria this week. Like three other young men who have also died in those killing fields, he was from Portsmouth. Many such Muslims appear to have gone out to help Syrian people caught in the bloodiest of civil wars. Then some got in with Isis, while others took up arms to fight the bad guys, whoever they are. A number British Muslims want to come back home, but can’t because Isis makes them stay on pain of death. And, besides, they know they would be imprisoned upon return.
In most cases, the families are shocked and traumatised. Imagine how Hassan’s mother feels. They sent him to a private school hoping he would make them proud. Now they have to mourn, feel guilt and be accused by those around them. They have no help groups and worse, are seen as pariahs.
Meanwhile a reader, Lucinda (not her real name), emailed me last week. She is alarmed at the way her leftie, liberal friends are now vehemently anti-Muslim and think that such parents are liars or should know what their children are up to. Parents of young white men who commit suicide are similarly disbelieved or blamed. The guilt, the silent accusations, circulate around them: “How could they not have seen the signs? Why didn’t they do something to help him?”
Female suicides have gone down since 1981, while male suicides are up. Today, males under 40 are three times more likely to kill themselves than women in the same age group. Suicide is the biggest cause of death among men under 35. Though most are from the lower socio-economic groups, over the past decade sons of politicians, judges, and other professionals have killed themselves.
Janet Cosgrove, who now volunteers with Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, still can’t believe her son William stabbed himself to death 11 years ago. They had shared a takeaway, watched TV the night before. His note said: “I just don’t want to be here any more.”
That must be how many of the other men felt when they could not go on – when they didn’t want to wake up to another day. And that, I suggest, could be one factor pushing jihadis, too. Brian Jenkins, a counter-terrorism analyst at the American Rand Corporation’s National Defence Research Institute, believes many of those young, impressionable men could be mentally ill, or are individuals “facing personal crises and having trouble coping”.
We must condemn what they do, but at the same time find out what is going on in their impenetrable minds. A retired, respected expert from the intelligence services told me on Thursday at a YouGov conference in Cambridge that jihadis who wanted to come back should be allowed to do so – and then helped. They are disturbed, restless men who need to be brought back into society.
The problem, however, is way bigger than that. Our nation has neglected the pain of young men for far too long. Why are so many giving up on society and their futures? The feminist instinct is to damn males, not to understand them. That can’t be right. After all, we have sons too who could one day either destroy others or themselves because they find life impossible. Feminism made great strides, but we have not thought about the unintended effects of this movement that I wholly support.
Leaders who run our society, politics and economics must interrogate themselves. Some of the men from privileged families who committed suicide felt like failures and losers as they weren’t top achievers. The less well-off are made to feel as if they don’t matter at all, in this fast and materialistic nation where the winner takes all.
Old assumptions persist. Boys don’t cry. They must man up. And new assumptions are just as bad: you are what you have, and furious ambition makes you a man. In this environment, men can find it harder to talk about feelings or ask for help. Within too many Muslim families, authoritarianism rules and adds further pressures.
I thank the academic who made me think about the connections between Islamists and those who feel they are no use to anyone and therefore must die. Humans are more alike than we ever care to admit. The destruction and self-destruction will only get worse unless we collectively try to save young men from themselves.

Every fish you eat is an environmental mystery, but would you pay more to know the truth?

