Archive for ::General

Let the people speak today…

[Updated note to this post: Amid the jubilence, it seems suicide attackers have struck again in Rawalpindi, killing at least 10 and injuring over 20.  Let Pakistanis not loose the momentum to demand en masse, their right to be safeguarded against this grave threat which looms, to demand that the powers that be, stop pandering to the religious extremists and begin to take strong action with urgency to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and its people.  I hope we are not left waiting in vain (or worse) for the people, the masses, the ruling educated elite to speak up and march (now!) against the terror and atrocities being committed by Muslims upon Muslims as the country celebrates the dawn of this new day… ]

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A historic, emotional and proud day in the history of Pakistan- March 16, 2009.

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Hundreds of thousands marched the “Long March” towards the capital to demand the restoration of Paksitan’s legitimate Judiciary – for two years the lawyers movement forged tirelessly, beaten down on, but they have prevailed.  Never in the history of Pakistan, have PCO Judges been reinstated.  Never did the masses feel their voice and presence would matter.   Technology, media and the will to fight for a country mired in political dysfunction have given birth to a new hope and a voice to the people.

Skeptics who felt powerless in the face of the corrupt and ruling elite, feel they may have a chance after this historic day.  The task now is for more long marches to come – to demand the rulers to stop pandering to the Islamic extremists and protect them from this abhorrent homegrown violence; to demand justice for equal access to education, health, civil services, employment and the bare necessities of life needed to sustain the poorest of the poor, as well as the vast,  middle class – many of whom comprised the lawyers movement from the start.  The long march has only just begun.

I think it is best for those voices to speak for themselves.  The following are quotes from today’s (March 16, 2009) NYT’s article on this historic event:

Javed Ali Khan: “We’re watching history,” said Javed Ali Khan, a 45-year-old who had traveled for days with his wife and six children to participate in a national march of lawyers and opposition political parties.

…….

Hassan Akhtar, a lawyer who grew up in England, gushed: “It’s really wonderful. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I couldn’t even dream of this.”

…….

“Justice,” said Mr. Khan’s wife, Rubina Javed, smiling broadly. “We came for justice.” “Justice is the solution to the common man’s problems,” Ms. Javed said, seated on a blue scarf on the grass with two daughters and four sons, ages 6 to 18, around her. “I want justice in schools, on roads, in transportation. Now the common man is speaking.”

Ms. Javed’s daughters both wore stickers of Mr. Chaudhry stuck to the fronts of their brightly colored dresses, with the words, “My Hero,” in English, in bold script. The family earns about $250 a month, too little to send the children to private school. Most Pakistanis consider their country’s public school system to be broken.

…….

“The ruling elite can get away with anything,” said Muhammad Ali, a software engineer. “They are like kings here.”

…….

“This movement has given an awareness to the common people in Pakistan of their rights,” said Shamoon Azhar, 26, a doctoral student at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, sitting on the lawn with a large group of his friends. “This is about awareness. It’s given people confidence. It’s shown people it can happen.”

…….

“The feudal system, it was in the past,” said Mazhar Iqbal, a private school manager. “There was no media then. No education. The poor were poor forever. Now is the time to wake up. It’s been 60 years and we’ve been wasting our time.”

…….

Saif Abbas, a consultant who used to work for the Asian Development Bank in Islamabad, was more clear-eyed about the meaning of the march. Pakistan is still a poor country with a vast illiterate population, and a corrupt, unresponsive ruling class, he said.

“This country has to take control of its own future, and that’s education,” he said, holding a flag. “Unfortunately, we’re just not there yet.”  He continued:  “The next government is going to fear the people who pushed this one against the wall,” […] A revolution it is not, he said. “But it’s a good beginning.”

…….

Indeed it finally is.

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NYT Op-Ed on the Obama – Hillary Face-Off

Well written Op-Ed piece by Frank Rich of the New York Times (February 24, 2008) weighing in on the Obama – Hillary face-off.   Puts both races in comparitive perspective.

Op-Ed Columnist

The Audacity of Hopelessness  

Published: February 24, 2008
WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.  

It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.

The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.

That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller. His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.

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To Play, or not Play?

