Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sony Launches PlayStation Home (Finally!)

Sony Launches PlayStation Home (Finally!)

Posted by: Kenji Hall on December 10

This just in: After pushing back the launch date by more than a year, Sony's video game division plans to release PlayStation Home, an online 3-D social networking service, on Dec. 11. Like Linden Labs' Second Life, Home will let users interact with others through their own computer-generated characters in a virtual setting.

Sony is counting on Home to improve the fortunes of its struggling video games unit. The unit, which is in charge of the PlayStation 3 business, has been a huge drag on earnings, losing roughly $3.8 billion over the past two years. Credit Suisse has predicted that Sony's gaming unit could eke out a profit this year, but that's less than certain in the face of a long recession and an unfavorably strong Japanese yen.

Sony officials say they don't expect an immediate payoff from Home. Their plan is to offer Home as a free software download to all PS3 users, and to charge gaming companies and other brands to create shops, sell goods, host events and advertise. "We think that Home will increase the opportunities for gamers to find each other," says Ryoji Akagawa, Home senior producer. "That, in turn, will increase the total number of people playing games, which is a key mission for us."

Home marks the latest phase of a rollout of online services for the PlayStation 3. Recently, Sony added video downloads to the PlayStation Network, which, according to Sony, has attracted 15 million subscribers worldwide. But rival Microsoft still has the lead in offering a full range of online gaming and video-download services, and Nintendo is tops in game console sales. In October, market researcher NPD said Sony sold just 190,000 PS3s in the U.S., compared to 803,210 Nintendo Wii consoles and 371,000 Microsoft Xbox machines. (Since the PS3's release in November 2006, Sony had sold more than 16.8 million units globally. Nintendo launched its Wii that same month but has sold 34.5 million units.)

It's unclear what impact the delays will have on Home. The original plan was to have Home ready by autumn 2007. Sony Computer Entertainment chief Kaz Hirai announced the first delay in October, 2007. The company had expected Home to be ready by April of this year, but instead announced another delay. In late August, the company started inviting a limited number of users for a trial.

Sony asked for feedback to fine-tune the service before making it available to a broader audience. Among the things they learned: Japanese users complained that the virtual characters, or avatars, looked too Western. Home's programmers also changed the appearance of options menus and added voice chat features. And they built in security measures so parents could prevent their children from visiting certain areas and gamers could report cyberstalkers.

One thing that could frustrate gamers: Though PlayStation Network lets gamers compete against anyone around the world, Home users who log on in the U.S. won't be able to interact with users in Japan, other parts of Asia or Europe. Sony did that to avoid the cross-border legal issues, says Junji Shoda, who is in charge of Home's business strategy.

The beauty of Home is that it's constantly evolving. Sony officials are already considering new features that will make Home more like social networks like Facebook and MySpace. In time, Home users will be able to post links to outside Web sites or upload photos for others to see. Want your avatar to eat or drink? That's not possible now but it might get programmed in later, says Sony's Akagawa. With so many features, though, could Home distract gamers from playing games? "We don't really worry about that," says Shoda.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Applicants Flock to Teacher Corps for Needy Areas

Applicants Flock to Teacher Corps for Needy Areas
  Dec 6, 2008 Washington Post, A1  

By Megan Greenwell

Like many Georgetown University seniors, Olubukola Bamigboye has no shortage of postgraduate options. She has a line on an internship with a high-profile fashion magazine, is considering law school or might train full time for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic track and field team.

But Bamigboye is focused on her second-round interview at Teach for America, hoping to win a stressful job in one of the nation's worst public schools, where, at best, she might earn $45,000 next year.

Her chances of landing a spot: less than 15 percent -- lower than the admission rate to Georgetown itself.

In its 18th year, Teach for America has emerged as the most popular nonprofit service organization among college seniors in the United States, with 14,181 applications received this year and as many as 23,000 more expected by the end of February -- all for fewer than 5,000 teaching spots.

In part because of the dearth of other job prospects in the sagging economy but mostly because the program has captured the imagination of a generation of student leaders bent on doing good, some graduates of the nation's elite universities are fighting for low-paying teaching positions the way they once sought jobs on Wall Street.

