Saturday, January 24, 2015

On the lighter side-Movies-The Boxtrolls (2014-Animated)

A boy raised by trash collecting trolls tries to save them from an evil pest exterminator in this funny and heartwarming stop motion animated movie which can be enjoyed thoroughly by all the family. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Annabelle (2014)

Prequel to the movie The conjuring about a doll which becomes cursed in a house when it is invaded by Satan worshippers. Chills are there but considering how much it cost to make, well worth the viewing and effort. But recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-Lucy (2014)-Scarlett Johansson

A drug deal gone wrong makes a woman strong beyond human logic in the action packed thriller which is highly recommended for action fans and others. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Let’s be cops (2014)-Damon Wayans

Two losers in life put on fake cops and start to act like real ones and begin to enjoy it in this funny buddy story. Recommended

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Another Nigerian massacre

I have been tracking this new terror threat in Nigeria from the start and it seems that either the government there does not have the capability to confront Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist organization fighting to create a pure Islamic government ( whatever that means in their version0 in the areas they control or simply don’t care much about them. Whichever is the case, this threat is evolving into an international one as the militants are trying to export their brand of violence into neighboring countries in Africa. While the world was gripped by the violence in France, relatively unknown news came out of Nigeria where reportedly Boko Haram slaughtered almost 2000 people and burned villages and the military was nowhere to be found. Although the Nigerian Military is saying that the figure is close to 150 but anyway the huge numbers killed did not register with the African or even Nigerian Leaders as has been reported. Unlike in France where there was widespread world condemnation and unity rally involving several world leaders (including African ones too), there was no such thing in Nigeria. What to talk about world leaders, even the ordinary citizens of Nigeria did not come out to unify their country against a common threat. I can understand that there is a threat to your life under these circumstances, but if peace loving person stands up there is no way these terrorists can win. It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in Nigeria where the government seems helpless in the face of the militant attacks and citizens continue to suffer and there is no appetite for any major foreign powers to send troops to help Nigeria.

A new beginning for Cuba-U.S. relationship

After more than half a century of economic embargo and diplomatic cutoff, the United States announced a sort of normalization of relations with Cuba. I don’t know what transpired this change of heart but it was about time this was going to end. Although the process will be slow but it has started. As usual with any kind of decision like this there are supporters and there are opponents. The people who are enthusiastic about are the ones who were born after the Communist rule started and have suffered under the strain of U.S. embargo and do not care about politics but some calm in their lives. But the opposition has been strong enough made up of people who were exiled and see things through their exiled lenses and believe that the Current President has betrayed them and say that nothing has changed and will not change until the Castro family is out of the way. You know that the U.S. fought in Vietnam which ended around the early seventies and apart from occasional movies about Vietnam, the U.S. has moved on fairly quickly to recognize Vietnam in less than 30 years or so but with Cuba it has just started to make peace with its new decision slowly. But I wonder as with Cuba and Vietnam, how long would it take for the U.S. and Iran to heal their wounds and resume relations. I know there will always be opposition here in the U.S. and in Iran but somebody relations will normalize but again how long and will it beat the longest one with Cuba as it is now almost 35 years since 1979 Iranian revolution. Bad blood is still there but it will take another couple of decades to heal some of the bitterness.

Suspension of your dieting plan in holiday season

Holiday season starting from Thanksgiving Day to the start of New Year is a festive mood here in the United States and other countries. People are generally happy and there are parties going on and people bring different kinds of dessert to their work place and also arrange parties in their homes or outside. And luckily my birthday also falls during the holiday season and I bring a cake to my colleagues at the place where I work and share with them the joyous occasion. And I am not the only one with a birthday around the holiday. But since there is so much cheers and happiness going on that somebody had to bring some cake also and during one of these occasions some lady said that she cannot eat that much since her diet plan will be ruined or it becomes ruined because there is so much to eat. But you know that the temptation is so great that despite all the restraints you cannot help but eat at least one slice of cake or one portion of dessert and I keep on insisting that you will take care of your diet after the holidays as you have to suspend your dieting plan during the holidays as apart from temptation, you don’t want to offend your colleagues, friends, relatives that you will not participate in their happiness and all around festivities. As people tend to overspend during holiday season on presents and then try to pay off their debt after New Year, the same goes with the diet plan as people splurge on unhealthy food and then try to make sure they go on a diet right after New Year.

