Polygamy the Key to Long Life!

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ewen Callaway

polygamyWant to live a little longer? Get a second wife. New research suggests that men from polygamous cultures outlive those from monogamous ones.

After accounting for socioeconomic differences, men aged over 60 from 140 countries that practice polygamy to varying degrees lived on average 12% longer than men from 49 mostly monogamous nations, says Virpi Lummaa, an ecologist at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Lummaa presented her findings last week at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology’s annual meeting in Ithaca, New York.

Rather than a call to polygamy, the research might solve a long-standing puzzle in human biology: Why do men live so long?

This question only makes sense after asking the same for women, who – unlike nearly all other animals – live long past the menopause.

Enforced monogamy

One answer seems to be a phenomenon called the grandmother effect. For every 10 years a woman survives past the menopause, she gains two additional grandchildren, Lummaa says. It seems that doting on and spoiling grandchildren aids their survival, as well as furthering some of their grandmother’s genes.

Men, by contrast, can reproduce well into their 60s and even 70s and 80s, and most researchers assumed this explained their longevity. But Lummaa and colleague Andy Russell wondered whether other factors explained the long lifespan of men, such as a grandfather effect.

To test this possibility, the team analysed church-gathered records for 25,000 Finns from the 18th and 19th centuries. People tended to move little, no one practiced contraception and the Lutheran Church enforced monogamy.

Only widowed men could remarry, and if they had children with their new wife, they fathered more kids, on average, than men who married once.

But ultimately remarried men “don’t end up with any more grandchildren,” Lummaa says. “If anything the presence of a grandfather was associated with decreased survival of grandchildren.”

Perhaps, Lummaa adds, the children of the first mother lose out on food and resources that go to the second mother’s kids. “It’s kind of the Cinderella effect.”

Even fathers with only one wife provided no benefit to their grandchildren, a finding supported by previous research.

Biological selection

With the grandfather effect ruled out, Lummaa and Russell next wondered whether the constraints of human physiology explain male longevity. In the same way that men have nipples that evolved for women to nourish their young, male longevity might be a consequence of biological selection for long-lived women.

To answer this question, the researchers compared the lifespan of men from polygamous countries with those from monogamous nations.

Using data from the World Health Organization, Lummaa and Russell scored 189 countries on a monogamy scale of one to four – totally monogamous to mostly polygamous. They also took into account a country’s gross domestic product and average income to minimise the effect of better nutrition and healthcare in monogamous Western nations.

Lummaa stressed that their monogamy score is a crude first stab, and they are working to find multiple ways to assess marriage patterns. The conclusions could evaporate under further analysis, she adds.

If female survival is the main explanation for male longevity, then monogamous and polygamous men would live for about the same length of time. Instead, it seems that fathering more kids with more wives leads to increased male longevity. Men, then, live long because they’re fertile well into their grey years.

The explanation could be both social and genetic. Men who continue fathering kids into their 60s and 70s could take better care for their bodies because they have mouths to feed. But evolutionary forces acting over thousands of years could also select for longer-lived men in polygamous cultures.

“It’s a valid hypothesis and good prediction,” says Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who attended the talk. But the care and attention of several wives who depend on the social status of their ageing husband could explain everything. “It doesn’t surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies, where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them.”

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Dr. Abdul Razzaque Ahmed Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From the Pan Arab League of Dermatologists

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

Pan Arab CeremonyDubai, UAE–On 19th of April 2011, the Pan Arab League of Dermatologists honoured Dr. Abdul Razzaque Ahmed of Boston, Massachusetts with a “Lifetime Achievement Award”.  The Award was given at a joint meeting of the Pan Arab League of Dermatologists and Dubai Derm 2011 held at the International Convention Center in Dubai.  The patron of the Meeting was HRH Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who presided over the session.  In announcing the Award, Dr. Omar Al Sheikh of Riyadh, KSA, Secretary General, stated; 

“In recognition of his 35 years of dedication and commitment to treating patients with severe autoimmune blistering diseases and for the discovery of new and novel therapies to treatment them.  In addition, in recognition of his numerous landmark and milestone contributions enhancing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of their pathogenesis, the Pan Arab League of Dermatologists present this Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Abdul Razzaque Ahmed.”

