Friday, December 31, 2010

Mobile Phone Brings Silent Revolution In Poor Countries

If corrupt politicians, lack of government programs, inadequacy of vocational trainings have been the bane of the financially disadvantaged people in the third word countries, they are now finding help in a relatively modern innovation—mobile phone, which is literally giving them the opportunity to pull themselves up by their shoe strings.

Mobile phone is a way of life in the western world and in majority cases it is merely a means of convenience in communication, however, in the third world it has become the life blood of decent size businesses, and a Bangladeshi village woman, Monowara Talukder, a native of Gaibandha district in the northern part of the country, one of the poorest area of Bangladesh, is a testimony to that.

In only six years, Talukder has built an international herbal tea business, Tulsi Tea, with a turnover of $625,000 in revenue. In a country where the per capita income is only $599 (2008 statistics) Talukder's endeavor can be termed as a business empire.

She employs 1,500 female workers, and supplies her products to major western health food chains, and far eastern countries. She does not have an office or showroom, her mobile phone is her office, show room, phone, fax—in a nutshell the hubbub of her international activity.

When the mobile phone first arrived in the rural Bangladesh in 1997, Talukder was among the first women to sign up for one. The cost was high in Bangladeshi standard and for a 48-year old mother of four, who had never ventured in such a project, the risk was very high, albeit, she never regretted her decision.

All women, nevertheless, are not as lucky as Talukder. According to the telecoms industry body GSMA, a woman living in South Asia has only 37 per cent chance of getting a mobile phone compared to a man, giving rise to telecoms gender gap. Talukder, who made difference to many lives, proudly stated that because of her growing business, 1,200 of her employees own mobile phones, a great feat for a poor country such as Bangladesh.

National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ken Banks posted some stories about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve billions of lives at the grass roots level. There are over 500 million subscribers in Africa alone, and increasing number of people around the world are owning mobile phones with each day passing.

The advantages are multifaceted: Farmers can access market information and increase their income by 40 percent in some cases; day laborers can advertise their services and increase their chances of getting work; unemployed can receive job alerts, and even money can be transferred over the phone where there are no banks. Villagers in Kenya can get timely wildlife warnings, helping them to take precaution from the romping elephants.

In Bhutan, a remote trekking area has received mobile phone system which allows the Principal of Lingshi community primary school, Pema Dema, to audio Biblical service project was launched by E-verses, a private telecommunication company, on Dec. 6 at the Karachi Press Club. Christians, who are minority in Pakistan have been elated with the first-ever audio service of the Bible available through the mobile phones.

Taliban militants routinely attack telecommunication towers in Afghanistan alleging that the NATO forces track them through their phone signals and then attack their hide outs. However, many Afghans, including lawmakers speak out against such actions. Legislator Shurkiya Barekzai commented that by attacking the towers the Taliban seeks to destroy Afghan economy since the mobile networks are very important for ordinary Afghans as mobile phones have become principal means of communication given the rugged nature of Afghan territory and their poor mail service system.

A recent United Nations report said the the fast spreading information technology can improve the livelihoods of the poorest people in developing countries and it cautioned that governments must design responsive policies to ensure that the benefits reach maximum number of people in the most effective way. UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi told a news conference that mobile phone subscriptions will reach five billion this year, nearly one per person on the planet.

Mobile phone has become so important in the lives of people of Ghana that thousands protested poor mobile phone services in Ghana by marching on streets. The local Consumer Protection Agency colluded with other consumer right groups and called on all mobile phone users in the country to switch off their mobile phones for six hours demanding quality services from mobile phone service providers.

The protesters submitted a petition to the deputy communications minister, Dr Nartey Siaw Sapore, who assured that the Ghanaian government would look into the matter and take necessary actions to improve the service.

Article first published as Mobile Phone Brings Silent Revolution In Poor Countries on Technorati.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Florida Shooter—Story of A Man Failed By Our System

Clay Duke, an ex-con with bipolar disorder, who was described as a person with an interest in anarchy, held hostage five board members of Bay City Schools district in Florida at gun point. The saga ended when a guard shoot Duke at his leg, and he ended his life shooting himself.

It appeared to me that the media gave much more credence to Ginger Littleton part of the story than the anguish and desperateness that pushed Duke over the cliff. Don't get me wrong, Ginger Littleton is my hero, as she demonstrated the courage and utter selfishness in her attempt to protect innocent people, which is so rear in our time. She was totally oblivious of for her own safety when she hit Duke with her purse, in an attempt to dislodge the gun from his hand.

Echoing Littleton's children's feeling, I also wonder, what was she thinking? How could Littleton put her own life in danger like she had? As it followed, the burly Duke easily pinned her on the floor and threatened to shoot her at the point blank range. Yet, he did not shoot and let her go—why did he not?

The school district had hired Duke's wife Rebecca Crowder-Duke in September 2009 to teach students with special needs. She was nonetheless fired in February for not passing her probation. Duke was upset that his wife had been fired and according to Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten, had been planning the shooting for some time.

Duke's opportunity for his vendetta came when he walked into a board meeting and sat with the audience, listening to proceedings. In the middle of discussion, Duke walked to the front of the room, spray painted a red "V" with a circle around it on the white wall, and charged the audience asking everyone but the board members to leave.

Bill Husfelt, the Bay City Schools Superintendent tried to sway Duke to drop his gun, Duke refused and shoot a few rounds around the board members. No one was hit. When a security guard arrived, they exchanged shots and Duke was hit on his leg (or side). Then he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

A video showed Duke firing several shots but hitting no one. Was he a bad shooter? Crowder-Duke said that her husband was an excellent marksman—then why did Duke miss the five board members who were sitting just a few feet away?

Crowder-Duke described her husband a "gentle giant," adding, "the economy and the world just got the better of him." She also thought, "He didn't want anyone to get hurt but himself."

Duke's life is a sad tale of how our society fails to help the most vulnerable. Born in Ocala, Fla., Duke graduated from high school in Tampa. In the late 1990s, Duke's trouble with the law began and he was convicted for shooting at the tires of his his ex-wife's car.

Duke had taken a plea agreement and a judge awarded him five years in prison followed by 10 years probation. He took psychiatric help, used his medications regularly, and completed his probation. Duke's attorney, Bollinger, said, "He was competent but he was one of those people (who) had a mood disorder where they could be depressed one day and all excited another day. I just remember the doctor saying he had a personality disorder.”

About a year after his release in January 2004, he sued the Social Security Administration for disability benefits and health insurance. David Evans, the attorney who represented Duke said, "He couldn't work. He just mentally couldn't make the connection for eight hours a day." Evans maintained that Duke had been diagnosed by several doctors as bipolar, but didn't have enough money to buy the needed medication, "He was clearly in need of help."

The judge in the case nevertheless did not feel that duke's claim was justified. Evans said. "All he was asking for was $500 or $600 a month and medical insurance." After several failed attempts Duke withdrew his suit in 2006.

On a Face book page Duke left a message on Dec. 7, “My testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V) ... no ... I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95 percent of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats ... same-same ... rich ... they take turns fleecing us ... our few dollars ... pyramiding the wealth for themselves."

