Saturday, December 31, 2011

The 50 Most Inspiring Travel Quotes Of All Time

Feet in the sand1. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
2. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
3. “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
4. “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
5. “All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” – Paul Fussell
6. “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac
7. “He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb
8. “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes
9. “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
10. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang
11. “Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” – Aldous Huxley
12. “All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.” – Samuel Johnson
13. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
14. “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
15. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
16″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi
17. “When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” – D. H. Lawrence
18. “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark
19. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
20. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
Na Pali Coast21. “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
22. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru
23. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux
24. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
25. “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
26. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost
27. “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
28. “There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.” – Charles Dudley Warner
29. “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
30. “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener
31. “The journey not the arrival matters.” – T. S. Eliot
32. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill
33. “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain
34. “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
35. “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
36. “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli
37. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
38. “Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation.” – Elizabeth Drew
39. “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”……Anatole France
40. “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
41. “What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon
42. “I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith
43. “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley
44. “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark
45. “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling
46. “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux
47. “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G. K. Chesterton
48. “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman
49. “A wise traveler never despises his own country.” – Carlo Goldoni
50. “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

18 Secrets for a Longer Life

Illustration of dna and chromosones

Protect Your DNA

As we age, the ends of our chromosomes -- called telomeres -- become shorter. This makes people more vulnerable to disease. You might think there's nothing you can do, but new research suggests otherwise. In a pilot study, lifestyle changes boosted an enzyme that increases telomere length. Other studies also find diet and exercise can protect telomeres. So healthy habits may slow aging at the cellular level.

Be Conscientious

An 80-year study found one of the best predictors of a long life is a conscientious personality. Researchers measured attributes like attention to detail and persistence. They found that conscientious people do more things to protect their health and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers.

Make Friends

Science has given you one more reason to be grateful for your friends – they might help you live longer. Australian researchers found elderly social butterflies were less likely to die over a 10-year period compared to people with the fewest friends. Another analysis of results from 148 studies supports the link between plentiful social connections and longevity.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Your friends’ habits rub off on you, so look for companions with healthy lifestyles. Studies indicate obesity is socially “contagious" –  your chance of becoming obese increases by 57% if you have a friend who becomes obese. Smoking is another habit that spreads through social ties, but the good news is that quitting is also contagious.

Cigarette butts in ashtray

Quit Smoking

While it's no secret that giving up cigarettes can lengthen your days -- the amount of extra time may surprise you. According to a 50-year British study, quitting at age 30 could increase your lifespan by an entire decade. Kicking the habit at age 40, 50, or 60 boosts life expectancy by 9, 6, or 3 years, respectively.

Embrace the Siesta

A siesta is standard in many parts of the world, and now there's scientific evidence that napping may help you live longer. A recent study with 24,000 participants suggests that regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than occasional nappers. Researchers think naps might help your heart by keeping stress hormones down.

Fresh snapper and vegetable salad

Follow a Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish. An analysis of 50 studies involving more than half a million people shows the impressive benefits of this diet. The findings show it significantly lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome – a combination of obesity, elevated blood sugar, increased blood pressure, and other factors that raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Sushi with chopsticks

Eat Like an Okinawan

The people of Okinawa, Japan once had the longest life expectancy in the world. Researchers attribute this to the region's traditional diet, which is high in green and yellow vegetables and low in calories. Some Okinawans make a habit of eating only 80% of the food on their plate. As younger generations have veered from these traditions, life expectancy in Okinawa has fallen.

Get Married

Several studies show that married people tend to outlive their single counterparts. Many researchers attribute the difference to the social and economic support marriage provides. While a current marriage offers the greatest benefit, people who are divorced or widowed have lower mortality rates than those who have never been married.

Lose Weight

If you're overweight, slimming down can protect against diabetes, heart disease, and other life-shortening conditions. Belly fat appears to be particularly harmful, so focus on deflating that spare tire. A 5-year study of Hispanics and African-Americans suggests eating more fiber and exercising regularly are effective ways to reduce belly fat.

Keep Moving

The evidence is overwhelming – people who exercise live longer on average than those who don't. According to dozens of studies, regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and depression. Exercise may even help you stay mentally sharp in your old age. Ten-minute spurts of activity are fine, as long as they add up to about 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week.

Get Spiritual

Research suggests people who attend religious services tend to live longer than people who never attend. In a 12-year study of people over age 65, those who attended services more than once a week had higher levels of a key immune system protein than their peers who attended no services. They were also significantly less likely to die during the study period. The strong social network that develops among people who worship together


Letting go of grudges has surprising physical health benefits. Chronic anger is linked to decreased lung function, heart disease, stroke, and other ailments. Forgiveness will reduce anxiety, lower your blood pressure, and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Use Safety Gear

Accidents are the fifth most common cause of death in the U.S., and the top cause of death for people ages 1 to 24. Wearing safety gear is a simple way to boost your odds of a long life. In the event of a motor vehicle crash, seatbelts reduce the risk of death or serious injury by 50%. In bike accidents, most deaths are caused by head injuries, so always wear your helmet.

Make Sleep a Priority

Getting enough good quality sleep can lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders. Sufficient sleep will also help you recover from illness faster. Burning the midnight oil, on the other hand, carries serious health risks. Sleeping less than 5 hours per night boosts the risk of premature death, so make sleep a priority.

Manage Stress

Dean Ornish, MD, has published research suggesting that lifestyle changes including stress management not only help prevent heart disease, but may actually reverse it. Although avoiding stress is not a viable option for most people, there are effective ways to control it. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference.

Maintain a Sense of Purpose

Finding hobbies and activities that have meaning for you may contribute to a long life. Japanese researchers found men with a strong sense of purpose were less likely to die from stroke, heart disease, or other causes over a 13-year period compared to those with a low sense of purpose. Another study at Rush University Medical Center indicates that having a greater sense of purpose is linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Drink in Moderation

Heart disease is less common in moderate drinkers than in people who don't drink at all. But keep in mind that too much alcohol pads the belly, boosts blood pressure, and can cause a host of other health problems. The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. But if you don't drink, don't start. There are many other ways of protecting your heart.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Camel Milk May Be Answer to Diabetes?

It has been scientifically proven that gulping down camel milk daily would supplement 60 to 70 per cent of insulin in Type I diabetics.

India is sitting on the world diabetes throne with the maximum number of diabetics across the globe. Yet in the arid sand dunes of Rajasthan, there is a tribe of camel breeders called Raicas who are immune to this condition, thanks to a staple item on their daily menu, camel milk.

According to the research conducted at the Diabetes Care and Research Centre, SP Medical College Bikaner, a litre of camel milk contains about 52 units of insulin.

“These units in camel milk are not neutralized by the acidic juices in the stomach, unlike other forms of orally administered insulin,” said Mr RP Agrawal, director, Diabetes Care and Research Centre, Bikaner.

It has been scientifically proven that gulping down camel milk daily would supplement 60 to 70 per cent of insulin in Type I diabetics.

The research on the project had begun with the Raica community as the base model. An initial survey revealed zero prevalence among the Raicas in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, while the rest of the tribe members in the same region who do not like camel milk but have similar lifestyles, had five to six per cent prevalence. Camel milk was successfully tested on albino rats clinically induced with diabetes. Later, similar tests were conducted on more than 50 individuals with Type I and Type II diabetes for more than two years, resulting in a drastic fall in their blood sugar levels.