At first glace of the article’s title in this week’s New York Times Magazine (Taking Play Seriously), and a quick read through of the first page, I really became excited about the prospect of some real scientific ‘findings’ and hard fact research about the high correlation between childhood play and developmental success as a direct result. Though the (long) article does to some extent conclude how important imaginative and creative play is for a child’s cognitive, behavioral, social and physical development, some sources of research for this piece argue differently – Read for yourself and you’ll find some interesting observations made by a variety of scientists on this subject.

As a parent living in this 21st century, knowingly wary that the overscheduling of ‘enrichment’ activities we convince ourselves (and by extension, our peers) is good for our children – I stop myself each time it’s ‘sign-up’ season and wonder if  I really AM doing the right thing for my children.  I want them to avail of the myriad of classes and opportunities to develop their skills and interests with all that is around us in the metro-regions and affluent towns our overacheiving families live in.  Piano will help her with her mathematics.  Art allows for his creative side to emerge (and help with handwriting skills!).  Softball is great for instilling teambuilding skills.  Yes, of course all this is wonderful. I boastfully tell my friends sometimes that this time I’m cutting back on ‘x’ or ‘y’ activity – and luckily, I have to admit, I have rolled back – a bit.  I mean, what are you supposed to do when your kid says, “Mama, I’m tired of all these activities – I just want to play”.  So we cut back- a bit – and now we try to make more time for impromptu playdates with friends from school and the neighborhood.  I think it has made them happier?  But even arranging and scheduling these playtimes is a chore in itself!  We have to book out 1, 2 or even 3 weeks sometimes, to find a time to play with a friend.  So, while they wait for their scheduled playdates (kids just don’t really go out into the streets and play with the kid across the street anymore – too many child predators, speeding teens in cars, or worse out there – so we are inhibiting our kids further, from being truly in ‘free play’) what do we do?  Encourage them to play by themselves or with siblings – kids find doing things independently almost too difficult these days too…why? We did?  Perhaps again, because we’ve structured their activity time too much and they cannot play endlessly on their own as they await direction from their adults on how to proceed with play and activities?  Many kids then fall into the TV trap – while many of us responsible parents limit TV watching strictly, (some parents admit unwillingly that their kids do watch a bit too much TV….) it still ends up being a ‘filler’ for down time, post school stress de-tox or as a treat after completing homework.  So, where does that leave us?  Just read the article – it’s as detailed and comprehensive as you’d want to get!

 

From the New York Times Magazine – February 17, 2008)

Why Do We Play: Taking Play Seriously

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Managing Risk via Blogging? TSA’s Evolution of Security Blog Launched

We all travel – some are traveling now.  Others just got off a plane.  And then there are many who are up right now, packing their carry on luggage, wondering what viscous items to place in the 3 oz containers and how many ziplock bags to pack up!

Well, the new Transportation Authority Association is now officially ‘blogging‘ about the ups and downs of being the checker and checked, the NYT reported on this news item today.

While many are ranting and raving about their individual tussles, encounters and sheer frustration of the disparity of checks at airports across the country – the TSA is tackling the issues head on by rebutting but also trying to listen to the ‘complaints’ and try to make the process more seamless and consistent – Are they actually espousing the concept of customer service?  We’ll see….  I think we all have at least one good TSA security line story to recount! 

Enjoy their new blog!  Evolution of Security (http://www.tsa.gov/blog).

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Yes We Can!

Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am’s music video inspired by Barack Obama’s message of hope:  Yes We Can!

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Democratic Primary 101

Hopefully it’s not too late for anyone reading this – even if Feb 5 (super ‘duper’ Tuesday) has come and gone, there is still time to vote your mind in the remaining primary voting states.

Been talking to many friends – most of my female ones, at least – and they seem to be on the fence whether to vote for a first potential woman leader of the free world or the first person of color?  A seemingly tough decision, but for some and personally for myself – it has nothing to do with either of these monumental moments at history’s doorstep (though I have to say, it does make it more exciting).

