Breastfeeding Rates too Low Despite Global Education Programs

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

mother-and-child Despite widespread awareness of the importance of breastfeeding to the human child, mothers in developed countries demonstrate low rates of compliance with global recommendations. Nursing past six months is the exception rather than the rule. Bottle-feeding infants has become normal. Exclusive and extensive breastfeeding has become a pastime primarily for the rich with some interesting exceptions. Nordic countries exhibit the overall highest European breastfeeding rate with England ranking lowest. UAE ruling class mothers exclusively breastfeed the longest among Arabs while Iraq suffers the lowest breastfeeding rates. US Whites and Native Americans are most likely to breastfeed while Blacks and Hispanics are the least likely.

Class plays a large role in decision to breastfeed, for far fewer women belonging to the routine and manual labor socio-economic group nurse beyond six weeks than is typical of professional women and full time mothers. Yet, religion and philosophy also affect women’s decision to breastfeed. In Singapore non-Malay Muslim women are 6.7 times more likely to breastfeed than Buddhist women although Malays have the lowest rate. Urban babies receive half the breast milk of rural babies. The youngest mothers tend to supplement with bottles from birth.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF work hard to promote breastfeeding worldwide, but their success is undermined by factors such as free infant formula distribution, hospital practices and lack of personal support. Breastfeeding is a learned skill requiring effort and focus. Good intentions are not always enough to establish lactation. “Baby-friendly hospital” initiatives in many countries have significantly increased breastfeeding but rates are still well below optimum health guidelines.

Almost all new mothers attempt breastfeeding but few continue for the recommended period. According to UNICEF the early introduction of bottle-feeding and complementary food leads to premature weaning, the primary cause of malnutrition in children under age two worldwide.

Many women give up nursing in favor of bottle-feeding out of a sense of powerless over the situation. These mothers often wanted very much to nurse their child, but they lost their chance. Hospitals fail to promote exclusive breastfeeding of newborns. Most new mothers receive free samples of formula because of multi-million dollar deals between hospitals and pharmaceutical companies and come home with their babies already addicted to the bottle. Coaxing a newborn child to breastfeed after he has been bottle-fed even just once or twice can be a big struggle. Success may be impossible without the aid of a midwife or lactation counselor because unfortunately even the older generation of mothers lack sufficient knowledge.

When newborns reject the breast, mothers typically try for a while, then give up and supply a bottle. This teaches the baby that refusing to nurse will be rewarded. Parents must exercise “tough love” by declining to give the baby a bottle even if it takes several hours or even days for the baby to nurse willingly. (If the baby gets dehydrated, do give him water with a cup or medicine dropper, but introducing a bottle creates “nipple confusion” which is disastrous for the mother-child relationship).

Some women give up on breastfeeding because the husband insists. This tragedy reveals a stripping away at women’s postnatal rights and sets a dangerous precedent. Nursing a baby is an exhausting and time-consuming job requiring family help, encouragement, and support especially from the father to enable mother and child to be together undisturbed as much as possible particularly during the first 40 days of the baby’s life.

Many women manage to make it through those hardest days in the beginning and then stop breastfeeding after a few weeks out of fear of insufficient milk supply. These mothers need to increase their consumption of calories and to get adequate rest. Under no circumstances should they give their baby a bottle because this will only decrease the supply of breastmilk. Sometimes it is actually the doctor’s advice to start feeding their babies solids before 6 months that leads to premature weaning. A mother needs to weigh the fun of spoon-feeding her infant against the risk of premature rejection of the breast.

Thus bottle-feeding rates remain high despite awareness that breastmilk alone contains all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones and immune factors that a baby needs.

“Encouraging exclusive breastfeeding has to become a high priority in all sectors of society,” said Dr. Mahendra Sheth, UNICEF Regional Health and Nutrition Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months followed by complementary feeding between 6-9 months with continued breastfeeding through the first year could save an estimated 1.5 million lives annually. 

Women receiving adequate advice can often prolong nursing even after returning to work outside the home. Premature or weak infants in particular need breast milk for the best odds in life.

Pregnant women should read books on how to breastfeed and understand fully the necessary commitment to avoid making a tragic mistake to be remembered with regret.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women.

11-36

UK’s Huge Jewel Heist Linked to Israel

Press TV

Top Israeli officials have been linked to Britain’s biggest ever jewelry heist, in which gems worth up to $65 million (£40m) were stolen.

According to an Israeli report, three former senior officials in the Israeli army were the main shareholders of the company responsible for guarding the Graff Diamond jewelers in central London, where the robbery took place. The Universe Security Group (USG) has been in charge of the security of the store, after a group of Balkan robbers–dubbed the Pink Panther gang–carried out an armed raid on the same store in May 2005, taking off with 1 million pounds worth of diamonds.

Nahum Admoni, former Mossad chief and Maj. Gen. Uri Sagie, former chief of intelligence in the Israeli army, reportedly resigned from the leadership of the London-based group, just two months before the heist.

Another primary share holder of the security company is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special adviser, Isaac Molho.

The police have meanwhile arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the robbery, but only described him as a ‘minor player’ in the act.

The August 6 raid, which had all the makings of a blockbuster movie, was carried out by two smartly dressed men, who had disguised themselves professionally with make-up layered on latex masks, Metropolitan Police footage showed.

In just minutes, the leading men drew handguns, grabbed a female member of staff and headed for the exit with 43 pieces of jewelry including rings, bracelets, necklaces and watches.

They fired warning shots, jumped into a waiting blue BMW and abandoned their hostage, speeding through Mayfair. No one was injured in the incident.

An international man hunt has been in progress ever since, with insurers offering a 1 million-pound reward for information leading to the capture of the thieves and the recovery of the jewels.

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Syed Hussain Runs for City Council

Syed Hussain wins LOWELL, MA–Syed Hussain is running for the Lowell City Council. A native of Hyderabad, India, he immigrated to the US in 1991.

In his pursuit of the American dream, Hussain rode his bicycle from South Lowell to Pawtucketville to mow lawns. He delivered fliers for The Sun. He delivered pizza.

He became a U.S. citizen, took some training courses and landed a job in human services. For the past 15 years, he has worked as a vocational resource specialist and mentor for the disabled and developmentally challenged.

“I want to do something for the people of the community who have no one to speak for them,” he said. “They need to be heard.”

Hussain said that as an “All-American City,” Lowell needs to better embrace its diversity and include people from all backgrounds in the decision-making of the city.

“I believe the future of Lowell is about working together, educating our children and making everyone feel that they are an important contributor to the community,” he said.

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Abundant Faith, Shrinking Space

Mosques Turn to Synagogues, Ballrooms to Accommodate Growing Membership

By William Wan, Washington Post

They stream in through the doors every Friday — a sea of Muslims pouring into a synagogue in Reston.

PH2009082103814

Muslims facing a lack of worship space lease a Jewish synagogue in Reston, Virginia, prompting an unexpected cultural exchange.

