Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Total Eclipse of the Sun Posted by Picasa

NASA - Total Solar Eclipse of 2006 March 29

NASA - Total Solar Eclipse of 2006 March 29: "On Wednesday, 2006 March 29, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor which traverses half the Earth. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in Brazil and extends across the Atlantic, northern Africa, and central Asia where it ends at sunset in western Mongolia. A partial eclipse will be seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes the northern two thirds of Africa, Europe, and central Asia."

Talking Points: The Scandal of 'Poor People's Diseases' by Tina Rosenberg - New York Times

A very well written article on the intersection of diseases of the rich and diseases of the poor. Highly recommended reading...
Talking Points: The Scandal of 'Poor People's Diseases' by Tina Rosenberg - New York Times: "It's hard to imagine how a Rwandan woman with AIDS might be considered lucky, but in a way, she is. Effective drugs exist to treat her disease, and their price has dropped by more than 98 percent in the last six years. Research speeds ahead on treatments and vaccines. Although much more needs to be done, the world takes AIDS seriously: rich countries provide money, drug companies have lowered their prices and accepted generic competition, and poor countries like Rwanda are scrambling to provide free treatment to all who need it. None of this is true for people who suffer from malaria, tuberculosis, or a host of other diseases that citizens of rich countries haven't even heard of – like kala azar, sleeping sickness and Chagas disease. Even children with AIDS are out of luck compared to their parents.

All these diseases have been abandoned in some important way. For some, no good treatments exist and there is little attempt to invent them. For others, effective drugs exist, but aren't being made. Or those drugs are so expensive that poor people and poor countries have no hope of buying them. Most of these diseases are easily preventable and completely curable. Saving the lives of their sufferers is much cheaper and easier than treating AIDS. Yet millions of people die of them. Why the difference?

As fatal illnesses go, AIDS is the best one for a poor person to catch because rich people get it, too. The other diseases might as well hang out a sign: "Poor People Only." They offer researchers no profitable market. They have little political constituency. There is no well-connected group of sufferers who stage protests and lobby pharmaceutical companies and Congress to develop better medicines or make existing ones more available. The response to disease is political: the illnesses of invisible people usually stay invisible."...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before: "Worldmapper is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest."

In Disgrace, and Facing Death - New York Times

"God should not give daughters to poor people," she said in despair. "And if a daughter is born, God should grant her death."
In Disgrace, and Facing Death - New York Times: "Aisha Parveen will live another day. Indeed, at least another week.

Ms. Parveen, the young Pashtun woman I wrote about on Sunday, was kidnapped at the age of 14 and imprisoned in a brothel here in southeastern Pakistan for six years. She escaped in January and married the man who helped her flee, but now a Pakistani court has charged her with adultery and is threatening to hand her back to the brothel owner — even though she is adamant that he will then torture and kill her."

Ms. Parveen, now living in hiding after several kidnapping attempts in the last few days, faces an even more brutal struggle. Her only stroke of luck is having her new husband, Mohamed Akram, who rescued her from the brothel, on her side. The young couple are lovebirds, and each keeps talking about being so lucky to have found the other.

But Mr. Akram, while unwavering in his love, has disgraced his family by marrying a supposedly fallen woman, and his older sister is suffering.

"My brother-in-law sent me a message: 'Unless you divorce her, I will divorce your sister,' " Mr. Akram lamented. "She has two kids. And he's also beating her now. He's very upset because I married a girl who was in a brothel, who is not a virgin."

The couple cannot seek refuge with Ms. Parveen's parents, because Pashtun parents routinely protect their family honor by killing daughters accused of zina.

"I cannot go back there because if I do, they'll kill me," Ms. Parveen said. "In their eyes I'm dishonored, because even if a girl is kidnapped, then in their eyes she still should be killed."

Saddest of all, her story isn't newsworthy in a classic sense. There's nothing at all unusual about a young Asian woman suffering years of sexual enslavement, or judicial malpractice or murder.

And that's the challenge for us all, Asians and Americans alike — to change our worldview and put gender issues like sex trafficking higher on the global agenda.

A quarter-century ago, Jimmy Carter plucked human rights abuses from the backdrop of the international arena and put them on the agenda. Now it's time to focus on gender inequality in the developing world, for that is the greatest single source of human rights violations today.

Political dissidents tend to get the world's attention. But for every dissident who is beaten to death by government torturers somewhere in the world, thousands of ordinary women or girls die prematurely because of the effects of discrimination. In India, for example, girls 1 to 5 years old are 50 percent more likely to die than boys of the same age, because the boys are favored. That differential accounts for the death of a young Indian girl every four minutes.

Since these victims usually are voiceless, I'll give Ms. Parveen the last word so she can prick our consciences.

"God should not give daughters to poor people," she said in despair. "And if a daughter is born, God should grant her death."

Crossroads Arabia

Crossroads Arabia: " Why Is There So Much Hate Inside Us?
Abdullah Al-Mutairi • Al-Watan
(via crossroads arabia)

In the shop next to my house, there is a home delivery service which is run by an Indian. He is a good man, hardworking and devoted to his job. I talk to him whenever he delivers something to my house and he talks to me about the time he spent working in Abu Dhabi and of his dream to live in London.

Last week I asked him to deliver a newspaper to my house. When he delivered it to me, he asked me whether I wrote in it. I told him that I did and he asked me to write about why young Saudis hate foreign workers, particularly Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. He asked, “Why do they throw rocks at us when they see us in the street?” He said that in India they were taught to love others because that is the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I was moved by his words and promised him that I would write on the subject.

This article, from the Arabic daily Al-Watan (translated and republished in Arab News) is written by a Saudi teacher who believes that his countrymen have a long way to go when dealing with 'The Other.'

That issue is one that King Abdullah has made his own, through the series of National Dialogues bringing together Saudis of varied backgrounds. These Dialogues have addressed the matter"

lazy eye Posted by Picasa

BBC NEWS | Technology | Video games tackle 'lazy eye'

BBC NEWS | Technology | Video games tackle 'lazy eye': "Playing virtual reality computer games may help treat the condition known as amblyopia, or lazy eye, say researchers.

In patients with amblyopia, one eye works better than the other. Because the amblyopic eye is inferior for some reason, the brain decides to use the good eye.

Over time, the neural connection to the bad eye becomes gradually weaker in favour of the good eye.

The traditional way of fixing the problem is for patients to force the bad eye to work harder by wearing a patch over the good eye.

The treatment usually involves patching for around 400 hours and can cause the eyes not to work together, resulting in double vision.

Researchers at Nottingham University say that an experimental treatment using virtual reality (VR) may offer the best of both worlds, encouraging the lazy eye to be more active and getting both eyes to work together.

'Traditionally VR has been used to present realistic environments in 3D so you imagine you're there because of the depth of the world around you,' said Richard Eastgate of the university's Virtual Reality Applications Research Team.

'But we're using VR to make something unrealistic. You could call it virtual unreality,' he told Digital Planet.

'We're actually presenting two different versions of the world to each eye.'

Effective treatment

In one experiment, the team has been trying out a racing game where the computer sends images of the player's own car to the amblyopic eye, but the other cars go to the good eye.

A racing game was used for the research
Obstacles on the track are sent alternately to each eye, so both eyes team up to get the patient through the game.

The researchers are encouraged by the results.

'We thought we'd develop a system that needed about 400 hours of treatment like patching. In the end we achieved the same effect in an hour,' said Dr Eastgate.

It is not entirely clear how the treatment works on a neurological level.

Research in the past has tried static images. But the team believes that modern virtual reality has allowed different but related dynamic information to be sent to each eye for the first time.

"The technique hasn't been proven with rigorous trials but the early results show a very rapid effective treatment through this system," said Dr Eastgate. "

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bird Flu Defies Control Efforts - Los Angeles Times

Bird Flu Defies Control Efforts - Los Angeles Times: "The culling of flocks has failed to slow the rapid spread of the virus, due in North America this year. Vaccination of poultry is under study.
By Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer
March 27, 2006

The spread of avian influenza to at least 29 new countries in the last seven weeks — one of the biggest outbreaks of the virus since it emerged nine years ago — is prompting a sobering reassessment of the strategy that has guided efforts to contain the disease.

