Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sudan Sanctions: Too Little, Too Late?

President Bush is imposing new economic sanctions against Sudan in an effort to pressure government officials there to end what he referred to as "genocide" in Darfur. The announcement followed a push by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who spent the past month seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis. More than 200,000 people have died, and more than 2.5 million residents have been displaced during the four years of conflict in the region. And some say the United States could do more.

John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official and co-author of Not On Our Watch: The Mission To End Genocide In Darfur And Beyond, said he is unimpressed with the new sanctions. The Africa policy expert also is senior adviser to the International Crisis Group.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor

“A billion customers in the world,” Dr. Paul Polak told a crowd of inventors recently, “are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

The world’s cleverest designers, said Dr. Polak, a former psychiatrist who now runs an organization helping poor farmers become entrepreneurs, cater to the globe’s richest 10 percent, creating items like wine labels, couture and Maseratis.

“We need a revolution to reverse that silly ratio,” he said.

To that end, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is housed in Andrew Carnegie’s 64-room mansion on Fifth Avenue and offers a $250 red chrome piggy bank in its gift shop, is honoring inventors dedicated to “the other 90 percent,” particularly the billions of people living on less than $2 a day.

A Rocky Start for Nevada’s New Governor

Negative press coverage of Nevada vernor Gibbons has now extended beyond a number or articles from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times:

CARSON CITY, Nev., May 24 — Life these days for Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada might kindly be described as suboptimal.

In the last few months, Mr. Gibbons, a Republican, announced a plan to turn coal into jet fuel to raise money (problematic, as Nevada has no coal to speak of) and proposed paying for a $3.8 billion shortfall in highway construction money by selling water rights under state highways (it turns out the state did not actually own the rights).

He told a local editorial board he could not pronounce the name of his energy adviser because she was “Indian” — she is Turkish — and vetoed a bill that would stop budget-busting tax breaks for builders of “green” buildings before issuing an executive order to end them anyway (with the exception of four companies).

Mr. Gibbons is the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into whether he failed to report gifts from a military contractor while serving in Congress. The governor, who would not be interviewed, has denied wrongdoing, and once suggested that Democratic operatives might have paid off newspaper reporters who have written about his troubles with the F.B.I.

And faced with a collapsing public education system and extensive state infrastructure needs, Mr. Gibbons at one point threatened to veto the $7 billion two-year state budget and shut down government largely over his desire for a security center in Carson City — an idea that law enforcement officials dislike — and his plan to save small businesses two hundredths of a percent on their taxes.

The travails have taken a toll.

Thorn Artisan Master #079 - Redwood & Rosewood

A sub 100 making it's! Hardeep is officially the international man of mystery ;) I believe an entire year went by while he contemplated the inlay design. After multiple false starts, he finally decided on ol' faithful - Firesuns :D #079 may not be as fancy as he had originally envisioned, but I believe it couldn't be any more beautiful than how it turned out. So, here comes #079:

Top: Redwood
Body: Honduran Mahogany
Neck: East Indian Rosewood
Fretboard: Brazilian Rosewood
Pickups: Lollar P-90s w/ Redwood Covers
Controls: Vol. / Tone (Push/Pull adds middle pickup) 3-way toggle, Piezo blend, mini 3-way for piezo/passive blend.
Bridge: Thorn 1-pc. Tremolo w/ LR Baggs Piezo Saddles
Color: Natural

I love the way the grain follows the perimeter of the body, especially in the waist. SteveK may recognize the fretboard too, it was cut from the same stick his 3 were. :)

Tone report:
The last rosewood neck Thorn that shipped had 3 P-90s and a koa top. It sounded amazing and I loved it. Now comes along this rosewood necked, 3 P-90s but with a redwood top...what a surprise - it sounds amazing.
I believe the softer/warmer wood tops tame the mids that the rosewood necks add, along with the P-90s adding a little bite and clarity. This combo works!
The piezo in a tremolo is a cool effect, nice shimmer when called upon.

Hardeep, the wait was very long - but I honestly believe that it will have been worth it for you. This guitar has great tone, sustains like a tuning fork, and is a looker for sure.

Enjoy my friend and thank you,


Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Quiet Revolution in Algeria: Gains by Women

ALGIERS, May 25 — In this tradition-bound nation scarred by a brutal Islamist-led civil war that killed more than 100,000, a quiet revolution is under way: women are emerging as an economic and political force unheard of in the rest of the Arab world.

