Dr. John Virapen on the Greed of Pharmaceutical Companies

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Dr. John Virapen on the Greed of Pharmaceutical Companies

Sometimes when you think about one particular country or another, and admire it for a great government, a transparent press, a robust healthcare ecosystem, and so on. Or when you believe the doctor when he tells you your child has an attention-deficit disorder, as he or she prescribes medication for it. Or when the little discomfort you went to the doctor with, suddenly transformed into something lethal-sounding. And urgently needing surgery. Let’s not always be so trusting and naive.

Here’s a talk by ex-Director of pharmaceutical major Eli Lilly. The global company ranks 132nd on the Fortune 500 list, with a 2017 topline of USD 22.87 billion. Late ex-director of the company, Dr. John Virapen, worked over 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry, climbing from a sales executive to becoming director. And as he climbed the corporate ladder, he realized, and even participated in the dirt his company was involved in. Bribing governments and media houses, the pharma industry is in a dirty loop to make people sick and then treat them.

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The Stand-off called Life

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The Stand-off called Life

Random musings.

Life, in some ways, is like a standoff with a wild animal.

You are puzzled, scared and unsure of its next move. So is the animal.

If you panic or succumb to your fears, it will pounce, attack, and possibly consume you. And fast.

On the other hand, if you can keep your sh!t together and stay calm, you might either cause it to run away, or kill it. Or better still, you might tame it.

Video contains violence. Viewer discretion advised.

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Actions With and Without a Face

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Actions With and Without a Face

Even today, you can see people of some races cringe or gasp at the sight of the swastika, the symbol of Hitler’s party. Even though the swastika has much older roots. And Hitler himself, continues to be collectively and strongly hated today, over 72 years after his death. And rightly so. He and his people were the cause of unspeakable oppression and death. Collectively, around 42 million deaths (soldiers and civilians), and even more as per some historical estimates. What probably makes it most glaring, is the short span of 12 years across which this happened. And as the leader of the Nazis, Hitler remains the face of all the death and destruction by his people.

Going back again in time, the British atrocities in their colonies is another story altogether. In India alone, their rule lasted around 184 years. And this time too, was witness to unspeakable oppression and the death. Approximately 40-54 million Indians. Dead! Due to starvation. Due to manual labour; and worse, through artificially created famines. When we compare the British kill report card with that of Hitler’s, it happened over a comparatively much longer 184 years. But there is no single face of the oppression. Which is also perhaps why it lasted so long. And was so much more deep-rooted.

In present times, the world citizens should always be on the look out for the second kind of mass-murderers. Eaters of countries. Because the world is a dynamic flow of information, even if a lot of it is manipulated by whorish media, the world citizen is still aware, and will not tolerate a single face of oppression for too long.

However, the second kind of oppression won’t have a single face, or perhaps have one that appeases a section of the masses, speaks directly to their concerns and hopes; while the arms of the organization carry out deep-rooted decay.

Many of us have heard of the myth around the frog and hot water experiments. While frogs aren’t so tolerant to heat, history bears testimony of human ignorance to oppression without a face.

British colonies were a live example of it. Albeit not the most subtle example, given the difference in race/ colour, etc. But imagine the harm a domestic movement with ulterior motives can do. Let’s ensure we guard against history repeating itself in other forms, but using similar tactics.

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Do Some of the Pillars of Democracy need a Shake-Up?

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Democracy has rested on four pillars. The legislature, executive, the judiciary, and arguably the most important, the press. All the pillars need improvement, some far more than others. The world press, for instance, has really become dirty. When in reality, it should be a transparent communication channel between the citizen, the country, and the world.

In an increasingly connected globe, traditional media surprisingly continues to wield disproportionately high power. And it has been responsible for numerous crimes, the world over. From keeping entire populations in the dark, to convincing them about who the good guys and bad guys are. By encouraging unsolicited violence on other countries. Press has made large sections of otherwise peace-loving populations completely convinced of the need for war. Not always because any country was under attack. But because politicians and industry stood to benefit from tricking citizens and getting them onboard. And with business people and politicians ever interested in wielding influence over large media houses, it makes one wonder how we are allowing ourselves to be subjected to lies.

The Indian press too, continues to scale new depths by doctoring news or hiding it altogether, to favor various political parties.

Anyway, interestingly, the Congress, among the bigger corrupt parties, recently figured a simple way to fix the distorted media problem. After taking a lot of bashing by two leading TV news channels for some time, the party recently banned the channels from their press conferences. How much is a TV news channel worth if it doesn’t have access to a certain section of national news? Not as much as it had before, right?

Mahendra Palsule highlighted in a good post, about the fifth pillar in a democracy, the (silent) citizen.

Think about it. Let’s assume these two channels got a reality-check after this banning. Imagine then what we the people can, and must do, to get the press functioning the way it is meant to, not the underhand way it is paid to. The day the masses stop consuming lies served to us by these media, we will have withdrawn the right we gave them, and which they continue to abuse.

