Dire Straits for Animals in Kuwait

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

lion-pictureThe stray animal population in Kuwait has been a problem for years. It gets worse every year, as more and more animals are evident on the streets, at parks and on public beaches. The problem begins with pet owners who purchase pets from abroad or locally in Kuwait. Once the animal’s cuteness wears off, or caring for it becomes problematic, irresponsible pet owners simply release the animal out into the streets leaving it to fend for itself. It is quite normal to see cats digging through garbage dumpsters. Increasingly, more and more dogs are sharing a similar fate. Packs of dogs troll the streets of Kuwait looking for scraps of food. In two separate incidents, stray dogs scrounging for food attacked residents.

There are animal organizations in Kuwait trying to handle the pet population. PAWS and Animal Friends are just two organizations that try to get animals off the streets and adopted into loving homes. However, the dynamic of the pet population in Kuwait is ever changing. Exotic wild animals are flooding the black market in Kuwait, with some even being sold out in the open at flea markets. There is a huge demand for exotic animals in Kuwait with bidders willing to pay top dollar. This poses an enormous challenge for the animal organizations in Kuwait who are not prepared to handle the capture and care of dangerous animals.

The Internet has also proven to be a handy tool for animal traders looking to sell their animals fast and as anonymously as possible. On a popular classifieds ad site in Kuwait, a user recently listed a veritable menagerie of exotic animals for sale, the ad reads: “We have tamed big cats, bush babies, chimpanzees and African gray parrots available. We offer only the tamed babies of 4 to 16 weeks from our collections. Our game reserve at the moment holds well tamed cubs to offer to big cats lovers; cheetah cubs, jaguar cubs, leopard cubs, black panthers, lion cubs, Bengal tiger cubs, white Siberian tiger cubs, jaguar and leopard cubs now available.” The ad goes on to say that the seller also has chimpanzees, baby elephants, gray parrots and other exotic animals from Africa.

Pet owners, domestic or exotic, are not required to apply for a license in Kuwait. Police usually do not get involved with pet ownership unless someone is injured and often that is too late. Exotic animals do not fare as well as domestic ones once the owner gets bored. Many times, the animal is hunted down and shot for sport.

13-48

The Fatal Distraction

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Paul Krugman

Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, “My God, what have we done?”

One of these numbers was zero — the number of jobs created in August.

The other was two — the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result.

Ever since the acute phase of the financial crisis ended, policy discussion in Washington has been dominated not by unemployment, but by the alleged dangers posed by budget deficits. Pundits and media organizations insisted that the biggest risk facing America was the threat that investors would pull the plug on U.S. debt. For example, in May 2009 The Wall Street Journal declared that the “bond vigilantes” were “returning with a vengeance,” telling readers that the Obama administration’s “epic spending spree” would send interest rates soaring.

The interest rate when that editorial was published was 3.7 percent. As of Friday, as I’ve already mentioned, it was only 2 percent.

I don’t mean to dismiss concerns about the long-run U.S. budget picture. If you look at fiscal prospects over, say, the next 20 years, they are indeed deeply worrying, largely because of rising health-care costs. But the experience of the past two years has overwhelmingly confirmed what some of us tried to argue from the beginning: The deficits we’re running right now — deficits we should be running, because deficit spending helps support a depressed economy — are no threat at all.

And by obsessing over a nonexistent threat, Washington has been making the real problem — mass unemployment, which is eating away at the foundations of our nation — much worse.

Although you’d never know it listening to the ranters, the past year has actually been a pretty good test of the theory that slashing government spending actually creates jobs. The deficit obsession has blocked a much-needed second round of federal stimulus, and with stimulus spending, such as it was, fading out, we’re experiencing de facto fiscal austerity. State and local governments, in particular, faced with the loss of federal aid, have been sharply cutting many programs and have been laying off a lot of workers, mostly schoolteachers.

And somehow the private sector hasn’t responded to these layoffs by rejoicing at the sight of a shrinking government and embarking on a hiring spree.

