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Showing posts from January, 2008

Death Sentence of a Journalist

Words do injustice expressing the disgust and shame regarding this horrendous case of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, an Afghanistani student journalist, who is languishing in prison while awaiting his death sentence handed down by a religious court in Afghanistan for the reason of "downloading an internet report on women's rights."

Sign the petition by clicking here started by UK's The Independent to save this student journalist's life.

Read The Independent's article on this breach of universal civility!

Khaled Hosseini, the famous writer who wrote the memorable novel The Kite Runner a few years ago, just published a timely article in The Wall Street Journal. Here are a few excerpts from his article:
The real questions that must be asked are: Is post-Taliban Afghanistan a country that executes citizens for peacefully questioning some aspect of Islam? What about all the rhetoric of Afghan freedom and democracy? Wouldn't executing Mr. Kaambakhsh render it embarrassingl…

Montel Williams on Foxy Tabloid News

The irony is, after this show, Motel's own show was canceled by Fox. Is this price of asking tough questions? Perhaps, Montel should have sticked to day time soap opera entertainment like talk shows, and never ending celebrity gossips. Casualties? War? Who cares? Right?

The $1.4 Trillion Question

Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can’t go on indefinitely, and therefore won’t. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere.James Fallows article in The Atlantic presents how this logic of "the balance of financial terror" between Ch…

Two Recent Videos of Dr. Muhammad Yunus

Two recent videos of Dr. Muhammad Yunus' lecture can be seen below.




Is It Just a Rock?

Image
What is this? Somewhat weird rock structure, or rock hopping Martian? Can it be clever image manipulation? Is it just a rock?

To visit the image source, please click here.

Solitary 'Mr Average'

Jérôme Kerviel's name is on every major world newspaper's front page. Along with this name, increasing murmurs are becoming louder roars, skeptics already started doubting the "lone man" theory perpetuated by the French bank giant Societe Generale's delayed explanation on "one of the largest financial scams in history."

Here are a few observations from The Washington Post:
Public doubts mounted over the bank's account that a single trader was responsible for $7.14 billion in losses, while top officials questioned why the bank waited nearly a week to announce the discovery of the massive fraud.

"It is difficult for everyone to understand how a single person, in a relatively short period of time, can cause losses as significant in a solid and reliable banking house," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Friday at a news conference during a visit to Luxembourg.

Fillon said he has ordered his finance minister to investigate the fraud at France'…

The 247 lb. Vegan

"Living solely on plant food, a combination of nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains and the like, has long been the fringe diet of young rebels and aging nonconformists. Even the government recommends regular helpings of meat, fish and dairy. Vegans of late have gotten more hip with such best sellers as the brash "Skinny Bitch," and its more scholarly cousin, "The China Study." Both books argue vegans can live longer.

But could an all-star National Football League player, all 6-foot, 5-inches and 247 pounds of him, live on a vegan diet and still excel in one of the most punishing jobs in sports?"Read the full article from the following The Wall Street Journal link:
The 247 lb. Vegan

See the following video of "Kansas City Chief Tight End Tony Gonzalez" who "shows us how to make high protein vegan shakes that actually taste good.

Video Link:
http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid452319854/bctid1381147904


Hans Rosling: "Seemingly Impossible is Possible"

"Seemingly impossible is possible" -- Hans Rosling.

This is the 2007 sequel to Professor Rosling's 2006 video.

Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen

The following video is about two years old, presented by Professor Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor and researcher at Karolinska Institutet. It was presented in Monterey, California in 2006. Using graphical animation Professor Rosling makes the concept of poverty rates, life expectancy, child mortality and necessity of making data "not boring" for the wider population accessible. I wish I had a professor like him who had similar access to contemporary technologies and so much enthusiasm in his presentation that makes learning complex subject not so "boring".

One line from his presentation is: "Improvement of the world must be contextualized".

Video Link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w

How to Stop the Downturn

World economy has tendency in following America's economic lead. As American economy goes sour, so does world economy. At least that's what seemed plausible early this week when stocks in Asia tumbled trailing U.S. economic "slowdown".

