Houstonian Corner (V12-I16)

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Census 2010

 

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Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia Hosted Media Round-table to Encourage the Community Participation in Census 2010: Very Crucial For the Enhancement of Local Resources & Living Standards…

Avoid the knock on your Door: You can still do it by April 16th, 2010: Sheriff Garcia

“We have a challenge. I and my department are ready for it to go out; block walk, attend different community events; and encourage the diverse communities residing in Harris County, Texas to fill out the simple, but most crucial Census 2010 Ten Questionnaire Form. If people mail in this form by Friday, April 16th, 2010, the forms can still be with the Census Department by the final deadline of April 19th, 2010. Two weeks after that, people can start to expect knock at their doors by enumerators.”

These were the sentiments of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, as he met in his new office building located at 1200 Baker Street, with the members of local South Asian media and community persons, amidst Census Reports that by April 12th, 2010, 60% of Harris County population has responded to the Census 2010 (67% in Year 2000), as compared to 66% national response rate up till now in Census 2010 (72% in Year 2000).

In Census 2010 Data for the State of Texas, the response rate is 61%, while this rate in the Year 2000 was 68% and in the same Year 2000, the national response rate was 72%. As such less percent of the population is responding to Census Questionnaire up till now, which is the challenge Sheriff Garcia had mentioned. Five top States at present include Wisconsin 77%, Minnesota 75%, Iowa 74%, Michigan 72%, & Nebraska 72%.

Present at the Harris County Sheriff Round-Table were of course Sheriff Adrian Garcia; Alan Bernstein, Executive Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Christina Garza, Media Relations Manager, Bureau Harris County Sheriff Office; Bala Balachandran of the City of Houston Planning Department; Mustafa Tameez, President of Outreach Strategists, LLC (a certified 8(a), M/DBE, SBE company); and Huma Ahmed, Director of Program Development and General Counsel Outreach, Strategists, LLC. Prominent community members including Shaukat Zakaria, A. J. Durrani, Sajjad Burki, & Hasu Patel; and media persons like Tariq Khan, Jameel Siddiqui, Shamim Syed, Koshi Thomas, Haider Kazim, & ILyas Choudry, were in attendance as well.

“It will cost everyone as tax payers, if more populations’ doors have to be knocked. It has been estimated, that if 100% of the households in USA mail back their census forms by April 16th, 2010, taxpayers would save 1.50 BILLION Dollars, a huge amount in these economics times. Let’s all do our part in the Asian Community and mail back our forms,” added Mustafa Tameez of Outreach Strategists, who is liaison with the Harris County Sherriff Department for the South-Asian Community (he can be reached at 713-247-9600 or E-Mail: MITameez@OutreachStrategists.Com)

The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States. The Census informs critical decisions, from congressional representation to the allocation of more than $400 billion annually in federal funds, and helps governments make decisions about what community services to provide. South Asians have been undercounted in Census reports in the past. Sheriff said many individuals don’t respond because they are afraid to share confidential information.

“It is very important that everyone understands that the information collected is protected by law. The Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA or any other government agency,” stated Sheriff Garcia, so as to help ease confidentiality concerns surrounding the 2010 Census among some members of that community.

“Even provisions of Patriot Act cannot be used to get information from Census Data,” informed Mustafa Tameez.

All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting only of 10 questions and taking about 10 minutes to complete.

The Census 2010 matters extremely to our community, in that every year, the federal government distributes more than $400 billion to state, local and tribal governments based on census data. These funds:

• Help leaders determine where to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child care and senior centers and more;
• Help fund important community programs important to the South Asian population; and
• Assist with planning for education, housing, health and other programs that reflect diversity in the community.

The census is a count of everyone in the United States. Everyone must be counted. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.

Households should complete and mail back their forms as soon as you receive it. Starting in May, Census workers will visit households that do not return forms to take a count in person.

A complete count is extremely important to the South Asian Community. Take the time to fill out the form and send it back. Just 10 minutes. 10 questions. We’re All Counting on You!

