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Journey’s over, memories remain

The spirit of the ‘Wild West’ was even more in the air when the train pulled in the gambling town of Reno (NV). I met a guy who got off at this station. He said he’d take a taxi ride into the hills and follow the routes taken by the prospectors who hunted for silver after the Comstock Lode discovery in the 1850s.

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Coursing through Colorado’s canyons on Amtrak

Even though the entire trip in California Zephyr takes two days and two nights, if you want, you can hop off for 24-hour whistle-stop in three places.
I met a guy who’d strike out across the prairies of Iowa and Nebraska before overnighting at the little town of Granby in Colorado’s Middle Park Area. After snaking though the Rockies, he would stop at Reno, Nevada, for the nearby Wild West mining town of Virginia City. Finally, he would overnight in Sacramento, California’s little state capital.

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Traversing America coast-to-coast on amazing Amtrak

As I sit down at my friends, Suparno-Malabika’s 12th floor apartment ‘Pineway Towers’ in Silver Spring, MD to write down the jaw-dropping and fascinating experiences of the train travel from New York to San Francisco, I am reminded of J.K. Rowling.
Rowling had a passion for train ride as her parents met on a train, she wrote. Her mother was once traveling by train and was feeling terribly cold. A stranger offered her a blanket. Later she married the guy. She always wrote about her fondness for train journeys.

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Tolerance of domestic violence has huge economic impact

Whilst domestic violence has long been a serious concern in the US, beyond the social impact some experts and activists are also examining the economic impact.

The direct medical, mental and health services costs for victims of domestic abuse exceeds $5.8 billion annually, said Sarah Perry, executive director of The Second Step, an organization that provides assistance to survivors of domestic violence.

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US retailers under pressure

The article was published in Global Times (US Edition)

US retailers are facing pressure after the eight-story building, housing garments factories in Dhaka in Bangladesh, collapsed on April 24 killing over 1200 workers. The tragedy has prompted activists across the world to push Western retailers to take more responsibility for safe work conditions.
The incident has raised a key moral question of globalization: What obligation do the nations that benefit from low-cost goods made in places like Bangladesh have to ensure a safe environment and basic rights for workers?
While most European nations have signed on to a binding inspection program, most US clothing chains have declined to sign the agreement on bringing about major reforms in low-wage factories in Bangladesh.
Ben Hensler, deputy director, Worker Rights Consortium, the organization that has spearheaded the global fight to make garment factories safe, said: “The international program is the most effective way to bring about major reforms in low-wage factories in Bangladesh. The US retailers, making profit from the low-cost goods, should take the responsibility and must ensure that factory buildings are safe and equipped with adequate fire fighting device.”
H&M, the largest European retailer to source their products from Bangladesh, Ben said, has signed on the program. Besides, Carrefour and Tesco also signed on the building safety program.
“US retailers are now under pressure to sign the program. Two major US retailers PVH, (the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and Abercrombie & Fitch have already signed on the building safety program. This will have significant impact on other retailers. We are urging other retailers to sign on the program and hopeful that others too will do the same,” Ben added.
Wal-Mart had been under particular pressure because the company is the second biggest buyers of clothes from Bangladesh and, as the world’s largest retailer, has broad influence over the industry. Wal-Mart, however, said it would conduct its own inspections at its Bangladesh facilities, which Labor groups say would fall short of what is necessary to ensure worker safety.
“Tragedies that have taken place in Bangladesh can only be prevented if all stakeholders across the board set clear parameters and take action to drive real safety and compliance improvements,” said Louis Yunzhong Cheng, a student of Social Enterprise Administration in Columbia University, New York. “Systemic change will only occur when retailers take action together. They must use the full force of their commercial power to press for reforms,” she added.
“In the US, we see products made in Bangladesh everywhere. While the rise of the South is reshaping power relations in many important aspects, hard-won gains in human development, however, will be more difficult to protect if cooperation fails and difficult decisions are postponed,” Louis said.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, is getting serious about improving industrial conditions in Bangladesh. “On the labor issue, buyers have a critical role and they must be engaged. We are encouraging international investors not to turn their back on Bangladesh, because the solution is reform and not withdrawal,” US under secretary of state for political affairs Wendy R Sherman said.
Wendy added: “Success will depend on the will and commitment of industry, government, civil society and every Bangladeshis to come together to change the culture of workplace safety and workers rights.” The US is working with American firms to secure their support for better safety inspections, she said.


Immigration overhaul and US knowledge economy

The article was published in Global Times (US Edition)

Even as the Senate tried to pass immigration reform unsuccessfully twice over the past one decade, tech entrepreneurs have stressed the need of overhauling the system highlighting the US’ knowledge economy.
Many students in the US cannot pursue their full potential as their parents immigrated illegally. In some states like California, where there are large Hispanic minorities and large technology ecosystems, this is a very acute issue. A 2010 Pew study found that about 81 percent of total 11 million illegal immigrants are Hispanic.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched a huge ad campaign from April 23 saying that for a nation of immigrants, the US has a strange immigration policy. “It’s a policy unfit for today’s world,” he wrote in an article in Washington Post last month.
“The US has been built on the ingenuity and drive of immigrants, and in the tech community; to remain globally competitive, the President and Congress must reform our country’s archaic immigration system,” says a post by Joe Green, founder of FWD.us, a website created to press for immigration overhaul.
The FWD.us has advocated tough, effective border security measures. It said there must be a simple employment verification system to ensure that employers play by the rules, and to crack down on those who abuse the law.
FWD.us said the government must hike the number of H-1B visas to attract the world’s best and the brightest workers, while implementing reforms that encourage this talent to reside permanently in the US.
Sam Aparicio, CEO of Ringio, a software firm in Virginia, said: “Immigration reform is not just an issue of social justice. It’s one of the primary tools to re-invigorate and restart the American economy.”
The system reform is the need of the hour for highly educated workers. “If the US wants to retain its competitive edge, it has to lure the best and the brightest from around the world and help them build businesses here,” Mr Aparicio said. “The rest of the world is catching up to the recipe that made the US such an economic behemoth.”
He also urged the Senate to take bold decisions like keeping more foreign STEM students in the US, post education (what’s commonly called “staple a green card to their degree”) and increase the H1 quotas.
In the US there are huge backlogs, and talented workers have to either stick with their current employer throughout the process, or return to their country of origin while they become permanent residents, he said.
Mr Aparicio told visa process must be less costly. “Today it costs $10-$15k to do the paperwork for an H1 hire,” he said. Visas must be equally available to companies of all sizes. “Today mega tech companies get the quota’s lion’s share,” he said adding that there’s, of course, the issue of how we handle illegal immigration.
Former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said that US immigration system is broken. It does not serve the national security interests and the economic security interests, he said.
Amy Hill Hearth, New York Times bestselling author, said: “The immigration issue is a vexing problem. I understand why people from around the world wish to come here. Who can blame people for wanting a better life for themselves and their children? I hope we can settle the issue in a way that is both fair and compassionate.”


Why good copy editors matter

Imagine “Mormon” instead of “Moron” in a newspaper headline and that too in New York Times. A Mitt Romney campaign in last year’s US presidential election went viral because it urged people to stand “with Mitt” for “A Better Amercia.” (instead of AMERICA) An easy typo to make but, almost all typos are easy to make.

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