Since February, the virus has cut a wide swath across the globe, felling tens of thousands of birds in Nigeria, Israel, India, Sweden and elsewhere. Health officials in the United States say bird flu is likely to arrive in North America this year, carried by wild birds migrating thousands of miles to their summer breeding grounds.

The speed of its migration, and the vast area it has infected, has forced scientists to concede there is little that can be done to stop its spread across the globe.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 "MORE EMBARRASSMENT FOR YALE:

A statement from Yale University, defending its decision to admit former Taliban spokesman Ramatullah Hashemi, explained that he had 'escaped the wreckage of Afghanistan.' To anyone who is aware of the Taliban's barbaric treatment of the Afghan people, such words are offensive--as if Mr. Hashemi were not himself part of the wrecking crew. It is even more disturbing to learn that, while Mr. Hashemi sailed through Yale's admissions process, the school turned down the opportunity to enroll women who really did escape the wreckage of Afghanistan.

In 2002, Yale received a letter from Paula Nirschel, the founder of the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. The purpose of the organization, begun in that year, was to match young women in post-Taliban Afghanistan to U.S. colleges, where they could pursue a degree. Ms. Nirschel asked Yale if it wanted to award a spot in its next entering class to an Afghan woman. Yale declined.

Yale seems to have gotten itself into a PR quagmire."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

It's Full of Fat and Helps You Lose Weight

It's Full of Fat and Helps You Lose Weight: "n July 2003, the FDA approved the first qualified health claim. Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease, the FDA says.

Packaging for walnuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios can now proudly make this claim. Cashews and macadamia nuts did not qualify for the health claim due to their higher fat content"

Human Lungs Resist Avian Flu Infection - CME Teaching Brief - MedPage Today

Human Lungs Resist Avian Flu Infection - CME Teaching Brief - MedPage Today: "MADISON, Wis., March 22 - People anxiously watching the skies for the arrival of sick migratory birds can relax, just a bit, if research here pans out on where avian flu resides in the human airway.

The research reported in the March 23 issue of Nature shows that the human airway isn't particularly hospitable to the bird flu virus.

Unlike most human influenza strains, which can infect cells high in the airway, the avian flu prefers cells that are mainly found deep in the lungs, according to Yoshihiro Kawaoka, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

The finding may explain why human-to-human transmission of the virus so far has been rare, said Dr. Kawaoka and colleagues."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sleep Deprivation: The Great American Myth - Yahoo! News

Sleep Deprivation: The Great American Myth - Yahoo! News: "People who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate than those who get 8 hours of sleep. —From a six-year study of more than a million adults

Many Americans are sleep-deprived zombies, and a quarter of us now use some form of sleeping pill or aid at night.

Wake up, says psychiatry professor Daniel Kripke of the University of California, San Diego. The pill-taking is real but the refrain that Americans are sleep deprived originates largely from people funded by the drug industry or with financial interests in sleep research clinics.

'They think that scaring people about sleep increases their income,' Kripke told LiveScience.

Thanks to the marketing of less addictive drugs directly to consumers, sleeping pills have become a hot commodity, especially in the past five years. People worldwide spent $2 billion on the most popular sleeping pill, Ambien (zolpidem), in 2004, according to the BioMarket, a biotech research company."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Coalition for Darfur

From coalition for Darfur blog...

Coalition for Darfur: "Nick Kristof mentioned this Zogby poll in his Sunday column - via POTP

Seven in Ten Likely Voters Back No-Fly Zone, Say U.S. Has a Responsibility to Stop Darfur Killings"

Coalition for Darfur

Coalition for Darfur: "Seven in Ten Likely Voters Back No-Fly Zone, Say U.S. Has a Responsibility to Stop Darfur Killings" - Health Journal - Health Journal: "Staying up late and sleeping until noon usually seems like normal teenage behavior.

But there's increasing concern among doctors that many teens may actually be suffering from a little-known sleep disorder. The problem, called delayed sleep phase syndrome, isn't well known and is often underdiagnosed, but it may afflict anywhere from 360,000 to several million teens and young adults, according to a 2004 review article in the medical journal Sleep. One of the gravest concerns, researchers say, is that it is often misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorder, depression or a behavioral problem that is treated with prescription drugs. The sleep disorder, however, can usually be treated without drugs.

DSPS is believed to be the result of the body's internal clock -- called the circadian system -- getting stuck in the wrong place, causing kids to stay up late. As kids enter puberty, circadian rhythms that affect sleep begin to change, which is why most kids' bedtimes shift about an hour later as they get older. But for reasons no one understands, some kids experience more dramatic changes as their internal clocks shift forward too far. Those kids can't fall asleep until the early hours of the morning, but still have to get up early for school, so they have to get by on just a few hours of sleep each night."

More on the Yale Taliban student
(via instapundit) "YALE TALIBAN UPDATE: Here's an editorial from the Yale Daily News:

While Hashemi has said he supports basic democratic ideals and that he resents being lumped in the same category as more extreme Taliban members, he has not repudiated the ideals or goals he espoused while a Taliban mouthpiece; he has said merely that he regrets some of his more candid responses to criticism of his former superiors.

Despite our own best efforts and those of The New York Times Magazine's Chip Brown, we have little idea of what Hashemi is doing at Yale, or of what he plans to do with a Yale education. We have seen a generally positive response from his professors, and Hashemi told us that he wants to aid 'thinking about change' in his home country -- and that he may write a book -- but he has been otherwise vague. While we respect every student's right to privacy, we believe the extenuating circumstances of this case merit further discourse.

The argument made by University officials -- that Hashemi adds an important perspective to the Yale community -- is typical of its admission of older or non-degree students, but that argument fails if he is unwilling to share his perspective.

Meanwhile, the Yale Daily News also runs this letter:

An article in yesterday's News mentioned the 'rumored Taliban practice of removing the nails of women who wear noticeable nail polish' ('Alumni clash over Hashemi,' 3/20). The Taliban's history and policy of human rights violations are not 'rumored.' They are wide-ranging and well documented.

While Rahmatullah Hashemi toured the United States as an official apologist for the Taliban, some brave Afghanis risked their lives to document and smuggle out proof of human rights abuses committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is because of their efforts that the world saw hidden-camera footage of a woman being shot to death in a sports stadium.

A few of the many documented human rights violations by the Taliban include a ban o"n women's work outside the home, a ban on women's travel outside the home without a man, a ban on women's education, requirement to wear a burka, punishment by stoning for premarital sex and a ban on the use of cosmetics and nail polish. Those who defied the Taliban's oppressive rules endured beatings, torture or death.

The Taliban are still waging a campaign of terror against the Afghani people. In the most recent issue of Vanity Fair, Sebastian Junger reports on current Taliban atrocities, including skinning a man alive and forcing another to watch his wife while she was gang-raped. The Taliban are still fighting to regain control. Just one week ago, four American soldiers were killed by a Taliban bomb. I can only hope and assume the lack of outrage on campus over the Taliban is due to ignorance. After all, the News reported that Taliban atrocities were "rumored."

During my time at Yale, I was a coordinator of the Yale Women's Center. As a feminist, I am surprised there have been no vocal protests on campus or calls for Yale to answer questions about this decision. This is not and should not be portrayed as a partisan issue. It is not a referendum on Bush, the war, the presence of American troops in Afghanistan or the recent Supreme Court decision on military recruiting. It is about Yale's decision to recruit the former spokesman of a brutal regime.

Has Yale really slipped into such complacency that the Taliban's crimes against women and the Afghani people barely merit a shrug? If Rahmatullah has truly disavowed all connection with the Taliban and regrets his involvement, he should step forward publicly to take responsibility for his actions and to apologize to the victims of the Taliban.

Debbie Bookstaber '00

After 40 Years, Separatists in Spain Declare Cease-Fire - New York Times

After 40 Years, Separatists in Spain Declare Cease-Fire - New York Times: "SEVILLE, March 22 — The militant Basque separatist group ETA, which has killed more than 800 people and terrorized Spain for nearly 40 years, announced a permanent ceasefire today, saying that it would turn its attention to achieving independence for the Basque region through politics."

