31 August 2014

Sunday Reads - Business Edition

The Hindu has an infographic on the recently launched Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.

29 August 2014

Book Excerpt: Nizam of Hyderabad, from Freedom at Midnight

Starting this Friday, this space will feature an excerpt from a book. The idea is to share knowledge and of course, spread the idea of reading. 

Note: All copyrights/trademarks belong to the owners of the publication/author(s). It is not my intention to profit from their work. In fact, I just wish that the readers of this blog are encouraged to buy/read the works represented here. 

I start with an excerpt from Freedom at Midnight, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. This brilliant book relates the story of India's struggle for freedom and more importantly, what led to the partition of India. 

In a chapter titled, Palaces and Tigers, Elephants and Jewels, the two terrific authors mesmerize the reader with their tales of the eccentricities of the Rajas and Nawabs of India's numerous princely states.

Here's an excerpt that relates a story about the Nizam of Hyderabad.

I request you to not buy pirated versions of any book, including Freedom at Midnight. Buy original titles and keep learning!

24 August 2014

Sunday Reads - Old India + Freezing people to death

  • Lesson from Old India: When an economy just doesn't get better. (NYT)
  • Myths about the Islamic State: Crazy, irrational, afraid of female soldiers. (Vox)
  • I freeze people to cheat death. (BBC Future)
  • The Hedge Fund and the Despot. (BusinessWeek)

19 August 2014

The Explainer: What triggered the Gaza Crisis? (Israel-Hamas, Part 2)

Last week I wrote The Explainer: Gaza, Hamas, & Israel - Part I. Here is the second part of this Explainer series on the Gaza conflict.

What triggered the current crisis in Gaza?
Tensions between Israel and Hamas have been simmering for several years now. The latest conflict appears like just another episode in the long-running conflict between the two entities.

In the second fortnight of June, three Israeli Jewish teenagers, who were on their way from school, were abducted and killed. Their dead bodies were found a week later. Israel accused Hamas of abduction and killing of the Israeli teenagers, though the Israeli Government could not furnish any proof to substantiate their charges. 
While Hamas has consistently denied any role in this episode, many security experts believe it to be the handiwork of the Islamic Jihad, an extremist terror outfit. Islamic Jihad has major differences with Hamas, which it accuses of being too soft on Israel.
Soon after the dead bodies of the Israeli teenagers surfaced, a Palestinian Muslim teenager was killed by extremist Jews. (The perpetrators of this heinous crime were later arrested by Israeli security forces.)
Source: Mirror

How did Israel respond?
Israel launched a full-scale military assault against Hamas and other radical outfits in the Gaza 
For several days, Israel unleashed sophisticated weaponry against the radical terror groups. Hamas traded fire for fire; it launched hundreds of rockets into Israel from Gaza. However, Hamas' firepower is no match for the highly advanced weaponry used by the Israeli defence forces. Also, Israel uses the highly effective Iron Dome interceptor to ward off the threat of Hamas' rockets.
While ground assaults backed by air sorties helped destroy terror infrastructure, there has been massive civilian deaths. Unfortunately, over 2000 civilians, mostly innocent women and children, have been killed in the conflict. 
Hamas accused Israel of deliberately targeting schools, hospitals and mosques. But Israel blames Hamas of storing rockets in civilian venues, like schools and religious places.
After fighting bitterly for several weeks, currently there is a ceasefire between the two adversaries. The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt, a key member of the Muslim World and a neighbour of both Gaza and Israel.
More on the crisis in the Next Explainer.

18 August 2014

Superhero Movies, Super Earnings

Superheroes are the ultimate saviours of humankind, at least that's what Hollywood would love us to believe. Among the plethora of superheroes, I particularly admire Robert Downey, Jr. for his acting prowess. 

It is a rare thing that a superhero does not rake in the moolah. Here's a list of the top earning superhero movies. This comes from ET.

17 August 2014

One Million Page Views + Sunday Reads

This blog, www.bjnocabbages.com, was started in May 2011. Today, this blog has hit One Million page views! Thank you very much for visiting this blog. 

From today, there will be more posts, more sharing, and more learning.

Here's the collection of Sunday Reads.

