SPAN Surfing for the Right School Publisher James Callahan
By Rachel Hartigan
Editor-in-Chief John Burgess
By Charles W. Petit
Where the Geeks Are New Vistas in the New Millennium By A. VenkataNarayana
Editor Lea Terhw1e
Improved AIDS Treatments Bring Life and Hope-At a Cost
Associate Editor A. Venkara Narayana Copy Editor Dipesh K. Saraparhy Editorial Assistant K. Muthukwnar Art Director Suhas Nimbalkar Deputy Art Director Hemam Bhatnagar Production/CirculationManager Rakesh Agrawal
By Susan Brink
Riding the DNA Railroad An Interview with Eric Lander
Mr. Chaudhary Goes to the Capitol By A. Venkata Narayana
Kumbh River Conference By Lea Terhune
On the Lighter Side Here Comes Media Lab Asia By Dipesh Satapathy
Research Services AIRC Documentation Services, American Information Resource Center
Sustainable Web Communities An Interview with Philip Greenspun
Glimpsing the Forgotten Front cover: Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, is among America's many small liberal arts schools that are now attracting serious science students. See story on page 6. Photo by A. Blake Gardner.
Rights for People, Not for Cultures "By Michael Blake
Democracy and Culture By B.P. Singh
Note: SPA I does not accept unsolicited manuscripts and materials and does not assume responsibility for them. Query letters are accepted. Published by the Public Affairs Section, American Center, 24 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, ew Delhi 110001 (phone: 3316841), on behalf of the American Embassy, New Delhi. Primed at Thomson Press (India) Limited, Faridabad, Haryana. The opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Editor. For permission write to the Editor. Price of magazine, one year subscription (6 issues) Rs. 125; single copy, Rs. 30.
Brown and Out By Gregg Easterbrook
Out of the Darkness By Abheek Barman
What Global Language? By Barbara Wallraff
Spotlight-Beneka By K. Muthukumar
s we slide into summer, thoughts often turn toward education. Prospective students who have completed the long admission process will get ready for new academic pursuits at an institution of higher learning, perhaps in the United States. It is never too early to start thinking about colleges and universities. Foreign applicants to U.S. schools must plan far ahead, taking required exams before applying to the institution of their choice. They might even pick up a scholarship or other financial aid along the way. To assist in this frequently bewildering business, SPAN offers some tips. We begin with "Surfing for the Right School," by Rachel Hartigan, who writes about the dramatic shift to the Internet as a resource for scholars seeking the school that suits them best. Next, in our cover story; Charles W Petit tells why smaller liberal arts colleges are drawing science majors in "Where the Geeks Are." Smaller classes, access to professors and sophisticated equipment funded by fat private endowments bring unusual opportunities for specialized research. New programs offered by the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Educational Foundation in India are detailed in A. Venkata Narayana's article "New Vistas in the New Millennium." In "Here Comes Media Lab Asia," Dipesh Satapathy sizes up the MIT Media Lab, a highly successful liaison between academia and industry that was conceived in 1985. Now, a similar project is proposed for India: Media Lab Asia. MIT project managers hope to solve health, education and rural development problems in A~ia through innovations developed here. "This action for MLA has to be by, from and in India," says MIT Media Lab Academic Director Alex Pentland. Satapathy also interviews ArsDigita founder, MIT's Philip Greenspun. Scientific responsibility is the theme of an interview with Eric Lander in "Riding the DNA Railroad," and "Improved AIDS Treatments Bring Life and Hope-At a Cost," by Susan Brink, looks at the pros and cons of the new AIDS therapies that have extended the lives of those infected with HIV Crossing over to industry, there is the knotty problem of California's power sector to consider. In "Brown and Out," Gregg Easterbrook looks at what happened before the lights went out in this analysis of the don'ts of deregulation. The bright side is that
such bungles may make localized generation more viable as distribution is rethought. And Abheek Barman examines the not-dissimilar challenges faced by India, as more power distribution is released from public into private hands in "Out of the Darkness." Water and rivers are needed for power generation, but they are, more importantly, essential for life itself. "Kumbh River Conference," tells of a meeting on the banks of the Ganges which brought together activists, researchers and others in search of means to cleanse and conserve waterways. The meeting during the Maha Kumbh Mela was part of the Citizen Exchange Project from Auburn University, Alabama. Citizen Exchange is sponsored by the U.S. State Department to develop understanding between people of the United States and other nations at an individual level. Through cultural sharing people from diverse backgrounds can build deeper understanding and enrich their lives. In "路Rights for People, Not for Cultures," Michael Blake asks if cultural survival is valuable in itself, or is it superseded by the civil and human rights of the individuals who constitute these cultures? And in "Democracy and Culture," B.P Singh traces how India and the United States become cultural kin through their democratic ideals. Several 20th century talents are showcased in two articles: first, our photo essay "Glimpsing the Forgotten," which reproduces works of painter Maynard Dixon and photographer Dorothea Lange. Two great artists of the 1930s, married to each other for a time, their shared fascination for people coping with hardship resulted in intense, reflective works. "B-Real," by Dan Georgakas, profiles indie film pioneer Ida Lupino, who drew Hollywood's attention to controversial social themes and broke ground for women in the film industry. . Visa matters are discussed in "Consular Focus." A "Spotlight" peek at newly commissioned Lieutenant Beneka Bali, the first Indian woman ever admitted to prestigious West Point, rounds out this issue. All of us at SPAN wish you happy reading.
surfing for the right school ll last year, Debbie Barela's older sisters nagged her about applying to college: When was she going to write to schools for information? When was she going to fill out applications? But each time they asked, she surprised them by saying that she'd already done the work. Barela, then a senior at Rubidoux High School in Riverside, California, had been spending her free moments at home logged on to CSUMentor, the state university system's Web portal. From there, she would take virtual campus tours, compare academic programs-she's considering education or premed-and browse dormroom layouts. She also visited FastWeb, a college resource site, to check out possible scholarships. "I thought it was fun," says Barela. Barela and her sisters exemplify a dramatic shift in the way teens are choosing colleges: Her sisters, who are 20 and 22, researched schools in a traditional manner, reading through guidebooks and catalogs from universities. By contrast, Barela, 18, went completely virtual. She is not alone. In 1999, more than 80 per-
cent of college bound seniors used the Web in their search, up from 57 percent four years ago, according to Stamats Communications, a marketing firm in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Another study found that half of high school students had turned to the Web at least six times during the previous month in search of college information. Some guidance counselors bemoan the popularity of the Web. They worry that, in the rush to the Internet, kids will bypass good guidance counseling and be seduced by the snazzy graphics and often unreliable information of cyberspace. Yet many more high school counselors and college admissions officers wholeheartedly welcome the new medium, arguing that, because it's so easy to use, more kids will find the facts that they need to make well-informed
choices. And research shows that good decisions lead to happy college students: One study of Indiana high schoolers found that those who spent more time investigating college options made the best choices and were the most content during their undergraduate years. Picking a college has never been a simple process. First, it brings up myriad ques-
Kauke Hall at the College of Woostel; in Wooster, Ohio. Check it out at <WWw.wooster.edu>
tions most kids haven't needed to answer before: Where do I want to live, what do I want out of an education, and what the
heck am I going to do with my life anyway? Often students feel so overwhelmed that they shy away from self-reflection and make decisions that seem impulsive. They latch on to the local college, mom's alma mater, or the school whose team made it to the Final Four~without looking into whether the institution will meet their academic and social needs.
those at usnews. com, and CollegeVie\lI.com to start generating lists of possible schools. They plug in responses to a series of questions~such as what they want to major in, and where they'd like to live~and the sites spit out the names of schools that meet those criteria. Because the search engines comb through huge rosters of schools, they encourage students to look beyond the familiar to places they've never heard of. Colleges are seeing the results: Some report that they're getting more inquiries from geographical areas they hadn't reached before. Jessica Phillips of Ocean City, Maryland, says she had
The-University of Kan as Kelley Johnson of University City, Missouri, so wanted to be done with the process that she looked at only two schools, the University of MissouriKansas City and the University of Kansas. The future biology major already knew both had good departments, but initially she leaned toward Missouri simply because it was the school she'd heard the most about. Eventually, she reconsidered. During a visit, she discovered that Kansas' much larger campus had a more varied social scene. This fall she will be a freshman at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. "It's their thing." Even when students have answered the tough questions, they're still faced with a grueling, months-long research project. So when students pop into guidance counselors' offices with printouts from college Web sites, many counselors rejoice. "I have kids coming in already knowledgeable when before they wanted us to spoonfeed them. The Web keeps their interest. They don't tune it out like they do us," says Shirley Raby, a counselor at Bellaire Senior High School in Bellaire, Texas. "It's their thing." As early as sophomore year, kids are heading to college search engines like
no interest in attending a colQuestions about the lege in the University of Kansas Midwest. "All are answered at the schools on <www.ukans.edu>. my list were in New England." But when Denison University in Granville, Ohio, came up on college search engines, she decided to look into Ohio schools. She found Kenyon in Gambier, which is where she's headed this fall.
Once they have a list on-screen, kids can click directly on to college sites, where they'll find a broader range of information than what's available in schools' brochures and viewbooks. Those publications rarely provide professors' curricula vitae, and descriptions of their research programs, for instance. Nor are they able to feature the latest edition of the campus newspaper, or live Webcams of labs and dining halls. The Web played a role in helping Gagan Tandon decide between Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville. Tandon, a future computer engineer, wanted to know whether work-study students could get research jobs with faculty. "UVA might have had that information online, but I couldn't find it," says the recent Indian immigrant. "At Tech, there were very clear job opportunities." Tandon will enroll at Tech this fall. Colleges have been slow to realize the recruiting potential of their Web sites in part because most were started as student projects~places to tinker with computer 'languages 1ike HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) or Java, for example~and so were anything but polished. But now, administrators are taking control of the sites and transforming them into stylish marketing tools for luring surfing high schoolers. Increasingly, schools are turning to consultants to overhaul their sites. Officials at Anderson University in Indiana paid Brainstorm Design, an If you want to shuffle Indianapolisoff to Buffalo, see the based company, State University of New several thousand York at Buffalo Web site dollars to conveli <www.buffalo.edu>. the school's chaoIf Buffalo is too cold, tic Internet patchSUNY has more work into a simsoutherly campuses. ply designed site Visit them at that's easy to nav< www.suny. edu>. igate. The company introduced vir-
tual admissions "counselors," pop-up people who cheerily offer advice on applying to the school. And students are responding. Incoming freshmen now list the site as the second most influentialjust after college fairs-source of information about the school. Too slick? The push by schools to make their sites ever more entertaining makes some educators nervous, however. A snazzy Web site can give students the wrong impression of campus life, especially those who conduct their search entirely online. The pictmes on Boston University's (BU) Web site led Tina Catania to believe that the school had a suburban campus with lots of green space. "When I went there, I realized that it was exactly the opposite," says the California resident. "The photos were so [tightly] focused that you couldn't tell that BU was in the middle of the city." Catania decided to attend scenic Dartmouth instead. Increased reliance on the Web by colleges poses another problem: It puts kids
without home computers at a disadvantage. When you've only got the computer in the local library for an hour or so, it's harder to participate in chat rooms, or impress the admissions office by con'esponding with a professor and several students. Admissions officers typically ask applicants whether they've contacted professors and students, and such correspondences are counted as a plus because they indicate that the applicant is serious about the school. But most schools hope to forestall a drastic digital divide by keeping viewbooks snail mail Features of the campus and around for a while and curricula at longer. "It's an Dartmouth College important ethical at Hanovel; New Hampshire, may be consideration as seen at well as a practical <www.dartmouth.edu>. one," says John Anderson, dean of admissions at Kenyon College. Educators worry, too, that in their rush to the Web, kids are overlooking those most apt to help them make an informed choiceInformation on guidance couthe pictured biology nselors. So greenhouse and other much of the programs at Kenyon process now is College in Gambier, Ohio, taking place at may be had at home that often <www.circle.kenyon.edu>. schools don't know where students are applying until they request transcripts, according to Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Rather than trying to persuade students to spend more time in their offices, some counselors are ensuring that students' Web time is well spent by developing sites for their charges that link them to useful corners of the Internet. "I'm making it easy for them and for myself," says
Susan Rexford, a counselor at West Springfield High in Virginia. Other educators are giving students the tools to pry useful information out of even the slickest college sites. Kenneth Hartman, an associate professor of instructional technology at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, shows kids how to find "unofficial" facts on college Web sites such as campus crime statistics in his Internet Guide for College-Bound Students (The College Board, 1998, $14.95). Of course, some kids have already figured out on their own how to ferret out the information they need. Jessica Phillips e-mailed an editor at the Kenyon Collegian and asked how hard it is for freshmen to write for the paper (it's relatively easy). Phillips also tracked down Kenyon students through a profile
search on America Online to get the real scoop on campus life. "I feel like I know a lot about college," she says. "But of course, there wi II be things that surprise me." D Comprehensive information about America's best colleges and research tools are available online at <www.usnews.com>. About the Author: Rachel Hartigan is an associate editor of u.s. News & World Report.
Cool research opportunities abound at America's small liberal arts schools
Undergraduates occupied with a 250 kW TRIGA research reactor at Reed College, Portland, Oregon. Reed ranks only a few slots below research powerhouses MIT and Caltech in the percentage of students who eventually get science Ph.D.s.
hoa, don't move anything," says budding researcher Mark Acton, glancing proudly across a gleaming labyrinth of prisms, mirrors, filters, beam splitters, and gratings screwed to a stout laboratory bench. "1 have everything right where I want it." Heavy-duty science is happening here. On one corner of the table is an angular, titanium-sapphire laser system worth about $150,000. Each of its rapid-fire bursts sends light waves caroming through the optical gadgetry. As the light is sliced, diced, and reshuffled, it yields revelations about the chaotic behavior of photons, with lessons for designing a new generation of lasers. At any of the country's big research institutions-Nobel Prize-studded private powerhouses such as Stanford or Columbia, or state flagships like the University of California-Berkeley or Ohio State University-this would be a routine glimpse of a diligent graduate student or post-doctoral fellow. But it came last spring during a visit to Williams College, a small liberal arts school, where Acton was a graduating senior and barely 22.
Top producers. With a bucolic, brick-and-ivy campus straight off a Currier & Ives print, Williams, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, may
Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, may look like the pelfect place to turn out poets, but hard-core scientists? Yes.
appear to the unaware eye to be a fine place for turning out poets. But hard-core scientists? In a word, yes. In fact, students Iike Acton are found by the fistful at liberal arts colleges. Although only about 8 percent of the nation's undergraduates attend these schools, they produce 17 percent of the students who eventually get science Ph.D.s. Two big research universitiesCaltech and MIT -turn out the most Ph.D.-bound graduates (measured as a percentage of the total number of undergraduates) and third place goes to science-focused Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. But the next three slots are held by liberal arts colleges, Swarthmore in Pennsylvania, Carleton in Northfield, Minnesota, and Reed in Portland, Oregon. What accounts for the liberal arts edge? Classes typically are small, with 100 or so students in the bigger freshman and sophomore introductory courses, and a dozen or so in classes taken in the last years. When something goes wrong in the lab, a professor, not a grad student, usually is there to help undo the mess. Most important, at many smaller schools, half or more of the science students do original research-typically some facet of the research programs nearly all such schools now require of faculty members. Many small colleges are bui Iding new science centers designed to foster undergraduate research. These pricey facilities, which feature plenty of well-equipped labs, are paid for mostly with funds from private sources and bank loans with a little federal help. One report compiled by Project Kaleidoscope, a Washington, D.C., college-science advocacy organization, found that just 13 colleges, including Haverford in Pennsylvania and Amherst in Massachusetts, had spent more than $300 million in the past 10 years on science buildings. And it's not just the elite colleges that are spending lots of money. Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington opened a new New sciencefclcilities under construction at $25 million sci- Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.
ence center five years ago and saw its science enrollment nearly double from 10 years earlier. Bulldozers growl outside existing laboratories at Oberlin, where a $65 million science center is slated to open this year. At Middlebury College's new six-story, observatory-topped Bicentennial Hall, associate science dean and chemistry professor Jim Larrabee strides down a hallway, ticking off the equipment in each lab he passes-a Siemens X-ray diffraction machine ($80,000), a Zeiss scanning electron microscope ($400,000), a Hewlett-Packard gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer ($80,000). "It's all here for the undergrads," he says. "At the big universities, they'd be lucky to get close to them, fighting off the grad students." Last year, Middlebury's $47 million science hall was named "Lab ofthe Year" by the trade journal R&D Magazine, beating out science complexes in both private industry and the big universities. "[Our aim is] to integrate the sciences with each other, so they crosspollinate," says architect Robert Schaeffner of PayThe library at Middlebury College in ette Associates in Middlebury, Vermont. Its state-of-the-art Boston, designer science hall was named "Lab of the Year" of Middlebury's by R&D Magazine. hall and many other such facilities, including one at the College of Wooster in Ohio. He notes that, increasingly, scientists draw from different fields in their research. Cognitive science, for instance, combines psychology, computer science, and linguistics. The facilities foster interdisciplinary work, he says, by putting "the faculties from different departments in the same building, many of them on the same corridor." First to know. While small classes have always been a staple of liberal arts colleges, requirements that science faculty do original research became common only in the mid-1970s. Chemistry Professor Truman Schwaltz has watched the transformation unfold during his 34 years at Minnesota's Macalester College. "[Our positions] used to be all teaching, no research," he says. "We still weigh teaching more, but now it's both: A super-duper crackerjack researcher, who was a lousy teacher, still would not get tenure. But a super-duper teacher, who does no research, wouldn't get it either." With the mantra that good research spurs good teaching now well entrenched among liberal arts faculty, students have many opportunities to work on research projects. "You really get a chance to be creative and challenged," says Abigail Person, a
Montana native who graduated from Oberlin last year with a degree in neuroscience. Now headed for grad school at the University of Washington, she enthuses, "I am totally addicted to being the first to know someth ing." At Williams, observatory director and astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff shows off the new telescope atop the physics building. "The software to handle this thing is the same as at the Keck," he notes, referring to an observatory operated by the University of California and Caltech with NASA in Hawaii, with the world's two largest telescopes. Wherever there is a total ecli pse of the sun, Pasachoff has been there with a half-dozen undergraduates to study the sun's outermost atmosphere, or corona. The students are from the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium, which knits together the tiny astro departments at Colgate, Haverford, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Vassar, Wellesley, Wesleyan, and Williams. "We'll stack our students against any body's, " Pasachoff says. Ask faculty members why they opted for a liberal arts school over a research university and most respond that they wanted to focus on teaching as well as research. But many professors' choices also were shaped by tight job markets, says Nathaniel Pitts, director of the Office of Integrative Activities at the National Science Foundation. The 1980s saw a glut ofPh.D.s in the United States, and a lot of young, ambitious researchers could not get work at top research universities. "Many went to the smaller colleges, which now have excellent faculties. It's a great deal for students," Pitts says. So, are liberal arts schools best for every aspiring scientist? Not necessarily. They are, after all, small colleges. "If you don't want to live in a village with one street, Williams is not for you," says mathematician Edward Burger. Liberal arts colleges also can be costly, with tuition and living expenses frequently running well over $30,000 per year. Even with financial aid, these schools can put a bigger dent in a family's budget than would a state university. Finally, big universities are where the superstars of science hang their hats. Although in past years undergraduate research opportunities have been rare at heavyweight schools, many are trying harder to get more undergrads engaged in serious research alongside professors. "If you want to experience world-class science, come to a place like this," urges University of California-Berkeley molecular biologist Robeli Tj ian. "The good undergrads always find their way into the labs here, too." But for many students, says recent Oberlin grad Christiana Nwofor, "a place like this is perfect." The 21-year-old Nigerian, who got her degree in biochemistry, is headed for medical school at Harvard. "I knew I was qualified," she says. "I had the best professors here, and they are here primarily to teach. I am so grateful." D About the Author: Charles W Petit is a senior writer with the U.S. News & World Report.