O.K., I know what the usual suspects will say — namely, that fears of regulation and higher taxes are holding businesses back. But this is just a right-wing fantasy. Multiple surveys have shown that lack of demand — a lack that is being exacerbated by government cutbacks — is the overwhelming problem businesses face, with regulation and taxes barely even in the picture.

For example, when McClatchy Newspapers recently canvassed a random selection of small-business owners to find out what was hurting them, not a single one complained about regulation of his or her industry, and few complained much about taxes. And did I mention that profits after taxes, as a share of national income, are at record levels?

So short-run deficits aren’t a problem; lack of demand is, and spending cuts are making things much worse. Maybe it’s time to change course?

Which brings me to President Obama’s planned speech on the economy.

I find it useful to think in terms of three questions: What should we be doing to create jobs? What will Republicans in Congress agree to?

And given that political reality, what should the president propose?

The answer to the first question is that we should have a lot of job-creating spending on the part of the federal government, largely in the form of much-needed spending to repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. Oh, and we need more aid to state and local governments, so that they can stop laying off schoolteachers.

But what will Republicans agree to? That’s easy: nothing. They will oppose anything Mr. Obama proposes, even if it would clearly help the economy — or maybe I should say, especially if it would help the economy, since high unemployment helps them politically.

This reality makes the third question — what the president should propose — hard to answer, since nothing he proposes will actually happen anytime soon. So I’m personally prepared to cut Mr. Obama a lot of slack on the specifics of his proposal, as long as it’s big and bold. For what he mostly needs to do now is to change the conversation — to get Washington talking again about jobs and how the government can help create them.

For the sake of the nation, and especially for millions of unemployed Americans who see little prospect of finding another job, I hope he pulls it off.

13-37

Delusion in Detroit

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

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Seated, left to right:  Steve Downs, Abayomi Azikiwe, Dawud Walid.  Behind podium:  Moderator Debbie Johnson

Detroit–July 17–There are several problems facing the Muslim community in the United States.  One problem is that Muslims are sometimes targeted by the FBI and other law enforcement bureaus, framed for plots they are not even intelligent enough to hatch themselves, and then arrested and prosecuted for conspiracy to commit crimes they never understood–sometimes they are goaded by troublemakers, wolves in sheeps’ clothing, paid by the FBI in proportion to the crimes they are able to get Muslims to commit.

Another, much worse problem, is that inside the Muslim community we give excuses and podiums to the apologists for Muslim terrorists and troublemakers–who are inherently dangerous to the Muslim community by virtue of their commitment to goals antithetical to the teachings of Islam. 

And so this past weekend in Detroit about 100 people gathered at The Shrine of the Black Madonna to complain about government “preemptive prosecution.” However, there was the problem that the meeting supported some Muslims who had suffered prosecution for very real offenses.

Not least among those is Tarek Mehanna, a pharmacy graduate who apparently travelled around the world (to Yemen) to seek training to fight against Americans, and who planned to kill numerous innocent civilians at a local mall, and went so far as to conspire to commit this attack.  You may say “innocent until proven guilty” but first read the complaint, 32 pages of damning evidence, with countless detailed samples of Mehanna’s assiduous efforts to commit terrorism, complete with evidence from two of his coconspirators who backed out of his plot and turned states’ evidence, and also audio-taped conversations in which Mehanna planned terrorist acts.

Tarek’s brother Tamer spoke in support of him this weekend in Detroit, however Tamer’s speech almost amounted to further evidence against his brother, as he spoke for about 15 minutes, railing against the existence in the Muslim community of “snitches.” The use of the term “snitch” already implies that his brother is guilty–as usually a snitch is someone who reveals what was intended to be a secret.  The implication is that Tarek had committed conspiracy, wanted to keep it secret, and Tamer is angry because the “snitches” revealed the secret.

But thank God they did.  Better for Tarek to rot in jail, frustrated in his intention to blot out the lives of innocent civilians.

