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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New research on “Burn Fluid Resuscitation Support System”

Water is the most important thing and duties of life cannot be discharged without water.  Thiruvalluvar in his Thirukural says
“ When water fails – function of nature cease”   Humans can survive for some weeks without food, but not many days without water.  Body has the ability to physiologically regulate its inner environment to ensure its stability in response to fluctuations in the outside environment and weather.  Fluid balance is a concept that the amount of fluid lost from the body needs to be supplemented.  ‘Euvolemia’ is the presence of proper amount of blood in the body.

In the United States,    the Army has named 10 winners to its greatest inventions at the Army Science Conference and amongst the winning entries is the one on  “Burn Fluid Resuscitation Support System”.  It is described as    a  system,  a computer application for assisting medical providers with resuscitating severe burn victims.  The system reduces fluid requirements across all phases of resuscitation, as well as lowering infusion volumes normalized to body weight and burn size. Finally the system sends expertise to the deployed environment by allowing non-burn providers to resuscitate burn victims without an expert bedside. (source  http://www.globalsecurity.org/)

A burn is a type of injury to flesh caused by heat, electricity, chemicals, light, radiation or friction. Generally,  burns  affect the skin (epidermal tissue and dermis). Sometimes they could damage  tissues of muscle, bone.  There could be injuries to blood vessels  even.  Burns are often painful, can result in disfiguring and leave scar marks.   Further there could be complications of shock, infection, loss of fluid and respiratory distress.   Large burns can be fatal.   Burns are generally known by their degrees.   First-degree burns are usually limited to redness ( and involve only the skin.   Third-degree burns occur when the epidermis is lost with damage to the subcutaneous tissue.  The worst is when heat destroys muscles, charring and exposes the bone.  These could be fatal.  Scalding is caused by hot liquids (water or oil) or gases (steam), most commonly occurring from exposure to high temperature tap water in baths or showers or spilled hot drinks.

The biggest problem arising out of burn injury is severe fluid loss.  Effective fluid resuscitation is one of the cornerstones of modern burn treatment.  Appropriate fluid management of major burns directly improves the survival rates of burn patients.   This technique is the medical practice of replenishing body fluid lost through sweating, bleeding, fluid shifts of other pathological process.  The replacements can be through oral administration, intravenous administration, rectally, or  by  direct injection of fluid into the subcutaneous tissue.

Over the years, advances in resuscitation  has  expanded  and the present researches will go a long way in proving to be a boon to the humanity, especially to soldiers who are exposed to this type of injuries.  Apart from being militarily powerful, US has good military and scientific research facilities and perhaps new inventions would in some way help the  humanity at large.

Regards – Sampathkumar S

Monday, November 29, 2010

Some news from the Cricket field.....


Who won the bronze medal in the Asian Cup Cricket for Women at China recently ??  

This would easily qualify to be a good Q in any Sports Quiz.   In the 16th Asian games at Guangzhou, Cricket made its debut.  Also do you know, which teams fought out in the Asian Games Men’s Cricket competition at Guanggong International Cricket Stadium on 26th Nov 2010 ?

A post  from me on the topic, would make you believe that it is a match report of yesterday’s match when a depleted Indian team contrived to beat the touring Kiwis.  India made 276 aided by a Kohli century and the tail end collapse was abysmal.  New Zealand threatened briefly especially towards the end but was down by a reasonably big margin.  Our bowling lacked the bite and we lost last six wickets for 26.  Our version of carom ball specialist Ravichandran Ashwin bowled admirably.  Murali Vijay began well and exhibited some audacious shots but the T20 spirit took him heady and was soon out.  The slow moving Munaf was good enough to take a skier off Guptil. 

Meantime, the Ashes is also on.  But honestly how many of you know the result of the finals of Asian Games Cricket where Indians did not figure in and the reasons are hard to explain.  Srilanka is in the midst of a Test series against Windies as also is Pakistan who all could have representation – but not INDIA (BOTH IN MEN’S AND WOMEN’S events) -  Why the Board / Country decided to skip the event where the possibility of medal easily beckoned ??

Contrary to popular aspirations (India was not in the race) and the fancied Lankans and Paks were not in the finals. At Guangzhou, Bangladesh won their first ever gold medal in Asian games. It was a close match where Bangla beat Afghans by 5 wickets with 3 balls to spare.  It was boiling all along and in the penultimate over young Shabbir Rahman smashed two sixes swinging it Bangaldesh way.  Earlier Afghanishtan had upset the much fancied Pakis.  Cricket proved to be the most productive for Bangla as they won silver in Women’s also.  The only other medal they have won thus far is bronze in Kabbadi.

Reportedly Afghan coach Rashid Latif had inspired their team by narrating the tale of famous Indian win at Lord in 1983 WC stating that Indians were not as fit as their rivals, nor was their skill superior yet on that day, they played better and won.  A win against Pak and a good show in the finals must do a world of good for Afghan’s cricketing fortunes.   Bangladesh had beaten Srilanka in the  other Semis by five wickets. 

In the Eves,  Pak trounced Bangla in the finals to take Gold.  India and Lanka were not represented and the bronze medal was won by Japan !! Japan captain Ema Kuribayashi, who plays club cricket in New Zealand, top-scored for her side with a steady, unbeaten 24.

In the preliminary group China, Malaysia, Honkong and Nepal played;  In Quarter Final stage, it was China, Pak, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Hongkong, Srilanka played.  In the first Semi – Afghan scored 125/8 and restricted Pakis to 103/7. 