Joseph E. Stiglitz who won Nobel Prize in Economics, and had written a few splendid books on globalization and world trade, has a few good suggestions on "how to stop the downturn" in U.S. economy, that in turn can surely help the overall world economy by default. Here are a few pointers from his The New York Times article:
The country needs a stimulus, but anything we do will add to our soaring deficit, so it is important to get as much bang for the buck as possible. The optimal package would contain one fast-acting measure along with others that could lead to increased spending if and only if the economy goes into a steep downturn.We should begin by strengthening the unemployment insurance system, because money received by th…

Engineered Mosquitoes

In developing world, dengue fever affects millions of people, killing millions every year. Dengue is a disease that is carried on and passed by infected mosquitoes. The fight against dengue and its carrier is a long drawn out battle. Even an open coke bottle or spare tire with accumulated water can be the breeding ground for mosquitoes, and destroying these "standing-water larval hatching grounds" can be tantamount to quite impossible for many a nations where funding for such extensive undertaking is acutely limited.

Now comes Oxitec, a company based in England, claims that "it can decimate mosquito populations by breeding genetically modified male mosquitoes, then releasing them to mate with wild females. Their offspring contain lethal genes that kill them young, before they can reproduce."

Oxitec's experiments with "programmed" mosquitoes have generated considerable uproars in various segments of world societies, including large grant for more researc…

Care about the environment? Eat less meat

Changing one's lifestyle for the benefit of environment does not seem appealing to many. But changing one's lifestyle where cutting down meat consumption for the sake of one's vital health can be promoted because of its mass appeal. Studies after studies show the link between high meat consumption and life threatening disease like cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

Vested interests directly and indirectly related to meat industries will be vehemently against any kind of arguments against the reduction of meat consumptions and productions, like the previous similar arguments made against the cigarette industries or the safety related standards in automobile. Even the Nobel Prize winning scientist hesitates raising this sensitive issue before getting the respected prize. Rajendra Pachauri who is the head of the United Nation's scientific panel on climate change implored the world with following comment: "please eat less meat." "Speak…

Political Animals

"Just as there are myriad strategies open to the human political animal with White House ambitions, so there are a number of nonhuman animals that behave like textbook politicians. Researchers who study highly gregarious and relatively brainy species like rhesus monkeys, baboons, dolphins, sperm whales, elephants and wolves have lately uncovered evidence that the creatures engage in extraordinarily sophisticated forms of politicking, often across large and far-flung social networks."This highly engaging article published in The New York Times observes the following Machiavellian trait in rhesus monkeys so starkly resemble the "supremo" humans: “Individuals don’t fight for food, space or resources,” Dr. Maestripieri explained. “They fight for power.” With power and status, he added, “they’ll have control over everything else.”

And Rhesus monkeys are humorous even though nothing much humor is there about social power politicking: "Monkeys cultivate relationships …

Tiny Car, Tough Questions

Anne Applebaum observes that "at least for the philosophically minded, the Nano comes with its own moral conundrum: What happens when the laudable, currently fashionable movement to improve the environment comes directly into conflict with the equally laudable, equally fashionable movement to improve the lives of the poor?"

Nano's impact will be felt within the next decade, both on environment and on lives of many poor Indians, even on other folks around the world when nano frenzy eventually grips mass attention with its promised manufacture bonanza. "There is no profound reason that good environmental policies have to come into conflict with economic growth, but they often do." And when they do, in most cases till now, sound environmental policies gets pushed back by economic might.

Green Revolutionary -- Norman E. Borlaug, the Man who Fed the World

Unlike all the crunchy celebrity frenzy in modern news and media, Norman E. Borlaug is a stranger in the world of instant recognition. How ironic, this is the man, who had done enormous service to the entire world population by developing wheat variety that doubled, and even trippled food production from one corner of globe to another. Even his recent biography by Leon Hesser is "Temporarily Out of Stock", and none of his own books are available for purchase from any major book sellers today. It was not that he didn't get his deserved "recognition". He did get it. Nobel Prize was awarded to him for peace, and from American government he received Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Two articles on this green revolutionary can be read from the following links:

1. Green Revolutionary - Technology Review

2. Norman Borlaug - Wikipedia Article

Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?

