Skype Beware! Google Voice is Coming!

Google has announced a new service, Google Voice. In 2007 Google acquired GrandCentral, a phone management service, for $50+ million. Since then GrandCentral was almost forgotten. Now Google unveils the GrandCentral service as voice call service that can give Skype a run for their money. With Google Voice, a subscriber can have a single phone number and any call made to that number will be forwarded to all your phones – home, cell, office or your hotel room. Calls using Google Voice is free within USA. International calls will cost around 2 cents a minute. The other features include sending, receiving and storing text messages, listen-in feature to listen to calls before taking it, voice mail and voice mail transcript service that allows storing and archiving of voice mail messages as text and many other features.
Currently Google Voice service is available only to existing GrandCentral customers. But as soon as it does open its doors, it will surely cause a major dent to Skype and other similar services. Let’s just wait and see how it rolls out.

“Origins of the Financial Crisis” and Other Lessons

While the current economic crisis still bogging us down to our knees, I chanced upon an insightful lecture by Dr. Alan Blinder, a Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. A world renowned economist, Prof. Blinder speaks very eloquently about the multiple causes and culprits of the current economic crisis and also spells out the possible remedies. It was an extremely educational experience for me, and I think will be the same for many people like me who keep on hearing multiple different stories from different sources. Continue reading

Slumdogs, Oscars, and Artists

Hey, shouldn't we get our fair share?The recent success of “Slumdog Millionaire” at the Oscars have resurfaced a new crisis that has often plagued us, the people of India and Indian origin. Well, I should possibly qualify that statement by saying that not everybody is complaining. In fact the slum dwellers are celebrating the Oscar win as their won victory. It is only those people who feel insecure of their reality has been complaining the most by accusing that these artists and film makers are making millions by exploiting the poverty of India. Many have been offended by the film’s title “Slumdog” as a derogatory comment on the slum dwellers. Some have even moved to the court and demanded that the film be re-titled. Some have been organizing protest rallies and meetings to awaken the masses against the western exploitation of our poverty. Continue reading

Mothers in Sex Trade : An In-depth Look

Mothers for Sale“My name is Shikha Morol. That’s not my real name, but I don’t want to tell you my real name. This is my name here. And please don’t take any pictures. I won’t allow it . . .”

The woman in front of me sat with her head bowed. She wore a blue synthetic sari with garish floral prints and a mismatched purple blouse. She looked neat and clean but signs of poverty were evident in her work-roughened hands and broken nails.

Her name, she said, was Shikha, “a little flame.” She said she was 30. I was surprised. I assumed she was closer to 50.

This is how one of the interviews with Sikha, a sex worker in Sonagachhi Kolkata, starts in Shamita Dasgupta and Indrani Sinha’s latest book, “Mothers for Sale: Women in Kolkata’s Sex Trade”. Continue reading

Cartoon of the Week 16: Healthcare Costs

Bank Report
I drew this cartoon long time ago to highlight the healthcare cost crisis. For the benefit of the readers who don’t read Bengali let me explain it a bit. The doctor looking at his patient’s charts comments that he is not concerned with his lab reports but he is concerned about his bank statement reports which of course is not good enough to bear the cost of treatment.
Healthcare cost management, one of the major election issues last year, is once again in the back burner – being overshadowed by the economic meltdown. Although the recent economic stimulus package contains a provision to modernize health-care record keeping which can potentially reduce some of the costs and also provide for some computer programming jobs, it can hardly put a dent on this monstrous problem. Health-care cost is poised to be the next bubble to burst and it can also have devastating effects on the population and businesses. This needs to be dealt with as soon as possible before the entire system disintegrates. Many hospitals are reporting higher rates of ER admissions for patients without insurance. This is expected with the high unemployment numbers. Soon the hospitals will be asking for bail out money. Continue reading

Goodbye 2008 – Welcome 2009

Year 2008 is finally over, and what a year it has been. I am sure this year will go down in history as one of the most significant year of this century. If we look back to this year, the two events that stand out the most are – the global economic meltdown and the historic presidential election.
The economic meltdown of the 2008 will go down in history possibly as the darkest economic times of the twenty-first century just as the great depression of 1929. The sub-prime mortgage crisis, the credit crisis, the crash of the Wall street giants, the market crash created a snow ball effect of financial disasters which still remains to be contained. This crisis also proved once again how tightly the global markets are connected these days when it spread from its epicenter in USA to all parts of the developed and developing world.
The second most significant event was the US presidential election. The election of Barack Obama, the first African American to grace the White House as the president of the United States is an event that will be recorded in history in golden letters. Barack Obama brings with him the hopes for a positive change not only in USA but also the whole world. The worldwide celebrations at the election win of Obama is a testament to how the world looks forward to this new leader.