At the Women’s tournament – China, Malaysia, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand,  Bangladesh, Hongkong – participated.  In the finals, Bangladesh socred 92/9 in the allotted 20 overs, Pak raced to 93 without losing a wicket in 15.4


Regards – Sampathkumar. S

Saturday, November 27, 2010

the high profile theft of Shergar and the sordid killing

As one travels in Chennai suburban EMU towards Tambaram, one notices lots of activity at this Railway station – Guindy.  It lies closer to the famous Race course which was set up way back in 1777 – people throng this place to watch and bet on horses – it is a different world out there. 

Historically, one tend to associate great horses to Arabia but factually majority of the founding mothers of prized horses come from Europe.  These race horses look very majestic and shining.  Pesi Shroff (incidentally born in 1965), Vasant Shinde, Aslam Kader, Robin Corner, Malesh Narredu and Appu are some of the famous champion jockeys.

Derby is the place for horse racing and for long  I thought the association is with Derbyshire – a county in England which our Srinivasan Venkatraghavan represented in 1970s.  Far off the target.   Understand that Derby is a type of horse race named after Derby Stakes which runs at Epson Downs Racecourse.  Traditionally, it was a race restricted to 3 year olds thoroughbred colts and fillies.  It is Britain’s richest race and most prestigious of the classics. This place actually is in Surrey, England.  

For those totally new to punting, horse racing is a equestrian sport generating billions of money.   In 1980s the name in the circuit was Shergar. It won the 1981 Epsom Derby Gold by 10 lengths  - the longest winning margin beating s it beat the much touted Glint of  Gold. Shergar was rode by Walter Swinburn and won Chester vase.  At Irish Derby,  Lester Piggot rode to win with ease.  With six wins, he won £436,000 in prize money.    This acclaimed Irish race horse was the European horse of the year in 1981 and also had the fame of a spot in The  Observer’s 100 most memorable sporting moments of the 20th century.  It was a bay colt with a distinctive white blaze.  It was retired for breeding and on 8th Feb 1983 was stolen from the Stud in Ireland by masked gunmen.  The sad story became the theme for several books, documentaries and a film.    A murderer convict who turned against IRA later claimed that the horse died because its captors could not handle it.   The nabbers had planned and had recruited somebody who had worked with horses but handling a thoroughbred stallion turned out to be different.  The horse could not be controlled and hurt himself. 
Demand  of a £5m ransom was never met.   Even after 27 years of kidnapping, this incident is much spoken about.  The extra ordinary racing machine had a callous end. Even its remains were never found not even by the high profile Irish investigators and precise circumstances of its grisly death was not fully public.  Shergar was 5 years and was preparing for his second season as a stallion when he was snatched from the Ballymany Stud in a  winter's evening.    The bay colt was owned by the Aga Khan,  was trained by Sir Michael Stoute at Newmarket and was ridden by Walter Swinburn, who now trains in Britain.
Horse racing and breeding is an industry in Europe and Shergar though wanted by American studs returned to his native Ireland and was syndicated for £10 million (40 shares worth £250,000 each).  The pedigree of a race horse is most important and owners of brood mares were queuing up for thoroughbreds to be sired by Shergar. 

Those were the days of wooden gates and no electronic security, cctv and other gadgets.  On Feb 1983, three masked armed men barged and took Shergar at gunpoint, shouting for £2 million [ransom].  It was loaded on to a horsebox.  It was reported that the major racehorse sale at Ireland was to take place and horse boxes were being driven length and breadth, which made the search more difficult.

It became a sensational national news and there were house to house searches.  There were many theories as to who had kidnapped the horse.  Some related it to IRA for funding arms.  For years there were rumours that Shergar was still alive.   Sean O'Callaghan,  in his book The Informer, stated that the horse in a frenzy injured itself and was killed within days.   It is believed that the horse was machine gunned to death.

Since it was owned by Syndiate, some members had insured the horse for theft.  Sadly none gained from the bizarre theft – the thieves never got any money and it was reported that most Insurers did not pay to the syndicate.  Aviva Insurance group reportedly paid £144,000, to its policy holders presuming the horse to be dead – and closing the file of one the high profile claim arising out of a theft of a famous race horse loved by a race crazy Nation

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The lure of Yellow metal - Buying Gold atleast in small quantities

It is the month end. Optimistically seen,  it is the time, when people would be receiving their salaries and have something left for investment.
Those middle aged among you would be more worried of the future and would have started the habit of saving something every month.  It is an inflationary trend where the general level of prices of goods and services keep soaring over a period of time.  When the price rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods.  I have sometime back shared something on investing on the yellow metal which some Economists feel as a hedge against inflation and safe haven in times of financial crisis.  There was a time when Gold Control Act forbade gold biscuits of higher weights.  Now it is a free market and you are allowed to choose what you want.  

Gold is glittering and investing in gold is like learning to walk (some have already started running) – starters might stumble and struggle to be steady.  A gold coin is a cute thing irresistible to look at.  The yellow metal has been used for coins from times immemorial, mainly because of its intrinsic value.  Now there are collectors’ coins and common one serving as a medium of investment.  Gold has been money for many reasons – it can be traded easily; it always has a high value to weight ratio; can be divided into smaller units without destroying; tougher to have counterfeits and the scarcity of gold has only been going up.

