The Scourge of Piracy

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

cdsBy definition, the term piracy means, “the unauthorized use or appropriation of patented or copyrighted material and ideas.” In America, piracy laws carry stiff fines and penalties for the person infringing on another’s copyright. Who could forget the story of Minnesota mother Jamie Thomas-Rasset, who was successfully sued by the Recording Industry Association of America and ordered to pay $1.9 million for illegally downloading 24 songs from the Internet? But, while artists and corporations are protected by copyright laws in America, all bets are off when the brand or label is promulgated abroad. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.

Want to see the new kid’s movie “Rio”? Or listen to Katy Perry’s latest single? If you’re living anywhere in the Middle East then chances are you can get your hands on just about any pirated movie or song, within a few days of its official release in America or Europe. And it will cost a whole lot less than getting the real thing as it trickles out from suppliers. Most pirated CD’s cost around $1.50 a piece or less. The downside is that not all are in the most pristine viewing or even listening condition. However, given the low cost, most shoppers don’t mind a bit of degraded format so long as they get their fill of the latest Hollywood flick or singing sensation.

And it’s not only pirated CD’s that are all the rage in the Middle East, giving customers a cheap means of entertainment and the “pirates” pockets full of cold hard cash. Everything from designer handbags to knockoff fashions are blatantly hawked in small shops and even large department stores. Some of the most popular labels to be pirated include Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and Chanel. What is most interesting is that a quick inspection of the majority of the goods reveals that they were produced in China.

China has long since been deemed the worst global piracy offender, providing cheap knockoffs of copyrighted goods at a mere fraction of the original products retail value.  According to a recent study, China causes around $2 billion in losses as a direct result of its pirating activities. And China is the biggest supplier of commercial goods to the Middle East region as a whole.

Most Mideast countries pay lip service to the pirating epidemic within the region and have anti-piracy laws on the books, however enforcing copyright laws is another matter. It just is not something that is enforced. However, one rich Gulf nation is finally taking copyright violations seriously. The municipality of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, launched an initiative at the beginning of this year to crackdown on vendors selling pirated goods. As of this month, the municipality has seized more than 21,000 pirated CD’s and has issued fines to 250 retailers for selling pirated goods.

13-19

Musharraf wants to enter into Pakistani Politics with a Big Bang

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I will surely be in Pakistan before the next General Elections for one last contest: Musharraf in Houston

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “You have mentioned in your English and Urdu newspapers that return of Musharraf is imminent. Now I will have to prove this statement,” said former President of Pakistan General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf, while talking to Pakistan Chronicle & Pakistan Journal Newspapers Publisher Tariq Nehal Khan and Marketing & Distribution Manager Mohammad Jameel Siddiqui, at luncheon held in his and his wife Mrs. Sehba Musharraf’s honor at the residence of famous Houston Attorney Nauman (Noami) Hussain. One day before this luncheon meeting, General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf and his wife had reached Houston and had meetings with members of a reputable think tank.

Large number of Pakistani Community and American personalities were present on the luncheon occasion, including Stephen Prentiss Payne, a most famous American lobbyist from Houston, Texas, who has been Mr. Musharraf’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C.; Counsel General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem and his wife; Former City Councilman Masrur Javed Khan; Former Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Dr. Naseem Ashraf and many more. Sumptuous luncheon of Mezban Restaurant and Demasis Mediterranean Restaurant was served.

Naomi Hussain introduced Pervez Musharraf as the person, who after President Bush said either you are with us or with the terrorists; stood besides USA. Musharraf started his ten minutes presentation by thanking Naomi Hussain & his wife and everyone in the large gathering and said whatever he did after 9/11 was first in the interest of Pakistan, then of the world and of course USA.

Talking about his political future, he said disinformation is being implanted into various Pakistani media that when I recently visited Washington, D.C., not a single important person met me. If it is not for privacy issues, he said he would have mentioned the names of top officials, with whom he had concrete talks; and that would have meant restless days and sleepless nights for these persons, who are merely doing false propaganda.

