Civil Society in South Africa Deplores Failure to Give Visa to Dalai Lama

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Johannesburg. 4 October 2011.  The South African government should stand by its founding values by granting a visa to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, urged civil society in South Africa today.

The Dalai Lama was due to visit South Africa from 6-8 October to attend the 80th birthday celebrations of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was expected to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace lecture at the University of the Western Cape. Delay in granting him a visa by the South African government has now resulted in him cancelling his trip to the country.

In 2009, the Dalai Lama was denied permission to visit South Africa under apparent pressure from the Chinese government which strongly opposes his support for the human rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people.

“In many regions of the world civil society members are being persecuted for their beliefs and impeded from engaging with the international community due to restrictive visa regimes,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation. “… it is highly disturbing that this can happen in democratic South Africa, a number of whose leaders also had to wage their struggle for human rights in exile.”

Enhancing democracy and human rights as well as upholding justice and international law in relations between nations are important pillars of South Africa’s foreign policy. South Africa is also a founding member of the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) trilateral of multi-ethnic and multicultural democracies, which is committed to the establishment of a new international architecture. Recent violent attacks on peaceful protestors by the police, proposed curbs on the freedom of information through impending legislation and the current controversy generated around the visit of the Dalai Lama are marring South Africa’s reputation as a vibrant democracy and human rights leader.

“It is untenable and hypocritical for the South African authorities to even consider denying the Dalai Lama a visa under pressure from a foreign government,” said Srinath.

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Eid Protests Across Syria Defy Tanks and Troops

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) – Security forces shot dead four demonstrators on Tuesday as people streamed out of mosques after prayers to mark the end of Ramadan and renewed protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, activists and residents said.

The victims, who included a 13-year-old boy, were killed in the towns of al-Hara and Inkhil in southern Deraa province.

Demonstrations broke out elsewhere across the country, notably in Damascus suburbs, the city of Homs, 165 km (100 miles to the north) and the northwestern province of Idlib, the sources said.

“The people want the downfall of the president,” protesters shouted in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, where activists said dozens of soldiers defected at the weekend after refusing to shoot at the crowds.

In the adjacent Saqba suburb a crowd held their shoes up in the air — an insulting gesture in the Arab world — and chanted anti-Assad slogans.

According to one activist group, troops have killed at least 551 civilians during Ramadan, the holiest period in the Islamic calendar.

Five months into the street uprising against his rule, Assad, from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, is facing more frequent demonstrations. Protesters have been encouraged by the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, with whom Assad had close ties, and rising international pressure on the ruling hierarchy.

The Obama administration froze the U.S. assets of Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and two other Syrian officials on Tuesday in response to Assad’s increasingly bloody crackdown.

The Treasury Department also named Ali Abdul Karim Ali, Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon, where Assad wields influence through the Shi’ite Hezbollah guerrilla group, and his adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States had imposed the sanctions on the three because of the “role that they play in propagating and advancing the reign of terror that Assad is exacting on their own people.”

Moualem and Shaaban have appeared in the media defending military assaults on towns and cities, saying Syrian forces were pursuing “terrorists.” They are not part of Assad’s decision-making inner circle, composed of his younger brother Maher, other family members and top security officials already on the U.S. sanctions list.

Opposition figures in Syria see international pressure as crucial to stripping Assad of legitimacy and in helping raise the momentum of peaceful protests.

Residents and activists are reporting increasing defections among Syrian troops, drawn mostly from the Sunni majority population but dominated by Alawite officers effectively under the command of Maher.

In the capital, YouTube footage showed soldiers from core units roaming the center in green public transport buses, their AK-47s hanging out from the doors, to prevent protests, which broke out nonetheless in Qaboun, Kfar Souseh, Rukn al-Din and Maydan districts, activists said.

Moral Ground

In a report published on Tuesday, the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union grassroots activists’ group said Assad’s forces killed 551 people during Ramadan and that 130 others were killed on July 31, the eve of Ramadan, in a tank assault on the city of Hama, scene of a 1982 massacre by the military.

