Thursday, 25 November 2010

My First Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgivings Day in US.I really like this idea of thanking God for all that he has given us every year on a specific day. Last year this time I was in Switzerland.There you don't have Thanksgiving day celebrated in this way.Though you will find a turkey or two if you search the Swiss supermarkets , we have never seen any extra interest in people about these strange birds.
I really like this excitement about these old tradition and the way these people are mingling it into their own culture. People have been decorating their house with pumpkins,ghosts,witches and cobwebs for a month before Halloween.I have seen this custom of halloween in Europe;there also sweets are collected by children  wearing dresses. But the excitement with the custom seemed more here.Most of the houses in our community were decorated with these ghosts and pumpkins.I didn't see this anywhere else that we lived.And I really liked that.And almost one or two day after halloween people started decorating there houses with santa and wreaths.And almost all houses are religiously following this trend.If someone comes to this place for the first time from a different culture,he or she is sure to know that very moment that Halloween or Christmas is near.
Another thing that I really like about USA is the way shops remain open here till late hours and even on Sundays.In Europe,Sundays are really dull.All shops are closed and often the whole town seems to be sleeping with almost everyone inside their houses.And if there is a holiday then it is also a holiday for all shops and everything is closed.
Today,I went out inspite of the bad weather and for the first time saw most of the malls and supermarkets and shops closed. But I thought that was quite o.k.They are going to open the shops early morning tomorrow or even today night.
Perhaps I shall not really participate in the shopping madness that  takes place here on Black Friday.But I shall participate in this Thanksgiving by thanking this country.
Thanks that you keep your shops open till late so that I can go to shops after my husband comes home in the evening.
Thanks that you have such a nice public libraries here( Vanderburgh Public Library).The Vanderburgh Library has so many branches and there is no membership cost.They lend you 100 books and 5 dvds  and also offers such nice classes for children.I just love the library. Thanks again.
I can say thanks for a lot more things.I love the tranquility of my community.I love the AC that  I found installed when I first entered my apartment.I have paid a lot more for smaller apartments in Europe which have heating but no cooling.The duplex that I live in is something I really love.Thanks that I found this house.
I also will want to thank for the car we have bought.It is just what I wanted and just the price I was ready to pay.
I love my life here.What I have written about the worse side of things is not the whole truth.That was just my first reaction to the cultural shock that I had after coming here.
I still have hundreds of problems but today the mood is set for Thanksgiving!!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Security Scanners do pose cancer risks

(First published in Technorati
The risk of cancer due to the exposure to the x-rays emitted by these airport security scanners is not just a rumour. This is backed by comments by scientists and experts.
Yes, these scanners not only strip us in the name of security but also may give us the dreaded disease, cancer.
Scientists from the University of California, San Francisco were so worried about this risk that they wrote a letter to the white House Office of Science and Technology in April. According to them the doses would be safe if equally distributed throughout the entire body; however, the dose to the skin is dangerously high. Another matter of concern is if the machine or software malfunctions at a moment or if it stops at a point exposing a particular portion of a person’s body to intense radiation.
Dr Michael Love, who runs an x-ray lab at the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at John Hopkins University school of Medicine said, “They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these x-rays”.

Dr. David Brenner, head of the center for radiological research at Columbia University in New York stated “"If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays, then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk," he said. "The population risk has the potential to be significant."

Agard, one of the scientists who signed the letter to the White House says” "Many people will approach this as, 'Oh, it must be safe, the government has thought about this and I'll just submit to it,'."But there really is no threshold of low dose being OK. Any dose of X-rays produces some potential risk."
"Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage, and that can lead to cancer," Agard says
The other signers are John Sedat, a molecular biologist and the group's leader; Marc Shuman, a cancer specialist; and Robert Stroud, a biochemist and biophysicist.

Now the question is whether we should trust our government officials who have previously demanded that the images are not stored or printed. Now that the internet is flooded with leaked images from the US marshal’s office taken in a Florida courthouse, the trust regarding the privacy of the procedure is gone.
Now, in the face of these fears about the risk of cancer they are trying to assure us that the rays won’t harm us.
But can we believe that?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Airport Security Scanners:Be a Good Citizen,Drop Your pants.