Matthew Evans in The Guardian

The boat’s winch slowly hauls in the net, dripping with mud, with holes finer than my little finger. The boat has been bottom trawling only a few hundred metres off Thailand’s coast, where they’re not meant to be operating. The catch is embarrassingly small compared to even two years ago says my translator, who’s done this trip many times before.
The net drags up crabs the size of my thumbnail, juvenile fish that make sardines look large, broken starfish, jellyfish – every single thing from the water column. It makes me weep.
Virtually none of the catch is for human consumption. These immature fish, a whole ecosystem pillaged from the sea, will be turned into fishmeal to feed farmed white (Vannamei) shrimp, just so we in the west can eat cheap prawns.
I used to have an open mind about sustainable seafood. After countless boat journeys, visits to numerous fish farms, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants while filming What’s the Catch?, a seafood documentary for SBS, I’ve now got a very strong opinion on eating fish: if you don’t know what’s on your plate, if you can’t be sure you aren’t part of the annihilation of the ocean, then don’t eat seafood.
72% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported. In and of itself, that isn’t a bad thing. Australian waters aren’t highly productive (it’s complex, but has to do with our impoverished soil, low rainfall and narrow continental shelf, among other things), so imports are necessary unless we substantially increase fish farming.
There are those that can, and do, profit from obscuring the true origins of our seafood. Estimates suggest 70% of Australians believe we’re eating local seafood, when less than 30% of it is actually from our waters. We’re not told exactly what species we’re eating, where it is from, and how it was caught or farmed, in order to obscure its origins.
Weak labelling laws make things worse. Flathead can be one of a few local species, or a totally unrelated species fished off Argentina, that should be called “stick fish”. Flake can be one of 400 different species of shark, all with different life cycles, maturity rates and environmental consequences.
The fishy mystery is even worse with ready-to-eat seafood; the fish you eat when you go out for a meal. Call it “fish” and eateries don’t have to provide any information on what the fish actually is, or where it’s from. In good restaurants and chippers they’ll tell you that, plus how it’s caught or if it was farmed. But legislators aren’t there to protect us from the good and the noble.
In the dodgy eateries, you won’t even know exactly which fish is on your plate. Pacific Dory? That name’s been used for a non-dory species from Vietnam called Basa, which could be known as Mekong Delta Catfish (an omnivore and potentially efficient fish to farm, so long as it’s done cleanly). Butterfish? Could be South African Hake or local Morwong. Cod? We don’t even have the European species of cod in Australia.
What I’ve seen has given me motivation for change. I want seafood lovers to also become ocean lovers, aware of what they eat and the impact it can have. And I’m not alone. I’ve seen chefs swapping out species of dubious origin for fast growing, locally caught fish. We’ve convinced a pizza chain to replace imported prawns with better tasting, certified sustainable Australian prawns. You can, if you know what to look for, buy independently certified sustainable Hoki from NZ or Hake from South Africa.
Sadly, they’re the exceptions. I think of the vandalism happening in our names off foreign shores. I think back to the destruction I witnessed on a single day in Thailand, in a country that should be encouraged to make their fishing and fish farming sustainable, and I think an honest, fair and open system to tell us what’s on our plates is the very least we in Australia should expect.
If we have to pay a little more so the seas off poorer nations don’t end up completely broken, then – as a world citizen – it’s the price in clear conscience we all must pay.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Where do billionaires go to university?

