Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam's last hours

The Guardian is reporting that Saddam Hussein is going to be hung as soon as this weekend.

Saddam Hussein's execution was imminent last night as senior Iraqi officials finalised details of his hanging and indicated that it would probably take place shortly before dawn this morning. The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, signed the former dictator's death sentence and at a late night meeting with US officials agreed the execution formalities.

River Bend has a strong article on the destruction of Iraq.

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).

Children of Men

We saw Children of Men last night, it is so depressing and grim. London in 2027 looks like a war zone, with terrorism, police violence and bombs going off everywhere. Women and men are infertile and no more babies are being born. The movie centers around Clive Owen, who promises his ex girlfriend (Julianne Moore), that he would accompany the only pregnant woman to safety.

Here is a review in the Guardian.

What will the end of the world look like? As shabby and nasty as the way it looks here is my guess. This explosively violent future-nightmare thriller, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and adapted from the novel by PD James, has simply the most extraordinary look of any movie around: a stunningly convincing realisation of a Beirut-ised London in the year 2027, in which terrorist bombs have become as dreary and commonplace as cancer.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Death by Sodas!!

Joshua Frank describes how dangerous sodas are. Guess i should try and start giving them up in the New Year!
I heard that they are so toxic that they are given to patients to break down kidney stones.

Drinking one soda a day could cause you to gain 15 pounds a year. Other related health risks include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, bowel cancer and nerve damage.

Fortunately there is a growing movement across the country to ban sodas from schools. Indeed the feisty Killer Coke campaign, which focuses on the company's labor abuses and not Coke's negative health implications, has been successful is banning the product from over 10 major universities in the United States. But it would be wise to not just focus on the company's alleged murders in Colombia, and instead broaden the struggle against the soda industry by pointing out their complicity in the obesity epidemic worldwide

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown RIP

James Brown, the Godfather of soul, died yesterday, at the age of 73.

The funk Mr. Brown introduced in his 1965 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” was both deeply rooted in Africa and thoroughly American. Songs like “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Cold Sweat,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and “Hot Pants” found the percussive side of every instrument and meshed sharply syncopated patterns into kinetic polyrhythms that made people dance.

By the late 1960s Mr. Brown’s funk was part of pop, R&B and jazz: in his own hits, in songs by the Temptations and Sly and the Family Stone, and in the music of Miles Davis. It was also creating a sensation in Africa, where it would shape the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, the juju of King Sunny Ade and the mbalax of Youssou N’Dour.

Musicians who left Mr. Brown’s bands would also have a direct role in 1970s and 1980s funk; the saxophonist Maceo Parker, the trombonist Fred Wesley and the bassist Bootsy Collins were part of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, and Mr. Parker also worked with Prince.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Whats wrong with Cinderella

Peggy Orentstein writes in the NYT magazine, about the Princess ideal that young girls are subjected to in American society.

when my own girl makes her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom — something I’m convinced she does largely to torture me — I worry about what playing Little Mermaid is teaching her. I’ve spent much of my career writing about experiences that undermine girls’ well-being, warning parents that a preoccupation with body and beauty (encouraged by films, TV, magazines and, yes, toys) is perilous to their daughters’ mental and physical health. Am I now supposed to shrug and forget all that? If trafficking in stereotypes doesn’t matter at 3, when does it matter? At 6? Eight? Thirteen?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Pursuit of Happyness, The Holiday and Dhoom 2

The holiday movie that I recommend watching is The Pursuit of Happyness and maybe The Holiday.Dhoom 2 i do not recommend.

Pursuit deals with poverty and hardwork and sheer grit that leads Chris Gardner (Will Smith) and his son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Smith) out of poverty in San Francisco in the 1980's. What was interesting was the representation of a father son relationship within the African American community, where the father did not disappear from the scene, but was actively trying to take care of his child. A review of “The Pursuit of Happyness” by Jeanne Aufmuth here

“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. If you want something, go get it. Period.” Words of wisdom passed from struggling medical supply salesman Chris Gardner (Smith) to his 5-year old son Christopher (real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). The sentiment bears heavy meaning considering the hardships facing Gardner as a suddenly single parent endeavoring to break off a piece of the American dream by enrolling in a risky unpaid internship program with high-profile stockbroker Dean Witter.

Salon reviews it here.

This is a movie about the state of not having any money, and about how not having money isn't just a bald economic fact but, particularly if you have children, a spongy specter that expands to fill every minute of your day. "The Pursuit of Happyness" isn't a tract about poverty in America, and perhaps partly because it's a mainstream, big-studio movie (and not a grainy indie with junkies and squalling babies), some critics have already complained that it makes homelessness look too clean, too neat and tidy. (I guess we like our movie poor to be easily identifiable by their dirty clothes.)

The Holiday stars Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black and Jude Law and deals with what happens when one changes homes over the holiday.

See a review here

Iris is in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. Across the globe, Amanda realizes the man she lives with has been unfaithful. Two women who have never met and live 6000 miles apart, find themselves in the exact same place. They meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Iris moves into Amanda's L.A. house in sunny California as Amanda arrives in the snow covered English countryside. Shortly after arriving at their destinations, both women find the last thing either wants or expects: a new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris' handsome brother Graham and Iris, with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur, mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles.