“A Type I diabetic who needs 20 units of insulin annually can bring this down to six to seven units with regular intake of camel milk,” he said. Both camel milk and this batch of researchers from Bikaner are yet to get their due in their own diabetes-infested country. But they have featured in many international journals and research publications and even been recommended by the American Diabetes Association.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently recognized this unique discovery which could provide an effective relief to scores of diabetics in the country.
"Sadly, most of the people in our country are unaware of the fact.  But, we are in correspondence with medical universities and research institutes in the USA,” Dr Agrawal said.

Scientists are attributing this trait of camel milk to a unique phytonutrient (derived from plants) present in the camels’ daily diet. But they are yet to isolate this blood sugar fighting agent. Research is on. Camel milk is also high on minerals and low on cholesterol content, compared to cow's milk.

Changing horses in midstream

How to pursue your passion, and become a better-rounded person, through a career change
Whether you are pursuing a life-long passion or looking to reinvent yourself, it is never too late to pursue a new career. Aimee Flynn, career services director at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina, US, offers tips on changing careers and making the most of this transitional period.

Hunt and gather

It’s important to start with a thorough investigation into your new industry.
“You are looking for general parallels between who you are and who you want to be, where you’ve been and where you are going,” says Flynn.
Pasha Lemnah, a photography student at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, found this parallel between the past and the future. After 20 years in the nursing field, she re-evaluated her life and what she wanted from her career. This investigation led her to pursue her childhood passion of photography.

Seasoned pro or  newbie?

Dumping the ego is crucial. “Be open to starting fresh, and embrace a sense of equal status with everyone in the classroom,” she says. “Surrender to the fact that you can learn as much from a first-year student as they can from you.”
Lemnah embraces this equal status, finding support through her fellow students who refer to her as “Mama Pasha”.

Network, network, network

While this is a common tip, be smart about how and with whom you network. Try to network with people already employed in your field of interest. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and can help you acquire new contacts.
Now that you’re back in the classroom, go beyond it: attend local ‘lunch and learns’, workshops and industry-related events.

Be willing to change

“Every industry has its own tenors; its own language. Adopt them,” says Flynn. Edit your Facebook, Twitter and social networking pages to reflect who you want to be.
A willingness to change is a key factor in successfully reinventing yourself through your career. A great example is Denise Hartz, an interior design student at The Art Institute of Michigan. Hartz, who is retiring from her current career in two years, says, “I want to be a successful older person. I don’t want to retire.” Instead, she’s taking steps to turn a passion she’s had for years into a brand new career in interior design.

Revisit your resume

“Develop a new resume as a platform to highlight your critical and analytical thinking skills, your leadership abilities and willingness to collaborate, your planning and management skills, and your ability to facilitate creative thinking when faced with a problem to solve,” recommends Flynn.

Build your team

Find a dedicated career services advisor. “Make an appointment, show up prepared, and be humble and open to a possible entry level experience,” says Flynn.
“I just think it’s never too late in life to do what you want to do... pursue a dream,” says Hartz. Lemnah echoes this statement, calling herself a “walking, living, breathing dream catcher”.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Story of Salahuddin Ayyubi- Holy Warriors Richard & Saladin

Note: This movie is produced from a western perspective and DOES NOT portray real history but there are certain aspects of Islamic justice which even the orientalists could NEVER deny! This movie is not here to teach you history, rather to make you curious to go and read more about our heroes and about the system of Khilafah which produced such heroes which are not produced anymore since we got divided into pieces of lands each with own flags. Come back to Islam, come back to Islamic Khilafah and support the parties working for the real revival- the Islamic System.

Salahuddin Ayyubi kicked out the crusaders and liberated Palestine and saved it from destruction by the kuffar. After the fall of the Khilafah in 1924 our lands were divided among the colonialist kuffar and Palestine was taken by British and then converted into Israel. Today once again our Haram Al Quds is under the kuffar. Only the return of the Islamic Khilafah with its army dedicated to Islam alone can liberate Palestine and give it back to its rightful owners. The nationalist nations of today under tyrant hypocrite rulers using its army to kill its own people and help the kuffar are an obstacle in the liberation of our lands.

The Saladin movie (Arabic)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The goggle-eyed, angular necked, round shaped, legless butterball

Some time back I wrote a piece about people in a future generation having only flippers for arms and little stumpy appendages for legs seeing as how we have become a world of watchers instead of doers.

The more that is written and spoken about exercise and physical effort the less it is being done. While that says something about the power of publicity the fact is that technology has compelled us to be ashamed of labour in any form. So, we have decided that anything which prevents us from using our limbs has to be a status symbol.

Here are some day-to-day examples of our natural sloth. Don’t run away, well, actually, that is a silly thing to say, you can’t run, probably haven’t run for years.
See if this is you in these scenarios.
We will press the elevator button to go one floor ... down, forget about up.
The now largely defunct phone has to be cordless so that even if there is access to an instrument which is ten feet away the effort is cumbersome and often entails refusal to answer the caller because who, at the age of 35, is going to get up and walk that 5 metre marathon.
There is a friend of mine who was visibly astounded that the DVD system does not flip its side automatically and that he has has to get up and physically change it.
The same goes for remote controls for all your systems and TVs. No self-respecting owner can even conceive of a situation where he has to actually get up and change a channel manually. In fact, modern TVs see to have removed that option totally.  In fact, many of us folks would not even know how to do it from the main set. Haven’t you seen the red alert action station panic if the remote is misplaced? A whole family goes into shell shock and it becomes a talking point.
People drive to the corner market in a car because the five minute 100 metre walk is too much of a nuisance.
People go round and round for twenty minutes in a Mall underground parking lot so they can park three lanes closer to the entrance. It is a laughable scene yet we have all seen it.
Even exercise has become a comical exclusion of exertion. Have you seen golfers play their game? They walk to the tee, hit the ball, then get into a little electronic cart and drive to the next stroke. Total walking done over 4800 metres is 48 metres. Then they come home and talk about their excellent afternoon’s game.
Tennis at the club is a joke when they play doubles and you only have to watch it and then keep yourself from laughing.
The new games in town which seem to be the current fad include  eating while gaping game. In this sport, you sit and stare at the TV screen and see how swiftly you can consume a packet of crisps.
Then there is the Finger Muscle Programme (FMP)  which covers pressing the car music system and hitting the buttons on the mobile phone.
Finally, there is the Conservancy Comforter in which you believe you are saving up your body by lounge lizarding and doing nothing. It is very much like being a couch potato and is based on the logical concept that if you are not putting your body to work you are preserving it from wearing out.
Consequently, you will live to a hundred, like an unused car.
A new physical deformity expected to hit the human race along with the flippers and appendages will be neckitis, a sort of leaning tower of Pisa effect between the chest and the head with the neck tilting to a thirty degree angle. This will be caused by the incessant cradling of a mobile phone while driving, eating, drinking, standing, sitting or doing anything. Medical practitioners have already indicated that the tilt has begun. Another few years and the goggle-eyed, angular necked, round shaped, legless butterball with little flippers for human arms will be a common sight. Go on, is that really you?

Sajak : Sebelum Dhuha (Mingguan Malaysia 25 Disember 2011)

Sebelum Dhuha

Hening ini menyusuk
sesudah subuh, sebelum dhuha
menjelang fajar yang merentas
warna-warna padang pasir
serpihan dari sejenak menikmati
keindahan ruang, kemesraan alam
damai mengongsi kesementaraan
meriah sebuah perjalanan jasmani
dari kalendar ke kalendar

Hening ini menganjak pradigma
menafsir setiap nafas yang tersisa
ke belakang, masa lalu yang jauh
ke hadapan, jarak yang semakin singkat
di sini, saat ini, sejenak yang manis
singgah dan akan pergi
bagai satu transit debu-debu
berterbangan tanpa siapa peduli
kecuali hati-hati yang menginsafi
destini ke satu destinasi rohani

Hening ini, setiap langkah bermula
dari setiap haluan persimpangan
mencorak sejengkal perjuangan nafsu
dari suci kelahiran anak kecil
kepada kedewasaan dan kematangan
bercampur aduk dalam satu jasad
mimpi dan realiti, hitam putih kehidupan
menjejak usia dan musim perantauan
rindu yang kian kurus diselimuti
kain kapan yang robek!