Women make up 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

In a region where women have a decidedly low public profile, Algerian women are visible everywhere. They are starting to drive buses and taxicabs. They pump gas and wait on tables.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This Is Your Life (and How You Tell It)

Yet in the past decade or so a handful of psychologists have argued that the quicksilver elements of personal narrative belong in any three-dimensional picture of personality. And a burst of new findings are now helping them make the case. Generous, civic-minded adults from diverse backgrounds tell life stories with very similar and telling features, studies find; so likewise do people who have overcome mental distress through psychotherapy.


During a standard life-story interview, people describe phases of their lives as if they were outlining chapters, from the sandlot years through adolescence and middle age. They also describe several crucial scenes in detail, including high points (the graduation speech, complete with verbal drum roll); low points (the college nervous breakdown, complete with the list of witnesses); and turning points. The entire two-hour session is recorded and transcribed.

In analyzing the texts, the researchers found strong correlations between the content of people’s current lives and the stories they tell. Those with mood problems have many good memories, but these scenes are usually tainted by some dark detail. The pride of college graduation is spoiled when a friend makes a cutting remark. The wedding party was wonderful until the best man collapsed from drink. A note of disappointment seems to close each narrative phrase.

By contrast, so-called generative adults — those who score highly on tests measuring civic-mindedness, and who are likely to be energetic and involved — tend to see many of the events in their life in the reverse order, as linked by themes of redemption. They flunked sixth grade but met a wonderful counselor and made honor roll in seventh. They were laid low by divorce, only to meet a wonderful new partner. Often, too, they say they felt singled out from very early in life — protected, even as others nearby suffered.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Solar Flashlight Lets Africa’s Sun Deliver the Luxury of Light to the Poorest Villages

The utter darkness that sets in post sunset is one of the starkest memories I have with regard to my trips to Africa, as well as other places of destitution across the globe. The lack of light really impacts productivity of individuals in many ways...

Since August 2005, when visits to an Eritrean village prompted him to research global access to artificial light, Mr. Bent, 49, a former foreign service officer and Houston oilman, has spent $250,000 to develop and manufacture a solar-powered flashlight.

His invention gives up to seven hours of light on a daily solar recharge and can last nearly three years between replacements of three AA batteries costing 80 cents.

Over the last year, he said, he and corporate benefactors like Exxon Mobil have donated 10,500 flashlights to United Nations refugee camps and African aid charities.

Another 10,000 have been provided through a sales program, and 10,000 more have just arrived in Houston awaiting distribution by his company, SunNight Solar.

“I find it hard sometimes to explain the scope of the problems in these camps with no light,” Mr. Bent said. “If you’re an environmentalist you think about it in terms of discarded batteries and coal and wood burning and kerosene smoke; if you’re a feminist you think of it in terms of security for women and preventing sexual abuse and violence; if you’re an educator you think about it in terms of helping children and adults study at night.”
With a little research, he discovered that close to two billion people around the world go without affordable access to light.

(..)The flashlights usually sell for about $19.95 in American stores, but he has established a BoGo — for Buy One, Give One — program on his Web site,, where if you buy one flashlight for $25, he will buy and ship another one to Africa, and donate $1 to one of the aid groups he works with.

The Short, Sad History of Chad’s ‘Model’ Oil Project

A well-written summary of the Chad Oil project fiasco which serves to illuminate why it can be so difficult to do business in many places in Africa...

But since the arrival of the oil money, life in Chad, a country three times the size of California with only a few hundred miles of paved roads, has gotten worse: the conflict in Darfur has spread from Sudan into Chad; the country’s government, already weak and corrupt, has become weaker and more corrupt; and bandits have become rebels. All of this in a country of 9 million people, 80 percent of whom live on less than a dollar a day.
Statistically, it’s not a surprise that oil money has destabilized Chad. Many academic studies show that underdeveloped countries that are highly dependent on money from natural resources tend to be poorer, less democratic and more unstable than similar countries without resource revenues. What’s surprising is how quickly Chad has deteriorated.