The Pan Arab League of Dermatologists has been in existence since 1979.  It consists of 23 Arab countries which have a cumulative population of over 8700 dermatologist that constitute the League.  It meets every three years in a different Arab country.  This is the first time in is 33 years of existence that it has bestowed such an Award. 

The objectives of the League are:

•    To hold conferences and educate its members with knowledge of the latest advances and discoveries in the science and practice of medical and surgical dermatology.
•    To promote the specialty, scientifically and professionally the League provides an avenue to advance collaboration between individual members and member countries. 
•    To foster the development of infrastructure in the academic institutions within member countries by aiding in the formulation of curricula, faculty recruitment and exchange, and sharing resources to create a learning environment that is challenging for young physicians to become competent dermatologists. 
•    To strongly support the translation of manuscripts, books, and other written educational resources into Arabic to advance scientific research and the utilization of information technology. 
•    To ultimately be the voice of dermatology in the Arab world by uniting Arab dermatologists under one umbrella.

Dr. Ahmed is originally from a small town called Wani in the District Yavatmal in Maharashtra in Central India.  He studied medicine at the internationally-renowned All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.  Shortly thereafter he went to the United States where he trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, in Dermatology at the University of Buffalo, and in Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of California at Los Angeles.  Dr. Ahmed was on the Faculty of Medicine at UCLA for six years before moving to Harvard University in Boston.  He began molecular research and earned a Doctorate of Science degree from the Harvard University Faculty of Medicine, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Thereafter, Dr. Ahmed continued his laboratory research for 20 years on the campus of the Harvard Medical School with funding provided by the National Institute of Health.  He also opened the first “Center for Blistering Diseases” in the U.S.  The Center provides an all-inclusive, holistic approach to treating every aspect of a patient’s life.  Dr. Ahmed established a model for the treatment of these autoimmune, potentially fatal diseases.  This model has been emulated in other cities with significant success.

Dr. Ahmed is one among a handful of blistering disease specialists in the world.  He has published original scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, chapters in various books, and edited five  monographs.  He has lectured in the U.S. and worldwide throughout Asia, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East.  Blistering diseases patients come to him from all over the U.S. and several countries overseas.  He is unique because he is an excellent clinician, an imaginative and creative scientist, and an effective teacher with an infectious enthusiasm and the ability to make young physicians become interested and excited in what they study and learn.  He has received several prestigious awards in the U.S. and many other countries.  It is important to note that he also received two Citations for his research and its global impact; one from The Commonwealth of Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the other from the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Argeo Paul Cellucci. 

Dr. Ahmed treats patients with autoimmune, potentially fatal blistering diseases that affect the skin, mouth, throat, nose, eyes, voice box, swallowing tub, genitalia, and rectum.  The blisters break easily, leaving raw and open sores that are open to infection.  These sores stick to the clothes and bedsheets.  Patients are sick, toxic, and have difficulty coping with their daily lives, often afraid to be seen by society in general.  These diseases are rare.  For example, pemphigus occurs in one patient in a 250,000 population; cicatricial pemphigoid with a potential for causing blindness occurs in one in 1 million population, and epidermolysis bullosa acquisita occurs in one in 3 million people.  Most physicians do not know how to handle these patients and refer them to Dr. Ahmed for medical management.  His patients see him as a savior and “God sent”.  His treatments have saved numerous lives and prevented blindness in numerous others. 

When receiving the Pan Arab Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Ahmed thanked the patients who gave him their trust and the opportunity to make the discoveries he has made over the years.  He thanked his teachers, mentors, colleagues, and many students, for their dedication and assistance.  He focused on his research towards the discovery of the genes that predispose individuals to these diseases and their value and importance to all future research in this field.  He spoke about his discovery of two molecules involved in the process that allows these diseases to happen (target antigens).  He ended by discussing the discovery of two treatments (intravenous immunoglobulin and Rituximab) that can save patient lives and give them not only hope but offer the patients an opportunity to live normal lives. 

While many investigators are chasing “cures” for common diseases like cancer, heart attacks, and stroke, or wanting to find ways to lose weight, grow hair, and eliminate wrinkles, Dr. Ahmed has silent but perseveringly and relentlessly worked on these “orphan diseases” so that those unfortunate patients on the sidelines of the medical world may have hope and a chance to survive.  The Pan Arab League of Dermatologists has done the world, and especially the patients with pemphigus and pemphigoid, a great service by recognizing a physician truly worthy of such recognition. 