“The report does not include the number of martyrs who were not identified by name nor… bodies that were abducted (by security forces) and not returned to their families,” it said.

Amnesty International said that deaths in Syrian prisons and police detention had soared in recent months as Assad’s government tried to crush the protests.

The London-based human rights group said it had details of at least 88 people believed to have died in detention between April and mid-August. At least 52 of them had apparently suffered some form of torture that was likely to have contributed to their death.

Chibli Mallat, a professor of law at Harvard, and chairman of the Right to Nonviolence international group of public figures, said Syria’s death toll, although high, was still less than Libya, where the revolution turned into armed conflict and needed NATO’s help.

“It may be also the case in Syria today … But is it necessary to reach the point that arms are engaged?” Mallat said in an article published on Tuesday in Egypt’s al-Ahram online.

“Is it not wiser, albeit perhaps more frustrating, to keep the revolution pure in the tenacity of its nonviolence, rather than lose the absolute moral superiority against violent rulers?” said Mallat, who is Lebanese.

The official state news agency said state television had aired an audio recording of two “terrorists” who described themselves as activists.

It said the tape revealed “a full agenda of provocation and targeting police and army camps and terrorising peaceful citizens in the name of freedom and non-violence.”

The Syrian National Human Rights Organization, headed by exiled dissident Ammar al-Qurabi, said pro-Assad forces, including a loyalist militia known as shabbiha, had killed at least 3,100 civilians since the uprising erupted in March, including 18 people on Monday alone.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said this month that 2,200 people have been killed, with Assad’s forces continuing “to employ excessive force, including heavy artillery, to quell peaceful demonstrations and regain control over the residents of various cities.”

Syrian authorities blame “armed terrorist groups” for the bloodshed and say they have killed 500 soldiers and police. They have also repeatedly denied that army defections have been taking place.

Foreign media were expelled after the uprising began in March, making verification of reports difficult.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman; al-Khalidi; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Stamp)

The Pulse

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

science 07-11-11Feeling the pulse is one of the hallmarks of the medical profession, and has been for many a century. As well as being informative, this action can give the doctor something physical to do while he takes time to think.

The pulse is most commonly felt where the radial artery lies near the surface on the thumb side of the wrist. It is made palpable by the ‘pulse pressure wave’ — initiated by each heart beat — reaching and expanding the artery. This wave is transmitted to the wrist at about 10 yards per second around forty times faster than the speed of the blood flow itself.

The information obtained from feeling the pulse is limited but important. The feel of the artery itself may suggest whether its wall has normal resilience, or is hardened and thickened by arteriosclerosis.

The pulse may feel, at one extreme, ‘strong’ and ‘full’ or, at the other, ‘weak’ or ‘thready’. These are indirect indications of the stroke volume of the heart. The impulse felt in the radial artery is related to the rise in arterial blood pressure generated by the heart at each beat — the pulse pressure. For any given stroke volume, this rise in pressure depends on the elasticity of the arteries: the more compliant they are the less the pressure rises; the stiffer they are with age and arteriosclerosis, the more sharply the pressure rises. These subtleties may be recognized by an experienced observer.

The rate may be faster or slower than normally expected in the circumstances. In healthy adults the rate at rest, although typically 60–70, can be anything from 40 per minute, say in an elite long-distance swimmer, to about 80 per minute. Even so the rate can, for example, be used to distinguish a simple faint (slow) from loss of consciousness caused by haemorrhage (fast).

The rhythm may be regular or irregular. In a person at rest an absolutely regular pulse is in fact unusual because of the phenomenon of respiratory sinus arrhythmia — an increase when breathing in and a decrease when breathing out.

An exaggerated sensation of the beating of the heart — palpitation — may or may not be associated with a faster than normal pulse rate; it is also a normal accompaniment of the increase in strength and rate of the heart-beat induced by strenuous exercise, or by the sympathetic nervous systems in stressful conditions, and can be a component of abnormal anxiety states.

Awareness of pulsation within ourselves, particularly when emotions are heightened — and even at the earliest in our mother’s womb — may well be inextricably related to the creation and appreciation of music.