“The shorthand of what went wrong in Chad is that the revenue-management law was based on the expectation that a law could fix something in a country without the rule of law,” Ian Gary, a policy advisor for the relief agency Oxfam, who has been studying the project since its inception, told me. “Chad has no independent judiciary, no history of peaceful transfer of power and no locally elected officials. All the power is located in the presidency, and it’s only grown more concentrated over time. The [World Bank] characterized the project as ‘High risk. High reward.’ If it went well the bank would have looked good, but all the risk was born by the people of Chad.” (World Bank employees have blogged about their shock and bewilderment at being evacuated because of fighting in the capital this December.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

How to REALLY Trade Like Warren Buffett

Many investors are disciples of Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett. Buffett learned his craft from his mentor, Benjamin Graham, author of the legendary tomes "Security Analysis" and "Intelligent Investor". Graham stated the following in 1976, shortly before his death [to the Journal of Finance]:

"I am no longer an advocate of elaborate techniques of security analysis in order to find superior value opportunities. This was a rewarding activity, say, 40 years ago, when [the bible of fundamental stock analysis, Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis] was first published; but the situation has changed. I doubt whether such extensive efforts will generate sufficiently superior selections to justify their cost."

Would the student be able to prove the teacher wrong? Buffet's Chairman’s Letter [2005] in the Berkshire Hathaway annual report indicates that the per-share book value of Berkshire Hathaway has increased at an average annual rate of 21.5% since 1965. Compared to an average of 10.3% for the S&P 500 total return including dividends, the outperformance is striking.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

How To Beat The Stock Market: Buy Companies With High Customer Satisfaction Scores

Using a back-tested paper portfolio and an actual case, the authors of a study published in the Journal of Marketing found that companies at the top 20% of the the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) greatly outperformed the the stock market, generating a 40% return.

From 1996-2003, the portfolio outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 93%, the S&P 500 by 201%, and NASDAQ by 335%.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Abuses in Enrollment Tactics Found for Private Medicare

Insurance agents in at least 39 states used illegal or unethical tactics to sell private Medicare plans, in some cases enrolling the dead and mentally incompetent, impersonating Medicare representatives, and using personal information stolen from federal records, according to interviews and documents released to Congress.

"Medicare Advantage" plans and enrollments have exploded in the past year, touted by the Bush administration as a valuable alternative to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors.

This Elephant Asks, What’s Your Dosha?

MENTION the name Elephant Pharmacy to people here and the response is, That’s the drugstore that prescribes yoga. In fact, Elephant Pharm, as it calls itself, offers a wide variety of alternative remedies — yoga perhaps being the most mainstream — besides traditional prescriptions. Such branding is invaluable to a small company like this, which is striving to carve a niche as the only drugstore in America thinking outside the big box.

Elephant Pharm’s mission is to become a “natural community hub,” where conventional medicine meets other forms of health care, a combination that it says is not found in any other drugstore.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eye on helping others

My dear friends Devin and Laurie Harrison are recognized by the Washington Ophthalmologic Society for their humanitarian work!!!

Each year, the Washington State Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (WAEPS) selects one of its members for the Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. This year’s award went to Harrison. He was was honored during the WAEPS Annual Meeting on March 30, at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle. Harrison spent over two years in Nigeria caring for those in dire need of eye care. Many of his patients overseas can now see, thanks to Harrison’s service and skills as a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon. In addition to removal of many cataracts, he treated numerous serious and unusual maladies of the eye and periocular tissues, many of which are never seen in the U.S. “There is one ophthalmologist per every million people over there,” he said. “There’s such a backlog of people who need help there.”

“I would love to go back to Africa,” he said, adding that there is a continual need for equipment and training augmentation. And the people he has trained simply need an occasional break.

Harrison’s wife Laurie accompanied him to Nigeria and supported his many humanitarian efforts. With them were their two young children Luke and Kiras. All four were victims of armed robbery and had to be evacuated during riots and fighting between Christians and Muslims.

“The work experience was great,” Harrison said. “Living there was sometimes a challenge.”

The award is based on criteria established by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the national parent organization of WAEPS and the other state ophthalmology societies throughout the United States. The criteria include exceptional service to disadvantaged people in the United States or abroad, sometimes in settings of high risk to the ophthalmologist, as well as personal sacrifice.

In nominating Harrison for the award, several ophthalmologists spoke of his 24/7 humanitarianism, not just for a month or two years of service but for an ongoing ever-present calling to selflessly serve those in need. He has touched the lives of many, both here and abroad.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose ophthalmology,” he said. “I had dreamed of traveling there for years. There’s such a huge need there.”

