Travels from Bangladesh

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

Lush green trees amid debris, pollution and beggars surrounded Shah Jalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, my husband, two-year-old son and I went for an 18-day vacation to visit family two weeks ago. We clung close to our luggage and airport authorities who guided us through the crowd to a Kuwait rented bus that would take us home to Sylhet, Bangladesh.

As the air-conditioned (a luxury in the country) battered bus jerked back and forth and the driver blared the horn through the seven-hour journey, my husband and I cradled our son and braced ourselves for possible accidents. The sky was grey and the cars, rikshaws, and even cows jammed the streets.

Two men dressed in all-black uniforms, do-rags and sunglasses, the Rapid Action Battalion authority similar to the FBI in the US, zoomed past us in a vehicle similar to a pick-up truck. I tensed at their sight. RAB nicknamed the “death squad” by humanitarian groups killed nearly 130 people last year (as of January 2011) to the UK-based newspaper The Guardian.
A mile into the village where my husband was born, 30 people came out to greet us and led us to my father-in-law’s eight bedroom cement home nicknamed “America” by the neighbors. To them we were wealthy.

Bangladesh is known for its poverty. For two weeks we lived removed from the luxuries of a computer, television, heat, and a car. We relied on relatives to set-up trips, execute financial decisions from what to eat to where to shop, and how to interact with the villagers.

The village was unlike the city, with clean air and the wind blowing through grapefruit, coconut, shathkhora (a citrus fruit), and bitternut (used for chewing) trees. Rice fields, grass and vegetation were spread between far-out buildings. Adults and kids bathed in man-made ponds, also used for washing clothes and cooking water. 

While the country seemed busy and quiet from the political rumble, posters of war crime prisoners charged by the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal were put-up in town centers and major road crossings. Five Jamaat-e-Islami and two Bangladesh National Party political leaders have been arrested and one, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, formally charged for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. His trial began November 21.

A cousin would joke of the Bangladesh Awami League meetings in the village, while he passed out literature of those who died during Jamaat-e-Islami crossfires with police, or fights with the student groups of the major political parties Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh National Party (BNP) on college campuses.

As I looked out into the river behind our home in Bangladesh two days before our journey back to the US, the still water gave me a vision of a brighter future for a country torn between the rich and poor, right and wrong, and past and future.

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Community News (V13-I47)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Howard gets women only swim times

HOWARD, MD–Women living in Maryland now have access to their own swim times at swimming pools. The accomodation was made after members of the Dar al Taqwa mosque in cooperation  faith-based county group, People Acting Together in Howard, met with the Columbia Association to create a twice-weekly, women-only swim time, a trial that is scheduled to be announced Tuesday.

The Columbia Association, which operates 23 pools in Howard, will join other communities that have made similar accommodations to create a more welcoming atmosphere for Muslims and other female swimmers.

The change has been welcomed not only by Muslim women but also others. Katlin Lampke, for instance, told the Baltimore Sun, “During puberty, my body was changing. I was getting made fun of or hit on,” she said. “It was very embarrassing.” She stopped going.

“She was really uncomfortable,” said her mother, Amy Lampke, 46. “We both love the water, but the experience changed. When this came up …, I thought, ‘What a great idea.’”

Ali Khademhosseini honored with presidential award

Using fish cells to generate artificial muscles, a Harvard University professor is aiming to create functional tissues that could one day help robots move like living creatures.
Dr. Ali Khademhosseini’s work for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has earned him a spot among 94 scientists and engineers recently recognized by President Obama with the highest government award for young professionals on the cusp of promising independent research.

Coordinated by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is conferred annually upon researchers who are nominated by 16 federal agencies and departments.

Khademhosseini was one of nine PECASE selectees contributing breakthrough advances to ONR-funded programs. They each received a citation, a plaque and an opportunity to meet with the president in a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 14. The award comes with a potential five-year grant worth $200,000 annually to continue their research efforts.
“The most amazing part was meeting the president and getting to shake hands with him, and spending a few minutes talking with him. It was a totally unbelievable and unforgettable experience,” Khademhosseini said.

Faisal Khan named Chicago city council’s new legislative inspector

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago’s City Council has chosen Faisal Khan as its new legislative inspector.

Khan, 37, spent four years as a senior investigator for the Big Apple’s version of the Independent Police Review Authority and seven more as an assistant district attorney in Queens County. He served as New York City’s inspector general until September 2010.

He was selected after a rigorous process which initially had 170 applicants. 44 passed muster with the Department of Human Resources and 30 candidates were interviewed by a blue-ribbon selection committee that subsequently settled on Khan.

“You’ll be very surprised by him. He’ll be a very independent inspector general,” Ald. Dick Mell said after introducing Khan’s appointment at last week’s City Council meeting.
Khan has a bachelors degree in criminology from the State University of New Jersey and a JD from Brooklyn Law School.

Saba Ahmed switches support to Republican Party

Saba Ahmed, who recently ran in the Democratic primary for Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, has switched her support to Republican Party. Explaining her switch on her facebook page she wrote:
“(M)y conservative Islamic values (pro-life, pro-family values, pro-business) made it very hard for me to defend myself as a Democrat. George Bush advocated water boarding torture just like Obama advocated drone missiles. Both parties treat Muslims badly, which is why American economy is going bankrupt fighting Islam. Inshallah, I look forward to helping foster a better understanding of our faith…

And yes I was banned from the Oregon Tea Party and Washington County Republicans earlier this year because of my Islamic beliefs, but I have to believe there is room for learning. I have to try and make a place for myself even if i’m unwelcomed. I know several tea party republicans hate me because they somehow blame me for 9/11. But I know once we talk to each other, get to know one another, we can all heal together. Inshallah!”

Students demand resignation of professor for alleged remarks

CALUMET,IN–Students at Purdue University Calumet are asking for the resignation of one of the faculty members for his alleged anti-Muslim remarks. According to published reports Maurice associate professor of political science Moshe Eisenstein posted comments attached with a link to a YouTube video on his Facebook page on Nov. 6, where he asked for justice for the killings of black Christians in Nigeria while lashing out towards Muslims.

The video link was found by another PUC professor, which then started a heated debate between Eisenstein and PUC students via Facebook. On one of Facebook comments,Eisenstein allegedly  wrote that “Muslims are barbarians and that they are nothing more to me than dogs.” He further wrote that Muslims are “out to kill him,” the Chronicle reports.

Eisenstein has taught at PUC since 1993 and received tenure in 2000.

Students have also complained that he has a history of making such remarks and complaints were filed in the past.

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Clocks

October 24, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

tufailBefore the invention of mechanical clocks, timepieces used the sun’s motion or simple measurement devices to track time. The sundial may be the best known ancient keeper of time, and it is still manufactured as a popular garden accessory—but for its visual interest, not for practical time measurement. Stonehenge, the giant monument built of upright stones on the Salisbury Plain of Wiltshire, England, may have been used as a sundial and for other time and calendar purposes. Sundials have obvious disadvantages; they can’t be used indoors, at night, or on cloudy days.

Other simple measurement devices were used to mark time. Four basic types could be used indoors and regardless of the weather or time of day. The candle clock is a candle with lines drawn around it to mark units of time, usually hours. By observing how much of the length of a candle burned in one hour, a candle made of the same material was marked with lines showing one-hour intervals. An eight-hour candle showed that four hours had passed when it had burned down beyond four marks. The clock candle had the disadvantages that any changes in the wick or wax would alter burning properties, and it was highly subject to drafts. The Chinese also used a kind of candle clock with threads used to mark the time intervals. As the candle burned, the threads with metal balls on their ends fell so those in the room could hear the passage of the hours as the balls pinged on the tray holding the candle.

The oil lamp clock that was used through the eighteenth century was a variation and improvement on the candle clock. The oil lamp clock had divisions marked on a metal mount that encircled the glass reservoir containing the oil. As the level of oil fell in the reservoir, the passage of time was read from the markings on the mount. Like the candle clock, the oil lamp clock also provided light, but it was less prone to inaccuracies in materials or those caused by drafty rooms.