 By Sean Coughlan

Are the super-rich more likely to be better educated? Or have they spurned scholarship and dedicated themselves to the serious business of being seriously rich?
According to a global census of dollar billionaires, almost two-thirds have a university degree. That means that even for countries with a high level of graduates, billionaires are disproportionately likely to have gone to university.
In the UK, more than four out of five billionaires were in higher education - not so much rags to riches as rag week to riches.
The educational insights are from an annual profile of the uber-rich, the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census, produced by the Swiss banking group and a Singapore-based financial intelligence firm.
It examines the wealth and background of more than 2,300 billionaires - and the findings undermine the image of the wealthy as being self-taught self-starters trained on the market stall.
As well as being much more likely to be graduates, a quarter have postgraduate degrees and more than one in 10 has a doctorate.
This map of wealth also shows that these dollar billionaires - worth at least £620m and typically more than three times this amount - are likely to have attended some of the traditionally most prestigious universities.
The top 20 for universities producing billionaires is dominated by blue-chip, elite US institutions, which take 16 of the places.
Elite institutions
The University of Pennsylvania has produced more than any other institution, followed by Harvard, Yale, the University of Southern California, Princeton, Cornell and Stanford.
And the most likely way of making money is by dealing in money, with billionaires mostly making their fortunes through finance, banking and investment.
But there are also some indications that the geography of the super rich is changing. Reflecting India's growing economy, the University of Mumbai is in ninth place in the league table.
The only UK university in this wealth list is the London School of Economics, in 10th place, with no place for Oxford or Cambridge.
The rise of Russia's wealthy is reflected in the 11th place for Lomonosov Moscow State University.
But the dominance of the US universities is not simply about the US producing more billionaires. More than a quarter of the billionaires who attended US universities to take undergraduate degrees were from other countries.
This was even more the case for postgraduate courses in the US, where 39% came from overseas.
There could also be something of a time-lag, because the average age of this group is 63, attending the university systems of four decades ago.
University donations
The connection with university carries into later life. More than half of billionaires are involved in philanthropic projects and the biggest single cause they support is education - and within this category, it is particularly higher education that gets their backing.
It helps to explain how Harvard's fundraising drive could set an eye-watering target of $6.5bn (£4bn).
The study shows a pattern of wealth being concentrated in a small number of places. More than 40% of billionaires in Europe live in just 10 cities, headed by Moscow and London. Globally the biggest city for billionaires is New York.
It also creates some jarring contrasts. Nigeria has become the country with the most number of children without access to any education - while this report shows that Nigeria is on course to have the most billionaires in Africa.
There have been repeated international studies from organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing that going to university remains a strong investment in terms of improving the chance of a higher-income job.
Such studies have rejected the idea that not going to university could be a smarter move or that the value of a degree will fall below the cost of tuition.
But Frank Furedi, author, social commentator and former professor of sociology, says that one of the "big secrets" of the expansion of higher education has been a growing gap between the most prestigious universities and the rest.
"The hierarchy has become more fixed," says Prof Furedi.
These top universities have become the place where "global players gather".
He says there has always been a tension between universities promoting social mobility and being the route for handing on advantage to the next generation.
"Education has always been contradictory, it's the way that some people make their way up and it's the way of consolidating privilege."

Most billionaire graduates

1. University of Pennsylvania
2. Harvard University
3. Yale University
4. University of Southern California
5. Princeton University
6. Cornell University
7. Stanford University
8. University of California, Berkeley
9. University of Mumbai
10. London School of Economics
11. Lomonosov Moscow State University
12. University of Texas
13. Dartmouth College
14. University of Michigan
15. New York University
16. Duke University
17. Columbia University
18. Brown University
19. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
20. ETH Zurich

Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are right and God isn’t ‘a magician with a magic wand’

Adam Withnall,The Independent 

The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not "a magician with a magic wand," Pope Francis has declared.

----Also watch

The Science Delusion


Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the pope made comments which experts said put an end to the "pseudo theories" of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator — arguing instead that they "require it".

"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.

He added: "He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment.

"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.

"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

The Catholic Church has long had a reputation for being antiscience — most famously when Galileo faced the inquisition and was forced to retract his "heretic" theory that Earth revolved around Sun.

An artist's concept of evolution of man. (Getty Images photo)

But Pope Francis's comments were more in keeping with the progressive work of Pope Pius XII, who opened the door to the idea of evolution and actively welcomed the Big Bang theory. In 1996, John Paul II went further and suggested evolution was "more than a hypothesis" and "effectively proven fact".

Yet more recently, Benedict XVI and his close advisers have apparently endorsed the idea that intelligent design underpins evolution — the idea that natural selection on its own is insufficient to explain the complexity of the world. In 2005, his close associate Cardinal Schoenborn wrote an article saying "evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense — an unguided, unplanned process — is not".

Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos: "The pope's statement is significant. We are the direct descendants from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation."

This Nasa illustration shows how astronomers believe the universe developed from the 'Big Bang' 13.7 billion years ago to today. They know very little about the Dark Ages from 380,000 to about 800 million years after the Big Bang, but are trying to find out. (Via Getty Images)

Giulio Giorello, professor of the philosophy of science at Milan's University degli Studi, told reporters that he believed Francis was "trying to reduce the emotion of dispute or presumed disputes" with science.

Despite the huge gulf in theological stance between his tenure and that of his predecessor, Francis praised Benedict XVI as he unveiled a bronze bust of him at the academy's headquarters in the Vatican Gardens.

"No one could ever say of him that study and science made him and his love for God and his neighbour wither," Francis said, according to a translation by Catholic News Service.