Noone but Big Brother is watching you.
The title may seem exagerrated to many of you.But the "Good Citizen" slogan has actually been used by German protestors at Berlin-Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany .
The Airport security scanners are stirring a lot of controversy and personally I am filled with real anxiety as I read and view the news online.

As a woman, the audacity of these scanners and the governing bodies that are installing them seems outrageous to me. How can anyone have the right to lawfully peep into my private parts without my permission?Is it a Nazi rule?Are we all in concentration camps?
Are we all convicts?As only convicts or suspected criminals can be condemned to such search.The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of United States gives its citizen the right not to be improperly searched or seized without proper reasons of suspicion.
But the reality is that the TSA has been given full authority to strip each and every passenger in front of those machines and subject the unwilling to an "extended pat down" which,according to those who suffered it,amounts to sexual molestation.
But then,this is all for our safety.And THE BOSS IS ALWAYS RIGHT. HAIL....

Some news:
  •  A young lady, who was trying to board a plane from Miami and happened to be good looking, was randomly picked for a "thorough" scan and when she tried to opt out she was molested,threatened and then handcuffed to a chair and her air tickets tore off.
  • Another lady, a mother of two little girls was given an exetendede pat down by a male TSA official and took liberties that only her husband could.As a mother she was scared more for her two little girls and demanded a woman official for her girl's search.And both of them were so thoroughly searched that the elder one asked the mother how could she let someone touch her like that.See Alex Jones Video here.
  • The president of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 11,500 pilots, many of whom work for American Airlines, has urged members of the union to revolt against the devices after the detention and suspension of  a pilot who refused to accept this intrusion to his privacy and rights as an individual.This news leads to the next.
  • Airport Pilots' combined rage has made authorities realize that the pilots are "low risk population" and there can be some alternative security protocols for them.

But there is some hope somewhere in the horizone perhaps...
  • In Washington the Senate Aviation subcomitee will hear from the TSA on Wednesday morning(17th Nov) on the body scanners and hand pat down being used.Both the Florida's U.S senators are on that commitee.
  • After a six month’s test Italian government has decided to stop using the full body scanners because these scanners are not efficient enough and slows down the process immensely.
  • US citizen are standing up to their reputation and bracing for a fight for their dignity and individual rights.So there is a call to observe 24th November,the day before ThanksGiving day as the Opt-Out Day.We can imagine the crowd in the airport on the day before Thanks giving weekend and that is why this timely call.
Will the freedom and democracy of American people be the objects of collateral damage in this war against Terrorism? Will they compromise their dignity and personal rights while actual terrorists will laugh in their den all satisfied to have created this ever emergency situation.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Women's Abortion Rights in danger?

[Article first published in Technorati by me: ]
Will the new conservative majority in congress mess with women’s abortion rights?
This disturbing question is raised by women’s rights leaders like Terry O’Neil, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), “We now face an anti-choice majority and a new speaker of the House who will threaten to roll back hard fought progress for women” said Terry.
O’Neil further warned that the Republicans would try to cut social security benefits, cut funding for family planning programs, oppose equal marriage initiatives and most importantly try to weaken the Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. This fear is caused by the attitude of the soon to be speaker of the House, John Boehner, who, according to O’Neil "has made it no secret that he is anti-choice and anti-equal marriage”.
It seems the election results has inflamed the women’s activists to brace for this fight for abortion rights as they consider the new Conservative majority in the House synonymous to the defeat of pro-choice advocates and the victory of anti-choice advocates of abortion.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, at least 49 of the 60 Republican newcomers to the House will oppose women’s abortion rights. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “We anticipate that the anti-choice leadership in the House will aggressively attempt to push through measures designed to stop all health insurance policies from covering abortion services, even for those who work in the private sector and pay for premiums out of their own paychecks”. She also added that although the focus is on Washington, the states will be more proactive in this respect. Incredible as it may seem but in 2010 alone there were more than 600 anti-choice state bills.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio director Kellie Copeland fears that the Republican majority in Ohio legislature will again try to put forward proposals to ban abortion in Ohio. She reminded that such a proposal was introduced last time Republicans controlled the legislature.
In Oklahoma, the legislature tried to introduce eight new anti-choice laws in 2010.Four of them were vetoed by the governor, Brad Henry. The legislature then overrode three of them. Extreme Bills were also vetoed by some of other state Governors like in Kansas and Florida. But these Governors are going to be replaced by anti-choice Governors and that is the cause of all these apprehensions.
Pro-choice advocates participated in a demonstration in front of the US Supreme Court on 4th November to keep
 abortion legal. They are afraid that the anti-choice majority in the house will promote laws that will jeopardize women’s equality, dignity and even health.
However, women’s rights activists like O’Neil and Northup are determined to give the anti-choice advocates a good fight with the help of the pro-choice members of the House and the Court.
Hope, whoever be the majority in Legislature, the rights women gained after years of struggle will not be fiddled with and American women will not be forced backwards for political gains.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Wrapped in Plastic,Choked by Plastic

