Sunday, November 7, 2010

Answers from Stephen Hawkin (1)

From TIME:

Does the universe end? If so, what is beyond it?

Observations indicate that the universe is expanding at an ever increasing rate. It will expand forever, getting emptier and darker. Although the universe doesn't have an end, it had a beginning in the Big Bang. One might ask what is before that, but the answer is that there is nowhere before the Big Bang, just as there is no south of the South Pole.

Chinese artist brands the communist regime as 'inhuman'

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei branded the nation's government "inhuman" on Sunday and said the Internet would bring it to an end, as he remained under house arrest in Beijing.
Ai, who is one of China's most famous artists and social critics and currently has an exhibition at London's Tate Modern, was put under house arrest at the end of last week to stop him attending a gathering at his new Shanghai studio, which is due to be demolished.
"This society is not efficient, it's inhuman in many ways politically," Ai, 53, told AFP.
"The government, the whole system... sacrifices education, environmental resources and most people's interests just to make a few people become extremely rich only because they are associated with the government.
"This cannot last too long.... This society basically has no creativity. It's just cheap labour and very police-controlled. How long can that last?" he said over the phone.
According to an official order, Ai's house arrest is due to last until midnight on Sunday. While he is not allowed to leave home, others, including reporters, have been able to visit him.
Ai, who has managed to regularly update his Twitter account, said the Internet was a powerful force for change in China.
"The Internet is the best gift to China -- this kind of technology will end this kind of dictatorship."
Before his house arrest, the artist had planned a feast for supporters at the Shanghai studio on Sunday as an ironic celebration of a decision by authorities to demolish the building, after they had persuaded him to build it. He said the order came after he became increasingly critical of Shanghai's policies, writing for example about activist Feng Zhenghu, who for months was blocked from returning home from Japan. "That must have really irritated someone at a very high level," he said.
Ai said that despite being unable to attend the party himself, over 100 people had gone to the studio anyway and more were on their way.
Ai's work is currently being showcased at the Tate Modern, where he has filled the main hall with millions of porcelain sunflower seeds.
Perhaps his best-known work is his collaboration with Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuro, on the National Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, known as the "Bird's Nest", which he has since renounced as a fake "smile".
Source AFP/RWD

Day Opening - November 7

Long and windy road

Saturday, November 6, 2010

'lynch culture' in Turkey

Turkey has a long history of suppressing minorities in the name of nationalism, and a history of violence. There is also to a certain degree a ‘lynch culture’. Everybody who doesn’t fit it in is quick subject of an angry crowd. Mustafa Akyol experienced it and Orhan Kemal Cendiz wrote about it.
Hate crimes in Turkey
The Human Rights Agenda Association, of which I am a part, is currently conducting a project called “Combating Hate Crimes in Turkey.” Among other things, we plan to hold two public conferences on the subject, the first of which was already held on Oct. 16 in Ankara.
Discrimination and hate crimes have very deep roots in Turkey. They are so heavily ingrained in our political culture and social fabric that we are not aware of their very existence. In the first round of our conference series, Tanıl Bora, a well-known socialist thinker in Turkey, gave a rather thought-provoking lecture on “lynch culture” in Turkey.

First, he drew our attention to how the word “lynch” is used for events that could never be defined as a lynching in the real sense of the word. Politicians and public figures employ this word very often when they are criticized or verbally attacked; they claim that they have been “lynched” by their opponents. In quite a sharp contrast, real lynchings, which are not a rare occurrence in Turkey, are either never called a lynching or they never generate the emotional, ethical or legal response that a real lynching would normally attract in a democratic society.
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Day Opening - November 6

Singing break by Verissimo Dias

Friday, November 5, 2010

Arash's World: God said to Abraham kill me a Son: Kierkegaard’s “Leap of Faith”

Arash's World: God said to Abraham kill me a Son: Kierkegaard’s “Leap of Faith”

Iran and the 'Great Satan' the USA...

Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" as they staged yesterday a mass protest against the "Great Satan" to mark the 31st anniversary of the capture of the American embassy by Islamist students.