For more information about the 2010 Census visit www.2010.census.gov or call 1-800-923-8282.

12-16

Will Kareem be Head Coach? He Has Faith — and Maybe That’s an Issue

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gregg Doyel

CBSSports.com National Columnist

kajheadshot The tragedy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t that he’ll die some day. We’ll all die some day. The tragedy is that he’ll die without spending even an hour as a head coach in the NBA.

He’s not going to die any time soon, certainly not from the rare form of leukemia that he recently disclosed he has been fighting for nearly a year. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, almost 90 percent of the chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients with the best possible medicine are still alive after five years. That’s terrific.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the best possible medicine, so five years from now I expect he will be 67 years old. But five years from now I’m positive he still won’t be an NBA coach. And that’s terrible.

I’m wondering if bigotry is at work here, and by “wondering,” a lot of you will say I’m “accusing.” And I’m not. I’m not accusing the almost entirely white NBA ownership — which last season employed a 77 percent black roster base, not to mention 11 black coaches and five black team presidents — of bigotry in the usual sense.

But I’m wondering — just wondering, people, just wondering — if Abdul-Jabbar’s religion has worked against him. Here we have the leading scorer in NBA history. Ever. And he’s not just an athletic savant put on this earth to play one sport better than almost anyone ever has. (Which is what I think of when I think of Joe Montana.) No, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the smartest people ever to play in the NBA, and I do mean ever. He has written books that go far beyond basketball. The guy’s a borderline genius, and if I’ve just written a word that doesn’t belong in this story, fine. Take out the word borderline.

And he wants to coach. He has wanted to coach for years. He has coached in the United States Basketball League in Oklahoma and at the Fort Apache Indian reservation in Arizona. He has served as a scout and as a low-ranking assistant in the NBA. At this moment he is a special assistant for the Lakers, working primarily with young center Andrew Bynum. But Abdul-Jabbar wants to be a head coach in the NBA.

And nobody in the NBA will hire him.

I can’t make sense of it, so I’m grasping for possible reasons. And one possible reason — a possibility, people — is that religious bigotry is at work. If an NBA owner has ever hired a Muslim as his team’s head coach, I’m not aware of it. There certainly has never been a head coach in the NBA who was so devoutly Muslim at any time in his life that he took on a Muslim name. Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t seem that devout now, by the way. He has done a commercial for Coors and has been investigated twice for marijuana possession, and the Muslim faith frowns on such hedonistic pursuits.

Maybe his faith has nothing to do with his inability to get a head coaching job. Seriously, it could be irrelevant. There is another factor here, and to ignore it would be intentionally misleading, and I won’t do that. So I’ll acknowledge that Abdul-Jabbar has been known for his prickly personality over the years. He has been reluctant to talk to the media, and dismissive at times when he has talked to the media, though he was more than accommodating the one time I approached him.

Abdul-Jabbar knows his demeanor has hurt him. In 2006, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I always saw it like [reporters] were trying to pry. I was way too suspicious, and I paid a price for it.”

He could be paying that price to this day. Owners typically don’t want to hire a surly, public-relations disaster as a head coach, though it happens. Bill Belichick rules the NFL. Isiah Thomas landed coach and GM jobs in the NBA. Former NBA coach Bill Russell was prickly. Current Bucks coach Scott Skiles is prickly. But they got their chance. Skiles in particular is on his third team.

Abdul-Jabbar? He’s still waiting for his first chance. And he’s not waiting quietly, either. When a story on ESPN.com in August ruminated on the possible heir to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Abdul-Jabbar used his Twitter feed — which has a million followers — to lobby for the job:

• “I just read the ESPN story on who will replace Phil and I c that a lot of u think I would be a good choice. I would have to agree with my fans.”

• “If people want to find out what I am sitting on in terms of basketball knowledge maybe I’ll get a shot at a head coaching position.”

• “I have not been given an opportunity as a head coach so maybe a groundswell of support from my fans could open a door for me!”