India too has seen some good and bad days during the last year. The dastardly attack on Mumbai by the terrorists has caused the world community to refocus their attention to deal with global terrorism. Terrorism still continues to plague the world and keeps on challenging our defenses in any way they can.
On the positive side, the Indian technological and economic prowess showed off with the successful launch of Chandrayaan I and then with the successful implant of the lunar probes on the surface of the moon. This has been a significant achievement for a country that is relatively young to the space race.

Another 2008 global event that I will remember for a while is the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Olympic games demonstrated how human beings like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt can become super humans. This Olympics was also especially favorable to the Indian athletes with its first individual gold and if I am not incorrect, the highest medal tally at the games.

I hope 2009 comes to us with the promise to fulfill our hopes and dreams. Let’s hope that from January 20th, the new President brings in the change he promised and helps herald in the peace and prosperity that we all have been looking forward to. Let’s hope that evil in all forms, from terrorists to the financial swindlers, all are defeated and good prevails for all in the world.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year.

Sudipta Bhawmik

Terror in Mumbai

It is Thanksgiving eve and this dastardly scene unfolds in front of me on the Indian News networks – Mumbai under attack. Soon CNN picked it up and all news networks focused on the financial capital of India – Mumbai. It was dramatic, to say the least, to witness the Taj, Oberoi and Trident hotels on fire, gun shots and explosions, and the closeups of blood stained people and property. As I write this, the siege is still on with several hostages under the clutches of the terrorists and more than 100 people killed.

I don’t know who is doing this (although some sources are reporting that Deccan Mujaheddin has claimed responsibility) and for what purpose, but it is clear that it is a very well planned and well coordinated effort to not only shake up India, but also the entire world. India is rapidly gaining recognition as a major economic power, it’s opinions carry lot of weight in the global economy. All major economies in the world are eager to do business with India and Mumbai is their main port of call. Possibly the terrorists hope to scare off the world by trying to demonstrate Mumbai (and India) as an unsafe place to do business with. But they are grossly mistaken. They fail to understand that the world is not only watching their cowardly attacks but also the heroic efforts by the police and the army, the selfless efforts of the hotel employees who risked their lives to save their guests. The chief of anti terrorist squad, Hemant Karkare and the additional commissioner of police, Ashok Kamte laid down their lives along with several other of their compatriots to save the lives of the people of Mumbai. The entire world will be with India and thwart the efforts of the terrorists to isolate India.

Let’s all condemn these attacks and show our solidarity behind the people of Mumbai. Our deepest condolences goes to the families of the victims of this incident. We hope that the people of Mumbai and India will stay calm and not do anything rash and violent to hurt their fellow citizens ’cause that will only serve the cause of the terrorists.


November 4, 2008 will go down as one of the greatest days in America’s history. Today, the Americans rose up to a new hope, to look forward to the change promised by their President elect Barack Obama. Barriers of prejudice has been shattered and the impossible has been made possible. The entire world, along with the Americans, is looking towards the new leader with the hope that America will once again prove to be the great land of opportunity, a country that lends its helping hand to all in need, and a country that inspires everybody around the globe. The following two pictures illustrate how much hope the World has on this new leader.
An Indian artist (in Ahmedabad) makes a painting of American president elect Barack Obama and Mahatma Gandhi to mark the victory of Obama (photo courtesy AP Photo/Ajit Solanki). It is interesting to see how people are relating Obama to Mahatma Gandhi – through civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.

Congrats ObamaIn Puri (Orrisa, India) a sand sculpture congratulating US president-elect Barack Obama by the Indian sand artist Sudarsan Patnaik on a beach has become a major attraction (Photo courtsey AFP/Sanjib Mukherjee). These photos clearly indicate that the World (and India) is hoping that Obama will be able to bring in lasting peace by keeping his promise of working with the countries of the world.

Let’s all stand behind this charismatic leader and help him build a new future for all of us.

Barack Obama: Son-in-Law


Barack ObamaIt is hard to be in a party these days without entering in to a conversation about the presidential election. My Bengali friends are frenzied and crazed about the prospect of Barack Obama getting elected our president. They are incredulous about the fact that they are living in the same planet and at the same age as The One. It’s like the second comings of Jesus Christ, Gautama Budhha and Lord Krishna, all combined together. Throw in Elvis Presley and a sprinkle of Karl Marx in the mixture. Barack Obama, we are sure is going to set every thing right on January 21, 2009 and in the process make us all millionaires with his tax cut. Talk about world peace? We are going to dinner with Iran, Al Qaeda and Taliban, our buddies and we will all live happily ever after in peace. Dow is going to touch 20,000 in weeks, our 401(K) reverting to its full glory and all those crooks in Wall Street will be sent to gallows. Continue reading