Sharjah, UAE

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Statistics: Israelis and Palestinians

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s major sources of instability. Americans are directly connected to this conflict, and increasingly imperiled by its devastation.
It is the goal of If Americans Knew to provide full and accurate information on this critical issue, and on our power – and duty – to bring a resolution.
Please click on any statistic for the source and more information.
Statistics Last Updated: October 25, 2011
125 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 1,471 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information)
Chart showing that approximately 12 times more Palestinian children have been killed than Israeli children
Chart showing that 6 times more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis.
1,092 Israelis and at least 6,537 Palestinians have been killed since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information)
10,792 Israelis and 59,575 Palestinians have been injured since September 29, 2000. (View Sources & More Information.)
Chart showing that Palestinians are injured at least four times more often than Israelis.
Chart showing that the United States gives Israel $8.2 million per day in military aid and no military aid to the Palestinians.
During Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least $8.2 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians. (View Sources & More Information)
Chart showing that Israel is holding 5300 Palestinians prisoner.
0 Israelis are being held prisoner by Palestinians, while 5,300 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel. (View Sources & More Information)
0 Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians and 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. (View Sources & More Information)
Chart showing that 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished, compared to no Israeli homes.
Chart depicting the fact that the Palestinian unemployment is around 4 times the Israeli unemployment rate.
The Israeli unemployment rate is 6.4%, while the Palestinian unemployment in the West Bank is 16.5% and 40% in Gaza. (View Sources & More Information)
Israel currently has 273 Jewish-only settlements and ‘outposts’ built on confiscated Palestinian land. Palestinians do not have any settlements on Israeli land. (View Sources & More Information)
Chart showing that Israel has 227 Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the deficiency of love in politic

The higher world leaders climb, the more love they have to shed on the way as if the weight of love hinders their rise

Socrates once wrote, “One word frees us / of all the weight and pain in life / that word is Love.”
Ever since the beginning of the beginning love existed, and despite all other efforts to break it down, it has insisted on finding its way into the callous hearts of some people just as grass can find its way in between arid rocks.

Yet there are places in which it is seems extremely difficult for love to grow, and the most infertile of all happens to be in political fields and specifically in the hearts of politicians. For not only do the hearts of most politicians seem to be devoid of love, but they also happen to be blinded by downright self-interest and utter imprudence about the rest of us in humanity.

If we were to step away from the desiccated political fields, it becomes easy to stumble across love in every corner of our world. For love comes in all forms and shapes and has made the hearts of people its dwelling place!

Take a mother’s heart for example, a place that happens to be an endless spring of love tirelessly and eternally streaming devotion, compassion and forgiveness.

And how delightful is the love that comes in a romantic setting and flourishes in the hearts of two who are “in love”— the sort of love that led to the death of Romeo and Juliet and to the insanity of Qais, Majnun Leila.

It is the kind of love that was written about by Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, a love illustrated “on the walls of caves / and on potteries and clay vessels long ago / and ...engraved on the ivory of elephants in India / and on papyrus in Egypt / and on rice grains in China.”

There is also the patriotic love for one’s country and homeland — a love that has its roots entrenched across the lands regardless of the countless human made borders that have divided our world’s map, a love that is pronounced in every national anthem and embodied in the colours of our flags.

Yet, time after time and throughout history, one can easily note that the higher world leaders climbs their political ladders, the more love they have to shed on the way, as if the weight of love hinders their rise in politics. And later, what is shed of love is gradually transformed into tears shed by humans.

As Che Guevara put it, “Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel.” Why is it that such phenomenon insists on repeating itself? And with whom can humanity entrust its hopes when few are the ones who have proven to be worthy?


Gandhi’s concept
Will there ever come another Mahatma Gandhi who can act upon the concept of love and reject violence and killing, someone who can truly act as the “change” that he wants to see happen in the world? Gandhi insisted that we “must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” But one asks, how can we not lose faith in our leaders in the midst of today’s depressingly grim political reality?

Of the multitude of passages that have been written on love, one especially comes to mind: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” The Bible 1st Corinthians.

If only it were possible to clone some of the materials that make the emotion of love and implant it in the hearts of those who run our world, for it seems as if their hearts have become hollow cavities with a very noticeable deficiency of love.

The Dali Lama said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “At the centre of non-violence stands the principle of love.” And Buddha preached, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”
One wonders why such quotes are not parts of our political ideology, and why they are rarely practised by our politicians!

So let it be said to every politician sitting on his/her throne, and to everyone whose decisions can alter the hopes and dreams of his/her people, and especially to those who are to become our future politicians, we plead in the name of love for you to help stop the killing and bloodshed, to stop the breaking of a mother’s heart, to stop the shattering of a bride’s dream, and to stop the tear shed by our children.

We beseech you to help release the world of the weight of pain and to retrieve a love that once existed in your hearts before you took on your positions of power! Unearth a love that undoubtedly is buried deep within, and allow it to play a part in your decisions, ones that could ultimately decide the course of history and prevent avertable wars of agony and destruction.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Building Cities on the ocean - Seastead

Seasteading: Libertarians dream of creating self-ruling floating cities. But can the many obstacles, not least the engineering ones, be overcome? 

THE Pilgrims who set out from England on the Mayflower to escape an intolerant, over-mighty government and build a new society were lucky to find plenty of land in the New World on which to build it. Some modern libertarians, such as Peter Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal, dream of setting sail once more to found colonies of like-minded souls. By now, however, all the land on Earth has been claimed by the governments they seek to escape. So, they conclude, they must build new cities on the high seas, known as seasteads.

It is not a completely crazy idea: large maritime structures that resemble seasteads already exist, after all. Giant cruise liners host thousands of guests on lengthy voyages in luxurious surroundings. Offshore oil platforms provide floating accommodation for hundreds of workers amid harsh weather and high waves. Then there is the Principality of Sealand, a concrete sea fort constructed off Britain’s coast during the second world war. It is now occupied by a family who have fought various lawsuits to try to get it recognised as a sovereign state.

Each of these examples, however, falls some way short of the permanent, self-governing and radically innovative ocean-based colonies imagined by the seasteaders. To realise their dream they must overcome some tricky technical, legal and cultural problems. They must work out how to build seasteads in the first place; find a way to escape the legal shackles of sovereign states; and give people sufficient reason to move in. With financing from Mr Thiel and others, a think-tank called the Seasteading Institute (TSI) has been sponsoring studies on possible plans for ocean-based structures and on the legal and financial questions they raise. And although true seasteads may still be a distant dream, the seasteading movement is producing some novel ideas for ocean-based businesses that could act as stepping stones towards their ultimate goal.

Floating some ideas
Seastead designs tend to fall into one of three categories: ship-shaped structures, barge-like structures based on floating pontoons and platforms mounted on semi-submersible columns, like offshore oil installations. Over-ordering by cruise lines means there are plenty of big, second-hand liners going cheap. Ship-shaped structures can pack in more apartments and office space for a given cost than the other two types of design, but they have a big drawback: their tendency to roll in choppy seas. Cruise ships can sail around storms, but static seasteads need to be able to ride them out. And the stabilisers on big cruisers only work in moderate seas and when the ship is moving.