Former President Pervez Musarraf said that ground realty is recently I started my face-book and got the most clicks by any person in a day in the whole world, resulting in an interview with Becky Anderson of CNN in London England. I do a Q-&-A session every 14th day on my face-book and 85% of the people want me to return to Pakistan and play a positive role in the political arena of Pakistan. Several seasoned and credible politicians of Pakistan recently met him in Middle East and everyone wants his return. Nature is with him in that he is the only alive notable personality of Pakistan, who has the chance to take politicians, bureaucracy and arm-forces of Pakistan together and that present & future of Pakistan needs a personality, who especially has these credentials.

He said at present with no real responsibilities and traveling to various places for speaking tours, he is living very peacefully and in serenity. But when calls to return for the betterment of Pakistan reach him, they make him to think hard and he is at presently considering to remain living comfortably or returning to Pakistan and work hard to make the country the best in the world. He said he is strongly inclined to return as Pakistan comes first; for sure before the next national elections and final word will be coming from his camp within the next two months.

“I just do not want to return and be a mediocre player in Pakistani politics. I want to return with a big bang and give Pakistani people a real third choice in politics, where present government has failed miserably in resolving issues and problems have compounded, while on the other hand, we have Nawaz Sharif & PML (N). Mr. Sharif has some kink in his brain, as he is always confronting with some; previously with 4 Generals and presently making agreements with the government but then at time becoming angry and at other times remains quiet. I have called Mr. Sharif a Closet Taleban, who as in Urdu we say have beard in the tummy; he is most dangerous for Pakistan and for everybody. I am sure I will able to provide the most viable Third National Choice in the next elections. Pakistan deserves better leadership and if I do not try, that will not be good. I am not scared of failure. I will give it the best try,” said Musharraf amidst applause.

General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf said there is figure of Pakistan, who is more than 25 years veteran politician, but now-a-days dormant (he said he does not want to give his name). When recently he called him to get suggestions about future and referenced the scene from a famous cowboy movie, where only one bullet is left and person is contemplating to go back for one last fight or not. Musharraf was told by this politician that it is better to go back for one last fight and he may very well find this dormant politician besides him.

Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf said the way so many people have here to Naomi’s home, similarly people in other cities, like recently Chicago have met him. But all this effort is scattered. He said if you see him to work hard for Pakistan and Pakistanis, it is necessary that those who are in favor of my thumping return to Pakistan, collect their resources and efforts.

12-20

Keep Our Eyes Open for Justice

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The case of Brother Imam Kwame Teague

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Most of the time when we hear a person has been arrested we feel he must have done something or he or she wouldn’t have been arrested.  And when we hear someone has been convicted of a crime, our certainty of their guilt is strengthened.  After all there must have been overwhelming evidence that left no doubt of the guilt.  There was either a jury trial of 12 people that listened to evidence, weighed it in their minds and came to a unanimous decision; or a learned, educated judge who has sworn to uphold the law according to knowledge and investigation has rendered a decision.  Again, it must be right.

Then there is the case of a person who has been arrested, tried, convicted, and serving time in a penal institution.  Now this person HAS to be guilty.  Right?   Because appeals have been heard, and the evidence has been looked over for a second or third time, by different people, and they come to the same conclusion, the case is closed as far as we are concerned.  And we say they must be guilty.

Well, that may, or may not be the case.  With the advent of new technology, including DNA testing, we are finding there are many people who have been incarcerated for many years and we come to find out they were totally innocent.   Just think of the many people falsely accused and wrongly convicted who would still be in prison if not for the technological advances and/or persistence by legal experts, friends and family.

Of course, we also are aware that of the entire prison population, I would guess that 90% of them claim they are innocent.  And we also know that all of them that claim innocence are not innocent.  But because we have seen so many cases of wrongful imprisonment, it behooves us to take all available means to prove a person’s innocence.  This is especially true when there are major discrepancies and obvious omissions of evidence by the law enforcement and legal representatives.