"We were quite hopeful that we would see an increase in applications based on last year's growth, but I don't know if anyone could have predicted this," said Elissa Clapp, who oversees recruitment for the organization, which sends recent college graduates to teach for two years in schools in low-income areas.

Experts say a 50 percent increase in applications in one year is surprising for any program, but they add that young adults' growing interest in public service organizations does not end with Teach for America. Programs such as AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps also report a steady rise in applications for the past several years, though not as large as Teach for America's.

A 2007 UCLA survey of college freshmen showed that 70 percent of students say it is "essential or very important" to help those in need. And many young people became socially motivated during this year's presidential election, when record numbers volunteered for President-elect Barack Obama, inspired by his message of change.

"Teach for America may fit a perfect niche," said Peter Levine, director of a research center on civic engagement at Tufts University. "You get to work on a social problem on the public payroll, but you're going through a nonprofit, which many young people prefer to working for the government."

The program's success in attracting top talent such as Bamigboye has not silenced its critics in the world of education, many of whom say teachers need more than a summer's worth of preparation before taking jobs in inner-city schools. Lorri Harte, a 20-year teacher and administrator in New York City who writes a blog called Debunk TFA, argues that placing the least-experienced teachers with the highest-risk children is a potentially harmful combination.

"Teaching is a job where you get better as you go along, so for the first two years, people are generally not good teachers," Harte said. "The public relations blitz for the program does not address the real problems in education."

Research into Teach for America's effectiveness has been inconclusive, but at least three major studies in the past several years indicate that students taught by its teachers score significantly lower on standardized tests than do their peers. A small handful of other studies, and the organization's own research, contradict that claim.

The latest spike in applications is only the most recent high point for the program. More than 24,700 students applied for the 2008 teaching posts, a 36 percent increase over 2007. They teach in 30 cities and regions across the country, including 416 schools in the District, Prince George's County and Baltimore, where D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee began her education career as a Teach for America teacher.

Created by a Princeton graduate based on her senior thesis, the program has built a sizable staff that aggressively recruits student leaders and has become the top employer at dozens of elite colleges, including George Washington University and Georgetown. This year's expected total would more than double the number of applications received just two years ago.

Teach for America leaders say much of the growth is the result of gradual gains in name recognition rather than circumstances specific to this year. But they acknowledge that the shortage of other job prospects has prompted applications from some students who might not have considered teaching.

Business majors are expected to make up a larger percentage of the applicant pool, perhaps in part because six-figure entry-level investment banking jobs -- until this year considered natural slots for thousands of graduates of elite colleges -- have all but disappeared during the Wall Street collapse.

"The silver lining in the economic downturn is it has provided people the chance to pursue something they've always wanted to do," said Tom Clark, Teach for America's recruiting director for Georgetown and GWU. "Even last year, there was pressure to head straight to Wall Street, and now there's a lot less pressure."

Georgetown senior John Swan, the former editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, said he didn't seriously consider applying to Teach for America when he first heard about it as a sophomore. But after an internship at Forbes magazine, he decided that an entry-level reporter's position wouldn't provide enough responsibility. He met with Clark this fall, was accepted to the program and will teach in the District next year.

Personalized e-mails to student leaders -- such as the one Clark sent Swan asking him to chat over coffee -- are the heart of Teach for America's recruiting strategy. Student council members, athletes, political group leaders, newspaper editors and others whose names are provided by alumni and professors are invited to meet with campus recruiters around the beginning of each academic year. If a student does not respond or declines the invitation, more e-mails follow, a barrage that many students call incessant and unnecessary.

Yet it's difficult to dispute that the targeted recruitment strategy has been effective in luring seniors who might be worried about finding jobs. Three of Swan's friends have been accepted to the teaching corps, and seven others are in the process of applying. All told, 13 percent of seniors at Georgetown and 10 percent at GWU are expected to apply this year, numbers that are not uncommon at the most elite universities.