Of course keeping gold physically is wrought with innate difficulties.  Years ago, people used to buy gold from local jewelers – now everyone is in to that business seizing the opportunity.   As advertised often, lot of Indian banks sell gold coins.  People who have peace of mind as utmost priority savour buying here though you might pay a small extra.    Post Office sells gold coins.  A few decades ago, Post Office was the most important place in any locality.  Gone are the habit of letter writing [some of your might not even be familiar with post cards, inland letters and postal covers].  There is a fair sprinkling of websites that offer gold coins on line – legitimate ones.  There are Nation wide retailers like Tanishq and there are local famous shops like GRT, Vummidiars, Saravana – some of whom have their own branded coins.  Sometimes, buying at a local shop would be a wiser option as you would get higher return on resale when made at the same shop.

Before you rush for buying a kg of gold think of the following :
Never have unrealistic growth expectations – you don’t become rich overnight.  Value will not triple in 3 months.  Though it would sound bitter, the value might even go down.  Often the fluctuations can last for weeks or longer, the predictions that it has been steadily on the rise and might go up more soon.    The investment is to be seen more as stabilizing your portfolio and getting some % higher than the market investment return yield and not lottery boom.  

Remember that as with most investments, this attract taxes when you sell.  Mostly this should fall under long term capital gains – consult your auditor before selling in huge quantity.   Perhaps you could still make money after paying taxes honestly.

Plan your investment and keep looking for the fluctuation to take a ride on the waves.  If you have planned at a higher price, buy again at a lower price, so that your rates will average out.    The bullion is a precious metal and safe keeping might present problem, if you have more than what you could swallow.  Perhaps a bigger locker at the local bank  might be an answer.   To see reasonable protection or income, you need to plan and invest a reasonable %.  A very small amount of investment is not going to make you gleeful even when the rates increase.  

The most important thing is don’t confuse buying gold coin / bar with that of buying an ornament – a bangle, ear ring, chain all have value and would glitter when worn.  They are more of ‘neighbour’s envy’ – but not the sound form of investment.  First you are not guaranteed of their purity and next comes the hidden aspects of depreciation, wastage, making charges and more.  Have you not realized that everytime you buy gold ornaments, you in effect are paying % more than their actual weight and get % less then their actual weight when you sell.  They are means of decoaration, would please women and put a hole in your pocket – but never be carried away by the notion of investment there.  At best you can end up making your wife happy for some time.

The gold coins that are on sale are of  99.9%  finesse having been  minted of pure gold bars.  Most come with assay certificate and state of the art packaging.   Many companies claim that you can realize their full market value of the day when you want to convert them to money.  

In general, Gold has not only protected wealth but has appreciated and is an ideal gift to bestow on people whom you consider close.  They come in different size from 2g /4 / 5 / 8 / 10 / 20 / 50 and more.  These are of 24 carat and the institutions do guarantee their purity also.   If you are buying gold coins worth more than Rs.50000/-, you are obliged to provide your PAN details.
Though Bank display and sell coins, they are not in the habit of buying back and you will have to run to a jeweller for selling the same.   If you consider that a hassle, there is another popular way of investing through gold ETF which is Electronically traded funds.   There are many Fund managers such as Benchmark, Kotak, Reliance, Quantum, SBI – where you can buy units equivalent to approx 1g onwards.  The rates would more or less correspond to the price of physical gold.  

Here is the indicative list of gold coins [physical]  from various sellers  at Chennai. 
 Have you started sprinting ………. for making the buy ???

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The art of Underwriting - some origin of Insurance - Lloyds of London

Do you know Mark William Calaway known for his smacks or the ‘Lutine bell’ which has no connection to Calaway !

We transact Insurance business and call ourselves variously Insurers, Assurers, Underwriters, Risk Managers and so on.  Insurance primarily is a form of risk management protecting against uncertain losses. In a way it is the equitable transfer of a risk of a loss from one entity to another, in exchange of payment.   Insurance Company is the one selling insurance.  The rate determined for undertaking the risk is known as premium.  Risk management, the practice of appraising and controlling risk has evolved over the centuries as a specialized field of study and practice. 

Insurance is a  contract whereby one person, the Insurer – promises and undertakes in exchange of consideration to indemnify the policy holder in the event of a loss or damage occurring due to certain specified perils.  There are sound theories of ‘law of large numbers’ and the like. 

The man at the helm, who evaluates, analyses and determines whether the proposed risk should be accepted, if so on what terms and conditions and at what rates is known as Underwriter – a person or a firm which assumes financial risks.  The term comes from the tradition of Lloyds of London, a historical Insurer who has been in business for centuries.  The term ‘underwriting’ literally would mean writing below the bottom line. Whether there would be any pleasure by assuming a risk on behalf of somebody else ?   


Underwriter is not a term dedicated to Insurance industry alone.   The present day world revolves around analysis of data and studying patterns – in days of yore, it was more of perception and gut feeling.    Modern day Insurance  Underwriters  use sophisticated computer software and empirical statistics to  analyze the risks associated and decide on acceptance, terms and rates.  It is considered a science, aided strongly by actuaries.   Actuaries mathematically evaluate the likelihood of events and quantify the contingent outcomes and actuarial science is a discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess the risk.  Economists often become the target of cartoons and it is often said that if all them were to sit together, conclusion would never be reached. 
 making an entry in Lloyd's register

Underwriting involves measuring risk exposure and determine to write (or not to) the business and keep the Company in business by operating profitably.    Risks have to be classified objectively, identifying and analyzing the risks involved, exposure to the perils, the practicability of administration and managing costs. Underwriters on their wisdom may either decline a risk or accept the risk with additional premium and enhanced conditions, restricted coverage.  They may take the risk in its entirety or retain a small portion and re-transfer the risk to somebody else.  Underwriting as a modern sense of acceptance of a risk of insurance is in vogue for centuries – it is from the notion of signing marine policy lending support by a guarantee of money.