One such case that may fall in a similar category is the case of Kwame Teague.    Brother Teague is a Muslim brother who has been incarcerated since February 1, 1994 in the North Carolina jail system.  His charge is Murder.  At the time of his arrest he offered an explanation of his whereabouts and gave the name of the person he was with.  This person was picked up and questioned but the statement was never allowed to be used in court.        

Other questionable  actions  was the appointment of a defense attorney who had been attorney for the opposition; not allowing testimony of people who  gave statements exonerating  Brother Kwame;  allowing the testimony of a person who was in prison, had a bad case of AIDS-related dementia, and a reason to implicate Brother Kwame, and many others.

Brother Kwame has been a model person since his incarceration.  He has served as imam at the institutions he has been imprisoned at with nothing but glowing remarks about his character Islamic spirit.  His father, Brother James C. Teague, of Newark, NJ, is a very well respected brother in the Muslim community and has done a magnificent job of instilling moral qualities and academic and professional excellence in all his children, two boys and two girls.  He says of them all he is most proud of Kwame because “he has overcome the profound barrier of incarceration to perform the same type of dedicated contributions from behind prison walls that his brother and sisters perform in free society.”

This article is by no means being written to try and establish the guilt or innocence of Brother Kwame.  It is being written to shed light on the many injustices that occur in our penal system and to encourage strong and persistent investigation of cases when proven facts may prove a person is being denied justice.  And because it LOOKS LIKE Kwame could be innocent, we owe our all.

There are many people like Kwame throughout the country and we encourage you to help in any way you can to present overlooked facts and omissions that could bring the truth to light.

We also encourage you to not automatically assume that when the authorities say someone did a crime that they must have done it.  Mistakes can and have been made.  No one is infallible except  Almighty ALLAH.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-17

Examining the Evil Eye

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

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The hamsa (also called a hamesh, Hand of Fatima, Hand of Miriam, or Hand of God) is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol for protection from the evil eye.

You woke up to a flat tire in the morning. You spilled a steaming hot coffee on your leg on your morning drive to work. A large tree branch fell on you as you took a stroll on a sidewalk. Most people would chalk these events up to mere coincidence or simply a bout of bad luck. But a trip across the ocean to the Middle East reveals that it is a whole other ball game.

Often labeled ‘fatalists’ by the heavily biased western media it’s true that most Muslims in the Middle East,as well as the rest of the world, put their lives wholeheartedly in the hands of God. However, for Arab Muslims there is an equally intense belief in the ‘evil eye’ and a plethora of preventative measures to ward it off, depending on the culture. In a nutshell, the evil eye basically means that someone covets something that you have and thus taints it. Soon after you, or the aforementioned item, typically faces some sort of calamity. It’s not uncommon for every ill to befall someone to be intensely scrutinized to find the exact moment that the evil eye contaminated it.

For this reason, amulets of various sorts adorn objects that would otherwise be left ‘unprotected’. It’s not uncommon to see brand new, or even passably nice, sports cars with decals in Arabic that read, “In the name of God” or “Praise God”. Other places for the amulets to reside include the front doors of apartments and mansions, sometimes in every room of the house. Even newborn babies often are adorned with a small gold brooch on their night suits with the words “In the Name of God” before they are brought out to visitors. The concept is to basically ensure that someone recognizes the gift the person possesses as coming from God before they can desire it.

To the person unfamiliar with Islam, it might seem like a whole lot of hocus-pocus. But the evil eye is a reality that is mentioned in the Holy Quran and something that the Prophet Muhammad (s) himself was very well acquainted with. The recommendation from the Sunnah of Muhammad (s) is to recite certain verses from the Holy Quran and to pray for sincere protection from God Almighty. For many Muslims, just the thought of the evil eye is enough to send a cold shudder right down the spine.