Wired News:

Wired News:: "New legislation in France would force Apple Computer to open the iPod and iTunes to competitors -- and that's a good thing for consumers, in the long run."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

IRIN Africa | East Africa | UGANDA | UGANDA: Too scared to return home | Refugees IDPs | Focus

IRIN Africa | East Africa | UGANDA | UGANDA: Too scared to return home | Refugees IDPs | Focus: "At Padibe, according to 19-year-old Alex Akena, four children who had gone to gather mangoes had disappeared - most probably having been abducted by the LRA - one week before the UN delegation’s visit. They represent only a tiny fraction of a particularly vulnerable group that has borne the brunt of the conflict. Children, perhaps more than anybody else, will live longest with brutal memories of the terror and abuse they suffered as captives of the LRA.

Irene Ajok, nine, is afraid to sleep at night. She said that if she slept, she might be abducted and forced to eat a human being, as her sister was almost made to do when the rebels abducted them. 'They killed a person and ordered the freshly abducted children, including my sister, Lillian, to eat the body. They refused to eat that body, and she was made to carry a heavy load of sorghum for a long distance as a punishment,' Ajok told IRIN at a night commuters’ centre at a school in Kitgum. She is one of 400 children who seek refuge there every night.

Night commuters are children who, out of fear of LRA abduction, flee their home villages each night to sleep in the relative safety of larger towns. In the morning, they return to their villages. There are an estimated 40,000 night commuters in northern Uganda. The children said life as a night commuter was difficult, but better than living with the cruel treatment meted out by the rebels.

For many former abductees, the memories of atrocities committed by either their peers or LRA rebels torment them the most. Twelve-year-old Walter said he was never tortured or made to kill when he was abducted two years ago, but he had seen people having their heads cut off when they tried to escape. 'Their eyes were looking at me,' Walter remembered, speaking quickly in a monotone.

Rights groups and relief agencies estimate that the LRA has abducted at least 25,000 children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves since the rebellion started in northern Uganda in 1988."

On the Road, You and Me - New York Times

Must reading for all students at U.S. Universities. I find that we have such a disproportion between Americans with strong opinions on global politics but who have never spent any significant time outside of the borders of the States! On the other hand, I have met many people, young and old alike, from Europe, Australia, New Zealand etc...who have spent at least a year abroad who have a real grasp of global issues as well as the common interconnectedness of all cultures and peoples. Their personal experiences inform their views of global politics, economics etc..I can tell you that I will very strongly encourage my children to embark on such a course of travel as Kristof outlines in this article...

On the Road, You and Me - New York Times: "Where's the best place to get an education? Some might say Harvard or Yale, Oxford or the Sorbonne. But maybe you should add Ndjamena to the list.

Universities are — oh so slowly — recognizing that they need to prepare students to survive globalization. But most overseas studies programs are both too short and too tame. They typically involve sending a herd of students for a term in France or Italy, where they study a little and drink a lot together, amid occasional sightings of locals.

That's why I bring up Ndjamena, this dusty capital of one of the poorest countries in the world. A student living independently here could learn French and Arabic, and would emerge with a much richer understanding of the world than could be taught in any classroom.

Traditionally, many young Britons, Irish, Australians and New Zealanders take a year to travel around the world on a shoestring, getting menial jobs when they run out of money. We should try to inculcate the custom of such a 'gap year' in this country by offering university credit for such experiences.

So here's my proposal. Universities should grant a semester's credit to any incoming freshman who has taken a gap year to travel around the world. In the longer term, universities should move to a three-year academic program, and require all students to live abroad for a fourth year. In that year, each student would ideally live for three months in each of four continents: Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe."...

Since the best way to learn about public health challenges is to endure them, I would also suggest offering extra credit for any student who gets malaria.

The cost of a year of travel would be far less than the annual cost of attending many colleges in the U.S. Third-class trains and buses are incredibly cheap; you can sometimes ride free on top of the trains. As a student backpacker myself in India two decades ago, I once lined up with the beggars and lepers of Amritsar to get free gruel from a Sikh temple — but that embarrassed even me.

In any case, all this suffering builds character. And students would get far more out of a year of travel than a year in classrooms.

Meanwhile, there's no need for universities to take the first step. Spring break season is upon us, and university students are dashing off to party in Mexico and Florida. So, you student readers, how about dashing off instead to Mongolia, where you'll find plenty of sand — the Gobi Desert — and get a truly exotic alcoholic drink: fermented mare's milk.

As for parents, if you have a child graduating from high school or college this year, forget about a conventional graduation present. Instead, send him or her off with a friend with a one-way ticket to Timbuktu...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News

Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News: "Married at the age of four, an Afghan girl was subjected to years of beatings and torture, finally escaping to discover that within all the world's cruelty, there is also some kindness." - The Case Against Vitamins

A comprehensive look at various vitamin trials... - The Case Against Vitamins: "Recent studies show that many vitamins not only don't help. They may actually cause harm.
March 20, 2006; Page R1

Every day, millions of Americans gobble down fistfuls of vitamins in a bid to ward off ill health. They swallow megadoses of vitamin C in hopes of boosting their immune systems, B vitamins to protect their hearts, and vitamin E, beta carotene and other antioxidants to fight cancer.

It's estimated that 70% of American households buy vitamins. Annual spending on vitamins reached $7 billion last year, according to industry figures.

But a troubling body of research is beginning to suggest that vitamin supplements may be doing more harm than good. Over the past several years, studies that were expected to prove dramatic benefits from vitamin use have instead shown the opposite."...

"People hear that if they take vitamins they'll feel better," says Edgar R. Miller, clinical investigator for the National Institute on Aging and author of an analysis that showed a higher risk of death among vitamin E users in several studies. "But when you put [vitamins] to the test in clinical trials, the results are hugely disappointing and in some cases show harm. People think they are going to live longer, but the evidence doesn't support that. Sometimes it's actually the opposite."...

Another concern is that while vitamins from food sources are necessary and good for you, consumers today often scarf down vitamins at levels that are more like a pharmaceutical dose than something found in nature. In a test tube, high doses of a single antioxidant can turn bad, evolving into pro-oxidants -- meaning they start to oxidize and create free radicals, causing the very problem you were trying to prevent.

Here's a look at what science shows about the risks and benefits of some particular vitamins. (read on; subscription required)...

Dowries Running Dry in Drought-Stricken East Africa

Dowries Running Dry in Drought-Stricken East Africa: "The men of marrying age in East Africa are calling the current dry season 'the drought that killed the dowry.' On the world's poorest continent, droughts and changing weather patterns are pushing more and more Africans into cities, putting pressure on already strained resources and changing cultural practices, from diet to marriage traditions.

Humanitarian organizations estimate that 3.5 million people, mostly nomadic herders, are facing food shortages in Kenya. About 40 people have died of hunger-related illnesses, and 70 percent of livestock in the drought-affected northeast have perished.

Masai herders trying to escape the drought are streaming into Nairobi, letting their cattle feed on the city's grassy traffic circles. Police blotters are filled with reports of herdsmen being hit by cars. The Masai are also building congested shantytowns to live in and wandering the city begging for jobs."

The business of giving |

The business of giving | "GIVING away money has never been so fashionable among the rich and famous. Bill Gates, today's pre-eminent philanthropist, has already handed over an unprecedented $31 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, mostly to tackle the health problems of the world's poor. Its generosity has earned the couple Time magazine's nomination as 2005's “people of the year”, along with Bono, an activist rock star.

The next generation of technology leaders are already embracing the same ethos. Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and Jeff Skoll, the auction site's first chief executive, are each putting their billions to work to “make the world a better place”. And when the founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, took their company public, they announced that a slice of the search engine's equity and profits would go to, a philanthropic arm that they hope will one day “eclipse Google itself in overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems”." (subscription required)

Penraker: Thou Shalt Not Debate Public Issues at Yale

A very strongly worded editorial about Yale Student, exTaliban representative, Syed Rahmtullah Hashemi....

Penraker: Thou Shalt Not Debate Public Issues at Yale: "Thou Shalt Not Debate Public Issues at Yale

It gets even weirder - Yale has now refused to put on a once-planned debate over the presence at Yale of Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi - the former Taliban. John Fund reports:

The union's vice president had invited me, along with Yale alumnus and Army veteran Flagg Youngblood, to debate both military recruitment and the Rahmatullah case, on campus March 29. But when he brought the proposal to the executive board, it was rejected.