If all Tamer Mehanna can say for 15 minutes is that snitches are bad, he begs the question whether his brother is fully guilty, and also whether he himself is supportive of his brother’s alleged crimes. 
But most of the people discussed at the meeting Saturday appeared far more innocent than Tarek Mehanna. Behind  the speakers was a board on which were posted the names of about 100 people termed victims of preemptive prosecution. 

Present at the meeting were many activists on behalf of many of those “preemptively prosecuted,” and the most effective presentation was a video about Sami Al-Arian, which advocated his innocence, and expressed the capricious nature of the US prosecution of his case–where when Al-Arian was acquitted of all charges they rearrested him and continued to detain him.

This event was slightly misguided in the ways mentioned above, but the point still stands that the US government has overplayed its hand in the war on terror, by brutally pursuing many who are in fact innocent, and by deliberately detaining them beyond the point at which it becomes obvious that they are innocent.

13-30

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

13-27

Getting Past the Paralysis on Jobs

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

TV CNN ZakariaEvery week brings fresh evidence that America’s unemployment crisis is much deeper and more systemic than predicted — yet Washington seems unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Fears of the budget deficit and a dysfunctional political climate have paralyzed people on both sides of the political aisle. The result is that America is “sleepwalking” through its biggest crisis, writes Mohamed El-Erian, the low-key co-CEO of PIMCO.

Around 24 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed (the latter in part-time jobs that average $19,000, half the median wage). If these people don’t find jobs soon, they will lose skills and work habits and become permanently unemployable, with grim consequences for their families, communities and the country. And if employment growth does not pick up significantly, tax revenue will stay depressed, unemployment costs will rise and the deficit will balloon well beyond current projections.

We still seem to be hoping that somehow this problem will resolve itself, but it won’t. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explained this week that the economy has gone through the worst financial crisis and the deepest housing collapse since the Great Depression. In fact, the problem is even worse. Employment growth has been stalled since 2000. If not for the housing and credit bubble, this jobs crisis would have revealed itself much earlier.

We’re in a new world for the American worker. Technological change and globalization allow companies to get more output with fewer workers. Emerging markets provide millions of skilled workers who can produce the same products at a fraction of the price that Americans can. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that from 1947 till 2000, productivity growth was correlated with employment growth. Since 2000, they have diverged. Productivity has risen while employment has fallen. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence has concluded that in America, growth and employment will diverge in the future.

Does this mean that we are stuck in a low-growth, low-employment future? No, but the crisis is structural, and we have to recognize its scope and urgency. “Shutting off the alarm and pulling the blanket over one’s head is not a solution,” says El-Erian.

Republican concerns about government spending over the long term are understandable, but cutting spending in the short run will result in more unemployment and slower growth. President Obama talks about jobs but seems too paralyzed to do something ambitious to help create them. Even Bernanke said this week that there isn’t much he could do about the slow-growth, high-unemployment trajectory we are on. Have we all become fatalists?

In fact, we could enact some measures that would spur job creation, many with a limited effect on the deficit. Most immediately, Washington needs to find ways to employ the millions of workers whose jobs disappeared with the housing bust. The simplest way to help them, and the country, would be to create a national infrastructure bank to repair and rebuild America’s infrastructure — which is in a shambles and ranks 23rd globally, according to the World Economic Forum — down from sixth only a decade ago.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has played down this proposal as just more stimulus, but if Republicans set aside ideology they would see it is actually an opportunity to push for two of their favorite ideas: privatization and the elimination of earmarks.

The United States builds infrastructure in a remarkably socialist manner; the government funds, builds and operates almost all American infrastructure. In many countries in Europe and Asia, the private sector plays a large role in financing and operation of roads, highways, railroads and airports, as well as other public resources. An infrastructure bank would create a mechanism by which such private-sector participation would become possible here as well. Yes, some public money would be involved, mostly through issuing bonds, but with interest rates at historic lows, this is the time to rebuild. Such projects, with huge long-term payoffs, could genuinely be called investments, not expenditures.