"On the contrary, knowledge, wisdom and prayer enlarged his heart and his spirit. Let us thank God for the gift that he gave the church and the world with the existence and the pontificate of Pope Benedict."

The Catholic Church has long had a reputation for being antiscience — most famously when Galileo faced the inquisition and was forced to retract his "heretic" theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun. (Getty Images photo)

The age of player power

Players, emboldened by free agency, agents and endorsements, are now asserting their rights as never before - and management doesn't like it
Rob Steen in Cricinfo
October 29, 2014

Michael Holding is among those who feel the West Indies players have been cast in the role of sinners in the latest saga © BCCI

Big hitter wanted. Must be comfortable handling money, schmoozing Australian media magnates, worshipping at the Church of Broadcasting on an hourly basis, maintaining an unholy trinity of power, changing course at the drop of a hat, staging events that lack context or go on too long, and treating the talent like worker ants (which of course they are). Imagination, a working set of principles and a capacity to think more than five minutes ahead nice but not essential. Cricketing experience would also be nice, but ex-professionals need not apply. Did we stress "no women" enough? All right then, NO WOMEN.
The "Positions Vacant" column at ICC Towers or BCCI HQ could never adopt that precise wording, of course. The sentiments, nonetheless, wouldn't be terribly different, not in essence. Perhaps the fondest and most self-deluding perception we cricket fanciers suffer from is the idea that, as a species, the game's administrators have the game at heart. Or anywhere remotely near it.
This is why a globally respected former player told me last week, after I'd urged him, for the good of the game, to put on his best suit and apply for his mandarin's licence, that he would just as soon buy a return flight to the sun, or even a lifetime's subscription to the Sun. This is also the fundamental reason why cricket in the Caribbean has just been dumped into what may well prove to be the deepest, muddiest, smelliest bogthis grand old game of ours has ever had the nose-holding, arm's-length displeasure to behold.
As Michael Holding related in his column for Wisden India, the roots of the duel between Dwayne Bravo et al and the West Indies Cricket Board lie in the latter's quest for revenge on the uppity West Indies Players' Association. And not over the shenanigans of Chris Gayle or Sunil Narine - or at least, not directly - but over the insistence that the board honour a pay rise to the players approved by its former CEO, Dr Ernest Hilaire.
To be fair, the CEO had been "conned" - as Holding put it - into sending the incriminating email by Dinanath Ramnarine, the former WIPA president and chief executive (indeed, Holding took a current WIPA official out for dinner and made no bones about his anger at such a shameless stunt). That, though, was scant consolation to Hilaire, or the WICB.
There can be little question, given its lamentable track record in player relations - a track record that has made the WIPA one of the most militant players' unions anywhere - that the WICB deserves public humiliation. And public humiliation can propel even the most intelligent and far-seeing fellows to the most asinine of reactions. Trouble is, when it comes to cricket officials - or, for that matter, officials of any sporting, showbiz or political creed - presumptions of intelligence and foresight may be unduly kind.
Holding, it should be added, has never been a rabid advocate of players' rights. That underlying ambivalence - towards the WICB as well as his on-field successors - has been easy to understand. To someone such as him, a Jamaican for whom playing for West Indies meant something more than representing a region, the ever-rising emphasis on financial reward can at times seem odious. When he was skittling all those England batsmen at The Oval in 1976, Holding will assure you, a win bonus or enhanced contract was an additional, minor incentive, not a cause. The revolution he was fighting, though, has been more or less won; now another needs winning.
That's why Holding has been unable to contain his fury, taking up cudgels on behalf of players who he feels (and not without extremely good reason) have been shat upon from a considerable height and cast, inevitably, as scapegoats. That the owner of the calmest, coolest, unshrillest voice in the menagerie we call the commentary box should feel compelled to raise it to such a pitch should not, cannot, be dismissed lightly.
That Bravo et al cannot even trust their own union rep, Wavell Hinds, ironically a long-time friend of Bravo's as well as a pal of Dave Cameron, the WICB president, emphasises how toxic things have got. Likewise Marlon Samuels' non-solidarity.