Obama for President 2.25My choice, is for Mr. Barack Obama – because I feel he will make a better leader based on his values (if you have read about his life – he has humble beginnings, a personal and living understanding of the world we live in, in addition to his early life struggles – he understands first hand, where the majority of America and potentially the world is coming from), his solid stance & clarity on policy and his ability to take leadership actions.  Most importantly, he has the gift of being able to inspire hope, provide a turning point amidst apathy towards politics and the current leadership’s stand on almost any issue.  Obama has character and a deep sense of humanity which he so effortlessly displays.  He has rallied young voters and has raised funds rivaling Hillary Clinton’s – despite lacking all the pomp and celebrity his oponents have been banking on.  The single most defining character statement for me, at least, was his clarity of judgement with his opposition of the Iraq war from day one – and not pandering to what was the popular thing to do as Hilary Clinton and so many others did – and now find themselves having to wriggle out and reinvent their reasons for their ‘for war’ vote.  In our world today, it is ever more important to mend the bridges which have been burned over the past 7+ years in international relations.  Having a keen understanding and sensitivity to the world beyond our borders will only make America stonger inside and out. 

My 7 year old daughter was asking me about the candidates (after constantly reading all the campaign signs posted around town) and also piping up when mom and dad were discussing dad’s volunteering this weekend to help her school-friend’s mother (the neighborhood precinct captain for Obama’s campaign) canvass our immediate neighborhood to garner support (and a nod for a vote!) for Barack Obama.  When telling her why her dad and I were supporting Obama, I found it a little difficult – as a graduate of a woman’s college & a mother talking to her young daughter – not standing up for a candidate who could potentially be the first women U.S. president…but then thought again to tell her why I felt Obama was the better one to be a leader of America.  (I told her in her mom’s native country, Pakistan, there already had been a women leader – a prime minister – several years ago, so that absolved some of my feminist guilt!). 

So back to why Obama?  I found an interesting piece comparing the democratic candidates (an ‘Election Guide’)  in the New York Times – ironically on the big policy issues, the positions on Health Care, Abortion, Climate Change, and Immigration were resoundlingly similar.  The big differences again were: 1) on his strong stance against going to war in Iraq from the onset and a comprehensive plan to withdraw from Iraq; 2) insistence upon  engaging in direct diplomacy with open communications with all world leaders to ensure America gets it right in foreign policy issues; 3) while both candidates are for repealing the Bush Tax cuts for households over $250,000, Hillary Clinton wants to ‘jumpstart’ the economy with a $70 Billion stimulous package, Barack Obama proposes a plan for tax relief (cut $80 Billion in taxes) for the middle and working classes and the elderly who make less than $50,000.  It boils down to the nitty gritty, of course, but I feel it is very important to believe in someone who sincerely believes in bringing about the changes and having the intellectual and practical ability to take a well thought out stand.  Just think for a moment, if Clinton wins the primary….and subsequently the role of president, we would have had the Bush and Clinton dynasty running America for 24 years (potentially even 28 years!) – Is this good for America?

While the road to becoming the nominee for the Democratic party is still up for grabs, polls (!) are showing a closing of the gap between Obama and Clinton – especially in the key states of California, New Jersey and Arizona as of February 4th.  Hot off the press (2/4/08): nationally, the USA Today/ Gallup Poll is showing a fierce dead heat competition: 45% (Clinton) to 44% (Obama).  So, there is time in case you are still undecided and have yet to cast your vote.  Interestingly,  while I was writing, I received a ‘taped’ phone message from actress Scarlett Johansson, urging me to cast my vote tomorrow if I am still wavering!  I have come across people who say, “Well, there isn’t a candidate who is worth voting for – I ask them candidly if they have actually spent the time to even read or learn about the policy positions each candidate has (I’ll admit, I’ve been brushing up on this more recently since the race tightened) –  or are they going with their gut?  I urge you to use the upper domain of your body and cast your decision accordingly. Please go and be counted and heard.  It is really empowering and gives you a legitimate license to either applaud or criticize what goes on in your country – without becoming one of those Monday morning quater-backers…

Note: As many know, it is the amount of Delegates the candidates pick up by state vs. winning by more votes.  For the Democratic Primary, it is not winner takes all…(more details below from the NYT):
 

Super Tuesday: Democratic Preview

As the candidates head into Super Tuesday, one of the main factors is how delegates are awarded in each state. There are hundreds of places for candidates to pick up delegates, since in many states delegates are awarded based not on the statewide vote, but rather on the result in each Congressional district. For the Democrats, delegates are won in proportion to a candidate’s percentage of the vote, making it difficult for Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama to pull very far ahead.   Republican preview »
— Amanda Cox, Farhana Hossain and Ford Fessenden   

Oh, and if you’re registered as an Independant or Non-Partisan in California, you are able to cast a vote for your Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.  Just remember to ask for a ballot for the Democratic Primary when you check in to vote! 