A national infrastructure bank would also address a legitimate complaint of the Tea Party — earmarks. One of the reasons federal spending has been inefficient is that Congress wants to spread money around in ways that make political sense but are economically inefficient. An infrastructure bank would make these decisions using cost-benefit analysis, in a meritocratic system, rather than basing decisions on patronage and whimsy.

The country needs much more: a revival of manufacturing, emphasizing technical training and apprenticeship programs; aggressive measures to promote those industries that are booming, such as entertainment and tourism; an expansion of retraining; streamlining the patent process; more visas for skilled immigrants to stay and create companies and jobs in America. These should be part of a national plan for jobs that President Obama must lay out soon. But start with something that would have an immediate impact and put people back to work — the rebuilding of America.

comments@fareedzakaria.com

13-25

Precious Cargo

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

sleepycraYou can see them popping their heads through an open car sunroof as it speeds down the highway or bouncing up and down in the back of a car in motion. No, they’re not animals such as a cat or dog traveling with its master. They are unrestrained children living in some of the world’s richest nations. It’s a startling phenomena given that America’s legal system has gone to great lengths to protect American children traveling in motor vehicles in the United States by making seat belts and car seats for young children a part of the law. However, the utter disregard for the safety of children traveling in motor vehicles in the Middle East is alarming. In fact, it is an epidemic that threatens entire generations of children.

This past winter a father in Kuwait paid dearly for his lesson in passenger safety. A family trip to the desert turned tragic as the SUV the father was driving jostled under the bumpy desert terrain. His son was standing upright inside the car as his upper body was outside. All it took was a single bump to throw the son from the car and into the path of his father’s vehicle. With no time to regain control of the vehicle, the father ran over his son and crushed him to death. Stories like this are common all across the Middle East as many parents take the road less traveled by not securing all passengers before turning that ignition key.

The problem is widespread and, while most countries in the Middle East pay lip service to restraining children inside of motor vehicles and do have laws requiring car seats and seat belts on the books, there is no enforcement of vehicular laws meant to protect children. It is up to parents to decide whether or not to restrain their children inside the vehicle. Unfortunately, most parents pay little attention to the safety of their children inside the car.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, has one of the worst records for unrestrained children in the Middle East. According to recent research, car accidents are the number one killer of children in the sheikhdom with 63% of child deaths last year alone being linked to car or roadway accidents. Further, UAE authorities have determined that an estimated 98% of children in the country are not restrained when traveling by motor vehicle.

There is little data regarding children and road safety in other regions of the Middle East as research over the issue in scarce. However the problem will most likely continue to deteriorate, as countless children will undoubtedly pay for the negligence of adults with their very lives.

13-17

Let There be Light!

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mahvish Akhtar, MMNS Pakistan Correspondent

2010-03-22T173449Z_169073373_GM1E63N040E01_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN

A boy bathes in a tube well reservoir in Hyderabad located in Sindh province March 22, 2010. The Earth is literally covered in water, but more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation as most water is salty or dirty. March 22 is World Water Day.    

REUTERS/Akram Shahid

Just recently I hired a maid, who would come every morning, clean the house and leave. She was a young girl of 14 or 15 not more than that. Every day she would get done with the work and come to me and ask me if there is something else she could do for me. I would tell her that she could leave once she was done cleaning but every day she would come and ask me if there was anything else. When I told her that was it, she would ask me if I wanted her to massage my feet, or if I wanted that drawer on my dresser cleaned out. I didn’t understand why she wanted to do extra work without being asked to do so. Being confused for a long time I finally asked a friend about this strange behavior. She simply said she must be looking for some extra money. She must be thinking that by doing your other small chores you might give her some extra money. But I had not given her any extra money and she had not even asked for it. I still was not satisfied. One day when she was fixing my shoe closet after I had told her she could go I asked her. I said, “Why do you insist on staying here even after I have told you that you can go home? Don’t you like it in your own house?”  Without even looking at me she said in a very matter of fact way that it was because I had fans working all the time. I am one of the lucky ones who have a UPS so even if the electricity goes the fans are still working. She did not want to go home because she did not have a way of even slightly comforting her self when the electricity was taken away in this scorching heat of Lahore.