Iran annually on November 4 marks the anniversary of the capture of the US embassy by Islamist students in Tehran in 1979, months after the Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
Yesterday, waving Iranian flags and carrying anti-US banners alongside posters of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the largely young crowd also shouted anti-Israel slogans outside the now closed US embassy. Banners saying "I will give my life for the leader (Khamenei)" and another quoting Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as saying, "If you want to shout, shout at the US", were displayed at the embassy compound, an AFP correspondent reported.
The embassy has remained shuttered and the US and Iran have had no diplomatic ties since then.
The students, who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, said they were responding to Washington's refusal to hand over the deposed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Ezatollah Zaragami, the keynote speaker at the rally and one of the 1979 hostage takers, hit out at US President Barack Obama.
"Obama has acted very weakly and badly when it comes to his foreign policy," Zaragami, who now heads Iranian state media, told the cheering crowd.
"The reason for that is that he is using an array of advisers who are exhausted bureaucrats."
The organisers of the anti-US demonstration, in their final declaration, said that Iran considers "America as the Great Satan and enemy number one".
Over the past three decades, many Iranians who led the storming of the embassy have however become severe critics of the regime they helped to establish.
This year's anti-US protest, one of the cornerstones of the Islamic regime, came days before expected nuclear talks which will see US and Iranian officials sitting at the same table for discussions on Tehran's controversial atomic programme.
US-Iranian animosity rose markedly during the tenure of former US president George W. Bush, who lumped Iran as part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The bitterness between the two nations has risen further since 2005, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office. The hardliner repeatedly launches anti-US tirades.
Iran's Khamenei, the all-powerful leader of the Islamic republic, has also made it clear he still distrusts the United States despite Bush successor Obama's initial diplomatic overtures towards Tehran.
On Wednesday, Khamenei praised the embassy takeover 31 years ago and expressed his distrust of US leaders.
"This act is the symbol of courage and intrepidness of the young revolutionary generation against the grandeur of America, because the capture of the den of spies (US embassy) destabilised the power of America," he told a gathering of students on the eve of the anniversary.

Day Opening - November 5

:p

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Look who came calling?

A peahen lays eggs on our terrace or in the vicinity of our house each year. We have a lot of excitement when the eggs hatch and chicks jump down*. Thus begins the first adventure of their life: to jump across our boundary wall and into the fields. This time, we saw three chicks and this one (photo below) wandered into our garden...

"Mama, where do I go?"

To know if this chick found its way, and for more photos, read here

Dutch police officers send to Greek-Turkish border

The Netherlands is sending 14 military police officers and two police officers from the Port of Rotterdam to Greece to help prevent illegal immigrants entering the country.
The Dutch defence minister, Hans Hillen, announced yesterday that the 16 border police will leave for Greece this week. They will take part in European Union intevention teams.
The intervention teams will patrol the Greek border with Greek border police in Alexandroupolis and Orestiada on the Turkish/Greek border.
The EU-agency Frontex, which coordinates the monitoring of the outer borders of the European Union, is sending 175 experts. The 16 Dutch police officers will be replaced by other Dutch police officers on 1 December. Greece asked Frontex for help last week because Athens is unable to prevent illegal immigrants entering the country from Turkey.

Day Opening - November 3

Alentejo, Portugal

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dutch women...not so emancipated

Dutch women don't mind washing, doing the ironing or cleaning the toilet at home, market researcher TNO-Nipo discoverd. The majority of women are content to undertake most of the household tasks; 33 percent are even "very satisfied" with the division of chores at home. TNO-Nipo conducted their research among 1,300 Dutch women, aged 18-65.

But, men,... don't queue up for the Dutch woman of your dreams: women under 35 put sex as number eight in a "can't-live-without list" after their mobile phone, computer and internet. Women over 50 put sex in ninth place, which, considering their age, is quite high. Regarding the young lasses who prefer their gadgets, researcher Ingrid van der Werf explains: "It's a reaction against the hectic pace of modern life. But what surprises me is that women in general consider family life more important than work." Economist and columnist Heleen Mees: "It completely fits into the image I have of Dutch women - not emancipated." It will take some time before the Dutch follow in the footsteps of Brazil, where former guerrilla fighter Dilma Rousseff has become the country's first female president.

French secularism under threat

Muslim pupils and parents in France are increasingly making religious demands on the state school system that teachers should rebuff by explaining the country's secular principles, according to an official report.
The High Council for Integration (HCI) reported growing problems with pupils of immigrant backgrounds who object to courses about the Holocaust, the Crusades or evolution, demand halal meals and "reject French culture and its values."
"It is becoming difficult for teachers to resist religious pressures," said the report, published in draft form by the newspaper Journal du Dimanche over the weekend. The final report will be presented to the government next month.
"We should now reaffirm secularism and train teachers how to deal with specific problems linked to the respect for this principle," it said.
France's strict separation of church and state relegates religion to the private sphere, an approach challenged by a growing Islamic identity among some of the five million Muslims in the country's 65 million population.
HCI President Patrick Gaubert told the newspaper his agency decided to study how pupils from immigrant backgrounds adapted to the state school system because "this is at the heart of the challenges that French society must face."
The report, which studied a wide range of issues faced by pupils of immigrant backgrounds, gave no figures for the extent of problems linked to religion but said they came up so often in the hearings the HCI conducted that they merited attention.