 Enthusiasts have proposed a wide range of designs for seasteads

Pontoon-type structures, or giant barges, are the cheapest of the three options, but they are even more vulnerable than ships to choppy seas. Shipbuilders like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan have proposed various designs for floating cities based on massive “mega-float” pontoons, with skyscrapers towering above the waterline. But these would only work in calm, shallow waters—and these tend to be within land-based governments’ territorial limits. George Petrie, a former professor of naval architecture at the Webb Institute in New York state who is writing a series of technical papers for TSI, has calculated that even in a relatively benign stretch of water off Hawaii, such structures would leave their residents pretty groggy much of the time.

As oil companies drilling in ever deeper waters have demonstrated, structures built on floating columns are the most rugged, though they are more expensive than ship- or pontoon-type vessels. The shipbuilding industry has plenty of experience in making them, but the expectations of comfort among the permanent residents of a seastead will be much greater than on an oil platform, where workers are paid well for short tours of duty in relative discomfort. Even in placid weather, floating-column structures bob up and down as the sea heaves beneath them, which can make people seasick. To prevent the vessel from drifting due to currents and winds, seasteads may need dynamic-positioning thrusters, but these would increase costs. In waters less than 1,800 metres deep, Mr Petrie calculates, a cheaper option would be to moor the platform to the seabed. As it happens, there are a number of barely submerged islands off the coast of California, the location of preference for early seasteaders. Alas, they tend to be volcanoes.

Even once a viable blueprint for the structure of a seastead is produced, the technical challenges are not over. The more it relies on land-based supplies of fuel and water, the harder it will be to achieve the libertarian dream of escaping the evil ways of existing governments. At sea there is plenty of wind and wave energy, and occasionally sunshine, but building renewable-energy systems that can survive harsh ocean conditions is even harder and more costly than designing land-based ones. Another problem is communication. Satellite-based connections are slow and expensive. Laying a fibre-optic cable would be difficult. A point-to-point laser or microwave link might work, suggests Michael Keenan, the president of TSI. But that would rely on a land-based transmitting station, again making the seastead reliant on landlubbers.

The long arm of the law
The technical challenges are daunting enough. The legal questions that seasteads would face are no less tricky, and call into question whether it would really be possible to create genuinely self-governing mini-states on the oceans. Until seasteaders are ready to cut their ties with the land altogether, they will want to build their colonies not much more than 12 nautical miles (22km) offshore—the limit of countries’ territorial waters—otherwise travelling to and from the seastead will take too long. But the laws of the sea give countries powers to enforce some criminal laws up to 24 nautical miles out and to regulate some economic activities in a 200-mile “exclusive economic zone”. Ships are granted exemptions, but a seastead tethered to the seabed would not qualify.

Some countries (notably America) assert the right to extend their jurisdictions, in matters affecting their citizens, across the entire planet. And like any other seagoing structure, a seastead would be obliged to register with a “flag state”, to whose maritime laws it would be subject. Some flag states are lax about enforcement but if, say, America disapproved of the goings-on aboard a seastead, it could lean on such states to get tough—and offer enforcement on their behalf. In the 1960s Britain’s government shut down pirate-radio ships not by sending the navy to attack them but by banning British suppliers and advertisers from doing business with them.

In all, the leaders of the seasteading movement concede that they will have to avoid getting into anything too provocative—drugs, pornography or money-laundering, for example. As for taxes, America already demands that its citizens pay income tax even when they are living abroad—and that would include living on a seastead. There is nothing to stop other countries following suit and indeed getting extraterritorial about other taxes too. Until seasteaders are able to bank their money with independent, ocean-going financial institutions, they may not be able to escape the taxman’s clutches.
“The ideal builders of seasteads may not be small groups of innovators, but giant engineering firms.”
And escaping the taxman may not, in any case, be enough of an incentive to lure residents to a seastead. Despite their stated preferences even libertarians, it seems, prefer to live in over-regulated, high-tax places like London and New York. Mr Keenan notes ruefully that the Free State Project, a scheme started ten years ago to get 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire and vote in a libertarian local government, has had little success so far. Unless a seastead were the size of Manhattan its citizens would have to forgo the cultural life, the parks and the wide choice of shopping and restaurants offered by large cities. The most realistic designs produced so far would reduce residents to living in cabins that, however sumptuously kitted out, would be little bigger than a typical millionaire libertarian’s bathroom.

Some seasteaders think the way forward is to build less ambitious offshore communities to demonstrate the potential of the idea. By basing themselves just outside countries’ territorial waters to avoid some of their laws, floating habitats could show land-based governments how such things as low taxes, light regulation and free access for foreign workers can produce wealth without ill effects. Such ocean-based businesses could be a step on the way to true seasteads.

Stepping stones to a seastead
In 2010 a group of marine engineers produced a detailed design study for the ClubStead—a floating resort city which would sit perhaps 100 nautical miles off the Californian coast, with 70 staff and 200 guests. It would combine the comforts of a cruise ship with the resistance to wind and waves of an oil platform, which its design closely resembles. Seven storeys of buildings would be cantilevered off the columns and, in an idea borrowed from bridge design, its extensive open decks are slung from cables. There would be solar panels (and gardens) on the roofs of these buildings, but the ClubStead would also rely on diesel power. It would make its own fresh water from seawater and have two helipads and a dock for boats.

How the ClubStead might look

The ClubStead design study includes a lot of detailed work on wind and wave resistance, construction methods, and so on. But its authors admit that much more would need to be done to produce a full blueprint ready for a shipyard to start building it. Nigel Barltrop, professor of naval architecture at Strathclyde University in Scotland, says he has “little doubt that you can do something like this and make it work”. But he thinks the structure may need further reinforcement to prevent fatigue—think of all of those metal joints constantly creaking in the waves. Otherwise the result could be a disaster like the collapse in 1980 of the Alexander Kielland, a floating accommodation block for North Sea oil workers, which broke apart and capsized, killing 123 people.

Besides its moderately spacious apartments, the ClubStead would have room for either a casino resort or a “medical tourism” centre. Many of the staff could be non-Americans who would otherwise struggle to get visas. They could spend most of the time aboard, taking occasional shore leave on tourist visas. The designers reckon it would cost $114m—less than some land-based luxury hotels—of which the biggest item is constructing and kitting out the apartments, at just under $50m. Running costs would be $3.4m a year.

A breakaway group from TSI is working on a simpler and cheaper idea called Blueseed. The idea is to convert a cruise liner into an offshore “incubator” for small, high-tech start-ups and position it just outside American territorial waters off California. The attraction for the start-ups is that they would be able to hire foreign engineers and scientists without the hassle of getting work visas for them.

Dario Mutabdzija of Blueseed says chartering and adapting a cruise ship should cost $15m-50m, depending on its size, and the combined rent for a tenant’s living quarters and office space might be around $2,000 a month, comparable with costs in Silicon Valley. So far the project is at the seed-capital stage, working to overcome venture capitalists’ doubts about getting involved in something subject to maritime law, an unfamiliar matter. Another problem, Mr Mutabdzija admits, is that it is unclear how American officials will choose to interpret the complex and vaguely worded immigration laws. He hopes that they will “just leave us alone for a while and see how it goes”.

If the sort of “just-offshoring” approach of the ClubStead and Blueseed projects can prove itself, it might be attractive for several industries in which large revenues are generated by relatively small numbers of skilled people, and which are subject to onerous taxes or regulation. Financial trading, gambling and cosmetic surgery are obvious candidates. Private hospitals could provide new treatments that have been approved by other countries but not by America’s sluggish regulators.

