America Must Manage Decline

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gideon Rachman

Recently I met a retired British diplomat who claimed with some pride that he was the man who had invented the phrase, “the management of decline”, to describe the central task of British foreign policy after 1945. “I got criticised,” he said, “but I think it was an accurate description of our task and I think we did it pretty well.”

No modern American diplomat – let alone politician – could ever risk making a similar statement. That is a shame. If America were able openly to acknowledge that its global power is in decline, it would be much easier to have a rational debate about what to do about it. Denial is not a strategy.

President Barack Obama has said that his goal is to ensure that America remains number one. Even so, he has been excoriated by his opponents for “declinism”. Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist, has accused the president of embracing American weakness: “Decline is not a condition,” he declared. “Decline is a choice.” The stern rejection of “declinism” is not confined to the rabid right. Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor and doyen of US foreign policy analysts, regards talk of American decline as an intellectual fad – comparable to earlier paranoia about the US being overtaken by Japan. Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, has just published a book that is subtitled, “What went wrong with America – and how it can come back”.

What is not permissible, in mainstream debate, is to suggest that there may be no “coming back” – and that the decline of American power is neither a fad nor a choice but a fact.

Admittedly, America’s relative decline is likely to be much less abrupt than the falling-off experienced by Britain after 1945. The US is still the world’s largest economy and is easily its pre-eminent military and diplomatic power. However, the moment at which China becomes the world’s largest economy is coming into view – the end of the decade seems a likely passing point. Of course, it is true that China has its own grave political and economic problems. Yet the fact that there are roughly four times as many Chinese as Americans means that – even allowing for a sharp slowdown in Chinese growth – at some point, China will become “number one”.

Even after the US has ceded its economic dominance, America’s military, diplomatic, cultural and technological prowess will ensure that the US remains the world’s dominant political power – for a while. But although economic and political power are not the same thing, they are surely closely related. As China and other powers rise economically, they will inevitably constrain America’s ability to get its way in the world.

That is why America needs to have a rational debate about what “relative decline” means – and why the British experience, although very different, may still hold some valuable lessons.
What the UK discovered after 1945 is that a decline in national power is perfectly compatible with an improvement in living standards for ordinary people, and with the maintenance of national security. Decline need not mean the end of peace and prosperity. But it does mean making choices and forging alliances. In an era of massive budget deficits, and rising Chinese power, the US will have to think harder about its priorities. Last week, Hillary Clinton insisted that America will remain a major power in Asia – with all the military expenditure that this implies. Very well. But what does that mean for spending at home?

Few politicians are prepared to have that discussion. Instead, particularly among Republicans, they fall back on feel-good slogans about American “greatness”.
Those who refuse to entertain any discussion of decline actually risk accelerating the process. A realistic acknowledgement that America’s position in the world is under threat should be a spur to determined action on everything from educational reform to the budget deficit. The endless politicking in Washington reflects a certain complacency – a belief that America’s position as number one is so impregnable that it can afford self-indulgent episodes such as the summer’s near-debt default.

The failure to have a proper discussion of relative decline also risks leaving American public opinion unprepared for a new era. As a result, the public reaction to setbacks at home and abroad is less likely to be calm and determined and more likely to be angry and irrational – feeding what the historian Richard Hofstadter famously called “the paranoid style in American politics”.

For the fact is that management of decline is as much to do with psychology, as to do with politics and economics. In 1945, the British task was made much easier by the afterglow of victory in the second world war. Britain’s adjustment was also helped by the fact that the new global hegemon was the US – a country tied to Britain by language, blood and shared political ideas. It will be tougher for America to cede power to China – although the transition will also be much less stark than the one faced by Britain.

These days the British have learnt almost to revel in failure. They buy volumes with titles like the “Book of Heroic Failures” in large numbers. It is quite common for the supporters of a losing English soccer team to chant, “We’re shit and we know we are.” This is not a habit I can see catching on in the US. When it comes to managing decline, self-abasement is optional.

Financial Times (UK)

Marat Safin Says Sister Dinara Will Retire

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Tennis-Dinara-Safina_962529Former world number one women’s tennis player Dinara Safina has “no chance” of making a comeback from her back injury and will soon announce her retirement, according to big brother Marat Safin.

Safina, 25, has not played since early May because of persistent low back pain. She announced in August that she would not play again this year.”I don’t know how long my time out is going to last because I don’t want to torture myself and my body anymore,” Dinara announced at that time.

But brother Marat said she had quit for good.”If you recall, Dinara first suffered the injury in Beijing two years ago,” the former men’s world number one was quoted as saying on Saturday by Russian media. “She had tried several times to make a comeback but it only caused her more problems.

“Now she must think of herself, not if she could play again, but just to live a normal life. She must continue with her therapy, but would not be able to play again. She will make an official announcement, but being her brother, I think she has no chance at all of making a comeback.”

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Understanding the Basics of Business Structures

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

business-structure-basicsRecently, I was approached by a client who was interested in starting a business, however he was curious to learn about the different business structures available, and which would be most suitable for him. Considering this was not the first time I have addressed such an inquiry, I felt it prudent to elaborate on the various structures and explain the differences between each.

Please be aware that this is not a comprehensive description of the structures and it is always advised to speak to an attorney who would better be able to provide sound advice on which structure is most suitable for your particular needs, expectations and business.

One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to creating a business is that many feel that an incorporation is automatically the best structure to use; however, that is not always true. In order to fully understand why, or why not, an incorporation is most applicable, it is important to get a basic understanding of the other available business entities.  

In Michigan, there are three common business structures that owners can typically choose from: Partnership/Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, and Limited Liability Company.

1. Partnership/Sole Proprietorship: The major difference between a partnership and a sole proprietorship is in the number of owners. In a sole proprietorship, there is essentially only one owner; hence the word “sole.” On the other hand, in a partnership, it is comprised of two or more owners who come together with the intent of advancing their mutual interest.

Depending on the specific type of business you are operating, creating a sole proprietorship or a partnership is not always recommended. Under either of these structures, you, the business owner, are responsible for all taxes. However, the method in how you file your taxes does not differ from your current procedure, as the income received by your company would simply be inputted in your personal tax returns.