'No matter how carefully we frame this debate, it would inevitably turn into a trial of a fellow student and his personal life and beliefs,'

But Rahmatullah is not just some student from the Midwest who stumbled onto campus, he is a former Minister for the Taliban.

And it gets weirder and weirder: Listen to the ideologically blinded view of this student- she has been taught, like many students these days, to utterly ignore evil, and excuse it at any cost. She will trot forth a multitude of platitudes to justify having someone who is a practiced liar and sworn enemy of the United States at her school. But no doubt she would never countenance the presence of an American racist, or sexist, or homophobe. But somehow when a racist, sexist homophobic foreigner comes along, whose redeeming feature seems to be that he represents something that is implacably opposed to the United States - well then, he becomes instantly forgivable. He becomes a correctable, huggable, misguided youth. There is a lot of 'our little brown brother' in her statements:

When I asked her if any of the revelations about Mr. Rahmatullah's past disturb her, she said that 'while he has made some mistakes,' she trusts that university officials had 'investigated things' and satisfied themselves about him. She noted that Mr. Rahmatullah was 'very, very young' when he had been a Taliban official, and said that 'it's not like the Taliban attacked this country.'

Yes, We Need Al-Haia, but With Checks and Balances

Personally, I found the presence of the Haia made an even mundane outing like grocery shopping, potentially exciting! It is interesting that there is public discussion of abuses of the Haia now...

Yes, We Need Al-Haia, but With Checks and Balances: "Members of the National Society for Human Rights are visiting Ibrahim Al-Gaith, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (known as Haia) to check some disturbing complaints.

According to Ms. Suhaila Zein Alabedeen, the newly founded nongovernmental organization is checking stories of human rights abuses by zealot members of the commission.

Cases include beating, imprisonment and verbal abuse of innocent couples because of unfounded suspicions of improper relations. Others complain that the commission members hunt for such relations in family sections of public places. If single men are not allowed into these areas why make an exception in the case of these members — they ask. Many were taken from malls, restaurants and streets just because they couldn’t prove they were relatives.

A South African nurse was caught in a supermarket with her Lebanese boyfriend. Both were Christians shopping for Christmas. The “Haia” put them in its private prison for 14 days. Both were denied phone calls and access to their lawyers, embassies and companies. It took their relatives and friends a couple of weeks to find and bail them out."

Thursday Vs. Saturday — the Weekend Debate Continues

I found the asynchronous work week in Saudi really made the eight years that I was there fly by!

Thursday Vs. Saturday — the Weekend Debate Continues: "When Saudis take Thursdays and Fridays off, much of the world is working. When much of the world takes Saturday and Sunday off, Saudis are working. If you want to send a wire transfer back home, for four days of the week it is common for either the sending bank or the receiving bank to be closed. A conference call abroad is best done on the three days of the week where you (in Saudi Arabia) and your partner (in just about anywhere else) are both working."

Coalition for Darfur

Finally, the international community is putting to trial those who ruin the lives of children. I wish they would also get to trial the members of the Lord's Resistance Army in Northern Uganda...(Do a search on the blog using the search function on the left side bar of the evils committed by this regime...)

Coalition for Darfur: "A Congolese militia leader, the first suspect to face trial at the International Criminal Court, made an initial appearance in The Hague on Monday on charges of conscripting children for war.

Thomas Lubanga was transferred to the ICC on Friday night after he was flown from the Democratic Republic of Congo aboard a French military plane the day after Congolese authorities surrendered him to the court.

Lubanga, dressed in a dark suit, confirmed his identity and heard a list of his rights, but refused to hear a readout of his arrest charges, saying he had already been informed about it earlier in The Hague.

'I was born on the 29th of December 1960 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am a politician by profession,' Lubanga said speaking in French.

He was the founder and leader of one of the most dangerous militia in Congo's lawless northeastern district of Ituri, the ICC has said.

Presiding Judge Claude Jorda set the next hearing on June 27, when the court would confirm the precise charges."

eyePilot software

Software for color blind people...
(via David Pogue)
eyePilot software "One out of twelve men is colorblind,
but eyePilot can help anyone, no matter what kind of vision you have."

Flash Animation of Facial Anatomy

Check out this link for a very cool flash animation of facial anatomy--interesting for those in medicine, artists, and laypeople:

How the rest of the world travels... Posted by Picasa

Overloaded transportation

Check out this link for interesting photos of "overloaded transportation in the third world":

In Nigeria, Aminu Ahmed is the president of the Kano State Polio Victims Association. He builds hand-cranked tricycles for other polio victims. His youngest child, Omar, 2, was born shortly before Kano's conservative Muslim government stopped its polio vaccinations. Now Omar has polio, too. Posted by Picasa

Rumor, Fear and Fatigue Hinder Final Push to End Polio - New York Times

An in-depth article about the current state of polio eradication in the world, with highlights of the situation in Nigeria and India. I had to get reimmunized to polio due to the outbreak when I visited Nigeria two years ago. The outbreak of polio in Nigeria is a very interesting story if you haven't heard it before...

Rumor, Fear and Fatigue Hinder Final Push to End Polio - New York Times: "Nearly 18 years ago, in what they described as a 'gift from the 20th century to the 21st,' public health officials and volunteers around the world committed themselves to eliminating polio from the planet by the year 2000.

Since then, some two billion children have been vaccinated, cutting incidence of the disease more than 99 percent and saving some five million from paralysis or death, the World Health Organization estimates.

But six years past the deadline, even optimists warn that total eradication is far from assured. The drive against polio threatens to become a costly display of all that can conspire against even the most ambitious efforts to eliminate a disease: cultural suspicions, logistical nightmares, competition for resources from many other afflictions, and simple exhaustion. So monumental is the challenge, in fact, that only one disease has ever been eradicated — smallpox. As the polio campaign has shown, even the miracle of discovering a vaccine is not enough.

Not least among the obstacles is that many poor countries that eliminated polio have let their vaccination efforts slide, making the immunity covering much of the world extremely fragile, polio experts warn. They compare it to a vast, tinder-dry forest: if even one tree is still burning, a single cinder can drift downwind and start a fire virtually anywhere.

Here in northern India the embers are still glowing. And northern Nigeria, another densely populated, desperately poor region, is aflame.

In a calamitous setback in mid-2003, Nigeria's northern states halted the vaccination campaign for a year after rumors swept the region that the vaccine contained the AIDS virus or was part of a Western plot to sterilize Muslim girls. Within a couple of years, 18 once polio-free countries have had outbreaks traceable to Nigeria. Though most have since been tamed"Indonesia and Nigeria itself remain major worries. In 2001, there were fewer than 500 confirmed cases of polio paralysis in the world. Last year, the number jumped to more than 1,900 — and each paralyzed child means another 200 "silent carriers" spreading the disease.

This year in addition to India and Nigeria, cases have been reported in Somalia, Niger, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Yet no eradication effort against any disease has been as well financed or as comprehensive as the polio drive, which has cost $4 billion so far. In the balance is not just whether polio will be extinguished, many public health officials say, but whether a world that could not quite conquer polio will have the stomach to try to wipe out other diseases, like measles. The closer a disease is to eradication, they say, the harder won the gains. Interest lags as the number of cases falls. Fatigue sets in among volunteers, donors and average people. Yet even one unvaccinated child can allow a new pocket of the disease to bloom.

Spreading Genocide to Chad - New York Times

A powerful editorial from the New York Times
Spreading Genocide to Chad - New York Times: "Spreading Genocide to Chad

Published: March 20, 2006

After the Holocaust, the world vowed it wouldn't stand back and allow genocide to happen again. Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda showed how empty that promise was. Darfur was yet another reminder that when it comes to standing up to stop the slaughter of entire peoples, the nations of the world remain pitifully inadequate.

And now, as if the hundreds of thousands of Africans killed in Sudan weren't enough, the Arab militias financed by the government of Sudan to 'cleanse' Darfur of blacks are moving across the border into neighboring Chad. Our colleague Nicholas Kristof reports that the janjaweed — the name given to the Arab militias — have unleashed their fury on villages in Chad, riding in and killing and raping, accompanied by their standard shouting of racial epithets like 'black slaves.'