One major point of criticism from many educators is that the program does not specifically recruit students who are interested in teaching full time. For many, like Bamigboye, the program is a two-year stop on the way to graduate school or a corporate job, paths that program administrators encourage with a career services office and partnerships with private firms and universities.

"I'll be done when I'm 23, so jobs in fashion and law school and the Olympics will still be there," Bamigboye said.

But many current and former Teach for America participants say their work -- whether for two years or longer -- makes a significant impact on students' lives. Most former Teach for America participants can cite the moments that made them proud of their students' gains.

"Every year, teachers see the proof right in front of them that they're helping to raise achievement," said Rachel Evans, a Texas A&M graduate who taught in Baltimore and now directs Teach for America recruiting efforts at four universities in Maryland and Delaware. "It doesn't take much to sell the fact that these jobs actually change lives."

The organization's officials contend that engaging the brightest young minds to teach disadvantaged children for two years is better than not having them at all, and some do become career teachers.

The rigorous application process, Clapp said, ensures that the program accepts only graduates who are truly motivated to serve in those classrooms.

"What we need to do now is make sure we maintain our position as one of the premier things to do after college," Clapp said. "You don't stay on top unless you continue to aggressively compete for the best people."

WSJ: A Second Look at Citywide Wi-Fi

A Second Look at Citywide Wi-Fi

Wireless networks across entire cities were launched with great promise. Too much, in fact.

For proponents of citywide Wi-Fi projects, this has been a tough year -- and one of fresh promise.

The idea of setting up networks to beam wireless Internet access across entire cities and towns has been touted for years as a spur to economic development. It also has been promoted as a way to help bridge the so-called digital divide -- the gap between those who have access to all the advantages of the Internet and other digital technology and those who don't, mainly because of lower income.

Progress on such networks has been halting, however, because of financial, technical and political hurdles. And over the past year or so, there have been a string of reversals. The companies that built and maintained some of the most prominent municipal Wi-Fi networks abandoned them, and other projects stalled or were scaled back.

At the same time, though, a handful of communities have applied lessons learned from the first round of failed projects and are developing Wi-Fi networks that are more realistic in their ambitions and business models.

"This was about a business model that simply didn't work," said Rolla Huff, chief executive of EarthLink Inc., after the Internet-service provider announced in May that it would stop serving the Wi-Fi network it built in Philadelphia, a project that inspired communities across the country to initiate similar efforts. "It was a great idea," said Mr. Huff. "It wasn't a great business."


EarthLink put itself in a financial hole from the start by setting up the network at its own expense, and then the service didn't attract enough users to offset that investment and the costs of operating the network. In the meantime, other cities followed Philadelphia's example, getting Internet-service providers to cover most or all of the cost of setting up Wi-Fi networks.

"That's where all of these cities got into trouble," says wireless consultant Craig Settles, based in Oakland, Calif. "They were trying to get the same thing for free, when it's just not financially viable."

The cost of setting up a network isn't the only problem that has plagued municipal Wi-Fi systems. Finding ways to overcome geographical and architectural barriers to signals has proved daunting in many cases. And local politics has been more of an obstacle than some providers anticipated. Negotiations between cities and providers have often bogged down in disagreements over the pricing of Wi-Fi service and where it is made available. Companies sometimes want to focus coverage on a city's business district, figuring that's where they can make the most money, but some community advocates have pushed for broader coverage and at least some free access, especially in low-income and public areas. Providers have had difficulty attracting enough advertising to support free service.

So what's different now? For starters, some cities are lowering their expectations, proposing smaller networks that can be expanded later, and they don't expect to get them free. These cities have taken a number of different approaches to the issues of coverage and pricing. For example, some have acted as anchor "tenants" -- or clients -- for the network, ensuring a stream of revenues to the provider from the start, while others have at least been more flexible about how providers can price their service. Still others have focused Wi-Fi on governmental use, treating it as a utility for police, fire and other public needs.

Here's a look at what four cities are doing, including second tries in Philadelphia and San Francisco.


Municipal Wi-Fi experts often point to Minneapolis as a success story, and its anchor tenancy as an example of how other cities should financially support local wireless initiatives.