The men roll out long prayer rugs on the synagogue floor. An imam stands up front and praises Allah. And as the faithful begin whispering their prayers in flowing Arabic, their landlord, a rabbi, walks by to check whether they need anything.

This unlikely arrangement between a burgeoning Muslim congregation and a suburban synagogue is what happens when you combine the region’s rapidly growing Muslim population with a serious shortage of worship space.

As area mosques prepare for the start of Ramadan this weekend, many are simply bursting at the seams. Every available inch — even in lobbies and hallways — is being used. Parking is impossible. Traffic afterward is worse than postgame gridlock at FedEx Field.

Nobody knows how many Muslims are in America — estimates range from 2.35 million to 7 million — but researchers say the population is growing rapidly, driven by conversions, immigration and the tendency for Muslims to have larger families. One study by Trinity College in Connecticut shows the percentage nationwide having doubled since 1990. In the Washington area, the increase might be even sharper, local Muslim leaders say.

A building boom has brought new mosques to suburbs such as Manassas and Ellicott City, but many have been full from the moment they opened. So, desperate for room, Muslim communities have started renting hotel ballrooms, office space and, yes, even synagogues to handle the overflow.

“We say our prayers, and a few hours later they meet for Sabbath and they say their prayers,” said Rizwan Jaka, a leader at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling, which added services at two synagogues last year. “People may think it’s strange or odd, but we are simply grateful for the space.”

The extra room will prove crucial this weekend with the beginning of Ramadan — a month of fasting that often draws hundreds to mosques in addition to regular members. Anticipating the throngs, many mosques have hired off-duty police and rallied volunteers to handle the traffic.

“Just like you have Easter Christians, Hanukkah Jews, we have what we call Ramadan Muslims. They just come out of the woodwork on the holy days,” said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church.

Last year at the height of Ramadan, Abdul-Malik had to turn many away to avoid violating occupancy rules, which limit his mosque to 2,000 worshipers. When asked how many he expects this year, the imam chooses his words carefully: “I’d rather not say because of the fire marshal.”

“The prophet Isaiah said our houses would be houses of prayer for all people,” said Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk. “Now, I don’t know if Isaiah could have imagined us hosting Ramadan in the synagogue, but the basic idea is there.”

It turned out to be relatively easy. Their new Muslims friends didn’t need much: wide-open space, carpet to cushion the floor and a place for their shoes. The synagogue’s social hall suited them perfectly.

The arrangement has led to the unexpected benefit of cultural exchange. There have been pulpit swaps, with the imam and rabbi preaching to each other’s congregation and interfaith visits as well.

David Fram, 72, who sings in the synagogue’s choir, was recently invited to the Sterling mosque for daily prayers. It was an amazing, if somewhat awkward, experience. “I didn’t know quite what to do; there was a lot of bending and kneeling in their prayers,” he said.

Standing quietly in the back of the prayer hall, Fram decided to simply bow his head in reverence. He ate lunch (“some kind of spicy meat and rice”) afterward. And a few weeks later, he found himself at Barnes & Noble buying a Koran, out of curiosity.

“It’s not like the U.N. here. We’re not looking to draft some final settlement agreement between Israel and Palestine,” Nosanchuk said. “But we’re learning from each other, and we’re trying to give them the space they need and make them feel at home.”

ADAMS and other congregations are unlikely to solve their space problems anytime soon because of the long lag time usually required for new mosques. Because the Koran prohibits borrowing money at interest, congregations don’t use bank loans for construction. Instead, they fundraise over many years and then pay in cash.

The process can be excruciating.

It took Muslims in Prince William County 10 years before they accumulated enough money for a new home. While they waited, they crammed into a one-story house off Route 234. Each week, they somehow fit 50 cars into a space meant for 20. When services got too full, people knelt outside and prayed on the grass.

Women working minimum-wage jobs donated their family’s jewelry to the new-mosque fund. When construction finally began in 2004, families often drove out to the site just to watch and dream about a future of plentiful parking and prayer space.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

Almost as soon as the new mosque, Dar Al-Noor, opened three years ago during Ramadan, the building was packed with 1,200 people. So this year throughout Ramadan, members will continue praying and fundraising for further expansion, said the community’s president, Mohammad Mehboob.

“We are a community with many people but not so much money,” Mehboob said. “But Allah has always provided for us. It’s amazing we have this mosque now, and, inshallah, we will continue to build and grow.”

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Back to School?

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

School Bus - Cartoon 7 The photo spreads in local sales circulars in Kuwait bear all the familiar ‘back to school’ images of kids wearing cute outfits complete with backpacks swung over an arm. The ‘back to school’ sales placards cover the storefronts over most businesses that are competing for each sale as the global downturn continues to dig in. However, despite the familiar images, there is nothing ordinary about this school year that is set to start in only a few days.

The H1N1 virus, known as the ‘swine flu’, has cast a dark shadow over the Holy Month of Ramadan and impending school year that is set to start on the first of September in all Gulf countries. More than 1,100 people in Kuwait alone have already been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, and while almost all of the patients have recovered, three people have died as a result of the H1N1 virus. The Kuwaiti government has been vigilant in providing public service announcements, via various media, since the spring when the first few cases were reported in Mexico and later America. The H1N1 virus ahs spread to all regions of the Middle East as each country can only count as the rapidity of infection rises.

In Kuwait, in particular, many parents have been sounding the alarm as the summer holidays have slowly begun to fade away. Concerned ministries, primarily the Ministries of Health and Education, met this past week to discuss the possible closing of schools to avoid the spread of the H1N1 virus. The results were less than fruitful. The joint decision as of press time is to only postpone the start of Kindergarten classes in both public and private schools for 10 days. Regular classes are set to resume as usual on September 1st.

The Kuwaiti government has also this week developed a swine flu plan, which is supposed to be put into effect by school administrators in the tiny Gulf state. Desks will be positioned 1 meter apart and congregating, in the cafeteria or at the playground, will be forbidden. Health Minister Helal Al-Sayer further announced that, in the event that a single student comes down with the H1N1 virus, the entire class will be closed indefinitely. He also said that if any school reports more than 5% of the student population are infected with the H1N1 virus then the entire school will be closed.  Individual students, who are suspected of having the H1N1 virus by teachers while in class, will be quarantined until health officials can properly diagnose their affliction. Al-Sayer further announced that 120 schools would be outfitted with special clinics specifically for the treatment of students suffering from the H1N1 virus.  The remaining schools in the country have no such facilities and it remains to be seen if health officials will monitor each school individually.

Kuwait is not the only Middle Eastern country to take ‘back to school’ swine flu precautions. Several private schools in Dubai have also postponed the start of the school year by several days. However, no Gulf country has taken as drastic measures as Oman. The country has cancelled the school term for both private and public schools until mid-December when the H1N1 vaccine, expected to be available in September, will have immunized pupils from the deadly virus. So far 5 people have died in Oman from the H1N1 virus.

