Innumerate Indians, Irreverent Thais

By Varadarajan, Tunku | Newsweek, May 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Innumerate Indians, Irreverent Thais


Varadarajan, Tunku, Newsweek


Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Dissident U

Is there a bidding war on for Chen Guangcheng? The blind dissident lawyer, whose Houdini-like escape from his boorish incarceration in rural China sparked an almighty Sino-U.S. kerfuffle, has been offered a fellowship by the University of Washington. The Seattle-based institution boasted, in a letter of invitation to him, that its China Studies Program is "one of the oldest and most prestigious" in the country, and promised "a strong collegial and academic environment" where Chen "could be involved in taking, and possibly teaching, classes." The university's offer was made days after a come-hither call from New York University, which covets Chen as a visiting scholar at its bustling law school. Where will he go? NYU is close to Chinatown; Seattle is closer to China ...

Alarm Bells in Bangalore?

"A bag is full of 20 bananas and no other fruit. Rajeev draws a fruit from the bag. What is the probability that he will draw a banana?" In a study that has sent shudders through newspaper-reading India, researchers found that 30 percent of the country's engineers were unable to answer that--and other--elementary mathematical problems. A total of 55,000 students in 250 engineering colleges took part in the survey, which also found that "25 to 35 percent of engineers cannot comprehend English usage even in day-to-day conversations." Good luck, Rajeev.

The Rushdie of Rap

Music can be a perilous business, as Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper exiled in Germany, has learned. An ayatollah in the holy city of Qom fired a fatwa at Najafi after he released a satirical song addressed to Imam Naqi, the tenth imam in Shiite Islam, who lived between the years 829 and 868. The crime? Apostasy. The sentence? Death. The lyrics? "Hey Naqi, hey Naqi, hey Naqi,/Hey Naqi, hey Naqi, hey Naqi/I swear to you on bland and hollow slogans/[That] say 'Long live' in the morning and 'Death to' at night ..." (These are carefully curated fragments. Rap, even in Farsi, contains much that is unprintable.

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