Lloyds originating from the coffee house of Edward Lloyd from 1688, used to provide insurance for ocean-going ships taking responsibility  upon collecting premium  for the inherent risks associated with  sailing and even had a stake in the profit of the voyage.  It is believed that the brokers used to sign directly under the listed risks,  perhaps leading to the term  “underwriter”.  In the days of Lloyds, the information of the risk was traded on a slip created for that purpose.  The brokers would sign acknowledging acceptance of the risk and providing coverage by collecting appropriate premium. 

the Lutine bell at Lloyds 

Today, Lloyds of London is a big market – it is not a Company.  Uberrimae fidei (meaning utmost good faith in Latin) is the motto of Lloyd's.  The Lutine Bell weighs 106 pounds and measures 18 inches in dia.  It has been rung to herald important announcements at Lloyds – one stroke for bad news and two for good.  The bell was carried on board the French frigate which surrendered to the British in 1793.  Lloyds history has it that HMS Lutine carrying gold and silver bullion sank off the Dutch coast.  The cargo was valued at a whopping GBP 1M and the claim was settled in full by Lloyd’s underwriters.  In 1859, the wreck yielded the most important treasure – the ship’s bell.  It was hung in Lloyd’s Underwriting room at the Royal Exchange and was rung when news of overdue ships arrived.  The ringing of the bell is now limited to ceremonial occasions but was rung specially after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mark William Calaway  is better known as Undertaker – an  American professional wrestler.  He has  two contrasting gimmicks: "the Deadman", an undead occult like figure, and "the American Bad Ass", a biker.  Undertaker otherwise would refer to funeral director, a professional involved in the business of funeral rites. 

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.




Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green Valley collides with Tiger Spring - at Hooghly river off Kolkatta

Much had been written earlier on collision – an accident at sea – the ship having a structural impact with another ship or floating or still object.   The one that occurred closer to Mumbai shore on 7th Aug 2010 involving MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia III had thrown to disorder the operations in Mumbai port and brought to fore the issues the oil spill and contamination. 

MSC Chitra was a container carrier and was outbound when the serious collision occurred.  Going by the official statement of MSC, a total of 314 containers could be recovered by Salvors of which 280 landed and are awaiting customs permission.  For the time being they were stored on barges. The toxic gas from cargo and hydrogen sulphide from deteriorating cargo have severely restricted the recovery of containers. There are still closer to 600 containers fully submerged. Efforts are being made to raise the vessel with remnant containers by pumping out the holds.    It is stated that during checks 779 sonar objects were found but only 42 were containers.  Not all containers lost in early days could be located.  

Vidyasagar Setu is a famous bridge on river Hooghly named after the 19th century reformist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.  The river also known as Bhagirathi Hooghly is a distributary of the sacred Ganges and runs more than 260 km in West Bengal. Whether the city was named after the river or river after the city is a conundrum. 

The collision at Mumbai that blocked the navigation channels at the Nation’s biggest container complex is of a big magnitude.  Relatively now a smaller collision occurred at the entrance of the Hooghly river leaving one of the vessels lurking danger of sinking.  There was no loss of life and the channel was quickly reopened after the collision of smaller 917 TEU Green valley and 1016 TEU Tiger Spring on 23rd Nov 2010.    Green Valley was registered in Bahamas while Tiger Spring was in Gibraltar.
Green valley damage : courtesy Dinamalar (tamil daily)

The accident reportedly  occurred around 11.45am, when MV Tiger Spring was moving southward down the Hooghly after loading containers from KDS. The Hooghly is full of bends and bars. The collision took place in Nurpur, near the confluence of the Hooghly and Rupnarayan rivers and the Bay of Bengal, south of the port of Kolkata.  On the other side is Geonkhali in East Midnapore.  At this point the width is around  200 metres while the average width elsewhere is around 350 metres. 

There are reports that there had been no oil spill and Tiger Spring had steered to a sandbank which prevented sinking.    Green Valley reportedly was a Bangladesh ship coming from Haldia port and Tiger Spring  was Colombo’s.  Shipping circles also report that the river channel had become narrow with silt deposits in west flank.  Possibly miscommunication between the Pilots could have resulted in this accident.  

All 33 sailors on board are safe and around 15 tonnes of oil had spilled out – this could certainly pose localized threat to marine life.  There are also reports that Tiger Spring had drifted  because of a locked steering wheel.    A probe by the Port authorities to determine the exact cause is on.  

MV Tiger Spring suffered some damage to its hull . The hull of MV Green Valley was also punctured.   Reports suggest that  
Green Valley was taken to Diamond Harbour for repair, the 6000-tonne Tiger Spring containing 422 containers was left stranded. The spot where the Tiger Spring got rammed has been completely damaged with the containers precariously hanging over the water.

With regards – S. Sampthkumar.