However, probably the biggest drawback with a sole proprietorship and partnership is that in the event your company is involved in any legal action, you are ultimately responsible for any and all judgments, whereby your business assets and your personal assets can be seized to satisfy any judgment. 

2. Corporation/Limited Liability Company (LLC): One of the biggest benefits of setting up a corporation or an LLC is that it reduces the exposure of the owners and their assets in the event of a legal action. Because corporations and LLC’s are considered separate entities, requiring a separate tax ID number, a separate tax return, the only assets that can be seized for judgment are the assets owned by the corporation/LLC; therefore, the owners are not held personally liable, and thus have their assets safeguarded from potential liability.

With respect to the taxes, the profit obtained by a corporation/LLC is taxed to the company when earned, and if the shareholder (under a corporation) decides to distribute dividends, the shareholder would also be taxed individually. Thus, this creates a double tax, which is not always appealing. This double taxation can be avoided through the use of an LLC, where there are no shareholders, but rather members to the company. Please speak to an expert for further information in how to reduce your taxes through the set-up on an LLC.

As indicated above, it is always best to rely on the expert opinion of an experienced attorney who would be able to discuss in more depth the differences between each respective structure and determine, based on your specific needs, which structure is most efficient for you. Although starting a partnership/sole proprietorship is the easier and cheaper selection, it may not always be the most optimum, as you could be opening yourself up to unnecessary liability.

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

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Egypt Wins World Team Squash Title

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Untitled-1Egypt continued its dominance of the world of squash, as they defeated England two matches to one to win the 2011 World Team Championship title in Paderborn, Germany this week. England were the top seeds in the tournament, which takes place every two years. Egypt, meanwhile, were the defending champions from 2009, and they were able to successfully defend their title.

In the opening match, world number two, Egypt’s Ramy Ashour, defeated world number one Nick Matthew 11-7, 11-9, 13-11 for his first straight game victory against Matthew in the history of their four year rivalry. But the match was not without controversy, especially in the third game, which Matthew thought that he had one at a couple of junctures. Matthew told The Star, “I had to fight. The crowd knows but the only people who didn’t were the four [referees] who counted.” However, Matthew then went on to add: “He played a lot better than me; he deserved it. I wasn’t playing my best. But if I’d won that third game I think I could have gone on to win the match.” Ashour, for his part, enjoyed the battle, telling The Star, “It was like being in a UFC bout but I am so proud.”

In the second match, Ashour’s older brother, Hisham, fell to England’s Peter Barker, eighth-ranked in the world, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7. That result left Egypt’s Karim Darwish to face England’s James Wilstrop for all the marbles. And Darwish indeed came out the victor, with a thrilling four game victory, 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 11-4, to bring squash’s top team title back once again to Cairo.

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Christian Conservative Terrorist Causes Havoc in Norway

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

Norway is a liberal democracy. It is ruled by Labor Party. It has liberal policies on on a number of social issues. On July 22, it was hit with the worst terrorist attack on its territory by a right wing Christian conservative. Even though the so-called terrorist experts claim that he acted alone, the hand of other right wing Christian conservative individuals and groups should not be ruled out. With what is being taught in several conservative churches against liberalism, socialism, non-Christian religions (especially Islam and Judaism), the action of the Norwegian terrorist is not out of line of the dominant thinking.  The 32-year-old Norwegian man who allegedly went on a shooting spree on the island of Utoya has been identified as Anders Behring Breivik, according to multiple reports.The gunman was dressed as a police officer and gunned down young people as they ran for their lives at a youth camp, which means that he might have some Christian conservative sympathizers in the police force.The possibility of receiving support from some Christian conservative individuals or groups from the US should also not be ruled out. After all, Christian conservatism emerged as a major force in the US.

Breivik belongs to “ring-wing circles” in Oslo. He has been known to write to right-wing forums in Norway and is a self-described nationalist who has also written a number of posts attacking Islam On July 17 he posted a quote from philosopher John Stuart Mill on his twitter account saying: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.” On a Facebook account Breivik describes himself as having Christian conservative views.

Obviously, not all Christians subscribe to the theology of Christian conservatives who regard everyone who does not believe in their doctrine as pagan and destined  for hell. They regard liberalism as the major threat to their way of life. Christian conservative talk show hosts in the United States fill the airwaves with hatred against all those who have liberal attitudes.

The initial reaction of the media was to point fingers at Muslim extremists. Initially, several experts concluded that either Libyan backed terrorist groups or pro- Afghan Taliban groups might be the culprits. However, as details emerged, those experts went into hiding. When it became known that the gunman was a Norwegian ultra right wing extremist, few spoke about the theology of Conservative Christianity or the danger it poses to democracies or free societies all over the world. Not one recalled Timothy Mcveigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. It is not a coincidence that this terrorist attack came at a time when the champion of right wing ideas, the media empire of Rupert Murdoch is in terrible shape facing challenges for its survival.

Terrorism in all its forms and shapes is wrong and must be condemned. One cannot blame an entire religion for the terrorist act of a few. Had it been a Muslim perpetrator, the experts might have already concluded that Islam is a religion that cannot find itself at peace with the West and Democracy and Muslims living in Europe and America cannot be trusted.

What Breivik did in Norway is the natural outcome of the theology of arrogance and hatred that is taught in several churches around the world in the name of Christianity. We must realize that terrorism is not related with one religion or race or ethnic group. It is a threat every religious community and country faces. Instead of pointing fingers at religions, we must all come together to stand all those who believe that violence is the only method to ensure that point of view is heard. Violence must be rejected by all who believe in the sanctity of human life and with a clear understanding that the Divine will is not seek the destruction of the human race but to help people find common ground–to create a world where people can live the faith of their choice without any coercion.

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Indian Envoy Conferred Top Saudi Honor

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

RIYADH/NEW DELHI: Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad has been conferred the King Abdulaziz Medal of First Class for his contribution to strengthening bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia. He is the first Indian diplomat to be conferred this honor. The medal, comprising a decorative badge and a certificate signed by King Abdullah, was presented by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal (July 10).

“This (King Abdulaziz Order of Merit – First Class) is a tribute from Saudi Arabia to Talmiz Ahmad for his contributions during both his tenures as Indian Ambassador in promoting bilateral relations between the two countries,” Prince Al-Faisal said after conferring the Saudi Award of highest order to Indian envoy.