One of the under-appreciated benefits of the IPL is that it has empowered the players. Now, finally, the wealthy (and not undeserving) few have a shot at controlling their own destinies, free of club or board interference. This has also led down a bumpy road to a spooky place, a place where national teams, for so long the focus and pinnacle of attention, no longer call all the shots, where the highest levels of the game are merely the hors d'oeuvres, net practice for those whose appetites extend to all-you-can-eat feasts in Mumbai and Kolkata.
Nonetheless, amid all this frantic and often confusing relocation of the goalposts, Bravo and company were still willing to take a pay cut if it meant benefiting those labouring on the lower half of their greasy, treacherous pole. How many of us, in our own jobs, would do likewise? Granted, exceedingly few of us earn anything like as much as Bravo or Gayle (or even Jason Holder), but how many bankers or surgeons are queuing up to take a pay cut to help clerks or nurses? Generosity is generosity. For that, surely, these rebels warrant our admiration rather than opprobrium.
That the WICB appears so eager to paint a diametrically opposed picture testifies to its members' desperation to maintain control at any cost to credibility. Before the forceful Ramnarine resigned in 2012, the board refused point blank to deal with him. Garth Wattley summed up the board's approach to the WIPA as "a mixture of conciliation, intransigence, and more often of late, arrogance".
That Michael Holding, the owner of the calmest, coolest voice in the menagerie we call the commentary box should feel compelled to raise it to such a pitch should not be dismissed lightly
Once upon a time, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I was party to a similar collective effort to aid less fortunate colleagues. When Robert Maxwell suddenly closed the London Daily News in 1987, after the bouncing Czech had lured scores of journalists from safe jobs to launch the paper just five months earlier, those of us who had been on board from the start voted to take a 50% cut in our severance pay. We decided on this course in order to ensure that the latest appointees, who had left their previous publications but had yet to report for duty at the LDN (of whom there were a fair number), could be compensated. It didn't help them enormously but I like to think they appreciated the gesture. On the other hand, I was single and childless at the time; I'm not at all sure I would have backed such a vote 20 years later.
But let's not get distracted. The bottom line could not be clearer. In the centuries-old struggle between management and players, across all major professional sports, the workers, emboldened by free agency, agents and endorsements, are now asserting their rights as never before - and management doesn't like it one eensy-weensy bit. Particularly not when it breeds season-shortening strikes (witness Major League Baseball in the mid-1990s), let alone season-nullifying strikes (witness the National Hockey League in 2004-05). The abrupt cessation of activities in an ODI series, barely a month after FICA, the international brotherhood, welcomed the signing of a collective bargaining agreement between the WICB and the WIPA, is merely another small landmark on the long, steep, rocky climb to respect.
Nothing proclaims the extent to which the tables have turned over the past half-century than a remarkable statistic from the winter of 2012-13: for the first time since Major League Baseball owners consented to salary and contract arbitration in 1974, not one of the 133 players took his claim as far as a hearing, the upshot of the clubs' increasing willingness to sign younger players to multi-year deals, affording even non-stars a degree of security. Unfortunately West Indies cricket is neither wallowing in record attendances nor benefitting from equitable revenue-sharing.
The funny thing about all this - as in funny-peculiar rather than funny-ha-ha - is that this latest downing of tools should happen in India, where resistance to players' unions, among the players themselves, has been fiercest. For all the vicissitudes of the BCCI, the fact that Sachin, Rahul and Anil never felt much, if any need, to form one says a great deal about their contracts, but must also say something at least faintly complimentary about N Srinivasan and his posse.
By the same token, the reality is unavoidable: without Indian support FICA will remain toothless. Fearless as the WIPA is, the day that MS Dhoni and/or Virat Kohli declare public solidarity with their brothers in charms is the day the WICB, Sri Lanka Cricket and their ilk start pondering the wisdom of their conniving and bullying. Only then will professional cricketers truly feel that the pendulum has swung as far as it needs to swing.
It takes two to tango, but it takes a lot more to stop a rot.