When asked about the current decision the Kuwaiti government has made to continue with the start of the school year as normal, a Pakistani housewife and resident of Kuwait who wishes to remain anonymous said, “ What’s the point in closing a class after a student gets sick? The whole class will already be infected. I can only pray that the Minster will change the decision before school starts.”

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Musings–The Qur’an Can Advance You to “Riches”

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Note:  This article is part of a CD series.  Write for more information.

First of all you should know that when we say “Rich” we’re not simply talking about material or monetary richness.  Finance is certainly a part of it, but richness comes in many forms.  You can be “rich” if you only make $150 a week – and you can be a multi-millionaire and be the “poorest” of the poor.  You are “rich” when you have a balanced life brought on by a balanced lifestyle.  This balanced lifestyle begins with the belief in ALLAH, His Messenger… and prayer.

Of course, having ample finances to take care of your necessities plus a few luxuries, goes a long way to making one happy.  You cannot be happy and fulfilled if you don’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear or a comfortable place to lay your head.  This is one of the main reasons that poor areas have more despair, stress, lawlessness, and family and societal breakdown.

This is not to say these things don’t exist in affluent neighborhoods.  They do.  But the proportion of despair in poor neighborhoods far exceeds that in richer areas.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a psychiatrist to understand that if a person grows up looking at broken bottles and empty boarded up houses everyday, he or she will not be as productive as those who grow up looking at and utilizing wealth.

However, ALLAH says if you follow some simple rules, you will be “Rich” enough to be happy in peaceful, productive surroundings.

First let us look at ZAKAT.  Prayer and zakat are two of the most often repeated dictates of ALLAH.  He puts so much emphasis on it that He has given an example of what you get back by charitable giving.  He says charity is like giving a grain of corn and each grain grows seven ears and each ear has another hundred grains.  Now add that up and see what your reward is.  I must warn you – you’ll need a mighty bi calculator.

This principle of giving is for everybody – not just “affluent Muslims.  ALLAH says for the believers (rich and poor) to pay zakat.  Some people who don’t have much money think they are exempt from giving.  This is not true and may very well be the reason they are in need.  If you only have a dollar and you give five cents, ALLAH will multiply what you gave.

The next key for getting “Rich” is saving a portion of what you have.  Again, it is irrelevant as to how much you have.  If you only make $150.00 a week, save some of it before you start spending.  First give charity and then, pay yourself.  This savings is not to be touched for anything except a dire emergency.  (And an emergency does not mean running out and buying that good looking coat you saw in the paper.)  Saving will make you independent.  You can rely on yourself for emergencies and needs rather than rely on the generosities of other people.

This is sensible living and allows you to live a life “Rich” in value, “Rich” in productivity and eventually “Rich” in finances – or at least being able to live comfortably and happy.  This is the type of life ALLAH wants us to live.  It’s the very reason He sent His message and Messenger to us.

Too many Muslims do not key in on the simple, but powerful benefits of obeying ALLAH.  But in case you don’t realize it, it’s the way to a perfect life.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin The Qur’an Can Advance You to “Riches”
By Imam Abdullah El-Amin

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

They Fear Believers

The determination of believers, who take Allah’s words as their criteria for earning His approval, always makes hypocrites uneasy. Believers’ courageous and determined natures reveal that their faith is most powerful, and that nothing has a negative effect on them. This is one of the aspects of which hypocrites are most wary, because though their endeavors are carefully planned and directed towards specific objectives, they never produce the desired results.

By means of believers, Allah instills fear in hypocrites. Although they harbor great hatred in their hearts, the fact that their plans come to naught and their fear of believers are proofs of their helplessness. They themselves know themselves powerless in the face of a society, or even a single individual, guarded by Allah. Since they place no trust in Allah, they live in a state of constant doubt and unease, which increases still more in the face of believers’ struggles against them. In the Qur’an, Allah has commanded believers to wage an intense campaign against the hypocrites:

O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and hypocrites and be harsh with them. Their refuge is Hell. What an evil destination!

At-Tahrim: 9

This community of hypocrites, who grow proud when told to fear Allah, becomes caught up in fear in the face of the struggles waged by believers acting with Allah’s support. Their fear of others is intensified because they do not have profound comprehension, as is revealed in one verse:

You are a greater cause of terror in their breasts than Allah! That is because they are people who do not understand.

Al-Hashr: 13

They are Unaware of Allah’s Protection of the Faithful

. . . Allah will not give the disbelievers any way against the believers.

An-Nisa’: 141

These people are unaware of their own situation, and equally, unaware of Allah’s protection of the faithful, as revealed in the above verse. It is only natural that anyone unable to appreciate Allah properly will be unaware of such support being given to believers. Were they able to understand that Allah would never let them make any progress they would also realize that their endeavors against believers would come to no avail. Their inability to appreciate this merely confirms their lack of understanding. Throughout their time in this world, they expend all their energies in fighting against believers. But as revealed in the verses of the Qur’an, Allah will never let them make any progress, either in this world or in the Hereafter, and He will protect believers against threats of all sorts. That they are unaware of this, despite reading these verses, is an important indication of hypocrisy. They imagine that believers are unguided and without help, while in fact, believers vanquish deniers under all conditions. They are watched over by Allah, and as a result, possess very superior characteristics. Hypocrites’ inability to comprehend this compounds their empty and fruitless endeavors, and helps maintain them in a state of confusion.

They Abandon Believers if Their Own Interests are Harmed

The main reason why hypocrites remain among believers is, as already discussed, to maintain their own advantages. In times of trouble or difficulty, when they encounter a situation that may impinge on their own comfort or negatively impact on their interests, immediately they turn tail and abandon believers. These times are generally those of trouble or difficulty. Since they do not live lives aimed at earning Allah’s approval they are unable to contemplate living by religious moral values in times of trouble.

One example of the hypocrites who abandoned believers at the first moment of trouble comes from the tribe of the Prophet Musa (as). On the day they set out for war, their true natures emerged: They fled the fighting and also behaved disrespectfully to the prophet of Allah:

They said, “We will never enter it, Musa, as long as they are there. So you and your Lord go and fight. We will stay sitting here.”

Al-Ma’ida: 24

It’s of course interesting that those who do not truly believe in Allah and who reject His verses—for a variety of reasons—are to be found amongst believers. These people’s most important values are their own interests. For the sake of these, and solely to ensure their own advantage, they manage to stay within the community of believers for a certain time. They maintain this enforced togetherness until such time as it impinges on their own interests. But whenever they realize their interests are threatened, however, it is time for them to leave.

Moments of difficulty and trouble reveal who is devout and who is not in a struggle waged for Allah’s approval. For these people whose interests are harmed, there is no longer any binding reason to remain alongside believers. As for the kind of benefits that hypocrites seek to obtain from believers, we shall be looking at these in a later chapter of this book.

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Lockerbie: Megrahi ‘a Convenient Scapegoat?’