Direct inquiries to email address:  centerforblisteringdiseases@msn.com

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Israt Ahmed Makes Scientific Discovery, Wins Siemens Award

December 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

6EF0
 

NEW YORK, NY–The research of 11th graders Israt Ahmed and Xiao (Cathy) Zhou of Francis Lewis High School and Stuyvesant High School student Stephanie Chen helped them place third this past week at the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. The team will split a $40,000 scholarship for their work, which is thought to prove hominids migrated from Africa to Eurasia 200,000 years before scientists had previously estimated.

The teens made their discovery studying samples of teeth and tools found in France and Russia. The students’ findings have implications in the field of evolution and in climate change research. 

The students devoted months of hard work—over 800 hours apiece, their advisor said—to their project, spending summer days, vacations, and weekends in the lab. Their research culminated in an 18-page research paper and a presentation at the Siemens competition.

“They’re going to rewrite the history textbooks that we use in school,” their faculty supervisor, Dr. Bonnie Blackwell, said. “These students have done a fabulous job.”

Ahmed lists English, physics, world history, government and biology as his favorite subjects in school. His interest in government and history is evidenced by his participation in AP Government and his leadership role as President of his school’s Global Warming Awareness Club.  He is a member of the RFK Science Research Institute. He hopes to one day become both a geneticist and a neurologist in order to use the potential of stem cells to help cure diseases.   In his free time he plays tennis and is involved with video editing and production. He was born in Bangladesh and speaks Bengali, Japanese, Spanish, Hindi and Latin.

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ISPU Banquet Grosses $250,000

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Neda Farooqi, MMNS

ISPU annual dinner accentuates issues facing American Muslims; raises $250,000.

“It is not the building that makes us big, it is us, you and I, that make us big,” said Imam Hassan al-Qazwini, referring to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, annual fundraising dinner in the banquet hall of the largest mosque in North America on October 24, 2009. “May Allah bless you all.”

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) is a nonprofit think tank organization, originated in Michigan that researches and evaluates US and foreign policy.

“ISPU’s mission is to focus on education, research, and analysis with an emphasis on issues effecting the Muslim community,” said Dr. Nauman Imami, Director of the Glaucoma Service at the Henry Ford Health System and member of ISPU Board of Directors.

Imami drew an analogy between Google and ISPU. “Google does one thing and it does it very well. It answers any questions posed to it.” According to searchenginejournal.com, Google ranks as the number one search site in the United States.

Imami explained that a public policy is created when there is a defined problem, a perceived solution, and political alignment.

Imami posed the question: “How are Muslims in America portrayed?” ISPU’s research has impacted many media products, such as the Newsweek cover story titled, “Islam In America,” published on July 30, 2007. Other networks such as CNN, BBC, and The Economist compile studies and data from ISPU. Media outlets such as Christian Science Monitor and the Associated Press have referenced several ISPU reports.

“ISPU provides solutions based on evidence and data for American Muslims,” said Imami.

“ISPU focuses on topics that are important to the community. Your concerns, your families, and domestic & foreign policy,” said Farid Senzai, assistant professor in the political science department at Santa Clara University and Director of Research at ISPU.

ISPU released several policy briefs on foreign topics ranging from the Arab/Israeli conflict to the predicaments taking place in Pakistan.  ISPU also examines domestic issues such as divorce in the American Muslim community, Muslim youth and ratification, and health clinics in the US.

ISPU has recently published a brief, “Death by Culture,” that centers on domestic abuse. This publication exhibits violence that circulated around the Rihanna/Chris Brown case and Bridges TV case, whose founder decapitated his wife in their television studio.

Senzai informed the audience that ISPU policy briefs have a high impact on US & foreign relations. “Four distinctive ISPU reports on Pakistan translated into very direct impact in Washington,” said Senzai. ISPU has also worked on topics of US & Iran relations, hosting a conference that invited scholars from Iran delegations and Egypt Sate Department Delegations. He was also invited to go to Egypt after the release of ISPU’s publications on US and foreign policy. 

A massive, two-year study on Muslim divorce is yet to be released, soon available to the public. 