Rather than deciding in advance which line of business will be a seastead’s livelihood, Mr Petrie has a more Darwinian idea, one that libertarians should warm to: create a large expanse of floating “land” in mid-ocean and rent it out to whoever wants it. Individual homes and business premises would be winched aboard on cranes and bolted down. If their owners don’t pay the rent, they could be lifted out and replaced. The seastead thus “evolves and finds its way”, says Mr Petrie. He has set himself the objective of making the cost of living on a seastead not much more than the average for upper-middle-income housing in a typical American city.

Linguists quip that a dialect is a language without an army and a navy to enforce its status. Theologians likewise say that a cult is simply a church that lacks political clout. Seasteads may end up as wannabe sovereign states without the means to defend their autonomy against land-based governments. The first ones to overcome the many technical challenges, raise the money to construct their vessels and set out for the open seas will be quite dependent on terrestrial authorities’ goodwill. But countries short of available land, or whose leaders are struggling to pass liberalising reforms against resistance from vested interests, may tolerate limited experiments in low-tax, rule-free self-government. So the seasteaders may be in with a chance.

Who will jump in first?
Given the huge costs and risks involved, perhaps the ideal builders of seasteads will not be small groups of innovators like the Blueseed team, but giant engineering firms such as Mitsubishi, India’s Tata group or Samsung of South Korea. Indeed, as Mr Keenan notes, the most viable political model for a seastead may not be a libertarian democracy but an enlightened corporate dictatorship.
Sceptics will say that floating pies in the sky are more likely to materialise than floating cities on the oceans. But the seasteaders are undeterred. Nobody anticipated the immense variety of uses that would be dreamed up for the internet, Mr Keenan observes, and the same may apply to the idea of creating colonies on the high seas. As Mr Petrie puts it: “All that is lacking is for the first one to go into the water and say, ‘Hey, come on in, the water’s fine.’”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Looking to Africa!

The hopeful continent

Africa rising

After decades of slow growth, Africa has a real chance to follow in the footsteps of Asia

THE shops are stacked six feet high with goods, the streets outside are jammed with customers and salespeople are sweating profusely under the onslaught. But this is not a high street during the Christmas-shopping season in the rich world. It is the Onitsha market in southern Nigeria, every day of the year. Many call it the world’s biggest. Up to 3m people go there daily to buy rice and soap, computers and construction equipment. It is a hub for traders from the Gulf of Guinea, a region blighted by corruption, piracy, poverty and disease but also home to millions of highly motivated entrepreneurs and increasingly prosperous consumers.

Over the past decade six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia, including Japan. Even allowing for the knock-on effect of the northern hemisphere’s slowdown, the IMF expects Africa to grow by 6% this year and nearly 6% in 2012, about the same as Asia.

The commodities boom is partly responsible. In 2000-08 around a quarter of Africa’s growth came from higher revenues from natural resources. Favourable demography is another cause. With fertility rates crashing in Asia and Latin America, half of the increase in population over the next 40 years will be in Africa. But the growth also has a lot to do with the manufacturing and service economies that African countries are beginning to develop. The big question is whether Africa can keep that up if demand for commodities drops.

Copper, gold, oil—and a pinch of salt

Optimism about Africa needs to be taken in fairly small doses, for things are still exceedingly bleak in much of the continent. Most Africans live on less than two dollars a day. Food production per person has slumped since independence in the 1960s. The average lifespan in some countries is under 50. Drought and famine persist. The climate is worsening, with deforestation and desertification still on the march.

Some countries praised for their breakneck economic growth, such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea, are oil-sodden kleptocracies. Some that have begun to get economic development right, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, have become politically noxious. Congo, now undergoing a shoddy election, still looks barely governable and hideously corrupt. Zimbabwe is a scar on the conscience of the rest of southern Africa. South Africa, which used to be a model for the continent, is tainted with corruption; and within the ruling African National Congress there is talk of nationalising land and mines.

Yet against that depressingly familiar backdrop, some fundamental numbers are moving in the right direction. Africa now has a fast-growing middle class: according to Standard Bank, around 60m Africans have an income of $3,000 a year, and 100m will in 2015. The rate of foreign investment has soared around tenfold in the past decade.

China’s arrival has improved Africa’s infrastructure and boosted its manufacturing sector. Other non-Western countries, from Brazil and Turkey to Malaysia and India, are following its lead. Africa could break into the global market for light manufacturing and services such as call centres. Cross-border commerce, long suppressed by political rivalry, is growing, as tariffs fall and barriers to trade are dismantled.

Africa’s enthusiasm for technology is boosting growth. It has more than 600m mobile-phone users—more than America or Europe. Since roads are generally dreadful, advances in communications, with mobile banking and telephonic agro-info, have been a huge boon. Around a tenth of Africa’s land mass is covered by mobile-internet services—a higher proportion than in India. The health of many millions of Africans has also improved, thanks in part to the wider distribution of mosquito nets and the gradual easing of the ravages of HIV/AIDS. Skills are improving: productivity is growing by nearly 3% a year, compared with 2.3% in America.

All this is happening partly because Africa is at last getting a taste of peace and decent government. For three decades after African countries threw off their colonial shackles, not a single one (bar the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius) peacefully ousted a government or president at the ballot box. But since Benin set the mainland trend in 1991, it has happened more than 30 times—far more often than in the Arab world.

Population trends could enhance these promising developments. A bulge of better-educated young people of working age is entering the job market and birth rates are beginning to decline. As the proportion of working-age people to dependents rises, growth should get a boost. Asia enjoyed such a “demographic dividend”, which began three decades ago and is now tailing off. In Africa it is just starting.

Having a lot of young adults is good for any country if its economy is thriving, but if jobs are in short supply it can lead to frustration and violence. Whether Africa’s demography brings a dividend or disaster is largely up to its governments.

More trade than aid

Africa still needs deep reform. Governments should make it easier to start businesses and cut some taxes and collect honestly the ones they impose. Land needs to be taken out of communal ownership and title handed over to individual farmers so that they can get credit and expand. And, most of all, politicians need to keep their noses out of the trough and to leave power when their voters tell them to.

Western governments should open up to trade rather than just dish out aid. America’s African Growth and Opportunity Act, which lowered tariff barriers for many goods, is a good start, but it needs to be widened and copied by other nations. Foreign investors should sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which would let Africans see what foreign companies pay for licences to exploit natural resources. African governments should insist on total openness in the deals they strike with foreign companies and governments.

Autocracy, corruption and strife will not disappear overnight. But at a dark time for the world economy, Africa’s progress is a reminder of the transformative promise of growth.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Stealing A Nation

There are times when one tragedy, one crime tells us how a whole system works behind its democratic facade and helps us to understand how much of the world is run for the benefit of the powerful and how governments lie. To understand the catastrophe of Iraq, and all the other Iraq's along imperial history's trail of blood and tears, one need look no further than Diego Garcia.

Paradise Cleansed 
by John Pilger

10/11/04 "The Guardian"
 -- There are times when one tragedy, one crime tells us how a whole system works behind its democratic facade and helps us to understand how much of the world is run for the benefit of the powerful and how governments lie. To understand the catastrophe of Iraq, and all the other Iraqs along imperial history's trail of blood and tears, one need look no further than Diego Garcia.

The story of Diego Garcia is shocking, almost incredible. A British colony lying midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean, the island is one of 64 unique coral islands that form the Chagos Archipelago, a phenomenon of natural beauty, and once of peace. Newsreaders refer to it in passing: "American B-52 and Stealth bombers last night took off from the uninhabited British island of Diego Garcia to bomb Iraq (or Afghanistan)." It is the word "uninhabited" that turns the key on the horror of what was done there. In the 1970s, the Ministry of Defense in London produced this epic lie: "There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation."