Sex with more than 20 women reduces risk of prostate cancer, according to study

Antonia Molloy in The Independent

There’s good news for the Casanovas of the world – sleeping with numerous women could help to protect men from prostate cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier found that men who had slept with more than 20 women during their lifetime were 28 per cent less likely to develop the disease.

They were also 19 per cent less likely to develop an aggressive type of cancer, compared to those who had had only one female sexual partner.

However, the same did not apply to gay men, according to the Canadian scientists. They found that having more than 20 male partners doubled the risk of prostate cancer and made an aggressive cancer five times more likely. Sleeping with one male partner did not affect the risk.

Meanwhile, men who were virgins were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who were sexually experienced.

The findings are from the Prostate Cancer & Environment Study in which 3,208 men answered questions about their lifestyle and sex lives.

Of these men, 1,590 were diagnosed with prostate cancer between September 2005 and August 2009, while 1,618 men were part of the control group.

Overall, men with prostate cancer were twice as likely as others to have a relative with cancer, but the study also found a possible link with their number of sexual partners.

Lead researcher Professor Marie-Elise Parent, from the University of Montreal, said: "It is possible that having many female sexual partners results in a higher frequency of ejaculations, whose protective effect against prostate cancer has been previously observed in cohort studies."

According to one theory, large numbers of ejaculations may reduce the concentration of cancer-causing substances in prostatic fluid, a constituent of semen.

They may also lead to fewer crystal-like structures in the prostate that have been associated with prostate cancer.

Suggesting why the same did not apply to male partners Professor Parent admitted she could only provide "highly speculative" explanations.

One explanation she said "could be that anal intercourse produces a physical trauma to the prostate".

The age at which men first had sexual intercourse, and the number of times they had been infected by a sexually transmitted disease, had no bearing on prostate cancer risk.
A total of 12 per cent of the group reported having had at least one sexually transmitted infection (STI) in their lifetime.

Professor Parent added: "We were fortunate to have participants from Montreal who were comfortable talking about their sexuality, no matter what sexual experiences they have had, and this openness would probably not have been the same 20 or 30 years ago.

"Indeed, thanks to them, we now know that the number and type of partners must be taken into account to better understand the causes of prostate cancer."

On the question of whether promiscuity might now be recommended in health advice to men, she said: "We're not there yet."

The research is published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Humanity's 'inexorable' population growth is so rapid that even a global catastrophe wouldn't stop it

Steve Conor in The Independent

The global human population is “locked in” to an inexorable rise this century and will not be easily shifted, even by apocalyptic events such as a third world war or lethal pandemic, a study has found.

There is no “quick fix” to the population time-bomb, because there are now so many people even unimaginable global disasters won't stop growth, scientists have concluded.

Although measures designed to reduce human fertility in the parts of the world where the population growth is fastest will eventually have a long-term impact on numbers, this has to go hand-in-hand with policies aimed at reducing the consumption of natural resources, they said.

Two prominent ecologists, who normally study animal populations in the wild, have concluded that the number of people in the world today will present one of the most daunting problems for sustainable living on the planet in the coming century – even if every country adopts a draconian “one child” policy.

“The inexorable demographic momentum of the global human population is rapidly eroding Earth’s life-support system,” say Professor Corey Bradshaw of the University of Adelaide and Professor Barry Brook of the University of Tasmania in their study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Assuming a continuation of current trends in mortality reduction, even a rapid transition to a worldwide one-child policy leads to a population similar to today’s by 2100,” they say.

“Even a catastrophic mass mortality event of 2bn deaths over a hypothetical window in the mid-21st century would still yield around 8.5bn people by 2100,” they add.

There are currently about 7.1bn people on Earth, and demographers estimate that this number could rise to about 9bn by 2050 - and as many as 25bn by 2100, although this is based on current fertility rates, which are expected to fall over the coming decades.

The number of people in the world today will present one of the most daunting problems for sustainable living on the planet in the coming centuryThe number of people in the world today will present one of the most daunting problems for sustainable living on the planet in the coming century (Getty)
Professor Bradshaw told The Independent that the study was designed to look at human numbers with the insight of an ecologist studying natural impacts on animals to determine whether factors such pandemics and world wars could dramatically influence the population projections.