On the lighter side-Movies-A walk among the tombstones (2014)-Liam Neeson

Not the one that I thought it would be. A private investigator is hired by a drug lord to find out about who kidnapped his wife and why she was killed. I was expecting some more action, but it turned out to be standard TV mystery movie with big name actor. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-Once upon a time in Shanghai (2013-Hong Kong)

A new wave of Martial arts movies with greater direction and acting have come out of Hong Kong lately and this is no exception as the action is realistic and hardcore. A laborer decides to try his luck in Shanghai but ends up using his Martial arts skill to survive and help others. Recommended for action fans.

On the lighter side-Movies-Gone Girl (2014)-Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

When his prominent wife disappears one day, the whole media spotlight makes her husband look suspicious in this gritty and dark movie. With great acting by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. It shows the media trial before the actual trial and how people are easily manipulated. Recommended

The End of moratorium of death penalty in Pakistan-2

As you may know by reading my posts that I am all for death penalty. There can be arguments that death penalty would not bring someone loved ones back or it is riddled with racism and other inaccuracies where the innocent party can be executed. But despite this death penalty is not awarded just right away and the execution taking place the next day. It takes years of appeals and arguments in courts and in the general media to go to that stage and even until the end there is hope that the person given the death penalty will be spared death and his sentence will either be overturned or commuted to life imprisonment. But in Pakistan's case, the accused were said to be coerced into given confession which implicated them into some heinous crimes but mostly the terrorists brag about their ''accomplishments" and do not feel any remorse in saying that they killed it in the name of their so called "religion". The death penalty currently being applied may appall many so called human right organization but right now there is no other deterrence available to Pakistan as it continues its battle against Islamic extremism and militancy. Given all the noises made around the world regarding the complicity of the Pakistani Military in the growth of the militancy. But with the new Army chief in place, there is some sort of recognition all the international pressure about doing away with death penalty has to be ignored if Pakistan has to survive as a nation. I will talk about the death penalty sometimes later on but for now I welcome the restoration of death penalty in Pakistan.

The End of moratorium of death penalty in Pakistan

After the attack on a school in Pakistan which killed more than 120 kids, Pakistan decided that enough is enough and they lifted a moratorium on death penalty for the last six years. The moratorium did not mean that death penalty was abolished; it just put a hold on it. The judges kept on passing on the death sentence but their final appeals were also rejected but they were on death row because nobody was executed, save one who was sentenced by a military court and hanged during this moratorium. The reason was not that suddenly Pakistan became a beacon of human rights but reportedly it was said that the European Union had supposedly threaten to take away the privilege of greater access to their markets if the death penalty moratorium was not instituted. This seems not be substantiated as both sides deny this but whatever is the case it was a disaster for Pakistan as human rights were abused more by this than anything else. Due to this moratorium and the still sentencing people to death, the death row has swelled to almost eight thousand prisoners which is by far the largest in the world. But due to these terrorists who have been striking with impunity and killing hundreds of people every month had not fear of the law. Even if they were caught and awarded the death penalty, they knew that they will not be put to death and one of these days their comrades will come and free them from the notoriously lax jail security. Now with the death penalty restored every person who has been sentenced to death and have all their appeals exhausted is panicking and asking for mercy from the President of Pakistan.

The French terrorist killings-3

Too many privacy issues in Europe have given added momentum for the radicals to publicize their wares without the government snooping around their business. I truly understand that privacy concern are legitimate but the war that is now being fought is entirely different when whole armies used to stand face to face and fight it out. I have already emphasized in my blog that either you can have privacy and be insecure or have less privacy and feel a bit secure. Although people are hesitant to give up their privacy because they don’t want the governments to snoop into their lives but in an age where the terrorists are using all kind of technology to recruit new adheres and spread their agenda due to this so called "freedom of speech", there is no choice for the government but to increase their surveillance and monitoring of people's lives to know where the next threat is going to come from. It is interesting to find out what measures, if any, France will take to tackle this menace amongst their midst as there seems like many legitimate grievances that can become potential magnet for somebody crazy enough to act alone or band with some other like minded individuals to attack people at random as has been emphasized by the latest threats by ISIS and other groups to attack civilians, Police and other security agencies personnel in the West as they are also considered part of the same so called " crusader army" and the backlash that the Muslims will face from the far right anti Islamic agenda. I will talk about the freedom of speech issue and other issues related to it.