Apart from fundraising, ISPU recognizes scholars and philanthropists annually for their research and significant impact. The 2009 ISPU Scholar Award was presented to Dr. Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. “I shouldn’t be getting an award for speaking the truth,” said Cole, upon receiving the award. Dr. Anjum Shariff, a radiologist in St. Louis, was the recipient of the Distinguished Award for Philanthropy. His work entails helping refugee children attending struggling public schools and tutors high school students. Anjum Shariff has also formulated a program for students to shadow physicians at his workplace.

Soon after dinner and the award ceremony, keynote speaker, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was invited on stage.

“It is nice to see chandeliers in the masjid, MashAllah, instead of lights flickering,” said Hamza Yusuf. Hamza Yusuf Hanson is an Islamic scholar who teaches at the Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California.

Yusuf reminded the crowd that Islam is not a monolith. “There is only one Islam,” he said. “But, there are multiple versions. Islam has many adjectives.”

The religion of Islam consists of different types of Muslims ranging from classical, traditional, Salafi, Sufi, Hanafi, Malaki and many more eclectic backgrounds. “The first and strongest strengths of Islam is Unity among diversity,” said Yusuf. “When you try to box people in narrow definitions, you are not acknowledging the depth of human beings.”

Yusuf also focuses on the difficulties that loom amongst Muslim Americans. “We are not recognizing that unity is not uniformity. That is the real problem of our community.”

Yusuf also spoke about western Muslim family and financial life.

“American Muslims have high levels of educations, with the average Muslim bringing in $70,000 [annually.]”

The Pew Research Center managed more than 55,000 interviews that were conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu. This information allowed the Pew to obtain a national sample of 1,050 Muslims, which assessed Muslim backgrounds, educational levels, and views on the western world. “We have potential to reinvigorate,” said Yusuf.

“What is driving us as a community? Where are we going?” Yusuf informs the crowd that the community has a lack of professionalism and strategy. “This is the purpose of think tanks like ISPU- to provide strategy and professionalism.”

Lastly, Yusuf directs the audience to avoid getting constricted in plots and conspiracies. Muslims know more about the conspiracies of September 11 than they do about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s). “The Prophet never complained or played the victim card. The question is what are you doing, not what are they doing.”

Yusuf advises the 750 attendees to stick to the truth. “Truth is such an extraordinary rare,” he said. In addition, he recommends that American Muslims should not be judgmental and need to take advantage of the opportunities placed for them. “We have our own nutcases. We don’t like to be judged, so don’t judge others.”

“I don’t care what the enemy did to us, cause we wont be asked about that. What we will be asked about is how we responded,” concluded Yusuf.

Among local residents, dignitaries, such as Charlene Elder, the first Arab-American female judge on Michigan’s Third Circuit Court and Dearborn Heights Mayor Dan Paletko were in attendance.

The guests were given the opportunity to meet the speakers and take part in the book signing with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Dr. Juan Cole, and Dr. Farid Senzai.
The event raised $250,000, reaching ISPU’s goal Saturday night. ISPU tackles social challenges with the support of donations. To learn more about ISPU and its upcoming events, please visit www.ispu.org.

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Saudi to Launch Elite Science, Tech University

October 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tarek El-Tablawy

Capture9-30-2009-12.20.22 PM Cairo–Saudi Arabia has dug into its oil-fueled coffers to set up a new research university, a multibillion dollar coed venture built on the promise of scientific freedom in a region where a conservative interpretation of Islam has often been blamed for stifling innovation.

The King Abdullah Science and Technology University — complete with state-of-the-art labs, the world’s 14th fastest supercomputer and one of the biggest endowments worldwide — is poised to officially open its doors Wednesday on a sprawling campus nestled along the Red Sea coast about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the commercial center of Jeddah.

Saudi officials have envisaged the postgraduate institution as a key part of the kingdom’s plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub — the latest effort in the oil-rich Gulf region to diversify its economic base.

But KAUST, whether its founders intend it or not, has the potential to represent one of the clearest fault lines in a battle between conservatives and modernizers in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is the most religiously strict country in the Middle East with total segregation of the sexes and practices Wahhabi Islam — a byword for conservatism around the region. But the new university will not require women to wear veils or cover their faces, and they will be able to mix freely with men.

They will also be allowed to drive, a taboo in a country where women must literally take a back seat to their male drivers.