As a result, some clever opportunists have seized the opportunity to make a profit off the fear and suffering of others. In most of the Gulf countries there exists some people, who by all appearances are extremely religious, who claim to be specialists in treating the effects of the evil eye. Many offer their services albeit for a price. Most charge cash money for reciting verses of the Holy Quran over the afflicted person while others will recite the Quran for free so long as the person purchases one of their homemade homeopathic remedies. Since the belief in the evil eye is so widespread, and the people seeking to profit from it even wider, authorities can not do much to eradicate the supposed remedy which is often much more evil than the cause.

12-15

Harun Yahya – Unawareness—A Sly Threat

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Forgetting that death may come at any moment

People usually meet their death at unexpected times and places, for:

And no self knows what it will earn tomorrow and in what land it will die. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.

Luqman: 34

The moment of a person’s death is determined by destiny even before he or she is born. Allah reveals in the Qur’an:

It is He Who created you from clay and then decreed a fixed term, and another fixed term is specified with Him.

Al-An‘am: 2

The fact that people do not know when they will die is one of the factors that draw them toward unawareness. If people who are aware of the Hereafter’s punishments knew when they would die, they would not remain heedless of Allah’s commands, be distracted by this world, or forget that they will be called to account in the Hereafter.

Not knowing the time of one’s death is a secret of the trials of this world. Believers who know this prepare for the Hereafter as if they expect to die at any moment. They obey all of Allah’s commands and prohibitions with complete sincerity for as long as they live.

Unaware people live according to the desires of their egos. They know they will die, but cannot grasp the fact that death is an awakening in the Hereafter either to eternal Paradise or endless Hell. They think of it as only an eternal separation from the things and people they loved. This is why they are so passionate about what and whom they love and so uncomfortable when the subject of death is mentioned or crosses their minds. Just thinking about it depresses them and makes them worry that their lives will change. Since they do not consider that death may be right around the corner and do not reflect on its reality, they ignore Allah’s commands and prohibitions, or at least postpone thinking about them, by telling themselves that they still have a lot of time to pray and will start doing so when they are older. But they really have no idea how much time they have left. They go merrily on their way, only to find that death comes suddenly, before they start living in compliance with Allah’s commandments. The moment the heedless people meet death, which they regard as remote and far off, is described in the Qur’an as follows:

If those who do not believe only knew of the time when they will not be able to keep the Fire away from their faces or their backs! And they will receive no help! No, it (death) will come upon them suddenly, confounding them, taking them completely by surprise, and they will not be able to ward it off. They will be granted no reprieve.

Al-Anbiya’: 39-40

From this verse, we can clearly see that death does not listen to excuses and that the appointed time approaches quickly. Nothing can prevent its coming. Allah tells this in the Qur’an:

Say: “Death, from which you are fleeing, will certainly catch up with you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible, and He will inform you about what you did.”

Al-Jumu‘ah: 8

A person may die at any moment; forgetting this fact or trying to escape it is a sign that a person is unaware and that he is being sucked into the whirlpool of unawareness. It is a certain fact that unawareness may lead to eternal suffering.

Not thinking about the account one will give

People who are unaware also forget that they will be called to account in Allah’s sight in the Hereafter. No matter if they die alone or among many others, when the angel of death takes their souls, all of their relationships with the world and those around them are severed. When they are resurrected and go to give their accounts, each person is alone in the vast multitude, for no one will take any notice of anyone else. This solitude is not like any earthly isolation. The moment of reckoning will be the most difficult moment that an unaware person will ever face. The resulting solitude comes from the realization that it is now time to account for all that they have done, that they are completely isolated from other people, and that they are powerless in His presence. They are physically and emotionally exposed; bereft of their power, possessions, titles, position, and renown; and apart from all those to whom they were close. In other words, they are totally alone in Allah’s presence:

Each of them will come to Him on the Day of Resurrection all alone.