Harrison has also been nominated by WAEPS to receive the AAO’s 2007 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award, which will be presented during the AAO Meeting in New Orleans on November 11.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Witness Next Door

One of the most unusual people in New Jersey these days is a tall 34-year-old black man named Daoud Hari. Others may lose their tempers at traffic jams on the turnpike, but he’s just glad he’s no longer being tortured.
Mr. Hari has just arrived in the U.S. from Chad and Darfur, where he says he was beaten and told repeatedly he was going to be executed. He is one of just a handful of Darfuris — his lawyer knows of two others — whom the U.S. has accepted as refugees.
Interpreters and drivers are the secret to good international reporting, and they do much of the work, take most of the risks and get none of the credit. Mr. Hari regularly interpreted for other journalists, repeatedly putting himself in danger to get out the stories.

Finally, after more than a month, Sudan freed Mr. Hari along with Mr. Salopek and the driver. Eventually Mr. Hari made his way back to Chad, and the U.S. granted him status as a political refugee. It is disorienting to be with him here, where we are both clean, rested and safe.

Mr. Hari’s presence in the U.S. underscores a profound difference between Darfur and past genocides: In the past, we could always claim that we didn’t fully appreciate what was going on until too late.It was only a faint reed of an excuse, for in fact information always did trickle out about past genocides even as they were underway. But this time we can’t even feign ignorance.

A superb new documentary, “The Devil Came on Horseback,” provides a wrenching tour through the eyes of a tormented American military observer there. A handful of books chronicle the killings; one of them, “Not on Our Watch,” has hit the best-seller list with its suggestions for what citizens can do. President Bush has described the slaughter in Darfur as genocide since 2004.

Google Earth has developed a first-rate program to observe the devastation from above. On my blog,, you can see a man whose eyes were gouged out by the janjaweed as well as video from the journey last year with Mr. Hari.

Or, if you live in New Jersey, you can simply turn to one of your newest neighbors, and see the pain in his eyes as he wonders if his sisters are still alive.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fisher Is a Father First, and a Jazz Player Later

The intra-arterial chemotherapy mentioned here seems like it could be a very promising way of treating retinoblastoma...

OAKLAND, Calif., May 10 — Derek Fisher had 30 minutes Tuesday morning to decide whether to remove his daughter’s left eye.
Fisher, a point guard for the Utah Jazz, sat in an office at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, across from Dr. David Abramson and Dr. Pierre Gobin, asking them how to cure the cancer that had formed in his baby girl’s retina.

“He really had three choices,” Abramson said. “Remove the eye, remove the eye or remove the eye.”

Last week in Salt Lake City, an advanced case of retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor of the retina found in about 300 children a year, was diagnosed in Fisher’s 10-month-old daughter, Tatum. Removing the eye is the most common way to remove the tumor.

There was one other option, but it seemed too risky. Last year, Abramson and Gobin developed a procedure called intra-arterial chemotherapy, which allows them to treat the disease without removing an eye.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Save the Darfur Puppy

Finally, we’re beginning to understand what it would take to galvanize President Bush, other leaders and the American public to respond to the genocide in Sudan: a suffering puppy with big eyes and floppy ears.
That’s the implication of a series of studies by psychologists trying to understand why people — good, conscientious people — aren’t moved by genocide or famines. Time and again, we’ve seen that the human conscience just isn’t pricked by mass suffering, while an individual child (or puppy) in distress causes our hearts to flutter.
And after I began visiting Darfur in 2004, I was flummoxed by the public’s passion to save a red-tailed hawk, Pale Male, that had been evicted from his nest on Fifth Avenue in New York City. A single homeless hawk aroused more indignation than two million homeless Sudanese.
In one experiment, people in one group could donate to a $300,000 fund for medical treatments that would save the life of one child — or, in another group, the lives of eight children. People donated more than twice as much money to help save one child as to help save eight.
“Our capacity to feel is limited,” Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon writes in a new journal article, “Psychic Numbing and Genocide,” which discusses these experiments. Professor Slovic argues that we cannot depend on the innate morality even of good people. Instead, he believes, we need to develop legal or political mechanisms to force our hands to confront genocide.

