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I want to share a very positive news that i heard from India. India celebrates its festival of lights (Diwali or Deepavali) today & tomorrow. Many employers give their employees holiday bonuses.

Savjhibhai Dholakia is a school dropout and runs a very successful diamond polishing business. He started in the mid 1980s and had a turnover of $400,000 (Rs 1 Crore) in 1991. Today his business is over $1 billion (Rs 6,000 crores) employing 6,000 employees in Western India where they polish uncut diamonds to finished products and export globally.

For Diwali, his company evaluated ALL employees - from Managers to office assistants and sweepers and based on their evaluation - they narrowed down the list of 1200 people who delivered performance beyond their call of duty and he is giving them EACH Rs 400,000 ($67,000) and offered them choice on what they want to buy

491 employees chose a car. The company negotiated with Fiat and got discounts on a bulk purchase
207 employees used it against their home purchase/loan
The rest - about 500 chose to buy gold

Total payout - $10M. Taxes on the bonus to the tune of $2M will also be paid by the company.

Nice to hear an entrepreneur talk & act this way ...

Come below the jump to hear some quotes from this 'uneducated' entrepreneur ...

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What do you think of the employer's act

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John Oliver's maiden HBO Last Week Tonight show was very interesting.

John Oliver covered the ongoing Indian Elections, the largest elections globally to date. With 814 Million eligible voters, the fight is between the Center left incumbent Indian National Congress (INC) and the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). To play spoilsport is a dozen regional parties that are not allied with either of the two national parties.

The fight is for 543 parliament seat in the powerful Lok Sabha (People Council). Lok Sabha is the equivalent of House of Representatives but in India, is more powerful than the upper council (Rajya Sabha, the equivalent of Senate)

In the outgoing Parliament, INC had 206 seats and formed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) with other parties for a total of 260 seats. They had external support of 70 additional members from regional parties. In this election, BJP and their alliance - National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is widely expected to win highest seats and there are few opinion polls that talk about them achieving simple majority by themselves. BJP has nominated Narendra Modi to be their Prime Ministerial candidate and is very controversial for his role (or lack thereof) in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi is popular for his governance, image and industrial transformation of Mahatma Gandhi's home state and is promising inclusive growth as part of his agenda.

Indian national (and to certain extent) politics is fragmented with regional parties having a higher proportion of influence than the seats that they hold. Hence, corruption, horse trading and switching between parties is very common.

That in a nutshell is what you need to know about Indian politics and the elections.

A better way to educate yourselves is to watch John Oliver below the fold.

Poll

Does the Indian Election interest you?

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I might not be popular for writing this dairy but someone needs to put this out.

America, Show some grace and stop whinning about figure skating judging.

Bias in AP report on the event isn't what i expect to read, but that is nothing compared to some opinion articles.

USA Today

"It's sad that I just presumed Sotnikova was going to get a boost (in points) because this was in Russia," former U.S. Olympic figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger said in a phone interview. "Isn't it sad that I automatically thought that? Not one person in skating I've talked to said that's the way it should have gone."
Really? What in the world is wrong when Russians win. I saw the entire contest and the last that i heard, seven triple jumps is going to be better than six. Also, Yuna played it safe with a base technical score selection of 57.49 while Adelina selected 61.43, nearly 4 points higher. In fact, Yuna's base technical selection was lower to Yulia's 59.57 and Goldie's 60.64 in the top 5. Yuna scored slightly higher than Adelina on the program component - 74.5 to 74.41.

Isn't the strategy obvious? Yuna and Carolina, the bronze medalist took a smaller technical score base and delivered a (near) perfect performance while Adelina took the risk and delivered by skating on the edge.

Do you know who would have beaten the Adelina? The 2010 Yuna. Yuna selected a 60.90 base technical score and she scored a WR & OR 150.06 for the program.

Unfortunately, facts don't lie. Seems that it is not just the Russians who have to let go of the Cold War attitude, quite a bit of Americans do to ...

What is your opinion?

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Was Adelina's win over Yuna legit?

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I was listening to Patriot FM Radio - more a form of entertainment to me than my daily source of news. Today's special is their exclusive interview with Sen. Lindsay Graham. When Sen Graham was speaking the normal talking points, i realized that there is a  'smoking gun' in the Benghazi attacks and it has been in plain sight all this while and no one talks about it. Sooner rather than later, a journalist of intelligence will appear (yup, i am an eternal optimist) and will show it to the world.

Here it goes: The 'smoking gun' in Benghazi isn't Obama's response or SoS Hillary's response or Susan Rice's talking points. It is that spending tens, hundreds of billions of dollars after 9/11 hasn't yielded a better response when dealing with inter department crises. On the 2 attacks that lasted 9 hours with a 6 hour silence period in between, how can the 3 departments - State, CIA & Defense be so clueless and the situation so chaotic.