Ahmad has played a significant role in strengthening Indo-Saudi ties and promoting them on a “strategic level.” On this, Ahmad said: “Indo-Saudi relations have been transformed into a strategic partnership with the signing of the Delhi Declaration during the landmark visit of King Abdullah to New Delhi in 2006, and the return visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year.”

The Indian envoy, whose term in Riyadh ends shortly, is also credited for promoting relations between India and Saudi Arabia at several levels, including cultural and economic. Describing his role as “modest” in progress of bilateral ties, Ahmad said: “Mine has been a modest role in this endeavor, in which a large number of people have contributed both from India and Saudi Arabia.”

Ahmad was first appointed ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia in January 2000. He has served as ambassador in several other countries, including UAE and Oman. He was appointed again as Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia last year ahead of Prime Minister Singh’s visit to the Kingdom.

In addition to being a career diplomat, Ahmad has written several books and papers on politics of West Asia and energy. The Arabic translation of his book: “Children of Abraham at War: The Clash of Messianic Militarism” was released earlier this month in New Delhi. Ahmad was present on the occasion. His aim is to “promote Indo-Saudi ties in a number of areas on immediate, medium-term and long-term basis that include research and studies, energy discussions and advance guidance with regards to business imunity.”

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NHL’s Oilers Stick to Script as Jets Take Off

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

2011-06-25T003338Z_1392868327_GM1E76P0NX901_RTRMADP_3_NHL-DRAFT

Ottawa Senators first round pick Mika Zibanejad, of Sweden, is all smiles at the 2011 NHL hockey draft in St. Paul, Minnesota,  June 24, 2011.

REUTERS/Eric Miller

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Reuters) – The Edmonton Oilers stuck to the script by taking Canadian center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the number one pick but it was otherwise a night of surprises at the NHL draft Friday.

Winnipeg, the NHL’s newest franchise, was back at the draft table for the first time since 1995 and used the stage to confirm the team would be named the Jets.

The Minnesota Wild made the biggest splash midway through the opening round, pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal that sees all-star defenseman Brent Burns traded to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle and the Sharks’ first-round pick which they used on Zack Phillips.

Once among the most coveted players on draft day, only one Russian was selected in the first round with the Tampa Bay Lightning taking Vladislav Namestnikov with the 27th pick.

That was the same number of Danes and Swiss selected, the Calgary Flames taking Switzerland’s Sven Bartschi with the 13th pick and the Vancouver Canucks grabbing Denmark’s Nicklas Jensen at number 29.

Canadian and Swedish prospects were all the rave in the opening round of the two-day lottery with 16 Canadians taken and six Swedes, including three in the top six.

Top pick Nugent-Hopkins, an 18-year-old who had a league-high 75 assists with the Red Deer Rebels last season, could prove to be the ideal setup man for last year’s first overall pick, Oilers winger Taylor Hall.

While no players with the caliber of Sidney Crosby or Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky were expected to surface from this year’s talent pool, Nugent-Hopkins has been described in Gretzky-like terms for his on-ice vision and creativity.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I always watched Edmonton this year and the past couple years actually and it’s just amazing that I got picked there.”

With the second overall pick the Colorado Avalanche took the player considered the most ready to make the jump to the NHL, Swedish winger Gabriel Landeskog.

The Florida Panthers, who have not made the playoffs the past 10 seasons, used the third selection on a pure goal scorer, claiming center Jonathan Huberdeau from the Memorial Cup champions Saint John Sea Dogs.

‘PERSIAN PRINCE’

The New Jersey Devils, with the fourth pick, did not hesitate to grab Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson, who had been tipped by many scouts as the best player in the draft.

The New York Islanders snapped up Canadian center Ryan Strome with the fifth selection while the Ottawa Senators took Swede Mika Zibanejad, known as the ‘Persian Prince’ because his father is Iranian and mother Finnish.

Winnipeg celebrated their return to the NHL by taking Barrie Colts center Mark Scheifele with the seventh pick.

As a beaming Scheifele made his way onto the stage, Winnipeg officials unfolded a jersey with an NHL logo stitched on the front but confirmed the team would be named the Jets.

“We are thrilled to be using a name that has so much history in our city and means so much to our fans,” said Mark Chipman, board chairman of owners True North Sports and Entertainment. “Our fans clearly indicated to us the passion they hold for the name since we acquired the franchise.”

The Jets name and logo are well-known to Winnipeg hockey fans.

The Manitoba capital was home to the Jets of the World Hockey Association before the team joined the NHL in 1979.

The Jets played for 17 years in the NHL before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996.

When it was announced earlier this month that the financially troubled Atlanta Thrashers had been sold and relocated to Winnipeg, speculation immediately began about the team’s name with a majority of hockey fans wanting to see the iconic Jets back on the sweaters.

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NBA and NHL Draft Results

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Ottawa Spirit Rug c2011

In last week’s National Hockey League draft, the Ottawa Senators selected Iranian-Swedish center Mika Zibanejad with the number six selection in the first round. Senators General Manager Bryan Murray told the Ottawa Citizen that Zibanejad will get every opportunity to make the parent club this very next season. Zibanejad is currently taking part in Ottawa’s annual developmental camp.

The National Basketball Association draft was also held last week. Turkish center Enes Kanter went very high in the first round, as he was selected by the Utah Jazz with the third selection overall despite numerous rumors that had him going with Minnesota’s number two selection. Kanter will join fellow Turkish center Mehmet Okur in Utah. Later in the first round, Morehead State University power forward Kenneth Faried was taken with the number 22 pick by the Denver Nuggets.

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The Most Dangerous Cities In America

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

5. Memphis, Tennessee

> Population: 673,650
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 15.4
> 2010 Murders: 89
> Median Income: $34,203 (31.8% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 9.9% (0.9% above national average)
Memphis has high rates for all the violent crimes considered for 24/7 Wall St.’s rankings. It has the sixth highest rate in the country. Incidents of violent crime in the city dropped slightly less than 15% between 2009 and 2010 though. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton attributes this decrease to Operation Safe Community, a citywide plan developed in 2005. The plan consists of a number of strategies meant to increase crime prevention, through toughening punishments for criminals, and the effectiveness of the city’s legal system, through changes such as expanding court programs so that they operate consistently and at full capacity.