Iris (Kate Winslet) holds this movie together, it is a light hearted comedy. It is good to go to it with no expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

I did see Dhoom 2 finally and other than it being a slick production with sexy bodies, cool stunts, poor music and a general upbeat feel, it was a disappointment. It lacked a story or any coherence. Bipasha Basu was an Indian girl and then she was suddenly Brazilian. I guess I had no idea what was going on. The chemistry between Hrithik and Aishwarya was strong, more than with any of her other co-stars including Abhishek who seemed to be mumbling through the movie.
Namrata Joshi gives it a kinder review here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nadine Gordimer, No Cold Kitchen

Interesting conflict between Nadine Gordimer and her biographer Ronald Suresh Roberts detailed in the N.Y.T.. His book "No Cold Kitchen", was originally under contract to Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the United States and Bloomsbury in Britain , both houses — which also publish Gordimer — declined to publish it after Gordimer expressed objections to the manuscript and accused Roberts of breach of trust. “We weren’t satisfied with some aspects of the book,” said Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus, who acquired the book in 1998. “We asked for revisions and we haven’t heard from him.” Instead, Roberts published the book last fall in South Africa with STE, a self-described black empowerment publishing house.

The Gordimer-Roberts dispute is emblematic of the larger political situation in South Africa, highlighting in particular the uncertain role of white anti-apartheid activists now that the African National Congress has become the government. Gordimer, who has been active with the A.N.C. since the ’70s, when it was an illegal organization, may still be lionized abroad, but at home she finds herself criticized from all sides. Some find her too beholden to the A.N.C., while others have accused her of betraying its revolutionary promise by pointing to the government’s shortcomings.

I just finished reached the Pick Up, a wonderful book by Nadine Gordimer. It was about the an illegal from North Africa, working in South Africa. She is steadily becoming one of my favourite authors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To Do Lists: Give Birth before New Years.

Scary article in N.Y.T. about parents planning to give birth before the new year in order to get a bigger tax break. My Lamaze teacher, mentioned that, but it is horrid to see how mainstream it has became.

In the last 15 years, there has been a huge increase in the number of births that are induced with drugs or come by Caesarean section. In either case, parents or doctors can often schedule a baby’s arrival on a day of their choosing.

Not surprisingly, they tend to avoid weekends and holidays, when doctors have other plans, hospitals are short of staff and the possibility of an unfortunate birthday — Christmas Day, anyone? — looms. During holiday weeks, births have become increasingly crowded into the weekdays surrounding the holiday.

Over this same period — since the early 1990s — the federal government has been steadily increasing the tax breaks for having a child. For parents to claim the full amount of any of these breaks in a given year, a child must simply be born by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. If the baby arrives a few minutes later, the parents are often more than a thousand dollars poorer.

Wake Up, Employers: Working Moms Are Giving Up

Alternet has an article by Courtney E. Martin, on why working moms are leaving the workforce. According to her the fault lies with rigid and inflexible work rules, rather than any Martha Stewart fantasies.

While old guard feminists have been busy pointing fingers at young, frivolous co-eds, ignorant of the legacy they have inherited, they should be placing the blame where it is most deserved: in the boardrooms where inflexible and sometimes even inhumane work/family policy is established and in the government offices where little legislation is ever written to protect working parents.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The true oath

Inspiring story in the outlook about urban educated doctors going into rural areas in India and providing much needed medicare.

These highs and lows are woven into the daily life of a very small number of doctors scattered across the country who've opted to offer cheap, high-quality care to rural populations caught between "quackery and crookery", as Prof Amartya Sen once put it. In settings like Ganiyari, or Sittlingi in rural Tamil Nadu, where doctors Regi George and Lalitha Regi work among adivasis, you see doctors as you may never have done: non-intimidating, empathetic, humbled by their patients' struggle to make a living off the land; maintaining detailed case notes for the hundreds of patients who flock to their clinics.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nicaragua the next tourist destination

seems to be an upcoming tourist destination. Daniel Ortega's recent victory not withstanding. I visited Nicaragua in 1990-91 and loved it, the people were warm and friendly, and i got a lot of practise in speaking Spanish. I hope the tourist influx does not spoil the environment and make the people into husslers for the American dollar.

1282 workers arrested in meatpacking plant raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 43 - December 15, 2006

Special Issue: 1,282 Arrested in Meatpacking Raids

1. Mass Arrests in Six States
2. Singled Out by Skin Color
3. The Investigation
4. The Union's Response
5. Why Now?

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; fax 212-674-9139; INB is also distributed free via email; see below or contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.

*1. Mass Arrests in Six States

On Dec. 12, some 1,000 US Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) agents carried out simultaneous dawn
raids at six meat processing plants in six states and arrested
a total of 1,282 immigrant workers, most of them Latin
American. (AP 12/12/06, 12/14/06; ICE News Release
12/13/06) The raids took place on a day celebrated by
Mexican Catholics as a day of action honoring the Virgin of
Guadalupe. Many of the arrested workers had attended an
early Mass before their shifts to celebrate the day. (Rocky
Mountain News (Denver) 12/13/06)

The sweep, which ICE dubbed "Operation Wagon Train,"
targeted plants owned by Swift & Co. in Greeley, Colorado;
Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah;
Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. Five of
the six raided facilities are unionized; only the one in Hyrum
is not. (AP 12/12/06; ICE News Release 12/13/06)

ICE promoted the raids as a crackdown on identity theft,
alleging that workers had used the stolen identities of US
citizens and lawful residents to get jobs at Swift. Yet all
1,282 workers arrested were charged with administrative
immigration violations, and only 65 were also charged with
criminal violations including illegal re-entry after
deportation, identity theft or forgery. ICE declined to say
how many workers faced charges specifically relating to
identity theft. (Denver Post 12/14/06; ICE News Release
12/13/06) The arrested workers were from Mexico,
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan,
Ethiopia and other countries of origin which had not yet been
identified as ICE was still processing the detained workers.
The investigation is ongoing. (ICE News Release 12/13/06)