The French terrorist killings-2

Now the latest news is that the terrorists killed in the French carnage were on the U.S. no fly list and the French intelligence had put them surveillance for their activities. But all this did not stop the massacre that happened in France. As everybody by now knows that France is host to the largest Muslim population in Europe, and most if not all have been marginalized due to their ethnic and religious affiliation. I was also surprised to read that in France it is customary to put your photo on your resume and it gives a best chance for corporate managers to discriminate. The Muslim population has been disenfranchised for a long time in France and despite being secular in nature; France does discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation. My opinion is not the trivialize what happened in France but to convey the fact that these kinds of events are bound to happen as France looks the other way while its Muslim population become increasingly radicalized and disillusioned with dim job prospects for them. Already there have been several threats against France by ISIS and Al-Qaeda and as I read on one of the websites that France is not prepared to fully respond to the threats. The unity rally that happened yesterday expressed solidarity with the victims was a great gesture but would it be able to stop more attacks when the root cause of the problem is not solved. It is reported that more than 900 French have joined the battle in Iraq and Syria and French government looks helpless in tracking down who is coming in or out of France.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The French terrorist killings

Just yesterday, allegedly three gunmen entered the building of one prominent French satirical magazine and killed 12 years before fleeing in a car. I saw the video where the gunmen entered calmly and fled calmly. Supposedly they raised the slogan of "God is great" after doing their business. Now you can say that it is part of the Islamic terrorism and Islam is the cause of it. But here I want to emphasize that the satirical magazine had angered not only Muslims but other religious sentiments and for that they were also fire bombed a few years ago. But is this the way to silence your critics when you have a perfect opportunity to use your reason to convince others of your opinion. This act of terrorism should be condemned in the loudest terms by all but especially the so called Muslims leaders who due to their petty and personal sectarian agenda have been keeping quiet about extremism in their midst for years. And since France does not have a death penalty on its books, how will you treat such terrorists if ever they are captured. Even if you don’t believe in death penalty, how would you treat such individuals who had clear intentions of taking lives away that day? If you throw them away for life still they will be living inside a jail of their own actions. I believe that for some heinous crimes there is no other remedy but to reinstate the death penalty even if the so called European human rights organizations don’t agree with me on it.

The Year in Review-2014-5

With all the chaos taking place in Syria and Iraq especially Iraq, the rise of the Kurds have been particularly spectacular. This group although Sunni have never been given its due share in the Iraqi government. And the Arabs, although Sunnis, never liked the Kurds because they were of different ethnicity and hence have different cultures. During the ISIS blitz in Iraq, the Kurds were being displaced in increasing numbers and since the Kurds have come to ally themselves with the West, they were equally qualified to fight off ISIS and they have done a remarkable job till now. The New Shiite Iraqi government also went along and provided them with weapons and support from other Shiite Fighters and for now Kurds having been holding up pretty much against ISIS. And with this acknowledgment, the Kurds are systematically pushing for a nation of their own, although, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran are resistant to that idea due to their own Kurd population. And the now biggest news that has impacted me financially and I know hundreds of millions of people worldwide is the price of oil which has dropped from more than 110 dollars a barrel to now below 50 dollars with contributing factor of the United States being a net producer due to the fracking technology that has unleashed. I know that the oil exporting countries are hurting but the rest of the worlds' countries are getting the benefit of lower oil prices and growth in their economies. So that is all I have to write about the major events of last year, hopefully this year will be must better. So Happy New Year to you and your families.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Year in Review-2014-4