4. New Haven, Connecticut

> Population: 124,856
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 15.8
> 2010 Murders: 22
> Median Income: $38,279 (23.8% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (0.6% above national average)
New Haven has historically had the highest rate of violent crime on the east coast. The impoverished, crime-ridden parts of the city stand in stark contrast to affluent Fairfield county to the West, and elite Yale University, which is located within the city itself. The number of murders in the city doubled last year. New Haven has the eighth highest rate of robbery and the fourth highest rate of assault in the U.S. The New Haven Police Department is considering adding cameras at every intersection in one of the neighborhoods where shootings are the most common.

3. St. Louis, Missouri

> Population: 355,151
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 17.5
> 2010 Murders: 144
> Median Income: $34,801 (30.7% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (0.3% above national average)
Violent crime in St. Louis fell dramatically between 2009 and 2010, and has decreased since 2007. Despite this, crime rates remain extremely high compared with other cities. In 2010, the city’s murder rate and rate of aggravated assault were each the third worst in the country. With regards to both violent and nonviolent crime, St. Louis was rated the most dangerous city based on FBI data released six months ago. As of December 2010, the murder rate in St. Louis was 6.3 times that of the state of Missouri. The city’s gunshot murder rate for residents between 10 to 19 years old is also the second highest in the country, behind only New Orleans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Detroit, Michigan

> Population: 899,447
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 18.9
> 2010 Murders: 310
> Median Income: $26,098 (48% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 12.7% (3.7% above national average)
The city crippled the most in America’s post-industrial era is almost certainly Detroit. The Motor City has suffered from high rates of unemployment, homelessness, and crime. The city has one of the ten highest rates for three of the four types of violent crime identified by the FBI. Detroit has the sixth highest murder rate, the fifth highest robbery rate, and the second highest rate of aggravated assault. In 2005, a major reorganization of the city’s police department took place after a federal investigation identified inefficiencies within the system. According to an article in The United Press, opponents of Detroit Mayor David Bing called for further intervention by the Justice Department in several shootings that occurred last year.

1. Flint, Michigan

> Population: 109,245
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 22
> 2010 Murders: 53
> Median Income: $27,049 (46.1% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (2.8% above national average)
The number of violent crimes committed in Flint, MI, increased for all categories considered for this list between 2009 and 2010. Perhaps most notably, the number of murders in the city increased from 36 to 53. This moves the city from having the seventh highest rate of homicide to the second highest. The number of aggravated assaults increased from 1,529 to 1,579, a rate of 14.6 assaults per 1,000 residents, placing the city in the number one rank for rate of assaults. Flint police chief Alvern Lock stated late last year that he believed the city’s violence stemmed from drugs and gangs. Flint has a relatively small median income of about $27,000 per household. The city also has a poverty rate of 36.2%.
Douglas A. McIntyre, Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale

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Jersey 15-Year-Old to Go to Harvard

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kelly Heyboer

9545035-large

PISCATAWAY — Saheela Ibraheem wasn’t sure any college would want to admit a 15-year-old. So the Piscataway teen hedged her bets and filled out applications to 14 schools from New Jersey to California.

“It’s the age thing. I wanted to make sure I had options,” said Saheela, a senior at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.

In the end, 13 colleges accepted her — including six of the eight Ivy League schools.

After weeks of debate, Saheela settled on Harvard. She will be among the youngest members of the school’s freshman class.

“I’ll be one of the youngest. But I won’t be the youngest,” the soon-to-be 16-year-old said.

Saheela is among the millions of high school seniors who had to finalize their college decisions by Monday, the deadline for incoming freshman to send deposits to the school of their choice. Nationwide, this year’s college selection process was among the most competitive in history as most top colleges received a record number of applications.

Saheela joins a growing number of New Jersey students going to college before they are old enough to drive. Last year, Kyle Loh of Mendham graduated from Rutgers at 16. In previous years, a 14-year-old from Cranbury and two of his 15-year-old cousins also graduated from Rutgers.

For Saheela, her unusual path to college began when she was a sixth-grader at the Conackamack Middle School in Piscataway. Eager to learn more about her favorite subject, math, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants asked to move to a higher-level class. The school let her skip sixth grade entirely.

By high school, Saheela said, she was no longer feeling challenged by her public school classes. So, she moved to the Wardlaw-Hartridge School, a 420-student private school, where she skipped her freshman year and enrolled as a 10th-grader. Her three younger brothers, twins now in the ninth grade and a younger brother in second grade, all eventually joined her at the school.

School officials were impressed Saheela, one of their top students, didn’t spend all her time studying.

“She’s learned and she’s very smart. But she keeps pushing herself,” said William Jenkins, the Wardlaw-Hartridge School’s director of development.

9545046-large

Aaron Houston/For The Star-LedgerSaheela Ibraheem, a 15-year-old senior at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, has been admitted to 13 colleges, and chose to attend Harvard this fall. Photo taken during a Wardlaw-Hartridge softball game in Piscataway.

Saheela also excels outside the classroom. She is a three-sport athlete, playing outfield for the school’s softball team, defender on the soccer team, and swimming relays and 50-meter races for the swim team. She also sings alto in the school choir, plays trombone in the school band and serves as president of the school’s investment club, which teaches students about the stock market by investing in virtual stocks.

Saheela began applying to colleges last fall. Her applications included her grade point average (between a 96 and 97 on a 100-point scale) and her 2,340 SAT score (a perfect 800 on the math section, a 790 in writing and a 750 in reading).

She was delighted when she got her first acceptance in December from California Institute of Technology. “I was so excited. I got into college!,” Saheela said.

More acceptances followed from Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis.

On March 30, she got her sole rejection letter — from Yale. Saheela isn’t sure why the Ivy League school didn’t want her.

“My parents were thinking it was the age thing,” she said.

Saheela was torn between going to MIT and Harvard. A visit to both campuses last month made the choice easy. “She went to Harvard and she fell in love with the place,” said Shakirat Ibraheem, her mother.

