Sunday, April 22, 2018

Long haul flights for passengers


Recently new long haul flights were revealed and I as an individual passenger was disgusted. Not in the sense that it is wrong but who would want to be in the air for 15 or 16 hours with nowhere to go, killing their time with nothing to do even after watching movies or other stuff on the screen if they are available. The most I can remember is that the longest flight I have taken was the direct flight to Hawaii which was 10 hours in the air (I may have taken longer flights but that I don’t remember) and at that time it was torture since the airline did not provide free movies or television and you have to buy them but the flight was smooth enough that I manage to swallow it. But these long haul flights which are like 15 or 16 hours nonstop flights are really for some people that can endure this.
I mean if you are at your house, you still move around for the above mentioned duration, so how is it possible that with cramped seats in the economy class you would be able to sleep or sit still and if you have some cranky passenger beside you or behind or in front of you or a small child who is constantly crying (even adults can cry in this situation), it becomes unbearable. Even if you have the means to fly first class with enough space for you to lie down, this more than half a day of continuous flight is not for the faint of heart. I don’t want to say never but for now, I am not looking forward to having this kinds of nonstop flights anytime soon or later.

The highs and lows of insurance


I received my car insurance recently and I started to wonder how complex it is for the insurance companies to make judgment about their clients based on age and record of driving. And it is not just the car insurance but any kind of insurance can be involved in this calculation. Car insurance is based on your driving record and the age, for example if you have a perfect driving record and you are in the mid fifties, your insurance will go down but here is the dilemma, since at this age, most of the people who have kids add their teenage kids to their insurance since the kids start driving around that time when their parents are in the fifties and even if your own insurance goes down ,due to the addition of your kids, the insurance shoots through the roof, since teenagers are new to driving and they can easily be involved in more accidents then the more matured ones.
In the case of health insurance, initially your premium does not increase much since you are young and healthy so you may not use health visits but once you get old, you develop some diseases and constantly need health care which drastically increase your insurance premium, completely opposite to the car insurance premium. Something happens with life insurance as your initial premium is less and it goes up as you get older. Home insurance depends upon how much your home is worth and the location where you live, if it is high crime area, your insurance will be high and vice versa. So just like life has its up and down times so does the insurance premium you pay.

The fans


Every category imaginable has fans in the midst. Some maybe very small groups and some maybe very large, some may be very quiet and some maybe very vocal but there fans everywhere for almost everything. Sport fans are the most vocal and obsessive about their teams, but there are fans of movie stars and singers who are equally obsessive about their favorite actors and singers and dream of just meeting them one day. I, for one is also a fan of movie stars but I do not dream of meeting them one day like some others do, if it happens, it happens otherwise I not going to keep on lamenting about not meeting one.
I have seen some fans crying when they see their favorite celebrity and some even faint which is absurd but everybody has different emotions and sometimes it is hard to control emotions when you thought what was impossible becomes possible.Although obsessive fans are okay as long as they stay within their limits but there are some who may cross the path of privacy and decency of their stars and may even endanger them. And it has really happened in the past as some deranged fans have literally attacked the people when they have come very close to them. I know most of the fans are literally in love with their favorite stars and would never do any harm to them; it is the one who are borderline psychotic obsessive ones that the stars need to be careful with. And since you don’t know who this psychotic one is among millions of innocent looking fans, it is for this reason; the stars keep on having bodyguards and maintain delicate balance between engaging with their fans while keeping a safe distance from them.

On the lighter side-Movies-Strangled (2016-Hungarian)


An innocent man is found guilty of murdering and raping several women while the actual killer is out loose. Enter a detective who tries to find the real culprit. Good effort by Hungary, although some scenes are disturbing. Recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-Jailbreak (2017)-Cambodian


Cops transporting a key witness to a prison become trapped in the prison and must use all their skills to escape. Enjoyable martial arts action movie from Cambodia. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Children of the Corn: Runaway (2017)


A pregnant woman escapes from the children of the corn, only to be followed by them in another town years later to induct her offspring. Silly continuation of the series should be stopped. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-I remember you (2017-Iceland)


A couple moves into an abandoned house only to find it haunted with its past. Okay thriller. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Forgotten (2017-Korea)


A man sees his brother being kidnapped. He returns but the brother suspects that he may not be the same person. Intriguing mystery movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Another Wolfcop (2017)


Werewolf cop springs into action when a businessman tries to convert the inhabitants of a small town through his brewery into weird animals. Gory and bloody, if you like the first one, enjoy this one too. Recommended with caution

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Living in the Past


It is nice to live in the past as someone has said, it is cheap. But constantly being nostalgic about the past does not help the present and definitely will not help the future if you keep on dreaming of recapturing the glory of the past without much leg work. Many individuals are guilty of it and many countries are also in the habit of dreaming about the past glory of their country that once was. Sometimes I do reminiscent about the past years and I believe many people do but I also not keep on glorifying my achievement of yesteryears and not do anything to surpass that glory. And here is what some people and countries do to sleep on their past glories while lamenting the current state of affairs. For example some old people lament the current state of affairs and long for the time when life was simple and manageable.
In the United States, the current trend I suspect is that to dial back to the time when America was mostly white (I may be wrong but the policies of the government sure makes it so). In the Islamic world, there is still nostalgia about the past glory of the Islamic empire and on it rest the dreams or the fantasies of the Muslims who dream of regaining that glory and to achieve this some of the Muslims have gone to the extreme right and started violent and deadly confrontations with fellow Muslims and Non Muslims to achieve their goal in a violent way. Other Muslims just lament their present states and keep on harping about how great they were before without trying to achieve greatness again with hard work and persistence. But I believe this is not only related to Islamic world as I am sure other countries and culture lament the time past and not happy with the changes that are happening to fast for them to appreciate.

Being identifying with one race while born in another


This may not be a recent case but there was this lady who said that she is African American and she identifies with them with having grown up with their culture and also gotten a job at a national Black civil rights organization only to be exposed by her parents that she was born white. Now she still insists on being a black (albeit a light skin one) and she has kept on going this charade. And by charade I mean, I can you say that you are black just because you are exposed to black culture and raised among them. I have lived in Hong Kong for some part of my life and I love Hong Kong Movies and fascinated by Hong Kong, but I have never said that I am Chinese by virtue of being raised and liking their culture. And there is a name for it too; it is called Transracial which is being identified with a race or culture different than from which one was born in.
For me it does not bother me a bit where you consider yourself one race or the other. It is a free world and if you want to identify yourself with another race or culture which is different from your original one, be my guest. But the fact is do the people of that culture accept you as their own even when you literally worship them. Even when you become immersed in their culture totally, I have strong doubts that the people from that culture will accept you as their own and that is the dilemma they will face when and if they decide that they want to move to the country to which they are currently identifying themselves. Even if they stay in the United States, they can call themselves whatever they want but they will still be treated on the basis of their birth not on the basis of what they think they are currently.

Is it ok to use slurs in talking with your own race?

Controversial post: Reader's discretion is advised

I don’t know how to phrase this but I will try to explain as much as possible and since my blog is in English, so I will only concentrate on this language. If you have heard people talk to each other, usually there are greetings and then you talk but there is this curious thing about using slurs when talking with your own race and again this is in English so I stick with this as mostly African American people when talking to each other use the N-word as much as possible and this has seeped into the entertainment culture and it has become like a street language. I have never heard white people say hi “white Trash” or hi “Redneck”, it is just a normal greeting but you hear the hip hop and rap music, there is a plethora of the N Word and despite the half hearted efforts of some people, the use of it has not been stopped or curtailed.
The only thing that has changed is that when some non black person says it, they have to apologize for using  a racial slur or it becomes a big deal like you have offended the whole African-American community, but have literally heard this word spoken on the streets of New York without immunity and even some non white people use it while talking with their compatriots without realizing it being a racial slur. And I would be blunt that most of the activists rallying against this word don’t want non white people to use it while not doing enough to discourage among their midst. I may be wrong but I suspect that the African American community don’t want to retire or abolish this word as it shows their uniqueness and they want to be the sole owner of this word while raging against anyone outside their race using the word as if it is blasphemy but it is okay to use among themselves however they want. If the use of this word is to be banned, it should start with the African-American community taking the charging and trying to make this word offensive to everyone not just to non black folks.

What’s up with Sanctuary places?