Water clocks were also used to mark the passage of time by allowing water to drip from one container into another. The marks of the sun’s motion were made on the first container, and, as water dripped out of it and into another basin, the drop in water level showed the passage of the hours. The second container was not always used to collect and recycle the water; some water clocks simply allowed the water to drip on the ground. When the eight-hour water clock was empty, eight hours had passed. The water clock is also known as the clepsydra.

Hourglasses (also called sand glasses and sand clocks) may have been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, but history can only document the fact that both cultures had the technology to make the glass. The first claims to sand glasses are credited to the Greeks in the third century b.c. History also suggests sand clocks were used in the Senate of ancient Rome to time speeches, and the hourglasses got smaller and smaller, possibly as an indication of the quality of the political speeches.

The hourglass first appeared in Europe in the eighth century, and may have been made by Luitprand, a monk at the cathedral in Chartres, France. By the early fourteenth century, the sand glass was used commonly in Italy. It appears to have been widely used throughout Western Europe from that time through 1500. The hourglass or sand clock follows exactly the same principle as the clepsydra. Two globes (also called phials or ampules) of glass are connected by a narrow throat so that sand (with relatively uniform grain size) flows from the upper globe to the lower. Hourglasses were made in different sizes based on pre-tested measurements of sand flow in different sizes of globes. A housing or frame that enclosed the globes could be fitted to the two globes to form a top and bottom for the hourglass and was used to invert the hourglass and start the flow of sand again. Some hourglasses or sets of hourglasses were set in a pivoted mount so they could be turned easily.

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Marvi Memon Program

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Uncle E’s “Evil Quad” Stopping Pakistan Spring

Houston TX–“We need a Naya Pakistan, a New Pakistan”. This was the theme of the presentation of former Member of Pakistani Parliament Marvi Memon, as she spoke in front of a large gathering of guests invited at the Junior League by the World Affairs Council and Shehzad Bashir. Ms. Memon talked about the relations between USA and Pakistan at an all-time low.

Marvi Memon served in the National Assembly of Pakistan from March 2008 to June 2011. She resigned from her party and parliament sighting the corruption and incompetence in those around her and frustration with the system. She has recently launched a movement for rights and is galvanizing Pakistani’s to reject old politics and embrace clean politics.

She aspired: “Pakistan Spring may not reach the 90% of the population living under Uncle E’s “Evil Quad” (feudal, bureaucrats, army, and religious extremists), but if each one of young  people with access to social networks reaches out to at least 10 countrymen with no access, the message can become widespread.”

In a recent article, Ms. Memon has written that we dream of a Pakistan where all provinces will be woven together, as one country by just equitable power and resource sharing, and respect for each others’ diversity. Where the principles of federation are practiced versus just stated. Where the provinces will come together because of the ethos of Pakistaniyat that is non-existent today; this ethos was built on ‘unity, faith, discipline’ and humanitarian values.

Where each district’s natural and human resources are recorded, projected, increased, harnessed for the district, for the province and then for Pakistan. Where development occurs as a result of the need for standardized services versus political influence. Where development works together with climate change challenges.

A Pakistan which will cater for the backwardness of certain geographical areas by intelligent use of quota systems bringing all of Pakistan at par within a stipulated timeframe.

Where there will be food security, energy security, and water security for all. Where the local government delivers clean water, sewerage lines, electricity, gas, schools, healthcare centers and all civic amenities at standardized quality and rates across Pakistan.

A Pakistan which will give the poor safety nets on merit, instead of making them beggars. Which will promote higher education, vocational training and provide a link between education and employment.

A Pakistan which will reduce external interference, protect its sovereignty and move out of the aid trappings into self-sufficiency. Which will identify the enemies of Pakistan and either neutralize them through negotiation or eliminate them through force. Which will enforce the writ of State, disallow private militia, extend crackdown on criminal gangs inside political parties, and be tough on separatist forces. Which will not allow its territory to be used for launching attacks on other countries, nor will it allow them to launch strikes inside its own territory by having better writ of State. Which will rid Pakistan of the foreign occupying neo-colonial forces fast.

A Pakistan which will make headway in resolving all outstanding neighboring disputes (including Kashmir) and spread peace within and without, with zero tolerance for double games. Which will promote the economic network of dependencies and encourage healthy bilateral economic ties with all strategic partners. Which will concentrate on resolving all disputes with its neighbours, so that economic efficiencies are eliminated, and more education, more health, and more trade become regional buzz words.

A Pakistan which will ensure that the military will be under Parliament. A military which will maintain nuclear deterrence and a respectable versus overbearing conventional force after the government has made progress towards resolving its outstanding disputes. Where the military will have all provinces equally represented, where its professionalism ensures a steel defense for Pakistan’s borders, and where its cuts ensure contribution to social indicators.

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Houston Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts First Phase of In-Kind Donation Drive has Started

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

2011-09-23T172505Z_869930222_GM1E79O044401_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN-FLOODS

A girl, displaced by floods, carries pots as she walks on the trunk of a tree floating in the water near her home in the Badin district of Pakistan’s Sindh province September 23, 2011. The latest floods, triggered by monsoon rains, have killed more than 230 people, destroyed or damaged 1.2 million houses and flooded 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) since late last month, officials and Western aid groups say. More than 300,000 people have been moved to shelters. Some 800,000 families hit by last year’s floods are still homeless. Aid groups have warned of a growing risk of fatal diseases.

REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Houston, Texas: Sindh Pakistan has been devastated by the most destructive floods in more than 51 Years. This calamity is even bigger than the Pakistani Floods 2010.

There are many “Blessings in Unity”. Keeping this in perspective, a united effort has been launched in the Greater Houston region to serve Sisters & Brothers in humanity in dire needs. More than thirty organizations and media partners have joined in the efforts and others are being encouraged to join this Alliance.

As the 1st phase of these efforts, collection of In-Kind donation items for Pakistan Floods 2011 victims started on Friday, September 23rd, 2011, and will continue every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday till October 16th, 2011 (can be extended if needed). Monetary Fundraising event(s) will be held sometimes in October 2011.

Mian Nazir, Coordinator of the In-Kind Donation Drive, can be reached at 1-713-922-8458. Following is the In-Kind donation items that patrons of humanity need to graciously bring (NO CLOTHES PLEASE):

High Energy Biscuits – Small Bags of Rice / Lentils / Beans / Salt / Sugar – Small Bottles of Cooking Oil – Snacks items like Chips, Natural Valley Trial Mix, Natural Oats ″N Honey, etc. – Family Tents (both normal and winterized) – Brand New Blankets & Comforters – Brand New Towels – Brand New Plastic Sheets – Mosquito Nets; preferably Long-Lasting Insecticides Treated Mosquito Nets (LLINs) – Hygiene Kits (each kit should include at the minimum one 10-litres water container like bucket for storage, two 250-grams bathing soap, two 200-grams laundry soap, one toothpaste 75-ml/100-g, four tooth brushes, etc.) – Water Purification Systems (preferably family water filter straw) – De-Watering Pumps – Water Purification Tablets – Medicines (over the counter pain, fever, & similar; iron supplements; vitamins; creams for rash & itch; bandages; etc.) – Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) – Storage Box Size 16-Inches x 12-Inches x 12-Inches (from Home Depot or U-Haul).

Also appeal to all the persons bringing the In-Kind donations to please contribute some amount like $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $200, or any amount that will help with the logistics of this In-Kind donation drive and will be used to send all of the In-Kind donation items to Pakistan.

Many volunteers are needed. Community Service Volunteer Hours Certificates and Refreshments will be provided to all the volunteers.

WHERE TO COME TO VOLUNTEER & BRING THE IN-KIND DONATION ITEMS

Pakistan Center, 12638 Bissonett (at South Dairy Ashford), Houston, Texas 77099

IN-KIND DONATION COLLECTION & VOLUNTEERIG SHIFTS

Fridays, September 30th, October 07th, & 14th, 2011: 5:30pm.-8:30pm. – Saturdays, October 01st, 08th, & 15th, 2011: 9:30am.-12:30pm / 1:30pm.-4:30pm. / 5:30pm.-8:30pm. – Sundays, October 02nd, 09th, 16th, 2011: 12-Noon-3:00pm. / 3:00pm.-6:00pm.