New Vistas Scholarships for the disadvantaged, roundtables on global issues and more
he crisis we face today in polity, economy and culture has its roots in education. The solution lies in educating our educators, and this, not through camps or refresher courses, but by working on an alternative vision of education," writes Sachidananda Mohanty, a Fulbright fellow at Texas and Yale universities in 1990-91, and editor of a book titled In Search of Wonder-Understanding Cultural Exchange. For the past 51 years, the U.s. Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) has been working on the critical area of educational and cultural exchanges of scholars and professionals between the United States and India, The Fulbright Program is an expansive vision of education that fosters mutual understanding of each other's cultures and ways of living. The experience of living in another culture removes many stereotypes as it reveals the spirit and complexity of the host countly. USEFI in New'Delhi and its regional offices in Chennai, Calcutta, and Mumbai have been striving to explore afresh the issues in educational and cultural exchange between the United States and India. USEFl offers fellowships to Indian scholars, post-doctoral research grants, student and professional fellowships with a view to broadening one's understanding in a life-changing way. To date, more than 7,100 scholars and professionals from both the countries have benefited from the Fulbright Fellowship Program managed by USEFL To meet the challenges of the new millennium, USEFI this year has embarked on an outreach fellowship program-the International Fellowships Program (IFP)-targeted for exceptional but disadvantaged college graduates. This worldwide program is funded wholly by the Ford Foundation which will support 350 graduate students from disadvantaged communities in 20 countries. The $330-mil!ion fellowship grant, to be spent over a IO-year period on the advanced study of disadvantaged college graduates, will help the participants become leaders in their respective fields through education. Even though the number of the direct beneficiaries of the program is small, IFP aims at fUlihering the development of recipient's country. This in due course will pave the way for greater economic and social justice globally. The three-year fellowships may be used in any country of a candidate's choice, including his or her home countly. To
in the New Millennium ensme that the disadvantaged graduate fellows are drawn from more diverse backgrounds, IFP has issued some guidelines taking into consideration the social and educational backgrounds of communities. USEFI and the Ford Foundation began planning the program last January that will commence this academic year. As per terms of the agreement, USEFI will do the outreach for the program and identify 35 recipients who will carry the fellowships for a period of three years. Right now USEFI and IFP are grappling with the proper definition of the term "disadvantaged" graduates. "We are now discussing the issue as to what constitutes 'disadvantaged graduates' with academics and others in India. I think that they have come up with an adequate definition. The final decision will be announced soon," says Jane Schukoske, executive director of USEFI. "Some indicators have been suggested to us as to what comprises the disadvantaged class. The common indicator that runs through the discussion is the educational level of the mother of the recipient. Other factors such as economic, social USEFI Executive Director and cultural background of the candiJane Schukoske. date are also being considered," says Kuckoo Rao, director of IFP. The indicators for assessing "disadvantaged" may indeed differ from one country to another. According to Susan Berresford, president of Ford Foundation, "In one country, it might be people from rural areas. In others it might be women or ethnic minorities or people from families where no one has ever attended graduate school." However, the Ford Foundation has left the final selection process to the individual countries. In the new millennium Fulbright has drawn up new themes, for example, "Challenges of Health in a Borderless World," as pati of the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program 2001-02. This pilot outreach program will create opportunities for 20-25 scholars and professionals from the U.S. and abroad who will take up the very contemporary issues of global significance for research. The program considers publ ic health needs as one of the key challenges of this century. The problems of public health are intertwined with a wide range of issues, and this year's theme invites exploration of relevant social, cultural, political and economic determinants of health as important factors in disease prevention and containment. The research scholars program aims at facilitating a deeper understanding of the social context within which societies, national and global communities shape their response to disease. The program
will further encourage an exploration of value base and the historical and cultural roots of global health strategies. USEFI will hold a roundtable on the teaching of intemational relations to stimulate academies to think afresh about teaching the important and sensitive subject of international relations. Yet another roundtable on environmental and water issues in South Asia is slated this year. The main objective of the roundtable on water issues is to bring together Fulbrighters and other members of the academic and professional community to examine the water resource problems of the South Asian countries. In August USEFI plans to hold a seminar on legal and educa-
Visitors at a photo exhibition in New Delhi which showcased achievements of USEFI over the past 50 years.
tiona I reforms. Executive Director Schukoske, who is a law professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, Matyland, and has a long association with the Indian legal community, says that workshops of this nature will be useful to both the Indian and American legal educators and professionals. "The legal educators in India have welcomed the idea of new trends in legal education. There is particular interest in methods of learning practical skills and in new fields such as cyber law, environmental law and gender studies," says Schukoske. USEFI will also help administer the pilot program on Conflict Resolution. This program was created last year to enhance nongovernmental efforts to resolve political, social and sectarian conflicts and in its second year will bring to the U.S. post-graduate professionals from South Asia to work together on issues that affect the region. Always inventing itself, USEFI aims to be at the forefront of emerging issues, and offer a platform for Indo-American dialogue in the new century.
Improved treatments bring life and hope-at a cost AIDS sufferers can live longer with the new drug regimens, but it's not a cure and the side effects are mostly uncharted territory.
here is a generation of young people who learn about AIDS as a kind of history lesson. They were scarcely aware, or not yet born, when the epidemic stormed onto the scene in 1981 as a terrifying and highly visible slaughter. "I know a lot of older gay men in their forties and fifties who lost not one or two friends, but dozens and dozens of friends. I listen, but I can't fully understand what that must have been like," says Jeffrey Timberlake, 28, of Boston, who is HIV positive. The danger, now, is that some people his age and younger may unwittingly be repeating history. Clearly, much has changed. Not so very long ago, AIDS meant death within months or a few years. Patients would drown in their own fluids following pneumocystis carinii, a virulent form of pneumonia. Their lymph nodes would swell, they'd develop oral yeast infections, or salmonella would invade their intestines. Drenched in night sweats, their bodies would succumb to waves of infection, and they'd waste away. At first there was nothing but losing battles against one infection after another; then came a few drugs that could suppress the virus for a short time. "AIDS is a different disease in 2001," says John Battlett, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. "In 1995, we spent most of our time preparing people to die. By 1997, patients had at least a crack at a response. It was one of the most dramatic changes I've ever seen with an infection." What drove it was the
introduction, in late 1995, of a new class of drugs called protease inhibitors, which prevent the virus from being released from infected cells. In 1996, for the first time ever, deaths from AIDS in the United States dropped, by 25 percent. They've continued to fall, by an additional 18 percent in 1998 and 9 percent more in 1999. Yet no one at the front lines is celebrating. Up to 900,000 people in the United States are HIV positive, and a third of them don't know it yet. With no cure in sight, they wi II spend years, even decades, on drugs that miraculously extend lives but carry a high price in side effects. And AIDS workers now worry that, in this epidemic, hope itself has a cost. Young people in the groups most at risk-gay men and IV drug users-no longer view HIV infection as a death sentence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among some teenagers, a sign that they are taking sexual risks. And a 1999 study of 416 gay men found that the more optimistic they were about new treatments, the less likely they were to practice safe sex. "They think you just go and get some pills, and it's no big deal," says Valerie Stone, director of the AIDS clinic at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It's easy to see why. The transformation of the world's latest plague in America is nothing short of miraculous. In Boston, for example, the Hospice at Mission Hill, which opened in 1989 to care for dying AIDS patients, closed its doors in 1997 because it couldn't fill its
beds. At a clinic run by Fenway Community Health, "We used to have 10 or 12 patients in the hospital at anyone time," says Jerry Feuer, a physician's assistant. "Now, we go weeks without a single patient in the hospital."
Drug arsenal. The turnaround began with the introduction of saquinivir, the first of the protease inhibitors. But the real breakthrough came some months later when researchers found that using 'the new drugs together with older drugs led to rapid reductions in the amount of virus in the blood. Since then, another class of drugs called nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTls) has been added to the arsenal, bringing the total num bel' of H IV drugs to 16. Patients mix and match them in complicated, individually tailored combinations. Taking these medicines has gotten easier, too. Combination therapy once meant swallowing 30 to 50 AIDS pills or more a day in highly structured regimens-some pills with food, some on an empty stomach, some in the middle of the night. Today the routine for many patients is far simpler. Timberlake, for instance, takes one pill in the morning and four at night. The newest AIDS pill, Trizivir, available since December, combines three drugs and means, for some patients, taking only two pills, one in the morning and one at night, with or without food. TnAmerica, at least, most of those who need this kind of treatment, costing $10,000 to $12,000 a year for drugs
alone, can get it through standard insurance or special federal funding for AIDS. Yet it remains a disease that dissects society largely along Iines of haves and havenots, increasingly affecting minorities and the poor, through both homosexual sex and IV drug use or sex with an IV drug user. But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the epidemic in 2001 is that despite a decline in disease and death, the rate of new HIV infections has held steady. Some young people are still taking risks with their lives, almost as though it were still that more forgiving sexual time before 1980. Knowledge is not always protective. "] knew what was safe sex and what wasn't. Why was I taking risks?" Timberlake asks. Part of the answer, for him, was partying. "I was floundering. It only takes one time, and when you get drunk, you don't care." Those who try to educate teens about prevention report another factor: Youngsters often wrongly assume that people like Magic Johnson, who are successfully living with an undetectable viral load, have been cured. Far from it. The new drugs are more like cancer treatments than allergy or blood pressure pills: toxic substances that attack the body even as they keep the disease in check. Their long-term consequences are unknown, but some early indications are unsettling. Effects like lipodystrophy, which redistributes body fat in bizarre configurations, or osteonecrosis, a crippling bone disease, appear out of nowhere. Some patients are becoming diabetic. The latest fear is a spike in cases of AIDS dementia, leading to fears that although the new drugs protect the body, they do not protect the mind. No matter how harsh the side effects, patients cannot safely skip doses or go off the drugs. Studies show that patients who take 95 percent of their pills do better than those who take only 90 percent. No other disease demands such scrupulous compliance. If they miss even a pill or two a month, the virus can mutate, figuring out how to resist the drug and forcing patients to switch regimens. "The virus is still smarter than we are," says Kenneth Mayer, medical director of research and evaluation at Fenway Community Health.
Timberlake, diagnosed in 1997, was reluctant to take drugs at first. "There was always that gleaming hope that maybe I could fight this without medication. Maybe I would be one of those long-term nonresponders," he says, referring to the handful of people who have been HIV positive for years without developing symptoms of AIDS. But by last spring, he got a fl u he couldn't shake. "I had a cough, fever. I would路 wake and the bedsheets would be drenched from night sweats. I got really scared. I knew 1 was playing with fire," he says. He prepared himself to take drugs.
Nightmares. He settled on a regimen of Sustiva, one of the new NNRTls, and Combivir, which combines AZT and 3TC, two older AIDS drugs. He immediately ran into one of the more common, and disorienting, side effects of Sustiva. "I felt like I wasn't in my body. My heart rate felt like it was in slow motion. I would touch my skin and it would feel like it wasn't mine. I'd be taking a shower and it would feel Iike the shower floor dropped two meters. It was very, very bizarre," he says. Most patients try to dodge these centralnervous-system effects by taking the pills at night. But the drug's effects can seep into a patient's unconscious. Eileen Ellis, 42, of Providence, Rhode Island, and HTV positive since 1987, has chronic nightmares, rich in bright colors, towering shadows, and psychotic images. "I had this dream where one of my cats electrocuted the other cat," she says. People who take combinations of the 16 AIDS drugs suffer other side effects such as short-term nausea and chronic diarrhea. Some develop chronic fatigue, others depression. They worry about buffalo humps between their shoulders and bellies dubbed "protease paunch." "Ugly names for ugly symptoms," says Maureen Cassidy of Boston, 46, and HIV positive since 1985. The drugs still aren't easy to take. Each has its own demands. Some rule out alcohol, others are less effective with high-fat diets. Some cannot be taken with antacids. Some must be taken on an empty stomach, others with food. There
are also unanticipated drug interactions. "I've had some problems with depression, so I started taking Saint-John's-wort [an herbal remedy for depression]," says Peter Rothschild, 41. "That's when my [viral load] numbers started inching up a Iittle." Recent studies have shown that the herbal antidepressant diminishes the effect ofa protease inhibitor. Even though that drug was not part of his regimen, Rothschild got worried. When he stopped taking Saint-John'swort, his numbers improved, though recently they've begun rising again. A doctoral student in counseling psychology and religion at Boston University, Rothschild knows he may have to switch to another drug regimen soon. "What I am facing now is the uncertainty of what's going to happen with all of this. Physically, right now things are OK. I know there are people who cycle through these drugs every two years. I may be one of those people," he says. Yet people like Cassidy and Ellis, who have been through years of life-saving, yet very toxic drugs, realize that things today are better than ever. Patients once set alarms every four hours, day and night, to remember pills. They suffered through side effects that never subsided. For all their trouble, thousands died horrible deaths. The terror has calmed, but there remains an undercurrent of fear among the people who will, the rest of their lives, be involved in a form of human experimentation. Cassidy, appalled at the disfiguring side effects she began to experience from protease inhibitors, has a prescription for a new drug regimen, including Sustiva. She knows she'll gather the courage to pick it up, but last week, it still sat unclaimed at the pharmacy. ''I'm scared. It has [central nervous system] side effects. I am afraid of it because I don't want horror-movie nightmares. I also don't want uncontrollable diarrhea, I don't want a rash, I don't want buffalo hump, I don't want to be a diabetic," she says. "But I don't want to die. So what's my choice?" 0 About tbe Author: Susan Brink is a senior writer with U.S. News & World Report.
Railroad The Human Genome Project is as goOd as done, says MIT's Eric lander. Now it's time to start thinking about how the data will be used.
For insiders in genome research, the name Eric Lander evokes a palpable image of the trends sweeping biology-automation, computers, entrepreneurialism, big science and big ideas. A mathematician turned Harvard Business School professor turned gene scientist, the 42-year-old Lander is director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research/MIT Center for Genome Research. Lander has built the lab into the world's most productive academic gene sequencing facility and the flagship of the international Human Genome Project. Personifying the future of medicine isn't easy. Lander's pronouncements on biology's new age are in demand from the White House to Wall Street, and he's been a key figure in trying to broker a collaboration between public-sector scientists and Celera Genomics, the Rockville, Maryland, startup that's racing to create a private copy of the genome. Although those negotiations collapsed amid angry accusations last spring, the Human Genome Project remained on course to produce a draft of the human genetic makeup. Technology Review Senior Associate Editor Antonio Regalado managed to catch up with Lander.
What's been happening at your center? ERIC LANDER: Well, it has been tremendously exciting. The international Human Genome Project had a three-year pilot project phase which was devoted to developing the methodology for how to sequence genomes. That phase came to an end in March of 1999, and we went from a pilot operation to a production level in excess of 15 billion nucleotides, or DNA letters, per year. We scaled up 20-fold over the course of about nine months, and we did so by less than doubling the staff involved in that process to about 80 people. And if we had had to go up lOa-fold we could have done that too, because the whole thing is really quite automated. Tlte breakdown of negotiations between Celera Genomics and tlte Human Genome Project was front page news. What's behind that conflict? 1 think you put your finger on it. The origin of the conflict is that it has been on the front page of the newspapers from the beginning! What happened in May of 1998 [when Celera was founded] is that this all blew up in The New York Times, which decided to turn this into some kind of race and battle. 1 think the public face of this, the journalistic feeding frenzy, has served no one terribly well and [ am just not impressed by it. If you look at things from a 20-year perspective, this is about as exciting as the New Hampshire primaries. In the grand scheme of things people aren't going to care an awful lot who did what three months earlier than anybody else. As scientists we should look past all this, but that's hard with the media recognizing that this is a cheap and easy way for science writers to get their story on the front page. What can you do? People are very susceptible to that. Apparently, Celera and tlte Human Genome Project are still negotiating a joint publication of tlte genome data. Wltat Itas your role been in these discussions? Oh, I talk to everybody in the community. This is a public service project and I think it would serve the world well for everyone to be talking. I find the racing and the acrimony to be kind of silly and I don't see why everyone isn't managing to work together in mature ways. What is the benefit of a field in which everybody talks to each other? Progress is made much more quickly. That has always been the case in science. What does it mean for the genome project to be finished? The truth is that the human genome is going to have all kinds of nasty little bits that are hard to fill in at the end: the middles of chromosomes, called the centro meres, the ends of chromosomes, called the telomeres, and so on. This is not like the
transcontinental railroad, where at some point someone is going to nail in the golden spike, and then and only then can you go cross-country. There is no golden nucleotide to be nailed into the double helix at the end. What's important is that every bit of the D A railroad is already being used today. As of this month, more than 85 percent of the human genome is freely available on the Web. So the notion that biology will be suddenly transformed when we cross a specific finish line is wrong. The point is that biology has already been transformed. The race is over in the sense that everyone is taking the human genome for granted. That is the achievement right now.
What are the next big opportunities in genomics? Well, let's start with the basic research question, which is how do you use the information in a genome to figure out how physiology really works. The genome is a very elaborate program, and we don't know how to read it. It's as if we have some ancient computer code that was written three billion years ago and now we are trying to figure out what it does. I think what biologists are going to be doing for the next decade is figuring out the circuitry of the genome by monitoring how the 50,000 to 100,000 genes are turned on and off and how all the proteins come on and off in the cell. A lot of technology is going to be needed to do that, so 1 also think that detector technology [such as gene chips] is going to be a driving force of genomics in the future. 1 see a real merger of physics, chemistry, biology and computer science to be able to build these detectors and interpret their results.
How will that affect the creation of new drugs? It was noted about 10 years ago that in order to maintain the valuation of the pharmaceutical industry it would be necessary for the typical pharmaceutical firm to bring to market three new drugs each year. In fact, most companies bring to market one new drug a year, at most. So there is a huge productivity gap. And the reason for that is that making a new drug is not an act of engineering. It's an act of al1 mixed with a lot of luck. When you make a new drug you often have no idea whether the target you have chosen is valid, and no way to know whether your drug will be non-toxic or if it will be absorbed and metabolized by a human in the right way. Right now the only way to find out those answers is to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to test the drug in human clinical trials. Imagine what would happen if one could reverse that by using technologies that had high predictive capability and could be deployed early in the process. That would mean when you go to do your clinical trial, there would be a very high probability of success, compared to the current low probability. Well, that would have a huge impact on the number of drugs that one can develop. That is what the industry sees as the promise of genomics and of biotechnology. When people look back 30 years from now, they are going to be looking back
from a pharmaceutical industry that is an engineering industry. And they are going to marvel that anything at all got done in the 20th century.
Your center works closely with industrial partners, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Affymetrix and a company you helped start, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, to develop just such predictive technologies. Have the lines between academia and industry been redrawn? Oh absolutely, but industry and academia still have very different jobs. Academia continues to be the place to make the basic discoveries that are not "appropriable" as private intellectual property. So for example, the understanding of cancer and how a cancer cell works are things that no company can lock up and therefore it makes no sense for companies to be investing in. It's what is called a "public good." I think the majority of biology remains a public good, in the sense that it is fundamental knowledge. The minute something becomes appropriable in an economic sense, however, it often makes more sense for industry to take it over. What used to happen is that the gap between the fundamental and applied knowledge was decades in biology. Now the gap is six to 12 months. So it means there is a much tighter coupling and a much greater intellectual interchange between the two.