The city agreed to pay $1.3 million a year for 10 years for its employees to use a network built by USI Wireless, a unit of Minnetonka, Minn.-based US Internet Corp., for official business. Residents, meanwhile, can select from a handful of packages from USI that start at $19.95 a month, and about 10,000 currently subscribe, says Lynn Willenbring, Minneapolis's chief information officer.

About 85% to 90% of Minneapolis now has coverage, and it's aiming for 95% this fall, with no plans to provide coverage on the city's many lakes because that would require transmission poles to be placed in the water.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing, though. The city had to redirect the antennas on transmission radios hung during the winter when leaves returned to the trees around them in the spring, distorting the wireless signals. The city also is planning to spend $1 million to replace poles in some areas that aren't strong enough to support signal transmitters.

Oklahoma City

While Oklahoma City's municipal Wi-Fi network isn't yet available to residents, the city is using it to synchronize traffic lights, monitor weather conditions and provide wireless Internet access to police and firefighters. The network, which uses equipment from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Tropos Networks Inc., has been in development for several years and was unveiled in June.

The city paid about $5 million to set up the network, and the annual maintenance cost is about $200,000. But the network is paying off in unexpected ways. "We have been surprised at how much more it is actually doing" than the city expected, says Mark Meier, Oklahoma City's information technology director. For instance, the city has placed sensors on traffic lights to measure air temperature, humidity, wind and barometric pressure, and uses the Wi-Fi network to transmit the data to city officials. They can then use the data to help predict things like the likely path of a tornado, which roads are likely to freeze or in which direction a fire might spread.

Oklahoma City is targeting a 5% savings in travel time through the city because of the improved synchronization of traffic lights, which Mr. Meier expects to reduce consumer fuel costs and emissions. And an informal study among police officers revealed that Wi-Fi access allows them to spend about an hour a day more in the field, since they don't have to return to a police station to work on computers.

San Francisco

Meraki Inc., a start-up based in San Francisco, began offering free Wi-Fi access in the city earlier this year, after a previous effort by EarthLink and Google Inc. failed because of financing and political problems.

Unlike EarthLink and Google, Meraki doesn't aim to have an official relationship with the city. It has placed a limited number of transmitters around the city, free of charge, and relies on residential volunteers to put devices called repeaters on their rooftops that help spread the wireless signal. By not having to deal with city officials to set up the network, Meraki avoided bureaucratic delays, says Sanjit Biswas, the company's chief executive.

That also means that the network isn't available everywhere in the city, since it depends largely on where people have installed repeaters. "It's nothing like a citywide network," says Glenn Fleishman, editor of the Wi-Fi Net News site. Nevertheless, Meraki's San Francisco network sees more than 10,000 users a week, Mr. Biswas says, and the launch of Apple Inc.'s 3G iPhone in June has sharply increased its use.

The Meraki network isn't supported by advertising, so the company isn't making any money from it. Mr. Biswas says Meraki is using the network as a laboratory where it can test new equipment and new technologies, and as a model it can use to pitch its services to other cities. But those cities would have to pay for networks to be set up, and users would have to pay for access.

That's important for other cities to realize, no matter what provider they're dealing with, says Mr. Settles, the wireless consultant. "The rest of the world should take heed that the network is not going to be free," he says.


Philadelphia's Wi-Fi ambitions were saved when an investor group created Network Acquisition Co. to take over the network in June, paying an undisclosed sum for the infrastructure in place.

While EarthLink charged residents a monthly fee for Wi-Fi access, NAC is providing it free in public areas. That spurred a surge in usage to 28,0000 unique users per weekday, says Derek Pew, NAC's chief executive. (EarthLink said it had only about 5,000 subscribers for the network in May.)

But NAC is focused on developing the network as a business, says Rick Rasansky, a member of NAC's board of directors, with companies and other organizations paying to use the network. The free service, he says, "is a byproduct of our commercial services. Our ability to advance digital inclusion in the Philadelphia region -- that's obviously something that we'd all like to do. But at the same time we have to have a profitable business to support that."

—Mr. LaVallee is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's New York bureau.