Everyone needs to volunteer and encourage others to volunteer, donate the In-Kind items, and give some monetary assistance to properly run this In-Kind donation drive. Involvement of members of all of Alliance’s organizations; and all Houstonians, including organizations’ patrons, other community-based organizations, honorable elected officials, mainstream media, and others; everyone’s participation is needed for this crucial humanitarian cause.

Corporate stores like Wal*Mart, Sam’s Club, Pharmaceutical Companies, and others can be approached and encouraged to participate and donate generously to assist the humanity in dire needs.
For more information, one can reach Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, 1-281-948-1840 / Talat Talpur, Treasurer of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, 1-832-594-2159 / ILyas Choudry, Secretary of Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts, 1-832-275-0786;

Alliance Members as of Monday, September 26th, 2011 are (in alphabetical order): 1) Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – 2) Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – 3) Hashoo Foundation USA – 4) Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – 5) HOPE – 6) Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – 7) Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – 8) Muslim Council of USA – 9) Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – 10) Pakistan Association of Golden Triangle (PAGT) – 11) Pakistani-American Society of Texas (PAST) – 12) Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – 13) Raindrop Helping Hands – 14) Raindrop Turkish House – 15) Red Cross – 16) Shifa Healthcare – 17) Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) – 18) Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – 19) Sun Charity – 20) The Citizens Foundation – 21) Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB)…
Media Partners: 1) Pakistan Chronicle – 2) Pakistan Journal – 3) Pakistan News – 4) Pakistan Post – 5) Pakistan Times – 6) Radio Houston – 7) Radio Light Of Islam – 8) Radio Music-in-the-Box – 9) Radio Naya Andaz – 10) Radio Sangeet…

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Houston’s Positive Response For Pakistan Floods 2011

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Formed in Houston:  “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”

pakistanSeveral community based organizations in Houston, Texas, USA; came together this past weekend, to establish a collaborative to serve the humanity in dire needs suffering from Floods 2011 in Pakistan. This body is named the “Alliance of Pakistan Floods Relief Efforts”; and its aims are to send monetary funds through members organizations working in the field in Sindh Pakistan, and to also send in-kind donations; all to benefit the humanity suffering from floods in Sindh Pakistan, where more than 7.50 million lives have been totally disturbed and projected to remain be disturbed in weeks and months to come.

Members of the Alliance as of Monday, September 19th, 2011 in alphabetical order are given below. More organizations are being approached and also being encouraged with this communiqué, to join this collaborative. For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh, Coordinator of the Alliance at 1-281-948-1840 and/or ILyas Hasan Choudry, Secretary of the Alliance at 1-832-275-0786):

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund 2011 – Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter – Hashoo Foundation USA – Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development (HHRD) – Houston-Istanbul Sister City Association (HISCA) – Houston-Karachi Sister City Association (HKSCA) – Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) – Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH) – Pakistani-American Council of Texas (PACT) – Pakistan Chamber of Commerce USA (PCC-USA) – Raindrop Helping Hands – Raindrop Turkish House – Red Cross – Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) – Sun Charity – Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB);

Media Partners: Pakistan Chronicle – Pakistan Journal – Pakistan News – Pakistan Times – Radio Houston – Radio Light Of Islam – Radio Shalimar – Muslim Observer…

The inaugural exploratory meeting started with recitation of Quran by Abdur Rauf Khan. After initial introductions of all the attendees, one of the persons, who had envisioned the idea of this Alliance, Saeed Sheikh talked about the importance and blessings in joint efforts to serve the humanity in dire needs in Pakistan due to the recent catastrophic floods.

ILyas Hasan Choudry gave an overall assessment of the damage in Sindh Pakistan due to these floods and ongoing efforts. He informed that these floods were different than last year, where floods came down from mountains giving time for people to relocate. Here rains came down in four spells, causing sudden and very high floods, which have never been seen in 51 years. So people did not get warning to relocate. Catastrophe is larger than last years’ flood, but somehow due to political, economical, and other natural & man-made catastrophes having hit Pakistan, USA and the world, media was late in picking up this news, especially the media in Pakistan.  Otherwise this tragedy had struck many people long time ago, like almost one month ago. 250+ persons died, 2.30-Million bales of cotton lost, almost all of the crops are destroyed in an area of  7-Millon Acres, more than 60,000 cattle heads perishing (whole livelihood of majority of common people in the area of twenty or more districts gone), and 750,000+ homes partially or completely destroyed. Water has come in so much quantity that it is projected by experts that it may take 30 to 45 days just for the water to recede. As such there is emergency relief work needed in terms of clean water, food, shelter, healthcare services, and psycho-social support for children, ladies, and elderly. After the first phase of one to two months, much long term rehabilitation will be needed. Local organizations at grassroots levels are working within the communities, where people are stranded due to water, while international NGOs with local offices are trying to bring people into cluster camps and providing their efforts.

Based on thorough discussion, following are the projects and programs that were decided for this alliance: Doing In-Kind donation drive for three to four weeks (and beyond if needed). Since the best possible facilities, including dock for container, are available at PAGH’s Pakistan Center located at 12638 Bissonett, Houston, Texas 77099, so that will the place to collect In-Kind donations.

Alliance will also organize joint monetary fundraising events, which may include a large scale underwritten dinner at a nice location, and one or two radio telethons, where people will be encouraged to donate towards the organizations of their choice, just like it was done at the time of the earthquake in Pakistan 2005. For the joint fundraising efforts, more organizations will be included that will become part of the list of organizations to receive the monetary donations for these joint fundraising efforts. As of Monday, September 19th, 2011, these organizations were identified to receive monetary funds raised during Alliance’s Events (more can be included later on): Pakistan Prime Minister Fund; Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) South Texas Chapter; Helping Hand [USA] For Relief & Development; Imran Khan Foundation (IKF); Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH); Raindrop Helping Hands; Sindhi Association of North America (SANA); Sun Charity; and Red Cross (included so as to give choice to larger American community to participate – someone from Red Cross will be approached before putting their name on the final list).

It was decided to have an initial working committee for the Alliance, and following persons were chosen with consensus – More persons will be included as the Alliance expands By the Grace of God: Saeed Sheikh (Coordinator), Talat Talpur (Treasurer), Mian Nazir (In-Kind Donation Coordinator), and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Secretary and Community & Media Outreach). Two persons, who are members of the Alliance Organizations; namely Bobby Refaie and Cristal Montanez Baylor will soon be in Pakistan; and during their stay in Pakistan, they will act as Liaison for the Alliance in Pakistan.

For more information, one can call Saeed Sheikh (Cell: 1-281-948-1840) and ILyas Hasan Choudry (Cell: 1-832-275-0786).

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Ramadan Acts of Worship Connect Us to the Suffering of Others

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

2011-08-04T173951Z_29123431_GM1E78504PT01_RTRMADP_3_KENYA

A Muslim prays in the open at the drought-hit Kulaley village in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, August 4, 2011. The drought, the worst in decades, has affected about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa. 

REUTERS/Stringer

For 30 days during the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan, healthy adult Muslims abstain from drinking a single drop of water or eating a bite of food, from before dawn until after the sun sets in the sky, as a religious obligation to God. Every year Muslims look forward to this test of faith with great longing. Last year I wrote a primer on fasting and Ramadan that can be found here.

Each fasting day during August will be a trial on my body and my spiritual resolve. With a decaffeinated, empty stomach, and a thirst that is difficult to tolerate, this act of fasting connects me to someone else. My fasting draws me to the story of a woman in Somalia who has been walking for miles to reach a refugee center; years of civil chaos combined with a devastating drought have ravaged her land, her body, and her children. The family is traveling through Eastern Africa, walking for miles on foot in brutal temperatures with hot, dust-filled wind blowing in their faces. She’ll thank God if they all make it alive to the feeding center. The baby she is carrying no longer gets milk from her breast; she feels him shrinking in her arms as she walks. The little hands of her other small children clutch at her with less and less strength, and their voices have become so weak it’s almost impossible to hear them above the howl of the wind. I hear her tell them that they must put their trust in God and keep moving. I feel her thirst as she utters words of prayer with every precious drop of water she goes without to give to her children for their survival.