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Excerpt from Obama’s speech given in Springfield, Illinois (February 10, 2007) – announcing his decision to run for President of the United States.  I remember listening to his words and feeling moved and a sense of hopefulness for this nation…

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Images of Iran Unbeknownst to most…

…Iran Peace Train – a la Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens).   Check out the photo essay below.

Are our lives really that ‘different’? 

 http://www.lucasgray.com/video/peacetrain.html

This site has some more beautiful images of Tehran.

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Hope and the power of one…Soccer, Refugees, America

After a long absence from my blog, I thought I’d usher in the new year with a story about hope and how one person has impacted the lives of so many…

Upon reading this article in the NYT this weekend, I was deeply moved and inspired by the dedication of female coach, Luma Mufleh, to her team of re’fugees’ resettled in Clarkston, Georgia.  I was also troubled, but not entirely shocked, by the xenophobic reception of the longtime residents of Clarkston, and their associated fears arisen by the large influx of ‘foreigners’ (but legal asylees) to their once quiet all-American town.  Luma Mufleh (fellow alumna!) and her achievements, her voluteerism and selfless commitment to her team comprised of young children who have suffered unimaginable hardships in their short lives is something to look up to.  

For those without access to the NYT, here is the complete (and very lengthy) article:

Hostility and Hope on the Soccer Field 

By WARREN ST. JOHN

Published: January 21, 2007

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Members of the Fugees soccer team in Clarkston, Ga.

CLARKSTON, Ga., Jan. 20 — Early last summer the mayor of this small town east of Atlanta issued a decree: no more soccer in the town park.

“There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor,” Lee Swaney, a retired owner of a heating and air-conditioning business, told the local paper. “Those fields weren’t made for soccer.”

In Clarkston, soccer means something different than in most places. As many as half the residents are refugees from war-torn countries around the world. Placed by resettlement agencies in a once mostly white town, they receive 90 days of assistance from the government and then are left to fend for themselves. Soccer is their game.

But to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in town. It’s not football. It’s not baseball. The fields weren’t made for it. Mayor Swaney even has a name for the sort of folks who play the game: the soccer people.

Caught in the middle is a boys soccer program called the Fugees — short for refugees, though most opponents guess the name refers to the hip-hop band.

The Fugees are indeed all refugees, from the most troubled corners — Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan. Some have endured unimaginable hardship to get here: squalor in refugee camps, separation from siblings and parents. One saw his father killed in their home.

The Fugees, 9 to 17 years old, play on three teams divided by age. Their story is about children with miserable pasts trying to make good with strangers in a very different and sometimes hostile place. But as a season with the youngest of the three teams revealed, it is also a story about the challenges facing resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.

The Fugees’ coach exemplifies the best. A woman volunteering in a league where all the other coaches are men, some of them paid former professionals from Europe, she spends as much time helping her players’ families make new lives here as coaching soccer.

At the other extreme are some town residents, opposing players and even the parents of those players, at their worst hurling racial epithets and making it clear they resent the mostly African team. In a region where passions run high on the subject of illegal immigration, many are unaware or unconcerned that, as refugees, the Fugees are here legally.

“There are no gray areas with the Fugees,” said the coach, Luma Mufleh. “They trigger people’s reactions on class, on race. They speak with accents and don’t seem American. A lot of people get shaken up by that.”

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UNICEF Photo Essay- Child’s view: My life after the earthquake

There are rays of hope amongst the continued despair in much of Pakistan’s earthquake affected areas.  While children bear the worst brunt of these horrific disasters, they somehow are the most resilent, strong and hopeful.  In a photo project initiated by Unicef, affected children were given photography training and then the opportunity to photograph through their own eyes, their experiences and needs of the aftermath.  The following photo essay was produced.  The images are pure, honest and human.  They still ask, as there is still so much need.  But, they are also moving forward.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/ HQ06-1234/Zubair
Zubair, 8, a participant in the ‘Eye See II’ project for earthquake-affected children in Pakistan, photographs himself in Haji Abad village, located in the Mansehra District of North West Frontier Province.

The exhibition of photos from the project opened [October 5, 2006] at UNICEF’s New York headquarters and in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Twenty-one children from areas that were hard-hit by the earthquake attended the Islamabad event. 