Mr. Kristof is one of the few journalists willing to venture into the lawless region. He took along NBC's Ann Curry of the 'Today' show on his trip this month, and wrote about a market town in Chad near the Sudan border called Koloy, where villagers were actually waiting to be massacred. There was no one to help them. Chad's government sent a handful of troops, but when the soldiers realized that they would be facing more than 500 janjaweed armed with heavy machine guns, they fled. Diplomats don't dare visit because it's not safe. Ditto for United Nations aid groups. Only one organization, Doctors Without Borders, goes to Koloy, Mr. Kristof reported, 'sending in a convoy of intrepid doctors three days a week to pull bullets out of victims.'

Is this really what we have come to? The United Nations has described the carnage in Darfur as the world's biggest humanitarian crisis but continues to prove itself completely useless at doing anything to stop it. In the Sec"urity Council, China protects Sudan. Europe, for its part, has been inert.

That leaves the United States, where the Bush administration has made a few strides. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick appears to be close to getting the United Nations to supplement, if not replace, the woefully ineffective African Union peacekeeping force in the region with United Nations peacekeepers. The United States should also commit to providing specialized reconnaissance and air support for the United Nations force. Sudan's government doesn't like the idea of a multinational peacekeeping force, and has even organized demonstrations in the capital against the idea, although the protesters tend to look suspiciously like government military types.

The African Union soldiers have done their best, but they are poorly equipped for one thing, and low in numbers for another — there are only 7,000 of them in an area the size of France. They don't have much in the way of intelligence capability and they are lightly armed. That's a recipe for stalemate, and stalemate is the last thing villagers waiting to be massacred need.

Death and Taxes

Check out the link below for a larger image of where your tax dollars go. Alot of effort must have gone into making this graphic image.

Death and Taxes Posted by Picasa

In the Abeche, Chad, hospital, Khalid, a six-year-old boy, was treated for wounds in both his legs. Posted by Picasa

The Silence of Bystanders - New York Times

The Silence of Bystanders - New York Times: "Elie Wiesel once said, referring to victims of genocide: 'Let us remember: what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.' And it's our own silence that I find inexplicable."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Comment is free: Darfur: the awful silence

Glenn Reynolds latest comments on Darfur...
Comment is free: Darfur: the awful silence: "Brian Brivati wrote here yesterday on the disappointing near-silence where the ongoing massacres in Darfur are concerned. And while not everyone is silent, we're certainly not hearing much.

Nat Hentoff wrote on this a few days ago, and observed:

With the number of corpses in Darfur steadily mounting, and President Bush again seriously involved in confronting what he has accurately called the genocide there, Mr. Bolton has been pressing hard to get the United Nations moving against the resistance of the government of Sudan, the perpetrator of the genocide.

Among Mr. Bolton's goals is sending a UN force, with possible NATO components, into Darfur to bolster the present small, beleaguered African Union contingent. He is also proposing targeted UN sanctions against some of the chief organizers of the genocide in the Sudanese government. (Britain is also working on a resolution that could lead to warrants from the International Criminal Court against the architects of the genocide.)

The three members of the UN security council blocking Mr. Bolton's proposed measures are Russia, China and Qatar. Qatar -- home of the Al Jazeera TV network but also with strong military ties to the United States -- represents the Arab states in the decision-making UN security council.

As Mr Avni reports, although UN secretary-general Kofi Annan recently spent a weekend in Qatar, he did not even discuss Sudan during his visit.

Annan, of course, is uninterested in offending China, which has substantial oil interests in the Sudan. And the United Nations, as has become clear, is only interested in human rights when they can be used as a political weapon against the West, and particularly America. A genocide in which Arab Muslims are killing black African Muslims doesn't fit into that category and doesn't push the right buttons among many Western 'human rights' activists for that matter.

Saudi blogger The Religious Policeman recently noted that the Muslim world isn't very interested either:

This is the big meeting of the OIC, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. So are they finally going to resolve the Darfur conflict, the brown-Muslim-on-black-Muslim genocide that has already claimed an estimated 300,000 lives?

Well, actually, no.

Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, is contacting member states for an emergency meeting of their foreign ministers shortly to discuss major issues including the repercussions of the sacrilegious Danish cartoons.

Silly me, I should have realized. Cartoons are far more important than a "few dead darkies". We already learnt that after the 2006 Makkah Stampede.

It seems clear that nowadays you can get away with war crimes and genocide without even attracting much comment -- so long, at least, as the hand that performs the unspeakable acts can't be connected to the West.

There's a rather negative take on what can actually be done about Darfur here, from military analysts Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay. But we should at least be talking about it much more than we are."

Thursday, March 16, 2006

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Nanotech helps blind hamsters see

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Nanotech helps blind hamsters see: "Scientists mimicked the effect of a traumatic brain injury by severing the optical nerve tract in hamsters, causing the animals to lose vision.

After injecting the hamsters with a solution containing nanoparticles, the nerves re-grew and sight returned.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team hopes this technique could be used in future reconstructive brain surgery."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Study Links Ambien Use to Unconscious Food Forays - New York Times

Possibly helpful in anorexia?

Study Links Ambien Use to Unconscious Food Forays - New York Times: "The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug's users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands"

The next morning, the night eaters remember nothing about their foraging. But they wake up to find telltale clues: mouthfuls of peanut butter, Tostitos in their beds, kitchen counters overflowing with flour, missing food, and even lighted ovens and stoves. Some are so embarrassed, they delay telling anyone, even as they gain weight.

"These people are hell-bent to eat," said Dr. Mark Mahowald, who is director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis and is researching the problem.

Dubai and Dunces - New York Times

Dubai and Dunces - New York Times: "When it came to the Dubai ports issue, the facts never really had a chance — not in this political season. Still, it's hard to imagine a more ignorant, bogus, xenophobic, reckless debate than the one indulged in by both Republicans and Democrats around this question of whether an Arab-owned company might oversee loading and unloading services in some U.S. ports. If you had any doubts before, have none now: 9/11 has made us stupid.

What is so crazy about the Dubai ports issue is that Dubai is precisely the sort of decent, modernizing model we should be trying to nurture in the Arab-Muslim world. But we've never really had an honest discussion about either the real problems out there or the real solutions, have we?

The real problem was recently spelled out by an Arab-American psychiatrist, Dr. Wafa Sultan, in a stunning interview with Al Jazeera. Speaking about the Arab-Muslim world, Dr. Sultan said: 'The clash we are witnessing ... is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on the other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings."

The Jazeera host then asked: "I understand from your words that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West, and the backwardness and ignorance of the Muslims?"

Dr. Sultan: "Yes, that is what I mean."

I don't know how Iraq will end, but I sure know that we aren't going to repeat the Iraq invasion elsewhere anytime soon. Yet the need for reform in this region still cries out. Is there another way? Yes — nurturing internally generated Arab models for evolutionary reform, and one of the best is Dubai, the Arab Singapore.

What's ironic is that if Democrats who hate the Bush war in Iraq actually had a peaceful alternative policy for promoting transformation in the Arab-Muslim world, it would be called "the Dubai policy": supporting internally driven Arab engines of change.

That's why Arab progressives are stunned by our behavior. As an Arab businessman friend said to me of the Dubai saga: "This deal has left a real bad taste in many mouths. I mean this was Dubai, for God's sake! You could not have a better friend and more of a symbol of globalization and openness. If they are a security danger to the U.S., then who is not?"

So whatever happens with the Iraq experiment — but especially if it fails — we need Dubai to succeed. Dubai is where we should want the Arab world to go. Unfortunately, we just told Dubai to go to hell.

Africa's Brutal Lebensraum - New York Times

Africa's Brutal Lebensraum - New York Times: "As in Rwanda or even during the Holocaust, racist ideologies sometimes disguise greed, insecurity and other pathologies. Indeed, one of the genocide's aims is to drive away African tribes to achieve what Hitler called Lebensraum: 'living space' for nomadic Arabs and their camels.

So this village is simply a window into an entire region drenched in fear. Men walk about carrying homemade spears and machetes, and parents tie amulets around their children's necks."