I was taking a stroll in my neighborhood where I noticed 2 small boys playing who were not wearing anything. I looked around to see if I could find their mother. I saw a woman standing nearby I went up to her and asked her if she knew the boys. She said she was their big sister. She told me that they live in the street next to mine and the boys were playing here so she came to watch over them. I asked her why they were not wearing any clothes. She replied that they had developed rashes and hives because of the heat and the doctor had suggested to not let any fabric touch them and keep them cool so that’s why every day the sun goes down they let them play out for a while. I told her that this is probably not such a good idea since its still not cool enough and their rashes could get aggravated maybe keeping them inside under a fan is a better idea. She said yes that’s what we were doing until yesterday when the lights went out in the morning and came back at 8 in the evening. Today she said is a repeat of yesterday, as far as they were concerned this is the coolest it’s going to be for them today. 

There are many sides to this problem that we are facing and everyone is affected by it in their own way. It does not matter what class or section of the society one belongs to everyone is facing the problems and has their own issues to deal with when it comes to electricity. With that said it would be very correct to assume that the businesses and the marketplace must be suffering greatly because of this problem. I wanted to know how they deal with this problem. The day I visited to talk to a Bookstore they were facing an especially bad day. I was told that electricity had been shutting down every half hour. They said that their generator has been on for the whole day. The manager told me that the business is good but with the cost of generator it is becoming hard to make ends meet considering the growing prices of electricity as well. He said that it is so costly to keep the generator on all day that some times they think of closing early just to avoid the cost “but then its hard to do that when you are running a business and you know customers are counting on you”, adds the manager.

Another clothing store has the same story. Of course their store is well known and they have more customers so it is not such a big issue for them. Surprisingly most shops and stores I spoke to in Liberty market didn’t complain much about electricity problems in that area. They said that they had timed load shedding which they had generators for so it was working out fine. Most of them however shifted quiet quickly to the situation at their homes and their neighborhoods. They were quick to tell me that this electricity problem was a menace in their homes. Most of them told me that had no electricity for about 2 hours at a time in their homes. One cashier said that it’s terrible when his children come home from school all tired and sweating and they don’t even have a fan to rest under when they get home.

While I was talking to the cashier at a shoe store a lady who was standing line right behind me overheard our conversation about load shedding and chimed in saying that sometimes she leaves her house when there is no light because there is an AC in her car and the stores are usually more comfortable than her house under the circumstances. I asked her what about her kids and other members of the family. She laughed and said I don’t do it every day. “Do you know how much patrol costs these days?” of course I know how high those prices are too. But it is sad when people are looking for ways to find comfort and relief in any way possible. I had heard of driving the baby around the block in the car to put him/her to sleep but this was something new for me. Is this going too far? Under this circumstance who knows what is going too far and what is not we are all doing the best we can to survive these days.

A tailor who owns a small shop in the basement of a busy market told me that his business has been cut in half because of load shedding. Now he says he doesn’t take on too much work because he knows he will not be able to complete it. “I can’t afford a generator and when I don’t take enough work I don’t even make enough to feed my family. “When women come in here with a lot of clothes to get sown and tell me that they need it in a week I tell them its not possible. So, they take their clothes to a bigger shop that has a generator and can sew their clothes in less amount of time”.  This tailor is forced to take less work and even with that work he struggles to finish it in the time he has given his customers with the electricity playing hide and seek constantly. Just recently this tailor fired his assistant because he couldn’t afford to pay him any more. He says things don’t seem to be getting any better. Now he is working hard and trying to save up as much as possible. I asked him what he was saving up for…he said he wants to save up enough to be able to buy a generator. He thinks once he has a generator all his problems will be solved.