My act of fasting brings empathy for her that is greater than any ordinary day; I can’t forget her story. I remember her when my head is dizzy with thirst after running out on a simple errand in triple-digit heat. I can step back into my air-conditioned home; she can’t. I won’t complain of my exhaustion from too little sleep because I know she won’t find a sheltering place to rest in the harsh landscape on her journey toward help. I’m hungry, but I can break my fast in a celebratory mood when the day is finished; I’ll take a cooling sip of clean, filtered water and literally feel it splash down in my empty gut at sundown. As I feel my body reviving, I remember the Somali woman’s fast has been going on since well-before Ramadan, and it will continue past the 30 days I will observe. She is forced into her suffering by circumstances beyond her control, and she is powerless to change them. She’s not thinking of me, but I’m praying for her.

As I slice up fruit to refresh my family after their 15 hours of fasting, I keep seeing the Somali woman. How can I set a table with food and water when she has none? How can I watch my teenagers laugh and express joy at a simple glass of water without thinking of the Somali woman’s broken heart when she has to tell her children she has nothing for them; the crops failed, the livestock died, and food prices have risen so high she has no way to feed them. The empathy for her suffering created by my act of fasting is only worth something to her — and to me — if I do something about it.

I can help make sure she has the ability to feed herself and the children through our Islam-mandated charity called zakat. Zakat is an almsgiving tax that every Muslim that has the means will pay this month. My husband and I will calculate our savings and pay roughly 2.5% of that savings to a charity we choose. We have decided to give our zakat to aid the Somali woman and her children, and the thousands like her. Our donation won’t make a dent in the suffering, but if every reader who has ever been hot, thirsty, or hungry, and has the ability to cool down, quench their thirst and fill their belly makes a donation to relief efforts in Eastern Africa, there may be some improvement in the situation. Our donations will allow these families to find some relief in the shade of a tent, drink clean water, and begin to revive their bodies with nourishment.

We are sending our donation to Islamic Relief because they have a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the United States, along with many more recognitions. Islamic Relief has been working in Eastern Africa for 20 years. They have medical camps, drought relief, and feeding programs already operating on the ground. You can find other charities that are also working in the Horn of Africa as well. Just make sure they have an established means of delivering food and aid where it’s needed.

Ramadan forces us to slow our lives down and focus on our worship, and our spirit. God has asked me to fast for His sake, but I am the one who needs it, because without it, it would be too easy to distance myself from the suffering of others. My Ramadan prayers go toward the relief workers who labor in unforgiving conditions for very little pay, and my sincerest prayers will go to the Somali lady who is my test from God during this holy month.

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The Summer Sizzle

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

sun-sky-lg-ua4ksuLast summer was one of the hottest on record for many parts of the Middle East with Kuwait having one of the most scorching summers ever. Forget about frying an egg on the sidewalk, in Kuwait you could roast an entire chicken on a garden wall or even a park bench. During the peak hours of the day, when the desert sun is at its most unforgiving peak, the streets of Kuwait are deserted leaving an entire nation looking like a ghost town. There really is not a whole lot to do outdoors when the mercury exceeds 100F and often reaches well above 115F. So where does everyone go?

For many of the denizens of Kuwait, hanging out in a heavily air-conditioned mall or catching Hollywood’s latest offering at a perfectly chilled movie theater complete with snacks is the best way to beat the scorching summer heat. For a very brave minority, who are willing to brave the heat, there are a limited number of water activities to engage in. Jet skiing and swimming, in the somewhat cool waters of Kuwait, are the top summer activities for adults and children alike. Many families wait until the sun goes down to hit the beaches of Kuwait and often spend the evening frolicking in the ocean despite there being limited lighting, no lifeguards on duty and razor sharp rocks just at the water’s edge.

One of the greatest pastimes during the summers in Kuwait is simply spending the day indoors at home. It might sound boring, but with a veritable smorgasbord of companies catering to people lounging around at home, the phrase “cabin fever” is meaningless. In Kuwait you can have just about anything, including the kitchen sink, delivered right to your door. Groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as donuts, pastries and ice cream are just a few of the edible items available for delivery. Electronic goods, designer perfumes, Swiss chocolates, high-end toiletries and even home appliances are some of the others.

For people wanting just a little bit more pampering and luxury in the comfort of their own home, without any of the fuss, teams of caterers will arrive at the door to cater a party or even prepare an elaborate barbeque right in the backyard. There is even a new delivery service available that provides “shisha” pipes for use at home complete with a server to light the charcoal. And if that’s not enough, why not have a team of manicurists and masseuses come over to pamper everyone in the home?

The summers may be hot in Kuwait, and while they absolutely do force a mass exodus of travelers who are seeking cooler temperatures, those left behind can still enjoy a little bit of luxury without even setting foot outdoors.

13-26

Islam, Muslims, and Cancer

June 23, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Something pretty important has come to my attention that probably should be discussed among Muslims. The sun. Admittedly, the sun is pretty central in our existence in this world. It has been found that most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is obtained in its natural form from sunshine. Medical science has found that people who are deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to become ill – in the long run, with cancer. In a way, humans are like plants. We will wilt, wither away, and eventually die without attention to certain physical things like adequate sunshine, water, exercise and of course nutrition.

The Muslim community has been very strict and frowning upon those who drink alcohol or smoke. But many public functions feature soda in  place of water. After low levels of sunshine, a high level of sugar in the blood is the second top cause of cancer. Soda in fact actually dehydrates you as it contains salt (sodium). Drinking soda is like drinking sea water in terms of how it replenishes you. It does not.

But getting back to the sunshine issue, how can Muslim women who wear hijab prevent themselves from wilting away from lack of Vitamin D? Fair women need to apply sunscreen to their faces to prevent redness, moles and brown blotches. Some husbands are so “sensitive,” they won’t even let their wives go out wearing sandals. It may be necessary for Islamic scholars to convene to discuss this issue that is causing widespread death in our community, which is the lack of sunshine, whether it’s because of too much computer use or because of women having nowhere to go outside in privacy.

In the medieval times, wealthy Muslims used to build a tall wall around their home so that the womenfolk could go outside in the garden uncovered without strangers passing by. But what about today? What about those of us that don’t have that kind of money? How do we get our Vitamin D? Surely a vitamin that is given off by the sun is a blessing from Allah that it would be a sin to deny. From personal experience I know that staying “in purdah” too long results in such Vitamin D deficiency. The immediate effects include erratic heartbeat, aching in the bones, and the vague panicky feeling that one is about to die, without knowing why. Even ten minutes a day inside a car will improve these types of symptoms, but surely Allah wants us to thrive, not just survive.

A scientific study in India showed that women who rarely leave their homes are deficient in Vitamin D, despite the fact that India is a very sunny country.

A shaykh I know used to tell women who felt a strong urge to go to the beach and swim, that they should travel to someplace where nobody knows them, wear a bathing suit just like everybody else, and therefore attract less attention to themselves.

For those of us not ready for this level of liberalism, perhaps it would be a good time to travel somewhere away from the city, where there are not a lot of people, take a walk on some nature path, and remove the hijab and long sleeves. In America’s vast and beautiful National Forests you can find secluded rivers in which to bathe unwatched, where you can commune with nature.

Now that the American Muslim community has come to terms with the importance of protecting reproductive health through modesty, we are hopefully also ready to come to terms with the fact that a woman cannot live her life never knowing the feeling of wind blowing through her hair. This is a human right, not just a desire. Science has proved it. If we don’t spend some regular time outdoors uncovered, we will die. This is the top cause of cancer, not drinking or smoking.

Another strong factor in the escalating cancer rate in America is use of cell phones. All cell phones emit radiation, as do the wireless phones inside the home. In fact, anything emitting electricity causes cancer. I know it’s hard, but we have to look at these factors. Maybe we should use cell phones for auto emergencies only and keep them turned off most of the time if possible. At the very least, we should keep them away from children, even when they are not in use. Within five feet of a cell phone is the most dangerous zone. We have to be aware of the dangers of cell phone use by children, because brain cancer is now the top cause of death in children, second only after accidents.