The ink on President Obama's signature is yet to dry on the bill which our Democratic lawmakers helped to pass, joining hands with the Republicans, to give away $600 billion to wealthiest of Americans, at a time when unemployment level is hovering at the depression level figures. Nothing stopped our millionaire law makers from awarding that gift. Regardless, our country cannot accord $500 a month to help keep people like Clay Duke senile and functioning as a normal healthy human being.

I picture a vivid scenario, on my way to airport when I was leaving India, the car had stopped at a red light, and a visibly mentally deranged man approached and stretched his hand for alms, my friend who was accompanying me to the airport said, “You are going to the richest country where they take care of their disadvantaged people, you would not experience this anymore.” How wrong my friend was!

In deed it is a sordid testimony to our nation and us, we who are the fortunate members of this society.

Article first published as Florida Shooter—Story of A Man Failed By Our System on Technorati.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Miracle At Ebay

Here is a sweet story for you: A man lists his Rolex for $9.95 on e-bay, and sells it for a whopping $66,100, and that too right before the holidays. This shall inspire many to dig through their junks and see if there is something that can make them at least enough money to ride through the holiday shopping.

A retired neurosurgeon, who just went by his first name Bob for this story, had purchased a Rolex Submariner dive watch at the Navy Exchange on Kwajalein Atoll in 1958, for his scuba diving. By the mid-1960s, he started to wear it rarely as his diving slowed down, but in the 1980s, he resurrected his scuba diving hobby and started using it regularly.

The watch served well through different periods of his life, but now in his nineties, Bob has overgrown its need since he is no more in scuba driving, and decided to sell it. When the watch was listed on e-bay, the savvy e-bayers realized this watch was no ordinary watch. It was a vintage Rolex Submariner dive watch; one of its kind once adorned the wrist of Sean Connery in one early Bond films.

When the bidding rose to $30,000, Bob could not believe his eyes, and only then he asked his son to do a research on the watch’s significance and value, and then he found out the checkered history of this time keeping machine.

Although the watch was sold for a staggering price, the watch-enthusiast site thinks the true price of the watch could be much higher. When Hodinkee asked Bob if he had any regret selling this watch at this price after learning that it is a piece of history and worth much more, he replied, "None at all."

This was the first interesting angle of the story for me, Bob did not regret selling it cheap, why didn’t he? Is it because he is in his nineties? Does it mean that anyone reaching the age of ninety suddenly loses attachment to money? Why do we all run after money in the first place?

Then, think of it what was the chance that the e-bayers would be discovering the worth of the watch in time to bid it so high? Contrary to people’s belief, e-bay does not always fetch the best price, many times items are not sold, because no body desiring it noticed in time.

I also deliberated on the thought, what is the real price of a thing, of any thing? Why does an item suddenly becomes precious when it is linked to history, or celebrity? Who buys these? For what? How trivial is the worth of money to these people?

In my host of thoughts, I also considered the phenomenon that Deepak Chopra calls living in total connectedness with God when miracles happen as natural occurring events. Is this a miracle that just transpired, because Bob’s desire to sell the watch at a good price was connected to the source that people call God, and no one really understands what It Is?

By the way if in this picture a man resembles Christopher Reeve to you, you have good eyes, for he is Christopher Reeve, the Superman, who happens to be a friend of Bob.

Article first published as A Miracle At Ebay on Technorati.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Researchers At Stanford Discover New Solar Cells That Can Change The World

For Pete’s sake, please call on your state representatives and ask them to press for allocating some serious money in the development of PETE (photon enhanced thermionic emission) processing of solar cells, a technique developed by Stanford engineers. It has the the potential to make the cost of large-scale solar cell power generation competitive with traditional methods of power generation.

The current photovoltaic technology only takes advantage of light from the sun, however, as temperature rises, the solar cells lose efficiency and the heat is wasted. The new process takes advantage of both light and heat from solar radiation and converts them to electricity, thereby tripling the efficiency of the existing solar cell technology.

In the PETE process the semiconducting material is coated with a thin layer of the metal cesium, which changes the characteristic of the cell, enabling it to use the previously wasted heat to generate electricity. In fact, the cells work better at higher temperatures. Most current generation silicon solar cells are inert by 100 C, while the new cells reach peak efficiency at well over 200 C.

Nick Melosh, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, who led the research group at Stanford said, “It is actually something fundamentally different about how you can harvest energy.” He dubbed it as “a conceptual breakthrough, a new energy conversion process, not just a new material or a slightly different tweak.” The materials needed to build the new solar energy converters are cheap and easily available, meaning that the power that comes from the device will be in the range of production cost of existing commercial plants.

According to Melosh’s calculation, the PETE process can reach efficiency up to 60 percent, which is three times as high as the efficiency of the existing systems. Regardless, with the experimental cells, the researchers never reached that efficiency, and they attributed that to the use of gallium nitride as their base semiconductor. The team believes that if they use gallium arsenide, which is employed in household electronics, they would reach the desired efficiency.

There is a caveat however. There exists a time gap between a newly discovered technique in the laboratory and its commercialization. That gap can be bridged quickly only by the government sponsorship. The sooner that effort is made, the quicker the product will be in the market.

The effect of this new discovery is going to be really far-reaching, and there probably will be a lot of resistance from the existing oil lobby and the energy industries. Nevertheless, when its impact is fully reached, it may change the world as we know it.

Imagine this scenario: this country finally getting over its oil addiction, no Arab Sheikhs holding us hostages with OPEC, only the sun above us for all our energy, no Islamic terrorists, and no TSA. Imagine living like we did before that fateful day of 2001. It’s easy if you try—and John Lennon would smile in heaven.

Article first published as Researchers At Stanford Discover New Solar Cells That Can Change The World on Technorati.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Miracle At Sea

As an individual trained in science, and making living through the application of it, I am ostensibly not supposed to believe in miracles, yet, everyday I experience them, and at times I enjoy sharing them with my readers.

Three boys—Samuel Perez , Filo Filo, and Edward Nasau all under fifteen, were last seen in their small boat near the atoll of Atafu on October 5, and then vanished without any trace. New Zealand authorities employed two airplanes to search a 10,000-square mile expanse of the South Pacific ocean and then called it off to great disappointment of many people.

The boys' families took them for dead and performed their last rites. However, after 50 days of being adrift on the ocean, the boys were discovered on Wednesday by a fishing boat, north-east of Fiji. The boys had traveled an incredible distance of 800 miles in a little speed boat!

They survived drinking rainwater, catching and eating raw fishes and a seagull, that they had managed to catch one time. They were emaciated and had little sunburns, nonetheless, physically in good health otherwise.

My grooming and lifelong discipline in scientific activity says that this is a simple case of lost and found—the whole incident nothing more than sheer matter of coincidence, lady luck shining on those three lucky boys; and a few years earlier I would have been happy with that rationalization.

For some reasons however, I now see a miracle in it, like I see miracle, in my heart beating faithfully with its perfect rhythm for all these years, and in this life that I live and share with six billions other people, several billions animals, and innumerable plants. And it does not even need a God to believe in interplay of life forces in creation of miracles.