Excerpts follow below and the full story, here on the “Eye See II” photo project. 

Equipped with their powerful new tool, the young quake survivors captured images of their changed lives one year after the disaster.

At the Muzaffarabad Government Girls School, the pupils were proud of their contribution.

“Through our pictures, we want to show the world what it’s really like here in Kashmir right now,” said one 13-year-old student. “By taking pictures,” added her classmate, “we can tell people about all our problems, and we have a lot of problems right now.”

You can view the actual Photo Essay, here.   Here is a photo essay on the training workshops

With this post, I complete rememberance for now, on the one year anniversary of that ill-fated day in Pakistan.

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Documentary Film: Rebuilding @ 73°E

Came across this blog today on the 1st anniversary of the deadly earthquake in Pakistan.   It is a wonderful documentary produced by Nasir Aziz, from Seattle, WA after the October 8, 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan.  It is the story of how a group of concerned Americans and Pakistanis living abroad made a world of difference in the lives of close to 700 families in a village left in ruins. 

It is moving, inspiring and selfless.  It reminds us again, how one person or a group of individuals committed to a cause, can radically change the lives of so many other human beings in such a profound way.  

You can view the 26 minute film here or on a larger screen on Google VDO, here

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One year on…Pakistan Earthquake struck on October 8, 2005

How irreversibly the lives of millions changed on this morning one year ago in the Northern Areas of Pakistan (and parts of India) after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the livlihoods of those living in these most heavenly mountain ranges and valleys.  According to UNICEF, over 16,000 children died in schools on that fateful day, as they were crushed by the faultily constructed roofs of their 2, 3, 4 storey cement school buildings. (Estimates say, in total, almost 35,000 children died). The death toll total was over 80,000 (in Pakistan, and about 1,500 in India) and close to 200,000 succumbed to their injuries (according to ReliefWeb/UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)).  About 11,000 children were left orphaned.  Several thousands more lost their limbs or the ability to walk or move again.  Close to 3.5 million became homeless and without proper shelter.  Government estimates say some 600,000 houses, 6,298 schools and 796 health facilities were demolished, about 6,440 km of roads damaged and 50-70 per cent of water supply, sanitation, telecom and power infrastructure made non-operational.  Then winter came and the suffering and urgency to help the second round of victims continued.  With the passing of time, spring came and snows melted.  Some roads were made passable again.  Some were lucky to move to ‘temporary’ tin roof shelters vs. the damp, frigid tents where millions slept each night, barely making it through the relentless snows.  Many dead were finally given a proper burial in the earth, in exchange for the concrete graves they had been left in during the winter months, before heavy machinery could remove all the boulders and bricks from over them. 

The world gave again – well, as much as their pockets allowed them to, after a year of giving had ensued, beginning first with the Tsunami of December 26, 2004, and later with Hurricane Katrina.  And Pakistani’s in Pakistan and abroad gave – in kind, in currency and in humanity by either volunteering, providing medical assistance, moving supplies to the hard hit areas or building temorary shelters.  It was an unprecedented response to the tragedy. There were fund raisers, volunteer organizations, international vigils, media campaigns, letters to wealthy corporations, & emails to NATO and US government officials to appeal for more aid, helicopters, media attention.  Still, now, in retrospect, it did not seem to be enough.  Yesterday’s stories of heroism, activism and humanity, now a year later, seem to be filled with stories of neglect, unfulfilled promises and despair.  People were still without basic dry/winterized shelters, food and proper medical facilities months after the earthquake.  A year later, an estimated 1.8 million people are still displaced and not yet permanently rehabilitated.  

There were over 2ooo aftershocks since the earthquake struck, and the harsh winter was followed by monsoons.  While the traumatized survived aftershocks, flu, pneumonia and worse, the monsoons wreaked even more havoc.   Massive landslides and torrential floods swept away whole sides of mountains – those villages or homes which may have survived the destruction from the earthquake now were permanently gone after the monsoons – thanks to the timber mafia which have systematically deforested much of the spectacular Kaghan Valley mountains.

According to various estimates, there are at least 35,000 to 40,000 people still living in tents/camps, and who will face another uncertain, cold and unprotected harsh winter.  While organizations like Refugees International, and various UN entities continue their work alongside many local NGOs like Sungi, Rural Support Programmes, etc. are still working towards aiding the displaced victims of the October 2005 earthquake, much of the international donations have yet to be realized and the government entity (ERRA) has yet to fully deliver to the people. 