Diego Garcia was first settled in the late 18th century. At least 2,000 people lived there: a gentle creole nation with thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a prison, a railway, docks, a copra plantation. Watching a film shot by missionaries in the 1960s, I can understand why every Chagos islander I have met calls it paradise; there is a grainy sequence where the islanders' beloved dogs are swimming in the sheltered, palm-fringed lagoon, catching fish.

All this began to end when an American rear-admiral stepped ashore in 1961 and Diego Garcia was marked as the site of what is today one of the biggest American bases in the world. There are now more than 2,000 troops, anchorage for 30 warships, a nuclear dump, a satellite spy station, shopping malls, bars and a golf course. "Camp Justice" the Americans call it.

During the 1960s, in high secrecy, the Labour government of Harold Wilson conspired with two American administrations to "sweep" and "sanitize" the islands: the words used in American documents. Files found in the National Archives in Washington and the Public Record Office in London provide an astonishing narrative of official lying all too familiar to those who have chronicled the lies over Iraq.

To get rid of the population, the Foreign Office invented the fiction that the islanders were merely transient contract workers who could be "returned" to Mauritius, 1,000 miles away. In fact, many islanders traced their ancestry back five generations, as their cemeteries bore witness. The aim, wrote a Foreign Office official in January 1966, "is to convert all the existing residents ... into short-term, temporary residents."

What the files also reveal is an imperious attitude of brutality. In August 1966, Sir Paul Gore-Booth, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, wrote: "We must surely be very tough about this. The object of the exercise was to get some rocks that will remain ours. There will be no indigenous population except seagulls." At the end of this is a handwritten note by DH Greenhill, later Baron Greenhill: "Along with the Birds go some Tarzans or Men Fridays ..." Under the heading, "Maintaining the fiction", another official urges his colleagues to reclassify the islanders as "a floating population" and to "make up the rules as we go along".

There is not a word of concern for their victims. Only one official appeared to worry about being caught, writing that it was "fairly unsatisfactory" that "we propose to certify the people, more or less fraudulently, as belonging somewhere else". The documents leave no doubt that the cover-up was approved by the prime minister and at least three cabinet ministers.

At first, the islanders were tricked and intimidated into leaving; those who had gone to Mauritius for urgent medical treatment were prevented from returning. As the Americans began to arrive and build the base, Sir Bruce Greatbatch, the governor of the Seychelles, who had been put in charge of the "sanitizing", ordered all the pet dogs on Diego Garcia to be killed. Almost 1,000 pets were rounded up and gassed, using the exhaust fumes from American military vehicles. "They put the dogs in a furnace where the people worked," says Lizette Tallatte, now in her 60s," ... and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried."

The islanders took this as a warning; and the remaining population were loaded on to ships, allowed to take only one suitcase. They left behind their homes and furniture, and their lives. On one journey in rough seas, the copra company's horses occupied the deck, while women and children were forced to sleep on a cargo of bird fertilizer. Arriving in the Seychelles, they were marched up the hill to a prison where they were held until they were transported to Mauritius. There, they were dumped on the docks.

In the first months of their exile, as they fought to survive, suicides and child deaths were common. Lizette lost two children. "The doctor said he cannot treat sadness," she recalls. Rita Bancoult, now 79, lost two daughters and a son; she told me that when her husband was told the family could never return home, he suffered a stroke and died. Unemployment, drugs and prostitution, all of which had been alien to their society, ravaged them. Only after more than a decade did they receive any compensation from the British government: less than £3,000 each, which did not cover their debts.

The behavior of the Blair government is, in many respects, the worst. In 2000, the islanders won a historic victory in the high court, which ruled their expulsion illegal. Within hours of the judgment, the Foreign Office announced that it would not be possible for them to return to Diego Garcia because of a "treaty" with Washington - in truth, a deal concealed from parliament and the US Congress. As for the other islands in the group, a "feasibility study" would determine whether these could be resettled. This has been described by Professor David Stoddart, a world authority on the Chagos, as "worthless" and "an elaborate charade". The "study" consulted not a single islander; it found that the islands were "sinking", which was news to the Americans who are building more and more base facilities; the US navy describes the living conditions as so outstanding that they are "unbelievable".

In 2003, in a now notorious follow-up high court case, the islanders were denied compensation, with government counsel allowed by the judge to attack and humiliate them in the witness box, and with Justice Ousley referring to "we" as if the court and the Foreign Office were on the same side. Last June, the government invoked the archaic royal prerogative in order to crush the 2000 judgment. A decree was issued that the islanders were banned forever from returning home. These were the same totalitarian powers used to expel them in secret 40 years ago; Blair used them to authorize his illegal attack on Iraq.

Led by a remarkable man, Olivier Bancoult, an electrician, and supported by a tenacious and valiant London lawyer, Richard Gifford, the islanders are going to the European court of human rights, and perhaps beyond. Article 7 of the statute of the international criminal court describes the "deportation or forcible transfer of population ... by expulsion or other coercive acts" as a crime against humanity. As Bush's bombers take off from their paradise, the Chagos islanders, says Bancoult, "will not let this great crime stand. The world is changing; we will win."

Stealing a Nation, John Pilger's documentary investigating the expulsion of the Chagos islanders will be shown on ITV on Wednesday at 11 pm; his new book, Tell Me No Lies: Investigative journalism and Its Triumphs, is published by Jonathan Cape

Copyright: The Guardian.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Misogyny - in the UK or Saudi Arabia - has no excuse

 The more things change, the more they stay the same. Uprisings are sweeping through the Middle East, constitutions are being rewritten and free elections are taking place. After decades of oppression, Arab societies are finally beginning to champion the rights of the individual. But for half the population, women, real change often remains a mirage.

Statistics may show more women enrolling in higher education and increasingly breaking into the workforce. The future is theirs, they are promised. The reality, however, can be quite different.
From the preposterous to the tragic, recent news reports have put in stark context the social attitudes that women are subjected to in this day and age.

Saudi clerics last week caused a media storm when they claimed that if women were given the right to drive, Saudi Arabia would see a "surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce." That is one heavy burden for Saudi women to carry.

The absurdity of the statement is self-evident and barely needs a response; nonsensical ramblings have no place in modern society. It is also an insult to the many Arab societies that have yet to descend into debauched anarchy because women have taken to the roads.

Ironically, the statements do serve a very important purpose: they highlight the narrow-mindedness and misogyny that women still face on a daily basis in many Middle Eastern societies.

All the rights in the world are meaningless if they are not backed by genuine tolerance and respect. How can women even begin to break the so-called glass ceiling in the workplace when such backwards thinking still prevails? And when the day comes, as it surely must, when Saudi women are finally allowed to drive, it is likely to be a bittersweet victory. What sort of harassment and prejudice will they still face on the roads? Legislation is one thing, realities on the ground quite another.

These attitudes are in no way limited to the Middle East of course. A report released last week showed that nearly 3,000 so-called " honour" attacks were recorded by police in the UK last year, an average of eight attacks per day against British women of Middle Eastern or Asian origin.

As most assaults go unreported, police and women's groups fear that these attacks - which range from beatings and acid attacks to murder - are just the tip of the iceberg.

Worryingly, the Arab revolutions, in themselves unquestionably long overdue, are in some places promoting at best chauvinistic, and at worst criminal, behaviour among some of the demonstrators.
Amid the euphoria of the scenes in Tahrir Square over the last 10 months, stories of the mistreatment of women have gone against the spirit of change. In February, the CBS News correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob in Tahrir Square while covering the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.

And in the last few weeks, a video doing the rounds shows a group of Salafists, whose party has won 20 per cent of the vote in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, attacking a woman for the crime of daring to disagree with their views. While it must be pointed out that the majority of men reject this behaviour, many women continue to be harassed on the streets.