Saheela said she wants to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience and plans to become a research scientist who studies how the brain works. As for her own brain, Saheela insists she is nothing special.

She credits her parents with teaching her to love learning and work hard. Her father, Sarafa, an analyst and vice president at a New York financial firm, would often study with her at night and home school her in subjects not taught at school.

“I try my best in everything I do,” Saheela said. “Anyone who’s motivated can work wonders.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported the number of Ivy League colleges. There are eight. Saheela Ibraheem did not apply to Dartmouth College.The Star-Ledger

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Every 15 minutes, a Muslim Couple Gets Divorced in Malaysia

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Joseph Kaos Jr

KUALA LUMPUR: An otherwise mundane Dewan Negara question and answer session was lightened up during a query on divorce cases among Malaysian Muslims.

Datuk Fatimah Hamat was the first to raise eyebrows across the senate hall when revealing that in every 15 minutes a Muslim couple gets divorced in the country.

“These statistics are shocking,” said Fatimah.

“How effective are our premarriage courses in tackling the rise of divorce cases in the country? Perhaps, we could also organise marriage courses for couples married for 10 and 20 years to avoid divorces.”

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mashitah Ibrahim, however, begged to differ, claiming divorce cases were “not a bad thing”.

“We should not be shocked by the statistics. It is not a bad thing, it is halal,” said Mashitah, whose ministry portfolio is Islamic affairs.

“Divorce is actually the solution to a troubled marriage. It happens to all groups people, be it the educated, the uneducated and even professionals.”

She added as the duration of compulsory marriage courses were only two days, therefore the onus was left on the couples themselves to be responsible for their marriage life.

“Couples can equip themselves with so much knowledge, but it is still up to them how they use it,” said Mashitah.

In a supplementary question, Ahmad Hussin brought grins to senators in the hall when he said Facebook was a cause for the rising number of divorce cases.

“A man falls in love, marries, and has children. And then he logs onto Facebook and sees someone even prettier!” said Ahmad.

“This is a gross abuse of the Internet. The government needs to look seriously into this.

“Again, there is the matter of men divorcing via SMS, which I find harsh and feel sympathy for the woman,” said Ahmad.

Mashitah, however, said there were many causes of marriage break-ups and the issue of new media such as Facebook constitutes only a small number.

“Our studies show there are many causes, which include monetary problems, deteriorating sex life, bad tempered partner, irresponsibility and many more,” said Mashitah.

On divorce through SMS, Mashitah said a Fatwa had already been issued and divorce via SMS could only materialise if it satisfied the courts.

Earlier, Mashitah said Selangor recorded the highest number of divorces among all States in 2009, with 4,614 cases.

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Qureshi Moving Up the Tennis Rankings

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Pakistani ace men’s tennis player Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has made significant strides in the world of tennis the past couple of years. He and his doubles partner, India’s Rohan Bopanna, have been steadily moving up the world men’s tennis rankings. Now, Qureshi has achieved the highest world ranking of his career thus far. He has moved up to a career high doubles ranking of number 12 in the world. In addition, he and Bopanna as a team have moved comfortably into the top 10 of the team rankings, having risen to number eight.

Most recently Qureshi and Bopanna were semifinalists at the ATP event at Indian Wells in California. There they beat the well-decorated Indian team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, before being upset in the semifinal round.  They followed that up with a quarterfinal finish at the ATP Masters event in Miami, Florida. At this pace, a top five ranking should be right around the corner. And who knows, the number one spot just may be there for the taking.

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LifeLock CEO’s Identity Stolen 13 Times

May 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kim Zetter, Wired

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Apparently, when you publish your Social Security number prominently on your website and billboards, people take it as an invitation to steal your identity.

LifeLock CEO Todd Davis, whose number is displayed in the company’s ubiquitous advertisements, has by now learned that lesson. He’s been a victim of identity theft at least 13 times, according to the Phoenix New Times.

That’s 12 more times than has previously been known.

In June 2007, Threat Level reported that Davis had been the victim of identity theft after someone used his identity to obtain a $500 loan from a check-cashing company. Davis discovered the crime only after the company called his wife’s cellphone to recover the unpaid debt.

About four months after that story published, Davis’ identity was stolen again by someone in Albany, Georgia, who opened an AT&T/Cingular wireless account using his Social Security number (.pdf), according to a police report obtained by the New Times. The perpetrator racked up $2,390 in charges on the account, which remained unpaid. Davis, whose real name according to police reports is Richard Todd Davis, only learned a year later that his identity had been stolen again after AT&T handed off the debt to a collection agency and a note appeared on his credit report.

Then last year, Davis discovered seven more fraudulent accounts on his credit report that were opened with his personal information and have outstanding debt, according to the police report.

Someone opened a Verizon account in New York, leaving an unpaid bill of at least $186. An account at Centerpoint Energy, a Texas utility, was delinquent $122. Credit One Bank was owed $573, and Swiss Colony, a gift-basket company, was seeking $312.

In addition to these amounts, Davis’s credit report showed five collection agencies were seeking other sums from accounts opened in his name: Bay Area Credit was pursuing $265; Associated Credit Services was seeking two debts in the amount of $207 and $213; Enhanced Recovery Corporation was chasing $250 and $381.

A spokeswoman for the Albany police, who investigated the AT&T/Cingular account but never made any arrest, told the New Times that Davis’ publication of his Social Security number created more victims than just himself.

“It’s unfortunate he chose to conduct business in that way,” spokeswoman Phyllis Banks said. “It’s not fair to [AT&T] because they’re losing a pretty substantial amount of money.”

LifeLock refused to discuss the issue with the New Times. The company did not respond to a request for comment from Threat Level.

The company was fined $12 million in March by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising.

Lifelock promised in ads that its $10 monthly service would protect consumers from identity theft. The company also offered a $1 million guarantee to compensate customers for losses incurred if they became a victim after signing up for the service. The FTC called the claims bogus and accused LifeLock of operating a scam.

“In truth, the protection they provided left such a large hole … that you could drive that truck through it,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, referring to a LifeLock TV ad showing a truck painted with Davis’s Social Security number driving around city streets.

Davis’ history as an identity-theft victim would seem to call into question the company’s ability to protect consumers from a similar fate.