The ruined city of Balakot is still under rubble for the most part, as the city has been virutally left untouched by any reconstruction efforts, as it is felt that it’s precarious location on a dangerous fault line could possibly be the site of yet another powerful quake years from now.  The government wants to move the city to another location 20km south, to a town called Bakryal.  Estimates say that not even 1 in every 2 inhabitants of Balakot survived the earthquake, as it was situated at the epicenter.   People here are still living in tents and gearing up for another fierce winter, as their city has not been rehabilitated.  The frustration is rampant (from The News):

However, the earthquake victims, by and large, are deeply frustrated at the slow pace of work by government departments and by their indifference towards the plight of the common man.

“We are being told time and again that houses made of fibre glass will be imported from Saudi Arabia but we don’t know when the promise will be translated into a reality,” said Mohammad Khalid Khan, a teacher at a tent school in Balakot.

“Most of the children have come out of trauma but now the question is how to survive against the odds, especially when the winter is fast approaching,” he said. “The relief phase was good but the reconstruction phase is moving at a snail’s pace,” he said.

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Photography: Beauty, to each their own.

I remember the day my father & I made my first ‘pinhole‘ camera from a National Geographic Magazine’s special ‘cut out’ insert.  From doing a quick Google Search, I discovered it was the August 1977 issue of National Geographic World (now NG Kids).  (*interesting to note that a Muslim scientist named Ibn Haitham (965-104- CE) invented the first pinhole camera or “camara obscura”). There is no lens involved and the trick is to make the hole just small enough to let enough light through the aperture to produce a clear enough image, and adjusting the shutter exposure time by lifting the hand held flap accordingly.  aa-laos.jpgWe probably created some interesting photos, but unfortunately memory does not serve me well now, as to what we actually photographed!  What I do remember is how neat I thought it was that such a simple box could take pictures and photograph inanimate objects.  I knew I wanted to learn more.  No cheap disposible cameras back then – no digitals either, of course.  My father took photos with much enthusiasm, and with the birth of my sister and myself, the photos were most often portraits of the family. (This one of my sister & I was taken in Vientiane, Laos, c. 1978 ).

My father almost always had a camera in hand.  Pentax was his brand and he also had numerous lenses and filters.  I found it fascinating.  I think I in earnest began taking photographs with my first camera (handed downinstamatickodakcamera.jpg from my father), the Kodak Instamatic Cube Flash camera.  You can find them on Ebay and they are now considered ‘vintage’ (I didn’t realize how old that made me feel, until I saw it in print!).   It was the best ‘point and shoot’ of the 70s, and took some lovely day and night-time snaps.  I remember how he always told me to look at my subject and be able to create a ‘depth of vision’ with the camera by adjusting the f/stop and shutter speeds. 

I next took a photography class in High School where we had to use a manual SLR lens camera, shoot photos in black and white and develop the photos in the dark room using the smelly chemicals, enlargers and unique and stylistically challenging techniques for developing the photos.  I next inherited my father’s old Pentax manual, along with some wide angle lenses.  I fell in love with photography.  I think I took photos of thedonald.jpgEVERYTHING, trying to get unusual perspectives, close-ups and portraits, abstract and the real as well.  My favorite shoot during that class was going to my father’s office in Mid-town New York City, and take photos from the 13th floor of his office building, looking down at the pyramid glass rooftops of the adjacent buildings.  I also remember going to the Trump Towers (newly minted in the mid-80s) and finding the ‘Donald’ signing some new book of his in the lobby.  My first celebrity shot. 

After trotting off to college, I just snapped photos of long cherished carefee days and memories of faces I no longer see or even know where they are now.  But the photos captured it all, preserving moments in time, locked away in my memories somewhere.  Till this day, I am often derided for being the ‘Kodak’ lady and always clicking away.  I think I must have at least 5-8 ‘book’ boxes of developed photos along with their negatives!  I kept telling myself to separate the negatives from the photos, lest they all perish in a conflagration some day, God forbid!  I went through some nasty point and shoots, and became revolted by their lack of depth and dimension.  I had to move on.