The failure of inter-department workings is a major cause of concern. That shows we are no more prepared today than 13 years ago in dealing with these crises.

Sadly, republicans don't want to talk about it & the democrats are pleased not to talk about it.

Discuss

A month after Indian consular officer/diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested on visa fraud charges on the application of her domestic servant and subjected to strip search, India will return the favor, or not (hopefully!)

The predominant charge against Devyani was that of Visa fraud where she declared the salary for her maid as $4500 (her compensation was $4200/month) and the maid was paid less than the New York state minimum wages.

New York Times is now reporting a significant visa 'fraud' by American citizens who are teachers in the American Embassy School run in New Delhi:

The female spouse should not state that she will be working,” the handout states, instructing spouses to list their occupation on visa applications as “housewife,” adding that “no sexism is intended on our part.

The handout notes that India has placed restrictions on the number of tax-free visas available to school employees. “So, if you are a teaching couple,” the handout says, “we usually have the male spouse apply for the ‘employment’ visa and the female spouse be noted as ‘housewife’ on the visa application.”

In addition
Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said the visa instructions listed on the teachers’ handout were “clearly a violation of tax law.”
So, i have this question for Kossacks - Should the Indian government raid the school and arrest the 16 teachers in New Delhi (and more in the other 2 branches in Mumbai & Chennai) who have committed visa fraud, conduct strip search (as part of the 'standard operating procedure') and deport them? (I don't recommend that approach at all. Mine was a rhetorical question.)

The sooner America steps of its 'moral high grounds' and apologizes to India for the strip search (but not for the charges), the faster the relationship will heal. News coverage from India and UK is painting the picture of a vigilante US embassy officer orchestrating the indictment, arrest and the evacuation of the maid's family. The earlier America accepts the reality and turns the page, the better.

I am sure that there are a lot of folks who disagree with me. What did i get wrong here?

Discuss

US is reminding the world yet again, the old foreign policy adage - there are no permanent friends, just permanent interests. And in true US style, roughing up a friend in the name of the law is the order of the day.

To folks not aware, let me recap: Devyani Khobragade is a consular/diplomatic officer attached to Indian consulate in New York. She is a career officer - Indian Foreign Service (IFS) of the 1999 batch (over 300,000 folks appear for yearly exams and 120 are selected for IAS and 20+ for IFS! - that's for a different day!). She receives $4,500 as monthly salary/stipend in US. She arranged for a nanny from India - Sangeetha Richard last year. Without going into the merits of the dispute between Sangeetha Richard and Devyani, i want to focus on the larger damage to US-India relationship

Poll

What should US do?

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Yesterday's news of P5+1 & Iran's agreement for curbing nuclear activities. It is a good start but the goal should be to normalize relationships in the region and reduce the threat of conventional and nuclear warfare.

I think USA should push Israel and Iran to recognize each other and establish normal diplomatic relationships as a precondition to extending the current 6 month agreement.

The framework should cover 5 major pillars:

1. The states of USA & Israel mutually recognize Iran & will establish normal diplomatic relationship
2. USA, Iran & Israel establish a peace treaty and work with each other to fight domestic and international terrorism
3. No First use Nuclear agreement is established between the 3 countries. Iran pledges to give up nuclear enrichment beyond 3.5%. All medical nuclear requirements will be fulfilled by USA and its allies
4. The 3 nations pledge to work with each other and ensure normalization of Israel-Palestine relationship
5. Economic relationships will ensure best leverage of each other's natural resources.

I am a dreamer and i hope by the end of Obama's term, the goal of establishing a peaceful middle east is at least brought back on track if not well established

What do you think?

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At the very least, what should the end goal of US-Iran deal contain

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of India which rejected the patent application of Novartis for their cancer drug Glivec. The Supreme Court of India agreed with the Patent office of India that the new patent is NOT a new innovation and was just a tweak of the expired patent and an attempt at "evergreening"

The drug costs $2200/month for user today while generic drugs were available for as little as $180/month.

NYT:

In Monday’s decision, India’s Supreme Court ruled that the patent that Novartis sought for Gleevec did not represent a true invention. The ruling is something of an anomaly. Passed under international pressure, India’s 2005 patent law for the first time allowed for patents on medicines, but only for drugs discovered after 1995. In 1993, Novartis patented a version of Gleevec that it later abandoned in development, but the Indian judges ruled that the early and later versions were not different enough for the later one to merit a separate patent.

After initially stating that Novartis will stop R&D in India, they backtracked and stated yesterday that Novartis will continue to invest in R&D in India, though cautiously. Funny, a few days ago, Novartis warned India that it will stop delivery of drugs (not just R&D) if the case wasn't decided in their favor. Their threats didn't work.

Will such pro-middle class activism rub off in the United States? After Novartis, it is the turn of Merck to start a battle on 'evergreening' diabetic drugs.