Maryam: 95

Unaware people who do not see any immediate consequences for what they do here think that the same applies in the Hereafter. Due to this error, they persuade their friends to ignore Allah’s commands and prohibitions or to put off their obedience until later, sayings things like “you only live once,” “don’t worry about it,” or “I’ll take full responsibility for it.” Such expressions clearly betray their lack of awareness, for just as a person comes into this world but once, he or she will also descend into Hell but once and suffer endless punishment there. Such people regard this punishment lightly and claim that they will take the sins of others upon themselves. This shows even more how far away they are from understanding His supreme knowledge and power:

No burden-bearer can bear another’s burden. If someone weighed down calls for help to bear his load, none of it will be borne for him, even by his next of kin. You can only warn those who fear (and respect) their Lord in the Unseen and perform prayer. Whoever is purified is purified for himself alone. Allah is your final destination.

Fatir: 18

(Has he not been informed) that no burden-bearer can bear another’s burden?

An-Najm: 38

In the Hereafter, all people will receive a just and perfect recompense for their deeds. There will be no friends or relatives to take responsibility for their errors or help them out, as there were while they were alive. Indeed, they now begin to hate all of the friends they once respected, blaming them for making them unaware of these truths:

On that Day the closest friends will be enemies to each other–except for those who guard against evil.

Az-Zukhruf: 67

… the Day when friends will be of no use at all to each other, and they will not be helped.

Ad-Dukhan: 41

The false friendships of this world cease and actually turn into hostility in the Hereafter, for they were formed for some advantage and without regard for Allah’s consent. While they were in the world, they made friends not with people who directed their hearts toward Allah and were loved by Him, but with insincere, unaware individuals who turned their backs on Him and denied His existence. Actually, it is quite common for the best of friends to become enemies when there is a conflict between that friendship and their own advantage. As we are told in the Qur’an, friendships that last a lifetime even though the parties harm one another by leading each other into unawareness will turn into hostility in Allah’s presence. This hostility begins once they gradually begin to become aware of suffering as their veil of unawareness is lifted from them. Allah reveals their sincere confessions:

(They will say:) “And now we have no one to intercede for us.” (The Companions of the Fire will say:) “We do not have a single loyal friend. If only we could have another chance, then we would be among the believers!”

Ash-Shu‘ara’: 100-102

When they are called to account, in deep sorrow, unbelievers express that they are all alone. The believers, with whom they made fun of while they were in the world are not around. When they come face to face with the truth they took so lightly, they long to return and be among the sincere believers:

It may be that those who are unbelievers will wish that they had been Muslims.

Al-Hijr: 2

But there is now no way back.

12-7

A Crisis of Health and Minds

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

blowing_cement Ever since the H1N1 virus reared its ugly head this past summer it has jumped to the top of the list of diseases most deadly to humans. However, an older and wiser disease is still infecting many people across the world with the same deadly consequences. Tuberculosis (TB), a lethal lung infection, is as contagious as the H1N1 virus and spreads easily from person to person. For this reason alone, it is vital for the person infected with TB to be kept away from other people and treated in a hospital.

Unfortunately, in some regions of the world, people with TB are treated as if they have leprosy. They are often shunned by their society and isolated because people are afraid of contracting the disease. Nowhere is this more evident than in Egypt where having TB is often a death sentence for the person afflicted with it. According to the Egyptian government 21 out of every 1,000 Egyptians are infected with TB. However, only 1 in 10 cases becomes active while the remaining stay dormant. Doctors have approximated the number of TB cases in Egypt to be around 17,000. However, independent analysts believe that the number of TB cases in Egypt is a lot larger and could pose even a greater health epidemic than the pandemic flu.

Like most societies, it is the poorest and weakest members of a community that often bear the brunt of disease. In Egypt, slum-dwellers and cement workers are the most prone. In the case of the latter, Scientists believe that years of breathing the talcum-like powdery cement, which often causes Silicosis or lung disease, makes a person 30 more times likely to develop full-blown TB. However, there is no tangible evidence to support that claim besides the fact that cement workers are increasingly developing TB in droves. “TB has come to pose a real danger to the people of this country. The problem is that poor Egyptians living in the country’s slums are more prone to it,” revealed Essam al-Moghazy, chief of the National Tuberculosis Control Program, in a recent interview.