But, frankly, after four years of watching the U.N. Security Council, the International Criminal Court and the Genocide Convention accomplish little in Darfur, I’m skeptical that either human rationality or international law can achieve much unless backed by a public outcry.

So maybe what we need isn’t better laws but more troubled consciences — pricked, perhaps, by a Darfur puppy with big eyes and floppy ears. Once we find such a soulful dog in peril, we should call ABC News. ABC’s news judgment can be assessed by the 11 minutes of evening news coverage it gave to Darfur’s genocide during all of last year — compared with 23 minutes for the false confession in the JonBenet Ramsey case.

If President Bush and the global public alike are unmoved by the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of fellow humans, maybe our last, best hope is that we can be galvanized by a puppy in distress.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Diet With Low Glycemic Index Slows AMD Progression

May 8, 2007 (Ft. Lauderdale) — People whose diet consists of foods that lead to a high dietary glycemic index have a substantially higher risk of progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to recent long-term results from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).

In fact, consumption of highly refined carbohydrates can lead to up to a 17% increased risk of AMD progression, according to a poster presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Vision and Research in Ophthalmology (ARVO).

Foods that contribute to a lower dietary glycemic index include things such as legumes, rolled oats, basmati rice, whole bran, whole grains, and even pasta if it is cooked al dente (slightly hard). Foods that contribute to a higher glycemic index include things such as instant oatmeal, overcooked pasta, white bread, and many types of potatoes, she said.

As a rule, foods that are more processed are more likely to increase blood sugar and foods that undergo less processing and are “whole” are thought to provide cardiovascular protection.

Doctors Reap Millions for Anemia Drugs

Two of the world’s largest drug companies are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year in return for giving their patients anemia medicines, which regulators now say may be unsafe at commonly used doses.
The payments are legal, but very few people outside of the doctors who receive them are aware of their size. Critics, including prominent cancer and kidney doctors, say the payments give physicians an incentive to prescribe the medicines at levels that might increase patients’ risks of heart attacks or strokes.
Neither Amgen nor Johnson & Johnson has disclosed the total amount of the payments. But documents given to The New York Times show that at just one practice in the Pacific Northwest, a group of six cancer doctors received $2.7 million from Amgen for prescribing $9 million worth of its drugs last year.
The medicines — Aranesp and Epogen, from Amgen; and Procrit, from Johnson & Johnson — are among the world’s top-selling drugs, with combined sales of $10 billion last year. In this country, they represent the single biggest drug expense for Medicare and are given to about a million patients each year to treat anemia caused by kidney disease or cancer chemotherapy.
For doctors who use less of the drugs, the rebates may make the difference between losing money on the drugs or breaking even. Mr. Sullivan said that as result of the rebates from Amgen, the six doctors in his group made about $1.8 million in net profit on the drugs they prescribed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

When Order Creates Itself

An anonymous commenter, responding to my previous column, suggested that my title “Our Lives as Atoms” is “more than a little puzzling,” and wondered “Where will all this lead us?” I’ve written about the amplified polarization of opinion in the political blogs, and about the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, which had a disturbingly eerie resemblance to famous experiments at Stanford University 36 years ago. What does any of this have to do with atoms? Fair question. I’d like to start my answer by telling you about a strange phenomenon in Spitsbergen.

Where History Reigns

An interesting essay on the differences between England and the U.S. by the columnist David Brooks at the New York Times:

I got to enjoy many of the features I love about Britain: repressed emotions, overarticulate conversationalists and crustless sandwiches.
In short, Brits live with the constant presence of their ancestors. When Isaiah Berlin compared F.D.R. and Churchill, he observed that while Roosevelt had an untroubled faith in the future, Churchill’s “strongest sense is the sense of the past.”

History, in the British public culture, takes precedence over philosophy, psychology, sociology and economics. And with a few obvious exceptions, British historians have not seen history as the unfolding of abstract processes. They have not seen the human story as the march toward some culminating Idea.
Even philosophers in Britain tend to be skeptics, and emphasize how little we know or can know. Edmund Burke distrusted each individual’s stock of reason and put his faith in the accumulated wisdom of tradition. Adam Smith put his faith in the collective judgment of the market. Michael Oakeshott ridiculed rationalism. Berlin celebrated pluralism, arguing there is no single body of truth.