No civil or criminal charges have been filed against Swift or
any current employees. Swift had been participating since
1997 in the Basic Pilot worker authorization program, under
which businesses check the legal work status of new
employees against government databases. Swift said it
believes the raids "violate the agreements associated with the
company's participation over the past 10 years in the federal
government's Basic Pilot worker authorization program and
raise serious questions as to the government's possible
violation of individual workers' civil rights." (AP 12/12/06;
ICE News Release 12/13/06)

Swift & Company, founded in 1855, is the third largest fresh
meat processor in the US, behind Tyson Foods and Cargill
Meat Solutions, with sales of $9 billion a year. Once the
meat-processing business of agriculture giant ConAgra,
Swift is now indirectly owned through various holding
companies. (AP 12/12/06)

In Grand Island, Nebraska, Police Chief Steve Lamken
refused to allow his personnel to take part in the sweep.
"This is our community," Lamken said. "When this is all
over, we're still here taking care of our community. And if
I have a significant part of my population that's fearful and
won't call us, then that's not good for our community."
(Rocky Mountain News 12/13/06)

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who had reviewed
evidence beforehand, believed the Dec. 12 operation was
supposed to take place on Dec. 11, but speculated that ICE
officials put the operation off a day after learning that
Japanese officials were touring the Greeley plant on Dec. 11.
The foreign officials were there to review Swift's response
to having recently shipped beef to Japan without proper
documentation. (RMN 12/13/06)

*2. Singled Out by Skin Color

"Maria," an employee at the Hyrum plant who is a US-born
citizen, said she was singled out for questioning along with
other brown-skinned Latinos during the raid, while people
with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue
bracelets to indicate they were legal workers. "I was in the
line because of the color of my skin," she said. (Salt Lake
Tribune 12/13/06) Attorneys who spoke with witnesses to the
raid in Minnesota were also told that white workers who said
they were US citizens were directed away immediately,
while people with brown skin who said they were US
citizens were required to prove it. (Message from Minnesota
immigration attorneys 12/13/06, posted on Detention Watch
Network list)

Confianza, an association of Hispanic ministers, said in a
statement: "[i]t is deplorable that Americans who happen to
have brown skin and work at Swift were also 'rounded up
with the idea to sort it out later,' as one local community
leader described the situation." (RMN 12/13/06)

*3. The Investigation

In a federal investigation that began in February of this year,
ICE claims to have uncovered large numbers of unauthorized
immigrants who may have used the Social Security numbers
of lawful US citizens or residents to get jobs at Swift. "We
have been investigating a large identity theft scheme that has
victimized many US citizens and lawful residents," ICE
spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez said at the plant in Greeley.
"The significance is that we're serious about work site
enforcement and that those who steal identities of US citizens
will not escape enforcement," ICE chief Julie L. Myers told
reporters in Washington. (AP 12/12/06)

Sam Rovit, chief executive of Swift, said the company learned of the ICE investigation in March, when ICE subpoenaed information on all the employees working at Swift's Marshalltown plant. But Rovit said the company was "rebuffed repeatedly" in its offers to cooperate. "We have complied with every law that is out there on the books," Rovit said in an interview. (New York Times 12/13/06; RMN 12/13/06) "Current law limits an employer's ability to scrutinize the background and identity of new hires, and--as Swift learned first-hand--employers can, in fact, be punished for probing too deeply into applicants' backgrounds," the company said in a statement. In 2000, the Justice Department's Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration- Related Employment Practices filed a complaint against Swift, alleging that the company's Worthington, Minnesota plant engaged in a "pattern and practice" of discrimination by more heavily scrutinizing the documents of job applicants of were believed to look or sound "foreign." The department sought civil damages of $2.5 million. After two years, Swift settled the claim for about $200,000. (AP 12/12/06)

"At no time did the government, with us, try to communicate
the nature of their concerns," said Sean McHugh, Swift vice
president of investor relations. "We tried to reach out to
them and say, 'Look, if you're concerned, if you're trying
to identify or remove or arrest criminals, let us know and
we'll bring them to you.'" In September, the agency granted
Swift a meeting, "but details were few and far between,"
McHugh said. "By mid-November, ICE informed us they
intended, with or without our cooperation, to effectively shut
down six of our plants," McHugh said. (RMN 12/13/06)
Swift then fought unsuccessfully in a Texas court for a
preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement action.
(RMN 12/14/06) "The company ... did attempt to stop us
from doing these raids by going to court," said Chertoff.

Swift also conducted its own probe of suspect employees,
and more than 400 were fired, quit or fled, said Chertoff.
"We don't know where those 400 workers are," Chertoff
complained. (Denver Post 12/14/06) "We do wish they
would have talked to us before deciding to terminate those
individuals," ICE chief Myers said at a news conference.
"We regretted they took that action."

Swift said ICE gave the company the go-ahead to question
workers' documentation. "At no time has anyone from ICE
told any Swift official that they cannot take action against
employees who Swift determines, on its own, are
unauthorized," ICE Investigations Director Marcy Forman
wrote to company attorneys in an October letter supplied by
Swift. "We started interviewing people and said, 'Are you
really who you say you are?'" said Don Wiseman, general
counsel at Swift. "A whole bunch of them said, 'No, I'm
really not' and they voluntarily quit." Swift sent others to the
Social Security office to get letters verifying their status.
"Most of those people didn't come back, either," Wiseman
said. (RMN 12/14/06)

Myers and Chertoff said Swift generally cooperated in the
months leading up to raids. "We asked the company not to
reveal we were coming in advance," Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff said. (RMN 12/14/06)