  • What is the most blatant lie taught through Pakistan textbooks. (Dawn)
  • Israel, Gaza, War & Data. (Medium)
  • When she talks, banks shudder. (NYT)
  • From 1947-2014: India celebrates independence - a slideshow. (Hindu)

16 August 2014

Saturday Infographic - NaMo's Azadi Speech Thrust

This infographic, from the pages of the ET, captures the major ideas that dotted the brilliant and unusual speech of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Red Fort.

Read The Explainer: Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.

12 August 2014

The Explainer: Gaza, Hamas, & Israel - Part I

This is the first of the Gaza Explainers.

What is Palestine?
Palestine, almost entirely populated by Muslims, comprises two major chunks of territory: West Bank and Gaza Strip.
West Bank
At 3,620 sq. km., West Bank is the larger of the two Palestinian territories. The territory has a population of 2.44 million, with an additional 2.6 lakh Israeli settlers.

West Bank, located between Israel and Jordan, was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Currently, West Bank is under the control of Palestinian Authority (PA), which is a direct political rival of Hamas.

Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip is a narrow stretch of land (of about 360 sq. km.) located between Israel and Mediterranean Sea, with Egypt on the south. It has an estimated population of 16 lakh. Occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Gaza is controlled by Hamas.

Is Palestine an independent country?
No. Let’s put it this way. Palestine is more of a territory fighting for independence from Israeli occupation of some parts of its territory. Palestine is not sovereign in the true sense of the term; large swathes of its territory are controlled by Israel, including within the West Bank, where there are Jewish settlements.

What about Hamas?
In 1987, radical Islamist Sheikh Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas, an acronym of the Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamaiyya (Islamic Resistance Movement).

The birth of Hamas can be attributed to the aspirations of extremist Palestinians to build a movement like Hezbollah, an extremist Shia Muslim outfit which operates out of Lebanon.
These extremist elements felt that there should be a similar home-grown Sunni movement, i.e., one that would operate from Palestinian soil.

What does Hamas think about Israel?
Hamas does not recognise the existence of Israel. In fact, Hamas denies the latter’s right to exist. One unique feature of Hamas is that it lays great emphasis on religion, which is in serious contrast to the secular Fatah party, which rules the West Bank.
Hamas’ charter explicitly mentions that the fundamental aim of its existence is the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a sovereign Palestine.

In short, Hamas is a radical Sunni extremist group, which is anti-Israel and one which is fighting for an independent, sovereign Palestine.

Who supports Hamas?
From its inception and till recently, Hamas was funded by Iran and Syria and a range of Islamic charities, many of which are listed as fronts for Islamic terror groups, and are hence banned in many countries of the world.

The irony is that both Iran and Syria are controlled by Shia Muslims while Hamas is a radical Sunni Islamist organisation. Iran and Syria also do not recognise the State of Israel; Iran has repeatedly called for ‘wiping Israel off the map of the world’.

However, since the beginning of the civil war in Syria a lot has changed in the political equations involving Hamas.

For several years, Hamas ran a major office in the Syrian capital, Damascus. However, the deeply sectarian conflict in Syria has impacted the Hamas-Iran-Syria equation as well.

Short backgrounder on Syrian conflict
Syria is predominantly populated by Sunni Muslims while the president, Bashar al-Assad, is a Shia Muslim, backed by Iran (the world’s biggest Shia Muslim country).

Read The Explainer: Syrian Crisis Part I and Syrian Crisis Part II.

As the Sunni rebel movement against the Shia ruling dispensation gathered pace, Hamas, a Sunni radical group, found itself in a difficult situation. In this sectarian conflict, Hamas’ natural sympathies lay with the Sunni rebels in Syria. Unable to digest the fact that its principal backers, Syria and Iran, are waging a relentless campaign against Sunni rebels, Hamas moved out of Damascus. It is also believed that Hamas was forced to move out of Damascus by the Syrian regime itself.

Hamas shifted base to Doha, capital of Qatar, a Sunni kingdom. Qatar is stridently anti-Iran and anti-Syria (read anti-Bashar). Today, Qatar has emerged as the principal political and financial backer of Hamas.

More short Explainers on the Gaza Crisis to follow.