“We basically found that the human population size is so large that it has its own momentum. It’s like a speeding car travelling at 150mph. You can slam on the brakes but it still takes time to stop,” Professor Bradshaw said.
“Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14 per cent of all the human beings that have ever lived are still alive today – that’s a sobering statistic,” he said.

“We examined various scenarios for global human population change to the year 2100 by adjusting fertility and mortality rates to determine the plausible range of population sizes at the end of the century.

“Even a worldwide one-child policy like China’s, implemented over the coming century, or catastrophic mortality events like global conflict or a disease pandemic, would still likely result in 5bn to 10bn people in 2100,” he added.

The researchers devised nine different scenarios that could influence human numbers this century, ranging from “business as usual” with existing fertility rates, to an unlikely one-child-per-family policy throughout the world, to broad-scale global catastrophes in which billions die.

“We were surprised that a five-year WWIII scenario mimicking the same proportion of people killed in the First World War and Second World War combined, barely registered a blip on the human population trajectory this century,” said Professor Brook.

Measures to control fertility through family planning policies will eventually have an impact on reducing the pressure on limited resources, but not immediately, he said.

“Our great-great-great-great-grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not,” Professor Brook said.

Simon Ross, the chief executive of the charity Population Matters, said that introducing modern family planning to the developing world would cost less than $4bn – about one third of the UK’s annual aid budget.

“So, while fertility reduction is not a quick fix, it is relatively cheap, reliable, and popular with most, with generally positive side effects. We welcome the recognition of the potential of family planning and reproductive education to alleviate resource availability in the longer term,” Mr Ross said.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The remarkable story behind Rudyard Kipling's 'If'

Geoffrey Wansell in The Daily Mail in 2009

A while ago, Rudyard Kipling's If, that epic evocation of the British virtues of a 'stiff upper lip' and stoicism in the face of adversity, will once again be named as the nation's favourite poem.

The choice will certainly reignite the debate about whether it is, in fact, a great poem - which T. S. Eliot insisted it was not, describing it instead as 'great verse' - or a 'good bad' poem, as Orwell called it.

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Indeed, when it was last acclaimed as our favourite 14 years ago, one newspaper dismissed it as 'jingoistic nonsense', while another praised it as 'unforgettable'.

What is not in doubt is that Kipling's four eight-line stanzas of advice to his son, written in 1909, have inspired the nation for a century.

Empire building
Empire-building: Kipling was inspired by a failed British raid against the Boers in 1895

Two of its most resonant lines, 'If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same', stand above the players' entrance to the Centre Court at Wimbledon.

My own father gave a copy to me when I was ten and I carried it around in my wallet for the next 15 years. He felt it was the perfect advice for a son born at the end of the last world war, who could not know what triumphs and disasters lay ahead.

But few of the thousands who have voted for If as their favourite poem (in a poll for radio station Classic FM) know the remarkable story that lies behind the lines published in Kipling's collection of short stories and poems, Rewards And Fairies, in 1910.

For the unlikely truth is that they were composed by the Indian-born Kipling to celebrate the achievements of a man betrayed and imprisoned by the British Government - the Scots-born colonial adventurer Dr Leander Starr Jameson.

Although it may not seem so to the millions who can recite its famous first line ('If you can keep your head when all about you'), If is also a bitter condemnation of the British Government led by Lord Salisbury, and the duplicity of its Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, for covertly supporting Dr Jameson's raid against the Boers in South Africa's Transvaal in 1896, only to condemn him when the raid failed.

Kipling was a friend of Jameson and was introduced to him, so scholars believe, by another colonial friend and adventurer: Cecil Rhodes, the financier and statesman who extracted a vast fortune from Britain's burgeoning African empire by taking substantial stakes in both diamond and gold mines in southern Africa.

In Kipling's autobiography, Something Of Myself, published in 1937, the year after his death at the age of 70, he acknowledges the inspiration for If in a single reference: 'Among the verses in Rewards was one set called If - they were drawn from Jameson's character, and contained counsels of perfection most easy to give.'