Wayne Dyer says, we are not human beings who have spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. We are just blocks of entrapped energies that has given us this particular shape and consciousness that we call "ourselves." These "selves" come from one source, that many call God, others nature, and they go back to the source after the journies are complete on this earth.

Remember, the world does not exist if you are not there to experience it.

I see a purpose of God keeping those boys alive and bringing them back among us for our own lessons, and for our wisdom. And you may take the word “God” out of this equation if that suits you, after all who knows God, except as a mere expression of transmitting some concepts!

First published on Technorati

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Rain-Giver

There was nothing special about the village where this story took place, except that the people who lived there were having a particularly bad time, at the moment. They had in past experienced flood, tornado, and other epidemics. Those nevertheless, passed, leaving just mere blips in their memories.

Being far away from the nearest major city, the villagers had simple lifestyle, and they did not need much to be content so long they had their daily breads and some free time to share with each other. Off late, a severe drought had daunted their spirit, and they were collectively in a somber mood.

The monsoon came and went, yet, there was no rain. The land became dry. The fields where cattle would graze turned barren and flaky. Even their domestic animals were suffering from malnutrition and looked rickety.

One day the elder of the village asked all the villagers to gather at an open expanse and requested them to join him in a prayer. He said that he was a frail old man and did not have much strength left in him, regardless, if all the villagers joined him and prayed to God together, clouds would come and shower rain on their village.

So they all gathered and prayed together. They prayed hard and long, young and old, all joining hands in hands prayed to God for rain.

They prayed again the next day, and the following. Then one day the elder told the villagers, “Last night I had a dream. God told me that He would send us a rain giver, who would bring rain to our village. Make sure you take good care of him.”

The old villagers had faith in their elder. They had lived together through the thick and thin of life; their trust strengthened with the experiences of shared memories of many years. The younger people had no such conviction. They were smiling quietly, mocking the elder, and talking between themselves, “Rain giver? Whoever has heard of such nonsense?”

A young man who was visiting his parents from his city residence told his friends, “This is unbelievable. Whoever could think that people in the 21st century still believe in prayers? No wonder this village is so backward!”

Anyway, there is nothing permanent in nature, and even the worst of the moments come to pass. One night while people were in their sleep, rain came in.

Old and young, male and female, healthy and the sick, they all woke up hearing the nearly-forgotten pattering sound of rain drops beating on their tin-topped roofs. In an indomitable expression of happiness people came out of their homes and gathered on streets, and began dancing in the rain.

It rained for three days and three nights without stop, and it rained hard. Yet, no one complained.

When the rain stopped, the land was wet and muddy, but rejuvenated; life had taken a new lease.

The trees had traces of green again, birds returned and sat on their branches; blades of green green shoots of grass appeared through the brown thatches of land everywhere. Only in three days and three nights the village had been transformed— a miracle had happened.

The farmers took out their plows and commenced tilting their lands. Even their emaciated animals visibly regained their strength overnight. Soon they finished tilting and sowing their fields, and in record time the crops grew. Life had turned for the better once again, the villagers had their smiles back.

One day, while playing in an uninhabited remote area, on the fringe of the village, a few children discovered a small hut that seemed to have been built where there were only wild plants before.

The children grew curious, and they ventured in. They found an old man with long flowing white beard sitting on a mat inside the hut; all by himself. The man saw the boys and girls and invited them inside. The children went in, and the old man began talking to them.

That year there was so much crop that the villagers ran out of storage space. They invited people from other villages to come in and share their harvest, for they were nice and good people. The villagers had never been so happy, and they were keen to share their happiness with others.

Gradually, the word of the strange old man and his hut reached the ears of the grown ups of the village. They came to know that many young children were regularly visiting the old man and spending time with him. The seniors were curious. They asked the children why they were spending time with an old man, and what they did with him.

The youngsters told the men and women that the old man told them stories, and they loved to hear stories from him. The seniors asked the young boys to find out where the old man came from, what he ate, and what he did in a typical day.

The kids watched the man for hours, and hours, in day time and night time, nonetheless, they never saw the old man eating anything. The old man was never found to step outside his hut, and he was never seen sleeping. They reported their findings to their seniors.

The villagers grew suspicious of the old man. Some of them banded together and went to him, and questioned him. They demanded to know where he came from, what did he do for a living, and what was his purpose for being there?

Each question the old man answered with stories. The stories did hardly make any sense to the villagers, although the children found them fascinating. The only thing the grown ups of the village learned, the old man claimed to be the bearer of rain. He said he was the answer to their prayers. God had sent him to this village since there was a severe drought. The villagers grew angry with the old man for they thought the stranger was ridiculing them.

With time the villagers’ suspicion only grew stronger. The young man from the city suggested that the old man must have been attracted by the recent prosperity of the village, and he might have evil intentions. Perhaps he was an informer who was secretly collecting information about the good fortune of the village to pass to some bandits.

Finally, the villagers decided to drive him out of the village.

The day the old man went away, the elder of the village had a dream, God was telling him that he had sent his rain giver to the village. The rain giver did not impose on the villagers, he took nothing from them, and he spoke the truth when confronted by the villagers. Yet, the villagers took offense of the old man for no reason, and they drove him away from the village. God was not happy with them.

The next morning the elder gathered all the villagers, and narrated his dream to them. He asked the villagers to go out and find the old man, ask him for his forgiveness, and bring him back to the village.

Volunteers gathered, and went out in many directions. They searched and searched, and searched.

Morning turned into evening, and evening into night. The villagers came back to their homes tired and discouraged. The old man was not to be found anywhere. They were utterly dejected.

Days passed, the villagers noticed that the rain had stopped falling on their fields. The land was turning dry again. Trees were shedding leaves, and meadows turning brown. So they all gathered, and prayed, and prayed, but no rain fell, not that day, not the next day, nor the day after.

The older people started saying, “It is our jealousy and our suspicion that has brought the hardship back on us.”

The elder of the village was sad and angry. He said, you have turned God’s gift away. Now you must wait for your deeds to pass.

The villagers were overcome with remorse. They watched their fields turning desolate, once again, their fields cracking, once again, their cattle becoming rickety, once again, and they watched on helplessly!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Story of The Stone Cutter

It was a hot summer day and the sun was shining mercilessly on the mountain. A poor stone cutter was exhausted working in the heat, and took shelter under a tree to cool off. Soon the exhaustion overcame him and he fell asleep.

In his sleep he dreamed of talking to God, he said, “God why did you make me a man, my life is so hard and miserable! Please have mercy on me and make me the most powerful of all.”

God answered, “O my poor son, I feel your pain, tell me what you want to be.”

“I want to be the sun, the most powerful, so that no one dares to trouble me.”

“Your life had been hard, I understand my son. I will fulfill your wish, you will be the sun from now on,” God granted his wish.

The stone cutter was very happy; he became the sun and ruled the world. He would shine hard and burn whatever he took offence with. The plants would wilt, forest would catch fire, and all animals would run for life with mere expression of his rage. He was happy in deed!

Then one day he got angry with some villagers, and he started striking them hard, making their life miserable. The land became dry and hard, developed cracks long and deep. The poor villagers sought compassion from God, “O merciful, please save us from this fire of hell. Give us rain.”