Remembering the Heroes of 26/11 as the Second anniversary approaches

Comics are an integral part of every child’s growth – in our days we had the Ambulimama (chandamama) / Amar chitra katha.  Today’s kid are obsessed with Jetix of Walt Disney.  Tom & Jerry would perhaps remain the ever watched one, then there are Spiderman, Superman, Batman and more – have you heard of kargilman and Aditya Bakshi.  Or for that matter do you still remember  the illustrious  Bhaskar Kadam, Hemant Bawdhankar and Sanjay Govilkar ?
                    the team of Kadam, Bawdhankar and Sanjay Govilkar and Tukaram Omble (below)
The second anniversary of the day that shook the Nation exposing the holes in our security cover is fast approaching.  How much the Nation remembers the heroes who savoured the Nation is too well known…………….  But for the brave Asst SI Tukaram Omble who obstinately took upon the marauding assassin and captured him, the entire proceedings would have gone in an altogether direction.  That Ashoka Chakra winner sacrificed his life to provide valuable evidence in fighting the grave attack on the Nation.  He is no more…. Hundreds were killed and more numbers wounded.  All lives are invaluable – some notable persons who were killed include : Assistant Police Sub-Inspector Tukaram Omble  who succeeded in capturing a terrorist alive, with his bare hands;     Hemant Karkare, ATS Chief ; Ashok Kamte , ACP Mumbai; Vijay Salaskar, renowned sharp shooter and Encounter specialist ; Shashank Shinde, Sr Inspector;             Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, NSG Commando; Hawaldar Gajendra Singh, NSG Commando.   “Do not come up, I will handle them”, were probably the last words which Major Unnikrishnan told his men as he was hit by bullets while engaging well armed terrorists inside the Taj Hotel.
But the desperado  Ajmal Kasab lives to see more years at such a high cost for the administration.  Legal issues continue to plague as the State is trying to be fair on that incorrigible criminal.  The legal system is extended beyond a point as 11000 page charge sheet was filed for waging war against India and killing its citizens.  Kasab was convicted of all 86 charges on 3 May 2010. He was found guilty of murder for directly killing seven people, conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of the 166 people killed in the three-day terror siege, waging war against India, causing terror, and of conspiracy to murder two high-ranking police officers. On 6 May 2010, he was sentenced to death by hanging.  Now the next process of appeal is on and would take years or perhaps decades to conclude.   State would continue to spend crores on him.
Unnikrishnan f/o Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan

The 2008 Mumbai attacks referred to as Nov 26th or simple 26/11 was a coordinated attack of shooting and bombing across the Business capital of India.  IANS reports that  K. Unnikrishnan, father of commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan who was killed in the Mumbai terror attack, is on a month-long cycle journey that will end at the Gateway of India Nov 26.   This the special way of the army officer to pay tribute to his son and other martyrs.   The journey began at India Gate monument in New Delhi on Oct 26 and covers a distance of around 1300 km in 24 days.  
He says that the  purpose of the tour is not to remind people of the gruesome attacks on Mumbai but to remind them of the sacrifices made by our soldiers.  Brave words indeed from some one who lost his son at prime youth.  As a special tribute, Unnikrishnan and his wife  have planned l stay at the Taj Nov 26-27 before returning to Bangalore.   There are other heroes who continue to serve the Nation.  They include policeman Sanjay Govilkar, railway constable Jillu Yadav and announcers Bablu Kumar and Vishnu Zende, who saved hundreds of lives, are still at their job - more resolutely than before.
Aditya Bakshi has tried in his novel way to glorify the martyr who could run faster than a speeding bullet  -  Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan  a real-life hero in the 52 page comic book ‘braveheart of Mumbai’.  This is a part of the series that began in 2008 with a comic on Kargil martyr Capt Vikram Batra followed by one on Col N J Nair.  Aditya, son of Major General (Retd) G D Bakshi, feels it is very important for everyone to know about these real-life super heroes.
Love the Nation
S Sampathkumar.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thespian - etymology and some interesting facts

You sure would have heard of the word  “Thespian”  -  dictionary states that it  is of or relating to drama, dramatic.  It refers to an actor (of either sex). 

You would all have easily observed that I am somewhat averse to cinema.  I nurture a feeling that this a place, where generally one gets wealth, credit, recognition, fame et al.,  disproportionate to one’s capacity.  Ofcourse perceptions would vary.  Some say this is an industry – ‘ a dream factory ’ – at that.  Quite often cine actors are the cynosure of eyes and are respected and widely followed – not the Scientists, Educationists, Literates, Industrialists or any body worthy of emulation. 

Quite often I have heard of ‘thespian actor’ particularly when reference is made to oldies like Dilipkumar, Sivaji etc.,   -  have wondered what this could be !!  A film is a motion picture conveying a story (!!!) with moving images by recording photographic images coupled with animation techiniques and visual effects.  On the technical side perhaps this is not a pure art form. 

Thespiae was an ancient Greek city in Boeotia which stoold on legel ground commanded by the range of hills of Mount Helicon to Thebes. Its citizens were known as Thespians.   In the history of ancient Greece, Thespiae was enemy of Thebes.  It allied with major powers such as Athens or Spartans.  As recently in 1997, Greek Govt. unveiled a monument dedicated to 700 thespians who fought with Spartans.

The common noun thespian meaning actor comes from the legendary first actor named  Thespis and not the city.   Both Thespis and Thespiae, however, are cognate i.e., words that have a common etymological origin.   

