Sunday, August 16, 2009

Imagine this: two older guys intercept two preteen girls on their way to school and punish them (for wanting to go to school) by splashing hydrochloric acid in their faces. The girls' lives are ruined forever. This news item was in the Sunday paper today. Location: somewhere in Afghanistan. Perpetuators: Taliban. An apology will not be forthcoming. The guys will not be ostracized. The clerics will not issue a fatwa condemning this action. It will happen again and again and again.

Aug. 12, 2009: Al Arabya reports that the ban [in Egypt of female circumcision] has been criticized by the Muslim Brotherhood and independent politicians who argue that it is part of Sharia law, but Egyptian lawmakers said it was a cultural, not Islamic, practice and the government is committed to protecting Egyptian children.

Feel free to interpret.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"All the best from sunny Georgia" was what he wrote on Friday in his last e-mail to me. Ben Teague was shot to death yesterday afternoon at his beloved Athens Community Theater, where he had designed and built sets in his spare time for the Town and Gown Players for 18 years. The performance of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" planned for that evening was canceled.

Ben is without a doubt the best technical translator I have ever known. I deeply respected his wisdom, circumspection, and profound knowledge of a vast range of scientific disciplines. What made him special was a remarkable ability to enrich otherwise stodgy texts with his own brand of eloquence. He leaves a gap that can't be filled.

Sunday, November 8, 2008

I am elated that Barack Obama won the election. In Boston, there were plenty of opportunities to watch the campaigning and take in the rhetoric on both sides. Barack was called a socialist, a Marxist, an Arab, a Muslim, a demon, an anti-Semite, a dangerous person, and lots of other names. In reference to the Middle East conflict, it seems like a good time to revisit some of the resolutions (UN and domestic) that were designed to bring peace to this region. Foreign Minister Livni should rethink her stance rather than lambaste Obama for suggesting he might want to talk to Iran. At any rate, Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) as White House Chief of Staff is perfect.

Also, I am delighted that the lady who can see Russia from her house and who allegedly does not know the difference between Africa and South Africa will not be a potential president of the USA until 2012.

When Bill Clinton left office, the USA had a sizeable budget surplus. Now, Obama has to deal with the largest deficit America has ever accrued, and with the worst stock market status since the Great Depression ... not to mention two idiotic wars that cost the USA billions of dollars every month. I wish the president-elect all the best and will refrain from further comments.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

As every day, I took in the news this morning and watched a videoclip of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (43) accepting the mayorship of London. Born in New York and an American citizen until recently, the former Editor of The Spectator is of Turkish descent and says his children are a quarter Indian – a perfect lineage for a mayor of London, probably the world's most hospitable and non-xenophobic city. The clip shows him vowing to get to work right away to make London a better city.

On the side, I read the factoids about Mugabe and the Zimbabwe run-off, the McCain/Obama/Clinton thing and the gas tax holiday, more news about tainted food and blood thinners, the Tibet/China issue, the alleged recovery of the financial industry and the economy in general, and lots of other stuff. I resisted the temptation to click on the links to news about Mariah Carey, Josef Fritzl, Maddie McCann, and Grand Theft Auto or the stories entitled Bush seeks more food aid for poor countries and Terrorism deaths rose in 2007.

When I watched and heard Boris Johnson speak, it again became clear that everyone knows what the world really needs: more respect, decency, TLC, discipline, solidarity, kindness, and honesty. Less greed, corruption, religious fanaticism, egomania, and fewer weapons. Unfortunately, I don't think need fulfillment is going to happen. It's too comfortable to just let things play out and then blame whoever happens to be in the line of fire when something goes seriously awry. There's too much might and money involved in the world's political hotspots for anyone to develop working solutions without leveraging even more pork and more clout than the powers that be – where's the White Mafia?