*4. The Union's Response

On Dec. 13, officials of the United Food and Commercial
Workers Union (UFCW), which represents workers at five
of the six raided plants, filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in Denver's US District Court, asserting that ICE had
violated the constitutional rights of the workers it detained.
The union sought to have the workers released or be able to
communicate with its attorneys. US District Judge John Kane
ordered ICE to respond by Dec. 18. (Denver Post 12/14/06)
The filing claims that those arrested are being denied access
to lawyers and that their whereabouts are unknown. (AP
12/14/06) "Our members are on buses and we don't know
where they are," said UFCW spokesperson Jill Cashen.
"Children have been left stranded. Parents have not been
given the opportunities to make arrangements. We are
struggling to reunite families." (Chicago Tribune 12/13/06)

"Essentially, the agents stormed the plants, many of them in
riot gear, in an effort designed to terrorize the work force,"
said Mark Lauritsen, director of a UFCW division.
Lauritsen, in a statement, described Swift workers as
"innocent victims in an immigration system that has been
hijacked by corporations for the purpose of importing an
exploitable work force." The union said it has advised all the
detained workers to exercise their right to have an attorney
and to remain silent until they confer with legal counsel.
(RMN 12/13/06)

*5. Why Now?

Labor analyst David Bacon said that with the latest raids,
"the administration is sending a message to employers, and
especially to unions: Support its program for immigration
reform, or face a new wave of raids." Bacon noted that in
the period leading up to the passage of the 1986 immigration
law (which included an amnesty), immigration agents used
high-profile workplace raids "to produce public support for
the employer sanctions provision later written into the 1986
immigration law." ("Justice Deported," David Bacon, The
American Prospect (web edition) 12/14/06)

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Dec.
13 that the raids were "a way of emphasizing the fact that
getting this issue of comprehensive immigration reform right
is ultimately going to save everybody a big headache."
Chertoff said the government hopes the Swift operation will
spur Congress to act on a comprehensive strategy for
immigration reform that includes a temporary-worker
program and safeguards against the use of forged or stolen
identities. Chertoff also said he hoped the raids would "be a
deterrent to illegal workers, [and] cause them to say that,
you know, this happened in Swift, it could easily happen
somewhere else,' Chertoff said. "In fact, I'm pretty much
going to guarantee we're going to keep bringing these
cases." (Denver Post 12/14/06)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A pregnancy journal

Getting pregnant and then being pregnant has been an incredible journey. I have read and learnt a lot, visited quite a few doctors and now a midwife. I want to share what I have learnt, so that it can help other women challenge the norm and look within, for their own wisdom to come to the fore.

Getting pregnant was not as easy as I had expected. It was hard work to figure out when in my cycle I was fertile and then doing something about it. I read Toni Weschler’s wonderful book, Taking Charge of your Fertility. This book deals with natural birth control and pregnancy achievement. I learnt about checking cervical fluid, taking my temperature every morning and then recording the thermal shift that occurred to show that ovulation had happened. Also checking the cervical position that changes to a high, open and soft position to indicate fertility. I also bought a kit that you pee on in the morning and it tells you when you are about to be most fertile.
There is a great website called, where you can enter all the information and it presents it in a graph format, that allows charting your cycle.

Once the long awaited pregnancy happened, I started looking for a doctor that I could trust. Eight and half months later, I think I might have found someone! The two South Asian doctors that I visited, were very interested in my business. Apparently pregnancy is big business and doctors get paid $15,000 per patient. Usually the more complications and interventions earn the doctors more money. Also they are very scared of being sued, so they like a lot of testing done on patients. I am going to be over 35 at the time of giving birth, so my first doctor recommended genetic counseling, followed by C.V.S, Blood tests and Amniocentesis. I did not do either C.V.S. or Aminocentesis due to their invasiveness. The doctors were also against pregnant women, reading books. For me if a doctor tells me not to read about my condition, it makes me wonder what information the doctor is trying to conceal. Power is knowledge and the more knowledge one has, the more one can challenge wrong diagnosis and unnecessary interventions.

Naomi Wolf’s book Misconceptions was an eye opener about the American medical establishment, and how powerless pregnant women are made to feel by doctors and nurses in a hospital setting.

Ina May Gaskin’s book, Guide to Childbirth, was how I wanted my child to be born. She is a community midwife that has set up a farm, in Southern Tennessee, where women give birth vaginally. Birth is seen as ecstatic and strengthening. The women know that it is better to keep their senses alive if they are to experience the true wisdom and power that labor and birth have to offer.

“Birthing is so integral with life-so common-that choices surrounding it often get relegated to chance. We tend to go along with what everyone else is doing, assuming that must be for the best. Living in a technological society we tend to think that the best of everything is the most expensive kind available. This is generally true, whether we are taking about cell phones, cameras, cars or computers. When it comes to birth, it ain’t necessarily so.”

But my search continued I was in India during my second trimester and visited a doctor. She was OK. But after, I heard she had given an acquaintance an epistomy that required a long recovery time, i was not so keen. I visited a fancy hospital “the cradle” that looked like a five star hotel but lacked what I was looking for, which was a natural approach to childbirth. In Delhi, I found a book by Diane Smith, Birthing with Dignity. This book was a handbook for training community level midwives (Dais) and health workers, published by Jagori. Diane Smith is a midwife based in Canada. Smith talks about her experience.

“Talking with these women (Indian) about childbirth was an energizing initiation into my presentation of “natural childbirth”, a unique perspective that had emerged from the women’s movement in North America. In the course of the interaction I recognized that women want the opportunity to birth in peace, with the comfort of their traditional cultural wisdom, and be respected for their power in giving birth. It was also obvious that ..times are changing and medical institutions and professionals are beginning to assume superiority over traditional wisdom, the work of the Dai, and a women’s innate ability to give birth naturally.”