Once infected, company protocol often dictates that cement workers infected with TB are fired from their jobs. With most only earning a meager living in the first place, a stay in the hospital for treatment is out of the question. And the company the workers labor for day in and day out simply washes their hands of the sick employee without even offering insurance or other assistance. As a result, the workers have no recourse but to turn towards their home where it is common for them to spread the disease to their families. Cement workers are just one class of workers out of thousands whose jobs are dissolved once the employee contracts TB.

The Egyptian government has high hopes of eradicating TB by the year 2050 as it is the third leading cause of death amongst Egyptians, behind Bilharzia and Hepatitis C. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report stating that Egypt had been successful in managing the disease with case detection averaging 72% and successful treatment registering at 87%, which is 2% higher than the WHO’s global objectives.

12-4

Afghan War Costs

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A 30,000-person surge will coast at least $30 billion.

By Jo Comerford

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute. Keep that in mind—just for a minute or so.

After all, the surge is already on. By the end of December, the first 1,500 US troops will have landed in Afghanistan, a nation roughly the size of Texas, ranked by the United Nations as second worst in the world in terms of human development.

Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge.

By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum.

But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007, while reporting record-high numbers of people seeking assistance to feed themselves and/or their families. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on food stamps.

On the other hand, given the woeful inadequacy of that “safety net,” we might have chosen to direct the $30 billion in surge expenditures toward raising the average individual monthly Food Stamp allotment by $70 for the next year; that’s roughly an additional trip to the grocery store, every month, for 36 million people. Alternatively, we could have dedicated that $30 billion to job creation. According to a recent report issued by the Political Economy Research Institute, that sum could generate a whopping 537,810 construction jobs, 541,080 positions in healthcare, fund 742,740 teachers or employ 831,390 mass transit workers.

For purposes of comparison, $30 billion—remember, just the Pentagon-estimated cost of a 30,000-person troop surge—is equal to 80% of the total US 2010 budget for international affairs, which includes monies for development and humanitarian assistance. On the domestic front, $30 billion could double the funding (at 2010 levels) for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Or think of the surge this way: if the United States decided to send just 29,900 extra soldiers to Afghanistan, 100 short of the present official total, it could double the amount of money—$100 million—it has allocated to assist refugees and returnees from Afghanistan through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Leaving aside the fact that the United States already accounts for 45% of total global military spending, the $30 billion surge cost alone would place us in the top-ten for global military spending, sandwiched between Italy and Saudi Arabia. Spent instead on “soft security” measures within Afghanistan, $30 billion could easily build, furnish and equip enough schools for the entire nation.

Continuing this nod to the absurd for just one more moment, if you received a silver dollar every second, it would take you 960 years to haul in that $30 billion. Not that anyone could hold so much money. Together, the coins would weigh nearly 120 tons, or more than the poundage of 21,000 Asian elephants, an aircraft carrier, or the Washington Monument. Converted to dollar bills and laid end-to-end, $30 billion would reach 2.9 million miles or 120 times around the Earth.

One more thing, that $30 billion isn’t even the real cost of Obama’s surge. It’s just a minimum, through-the-basement estimate. If you were to throw in all the bases being built, private contractors hired, extra civilians sent in, and the staggering costs of training a larger Afghan army and police force (a key goal of the surge), the figure would surely be startlingly higher. In fact, total Afghanistan War spending for 2010 is now expected to exceed $102.9 billion, doubling last year’s Afghan spending. Thought of another way, it breaks down to $12 million per hour in taxpayer dollars for one year. That’s equal to total annual US spending on all veteran’s benefits, from hospital stays to education.

In Afghan terms, our upcoming single year of war costs represents nearly five times that country’s gross domestic product or $3,623.70 for every Afghan woman, man, and child. Given that the average annual salary for an Afghan soldier is $2,880 and many Afghans seek employment in the military purely out of economic desperation, this might be a wise investment—especially since the Taliban is able to pay considerably more for its new recruits. In fact, recent increases in much-needed Afghan recruits appear to correlate with the promise of a pay raise.