After earning my own keep in the post college years, and before my marriage, I finally bought my first NEW camera.  I had to keep true to the family brand, and got a Pentax ZX-5, SLR (Manual/Auto).  The memories had piled up in print, ranging from college days to international travels, new friends, cities lived in, a wedding, honeymoon, family, Pakistan, and then eventually the children!  While the pace has slowed down, the photos are still collecting, and thankfully now, they just consume large amounts of HD space on my computer, vs. those heavy overstuffed boxes I now lug from one house move to another.  (And there have been at least 5 in the last 8 years).  Digital photography has revolutionized the way we photograph and preserve.  Online photo (public) sites now allow us to view ‘e-published’ photos of places and people we may have never known, unless we travelled there ourselves or owned many photography/travel books. 

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A day of Firsts: Iranian-born female space tourist blasts off into orbit

The first female tourist, first female Muslim and first Iranian went into orbit early Monday, from Baikonur, KHAZAKHSTAN.  Anousheh Ansari (age 40) is an Iranian-American telecom entrepreneur.  She hopes that her trip will inspire women and Iranians to pursue their dreams. 

While space tourists typically pay their way (as much as $20M!) to get a seat on space missions, it still takes courage to pursue this endeavor.  She has paved the way as far as ‘firsts’ go, and for that she deserves her day of fame.  Whether or not it is the best way to get a Muslim woman into space, is a matter for later debate! 

“By reaching this dream I’ve had since childhood, I hope to tangibly demonstrate to young people all over the world that there is no limit to what they can accomplish,” said Anousheh Ansari, chairman and co-founder of Prodea Systems, Inc.

On another note, there are reports that a Pakistani woman, Numera Aslam/Saleem will be the sent by NASA in a space mission sometime in July 2008, when commercial operations are supposed to begin.

Article from Reuters follows.  You can also view her Blog and her Official website.

From: REUTERS, September 18, 2006 

By Shamil Zhumatov

anousheh-ansari1.jpgBAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – A Russian Soyuz spacecraft blasted off on Monday carrying a woman set to notch up three space records: the first female tourist, first female Muslim, and first Iranian in orbit.

Anousheh Ansari, 40, an Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur, joined a Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut in the cramped interior of Soyuz TMA-9 for a flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Soviet-designed spacecraft lifted off into a clear blue sky at 0409 GMT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

“The flight is normal, the crew feel fine,” a flight controller at Mission Control near Moscow said.

Unlike American Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian Mikhail Tyurin, who are starting a six-month stint in space, Ansari will return to earth in 10 days with the outgoing U.S.-Russian crew.

Ansari, a U.S. citizen based in Dallas, Texas who left Iran in 1984, has said she wants to be an example to her compatriots.

“I think my flight has become a sort of ray of hope for young Iranians living in Iran, helping them to look forward to something positive, because everything they’ve been hearing is all so very depressing and talks of war and talks of bloodshed,” Ansari told Reuters last week.

FLAG

She has been told, however, to remove an Iranian flag from her spacesuit and, at the insistence of the Russian and U.S. governments, promise that there will be no political messages during her trip.

Looking relaxed and smiling at a pre-launch news conference at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Sunday, Ansari said she would still pack another Iranian flag for her trip.

The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since students took 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. President Bush has called the Islamic Republic part of an “axis of evil”.

Ansari has not said how much her ticket cost but previous space tourists have paid the Russian space programme about $20 million.

She had originally been scheduled to join a later Soyuz mission but took the place of Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto when Russian space officials said last month he was not able to fly for unspecified medical reasons.

Several hours before the Soyuz blast off, the U.S. space Shuttle Atlantis undocked from the ISS.

The Soyuz craft will dock with the space station early on Wednesday. Atlantis is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida a few hours later.

(Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow)

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Khaled sings ‘Aicha’ (!)

Like this song just heard recently….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LFJY3tX9TE

VDO Courtesy:

YouTube

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An Unlikely Rescue?

Since I am guilty of not having posted in many moons, I figured a visual would serve as the best transition…

Caught this photo on National Geographic’s website. 

From National Geographic:

Photographed Friday in the northern Indian city of Lucknow (India map), a mouse perches on a frog in waist-deep (for a frog, anyway) floodwaters—a small sign of the early arrival of annual summer monsoon rains.

                 Frog & Mouse

If rodents and amphibians can help each other out in desperate times, how difficult is it for us homo sapiens to do likewise?

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