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Can We Easily Spot Left-Brain and Right-Brain Thinkers?

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Can We Easily Spot Left-Brain and Right-Brain Thinkers?

Just a thought. And I could be wrong.

How can we easily spot a strong left-brain, or a right-brain thinker?

In an argument/ discussion between two people with strong, opposing views – is it possible that those who tend to reply almost instantly each time, especially early on, without sufficient information, are left-brain thinkers?
And those who might take a moment to assess both the opposite side’s comment, gauge their reaction, anger levels, body language, etc. before reply appropriately, right-brain thinkers?

Or is it possible that we think and react differently, depending on the topic of discussion, the situation, the people involved, etc.?

I don’t know. Yet. What do you think?

The Thinker

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Our Right to Privacy

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Our Right to Privacy

Image source

Towards the last week of August this year, here in India there was a landmark Supreme Court verdict that a lot of you must have heard/read about. It had something to do with the citizens of India, and our right to privacy. After the initial petitions that were filed long ago, a panel of eminent judges finally ruled that privacy is in fact, a fundamental right.

In an age where information sharing is growing at an astronomical pace, an attempt to safeguard privacy almost sounds ironical. And though our smartphones and apps make it difficult for a lot of us to even fathom if and how much we need privacy, we must be grateful to this bench of judges for thinking on our behalf and ruling in favour of the citizens.

Of course, the ruling wasn’t a no-questions-asked-right, but it does safeguard the core.

Chances are most of us would never get to reading the 547-page report ever. However, I do urge you to read just the verdict given by each of the judges. The choice of words and sentences are almost melodious. The depth of the analysis, and the absolute fairness and clarity of thought, is simply admirable. And it is something we should appreciate; it is your privacy and mine that they were safeguarding after all.

Here’s the link to the article: SC Verdict on Right to Privacy – What Each Judge Had to Say

And in case you’d want to go through the report too, here’s the link: Right To Privacy

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The Earning of Trust

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The Earning of Trust.

I recently subscribed to NewsLaundry. It is a very young but self-proclaimed “media critique, news and current affairs portal”. It claims to operate on the obvious but often forgotten premise that news should be for the masses. And not for advertisers, or to distort reality for the masses.

Current times are seeing increasingly low times for the media and the news. Between fake and distorted news, influencing an action in the masses has been reduced to an equation. And those who can just manage to see beyond the superficial intentions, can see a much greater rot.

Having worked extensively in the small & medium business and startup space for over a decade, it got me thinking of the growth of a startup, which in many ways, is directly comparable to the growth of an individual. Words and deeds, and the way people treat others, etc., all add or subtract from their reputation.

In the business world, I have seen some truly promising startups struggle. And in some cases, the only holding them back, the limited reputation due to their recency in the game. On the other end of the spectrum are large companies. Already having established reputation, benefits they enjoy are often disproportionately higher than their incremental capabilities and passion. All thanks to reputation. To summarize that, the life of a business starts with abilities and energy that often far exceeds the reputation it commands; till, over time, it gets to a stage where it has the reputation it needs, but then must ideally invest into ability and energy to maintain it. Something often forgotten.

In an ideal scenario, it should have been the veterans of media setting examples for every starry eyed journalist passing out of college, on what media truly stands for in a domestic and a global setting. In reality, however, many of them have reduced themselves to being corporate or political (or both) mouthpieces. Essentially having sold their souls to ‘influence the masses for power and profits’ kind of devils.

Which paves the way for the startups to step in and do what the stalwarts should have. Clean up the mess. Many years ago, when I started my design strategy consulting practice, I had written a few lines about the importance of these startups and young companies. Sharing the same here:

“Time and change are formidable resistances for even large, global companies. Imagine then, their effect on Start-ups and Small & Medium Businesses.

The world however, needs more enterprising young companies, to lead global innovation, to keep larger businesses on their toes, and to maintain a good pace in innovation and technological advances for the benefit of mankind. In fact, most often, it is these young, innovative companies that are also closest in touch with present and future needs of consumers, understanding and responding rapidly to global and local problems with innovative and logical solutions.”

By the looks of it, seems like the young will also have to be the ethical torchbearers of the industry. The journey will be challenging and mostly uphill. And the possible reward? Future generations of truly free and ethical minds seems like a worthy enough goal to make this seemingly impossible pursuit meaningful. Wishing NewsLaundry the best on its journey to keep news unadulterated!