As it keeps on happening in the Middle East, another Israeli-Palestinian conflict flared up. The reason was that three Israeli teenagers were supposedly kidnapped and then killed by the Palestinians who initially denied it but acknowledged their role when the war started. And the war was mainly confined to the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip as the West Bank ruled by its opposition was not touched. Although the Palestinians won the social media war but the sad part was that they did not won the hearts of the Arab government as the Arabs fearful of its Islamic background sometimes condemned its leadership and sometimes just ignored the casualties? At the end of the year a historical U.S. decision to restore ties with the Cuban government after over 50 years of imposing embargo on it. Some of the people were happy and some were not on this sudden turn of events as is the case with every decision which affects people. After much dallying by the U.S. and its allies, finally was the time to have an air campaign against ISIS to stop their advances towards the Iraqi capital Baghdad and roll back their victories. The U.S. (as usual) started to assemble a coalition of the forced including Arab allies to make it sound like the Arab Muslims are also against ISIS. Although experts are saying that this battle against ISIS will have to involve ground troops but so far the U.S. has resisted committing significant number of troops, although a few thousand are still on the ground taking the role of advising the Iraqi troops how to deal with ISIS. Curiously the U.S. has not invited Iran to play a role here as they need not need any invitation to join this war as they are already on the ground.

The Year in Review-2014-3

This was also the year when the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped several hundred girls and despite efforts by the United States and an admittedly lack luster search by the Nigerian Security forces, they have not been found and remained in hostages or even worse no one knows. In South Korea, a ferry capsized and sank killing more than 300 people and sparked a nationwide mourning for the victims who were mostly high school kids. In Iraq and Syria, another Islamic terrorist group ISIS grew in strength supposedly out of nowhere and captured large parts of Iraq and Syria and established a so called Islamic State which they called Caliphate ruled by supposedly Islamic laws making hundreds of thousands of people flee from their homes who did not adhere to ISIS’s sect and who feared for their lives because they did not want to be part of it. Again we go back to Nigeria as it has been in the news very much lately and if you have read my blog about Boko Haram, they are not ready to slow down and indeed they killed hundreds of people in one sweep in Nigeria last year and the killings continues to this day with increasing frequency and determination and they are gaining and capturing more and more area of Nigeria. In the same year, the world cup was held in Brazil which was won by Germany. Another Malaysian plane flying over Ukraine worn torn area was shot down and it has not been determined yet whether it was shot down by rebels or the Ukrainian security forces.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Year in Review-2014-2

The year started with Ebola epidemic in Western Africa and till now it has not been contained but it has slowed after major effort by rich countries to pour resources to stop it before it becomes a full blown calamity for all. Some countries restricted citizens of some Ebola hit countries to come to their countries and some send medical teams to treat patients of Ebola in their home countries. Let's see how this year fares for Ebola. The most expensive winter Olympics started in Russia amid tight security and went without any major or minor incident happening and for a few weeks the world turned their eyes towards sports. The annexation of Crimea which was part of Ukraine was also a big news which continue to garner headlines in the New Year also as the Russian holds tighten around it and the world could not do anything about it as you know Russia is a Nuclear power and the only way to deal with it is to hit it with sanctions and that is what the West is doing right now. The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was a major news story last year. Despite massive amount of rescue efforts from major world powers, nobody still knows where the airline went down and if ever we will be able to recover the bodies. For the families who have lost their loved ones, there is no closure to their agony as the vast ocean is the grave yard of their loved ones and they would never know what happened to them.

The Year in Review-2014

As in previous years I am again doing this year regarding what happened last year so that people who have not read my blog or have not has been updated with the news can get a quick check of what happened last year so that they can catch up. My review will have no particular time line meaning it would not start with January and then onto the next month or the next. It will go just randomly go over the most important news of the year based on my assessment and my opinion only. As usual when we start our year we wish everybody well and generally are optimistic about what it will store for us. And thankful or not so thankful that the past year is going and looking forward to the New Year which will be beneficial for us particularly and the world in general. I know that as we greet a New Year, not all of the people may had a good year before. Some may have lost their jobs, some their homes, some went through divorce and separation, breaking up with your significant other, charges of cheating and infidelity and worse of all losing your child or your parents or siblings to diseases or killings. I am in no way minimizing the grief felt by each individual party in this case and everybody has a story to tell about how the previous year went by. Here my review is about world events that affected us in one way or the other. So with this in mind let's start our journey to what were the main events (according to what I read throughout the year) in the year 2014.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Do you follow the critics or your own assessment?