As the local county leader, Saudi Hassan, puts it, "The janjaweed are using humans as targets — they kill a person as if he were a chicken." Whether the offenders are Nazis or Hutu extremists or Sudan's janjaweed, that is a crime not only against the victims but also against all humanity. You can get ideas about what you can do at, the Web site of the Save Darfur Coalition, which is planning a major rally on the Washington Mall on April 30.

It is brutally demoralizing for people in these villages to be hunted down as if they were wild beasts, to have their children pulled from their arms and thrown into burning huts. But we should be just as demoralized by our own indifference. The shame belongs not to the good people of Darfur and Chad, but to ourselves.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

ABC News: Ready or Not, Bird Flu Is Coming to America

ABC News: Ready or Not, Bird Flu Is Coming to America: "March 13, 2006 — - In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.

Ready or not, here it comes."

Crossroads Arabia

Crossroads Arabia: " Arab central banks move assets out of dollar

By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent
Published: 14 March 2006

Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as 'discrimination'…

The governor of the UAE central bank, Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi, said the bank was looking to convert 10 per cent of its reserves, which stand at $23bn (£13.5bn), from dollars to euros. 'They are contravening their own principles,' he said. 'Investors are going to take this into consideration [and] will look at investment opportunities through new binoculars.'

London's The Independent has an instructive article noting that political games are open to many players. With the UAE considering pulling over $2 billion out of US currency and into the Euro, they're showing that political stunts can bear a price. (Not to mention the multi-billion dollar sale pending for Boeing, of course!)

Dumping dollar securities will put a ding in the US economy. Converting all dollars to Euros would be a serious blow. And a decision to renominate oil prices in Euros rather than dollars would be devastating.

Perhaps the American Congress will learn that grandstanding has its costs, always. Just because they aren't immediately apparent, doesn't mean they don't exist."

Crossroads Arabia

Crossroads Arabia: " Arab central banks move assets out of dollar

By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent
Published: 14 March 2006

Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as 'discrimination'…

The governor of the UAE central bank, Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi, said the bank was looking to convert 10 per cent of its reserves, which stand at $23bn (£13.5bn), from dollars to euros. 'They are contravening their own principles,' he said. 'Investors are going to take this into consideration [and] will look at investment opportunities through new binoculars.'

London's The Independent has an instructive article noting that political games are open to many players. With the UAE considering pulling over $2 billion out of US currency and into the Euro, they're showing that political stunts can bear a price. (Not to mention the multi-billion dollar sale pending for Boeing, of course!)

Dumping dollar securities will put a ding in the US economy. Converting all dollars to Euros would be a serious blow. And a decision to renominate oil prices in Euros rather than dollars would be devastating.

Perhaps the American Congress will learn that grandstanding has its costs, always. Just because they aren't immediately apparent, doesn't mean they don't exist."

�I have no choice. I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book.�
- DR. WAFA SULTAN Posted by Picasa

For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats - New York Times

For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats - New York Times: "LOS ANGELES, March 10 — Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims.

Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.

In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world, Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.

She said the world's Muslims, whom she compares unfavorably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence.

Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose."

Rajaa Al-Sanea Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rajaa Al-Sanea: A Girl of Riyadh

Rajaa Al-Sanea: A Girl of Riyadh: "JEDDAH, 11 March 2006 - Twenty-four-year-old Rajaa Al-Sanea stirred up a hornet's nest with the publication of her first novel, 'Banat Al-Riyadh' or 'The Girls of Riyadh.' Reactions to the 319-page novel have, in some cases, been extreme. The novel deals with the lives of four young Saudi girls who must live according to the traditions of Saudi society. The girls are students at a university in Riyadh.

Al-Sanea has attained instant fame because of the raging debate over her novel which was first published in Arabic by Saqi Books in Lebanon last September. Now she is looking for an English language publisher. Nearly 250 articles have appeared about the novel, both here and abroad. Her critics and fans come from all age groups.

Al-Sanea's detractors contend there is nothing great about the book and offer a variety of justifications for their position. Some credit the book's success to its introduction, written by Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, a renowned poet and author. ''Banat Al-Riyadh' is a work that deserves to be read. I expect a lot from this author,' he writes in his introduction.

In trashing the book, one Saudi woman writer said: 'But for Dr. Al-Gosaibi's introduction, nobody would have given this novel a second thought.' Some others say the reason for Al-Sanea's popularity is her good looks. In an Associated Press report, Donna Abu-Nasr describes her as 'a petite brunette who wears an Islamic head scarf, like virtually all Saudi women.'

'This is the age of television and looks matter,' said a 30-year-old Saudi who read the book last week. 'Somebody got it for me from Beirut. Beauty drives the marketing of your product. Rajaa has the looks, and so even when the product, i.e. the novel, is bad it sells and is selling like hot cakes,' he said.

Al-Sanea's fans, whose numbers are legion going by the hits on her website (, say those who criticize are simply jealous of her success. They (the critics) say the style is atrocious. They say the language is far from classical Arabic. They say it is peppered with chatroom English and full of meaningless terms from the Internet. When Al-Sanea was asked about it, she was blunt. 'I wrote the first few chapters in classical Arabic, but I modified them later because I couldn't convince myself that women my age would use classical Arabic to speak to each other. I used colloquial language to improve communication with my readers.'

One Saudi woman journalist probably hit the nail on the head when she observed: 'It is our tradition not to talk about the ills of our society. We know there are problems in our society, but the general reaction is to keep quiet. We have been taught from an early age that if we talk about the ills of our society, people will laugh at us. We are seen as role models in the Muslim world. And even when we are not entirely perfect, we should pretend that we are. 'Banat Al-Riyadh' deals with four characters. They may or may not represent all of Saudi society. But yes, we do come across the four fictional characters in our daily lives. Probably Saudi society - and especially Saudi women - are so much in the spotlight that this novel has come in handy for people who want to take a peek into the lives of Saudi girls. My only problem is that it sheds only a negative light on Saudi women. People outside this country will take it as a definitive word on the girls of our country.' Many of Al-Sanea's critics would agree and they want her to change the title of the novel precisely because they think it gives the impression that it is true of all the girls in Riyadh."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Atheist gives churches a chance to win him over

A very interesting piece on the meeting of two unusual minds...

Atheist gives churches a chance to win him over: "A few weeks ago, Hemant Mehta posted an unusual item for sale on eBay: a chance to save his soul.

The DePaul University graduate student promised the winner that for each $10 of the final bid, he would attend an hour of church services. The 23-year-old Mr. Mehta is an atheist, but he says he suspected he had been missing out on something.

'Perhaps being around a group of people who will show me 'the way' could do what no one else has done before,' Mr. Mehta wrote in his eBay sales pitch. 'This is possibly the best chance anyone has of changing me.'

Evangelists bid, eager to save a sinner. Atheists bid, hoping to keep Mr. Mehta in their fold. When the auction stopped on Feb. 3 after 41 bids, the buyer was Jim Henderson, a former evangelical minister from Seattle, whose $504 bid prevailed.

Mr. Henderson wasn't looking for a convert. He wanted Mr. Mehta to embark with him on an eccentric experiment in spiritual bridge-building."

The two met in a bar, where they sealed a deal a little different from the one the student had proffered. Instead of the 50 hours of church attendance that he was entitled to for his $504, Mr. Henderson asked that Mr. Mehta attend 10 to 15 services of Mr. Henderson's choosing and then write about it


Mr. Mehta was born in Chicago and raised in Jainism, an ancient Indian faith whose followers vow to harm no living thing, not even microbes in the air.

He praises famous atheists, but has also read parts of the Bible, loves watching televangelists like Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen, and admires their appeal to congregations. "If I could be an atheist pastor?" he says, "Oh God, that would be great!"


Mr. Henderson says he is thrilled that Mr. Mehta is prompting such reactions. "We're getting to a place where we're talking and not converting," he says.

With about half his obligation to Mr. Henderson fulfilled, Mr. Mehta says he's no closer to believing in God, although he does admire churches for the communities they create. Church, he has decided, is "not such a bad place to be."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Althouse: "Is Islam Compatible with Democracy?"