God took pity on the poor villagers and send clouds over. The clouds showered rain and cooled down the land.

The sun was irate and turned the heat up and up, the clouds nonetheless grew darker and darker, and the sun became dejected again.

The stone-cutter-sun was sad and angry at himself, he pleaded to God, “I made a mistake my Lord, I realize now that the sun is not the most powerful, the cloud is, please change me to cloud.”

The God granted his wish and made him cloud. So the stone-cutter-sun was now cloud and he was happy again. He could fly fast, go anywhere he willed, and deluge any place he took offence with. He was happy indeed!

Then he saw a mountain one day, rising high in the sky, so close to the throne of God—he become jealous. He started pouring over the mountain hard and relentless. Tried as much as he could over days and nights, he could cause no dent on the mountain, and he was unhappy again.

He cried out loud once again, “Oh God, I realize my mistake, cloud is not the most powerful, please make me a mountain.

“So be a mountain,” God said, and the stone-cutter-sun-cloud became a mountain.

Now he seemed happy at last. He was standing tall dwarfing everyone, and so close to the throne of God, he was happy in deed!

One day however, someone started chipping at his feet, cutting him off in small pieces, angry he became and fumed with each strike, regardless, he could do nothing to that tiny creature, whoever was tearing him into pieces. He could not even raise a finger, for he had none.

The stone cutter-sun-cloud-mountain cried out in despair, “Oh my Master, please help me, I realize now mountain is not the most powerful, I do not want to be mountain anymore.”

“The ever patient God responded, “O my son, I feel your pain. What do you want to be?

The stone-cutter-sun-cloud-mountain cried out in anguish, “whatever that tiny creature is who is chipping away at my mighty body, I want to be that.”

“But that is only a stone cutter like you once were,” God said.

“I understand my mistake my Lord, you gave me what was best for me, but I did not have eyes to see that. Please forgive my ignorance and turn me back into the stone cutter.

And so God did.

After that the stone cutter never complained again, he became a wise man and thanked God for what He had given him.

(With inspiration from a Chinese cartoon)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When A Dog Teaches Us Virtue

Troy Whalen, a baseball coach for Grayslake Central High School credits his three-legged dog for saving his life . Whalen was talking on telephone in an upstairs room of his house in Grayslake, when it caught fire on Monday about 10:30 AM. The dog entered the room, barked, and acted in a strange way that was not normal of him.

Whalen ran downstairs and found that his house was on fire. The fire started from an outdoor garbage can closed to the home that caught fire when someone dumped hot coal in it from an outdoor fireplace. The side of the home caught fire and it quickly spread to a kitchen and great room area in the home.

When his effort to extinguish the fire with a blanket failed, Whalen called 911. Both Whalen and the dog escaped unharmed.

I call this a sweet story, and there are millions of stories such as this known to us all. Many instances have been recorded when animals sacrificed their own lives trying to save their master’s. I often wonder, the animals that we call dumb, where do they get this quality that is so unique that many human beings lack?

Why do ‘dumb animals’ beat humans repeatedly in providing service to whom they are loyal? The other day a story broke where a dolphin came between a shark and a woman swimming in an ocean, who was being attacked by the shark. The dolphin kept circling the woman in a way that she was able to swim ashore safely.

And yet, we treat animals so cruelly, and make fun of the animal lovers who fight to redress cruelty to them. What gives us power over every other creation, and consider ourselves master of the universe, when we repeatedly demonstrate that often we come short of even the rudimentary qualities that animals exhibit time and again without fail?

Life’s greatest virtue is observed in expression of compassion to nature, with all our religions, ethics, and discourse on humanity, are we ever going to learn to be compassionate?

First Published on Technorati

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rove Pokes A hole In Sarah’s Balloon

You may love him or hate him, regardless, Carl Rove is a man with high intellect when political gamesmanship is concerned. You may or may not like his tactics, but he gets the job done. It was not for nothing that he was called Bush’s brain, and he was largely responsible for making George W Bush a very successful President.

In an interview with London’s Daily Telegraph, Rove said that Sarah Palin lacks the “gravitas” to be president. Specifically he mentioned Palin’s upcoming reality TV show which is not really a prep stage for running for White House.

“There are high standards that the American people have” for the presidency, Rove interjected, “They require a certain level of gravitas. … They want to look at the candidate and say, ‘That candidate is doing things that [give] me confidence that they are up to the most demanding job in the world.’”

If Rove thinks Palin is not a presidential material why is there such hype in media over her? The answer is really very simple, if Palin is made the President, it would be dreams come true for the people who control corporate media; for then they would be the real drivers hiding under dark shadows.

Never before a candidate with such little credentials as Sarah Palin has conquered the national stage with such fanfare! Now it would be interesting to see what happens to Sarah’s balloon, when a hole is poked in it by no less a personality than the master Conservative strategist, Carl Rove.

Reprinted from Technorati.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Budding Actress and Sex Scandal

Cyberspace is buzzing with headlines such as Sadia Jahan Prova sex tape leaked and other racy titles of the kind. Here is a story of a young budding Bangladeshi actress whose irate ex-boyfriend, Rajib, published recordings of their love-making on the net.

What two consenting adults do in their bedroom should not be a concern to the world, but in this instance, their story is up on the internet for everyone to watch, and therefore, comment. Most public remarks are vicious attacks on the young girl, on her character, and some in languages not fit to be printed. We live in a strange world where guilt and shame related to sex is all for the women, while for men it adds to their tally of conquest!

It is unfortunate that Prova allowed their personal moments to be on camera; however, a young girl in her early twenties, who is madly in love, does not always behave in her own best interest. It is evident that Rajib had cajoled her into recording their intimate moments, and Prova succumbed to that pressure in an unfortunate lapse of common sense on her part. It is clearly a lesson for all young girls to be especially careful about their relationships, and not to drop their guards under any circumstances.

What is remarkable about this incident is the way Bangladeshi media personalities and intellectuals have come forward in defending Sadia. They are sympathetic to her, treating her as a victim, and demanding exemplary punishment of the perpetrator, her ex-boyfriend Rajib, for publishing the tape. It is a commendable reaction from a so-called backward society!

I am particularly proud of the way Bangladesh and its institutions have handled this case. There is a clear demonstration to the western world that the imagery an average western person has about a Muslim, as a crude jehadi ready to stone anyone committing adultery, is so wrong. Bangladesh is overwhelmingly a Muslim country, but its people behave in a civilized manner, just as people do in the developed world.

I pray to God with all sincerity, may the good Lord bless Prova and her family with infinite Grace that is only the preserve of the Almighty. I pray that this incident educates all unsuspecting young women. And, to all of them who condemn Prova I say, let him come forward and cast the first stone, who has not sinned.

First published on Technorati

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tighten Your Belts Folks, IMF Predicts Grim Future

In a recently published world economic outlook titled, Will It Hurt? Macroeconomic Effects of Fiscal Consolidation, the IMF has painted a bleak picture of near depression scenario from the south to the north of Europe including Britain, and in America as well. The world body also predicts that we are in a slump for the long haul.