So California has been declared a sanctuary state and some other places where the illegal immigrants (what else do you want me to call them, undocumented people, aliens etc) can rest at peace and may not be reported to the Federal immigration authorities. So some places are defying the federal law against illegal immigrants and helping them protect from law enforcement personnel which is not cool in my books. It seems mind boggling that some places would defy the federal government and the law to protect some people who are here illegally. I mean would you ever protect some stranger who will want to dwell in your house. All over the world, the illegal immigrants are tracked down and sent home even if they have not committed any crimes and are just trying to survive. One would I suppose would not allow someone to enter their house illegally, so how can one country allow somebody to come illegally without any documents.
The argument behind sanctuary places is that the illegal aliens have done nothing wrong except they are here illegally and they are not criminals but the same can be said about some guests in your house who have exemplary in their behavior and help you in every way but still they are treated as guests and not as permanent members of your family. Also I understand the path that people are escaping from poverty and war but so are other people from other parts of the world, if you want to be fair then people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and some war ravaged countries of Africa are equally deserving of coming here illegally. Every country in the world have border controls and only allow people after thorough vetting and with proper documentation like a license so they same should apply to the United States. It is just my belief because if you not welcome in a country, you should not push yourself to gain acceptance through illegal means.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies-Coco (2017)-Animated


A boy not understanding his family’s ban on playing music enters the world of the dead in order to find the answer to the mystery. Cute and Enjoyable. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Day of the dead: Bloodline (2017)


A group of people try to find a cure in an underground facility in a world overrun by zombies. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies- Blade Runner 2049 (2017)-Ryan Gosling

A young blade tracks down a former blade runner missing for 30 years in order to protect what is left of humanity in this stylish and visually stunning movie. Recommended for those who have seen the original otherwise watch it as an action movie.

On the lighter side-Movies-Mother! (2017)-Jennifer Lawrence


A couple enjoying a tranquil time together gets their peace disrupted by uninvited guests in this super confused and thoroughly convoluted movie. Not Recommended

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Mourning in Muharram; lesson from the sufis


If one has to pick out one month in the Islamic calendar which is highly charged and eventful it would be Muharram. This month marks the sacrifice of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussain and his family which is accorded the respect it deserves. However the methods employed to confer the respect to prophet’s grandson are highly contested and vastly debated. The rituals to mark this month vary depending on one’s religious school of thought. However the matters between these antagonistic school of thoughts are premised on the question, whether it is justified to mourn the martyrdom or not in the Majalis(congregation where the events leading to the martyrdom are recalled) and individually. Those who are antithetical to the idea of mourning primarily point out that the martyrdom itself is the will of God and martyr should be celebrated not mourned. Some more orthodox elements in this camp don’t mark the events even after the demise of a loved one such as Qul, Chehlum, and Barsi (denoting the first, fortieth and anniversary after the demise). Although being aggrieved is natural in such instances however they aren’t expressive about it and rightly so as they are entitled to live as they will. My purpose here is to highlight another sort of response to death of a loved one which many of the readers might not have heard of and relate it back to the discussion above. When a Sufi passes away his demise is celebrated by his disciples as his death marks his union with the beloved that is God. The word ‘Urs’ that is the death anniversary of a Sufi literally means marriage. Hence it is celebrated year after year. This sort of response is simply not of the kind that one would expect when one passes away. However I would like to point out that some of the disciples who were closely associated to the Sufi mourned and pined over the demise of their master. Two examples will clear what I’m trying to convey here. After the Shams of Tabraiz, Rumi’s master disappeared or passed away(it’s not known with certitude if he died or disappeared), the people noted that Rumi used to weep so loud that his shrieks could be heard in every corner of the religious seminary that he taught in. Likewise, when Nizam ud din Aulia passed away, his disciple Amir khusro was so aggrieved that he didn’t leave his master’s grave for six months and became increasingly frail. Therefore he himself passed away after six months. This clearly depicts that pining over the demise of your loved is a natural element of human nature that can be cathartic, even the ones who were pre ordained by their master to celebrate their demise couldn’t curtail their emotions. Hence we should not trivialize the matter whether mourning is justified or not specifically in the month of Muharram as this month is a lot more than just mourning it teaches selflessness, empathy and patience which everyone forgets practice.
Submitted by B.H.

Malala’s return


Malala Yousafzai, the youngest noble laureate has finally returned home. Although her bravery is unprecedented for which she was justly acknowledged by the international community, but still she isn’t accepted as a representative by the majority of People in her native land. The conspiracy theories which Pakistani’s are in love with pervade every aspect of her tale of bravery. Rather than being hailed for her achievements and bravery she is subjected to unqualified accusations as being a foreign agent who is defaming the nation at the international level. Without introspection the community at large carry forward their barrage of accusation, sometime they equate Malala with the victims of the tragic Peshawar attack in which multiple pupils in a school lost their lives and many wounded are still convalescing mentally or physically from the trauma they witnessed. But we need to bear in mind that just because they were not acknowledged by the world as Malala was doesn’t discredit Malala of the contribution and sacrifice she made. She could be the face of all the victims who are afflicted by the haters of education, who leave no stone unturned to impede and discourage their educational endeavors. Therefore rather than ostracizing any of the victims we should focus our energies on voicing the cause for which the innocent school goers sacrificed. Recently in the U.S after the Florida school shooting, the student mobilized the community and 300,000 people turned out on the streets to raise awareness regarding gun violence and ask for the needful to be done so that such incidents don’t occur again. Tragically in Pakistan rather than fighting the mindset from which Malala and students in Peshawar suffered we are busy labeling who is the real hero and who isn’t. I have a dream of seeing a mass mobilization by the people here on the same lines as in the U.S. under the leadership of those who have suffered the most I.e. Malala and APS students of Peshawar. Whereas the love of conspiracy theories only obfuscates the real cause for which both Malala and other victims suffered.
Submitted by B.H.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Air Turbulence


A few years ago, air turbulence did not bother me that much but during the last two years, I have fallen into the trap of not liking it at all and I am sure many people would not like to have a bumpy flight to their destination. A little bit of turbulence is expected (although I don’t even like it a little bit) but my tolerance level for air turbulence has gone down considerably and I am not happy about it. Even a little bit of turbulence makes me nervous and jumpy and I need to overcome that. And the fact that the pilot announces that the plane may hit some minor turbulence adds to my nervous. And the fact that I love to travel and visit new places especially Hawaii makes me madder that I have to endure turbulence in order to reach my favorite destinations. But as with acrophobia (which is fear of heights), this fear of air turbulence does not stop from traveling as with fear of heights has not stopped me from going on whiteface mountain in New York state which is at above 4000 feet elevation and also did not stop me from going to the Mount Haleakala in Maui (elevation above 10,000 feet).
And we were also planning to go to the Swiss Alps where the mountain reaches more than 10,000 feet so why am in complaining about Air turbulence, that is the question I keep on asking myself. If you are in a car and you drive, you also get shaken when an 18 wheeler passes by you, it is the same with Air turbulence and if there is not that much then I need to start taking nervous medicine to keep me calm even on flights with less than two hours of duration. People become nervous when it is their first flight and I have done many hours on flight since I was very young so why now I am getting the jitters and next time I take a flight I need to take a stock of this situation.

Arab League


Now I come to another of this so called unity among Muslims and introduce you to an organization that is as useless as the one described before that is OIC. Established in 1945, it has now 22 members all of them related by the Arab Ethnicity with little else in common in terms of their relationships among themselves and with the outside world. Here again I will give you examples which will show how this organization has been unable to help Arab in resolving their conflict among themselves or even project any kind of real power to the outside world. Let’s start with Palestinian issue which has been festering since the late forties; no Arab league success has been witnessed in this area. Along with the Israel-Arab War, this organization has simply ignored the Palestinian issue since their members tend not to agree on anything. Same thing goes with the First Gulf war, when Iraq invaded Kuwait; it was only the United States that was able to unite quarrelsome countries into a ragtag team of members to oust Iraq from Kuwait.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the voice of Arab league was again muted or silent and when the Arab spring came, there was no effort to resolve this issue among them. Now again with the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the Arab League is just reduced to denunciation and nothing much. Although headquartered in Cairo, Egypt, it is predominantely influenced by the Saudis as they have the money to muscle with the kind of voice that the Arab league finds when it does. During the Saudi Boycott of Qatar (which is still ongoing), Arab League does not count as they are just sitting pretty on the sidelines. And the Yemen war which is also part of the Arab League and also the OIC, nothing has changed much. No discussion to end this war. Both the OIC and the Arab League are on the whole useless organization which cannot resolve any of the issues facing the Muslim world and it is complete waste of resources as the Islamic (and Arab) countries pursue their own path based on their own self interest.