In present scenario, actor (or actress) is one who acts in film,  television, theatre (in life !!) – the ancient Greek word for an actor meant one who interprets.   Thespis of Icaria (6th century BC), according to ancient Greek sources as also to Aristotle was the first person ever to appear on stage as an actor, playing a character in a play (instead of speaking as him or herself). Some credit to him as the first principal actor in addition to the chorus.  Understand that in India also for long, people used to speak and were heard by larger audience rather than perform on stage.  

The era of Aristotle was much later (384 BC – 322 BC).  It is stated that he recorded Thespis was a singer of mythological stories who supposedly introduced a new style wherein one performs the words of individual characters in stories thus distinguishing  between characters – whether they had make up or different masks is not too relevant in this context.

In its present sense, tragedy is something that brings or denotes grief.  The new style at that time was called tragedy and Thespis was the an exponent of it.    It was a form of drama based on human suffering.   Going by all this, it appears that centuries back, Thespis invented acting and earlier none had ever assumed resemblance of another person for story telling.  

It is also stated that on this day (Nov 23, 534 BC) competition to find the best tragedy was instituted in Athens and Thespis won the first documented competition.   Still I could not figure why Dileepkumars and Sivajis are called thespian when all actors could still be referred by that word.   

Regards – Sampathkumar S

Thanks to :  yourinspiration@aweber.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mining Accidents - in New Zealand and some good news in China

Mining is regularly in news – not in any good way ; unfortunately accidents have kept them in limelight. 

The first good news is that all 29 chinese miners trapped in flash flood at Batian coal mine  in the southwestern province of Sichuan were rescued sparking scenes of jubiliation.  It is vivid in everyone’s memory of the successful retrieval of miners at San Jose copper gold mine in Copiapo, Chile.  All 33 trapped were rescued and brought to surface on 13th Oct 2010 after spending close to 70 days below the earth.  The total cost of the rescue operations is reportedly around US$ 20 M.  The efforts of Chilean Govt deserves great appreciation, as many such reports had ended in vain.
Last month many miners died at  Henan in an explosion in the pit of a mine owned by Pingyu Coal and Electric based in Yuzhou city. Though some of the trapped miners could be located, tonnes of coal dust had to be cleared before the mine shaft could reach anywhere near them. The blast occurred as workers were drilling a hole to release pressure from a gas buildup to decrease the risk of explosions, according to safety officials. The blast is reported to have unleashed more than 2,500 tonnes of coal dust. Though the type of gas was not specified, methane is a common cuase of mind blasts and coal dust is explosive.  Earlier   a coal pit in Shanxi province was flooded – 115 were rescued but 36 could not be. It was reported that the miners survived by eating sawdust, tree bark, paper and even coal. Some strapped themselves to the walls of the shafts with their belts to avoid drowning while they slept.  That way, china has a bad track record and it was reported that 2631 chinese miners were last year alone and worser still, independent labour groups feel that the figure is much higher.
Now it is the turn of Maori land for claim to shame.    Mining has been on in New Zealand perhaps from the 19th century.  NZ had abundant resources of coal, silver, ironore, limestone and gold.   There is a legislation regulating mining known as ‘the Crown Minerals Act’ of 1991.  

On Friday 19th of Nov 2010, it was reported that a gas explosion ripped through one of New Zealand's largest coal mines with  dozens of workers trapped underground.  There were reports of five of them stumbling to the surface. The rest are feared missing still.  Newspaper reports state that  shortly before the blast the electricity went out in the mine, which may have caused ventilation problems. That may have contributed to a buildup of gas underground. Rescue teams were waiting for word that the mine was safe to enter.  There were footages of blackened trees and light smoke billowing from the top of mountain where ventilation shaft emerges.  Left over pockets of explosive methane gas was feared which was impeding rescue operations.   The mine is located in rugged mountains near Atarau on New Zealand's South Island.
Whilst comparisons may not be fair, the prospects of them coming back alive looks dramatic.   Authorities stated that each miner carried 30 minutes of oxygen supply – enough to reach oxygen stores in the mine that he said would allow them to survive for "several days." New Zealand Prime Minister John Key  was reported to have said that  the situation at the mine had the potential to be very serious.

Pike River Coal is a New Zealand-registered company, but its majority owners are Australian. There  reportedly are also Indian shareholders.  The site is reportedly closer to the site of Strongman Mine where one of the worst mining disasters of NZ occurred in 1967.  

Unlike Chile where the trapped miners virtually were living in a village, the men here were spread out over four different parts of coal face when the blast occurred.  They were equipped for a nine hour shift underground and have by now spent more hours now.   The miners were wearing protective clothing, including steel cap boots, hard hats and safety goggles, and were also each carrying a lamp, batteries, ear plugs and a self rescuer - a device that can deliver 25 to 30 minutes of oxygen in the case of an emergency.    Water is available in plenty including a fixed line of running  water.  However food would be in acute short supply.  There is ample water within the mine, including a fixed line of running water that is usually reserved for fighting fires and stocks of clean drinking water at various points along the coal face.  However, the men would only have the food that they carried into the mine with them in their lunchboxes on Friday. 

The website of the Mine states that a drill hole is being  planned to intercept a roadway within Pike River coal mine  which will provide rescue planners with more information about gas levels in the mine's air.  It is also stated that drilling were to begin shortly.  If the ground the drill bit passes through is not stable, the hole will need to be encased to prevent its collapse, which would slow progress.