Your industry partners have commercial rights to improved genomics technologies developed with their money. What kind of restrictions does that put on you as an academic? The conditions ofthat alliance are very explicit in that regard. We are free to publish or speak about anything as long as we have given 60 days' notice. The 60 days are there to be able to file any patents that should be filed. We have yet to find this to be a serious limitation, because it's hard to get anything in a scientific journal faster than 60 days.Also, the benefit of this industrial consortium is not so much specific patents as it is a community of researchers both in academia and industry who are working together to push the edge of the technology.
Is the Human Genome Project racing in order to prevent Celerafrom patenting human genes? Really, the issue has less to do with patents than with secrecy. The international Human Genome Project is about guaranteeing that the sequence of the human genome will not be a trade secret and will be freely available in everyone's hands, with no restrictions on its distribution or on its analysis. That is our purpose and that is the race that we have won. The patenting problem is a decade old, and Celera is a Johnny-come-lately. Most of the patents that are going to matter are held by the five or six genomics companies that preceded Celera, like Human Genome Sciences and Incyte Genomics. While I do agree that there have been very serious problems with patent law, Celera is not going to be the principal beneficiary of any of that.
What is your view of gene-related patents? All patents are a bargain between society and inventors made to incent innovation. The question is, what sort of bargains do we want to strike? For the last three years the Patent Office was saying that naked gene sequence about which you know nothing, or very little, is patentable. When something is trivial and involves no substantial inventive step, like running a gene sequencer, it's my sense that society shouldn't be setting the bar so low. In fact, the difficult step is figuring out what a gene does and what it's good for. And therefore we ought to have a social policy that sets the bar there. Recently, the Patent Office has begun to move in the right direction, although it still has a ways to go. We don't want to find that we have given away the monopolies to the people who did the easy steps and have left less to incent the people who have to do the hard steps. Pharmaceutical companies already are worrying about working on a particular gene for fear that some other company has a patent on it. Well, the big losers in this case are patients.
The Hollywood movie GATTACA is about unhappy people living in a world where success and social status are determined by their genes. Is that where we are headed? That's the idea of genetic determinism, and I am quite opposed to it. Privacy and nondiscrimination are really the two big issues and there are many people, including myself, who are worried that our society has not put in place the proper protections. I believe in absolute privacy for genetic information. I want this to be information 路that every patient can have access to on his or her own terms. And I don't want any insurance company, any employer or any government to have any say over that information or to be able to gain access to it without the explicit consent of the patient. I would also like to see strong statements in legislation that say that genes are not an allowable basis for discrimination. There are a lot of things that we have decided that it is just flatout wrong to discriminate on, such as race. Well, I don't see why we shouldn't put genes in with that. And if there are any exceptions to be drawn, we can worry about that later. In the absence of any national legislation, are there a lot of examples of genomic information being misused? Examples of misuses still remain few because, as with many technologies, there is a phase where it is not efficient to use this information and so people don't gather it. But then there comes a tipping point after which it is very efficient, but by then it's too late jf you don't have the legislation in place. It's a mistake to conclude that we have a long time to SOli this out, because a decade from now it will probably be too late. We have to get everyone to understand that the human genome should never be used as a tool to divide people. 0
Mr. CJaaudhar~ Goes to the Capitol The 31-year-old politician created history by becoming the first Indian American Senator in the Minnesota state legislature ndian Americans have carved niches for themselves in many fields in the United States. Be it infOlmation technology, medicine, science, or Wall Street, Indian Americans have made immense contributions to the U.S. economy and the society. The Indian American community is also one of the most politically attentive and energetic groups in the United States, but few have held political office. Nevertheless, they had displayed great skill in fundraising for both the Democratic and Republican parties. With the election of Satveer Chaudhary to the Minnesota State Senate in the November 2000 elections the political aspirations of the 1.5 million Indian community have achieved a new level of fulfillment. Thiliy-one-year-old Chaudhary has many firsts in his brief but impressive political career. He is the first Indian American to become state Senator and the youngest in the 67-member Minnesota Senate. He won the election as a Democratic Party candidate and represents District 52, which includes New Brighton, Columbia Heights, Fridley, Hilltop and Mounds View. Before this election, Chaudhary said he had decided to run for the seat "because in this new century it is time for a fresh, clear-headed, yet more powerful voice for my district." After taking a law degree at the University of Minnesota Law School,
Chaudhary studied British and American foreign policy at Oxford University, where he was also a member of the Oxford University Debating Society. Satveer Chaudhary is no novice to political office. Before he jumped into the senatorial race, he won two elections to the Minnesota House of Representatives, in 1996 and 1998, and served for four years. Chaudhary was one of two Indian American state representatives in state legislative houses in the country, the other being Kumar Barve, also a Democrat, who represents Montgomery County, Maryland. During his college days, he was an affilmative action leader and a leading voice in education reforms. Chaudhary was eager to take up community issues and work on behalf of educationists. During his first term as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Chaudhary served in II committees, chairing the House Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Subcommittee and co-chairing the House Civil and Family Law Committee. He quickly became known for his work on strong DWI laws and class size reduction in Minnesota's schools. In the 1998 election, although the Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives, Chaudhary was elected to a second term by a larger margin. He was appointed to committees on Education, Jobs and Economic Development and Early Childhood Finance
and helped lead the fight for affordable prescription drug coverage. For most Minnesotans time is a scanty resource and they want convenient parking and transit facilities. The ever increasing cost of commuting and parking are likely to chase business to suburbs. To arrest the growing discontent about transpOl1:ation, the state is taking steps to run frequent buses, introduce rapid transit, and provide plenty of free and secure parking. Senator Chaudhary, now the vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, says, he is also interested in commuter rail and airport improvements. In 1998 President Clinton proposed a program to reduce class size in schools. Grades 1-3 would be reduced to a nationwide average of 18 students in each class. Senator Chaudhary, who has been a strong Suppol1:erofthis, observes that students who are in smaller classes outscore their counterpaI1:S academically. Smaller classes mean fewer discipline problems and therefore safer schools. As House Representative Chaudhary was known for his effOl1:sin implementing DWllaw. He is in favor of legislation to lower the legal alcohol blood content to 0.08 percent from 0.1 0 percent, and suggested tougher penalties for drunken drivers. Chaudhary has been an advocate of affodable prescription drugs, especially to senior citizens. "The cost of medicine in the United States has become
extremely high. Senior people who need them the most can afford them the least," said Chaudhary. About his contribution to several legislative committees, Chaudhary says: "1 get great satisfaction by making positive difference in my committees." Chaudhary's parents immigrated to Minnesota from Rohtak, Haryana, in 1966. In the beginning, they wrestled with employment problems, but they showed pluck and worked hard. In 1966, his father, while looking for a job, met then u.S. Vice President and Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey. The meeting was a real turning point in the life of the Chaudhary family as he landed in a job with Humphrey's office. Senator Chaudhary said that the Vice President was one of his idols during his childhood and this made him join politics. Chaudhary's parents and teachers inculcated strong values and encouraged him to do community work. "My parents taught me to value education, hard work, and to never forget how we began," said Chaudhary. The young Senator is optimistic that his experience will encourage more Indians join politics. "It is just a matter of time before more and more Indian Americans get elected to office. Just like any American, in order to run for higher office, start at local level," suggests Chaudhary. "Indians have slowly become more involved in politics and have seen its benefits. It helps the community achieve so much more as part of the political system. This is one more step forward to have contacts in the federal government," said Chaudhaty. Chaudhary, who is single, has a younger brother and sister who are very supportive of his community involvement. The Indian American communHy also backed his campaign for the Minnesota Senate. He has been an active patiicipant in virtually every organization in his district-from the New Brighton Eagles and Family Center to the Citizens' Police Academy and the Columbia Heights Lions Club. -A. Venkata Narayana
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1 The source of the Ganga near Gomukh in the Himalayas where the water is clean. By the time the Ganga reaches this bather at Allahabad, however, its material purity has been compromised by numerous pollutants. 3 Commander Sureshwar Sinha shows the course of the Ganga and Yamuna to a group of reporters at a press conference for the International Conference on Rivers at the Kumbh.
f you want to entice a large audience to a forum on environmental pollution and the state of rivers in India, what better place to hold it than the Kumbh Mela, on the banks of the sacred Ganga? The Auburn University Citizen Exchange Project did just that when it held its Maha Kumbh International Conference on :Rivers in the tent of the
4 (Left to right) Uday Sahay; Swami Chidanand Saraswati; Swami Chinmayanand; Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra; Acharya Srikant "J!as; and, M C. Mehta at the International Conference on Rivers at the Kumbh. Seated behind are young chelas, orphans adopted by the Parmartha Ashram, who chanted bhajans for the event.
S Kelly Alley (right) and a co-worker prepare conference materials.
Parmartha Niketan Ashram. Ashram head Swami Chidanand Saraswati offered the accommodations. The meeting brought together lawyers, scientists, religious leaders, NGOs and individuals active in pollution prevention, waste management and conservation of natural resources. Their goal was to find ways to prevent further deterioration of India's waterways. Citizen Exchange is a program of the U.S. State Department that confers grants on universities, community organizations, and nonprofit groups that create cross-cultural institutional links and contribute to the solution of shared international problems. It encourages two-way involvement: familiarizing Americans with cultural t~aditions and values of other countries while sharing information about the United States abroad. The Maha Kumbh conference was part of a three-year project funded originally by the United States Information Agency and now by the Office of Citizen Exchanges. The U.S. component is coordinated by anthropologist Kelly D. Alley at Auburn University in Alabama. The India project is run by lawyer and environmental activist M.C. Mehta. The two of them organized this conference, which drew some of the more prominent clean water activists. elly Alley became interested in Indian rivers while researching perceptions of the river Ganga in 1993. "I started in Benares. I wanted to explore the thing which we consider to be a paradox, which is how can a river that is considered so sacred be allowed to be polluted." Ultimately, she says, "It's really not a paradox. They actually distinguish between sacred purity and material cleanness and uncleanness. So something that is pure can also be dirty." Involvement in the Ganga Action Plan and other river-related projects followed, until she found herself in the courts in connection with Ganga water pollution cases filed by M.C. Mehta. It is how they met. Their association on the Auburn University Citizen Exchange Project evolved from there. Core participants in the project include the Oregon-based Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, which runs a Web site <www.elaw.org>, that provides free scientific and legal research bye-mail; Sankat Mochan Foundation, Varanasi; Eco-Friends, Kanpur; Bhavani River Protection Joint Council, Erode, Tamil Nadu; Friends of Vrindavan; Patancheru Anti-pollution Committee in Andhra
Pradesh; Pani Morcha and Toxics Link, New Delhi; Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers and Mississippi River Beautification Project in the U.S.; and a number of individual activists from the two countries. Alley feels the ongoing communication process is mutually beneficial: "A lot of people in the States could learn from what is happening here, because the courts are flexible and they are open and they allow citizens to come forward with writ petitions which is something that in the States doesn't really happen because our notion of standing is limited .... And, of course, nobody knows totally how to treat wastewater, so we are all in the same predicament." She cites examples of individual activists, such as Gopesh Chaturvedi who filed a case in the High Court to prevent pollution at Mathura and keep wastewater from flowing into the water supply after a dam was built, and who is having some success at getting an acceptable drainage system in place. But a big problem is that "a lot of good orders are coming out of court, but not being implemented," she says. Keeping up a dialogue about how to improve the state of the water and networking between NGOs is an important part of the Citizen Exchange Project. Bringing together individuals and organizations from diverse backgrounds- is essential. The conference included long-time 'activists like Mahant Veer Bhadra Mishra, M.C. Mehta, and Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police Uday Sahay. Concerned religious leaders Swami Chidanand Saraswati and Swami Chinmayanand also participated. A number of foreign delegates attended. Passersby were welcomed to a lecture series, daily talks after aarti by the river and an exhibition. "It was my interest to reach the public and get religious leaders involved. The main goal was to bring these groups together," said Alley, "to find the connections between sacredness and ecology by looking deeply into public understanding of rivers, waste and relative states of purity and pollution." The delegates urged proper treatment of sewage and industrial waste; recharging of groundwater; protection of cachement areas and floodplains, and asked that dam projects with the potential to damage the ecosystem, natural water sources and availability of water-specifically Tehri and Sardar Sarovar-be retooled to meet the needs of the people downstream and protect the biodiversi-L.T. ty of the waterways.
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HereCornes Media Lab Asia MIT Media Lab has stimulated innovative collaborations between business and academia in the U.S. and Europe. Now a new media lab is on the drawing board, with its regional anchor in India.
fter the U.S. Presidenes visit to India last year, it is now time to bring the benefits of scientific research to the grassroots in India, at least in the view of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). America's stellar research institute and the Ministry of Information Technology in India are working on a base for cooperative research in India. MIT Media Lab (MITML) was established in 1985 to pioneer collaboration between academia and industry. It focuses on basic research without traditional disciplinal barriers. Today it has 40 registered patents to its credit and its contributions include advances in electronic paper, new forms of data hiding, wearable computers, musical jackets and quantum computing. Its annual budget is about $30-35 million. The lab brings business and academia together to serve the needs of the average person through teclmology. "The fact that we have industry there to tell us what are the things that are possible from a business point of view and what are the things that the people are planning to do gives us an enormous leverage, so that we can really focus on things that have the maximum possible impact," Alex Pentland, academic director ofMITML, said. After helping establish the Media Lab Europe in Dublin last year, MTTML is now exploring possibilities of setting up a similar lab in Asia. Called Media Lab Asia (MLA), the project aims at making education accessible to children, providing sound public health tools and medical information, creating a culture of micro-enterprise so that more and more people can start and run small businesses, and conducting research for private parties. Still in the preliminary planning and discussion stage, MLA intends to focus on Asia-specific innovative technology and product development. It will develop ideas for future global and domestic markets and provide affordable solutions to problems of health, education and rural development. But why India? "Many countries were under consideration,"
said Pentland, who headed a six-member U.S. team which came to India in January to assess the prospects of such a lab in India. Pentland was on his way here after meeting ministers and senior officials in Korea. Others in the team were Barry Vercoe, Michael Best, Deb Roy, and Vikram Kumar, all MITML researchers. MIT was earlier approached by China, Korea, Taiwan and several other Asian countries for setting up MLA in their respective countries. "At this point we see many people in India do share the way we think. So we feel at home and a friendship here, and we see a lot of interest from the government, academics, industry and the common people ....The action for MLA has to be by, from, and in India," Pel~tland said. The primary purpose of the visit was to discuss the venture with ministers, officials, members of the academia and the industry. Ajoint Indo-U.S. task force has been constituted for the purpose. The goal is to provide better services to communities and create a congenial atmosphere for sustaining small businesses with efficient agriculture, superior handicraft techniques, and improved marketing that ultimately generates more reliable income. As per initial plans, the groundwork for Media Lab Asia will be laid by a year-long exploratory program in alliance with the Ministry of Information Technology. The salient characteristics of this program will be to find partners from academia and villages who want to participate together with entrepreneurs who can provide service in rural areas. Then create centers of innovation. "Funding for the MLA in the early years-say first 5 to 10 years-would come from grants from private foundations, wealthy individuals, and public institutions. The government funding is primarily to support organization, some of the initial infrastructure building and essentially, seed money to get the ball rolling. That's done to actually create services that are useful and sustainable in poor neighborhoods," Pentland said. "In the long run, we see that this should be a self-sustaining enter-
The entrance to the MlT Media Lab building, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
prise with the industry, both Indian and multinationals, paying the bill for research and development." The group will identifY villages willing to contribute land, labor and volunteers for liaison and infrastructure, and academic institutions ready to let some of their students and faculty do research in the Media Lab. The task force is also looking for entrepreneurs and people from all sections of industry and the media interested in creating new products and services and who are prepared to contribute both cash and effort to this "invention and creation" initiative. The idea is to create a small network of innovation centers in the beginning, which will eventually expand. The possible centers for Media Lab include Kanpur, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, and Bangalore. The project would involve undergrads in research by raising money internationally and by making it easy for young people to participate. Ninety-five percent support in the two existing media labs comes from industry. Pentland, who thinks there is enormous interest in the initiative, expects government fund-
ever lagging in innovation, MIT is the
first university to offer nearly all of its
core course materials on the Internet, free for all. Tllis landmark project in universal knowledge dissemination
is caJled OpenCourse-
Ware, and may take 10 years
consistent with what I believe is the best about MIT." The goal, Vest says, is to develop a
the content that will enhance studies. Most uni-
"world wide web of knowledge that raises the
deliver course material, but access is usually
quality of leaming-and ultimately, the quality oflife-around the globe." Rather than turning a profit for MIT, putting
limited to students of those institutions. MIT
to complete. The move was announced in April by MIT
online will cost around $100 million. This wealth of knowledge will be available to any-
President Charles M. Vest, who admitted it "looks counter-intuitive in a mar-
one with an Internet connec-
against the grain of CutTen! material values. But it really is
ing for Media Lab Asia to be minimal. One of the priorities of the project is to promote connectivity by supporting ongoing network projects in India and Asia on the lines of one undertaken by MITML in Latin America. "We hope we can combine our expertise with their expertise to develop a model that really works in the various pmis ofIndia," he said. There will be some sharing of intellectual property but it is not clear how that will be done. In the long run, MLA may generate in the range of $50 million per year, he said, hoping that a formal agreement between the two countries might be signed in the next couple of months. The response has been .very enthusiastic--eertainly fi'om industry, government, and the targeted rural communities, according to Pentland. In the academic sphere, there has been both excitement and skepticism which, he thinks, is natural. "I hope this is the beginning of a long and lasting friendship based on mutual interests. MIT is a very complicated place and so is India. One can imagine that there would be lots of areas where cooperation would be possible." D
MITGate, 77 Massachusetts Avenue.
tion, anywhere in the world. Though it is not a distance learning program, it will offer
versities already use the Web extensively to
faculty are enthusiastic. One of these, professor John Lienhard, posted his 700-page textbook on heat transfer on the Web last year-a text that would cost as much as $85 if published as a book. "My aim, however, is to provide the knowledge to those who can't afford to buy the book." -L.T.
Find out more about MIT OpenCourseWare <http://web.mit.edll>
Sustainable Web Communities Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher Philip Greenspun was on tour to India in March for a series of lectures in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad among other engagements. Greenspun founded the Scalable Systems for Online Communities research group at MIT and spun it out into ArsDigita, a $30-million open source enterprise software company. The open source ArsDigita Community System software is used by millions of people worldwide, including the World Bank, Nokia, Siemens, Oracle, and Hewlett-Packard to build Web services. ArsDigita Foundation, formed in 1998, runs a tuition-free ArsDigita University. A strong believer in open source software, he spoke to SPAN about Web communities, software monopoly and the Net.
How do you define online communities and where are they going? An online community is any kind of Web service where most of the interaction is users talking to each other, working together, buying stuff from each other, teaching each other. The separating line between publishing and community is where probably half of the content is coming from the users. After 10 or 20 years there will be more structuring. Computers will have better information about the context of interaction. On photo.net, an online community we operate non-commercially, we don't do the job of tracking who is an expert, who has helped people in the past or who is interested in a particular subject. The online knowledge management sharing systems in the offices usually are not very good at figuring out whose job is what.
How do you build a sustainable online community? SPAN: What brought you to India? PHILIP GREENSPUN: My primary purpose of this tour is helping the lIT faculty adopt some of our course materials, course ideas and teaching software engineering for Internet applications. I thought it would also be nice to have lectures for computer science students, entrepreneurs and programmers to help them understand the dimensions of building the kind of Web services that people want. At MIT we hope that a graduate can build something like Amazon.com and Yahoo.com by himself.