On the lighter side-Movies-The Dark Tower (2017)-Idris Elba


The last gunslinger tries to prevent the destruction of the dark tower which holds the universe together from an evil entity. Although a massive novel, the movie makers manage to condense it to 90 minutes. I have not read the novel and I wonder what was left behind. On its own, an okay fantasy movie. Recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-Wonder Woman (2017)-Gal Gadot, Chris Pine


An Amazonian warrior leaves her home to fight a world war waged by the enemy of her people. Special effects and action galore. Recommended

Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC)


I am not sure how many of you heard about Organization of Islamic Organization (OIC). Established in 1969 with now the strength being 57 countries, this is according to me one of the most useless organization that was ever created which does not do anything or the countries in it don’t give it much importance in matters of disputes among themselves. Headquartered in the Red sea city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, it was supposed to be United Nations of Islamic Countries meant to resort disputes among member countries but to date its working or the lack of it has been abysmal or even below that if this is possible. I will give you some examples so that you can see that how ineffective it has been in resolving the problems facing the Muslim World or even raising their collective voice on international forums. Since the issue Kashmir and Palestine predates this organization, I will exclude it but give a little bit of hint of both of them. Starting from 1969, this organization has virtually not done anything but to employ a bunch of people who are just there to sit pretty. I know I am being harsh but let’s start.
The 1971 war between India and Pakistan which saw the birth of the Republic of Bangladesh, a former part of Pakistan, no intervention and ultimately with the intervention of United Nations and some bilateral talks, nobody in OIC bothered to do something, same thing with Afghanistan war in 1979, the attack on the Holy Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the attack on Bosnian Muslims until the United States intervened militarily, the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq War and then the Arab Spring and then the intra Gulf fight between Qatar and some Arab countries, the Rohingya Crisis In Myanmar, the OIC has been overwhelmingly useless in doing anything to help the Muslims unless it is backed by the Western powers and still the emotional Muslims look to it like it has some magical powers, I think that it should be dismantled as the amount saved can be used somewhere else. The OIC should be called Organization of (I) neffective, ndifferent, ipotent  or any of the words that start with I signifying anything which is useless.

On the lighter side-Movies-Tyler Perry’s Boo 2!: A Madea Halloween (2017)-Tyler Perry


Madea runs for her life when she ventures into a haunted campground and all kinds of monsters are unleashed. Literally I have no idea why I even care to watch this as it is very unfunny (save for some brief moments). Not Recommended

Technology is good, Technology is disruptive


I was reading an article about a strike going on near the Pakistan-Afghan border for the last four days because new technology has been introduced to easily facilitate the customs procedures by involving computers. This would seem very efficient from one’s standpoint but the old system had involved various steps and with each step somebody livelihood was involved and now they felt threatened and were striking to abolish this introduction of computers which they felt had eliminated their need for so many steps and now all those steps were replaced by one of two people. If I was one of them, I would also feel threatened since I would not know what I would do when my skill set which would have become obsolete by the new technology introduced to reduce costs and time, which makes me, come to this post. I also wrote in my blog a few weeks ago regarding how the online hailing websites has supposedly forced one of the taxi drivers to commit suicide blaming it on the new technology being embraced by the city of New York.
Technology is good as long as it enhances the standard of living and it has done wonders for the many people around the globe but the darker part which people did not realize (I don’t understand how would they not) that it has disrupted the lives of people who were trained to do things a certain kind of way. For example see how one of the biggest online retailers is experimenting with grocery stores with no checkout counters and no employees where people will only use their app to scan their products and also add to their account and just stroll out of the stores without interaction with any employee and instead of employing maybe several people to man their cash counters, they would have only a few employees to restock their stores. I have seen and used these electronic counters in stores where you scan your items barcodes and they will show the price and then you scan your loyalty card and your credit card and you are done without getting any face to face interaction with stores cashiers. Another one is how driverless cars are being experimented with so that there will be no drivers behind the wheel (scarier than in other cases as lives are at stake). Robots are increasingly taking over some of the work that humans used to do in advance countries as the ageing population is being gradually replaced by robots wherever the companies can. Although technology has definitely made life easier for people but it has and will cause substantial unemployment among less educated people and the resultant resentment will not be good for the economies which are increasingly relying on technology to increase their productivity and gain competitive advantage against their rivals.

On the lighter side-Movies-A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)-Mila Kunis


Bad moms are overwhelmed and raunchy as ever as they try to celebrate Christmas with their own moms. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Kill Order (2018)


A high school teenager discovers his super power abilities in this no acting, no story movie. Just to showcase some poor action sequences. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Keep Watching (2017)-Bella Thorne


Intruders enter a home where the inhabitants unknowingly become contestants in a deadly online streaming game. Recommended with caution

Some People don’t know how to shut up


I don’t know if the topic of this post will offend some of you but it is the reality that there are some people who would like to be included in the exclusive club of people who just won’t shut up even if they know that what they are saying will get into trouble. Even as I write I am sure, some people will mouth off and then when the backlash happens, will come out with tears or say that there words have been taken out of context (whatever that means) or they did not mean to say that or they have reflected on what they have said and they feel sorry if their hurts have offended some to the people or some sentences like that meant to soften the blow to their reputation or reduce the backlash they are encountering online or to protect their current jobs. Even with all the things going on, there will be some people who will curse or should ethnic or racial slurs and then come back the next day saying things that I wrote in this post.
I acknowledge that some people have had bad days ( I do too)  which means that they are encountering some of the frustrations of life which are not under their control or they feel they want to vent out loud so that people can hear them and some do under the influence of  alcohol or drugs (where it is still not okay but for this they have an excuse) but in such cases, why can’t they just shut up and don’t open their mouth and let their steam out in some silent mode or just step back and don’t react. I mean that words can hurt very much and once spoken can’t be taken back even when you apologize or try to clarify your remarks or whatever excuse you want to give for your sudden burst of ignorance (that is what I can call right now). Because your words can cause not only hurt and damage to other people feelings but also hurt your reputation and your loved ones. So my advice is to think before your speak since it does not take much time before you do and if you can’t please don’t show your ignorance and just shut up because people don’t want to hear about your problems and your rants as there will be consequences.

Banks are spooked by Compliance


Really I should know because I use to work in a bank and have gone out to some interviews in banks which have their headquarters in third world countries with questionable compliance issues. It is an issue with all banks but the ones which are under intense scrutiny are the tiny banks on third world countries where the issue of compliance has not been taken seriously previously and are now scrambling to be acceptable to world financial institutions. Every bank that I know of has ramped up their compliance departments and the growth of jobs is increasing there. But the banks of the developing bank have become overly cautious about their hiring process and they ask an absurd amount of knowledge about compliance before even considering hiring you. As you well know there are always officers involved in checking two to three times whether something is in compliance before issuing something and still the lower staff gets blamed for things that should have been stopped by the departmental supervisors.
Although I understand that banks in the past have been lax with their compliance issues but now it seems that the pendulum has sprung to the other side as every decision made has the key feature of compliance in it and if it cannot pass the compliance test than the decision is abandoned. But I want to emphasize here that the past occurrence of loose compliance issues were not done by the rank and file and it was usually done or overlooked by the management as everybody was making money but with the current environment of money laundering and terror financing the main headlines dominating everything, the compliance monster has taken over or I should say consumed the entire banking industry (and other financial institutions as well).

Is Israel helping Egypt in combating Islamic militants?


An American Influential newspaper reported a few weeks ago that Israel has been helping the Egyptian military in its fight against Islamic militancy in the Sinai region. The report said that that Israelis go to extreme lengths to erase any symbol of Jewish state on its plane and drones that bomb the Islamic militants and the Egyptian Government takes pain to hide this help from its people. It was also reported that Israelis are happy to oblige as they feel the Egyptian Military is becoming dependent on them for this fight. And I have not seen any denial of this news report as if it does not exist or it is not worth issuing a denial about. But anyway based on the report if it is untrue then I just read a conspiracy theory which would not have prompted me to write this post. But if it is the truth which nobody wants to know about then it is really troublesome and sad.
I will explain, it is said that Egypt being the most populous Arab country has the supposedly most powerful military but with the above mentioned news, it seems that this is just a bit of propaganda that had been circulating around for if the Egyptian military cannot handle a bunch of militants in their own backyard, how and for what use is the military when it will come to the main task of fighting overseas if ever or supposedly fight their enemy(which is non-officially Israel and also officially Iran-an easy Muslim target). It is a sad state of affairs for the Muslims that they are only good in fighting among themselves and depend on others even for their security while maintaining huge militaries.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies- American Made (2017)-Tom Cruise


True story about an American pilot who becomes a drug runner for the CIA in the 1980s. Okay but predictable. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-The Big Sick (2017)-Kumail Nanjiani


A romantic comedy about a Pakistani guy and an American girl who fall in love with each other and the ensuing culture clash it creates. Entertaining and fun. Recommended.

Do people censor themselves?