Interesting discussion here on Ann Althouse's blog...
Althouse: "Is Islam Compatible with Democracy?": "Is Islam Compatible with Democracy?'
Last week, I mentioned that my colleague Asifa Quraishi was giving a talk on Monday called 'A Reconsideration of Presumptions: Is Islam Compatible with Democracy?' So, what's the answer? Here it is in Professor Quraishi's words:

I think yes, Islam is compatible with democracy. It is also compatible with a lot of other methods of government. There's nothing mandating or prohibiting any particular form of rule in the source texts of Islam (Quran and Hadith)." - Top 7 Things Patients Expect from Doctors

Ironically "competent" or better yet, "excellent" do not make the list, which for most of the planet's inhabitants would supersede all other concerns! - Top 7 Things Patients Expect from Doctors: "Based on the new study, which surveyed 192 patients, the authors concluded that a model physician should be ...

* Confident
* empathetically
* Humane
* Personal
* Forthright
* Respectful
* Thorough"

BBC NEWS | Health | Global measles deaths fall by 48%

Great news!
BBC NEWS | Health | Global measles deaths fall by 48%: "The number of people dying of measles across the world has fallen by almost half, the latest figures show.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund revealed deaths fell from 871,000 in 1999 to 454,000 in 2004.

The largest reduction occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, which had been hardest hit by the disease, where cases and deaths dropped by 60%.

Vaccination has been cited as the reason for the fall in cases.

The organisations made a pledge in 2001 to cut deaths in measles by half by 2005"

Happy Now?

The Washington Post has a very accurate take on congressional xenophobia on Dubai ports deal and the possible negative consequences. I wonder how many of these congressman have any real knowledge of Dubai, which is one of the freest places in the Middle East and who, strategically, we need to be courting, not alienating (not to mention the rest of the Arab world).

Happy Now?: "THEY SPEND drunkenly, they fail at oversight and they can't stop the administration from abusing detainees or tapping phones. But never call the members of Congress powerless: Yesterday, in the exalted name of anti-terrorism, the Senate rebelled against its Republican leadership and joined the House in a vote to prevent a company based in a moderate, friendly Arab country from making a minor investment in the United States. When it became clear that some such blocking measure would pass, Dubai Ports World threw in the towel, announcing that it would sell all of its U.S. operations, including the management operations of six U.S. ports it recently acquired, and do business elsewhere."...

But our brave new Congress has achieved more than the irrational spiking of one business deal. It has also sent a clear message to the Arab world: No matter how far you move along the path of modernization and cooperation, Americans may be unable to distinguish you from al-Qaeda.

Find Similar Sites

This is one of my favorite allows internet geeks like myself to find other sites and or blogs that are similar to the thousands (just kidding) of sites that I already access...

Find Similar Sites: "Find Similar Sites"

Thursday, March 09, 2006

BBC - Science & Nature - Human Body and Mind

Interactive Body!
BBC - Science & Nature - Human Body and Mind

O'Reilly Radar > Entrepreneurial Proverbs

O'Reilly Radar > Entrepreneurial Proverbs: "Entrepreneurial Proverbs "

Truce and troops -- The Washington Times

An excellent idea of appointing an internationally respected person to get involved in the Darfur cause--?Colin Powell...

Truce and troops -- The Washington Times: "Unless more is done immediately to end the slaughter of innocents in Darfur, historians may treat today's world leaders about as kindly as the Government of Sudan is currently treating its own people.
History is instructive. In the early 1940s, Allied leaders dismissed as exaggerated reports of what was happening in Nazi concentration camps. It wasn't until late in the war that those who escaped finally convinced world leaders otherwise. After the war, leaders came together and pledged 'never again.' But never again has become again and again -- in Cambodia, Uganda, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya and now Darfur"...
That's why the United Nations should immediately appoint a highly visible and well-respected international figure to address, and end, the slaughter in Darfur. Peacekeepers alone cannot solve the problem. Darfur needs peacemakers as well.

Both Sides of Inequality - New York Times

A concise distillation of the work of the sociologist, Annette Lareau, who has studied class specific parenting styles and how this effects future prospects of children...
Both Sides of Inequality - New York Times: "Lareau's work is well known among sociologists, but neglected by the popular media. And that's a shame because through her close observations and careful writings — in books like 'Unequal Childhoods' — Lareau has been able to capture the texture of inequality in America. She's described how radically child-rearing techniques in upper-middle-class homes differ from those in working-class and poor homes, and what this means for the prospects of the kids inside."

The thing you learn from her work is that it's wrong to say good parents raise successful kids and bad parents raise unsuccessful ones. The story is more complicated than that.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Boing Boing: Science News on brain "fitness"

Boing Boing: Science News on brain "fitness": "Science News on brain 'fitness'
Science News magazine has published a two-part series on how lifestyle choices affect brain 'fitness.' The first article is about how physical exercise actually increases the number of nerve cells, strengthens their connection, and can slow the progression of neurological disorders. From the article:

While evidence is soaring for exercise's brain benefits, physical fitness in the United States is plummeting. According to a report issued recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one-fifth of people 18 and over exercise for less than 10 minutes a week. Only 46 percent of adults performed the recommended 30 minutes or more of brisk walking or other moderate exercise 5 days a week.

Whereas public health experts worry about the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on rates of heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems, (UCLA neurobiologist Fernando) Gómez-Pinilla is concerned that a lack of physical exercise could also foretell a wave of decreasing brain health for the United States.

'Locomotion played a very important role in evolution. Animals had to move to find food and run away from predators. Exercise had a direct action on brain regions related to cognition,' he says. 'Normally, when two functions evolve in this way, you can't separate them.' Link

The second article in the series surveys research on brain food, specifically how certain diets affect brain health. From the article:

(UCLA neuroscientist Greg M. Cole) says that both fish oil and curcumin may eventually become widely used in preventing neurodegenerative diseases, while causing few side effects. On the other hand, recently created drugs for treating neurodegenerative diseases are expensive and often have troubling side effects.

Cole notes that people have been eating fish and curries safely for centuries. 'We're interested in these approaches that "

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Al-Resalah Launched

Al-Resalah Launched: "RIYADH, 7 March 2006 — Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, CEO of Kingdom Holding Company, officially launched yesterday an Islamic satellite channel to project Islam as a religion of moderation and tolerance"...

Asked if the channel would provide a platform for different schools of thought, he said that the main objective was to unify the ranks of the Islamic community, counter the negative perceptions of Islam and wean the youth away from the path of extremism. To this end, there would be an assortment of programs from prominent scholars. - Surgeon General: Obesity Epidemic will Dwarf Terrorism Threat - Surgeon General: Obesity Epidemic will Dwarf Terrorism Threat: "
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ America's obesity epidemic will dwarf the threat of terrorism if the nation does not reduce the number of people who are severely overweight, the surgeon general said Wednesday."

Gateway Pundit: Massive Muslim Protest in Bahrain Against Terrorism

Gateway Pundit: Massive Muslim Protest in Bahrain Against Terrorism: "'As tragic as the recent events in Iraq are, the silver lining is that it has brought to the fore the sectarian tensions in Bahrain and the need to resolve them before the situation gets out of hand. I hope that the civil and political societies make use of this momentum to achieve tangible and permanent changes.'"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Essays: 'The mystery of development' by Robert Cooper | Prospect Magazine February 2006 issue 119

A must read for all interested in development...

Essays: 'The mystery of development' by Robert Cooper | Prospect Magazine February 2006 issue 119: "2005 was a big year for international development. But there are strict limits on what outsiders can do to help poor countries. People develop themselves with the help of functioning legal systems and states"

Pat Martino's The Nature of the Guitar: An Intersection ofJazz Theory and Neo-Riemannian Theory

For all the Pat Martino fans, this< is a very interesting paper published in the February edition of The Online Journal of the Society for Music Theory.

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker
Video sent by alternativa
with Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, Lester Young, Bill Harris, etc-- a gem of a video for any charlie parker fan...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Khaleej Times Online

Khaleej Times Online: "Umm Nuf said her father came to tell her that she was to marry. 'I was 14 at that time and he did not even bother to ask how I felt. I was happy as a child because I had nice clothes and lots of toys. When I got married, I found myself in a strange world. I did not know what to do and my mother never taught me anything,” she said. She now has four children and her husband wants to marry another wife because he thinks she is illiterate and that he needs an educated wife."