Following the scandalous affairs of bankrupt Iceland, and riots in Greece, Spain is the new sick man of Europe mired by political upheaval and widespread public protests normally witnessed in the third world countries.

To reign in the harsh financial downturn, the IMF in the past had routinely dispensed the medicine of severe belt tightening in Asia and South America, forcing misery on the hapless poor people of those countries. Nonetheless, when the citadels of European civilization are catching pneumonia, the IMF admits that the measure of austerity is going do more damage than good.

Ah, what a revelation!

It should not take a Nobel Prize-winning economist to grasp that you do not recover from severe recession by further choking social programs and cutting jobs. In fact, Econ 101 says that if people have no money to buy, the consumption would keep on shrinking and production would follow suit in an interlinking chain of events.

IMF says that tightening of 1% of GDP in a country results in a 0.5% loss of growth in two years. Traditionally, countries have come out of economic recession by devaluing their currencies and increasing exports.

Austerity measures have worked effectively for some countries in the past. For an example, Britain has applied that successfully twice, once when it left the Gold Standard in 1931, and then again in 1992. This time the problem is there is no one to pick up the slack. How did we come here?

It is all in distribution of wealth, my friends. Unrestrained human greed gave rise to laissez-faire capitalism, which dismantled all regulations and created giant monopolies. Capitalism lives and dies with free competition; therefore, when giant monopolies are created in the name of “scale of economics,” the very spirit that thrives on capitalism is destroyed. Couple that with tax benefits for the high earning populace and shifting the tax burden to the middle class. Capital shifts from the bottom to the top, creating a few super-rich on one hand, and large number of struggling deprived masses on the other.
The mantra of the capitalists, cutting taxes for the rich and slicing social programs for the poor, is not going to work, as half the globe is now in financial trouble and taking the same measures in lockstep. When the interest rate is nearly zero, and everyone begins slashing expenditures, the downward slump doubles with time.

The leader of the free world, the USA, was supposed to lead by example in such a time. Unfortunately, in Barak Obama, the American people elected a President who neither had the courage nor the will to do a la FDR, as he is busy protecting the very group that brought this ruin on us.

It is apparent that people understand this and there is widespread dissatisfaction at the general level; notwithstanding, what is the solution? People may vote Obama out in 2012, and bring back the GOP and the Tea Party leaders, however, that would be like jumping from frying pan to the fire, because it is the policies of the renegade conservatives that have brought us here.

Thirty years of Reaganomics, embraced and implemented with vigor by subsequent Democratic and Republican administrations since Ronald Reagan have created this situation. The recovery will not be attained on the backs of the poor, as they are already broken.

Hold on to your shoestrings folks, this is going to be a long and hard ride.

Previously published on Technorati

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dear readers:

The poll on Future of America has closed. 51% of you said you expect major setback going forward. 36% of you foresee minor setback. 6% of you think that we are doomed, and equal number of you think of continuous prosperity.

I am with the majority this time, and will explain my position next week. Thank you all for letting me know what you think.

A Mohit

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Heart’s Code Says We Are All Interconnected

You may have heard it from your grandmother, Shamans, Lamas, or Indian Gurus. You might have even heard it coming from Gary E. R. Schwartz and Linda G.S. Russeka. And of course, you, the left-brained intellectual, rightfully knew all along, this was mere housewife’s tale, an irrational belief on the part of the unsophisticated rustic individuals.


The problem is Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Russeka are not really laypeople. At the time of publishing of the book, The Heart’s Code, the former was a Professor of Psychology, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Medicine, at the University of Arizona, and the latter was a research Psychologist at the Harvard University. In a foreword to Dr. Paul Pearsall’s revolutionary book published in 1998, they wrote, “Sometimes a book is written that forever changes not only the way we think about life, but the way we feel about life as well. This is The Heart’s Code.”

And indeed, The Heart’s Code is such a book and more. Else, whoever in his right mind can claim in the world of science that our hearts are the real sources of our personalities and enduring memories? The heart dwarfs the brain in the matters of energy and memory. Truly, the heart has such lasting memories that it continues to retain minute details even when it is transplanted to another body.

Dr. Pearsall quoted a story that was told to him in a meeting of an international group of psychologists and psychiatrists in Houston, Texas, in the late 1990s. A psychiatrist told the group that she had an 8-year-old patient who received the heart of a murdered 10-year-old girl. The patient was having vivid dreams of a man who had murdered her donor. Her dreams became more intense with time and the girl’s mother decided to see the police with the advice of the psychiatrist. With detailed descriptions from the little girl about the time, the weapon, the place and the clothes the murderer wore, police apprehended the culprit.

Dr. Pearsall’s book is the result of painstaking efforts of leading researchers in the field of heart-brain connections in human thought processes and memories, having been conducted in the most prestigious institutions in the US and other countries. The overwhelming verdict from their research is that the heart thinks, feels, remembers, and there is a subtle yet very powerful energy that connects everything and every person.

He quotes scientists after scientists and their works in his book that convincingly points to an overflowing energy in the universe that Pearsall calls “L” energy. It is that “L” energy that interconnects all beings and is indestructible; it survives death.

First published on Technorati.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is There a Limit to Human Achievement?

In 1994, Philippe Croizon, at the age of 26, had a vocation as a metal worker. While trying to remove a television antenna from a house roof, he was struck by an arc that hit him from a nearby electric line that carried 20,000 Volts.

To save his life, doctors amputated both his arms and legs. Recovering in the hospital, he watched a television documentary that showed a swimmer crossing the English Channel, and he dreamed of doing it himself one day.

Croizon was fitted with flipper-shaped prosthetic legs by his doctors, and he taught himself to swim using the stumps of his arms and his prosthetic legs . He trained for over two years before he tried for a 12-hour endurance test.

Then on September 18, 2010, 16 years after that fateful day, he began swimming the English Channel from Folkestone in southern England around 8 AM. He reached the French coast just before 9:30 PM local time. His average speed at 3 km/hr was marginally less than the normal swimmers’ 4-5 km/hr.

Philippe Croizon demonstrated once again that there is no limit to human achievement. If there is any limit, it is what we set ourselves in our own minds. Many athletes have demonstrated this time and again, and people in other fields, too, have achieved similar implausible feats.

And it is in this context, Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there, and the mountain will move.” (John 14:14)

First published in Technorati

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mother’s Love Brings Dead Baby Back to life

Is there more to life than what meets the eyes? Is there a special bond between a mother and her child that can defy death? This story is about an Australian mother, whose longing for the life of her new born baby—who was pronounced dead at birth—revived him.

When the attending nurse handed the baby’s limp body to Kate, she would not let him go. For two hours she kept him on her chest, cuddling him, stroking him and talking to him. She told him that her twin sister Emily was doing well. Then suddenly, she felt a movement—the baby was grasping for air.

The doctors told her that those movements were merely autonomic reactions and she should not get her hopes high. Yet, in a short while the baby who was named Jamie, opened his eyes, and a little later began suckling at her mother’s breast. The doctor’s called it a medical miracle.

Today, Jamie is a normal healthy infant; the question is was it really his mothers indomitable desire for him to live that brought him back to life? Or, is it as the doctors said, a medical miracle, meaning; it is a phenomenon for which we have no explanation?