What kind of stupid question am I asking, if you say that they don’t do then you need to think deeper for times that you wanted to say something but held back your thoughts spilling out of your mouth in order not to offend your boss, your spouse, relatives, colleagues, friends, authorities and even when you writing you have to make sure not to offend your core audience or not to write something which is deemed offensive by authorities in various countries around the world. Even when you feel safe in saying something, you don’t want to say it in case it offends someone later on. This becomes a reality when you are investigating some criminal act where the perpetrators don’t want you to go in deep enough to find the real criminals, be it the state sponsored agencies or criminal enterprises. Especially it is really dangerous in the developing countries where the level of corruption is high and the governments want to hide their wrong deeds.
Even I residing in the United States and writing on my blog try to censor myself and don’t write things which may cause me trouble when I travel overseas to certain countries or harm some people inadvertently. Although I hate to do this but self censorship is a reality for me and for millions of other bloggers who have to tread a fine line between what is reportable and what should not be mentioned in the greater good of their fellow human beings. This is the sad reality of which we are all part of.

On the lighter side-Movies- Bad Genius (2017)-Thailand


A poor genius student who makes money by helping her classmates cheat try to cheat in a international exam. Supposedly based on a true story. Exciting and suspenseful movie.  Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)-Taron Egerton


Kingsman discover that they have an affiliate in the U.S. and team up with them to defeat an enemy. Not better than the first but fun nonetheless. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies Amityville: The Awakening (2017)-Jennifer Jason Leigh


A single mother with three children moves into a house which is haunted. I don’t know what happened to all the original ideas but this was an unnecessary remake. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Wind River (2017)-Jeremy Renner


A person with the fish and wildfire service helps in investigating the murder of a Native American woman. Enjoyable and Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Journey to the west: The Demons Strike Back (2016-Hong Kong)


The second time around is not the charm as the monk and his three disciples continue their cartoonish battle with the demons. If you want to continue on with the series, it is okay entry, otherwise not recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The age of Shadows (2016)-Korean

Japanese spies vs. Korean resistance fighters in 1930s South Korea. Exciting action movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Mountain between us (2017)-Idris Elba, Kate Winslet


When a small plane crashes in a snow covered mountain, two people must cooperate with each other in order to survive and find their way back to civilization. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies- Beyond Skyline (2017)-Frank Grillo


A detective tries to stop an alien warship which has taken his son along with other people. Okay sci-fi. Recommended with caution

Open office floor concept


When I use to work in a former place, the management has the fancy idea (well it was fancy at that time) that open floor office is the way to go as there will be more collaboration and the staff would be feel more easy access to the higher management. On paper it all seems good and I had the opportunity to work in such an environment. At last it was weird to work with your colleagues with no barrier and it again became weirder when you see that you departmental head is sitting in front of you and there are no barriers in between. He/she watches your every movement and it makes you feel uncomfortable. Furthermore, you have to set your own boundaries regarding your stuff as with no known boundaries, your stuff can spill over to the other person doing some other job. The biggest complain about this open floor concept is that it is too haphazard and chaotic.
I don’t see any kind of collaboration that was mentioned as being advantageous to this concept as too much noise and constant invasion of your private space distract you from doing your task at hand. Even further if you are checking some documents or are preparing to write a report, there is no privacy or space where you can gather your thoughts to prepare an effective report. I don’t know if the saving of costs that is so much advertised in this concept regarding less office space is worth the resentment that brews underneath all the employees. Maybe it looks good to the senior management since it may or may not show up in their bottom line or hearing from their line managers that it is working fantastically but for the rank and file (and to I at least) it is just another dreamt up concept to generate a few extra dollars and some savings without caring about the input of their employees.

Safety and Security at Schools


Since the Florida shooting there has been increasing emphasis on school safety with the major proposals being arming teachers and to a lesser extent put metal detectors. And with the heighted attention comes increasing threats from so called students on the social media to attack the schools. Thankfully every time a threat of such kind was posted on the social media, somebody alerted the authorities and the threat defused and the people who made the threats arrested or searched to make sure that the threat was not credible. It is good that everybody is now alert to these kind of threats in order to make everybody secure. The President has suggested that even if some teachers were armed, the kid would not have killed so many of his former fellow students and he is all in for arming some percentage of teachers in schools. I don’t know how effective will that be and how it supposed to work. Will the firearms be locked safely away from the eyes of students which in the case of another attack (GOD forbid) will be then useless?
I am not so thrilled about teachers packing heat in class in full view of the students or even hidden somewhere under his/her clothes. Teachers are there to teach not to fight crazy would be killers. But I have read that some states do arm their teachers. Anyway arming the teachers would not help that much as compared to installing metal detectors and hiring off duty or retired cops to police the schools. They should be armed in case of any eventuality. Besides this raising the age to 21 are proposed is not going to do that much good (but it is a start) since people are still getting guns without much background checks. I will come to the top of Guns in the posts in the future.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies-The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)-Animated


A ninja tries to defeat an evil enemy who also happens to be his father. Not better than the Lego Batman movie but still fun. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)-Alain Moussi


A martial arts wrongly imprisoned in Thailand has to fight a giant fighter in order to gain his freedom. Typical action movie and a continuation of the series. Recommended for action fans only.

On the lighter side-Movies- Girls Trip (2017)-Regina Hall


Four friends reunite to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana to have a fun time. Raunchy and loud movie. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies- Home Again (2017)-Reese Witherspoon


Three guys unexpectedly move into a single mother’s house upending her life. Okay movie, not much else. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Hangman (2017)-Al Pacino


A homicide detective teams up with a profiler to hunt down a serial killer. Al Pacino must need that paycheck that is why he had to take any work. Not Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Asura: The city of Madness (2017-Korean)


A corrupt cop juggles between his department’s internal affairs and the city corrupt mayor in this exceedingly violent Korean crime drama. Recommended. With English subtitles.

On the lighter side-Movies-Cars 3 (2017)-Animated


Not the best of the three as lightning Mcqueen decides to take on a new generation of racers to prove his mettle. Not recommended


On the lighter side-Movies-Dead Shack (2017)


A group of kids try to stop their neighbor from eating their parents in this horror comedy. Bloody and sometimes gory. Recommended with caution.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies-Veronica (2017-Spain)


After playing the board game Ouija to try to connect with her dad, a teenager tries to protect herself and her siblings when she summons evil spirit in her apartment. A good horror movie. Recommended. In Spanish with English Subtitles

On the lighter side-Movies-Les Affames (Ravenous) (2017-Canada)


A group of people try to survive a zombie epidemic in rural Canada. A slow burner horror/gore movie. Recommended with caution. In French with English Subtitles

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Staying relevant on the internet

People who are obsessed with the internet try to post as much as possible in order to stay relevant, each and every day. There is no end to it as the mobile revolution has made the constant attention factor a curse or a blessing whichever you want to choose from. If one who does not post at least some relevant material each day, they fear losing their audience and the attention they are craving for. Even in some cases people post several updates each day on their social media sites. And since there are so many social media sites, some people have accounts on all of them and they are obsessively updating it with their pictures, stories but mostly it revolves around them. This is what I called staying relevant on the internet. The whole life revolves around constant updates even until the time they go to sleep.
In this obsession, some of the people have turned to stunts which are clearly dangerous and some have resorted to reckless comments which they have been forced to retract due to intense online participants. Clearly it seems that all is fair in this kind of obsession unless the whole society especially the ones who urges and craves these kinds of behavior put a stop to it. I know that the internet has created this monster with people constantly following the celebrities and in turn the celebrities scrambling to update their status constantly to keep themselves relevant in front of the core fans but this obsession like many other obsessions which people have is very unlikely to be overcome.

Pakistani forces in Saudi Arabia

Despite Pakistan’s parliament decision to not to send troops to Saudi Arabia which Pakistan feared will be sucked into the Yemen Conflict, the government (meaning the powerful Military) decided to send more than 1000 troops under the guise of the 1982 military pact. And when the Senate and the Parliament wanted to get some answers from the government why it bypassed the parliament and under what conditions the troops are there, the government refused to divulge the details of the deployment. So it seems that essentially the military called the shots in this case (as usual) with no regard to the parliament declaration showing that the democracy which Pakistan crying out loud is just a farce and the actual power lies with the military as seen by countless times the foreign dignitaries always paying a visit to the Military headquarters with no permission sought (I believe) from the civilians as they already knows where the ultimate power lies.
But back to the deployment, why is this necessary, as everybody knows well that the Saudis have the best weaponry the money can buy and one of the best equipment armed forces in the world. So the question is why do they need Pakistani forces and in what capacity they are there in the first place. But these questions will never get answered in Pakistan as the Military will never answer why it bypassed the parliament or why did it not get approval from the government (as the report says it was approved by the Prime Minister which was just a camouflaged to show it was approved by the civilians). But even if Pakistani Forces get engaged in the Yemen conflict, would the people of Pakistan know and would they even raise a voice against it? 