Write to Andrew LaVallee at


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bill Gates Urges Obama to Increase Spending

Bill Gates Urges Obama to Increase Spending
  Dec 4, 2008 Washington Post  

By Philip Rucker

The world's richest technology entrepreneur -- and leading philanthropist -- came to Washington yesterday with a simple message for President-elect Barack Obama: Increase spending.

Against the backdrop of a recession, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said the federal government must increase deficit spending to stimulate the economy and help the country's most vulnerable residents. Gates said new investments are critical to building on recent improvements in U.S. public education and fighting disease abroad, which he said could be reversed if spending dries up.

Gates, who has used his fortune to build the world's largest foundation, redefining the meaning of mega-philanthropist, said his foundation will increase the amount of its grants next year, despite declines in its $35 billion endowment caused by the sagging economy. He called on Obama to follow through on his campaign commitment to double U.S. foreign assistance to $50 billion by the end of his first term.

"In a crisis, there is always a risk that you take your eyes off the future and you sacrifice long-term investments for short-term gains," Gates said in a speech at George Washington University. "You have to seek both. . . . We should have a bigger goal than getting the economy growing again. I think we should expand the number of people who are contributing to the economy and benefiting from it."

Gates described the financial crisis as an opportunity for innovation, likening it to the economic woes of the 1970s, which gave rise to America's information technology boom, during which Microsoft was born. "Difficult times can launch great ideas," he said.

Later, in a broad interview with The Washington Post, Gates also lamented the state of the District's struggling public schools, which have received hundreds of millions of dollars from his foundation, but had high praise for efforts by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Gates's foundation funds charter schools, scholarships and other programs for the city's poorest students.

"It's a very hard job, and whether it's the facilities or the personnel issues, somebody had to come in and really point out that the students are not getting what they deserve," he said of Rhee. "The irony [is] that it's almost the highest spending per pupil in the country, and it's almost the worst set of outcomes of students in the country -- and this is the nation's capital. You'd think that in terms of effective spending of dollars and outcomes, that D.C. would be a model city, and, in fact, it has been the exact opposite."

As much as the Gates Foundation invests in U.S. education -- its grants last year totaled more than $400 million -- the investments pale in comparison with government spending. The foundation's entire endowment, for instance, would not be enough to fund public schools in California for a single year.

Gates also uses his star power to draw attention to what he considers priorities. Just one week after last month's election, Gates summoned some education policy heavyweights -- Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, New York schools chief Joel I. Klein, Rhee and leaders of Obama's transition team -- to Seattle, where he unveiled his foundation's new approach to education, which includes new investments in community colleges.

Gates stepped down this summer from Microsoft, the technology company he grew into a behemoth, to work full time on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose endowment receives more than a billion dollars each year from investor Warren Buffett's fortune. At 53, Gates is pioneering a new approach to philanthropy, applying the risk-taking and results-based philosophy of an entrepreneur to solving some of the world's most chronic problems.

In the interview, Gates likened his role at the foundation to running Microsoft. "How do you find the smartest people, and how do you create teams around them where they've got the right set of skills? How do you take on things where you're going to have failures and learn from those failures, be willing to do things that are risky, some of which will end up being a complete dead end, and have a set of outcomes: lives saved."

The foundation is akin to a start-up. "It's like a large company with a big vision and a determination to grow rapidly," said Duke University professor Joel L. Fleishman, who studies philanthropy. "But in this case, it's not growing to make money. It's growing to figure out how to give away money in an orderly and effective fashion."

Philanthropic leaders have looked upon the foundation's rise with awe. "It's the largest in the world by a factor of two, and that's astonishing," said Harvey P. Dale, a nonprofit law professor at New York University. But, he said, some leaders "are jealous of it, some feel threatened by it, including some of the foundations who were hugely dominant and now, by comparison, are relatively modest."

But many other philanthropists try to emulate Gates. "When you're as large as Gates, the market moves when you move," said Larry Brilliant, a health expert who directs Google's giving.

"Great public health accomplishments on a global scale require prescience. They require resources. They require scientific and managerial excellence, and maybe most importantly, they require leadership and public will," Brilliant said. "This is something only Gates can do."