Now it’s almost 4 months I am in US. I am living in a duplex in a very beautiful community here in Evansville. There is a small lake and the place is very peaceful. The community is also well maintained. Every Thursday they trim the grass and the remove the garbage from the community dustbin.
But I wonder why there is no recycling option. We have to throw all the bottles and cans and pet bottles along with vegetable remains and papers in one bin!!!
It is like this in India. But, hi there! I am in the US now!!It is supposed to be one of the First World Countries.
In Switzerland, I lived in a small town called Vevey and a smaller place called Bonivard. In both the places there was clear division of waste disposal. And I have become used to that. When we lived in Denmark, we had the option of returning the pet bottles and cans to the stores recycling point where they returned some deposit money they charge with the price. I can see recycle advices on bottles. But there is no easily accessible recycle point nearby.
Another thing struck me. There are quite a lot of pets in our community. But I find people callously careless about disposing their pet's shits!! Yeah, there are those little black plastics which I have seen in every other country. There is also written advice beside those to use them to keep the community clean. But I find dog shit everywhere in the grass. And I have noticed while taking their dogs out in the morning or in the evening, very few of them take those plastics with them. In all other European cities and mainly in Vevey, I have found people so much more responsible about keeping the place clean. I actually found only 1 lady (in Vevey 2009), among the many people who used to come with their pets, who brought three dogs and didn’t carry one of those plastics. And I was very angry with her for making the beautiful field dirty.

There's another thing and perhaps the most important of these that struck me as an example of the US tendency to be callously continuing environment pollution while lecturing big on these topics in the World scenario.
Why do these supermarkets always give hundreds and thousands of plastic bags to each customer?
I have seen this only in UK. In Frankfurt, in Vevey and in most other places we had to buy paper bags that were very cheap and that could be used again and again. Only clothes and shoes came with thick plastic bags.
These hundreds and thousands of plastic bags from all these superstores are choking our Mother Nature.
Do you know that plastic bags are made from petroleum or natural gas? Think of the environmental impact of harvesting more and more fossil fuel. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags. It's the same as dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.
Unlike a glass beer bottle or an aluminum can, it's unusual that a plastic bag is made back into another plastic bag, because it's typically more expensive than just making a new plastic bag.
Only 2 percent of plastic bags are recycled in US and the rest of them are going to stay in the environment for eternity as we all know that plastic bags are not biodegradable. According to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from eating or getting entangled in plastic. The conservation group estimates that 50 percent of all marine litter is some form of plastic. There are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
 In the Northern Pacific Gyre, a great vortex of ocean currents, there's now a swirling mass of plastic trash about 1,000 miles off the coast of California, which spans an area that's twice the size of Texas, including fragments of plastic bags. There's six times as much plastic as biomass, including plankton and jellyfish, in the gyre. "It's an endless stream of incessant plastic particles everywhere you look," says Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of education and research for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which studies plastics in the marine environment. "Fifty or 60 years ago, there was no plastic out there.

If countries like South Africa, Bangladesh, Thailand and Taiwan can ban plastic bags, why can’t USA?
Do you think the large companies making and using these plastic bags are unaware of the impact?
Or, do they just not care?
What do you think US citizen should do to put an end to this?
Should they stop accepting these plastics?
I would love to hear from you.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Peace with Taliban:Afghan Women's Rights at stake?