We have to be aware of so many things. Even worse than cell phones, pesticides cause cancer in humans. We must give up spraying the grass now! And try to avoid eating food that has been contaminated with pesticides, especially when it comes to dairy and meat products, because the cows collect all that poison within. Since the halal meat system is separate from the regular grocery store supply system, this could easily be accomplished – once the Muslims decide this is important.

Avoiding the immorality of television lifestyles is key to personal dignity. Yet, Muslims have a long way to go when it comes to demonstrating that our lifestyle is the most healthy lifestyle.

13-26

Dehydration

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Dehydration occurs because there is too much water lost, not enough water taken in, or most often a combination of the two.

•    Diarrhea: Diarrhea is the most common reason for a person to loose excess amounts of water. A significant amount of water can be lost with each bowel movement. Worldwide, more than four million children die each year because of dehydration from diarrhea.

•    Vomiting: Vomiting can also be a cause of fluid loss and it is difficult for a person to replace water by drinking it if they are unable to tolerate liquids.

•    Sweat: The body can lose significant amounts of water when it tries to cool itself by sweating. Whether the body is hot because of the environment (for example, working in a warm environment), intense exercising in a hot environment, or because a fever is present due to an infection; the body uses a significant amount of water in the form of sweat to cool itself. Depending upon weather conditions, a brisk walk may generate up to 16 ounces of sweat (a pound) to allow body cooling, and that water needs to be replaced.

•    Diabetes: In people with diabetes, elevated blood sugar levels cause sugar to spill into the urine and water then follows, which may cause significant dehydration. For this reason, frequent urination and excessive thirst are among the early symptoms of diabetes.

•    Burns: Burn victims become dehydrated because the damaged skin cannot prevent fluid from seeping out of the body. Other inflammatory diseases of the skin are also associated with fluid loss.

•    Inability to drink fluids: The inability to drink adequately is the other potential cause of dehydration. Whether it is the lack of availability of water or the lack of strength to drink adequate amounts, this, coupled with routine or extraordinary water losses can compound the degree of dehydration

Water is a critical element of the body, and adequate hydration is a must to allow the body to function. Up to 75% of the body’s weight is made up of water. Most of the water is found within the cells of the body (intracellular space). The rest is found in what is referred to as the extracellular space, which consists of the blood vessels (intravascular space) and the spaces between cells (interstitial space).

Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. The body is very dynamic and always changing. This is especially true with water in the body. We lose water routinely when we: breathe and humidified air leaves the body; sweat to cool the body; and urinate or have a bowel movement to rid the body of waste products.

In a normal day, a person has to drink a significant amount of water to replace this routine loss.

If intravascular (within the blood vessels) water is lost, the body can compensate somewhat by shifting water from within the cells into the blood vessels, but this is a very short-term solution. The body lives within a very narrow range of normal parameters, and signs and symptoms of dehydration will occur quickly if the water is not replenished.

The body is able to monitor the amount of fluid it needs to function. The thirst mechanism signals the body to drink water when the body is dry. As well, hormones like anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) work with the kidney to limit the amount of water lost in the urine when the body needs to conserve water.

Dehydration generally signifies the excess loss or deficiency of water in the body. It refers to deficiency of water in relation to other dissolved solutes. Along with water, several vital minerals called electrolytes are also lost when one is dehydrated. Water accounts for almost 2/3rd of the total body weight and is present both within the cells as well as in the intracellular spaces. Dehydration is a condition when the level of water in the body gets reduced below the level required for carrying out vital activities within the body. It occurs due to loss of water in greater amount than its intake. A considerable amount of water is lost from our bodies daily, due to activities like breathing, sweating and urination. So, we need to drink plenty of water in order to compensate for this loss and thereby prevent dehydration.

Symptoms
Dehydration is easily recognized by symptoms like thirst and reduction in the volume of urine or discharge of dark yellow colored urine. It also produces some other symptoms, such as dry mouth, headache, dizziness, sunken eyes, lethargy, increased heart rate and irritability. In addition to these, in infants, a sunken fontanel (soft spot on the head) can be an important indicator of dehydration. In severe cases, due to poor supply of blood to the brain and other parts of the body, confusion and weakness may occur. If remained untreated, it can lead to coma and organ failure.

Causes
There are a wide range of factors including many diseases, that can cause dehydration. Diarrhea is one of the most important causes leading to dehydration. In diarrhea, dehydration results from frequent discharge of loose or liquid feces. Dehydration resulting from diarrhea is the second most common cause of infant deaths throughout the world.

Sweating is a mechanism of cooling down the body and thereby maintaining body temperature. But it also involves significant loss of water from the body and hence can be a cause of dehydration. Vomiting, the expulsion of the contents of the stomach through the mouth can lead to excess loss of water. Besides, victims of severe burns may also experience dehydration due to loss of fluids. .

In addition to all these, diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, shigellosis and yellow fever can also cause dehydration. Large amounts of water are drained out of the body while exercising, playing sports and performing any other kind of strenuous activity, therefore the water or fluid balance of the body has to be maintained, to prevent dehydration.

Treatment and Prevention
Dehydration can be easily prevented as well as treated by replenishing the loss of fluid with adequate intake of water. The greater the amount of water lost from the body, the greater should the intake be. Besides water, one can also take rehydration fluids or solutions, especially in case of dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting. This will not only compensate the loss of water, but also the loss of important nutrients. Though dehydration can be easily treated with oral rehydration, sometimes intravenous administration of fluid may also be required, depending on the severity of the condition.

Dehydration, if neglected can lead to serious conditions, especially among infants and young children suffering from diarrhea. One needs to be more careful about babies and children as they tend to get easily dehydrated. An important indicator of dehydration is the frequency of urination and the nature of urine discharged. If the urine is dark yellow in color, along with a reduced frequency and volume of urine, then it can be an indicator of deficiency of water in the body. Whenever these signs are detected, body fluid should be immediately replenished by drinking water and other fluids containing important electrolytes like potassium and sodium.

Even when healthy, drink plenty of fluid every day. Drink more when the weather is hot or you are exercising.

Carefully monitor someone who is ill, especially an infant, child, or older adult. If you believe that dehydration is developing, consult a doctor before the person becomes moderately or severely dehydrated. Begin fluid replacement as soon as vomiting and diarrhea start — DO NOT wait for signs of dehydration.

Always encourage the person to drink during an illness, and remember that a person’s fluid needs are greater when that person has fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. The easiest signs to monitor are urine output (there should be frequent wet diapers or trips to the bathroom), saliva in the mouth, and tears when crying.

Drinking fluids is usually sufficient for mild dehydration. It is better to have frequent, small amounts of fluid (using a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or child) rather than trying to force large amounts of fluid at one time. Drinking too much fluid at once can bring on more vomiting.

Electrolyte solutions or freezer pops are especially effective. These are available at pharmacies. Sport drinks contain a lot of sugar and can cause or worsen diarrhea. In infants and children, avoid using water as the primary replacement fluid.

Intravenous fluids and hospitalization may be necessary for moderate to severe dehydration. The doctor will try to identify and then treat the cause of the dehydration.

Most cases of stomach viruses (also called viral gastroenteritis) tend to resolve on their own after a few days.

Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water or fluids, or both. Vomiting and diarrhea are common causes.

Infants and children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because of their smaller body weights and higher turnover of water and electrolytes. The elderly and those with illnesses are also at higher risk.

Dehydration is classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on how much of the body’s fluid is lost or not replenished. When severe, dehydration is a life-threatening emergency.

13-24

Stingray

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

The stingrays are a group of rays, cartilaginous fishes related to sharks. They are classified in the suborder Myliobatoidei of the order Myliobatiformes, and consist of eight families: Hexatrygonidae (sixgill stingray), Plesiobatidae (deepwater stingray), Urolophidae (stingarees), Urotrygonidae (round rays), Dasyatidae (whiptail stingrays), Potamotrygonidae (river stingrays), Gymnuridae (butterfly rays), and Myliobatidae (eagle rays).

Most stingrays have one or more barbed stings (modified from dermal denticles) on the tail, which is used exclusively in self-defense. The stinger may reach a length of approximately 35 cm, and its underside has two grooves with venom glands. The stinger is covered with a thin layer of skin, the integumentary sheath, in which the venom is concentrated. A few members of the suborder, such as the manta rays and the porcupine ray, have lost their stings.

