Killing us softly

The cell phone towers’ alarming electromagnetic radiation levels pose a danger to people’s health in metros

I may sound like an alarmist but these days I see more and more deadly headlines. No, I am not talking about the regular deaths in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan or even the storming of aid flotillas to Gaza. I am talking about cancer and dying birds and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) causing cancer.

Give me a minute and I will explain it all.

Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that cancer deaths could double by 2030. Cancer could claim 13.3 million lives a year by 2030, the WHO cancer research agency has said, almost double the 7.6 million deaths from the illness in 2008. In the US, according to one New York Times columnist, 41 per cent of Americans have cancer. Isn’t this an alarmingly high percentage? The question is: why is it so high?

Next, there have been headlines about the birds and the bees: parrots dying in Australia, peacocks falling dead in north India and bees expiring in some parts of the Himalayas. According to the study by a young Indian scientist, VP Sharma, a drastic decrease was observed in the brood area and egg-laying rate per day of the queen bee in hives exposed to EMR. He also found a reduction in the pollen-carrying and returning ability of the bees. This somewhat corroborates the University of Leeds study that found an 80 per cent decline in bee diversity, from 1980 levels, in over 100 sites across the UK and the Netherlands.

I agree this is a lot of morbid news. All this might be happening for a variety of reasons which could be environment or food or radiation-related.

But the next thing I am going to talk about is definitely about radiation—a by-product of the high-tech life that we are addicted to—and its hazards. And where is this radiation coming from? From innocent looking devices such as our cell phones and the cell phone towers that help in ‘connecting people’.

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The devil is in the detail

The Indian government’s quest for a unique identification number programme for its billion-plus population is extremely challenging, and even wasteful
By Zafar Anjum
16 Sep 2009

A few months ago, when the Congress Party returned to power in India, the Manmohan Singh-led government announced a new, ambitious project: Issue a unique non-duplicable ID card to every Indian citizen, starting with the target population of some flagship schemes.

For this purpose, the government appointed Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani as the chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), under the aegis of the Planning Commission.

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A touch of evil?

Despite its revolutionary products, Google still draws flak from different quarters
By Zafar Anjum
11 Sep 2009

Google is without doubt one of the most influential and revolutionary technology companies in history. In over a decade’s time, the way Google has risen in the cyberspace and redefined everything—from search to e-mails to applications—is unparalleled.

Today, it is a much admired company. In The Wall Street Journal’s list of Asia’s 200 most admired companies, Google ranks at no 3, just after Apple and Toyota Motors, and above Sony, Nokia and Microsoft.

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A bitter tweet

Indian minister Shashi’s Tharoor’s “bovine blunder” on Twitter has a lesson for us all By Zafar Anjum
24 Sep 2009

What’s in a tweet? Ask Shashi Tharoor, the diplomat-turned politician and India’s minister of state for external affairs.

If anyone should know about the nuance of words, who better than Tharoor—a novelist and columnist, who also has been a suave diplomat with the United Nations as the under secretary general for communications and public information.

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China is the new America

China’s ascent signifies the rise of the ‘big brother watching you’ security state By Zafar Anjum
27 Oct 2009
Part 1

There is a think tank called Project for the New American Century. One of its fundamental postulates is that American leadership is good for the world.

That may be the case, though a large part of the world would disagree with this position, especially those who see America as the global policeman, the security state that uses its force to implement the corporate agenda on behalf of the global elite.

China, as the project views it, is no doubt a growing world power. But despite its economic muscle, China is not favoured to assume a role of global leadership (even though China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council). The reason for denying China this role is the country’s political system. Lacking a Western style democracy, China is supposed to be in a state of ‘trapped transition’. One of the arguments favouring this view is that China’s political set up will limit its growth, ensuing from the argument that there are limits to developmental autocracy.

This view might sound sexy but it defies logic. I am saying this from a historical point of view.

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Read this before you buy a Kindle

Are you planning to buy or give a Kindle this festive season? By Zafar Anjum
06 Nov 2009

Are you planning to buy or give a Kindle, Amazon.com’s beautifully designed e-reader, this festive season? If yes, you should read this blog post.

Do you live outside the US and plan to get a Kindle? If yes, then you must read the following.

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Singapore has got it right

Singapore government’s push for clean and renewable energy is an example worth emulation by other nations By Zafar Anjum
20 Nov 2009

When it comes to the application of cutting edge innovation, Singapore is usually at the forefront—a country not afraid to experiment with new ideas and latest technologies.

While the world is busy crying foul over climate change politics and carbon trading mechanisms, Singapore is pushing forth into the brave new world of alternative energy.

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The future of newspapers

Falling revenues, increasing user demand for free online content, and Google’s “misappropriation of stories” on the Web threaten the survival of newspapers in the digital age. Is Google’s ‘First Click Free’ programme part of the answer? By Zafar Anjum
04 Dec 2009

Being in the media industry I’m often asked if we have figured out our media strategy. Well, to be honest, being a journalist, I am not directly involved in the digital strategy of the media company I work for. It’s my publisher and our marketing team who have to square up to the challenge of the digital age: how to monetise content for a readership that wants full access to all our content free of charge?

But to answer the question, I am tempted to bring in media baron Rupert Murdoch into the picture. Even a man as astute as Murdoch is still in the process of figuring out the media strategy in the digital age.

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Why Copenhagen must fail

Looking at the leaked secret Danish document, Copenhagen seems more about money (carbon markets) than about climate change By Zafar Anjum
10 Dec 2009

I am not a climate change denier. Climate change is a reality because climate is meant to change. It is a dynamic phenomenon of nature and it has been changing ever since it came into existence.

When we talk about ‘climate change’, we refer to the phenomenon of global warming due to the greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major component of the greenhouse gases.

The question is whether it is the humans that are emitting the excessive carbon dioxide that is polluting the earth and making it an unsustainable place.

For years, this was the main question in the climate change debate: one group blamed the humans, another the sun (the sun argument being that the sun was getting hotter and hence was the main culprit behind the earth’s rising temperatures.)

Proponents of both sides of the argument have been championed and funded by vested interests. The ‘humans being responsible for the climate change’ side has been championed by the green brigade. Some political groups even brand them as “the green fascists” who want “to impose their de-industrialisation agenda to kill people”. The other side, the climate change deniers, are often backed up by the traditional energy—oil and coal—industry.

There are climate change scientists in both camps to argue for or against the motion. The common man was confused, not knowing which side to support. Until Al Gore walked into the picture.

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Cinema and Technology: Simon of the Desert (1965)

This is the time of the year when God and the glamour of technology come together in a bright, dazzling way. By Zafar Anjum
22 Dec 2009

Since we are reaching the end of this year and Christmas and the holidays are round the corner, I thought I would leave you with a sober thought by talking about a film that looks at spiritualism and technology.

This is the time of the year when God and the glamour of technology come together in a bright, dazzling way. Think of the illuminated streets and shopping malls, the festive spirit, the exchange of gifts and the celebration through various symbols of a great spiritual figure’s birth, a figure who changed the destiny of mankind.

I cannot think of a film more appropriate for this time than Luis Bunuel’s Simon of the Desert (1965). Bunuel (1900-1983), a Spanish-born filmmaker who acquired Mexican citizenship, is considered one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. He worked in Mexico, France, Spain and the United States and made a number of remarkable surreal and philosophical films including Belle de Jour, That Curious Object of Desire, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, among others.

Simon of the Desert is the last film that Bunuel made in Mexico, using Mexican actors. The film, at its 45 minutes length, is incomplete because the producer ran out of money after five reels.

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