Monday, April 28, 2008

“All we do is we kill the Ethiopians, we don’t kill civilians.” BBC News today quoted Muktar Ali Robow, an al-Shabab (The Youth) commander in Somalia, who also said that “the difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is praying five times”. Somalia has some of the finest beaches to be found anywhere in the world. Green tourism could flourish here and create jobs. What a waste of youth and natural resources. I can only hope that Mr. Robow's rationale isn't typical for all of Somalia and that some positive thinkers live there, too.

The Sunday newspaper was packed with sad news. According to an as yet unpublished University of Zürich study, 63% of all Swiss boys (and second-gen emigrants) aged 12 to 16 regularly watch you-know-what-kind-of video content on their cell phones (not to mention on their PCs at home), with an alarming portion involving animals. Violence is among their favorite subjects, too. This readily available material is poisoning an entire generation. It is commonly known that “adult” content can be addictive for adults. Just think of how it changes perceptions in adolescents.

It has been found that quite a few staple foods sold in Switzerland, such as apples, bell peppers, and grapes, exhibit pesticide residues that exceed the acute reference dose by as much as 935% – very bad news for children. A spokesperson of a subsidized “consumer group” says adults are not at risk and laconically suggests that people who are worried about this should switch to organically grown produce. Considering that vast amounts of corn are being converted into “biofuel” for Hummers (a metaphor) instead of being eaten, the pesticide story is fairly moot. Besides, we're getting quite used to tainted food in general, given all the recalls (just enter "food scandals" in Google). Perhaps the human organism can adjust to everything, even to bisphenol A and hormones in our drinking water. But don't forget that a lot of antibiotics aren't working any longer. Bacteria are adjusting, too. Maybe they are aiming for tabula rasa? That would eliminate the need for bombs.

According to my Sunday newspaper, a Swiss man is allegedly involved in an Israeli firm that ships arms from Serbia to Iraq (officially, the weapons in question were destroyed in Albania). That might just be the tip of an iceberg. The arms could, potentially, be transferred from Iraq to Palestine. That would be a very interesting constellation indeed, but let’s assume that this is not the case. If it were, a country under siege might possibly be supplying its aggressive neighbor with the very rockets fired into its territory. No, that can’t be, can it? Meanwhile, I’m glad that China’s arms shipment to landlocked Zimbabwe didn’t arrive. Mr. Mugabe might have been tempted to use them. Somalia is not landlocked. Maybe we’d better keep an eye on that ship.

I keep thinking about all the magnificent things that could get accomplished with taxpayers' money if their governments didn't spend so much on wars and weapons. It's depressing. Back to work.

Later:

The deeply religious parents (members of the "Unleavened Bread Ministries" [sic]) of an 11-year old Wisconsin girl who prayed instead of seeking medical help for their diabetic child are facing homicide charges in connection with her death due to diabetic ketoacidosis. This message was carried on abcnews.go.com which invited readers to submit comments. Quite a few contributors felt that this was acceptable behavior in the context of freedom of religion. Shocking ... both things.

Even later:

There's so much news and op-ed around that it's easy to miss, on a day-to-day basis, the stuff that's really worth reading. Here's a nice piece by Thomas L. Friedman on the Bush administration's energy policy [go there].

By the way, if anyone knows the whereabouts of Robert Heward, formerly of wavepowersolutions and glacier isle water, please let me know.

Flashback

Google News is an eclectic and continuously updated source of information from around the globe. One of its features is the Most Popular section. This was favorite reading around 8 am on May 5, 2008:

Lawyer says Austrian incest father "a broken man"
Those Miley Cyrus pics develop into a debate
Death of Eight Belles leaves cloud over race track
"Grand Theft Auto" simplifies song purchasing
Mystery over Mariah wedding story
Zimbabwe teachers threaten strike

In a way, that says a lot about what interests the general public.

Antibiotics are given to animals without a prescription to speed up the animals’ growth and to compensate for the crowded, stressful, and often unsanitary conditions on industrial-scale farms. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70% of the antibiotics and related drugs used in the U.S. are added to the feed of chicken, hogs, and beef cattle. This practice spurs the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is transferred to people through our food, air and water.
Thomas L Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.