Pike River Chief Executive, Peter Whittall  accompanied relatives of the missing men to the mine.   The news item also mentions that robot and remote, real-time gas sampling equipment are being readied to assist rescue efforts.  It would be used first to check the area where an underground loader is thought to be blocking the access way. A longer control cable is being sought for the machine which might allow it to proceed further along the 2.2km tunnel towards the area of coal workings.

Depending on where the drill hole intersects the drive, laser and other imaging gear which can be lowered down the hole may provide more information about the situation deeper in the mine. Fibre-optic cable was also being laid from the mine portal area to the top of the main ventilation shaft which will  allow the rescue planners to see any changes in the air coming out of the shaft.

The relatives continue to wait with bated breath praying for safe return of the trapped miners, much as they did at Chile.

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

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PS : posted on the morning of 23rd Nov. 2010.

Here is another update, after my post on the mining accident at New Zealand, which makes one gloom.

The hopes are fast vanishing as the families of the men trapped were today told to prepare for the worst, as police acknowledged for the first time they were preparing for a "loss of life".  The borehole into the mine is nearing completion, early rescue had been hampered by explosive gases.  

The relatives were waiting against hope but the efforts received a major set back when a  robot belonging to the New Zealand army broke down after it was sent in to check conditions and film the underground area.  The area is deemed too dangerous for rescuers to enter because of the gases. Drilling of 15cm-wide shaft into the mine tunnel is almost complete this will provide quality air inside.  Rescue teams were also using seismic devices, which would detect if any survivors were trying to signal to rescuers by tapping on the rock. Unfortunately nothing could be sighted.  The phone line deep inside has remained unanswered for days.  The rations would have dried up and the miners’ cap lamps would have run out of batteries.

It is apparent that the delay is bringing down the hopes making the moods sullen and downcast.  Amidst the anger and frustration, the non-preparedness to cope up with  a disaster of this nature is apparently showing up.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

3 day Seminar on Fire Insurance Claims organised by IIISLA.

Indian Institute of Insurance Surveyors & Loss Assessors, a Professional Institute of Surveyors organized a 3 day Seminar on “Fire Insurance” in the sylvan surroundings of Karl Kubel Institute, at Anaikatti Road, Mankarai, Coimbatore 641 108 from 18th Nov 2010 to 20th Nov. 2010.  It was a residential programme and was well attended with more than 60 persons participating.  The Oranising  Committee comprising of Mr Vr Na Arunn, RK Elango, A Gnanakumar and others had taken lots of pain to ensure that the Seminar presented opportunity for all the participants to discuss and debate some of the challenges being faced by the Loss assessors and also showcase some of the unique cases handled by them.

The agenda was neatly drawn touching upon all facets of Fire Insurance and on day 2 (Friday 19th Nov 2010) – the first session sprawling for 2 hours was on “Fire Survey – Roll of Surveyors – What to do and what not to do on acceptance of Fire assignment”.  This was handled by Yours Truly.


The Organisers had prepared a nice course material and I had submitted a paper on the article assigned.  It was novel way to ask an Insurer as to what the Surveyor should do or otherwise on acceptance of a Fire survey assignment.

The lecture was slightly different and was not a mere representation of the paper submitted.  It  started with a video on ‘ship on fire at midsea’ and was widely interspersed with choice photos and some questions which evoked good interaction and made the participants ponder on wider perspectives egging them on the need to look for the minutest details and keep on open mind on balance of probabilities which is the very essence on analyzing the cause and nature of loss.

Personally, I felt very happy in the midst of 60 odd best minds which had between them resolved thousands of claims and had the knack of brining about conclusion to some difficult problems. 
Here is a gist of the paper submitted to the Fourm.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.


Good morning to you all and am very happy in midst of this august house. I understand this to be a programme designed to refresh the Surveyors on various aspects of Fire Insurance.   Whether an Insurer is the fit person to talk on what the Surveyor need to do on an assignment is left to ………… choice !!

In its strict sense, a fire insurance contract is one: 1. Whose principle object is insurance against loss or damage occasioned by fire. 2. The extent of insurer's liability being limited by the sum assured and not necessarily by the extent of loss or damage sustained by the insured and 3. Insurer has no interest in the safety or destruction of the insured property apart from the liability  undertaken under the contract. The golden rules determining the admissibility can be summarized as : the policy being in force; peril causing the loss being an insured peril; property damaged or lost being the subject matter of insurance.

When fire strikes, lives are suddenly turned around. Often, the hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to contact. That is for the property owner. From the other side – when you start, are you sure of what is expected of you and what is the scope of your work ? For reaching any destination, one needs to be sure of one’s aim and the means of reaching it. ………………………………..

Communication and technology have changed the way claims were intimated, surveyors were appointed and the conduct of survey. From human angle, it is not always safer to conduct survey immediately after the fire, though this is the time when you can collate lot of material evidence. From an investigating angle, it would help all if the trail of fire could be
observed. The loss of life and property by fire most commonly occurs due to ignorance about the nature of fire and its behaviour, in circumstances that normally appear perfectly harmless.

The strategist should think about the nature of fire, the performance and structure of materials and the behaviour of people. In most countries, it is unlawful to occupy a new building unless it complies with the Building Regulations and Fire Precautions. A completion certificate also would be mandatory. Just imagine the situation here !!!
……………………………
The founding  principle of proximate cause speaks of the ‘active efficient cause that sets in
motion a train of events which brings about a result, without the intervention of any force started and working actively from a new independent source’…………….. As you would know, Causation is the "causal relationship between conduct and result".