By BBC News

2009-08-22T113659Z_01_SIN805_RTRMDNP_3_LOCKERBIE

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (L) talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli in this August 21, 2009 video grab from Libya TV. Gaddafi hugged the convicted Lockerbie bomber and promised more cooperation with Britain in gratitude for his release, while London and Washington condemned his "hero’s welcome" home. Meeting Megrahi and his family late on Friday, Gaddafi thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for "encouraging" Scotland to release the dying prisoner from a Scottish jail, Libyan news agency JANA reported.

REUTERS/Libya TV

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has left Scotland to return to Libya.

With his departure, a lengthy chapter in Scots legal history has closed.

But many questions remain – and they will not disappear along with the flight to Tripoli.

BBC Scotland’s Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson has been looking at the mystery which still surrounds the 1988 bombing.

The collection of evidence from Britain’s worst act of terrorism began immediately – and within a week detectives announced it had been caused by a bomb in a radio cassette player.

Throughout the subsequent weeks whole sections of the jumbo jet were recovered to help investigators literally piece together the cause.

Although they knew it was a bomb they needed to find out who had placed it, why they had done so, and how?

Early suspicion fell on Ahmed Jibril, leader of Palestinian terror group the PFLP-GC, who intelligence sources suggested may have been working for Iran.

West German police mounted Operation Autumn Leaves, raiding flats near Frankfurt where the group was preparing bombs in radio cassette players.

They were similar to that used to blow up Pan Am flight 103.

But Dick Marquise, chief of the FBI “Scotbom Task Force” from 1988-1992, said investigators could find nothing later to link this plot with Lockerbie.

“We never found any evidence,” he told the BBC. “There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of intelligence that people have said there were meetings, there were discussions.

“But not one shred of evidence that a prosecutor could take into court to convict either an official in Iran or Ahmed Jibril for blowing up Pan Am flight 103.”

There were also suggestions that Jibril’s group put the bomb onto a Pan Am feeder flight from Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow, switching the suitcase for one containing drugs being run by another Palestinian group.

But another airport has also come under suspicion – Heathrow in London, from where the doomed jumbo jet took off.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the victims of the atrocity, said a break-in the night before near the Pan Am secure baggage area was not fully investigated by police, who he claims concealed the evidence.

“I wrote recently to the Crown Office (which handles Scottish prosecutions) asking why that had been concealed for 12 years, and if they knew about it all along,” he said.

He said they would not answer his question, which he said meant there must now be a thorough inquiry into the incident.

During Megrahi’s first appeal, held at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands, his counsel raised the matter, saying it cast doubt on claims that the fatal bomb must have been loaded in Malta.

But the five appeal judges rejected the suggestion.

Malta had become crucial once police found a fragment of the bomb timer wrapped in a piece of clothing in a Dumfriesshire forest.

The clothes had Maltese labels – but question marks remain about how this discovery was made several months after the disaster, and also over how the material was handled.

The original trial heard labels on police evidence bags containing the fragment had been changed: the evidence of the officer who had done this was heavily criticised by the trial judges.

Worldwide terrorism

There were question marks too over Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who was the only man to identify Megrahi.

His evidence was that the Libyan, who he picked out at an identity parade, had bought the clothes at his shop.

But his police statements are inconsistent, and prosecutors failed to tell the defence that shortly before he attended an identity parade, Mr Gauci had seen a magazine article showing a picture of Megrahi, and speculating he might have been involved.

Mr Gauci now lives in Australia, and according to defence claims is believed to have been paid several million dollars by the Americans for his evidence.

It may be that we will never know exactly what happened in December 1988.

Secret documents before the Appeal Court – which even the defence has not seen – might have provided new information.

They will now remain undisclosed, after the foreign secretary issued a Public Information Immunity certificate stating that to publish them would be to the detriment of UK national security.

Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.

Megrahi is now dying, but he may have been a convenient scapegoat for a much bigger conspiracy.

11-36

China House Hunting to Rev up Economy

By Simon Rabinovitch

BEIJING, Aug 18 (Reuters) – The Chinese government is attempting to pass the baton of growth from state-funded infrastructure investment to the private housing sector, a risky but necessary move to sustain the economic recovery.

Construction cranes sprouting in big cities, busy furniture shops and soaring property sales all show that the transition is going smoothly so far, though officials are wary that house prices may rise too high, too quickly.

China’s biggest listed property developer, Vanke <000002.SZ>, lifted its housing starts target for this year by 45 percent, while its rival Poly Real Estate <600048.SS> said sales in January-July rose 143 percent from a year earlier.

On the ground, construction firms, big and small, are trying to meet the demand, last years’ downturn now a distant memory.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a day off. Several months, I think, though I can’t remember exactly,” said Zhang Minghui, owner of a small building company in Beijing.

“From late last year to early this year, we basically had nothing to do. Everybody was careful with their money because of the crisis and so projects got delayed.”
Zhang cut his staff to three in November but is now back up to a crew of 14.

The economic importance of the property sector in China is hard to overstate. Investment in residential housing accounted for about 10 percent of gross domestic product before a property boom turned to bust in 2008, roughly the same as the contribution from the country’s vaunted export factories.

The government’s first steps last year to revive the stalling Chinese economy were to offer tax cuts to encourage home purchases, followed by rules to ease access to mortgages.

These are bearing fruit.

With housing investment up an annual 11.6 percent in the first seven months, Chinese growth momentum is broadening out and the central government has been able to slow the pace of its stimulus spending on infrastructure.

But Beijing must strike a fine balance in its bid to kick-start the housing market.

On the one hand, it wants rising prices to persuade house hunters to stop putting off purchases and to get developers to invest in new projects. On the other hand, it is wary of prices rising too quickly, luring speculators into the market and turning it into an asset bubble, not an economic driver.

“Because it is closely linked to so many industries, volatility in the real estate market will inevitably lead to macroeconomic volatility,” the government-run China Economic Times warned on Monday.

The housing market rebound in Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other big cities means that prices are already back to their 2007 peak, the report noted.

While prices are high, a surge in sales has depleted housing inventories and developers need to break ground to catch up, Ken Peng, an economist at Citigroup in Beijing, said.

That the Chinese property sector is at a turning point, just getting back on its feet, is seen in the differing fortunes of shops at the Shilihe hardware market in east Beijing.

Those selling goods for early stages of construction, such as tiles, say business is strong. Vendors of lights, among the final purchases for a new home, say it is only now perking up.

“We have done some sales to attract shoppers. But we have actually started scaling these back,” said Chen Yu, a saleswoman at Jushang Lights.

The government can take heart in how most of the real estate money has been spent to date.

Investment in property construction was up a fifth in western China — the part of the country with the biggest need for new housing — in June compared with a year earlier. Wealthier coastal areas in the east, which are already heavily built up, saw a 4.4 percent rise.

But officials are wary of another boom in housing prices paving the way for yet another bust. A handful of Chinese cities have made mortgage lending terms on second homes stiffer to try to keep speculators at bay.

Several real estate agents said the market seemed to have cooled over the past few weeks.

Shanghai Xinyi, a real estate agency in China’s financial centre, said transactions in August fell by half from July.