With KAUST’s inauguration, “we see the beginning of a community that is unique” in Saudi Arabia, the university’s president, Choon Fong Shih told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“We recruit the very best in the world …. and we give them the freedom to pursue their scientific interests,” said Shih, a mechanical engineer by training who headed the National University of Singapore for nine years.

While it takes decades to develop world class institutions like what KAUST hopes to become, the university’s breakneck inception in many ways reflects Saudi Arabia’s rise to wealth and power in the global political and economic arena.

The inaugural ceremony is to be headed by its namesake, the Saudi monarch, as well as several world leaders, dignitaries and officials who will stand on what three years ago was just a sweeping acreage of sand, but is now a 36 square kilometer (13.9 square mile) campus with its beach on the Red Sea.

In a region where Internet access can often be lackluster, KAUSTS boasts Shaheen, a 222 teraflops supercomputer which officials says is the fastest in the Middle East and 14th fastest in the world. The computer is named after the Arab Peregrine falcon, believed to be the fastest animal on earth.

It also boasts a fully immersive, six-sided virtual reality facility called CORNEA that officials say, for example, can allow researchers to visualize earthquakes on a planetary scale.

Among the other equipment and facilities are 10 advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, a coastal and marine resources laboratory and bioengineering facilities with labs needs to study cell molecules for DNA sequencing.

The English curriculum is focused on the sciences, with masters and doctoral degrees offered in nine fields including computer science, bioscience and various engineering specialties. The university is also focused on collaborative work with the private sector, as well as other research institutions.

KAUST has enrolled 817 students representing 61 different countries, of whom 314 begin classes this month while the rest are scheduled to enroll in the beginning of 2010. The aim is to expand to 2,000 students within eight to 10 years.

Of that total, 15 percent are Saudi, say university officials.

With research institutions, cash is king, and KAUST, thanks to Saudi’s oil wealth, has plenty.

It has tossed generous salary packages to prospective hires from around the world, an offer made more tempting by a multibillion dollar endowment that Shih says is “one of the biggest in the world.”

The 71 faculty members include 14 from the U.S., seven from Germany and six from Canada.

Shih did not provide a specific figure, but the funding allows all the students to receive full scholarships covering their tuition plus a stipend.

He says without that aid, students would have to pay about $60,000 to $70,000 per year — roughly comparable to the cost of attending elite U.S. schools like California’s Stanford University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The university is being launched at a time when the OPEC powerhouse has been upping its push to focus on education and development programs aimed at boosting economic growth.

Saudi officials have said they are committed to spending $400 billion over the next five years on various development and infrastructure projects, and the kingdom set a 2009 budget that ran a deficit for the first time in years specifically to sustain spending on such ventures.

But more than a projected research juggernaut in a region where other oil-rich nations are also embracing similar initiatives — albeit on a much smaller scale — KAUST may indirectly challenge the brand of conservatism that critics say has stifled progress in the Muslim world.

“We do not restrict how they wish to work among themselves,” Shih said, referring to whether men and women can freely intermingle on campus. “It’s a research environment …. driven by scientific agenda.”

In many ways, the campus is similar to other Western-style compounds in Saudi where residents are often allowed more flexibility in embracing liberal Western values shunned outside the confines of their community in the kingdom.

But the university also could also be seen as a return to Islam’s golden age — an era centuries ago when Muslim scholars took up the mantle of the Greeks and were pioneers in the fields of medicine, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, among others.

This tolerant and inquiring period was snuffed out under pressure from invasions by Crusaders, Mongols and nomadic desert hordes in the Middle Ages and was replaced by an age where faith superseded reason amid unstable times.

In the modern era, bureaucratic bungling, a lack funds, and a general stifling of freedoms has left much of the Arab Middle East in a state of academic and scientific atrophy.

Officials say KAUST’s embrace of scientific freedom marks Saudi Arabia’s determination to not be left behind as technology increasingly drives global development.

“In a way, we are paving the way,” said Shih, referring to the university’s focus on pure science. But if “KAUST is leading the way, it has to meet global standards of excellence, otherwise how else can we be a global player.”

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kaust graphic

UFO’s (explained, for kids)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IBN TUFAIL

The secret wartime scientific accomplishments were the background for sightings of peculiar objects in the skies, beginning in June 1947, in the Southwestern desert area which had so many secret military installations. The objects could be some new super-secret aircraft developed by the U.S. military. Or could they have been developed by some other technologically advanced beings, perhaps from beyond the Earth or the solar system? After all, we now knew that the technology to permit space travel was possible. And these elusive objects traveled far faster and maneuvered far more adroitly than even a jet airplane.