The greatest mystery of life is life itself, which is the true miracle. If you think in macro scale, so many variables, such as strong nuclear force, gravity, temperature of the earth surface and hosts of others, have to be so precisely at whatever magnitude they are, to make this world hospitable for life, that it is simply mind boggling.

And then again, every day in our lives, the odds that we fight against from the unseen microbes to the seen and known elements that act against us, make us wonder how we remain alive for years and years. For me it also makes me wonder how precious every life is!

The sad part is, while every other animal live and die with the fancy of the nature, we have the ability to alter nature, and oftentimes we do that, just for the short term benefit, causing enormous destruction to not only us but other living beings as well.

First published on Technorati

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Appeal To The Proponents Of Ground Zero Mosque

On August 3, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg standing on Governor’s Island departed from his usual style which is more suited to his technocrat image, and delivered the most heartfelt speech of his life. He was defending the right of the people who wants to build the Muslim community center near ground zero. He began citing from history, “We've come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever; this is the freest city in the world. That's what makes New York special and different and strong.”

It was a long speech, and a visibly emotional mayor got choked up at one point. The mayor was accompanied by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and 10 religious leaders, among them three Jewish leaders— Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation.

It is remarkable that despite the general perception among Muslims that Jews are their arch enemies, they find, when chips are down; it is the leaders from the Jewish communities who stand by their side. And I say, there is a lesson to be learned in that.

It appears to me that at this time the most insensitive people, when it comes to religion, come from my fellow Muslims. Take for instance this very matter of ground zero mosque, when 70% American people are against it, why pursue this? The memory of loss of their loved ones is still fresh in many people’s minds. At least, why not defer the project till people are more receptive to it?

(First Published on Technorati)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Burqa And France

The lower house of French parliament has approved a law banning wearing Islamic veils, called burqas. The lawmakers consider that this practice is against the French ideals of women’s equal rights and the country's secular tradition.

Finally a western Government has shown courage against oppressive Muslim practices of forcing their women to wear “burqa” and “niqab”in the name of Islam. I commend President Sarkozy for this initial success, for he was the one who first declared in June 2009 that the burqa is “not welcome” in France.

Muslims are increasingly demonstrating their ignorance of their own religion by adhering to practices that is discriminatory against women and not even ordained by their holy book, Quran. Take for instance the statement of Egyptian Islamic scholar Abdelmotie Bayoumi, who said, “The niqab has no strong legitimacy based on Quran or in examples from the Prophet's life that makes it a religious imposition on women.” Then why women are forced to wear those veils?

The mainstream French Muslim organization agrees that such dress code is not suitable in France, yet, they worry that the ban will stigmatize all Muslims. However, perhaps it wouldn't if they did their part to educate their community to treat women as equals, and stop treating them as chattels.

During the National Assembly debate, the Greens lawmaker Francois de Rugy commented that conservatives “are throwing oil on the fire — you are reviving tensions just to win votes.” I say, how long will the civilized world condone medieval practices in the name of religion?

Berengere Poletti, a member of Sarkozy’s party, said that the face-covering veils “are a prison for women, they are the sign of their submission to their husbands, brothers or fathers.” Absolutely: this is the truth and the only truth. In France, the niqab and burqa are viewed as an opening to extremism and an attack on secularism which are the central values of French culture. As a Muslim, I say "Amen," and I share the French view wholly.

The Quran says when you are in a foreign country, obey their laws, respect their customs, and be a good citizen if you make that country your home. The tragedy is that many Muslims seldom read their holy book to understand its meaning, and defer their cultural guidance to the uneducated mullahs.

The Quran says: We made the Quran easy to learn. Does any of you wish to learn? (54:17) Yet, mullahs claim, it is difficult to understand Quran, and therefore they come up with fatwas (religious edicts) for uncharted territories, and force uninformed followers to live by their decrees.

The new law will be in the Senate in September, where it is expected to pass. However, this will be scrutinized by France’s constitutional watchdog before it becomes Law-of-the-land, and they may still find it unconstitutional.

I hope they do not.

Reprinted from Technorati

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Dare Play Judge?

You call me Lord, you worship me.
Others too give me names as they please
And worship they do in ways of their own.
Those are the games children play.
It is not for you to judge others.

You kill your brothers in my name,
Know that I am because you are
And the brother that you killed.
Only, for he was not one like you?
It is not for you to judge others.

If I desired your brother would be like you
But I want to test him with what I gave him.
For you know not, what I do.
Forgive your brother seventy times seven.
It is not for you to judge others.

These are my words for you to remember
In the books you call holy, go read them,
But understand them, if you can, and be humble,
For I do not like the boastful.
It is not for you to judge others.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Who Am I?

Who are you? Whence you come from? Where do you live?
Are the questions they ask of me.
So many ways I answered them
But their quest end not, like children,
They ask me again, and again, and again!

I live on this earth.
Its air flows through my body,
They call it my life, prana.
Its food sustains me and nourishes me,
I am in this world, but I am not of this world.

They came and thumped their
Vedas, Bible, Quran, Guru Granth Sahib
And their endless treatises.
Pity them, only I could, for they tell me
Who I am, like one blind telling another!

Oh ignorant, how dare you define me?
I am the nameless, faceless, and creedless.
Through me, the universe exists.
You have seen me in your mind,
Felt me in your hearts, yet you ask me who am I?

(Dedicated to my just-married niece, Nausheen)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Does Honesty Pay?

A few weeks ago you had participated in a survey on “honesty” and had chosen one from the four possible answers. 25% of you picked the response: Honesty has no consequence on success or failure in the material world.


I commend you for your vision and insight, and append that I could not agree with you more. Today, I would endeavor to support your opinion with facts from the world of science.

There is no cause and effect principle that control the worldly affairs in an orderly manner, I submit. Even Karma, the alluring hypothesis of crime and punishment and rewards for service, is only make belief. The “rule of jungle” is the true law of the universe, and it is called Uncertainty Principle.

In 1927, Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist said that the more we know about a particle’s position, the less we know about its speed and the direction it is traveling (and vice versa). This notion gave birth to the revolutionary theory known as Uncertainty Principle, and the concept shattered the world of physics.

Albert Einstein furiously protested the proposition. Guess what? Einstein was wrong.

We now know that in the microscopic world, sub-atomic particles behave as if they have their own minds—they do not follow any rules. In other words the tiny particles are free to chose their actions, and they do, and their behavior cannot be prediced by laws. In the world of the extraordinarily large bodies on the other hand, it appears that the laws of physics hold good, and when they do not, we say they are in aberrations.

Similarly, our own world seems to follow the same laws of physics, and we are happy that they do, for our brains are rationalizing. The truth, nonetheless, is that all natural laws are our creations, figments of our imagination.

We observe nature, formulate laws, and go on predicting the unknown based on our derived laws; and often, we find ourselves right.

Indeed, Einstein had made all his predictions based on mathematical calculations, and he was accurate in most of his mind-boggling derivations. But brilliant as he was, some of his predictions were wrong as well—why so? How could such a luminous mind make such rudimentary mistakes?