Clearly Abdul-Jabbar wants to be a head coach, but the NBA is too busy recycling Scott Skiles and Don Nelson and proven losers like Alvin Gentry and Mike Dunleavy and Lionel Hollins and Eddie Jordan. This is a league in need of a new idea, and I have it: His name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He’s the all-time NBA scoring leader, he’s brilliant, and he’s dying to be a head coach.

What’s the problem here?

11-51

Phys Ed: Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss?

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times

(image below: Sven Hagolani/Getty Images)

For some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don’t necessarily lose weight. A study published online in September in The British Journal of Sports Medicine was the latest to report apparently disappointing slimming results. In the study, 58 obese people completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The group lost an average of a little more than seven pounds, and many lost barely half that.

How can that be? Exercise, it seems, should make you thin. Activity burns calories. No one doubts that.

“Walking, even at a very easy pace, you’ll probably burn three or four calories a minute,” beyond what you would use quietly sitting in a chair, said Dan Carey, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, who studies exercise and metabolism.

But few people, an overwhelming body of research shows, achieve significant weight loss with exercise alone, not without changing their eating habits. A new study from scientists at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver offers some reasons why. For the study, the researchers recruited several groups of people. Some were lean endurance athletes; some sedentary and lean; some sedentary and obese. Each of the subjects agreed to spend, over the course of the experiment, several 24-hour periods in a special laboratory room (a walk-in calorimeter) that measures the number of calories a person burns. Using various calculations, the researchers could also tell whether the calories expended were in the form of fat or carbohydrates, the body’s two main fuel sources. Burning more fat than carbohydrates is obviously desirable for weight loss, since the fat being burned comes primarily from body fat stores, and we all, even the leanest among us, have plenty of those.

The Denver researchers were especially interested in how the athletes’ bodies would apportion and use calories. It has been well documented that regular endurance training increases the ability of the body to use fat as a fuel during exercise. They wondered, though, if the athletes — or any of the other subjects — would burn extra fat calories after exercising, a phenomenon that some exercisers (and even more diet and fitness books) call “afterburn.”

“Many people believe that you rev up” your metabolism after an exercise session “so that you burn additional body fat throughout the day,” said Edward Melanson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the division of endocrinology at the School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. If afterburn were found to exist, it would suggest that even if you replaced the calories you used during an exercise session, you should lose weight, without gaining weight — the proverbial free lunch.

Each of Melanson’s subjects spent 24 quiet hours in the calorimeter, followed later by another 24 hours that included an hourlong bout of stationary bicycling. The cycling was deliberately performed at a relatively easy intensity (about 55 percent of each person’s predetermined aerobic capacity). It is well known physiologically that, while high-intensity exercise demands mostly carbohydrate calories (since carbohydrates can quickly reach the bloodstream and, from there, laboring muscles), low-intensity exercise prompts the body to burn at least some stored fat. All of the subjects ate three meals a day.

To their surprise, the researchers found that none of the groups, including the athletes, experienced “afterburn.” They did not use additional body fat on the day when they exercised. In fact, most of the subjects burned slightly less fat over the 24-hour study period when they exercised than when they did not.

“The message of our work is really simple,” although not agreeable to hear, Melanson said. “It all comes down to energy balance,” or, as you might have guessed, calories in and calories out. People “are only burning 200 or 300 calories” in a typical 30-minute exercise session, Melanson points out. “You replace that with one bottle of Gatorade.”

This does not mean that exercise has no impact on body weight, or that you can’t calibrate your workouts to maximize the amount of body fat that you burn, if that’s your goal.

“If you work out at an easy intensity, you will burn a higher percentage of fat calories” than if you work out a higher intensity, Carey says, so you should draw down some of the padding you’ve accumulated on the hips or elsewhere — if you don’t replace all of the calories afterward. To help those hoping to reduce their body fat, he published formulas in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research last month that detailed the heart rates at which a person could maximize fat burning. “Heart rates of between 105 and 134” beats per minute, Carey said, represent the fat-burning zone. “It’s probably best to work out near the top of that zone,” he says, “so that you burn more calories over all” than at the extremely leisurely lower end.