There were many skeptics, however, who considered the objects pie in the sky–or more exactly “flying saucers” (1947), since excited observers had described the objects as saucer-shaped. The name flying saucers caught on, making serious research difficult. As a 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed complained, “ever since the cliché ‘flying saucer’ was coined, the greatest and most exciting mystery of our age has been automatically reduced to the level of a music hall joke.”

The believers preferred the solemn government designation unidentified flying object (UFO), first used in 1950. But that was a little weighty for everyday use, so in 1953 the acronym UFO was coined to replace it. It has dignified the pursuit of the elusive objects ever since. Those who study them have been known at least since 1959 as ufologists, and their field of study has been ufology.

Since 1947, the US government, private research institutions, and individual scientists have collected data about the phenomenon. Although UFOs are not a phenomenon unique to the US, American organizations and private individuals have taken the lead in collecting, analyzing, and publishing sighting reports.

The most publicized collection agency was the US Air Force through its Projects Sign (1948), Grudge (1948–1951), and Blue Book (1951–1969). The FBI, the CIA, and other US agencies also looked into it. Congressional hearings were held on the subject in 1966 and 1968. The goal of the US government was to determine whether the UFO phenomenon was a threat to national security. Unable to find the threat, the government stopped collecting reports from the public in 1969.

Nearly all research efforts have determined that a small but significant number of sightings remain “unidentified” after scientific investigation. This is especially true with reports made by the most articulate witnesses and containing the most data. Although the primary objective of private UFO researchers was to collect and analyze reports, they also sought to convince the public and the scientific community of the legitimacy of the subject. Their task was made all the more difficult by ridicule, caused in part by the perceived unlikelihood of the phenomenon’s extraterrestrial origin, and in part by publicity hungry charlatans and self-promoters (“contactees”) who, beginning in the 1950s, made fictitious claims about meeting “space brothers” and traveling to distant planets, or hinted darkly about secret government conspiracies with aliens.

In addition to the problem of ridicule, serious researchers found it difficult, although not impossible, to gather “hard” evidence of the unconventional nature of the phenomenon. They amassed photos, films, videotapes, radar tracings, and great numbers of multiple witness reports of objects on or near the ground. They reported studies of UFO effects on electrical and mechanical devices, animals, and humans. They studied soil samples purportedly altered by landed UFOs. In spite of all this, they were unable to present artifacts of a UFO—the hard evidence that most scientists demanded.

Since the late 1940s, the UFO phenomenon has entered U.S. popular culture, and it has become a staple of motion pictures, television shows, advertising copy, and media images. As early as 1950 it proved to be one of the most recognized phenomena in Gallup Poll history, and it has continued to play an important role in popular culture.

In the early 1960s, people began to claim that they were abducted into UFOs. Although UFO researchers at first considered these reports to be an “exotic”—and probably psychological—sidelight of the main sighting phenomenon, abduction accounts grew steadily in number. Evidence for abductions was mainly derived from human memory, usually retrieved through hypnosis. But the people who reported being abducted were not “contactees” or self-promoters and appeared to be genuinely concerned about what had happened to them. In the 1980s, the numbers of people who came forward with abduction accounts had begun to rise dramatically, and a 1998 Roper Poll of 5,995 adults suggested that as many as a million Americans believed they had been abducted. By the end of the twentieth century, the abduction phenomenon had come to dominate UFO research.

In spite of extensive efforts in the second half of the twentieth century, attitudes toward the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon and the research into it changed little. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, researchers had failed to convince the scientific community of the phenomenon’s legitimacy, they had not developed a standardized methodology to retrieve alleged abduction accounts, and no UFO organization had gained the academic backing to professionalize both UFO and abduction research. Yet after half a century of study, UFO proponents had advanced knowledge of the subject greatly, and some even claimed that a solution to the mystery of UFO origins and motivations seemed possible.

In the twenty-first century, the UFO phenomenon persisted, apparently unaffected by societal events. It continued to maintain a ubiquitous presence in popular culture, researchers continued to study it, and, although scientists and academics still scorned it, ordinary people continued to report both sightings and abduction accounts.