What are the drawbacks in the existing Web services and communities? What are the new range of Webservices that you are currently working on? Most Web services these days just do not harness the benefits of collaboration and user-contributed content. So look at the average Web service. It's the fruit of may be four or five people who developed it, but it would be much richer if they had 100,000 users to see the contributions and content of these 100,000 users. In terms of actual research challenge for the future, what I am mostly working on are systems that help people access information on the Internet while driving a car or just using their voice, and systems that help people achieve their aspirations. For example, people would like to be thinner, they would like to exercise, they want to study better. I think they would love to have a human coach to follow them along, push them to do their best, then they would do a lot better. We see that in athletes. There are few Olympic athletes who do not have a coach. A good research challenge is how a computer can be an effective coach.
Six elements are needed for a sustainable Web community: (a) Magnet content offere,d by experts-you have to put a certain amount of effort in terms of putting some stuff on the Web that people will want to read, that is unique and will draw users; (b) User collaboration-users have to talk to each other; (c) Powerful browsing and searching so that users can search the magnet content and what others contribute; (d) Means of delegation of moderation-you have to push some of the responsibility for editing and moderating the discussion on to some of the users; (e) Ability to exclude difficult users-means of identifying members who are imposing an undue burden on the community and ways of changing their behavior and if necessary, excluding them from the community without them realizing that; (f) Means of software extension by community members, i.e., open source components.
What are the drawbacks in present Web page designs and how can they be more user-friendly? Most Web pages would be much more user-friendly if they were just plain text. Current Web pages take too long to download. IBM's research shows that you have to get screens back to the user to be happy and productive. If you have a complicated design with a lot of graphics on a modem-even with a cable modem-pages sometimes take several seconds to download. The average time taken by pages of big company Web sites might be 10-15 seconds using a 28.8 Kbps modem. That should be one second. I am not working on new Web page designs. I am a computer scientist, not a Web designer.
Is business on the Net viable in the long run? What are the risks involved? It's a little bit like asking whether business on the telephone is a viable option. You have to have a Web interface to be viable just as you have to have a telephone line. There were no telephones 100 years ago. I am sure people then debated the benefits of using the telephone. Failure is related to other aspects. I wanted to procure an aquarium from petstore.com. For a whole month, I could not do that. I could not place an order, there was neither useful content nor a community on their site. I think for proper business on the Net, you should have different sets of goods people would want to buy. Your site should be up and running and reliable. Petsmart.com has a far better site than petstore.com. Most dot-corns didn't fail because they were on the Internet. They failed because being on the Net, they failed to watch conventional business risks. For example, petstore.com should have taken orders on telephone, it should have downloaded ArsDigita Community System and rebuilt its Web site in a week and started taking orders. But it thought it had more than 100 venture capitalists, $150 million in venture capital, time, plan, etc., and $150 million went down the drain before the dot-com tanked. When people go shopping on the et, they want to talk to other shoppers and know their perspectives. Amazon is the company that comes close to succeeding in this. I don't think it's an accident that they are one of the most successful online retailers because they look at the reader, they carry users' comments; the company has added few other features recently. What are the various Net business models coming up? It's a bit outside of my scope. One idea is the Japanese Imode system where the phone company has a way to bill people over data packets consumed over its mobile Web browser called Imode, and it shares part of its revenue with content publishers. I think the mobile phone companies may become more central to making businesses more sustainable. For example, if you look at photo.net, it's very difficult to understand how to make that sustainable. Photo.net has generated probably $50 million in profits. So you may think, if Philip's community has made $50 million in profits, why is he not wearing designer clothes? Money does not come to us, that's right. Each time somebody dials up an internet service provider (ISP), the ISP makes money. When people are grabbing photo.net pages, the telecom companies are making a fortune. So the innovators have made telecom companies very rich. But at least in the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) case, the content providers as well as the telecom firms are making nothing because nobody is using WAP. In Japan,
telecom firms agreed to give about 9 percent ofthis money to the content providers and so everybody is getting rich. How can Internet content and database be better managed? Well, most people don't manage at all. Most companies that use the file system, maybe, use Frontpage [a software to prepare Web pages] to offer their contents. So they have no idea who wrote most oftheir Web content, who approved it, when it's supposed to go live or be taken down. There's complete chaos. A huge improvement is needed by organizations-just thinking about what flow do they want, what should be the process of getting something on their Web site, who should be involved and who has to approve that. All that should be supported by computer systems so that stuff does not fall between the cracks. If something becomes obsolete at the end of the year, it should be removed. About database, I do not think it will change much. Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) has not changed in 25 years. So we will not see any groundbreaking technology or changes in this area. We will, however, see people use betterpackaged tools more intelligently. Microsoft has come out with Sharepoint that allows yo~ to upload documents and comment on them. By and large organizations do not want to do custom software development. You support open source code. Then what about a person's intellectual property that is being freely used by all? Don't you think it dissuades programmers? Let me give you an example. You could be a programmer working with the Federal Government. You will be a GS-13 your whole life. Your source code won't be stolen by anybody, but you will never have a personal reputation, never be invited to a conference to give a talk. You will never be offered a big consulting job because you are a GS-13 until you die. Whereas if you are an open source programmer you can probably get some company to pay for what you are doing. You will get the same salary that you get working with the government. Meanwhile, your source code will be used by millions of people around the world. Some of the companies using it will probably send you checks. You can do consulting work, are invited to speak at conferences, can write a book, and offer training classes. Once you are famous and your code is being used, you have a lot of opportunities to make money. Code factories like Microsoft make money, but rarely does that trickle down to the individual programmer. Monopoly certainly stifles innovation. If you look at the open source community where no monopoly is really possible, there has been enOlmous innovation in a 0 very short time with virtually no funding.
ears ago, a group of high school students was trying its level best to acquaint a visitor from "back east" with the evident splendor of the western terrain-the expanse of land that challenged the eyes, exerted demands on available travel time. "Have you seen Maynard Dixon's pictures?" one young lady asked-and then the knowing nods of her classmates, all of whom had learned a great deal about one of their country's (and region's) greatest artists, and all of whom praised him mightily. Such admiration and appreciation on the part of young people would have stirred the heart of Dixon, a painter with a lively sense of humor, a keen interest in conveying on canvas the contours of an aspect of America's land, but also the heart and soul of its people, their story as it developed over the decades of a great nation's robust (though sometimes vulnerable) life. Born in Fresno, California, in 1875, Maynard Dixon was already as a boy draw-
ing pictures of the San Joaquin Valleyindeed, as a teenager he wrote to Frederic Remington, who was favorably impressed. In his twenties, Dixon became a prolific illustrator, but he also was an energetic traveler, an explorer, really, of the visual possibilities offered by the West's dramatic landscapes, some fearfully daunting, some accessible and inviting. Dixon also wrote poetry as a young man-some published. But he was drawn to sights, their lyrical summons-and he gradually turned to oils and watercolors, then drawings, as a means of rendering their majestic presence. Eventually, he would do murals, illustrate books. He became a singularly conscientious visual respondent to the West's mountain plateaus, its camps and trails, its pastures, its trees and the bro.ad skies to which they aspire-the birds everywhere to be glimpsed gliding through and toward them. His marriage to Dorothea Lange would prove decisive (she was the second of his three wives), and their sons John and
'Keep Moving, by Maynard Dixon, 1934, oil on board, 76 x 102 ems; . collection of Brigham Young University,
Five Workers against Concrete Wall, Industrial District, San Francisco, 1933, by Dorothea Lange,
Law and Disorder, by Maynard Dixon, 1934, oil on board, 64 x 76 cms; collection of Brigham Young University.
Daniel are important legatees-writers and historians who have much to tell us about their extraordinarily accomplished parents. No question Dorothea Lange's restless curiosity about people (their manner of contending with mean circumstances) took hold of Maynard Dixon's moral imagination, prompted him to show a West populated by human beings who were hurt, at a loss, even at the end of their tether, and so, aimless, adrift-anxious seekers not sure where to go, how to make ends meet. Paintings with titles such as Forgotten Man, No Place to Go, Destination Nowhere
speak for themselves, tell of an artist's alarm at the desperation the 1930s brought to the American continent, hence Dixon's awareness of the consequences for those who looked in vain for work. Now a nation's laboring citizens had to Keep Moving, as the police protected sadly idle property; and now Free Speech became not a piety but an aspect of an increasingly fierce social struggle-one Dorothea Lange with her camera and Maynard Dixon with his easel kept trying to portray, document as a pictorial record of a nation's all-toowidespread experience. 0
Forgotten Man, by Maynard Dixon, 1934, oil on board, 102 x 127 ems; collection of Brigham Young University.
The White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco, 1933, by Dorothea Lange.
Pickets, by Maynard Dixon, 1934, oil on board, 64 x 76 ems; collection of Brigham Young University.
ne frequently hears that endangered cultural groups have a right to preservation, and indeed to outside aid and legal sanctions toward that end. Anthropologists and activists have made such claims on the grounds that the survival of these groups has inherent value. Some advocacy groups have even gone so far as to equate the absence of such special rights with genocide. There is no great moral distinction, such rhetoric seems to suggest, between allowing a culture to assimilate into the wider sunounding society and actually going out and killing its members en masse. This vague moral equation has turned up of late in
the discussion of issues as varied as affirto, say, shooting the last of a particularly mative action. Southern regionalism, beautiful species of condor. Quebecois nationalism, and the moral staThis argument, though, claims too tus of such culturally overwhelming instimuch, for we feel an equivalent sense of tutions as Wal-Mmi and McDonald's. If loss when we face not the destruction of a we take these arguments at face value, culture but merely its reworking from the culturaL survival is something very close inside-and, thereby, the destruction of to a moral absolute; to refuse to endorse it specific elements within it. For example, during Quebec's Quiet Revolution-the is to sign up on the side of cultural atrocity and numbing global conformity. tumultuous postwar period during which French Canada cast off clerical authority This is a shame, because it is surprisingly difficult to figure out exactly what is morally relevant about cultural survival in itself. The first challenge is pinning down just what the term might mean. It calmot simply mean the continued existence oftbe individuals comprising the endangered culture, since their survival is entirely compatible with their complete assimilation and hence with the destruction of their culture. Nor, however, can it mean the preservation of all existing aspects of a culture, for some degree of cultural change and adaptation is. normal, indeed inevitable. Cultural stasis is not a plausible ideal, let alone a worthy guide to policy. The messy real ity of cultural survival, then, lies somewhere between disintegration and the deep freeze. The most plausible meaning of the slogan as a political goal might be simply the preservation of difference: the desire that whatever cultures now exist not lose their distinctiveness and blend into surrounding society, and that they continue to serve as means by which some people make sense of their place in the world, however much the content of their cultures may change over time. The key idea here is that the number of cultures now present not be reduced, however much the lifeways and customs comprising each individual culture might change over time. But what reason have we, then, to think that cultural survival is valuable in itself? One argument draws art analogy between cultures and other threatened aspects of the social and natural world: We ought to preserve cultures because to do otherwise is to allow something Ul unique and irreplaceable to leave the 5 world. Refusing to act against assimila- ffil ยง_ tion might thus be thought roughLy akin
Opposite page. The tribal folk of Madhya Pradesh celebrate Dussehra, the festival which signifies the triumph of good over evil. Below: Culture preserved in exile: The Master of the Cemetery, a standard character in the ritual masked dances performed at Tibetan New Yeal: Sherab Ling Monastery, Himachal Pradesh.
and conservatism and fashioned itself into a modern secular society-much of the culture was completely remade and many traditional norms and practices abandoned. We might easily sympathize with the feeling that there was a loss to the world in what was thereby abandoned. We do have reason to regret the fact that current ways by which the world is understoodour own ways included-will eventually disappear. But our justifiable sadness does not give us good reason to declare that what is now endangered ought to be preserved forever, or to forbid ourselves from altering inherited cultural normsabandoning some, amending others, and embracing foreign ways and customs as our own. One could even say that this sadness is the inevitable price we pay for freedom: If we had no choice about what
norms to adopt, and knew that our children would live as our ancestors lived before us, the world would lose one source of woe but gain many more. This approach to defending cultural survival, then, has some serious defects. Another line of argument harnesses the val ue of cultural survival to the more kindred value of cultural diversity, gaining support from the undoubted attractiveness of the latter. On reflection, however, the ideal of cultural diversity seems scarcely less mysterious and ambiguous than the notion of cultural survival itself. The ambiguity in valuing diversity lies, on one level, in whether it means valuing people of distinct backgrounds or valuing the diversity of backgrounds itself. The first notion-that people ought to be respected as equals regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, and
other distinguishing traits-is today a part of any plausible political philosophy. But it hardly follows that we must value and preserve diversity itself, in the abstract; we have, I think, no reason to regret that the world does not contain twice as many cultures as it does. We might try to defend cultural diversity in the abstract by pointing out how much we benefit by its concrete existence. But this raises in turn another deep ambiguity-that between diversity of cultures and diversity within cultures. Exposure to a wide variety of lifeways is clearly of great moral value; it enables people to flourish in ways that conformity and sameness instead suppress. But there is no necessary link between the desirability of diversity within cultures and the demand that there be a wide variety of cultures themselves.
More to the point, the latter demand can actually work against diversity. Political measures designed to foster a culture's survival must perforce ascribe a negative value to assimilation; they therefore end up penalizing those individuals within it who seek, for example, to borrow or adapt from other cultures. In so doing, advocates of cultural survival often provoke a stifling insistence on cultural purity and conformity, one need only think of the recurrent French crusades for linguistic purity to realize how quickly a drive for cultural preservation can begin to resemble a paternalistic-and, if imposed from outside, patronizing-intolerance. It is one of the sharpest ironies of the cultural survival movement that defending a diversity of cultures tends to repress the possibilities for diversity within cultures. Cultural survival, then, seems surprisingly hard to fashion into an attractive ideal. But of course in many of the cases that motivate activist and popular sentiment, something else is going on besides the simple disappearance of particular cultures and lifeways. All too many aboriginal groups, for example, face persistent marginalization and underdevelopment. This suggests that it is not the disappearance of a culture so much as the reason for its loss that should be the focus of our moral attention. We should condemn, and seek to remedy, the discrimination and poverty faced by peoples around the world. But to think that the only way to do this is to insist that cultural survival is a value in itself is mistaken; there are better and clearer means of analyzing what is morally troubling about the plight of endangered communities-means that do not commit us to questionable premises about how cultures, and their members, deserve to be treated. Here the analogy to biodiversity is perhaps more instructive than in the earlier argument, because it suggests that our focus should be on something other than cultural survival itself. Notwithstanding the great appeal of biodiversity, it would be hard to defend seriously and literally the
Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, came out of the foothills of Mount Lassen in 1911 and chose to live at the Anthropology Museum of the Affiliated Colleges of the University of California in San Francisco, now the site of UCSF There he helped to record and preserve the memory of his people; he died of tuberculosis in 1916.
idea that we have a duty to preserve all the species that now exist in the world; after all, species have been entering and leaving the world since life began. What could possibly constitute moral grounds for obstructing the natural course of evolution? What many of us would wish, more sensibly, is that we not be the cause of the destruction of a species that would otherwise survive. It seems distinctly odd to assert that all species of birds now alive must continue to exist forevermore-but much less so to argue that we ought not become, by accident or design, the reason why any particular species of bird ceases to be. Similarly, we could be wrong to argue that all existing cultures have a moral claim to permanent survival, but right to assert that there are circumstances under which allowing the destruction of a culture is morally reprehensible. Cultures can, of course, go out of the world
because their members gradually and freely choose to adopt the norms of a foreign culture, until what is distinct is lost or lives on only in romantic traces. But much more often, the members of a culture assimilate because the surrounding community has made it difficult or impossible not to do so. Injustice and oppression have made aboriginal cultures around the world less viable than they would otherwise be; allowing these cultures to go out of the world would reflect the tragic outcome of an unjust process. But this conclusion derives from the circumstances of the disappearance rather than from the disappearance itself. If this is the case, then the moral claim to cultural survival is quite different from that given by many of its defenders. There appears to be nothing inherently valuable about cultural survival in itself, and cultural groups have no moral claim to eternal existence, especially as against the rights and choices of their own individual members-let alone their children and their children's children. What they do have is a right to be free from circumstances under which their continued existence is made impossible because of injustices such as those faced by aboriginal communities throughout the world. Those who have made the ideal of cultural survival central to their thinking on these matters have therefore been led astray. The proper focus of our moral concern is not the survival of cultures as collective practices and traditions, but rather the political, civil, and human rights of the individuals that constitute them. While CUiTentthreats to aboriginal cultures should be of urgent moral concern, this concern should stem ultimately from the moral status and rights of their individual members, not from any questionable moral claims made on behalf of the cultures themselves. 0 About the Author: Michael Blake is an assistant professor at Harvard University. His areas of interest include medical ethics, action theory, and philosophy of politics. law, and social science.
AND CULTURE Democrac::yenhances cultural pluralism-and its goals are a foundation for solid Indo-U.S. ties in the future s globalization erases the mental boundaries among nations, India and the United States will increasingly find themselves on a common path the origins of which stem from the recognition of the dignity of every person and their yearning for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They share the experience of nation building and the strengthening of democratic institutions so that democracy is a reality for the diverse populations that reside in them. Both countries continue to work to remove barriers that prevent the poor and minorities from gaining a toehold in the world. This commonality gives substance and depth to the India-U.S. relationship. India's democracy is deeply rooted in a culture that is thousands of years old. To know India's culture is to understand how she will handle herself in domestic politics, but also in economic reform and in the international arena in foreign affairs, trade, defense, and other spheres of life. As globalization brings the world's members closer, deep rooted culture and traditions will not be swept away. Instead, they will shape the manner, pace, and direction of individual and national life. A true understanding of the underpinnings of a society can advance the cause of harmony and peaceable relations in the comity of nations.
While democracy provides instrumentalities for implementation of governance and development, culture gives necessary light. Culture gives a sense of purpose of human existence. It embodies values that bind the society together. In fact, culture is a kind of lens through which we are capable of knowing and remembering the past, that is, our heritage. It is capable of revealing the broader horizons of the past and illuminating the future, not in detail, but in showing the direction in which the society is moving. Both democracy and culture in their finest expressions support and reinforce each other.
To live without a cultural memory is not to live at all. Cultural memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. As we have seen, our different ethnic groups have at different periods of their history found solutions to their problems and their culture has helped them do so. Unlike other great ancient civilizations, India's traditions have remained intact to the present day. And so its culture continues to inform and shape its responses to challenges that arise. The democratization" ofIndia's polity has sharpened the consciousness of each etlmic group within a multi-ethnic state. While they may seek to gain control of state powers as a means to secure a larger share of income and wealth, the need for harmony and peace among ethnic groups remains paramount. How can this be done? The most enduring way is to continue the spirit of the freedom struggle which created a sense of the nation as a civic community based upon a shared cultural consciousness. Such a sense of community is best achieved if the concept of nation is freed from connotations of ethnic and religious exclusivity. Indians can relish in the diversity of their distinct ethnic, religious, and linguistic heritage because of the shared cultural consciousness of being an Indian. The founders of the modern state of India wisely provided that worldview and shared consciousness. It binds Indians from all walks of life: its almost 5,000 ethnic groups, Hindus, and Muslims, Christians and Sikhs alike, who are secure in their own religious and cultural expression so they can live and work side-by-side in business, politics, and socially in peaceable community. Such a democracy engenders the social stability it needs to remain intact. A plural culture encourages us to understand and value one's own family traditions, ethnic and cultural practice, yet also to stand outside these and be able and willing to judge them. Moreover, because the electorate is so diverse, politicians by necessity must build coalitions across ethnic, religious, and
linguistic lines to gain elected office. The politics of exclusion simply does not work. These lessons may be of value to developed countries as they encounter a surge in growing ethnic populations as migration accelerates in a global world. India may well provide a comprehensive answer to the question, "How should we live?" Attainments that flowered in India well before the Christian era will be as relevant as those of the period of the freedom struggle, as well as the achievements and lessons of the second half of the 20th century. India may reasonably expect to provide a message as well as an example in asselting that happiness lies in leading a simpler life, a life with the family, and within the community, and a life of sharing with others.