The Florida high School Massacre

Recently a deranged and out of mind ex student went on a killing rampage and instead of shooting himself after killing 17 kids, decided to join the escaping exodus and then went to some store before being caught mercifully an hour later. As the news of the suspect trickles in, some major issues have been raised, like how was he able to get a high powered rifle, why was he not flagged even when alerted to authorities, the latest one is why an armed security guard stood outside the building for four minutes out of six minutes why the shooting was happening. How was he able to get into school without getting noticed and also why was he in the school grounds when he was expelled and was not a student there? When we get all the answers, it still would not answer the main question, what triggered him to kill 17 kids without any emotions and regret?
Although this tragic loss of life will never ever be erased, some of the issues which has come forefront is the safety and security of schools and the supremely divisive issue of gun control. Every day there have been demonstrations about the above two mentioned issues which I will deal with later in our other posts. Suffice to say now is that hopefully there will be less instances of school massacres in the future (please note that I am mentioning less instances which means I believe there can be more until there are no guns available anywhere in the U.S. but that is a fantasy for now) but my sincere condolences to all the parents and loved ones who saw the dead bodies of their irreplaceable sons and daughters who were there joy in life tragically taken away at so young an age by a reckless and remorseless individual.

Culture, tradition and religion

People often confuse culture and tradition in country with the religion of that country. Tradition and culture often predates religion and it is hard to get rid of the tradition and culture which is highly entrenched and often comes into clash with the religion and wins sometimes as the tradition and culture somehow envelopes the religion and makes it seems like part of the religion which it is not most of the time. I will give you some examples regarding how it is easy for the outside people to confuse tradition and culture being part of the religion. In Saudi Arabia, it has been a long standing taboo that women cannot drive a car but this was not part of the religion but part of their culture and tradition. They may have tried to convince people that it is part of religion but nowhere in any Islamic country, are women not allowed to drive. Driving a car by a woman driver is not taboo but part of the culture and tradition that is only being enforced in Saudi Arabia and not even in any Arab country.
Another tradition/culture I have read is in Yemen where people are eat Khat which is banned in some countries but legal in some African countries as well as in Yemen, where it huge. Again since it is a stimulant it has nothing to do with any Islamic values as tradition/culture dictates its consumption and since it a stimulant it may be banned in Islam. So does Child marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM), extravagant spending on marriages and so many others that people try to associate with a  certain religion but actually is not as some people try to distort certain verses in the Holy Book to their advantage. It is essential that people read the background of a certain culture and tradition and try to deduce if it is actually related to a certain religion. I know it is lot of work but coming to a conclusion based on little or nonexistent information is worse.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Indian population explosion-Scarce jobs

In an international newspaper I was reading that in India an advertisement for a clerical position which usually pays only Indian Rupees 7,500 ($1=64.5) and with a minimum qualification of an eighth grade drew people with graduate, masters and even doctorate graduate as the population of India is exploding and less jobs are being created. I know that people want to join a government organization even if the pay is low since it is a secured job but it is ridiculous that a job whose requirement is a minimum eighth grade qualification brings in people with master’s and doctorate degrees. Although the private sector in India is rising fast and creating big number of jobs, it still does not create enough of them to absorb millions of people entering the work force each year and thus create a situation like that above. This big population which happens to speak English has created an opportunity for foreign businesses to outsource their business to India.
With a huge population to cater to and insufficient jobs being created, the salary of Indian highly educated workers will continue to be under pressure giving ample opportunity for western business to tap into this huge and cheap workers for whom any job which pays even the minimum will do. And with little oversight from the government regarding employee benefits and welfare, the scope of outsourcing to India is huge, even if there is government oversight over business it is the job of the outsourcing companies to take care of it. But it is at the same time sad state of affairs that highly educated workers will keep on being exploited due to high demand for jobs.

Young and Cheap-Banking hiring on the cheap

Usually I devour all the news that interest me but I may have missed the news that my friend sent to me. Although I knew it for a long time but now it was confirmed that the banks want to hire fresh graduates and then train them instead of hiring senior and experienced talent which can be more expensive and may not supposedly bring new ideas or increasing their bottom line. I can understand the banks logic in that young people are eager to learn and follow since they want to grow in their jobs but it can only happen when you are from less than prestigious schools since the Ivy league or top ranking schools graduate won’t fall into this trap and anyway the banks would be foolish enough not to offer them more money. Banking nowadays are racing to increase their revenues due to increasing cost of doing business and compliance issues and this is one way of reducing their costs.
But hiring inexperienced folks would entail more on the job training. And how would the bank know that after learning the ins and outs of the business, the young person would leave for a chance to earn more. If you are going to pay less money to hire inexperience folks, the more experience they gain, the more they would want more money and the raises in the banks are not that great or even consistent yearly.  And due to hiring cheap and young, many banks have outsourced their businesses much as possible to cheap third world countries. There are definitely pros and cons of hiring young and cheap and the banks have to be careful not to overdo it to spark a backlash against them (which they don’t care anyway).

The bottomless pit of Education-Always short on funds

I have written about it before when I mentioned it about my town being short of funds for supplies. And my town is considered upper middle class with an overwhelming majority of white and prosperous families. But the other day I was hearing on the radio that how a radio company is helping teachers get their hands on supplies which they are unable to get due to paucity of funds. And I have said it before despite the highest property taxes in the country, New Jersey is also hurting for supplies then I can imagine other places where the school taxes are not so high but I don’t really understand why that is so, I have never understood where does that money go and even after raising property (school taxes) there is still fund raising going on especially for private schools. Private schools charge so much money and still they always are on the prowl to get some more.
I am sure some private schools don’t raise funds but I have seen in my jobs that some people bring candies to the office to be sold as fund raising. There is like a perpetual cycle of fund raising going on for sports, school trips and everything imaginable or creative that the schools comes up with. We all love our children and want the best for them and sacrifice everything for them but this fund raising when we are already paying for public schools through our property taxes has got to stop.

Visit our website

If you have heard the above phrase, you will know what I am talking about. Every time a business advertises themselves to the public, they always mention this in order for the public to visit it and see the full array of information they have. Since advertising is very expensive and only last a few seconds, it is essential that the business has a website that potential customers can go to see what kind of business they have and what products they are selling. Even small businesses need to have a website and for me it is really frustrating when I cannot visit a website of a business or the business does not have a website. Although right now nothing seems local anymore as business need to a website because you never know where the business will come from and being local is like you are limiting yourselves to a small geographical area and hindering your potential to increase your revenue.
And when business say that visit their website, they are all assuming that you have either have access to a computer or you do have a cell phone to view their website. Even now I really see some businesses not wanting to have a website because either they believe it is a waste of money which is not and it is not even that expensive or they believe that they are local to an area and don’t want to bother with increased revenue from outside their sphere of their presence. I don’t have an insight into the mindset of these individuals but what they are doing is not reaching their full potential of revenue which they can achieve by have a rudimentary website.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies- IT (2017)

A child eating clown who is terrorizing a small town brings together bullied friends who decide to fight against it. Great and scary horror movie. Recommended 

On the lighter side-Movies- The Snowman (2017)-Michael Fassbender

A detective tries to solve the disappearance of woman with the only clue of her scarf around a snowman.  Not read the novel on which it is based but the movie was okay but definitely not theater material. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-Flatliners (2017)-Ellen Page

Medical students dwell into life after death by stopping their hearts momentarily. Remake of an earlier movie. Okay to watch. Recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-The Ritual (2017)

Four friends decide to take a shortcut through a forest in Sweden only to encounter a supernatural being worshipped by some weird forest people. Okay to watch, atmospheric and eerie. Recommended with caution

Rise of the nationalists

Although this phenomenon in recent years has seen the rise in the United States but it was not always that way. People from a country feel proud about it and some of it to the extent that they feel superior to other countries and abhor immigrants whom they feel are superior and supposedly don’t take jobs which they think are beneath their level but when the immigrants want to take that job, the nationals become agitated. But this is not an American phenomenon as most of the media would make you believe, but it happens all over the world and lately it has been showing in places not known for it previously. I am not against showing patriotic fervor when it is needed and people should be proud of where they come from and should always show it but the dangers becomes exponential when this type of patriotic tendencies descent into hatred of anything which is not of the native land.
I will give you some examples. You already know how nationalist (or simply white supremacists) are trying to set their agenda on the U.S. public but they are not the only ones as the white population in Britain and Poland and Hungry try to do the same in Europe. And not to mention in Asia, Japan has been notoriously nationalists as they have looked down upon their Korean-Japanese population for a long time and despite their shrinking population have refused to simply open the gates to immigration from less “pure blood” ( you know what I mean) countries. Chinese do the same as they are suspicious of anything that is not Chinese and so do the Russians. But if the supposedly Islamic countries where Islam specifically forbade discriminating based on race, the racist tendencies of Islamic nationalist states are simply overlooked by the natives in direct opposition to the nationalists’ tendencies being shown in European countries due to the illegal immigrants streaming to the European shores by mostly non White population.
And you would think that being an African would mean one continent as it is presumed that it is where all the dark skinned people live but even there discrimination is pervasive as the Libyans not want to be associated with Somalis and north African countries feel superior to the less wealthy Africans even if they themselves are discriminated in other places. But due to the Syrian Civil war and to a lesser extent the poverty and war ravaging some African countries, the immigrants mostly illegally trekking to European countries have given rise to nationalists feeling even in place where none of evident like in Italy and Greece, home to one of the largest concentration of illegal entrants from African and Asia. And with the rise of illegal immigrants, the rise of nationalists in the host countries was bound to happen and it will continue to remain in the elevated state. 