All of this is, of course, so much fantasy, since we know just where that $30-plus billion will be going. In 2010, total Afghanistan War spending since November 2001 will exceed $325 billion, which equals the combined annual military spending of Great Britain, China, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. If we had never launched an invasion of Afghanistan or stayed on fighting all these years, those war costs, evenly distributed in this country, would have meant a $2,298.80 dividend per US taxpayer.

Even as we calculate the annual cost of war, the tens of thousands of Asian elephants in the room are all pointing to $1 trillion in total war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan. The current escalation in Afghanistan coincides with that rapidly-approaching milestone. In fact, thanks to Peter Baker’s recent New York Times report on the presidential deliberations that led to the surge announcement, we know that the trillion-dollar number for both wars may be a gross underestimate. The Office of Management and Budget sent President Obama a memo, Baker tells us, suggesting that adding General McChrystal’s surge to ongoing war costs, over the next 10 years, could mean—forget Iraq—a trillion dollar Afghan War.

At just under one-third of the 2010 US federal budget, $1 trillion essentially defies per-hour-per-soldier calculations. It dwarfs all other nations’ military spending, let alone their spending on war. It makes a mockery of food stamps and schools. To make sense of this cost, we need to leave civilian life behind entirely and turn to another war. We have to reach back to the Vietnam War, which in today’s dollars cost $709.9 billion—or $300 billion less than the total cost of the two wars we’re still fighting, with no end in sight, or even $300 billion less than the long war we may yet fight in Afghanistan.

[Note: Jo would like to acknowledge the analysis and numbers crunching of Chris Hellman and Mary Orisich, members of the National Priorities Project’s research team, without whom this piece would not have been possible.]

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project.

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.

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Remember Allah Only Rarely

Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book and perform prayer. Prayer precludes indecency and wrongdoing. And remembrance of Allah is greater still. Allah knows what you do.

Al-‘Ankabut: 45

As the above verse reveals, recalling Allah is one of a believers’ most important religious observances. People with true faith know that they live each moment among the blessings imparted by Him and constantly give thanks to Allah. They know that they are in absolute need of auspicious events that come from Him, that they must account for themselves to Him in the Hereafter, and that they can enter Paradise only if He so wills it. Allah is always in their hearts and on their tongues. They remember Him at every opportunity, and speak of the blessings He has given them, expecting nothing in return, and the perfect equilibrium in the universe created by Him.

Since hypocrites, on the other hand, do not possess such faith in their hearts, they fail to call upon Allah as they ought. The reason behind this is that they do not submit to Him sincerely and have no deep faith in Him. They are therefore unwilling to remember Him, because in doing so, they will also be repeating many things that they do not actually believe in—or which they are responsible for doing, but have failed to do. This may put them off, since it will impinge slightly on their consciences. Even if they do imitate believers and attempt to sincerely recite His names, still they will give themselves away and thus, have no effect on the hearts of those who hear them. Therefore, while in the midst of believers, they attract attention by remembering Him only seldom and in a superficial way.

Indeed, Allah has revealed this important sign that reveals the sickness in their hearts by means of verses:

. . . [They are] showing off to people, and only remembering Allah a very little.

An-Nisa’: 142

Satan has gained mastery over them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah . . .

Al-Mujadala: 19

They Ascribe Partners to Allah

Believing in powers besides Allah, assuming that they can play a part in creation, the running of the universe, or making judgments, for example, is one of the main characteristics of hypocrites. They believe that human beings are independent of Allah and thus set up partners beside Him, no matter how much they may deny it. What gives their sickness away is that they do not like Allah to be remembered as the One and Only. They are unable to recall Allah by praising Him as they ought. This is one of the features that give them away:

We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Qur’an, they turn their backs and run away.

Al-Isra’: 46

When Allah is mentioned on His own, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shrink back shuddering, but when others apart from Him are mentioned, they jump for joy.