The Muslim Community in Chile

March 4, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By  Salma Elhamalawy, The Society of Muslim Union of Chile

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Views of Al Salam mosque in Santiago, Chile  

The origins of Islam in Chile are not very clear. It is known that in 1854 two “Turks” resided in the country, a situation that was repeated in the censuses of 1865 and 1875. Their country of origin is not known, just that they were natives of some territory of the immense Ottoman Empire.

According to the 1885 census, the number of “Turks” had risen to 29, but there is no precise information on their origin and their faith, since religion was not included in that census. However, the census of 1895 registered the presence of 76 “Turks”, 58 of them Muslims. They lived mainly in the north of Chile in Tarapacá, Atacama, Valparaiso, and Santiago.

In the census of 1907, the Muslims had risen to 1,498 people, all of them foreigners. They were 1,183 men and 315 women, representing only 0.04 percent of the population. This is the highest percentage of Muslims in Chile’s history.

In 1920 a new census showed that the number of Muslims had decreased to 402, with 343 men and 59 women. The greatest numbers were in Santiago and Antofagasta, with 76 in each province.

In Santiago, the first Islamic institution of Chile, the Society of Muslim Union of Chile, was founded on 25 September 1926. Later, on 16 October 1927, the Society of Mutual Aids and Islamic Charity was established.

With the 1952 census, the number of Muslims had risen again to 956. The majority lived in Santiago, with others in the provinces of Antofagasta, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, O’Higgins, Concepción, Malleco, Cautín and Valdivia, without much organization among them.

Their numbers decreased again, so that by 1960 there were only 522, with the majority of 209 living in Santiago. A decade later, the number of Muslims had increased to 1,431. However, the census did not indicate whether they were men or women, nationals or foreigners. Nevertheless, they were spread throughout the country.

Through the 1970s and ‘80s, there were no religious leaders or centers for praying. Muslims who maintained the faith met in the residence of Taufik Rumie’ Dalu, a trader of Syrian origin.

In 1990 the construction of the Al-Salam Mosque began, the first of the country. In 1995 another mosque was inaugurated in Temuco, and 1998 a new one in Iquique. Sources of the Islamic community indicate that at the moment, in Chile, there are 3,000 Muslims. Many of those are Chileans who, as a result of their conversion, have even changed their names. In spite of the small number of believers, they are not a homogenous community. The majority are Sunnis, and the rest are Shiites. Sufi groups have also arisen, but their members are mainly of non-Arab origin.

“I’ll never forget that day,” says the imam of Al-Salam Mosque, Sami Elmushtawi. “The day of the mosque’s inauguration was a day where the dreams of the Muslim community became true.” The Egyptian imam says further, “For us this was a unique opportunity, because not every day we are visited by kings, nor mosques are inaugurated either.” Apart from the fact that the King of Malaysia inaugurated the mosque on 1 October 1995, the mosque is considered one of the three best ones of Latin America, after those of Venezuela and Brazil.

The mosque, built to welcome 500 people, consists of three floors. The first has reading rooms, multipurpose hall, baths and cafeteria. The second contains the prayer hall, and the third has the office of the imam and rooms for guests.

“There are some people who come to pray during the day, but due to work the majority come to the mosque in the evening,” indicated Sami Elmushtawi.

However, Santiago is not the only place where Muslims can practice their faith. The Islamic Chilean Corporation of Temuco, founded in October 2001 in the city of Temuco, has the mission of spreading the Islamic culture and traditions. In addition, today it tries to open more channels to spread the moral values of Islam, overcoming the prejudices after 11 September 2001.

Muslim women pray at the mosque and in their houses. Chileans converted to Islam describe how they live as Muslims in a country which is dominantly Catholic, and how they are perceived. The attack of 11 September generated insults and practical jokes against them.

Karima Alberto, a 35-year-old housewife married to a Syrian merchant, has two children. She met her husband in his store. “He was the reason I converted to Islam, he told me marvelous things about Islam so I began to go to the mosque and learned more about Islam. It was like self-discovery,” she says.

Karima says that some people started treating them differently because of the 11 September attack. Although she is yearning to go to Makkah, she has already met her husband’s relatives in Damascus. “It was not difficult to stop eating pork or drink alcohol. It’s God’s will, and it’s stated in the Qur’an. Although some people think it’s a big sacrifice, I don’t look at it that way at all. Islam has given me a new vision.”

Carla Olivari, an 18-year-old student in a mixed school, says, “Now I do not feel pressured to drink alcohol at parties or to lose my virginity.”

At the age of 16, she used to pass by the mosque until one day she decided to enter. She left the mosque as a Muslim. “I feel that Allah chose me.” Her parents, who are Catholic, did not oppose, but her brother did. “When he sees me praying in my room, he calls me a lunatic.” However, she not only fasts during Ramadan, but on other days as well. “Above all, I pray for the victims in Palestine and Iraq.”

Carla wants to marry a Muslim. “My husband has to be a Muslim. I want my children to grow up in a Muslim family that teaches them important family values. Then I will get veiled permanently, not like now, when I only use it in the mosque.”

Habiba Abdullah, 40 years old, is a doctor at Roberto Del Río Hospital. She emphasizes that she carries the surname of her father, “Because Islam permits us to conserve our surname and not to be Mrs. Somebody.”

A member of a family of six brothers, she has a single son who is 18 years old. All her family is Muslim. “I was born a Muslim, and I’m proud of it. I remember my father taking us every weekend to the mosque. We would learn the Qur’an, and we would study Arabic. Although it was difficult when I first wore my veil at work, but little by little people started accepting me. Now people are not very surprised to see me with veil.”

Still, these women are a minority in Chile. “There are always people coming to the mosque out of curiosity,” states Imam Sami Elmushtawi. “Nevertheless, it is very satisfactory when I see their faces after leaving the mosque, or when they return again. Some people come to learn Arabic, and some come to learn more about Islam. But definitely it gives me greater joy that the Muslim community is increasing in Chile.”

Salma Elhamalawy contacted at: salma_elhamalawy@yahoo.com.

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Warren Buffett’s Investment Advice for You

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Buffett Says Consumer Behavior May Be Forever Changed by Recession

By Katie Escherich and Bianna Golodryga

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett believes that the U.S. will emerge from the current economic recession “stronger than ever,” but he said the behavior of the American consumer may be forever changed.