Cultural Imprints on Environmental Policy India is one of the 12 mega biodiversity regions in the world and the geographic zones have a broad range of the world's ecosystems. It provides habitat to 6 percent of the world's plant species, 8 percent of the world's mammals, and 13 percent of the world's bird species. It is one of the oldest and largest agricultural societies with a diversity of crop species and forests. More than 2,000 years ago, India's sages and scholars conceived of the world as a family and proclaimed that "the emth is my mother and I am a child of the world" (Mata Bhoomi: Punah Aham Prithviyah). To them, soil, river, trees, cattle, and fire were sacred. Human destiny was inextricably linked with the natural environment. Villagers are steeped in the Indian culture of reverence for nature. It is this culture that is responsible for the rich network of trees that continues to clothe the rural landscape. Yet in the last 50 years, the world's landscape has been radically altered with the natural environment replaced by man-made elements. Development was quickly equated with channeling the nation's resources to a nan-ow elite in organized industries and services sectors. These resource flows were driven by large scale state-sponsored subsidies. This created a system of highly ineffIcient resource use, which led to resource exhaustion even as it fostered social inequities and regional imbalances. The task of integrating environmental concerns in development is not as complex as is widely believed. The success of development invariably depends on people's cooperation which would be forthcoming more easily if development projects are sensitive to the purity of soil, forests, air and water. The wise use of natural resources alone would guarantee sustainable development. Work in several states has proven the effectiveness of involving citizens in conservation of their lands. Protection and rejuvenation of the natural environment is also dependent on collaboration across nations. India and the United States have established a Joint Consultative Group on Clean Energy and Environment which will conduct ministerial and high level meetings that emphasize developing and deploying clean energy technologies and encouraging public and private investment in environmentally sound policies and practices, among other issues.
Democracy and Development Go Hand-in-Hand The end of colonialism and the end of communism are two seminal landmm'ks of this century. This double demise shifted the detenninants of global status away from militaly might and toward markets. It is now widely assumed that the status of a countty will be determined not by its militmy arsenal but by the power of its economy, which in turn, has come to mean that countries with sophisticated technology and the largest share of world trade will be the most powerful and important. In the future, culture will be an important variable in determining the position of a countly within the comity of nations. Not long ago, it was widely believed that economic growth in the former Soviet Union and China was more robust than in India because they had jettisoned the tenets of democracy. Bolstering this belief in the 1980s was the economic success of several East Asian countries that did not have full democratic fmills. As events have evolved, economists and politicians increasingly are advocating a transparent and pmticipatory democracy as a backbone of sustainable development. This is a key factor in India's emerging economic success. Successive national and state governments increasingly suPPOtt this trend, as they seek to attain balanced regional growth. States are playing a crucial role in reforming public enterprises through privatization or closure, yielding reduced fiscal burden. India's global leadership in information technology has rekindled the expression of Indians' long-standing culture of mathematical prowess.
The supremacy of the market may not be long lived unless culture curbs its excesses in the global village. The marketplace has become an end in itself, rather than a means to achieve, in the words of America's founding fathers-life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As a barometer of international influence, the mm'ket in the long run will surely not be everlasting; it could well be replaced by another index composed of democracy and culture. As the new millennium unfolds, nations which are strong in these elements are likely to advance in the index of global importance. In this mix, cultme has a special place. The mal'ket and its cohotts, technology and multinational organizations, presently dominate. But this dominance will lead directly to an unbalanced situation creating a global, interdependent world which will engender societies with destructive tendencies. The ethics, the balance, and the restraints of democracy and culture al'e needed to temper this bleak prospect. And even that is not enough. Only culture can provide the human and spiritual dimensions which could restrain the worst of the technomarket imperative and offer the conditioning ethos for greatness. 0 About the Author: B.P Singh is a distinguished senior civil servant currently posted in Washington, D. C. as Executive Directo/; World Bank. He has written books on politics and culture, and most recently edited The Millennium Book on Delhi with Pavan K. Varma, for which he wrote the introduction.
Indie film pioneer Ida Lupino focused Hollywood's attention on controversial social themes. Uring
the late 1940s, when there were virtually no women directors in Hollywood, actress Ida Lupino formed a pro[) duction company and directed six feature films dealing with controversial social themes. On the surface, this should be enough to establish her as a feminist icon. But Lupino's work has often been characterized as anti-feminist and even sexist. A few critics have gone further, suggesting that ifLupino had not been a woman, her films would now be forgotten. Until recently, those films have been hard to find, so critics-and the public at'largehave formed opinions based only on occasional screenings and the judgments of others. The recent video release of three of Lupino's most highly regarded films-Not Wanted, The Hitch-Hike/; and The Bigamist-has given viewers a chance to rethink Lupino's place in film history for themselves. Though she was born in England, Lupino fashioned a Hollywood career by playing tough, working-class American women, an image first shaped in They Drive by Night (1940) and High Sierra (1941). Highly regarded for her professional ism, Lupino was known for working with directors on their conception of her characters and with cinematographers on lighting and angles that presented her most effectively. Like all the female stars of her era, Lupino fought continuously with the studio bosses for meatier roles. In 1948, Lupino was only 31 and at the peak of commercial success; nonetheless, to grow as an artist, she felt she had to do what men in similar situations had doneform her own independent production company. Producing and acting, rather than directing, were her main concerns. The company, called Emerald Productions, was later reformed and renamed The Filmmakers. Lupino and her partners said they wanted to make substantial films of a sociological nature that challenged contemporary norms without being preachy. What was in a film was more important than who was in the film. Lupino often referred to her films as being documentary in nature; she prefen-ed to shoot straightforward natTatives on location in the neorealistic and film noir style seen in many of the era's low-budget films. Not Wanted (1949) offers insight into how her desire to take on serious social issues manifested itself on the screen. The film focused on being young, pregnant, and unwed in America in the 1940s. Credit for direction went to Elmer Clifton, but he had suf-
fered a mild heart attack as the filming was about to begin. Clifton was consulted throughout the shoot, but Lupino did the actual directing, though she insisted at first to the press that she was only filling in temporarily. One of her concerns was that she was not then a member of the Screen Directors Guild; but as it became clear that she would direct the entire picture, there was fear that a fi1m directed by a woman would fare poorly with critics and the public, particularly in light of its volatile sexual subject matter. Lupino had done a major rewrite of the script with its original authors, shifting it away from a seduction/quasi-rape scenario to one in which the man is a louse but not a predator and the woman is less a victim than a sexually active woman caught in tragic circumstances. Time has blutTed the guts required to make a film in which an unwed mother is presented as a moral person wOlthy of the audience's sympathy. Pregnancy resulting fi-om consensual sex by a woman trying to find pleasure in a dreary world also was daring. That a decent and attractive man who was not the child's father could fall in love with such a woman was yet another conceptual breakthrough. Even so, some viewers today charge that Lupino made feminist films from an anti-feminist or male-identified perspective. They wonder why the woman didn't raise the child on her own, why the understanding man has to be physically lame, and why there has to be so much patriarchal moralizing from the police, ministers, medical officials, and even the empathetic male.
Ida Lupino directs Carleton Young and Claire Trevor in Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951).
Not Wanted, made for $153,000, grossed $1 million its first year, creating a buzz in the film community. Established stars became interested in Lupino's film company, which in due time would boast an unusual mix of well-known actors and newcomers. Investors were also buoyed by the film's phenomenal success. Lupino directed the next three Filmmakers productionsNever Fear (1950), Outrage (1950), and Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951). She took a writing credit only for Outrage, but she also worked extensively on the other scripts. Never Fear sought to assuage the era's hysteria about polio; Lupino's focus was on a female dancer crippled by the disease. Outrage tackled rape at a time when the word was not even used in newspapers ("victim of a criminal attack" was the preferred coding), and when many critics did not consider it a proper subject for motion pictures. Hard, Fast and Beautiful examined a mother's frantic efforts to make a tennis star of her athletically gifted daughter. These were the first in a group of Filmmakers films to be released through RKO, then controlled by Howard Hughes. Lupino's later reminiscences about her distribution problems sound remarkably similar to the laments heard from indie directors today-including the pressure exerted by her distributor on the selection of scripts and casts. The growing influence of Hughes and RKO is evident in The Hitch-Hiker (1953), which is frequently cited as Lupino's most aesthetically accomplished work, though it is largely devoid of social content. In the film, two vacationing friends give a lift to a homicidal maniac who takes them hostage. The film is tense, well-acted, and fastpaced, but unlike Lupino's other films, it was the kind of B drama any studio might have made. With The Bigamist (1953), Lupino became the first woman to direct herself in a feature film. Although far from a masterwork, The Bigamist has an intriguing premise. The bigamist
(Edmond O'Brien) is not a dashing roue with attractive women neatly sequestered in different cities. Instead, he is unhappily entwined in two complex relationships. His wives are not femmes fatales or madonna/whore opposites, but sincere and sympathetic women. Tn 1966 Lupino directed what would be her last feature film, The Trouble with Angels, an odd mix of comedy and religion involving high-spirited girls in a Catholic boarding school. Rosalind Russell plays the mother superior, Gypsy Rose Lee is cast as an interpretive movement instructor, and Hayley Mills is the student ringleader. Once again, Lupino rejected studio sets to film on location at St. Mary's Home for Children in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The film entertains with girlish pranks and the obligatory smoking scenes and brassiere jokes, but it didn't win Lupino many fans in a generation rebelling in the streets or in the burgeoning feminist movement. During the so-called golden age of television, Lupino was the first and, for a considerable time, the only woman to direct. Her ability to shoot engaging stories rapidly soon had people calling her "the female Hitchcock." She directed episodes for Westerns, comedies, and dramas, including Gunsmoke, Gilligan $ Island, Bewitched, and many other shows. (She was even trusted to do an episoae of The Twilight Zone by the finicky Rod Serling.) Lupino's feminist credentials suffer from her marriages to three difficult men. While these relationships reflect values visible in the films, they are irrelevant in judging her work's enduring value. In fact, many feminist critics write favorably about Lupino's work, including Annette Kuhn, who, in Queen of the B $, collected more than a dozen essays arguing that Lupino's work has been greatly undervalued. Martin Scorsese referred to Lupino's films as "remarkable chamber pieces" marked by their "empathy for the fragile and brokenhearted." Her women are fully realized characters who go far beyond the usual passive and decorative images of women in conventional films of the day. In retrospect, Lupino's films prove to be progressive in their sympathy for ordinary women and men caught in various social dilemmas. ShOt11ybefore she died in 1995, Lupino reminded biographers that she had never set out to be a director. She was just as happy acting, and perhaps happiest producing. William Donati, author of Ida Lupino (University of Kentucky, 2000), an appreciative account of her life, has written that "Lupino features were commendable for the period but fall shot1 of being great films." But she didn't just direct and produce films: She was breaking ground, and enriching the sensibility and subject matter of American films. That she did this with only a few films, and without claiming to be a genius, ought to encourage all filmmakers confronting batTiers today. 0 About the Author: Dan Georgakas is a member of Cineaste editorial board and writes for the Greek American press. He also teaches part time at New York University (international studies) and Queens College (labor studies).
Bad handling of deregulation has snarled the power sector in the Golden State, but the crisis could spur a revolution in energy delivery. s the lights continue to flicker in California, pundits have turned to arguing over who is at fault: state politicians, the enviros, the feds, or consumers. To some degree, it's all of the above. But the biggest culprits are the California utilities themselves, members of a pampered industry that was unprepared for true competition and reacted with several of the worst business decisions in recent American history. To understand how California power went haywire, it's impOItant to bear in mind that since the banking industry became more competitive in the 1980s and early '90s, the regulated utility industry has been the last stronghold of the featherbedded managerial class. If you wanted a management job that let you sit in a nice office, sign a few papers, and hit the golf course by two o'clock in the afternoon, the utilities were for you. Utterly constrained by rules, officers of regulated utilities made few meaningful decisions and took few risks. Utilities asked public commissions for pennission to build power plants; the commissions dictated the terms and took the heat for errors; the plants were guaranteed to be profitable, because cost-plus charges were passed to ratepayers under a monopoly arrangement. When a Washington state utility that hopelessly mismanaged construction of a nuclear power plant
went bankrupt in 1994, industry observers were stunned-it had long been assumed that it wasn't possible to lose money running an electric utility. Not surprisingly, the power business generally attracted executives who were risk-averse, or simply not as good as those slugging it out in the free marketplace. So when California deregulated its electricity market in the mid-'90s-replacing a closed, structured system with something approaching the Wild West-utility executives responded with a series of spectacularly bad calls. Eventually, electricity deregulation may be seen as a good idea-it's worth remembering that telephone and airline deregulation started badly, too, and today both are deemed to have benefited consumers. In the longer term, technological advances may render the whole issue of centralized electricity provision moot. But, for the moment, California's energy fiasco will get worse
before it gets better. And bungling businesspeople, not politicians or enviros, deserve most of the blame. From roughly the mid-'70s to the late '80s, conventional wisdom held that an electricity supply crunch was looming: As recently as 1990, for example, the orth American Electric Reliability Council forecast imminent brownouts and drastic price increases for New England. Instead, conservation technology-better insulation, high-efficiency air conditioners, etc.-reduced demand while power utilities unexpectedly improved their performance, in part by coaxing atomic reactors to run for longer periods at high output. By the mid- '90s, the price of electricity had gone down, and projected shortages had become surpluses almost everywhere. In California, electricity use per capita declined even as the economy and population grew. Rather than view this turnaround as
Brown and Out proof that you can't predict the future, a motley coalition of enviros, entrepreneurs, utility haters, and true believers in deregulation used it to make another prediction about the future: that prices would . fall and power would stay plentiful indefinitely. The prediction conveniently offered each faction an excuse to pursue its agenda. For the enviros, plentiful electricity was an opportunity to block new power plants and maybe even shut down atomic reactors. For entrepreneurs, it meant it was safe to shake up the old, highly regulated power industry-cutting themselves into the business. For the "I hate utilities" crowd-a considerable force in California politics, where Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison have Trilateral Commission-like reputations that are hard to explain rationally-plentiful supply offered an opportunity to punish the evil utilities for their sins. For deregulators, it provided the chance to dismantle a 19th-century-style "natural monopoly" and replace it with market competition. By the mid-'90s many states were considering power deregulation, and California was on the cutting edge. In 1996, the various factions began meeting in Sacramento to debate dissolving California's utility structure. It all happened in full view, but with the public's eyes glazed over. (There are no words more sleep-inducing than "electric utility deregulation.") It was at these initial meetings that the utility industry-lulled into an exaggerated view of its own business acumen by years of big salaries and guaranteed profits-made its first disastrous misjudgment. Convinced that they would ultimately profit from deregulation, the utilities decided they'd go along pretty much regardless of the detai Is. The true believers, of course, wanted true deregulation, whereby anyone could sell power to your home or office at what-
ever price the market would bear, with no government restrictions. But the California legislature wouldn't agree -since in a truly free market the legislature would have no influence. So it concocted a hybrid scheme in which the generation and wholesale trading of electricity would be deregulated but its retail sale to consumers would remain controlled until 2002. To keep voters happy-this was when then-Governor Pete Wilson still dreamed of running for president-a 10 percent across-the-board rate cut till 2002 was thrown into the deal.
ut that was only the basic plan. Through extensive lobbying (California utilities spent $4.3 million that year to lobby Sacramento) and political groupthink, a series of other provisions were included-most of which would backfire. PG&E, SoCal Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric, the state's big shareholder-owned companies, were required to sell at least half their power-generating plants and strongly "encouraged" to unload the rest. The theory was that this would bring more players into the business, increasing competition. The reality was that the big California utilities lost much of their ability to make power and were left at the mercy of generating companies headquartered in other states, such as Texas's Dynegy and North Carolina's Duke Power. (Exempted from the selloff requirement was the Los Angeles Depatiment of Water and Power; it kept its generating plants, which is why Los Angeles has been spared the rolling blackouts that have become facts of life in Northern California.) The big California utilities agreed to the sell-off for two reasons. The first was the new-economy fixation on getting out of production and into services. Why generate power (very old-economy;
resources are consumed!) when you could bill for delivery of power produced by someone else? Second, selling off generating plants would temporarily boost the bottom line. Soon after deregulation, for instance, SDG&E sold its Carlsbad generating station and a few related power properties in San Diego for four times the book value, delighting company management. But the ability to sell generating stations for much more than they believed the facilities were worth should have told the California utilities something. It meant that more experienced, market-oriented managers of firms like Dynegy and Duke Power, which were snapping up California generating stations, didn't think the electricity markef would remain soft for long. Other states, among them Massachusetts and Rhode Island, also deregulated by requiring utilities to sell off generating plants-and nothing went wrong. California's plan proved disastrous because it mandated sell-offs and, insanely, banned utilities from signing longterm contracts with suppliers (called "forward power" in the industry). Instead of being able to hedge future price trends, California utilities would have to buy watts by the hour on one of two new spot markets, the California Power Exchange and the Orwellian-sounding Independent System Operator. Parochial agendas and bad business-thinking had converged. The utility haters demanded that the new system be wholly transparent, which meant an end to long-term contracts, since the parties to such contracts don't necessarily disclose terms. For their part, the utilities thought a spot market would ruthlessly drive down prices by making suppliers edgy about finding buyers. That's what happens sometimes on the petroleum spot market-sellers nervously cut prices when demand is soft. But oil spot markets
are also notorious for upward volatility when demand rises or supply declines. And the California plan built in no safeguards for what would happen if demand began outpacing supply. Says one participant in the 1996 negotiations, "We just never talked about prices going up. We wished it away." hen it first took effect in 1998 and 1999, California deregulation worked like a dream .. -demand was soft, natural gas was cheap, and the perpetual spot market did inspire nervous suppliers to slash prices. But then the independent power companies' bet began to payoff: The Golden State's high-tech boom and overall affluence began nudging per capita consumption of watts back up. Available supply could not keep pace, because California hadn't built a new power plant in about a decade-mostly because local communities refused to allow power plants in their backyards and because of uncertainty about deregulation. (Conservatives blame California's strict anti-smog rules, which prevent the construction of coal-fired power plants; but the rules allow new natural-gas-driven plants, which are what most power companies want to build anyway.) In the past, other Western states might have helped out. Traditionally, Washington state, Oregon, and Montana sold power to California in the summer, when the Golden State's air conditioners were whirring, and California sold power back to those states in the winter, when they were cold. But the Washington, Oregon, and Montana economies were expanding as well, and they no longer had excess power to sell. To make matters worse, natural gas prices began one of their cyclical upswings, causing the cost of power generation to rise throughout the region, while three straight years of sparse rainfall lowered the reservoirs of Western hydro systems, reducing megawattage from Columbia River dams by about one-third. By last summer, California was caught in the energy equivalent of the perfect
storm. As demand began outstripping available supply, electricity that had been selling for about $30 per megawatt-hour in 1998 rose to $150, then to $600, and some days to as much as $1,500. Governor Gray Davis blamed "outof-state profiteers," conveniently slipping past the fact that many California power plants are owned by out-of-state firms because the state legislature had mandated that their California owners sell them. Ripple effects drove up prices throughout the Northwest, resulting in economic absurdities. Factories that held long-term low-priced power contracts found they could make money by closing down and marketing their unused power allotments. The Kaiser Alwninum plant in Mead, Washington, shuttered in November 2000 after realizing it could make a higher return by not manufacturing aluminum and instead selling electrons contracted from the Bonneville Power Administration at $22.50 per megawatt-how' back to the same organization for $555 per megawatt-hour. As power prices rose, media reports made it seem as if California consumers were getting soaked. They weren't; the legislature's rate freeze meant that consumers' rates were, with a two-month exception in San Diego, locked in place until 2002. The ones feeling it in the pocketbook were the utilities themselves, which were buying power at around $1 per kilowatt-hour and reselling it to residential consumers at the state maximum of 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Using this canny philosophy of "buy high, sell low," PG&E and SoCal Edison combined during 2000 to lose a cool $12 billion. The spot markets, which were supposed to keep prices low, did the reverse. With long-term contracts abolished, producers realized they could game California's Independent System Operator spot market by removing generating stations from service. Everyone had assumed power blackouts were impossible in winter, California's low-demand season for electricity. But in December roughly 11,000 megawatts of generating capacity-about one-fifth of the state's total-were withdrawn from service
either for maintenance work or simply to reduce supply and thus raise prices. Legislators and consumer groups were livid, but the new, independent powergenerating companies were not bound by the same legal obligations that governed the old, regulated utilities. They were simply responding to the imperatives of the market the California legislature had created. As Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Paul Joskow notes, "If a generator has a long-term contract, then the financial incentive is to generate steady power in order to maximize sales. If you have no contractual promises and there's a new price every day on a spot market, then your incentive is to withhold production to maximize price. Banning forward power was just an incredible blunder." Meanwhile, perverse incentives were at work for consumers too. Because the rate freeze meant consumers did not see the price run-up on their bills, many Californians continued to waste power like crazy during a period of electricity scarcity. Blackouts loomed, yet Californians left their pool heaters on.
