Sunday, October 25, 2009

University blasts in Pakistan and the future of Islam

Interesting article by Mark LeVine, professor of history at UC Irvine, as he reflects on the bombing of International Islamic University in Islamabad. Here is an excerpt from the story:

With this attack, the Taliban has struck what until now was a sanctuary, however fragile and inchoate, where the emerging generation of Pakistanis and Muslims could determine on their own terms how best to bring together their cultures and traditions to grapple with the profound challenges faced by their societies.

I hope it doesn't weaken the spirit and resolve of the thousands of students who've come to the IIU from across the Muslim world to help build a better future. They are not just the future of Pakistan, or of Islam; they are the future as well.

Judge Richard Goldstone

A fascinating interview of Judge Richard Goldstone by Bill Moyers. Judge Richard Goldstone was chosen by the United Nations to investigate "Operation Cast Lead," the Israeli attack on Gaza. His report found Israel guilty of war crimes and some actions which could amount to crimes against humanity. Judge Goldstone says some remarkable things:
These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes. The government of Israel obviously has a duty to protect its own citizens. That in no way justifies a policy of collective punishment of a people under effective occupation, destroying their means to live a dignified life and the trauma caused by the kind of military intervention the Israeli government called Operation Cast Lead.
[later in the interview...]
Well, I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose family were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
[later in the interview...]
You know, one thing one can't say about the Israel Defense Forces is that they make too many mistakes. They're very, a sophisticated army. And if they attack a mosque or attack a factory, and over 200 factories were bombed, there's just no basis to ascribe that to error. That must be intentional.
[later in the interview...]
No, no. On the contrary, I was struck by the warmth of the people, that we met and who we dealt with in Gaza. You know, my fears were put aside. When I went back for the second visit to Gaza, I went with a much more equanimity and level of acceptance.
[later in the interview...]
Which is a form of racism. Why should my being Jewish stop me from investigating Israel? I just don't see it. I think a friend should be open to criticism from friends.
It is amazing to hear someone speak with such passion for the truth and justice.

You can watch the whole interview, online at PBS.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Who Speaks for Islam - documentary on LinkTV

An interesting documentary recently done on Link TV called, "Who Speaks for Islam" that was hosted by Ray Suarez. The full episode is posted online and a review was recently done by the New York Times. Check it out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dispelling the myths behind Columbus

An interesting post about Columbus and the role of myth-making in popular history

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida, has gained a lot of attention for his now-famous description of Republicans' plans for healthcare (Step 1 - Don't get sick. Step 2 - And if you do... Step 3 - die quickly).

His speech, delivered on the House floor, was quite refreshing, mainly for the response it provoked among conservatives and liberals. It may help shift the momentum of the debate so that Democrats are no longer on the defensive. More importantly, it serves as a stark reminder that there are serious consequences to cosmetic reform measures that largely protect special interests.

People without insurance, or with inadequate insurance, often enter the healthcare system with late complications of their illness that end up costing society far more than if they were treated earlier. From a purely economic viewpoint, it is better for society if such people die quickly, and Grayson's comments insinuate that this is the Republican perspective.

While clearly an exaggeration, it does remind us that healthcare reform, fundamentally, cannot simply be about economics. It has to be based on the notion that every individual has the right to receive healthcare. If we proceed from this principle, then we can find a way to make the economics work. But if we start from a position of profiteering, then no meaningful reform will ever take place.

Representative Grayson appears to be fighting for principles - even before tackling healthcare, he has taken a leadership role in holding the banking industry accountable for the money it receives from the federal bailout.

This surprises me somewhat as he is a Harvard educated multi-millionaire; I was almost hoping to find out he was a teacher or policeman who rose up to fight for his constituents. Well, we'll take what we can get...

The reality is that health care reform will largely protect special interests while requiring only incremental "sacrifices" that will nominally expand insurance coverage for the uninsured or improve coverage for the underinsured.

The public option, a government-backed insurance plan, was a creative solution that could have made a meaningful difference. Hopefully, Grayson's comments will remind us of what is at stake and encourage real reform measures to be considered...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Child is Born

Incredible photographs of the developing fetus, with details that are stunning...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Planet where the rain is rock hard

Interesting news story on a newly discovered planet that is so hot, it rains rocks...