Fortunately, most of the policies are standard contracts – there are variations though. The special features of such contracts will have to be studied by you before you decide on assessment and liability aspects. Recently, in UK, Insurers have concluded that the effects of climate change, the frequency and scale of recent claims, and the inadequate provision for national flood defences are a major problem and flooding can no longer be considered an
uncertainty. In Gulf markets, Fire Policy covers only losses arising out of Fire or lightning. In US standard policy does not cover floods, there is Standard Flood Insurance policy as provided by their National Flood Insurance Act………………………..

Though Standard Fire and Special Perils Policy lists out the perils insured, the definition and interpretation have had wider ramifications. For a proper understanding, here are some characteristics of Fire Insurance contract :- it is a personal contract and does not ensure the safety of the insured property; the contract is entire and indivisible. When there is breach of duty in one the Insurer can avoid the contract as a whole, cause of fire is immaterial.
The fire need not originate in the insured premises. However, the surveyors are to investigate whether the fire was occasioned by negligence, was willful and whether fire is due to any cause falling within the exceptions of the contract.

This is one of the most honoured professions. What is expected of you is not simply assessment or quantification of loss. Much more is expected of this profession – it should be analysis on the cause of loss, nature of loss, extent of loss, possible ways of avoiding recurrence, the assessment of the loss / damage, comment on the admissibility as also observance of warranties and conditions adjusting it within the insuring terms and conditions.

In arriving at the Indemnity, your expertise is required in deducting those which are not indemnifiable. For the outside world, the Fire Claim adjustment should be the easiest of all – a property is destroyed, you obtain the value and pay for it. But even in a TL scenario, you need to check on who your insured is : Trader, Manufacturer or Intermediary, whether it is
Building, Machinery or Stock and in case of Stock, whether it was raw material, stock in process, stock undergoing process, final product – the stage of its production and so on. ………………………………………..

Upon accepting a survey assignment, you are expected to observe, record and present the following : - Circumstances and cause of the fire; Occupancy and situation of the premises in which the fire occurred; Insured's interest in the insured property; Other insurances on the property;. Value of each item of the property at the time of loss ; Amount claimed. The primary function of the surveyor, is that of an expert, to determine the cause and extent of
damages. From his knowledge and good judgment, he recommends the measures to be taken in regard to the same in the best interests of all concerned. It involves not merely an examination of the damaged property and a snap judgment as to causes etc., but requires closer inquiry into no. of factors which may seemingly have, at the time, only a remote bearing on the case. After determining several factors and weighing them, each needs to be
assigned their proper place and value. In sum and substance, the Surveyor needs to :
a) Inspect the damaged item (s)
b) Correlate the damaged item with the subject matter insured
c) find out the proximate cause
d) check for conformity of warranties / conditions
e) arrive at the extent of loss and assessment thereupon
f) approve disposal and assist in realization of salvage
g) check aspects of depreciation
h) find our VAR for checking adequacy
i) check for coinsurance
j) policy excess application
k) check whether any subrogation exists.
……………………………………………………………
In a survey no fact or circumstances is too trivial. The conclusions and recommendations must be based on the observations made at the time of inspection and thereafter. In formulating these one could be surprised at the train of thought which may be set in motion by one seemingly irrelevant fact. In the end it, coupled with others may lead clearly to an entirely different conclusion than would have been reached if it had been ignored. The visit is to be seen as the most valuable opportunity to gain information on the nature of risk, profile of customer and of the loss. The most embarrassing position could be that of a wrong conclusion and unwise recommendation through lack of diligence in the work. Also the
surveyor should never be influenced by extraneous factors. You stand or fail on your own work.

Joint survey : (don’t worry this is not what you think of !) when surveying a damaged property, particularly at the first examination it is advisable that the property owner or atleast a responsible representative of his be present. There is nothing mysterious about making a survey of damage and on the whole, the greatest degree of open handed dealing will work for the best interests of all…………………………..

Factually, the assured’s loss and his claim should be based on the condition of the damaged portion of the property. The sound portion does not enter into the assessment and logically sound portion needs to be separated. The surveyor’s alacrity in approving and assisting disposal of badly damaged property and in reconditioning will help minimizing the claim and increasing the salvage value of the damaged property. The centric point is identifying the Cause of loss / damage. …………………………………
Measure of Indemnity : In determining the value of property damaged or

A typical evaluation from your side is on potential fraud indicators which
may include ………………………………..: But even in circumstances where there are one or
more of these, the loss could still be genuine. 

Finally, the success will be in capsulating all the good work into the report without being too elaborate or too curt. The report needs to be clear, complete and concise. The exact form must necessarily vary with circumstances. It must represent facts and circumstances as observed and can represent the balance of probabilities but should not represent any
presumptions.

The annexures would be the ones which would expand the findings or documents evidencing the findings. These will enable better understanding of your report by people at desk who had no advantage of visualising the loss or the damaged property as they stood and will also ensure placing things in proper perspective, if they are challenged in any Forum or in a Court of Law.

With regards
S Sampathkumar


The author is Claims Head with a leading Private Insurer with more than 25 years of
experience in Insurance. The views expressed are that of the author and does not represent the views of the Company.