In a brutally frank post, one Egyptian women had this to say on her blog: "My father and mother spent years of sweat, tears and hard-earned cash on educating me into an emancipated woman so that one day I become a walking piece of meat on the street."

The truth is that those who blame religion miss the point: "honour" killings and the like masquerade in the name of religion to perpetrate acts that violate the basic principles of Islam and other religions.
The year 2011 will forever be remembered for the rights of Arabs as individuals, and the demand for a life of dignity and aspiration. Every woman, whether in a niqab or a business suit, deserves those rights too.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Desirable destinations for retirement

Property prices, cost of living, medical costs and taxes are some of the things to consider
  • By Gaurav Ghose, Financial Features Editor

Retiring overseas is a life-long dream for many, but careful planning is necessary to prevent your golden years turning to dust.
Residential property, living expenses, medical costs, tax and visa regimes, recreation and entertainment, as well as safety and climate, must all be considered and provided for. There is no one-size-fits-all, ballpark figure, when it comes to costs.

Gulf News asked UAE-based independent financial advisers about some popular retirement destinations among local expatriates and the costs of retiring there. Thailand, Malaysia, France, Italy, Spain and Australia were among the most common, but Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica and New Zealand as well as Panama, the Philippines and Portugal were also cited.

Moving abroad is obviously a big step, says Rupert Connor, senior partner at Acuma Wealth Management. "Taking advice from a professional adviser [is necessary] before embarking on such a move," he said.

In general, the cost of living in most European countries is higher than in Asia. And, European economies are being significantly affected by the debt crisis, says Sarah Lord, wealth planning director at Killik and Co, and the long-term impact is unclear.

Currency is an important consideration to be taken into account when determining where to settle into retirement. "One should consider where your pension needs to come from and in which currency it should be," says Steve Gregory, managing partner of Holborn Assets. "Sterling income could cause you problems if you move to Euroland and you probably want dollars in the Far East. Moving your pension rights from your home country can enable you to set the currency for your retirement zone, so that you don't have to lose out if the pension income falls in value through currency devaluation."
As Lord points out, for a British expatriate retiring to a European country, in August 2007, the exchange rate was ¤1.475 to a pound, today it is around ¤0.857, a fall of around 25 per cent of the spending power of a UK pension in a European country.

It is important to visit a country regularly before deciding to retire there, or even stay there for six months before making the final decision, says Gregory.
Even then, no decision is ever final in today's world, he says.
"Many retirees to Spain, for example, have moved on to Bulgaria where properties are cheaper and money goes further."


Koh Poda Beach Krabi, Southern Thailand

Cost of living:
  • Rent per month: 1-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $341; outside a city centre: $192;
  • 3-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $1,036; outside a city centre: $537
  • Buying property: per square metre within a city centre: $1,770; outside a city centre: $998
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas and garbage): $61Internet (6mbps): $22
  • Transportation: Monthly pass: $25
  • Monthly expenses for 2,000 calorie balanced diet: $225
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, three course: $16
  • Sports/Leisure: Monthly fee for fitness club adult membership: $31Tennis for one hour on a weekend: $5
>> Retirees who have access to funds in the region of $2,000 per month will be able to afford brand new villas in extremely luxurious surroundings, says Rupert Connor. Smaller apartments can be bought for ¤40,000, according to Gregory. For people who are seeking a more basic lifestyle during their retirement in Thailand, there are plenty of affordable housing options on offer and it is possible to live on less than $1,000 per month including all food, bills and miscellaneous living costs, he adds. "The basic rule is that the more like the locals you are prepared to live; the less you will need to pay," adds Connor.
Access to health care: The government funded universal health care is considered decent enough but there has been a rapid growth of private group hospitals, including the internationally known Bumrungrad, which cater to the well off. That means that the private insurance industry has also grown. When shopping for insurance policies, pay attention to the exclusion list and pre-existing health problems that are not covered, says Connor. "There is a standard average price of premiums in Thailand that vary between age groups. In general, you can choose between different insurance packages depending on what kind of coverage you need. It is important to bear in mind that outpatient coverage is less expensive as in-patient treatment involves a stay in the hospital for surgery or observation."
The draw: Thailand offers great climate, low prices, no taxes from overseas income and some good medical facilities, says Gregory. Also, Connor points out, the majority of Thailand's cities are now well developed and they offer good communication and transportation infrastructure. Internet is readily available as too are international television programming and good mobile and landline phone networks. "In more remote areas of Thailand the infrastructure is much less developed and these areas will only be suitable for retirees who are looking to escape the developed world and live life like a true local," Connor adds.


Night view of Kuala Lumpur

Cost of living:
  • Rent per month: 1-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $302; outside a city centre: $169;3-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $683; outside a city centre: $356
  • Buying property: per square metre within a city centre: $1,151; outside a city centre: $798
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas and garbage): $46Internet (6Mbps): $40
  • Transportation: Monthly pass: $26
  • Monthly expenses for 2,000 calorie balanced diet: $172
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, three course: $15
  • Sports/Leisure: Monthly fee for fitness club adult membership: $43Tennis for one hour on a weekend: $5
>> Access to health care: A doctor's visit is between $15 to $25, says Rupert Connor, adding that most expatriates, but also many Malaysians, tend to purchase private health insurance. Numerous Malaysian and international companies offer health insurance plans covering care in Malaysia. Private clinics and hospitals are in abundance, especially in urban areas. However, joining an international private insurance scheme while still in your home country might be the better option, as Malaysian health plans can be very pricey, he adds. Of course you have to make sure that the health insurance covers medical care in Malaysia.

The draw: Compared to other major Asian cities such as Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur is cheap, says Connor. Also, it's a modern cosmopolitan city with clean streets and sidewalks and every modern convenience. Not only are three world-class playgrounds — Thailand, Bali and the Philippines — all within a few hour's travel from Malaysia, but with miles of white sand coastline, tropical islands, and beachfront property galore, "it has all the makings of a fairy-tale setting," says Connor. He considers the country as Asia's best kept secret for expats, with a vibrant mix of foreign and indigenous tribal cultures, creating a veritable melting pot of peoples, traditions and religions. Also, just about everybody speaks English. The appeal of Malaysia lies also in its low crime rates, points out Sarah Lord. Malaysia is actively trying to attract people to retire in the country and will admit people on a permanent basis under the "My second home" scheme, provided that you can demonstrate assets of at least $100,000 and a monthly income of $3,000, Lord points out.


St. Tropez

 Cost of living
  • Rent per month: 1-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $805; outside a city centre: $650;3-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $1,675; outside a city centre: $1,252
  • Buying property: per square metre within a city centre: $6,554; outside a city centre: $4,661
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas and garbage): $128Internet (6Mbps): $40
  • Transportation: Monthly pass: $63
  • Monthly expenses for 2,000 calorie balanced diet: $285
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, three course: $62
  • Sports/Leisure: Monthly fee for fitness club adult membership: $77 Tennis for one hour on a weekend: $23
France has a reputation for being very expensive for daily living expenses, says Rupert Connor. This is true, he notes, when it comes to food, entertainment and clothing, in large part because the country has a very high sales tax on items, which is also known as TVA (taxe sur la valeur ajoutée). The rate, which is just under 20 per cent, is usually already included in the prices charged on items in France, rather than added on to the total.

"Expatriates who have relocated to France also talk about the high fees (as much as 10 to 15 per cent or even more) associated with buying [property] there, so this will need to be factored into your financial plan," says Connor.

But, he points out, that some of the bigger expenses, such as rent, health care and education, are subsidised by the government, actually making them more affordable; so in the end, things even out somewhat. "A single adult can expect to spend about $600 a month on meals, groceries, transportation and entertainment in France."It is important to note that if you retire to France, you will be required to pay taxes there and so, says Connor, "you should speak to a financial expert to find out more about this and to consider strategies that will be most beneficial for your situation."