“We were on a binge before,” the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway told “Good Morning America” in an exclusive interview. “I mean, we are not saving extraordinary sums now but the savings behavior has changed. … I don’t necessarily think that we will go back to behaving the way that we were two years ago.”

The man known as the “Oracle from Omaha” because of his history of successful investments, shared his top three pieces of advice for average Americans who want to grow their savings and keep their money safe.

Number one: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Number two: “Always look at how much the other guy is making if he is trying to sell you something.”

Number three: Don’t go into debt.

“Stay away from leverage,” he said. “Nobody ever goes broke that doesn’t owe money.”

The “binge,” he said, was fueled largely by over-borrowing by both individuals and companies.

“The U.S. public as a whole has gotten into problems from leverage, financial institutions have gotten into problems through leverage,” he said. “A long, long time ago a friend said to me about leverage, ‘If you’re smart you don’t need it, and if you’re dumb, you got no business using it.’”

At a time when many college graduates face uncertain futures and are struggling to find jobs, Buffett said he still believes that “investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents. And I always advise students to do that, high school students, college students and obviously investing in your children is, in some ways, investing in yourself.”

No matter what happens in the economy, “if you have true talent yourself, and you have maximized your talent, you have a terrific asset.”

Warren Buffett on Budget Deficit

Buffett showed some support for the idea of a second economic stimulus package, but cautioned that it should be handled differently to restore the American public’s confidence.

The number of earmarks included in the bill were “part of what has affected the American psyche,” he said. “When we go on and we talk about earmarks and that sort of thing, and then we get the kind of behavior we’ve got, I mean, that is not reassuring to the American public.”

He called the first stimulus “like taking half a tablet of Viagra and having also a bunch of candy mixed in, you know, as if everybody was putting in enough for their own constituents.”

He also cautioned that the American public will have to be patient and give the economy time to recover, particularly when it comes to the surplus of houses on the market that resulted from overbuilding.

“The American public will get disappointed, but it is going to take time to work through the overhang of houses, for example,” he said. “You can’t cure that in a day or a week or a month, so a stimulus doesn’t cure that.”

Buffett also expressed confidence in Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and dismissed rumors that the Fed chief may not return once his current term is up at the end of the year.

“Well, I think he should keep his job,” he said. “And as to what people say, well they are going to say something, they have always talked about Fed chairmen when their terms are coming up. But taking Bernanke out of the lineup would be like if you had the Ryder Cup, taking Tiger Woods out of it. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Buffett acknowledged that the actions taken by the government will lead to an even bigger budget deficit. “It will happen and I worry about it, but I would worry more if we weren’t doing anything right now.”

He compared the current situation to “a friend that is sinking in quicksand.”

“You throw them a rope and they tie it around themselves and a car pulls them out, they may dislocate a couple of shoulders but it’s still the right thing to do. And we are doing things which will have negative consequences down the road, but they are still the right thing to do to get us out of this particular economic quicksand that we are in.”

Warren Buffett on Health Care Reform

Asked if he agreed with President Obama that passing health care reform would help limit the ballooning budget deficit, Buffett replied, “I really don’t think that I’m an expert on health care,” but said the system needs to be drastically changed.

“I think it’s a moral imperative that everybody have access to health care,” he said. “It’s a terrible problem.”

Despite the pressing economic concerns, he said he would be in favor of the government devoting resources to devising a plan for health care reform “if there’s a well-thought-out program that actually promises to bring down the cost of health care.”

“We are spending 2 trillion plus on health care a year,” he said. “If we could come up with something that even maintains the present cost and promises not to have a greater-than-inflation rate of gain in the future, and brings health care to the people that aren’t getting it now, then I think that will be a huge improvement. I don’t think that is an easy task.”

In anyone’s lifetime, “you will see many recessions, some bubbles,” he said, but he’s optimistic about the future.

“If we sat down here [at the] start of the 20th century, and I said there is going to be the panic of 1907, there is going to be a world war. It will be followed by a Great Depression with 35 percent unemployment, and then we will have another war that it looks like we are going to lose, and then we are going to have a nuclear bomb like no one has ever seen … by the time I got through, you’d be crying. But the Dow went from 66 to 11,497 during that same century, and the average person’s standard of living went up 7 to 1. We have a system that unleashes human potential like nobody has ever seen, and it has done it in the past, it will do it in the future. So I’m a huge bull on America — it does let people like you and me do far more than we could have done 200 years ago.”

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What Do Fat Cells Do

November 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

clip_image002 HEALTHY FAT CELLS BENEFICIAL

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When you lose weight, you not only feel better, but your fat cells are much healthier.

So says endocrinologist Andrew Greenberg, director of the Obesity Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston.

Your body needs fat cells to be healthy, but in obese individuals when fat cells get very big, those cells are at risk of dying, he says.

"A fat cell is 95% fat. If it dies, it leaves behind insoluble fat, and the body views it as a foreign body, much like it would splinter," Greenberg says.

That excess fat is scooped up by macrophages, scavenger cells that are part of the immune system. During this process, some of the fat and other inflammatory proteins get released into the blood stream, which can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes, he says.

However, there is evidence that if you lose weight, you have fewer dying fat cells and significantly fewer fat-engorged macrophages, Greenberg says.

Think fat just hangs around and does nothing? It doesn’t

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By Lisa Nipp for USA TODAY

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Susan Fried, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, sits in front of slides showing fat cells from an obese person. If a person overeats "long enough and hard enough," the number of fat cells can increase, she says.

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By Susan Fried

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The difference between normal weight and obese people is more than skin-deep. Obesity has a dramatic effect on the number and function of fat cells. LEFT, LEAN: A person at a healthy weight might have 10 billion to 20 billion fat cells, one-tenth that of an obese person. RIGHT, OBESE: As people gain weight, their fat cells become bigger and can hold up to 10 times more fat in each cell.

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By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

PHOENIX — Most people think of fat as an inert blob, but fat cells release powerful chemicals.

In obese people, the fat tissue often produces too many bad hormones and too few good ones, says Susan Fried, director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit of Maryland at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

BETTER LIFE: The skinny on losing weight

Fried and other scientists discussed the latest research on fat cells here at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society. Fried talks about the relationship between obesity and fat cells.