I know their can be a lot of problems during pregnancy, like a cervix that does not close, requiring a stitch to keep the baby in, or placenta previa or gestational diabetes or repeated miscarriages or just not being able to get pregnant, a.k.a. undiagnosed infertility. And I highly recommend medical interventions that can help resolve those issues. Also women without partners or lesbians and gays that want children, I would wish for all for them to take advantage of the best of medical treatments, like I.U.I or I.V.F or surrogate pregnancy or adoptions, to be able to give birth if they really want too. In my own case, if I need interventions, like pain medications or emergency c-section I am open to it as along as I, feel that it is necessary for having a healthy baby.

Ann Tyler’s book, Digging to America, is an interesting novel about Americans adopting Korean babies.

At the seventh month I asked my Ob-gyn if I should be taking Lamaze classes. She was dismissive and said it was a waste of money, since insurance did not cover it, and all her patients came asking her the same three questions. Doctor will you put me on an I.V., Yes of course she responded. Also the doctor would give her patients an enema before giving birth, so that they would not be embarrassed when shit came instead of the baby, and put eye drops into the baby's eyes to protect against infections within a mother's birth canal.

I decided to take a hospital visit to see what the maternity ward was like. At the visit we first visited a birthing center on the 11th floor, that was homely, comfortable with a double bed, large chairs for the family to sit on. And a Jacuzzi that made me want to jump right in. The birthing center was where, women that did not want pain medications like epidurals could give birth. There were only a couple of doctors and midwives who believed in the birthing center births. I took the list home and realized it was still not too late. We also saw the 12th floor which had the triage, where you first went and a nurse checked to see if you were dilated enough. If you were not you are sent home, if you are, you go to a labor and delivery room, after giving birth you go to a post-partum room to recover. There is a nursery where the mothers can send their newborns if they want to rest.

I called some of the midwives and doctors from the list of the birthing center and went and visited them. I decided on a practise that had a doctor and midwife. The midwife delivers in the birthing center. She asked me to take enriched Lamaze classes. I found the four classes quite useful, with a lot of information on what actually happens in the hospital, how to determine if it is time to go to the hospital, natural pain control, moving around during labor and breathing through contractions.

The goal of Lamaze is to remove the fear, tension and pain around childbirth. The idea is to use Psychophroplaxis as an aid to pain relief instead of medications.

1. Relax
2. Knowledge
3. Imagery
4. Postition
5. Concentration
6. Massage
7. Focal point
8. Breathing
9. Meditation

A baby is ready to come out between the 38th and 42nd week of pregnancy. You need to go to the hospital when you have five contractions, lasting for a minute, within an hour.

Lamaze institute for normal birth advocates the followers practices

1. Labor begins on its own
2. Freedom of movement throughout labor
3. Continuous labor support
4. No routine interventions
5. Non-supine (e.g. Upright or side-lying) positions for birth
6. No separation of mother and baby after birth

There are four stages of labor

Early Labor which can last for a few days to a few hours. The woman is relatively comfortable. Dilation is 3-4 centimeters. Pinkish vaginal discharge increases. Its best to stay home at this stage. Once the contractions became stronger so that you cannot talk yourself through them use relaxation and breathing exercises.

Active Labor contractions continue to became longer and stronger, until they are 3 minutes apart and last a minute or more. Time from two to six hours, cervix effaces and dilates to about 8 centimeters. Women get serious and focused.

Transition the cervix finishes dilating and begins to transition from opening to pushing. The phase lasts an hour with contractions powerful and efficient.

Birth or pushing- the baby makes its way down through the pelvis and the birth canal. This stage can last from 15 min to several hours. Most women get an urge to bear down. The urge to push gets stronger as the baby descends. Just before the baby is born you may feel a burning, stinging stretching sensation at the vaginal opening. A sign that you are almost there.

Signs of Labor

1.water breaks, you need to call the care provider and let them know the time, amount, color and odor. It should be clear, with no odor. A smell is not good.
2. Bloody show
3. Mucous plug

Not so obvious signs are low backache, nausea, diarrhoea, excessive heat, excessive cold, nesting

Natural methods of inducing labor

1. Castor oil 2 tablespoons. It works as a laxative to get the systems going.
2. Acupressure- massage therapists know where on the foot they can massage so labor can be started.
3. Nipple stimulation
4. Sex

I will keep adding to this information as soon as I learn more. I hope it is helpful to all those that are pregnant or plan to became pregnant soon.

Sex Lit

Interesting article in Alternet about the proliferation of literature about strippers and colleges teaching Porn studies.

In this latter-day phase of stripper chic, academics such as Barton churn out doctoral dissertations about peep shows and shimmering poles. Middle-class 20-something smarties write memoirs about ditching drone jobs in cafes and offices for "the penis gallery," to quote prep-school grad Cody, whose Pussy Ranch blog led to a six-figure advance for Candy Girl, and who is now a millionaire screenwriter working on a project with Steven Spielberg. Ex-ballerina Barton toyed with but finally tossed the idea of "doing participant observation' by stripping, herself: "I had a 'good' body," reflects the author, who teaches at Kentucky's hilariously named but perfectly ordinary Morehead State. Married hipster Cody confides: "I desperately wanted to be a stripper."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wine and Yoga anyone?

The NYT has an article on Yoga retreats combining wine drinking as part of them. I don't think it works for me, but i guess as long as people are moderate in drinking it is ok.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

knowing the enemy: the anthropology of insurgency

George Packer has written an interesting article in the New Yorker on the role of social scientists to help redefine the war on terror.

David Kilcullen, an Australian who has a doctorate in political anthropology from the University of New South Wales, wrote on the Darul Islam conflict, a Muslim insurgency movement in Indonesia during the 1950's and 1960's. During his study he saw similar behavior and similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian separatist insurgency in East Timor. He felt the problem was not Islam but human social networks and the way that they operate. People get pulled into insurgency through friends, family and associates.