Perhaps just as important, bear in mind that exercise has benefits beyond weight reduction. In the study of obese people who took up exercise, most became notably healthier, increasing their aerobic capacity, decreasing their blood pressure and resting heart rates, and, the authors write, achieving “an acute exercise-induced increase in positive mood,” leading the authors to conclude that, “significant and meaningful health benefits can be achieved even in the presence of lower than expected exercise-induced weight loss.”

Finally and thankfully, exercise seems to aid, physiologically, in the battle to keep off body fat once it has been, through resolute calorie reduction, chiseled away. In other work by Melanson’s group, published in September, laboratory rats that had been overfed and then slimmed through calorie reduction were able to “defend” their lower weight more effectively if they ran on a treadmill and ate at will than if they had no access to a treadmill. The exercise seemed to reset certain metabolic pathways within the rats, Melanson says, that blunted their body’s drive to replace the lost fat. Similar mechanisms, he adds, probably operate within the bodies of humans, providing scientific justification for signing up for that Thanksgiving Day 5K.

11-47

Investments in Complex Plants Backfire

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ikuko Kurahone, Reuters

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) – Oil firms that invested in complex refineries to process the most difficult crude and in theory generate big profits have inadvertently forced up the cost of feedstock, wrecking the economics of their plans, especially in Europe.

An increase in the cost of high quality lighter crude, which began about seven years ago, first inspired investment either in complex new plants or in adding cokers and residual hydrocrackers to existing refineries so they can process heavier oil.

What the refiners did not predict was the extent to which heavy crude costs would be driven higher by increased demand from more complex refineries and the plunge in refined products that followed the end of the oil market rally last year.

As profit margins have diminished, some new projects, particularly in Europe, are likely to be shelved, raising the prospect of supply tightness when demand recovers and as heavy crude supplies are expected to outstrip availability of lighter oil.

“The first wave of large investment in conversion capacity and new complex refineries is coming on line in 2009-2010. Whatever was planned for 2009-2010 is going to come on, cancellation/postponement more likely to affect projects scheduled from 2011 onward,” BNP Paribas oil analyst Harry Tchilinguirian said.

“The economics are more challenging as profitability of more expensive complex operations is eroded when the discount between the medium/heavy grades narrows relative to light grades.”

Light, sweet crude, with low sulphur content, gives a high yield of high value products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Heavier, sour crude, which includes more sulphur that has little commercial value and requires longer processing, historically traded at a deep discount.

The medium heavy, sour Russian benchmark grade Urals, for instance, traded at discounts of about $7 a barrel when Brent and U.S. light crude futures hit a record high above $147 in July last year.

But since July this year, it has traded at near parity to lighter North Sea streams, including Brent and Forties.

Another of the variables relates to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as the group’s output cuts have reduced the amount of heavier crude available.

Thomas O’Malley, chairman of Europe’s top independent refiner Petroplus, told a webcast last week the narrower gap between light and heavy differentials would continue to constrain complex refiners.

“We may see three years of contraction of heavy light spreads … coker builders in the last couple of years are not happy builders,” he said.

Some analysts have said European refiners might have missed out on the cost advantage of a wide light-heavy spread once and for all.

By contrast with refiners in the United States, which has been processing heavy crude from domestic fields, as well as Mexico and Venezuela, for many years, deep conversion projects in Europe are recent.

They have been mostly geared to taking Russian medium-heavy Urals, which would have been unlikely to make the kind of profits possible from processing heavier Mexican and Venezuelan grades.

“Low demand and new refining capacity coming onstream in 2009 are likely to keep refining margins below those seen in recent years, unless serious disruptions occur on the supply side,” said one refiner in its second quarter earnings report.

11-34

Muslim scientists and thinkers–Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

September 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Aslam

Imamghazali Abu Hamid  al-Ghazali,  also known in west as Algazel, was born at Tus, Iran in the year 1058 CE. His father died while he was very young. He received his early education at Tus and at the age of fourteen he went to Gurgan. Here he studied Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and after seven years he moved to the city of Nishapur and became the student of famous scholar Abu Maali Juwayni.