This skepticism permeates national life, for while the British can be socially deferential, they are rarely intellectually deferential. The French and the Germans might defer to their intellectuals, and the Arabs might defer to their clerics, but the British public is incapable. That’s why the British trade unions could take on the upper classes in their day, and why the Brits had an open debate about European unification. The British elites exerted enormous pressure in favor of union, but the tabloid readers didn’t care.

American journalists, for example, are spiritually descended from Walter Lippmann. We are always earnestly striving toward some future elevated state. British journalists are spiritually descended from Samuel Johnson. They are conversationalists enjoying the inevitable conflicts that, as W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman put it, pit the wrong but romantic against the right but repugnant.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Out of the Mouth of Babes...

"He never listens. I ask him everyday to clean his room and it looks like a tornado visits his room daily. He doesn't have chores. All I want him to do is keep his clean room. Is that asking too much?

As the lament over one of our older child goes on and on in rhythm with the turning of the wheels, it is as thought a dark cloud has descended directly into the front seat of the car, obscuring all else...

Out of the backseat, a beautiful, melodious voice innocently and insistently inquires,

"But do you still love him?"

Pin-drop silence as our 7 year old daughter resets reality for us....a ray of light piercing the darkness and dissolving the shadows of self-wrought distortions...

Angela Jolie--Power Giver

Cause: Helping refugees, disaster victims, orphans. Jolie, 31, began work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Sierra Leone in 2001, the year she became a goodwill ambassador. She has put her time, influence and millions of dollars into helping people in Sudan, Chad and Thailand.

Impact: She donates one-third of her income to charity, and her three adopted children—Maddox, Zahara and Pax—are examples of her continuing commitment to helping those in need.

More of Angela Jolie's work with the organization, Global Action for Children:

Now Angelina has passionately joined forces with GAC, dedicating time, money and emotion to the cause. “My daughter Zahara was orphaned because of AIDS,” she told the audience in Washington, “So I don’t have to tell you how precious I think these children are.”

Methods Used by Insurers Are Questioned

WASHINGTON, May 6 — Insurance companies have used improper hard-sell tactics to persuade Medicare recipients to sign up for private health plans that cost the government far more than the traditional Medicare program, federal and state officials and consumer advocates say.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The (Not So) Eagerly Modern Saudi

This article is an excellent snapshot of the state of flux in which many Saudis find themselves today. The article importantly highlights the surprisingly OPEN nature of the debate which is emerging... (tip of the hat to James)

SAUDI ARABIA, home of Islam’s holiest sites, flush with oil revenue, and increasingly the most influential player among Arab countries, has long resisted changing its ultratraditional ways. Now the intrusions of global economics and technology have begun to challenge some traditions in ways that the country’s idealists could not. And the strain that this is causing is showing in the form of surprisingly open debate about how much Saudis really want to modernize.

While the notorious religious police still roam this capital city, much is evolving in the way people live. Saudis are suddenly overwhelmed with credit card debt. Thousands have grown rich, and thousands more have lost large sums, in the stock market.
So Saudis are engaged in an increasingly public debate over their identity. Should the school curriculum be changed, with English taught before seventh grade? Should women drive? Should stores stay open past 10? What constitutes religion and what is tradition?
The surprisingly open nature of this discussion, itself a rarity in a society where people often do not know their own neighbors, has rattled nerves.
Fifty years ago, Riyadh, the Saudi capital, was a city of mud houses and people who had to make their own shoes. Today, the center of the city is wireless and has Starbucks, Saks Fifth Avenue and Baskin-Robbins.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Healthy Mix of Rest and Motion

...But new findings suggest that for at least one workout a week it pays to be both tortoise and hare — alternating short bursts of high-intensity exercise with easy-does-it recovery.

Weight watchers, prediabetics and those who simply want to increase their fitness all stand to gain.

This alternating fast-slow technique, called interval training, is hardly new. For decades, serious athletes have used it to improve performance.

But new evidence suggests that a workout with steep peaks and valleys can dramatically improve cardiovascular fitness and raise the body’s potential to burn fat.

Best of all, the benefits become evident in a matter of weeks.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that after just two weeks of interval training, six of the eight college-age men and women doubled their endurance, or the amount of time they could ride a bicycle at moderate intensity before exhaustion. Eight volunteers in a control group, who did not do any interval training, showed no improvement in endurance.
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