Az-Zumar: 45

They Fear Other People, not Allah

Hypocrites claim that they love Allah, and everything they do is intended to gain His approval. However, these words actually represent their way of avoiding putting Allah’s commandments and recommendations into practice.

Someone who sincerely believes in Allah feels not only love for Him, but also a fear filled with awe. In other words, the person who loves Allah best is, at the same time, one who fears Him the most because, as we have emphasized from the outset, loving Allah requires one to recognize His all “beauteous names,” and that He will manifest His infinite might—and when necessary, justice, through the torments He will give. Those incapable of appreciating Allah’s might, who do not understand that He witnesses their every action, do not fear our Lord. If someone says, “I love Allah, but do not fear Him,” or gives the impression of thinking along those lines, then that person is insincere in the most literal sense of the word.

Indeed, when we look at the lives of hypocrites, we see that this spiritual condition prevails throughout their behavior. The hypocrite claims to fear Allah, but when we look at the practicalities of the matter, we see that he seeks to harm the believers, works against them and makes up slanders about them. The picture that emerges from this is that this person does not truly fear Allah. Furthermore, as stated above, the hypocrite produces his own religious conception and lives according to the twisted laws of that religion, in order to win the approval of others. Indeed, he believes that all individuals have a unique power. He feels obliged to earn the approval and liking of each and every one.

However, the one fact that he cannot comprehend is that every human being is merely a servant created by Allah. Each is an entity who has come into being at Allah’s desire and will die in the same way. The hypocrite is unable to comprehend this—or rather, is unwilling to, because in his own religion, gaining the approval of others is an essential obligation. His fears are equally founded on that basis.

The way hypocrites fear other people and always seek their approval will reveal itself in times of difficulty. The Qur’an refers to hypocrites being terrified when they see people united against them. At first, they promised that they would definitely take part in the war. But when the order for battle came, the fear they felt carried their faith away with it:

Don’t you see those who were told: “Hold back from fighting but perform prayer and give the alms?” Then when fighting is prescribed for them, a group of them fear people as Allah should be feared, or even more than that. They say, “Our Lord, why have you prescribed fighting for us? If only You would give us just a little more time!” Say, “The enjoyment of this world is very brief. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil. You will not be wronged by so much as the smallest speck.”

An-Nisa’: 77

They Betray the Religion of Allah

Hypocrites, who do not fear Allah and who live by their own erroneous understanding of religion, thus exhibit no devotion to His religion. They are constantly betraying the messenger of Allah and the faithful, in their struggle to abide by the moral values of the Qur’an. Their betrayal is described in the Qur’an in these terms:

But because of their breaking of their covenant, We have cursed them and made their hearts hard. They distort the true meaning of words and have forgotten a good portion of what they were reminded of. You will never cease to come upon some act of treachery on their part, except for a few of them. . . .

Al-Ma’ida: 13

The hypocrite is aware that he is a fraud. Behaving in such a way as to deceive Allah, His messenger and believers, he lives in a constant spirit of betrayal. Every betrayal leads to another, because the hypocrite is aware of his own treachery. Even if he conceals himself from believers, he cannot hide himself from himself. And since he witnesses his own sins, his excesses increase still further. First he says something bad about the messenger of Allah, and takes pleasure from this. Later he slanders the messenger, and that too he enjoys—because he is moving along the path of satan, his true friend. Then he sets a trap for the messenger. His crimes multiply and increase. However, he is also unaware that his betrayals of Allah, His messenger and the faithful will avail him nothing, but that, on the contrary, they will lead him to Hell. On the basis of this, he is easily able to engage in betrayal. The fact is, however, that in addition to the troubles he will experience in this world, a punishment full of suffering also awaits him in the next. Allah reveals the fate of hypocrites in another verse:

Allah has promised the men and women of the hypocrites and disbelievers the Fire of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, for ever. It will suffice them. Allah has cursed them. They will have everlasting punishment.

At-Tawba: 68

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