Kilcullen noted after watching Bin Laden tapes, that Bin Laden was creating an implicit association between himself and the Democratic party, for he believed that Bush’s strategy on the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. “Al Qaeda’s core leadership had became a propaganda hub. If Bin laden didnt have access to global media, satellite communications, and the internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave.”

Countering counterinsurgency requires rethinking the current thinking about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency”. Knowing the turf, which includes the people, topography, economy, history and culture of the area is essential.Also there is a need to “disaggregate insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai and Malay border, so they are not included onto the global jihad map.

Influencing perceptions is what wins or loses war these days. The international information environment is critical to the success of America’s mission. Montgomery McFate is an anthropologist and is helping the defense department understand the importance of a cultural knowledge.

She wrote in the Joint force Quarterly, “once the Sunni Bathists lost their prestigious jobs, were humiliated in the conflict, and got frozen out through Bathification, the tribal network became the backbone of the insurgency. The tribal insurgency is a direct result of our misunderstanding of Iraqi culture.” Also the U.S. lost their information battle because they focused on broadcast media, but this was not so useful as most Iraqi’s got their news from rumors in coffee shops.

A counter insurgency strategy according to Kilcullen consists of a resistance to the message, co-opt or assist people that have a counter message, and consider supporting or creating rival organizations. The key according to him is providing a social context for individuals to chose ways other than jihad.

The frightening development in this article is the inclusion of academics like anthropologists into serving the interests of the military. Cultural knowledge is crucial to understand the dynamics of how people and societies function. But to use that knowledge against the same people, that have trusted the anthropologist and given them information about themselves is unethical.

Jain Festival

Great photographs of a Jain festival in South India.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Isabel Allende on Augusto Pinochet

Isabel Allende writes in the Independent about the death of Augusto Pinochet of Chile. It seems she was related to him as well as Salvator Allende.

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus's speech after recieving the Nobel Prize.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Albers & Moholy-Nagy

The whitney has an exhibit of two modernist graphic artists Josef Albers and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Albers works was focussed on the interactions of colors with each other. Moholy-Nagy used geometric shapes like circles and lines intersecting with each other, and the colors that were created. Both artists were part of the Bauhaus School in Germany.

The Tate Modern hosted this exhibit before the whitney. This article talks about the exhibit.

Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy were two of the greatest pioneers of modernism in the twentieth century. This exhibition focuses on their individual accomplishments as well as the parallels in their work and examines their groundbreaking development of abstract art beginning in the early 1920s. Though their paths only overlapped for the five years between 1923 and 1928 when both were teaching at the Bauhaus, their artistic practice was informed by similar concerns, including an emphasis on material properties, the subversion of traditional boundaries between media and high and applied art, and a probing into the status of the work of art in an age of mass production. The artworks on view, including painting, sculpture, photography, film, and design objects, highlight each artist's most important and innovative work

Moholy-Nagy successfully sued for breach of contract in Chicago at the New Bauhaus School and used the money to open a new school, the Institute of Design, with a more overt industrial orientation.the Institute of Design. His holistic approach to education and belief in the transforming power of technology continued - with John Cage teaching music and university professors lecturing on maths and physics as part of the design curriculum. But the Bauhaus insistence on breaking down barriers between disciplines seemed doomed to fail in America. Architecture remained centred firmly on Mies's Illinois Institute of Technology, while Moholy's much smaller Institute of Design became synonymous with an experimental approach to photography which stemmed directly from Moholy's own preoccupation with light.

The ethos was experiment, experiment, experiment," says Barbara Crane, an acclaimed alumna of the school who now works with digital imagery. "Rather than aiming for the perfect shot, you developed your ideas through a series of images, with all your mistakes and accidents becoming part of the work."

Their is a book to go with the exhibit.

The beautifully illustrated book highlights the contrasts and correspondences in the lives and work of two of Modernism’s greatest innovators, Josef Albers (1888–1976) and László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1947). Beginning in the 1930s, Albers and Moholy-Nagy each developed a rigorously abstract language that condensed art to its visual fundamentals: line, color, texture, light, and form. This language experienced a creative explosion during their Bauhaus years, when both artists moved freely between media and disciplines. Essays by leading scholars follow the artists’ separate paths through to their emigration to the United States, where each continued to push tirelessly the conventions of artistic practice—Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and then at Yale University, and Moholy-Nagy in Chicago at the New Bauhaus School and the Institute of Design. As highly influential teachers, Albers and Moholy-Nagy became important catalysts for the transmission of Modernist ideas from Europe to America.

Info on the Whitney Exhibit
More here

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Kiki Smith A Gathering 1980-2005

Kiki Smith A Gathering 1980-2005

I visited the Kiki Smith’s exhibits at the Whitney Museum, and was excited by her originality and her interaction with the human form, more often the female form and its various manifestations.

“Best known for her descriptions of the human form-both in anatomical fragments and in full figure-she is a remarkable innovator in sculpture, printmaking and drawing...she uses the body as a metaphor, drawing upon science, faith and folklore to consider our strengths and frailties”
She uses diverse materials like Nepalese handmade paper, paper mache, glass, terra-cotta, plaster, wax or bronze.

The first image, is the All Souls exhibit. The numerous images of the fetus reminds me of lots of ultra sounds drawn and celebrates the birth of the human baby.
All Souls
1. 1988
screen print on handmade Thai tissue paper
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Riva Castleman Endowment Fund, 2003
Smith has always been concerned with the human body, and among her earliest preoccupations were the subjects of birth and death. Many of her first pieces are composed of multiple components in varied configurations. For All Souls, Smith screen printed numerous copies of a fetus image that she found in a Japanese anatomy book. The individual sheets are glued together to form a curtain of delicate paper that hangs, unframed, on the wall. While often interpreted as referencing the anti-feminist and anti-abortion backlashes of the late 1980s, this work also has a more metaphorical meaning for the artist, who notes that every individual must undergo the process of being born. The title alludes to All Souls' Day, a Catholic feast day celebrated on November 2, when the faithful pray for the souls of the dead who have not yet fully atoned for their sins.