In these areas, an artery passes close to the skin.

To measure the pulse at the wrist, place the index and middle finger over the underside of the opposite wrist, below the base of the thumb. Press firmly with flat fingers until you feel the pulse.

To measure the pulse on the neck, place the index and middle finger just to the side of the Adam’s apple, in the soft, hollow area. Press firmly until you locate the pulse.

Once you find the pulse, count the beats for 1 full minute, or for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. This will give the beats per minute.

To determine the resting heart rate, you must have been resting for at least 10 minutes. Take the exercise heart rate while you are exercising.

Measuring the pulse can give very important information about your health. Any change from normal heart rate can indicate a medical condition. Fast pulse may signal an infection or dehydration. In emergency situations, the pulse rate can help determine if the patient’s heart is pumping.

The pulse measurement has other uses as well. During exercise or immediately after exercise, the pulse rate can give information about your fitness level and health.

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Financial Problems in America

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Justin Webb

Is America in denial about the extent of its financial problems, and therefore incapable of dealing with the gravest crisis the country has ever faced?

This is a story of debt, delusion and – potentially – disaster. For America and, if you happen to think that American influence is broadly a good thing, for the world.

The debt and the delusion are both all-American: $14 trillion (£8.75tn) of debt has been amassed and there is no cogent plan to reduce it.

The figure is impossible to comprehend: easier to focus on the fact that it grows at $40,000 (£25,000) a second. Getting out of Afghanistan will help but actually only at the margins. The problem is much bigger than any one area of expenditure.

The economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, is no rabid fiscal conservative but on the debt he is a hawk:

“I’m worried. The debt is large. It should be brought under control.

The longer we wait, the longer we suffer this kind of paralysis; the more America boxes itself into a corner and the more America’s constructive leadership in the world diminishes.”

The author and economist Diane Coyle agrees. And she makes the rather alarming point that the acknowledged deficit is not the whole story.

The current $14tn debt is bad enough, she argues, but the future commitments to the baby boomers, commitments for health care and for pensions, suggest that the debt burden is part of the fabric of society:

“You have promises implicit in the structure of welfare states and aging populations that mean there is an unacknowledged debt that will have to be paid for by future taxpayers, and that could double the published figures.”

Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations acknowledges that this structural commitment to future debt is not unique to the United States. All advanced democracies have more or less the same problem, he says, “but in the case of the States the figures are absolutely enormous”.

Mr Haass, a former senior US diplomat, is leading an academic push for America’s debt to be taken seriously by Americans and noticed as well by the rest of the world.
He uses the analogy of Suez and the pressure that was put on the UK by the US to withdraw from that adventure. The pressure was not, of course, military. It was economic.

Britain needed US economic help. In the future, if China chooses to flex its muscles abroad, it may not be Chinese admirals who pose the real threat, Mr Haass tells us. “Chinese bankers could do the job.”

Because of course Chinese bankers, if they withdrew their support for the US economy and their willingness to finance America’s spending, could have an almost overnight impact on every American life, forcing interest rates to sky high levels and torpedoing the world’s largest economy.

Not everyone accepts the debt-as-disaster thesis.

David Frum is a Republican intellectual and a former speech writer to President George W Bush.

He told me the problem, and the solution, were actually rather simple:

“If I tell you you have a disease that will absolutely prostrate you and it could be prevented by taking a couple of aspirin and going for a walk, well I guess the situation isn’t apocalyptic is it?

“The things that America has to do to put its fiscal house in order are not anywhere near as extreme as what Europe has to do. The debt is not a financial problem, it is a political problem.”

Mr Frum believes that a future agreement to cut spending – he thinks America spends much too big a proportion of its GDP on health – and raise taxes, could very quickly bring the debt problem down to the level of quotidian normality.

‘Organised hypocrisy’

I am not so sure. What is the root cause of America’s failure to get to grips with its debt? It can be argued that the problem is not really economic or even political; it is a cultural inability to face up to hard choices, even to acknowledge that the choices are there.

I should make it clear that my reporting of the United States, in the years I was based there for the BBC, was governed by a sense that too much foreign media coverage of America is negative and jaundiced.