I am not a vegan

Although I don’t classify myself as a meat eater always but I am not vegan either, you can say I am a hybrid type of guy who likes to have a mix of both vegetables and meat but mostly meat you can say. I don’t know where my dislike or hatred of certain vegetables came by but I know this that my parents tried to push me into the vegan world but did not force me to eat against my will. I really tried to eat some of the vegetable but the sight of the food presented to me was not to my liking and I don’t want to gross you out with what I thought they looked like but my taste bud never developed enough to enjoy vegetables regardless of how healthy and nutritious they are. Even the most delicious food made of vegetables would not convince me that I should taste it as my dislikeness of vegetables will hinder me to even take a bite of it.
Now that is not to say that I abhor all vegetables. I like how my wife makes okra (also called Ladies finger in many English speaking countries), although I eat it but it is not that I feel excited but I can stomach it and I can also vouch for spinach and also vegetable soup or vegetables chips but try to entice me with eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and I am ready to throw up or walk away from the table. But it does not mean I will not carrot or cucumber as they are my favorites. And this habit of mine just makes my life difficult when I am not at home as my choice of food shrinks while on vacation as vegetables are available plentiful but not meat (not the kind I want) but fish can be a very handy in such situations. So there you have it, I can be flexible on certain vegetables but not all of them but for the most part I will prefer my meat any day over vegetables.

Deficit hawks no more

I thought that the Republic party was the party of the discipline or so they billed themselves to be that way.  They were deficit hawks and fiscal conservatives who would hold onto making government small and as such deficits even smaller or even balance the budget if and when they get the government. So here we are after one year of complete Republic party rule and what have we got, besides cutting some things here and there like the tax reform bill or some low income supported program which would have not busted the budget but helped poor Americans get by, the newest budget sent to congress is bigger than ever with outlays for defense increase-a signature of Republic party who also have make the Americans believe they are strong on defense. And the tax reform bill that passed the Congress increased the deficit over 10 years to more than one trillion dollars and counting.
I also read that deficit as seen by the Republicans is not as important as it was before as they are likely to keep on increasing the burden of debt accumulation solely on the shoulders of the American public. And this debt burden cannot be now solely blame on Democrats policy as the Republicans compete with them to have an equal share in this increase in deficit and debt. And with pet projects of law makers and also of the President high on the list of must do approvals in the budget and the money to go around not enough, it seems that the only way is to issue more debt and that is how the United States will seem to be carrying out its business affairs far into the future.

The suicide of a livery driver

I read a story that a 61 year old livery driver protesting New York City policies toward ride hailing cars and others came to downtown and committed suicide. Before committing suicide, he wrote at length that how the ride hailing services have increased competition and led to his ruin as he was about to lose his house can’t pay off his cars and bills. He said that he tried his best but he was unable to keep his head above water. Specifically he was ranting against the current governor of New York and the former mayor of New York City of introducing these services thus increasing the competition and threatening his livelihood. It is reported that this is the third suicide in three months for these drivers. I am not here to judge what went through his mind to commit such a grave act leaving behind his family to struggle and make a sense out of their loss but to blame competition for this extreme act will be unfair.
In this globalized economy, there would always be winners and losers and the people who don’t or cannot keep up with the rapid changes are going to lash out. Throughout America, the most industrialized nation on earth, there are people in some industries who would not be able to do the transition to a new job requiring a new skill set and would either die bitter or commit suicide. But suicide is also a selfish way to get out of this situation as the remaining members of the family become helpless grieving for their loss and also angry at the person of leaving them alone to fend for themselves. The less educated lot are already drowning in unemployment and going deeper into drugs and the only way out of it is to commit suicide in some cases. I wish I had a solution for this kind of situation but can only suggest that don’t lose your hope as times do not remain the same and desperate times can be overcome with patience and perseverance.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Stigmatization of dancing and singing

The region in which I live has been stratified socially, however unlike the European countries this stratification is based on the ancestry rather than the economic class. This over time has generated stereotypes which are associated with people of particular castes. The idea of this stratification based on ancestry was introduced by Aryans who employed the caste system. Since the Aryans themselves devised this system so they ascribed themselves as Brahmins, the highest of the four castes. The malaise didn’t remain limited to a certain religion but spread uncontrollably. However these social differences were adjusted according to the needs of time. For example the British gave the ‘Martial Race’ theory. This doctrine ordained that the recruits in the Indian colonial army should only belong to the martial races. However this policy upended when the cannon fodder was sorely needed in the First World War. Recruitment took place without any prejudices of caste and the soldiers recruited from non martial castes performed equally well, so that stereotype was annihilated by the ones who created it. But even in the 21st century many stereotypes still prevail. One of them is listening to music and dancing, which is considered un Islamic and it is sneered upon by the majority. Therefore it is widely believed that it only pertains to ‘marasis’ or the caste which inherited singing, dancing and entertaining people as a heirloom. Hence the members of other caste consider it below them to indulge in any of these activities. However it is important to note that the great Sufis who enhanced the outreach of Islam in India and converted people in the first place, never shied away from espousing such practices. The Sama or the devotional music and dance were an important facet of the meditation which was employed by Nizam ud din Aulia, Jalal ud din Rumi et al. Which begs the question why dancing and singing is ostracized and considered demeaning to the individual. The orthodox believers even in the times of the aforementioned mystics refuted such practices but they couldn’t bring the religious sources which prohibited them other than their own predilection. It’s time to eradicate the tunnel vision that majority has and stop the stigmatization of dancing and singing in Muslim societies.

Submitted by B.H.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies-Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Prequel to the horror blockbuster in which the events leading up to the creation of the possessed doll is revealed. Recommended if you want to see the origins, otherwise stay away.

On the lighter side-Movies-Transformers: The last knight (2017)-Mark Wahlberg

They are back one more time (and will come for more) as the Aliens fight with each other with humans thrown in for good measure. Loud action fest. Recommended with caution

The woes of the deported illegal immigrants

I was reading a long article who has been recently deported to his Native Mexico leaving behind his American wife and American born kids in the U.S. He was reportedly brought here illegally when he was only 10 and never went back to his native Mexico and his parents never did establish any contact with their relatives there. He stayed here, got education and married and had kids and had a successful business but he was here illegally. Despite the best efforts of this family and others in the community he was deported to this native Mexico where he lives with his aunt where he feels like an alien since he had no contact with this native land. His family is trying to arrange for him to come back but it will take at least 18 months before he would be interviewed by the U.S. Embassy. On the face of it, it seems like a heart breaking story about a person who has not committed a crime but was illegally smuggled to the U.S. when he was only 10.
But here is the rub that this parents or whoever brought him to the United States turned their backs on their native and never instilled any kind of contact with his relatives in Mexico which is strange in itself as with the new technology nowadays, he could have been contact with some of his relatives in Mexico via many apps. Family does not only mean his wife and kids, it means his relatives too. I can understand that when he was little he did not know, but after gaining adulthood, he could have reached out to his relatives in Mexico (maybe he did or did not) so that he would have felt a little bit connected to his Native land or the place where his ancestry came from. I can feel the pain that his family is now in but my advice is to keep in touch with your extended family wherever they are because in the end a family is a family even if they are not physically near you.
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The migrant ship mishap in Libya

A few days ago, a migrant ship carrying 90 people traveling illegally to Europe capsized near Libya, the point of departure for illegal entrants to Europe. It had mostly Pakistanis who wanted to escape poverty, injustice and unemployment in their country to the so called promised land of Europe to start a so called better life than what they had back home. The latest news in this saga is there have recovered some bodies and saved only 4 of them now. Besides they have arrested the human trafficker whose brother lives in Libya and son lives in Italy who are all involved in it. Another report said that nearly 600,000 people have used to route to try to enter Europe Illegally. As you may read news, many have died trying to reach the promised land and those who have reached successfully are leading a miserable life as the doors of Europe have been shut and they are living in bad conditions in Greece, the major point of entry to Western Europe.
As I have written before, the welcoming mat for the illegal immigrants especially the ones who are the so called economic migrants has been pulled back. During the new wave of migrants, the civil war in Syria and Afghanistan were welcome as they had nowhere to go but during this wave some of the economic migrants from other countries like Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, some North Africans and others also tagged alone and were lucky to reach the promised land and they were somewhat welcomed. Now that the wave has subsided due to the increasing hostility of the citizens of the host countries, people are still trying to go there despite the fact that the situation is dire in those countries too with racial and ethnic hatred and Islamophobia but I guess that the people who are trying to reach there seems to think that it is better to be in Europe than to die a worse death in their own countries.
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Cape Town, South Africa Water Woes