He soon acquired a high standard of scholarship in religion,  philosophy and fiqh. The vizier of the Seljuk Sultan, impressed by his scholarship, appointed him as a Professor at the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, which was the most reputed institution of learning at that time.

After a few years, however, he gave up his academic pursuits and worldly interests and became a wandering ascetic.

After spending  some time in Jerusalem, Makkah and Medina he came back to Tus and spent several years in seclusion. He finally ended his seclusion, opened a Sufi school khanakah and started teaching and lecturing. He remained in Tus until his death in December of 1111 CE.

Among the Muslim theologians, al- Ghazali was the most influential; in addition he was a philosopher, a Jurist and a Sufi mystic. He was a prolific writer, authoring more than 70 books. Probably his major work, the multi-volume Ihya ul-Uloom ud-Din, (The Revival of Religious Sciences), can be divided into four parts, which cover perhaps all aspects of Islam, including Islamic jurisprudence, theology and Sufism.

In this series he pointed out that the traditional teaching about Islam did not convince him in his adolescence. His conviction came later, through his Sufi mystical experience. In his autobiography; The Deliverance from Error, he recounts how his spiritual crisis was resolved by a light from God, the key to all knowledge. The Sufi mystical experience brought changes in his theological thought.

Al-Ghazali authored two books on Islamic theology, The Middle Path in Theology and The Jerusalem Epistle. In both books the theological position he expressed matches with the Asharite school of thought. He wrote three books on Aristotelian logic, The Standard Measure of Knowledge, The Touchstone of Proof of Logic and The Just Balance.

Al-Ghazali was  very much interested in logic and philosophy, and he studied intensively while he was teaching at Baghdad. He composed two books on philosophy; The Intention of the Philosopher, in which he has summarized his own conclusions about philosophy, and set the stage for the  second book; The Incoherence of the Philosophers. In this book he has used exhaustive logic against philosophers. He vehemently rejected Aristotle, Plato and all Muslim philosophers starting from eighth century who incorporated the ancient Greek philosophy into Islamic theology. The main among them were  al Kindi, al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. Point by point, he refuted their arguments.

For 100 years his arguments were unchallenged.  Ibn Rushd, an Andalusian  philosopher, made a counter-argument in his book The Incoherence of the Incoherence, but the epistemological course of Islamic thought had already been set by al-Ghazali.

Al-Ghazali divided knowledge into three categories; praiseworthy, permissible and blameworthy–which he has discussed in his book Ihya Ulum-id-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences). All learning connected to religion is praiseworthy, but when mixed with other than religion sometimes becomes blameworthy. Learning medicine and mathematics he said are permissible and declared it as farze Kefayah, not ferze Ayin. If a man in a town or a locality acquires such knowledge, the whole community get absolved from the sin.

In his book al-Mustasfa which he wrote towards the end of his life, he stated that arithmetic and geometry are pure rational sciences and as such not recommended for study. They fluctuate between false and true knowledge that yield no practical application. He saw no usefulness in the study of physics and said some part of the subject as it was understood in his time contradicted the Shariah and thus were useless or blameworthy.

Al-Ghazali believed in the certainty of God which he experienced by mystic revelation, a phenomena he said was beyond logic or sensory perception. He argued that you can not prove the presence of God by logic or philosophy, and saw philosophy as largely a waste of time and inadequate for discovering the truth. Contingent events, he said, are not subject to natural physical cause, but are direct result of God’s constant intervention. This concept of God is consistent with the Asharite school of theology.   

Al-Ghazali’s work had a widespread influence on western medieval scholars especially Thomas Aquinas. He received wide recognition in the religious institutions of the Ottoman empire, southeast Asia, and Africa. In the Indian subcontinent, he enjoyed wide recognition both among the Deobandi school as well as the arch-rival Barelwi school.

Aslamsyed1@yahoo.com