I guess there is something to be said about the power of generators. A student expressed his opinion when asked how he deals with not having electricity especially during exams by saying; “Generator Zindabad!” then he added that his neighbors keep the generators on all the time since it is convenient and they find it cheaper then electricity. Of course this was in Karachi where things are a bit more difficult in terms of electricity problems. I asked this young man what they do in school when there is no electricity. He said you just get used to it. When asked about how the learning process is in the heat he said, “I don’t think I learn anything in the heat. I mean the teachers are teaching but I don’t retain anything.” I asked him why and he said, “Because it’s HOT”.

Another student who is my relative messaged me one day out of the blue. I asked her what’s up and why she is messaging me she said she was bored and just wanted to see what was up with me. That was not a normal thing for her to do so but I was glad that she had thought of messaging an old person like me just to chit chat. After a while of massaging back and forth she abruptly said that she had to go. I asked her what the hurry was and she said “the electricity is back I gotta go study for my exams who knows how long we have this luxury for”. Basically she was killing time talking to me while she was waiting for the electricity to come back so she could get back to her studying. While it made me feel not so great about myself it made me think of how much time we waste because we have no way of utilizing it while the electricity is gone.

In Pakistan everything stops as the lights go out? Whatever people are doing they just drop it and start to look around waiting for the lights to come back on. If you are reading a book you will stop and spend at least a few minutes thinking about what you should do now. Very few times you will get an answer because there is very little that can be done in the dark. Even while taking an exam the lights go off and everyone stops. There is pin drop silence. And as soon as the lights are back even if it’s five minutes to turn on the generators the students start to ask for more time for the loss of time because of the electricity. I guess the point I am trying to make is that we are wasting collective time of our nation. Nothing gets done while there is no light. Even if there are generators and UPS there are minimal things running and very little that can be done. Children can’t get on the computer and research for their homework. Businesses can’t use credit cards. Schools and colleges have teachers leaving classroom without teaching because it’s too hot for them to bear.

All of this makes us miss time to do things. We take much longer to accomplish things now compared with before because of the shortage of electricity. Our productivity as a nation is going down because out of the 8 hours we barely have 1 or 2 in which the work can actually get done. The problem is that it may seem like that the whole world is on stand still while the electricity is gone, that’s really not the case. Only we are on stand still. While we are waiting for the lights to turn back on time and life is passing us by. We wait and then we start the work while someone somewhere else started the work without any waitt. Of course at the end of the day that person will take the fruits of the hard work we were not able to put in. Time goes on but we stay on a stand still by force. Does that seem fair at all?

People have turned this thing into a joke as well you will hear a person saying that well this is our government’s way of telling us to slow down. It is an automatic brake even if one doesn’t want it. We have lost so many hours of our lives to this terrible menace of our society and we have no idea how many more we still have to lose.

We have discussed what kind of problems are taking place in our Pakistan because of lack of electricity. Actually everything that I have mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that is going on that if we tried to put all of this in one piece of writing it would go on forever. So, we will leave the description of the problem at this point and try to invest the leftover energy in figuring out how we can get to a solution. The question is this is a nationwide problem so to get this solved who do we go to? Do we try to track down the government officials and ask them what should be done? But we have heard plenty of them on television saying that there is nothing that can be done because this shortage of resource is worldwide and everyone feels it. However, we don’t see the rest of the world complaining and suffering from the consequences as we are.

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Researcher Fine Tunes Optical Tomography

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ayub Khan, MMNS

493D Taufiquar Khan, mathematical science professor at Clemson University, and his colleagues are working to make the physical pain and discomfort of mammograms a thing of past, while allowing for diagnostic imaging eventually to be done in a home setting.

The group is fine-tuning Diffuse Optical Tomography (DOT) to create high-resolution images from a scattering of infrared and visible light for the early detection of breast cancer. While the method is less expensive, safer and more comfortable than X-rays used in mammograms, the problem has been generating a strong enough resolution to detect smaller breast cancers.