The nation is staggeringly successful and gloriously attractive. But it is also deeply dysfunctional in some respects.

Take Alaska. The author and serious student of America, Anne Applebaum makes the point that, as she puts it, “Alaska is a myth!”

People who live in Alaska – and people who aspire to live in Alaska – imagine it is the last frontier, she says, “the place where rugged individuals go out and dig for oil and shoot caribou, and make money the way people did 100 years ago”.

But in reality, Alaska is the most heavily subsidised state in the union. There is more social spending in Alaska than anywhere else.

To make it a place where decent lives can be lived, there is a huge transfer of money to Alaska from the US federal government which means of course from taxpayers in New York and Los Angeles and other places where less rugged folk live. Alaska is an organised hypocrisy.

Too many Americans behave like the Alaskans: they think of themselves as rugged individualists in no need of state help, but they take the money anyway in health care and pensions and all the other areas of American life where the federal government spends its cash.

The Tea Party movement talks of cuts in spending but when it comes to it, Americans always seem to be talking about cuts in spending that affect someone else, not them – and taxes that are levied on others too.

And nobody talks about raising taxes. Jeffrey Sachs has a theory about why this is.

America’s two main political parties are so desperate to raise money for the nation’s constant elections – remember the House of Representatives is elected every two years – that they can do nothing that upsets wealthy people and wealthy companies.

So they cannot touch taxes.

In all honesty, I am torn about the conclusions to be drawn. I find it difficult to believe that a nation historically so nimble and clever and open could succumb to disaster in this way.

But America, as well as being a place of hard work and ingenuity, is also no stranger to eating competitions in which gluttony is celebrated, and wilful ignorance, for instance regarding (as many Americans do) evolution as controversial.

The debt crisis is a fascinating crisis because it is about so much more than money. It is a test of a culture.

It is about waking up, as the Americans say, and smelling the coffee.

And – I am thinking Texas here – saddling up too, and riding out with purpose.

BBC News

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Wings Explained

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

A wing is a surface used to produce lift for flight through the air or another gaseous or fluid medium. The cross-sectional shape of a wing is referred to as an airfoil. The word originally referred only to the foremost limbs of birds, but has been extended to include the wings of insects, bats, pterosaurs, and aircraft. The term is also applied to an inverted wing used to generate down-force in auto racing.

A wing’s aerodynamic quality is expressed as a Lift-to-drag ratio. The lift generated by a wing at a given speed and angle of attack can be 1-2 orders of magnitude greater than the drag. This means that a significantly smaller thrust force can be applied to propel the wing through the air in order to obtain a specified lift.

The science of wings is one of the principal applications of the science of aerodynamics. In order for a wing to produce lift it has to be at a positive angle to the airflow. In that case a low pressure region is generated on the upper surface of the wing which draws the air above the wing downwards towards what would otherwise be a void after the wing had passed. On the underside of the wing a high pressure region forms accelerating the air there downwards out of the path of the oncoming wing. The pressure difference between these two regions produces an upwards force on the wing, called lift.

The pressure differences, the acceleration of the air and the lift on the wing are intrinsically one mechanism. It is therefore possible to derive the value of one by calculating another. For example lift can be calculated by reference to the pressure differences or by calculating the energy used to accelerate the air. Both approaches will result in the same answer if done correctly.

A common misconception is that it is the shape of the wing that is essential to generate lift by having a longer path on the top rather than the underside. While wings with this shape are always used in subsonic aircraft and sailing, symmetrically shaped wings can also generate lift by having a positive angle of attack and deflecting air downward. The symmetric approach is less efficient, lacking the lift provided by cambered wings at zero angle of attack.

The common aerofoil shape of wings is due to a large number of factors many of them not at all related to aerodynamic issues, for example wings need strength and thus need to be thick enough to contain structural members. They also need room to contain items such as fuel, control mechanisms and retracted undercarriage. The primary aerodynamic input to the wing’s cross sectional shape is the need to keep the air flowing smoothly over the entire surface for the most efficient operation.

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