When I watch movies usually I go by the critic’s assessment of how the movie was and how it is made. I know that sometimes it weighs heavily on my decision to watch a particular movie or not. Usually the critics are everyday person who are analyzing the movie for other movie goers and sometimes you have your so called who will critique the movie to death that you get lost in what they are saying and you decide that it is better to watch the movie yourself and decide if you agree with the critics or just don’t want to analyze it too deeply to ruin your experience. In this case, I stop following the critics assessment and just go on watching the movie and decide myself. Sometimes the critics do slam the movie and they are right but sometimes what they think is not good turns out to be a block buster and people throng to see it anyway. I follow the money, if I see that the movie has made more than enough money beyond their budget, it means that most of the people have liked it even if the critics hated it with a passion. But here's the dilemma, even if the movie has made a lot of money that does not mean that I would like it like most of the people. It can be crappy movie but the fans maybe duped into watching it. So it is hard to tell which movie one will like until you sit down and watch it yourself and stop depending on critics and other fans of the movie.

Another year and another round of resolutions for it

The New Year has not even started yet and people (including I) start asking my colleagues and other friends their New Year resolutions. So thus begins another year and another round of resolutions which some studies have suggested a minority of the people are able to keep it or just give it up after a month or so. The biggest one of them is the resolve to lose weight and in no particular order, being nice, eat healthy, reduce debt, travel and many others particular to certain individuals. Why do people keep resolutions is beyond me. I mean I can understand that you are making an effort to achieve a goal but if you are not going to stick to the plan you as well not make one and then regret it later on. I know that it makes someone happy that it is a New Year and if were not able to achieve your goal last year, you may try to achieve this year but the biggest one of all, losing weights is the one that most of the people's resolve gets sent to the dumps in the first month of the year. The other ones like eating healthy, travel and reduce debt is easier to achieve since it does not require that much effort as losing weight because of so much delicious temptations of food out there. My resolve for the New Year is to reduce my debt, eat a little bit healthy (not get overboard with it) and simultaneously start two start-ups tech businesses. I know that it will be too much work but if I love something I would not mind working more hours than usual and I hope that I still to my resolve and not waiver in it as failure is not an option for me. I hope that people who have New Year resolutions maybe able to keep it and follow it through so that they don’t have to make the same resolutions all over again in the next New Year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Sixth anniversary of my Father’s Death

Today is my Father's sixth Death Anniversary and the pain is no less than when he passed away. I miss him a lot and his advice and his laughter and anger and his worries and just fun time with him just enjoying his company. Several times during the last year as for the several past years since he passed away I see him in dreams in weird circumstances but always young and not the sick one when he passed away. I was just remembering him on my birthday which was in late December because that was the last time I spoke with him and he said Happy Birthday to me and then 12 days later I heard the news that he has passed away and I was not there at his last moment. Since he was overseas at the time of his passing and I was in the U.S. so I was unable to attend his funeral which is the greatest regret of my life. It is hard to describe what I feel without my father and I cannot express my feelings in words. It is said that time heals everything but as I have said before, it does not heal some losses no matter how much time has passed away. I am sure my other siblings also feel the loss of him but for me, the only son, this loss sometimes becomes unbearable and sometimes I wish I had spent more time with him but now this opportunity is all gone. You see that when your parents are there you are so much immersed in your own lives that you take them for granted that you will always find them but once they are gone you feel emptiness in your lives no matter how cheerful you are from outside. I will always miss you and love you Daddy.

On the lighter side-Movies-The Equalizer (2014)-Denzel Washington

An ex-Black ops living a peaceful life gets himself into trouble when ultra violent Russian gang tries to harass a young girl in this violent action thriller. I liked it although some may question all the violence included. Recommended with caution.