“The problem with DOT is that it is a 3-D method where photon density waves launched from a source travel in a banana-shaped path due to multiple scattering, whereas X-rays follow straight lines which make the mathematical problem more manageable and the resolution of the image sharper.” said Khan. “With DOT, near-infrared or near-visible photons make the process safer for the body than with the radiation of X-rays, but they are difficult to track because of the scattering and absorption. So we are coming up with equations that will help get us from capturing cancers that are 4 millimeters in size, down to capturing those as small as 1 millimeter.”

Khan says benefits of DOT include the elimination of harmful radiation to the body as well as false positives and negatives caused by mammography X-rays. He adds there are no harmful side effects to DOT, and some version of DOT eventually could be administered in a do-it-yourself setting at home within the next decade. In addition to breast screening, he says it eventually maybe used as part of other diagnostic procedures such as ultrasound.

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High times in Kabul

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Colin Freeze

2009-06-16T030937Z_01_KAB12_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN-DRUGS

Afghan farmer looks at anti-narcotics poster in Talbozag village June 14, 2009.

REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Kabul — Sayyed Mohammed, 28, has hollow eyes, a fist full of coins, and a $4-a-day heroin habit.

“I’m addicted,” he tells me in an open air drug market in Kabul, both of us ankle-deep in rubble and ruin.

“I was treated two times in Pakistan, but for one month, I’ve been readdicted.”

Part of the reason he’s back on drugs, he says, is because they are so cheap. “Each dosage costs 100 Afgani,” he explained – the equivalent of $2.

In Afghanistan, opium, and its derivative, heroin, have long tended to be seen as export commodities. Addiction? Largely a foreign problem.

But the nation is slowly realizing the chickens have come home to roost. In rural regions such as Kandahar, the complaints centre on insurgents taxing the opium crops, funding insurgency to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year.

In urban areas such as Kabul, where the Taliban and poppies are less visible, the complaints centre on the corrupting power of drug money, evidenced in the “poppy palaces” that have popped up around town.

Families speak of young men who are getting high instead of getting jobs.

Ground zero for this is Kabul’s Russian Cultural Centre, a sprawling complex shelled heavily during the civil wars of the 1990s. Faded murals still show industrious workers cast in the Soviet Realist mould, but today’s denizens have succumbed to a culture of hopelessness and despair.

Dozens of addicts call the centre home, including Mr. Mohammed, who was reflective before he wandered off to exchange his coins for more drugs.

“Heroin has given a bad name to Afghanistan,” he said. He added he was more concerned about teenagers than himself. “The problem is that they are jobless,” he said. “I tell them, ‘It is not going to reduce your problems, it is going to add to your problems.’ ”

Afghanistan grows more opium than the world can use, forcing rivals such as Myanmar and Laos have cut back because their poppies can no longer compete.

“For a number of years now, Afghan opium production has exceeded [world] demand,” wrote the United Nation’s office on drugs and crime last year.

“The bottom should have fallen out of the opium market,” it said. “It has not.”

Prices, however, have fallen somewhat, and this may also have helped spread addiction in Afghanistan “It’s an increasing problem, day by day,” said Jamal Nazir, a social worker at a Kabul rehab clinic.

Many of his patients arrive from the Russian Cultural Centre, he said, including teenagers. “I have special sympathies because they are the energy of Afghanistan.”

Families shuffled in and out of the rehab centre before Friday prayers. The visitors came from every strata, from poor farmers to the local gentry.

“My wife’s brother, he is addicted,” said Dr. Shah Mahmoud. “Our youths go out of Afghanistan, for work to Iran or neighboring countries, and get addicted.”
He complained of “high authorities,” getting involved in the drug trade and with mafia groups.

Afghanistan’s culture of impunity has to end, he said.

“We blame the government for this problem,” he said. “The government should arrest and hand over to the law those people who are involved in this criminal business.”

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