esperate to forestall outages, power managers ordered that hydro reservoirs be drawn down-ensuring that next summer, when demand is at its peak, California's power crunch will be even worse. (Because the hydro systems are mainly public, like Bonneville, system managers can issue them orders in a way they cannot issue orders to private generating plants.) During some of the rolling blackouts, there has actually been spare power in Los Angeles, but it couldn't be zapped north, because California has not modernized its transmission grid in years. The "hate utilities" crowd had long fought construction of new power lines because of irrational claims about magnetic fields, while the utilities themselves, under the illusion that more power would never be needed, had decreed new lines unnecessary. Bleeding money, PG&E and SoCal Edison hit on an innovative solution: refuse to pay suppliers. This has staved off bankruptcy, but nWllerous defaults loom,
and nonpayment ful1her encourages generating stations to withhold their product. The "hate utilities" lobby, still politically potent even as the utilities gasp for breath, recently accused PG&E and SoCal Edison of staging their own bankruptcies by transfelTing large amounts of cash to parent companies shortly before the chaos began. But this was normal business practiceproceeds from the sales of generating stations were being assigned back to the shareholders who originally put up the equity to build them. The financial desperation of companies buying kilowatt-hours for $1 each and selling them for 6.5 cents each was only too real. Just before Christmas, Washington, D.C., stepped in and, using the emergency powers of the Depat1ment of Energy, ordered other Western states to provide extra electricity to Califomia. The national-emergency orders had two effects. First, they created an electricity scarcity in Washington state and Oregon, where it's high-demand season and where, unlike in California, there are no rate freezes. In Seattle this winter, residential utility bills have risen by one-third, which means that consumers there are paying for Califomia's blunders so California consumers do not have to. Second, because federal orders have forced regional suppliers to deliver power to PG&E and SoCal Edison, and the utilities have refused to pay, courts may eventually hold the feds financially liable. In that case, taxpayers across the country will end up footing the bill so Califomians can keep their pool heaters on. In late January, the Bush administration said it would not extend the federal emergency orders past February 7. Bush wanted both to cut national taxpayers' losses and to force Califomia to bite some bullet, any bullet. In February, the state legislature gave in and enacted a savings-and-loans-style bailout. California itself-whose credit, unlike the utilities', remains good-will buy at least $10 billion w0l1h of power through long-term contracts, then redistribute it. Revenue bonds will underwrite the purchases, and the costs will be passed on to consumers, which means that for most Californians
the rate holiday will finally conclude. The state will also impose mandatory power conservation, in hopes of getting through next summer. The end result? Between mandatory usage restrictions and the state itself becoming a giant utility enterprise, California power will be more regulated and politicized than before d.eregulation, but at a higher price: the worst of both worlds. nthe long run, the California power mess may actually do some good-by eventually helping society move beyond central util ities altogether. Today, when a typical coal-fired generating station (source of the lion's share of U.S. electricity) runs, only about 40 percent of the fuel's energy value is converted into watts, and some of that yield disappears in transmission losses as it travels over power lines. Meanwhile centralized generation linked to a big grid means that power stations produce more energy than customers actually require. When you turn off the lights in your house, you cut your utility bill, but strictly speaking you have not saved any energy: The nearby power plant can't possibly detect such a tiny reduction in overall usage and ramp down by a correspondingly tiny amount. Multiplied by millions of homes, this inflexibility creates tremendous waste. Central electricity generation has worked wonders to raise living standards, but it is not a model of efficiency. Eventually, the central utility will be replaced by localized or even houseby-house generation. Steadily falling prices in solar cells will probably make home production of electricity practical for Sun Belt states within the next decade or so. Homes, schools, and stores will gradually kiss the grid good-bye, with generating stations serving mainly industry. Outside the Sun Belt, where there isn't enough sunshine for solar cells to be reliable, centralized utilities will give way to another kind of innovation: the unimaginatively named "fuel cell." Fuel cells combine oxygen and hydrogen, or similar gases based on natural gas, to make elec-
tricity, with water vapor as the by-product. Basically they mimic photosynthesis, only in reverse. Fuel cells were once so breathtakingly expensive that they were used exclusively in spacecraft. But recent, intensive research has brought their price down so low that Mercedes-Benz plans to market a fuel-cell-powered car in 2005. Ifthe price keeps falling, fuel cells will become cheap enough to put into your basement. They will be simple appliances, since they contain no moving parts; and they're safer than furnaces. Fuel cells will also be cleaner than current power forms, since (depending on the fuel) they emit very little pollution and greenhouse gases, or none at all. Eventually, fuel cells may do for American homes, offices, and schools what furnaces once did. In the 19th century, apat1ments and other urban buildings were attached by steam lines to "district heating" plants that produced centralized warmth. Once furnaces became affordable, they proved far more efficient than district heating-your furnace only ran when you needed it, and there were no transmission losses. In the 21 st century, fuel cells may do the same thing. The transition from central power plants to home electricity production will take decades, of course. And a world where individuals make their own electricity will still be a world that needs energy-somebody will have to supply the hydrogen or natural gas derivatives that run the fuel cells. But it will also be a world in which everyone bids the electricity grid a fond farewell. Bumbling businessmen may have sown energy chaos in California for years to come. But if their ineptitude helps inspire us eventually to abandon centralized power altogether, we may one day look back on it as a harbinger of good things to come. D About the Author: Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of The ew Republic and contributing editor of The Washington Monthly and The Atlantic Monthly. He is also a distinguishedfellow of the Fulbright Foundation.
India's power sector is being slowly revolutionized-but there are some long, hard growing pains. n
the early hours of January 1, while well-heeled Dilliwallahs slept after their New Year revels, an electricity substation in Pankhi, near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh (UP), tripped and blew. Within seconds, this small blowout began to cascade across India's notihern power grid. By daytime, as Delhiites groggily nursed hangovers, patis of the northern grid centered in Mandoli and Dadri in UP were shut down. A few hours later, the power shortfall had hit 15,000 megawatts (MW)-about a fifth of India's total capacity. Atomic and thermal power stations in Rajasthan had to be shut down. The enormous Bhakra hydroelectric power station in Punjab had to suspend generation. Six states, including UP, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and the capital Delhi were blacked out. For perhaps the first time in history, the lights went out at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the majestic red sandstone residence of the President. Emergency power backups had to be deployed in the Prime Minister's residence at Race Course Road. Two weeks later, copies of a letter began hitting desks all over the country. It said, "The power sector in India is in dire straits and needs immediate attention in order to avoid a total crisis ... [the crisis] has reached unprecedented levels and only a well thought-out and pragmatic approach can help us (sic) from total darkness." The author of the letter was none other than Suresh Prabhu, minister for power. The letter, addressed to 5,000 "opinion makers" in India, was an attempt to mobilize public opinion for badly-needed reforms in the power sector. It took about 14 hours to restore power to New Delhi after the New Year crash. Prabhu concedes readily that power
reforms will take much longer. "It won't happen in a day, nor in a matter of months," he says. One important factor that complicates power reforms is that jurisdiction over different parts of the sector lie with different state governments. Under India's Constitution, electricity is a "concurrent" subject, which means that the Union as well as state governments have jurisdictions that sometimes overlap. For example, about 30 percent of all power generated is by federally-owned utilities like the National Thermal Power Corporation ( TPC), the National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC), and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. PCIL). Another 57 percent is generated by state government-owned state electricity boards (SEBs). The transmission of bulk power fl.-omgenerators to points where it can be "stepped down" for distribution is also done by state and federal entities. Power distribution-retail sale of energy-is a monopoly of state governments, which also control the retail pricing of power. Finally, private power producers, who account for about 13 percent of total generation, are not allowed to sell power directly to customers, but must sell to state utilities, most of which are bankrupt. Years of populist politics and soft budget constraints have led state governments to make power used by farmers free, or nearly so. Domestic consumers are also subsidized. Petty trade and big industry are supposed to pick up the tab for the first two classes of consumers, by purchasing high-cost power. [n practice, things haven't worked out as well. Today, the average cost of supplying one kilowatt hour (or a unit) of electricity is Rs. 2.80. The average revenue from this is Rs. 2.07. Power is sold at a loss in [ndia. This was easier to sweep under the carpet when all utilities were state owned. However, with more than a tenth of India's power generation now with private entities, accounting jugglery alone won't help. Serious reforms are needed. Many of these reforms have to improve the quality of administration in states, municipalities and local bodies. In many areas, industrial and commercial consumers routinely pass themselves off as
farmers or domestic users. Large volumes of power are stolen from the distribution network-siphoned off by users from the grid with no payment. Metering of power users is erratic and prone to misrepresentation. Because distribution networks and generating stations are state-owned, there is little accountability. There is corruption and financial indiscipline. By March this year, the federal government reckoned that about half the power that is generated is not paid for. Transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, a catchall plu'ase for power that is lost legitimately in transmission as well as what is pilfered, or not metered, or underpriced, have grown alarmingly fi'om 15 percent of total generation in the mid-1960s, to today's estimated 50 percent. About 5 percent of this loss goes legitimately through leakages in high voltage transmissionthis squares with numbers elsewhere in the world. But alarmingly, about 20 percent of what is generated is stolen and almost an equivalent amount is not billed. Actually, the T&D loss figure has jumped in the last couple of years, from about a quarter of total generation to half. This' isn't because of increased power theft. Interestingly, today's higher loss figures are a result of reforms in state utilities. Reformed SEBs conduct better audits of energy use, theft and wastage. And every improvement in measurement throws up more alarming figures of losses. For example, pre-reform Orissa estimated T&D losses at 23 percent of generation. After reforms-and audits-began, the figure jumped to 51 percent. Andhra Pradesh loses 45 percent of power to theft, not the 25 percent it reckoned earlier. Haryana and Rajasthan's real losses are 47 and 43 percent respectively, not 32 and 26 percent as was estimated earlier. Affluent Delhi's T&D losses are 55 percent of generation, topping all-India charts. Within the city, losses vary from 72 percent in the eastem paJi to as low as 22 percent in better administered areas. If users don't pay for the power they consume, SEBs run up deficits on their books. This cascades through the system. Most states consume more power than (Continued on page 57)
a English isn't managing to sweep all else before it-and if it ever does become the universal language, many of those who speak it won't understand one another.
ECAUSE I am interested in what happens to the English language, over the past year or so I've been asking people, at dinner parties and professional gatherings and so on, whether they think that English is well on its way to being the global language. Typically, they look puzzled about why I would even bother to ask such an obvious question. They say firmly, Of course. Then they start talking about the Internet. We're just having a conversation, so I refrain from launching into everything I'm about to tell you. It's not that I believe they're actually wrong. But the idea of English as a global language doesn't mean what they think it does-at least, not according to people I've interviewed whose professions are bound up especially closely in what happens to the English language. English has inarguably achieved some sOli of global status. Whenever we turn on the news to find out what's happening in East Asia, or the Balkans, or Africa, or South America, or practically anyplace, local people are being interviewed and telling us about it in English. Last April the journalist Ted Anthony, in one of two articles about global English that he wrote for the Associated Press, observed, "When Pope John Paul II arrived in the Middle East last month to retrace Christ's footsteps and addressed Christians, Muslims and Jews, the pontiff spoke not Latin, not Arabic, not Hebrew, not his native Polish. He spoke in English." Indeed, by now lists of facts about the amazing reach of our language may have begun to sound awfully familiar. Have we heard these particular facts before, or only others like them? English is the working language of the Asian trade group
o ASEAN. It is the de facto working language of 98 percent of German research physicists and 83 percent of German research chemists. It is the official language of the European Central Bank, even though the bank is in Frankfurt and neither Britain nor any other predominantly English-speaking country is a member of the European Monetary Union. It is the language in which black parents in South Africa overwhelmingly wish their children to be educated. This little list of facts comes from British sources: a report, The Future of English?, and a followup newsletter that David Graddol, a language researcher at The Open University, and his consulting-firm, The English Company U.K., wrote in 1997 and 1998 for the British Council, whose mission is to promote British culture worldwide; and English as a Global Language (1997), a book by David Crystal, who is a professor at the University of Wales. And yet, of course, English is not sweeping all before it, not even in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, II years ago about one in seven people in this country spoke a language other than English at home-and since then the proportion of immigrants in the population has grown and grown. Ever-wider swaths of Florida, California, and the Southwest are heavily Spanish-speaking. Hispanic people make up 30 percent of the population of New York City, and a television station there that is affiliated with a Spanish-language network has been known to draw a larger daily audience than at least one of the city's English-language network affiliates.-Even Sioux City, Iowa, now has a Spanish-language newspaper. According to the census, from 1980 to 1990 the number of Spanish-speakers in the United States grew by 50 percent. Over the same decade the number of speakers of Chinese in the United States grew by 98 percent. Today approximately 2.4 million Chinese-speakers live in America, and more than four out of five of them prefer to speak Chinese at home. The rate of growth of certain other languages in the United States has been higher still. From 1980 to 1990 the number of speakers of Korean increased by 127 percent and of speakers of Vietnamese by 150 percent. Small American towns from Huntsvi lie, Alabama, to Meriden, Connecticut, to Wausau, Wisconsin, to El Cenizo, Texas-all sites of linguistic controversy in recent years-have been alarmed to find that many new arrivals do not speak English well and some may not even see the point of going to the trouble of learning it. How can all of this, simultaneously, be true? How can it be
that English is conquering the globe if it can't even hold its own in parts of our traditionally English-speaking country? A perhaps less fam iIiar paradox is that the typical Engl ishspeaker's experience of the language is becoming increasingly simplified, even as English as a whole grows more complex. If these two trends are occurring, and they are, then the globalization of English will never deliver the tantalizing result we might hope for: that is, we monolingual English-speakers may never be able to communicate fluently with everyone everywhere. If we want to exchange anything beyond rudimentary messages with many of our future fellow English-speakers, we may well need help from something other than English. The evidence strongly suggests that the range of realistic hopes and fears about the English language is narrower than some may suppose. Much discussion of what is likely to happen to English is colored, sometimes luridly, by what people dread or desire-for their children, their neighborhoods, their nations, their world. Human aspirations, of course, have a great deal to do with what comes to pass. And language is very much tied up with aspirations. In the fall of 1999 I visited David Graddol at The English Company's headquarters, in Milton Keynes, England. Graddol has a rumpled appearance somewhat at odds with the crisp publications, replete with graphs and pie charts and executive summaries, for which he is responsible. Similarly, the appearance of The English Company's offices, located in the ground-floor flat of a Victorian house and sparsely furnished with good Arts and Crafts antiques together with some flea-market stuff, is amiably out of keeping with the sophisticated, high-tech nature of the consultancy's work. Stuck on the wall above the stove, in the kitchen, were four clocks, each captioned with a big letter handdrawn on a piece of paper: M. K, M, A. This was to help the staff remember what time it was in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, and Argentina, the four sites where officials and advisers on how to teach English throughout those countries were taking part in an online seminar moderated by The English Company. "The main message," Graddol told me, "is that the globalization of English isn't going to happen the way people expect it to." He ticked off a dizzying array of eventualities that could transform the world language picture: political alliances that have yet to be formed; the probable rise of regional trading blocs, in such places as Asia; the Arab world, and Latin America, in which the United States and other primarily English-speaking countries will be little involved; the possibility that worldchanging technological innovations will arise out of nations where English is little spoken; a backlash against American values and culture in the Middle East or Asia; or the triumph of our values and culture in those places. To understand the fundamental paradoxes of global English, though, we should focus on two realms of possibility: demographics and technology-yes, the Internet, but much else that's technological besides.