In the world of the small particles things happen in microseconds, therefore, we can study their life cycles more accurately. In the world of the stars and heavenly bodies, nevertheless, we do not have the time to study their complete life cycles; therefore we must rely on assumptions, hypothesis, and mathematics. Math is merely a tool invented by us and has its own limitations. Lest, we would have known that the Uncertainty Principle is the only truth in the universe.

That is the reason why honesty has no consequence on success or failure in life. The cause-and-effect principle, so believable in our small world, is merely an illusion in the larger perspective. Therefore, honesty may or may not pay.

Can we just be honest for honesty's sake, regardless? There is an inherent beauty in honesty, and next time we shall contemplate on that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Can We Be Humane With Animals?

Last week in Orlando, I asked my daughter if she would like to see the Orca shows. Her “no” was a bit more forceful than I expected. The discussion that I had with her on Dawn Brancheau’s tragic death immediately crossed my mind.

The autopsy report on Dawn’s death is now out. It appears from the report that Tilly, the Orca was not playful towards Brancheau, and it was rather an enraged animal taking it out on its captor.

The report graphically described how Brancheau's left arm and part of her scalp were ripped off; she had suffered injuries to her spinal cord and her ribs were broken. She also had multiple injuries all over her body.

We can understand Brancheau's pain; can we be rational with Tilly’s emotions? Orcas may not have human emotions but similar incidents happen with other animals too. Animals in circuses, zoos, and other shows sometime act aggressively and kill their trainers. Can we blame animals for showing their natural instincts, which is to attack and kill?

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk had commented Tilly’s action as “vented fury of an angry and frustrated” animal that had been deprived of its natural habitat “for the sake of human profit and a few giggles.”

How outrageous is Newkirk’s comment sympathizing with an animal in view of a human death? Is it okay to treat animals anyway we like just because we can?

I remember a childhood incident of riding a cart that was being pulled by two bullocks. One of them had laceration on its neck. The wooden bar that rested on its neck would touch its wounds when the bullock would run faster with prodding from the driver.

I asked the driver, if the animal was feeling pain, and if we should rather go slowly.

I vividly remember the laugh that my question had evoked, the bullock and its wound, and after all these years the memory still makes me sad.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Story of an Average American

This is the story of a man who describes himself as, “I am just an average American in an average American city.”

Tom Hodges is real. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, one daughter and two sons. He worries for the future of his children. He also worries for other human beings.

He calls himself an average American. I however see the true American spirit in him. I say, do not judge America on its foreign policy, rather look through the eyes of Mr. Hodges and experience the true American spirit in its entire splendor.

Here is his story in first person:

I am just an average American in an average American city trying to raise my kids and teach them what I think is good. I ask all to give love without expecting anything in return, since love is the greatest equalizer.

To me giving is better than receiving. When someone who has never received anything in life gets something unexpected, an unbound joy engulfs him, and that transforms him into a far superior person. The person then feels the urge to spread that happiness to others.

When the towers fell to the ground on 9/11, I asked what had pissed this guy (meaning the hijackers) off to provoke him to take revenge on us? What hurt had he suffered that would put so much hatred in him to kill innocent people, and take his own life?

If Bush (read the US) had not pissed him off, perhaps we would not be in the situation we are in today. He (the hijackers) used the name of God to get the support of his people. Is his God the same God as mine?

If his religion dictated him to behave as he did and which effected us all, did God forgive his sins?

If I were a billionaire, I would spend my money to spread the words that people should take care of each other, because our children are watching us and learning from us. If we teach them wrong, if they grow up aiming for success at any cost that would not be right.

Knowledge is power, but if the power goes in the wrong hands, I am scared of our future as human race.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Do You See God?

One was a burly sharp-eyed college kid and other an eccentric old sage. With finely honed intellect, the boy was in the sure footsteps to stride high with the cream of the crop. The old man was revered by a small circle of devotee, regardless, was destined to live an obscured life.

When they met, the youthful asked, “People say that you can see God, is that true?”

“Of course, my boy, I see Him like I see you,” the sage replied.

The boy was startled, either this man was an imposter, or he was someone very special, which one was he?

Curiosity got the better of the young boy, and he began seeing the old man frequently.

He watched him with probing eyes, questioned him with sharp wit, and tested him with intricate schemes.

The more the youth watched the old, the more fascinated he became. Eventually, history took a curious turn, and a lethal combination of charisma and piety took the world by storm.

The young boy was Narendra, known to the world as Vivekananda. The old man was Gadadhar, known to the world as Sree Ramakrishna.

Once a promising disciple asked Sree Ramakrishna, “Master, I am always searching God intensely, but I can never find him. Why is it so?”

The Master took the young boy to a pond and asked him to take a dip. As the boy took a dip, the Master held him down under the water. The boy gasped for air; the Master nevertheless, continued to hold him down. Finally, when the Master let him go the boy jumped out of water, started breathing heavily, and leaped with joy!

The Master asked the disciple, “When you were under water how did you feel?”

The boy said, “I felt very strongly for air.”

The Master said, “When your desire for God becomes as strong as your desire was for air when you were under water, you will find God.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

No Equal Rights in Islam

Religion exploits both men and women, albeit, women more than men. Hindus used to burn their widows; Taoists would bury their female born, and Bible ordained no priesthood for the women among other inequalities.

Muslims claim that the Koran has given equal rights to women, which is pure whey. There are no equal rights for women in Islam.

First, let us see how the Koran clearly states a man's witness is worthy of two women's:

Two men shall serve as witnesses; if not two men, then a man and two women whose testimony is acceptable to all. (2.282)

Koranic scholars defend this with statements such as, women are emotional and they are more likely to be biased. What else can be more amusing than this medieval logic?

The Koran is unequivocal when it comes to inheritance:

GOD decrees a will for the benefit of your children; the male gets twice the share of the female. (4.11)

When it comes to spousal relationship the Koran gives husbands authority to beat their wives which is delineated in the following verse:

The men are made responsible for the women, and God has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is God's commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then desert them in bed, then you may beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. God is Most High, Supreme. (4.34)

Some equal rights!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Creature Linking Plants And Animals

Plants are plants and animals are animals, the twine shall never merge, right?

Not so fast!

How about a creature which is part animal and part plant? For many years, scientists have been studying a green slug, which lives between the two worlds.

The slugs feast on algae. However, instead of digesting the whole algae the slugs retain and store the chloroplasts in their own bodies. This enables them to directly convert sun light into energy, as most plants do, through the process known as photosynthesis, and survive without any food for very long time.

The slug is known by its biological name, Elysia chlorotica. Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa has been studying them for nearly twenty years. He presented his study on Jan 7, at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, creating a new interest in this unique animal.

During the early part of Christianity, there was no war between science and religion. Saint Augustine believed, the religious texts are allegorical and they must be interpreted anew with the latest scientific discoveries.

In the 17th century, RenĂ© Descartes made his famous assertion, “cogito ergo sum,” which translates, “I think, therefore I am.” Since that time, the world was firmly divided between living and non living.