Stingrays are common in coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters throughout the world, and also includes species found in warmer temperate oceans such as Dasyatis thetidis, and those found in the deep ocean such as Plesiobatis daviesi. The river stingrays, and a number of whiptail stingrays (such as the Niger stingray), are restricted to fresh water. Most myliobatoids are demersal, but some, such as the pelagic stingray and the eagle rays, are pelagic.

Stingrays do not aggressively attack humans, though stings do normally occur if a ray is accidentally stepped on. To avoid stepping on a stingray in shallow water, the water should be waded through with a shuffle. Alternatively, before wading, stones can be thrown into the water to scare stingrays away. Contact with the stinger causes local trauma (from the cut itself), pain, swelling, muscle cramps from the venom, and later may result in infection from bacteria. The injury is very painful, but seldom life-threatening unless the stinger pierces a vital area. The barb usually breaks off in the wound, and surgery may be required to remove the fragments.

13-23

Mulch

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ibntufail 5-23-11

Mulch, any material, usually organic, that is spread on the ground to protect the soil and the roots of plants from the effects of soil crusting, erosion, or freezing; it is also used to retard the growth of weeds. A mulch may be made of materials such as straw, sawdust, grass clippings, peat moss, leaves, or paper. For large areas under cultivation a tilled layer of soil serves the purpose of a mulch.

A layer of bark, peat moss, compost, shredded leaves, hay or straw, lawn clippings, gravel, paper, plastic, or other material spread over the soil around the base of plants. During the growing season, a mulch can help retard evaporation, inhibit weeds, and regulate soil temperature. In the winter, a mulch of evergreen boughs, coarse hay, or noncompacting leaves can help protect plants from heaving.

Organic mulches decay over time and are temporary. The way a particular organic mulch decomposes and reacts to wetting by rain and dew affects its usefulness.

Organic mulches can negatively affect plant growth when they are decomposed rapidly by bacteria and fungi, which require nitrogen that they remove from the surrounding soil. Organic mulches can mat down, forming a barrier that blocks water and air flow between the soil and the atmosphere. Some organic mulches can wick water from the soil to the surface, which can dry out the soil.

13-22

Worrisome Weather

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

sun-and-skyThe recent spate of tornadoes that destroyed thousands of lives in America’s Southeast and the recent burgeoning Mississippi River, which has already inundated its banks in one of the worst floods to occur in the state in more than 70 years, are just two examples of disturbing weather trends to occur this year. Many scientists attribute the severe weather to the effects of pollution and global warming. Other parts of the world have also experienced catastrophic weather patterns in recent years and the outlook appears to be worsening.

The arid desert regions of the Middle East make natural disasters, such as tornadoes and large-scale flooding, improbable. However, the heat of the desert sun is a formidable foe in the region as the scalding hot summer temperatures have only continued to ascend over the past few years. Last summer was one of the hottest, on record, in the region as a whole. This summer, meteorologists are predicting an even hotter summer in the Mideast region with some even saying that temperatures could reach 116 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Public safety is of the utmost concern during the scorching summer months. Most countries in the region do issue hot weather warnings, however much of the advice goes unheeded in specific sectors. In the construction industry, for example, construction workers are often forced to brave the hot conditions in order to make sure that deadlines are met. In summers past, countries like Kuwait and Oman, have grappled with horrific accidents as workers have fainted high atop construction sites and toppled to their deaths.

For this reason, one country is insisting upon new laws to protect workers from exploitation and harm during the unforgiving summer months. Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health (SCH) is going to great lengths to enforce special summer timings for outdoor workers in the country and plans to penalize any company that forces its employees to work outdoors during the peak hours of the sun. According to the head of Qatar’s Occupational Health Department (OHD), “Heat stress and falling from heights are the two major occupational health risks facing workers in Qatar. We have given the top priority to these two issues in our activities aimed to promote occupational health and safety. The guidelines on heat stress are part of this strategy. We are coordinating with the Ministry of Labor to ensure that the companies abide by the new guidelines.”

The SCH has also launched a campaign to educate both employees and company heads on recognizing the signs of heat stroke as well as measures that can be taken for a victim until medical assistance arrives.  A series of public service announcements will also air on state-run television to ensure that the public is prepared for the extraordinarily hot weather.

In a related development, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has recently recommended that Qatar begin harvesting rain water in the winter months to ensure an adequate supply of water the rest of the year. Despite the severe lack of water in most parts of the Middle East and predictions that the region will face harsh water shortages in the coming years, most countries have ignored the precious resource that harvested rainwater could most assuredly provide.

13-20

Arabian Sea Host to Rare Humpbacked Whales

April 28, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

humpback_2The Middle East is host to a veritable smorgasbord of treasures ranging from the Oud, or Arabian stringed instrument, to the finest breeds of horses in the world.  At the onset of this year Marine Scientist Robert Baldwin, in cooperation with the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), revealed that a rare species of humpbacked whale was discovered in the Arabian Sea specifically alongside the coast of Oman.

Baldwin led his own team of researchers in studying the new species, which has just recently been named the “Arabian Sea Humpback Whale” by the International Whaling Commission. The researchers were able to collect an immense amount of data including samples of DNA and more than 10,000 photographs of the whales in their natural habitat. They also studied behavioral and social patterns of the newly discovered mammals to better understand how to preserve and protect the species from harm. 

What makes the Arabian Sea Humpbacked Whales so unique from other whales is that they do not migrate. Other breeds of whales are nomads and regularly migrate in search of food, better water temperatures depending on the season and for breeding purposes. These whales prefer to stay close to home, off the coast of Oman, and will spend their lifetime in the exact same place. The Arabian Sea Humpbacked Whales must be able to fulfill all of the activities of a regular whale while never moving too far from home.

According to Baldwin, the newly discovered breed of whale is so unique that it is one of the most at risk whale species in the world. In a recent statement Baldwin said, “Not only are these whales distinct in this regard, but our recent research also indicates they are one of the smallest and potentially most vulnerable whale populations in the world.” The whales face threats both on land and in the sea in the form of pollution, urban development that often extends into the ocean with manmade islands, sea crafts and rising sea temperatures during the summer months that force the warm-blooded whales to marinate in water the temperature of soup.

Several of Oman’s ministries, including the Ministry of Fisheries, have vowed to take whatever measures necessary to protect the newly discovered national treasure. The Executive Director of ESO, Lamees Daar, recently was quoted as saying “Now, more than ever, we have a huge responsibility to keep our seas healthy and by working with both Ministries our combined efforts will have a greater impact on the protection and conservation of this species.”

In the interim the Omani-Based Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project, currently managed by Marine Scientist Andrew Wilson, will oversee the well being of the whales until more data is gathered and processed to determine the best course of action to ensure the longevity of the population.

13-18

Microorganisms

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Microorganisms are very tiny one-celled organisms, viruses, fungi, and bacteria, and are found everywhere in the world. They are found in all living things, plants and animal. There are more microorganisms on and inside your body than there are cells that make up your entire body. Microorganisms can live in the air, on land, and in fresh or salt water environments. Some of them, pathogens, can be harmful and causes diseases, but there are some microorganisms that are needed for living things to survive.

All of the living things, plant and animal, in earth’s environmental communities of forests, deserts, tundra, water, air, and all of the rest depend on the cryptobiotic crust or microbiotic layer in the soil. This is the layer of soil that most microbes live in. These microbe communities are made up of fungi, cyanobacteria and lichens. They look like a grayish cover on the ground when they are first forming, but do form in clumps of lichen that look like little hills after about 50 years of growth.

Microorganisms also are responsible for building fertile soil for plants to grow in. Microbes stick to the roots of plants and decompose dead organic matter into food for the plant to absorb. The plants that live and grow because of the microorganisms that live on them make a home for other animals to live in. Some microorganisms make people, animals, and plants sick, but others make people well and kill the bacteria on plants that make them sick. Drug companies that make medicines use hundreds of different microorganisms to make medicines that will help cure diseases. Human waste products are broken down into safer particles by some microorganism. Scientists are always looking for new ways to use microbes.