It is too soon to determine whether Gates's work will have a lasting impact, experts said.

"The jury is definitely still out," said Fleishman, who has written a history of foundations. "They're going about things in the right way, but it is still too early to say that they have had an unqualified success. . . . The problems are just so big."

Asked what his legacy may be in 15 years, Gates said he hopes it would be as a catalyst for "dramatic improvement in global health. . . . I expect that we would have played a role in a dramatic reduction in disease in many of the top areas: malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, childhood diseases."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Longest Recession Since .

The Longest Recession Since …

By now, everyone has heard that the current financial crisis is the worst since the Great Depression. Is this also going to turn out to be the longest recession since the Depression?

The National Bureau of Economic Research — the widely acknowledged arbiter of recessions — announced today that a recession began in December 2007. That means the downturn is now a year old, and no one thinks it’s on the verge of ending.

Here are the longest recessions of the last century:

1929-33: 43 months
1910-12: 24 months
1913-14: 23 months
1920-21: 18 months
1973-75: 16 months
1980-81: 16 months

Economists have been forecasting that the current recession will likely end sometime in the spring (which is, presumably, when some of the new stimulus money will start to be spent). If they’re right, this recession will be roughly as long as the 1973-75 recession and the 1980-81 recession, both of which were 16 months. To find a longer one than that, you have to go back to the Depression.

Remember, too, that forecasters have been far too optimistic over the past year. At some point, that will change. But for now, the best bet seems to be that this recession will last for more than 16 months.

Run to the explosion in Mumbai

New York Times
November 29, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
What They Hate About Mumbai
MY bleeding city. My poor great bleeding heart of a city. Why do they go after Mumbai? There’s something about this island-state that appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.
Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.
Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds.
Bollywood dream-makers are shaken. “I am ashamed to say this,” Amitabh Bachchan, superstar of a hundred action movies, wrote on his blog. “As the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver, loaded it and put it under my pillow.”
Mumbai is a “soft target,” the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can walk into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start spraying with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the random bag checks? In Mumbai, it’s impossible to control the crowd. In other cities, if there’s an explosion, people run away from it. In Mumbai, people run toward it — to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a million new residents a year. This is the problem, say the nativists. The city is just too hospitable. You let them in, and they break your heart.
In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by which cricketer or Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet. In today’s Mumbai, things have changed. Hindu and Muslim demagogues want the mobs to come out again in the streets, and slaughter one another in the name of God. They want India and Pakistan to go to war. They want Indian Muslims to be expelled. They want India to get out of Kashmir. They want mosques torn down. They want temples bombed.
And now it looks as if the latest terrorists were our neighbors, young men dressed not in Afghan tunics but in blue jeans and designer T-shirts. Being South Asian, they would have grown up watching the painted lady that is Mumbai in the movies: a city of flashy cars and flashier women. A pleasure-loving city, a sensual city. Everything that preachers of every religion thunder against. It is, as a monk of the pacifist Jain religion explained to me, “paap-ni-bhoomi”: the sinful land.
In 1993, Hindu mobs burned people alive in the streets — for the crime of being Muslim in Mumbai. Now these young Muslim men murdered people in front of their families — for the crime of visiting Mumbai. They attacked the luxury businessmen’s hotels. They attacked the open-air Cafe Leopold, where backpackers of the world refresh themselves with cheap beer out of three-foot-high towers before heading out into India. Their drunken revelry, their shameless flirting, must have offended the righteous believers in the jihad. They attacked the train station everyone calls V.T., the terminus for runaways and dreamers from all across India. And in the attack on the Chabad house, for the first time ever, it became dangerous to be Jewish in India.
The terrorists’ message was clear: Stay away from Mumbai or you will get killed. Cricket matches with visiting English and Australian teams have been shelved. Japanese and Western companies have closed their Mumbai offices and prohibited their employees from visiting the city. Tour groups are canceling long-planned trips.
But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.
If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?
So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic.
Suketu Mehta, a professor of journalism at New York University, is the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.”