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Fasting Good for Brain?

September 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Andrea Useem

2009-09-02T125425Z_01_DHA004_RTRMDNP_3_BANGLADESH-RAMADAN Ramadan is in its third week now, and the required dawn-to-dusk fasting often feels like a daily mini–marathon. By late afternoon, hunger and thirst have sucked me dry, leaving me sleepy, slow-minded, and sometimes short-tempered.

I know that the purpose of fasting is spiritual—God will reward us in the next life—but in this lifetime, fasting sometimes makes me an ineffective, irritable person. So I was excited to learn that Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, MD, had spoken at a recent Renaissance Weekend event about how caloric restriction can improve brain function.

I emailed Dr. Ratey to find out if those benefits might extend to religious fasting, and he sent me a 2006 paper on the brain functioning of men during the Ramadan fast. The researchers studied a small group of healthy men during and after the holy month, looking at their brain activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They concluded that “all individual results showed consistent and significant increase of activity in the motor cortex during fasting.”

That research builds on the work of other scientists, including Mark Mattson, PhD, who heads a neuroscience lab at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. Mattson has done important research on how dietary restrictions can significantly protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

In 2003, Mattson and others reported that rats deprived of food every other day, or restricted to a diet at 30% to 50% of normal calorie levels, showed not only decreased heart rates and blood pressure, but also “younger” brains, with “numerous age-related changes in gene expression.”

Mattson and his colleagues also shared data from research on humans, which shows that populations with higher caloric intakes—such as the United States and Europe—have a greater prevalence of Alzheimer’s than do populations that eat less—such as China and Japan. The authors speculate that humans may have adapted to conditions of feast and famine; the stress of having little food, they write, “may induce changes in gene expression that result in adaptive changes in cellular metabolism and the increased ability of the organism to reduce stress.”

Although this research is relatively new, with many questions left unanswered, the authors conclude that “it seems a safe bet that if people would incorporate a spartan approach to food intake into their lifestyles, this would greatly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke.” (Of course, how this recommendation translates for individual people remains almost a complete unknown; consult with your own doctor before restricting your diet in dramatic ways.)

But here’s the hard part: Although we know eating too much leads to all sorts of health problems, “it has proven very difficult to successfully implement prolonged dietary-restriction regimens,” reports Mattson and his team. Information and doctor’s orders are rarely enough motivation.

This last observation gave me hope, because it seemed the authors were overlooking the role of religion; it can inspire people in ways information or experts don’t. Would I be undergoing this rigorous month of fasting unless I believed strongly it was the right thing for me to do? Probably not. And the same goes for millions of Muslims around the world.

And many other religions include fasting or dietary restrictions as part of their religious observances. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, for example, fast one Sunday a month. The Orthodox Church in America notes five separate fasting seasons on its website, in addition to individual fast days; during some of these fasts, all food is restricted, and during other fasts, only certain foods are off-limits. Some Roman Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays, and all do during Lent. Many types of Buddhist monks abide by a code that prohibits eating after noon each day.

Science may only now be discovering that some of these religious practices, both ancient and modern, offer nourishment not just for the soul, but for the body as well.

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ACCESS Expands Medical Network in Middle East

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By ACCESS

adnanhammad Over the past two weeks, Senior Director of the Community Health & Research Center, Dr. Adnan Hammad, embarked on a trip to the Middle East to spread ACCESS’ medical research knowledge to universities and institutions in Jordan and Morocco. The trip served to educate others as well as expand and strengthen ACCESS’ existing networks with health professionals and medical establishments around the world.

Highlights of the trip included a new partnership with the School of Medicine in Fez, Morocco, which could include potential research collaboration and the establishment of a national cancer screening initiative with the Moroccan National Institute of Public Health (MNIPH). Thanks to ACCESS, MNIPH will also be linked with the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Cancer.

In Amman, Jordan, Dr. Hammad and other professionals provided a one-day workshop at the King Hussein Cancer Center. The workshop included discussions on cancer control and prevention based on extensive research. Also, after meeting with the leadership of Jordan University of Science and Technology, ACCESS has agreed to help them plan a regional public health conference slated for June 2010. This conference will focus on comparative research between Arab and Arab American health outcomes, such as diabetes, cancer, tobacco use, and environment.