13-18

Roots explained, for kids

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial (growing above the ground) or aerating (growing up above the ground or especially above water). Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). So, it is better to define root as a part of a plant body that bears no leaves, and therefore also lacks nodes. There are also important internal structural differences between stems and roots.
The usually underground part of a seed plant body that originates usually from the hypocotyl, functions as an organ of absorption, aeration, and food storage or as a means of anchorage and support, and differs from a stem especially in lacking nodes, buds, and leaves
a part of the body of a plant that develops, typically, from the radicle and grows downward into the soil, anchoring the plant and absorbing nutriment and moisture.

•    Roots are the parts of plain that grow down into soil or water, anchoring it and soaking up all the water and minerals the plant needs to grow.
•    In some plants such as beetroots, the roots are also a food store.
•    When a seed begins to grow, its first root is called a primary root. This branches into secondary roots.
•    Roots are protected at the end by a thimble shaped root cap as they probe through the soil. How plants live
•    On every root there are tiny hairs that help it to take up water and minerals.
•    Some plants, such as carrots, have a single large root, called a taproot, with just a few fine roots branching off.
•    Some plants, such as grass, have lots of small roots, called fibrous roots, branching off in all directions.
•    Some kinds of orchid that live on trees have ‘aerial’ roots that cling to the branches.
•    Mistletoe has roots that penetrate its host tree.
•    Roots are delicious when boiled or pickled. The roots of the South African wild fig treecan grow 120 m down into the ground.

Early root growth is one of the functions of the apical meristem located near the tip of the root. The meristem cells more or less continuously divide, producing more meristem, root cap cells (these are sacrificed to protect the meristem), and undifferentiated root cells. The latter become the primary tissues of the root, first undergoing elongation, a process that pushes the root tip forward in the growing medium. Gradually these cells differentiate and mature into specialized cells of the root tissues.

Roots will generally grow in any direction where the correct environment of air, mineral nutrients and water exists to meet the plant’s needs. Roots will not grow in dry soil. Over time, given the right conditions, roots can crack foundations, snap water lines, and lift sidewalks. At germination, roots grow downward due to gravitropism, the growth mechanism of plants that also causes the shoot to grow upward. In some plants (such as ivy), the “root” actually clings to walls and structures.

Growth from apical meristems is known as primary growth, which encompasses all elongation. Secondary growthencompasses all growth in diameter, a major component of woody plant tissues and many nonwoody plants. For example, storage roots of sweet potato have secondary growth but are not woody. Secondary growth occurs at the lateral meristems, namely the vascular cambium and cork cambium. The former forms secondary xylem and secondary phloem, while the latter forms the periderm.

In plants with secondary growth, the vascular cambium, originating between the xylem and the phloem, forms a cylinder of tissue along the stem and root. The cambium layer forms new cells on both the inside and outside of the cambium cylinder, with those on the inside forming secondary xylem cells, and those on the outside forming secondary phloem cells. As secondary xylem accumulates, the “girth” (lateral dimensions) of the stem and root increases. As a result, tissues beyond the secondary phloem (including the epidermis and cortex, in many cases) tend to be pushed outward and are eventually “sloughed off” (shed).

At this point, the cork cambium begins to form the periderm, consisting of protective cork cells containing suberin. In roots, the cork cambium originates in the pericycle, a component of the vascular cylinder.

The vascular cambium produces new layers of secondary xylem annually. The xylem vessels are dead at maturity but are responsible for most water transport through the vascular tissue in stems and roots.

In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial (growing above the ground) or aerating (growing up above the ground or especially above water). Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). So, it is better to defineroot as a part of a plant body that bears no leaves, and therefore also lacks nodes. There are also important internal structural differences between stems and roots.

The first root that comes from a plant is called the radicle. The three major functions of roots are 1) absorption of water and inorganic nutrients, 2) anchoring of the plant body to the ground and 3) storage of food and nutrients. In response to the concentration of nutrients, roots also synthesisecytokinin, which acts as a signal as to how fast the shoots can grow. Roots often function in storage of food and nutrients. The roots of most vascular plant species enter into symbiosis with certain fungi to form mycorrhizas, and a large range of other organisms includingbacteria also closely associate with roots.

In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial (growing above the ground) or aerating (growing up above the ground or especially above water). Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). So, it is better to defineroot as a part of a plant body that bears no leaves, and therefore also lacks nodes. There are also important internal structural differences between stems and roots.

The first root that comes from a plant is called the radicle. The three major functions of roots are 1) absorption of water and inorganic nutrients, 2) anchoring of the plant body to the ground and 3) storage of food and nutrients. In response to the concentration of nutrients, roots also synthesisecytokinin, which acts as a signal as to how fast the shoots can grow. Roots often function in storage of food and nutrients. The roots of most vascular plant species enter into symbiosis with certain fungi to form mycorrhizas, and a large range of other organisms includingbacteria also closely associate with roots.

The distribution of vascular plant roots within soil depends on plant form, the spatial and temporal availability of water and nutrients, and the physical properties of the soil. The deepest roots are generally found in deserts and temperate coniferous forests; the shallowest in tundra, boreal forest and temperate grasslands. The deepest observed living root, at least 60 m below the ground surface, was observed during the excavation of an open-pit mine in Arizona, USA. Some roots can grow as deep as the tree is high. The majority of roots on most plants are however found relatively close to the surface where nutrient availability and aeration are more favourable for growth. Rooting depth may be physically restricted by rock or compacted soil close below the surface, or by anaerobic soil conditions.

When dissected, the arrangement of the cells in a root is root hair, epidermis, epiblem, cortex, endodermis, pericycle and lastly the xylem vessel in the centre of a root to transport the water absorbed by the root to other places of the plant.

In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial (growing above the ground) or aerating (growing up above the ground or especially above water). Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either (see rhizome). So, it is better to define root as a part of a plant body that bears no leaves, and therefore also lacks nodes.

13-15

War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

12-20

Bottled Water Sales Banned at Ottawa Campus

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Emily Chung, CBC News

Thirsty students won’t be able to buy bottled water from vending machines, food outlets or stores at the University of Ottawa starting Sept. 1.

That is when a ban on the sale of bottled water goes into effect across campus, the university announced Wednesday, the eve of Earth Day.

Pierre De Gagné, assistant director of engineering and sustainable development at the University of Ottawa’s infrastructure department, said the move is intended to encourage students to drink free, healthy tap water and reduce plastic bottle waste.

Michèle Lamarche, vice-president of student affairs at the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, said the move was largely driven by students, who have been working with the university to bring in the ban for more than a year.

Contract issues

Initially, she said, the university was concerned about upgrades to water fountains that would need to be made, as well as contracts with food services and vending machine companies that sell bottled water.

Many food outlets on campus didn’t even have water fountains nearby, she said.

Bottled water bans

In 2009, the University of Winnipeg, Memorial University in St. John’s, and Brandon University in Manitoba all announced they were banning bottled water sales on campus.

The University of Ottawa says it is the first university in Ontario to do so. Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., announced earlier in April that it will phase in a bottled water sale ban as it renegotiates food and vending machine contracts over the next few years.

Twenty universities in Ontario participated in Bottled Water-Free Day on March 11.

“Why have a water fountain outside when they can get people to buy the water bottle inside?” she asked.

De Gagné said he was surprised how quickly the university’s food services staff managed to renegotiate with their suppliers to drop bottled water.

“It all happened through a lot of good will, I guess, and a lot of long-range thinking.”

He did not know the details of the renegotiated deals.

In preparation for the ban, the university said, it has spent more than $100,000 since 2008 to improve the availability of tap water by:

* Adding goose necks to about 75 water fountains to make it easier to fill reusable bottles.
* Installing new fountains near food service outlets.
* Upgrading existing fountains with features including wheelchair accessibility, stronger pressure and better refrigeration.

Lamarche said the student federation is also doing its part by giving away hundreds of reusable bottles. It will also be selling the reusable bottles at the student-run convenience store for around the same price as a regular disposable bottle of water. And it will be installing a bank of water fountains with goose necks in the store itself.

Maps, signage on the way

Both the student federation and the university are working on maps and signage similar to washroom signage to indicate where water fountains are located. Neither Lamarche nor De Gagné thought students thought the ban would encourage thirsty students to choose pop instead of water.