A salesman surnamed Luo at a Shenzhen branch of Centaline China confirmed that business has slowed down from its brisk pace in the first half.

“It was not rare for house sellers to cancel their original contracts and lift their asking price, even if it meant paying a penalty,” he said by phone. “But the momentum has weakened in August. We could feel the effect of the government’s tightening-up of loans for second homes.”

However, Dong Tao, an economist with Credit Suisse in Hong Kong, offered another explanation of the drop in transactions.

Soaring demand gobbled up whatever homes were on the market and so developers simply must build more, he said in a research note. But it takes time to buy land and obtain approvals.

“After many sites have passed the paperwork phase, we expect housing construction to rise significantly over the summer time.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Graphics by Catherine Trevethan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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Southeast Michigan (V11-I36)

Bloomfield Unity Montessori and Daycare

Farmington–August 25–Ms. Ayesha Ali, co-principal of the Bloomfield Unity Montessori and Daycare took some time to talk with TMO about her school this week.
This Montessori school is in fact not a direct competitor with most of the other Islamic day schools that TMO has interviewed in the past years, as it is a preschool–in fact it is a feeder for the other Islamic schools, like Huda and others.

The Bloomfield Montessori school has about 30 students, and is based inside the BMUC mosque.  The Montessori program focuses on children up to six years old, and has accepted children as young as 8 weeks.

Inspired by the success of the Tawheed Center’s hifz program, which has really become the gold standard for local mosque’s religious instruction, Ms. Ali explained to TMO that the Bloomfield Montessori preschool will offer a hifz program patterned on Tawheed’s–with reliance on Calvert’s home school curriculum, and reliance on Shaykh Ahmad, a trained qari–to instruct the children in tajweed and memorization.

The hifz program at Bloomfield will be for 1st and 2nd grade students.  Ms. Ali explained that “three or four” students have enrolled in the hifz program so far, and that the class will be capped at ten.  The hifz program will cost $600 per month.  The regular Montessori program is $700 per month.  Preschool is $550 per month, and the school is available to parents for the entire year if they want.

Local Mosques and Ramadan

Farmington–August 26–FCNA calculations this year coincided with the Saudi ruling regarding the beginning of Ramadan, leaving most Southeast Michigan Sunni mosques on the same note with regard to the beginning and perhaps also the ending of Ramadan.

FCNA, the Fiqh Council of North America, which calculates based on the physical visibility of the moon in Mecca, determined that the Ramadan moon, which entered early Thursday morning, would not be visible after sunset in Saudi on Thursday therefore the Ramadan month was said to begin Saturday.

The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia in somewhat of a surprise announcement on Thursday said also that fasting would begin Saturday.

Other nations fasting Saturday included Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei–the majority of Sunni nations.  Four nations however began fasting Friday, including Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, and Libya. 

Shi’a followers of the Lebanese marja Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah also began fasting Friday, relying also on calculations.  However, followers of other Shi’a maraja began fasting Saturday.

Local Michigan mosques mainly began fasting Saturday, however with varying reasoning.  The Tawheed Center of Farmington, the Muslim Center of Detroit, and Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center all began Saturday based on following the recommendations of FCNA.

The Flint Islamic Center, MCA of Ann Arbor, and the Grand Blanc Islamic Center began Saturday as well, but for the reason that Saudi Arabia had announced it would begin fasting on Saturday.

MCWS, the Canton mosque, also following FCNA.  ‘Isha and tarawih at MCWS will begin at 10 for the first 10 days, then 9:45 for the second 10 days, and 9:30 for the final 10 days.

Dr. Saleem of the Flint Islamic Center on Corunna explained that ‘Eid will also be based on the Saudi ‘Eid.  ‘Isha and tarawih at FIC will be at 10pm for the first 2 weeks and at 9:30pm for the final 2 weeks.

Flint is having a community dinner every Saturday night, with about 500 people, Dr. Saleem explained to TMO. 

After Ramadan many of the local mosques likely including Flint, intend to participate in the mass ‘Eid celebration at the Rock Financial Showplace, continuing last year’s beginning of the tradition.

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Community News (V11-I36)

Airmen & families celebrate Ramadan

By 1st Lt. Joe Kreidel

18th Wing Public Affairs

8/24/2009 – KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  — “It’s like planning for Christmas while everyone else is going about their business,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Errahimi, a combat communications chief with the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, about preparing for Ramadan here. This same sense of dislocation is no doubt shared by many military members celebrating Ramadan in places like Okinawa where Islam is by far a minority religion.

Ramadan, which began Aug. 22, is a 30-day fast during which devout Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is the preeminent ritual in a faith that gives particular importance to its ritual observances.

“Islam was something I was looking for – the mosque was so quiet and peaceful,” said Sergeant Errahimi of her conversion six years ago. After meeting her now-husband, who is from Morocco, she studied at a mosque for one year prior to making her “shahada” or witness of faith.

It was Islam’s structure and emphasis on community that first appealed to Staff Sgt. Marvin Morris, an X-ray technician and the assistant NCOIC of radiology at the 18th Medical Operations Squadron. He called the daily regimen of five scheduled prayers “the military version of prayer.”

“The first few days of fasting are hard,” said Sergeant Morris. At Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where he was previously stationed, several non-Muslim friends attempted to join him in the fast; one friend made it one whole day. For Sergeant Morris, it’s in large part the hardship of fasting that makes Ramadan so special: “That’s what it’s about. It’s a cleansing process, a chance to focus inward and renew your commitment to Allah.”

The day’s perseverance is rewarded come sunset, as “Iftar” – the evening meal at which each day’s fast is broken – tends to be an extravagant affair. For a week leading up to Ramadan, Sergeant Errahimi and her husband, who have four children at home, prepared various dishes and pastries so as to have a stockpile once Ramadan actually began. Food preparation, too, is more difficult and requires more planning in Okinawa than in Washington, D.C., where the Errahimis lived previously. “Halal” meats are especially hard to come by.

Ramadan will conclude Sept. 19 with “Eid,” a major festival that traditionally involves a special public prayer, feasting, gift-giving, and visiting with family and friends. This communal, festive aspect of Ramadan may be somewhat lacking for Sgt. Morris this year, as he’s new to the island and hasn’t yet made many friends amongst the on-island Muslim community, miniscule compared to the one in northern California.

In 2007, Sergeant Morris celebrated Ramadan at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. While there he worked the night shift, convenient because it allowed him to sleep during the day when he couldn’t eat or drink. On multiple occasions he was able take “Iftar” with a group of Egyptian Muslims working in Afghanistan. “I loved it,” he said, “It’s a different culture, but we’re connected by our shared faith. It’s like a family away from family.”

NC Mosque hit by hate crime

TAYLOR, NC– A mosque in Taylors has been victim of a hate crime. The words ‘Death to Muslims’ were carved in a concrete outside the Islamic Center.

The anti-religious message was written sometime in the early morning hours last Saturday.  For members like Miriam Abbad, it’s hard to see.  She’s worshipped for 10 years at the center.  “When they say death to Muslims, that means me, my young children, my husband, my whole family.  What did we do wrong to deserve such mean words to come out?”