REFUSING CLASSES, DEMANDING HALAL

Teachers often faced objections when they taught courses about world religions, the Holocaust or France's war in Algeria, or discussed events related to Israel and the Palestinians or American military actions in Muslim countries, the study said.
"Teachers regularly find that Muslim parents refuse to have their children learn about Christianity," it said. "Some think it amounts to evangelisation."
"Anti-Semitism ... surfaces during courses about the Holocaust, such as inappropriate jokes and refusals to watch films" about Nazi concentration camps, it said. "Tensions often come from pupils who identify themselves as Muslims."
Teachers found they could discuss the trans-atlantic slave trade but met criticism from pupils when they brought up the history of slavery within Africa or in the Middle East.
Reflecting the promotion of anti-Darwinist thinking in Muslim countries, "evolution is challenged by pupils who posit divine or creationist action without any argument for it."
In some areas with large immigrant populations, many pupils shun school cafeterias for religious reasons, even though most offer alternative dishes when pork is on the menu.
"Demand for halal menus is strong, even for the very young in public crèches," it said. "In some cities, there are petitions for halal -- and sometimes kosher -- meals."
The report stressed the state could allow alternatives to pork but could not allow halal or kosher meals because the price for ritually slaughtered meat included a tax paid to religious organisations that certify the food was properly prepared.
"The school cannot, in this sense, participate in the religious education of its pupils or conform to principles that it does not recognise," the report said.
France allows private religious schools and the number of Jewish schools has risen in recent years. There are few Muslim schools and most parents would have difficulty paying tuition.

PHILOSOPHICAL UPHEAVAL

During Ramadan, some Muslim pupils harass others who don't observe the annual daytime fast, it said. Boys who identify themselves as Muslims and reject French values harass girls who do well in class as "collaborators" with the "dirty French."
Some girls ask to be excused from gymnasium or pool sessions because they are not supposed to mix with boys, it added.
The report said French schools must insist on co-education, equal rights and mutual respect. "Being a French citizen means accepting challenges to one's opinions ... this is the price to pay for the freedom of opinion and expression.
"Must we recall that the crime of blasphemy has not existed in France since the French Revolution?" it asked.
"The principle of secularism leads to a profound relativisation of religion. This is a philosophical upheaval that religions only consent to with difficulty," it said.

Day Opening - November 2

Köln, Germany

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dutch weed and California

Dutch weed growers and coffeeshop owners have already flown out to California. They are waiting for a referendum on the legalisation of marijuana, which will be held tomorrow. They anticipate an opportunity to become rich men if the citizens of California vote in favour of legalisation.
The Netherlands has been a major source of inspiration for both the supporters and opponents of legislation. Supporters point to the success of the Dutch policy of tolerating the sale of small quantities of hashish and marijuana in so-called 'coffeeshops'. Opponents also use statistics from the Netherlands to support their view.
The man behind the referendum is 47-year-old Richard Lee. In 1991 he visited Amsterdam for the first time: "Fantastic. A wide variety of shops with coffeeshops paying tax and creating jobs. And it attracts tourists. We had to have that here too."
In 1999 he opened a Bulldog coffeeshop in Oakland, near San Francisco. With the same logo as the Amsterdam Bulldog and the same atmosphere. A sidewalk cafe, loud music and a smoking room where people with glazed expressions stare at a TV with the sound turned down. Of course you can't buy weed there yet, because of the police. However, they do tolerate you bringing your own stash along.
There is now a second coffeeshop in Oakland, the Blue Sky, which sells medical marijuana and has a similar Amsterdam feel.
In 2006 Richard Lee opened Oaksterdam University, modelled on the Cannabis College in Amsterdam. This gives courses relating to weed growing and is expanding fast. Compulsory subjects include law, the history of marijuana, and commodity studies. You can go on to train as a weed topper or coffeeshop manager. If California decides to legalise, this is where the experts will come from. The university - an unprotected title in the United States- has already awarded 12,000 diplomas.