“It won’t reside anymore in the same machine as pop, but it won’t be far away,” De Gagné said.

Lamarche said drinking water issues are very personal for her because she is an archeology student who spends her summers working in the Middle East. There, drinking water isn’t readily available, she said.

“The more we buy bottled water in North America, the more we say it’s OK to charge people for something that should be free or really really cheap,” she said. “And then governments say why do we have to worry about water infrastructure if they can buy water?”

12-18

Islands

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

ibn tufail 4-25-10

An island or isle is any piece of land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atollsare called islets. A key or cay is another name for a small island or islet. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago.

An island may still be described as such despite the presence of a land bridge, for example Singapore and its causeway, or the various Dutch delta islands, such as IJsselmonde. Some places may even retain “island” in their names for historical reasons after being connected to a larger landmass by a wide land bridge, such as Coney Island.

There are two main types of islands: continental islands and oceanic islands. There are also artificial islands. There is no standard of size which distinguishes islands from islets and continents.

The word island comes from Old English igland (from ‘ig’, similarly meaning ‘island’ when used independently, and -land carrying its contemporary meaning). However, the spelling of the word was modified in the 15th century by association with the etymologically unrelated Old French loanword isle, which itself comes from the latin word insula. Old English ‘ig’ is actually a cognate of Latin aqua(water).

Continental islands are bodies of land that lie on the continental shelf of a continent. Examples include Greenland and Sable Island off North America;Barbados and Trinidad off South America; Great Britain, Ireland and Sicily offEurope; Sumatra, Borneo and Java off Asia; and New Guinea, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island off Australia.

A special type of continental island is the microcontinental island, which results when a continent is rifted. Examples are Madagascar and Socotra offAfrica; New Zealand; the Kerguelen Islands; and some of the Seychelles.

Another subtype is an island or bar formed by deposition of tiny rocks where a water current loses some of its carrying capacity. An example is barrier islands, which are accumulations of sand deposited by sea currents on the continental shelf. Another example is islands in river deltas or in large rivers. While some are transitory and may disappear if the volume or speed of the current changes, others are stable and long-lived. Islets are very small islands.

12-18

The Dying West Bank

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Robert Fisk, from Jiftlik

Area C doesn’t sound very ominous. A land of stone-sprinkled grey hills and soft green valleys, it’s part of the wreckage of the equally wrecked Oslo Agreement, accounting for 60 per cent of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that was eventually supposed to be handed over to its Palestinian inhabitants.

But look at the statistics and leaf through the pile of demolition orders lying on the table in front of Abed Kasab, head of the village council in Jiftlik, and it all looks like ethnic cleansing via bureaucracy. Perverse might be the word for the paperwork involved. Obscene appear to be the results.

Palestinian houses that cannot be permitted to stand, roofs that must be taken down, wells closed, sewage systems demolished; in one village, I even saw a primitive electricity system in which Palestinians must sink their electrical poles cemented into concrete blocks standing on the surface of the dirt road. To place the poles in the earth would ensure their destruction – no Palestinian can dig a hole more than 40cm below the ground.

But let’s return to the bureaucracy. “Ro’i” – if that is indeed the Israeli official’s name, for it is difficult to decipher – signed a batch of demolition papers for Jiftlik last December, all duly delivered, in Arabic and Hebrew, to Mr Kasab. There are 21 of them, running – non-sequentially – from numbers 143912 through 145059, all from “The High Planning Council Monitoring [sic] Sub-Committee of the Civil Administration for the Area of Judea and Samaria”. Judea and Samaria – for ordinary folk – is the occupied West Bank. The first communication is dated 8 December, 2009, the last 17 December.

And as Mr Kasab puts it, that’s the least of his problems. Palestinian requests to build houses are either delayed for years or refused; houses built without permission are ruthlessly torn down; corrugated iron roofs have to be camouflaged with plastic sheets in the hope the “Civil Administration” won’t deem them an extra floor – in which case “Ro’i’s” lads will be round to rip the lot off the top of the house.

In Area C, there are up to 150,000 Palestinians and 300,000 Jewish colonists living – illegally under international law – in 120 official settlements and 100 “unapproved” settlements or, in the language we must use these days, “illegal outposts”; illegal under Israeli as well as international law, that is – as opposed to the 120 internationally illegal colonies which are legal under Israeli law. Jewish settlers, needless to say, don’t have problems with planning permission.

The winter sun blazes through the door of Mr Kasab’s office and cigarette smoke drifts through the room as the angry men of Jiftlik shout their grievances. “I don’t mind if you print my name, I am so angry, I will take the consequences,” he says. “Breathing is the only thing we don’t need a permit for yet!” The rhetoric is tired, but the fury is real. “Buildings, new roads, reservoirs, we have been waiting three years to get permits. We cannot get a permit for a new health clinic. We are short of water for both human and agricultural use. Getting permission to rehabilitate the water system costs 70,000 Israeli shekels [about £14,000] it costs more than the rehabilitation system itself.”

A drive along the wild roads of Area C – from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the semi-humid basin of the Jordan valley – runs through dark hills and bare, stony valleys lined with deep, ancient caves, until, further east, lie the fields of the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers’ palm groves – electrified fences round the groves – and the mud or stone huts of Palestinian sheep farmers. This paradise is a double illusion. One group of inhabitants, the Israelis, may remember their history and live in paradise. The smaller group, the Palestinian Arabs, are able to look across these wonderful lands and remember their history – but they are already out of paradise and into limbo.

Even the western NGOs working in Area C find their work for Palestinians blocked by the Israelis. This is not just a “hitch” in the “peace process” – whatever that is – but an international scandal. Oxfam, for example, asked the Israelis for a permit to build a 300m2 capacity below-ground reservoir along with 700m of underground 4in pipes for the thousands of Palestinians living around Jiftlik. It was refused. They then gave notice that they intended to construct an above-ground installation of two glass-fibre tanks, an above-ground pipe and booster pump. They were told they would need a permit even though the pipes were above ground – and they were refused a permit. As a last resort, Oxfam is now distributing rooftop water tanks.

I came across an even more outrageous example of this apartheid-by-permit in the village of Zbeidat, where the European Union’s humanitarian aid division installed 18 waste water systems to prevent the hamlet’s vile-smelling sewage running through the gardens and across the main road into the fields. The £80,000 system a series of 40ft shafts regularly flushed out by sewage trucks was duly installed because the location lay inside Area B, where no planning permission was required.

Yet now the aid workers have been told by the Israelis that work “must stop” on six of the 18 shafts a prelude to their demolition, although already they are already built beside the road because part of the village stands in Area C. Needless to say, no one neither Palestinians nor Israelis knows the exact borderline between B and C. Thus around £20,000 of European money has been thrown away by the Israeli “Civil Administration.”

But in one way, this storm of permission and non-permission papers is intended to obscure the terrible reality of Area C. Many Israeli activists as well as western NGOs suspect Israel intends to force the Palestinians here to leave their lands and homes and villages and depart into the wretchedness of Areas B and A. B is jointly controlled by Israeli military and civil authorities and Palestinian police, and A by the witless Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. Thus would the Palestinians be left to argue over a mere 40 per cent of the occupied West Bank – in itself a tiny fraction of the 22 per cent of Mandated Palestine over which the equally useless Yasser Arafat once hoped to rule. Add to this the designation of 18 per cent of Area C as “closed military areas” by the Israelis and add another 3 per cent preposterously designated as a “nature reserve” – it would be interesting to know what kind of animals roam there – and the result is simple: even without demolition orders, Palestinians cannot build in 70 per cent of Area C.

Along one road, I discovered a series of large concrete blocks erected by the Israeli army in front of Palestinian shacks. “Danger – Firing Area” was printed on each in Hebrew, Arabic and English. “Entrance Forbidden.” What are the Palestinians living here supposed to do? Area C, it should be added, is the richest of the occupied Palestinian lands, with cheese production and animal farms. Many of the 5,000 souls in Jiftlik have been refugees already, their families fled lands to the west of Jerusalem – in present-day Israel – in 1947 and 1948. Their tragedy has not yet ended, of course. What price Palestine?

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