Q: Do people have different numbers of fat cells?
A: A person at a healthy weight might have 10 billion to 20 billion, and an obese person can have up to 100 billion. Babies are born with about 10 billion. You naturally increase the number of fat cells, like other kinds of cells, as you grow.

Q: Is everybody born with the same number of fat cells?
A: No. There is a genetic component to how many you have, but I would say less than 5% of obese people have a genetic tendency to have a greatly excess number. It appears in animal experiments that animals that are overnourished in the womb and shortly thereafter tend to have more fat cells.

The number can increase at any time if you overeat long enough and hard enough. When your fat cells get to a maximum size, they send a signal to (fat-precursor) cells to become full-fledged fat cells. It may be that having too many hungry fat cells somehow makes us eat more.

But overweight people (those who are not obese but are one to 30 pounds over a healthy weight) don’t generally have an excess number. You can gain 30 pounds easily by increasing the size of current fat cells and not adding new ones.

Q: What do white fat cells do?
A: White fat cells store energy and produce hormones that are secreted into the blood. In theory, if we overeat, our fat cells will produce a little more of the hormone leptin, which will go to our brain and tell us we have plenty of energy down here; not to eat any more. If it worked perfectly, no one would get fat, but it doesn’t work perfectly, so many of us do get fat.

When fat cells are small, they produce high amounts of some hormones such as adiponectin. It is a good guy because it keeps the liver and muscles very sensitive to insulin and fights diabetes, heart disease and other diseases. But in obese people, fat cells tend to shut down the production of adiponectin, and that has bad effects on health, and it’s one reason people develop diabetes and heart disease.

Q: Does losing weight shrink the size of your fat cells?
A: If you are eating less energy than you require, your cells release fat for fuel and then shrink. If you are obese and have 100 billion fat cells and you lose a lot of weight, your fat cells may go down to a normal size, but you still have 100 billion. So you may still be overly fat, but you will be healthier since small fat cells produce more of the good fat hormones like adiponectin.

Q: Can you explain the new discoveries about brown fat?
A: While a white fat cell stores energy, a brown fat cell’s job is basically to generate heat. We always thought brown fat was only in human babies and helped keep them warm. Now there is more evidence that there are more brown fat cells in adults than we originally thought. Brown and white are not really related because they don’t come from the same precursor cell or stem cell.

Brown fat cell comes from the same kind of precursor cell as a muscle cell. Even though there are very few brown fat cells in adult humans, it looks like there is a lot of variability between people. There is increasing evidence that some humans, particularly lean ones, tend to have brown fat cells mixed in with their white fat cells in some regions of their body. So if we can figure out how to persuade the body to make more brown fat cells, we may be able to fight the tendency to gain excess weight.

Study: Weapons, Civilian Deaths

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Weapons That Kill Civilians — Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003–2008

Researchers from King’s College London and Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK, together with members of the non-profit group Iraq Body Count, have published a new event-based analysis of the impact of different weapon-types on Iraqi civilians in the April 16, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine: The Weapons That Kill Civilians – Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003-2008

Using the extensive and detailed database of Iraq Body Count (IBC), the researchers analyzed 14,196 events in which 60,481 civilians were violently killed during the first five years of the conflict in Iraq, thereby gaining an extraordinary overview of the harm that different weapons — from low to high tech — have brought to Iraq’s civilian population. Dr Madelyn Hicks of King’s College London, lead author of the article, said, “By linking a large number of deaths to the particular weapons used in specific events, the IBC database offers a unique opportunity for detailed analysis of the public health impact of different forms of armed violence on Iraqi civilians.”

For overall combined causes of civilian death from weapons in the data-set — ranging from gunfire, to improvised explosive devices used in roadside bombs, to precision-guided missiles — the average number killed per event was 4. However, the researchers found that when air-launched bombs or combined air and ground attacks caused civilian deaths, the average number killed was 17, similar to the average number in events where civilians were killed by suicide bombers travelling on foot (16 deaths per event).

The authors relate their findings to international humanitarian law and the need for effective policies to protect civilians. Describing suicide bombers on foot as a form of precisely targetable “smart bomb,” they argue that their pattern of killing high numbers of Iraqi civilians can only result from disregard for civilian life when targeting opposition forces, or the direct targeting of civilians, which is a war crime. Regarding their finding of a high rate of civilian death from aerial bombs, they write, “It seems clear from these findings that to protect civilians from indiscriminate harm, as required by international humanitarian law (including the Geneva Conventions), military and civilian policies should prohibit aerial bombing in civilian areas unless it can be demonstrated — by monitoring of civilian casualties, for example — that civilians are being protected.”

The researchers were also able to analyze the demographic characteristics of noncombatants who fell victim to different forms of violence. Execution after abduction or capture was the single most common form of death overall, with by far most of its victims (95%) being male. Nearly a third of execution victims were described as bearing marks of torture, evidence that they had suffered “a particularly appalling form of violent death.”

For Iraqi females, and children, events involving air attacks and mortar fire were the most dangerous. In air attacks causing civilian deaths, 46% of victims of known gender were female, and 39% of victims of known age were children. Mortar attacks claimed similarly high proportions of victims in these two demographic groups (44% and 42%). By comparison, 11% of victims across all weapons types were Iraqi females, and 9% were children. The authors argue that their findings showing that air attacks (whether involving bombs or missiles) and mortars killed relatively high proportions of females and children is further evidence that these weapons should not be directed at civilian areas by parties to conflict because of their indiscriminate nature. As co-author Professor John Sloboda of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also a co-founder of IBC, notes, “Our weapon-specific findings have implications for a wide range of conflicts, because the patterns found in this study are likely to be replicated for these weapons whenever they are used.”

The authors conclude that “Policymakers, war strategists of all persuasions, and the groups and societies that support them bear moral and legal responsibility for the effects that particular combat tactics have on civilians — including the weapons used near and among them.”

Authors:

Dr. Madelyn Hicks, King’s College London; Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count; Prof. John Sloboda, Royal Holloway, University of London and Iraq Body Count; Prof. Michael Spagat, Royal Holloway, University of London.

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