'Oaksterdam'

The entire district in Oakland is known as Oaksterdam. Just like Amsterdam, there are bikes for hire and a cannabis gift shop. And there's an Amsterdam-style hashish museum. One of its most valued exhibits is an old price list from an Amsterdam coffeeshop, with the prices still in guilders!
Richard Lee came up with the legalisation referendum and paid for it out of his own pocket. It cost him 2.7 million dollars.
If it succeeds, the local authorities will issue licences for large-scale growing to supply the coffeeshops. The place is already swarming with Dutch coffeeshop owners and growers hoping for licences. "There's no doubt the Dutch weed industry would do very well here, since they have so much experience," says Lee. He plans to set up hundreds of Dutch-style coffeeshops.

Opponents of legislation also point to the Dutch model. Their main spokesperson is drug information officer John Redman.
"The other side are always talking about how weed does no harm and how wonderful it is in Amsterdam. So, let's look at the experiences in the Netherlands: the easier it is to get hold of weed and the more normal it's regarded to light up a joint, the greater the consumption."
He points out that marijuana addiction has caused serious problems in the Netherlands. However the figures for hashish and marijuana use in the Netherlands are actually lower than in other European countries with tougher legislation.
Redman claims the amount of hashish and weed that coffeeshops are allowed to sell has been reduced due to problems with drug abuse.
"If the referendum succeeds, as much as 28.5 grams would be permitted in California and it would be legal to have four plants. Imagine how much worse it will be than in the Netherlands, where 0.5 grams has already cause problems."
Is he sure about these figures? "Of course, the drug information service in the US has been saying this for ten years." I google the Dutch figures for him: thirty grams is allowed for personal use, coffeeshops can sell five grams at a time, and you are allowed five plants. John Redman's face turns pale. Just at that moment a van arrives to take him to the airport. He leaves hastily without further comment.

If the legalisation proposal is accepted, US President Barack Obama will be faced with a serious problem. The federal laws making cannabis illegal are still in place, as are the international treaties. Sending federal agents to California to bring weed smokers before the federal courts would cost an enormous amount of money and he risks damaging his popularity in California. If he does nothing he will alienate other parts of the United States.
So far, the opinion polls predict the referendum will be a neck-and-neck race.

Day Opening - November 1

Beauty

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A good Turk in Europe is an unintegrated one!

This an excellent article by a friend of my, Orhan Kemal Cengız. Europeans don't understand that Turkey is a country which nationalism is so dominating and demanding. At least, he shed some light on the problematic.

A good Turk in Europe is an unintegrated one!

by
ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ

There were two incidents that helped me to gain an insight into the problem of the integration of Turks in European countries. The first one was a decade ago. I was walking in the street with my nephew; we were stopped by a Turkish guy who heard us speaking Turkish to each other.
He wanted us to help him communicate with a television repairman to fix his television’s antenna. We acted as his translator in the store and when we went out I asked him how long he had been living in London. He had been living in London more than seven years and could not speak a word of English. Apparently, he had never left the Turkish ghetto there until he could not find what he had needed, a television repairman.

My second experience with Turkish “existence” in Europe was just a couple of years ago when I visited Amsterdam for a weekend. I have a Turkish friend there and he introduced me to Turkish youngsters from different walks of life. They were all so friendly, such nice people, and they were all second or third-generation residents of Holland. We started hanging out in Amsterdam.
Normally, when I am abroad I prefer not to go to Turkish restaurants. However, I did not want to reject my young friends there when they invited me to eat at a kebap house. But after the second and third invitation to different Turkish restaurants, I wanted to invite them to a Dutch restaurant that I had chosen. When we were sitting in the restaurant, I was shocked by what I heard from one of the youngsters. He looked around, paused and said, “I have never been to a restaurant like this before.” The restaurant we went to was not the most luxurious restaurant in Amsterdam; it was just a decent Dutch restaurant and I am not an Amsterdam expert -- it was my first time there actually.
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Suicide attack in Istanbul

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the centre of Istanbul on Sunday, wounding 32 people.

He blew himself up beside a police vehicle in a major İstanbul square (Takzim) near tourist hotels and a bus terminal, wounding 32 people, including 15 policemen.
The attack in Taksim Square, which was followed by police gunfire and sent hundreds of panicked people racing for cover, coincided with the possible end of a unilateral cease-fire by outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Turkey, a NATO ally that has deployed troops in a non-combat role in Afghanistan, is also home to cells of radical leftists and Islamic militants.
The attack occurred as İstanbul was preparing to hold Republic Day parades to mark the 1923 founding of Turkey. The celebrations were originally planned for Friday, but were delayed due to heavy rain. Taksim Square, a transport hub that is a major stop on the city's underground train network and close to the Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton and other major hotels, was festooned with red and white Turkish flags. It was early, normally there are tons of people there...