But to explain the nature of Kipling's admiration for Jameson, we need to return to the veldt of southern Africa in the last years of the 19th century.

What was to become South Africa was divided into two British colonies (the Cape Colony and Natal) and two Boer republics (the Orange Free State and Transvaal). Transvaal contained 30,000 white male voters, of Dutch descent, and 60,000 white male 'Uitlanders', primarily British expatriates, whom the Boers had disenfranchised from voting.

Rhodes, then Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, wanted to encourage the disgruntled Uitlanders to rebel against the Transvaal government. He believed that if he sent a force of armed men to overrun Johannesburg, an uprising would follow. By Christmas 1895, the force of 600 armed men was placed under the command of Rhodes's old friend, Dr Jameson.

Back in Britain, British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, father of future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, had encouraged Rhodes's plan.

But when he heard the raid was to be launched, he panicked and changed his mind, remarking: 'If this succeeds, it will ruin me. I'm going up to London to crush it.'
Chamberlain ordered the Governor General of the Cape Colony to condemn the 'Jameson Raid' and Rhodes for planning it. He also instructed every British worker in Transvaal not to support it.

That was behind the scenes. On the Transvaal border, the impetuous Jameson was growing frustrated by the politicking between London and Cape Town, and decided to go ahead regardless.

On December 29, 1895, he led his men across the Transvaal border, planning to race to Johannesburg in three days - but the raid failed, miserably.

The Boer government's troops tracked Jameson's force from the moment it crossed the border and attacked it in a series of minor skirmishes that cost the raiders vital supplies, horses and indeed the lives of a handful of men, until on the morning of January 2, Jameson was confronted by a major Boer force.

After seeing the Boers kill 30 of his men, Jameson surrendered, and he and the surviving raiders were taken to jail in Pretoria. The raiders never reached Johannesburg and there was no uprising among the Uitlanders.

Cecil Rhodes
Cecil Rhodes, left, in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1896

The Boer government handed the prisoners, including Jameson, over to the London government for trial. A few days after the raid, the German Kaiser sent a telegram congratulating President Kruger's Transvaal government on its success in suppressing the uprising.

When this was disclosed in the British Press, a storm of anti-German feeling was stirred and Jameson found himself lionised by London society. Fierce anti-Boer and anti-German feelings were inflamed, which soon became known as 'jingoism'.

Jameson was sentenced to 15 months for leading the raid, and the Transvaal government was paid almost £1million in compensation by the British South Africa Company. Cecil Rhodes was forced to step down as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.

Jameson never revealed the extent of the British Government's support for the raid. This has led a string of Kipling scholars to point out that the poem's lines 'If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you' were designed specifically to pay tribute to the courage and dignity of Jameson's silence.

Typical of his spirit, Jameson was not broken by his imprisonment. He decided to return to South Africa after his release and rose to become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1904, leaving office before the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

His stoicism in the face of adversity and his determination not to be deterred from his task are reflected in the lines: 'If you can make a heap of all your winnings / And risk it at one turn of pitch and toss / And lose, and start again from your beginnings / And never breathe a word about your loss . . .'

As Kipling's biographer, Andrew Lycett, puts it: 'In a sense, the poem is a valedictory to Jameson, the politician.'

All in all, an impressive hero for Kipling's son, John. 'If you can fill the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds' worth of distance run/ Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it/ And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!'

But Kipling's anger at Jameson's treatment by the British establishment never abated.
Even though the poet had become the first English-speaking recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, he refused a knighthood and the Order of Merit from the British Government and the King, just as he refused the posts of Poet Laureate and Companion of Honour.

The tragedy was that Kipling's only son, Lieutenant John Kipling, was to die in World War I at the Battle of Loos in 1915, only a handful of years after his father's most famous poem first appeared. His body was never found.

It was a shock from which Kipling never fully recovered. But his son's spirit, as well as that of Leander Starr Jameson, lives on in the lines of the poem that continues to inspire millions.

As Andrew Lycett told the Daily Mail: 'In these straitened times, the old-fashioned virtues of fortitude, responsibilities and resolution, as articulated in If, become ever more important.'

Long may they remain so. 


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!