In the 20th century science has been moving away from the Newtonian world and steadily hammering the Cartesian Partition and punching hole in it. In 1925, Heisenberg shattered the Cartesian partition with his Uncertainty Principle in quantum mechanics. Yet, in the 21st century we are witnessing a return to fundamentalism in many religious groups with new war ensuing between Evolution theory and Creationism.

Maybe, some could argue, that Elysia chlorotica can help society understand Theory of Evolution and begin a new cooperation between religion and science.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh Justice!

On February 3, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national was found guilty in Manhattan Federal Court of attempting to Murder US nationals in Afghanistan, and six other additional charges. Deeply religious, Siddiqui is a delicate 100-pound Muslim woman, who attended MIT and Brandeis University.

On March 30, 2003, Siddiqui left her family home in Gulshan-e-lqbal with her three children, and took a taxi to catch a flight for Rawalpindi. She never reached the airport. Pakistani intelligence agents abducted her and handed her over to US authorities. On that day began her long ordeal of secret imprisonment, interrogations, and years of torture.

Aafia was Prisoner 650 at Bagram prison, where she was called the “Gray Lady of Bagram” for her shrill screams. She was tortured and repeatedly raped over many years. Her lawyer said, “She was a pawn in America’s 'war on terror,’ used, abused, now convicted, and facing life in prison when sentenced, a victim of gross injustice.”

“I do not know whether Siddiqui is innocent or guilty. However, I do know that permitting jailers, spies, kidnappers and assassins to operate outside of the rule of law contaminates us with our own bile. Siddiqui is one victim. There are thousands more we do not see. These abuses, justified by the war on terror, have created a system of internal and external state terrorism that is far more dangerous to our security and democracy than the threat posed by Islamic radicals.”

Thus scribbled Chris Hedges in an article called, The Terror-Industrial Complex . In 2002, Chris had received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Chris is as much American as apple pie is, yet his sympathy for an alien woman is evident in his article.

Stephen Lendman, a Research Associate of the Center for Research on Globalization wrote in an article, Aafia Siddiqui: Victimized by American Injustice, “Siddiqui is innocent of all charges, yet the DOJ claimed she was involved in biochemical warfare. In fact, she devised a computer program, enlisted adult volunteers to watch various objects move randomly across the screen, then reproduce what they recalled. The idea was to learn how well they retained information after viewing it on a computer. It had nothing to do with terrorism, biochemical warfare, or blowing up New York targets, charges never appearing in her indictment.”

Her sentencing is scheduled for May 6. She faces a maximum sentence of 120 years in prison for the attempted murder and armed assault charges. Two of her children, Maryam and Suleman, disappeared and are suspected to have been killed. Her son Mohammed was released with the condition that he will not speak about his tribulation.

Please read further:

Yvonne Ridley

Paul Craig Roberts

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Letter From Montreal

I have been coming to Montreal every year for the past 19 years!! I have seen the Canadian paper industry rise and decline to a pathetic low this year ... very disappointing!! Our company serves many markets and paper is one. I was very disappointed!!

Nevertheless, Montreal has its charms! Surely it is different from Toronto ... very European in flavor, more French than France and bordering on arrogance!! You can get by knowing English, but, let there be no doubt that French is the preferred language. If you want to do business, it can only be in French. If you speak only English, you are not part of the "elite" and therefore, I'd be reluctant to conduct business with you! This is the general attitude.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of Arabs here! Taxi drivers and other services are performed by Arabs. No Blacks! Pardon my ignorance (or racial slant), maybe, it is too cold for them! It is very cold here. Have a look at the photos. There are 4 of us with our elbows on an ice table that does not melt. It is really "cool" in more ways than one ... check it out.

I am staying at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel right smack downtown Montreal. The name says it all. I needn't elaborate and state that it is a fancy upscale hotel. Things are expensive here ... everything!! I don't know know how people afford stuff.

Montreal has an incredible underground set-up. Lots of walkways, stores, restaurants, etc connected underground. Really neat. During rush hour, people are literally "running" to their respective destinations!

If you ever have a chance, visit Montreal in the middle of deep winter ... it's an experience. And if you like fine wine and lobster bisque, all the more better!! Fine (exotic) dining and upscale culture are Montreal's highlights!

Afzal Ali
February 3, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Last Bread

The miracle is that we are alive now. And that is about it, there is no other miracle in life. Death takes the living beings to its natural state.

Religion and philosophy are merely borrowed ideas, decaying concepts that live like parasites clinging to the living souls. Parroting those borrowed words does not bring salvation. If you want liberation you must be able to think on your own, shattering the glass house that you live in, and let go of your conditioning.

Science is only transitory knowledge, today's fact is waiting to be proven wrong tomorrow. The world is maya (illusion). Truth is wholesome which cannot be grasped by intellect. Intellect is a tool that is totally inadequate to discern the Truth on its own.

If that is the case, if intellect is totally inadequate to discern the Truth, what are we left with? After all, intellect is the only tool that gives us god's power. We have built huge structures, altered the Nature and subjugated wild beasts to do our bidding by using our intellect. We are laid thin and bare without intellect. What are we to do?

Enjoy what you are doing. Treat this moment as your last, and do what you would if you knew death is waiting in the wing, only to descend upon you without notice. Leave the last bread for your neighbor. This indeed is your greatest achievement.

Why do you care, if anyone remembers you when you are gone? Ask yourself, if anyone cares for you now; care enough to offer you his last bread, even though he is dying of hunger. In that there is a great lesson to be learned.

And when you are ready to give away your last bread to save a stranger, you have found God. Indeed God lives in you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Freedom Exacts Its Price

Are we free to choose?

Conventional wisdom harangues from the rooftop— we live in a free society. Notwithstanding, our freedom stops at the boundary of our neighbor’s freedom, such is the very definition of freedom.

The truth is everything is relative. When we say the USA, or for that matter, the western world has a free society, that freedom is only in relation to other under developed countries.

The word freedom, used in the absolute context, is an oxymoron. Absolute freedom is absolute bondage, because our freedom ends where our neighbor’s freedom begins.

Let’s talk of faith.

Are we free to choose our faith?

The question gives rise to other questions. Are we at a juncture of life where we have done the required soul searching and made a conscious decision to make a choice? Will the society let us choose what we want to choose? Will we be happy with our new choices? Do we need to make our own choices?

The answer is predominantly in the negative for most of these questions. We are social animals. We cannot live alone. Well, most of us anyway. When we live among our kin, we are bound by their edict. The eastern culture reflects this more radically.

Long before people in the west built their shining cities, Santan Dharma laid down the principles of rules of living, which were profound and pragmatic. The overbearing doctrine sacrificed individual freedom for the greater good of the society. The result was one of the first great civilizations in human history. It is another matter that degeneration in society set in later and gave bad name to many practices of the Hindus. However, such is the common tale with all great religions. With time, religion depreciates.

It was the same with Taoism of China, which preceded the Vedas. The indoctrination of Taoism is so refreshing, that it is still considered modern and is applicable in our time. These are the eternal bodies of Truth. However, are we free to choose?

What is faith by the way? What does faith have to do with religious belief? Don’t we often say faith and imply religion?

When the mystic Gurdjief was asked a similar question, he replied: “You wish to know? To really know you must suffer. Can you suffer?”

To make a free choice we must suffer.