Access to Health care: The French health care system has been cited as one of the best in the world and is surprisingly provided at a reasonable cost, according to Connor. Medications are also much less expensive. It is important to note, though, that while the care costs less, the retiree will need to purchase private health insurance to cover most of the expense, he says. "The good news is that the cost for such insurance is extremely affordable in France," Connor notes. "Private health insurance averages about $1,500 per person a year. Of course, premiums may vary, depending on your age and general health. If money is a concern, you can look into reducing costs by buying insurance as a member of a larger group or association, which can reduce the premiums by as much as 50 per cent."

The draw: You can expect to find a high quality of life when retiring in France, says Connor. "The food, beverage, fashion and art will make your life an interesting and impressive cultural mix that you will be unlikely to match anywhere else in the world. As long as you are willing to learn the language it won't take too long to settle in," he notes. The features that each region in France offers differ widely. "If you want a remote countryside location, or a village rich with history and architecture, you can find it. Further, you can also find mountains, waterways, nightlife and gourmet food and beverage if you know where to look," Connor says. The fact that it is part of Europe for car or rail travel appeals to expats, Gregory says.


Venice Italy
Cost of living:
  • Rent per month: 1-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $856; outside a city centre: $631;3-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $1,539; outside a city centre: $1,104
  • Buying property: per square metre within a city centre: $5,677; outside a city centre: $3,339
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas and garbage): $187Internet (6Mbps): $32
  • Transportation: Monthly pass: $41
  • Monthly expenses for 2,000 calorie balanced diet: $271
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, three course: $66
  • Sports/Leisure: Monthly fee for fitness club adult membership: $70; Tennis for one hour on a weekend: $19
The cost of living in rural Italy can be "very reasonable," says Rupert Connor. "Many people think that living in Italy is expensive, which is true overall, but property prices and rent can be very affordable if you live outside the big cities. Buy local brands and food and avoid imported items to get the most for your money."In fact, this country has one of the highest cost-of-living rates in Europe. In addition, the dollar has a weak exchange rate in Europe, so it won't go as far there, Connor notes. A two-bedroom apartment in Rome can cost about $2,000 or more a month, he points out.

"Compare this to the cost of living in a more rural area, where a charming rental apartment can be found starting at about $400 monthly. There is also a monthly service charge on rentals, which varies depending on where you live. It can be anywhere from $30 to $300 a month."In addition to housing costs, you can expect to need about $1,500 to $2,000 or more each month to cover your food, utility bills and other expenses to live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, says Connor.

Access to health care: There is a strong health care system. "If you are lucky enough to be a native Italian or have European citizenship, you may qualify for free health care under the national system. Keep in mind that other nationalities usually have to pay for their own health care," says Connor. Private policies vary considerably in price but they generally cost from $1,800 to $2,700 per year for a family of four. They are higher for the elderly. Many companies, retirement groups and other organisations offer lower group rates.

The draw: Italy may be the perfect spot if you want to spend your senior years living in peace and beauty, says Connor. "The landscape is rich with diversity, whether you want to live in the rustic countryside, prefer the bustling pace of a city or opt to live by the beach. Each region has its own characteristics as well. But no matter where you choose to live, hopefully you will be close enough to take advantage of the wealth of cultural activities that exist in Italy. The opera, art galleries, fine restaurants, old-world architecture, universities, vineyards and a variety of outdoor sports are enjoyed by Italians of all ages on a regular basis." Gregory points to Italy's great climate and many people speaking English as a second language as features that attract overseas retirees.



San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

Cost of living:
  • Rent per month:1-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $716; outside a city centre: $505;3-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $1,216; outside a city centre: $877
  • Buying property: per square metre within a city centre: $4,912; outside a city centre: $2,929
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas and garbage): $109Internet (6 Mbps): $45
  • Transportation: Monthly pass: $49
  • Monthly expenses for 2000 calorie balanced diet: $204
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, three course: $53
  • Sports/Leisure: Monthly fee for fitness club adult membership: $58; Tennis for one hour on a weekend: $16
Spain remains a relatively cheap place to live, especially when compared with other western European nations, and offers retirees a good standard of living for their money. But one should be aware of high unemployment that has led to unrest among the youth.The housing market in Spain, as with many countries throughout the world in recent times, has suffered from over speculation and there is now a shortage of affordable homes, notes Rupert Connor. "Retirees may wish to delay intended house purchases until the housing bubbles have been fully resolved."

Access to health care: Spain has a well-developed national health system that is available to all. However, Connor says, the health service in Spain does experience high demand and there are often long waiting lists for treatment and operations. Many people opt for private health care in order to avoid this. Obviously, prices vary greatly according to the age and sex of the applicant; however, it is not prohibitively expensive, he notes. "To give you an idea, the average monthly medical premium for a 30-year old male starts around €55 per month; for females it's a bit a higher at roughly €70 per month and the levels increase the older you are. Better to keep home country private insurance."

The draw: For many retirees the dream of relaxing on a warm, sunny beach in a village or town that offers a laid-back and safe way of life comes true when they move to Spain, says Connor. "One of Spain's biggest appeals is the quality of life on offer. Retirement in Spain offers expats year-round sunshine, stunning countryside and beaches, and a relatively low cost of living. Retirees are attracted here by the fulfilling lifestyle as well as the financial benefits that arise from inexpensive housing and health care." Sarah Lord adds that excellent golf courses make Spain appealing too.


Perth Skyline


Cost of living:
  • Rent per month: 1-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $1,487; outside a city centre: $1,127;3-bedroom apartment within a city centre: $2,473; outside a city centre: $1,661
  • Buying property: per square metre within a city centre: $6,415; outside a city centre: $4,547
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas and garbage): $187Internet (6Mbps): $50
  • Transportation: Monthly pass: $95
  • Monthly expenses for 2,000 calorie balanced diet: $317
  • Meal for two in a mid range restaurant, three course: $69
  • Sports/Leisure: Monthly fee for fitness club for an adult membership: $74;
  • Tennis for one hour on a weekend: $19
The Australian residential market is primarily focused on renting as opposed to sales. Purchasing a property can often act as a useful economical entry point for people who are looking to retire there, says Connor. Australia has some of the least expensive cities in the world in which to live. As with every other country in the world, there is a variation in the cost of living from city to city. The cities which frequently appear as offering a low cost of living comparative to the quality of life on offer are Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, he adds.

Health care costs: Life expectancy in Australia is high and the health and social care facilities on offer are of a very good quality, says Connor. The Medicare system provides free or subsidised medical treatment for all permanent residents. Anyone living or working in Australia (even temporarily), who isn't eligible for Medicare treatment and who doesn't like living dangerously should have private health insurance, he adds. Premiums vary considerably according to the state or territory, according to Connor. The average annual cost of 100 per cent hospital cover for a family is around $1,600 and the average cost of 100 per cent ancillary cover around $1,150. The average annual costs for a single person are $750 or $875 for hospital cover and $575 for ancillary cover. Premiums vary little between couples, families and single-parent families, who all pay around double the single premium. Premiums can be paid monthly, quarterly or annually, and a discount may be given for prompt or annual payment. (All figures are in US dollars.)

The draw: Retirement in Australia offers expats a high quality of life and an opportunity to enjoy retirement in a spacious, pollution-free environment that has an abundance of natural resources and beauty hot spots, Connors says. In addition to its well-developed infrastructure, Australia's moderate winters have made it a popular destination for retirees from abroad who seek a, pleasant climate. But Gregory says visa difficulties are preventing more people from going there.