PEOPLE who expect English to triumph over all other languages are sometimes surprised to learn that the world today holds three times as many native speakers of Chinese as native speakers of English. "Chinese," as language scholars use the word, refers to a family oflanguages and dialects the most widely spoken of which is Mandarin, and which share a written language although they are not all mutually intelligible when spoken. "English" refers to a family of languages and dialects the most widely spoken of which is standard American English, and which have a common origin in England-though not all varieties of English, either, are mutually intelligible. The versions of English used by educated speakers practically anywhere can be understood by most Americans, but pidgins, creoles, and diverse dialects belong to the same family, and these are not always so generally intelligible. To hear for yourself how far English now ranges from what we Americans are used to, you need only rent a video of the 1998 Scottish film My Name Is Joe, which, though in English, comes fully subtitled. " ative speaker" is no easier to define with any precision than "Chinese" or "English," although it means roughly what you'd think: a person who grew up using the language as his or her first. In terms of how demographic patterns of language use are changing, native speakers are not where the action is. And the difference between nati ve speakers and second- or foreignlanguage speakers is an important one subjectively as well as demographically. The 8ubjective distinction I mean will be painfully familiar to anyone who, like me, spent years in school studying a foreign language and is now barely able to summon enough of it to order dinner in a restaurant. In any case, the numerical gap is impressive: about 1,113 million people speak Chinese as their mother tongue, whereas about 372 million speak English. And yet English is still the world's second most common native language, though it is likely to cede second place within 50 years to the South Asian linguistic group whose leading members are Hindi and Urdu. In 2050, according to a model of language use that The English Company developed and named "engco" after itself, the world will hold 1,384 million native speakers of Chinese, 556 million of Hindi and Urdu, and 508 million of English. As native languages Spanish and Arabic will be almost as common as English, with 486 million and 482 million speakers respectively. And among young people aged 15 to 24 English is expected to be in fourth place, behind not only Chinese and the Hindi-Urdu languages but also Arabic, and just ahead of Spanish. Certainly, projections of all kinds perch atop teetering stacks of assumptions. But assuming that the tallies of native languages in use today are roughly accurate, the footing for projections of who will speak what as a first language 50 years from now is relatively sturdy. That's because many of the people who will be alive in 50 years are alive now; a majority of the parents of people who will be here then are already here; and most people's
first language is, of course, the first language of their parents. Prod at this last idea, to see how it takes into account such things as immigration and bilingual or multilingual places, and you'll find that it is not rock-solid. By David Crystal's estimate, for example, two-thirds of the world's children grow up in bilingual environments and develop competence in two languagesso it is an open question what the native language of a good many of those children is. Then, too, a range of population projections exists, and demographers keep tinkering with them all. But it's undeniable that English-speakers now have lower birth rates, on average, than speakers of Hindi and Urdu and Arabic and Spanish. And the countries where these other languages are spoken are, generally, less well developed than native-Engl ish-speaking countries. In 1996, according to United Nations statistics, 21 percent of males and 38 percent of females in "less developed regions" were illiterate in every language, as were 41 and 62 percent in the "least developed countries." Nonetheless, the gains that everyone expects English to make must come because it is adopted as a second language or a foreign language by most of the people who speak it. According to "The Decline of the Native Speaker," a paper David Graddol published in 1999 in the A/LA Review (AILA is the French acronym for the International Association of Applied Linguistics; the review belongs to the minority of international scholarly journals that still make use of another language in addition to English), the proportion of native Englishspeakers in the world population can be expected to shrink over the century 1950-2050 from more than 8 to less than 5 percent. A few more definitions will be helpful here. "Second-language" speakers live in places where English has some sort of official or special status. In fndia, for instance, the national g(}Vernment sanctions the use of English for its business, along with 15 indigenous languages. What proportion of India's population of a billion speaks English is hotly debated, but most sources agree it is well under 5 percent. All the same, India is thought to have the fourth largest population of English-speakers in the world, after the United States, the United Kingdom, and iigeria-or the third largest if you discount speakers of Nigerian pidgin English. English is a second language for virtually everyone in India who speaks it. And obviously the United States, too, contains speakers of English as a second languagesome 30 million of them in 1995, according to an estimate by David Crystal. "Foreign-language" speakers of English live in places where
Engl ish is not singled out in any formal way, and tend to learn it to communicate with people from elsewhere. Examples might be Japanese who travel abroad on business and Italians who work in tourism in their own country. The distinction between the two categories of non-native speakers is sometimes blurry. In Denmark and Sweden the overwhelming majority of children are taught English in school-does that constitute a special status? The distinction between categories of speakers matters, in part because where English is a first or second language it develops local standards and norms. India, for instance, publishes dictionaries ofIndian English, whereas Denmark and Sweden tend to defer to Britain or the United States in setting standards of English pronunciation and usage. The distinction also matters in relation to how entrenched English is in a given place, and how easy that place would find it to abandon the language. One more surprise is how speculative any estimate of the use of English as a second or a foreign language must necessari Iy be. How large an English vocabulary and how great a command of English grammar does a person need in order to be considered an .English-speaker? Generally, even the most rigorous attempts to determine how many people speak what, including the U.S. Census, depend on self-reporting. Do those years of French in high school and college entitle us to declare ourselves bilingual? They do if we want them to. Language researchers readily admit that their statistics on second- and foreign-language use are, as Graddol put it in "The Decline of the Native Speaker," "educated guesswork." David Crystal, in his Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (1995), observed that only 98 million second-language speakers of English in the world could be totted up with certainty. In English as a Global Language, though, he argued that the true number was more nearly 350 million. Graddol put forward a variety of estimates in "The Decline of the Native Speaker," including Crystal's, and explained why each had its proponents. According to the most expansive of them, the number of second-language speakers was 518 million in 1995. From 98 million to 518 million is quite a range. Estimates of the number of foreign-language speakers of English range more widely still. Crystal reports that these "have been as low as 100 million and as high as 1,000 million." The estimates would vary, because by definition foreign-language speakers live in places where English has no official or special status. They mayor may not have been asked in a national cen-
sus or other poll about their competence in English or other languages; they mayor may not have had any formal schooling in English; their assessment of their ability to speak English mayor may not be accurate. This last point is particularly worth bearing in mind. According to recent "Eurobarometer" surveys described by David Graddol, "77 percent of Danish adults and 75 per-
cent of Swedish adults, for example, say they can take pali in a conversation in English." And "nearly one-third of the citizens of the 13 'non-English-speaking' countries in the EU 'can speak English well enough to take pal1 in a conversation.' " However, Richard Parker, in his book Mixed Signals: The Prospects for Global Television News (1995), repOlied this about a study commissioned by Lintas, a major media buyer, in the early 1990s: When ad researchers recently tested 4,500 Europeans for "perceived" versus "actual" English-language skills, the results were discouraging. First, the interviewees were asked to evaluate their English-language abilities, and then to translate a series of sample English phrases or sentences. The study produced, in its own words, "sobering" results: "the number of people really fit for English-language television turned out to be less than half the expected audience." In countries such as France, Spain, and Italy, the study found, fewer than 3 percent had excellent command of English; only in small markets, such as Scandinavia and the Low Countries did the numbers even exceed 10 percent. So the number of people in the world who speak English is unknown, and how well many of them speak and understand it is questionable. No one is arguing that English is not widely spoken and taught. But the vast nwnbers that are often repeateda billion English-speakers, a billion and a half-have only tenuous grounding in reality. I have never seen any tables or charts that rank languages according to the proportions of the world's population expected to be using them as second or foreign languages 10 or 50 years from now. The subject is just too hypothetical, the range of val'iabIes too great. Consider, for instance, the side effects that the breakup of the Soviet Union has had on the use of the Russian language. Now that no central authority seeks to impose Russian on schoolchildren throughout the Soviet bloc, few
countries besides Russia itself require students to learn it, and for the most pat1 the language is less and less used. However, in places including the Caucasus, Russian continues to be valued as a lingua franca, and fluency in it remains a hallmark of an educated person. Consider, too, the slender thread by which Canada's linguistic fate hung not long ago. In November of 1995 Quebec held a referendum to determine whether most of its citizens were in favor of independence. If 27,000 of the 4.65 million Quebeckers who voted had cast their ballots for secession rather than against, by now Canada's entire population of some 30 million people, all of them in theory bilingual, might conceivably be on the way to being largely monolingualthe nation of Quebec in French and what remained of Canada in English. In the United States, discounting the claims that antagonists make about the other side's position, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't think it' would be nice if everyone in the United States spoke English. Virtually all the impassioned debate is about whose resOurces should be devoted to making this happen and whether people should be encouraged to speak or discouraged from speaking other languages, too. All kinds of things have the potential to change the rate at which English as a second language is learned in the United States. Suppose that nationwide, English lessons were available free (as they already are in some parts of the country) and that employers offered workers, and schools offered parents, incentives to take them. Who can say what effect this would have? Patterns of learning foreign languages are more volatile still. When I visited David Graddol, in the fall of 1999, The English' Company was reviewing materials the Chinese government had created to be used by 400,000 Chinese instructors in teaching English to millions of their compatriots. Maybe this was a step in an inexorable process of globalization--or maybe it wasn't. Plans to teach English widely in China might change if relations between our two countries took a disastrous turn. Or the tipping point could be something completely undramatic, such as the emergence of an array of Chinese-language Web sites. The information-technology expeli Michael Detiouzos told me not long ago that at a conference he had attended in Taipei, the Chinese were grumbling about having to use English to take advantage of the Internet's riches.
MUCH of what wi II happen to Engl ish we can on Iy speculate about. But let's pursue an idea that language researchers regard as fairly well grounded: native speakers of English are already outnumbered by second-language and foreign-language speakers, and will be more heavily outnumbered as time goes on. One obvious implication is that some proportion of the people using English for business or professional purposes around the world aren't and needn't be fluent in it. Recently I talked with Michael Henry Heim, a professor of Slavic literatures at the University of California at Los Angeles and a professional translator who has rendered into English major works by Milan Kundera and GUnter Grass. By his count, he speaks "ten or so" languages. He told me flatly, "English is much easier to learn poorly and to communicate in poorly than any other language. I'm sure that if Hungary were the leader of the world, Hungarian would not be the world language. To communicate on a day-today basis-to order a meal, to book a room-there's no language as simple as English." Research, though, suggests that people are likely to find a language easier or harder to learn according to how similar it is to their native tongue, in terms of things like word order, grammatical structure, and cognate words. As the researcher Terence Odlin noted in his book Language Transfer (1989), the duration of full-time intensive courses given to English-speaking U.S. foreign-service personnel amounts to a rough measurement of how different, in these ways, other languages are from English. Today the courses for foreign-service employees who need to learn German, Italian, French, Spanish, or Portuguese last 24 weeks. Those for employees learning Swahili, Indonesian, or Malay last 36 weeks, and for people learning languages including Hindi, Urdu, Russian, and Hungarian, 44 weeks. Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean take 88 weeks. Note that all the world's other commonest native languages except Spanish are in the groups most demanding of English-speakers. It might be reasonable to suppose that the reverse is also true-that Arabicand Chinese-speakers find fluency in English to be more of a challenge than Spanish-speakers do. A variety of restricted subsets of Engl ish have been developed to meet the needs of non fluent speakers. Among these is Special English, which the Voice of America (VOA) began using in its broadcasts experimentally some 40 years ago and has employed part-time ever since. Special English has a basic vocabulary of just 1,500 words (The American Heritage Dictionary contains some 200,000 words, and the Oxford English Dictionary nearly 750,000), though sometimes these words are used to define nonSpecial English words that VOA writers deem essential to a given story. Currently VOA uses Special English for news and features that are broadcast a half hour at a time, six times a day, seven days a week, to millions of listeners worldwide. But restricted forms of English are usually intended for professional communities. Among the best known of these is
Seaspeak, which ships' pilots around the world have used for the past dozen years or so; this is now being supplanted by SMCP, or "Standard Marine Communication Phrases," which is also derived from English but was developed by native speakers ofa variety of languages. Airplane pilots and air-traffic controllers use a restricted form of Engl ish called Ai rspeak. Celtainly, the world's ships and airplanes are safer if those who guide them have some language in common, and restricted forms of English have no modern-day rivals for this role. The greatest danger language now seems to pose to navigation and aviation is that some pilots learn only enough English to describe routine situations, and find themselves at a loss when anything out of the ordinary happens. Something else obviously implied by the ascendance of English as a second and a foreign language is that more and more people who speak English speak another language at least as well, and probably better. J ndia may have the third or fourth largest number of English-speakers in the world, but English is thought to be the mother tongue of much less than I percent of the population. This is bound to affect the way the language is used locally. Browsing some English-language Web sites from India recently, I seldom had trouble understanding what was meant. 1 did, however, time and again come across unfamiliar words borrowed from Hindi or another indigenous Indian language. On the site called 1nd ia World the buttons that a user could click on to call up various types of information were labeled "samachar: Personalised News," "dhan: Investing in India," "khoj: Search India,'~ "khel. Indian Cricket," and so fOlth. When I turned to the Afternoon Despatch & Courier of Bombay (now called Mumbai) and called up a gossipy piece about the romantic prospects of the son of Raj iv and Sonia Gandhi, I read, "Sources disclose that before Rahul Gandhi left for London, some kind of a 'swayamvar' was enacted at 10, Janpath with family friend Captain Satish Sharma drawing up a short list of suitable brides from affluent, well-known connected families of Uttar Pradesh." Of course, English is renowned for its ability to absorb elements from other languages. As ever more local and national communities use English, though, they will pull language in ever more directions. Few in the world will care to look as far afield as the United States or Britain for their standards of proper English. After all, we long ago gave up looking to England-as did Indians and also Canadians, South Africans, Australians, and New Zealanders, among others. Today each of these national groups is proud to have its own idioms, and dictionaries to define them. Most of the world's English-speaking communities can still understand one another well-though not, perhaps, perfectly. As Anne Soukhanov, a word columnist for The Atlantic Monthly and the American editor of the Encarta World English Dictionary, explained in an mticle titled "The King's English It Ain't," published on the Internet in 1999, "Some English words mean very different things, depending on your country. In South Asia, a hotel is a restaurant, but in Australia, a hotel is an establishment selling
alcoholic beverages. In South Africa, a robot is a traffic light." David Graddol told me about visiting China to consult on another English-curriculum project (one that had to do with teaching engineers in the steel industry) and finding a university that had chosen a Belgian company to develop lessons for it. When Graddol asked those in charge why they'd selected Belgians, of all people, to teach them English, they explained they saw it as an advantage that the Belgians, like the Chinese, are not native speakers. The Belgians, they reasoned, would be likely to have a feel both for the intricacies of learning the language in adulthood and for using it to communicate with other non-native speakers. But by now we have strayed far beyond the relationship between demographics and the use of English. Technology has much to teach us too.
WHEN the conversations I have with friends and acquaintances about the future of English veer immediately toward technology-especially the Internet-it's understandable. Much has been made of the Internet as an instrument for circulating English around the globe. According to one estimate that has been widely repeated over the past few years, 80 percent of what's available on the Internet is in English. Some observers, however, have recently been warning that this may have been the high-water mark. It's not that English-speakers are logging off-au contraire-but that other people are increasingly logging on, to search out or create content in their own languages. As the newsletter that The English Company prepared for the British Council asserted in September of 1998, "Non-English speakers are the fastest growing group of new Internet users." The consensus among those who study these things is that Internet traffic in languages other than English will outstrip English-language traffic within the next few years. There's no reason this should surprise us-particularly if we recall that there are about 372 million people in the world whose native language is English and about 5,700 million people whose native language is something else. According to the same newsletter, a study by Euro Marketing Associates estimated that
ber of other populous and relatively well-off places. As has been widely noted, the Internet, besides being a convenient vehicle for reaching mass audiences such as, say, the citizemy of Japan or Argentina, is also well suited to bringing together the members of small groups-for example, middle-class French-speaking sub-Saharan Africans. Or a group might be those who speak a less common language: the numbers of Dutchspeakers and Finnish-speakers on the Internet are sharply up. The Internet is capable of helping immigrants everywhere to remain proficient in their first language and also to stay current with what is going on back home. Residents in the Basque communities of Nevada and emigres from the Cote d'lvoire, for instance, can browse the periodicals, and even listen to the radio stations, of their homelands'----much as American expatriates anywhere with an Internet connection can check the Web sites for CNN, ABC, MSNBC, and their hometown papers and radio stations. No matter how much English-language material there is on the Web, then, or even how much more English material there is than material in other languages, it is naive to assume that home computers around the world will, in effect, become the work stations of a vast English language lab. People could use their computers that way-just as we English-speaking Americans could enlist our computers to help us learn Italian, Korean, or Yoruba. But, the glories of learning for its own sake aside, why would we want to do that? Aren't we delighted to be able to gather information, shop, do business, and be entertained in our own language? Why wouldn'.t others feel the same way? Consider, too, that many people regard high technology as something very much like a new language. Surely it's enough for a person to try to keep his or hel: hardware and software more or less up-to-date and running smoothly without simultaneously having to grapple with instructions or content in an actual foreign language. Studies of global satellite television-a realm that is several years more mature than the Internet-also point to the idea that most people like new technology better when it speaks their own language. As Richard Parker wrote in Mixed Signals, Satellites can deliver programming and advertising instantaneously and simultaneously across the more than two dozen languages
nearly 44 percent of the world's online population now speak a
spoken in Western Europe, but the viewers-as repeated market research shows-want their television delivered in local tongues.
language other than English at home. Although many of these Internet users are bilingual and speak English in the workplace,
Contrary to a history in which both motion pictures and early television broadcasts relied heavily on dubbing of foreign (often
Euro Marketing suggest that adveliisers of non-business products will more easily reach this group by using their home language. Of
U.S.) programming, an affluent and culturally confident Europe now appears to be more linguistically divided than ever before.
the 56 million people who speak languages on the Internet other than English, Spanish speakers represent nearly a qualier.
The study also estimated that 13.1 percent of all Internet users speak an Asian language at home-Japanese, for the most part. A surge in Internet use like the one that began in the United States half a dozen or so years ago is now under way in a num-
Parker distinguishes between the "technologically feasible supply" of foreign programming and the "economically viable demand" for it, warning that we should be careful not to confuse the two. A few years ago, for example, Sweden aired a "realitybased" TV series, Expedition: Robinson (the word expedition has entered Swedish from English), and it quickly became a
national obsession. But its success did not inspire American television networks to impOlt the series; rather, they developed new shows, such as Big Brother and Survivor
AT one point in my conversation with David Graddol, he made a little sketch of something for me on a proof of his article "The Decline of the Native Speaker." The sketch was meant to remind me that technology has begun to blur the distinctions between languages in intriguing ways-and to suggest how those ways are themselves st3lting to overlap. Both the Internet and a range of technological applications only distantly related to it, he wanted me to see, are poised to expand what we are able to do with English. Graddol uncapped his pen and drew a box in the broad white top margin of the page. "Text to text MT," he wrote in the box, and he said, "Of course you know about machine-translation systems," tapping the box to indicate that it was to represent them. Yes, I did: in fact, The Atlantic published an article about machine translation not long ago. As the article explained, there are translation programsAltaVista's Babel Fish among them-available for use free on the Internet. Type some English into the appropriate space on the Babel Fish Web page, or cut and paste it from another source, and choose your "destination" language-French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, or German. Presto! Up will pop a not entirely accurate translation of your chosen text. Or you can do this in reverse, from one of those languages-or Russian (the English-to-Russian feature is still in the works)-into Engl ish. Some professional translators use machine-translation systems as time-savers, getting the things to hack out rough texts they can then refine. To the left of his machine-translation box Graddol drew a second box, which he labeled "Speech to text." He tapped it and said, "And you know about the voice-recognition systems that turn spoken words into written words." Yes, those, too. As it happens, r am the proud owner of a Dragon Systems program. Current versions of that and several other voice-recognition programs are reported to render speech into writing with 98 percent accuracy-not a rate that detail-oriented people are likely to find reassuring (getting two words wrong per 100 can add up), but certainly a rate that allows a user to get a point across. Speech-to-text systems are now available for a variety of languages. Lernout & Hauspie, an industry leader that recently bought both Dragon Systems and Kurzweil Education Systems, sells products for turning British speech, as well as American, into writing, and also ones for German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Graddol drew a third box in the margin to the right, and labeled this box "Text to speech." He said, "And there are also machines that turn written words into spoken words." The Kurzweil reading machine, created to help the blind and visual-
ly impaired, and now capable of reading aloud in more than 50 languages, is the most advanced example in use. Simpler machines that turn computer code rather than text into speech are of course commonplace by now. We sometimes hear them when we call 411 and ask for a phone number; we hear them when we're refilling a prescription over the phone and a synthesized voice confirms our prescription number and name; we hear them on airlines' flight-information phone lines. These machines may have a vocabulary as elementary as numbers, the days of the week, and "A.M." and "P.M." But they get the job done, and they hint at how more-complex systems might work. Now Graddol drew lines from one box to the next. "People are starting to work on connecting all the parts," he said. "Once that happens, a lot of things will be possible." I could, for example, speak into the microphone that came with my Dragon Systems program and have that program render what I've said in writing; instruct one of the translation programs to turn the text into French; and then use Lernout & Hauspie's French-language speech synthesizer to pronounce the computer's translation. This may strike some as a ponderous process, but surely it would be less complicated than acquiring a creditable French accent the old-fashioned way. Then, too, speech-to-writing and writing-to-speech programs may materialize on the Internet, much as the translation programs have done. In that case I will simply talk into the microphone, miraculous high-tech things will happen somewhere in the ether, and voila! the computer at the restaurant L' Ami Louis, in Paris, will make my request for a reservation known to the staff, in exquisitely correct spoken or written French, and the maitre d', unwitting, will assign me a good table. That's the theory, anyway. 1 have my doubts about how exquisite the actual results will be for quite some time. The interchanging of speech with writing, writing with speech, and English with other languages may, however, yield serviceable results very soon. According to a compilation of funny signs spotted around the world, published by the Far Eastern Economic Review, a Paris dress shop once advertised "Dresses for street walking," and a notice in a hotel elevator in the same city advised, "Please leave your values at the front desk." If we can understand the intention of these signs-as of course we can-then surely we will be able to see beyond most of the peculiarities resulting from machines' involvement in language. David Graddol's neat little boxes glossed over myriad difficulties inherent in each step of linguistic interchangeability. But each of these steps is already being accomplished approximately, and implemented not just in experimental settings but in real life. Even as software developers continue to adapt computers to our linguistic needs and wants, we are-God help us-adapting our own language to computers. For example, ifJ want to see the Amazon.com page about the psycholinguist Steven Pinker's book Words and Rules (1999), it's a complete waste of time to type into the search feature "Words and Rules, by Steven Pinker," correctly capitalized and punctuated. The computer and
I will get exactly as much out of the exchange if I type "pinker rules." In effect, in this context "pinker rules" is better English than "Words and Rules, by Steven Pinker." Where computers' processing ability and our intelligence will eventually converge is anyone's guess. As we teach ourselves, for instance, to speak in a way that wi,!I make our voicerecognition systems as productive as possible, developers are tweaking the new versions of them so that if the system misinterprets a word and we need to revise what it writes, the change will be incorporated into its database and it will never make the same mistake again. Does this matter to the future of English? It may well. What is English, anyway? Is it the list of words and their meanings that a dictionary provides, together with all the rules about how to combine the words into sentences and paragraphs? Much more is involved than that. English is a system of communication, and highly germane to it is what or who speakers of English care to communicate with, and about what. The more we need to use English to communicate with machines-or with people whose fluency is limited or whose understanding of English does not coincide with ours-the more simplified the language will need to be. And yet technology is expanding English, by requiring us to come up with new words to describe all the possibilities it offers. Throughout the past century, according to Twentieth Centwy Words (1999), by John Ayto, technological domains-at first the likes of cars and aviation and radio, and eventually nuclear power, space, computers, and the Internet-were among the leading "lexical growth-areas." What's new of late isn't only words: we have whole new ways of combining the elements of written language. One ready example is emoticons (such as :> and ;-0), which seem to have firmly established themselves in the realm of e-mail. Is www a word? Does one write the expression dot com or .com or what? And then there's professional jargon. In the course of exchanging ideas, global communities of astrophysicists, cardiologists, chip designers, food scientists, and systems analysts are stuffing the English language full of jargon. As science and technology grow increasingly multifarious and specialized, the jargon necessarily grows increasingly recondite: in the journal Neurology, for example, article titles like "Homogeneous phenotype of the gypsy limb-girdle MD with the y sarcoglycan C283Y mutation" are run-of-the-mill. The range of English continues to expand further and further beyond any single person's ability to understand it all. One more fact worth keeping in mind is that the relationship between science or technology and Engl ish is, essentially, accidental. It is chiefly because the United States has long been in the vanguard of much scientific and technological research, of course, that English is so widely used in these fields. If the United States were for the most part French-speaking, surely French would be the language of science and technology; there is nothing inherent in English to tie it to these fields. And if something as earthshaking as the Internet had been developed
in, say, Japan, perhaps English would not now be dominant to the extent that it is. Future technology may well originate elsewhere. In the rapidly advancing field of wireless communications devices, for example, Scandinavia is already the acknowledged leader. Here an argument is sometimes advanced that American culture furthers innovation, openness to new ideas, and so forth, and that our culture, whether by accident or not, is inseparable from the English language. But this takes us only so far. Even if the vanguards in all scientific and technological fields, everywhere in the world, used English in their work, once the fruits of their labor became known to ordinary people and began to matter to them, people would coin words in their local languages to describe these things. Theoretical physicists at international conferences may speak English among themselves, but most high school and college physics teachers use their native languages in class with their students. The Microsoft engineers who designed the Windows computer-operating system spoke English, and used English in what they created, but in the latest version, Windows Millennium, the words that users see on the screen are available in 28 languages-and the spell-checker offers a choice of four varieties of English.