I have reading about the water woes of one of the richest cities in Africa and it at times an interesting but also very frightening read. Actually the cause is attributed to as much as nature but mostly it is human made. For the last three years, Cape Town has been receiving much less rain resulting in drought like condition. Their reservoirs have been down so low that the local government has given a name for when the water will shut down it is called “Day Zero”. This is the day when the water will no longer be provided to people and only essential services will get water. Right now with increasing monitoring, they are reducing the amount of water being provided through selective water pumps. People are brushing and washing and whatever they are using water it gets recycled to flush and given to lawns. Water is being transported from other less drought areas and now they are moving fast with desalination plants and other measures which will take time to materialize.
But despite the efforts, the rainy season which starts from April is all the hope that is being pinned on which is a big if since for the last three years, they have inadequate or no rain at all. These are dire predictions even for one of the richest cities of Africa and it can a showcase for other rich cities where there fight is on to conserve water like in the South and western United States. The water usage in the U.S. is 80 to 100 gallons per person per day which is 5 times what Cape Town citizens are getting right now and it will be reduced further if rains don’t come in the rainy season. I just shudder to think how people will be able to cope with the resultant shutdown of this essential commodity.
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The U.S. threat to the Palestinian aid

If the announcement to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was not enough, now the U.S. has threaten to cut off aid to them via the United Nations program if they don’t end their boycott of peach talks with Israel. First the cut off amount was USD225 million and now it is also another amount of USD65 million. Since the U.S. is the biggest contributor to this program to help Palestinian refugees, there will obviously be crisis of major proportion. These programs help the Palestinians people to go on with their daily lives and the cut off or the threat of it will definitely mean hardship for them. The Palestinian leadership has refused to bow down to pressure of this sort and is adamant in their boycott of the whole peace process and the U.S. being part of it.
So my question is who is going to replace all this aid. Although some Muslim countries have come forward to help them (including Kuwait with a paltry $900k as reported) , I have not read anywhere that the rich Muslim countries will replace this aid with their own pledge to contribute whatever the shortfall in funds the Palestinians will need. This is the crux of the problem as Muslims are so much deeply divided among themselves that they don’t have much time or sympathy to help their Muslim brothers and sisters in need. If the Muslims and Arabs in particular don’t help their Palestinians Muslims in need, why would the Non Muslims care about them helping? 
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The resurgent Kabul attacks

Recently there has been resurgent of attacks in Kabul killing more than hundred people and showing the continued threat of Taliban and Islamic State (IS) strength despite the presence of Afghan and thousands of NATO forces trying to maintain peace in the country.  The attacks came in within a week’s time and show the utter failure of the U.S.  trained Afghan forces and the intelligence apparatus they are responsible for. This war has become the longest war in U.S. History and despite what the candidate Trump said during election campaign, this war has now become his war as he has authorized sending more troops and give the go ahead to pursue Taliban wherever they operate which is also in Pakistan. The U.S. being frustrated in its effort to bring peace to Afghanistan is lashing out at Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism and may not have that kind of leverage with the Taliban to end the war.
Even if Pakistan does have the leverage, the increasing presence of IS militants is also complicating the peace process in the country. The U.S. relying on India to increase its presence in Afghanistan is also not likely to materialize as Pakistan sees much threat in this scenario and also India does not want to send its troops and get bogged down in a country which dislikes foreigners be it Pakistan or India. The best scenario for the U.S. is to cut its losses and leave Afghanistan as the war will not likely be a win for the U.S. But here is the problem, a recent study suggests that Afghan forces will crumble in a matter of months if the U.S. leaves but it will have to leave to make the Afghans realize that it is in their own benefit to bring peace to the country if they want to get rid of the perpetual cycle of violence they are in now.
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Cyber Bulling

I have also written about bullying and as with racism on the internet, cyber bullying is also increasingly become common resulting in some teen suicides. Sometimes the bullying which is being done in the physical world is carried onto the world wide web and sometimes it becomes so vicious that some of the victims either shut down their social media links or had have enough to the point that they commit suicide. The anonymity and sometimes not on the internet is so powerful that unless you become emotionless, very few people can ignore it and commit suicide and then the stories come out that how they were bullied and could not take it anymore. Even if you inform the police, I don’t think they can do anything about it as no physical crime has been done, although I believe words can be as powerful as any physical weapon in hurting people.
Although bullying will never cease to exist but parents can do help their kids navigate through this sorry part of their lives as they can monitor their kids online activities and also keep track of any behavior that is out of the ordinary that may signal that the child is being bullied. Also reassuring the kids that the bullies are not going to harm them as long as they ignore their online taunts and be strong in every sense of the word. In case of this does not stop, the parents can approach their school and organize likeminded parents in stopping this cycle of bullying. I am sure different circumstances will demand different approach but there are ways to fight cyber bullying, you just have to be persistent in not giving in to their empty threats and taunts.
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Racism is alive and well and not going anywhere

I have written extensively (accordingly in my blog) about racism from different perspective. And with the election of the New U.S. President, racism has gone into overdrive and sometimes it is openly preached only to be pushed back by forces that are against it. A few years back, the U.S. was celebrating the election of the first Black President and now it seems we are back to square one as increasing incidents of racism are being witnessed, although people are trying to fight back as much as they can. In this age of technology, racism has a new face in the form of internet where you can post anonymously any sort of racist thoughts and images without the fear of public backlash. This form of racism is becoming more prevalent and increasingly abusive with only your fingers to fight back. Although people do call out the racist person but with so much anonymity afforded by the internet, it is hard to imagine that this will ever stop.
Although people who are faced with racist taunts and slurs try to fight back along with their supporters as much as possible and in whatever way they can, the only that I can see is to ignore them completely. Although I understand it is hard to do ignore and the urge to fight back is human nature but that is all these racist people need is to make their target angry and agitated and then their purpose is complete. If you ignore them long enough, their purpose will be defeated. Although it is not a clear cut solution as some of the racists can get infuriated at being ignored, but on the internet instead of launching into a back and forth tirade against racist trolls, it is best to ignore them outright and move on.
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Friday, February 2, 2018

Climate Change

Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. This seems to be the case especially when one looks at the apathy of the world leaders towards climate change. Before we proceed further we must remind ourselves that the civilization such as Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa which attained very high levels of advancement such as sewerage, water ducts to carry it to the washroom showers etc. 5 millenniums ago were wiped from the face of the Earth because of the climate change. Therefore, the issue of climate shouldn’t be a subject of our collective ignorance and should be dealt appropriately. The humans have a tendency to overlook their long term interests for myopic benefits. This is the reason why, after the Paris climate summit 2015, the third world countries refused to abide by the regulations, since they believed that they are industrializing and it’s the industrialized first world countries who are responsible for the pollution, hence they should be the ones who should be subjected to regulations not them. To further exacerbate the sensitive situation and instead of efforts to placate third world countries, the magnificent new president of U.S.A Donald Trump refused to accept the Paris climate accord, setting a dangerous precedent for others to follow. However we must bear in mind that there are countries like Kiribati and Fiji facing an existential threat. Kiribati’s demise as a country is inevitable, and it would barely make it to 22nd century. Resultantly producing climate refugees, the situation is even more depressing when one witnesses the maltreatment that refugees generally are meted out and how world community has failed to cope with the ones that already exist. Taking all of this in account the future clearly depicts a dystopian picture and the world community must undergo course correction before it’s too late.

Submitted by B.H.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rape Cases and Underage Marriage

Recently in South Asia cases of murders after rape of children and infants as young as 8 month have increased to unmatched proportions. These heinous crimes raised an outcry for the perpetrators to be held accountable and finally the lackadaisical authorities sprung into action and nabbed a few while many remain at large. The case in point in this piece is of Zainab, an 8 year old girl from Kasur Punjab, who was trapped by one of the neighbor through his devious tricks. After subjecting that innocent child to multiple rapes he killed her and dumped her body in the waste. Although this act should be condemned to hilt but this should also elicit others to reflect where they stand as society. Therefore it’s equally important to confess the malaise that have been affecting this region since time immemorial. In India and Pakistan girls in their days of innocence were married off in yesteryears and this practice continues to this very day, albeit not openly. The determining factor if a child is to be married or not was the puberty, if they have reached puberty it was ok to marry them whereas the age of puberty was determined according to the customary or the religious laws. This practice hasn’t ceased and takes place not openly but clandestinely at many areas, which begs the question if this under age marriage isn’t a form of marital rape? How many Zainab’s have suffered in the past and how many more are at the risk of suffering the same afflictions. It’s time that such antediluvian practice should be given up and for the society to not only settle with the arrest of the perpetrators but demand fool proof legislation and strict implementation against underage marriages.