Cell Phone Users ‘Polluting’ the Air

Cell Phone Users ‘Polluting’ the Air: "“The process of sending outrageous pictures through mobile phones have become a dangerous threat to families’ stability and our youth’s morality,” Ali Hijri, another victim of the unsolicited material. “Unfortunately, we have now phone hackers who buy SAWA phone chips under no name and then misuse them to execute their wicked plans.”"

Friday, March 03, 2006

Reason: Why Poor Countries Are Poor: The clues lie on a bumpy road leading to the world’s worst library. by Tim Harford

An economic analysis, with case examples, of the pervasive effect of corruption in the third world...I found it an interesting read...

Reason: Why Poor Countries Are Poor: The clues lie on a bumpy road leading to the world’s worst library. by Tim Harford: "It is not news that corruption and perverse incentives matter. But perhaps it is news that the problem of twisted rules and institutions explains not just a little bit of the gap between Cameroon and rich countries but almost all of the gap. Countries like Cameroon fall far below their potential even considering their poor infrastructure, low investment, and minimal education. Worse, the web of corruption foils every effort to improve the infrastructure, attract investment, and raise educational standards.

We still don’t have a good word to describe what is missing in Cameroon and in poor countries across the world. But we are starting to understand what it is. Some people call it “social capital,” or maybe “trust.” Others call it “the rule of law,” or “institutions.” But these are just labels. The problem is that Cameroon, like other poor countries, is a topsy-turvy place where it’s in most people’s interest to take actions that directly or indirectly damage everyone else. The incentives to create wealth are turned on their heads like the roof of the school library."

The Freshman - New York Times

This very interesting article chronicles the life of Rhamatullah, an Afghani male who was admitted to Yale's "special student" program via a connection with an independent film maker he met while the latter was doing a project in Afghanistan. Yale has defended their choice to admit Rhamatullah, as adding a unique element of diversity. However, Rhamatullah has been pilloried in the conservative press such as the Wall Street Journal, "Jihadi turns Bulldog" ( (subscription required). He has rubbed some people the wrong way with his defense of the Taliban, specifically, his nonchalance regarding the blowing up of the archaeologically priceless,1500 year old Buddhas and his sexist attitudes toward women. To top things off he often expresses himself with an abrupt plainness common to the Arabic world, that can easily be interpreted as arrogance.

He reminds me of many of the Saudi males I met in Riyadh. They had a dogged self-confidence in their selves and their views, which are often concretely defined through the prism of Islam they have studied, since childhood.
As the NY Times says of Rahmtullah,"Five times a day he broke for prayer. He tried dutifully to comply with the precepts of Islam: respecting elders, honoring parents, speaking truthfully. "Religion was a part of your life," he said. "You never thought about it."

The Saudi males I know can be charming in their simplicity and religiosity, even as they brag, e.g., that their better educated wife still knows to walk 10 steps behind the husband in public. They have an Arabic machismo that they don't mind expressing. Like Rhamtullah, they truly value their family life, including their wife, children, and extended family. However, their concept of marriage and indivdual roles are completely different than ours. Their extended family connections are also different, though often stronger than what we have in the West. The culture is so different than ours that in my opinion it is really impossible for even a well-educated Westerner who is not personally, intimately familiar with Arabic Muslim culture to understand the nuances of family and gender relationships. There is no question that woman's rights are not anywhere close to where they should be compared to the West, yet like many households in any culture, women may have tremendous power within the family. This latter fact is rarely mentioned in the Western press.

Regarding the blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas, of course there is no excuse in this day and age for such actions. However, if the Talibans are of the belief that history really only has significance after the Prophet Mohammed, the importance of such historical shrines becomes negligible. In other words, their actions are consistent with their faith. I could easily see myself in conversation with a Saudi friend whose lines of thought would be consistent with the relative valuelessness of such shrines. Of course many Muslims do not subscribe to this absolutism and were shocked at the destruction of these Buddhist shrines.

So what about his admission to Yale? Though be belonged to a regime that most people, including many Afghanis found abhorrent, he himself, from what we know, committed no crime. From the article, one sees that their are many shades of grey in terms of his involvement with the Taliban, from his initial enthusiasm at the order they brought to Afghanistan to his later disillusionment with certain aspects, like the lack of concern with education for girls. So applying the label "Jihadi" or "Talibani" obscures much truth as labels often do.

Should his unique background gain him admission to Yale? Does his presence add diversity that is beneficial to the student body? In a sense the answer to the latter question is "Yes," However, I am sure that there are many others, including Americans, who have very interesting life experiences and who don't come from a morally ambiguous background that should be given the chance to compete for such "special student" spots. For example, go to and read the story of Jennifer Flannery who started a very cool microfinance company for small business in the developing world....


Rhamatullah quotes:

comment re The Freshman - New York Times: "'You have to be reasonable to live in America,' he said. 'Everything here is based on reason. Even the essays you write for class. Back home you have to talk about religion and culture, and you can win any argument if you bring up the Islamic argument. You can't reason against religion. But you cannot change Afghanistan overnight. You can't bring the Enlightenment overnight.'"

But sometimes his humor really backfired. At a speech for the Atlantic Council, Mr. Rahmatullah was confronted by a woman in the audience who lifted the burkha she was wearing and chastised him for the Taliban's infamous treatment of women. "You have imprisoned the women--it's a horror, let me tell you," she cried. Mr. Rahmatullah responded with a sneer: "I'm really sorry to your husband. He might have a very difficult time with you."

"In some ways," Mr. Rahmatullah told the New York Times. "I'm the luckiest person in the world. I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

BBC NEWS | Technology | Online loans help world's poor

Two organizations referenced here, "Global Giving" and "Kiva." The history behind the startup of these two agencies makes for an interesting read, and demonstrate the power of individuals with a strong sense of determination to effect change for good...

BBC NEWS | Technology | Online loans help world's poor: "The internet is revolutionising how donors and lenders in the US are connecting with small entrepreneurs in developing countries, be they a farmer in Kenya who wants to invest in new cows or a seamstress in India who wants to open her own shop."

RED Posted by Picasa

Get RED!!!!

This seems to me to be an exciting, novel way of directing much needed money to a great cause (the Global Fund to provide medication for aids, malaria and tb). With the American Express red branded cared, 1% of your spending (up to 5000 pounds) is transferred every quarter to the Global Fund. If you exceed more than 5000 pounds in spending/year the rate of giving increases to 1.25% on all spent above the threshold.

A Note From Bobby Shriver: "It’s taken us two years to get here and finally (Product) RED has launched. We brought our Partners to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, we explained our idea (which some thought was impossible) and now I’d like to hear what you have to say.

But first, let me explain the genesis of this thing we call (RED):"...

So the question was: How do we engage big business in a way that is more than just charity? Could we get them to sell products that make money? Could we get them to direct some of that money to fighting AIDS in Africa? As a result, could we make it easier for people like you and me to ‘do something’ about the problem – sometimes without even knowing it?

Well, we came up with the idea of (RED), a brand that would create a sustainable flow of money to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa by tapping in to the world of commerce.

The concept is simple: buy (RED) and you get a product just as good as the competition while at the same time ensuring money gets to AIDS programmes in Africa. Not bad for a day of shopping!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Foreign Affairs - The Man Without a Plan - Amartya Sen

Foreign Affairs - The Man Without a Plan - Amartya Sen: "Summary: In The White Man's Burden, William Easterly offers important insights about the pitfalls of foreign aid. Unfortunately, his overblown attack on global 'do-gooders' obscures the real point: that aid can work, but only if done right."

Picower researcher explains how rats think - MIT News Office

Picower researcher explains how rats think - MIT News Office: "After running a maze, rats mentally replay their actions -- but backward, like a film played in reverse, a researcher at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT reports Feb. 12 in the advance online edition of Nature.

In 2001, Matthew A. Wilson, a professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, reported that animals have complex dreams and are able to retain and recall long sequences of events while asleep. Like people, rats go through multiple stages of sleep, from slow-wave sleep to REM sleep."

Conservatives will inherit the earth? "Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."
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