Next to All Souls are science experiment like jars with gothic handwriting with labels like Semen, Urine, Blood, Pus and Vomit. It connects to all souls as being the source of creating the baby.

Haber Arts describes it below.

In fact, the work that one sees first contains nothing but air. Twelve large, empty water bottles look as if they should hold specimens from an antique laboratory. A later room indeed arranges objects from throughout her career in what she calls a cabinet of wonders. Here only the Gothic lettering on each bottle identifies its contents with what a certain film character calls his "precious bodily fluids," from semen and blood to pus and vomit. The curator, Siri Engberg of the Walker Arts Center, identifies some as life sustaining and some as disease bearing. Like the implicit calendar of months, however, they suggest not a division but a continuous cycle between the body and the world—and they do nothing to make it sound pretty.

At first, the frankness reflects literal studies of anatomy. She worked on an emergency medical team and saw her sister die of AIDS. Bronze casts represent the male and female uro-genital system, another confluence of waste and generation. Before long, though, her approach to the body turns on the transformation between object and image. Human hair and sheep wool join in a Dowry Cloth. A wall of small, thin aluminum plates represents torn and beaten skin.

Dowry cloth made by Human hair and sheep wool created a textural element to the exhibit.

Another interesting bronze sculpture was a flock of birds that had been preserved. It seemed they were sitting on an electrical pole. Each bird was uniquely different, but they looked the same if you saw it from a distance.

1. 1998
Collection of the American Contemporary Art Foundation Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President
Images of animals, particularly birds, have appeared in Smith's work since 1992. In many of these pieces she examines the relationship between humans and animals as seen through scientific study, religion, and literature. Birds have often served as symbols in art, representing such intangibles as the Holy Spirit, freedom, love, and enlightenment. Flock comprises more than two hundred bronze reliefs, which she traced from preserved bird specimens at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Although their arrangement on the wall is random, the more or less orderly rows of tightly bound bodies remind us that human manipulation, rather than the natural instincts of the birds themselves, assembled this particular flock. By making animal sculptures that are equal in importance to her human representations, Smith creates her own system of classification that rejects the idea of a hierarchical order among living organisms.

Her work was had a handmade quality, but also metaphorical as the images of birds and the jars of human wastes. Her placements of objects next to each other was interesting, for instance the womb was a bronze shaped cavity that opened like a box, next to a rib cage. The sculpture Rapture (2001) depicts a woman emerging from the belly of a wolf, alludes to the narrative of rebirth and the story of “the little red riding hood”. Her multi layered objects and study of the female form was novel and fresh.

See an interview with the artist.

NPR has a multimedia exhibit of her work

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Orhan Pamuk & Salman Rushdie

Here is Orhan Pamuk’s speech while accepting the Nobel Prize for literature.

Salman Rushdie was on Charlie Rose last night. His book, Shalimar the clown is out in paperback, so he was discussing it. He writes about Kashmir, because it is like a paradise that has been lost. When he visited their in 1987, he met folk theater people. His book was inspired by their lives. His book deals with universal themes, like a love triangle, death, and a murder. Kashmir was a place where different cultures and religions learnt to get along, similar to what Bosnia and the Middle East used to be like. India is a great success story for religious tolerance, but Kashmir has been caught in the crossfire between Indian Army, Pakistan Army and the jihadists.

He grew up with a secular upbringing, with not much need for religion in his life.

When asked if Islam needed to go through more debate.

He responded and said that it was already happening but not vocally enough. The modernizing movement is happening often outside Muslim majority countries. Women were leading the way, by challenging the interpretations of the mullahs.

He thought he was improving as a writer. He was hoping for clarity in his writing more and more. In the past he had tried to be clever with language, but was no realizing that simplicity is the hardest thing. To tell a gripping story, the writer needs to write about what they feel most connected with. He writes about India, and then, he brings in themes of love, violence and revenge. He said young writers measure themselves in comparison with other great writers, but the older he gets he feels writing is more about who he is.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

words of wisdom

Though countless stars illumine the night
And the moon brightly ornaments the earth,
Only the sun provides light for the day
And gives meaning to the terms "east" and "west."

The man who accomplishes completely
One single act
Excels all sentient beings.
The moon when full illumines the earth ­
The multitude of stars have not this power.

~ Nagarjuna

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Glenn Beck

CNN has been going downhill for some time now, but this seems to prove it can go no lower. It's new Headline News host Glenn Beck, has threatened Muslims with concentration camps.

Fair has given examples below.

Flirting With Fascism on CNN Headline News
Host Glenn Beck threatens Muslims with concentration camps


The New York Times (12/4/06), profiling new CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, called him "brash" and "opinionated," with an "unfiltered approach." The conservative talk-radio host-turned-cable news announcer, the paper reported, "take[s] credit for saying what others are feeling but are afraid to say."

The Times mentioned one of the things Beck has said recently, to newly elected U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim: "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." But as press critic Eric Alterman pointed out (Altercation, 12/4/06), as offensive as that question is, it doesn't begin to suggest the poisonousness of Beck's rhetoric about Muslims.

On his August 10 radio show, distributed by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks, Beck told listeners, "The world is on the brink of World War III," then issued this warning:

All you Muslims who have sat on your frickin' hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets and have not been saying, 'Hey, you know what? There are good Muslims and bad Muslims. We need to be the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head.' I'm telling you, with God as my witness... human beings are not strong enough, unfortunately, to restrain themselves from putting up razor wire and putting you on one side of it. When things�when people become hungry, when people see that their way of life is on the edge of being over, they will put razor wire up and just based on the way you look or just based on your religion, they will round you up. Is that wrong? Oh my gosh, it is Nazi, World War II wrong, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen.