Submitted by B.H.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Homage to a Sufi Saint-Baba Farid

The outreach of Islam was greatly enhanced by the Sufis aka mystics, hence Islamic History is incomplete without taking into account their works in reconstructing the religious thought. This synthesis was brought about by the Sufis and the epitome of this syncretism is Baba Farid. He belonged to one of the most influential Sufi orders in South Asia I.e. Chishtia silsala, which is equally revered across the globe. Baba Farid’s was a disciple of Qutub u din Bakhtiar Kaki. His mentor considering the unorthodox way of meditation of his prodigious student advised him to travel to Ajodhan I.e modern day Pakpattan located in Punjab Pakistan. Sources of the time note that Baba Farid used to hang himself upside down in a well for forty days and pray. People congregated around the well to witness him. At that time he lived in the cosmopolitan city of Delhi. Hence, following his mentor’s command he moved to the afore mentioned area, but even there he wasn’t left alone and people across South Asia tracked him down and some settled permanently where he lived, one such person was Nizam ud din Aulia, who ultimately was awarded the baton to carry on his message. Without This patron saint of Indian capital, Delhi might not have existed in its present form. As one of the kings of Tughlaq dynasty disowned Delhi and commanded the denizens of Delhi to move to the new city that he developed. The only incandescent lamp that was lit in all of Delhi was at Nizam ud din aulia’s shrine and his disciple who lit that at his shrine gained the pseudonym of ‘Chiragh Delhi’ the one who brightened Delhi. Anyhow, Baba Farid is one the only arch Sufis whose influence surpasses religious differences. Therefore his Kalam is also a part of the divine book of Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib. We live in a time when religion has become the most potent tool to divide and manipulate the masses. It’s time that we look at our past and try to comprehend how much this wedge between religions has increased, which seems beyond repair. The panacea to that is provided by the life and universality of teachings this great mystic. Therefore paying homage to this great Sufi wasn’t only cathartic but also gave hope that there are precedents which need to be highlighted and followed today more than ever.

Submitted by B.H.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

On the lighter side-Movies-The devotion of Suspect X (2017-Hong Kong)

A detective tries to solve a crime but is hindered by his former classmate who is protecting the guilty. Entertaining movie. Recommended  

On the lighter side-Movies-The Belko Experiment (2016)

Eighty Americans are locked up in a building in Colombia and voice from outside tells them to kill each other or be killed. Actually a surprisingly bloody and good movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Fate of the Furious (2017)-Dwayne Johnson

The team is back in this eighth installment where they try to race against a woman bent on destroying the world. The usual car chase and action. Recommended

Internal Stability in Nuclear Armed States of South Asia

Many factors determine whether a nation state is internally stable or not. However, the presence or absence of nuclear weapons has no bearing on a country’s internal stability. An example in case is Pakistan, which acquired nuclear weapons capability in the 1980’s, but is faced today with violent insurgencies and is ripe with ethnic conflict. Nuclear weapons are at best a deterrent against external aggression and the powerful and destructive nature of the devices mean that they cannot be used in an internal conflict, which can better be resolved by police or paramilitary forces. The primary problem in Pakistan concerns regime type, which presents a daunting obstacle for a nuclear free South Asia. Pakistan has been classified as a hybrid regime by scholars like Larry Diamond and Lipset, a regime which is neither fully democratic nor authoritarian. This places Pakistan in a unique category, comparable more to Venezuela than to its supposed arch-nemesis, India. Since, the country represents a hybrid regime, the powerful military establishment functions as a state within a state and is not perceived to be answerable to the civilian elected leadership. Indeed, some scholars have gone even further than Lipset and Diamond by labeling the country as a post-colonial garrison state, as Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed has argued in his famous work. Democracies, and even more so, liberal democracies, don’t go to war with another. History testifies the fact that although Communist countries like the Soviet Union and China fought a bloody skirmish on the border in 1969, two democracies are yet to go to war with one another. Similarly, Communist China went to war with Communist Vietnam, whereas the latter fought over with Cambodia in the 1970’s. So, what is so characteristic about democracies which itself acts a deterrent against war? The answer is surprisingly simple. Democratic governments are answerable and accountable to the people and war being a costly affair, both in terms of its monetary and more importantly, human cost is rarely used as a rallying cry by democracies that fear that a war would vote them out in the next elections. The second problem, concerns the issue of equity. Pakistan seeks equity with Hindu India in all spheres. Since India has managed to successfully convince a large part of the international community that Pakistan exports terrorism, the Pakistani establishment has also embarked on a similar endeavor. This logic can also be applied to the nuclear weapons issue. India started the nuclear arms race in the South Asian region by detonating a device code-named Smiling Buddha in 1974, that led to Pakistan starting its own nuclear program. It is therefore highly unlikely that Pakistan would have developed nuclear weapons of its own had India not decided to do the same before them. Likewise, the issue of the NPT presents almost identical picture, as Pakistan refuses to sign the NPT as long as India doesn’t. The net result is a classical case of stalemate in the region with no side able to achieve a decisive victory in the event of a war, but still unwilling to back down from their present nuclear postures. The Pakistani Army in particular fears a dilemma similar to what the Egyptian Army faced after the Camp David Accords were signed in 1978. The Camp David Accords led to permanent peace between Egypt and Israel as the latter agreed to return the occupied Sinai desert to Egypt in exchange for official recognition. The breakthrough deal deprived the Egyptian Army of an external enemy and led to a shady role by the Egyptian establishment in propping up Islamist groups within their own country to justify their hegemonic role in countering them. On the contrary, the situation in India is a lot better as the country is far more stable than Pakistan. Although the Indian state faces countless insurgencies, none of these insurgencies, with the exception of Kashmir, have the capacity to damage the Indian federation. Furthermore, India has been able to maintain civilian rule since partition and the subordinate role of the Indian Army to the civilian leadership is firmly entrenched in their political system. There are many reasons as to why it was possible in India but not in Pakistan; but most of it has got to do with party organization. The Indian National Congress was a mass based, bottoms up, highly organized political party that maintained itself as an electoral force after partition, whereas the Pakistan Muslim League was mainly a marriage of convenience that established a temporary alliance between the peasants of Bengal and the powerful landlords of Punjab. The alliance broke right after partition was achieved and the military stepped in to fill the gap. India maintains that it views China as a far bigger threat to itself than Pakistan. The defeat suffered by the Indian Army in 1962 against Chinese forces remains India’s biggest military disaster and the nuclear weapons capability developed by India was more to counter the superiority of Chinese conventional forces. However, Pakistan objects to this logic and points out that the bulk of the Indian Army is still deployed on its borders and the majority of its air force bases are within striking distance of Pakistani heartland. China’s presence on the Indian border and its close relationship with Pakistan complicates the nuclear dynamics of South Asia as India would refuse to give up its nuclear arsenal as long as China maintains its aggressive posture in the Indian Ocean.
Today, Pakistan is believed to be in possession of the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. Nuclear weapons are both expensive to build and secure, and the United States has repeatedly expressed doubts that radical elements present in Pakistan might be able to capture nuclear weapons and ignite a nuclear war in the region. The loose control exercised by the civilian leadership in Pakistan’s democratic polity keeps defense budget obscure and off limits for any discussion. This allocation of budget could be used for the socio-economic development which the country direly needs at this juncture. The response in a war is always proportional to the aggression by the enemy, so exercising the nuclear option would always be retaliatory and the exchange, bilateral. In world war 2, the U.S.A bombarded Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear missiles and since then, they haven’t been able to vindicate themselves from this uncalled for aggression. This episode has left a permanent blot on the U.S.A. Using nuclear weapon is unethical even in a war situation, despite this, the investment in Nuclear weapon development continues to grow. Secondly, as established earlier the nuclear weapon acts as a deterrent against war. But the next question is whether its deterrence averts only a nuclear war or also the conventional war. History of this region suggests otherwise, although no nuclear war has taken place between India and Pakistan thus far, but both countries continue to spar on their borders by cross border firing and mortars. The Kargil war also testifies that the deterrence capability of a nuclear weapon is only limited to the aversion of a nuclear war but not the conventional war.
Meanwhile, the countries that forsake the nuclear weapons in the past are doing a lot better than both Pakistan and India in terms of their Human capital development. For instance the literacy rate in Kazakhstan is 99.7% as opposed to 55% in Pakistan and 74% in India. These two countries haven’t lived up to their potential because by and large they have remained focus upon building their regular and nuclear arsenals. The need of the hour is to divest from nuclear weapon development. Both countries should seek to sort issues diplomatically and try to put their own house in order. If Pakistan manages to become a liberal democracy in letter and spirit then the historical facts suggest that the tensions between India and Pakistan would cease to exist.
Submitted by B.H.