TN sum, the globalization
of English does not mean that if :e who speak only English just sit back and wait, we'll soon be able to exchange ideas with anyone who has anything to say. We can't count on having much more around the world than a very basic ability to communicate. Outside certain professional fields, if English-speaking Americans hope to exchange ideas with people in a nuanced way, we may be well advised to do as people elsewhere are doing: become bilingual. This is easier said than done. If learning a second language were so simple, no doubt many more of us would have picked up Spanish or Chinese by now. It is clear, though, that the young learn languages much more readily than adults, Surely, American children who are exposed to nothing but English would benefit from being taught other languages as well. At the same time, English is flourishing, and people here and everywhere are eager to learn it to the extent that it is practical for them to do so. It would behoove us to make learning English as easy as possible, for both children and adults, in this country and abroad. However unwelcome this news may be to some, not even headlong technological advances mean that computers will soon be doing all the hard work of coping with other languages for us. For the foreseeable future computers will be able to do no more than some of the relatively easy work. When it comes to subtle comprehension of our world and the other people in it, we are, as ever, on our own. D
About the Author: Barbara WallrafJis a senior editor of the Atlantic and the author of the book Word Count (2000), which grew out of her bimonthly Atlantic
column of the same name.
OUT Of THE rnffimmm~g)g) continued
Fom page 47
local SEBs generate. The gap is filled by the output of federally-owned generators like NTPC and NHPc. Since SEBs are broke, they can't pay for power that they're supposedly buying from federal utilities. By early this year, the SEBs' total dues to federal utilities amounted to an astronomical Rs. 300 billion, nearly four times the figure in 1995. This hits the bottom lines of federal utilities as well as the clutch of private power producers. "I n the early 1990s, the focus was on attracting investments into the power sector. Issues like weak finances of SEBs were tackled with schemes like escrow accounts or counter guarantees. That didn't work. Since then, we've learnt an important lesson-the consumer is at the heart of the process. He has to be involved, he has to pay for power and has to be offered quality services in return. Reforms have to target distribution," says Dick Edwards, director, Office of Environment, Energy and Enterprise, at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), New Delhi. USAID gives technical training, assistance, and some project funding, according to Edwards, "to bring new ideas and explore cutting edge things, with a strong focus on the commercial." He sees private distribution companies at the vi J1age level as one way out of the tangle. "When it becomes more financially viable then you can talk about raising tariffs," he says. Federal utilities like NTPC, which have recourse to cheap finance, get 15 percent oftheir dues automatically credited to them from the federal government from federal transfers to states and can make long-term quasi-sovereign arrangements with states for repayment, fare slightly better in this game than private power-generating companies. But today, relations between private sector power generators, like the Houston-based Enron Corporation-promoted Dabhol Power Corporation (DPC), and SEBs like the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB), are strained. "I don't want to talk about Enron," says Prabhu, before talks can begin. His reticence is not surprising. It is early April, and DPC and
MSEB are wrangling over exactly how much MSEB owes the generating utility.
II other private power-generating projects in India face serious risks from two related areas. One, under today's laws, they can sell power only to the electricity boards of the states where they are located. DPC, for example, has no option but to sell power to MSEB. Two, this monopsony "buyer" is, in a majority of cases, broke. Though MSEB made a small profit of Rs. 1,150 million three years ago, when last audited, by October last year, it owed Rs. 5,920 million to federal utilities. Prabhu believes that the way out is by restructuring SEBs and making sure that power consumed is paid for. Until recently, New Delhi had little say in how ~
The consumer has to pay for power and be offered quality services in return. states chose to run their SEBs. But today, faced by mounting deficits, most state governments are willing to listen to Delhi's plans for reform. Most states have agreed to set up independent State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs), with the power to set prices at which electricity will be sold. Many have also committed themselves to charging a minimum of 50 paise per unit of electricity sold to farmers. Until early April, 13 states had signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with the Power Ministry in Delhi. These MoUs generally commit state governments to a series of reforms in the power sector. "We're not forcing a uniform recipe down the throats of states. One size does not fit all, and each MoU is designed to take the special circumstances of each state into account," says Prabhu emphatica1ly. Most MoUs break up state power utilities into separate generation, transmission and distribution entities. Some states like Madhya Pradesh have committed to corporatize these utilities as well. Some
transfer the power to set tariffs to SERCs, and restrict the role of the state government to issuing broad policy directives only. These MoUs do not ban states from subsidizing electricity-they simply commit states to paying the subsidies directly out of the state budget, instead of forcing SEBs to foot the bill. Will the MoUs be effective? "These MoDs do not have conditionalities linked to performance," says Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a member of the Planning Commission, who heads a committee to settle the dues of SEBs and restructure them. What Ahluwalia is too polite to say clearly is this: the MoUs are statements of good intentions, with few ways to penalize states which do not stick to them. Despite that, a few states have tried to get their act in order. Orissa was one of the first states to implement electricity reforms in 1996. It carved up its power sector into generation, transmission and distribution companies. Today, it has privatized the distribution system totally. An American company, AES Transpower, runs the distribution network in Orissa. Another U.S. company, Southern Energy (SEPA), is implementing a giant generation project in Hirma, Orissa, as part of a joint venture with India's Reliance r ndustries Ltd. (Rl L). The Hirma project, which could generate as much as 10,000 MW of power that will be shipped to five states-Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat-is nowhere near completion. The trouble is the same: all SEBs are in financial trouble and Power Trading Corporation (PTC), which is supposed to purchase the electricity for transmission, can't guarantee payments. Southern Energy and RlL are talking to New Delhi to work out a system to guarantee payments if SEBs fail to deliver. However, New Delhi is wary of counter guarantees, and a scheme to transfer money from federal transfers to states is unlikely to come up with much. Similar reforms have been tried in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan with mixed success. In Andhra Pradesh, attempts to hike
farm power prices were met with riots. However, today, the Andhra Pradesh SEB claims to have cleared most of its past dues to federal utilities. Along with West Bengal, Andhra now wants to settle its outstanding dues in a single instalment. Madhya Pradesh, another state that is implementing reforms, will report cash profits from December. Thanks to efforts by reformist Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, the SEB has slashed the number of people getting free power from 600,000 to 50,000 today. Singh's approach seems to be working. Communities that gain from power reforms are pitching in. hree years ago, 1 visited a clutch of villages in Maharashtra's remote Ratnagiri district. Here, the porous red soil lacks nitrogen and lacks the ability to retain water that comes during torrential rains through August and September. Until recently, these areas of Ratnagiri were among the poorest in the state, populated primarily by women, children and the elderly. Younger men would inevitably migrate to chancy, bursting at the seams Mumbai, to look for jobs. That hemorrhage of people has been reversed partially in recent years. CARE, a U.S.based NGO, today works with locals, training them in innovative methods of dryland farming. Instead of a single rice crop, villages in Ratnagiri are growing vegetables and fruits throughout the year-and exporting produce to other regions of India. CARE works with local NGOs to fund micro-credit programs, also. The model, developed by the late Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, is a huge success. The Grameen Bank reports a stunningly low default rate of 1 percent. In Ratnagiri, there is zero default. The CARE program is one of many community development projects funded by Enron, the principal stakeholder of the Dabhol Power Corporation. DPC's work has won sympathy from locals in the area. But that hasn't made the finances of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board anymore solvent. The payments crisis continues, now in court. When Uttar Pradesh tried to privatize
the distribution network around Kanpur, the attempt failed. The sell-off failed to attract any buyers, perhaps because prospective bidders like Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Ltd., found the idea of recovering user charges from consumers without adequate administrative backup to be too daunting. "We hope to revive the bidding process again in a few months," says an official at the Power Ministry hopefully. Uttar Pradesh hiked power tariffs last year, but Chief Minister Rajnath Singh, who is facing elections in 2002, has flatly refused to hike power charges for consumers this fiscal year. Karnataka, which had said that it would privatize its distribution company by December this year, has now moved the deadline back by another six months,
If SEBs are to turn around permanently, there has to be some way to link performance to rewards and failure to penalties. apparently to clear paperwork that's needed to get technical assistance from the World Bank. However, India has successful examples of private power retailing companies-for example, CESC in Calcutta and the Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport Company (BEST). CESC, whose operations mostly center around metropolitan Calcutta, runs an efficient metering and billing system. It has also added generation plants to its operations over time. However, BEST, better known for its metropolitan bus services in Mumbai, has the most enviable returns of all private utilities in the sector. BEST, which generates no power of its own, buys all its requirements from MSEB and supplies to the high density city area in southern Mumbai. It has amazingly low T&0 losses of 9 percent and a cash surplus ofRs. 1,400 million which pays for its public transport operations. The Planning Commission is trying to work out ways to restructure SEBs financially. Financial engineering might clear their balance sheets for the time being,
but ifSEBs are to turn around permanently, there has to be some way to link performance to rewards and failure to penalties. Among other options, the group is thinking of increasing states' allocation from federal funds for power, from Rs. 15 billion per year now, to maybe Rs. 50 billion to Rs. 70 billion per year in future. The money could then be used to goad states into reforming. "The most important reform area for India in the coming four or five years is power," says Ahluwalia. He's right, because unless users pay for electricity, SEBs become solvent and generators get paid regularly, it is pointless to ask companies to invest. Without investments, Prabhu's nightmare scenario will play out and India's dreams of becoming a technology-driven economy will be dashed, at least temporarily. There is another, more controversial, reform measure that could save private power projects. This is legislation to allow generating utilities to sell power to buyers of their choice. State govermnents which own SEBs fear that this will lead to "cherry picking," jargon for the phenome, non when industrial and other high value customers will switch from buying power from erratic SEBs, to private generators who will ensure them uninterrupted, high quality electricity at reasonable rates. Once this market goes, SEBs will be left with high risk, non-paying customers only. The result, it is feared, will be immediate bankruptcy with no chance of redemption. That has made this solution, ideal from the point of view of paying customers, politically unacceptable. And in India today where the current of politics favors greater decen- . tralization of power, no federal government can afford to pass legislation that will finish off SEBs. That is why reforms driven by people like Prabhu and his advisers like Ahluwalia-arduous and slow, attempting to turn the fortunes of SEBs around state by state-look like the only feasible alternative today. D About the Author: Abheek Barman is assistant editor of the Economic Delhi.
Times in New
~uutLlltlL l' Fresh from VIlestPoint
Benel(a Bali f you think the girl in this picture resembles an Indian woman in army fatigues, you're right. She is Beneka Bali, a girl from Delhi in her early twenties, who made history by becoming the first Indian woman to attend the West Point Military Academy and begin a career as an officer in the U.S. Army. Bali aspired to join the army since her childhood. It was quite natural as her father Pradeep Singh Bali was a major with the Kumaon Regiment (Indian Army) before he migrated to the United States along with his family. He is now running his own business there. Beneka, who did her schooling in Jammu, Sikkim, Daljeeling, and Delhi before she went to the United States, was a bright student. In the U.S. she opted for the prestigious West Point, a college meant for those who are seriously on the track to a military career. Entry into the college is tough due to its strict standards. Only a few women cadets are granted admission, and that only in recent years as more women have been recruited into the military. Beneka strived hard and managed to get admitted
to West Point, preferring that to a conventional degree college. Beneka is a great sports enthusiast and has won two prizes awarded to senior school sportswomen by the Women Sports Foundation of America. She has always been courageous and took to adventure sports with great enthusiasm. "I want my life to be a series of adventures," she says. She attributes her achievement to her parents for they motivated her and gave enormous support and encouragement and especially her father who brought her up with military discipline. Beneka Bali successfully graduated fi'om the West Point as a full-fledged lieutenant, following a very hard and challenging four-year training period. After graduation she said, "It was a dream come true. I am proud to be the first Asian to join this institution. Indeed, it is a great honor to be serving in the world's most elite army." Now, as the first Indian American woman officer, she is with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. She has a high regard for the Indian
nA ~ T r..tl.l."'l FORM
••"'."'._.••..••. -"'.__ ._.
Cadet 1st Class Beneka Bali looks around the cockpit of a USMC KC-130 Hercules.
community in the United States and admires the work of Indian professionals in the fields of medicine, information technology and business and said, "We [Indian community] are respected because of our contribution to this nation. We are very hard-working and focused people. Whatever we have undertaken, we have done vety well in that." Incidentally, Beneka says two other Indian girls have also joined West Point. -K.
•.,,",•• "'"""•..__ .•... _.••.••.••. _ ••••.__ = __""""'
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Immigrant Visas n immigrant vl.路sa is issued to a person wishing to live permanently in the United States. To become a legal permanent resident, the person must first be admitted as an immigrant. There are two basic ways of obtaining an immigrant visa: one, through family relationship with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, or two, through employment. The most important thing for an immigrant visa is that the alien must be sponsored by a relative or employer who files an appropriate petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). After INS approves the petition, it is forwarded to the ational Visa Center at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Visa Center then informs the beneficiary that an approved petition has been received and provides instructions on the next step. As soon as the visa number is available on a preference petition or as soon as INS approves an immediate relative petition, the National Visa Center sends the beneficiary instructions on the next step to take. In the entire process, INS, part of the Justice Department, works closely with the State Depm1ment, its embassies and consular offices worldwide. "So when the U.S. citizen or the employer in the United States files a petition, that portion of the process is controlled by INS. Then the immigrant visa portion is controlled by the consular section or embassies overseas," says Angela Aggeler, consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. Essentially there are three types of immigrant visas. The first category of immigrant visas takes care of the fami-
ly-sponsored preferences. Provisions of visa for the immediate family members and distant blood relations are covered under this category. Second, under the employment-based preferences visas are issued to professionals holding advanced degrees, skilled and unskilled workers, their spouses and immediate dependent family members. The third category covers issuance of visas to certain religious workers, investors and investors in targeted employment areas. There are several subcategories under these three main preference categories. The first step for a family-based immigrant visa is the filing of a relative petition by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent or child. A preference petition is filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a son or daughter; by a legal permanent resident on behalf of a spouse, son or daughter or child; or by an employer on behalf of an employee. The filing date of the petition becomes the priority date. In cases of an employer-sponsored petition, the priority date is the date the labor certification was filed with the Depmtment of Labor. Whenever there are more qualified applicants for a category than there are available numbers, the immigrant visas are issued in the chronological order in which the petitions were filed. In certain categories, there may be a waiting period of several years before the priority date is reached. Information on priority dates for immigrant visa categories may be obtained in several ways, and also by visiting the Web site <usem bassy.state.gov/delhi.htmllwwwhiv.htm
The immigrant visa is valid for 180 days for a single entry into the United
States. The principal beneficiary must travel to the U.S. first, and before the expiry date. At the port of entry, the immigrant visa will be taken for filing and an entry stamp placed in the immigrant's passport. The entry stamp serves as visa documentation until the intending immigrant receives a resident alien (green) card. "In cases where the applicant delays travel to the U.S. beyond six months, the person should contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate and request an extension of validity of the immigrant visa. If the person does not take advantage of the visa, even one year after expiration, he or she does not lose the right to immigrate. The applicant would, however, need to go for another medical and pay the issuance fee again to get the immigrant visa revalidated," says Aggeler. Aggeler has a piece of advice to immigrant visa applicants: do not falsify relationships that are not genuine. "If I could recommend anyone single important thing it would be for an applicant to be completely honest and be patient. If the applicant has an approved immigrant visa petition from INS, and the relationship is genuine, then it does not help the applicant to have filed fake documents in suppoli of his or her case. The applicant must understand that if the visa officer discovers something fraudulent, it becomes an ineligibility on a person's record and ends up hm1ing people permanently," adds Aggeler. The rupee fee for an immigrant visa is revised along with changes in the rupeedollar exchange rate. The current rupee fee structure for the immigrant visa is: Rs. 12,270 application fee, and Rs. 3,055 issuance fee. -A.V.N.
Published on Mar 27, 2014
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