More media coverage below the fold

Update 1: I searched for Gleevac Medicare reimbursement rates - $45,000/year. In India, generic alternatives costs Rs 5000 - 9000 (1 USD = 54 Rupees), about $90 - $160/month or $1080 - $1920/Year. Why US citizens have to pay 22x for a product based on 'evergreening strategy' is beyond me.

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Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 10:19 AM PST

No to Gun Control ...

by InfiniteThoughts

Yes. I am not for Gun Control. I say NO to Gun Control. When was the last time that you said YES to Car Control. or Food Control or Alcohol Control!

Words matter!

What we need to talk about is GUN RESPONSIBILITY. Like we talk about DRIVE RESPONSIBLY! or DRINK RESPONSIBILY!!!

95% of Gun Owners use their Guns responsibily. With rights come responsibility and putting Gun owners at ease and on our side when we talk about addressing violence control!

1. Assault Rifle ban has to be reinstated. No semiauto AK-47 or M-16 at homes. I like the suggestion that gun ranges have semiautos for folks who want to enjoy blasting 30 bullets in 10 secs

2. Semi-auto classification to be removed: We have only 2 categories. hand guns/shotguns and the like and automatic guns. The rules that apply to automatic guns will now be applied for semiautomatic

3. Mental health report: Like drivers have to renew their licenses, gun owners have to submit mental health report periodically. Whether it is once every 2-years 3 or 4, i don't know

4. Background check is mandatory: NO EXCEPTIONS!

5. Remove current laws that restrict ATF's ability to audit and check dealers

6. Outside handheld guns, all guns should be tracked through national database. All sales will have to be reported. Even those handed down through estates. We do it with cars, we can do it with guns.

So, what do you say? GUN CONTROL or GUN RESPONSIBILITY!

Poll

Do you agree that the current debate needs to be changed to one of GUN RESPONSIBILITY

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Dear Kossaks.,

I want your inputs and thoughts. I am sure that many, if not most of you are aware of the brutal rape of an Indian paramedical student. She fought bravely for her life for 13 days before succumbing to her injuries a few days before New Year.

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/...

It is extremely uncommon in India for a case like this to rattle the public and the politicians. No one who expressed anything but absolute support for women's rights have been spared (as it should be!). In the two decades that i have closely followed Indian politics, i have never seen the Prime Minister and the head of the ruling party (Sonia Gandhi - the most powerful Indian politician) having to answer for a single incident before, like it happened in this case.

To summarize: The girl and her male friend watch a movie ("Life of Pi") and board a city bus, run by a contractor at 9:30 PM. There were 5 men apart from the driver and after passing lewd comments, they beat up the boy and brutally assaulted the girl. How Brutal? Not only was she gang raped by 6 men, they inserted the rusted iron tyre jack and tore her intestines. After she was savaged, both she & her friend were thrown out of the moving bus and left to die on the road. The driver apparently missed running over her. She was found with just 5% of her intestines inside her body.

The treatment was an uphill battle. Even in her pain, she gave her testimony, not ONCE but TWICE through hand signs to the Police in the presence of a magistrate. Given the precarious condition of the patient, the protests that erupted on the street and the need for best care, Indian government shifted her to Singapore but she died within 36 hours because of multiple organ failure.

Her name has not been released publicly. As a father, as an uncle, as a cousin and as a husband - i was OUTRAGED when i heard of this case.

My Question to fellow Kossaks: Why should the six men be spared of the death sentence? I don't advocate death sentence lightly. India uses the death sentence sparingly. I always believed that solitary confinment for the rest of life without a chance for parole or contact with any human being is the worst punishment. But in this case, why should society show any lenience to the six rapists who brutally savaged an innocent 23 year old? Why should death penalty be abolished?

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What is your POV on Death Penalty

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We lost Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Chaterine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin and Allison yesterday.

May they rest in Peace. We FAILED THEM IN LIFE! LET US NOT FORGET THEM WHEN THEY HAVE BEEN SNATCHED FROM US!!!

The country needs to introspect. Do we value the right to buy high-capacity, semi-automatic firearms over the lives of such innocent lives? I am 100% confident that if the founding fathers were alive today, they will whack the heads of NRA and other blind-gun lobbyists and restrict the availability of such weapons in an instance.

Does President Obama, the Democrats, Republicans, Congress have the COURAGE to stand up to blind lobbyists? We will get to know in the coming days

Discuss

According to Wikipedia, Voting Rights Act:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. §§ 1973–1973aa-6) is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S
With gerrymandering, hasn't the republican party found their perfect solution to circumvent the spirit of VR Act. By creating near 100% African American district, GOP has been able to concentrate Democratic votes into fewer districts and deny the majority the right to rule

Below the fold, my proposal to reform the VR Act

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