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China – The Punishment Due

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China – The Punishment Due

To,
Mr. Xi Jinping
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
People’s Republic of China
Indian politicians have always been soft about matters regarding our country’s borders. You however, should not for a moment, think their encroachments will go unchallenged. Or that our army doesn’t stand a chance.
The Beating Retreat ceremony that happens at our Attari (and Wagah in Pakistan) border should give them some perspective. Look it up online.
The soul-piercing eyes of our Border Security Forces. The fire, the bravery and the love for the country. It isn’t something that can be copied or manufactured like everything else China is notorious for. These traits are inherent. What’s more, that border ceremony is a tradition of brotherhood and cooperation. Imagine dealing with them in the event of a war.
Image: source
So, if Chinese border infiltration continue, surely our politicians will bumble around for a long time. Trying hard to imagine the problem doesn’t exist. Or hoping to push it under the carpet for another government of the future to deal with. But the day one of them decides to take action, and that day will come, I’d hate to think of the plight of those facing the wrath of our armed forces.
In all the wars India has ever fought, it has never been on the offensive. Never once have we, unprovoked, attacked another country. And that should tell the world everything it needs to know that we as a country, hate war more than any other country on earth does.
But there is one thing we hate far more, and do not tolerate. And that is, outsiders encroaching on our land.
It is another, and rather unfortunate matter, that all our politicians since independence, have not reflected the necessary concern for our borders and our people who live near it. But, it would be foolish to continue to push your luck, using the Sino-Indian war as a yardstick to compare powers. Back then, we were a young, relatively unaware, 13-year old country post-independence. If you really need proof of our military prowess, look no further than the Battle of Longewala of 1971. It remains, among the only battles in the history of the world, where an unimaginably outnumbered army faction held on, and won. That, is the Indian defense forces for you.
In the hope that you come to your senses soon, and for your own sake.
Cheers!
Megadeth performing ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’. Hammersmith Odeon. 1992.
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Choose Your Mistakes

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Choose your mistakes.

Life has made a lot of things extremely easy to start. Even the seemingly most impossible of tasks. The knowledge and resources available to us increase our confidence multi-fold, and daunting initiatives don’t look so big anymore. So yes, starting anything is damn easy. What’s the tough part? The toughest bit of it all, is to continue. But sure you already knew that, right?

There will come many an instance in your life, where a group of suddenly charged and enthusiastic people including you, will come together and set upon a journey, a bold initiative to do something life-changing, to create something unique and far-reaching. And shortly after starting, you will realize the uphill climb seems inversely proportional to the enthusiasm you all started out with.

Whenever such an idea or plan is in the offing, before you start, sit back, and make sure to factor in the decrease in enthusiasm going forth, and the increase in the slope; then build that into your plan. If things still look doable, jump right in. Else, shelving it right then will save you a ton of time, effort and money too.

Of course, this isn’t to discourage any budding initiatives before they have begun. Sure learning from others mistakes comes highly recommended by the oldies. And nothing like forgetting all warnings and making a bunch of them yourself. After all, the best of things around us, initially started out with completely different ideas, intentions and purposes in mind. And there is a lot of learning that also comes from starting, even if they end in failure. But given the limited time we are all given, while failing often and fast is recommended, it is also never too foolish to choose possible future mistakes wisely, and well before you’ve made them.

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Phone of Reference

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Phone of Reference

Last year, Mumbai’s traffic police enforced a ban on cellphone use while driving. It was backed by a fairly high fine. They even went a step further and banned the use of hands-free devices while driving too.

The extent of enforcing however, remains limited. The main reason for this is overworked traffic cops. And the fact that cops are often diverted to less important tasks including ensuring smooth flow of politician motorcade, etc. Then there is the blatant violation of this ban by literate and illiterate drivers alike.

Other countries have similar or slightly lax laws. Singapore and the US, for instance, allow the use of hands-free devices to make calls while driving.

Sometime last year I read an article that explained why it is a bad idea to speak on the phone while driving. Don’t remember the exact principles that governed it. But it stated that a driver speaking to co-passengers was completely different from speaking on the phone while driving. The latter being extremely risky.

Apparently, when you are driving and also speaking to someone aboard, you both are in the same relative plane of motion. Your mind is relatively present and aware. As are your reflexes.

However, when driving and speaking to someone on the phone, your mind gets into their frame of speed and reference. This means it takes you much longer to anticipate (if at all), and react to danger on the road.

Some of you might huff this off in disbelief. But here’s a seemingly comparable example I thought of. Yes, its yet to be tested or proven, but consider this. Compare two situations: one, where you’re singing a song while listening to it on the radio. The other, you singing while listening to the song using earphones.

Now let’s exclude any lack of talent or a ear for music and singing. You know you’d manage alright when listening to music on the radio, or for that matter, to someone singing around us. It might not sound great, but it is usually tolerable.

However, the moment you plug earphones in, we disconnect from our real frame of reference. Which could be why, that despite assuming we’re singing on Indian or American idol, that illusion gets shattered with someone pulling out a earplug and pleading with us to stop singing.

Commit to the habit of not answering or making phone calls or texting while driving. It really isn’t worth the danger.

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