Finally, Dr. Hammad met with Questscope and ANERA, organizations whose mission is to educate and help Middle Eastern youth overcome poverty, abuse, and injustice. Discussions are now ongoing over the establishment of a “Train the Trainers” program for the 5,000-6,000 Iraqi children whose parents have been victims of torture. ACCESS has committed to sending some of it mental health care professionals to provide training workshops this fall.

“ACCESS was proud to contribute its knowledge, experience, and talents in helping the well-being of our community overseas,” said Dr. Hammad “I am a believer that epidemiology does not recognize borders and I am glad I had this opportunity to serve ACCESS and the Arab American Community.”

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Community News (V11-I29)

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Researcher cited for excellence

zain Zainulabeuddin “Zain” Syed, who helped discover the mode of action for the insect repellent DEET in the Walter Leal laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has been cited for excellence in postdoctoral research.

The award, sponsored by the UC Davis Postdoctoral Scholars’ Association and the Office of Graduate Studies, is given annually to “up to two postdocs” for outstanding research accomplishments.

Mr. Syed received a certificate and $500 at a recent ceremony in the University Club. He was among the 12 finalists from a pool of 800 postdocs at UC Davis.

Syed, a native of Hyderabad,  India, was educated and trained in India, Germany and the United States. He is active in departmental events and in the Entomological Society of America (ESA). He delivered a scientific research lecture on “Maxillary Palps Are Broad Spectrum Odorant Detectors in Culex quinquefasciatus” on Dec. 10, 2007 at ESA’s international meeting in San Diego.

County sued for approving mosque plans

LODI, CA– The Lodi county has been sued by a resident’s association for approving the plans of a proposed mosque. The group known as the Morada Area Association is upset over the Board of Supervisor;s approval of the mosque, the Lodi News reported.

The Morada group claims that the Board of Supervisors violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not studying the effects the mosque would have on water supply, traffic and parking surrounding the mosque, which has yet to be built, according to Bill Fields, an active member of the Morada Area Association.

The mosque plan calls for a call for a 13,820-square-foot mosque to be built on two acres on the eastern Highway 99 frontage road, 150 feet north of Shippee Lane. It would be used as a prayer hall, classroom, multipurpose hall and offices.

Miss. mosque hearing rescheduled

MADISON, MS– A meeting to discuss the plans for a mosque in Madison this week has been rescheduled for August 3.

The Mississippi Muslim Association’s attorney, Roger Williams, said the group is trying to obtain a private sewer system and asked for a continuance of a public hearing that was scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The city of Madison said it is not required to provide sewer services to the area where the mosque wants to locate.

The mosque would need a proper sewer system in place before going forward.

Kashmir Conference to be held on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON D.C.–Kashmiri American Council  and Association of Humanitarian Lawyers has released the list of speakers for the the 10th International Kashmir conference at Capitol Hill, Washington on 23rd of July. The conference will be held for two days.

The speakers include Ms. Siddharth Varadarajan, The Hindu, New Delhi; Senator Mushahid Hussain, Secretary General, PML-Q, Islamabad; Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Editor, Economic & Political Review, New Delhi; Mr. Tapan Bose, Film Maker & Peace Activist, New Delhi; Dr. Angana Chatterji, Indian-American, San Francisco; Mr. Ved Bhasin, Editor, Kashmir Times, Jammu; Mr. Jatinder Bakhshi, Chairman, Committee for the Return of Kashmiri Migrants (Pandits), Jammu; Ms. Harinder Baweja, Founding Editor, Tehelka, New Delhi; Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States; Ambassador Munir Akram, Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations; Dr. Richard Shapiro, Institute of Integral Studies, California; Amb, Husain Haqqani, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States,among others.

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MMN Publishing

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

We are organizing a publishing house to print books, magazines and research papers. The MMN data-bank division will develop a large database of Muslim households and businesses. This will benefit the community in reaching these households for marketing purposes, political activism, social reasons and the ability to reach out to the Muslim community.

MMN Research and Development

April 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

MMN has plans to conduct and commission research projects by scholars, think tanks, and by social, political and religious leaders on subjects of interest to our audiences. Through MMN R & D we will monitor the performance of our divisions by continuous interaction with the Muslim community. Based on this information, we will act to implement improvements and new ideas.