On September 5, Beck took the same message to his CNN Headline News audience, declaring, "In 10 years, Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West." He explained:

Since 9/11, Americans have gotten so fed up with the "yes, but" Muslims. The "yes, but" Muslims are the ones who show up on talkshows and in the media and say, "Yes, terrorism is bad, but"�and then they go through a list of reasons on why we should try and sympathize with people who fly planes into buildings.... If, God forbid, there's another attack, we won't have anymore patience for the "yes, buts." The Muslim community better find a spokesman who isn't a "yes, but" Muslim. They shouldn't even understand the word "but," because if they don't, when things heat up, the profiling will only get worse, and the razor wire will be coming.

Beck went on to say:

You want the profiling to stop? Then, here's an idea. Stop murdering innocent people. Stop excusing the people who do. You do that for a while, and I guarantee you won't have any more problems at the airports. Stop blowing stuff up and the world just might be your oyster. Otherwise, it's going to be like that movie, The Siege. You remember that movie? The Muslims will see the West through razor wire if things don't change.

He concluded:

Look, I'm not saying all Arabs and Muslims are anti-American. Far from it. We should get to know these people and embrace the good Muslims, and eliminate the bad ones. Here's what I don't know. I don't know if the Muslim community will ever step to the plate like the Japanese-American community did during World War II. You know, it was absolutely disgraceful how we rounded innocent people up then and, sadly, history has a way of repeating itself no matter how grotesque that history might be. The Muslim community can prevent this if they act now.

When Beck is talking about "razor wire," he's talking about concentration camps�in the original sense of the word, places where masses of people are imprisoned "just based on the way you look or just based on your religion." Despite his (perfectly accurate) observation that such camps are "Nazi, World War II wrong," comparable to the "absolutely disgraceful" wartime interment of Japanese-Americans, Beck is clearly using the threat of such camps to coerce Muslims into behavior he approves of, like volunteering "to shoot the bad Muslims in the head."

Since the overwhelming majority of U.S. Muslims are neither "murdering innocent people" nor "excusing the people who do," there's really nothing that they can do to avert Beck's threat that "the razor wire will be coming." And Beck is explicit that there's nothing non-Muslims can do to avoid locking Muslims up en masse.

The New York Times, in its profile about Beck, refers to his criticism of the animated film Happy Feet, but fails to mention that he uses his Headline News slot to issue threats that he himself compares to Nazi behavior. For the Times, CNN's decision to give Beck a TV show is a "success," because he "has increased the ratings in his 7 p.m. time period 60 percent among all viewers, and 84 percent among viewers aged 25 to 54."

The Times article quoted CNN executive Kenneth Jautz as saying that the network did not take Beck's politics into account when it hired him. "We did not set out to have anyone from any particular view fronting these shows," he said. In fact, CNN hired Beck knowing that the host's repertoire included hateful attacks--the Hurricane Katrina refugees seen on TV and the father of a terrorism victim were both "scumbags" (, 5/17/04, 9/9/05)--as well as a disturbing preoccupation with violence: Beck has told his listeners that he was praying for a gruesome death for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (3/6/03), and that he was fantasizing about strangling filmmaker Michael Moore to death (5/17/05). As FAIR predicted (FAIR Action Alert, 1/18/06), Beck has not changed his repellent tune simply because he's been hired by a major media outlet.

Contrary to Beck's suggestion, there are things that the people of the U.S. can do to avoid repeating the "grotesque" history of Japanese-American internment. One of these things is to take people seriously when they start threatening people with concentration camps�rather than looking the other way because of their ratings "success."

ACTION: Please contact CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein and urge him to condemn Glenn Beck's chilling threats against Muslims.

CNN/U.S. President
Jonathan Klein
Phone: 404-827-1500

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Little Hotties Barbies & Bratz

Margaret Talbot, has a fascinating article, in the New Yorker, on the Barbie doll and her close competitor with 40% of market share the Bratz doll.

Bratz dolls have large heads and skinny bodies; their almond shaped eyes are tilted upwards at the edges and adorned with thick crescents of eye shadow, and their lips are lush and pillowy, glossed to a candy apple sheen and rimed with dark lip liner. They look like pole dancers on their way to work at a gentleman’s club. Unlike Barbie, they can stand unassisted.

Bratz dolls feed and play upon this culture’s obsession with girls being sassy (euphemism for sexy) and therefore discarding traditional toys at a younger age. The dolls tend to look ethnically indeterminate with names to match like Nevra, Kiana, Jade and Yasmin.

M.G.A or Micro Games of America is run by an Iranian immigrant, Isaac Larian, and he owns the Bratz doll copyright. He thinks that Barbies represent a “mommy figure” and young girls don’t particularly want to play with their mommies. His company wants to hold on to the six to twelve year old market, by playing up the celebrity and diva aspect of the dolls.

“Bratz are not merely dolls but ‘fashion icons’ that look to the runways and what kids wear in and out of school for inspiration.”

Mattel introduced My Scene Barbie, which kept Barbie’s basic dimensions, but had bigger eyes, plumper, shinier lips and hotter clothes. This was to corner some of the market that the Bratz dolls had been taking over.

There are other dolls that do not play with the “sassy” theme so much, like the historical dolls from American Girl, and Groovy Girls

The class divide is clear, American Girl dolls sold at American Girl Place are expensive, innocent looking and old fashioned, appealing to well off white parents willing to spend whatever it takes to prolong their daughter’s childhood. Bratz and My Scene Barbie are catering to the world’s version of gangsta chic.

Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life