The FBI is investigating the case.

Delaware Muslim prof. network

A new service-based organization has formed with the goal of inviting Muslims to participate in activities that benefit the community.

The Muslim Professionals of Delaware began last month and is working on its first project, a drive to collect school supplies for disadvantaged children.

Group founders Semab Chaudhry and Ahmed Sharkawy, said they want to work with interfaith groups to help the needy, foster greater cultural understanding and hold career and college development workshops.

Anyone interested in joining or working with the group can visit www.mpod.us.com or e-mail info@mpod.us.com.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I36)

Qari Sharafat Ali & Hafiz Amjad Saeed Coming To Pak Center On 9/6/09

“Helping Hand For Relief And Development (HHRD)” is organizing an Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at Pakistan Center on Sunday, September 06, 2009 (next day is national holiday). Program is open to public, but organizers have requested that if people can RSVP by calling 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159, it will make life easier for them, as then they can appropriately arrange for food and other things.

HHRD is cordially inviting the community members, their families and friends to their Annual Ramadan Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers Program, to be held on Sunday, September 06th, 2009 @ 6:00pm. at the Pakistan Center located at 12600 Bissonnet (at South Dairy Ashford), Houston, Texas 77099. They have invited famous Qari Sharafat Ali from New York and Hafiz Amjad Saeed from Atlanta, who will InshaAllah enthrall everyone.

Helping Hand is requesting everyone to bring one or more Non-Perishable Food Items, which will be given to those in Need in our Houston Community.

Before Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, Community Youth and Qari Sharafat Ali will present heart-warming recitation of Quran; some Nasheeds & a Motivational Presentation about Helping Hand will be done.

After Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, arrangements have been made for Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at the same place Pakistan Center.

After the Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers around 11:00pm., inspirational presentations by Islamic Scholars (to be determined) will be made on various subjects of public interest.

Again for more information and to RSVP for this inspirational event, one can call 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159.

Healthcare System Can Bankrupt USA: US Rep. Al Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “If not reformed, the present healthcare system will bankrupt USA,” informed Congressman AL Green (D-TX) at a Press Conference in his Houston Congressional Office.

“Nationwide, health care costs consume about 20 percent of our gross domestic product. If we continue on our current path, health care costs will consume approximately 35 percent of our GDP by 2040, and the number of uninsured Americans will rise to 72 million, according to the Council of Economic Advisers. That would have catastrophic consequences:” Added the Hon. Al Green.

Congressman AL Green said he favors the Health Reforms suggested by President Obama, where if one does not health insurance, he or she will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for themselves and their families – coverage that will stay with them whether you move, change your job or lose your job. Secondly we will cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits. Thirdly, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. Lastly, these reforms will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable.

Even though we spend more than any other nation on health care, we aren’t healthier. Only three developed countries have higher infant mortality rates. Our nation ranks 24th in life expectancy among developed countries. More than one-third of Americans are obese.

These statistics are the signs of a system that is both unacceptable and unsustainable. They also show us the high cost of doing nothing. If we choose the status quo, more Americans will be uninsured, costs will continue to rise, and every American’s health care will be at risk.

For more information, one can contact the Office of Congressman AL Green at: 3003 South Loop West, Ste. 460, Houston, Texas 77054; Phone: 713-383-9234.

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BJP’s Political Strategy: Singh’s Expulsion

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: It is still too early and too simplistic to view the internal crisis faced by the BJP as a sign of the party heading towards a collapse. In the last week the BJP has been hitting headlines over expelling senior party leader Jaswant Singh and the resignation of party activist Sudhendra Kulkarni. The party expelled Singh for his book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence in which Singh claims Mohammed Ali Jinnah was not solely responsible for partition and the formation of Pakistan. In Singh’s opinion, Jinnah has been unnecessarily blamed for this, as India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel were also responsible. Taking strong exception to the stand taken by Singh, at its brain storming session in Shimla, the BJP decided to expel him August 19. And before the dust over the issue had settled, Kulkarni announced his decision to break his ties with BJP.

Reacting to the BJP’s decision on expelling him, Singh said: “I didn’t think that the party is so narrow-minded, so nervous about Jinnah and Patel to get so riled at what I have written. I have a feeling, which I voiced also, that perhaps my former colleagues had not really read the book when they passed the sentence.”  On Kulkarni’s resignation, Singh said: “He (Kulkarni) has been persuaded to resign.”

Claiming that his resignation from BJP had nothing to do with Singh’s expulsion, Kulkarni said that he had decided to resign earlier. “I have, after 13 years of being a full-time activist of BJP, decided to end my active association with the party. I continue, however, to be its well-wisher,” he said. “I have concluded that I cannot make any meaningful contribution to the party anymore, as I have ideological differences with it as it stands today. I want to have the freedom to express my views and be sincere to my convictions. At the same time, I respect the discipline of the party and, therefore, I have stepped out,” Kulkarni said.

The ironical similarity between what led to Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation cannot be de-linked. If Singh faced the ire of hardcore party members because of his book, Kulkarni also faced their wrath on account of several points he made in recent articles. Kulkarni, a journalist, strongly criticized the manner in which former cabinet minister Singh was expelled from the BJP at its Shimla conclave. Earlier, following the BJP’s defeat in Lok Sabha polls, Kulkarni was highly critical of the party’s election campaign strategy, hate speeches of Varun Gandhi–and he also blamed Sangh Parivar for its interfering in BJP functions.

Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation are also suggestive of both being made to walk out of the party because the hardcore party members, strongly associated with the saffron brigade, felt uncomfortable with their writings, which went against the code the BJP is expected to adhere to. There is also the possibility of the entire political drama having been deliberately staged to judge the reaction that it would have on the people, political circles and in the media. There is no denying BJP leaders having acknowledged that its negative image has contributed to its defeat in Lok Sabha polls. The internal report deliberated on at the Shimla conclave listed projection of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as future PM, and Varun’s hate speeches as responsible for the BJP’s poll debacle. Ironically, neither Singh nor Kulkarni have been accused by the party or its allies as responsible for their poor performance in the parliamentary elections. Amid this backdrop, Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation may well be a short-term political strategy being worked upon to study whether the BJP would gain from distance from the views in their writings. Or whether it is time that the party stepped out of its dependence on extremist views entertained by Sangh Parivar and gave greater importance to views such as those projected by Singh and Kulkarni.

Now, Singh’s expulsion is being linked primarily only with his views favoring Jinnah. What has been sidelined is that Singh has also pointed fingers at Nehru, holding him more responsible than Jinnah for the country’s partition. This amounts to Singh painting a negative image of the Congress party, regarding the partition.

Singh’s expulsion from the party has attracted more attention to his book. It is to be watched as to for how long does this political drama last and whether it has been deliberately staged as an attempt to project a dark side of the Congress’ past to the country. If this is the real political plan, than Singh and to a lesser degree Kulkarni are being used as pawns by the BJP against its rival- the Congress. Only time will tell as to what strategy is BJP trying its hand at to gain a political edge over the Congress in the near future!