Hillary's welled up eyes, and restrained tears might have had a hand in flipping New Hampshire democratic primary this year. But the words she had uttered in that informal news conference, saying, "“I just don’t want to see us fall backwards", are words came from the deepest conviction and truth it seems. See the video below:

The debate in New Hampshire before the primary where Hillary was aggressive, and also at the same time had to defend herself from two prong attacks from Obama and Edwards while pointing out some hollowness in opponents' claims to be more "purified" from corruptions, or having no ties with powerful lobby groups, the questioning from the New Hampshire debate moderator and its subsequent answers from Obama were indeed demeaning as Maureen Dowd observes in her The New York Times article, "How humiliating to have a moderator of the New Hampshire debate ask her to explain why she was not as popular as the handsome young prince from Chica…

Obama and the Ghosts of Racism

"Africans were enslaved. Next, a savage war was justified by the "freeing" of slaves. Then, in a distinct but insufficiently acknowledged act of the drama, black people were actively resubjugated in the decades after the Civil War. That resubjugation, embodied in a "reconstruction" bargain between North and South, according to which the other purpose of the Civil War, "union," was given priority over "freedom," led to the culture of Jim Crow, radical segregation, and the use of law to keep African-Americans in an assigned place. That actively nurtured system - not the crippling effects of a long-abolished injustice - defines the ongoing American crime."James Carroll's article in The Boston Globe observes "African-Americans have not been passive victims of this heinous tradition. Blacks led the resistance to it, culminating in the triumphs of the civil rights movement, preparing the way for leaders like Obama. But his arrival, …

Abolishing Ageing -- How to Live Forever

Immortality! Human beings want to live forever. Who wouldn't? Despite all the miseries, tribulations and griefs one may accumulate throughout one's turbulent or sedentary life, wish for living more years in this vibrant planet among the loved ones is unstoppable. However, human beings' wishes always get its end with bodily demise. Death is the certainty. Mortality is the absolute. We born. We die. Nature revolves around this simple binary solution for its cycle of renewal and regeneration. Is there any way beating nature prolonging human lifespan?

Recent studies show promising developments. An independent researcher at Cambridge, England, Dr. de Gray, who has a background in engineering, compartmentalized ageing into seven components. These are the following:
Cell lossApoptosis-resistance (the tendency of cells to refuse to die when they are supposed to)Gene mutations in the cell nucleusGene mutations in the mitochondria (the cell's power-packs)The accumulation of junk i…

Insect Attack May Have Finished Off Dinosaurs

A "lone smoking gun" theory responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs around the K-T Boundary, which is the "the line between the Cretaceous and Tertiary Period about 65 million years ago" seems increasingly implausible. Popular consciousness still retains that a catastrophic event like giant asteroids impacting earth, or the fiery lava flow had eliminated dinosaurs. But studies show dinosaurs didn't die off this planet suddenly; it was a gradual process, even many thousand years after the K-T Boundary dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

George Poinar Jr. is a professor of zoology at Oregon State University, and he says, "There are serious problems with the sudden impact theories of dinosaur extinction, not the least of which is that dinosaurs declined and disappeared over a period of hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years. That time frame is just not consistent with the effects of an asteroid impact. But competition with insects, emerging new dis…

Saudis Confirm Detention of Blogger

“It’s intimidating to think you might be arrested for something on your blog. On the other hand, this means that these voices on the blogosphere are being heard. But it’s really sad that a blogger who is writing about important issues out in the open would get arrested, while there are extremists who call for violence and hate, and the government is not doing much.”
In Saudi, questioning the royal government's royal imprisonments of opponents is considered so much offensive that the blogger ends up in detention. Read the following comments made by General Turki from Saudi Interior Ministry, “He is not being jailed. He is being questioned, and I don’t believe he will remain in detention long. They will get the information that they need from him and then they will let him go.”

Scary imagery indeed. Could this ever be thinkable or possible in this shore of the land? Deteriorating human rights and increased ratcheting fear may make everything palatable for mellowed populace wherever th…

Will Your Resolutions Last Until February?

Maybe it won't. Who knows? Like every "new year" before in the past, and like many other "goal" hungry boys and girls, I had made so many "resolutions". All pumped up at the stroke of a midnight, ready to embrace the coming new year with all zesty vigor, only to be deflated within the next few weeks, at most the month. Certainly there were exceptions, when certain goals did see the fruition of success or destination, but overall, keeping at the pace with expanding resolutions seemed to like running after a departed train from a sun scorched platform. Indeed, the last "train" has departed. But the next one is here, and the journey of this life, in the middle of chaos, tensions and beauty, must go on.

Read these suggestions / advice in The New York Times that may help keeping "Resolutions" in managed mode.