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Saddam’s WMD Strategy

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Monterey–August 21st –Ibrahim Al-Marashi from the IE University of Spain currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies here in Central California talked about his research from the so-far retrievable Iraqi archives on what was accurate and inaccurate about their accused WMDs.  Many myths were exposed and some truths were confirmed by his study on these papers on why we and Britain went to war against Baghdad in 2003.

What he found in the Arabic documents was ambiguous language to disguise any possible WMDs.  The first documents were captured in 1991 by the Kurdish opposition in the North.  They were handed over to Human Rights Watch, an organization close to the US government, for propaganda purposes.   Others were seized in Kuwait during the 1991 War.  Most of the previous documents were produced in the 1990s by the Iraqi governments.  One of the primary causes of this were that Hussein held back his best troops, the elite Republican Guard on the Iraqi side of the border, and the lesser trained troops were thrust toward Kuwait City. 

During the Second Iraq War, the various international forces were under joint command, and retrieval of documents was done by several various armies.   The secondary-primary source was the interrogation of Saddam Hussein himself after his capture.

During the blockade before the second war, there was a lack of paper to record the archives.   Yet they were documented in detail on alternative materials. 
Ibrahim went into the history of Iraq, starting with the first king installed by the British after World War I. 

Between the World War periods, the Army stayed out of politics,  but after the second war, began to intervene in the body politic.  Coups and counter-coups  ruled the period.  The Leftist Baath Party finally took power in ‘68, and  ideologized the Army.  The Baath Party led, and their Military Establishment followed.  

Saddam Hussein came to command in an internal coup in ‘79.

In the 1970s the Iraqis began their WMD program.  The Weapons were never named directly but in a disguised manner.  Chemical weapons became special armaments.  Their Chemical “Mace” became a special resource that led to the 1987 attacks against  their Iraqi Kurdish citizens.  Many of the assailed residents of Kurdistan suffered excruciating blinding.

Although Baghdad utilized chemicals in their eight year War with their eastern neighbors, Iraq urged their former enemy, Iran, to join them to exploit their mutual chemical capabilities against Israel, but there were no documents that specially alluded to the scud attacks upon Israel. 

In 1991 the Iraqi forces did not use Weapons of Mass Destruction against the Coalition.  Saddam was not willing to use his WMDs (basically chemical) against the US Army for fear that the Americans would retaliate with their own overwhelming gas and / or nuclear capacity.  Curiously, though, the Iraqi Army was not even issued gas masks, but the Baathists felt the United States was deterred by their (potential) Weapons of Mass Destruction during 1991, but, on the other hand, during the 2003 assault, the Allies were prepared for WMDs to be applied against them.     

The American military objective in Iraq was to achieve (Iraqi) State security.  The rumor of Weapons of Mass Destruction impacted Civilian-(U.S) Military relations.  The ethnic conflicts made political communications difficult, too.

Dr. Al-Marashsi studied docs that were written between 1990 through 2003.  He started on his project in 2002.  It took him seven years to go through 100,000 transcripts so far.  Yet his team has not had a chance to index the papers!

High ranking Baghdadi Generals forged manuscripts for personal gain selling them to Western scandal tabloids.  Ibrahim Al’Marashi was able to debunk most of them, but an academic paper of his was plagiarized, and was used as “proof” for the British Government to attack Baghdad in 2003.  A discussion of the relation between academia – honestly and dishonestly—and security policy is a tight one.  Ibrahim ended his presentation with his conclusion that the U.S. and the U.K. should have done more research before they attacked the Middle East!

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Once Upon a Destined Time

By Siddiq Ather, MMNS

Wow it’s hot! Didn’t it just rain a few days ago? How can it be this hot, this late? How long is this bus ride? I can’t wait to get into some real air conditioning. After this ride, I totally deserve an ice cold mango shake. I wish the windows opened more. I should’ve gotten a window seat. I hope the sweat doesn’t mess up my shirt. Oh no, my water bottle is empty. This suit is so thick! I wonder if you could fry an egg on the street today. I wonder if anyone has actually tried frying an egg on the street.  Why in the world is that guy wearing a jacket? I wish I wore pants with pockets. What is that guy drinking, it looks nice and cool. Is that coffee? That coffee smells good. These people probably think I’m crazy with coffee on a day like today, but the scent does help keep my mind off the heat. He’s obviously a caffeine addict. If we hit a bump that guy is going to be in big trouble.  I wish they had shades on bus windows. That is how the bus ride would have probably sounded to someone who could read minds. For the rest, it was a long uncomfortable silence with occasional grunts, sighs, and irritated sounds. This was mixed in with the smell of sweat amalgamated with overdoses of cologne and perfume. The air was warm, but people still swarmed unto the buses. Patience torn, people started making fusses. In the end, their stops came just in time.

The last passenger reached in his pocket and took out some dimes.  He paid his due, took two steps and a hop and bid the driver adieu.  The driver shut the doors and the floors shook with sound of the bus’s roars as it tore away. The day was as hot as ever, so this clever man took shade under the bus stop shelter. The book was patiently waiting for him inside; he came inside and let his stuff abide in the corner as he eyed that book with the dark green cover and golden letters, Stories of the Wise and Human. He tried to open it by moving the buckle, but it angrily burned his finger. He gently moved it away with his sleeve and grabbed the book by the soft, but warm, cover and set it on his lap. He started flipping through the book; the first page held the words “one person one page”, the second page was blank, the third was blank, and so on until he found a page with writing. There was thick black ink running through the page with such brio and celerity that it demanded respect. Although it had loops here and there, they were so strong and sharp that they complemented the power of the rest of the script with an air of respectable elegance and refinement. It was as if a samurai had spilled ink on his sword and performed a series of techniques across the face of the paper without scratching the surface, but still staining it with the scarred shadows of a near sempiternal experience. He started reading the silent samurai’s slashes, starting from the first sentence.

I was a student, I am a student, and I plan to continue my pursuit of knowledge in the future; not everything can be learned through a book, some things can only be learned through experience. At the time of this incident I was a university student who had just finished his first year.  I could have gone home but it was really far away and I was trying to save up money; even if I went I would probably be alone because my parents were vacationing at some island resort. My family didn’t really stay in contact with any of our relatives, but it turned out that my father had a close cousin who lived a few hours away from campus and would be glad to have me over for the summer.  I packed my bags, and my scarlet wallet with the silver insignia; I walked to the train station and quickly jumped on the train catching a window seat; I read a book until the ride ended. The city quickly gave way to farmland, pastures, and rolling grass hills. The sky seemed bluer but it might have just been the time of day. It was a nice view but after a point it became redundant; my head started hurting immensely. The man in front of me was sleeping and snoring rather loudly. He had on a long coat and sunglasses. His head was in the crook of his arm in the middle of the table. His other arm was stretched across the table, half of which was limply hanging off the edge of the table. I really tasty scent floated by; I few seats ahead a couple had just been served an extremely delectable looking soup, my mouth started watering. I asked the employee who had served them the soup to get me a bowl of whatever they had.

I took out my wallet and gave the money and asked for a few headache pills too. There was a constant drumming and pounding happening in the left half of my head. It was beat-less and unabating. It kept getting louder and louder. I tried to cover my ears and eyes but it didn’t help. I stayed up late the night before, bad idea.  The pain echoed inward, then inverted and reverberated back out. It was a unpredictable pulse pressing outwards periodically and painfully. I turned to get up and bunch of hot liquid fell all over my chest.  I gasped and saw an employee before me and the soup I had order below me. The employee expressed regret and sympathy followed by a promise to get napkins. I walked to the bathroom and started cleaning my shirt.  I walked back and the employee was standing next to my seat. Before anything was said I asked for the headache pills and a glass of water. I ate the pills, leaned on the window, and closed my eyes. A moment passed and I woke up, extremely hungry.  I looked around a bit and not much had changed.  The employee had probably noticed that I had awoken because in a matter of seconds a hot bowl of soup was placed in front of me along with the money I had given and a sorry note.  I picked up the money to put into my wallet, but I couldn’t find it. I checked my pockets, my bag, the floor, my seat, the seat in front of me, and my backpack. That wallet had all the money I had gathered throughout the year and the savings I held from before. It had to be somewhere. That’s when I realized the man who was sitting in front of me was gone. 

I checked the bathroom but my wallet wasn’t there either. Then I started looking through the train for the man in the jacket, but to no avail. The couple who had ordered the soup not too long ago was gone too and instead an old man was in there spot.

I saw one familiar face and asked him the time. He asked me where my stop was, I answered, and to my dismay I had just missed it. I found the locomotive engineer, conductor, and someone who looked like the manager and told them about my problem. As I went back to my seat I heard the announcement,” If anyone has seen a scarlet wallet with silver insignia please bring it to the nearest employee. I had a dreadful feeling that I knew exactly where it was. The man in the coat had probably stolen it as he left the train; how could I be so irresponsible.  There was nothing I could do but wait. The next stop would arrive in a few minutes.  On the bright side, my head ache was gone and I had a bowl of soup. I ate the soup which was not as appetizing as I thought it would be. The train stopped and people started to get up and leave. I scanned the crowd who was passing by until the last few passengers were leaving, no sight of the jacketed man.  Suddenly, my bag was ripped away from under my arm and taken in through the door behind me. I got up and saw someone running against the flow that the people were walking in. I yelled and ran after him. He was fast and slick, slipping through the tightest spots. I ran as fast as I could and started catching up to him.

We reached the end of the train and he stopped for a second and turned. Just as I was about to grab my bag from him he landed a huge back fist across my face that threw me to the side. He kicked me in the side and tried to choke me. I struggled to loosen his grip but couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe. I bent my knees and back and flipped forward slammed both of us on the ground. I picked him by the color and slammed him against the back door and noticed he had something bulging in his pocket that he was reaching for. His hand went in and I yanked away whatever he had taken out. Then he started looking very odd and dropped him. He was stretching his arm towards something and started breathing funny. It was like he couldn’t move. I looked to the side and saw an inhaler. That’s what was in his pocket. Bitterly, I picked it up and pressed it against his mouth a few times, he started breathing regularly again. I checked his pockets, but he didn’t have my wallet. I picked up my bag with one hand and dragged him with the other all the way to the front of the train.

I told the manager what had happened and ha gave me some napkins to wipe the blood off my face; apparently that’s all they can do, give napkins. The jacketed man walked in with a cane in one hand.  The manager asked me my name, I answered, and the jacketed man walked closer. He took out my scarlet wallet with the silver insignia, I took it. The man sincerely apologized; he was blind. He overheard my predicament and offered to have his driver drive me to my desired destination, I accepted. He told me the rough day he had that led to him taking the train. When he realized he had taken someone else’s wallet he tried his hardest to get it back, hoping that someone else’s day not go as bad as his. We talked and laughed all the way till the end of the ride. He quoted someone as saying,” the true worth of a man manifests when he is surrounded by distress, not when he is relaxing and at rest.” Do not ever let a problem of any sort frustrate you and make you angry.  The reward of good is only good. Be merciful to others and mercy will descend on you.

I had reached my destination, a farm in the middle of nowhere. The jacketed man gave me his card and said to drop by any time. That summer was one of the most serene and relaxing summers I have ever experienced. This summer I got a job in the city, and have been staying here for a while.  The country is nice, but so is the city; I just like trying different things, maybe next summer I’ll go to a tropical island. The bus has just come so I will end here, as I get together all my gear, including my wallet. Patience in times of frustration and irritation is a very powerful thing.  

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Rice

tufail 11-36 The starchy grain of this plant, used as a staple food throughout the world.

* Prior to planting, minimal soil manipulation is needed to prepare for cultivation. If the rice will be grown on a hilly terrain, the area must be leveled into terraces. Paddies are leveled and surrounded by dikes or levees with the aide of earth-moving equipment. Then, the fields are plowed before planting. In the United States, rice is most often planted on river deltas and plowing is accomplished with a disk plow, an off-set disk plow, or a chisel. Adequate irrigation of the terrace or river delta bed is required and accomplished by leveling and by controlling water with pumps, reservoirs, ditches, and streams.

* Rice seeds are soaked prior to planting.

* Depending on the level of mechanization and the size of the planting, seeding occurs in three ways. In many Asian countries that haven’t mechanized their farming practices, seeds are sown by hand. After 30-50 days of growth, the seedlings are transplanted in bunches from nursery beds to flooded paddies. Seeds can also be sown using a machine called a drill that places the seed in the ground. Larger enterprises often found in the United States sow rice seed by airplane. Low-flying planes distribute seed onto already flooded fields. An average distribution is 90-100 lb per acre (101-111 kg per hectare), creating roughly 15-30 seedlings per square foot.

* Once the plants have reached full growth (approximately three months after planting) and the grains begin to ripen—the tops begin to droop and the stem yellows—the water is drained from the fields. As the fields dry, the grains ripen further and harvesting is commenced.

* Depending on the size of the operation and the amount of mechanization, rice is either harvested by hand or machine. By hand, rice stalks are cut by sharp knives or sickles. This practice still occurs in many Asian countries. Rice can also be harvested by a mechanized hand harvester or by a tractor/horse-drawn machine that cuts and stacks the rice stalks. In the US, most operations use large combines to harvest and thresh—separate the grain from the stalk—the rice stalks.

* If the rice has been harvested by hand or by a semi-automated process, threshing is completed by flailing the stalks by hand or by using a mechanized thresher.

* Before milling, rice grains must be dried with artificially heated air or, more often, with the help of naturally occurring sunshine. Rice grains are left on racks in fields to dry out naturally. Once dried, the rice grain, now called rough rice, is ready for processing.

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