(Article First Published for Technorati(  Afghanisthan has become so much related to US (US DREAM?) that I thought of publishing this here...
While NATO and the present Afghan Government talks about political deal with the Talibans, Afghan women wait with apprehension and doubt about their future.
NATO chief, however, has reassured that they will support a political deal with the Taliban only if they agree to respect the constitutional rights of women.
But can these mere words from foreigners soothe the wounds of Afghan women who have been denied the basic minimum rights as human beings by the Taliban, only a few years ago? Can this government, which will be formed by reconciliation with the Afghan women’s worst enemy, The Taliban, be ever respectful of women’s rights?
Reconciliation will perhaps expedite peace. Peace is something that the Afghan women are also eagerly waiting for. But the question that looms large is whether this peace is to be bought at the cost of freedom of the Afghan women. They fear and not without reason that the men, Afghan or foreign, who are going to decide their fate may find this (their freedom) a small cost to pay for the greater cause of PEACE.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former prime minister of Denmark, however, emphasizes,” "My position, and the position of all the allies, is very clear: we will never support any political deal that sacrifices the rights that Afghan women now have enshrined in the constitution,".
Afghan women have actually made a lot of progress after 2001.They went back to schools, there were again female doctors in Hospitals, women were elected to Parliament, they were recruited even in the police and they could pursue their career without being forced to wear a burkha.
But now, a leading female member of the Afghan parliament, Fawzia Koofi says, those hard-won gains are retreating.
“Unfortunately, there are certain elements within the government, outside the government, nowadays mainly within the government, who don't believe in women's progress, because they think, if women becomes stronger, they will lose the power," Koofi said.
The need of the moment is a strong government that actually is committed to the implementation of equal rights and opportunities that have been written down in the constitution. And if fundamentalists are given a chance to penetrate into this government, there is every chance that they will use their power to implement what they believe to be right.
We, the common people from all over the world, with all our good intentions, can do only one thing at this moment: trust the wisdom and intentions of the NATO and pray for the Afghan women

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Women On Top:Women as leaders and voters

Article first published on Technorati(
Today, as everyone is heading for the booth to cast their vote, I was struck by a thought.
Is a woman equally accepted as a voter and a representative of country or state all over the world, today in 2010?
The term is Woman Suffrage. This is the right of women to vote and run for office. In 1906,Finland became the first nation to grant full suffrage to all citizens including women. Newzealand was however the first to grant all its citizens the right to vote in 1893,but women got the right to run the Newzealand legislature only in 1919.
At this moment there are 31 female leaders in 28 different countries or self-ruling territories.
Though there had always been female rulers(we know about the Egyptian Queens of 3000BC),it is also true that not until during and after the World War I that the first few women became members of the revolutionary governments in Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Ireland. Nina Bang, Danish Minister of Education 1924-26, was the first woman to be minister in democratically elected Parliamentary Government.
The First elected female heads of the country, however, came from the Indian subcontinent. In 1960, Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the first female elected Prime Minister followed by the formidable Indira Gandhi in India in 1966.
At this moment, there are reigning Queens in 3 countries: Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom - and the latter is represented by female Governor Generals in 3 countries; Antigua and Barbuda, Australia and Saint Lucia. They function as their countries' de-facto Heads of State.
At the moment there are 11 woman Prime Ministers; in Australia, Bangladesh, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Slovakia and Trinidad and Tobago and in the self-governing territories of Bermuda, Sint Maartin and the Ă…land Islands.
The 10 female Presidents are in Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, India, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Lithuania and Switzerland - and in the Federation of Bosnia within Bosnia-Herzegovina.However, the Presidents are often just a position with little actual power as in Switzerland and India.
But the list of female Presidents has now a new member with the election of Dilma Rousseff as Brazilian head of state late on Sunday.
So Latin America now has 3 ,Europe leads with 5,Asia 2 and Africa has 1 female Presidents.
We feel proud as women when we see this statistics.
But on the other side of the coin there are still countries like Saudi Arabia or Lebanon where women still don’t have full suffrage.
In US, Congress passed what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting. Suffrage was extended to women in France by the 21 April 1944 ordinance of the French Provisional government though "Indigenous Muslim" women in French Algeria had to wait until a 3 July 1958 decree.
What is however striking in this statistics is that the great propagators of Freedom and Liberty and Equality, the USA and France still don’t have a female President.
Segolene Royal, a former environment minister has however shaken up French politics with her grassroots campaign and has won the overwhelming backing of the main opposition Socialist Party in her bid to become the country's first female president.
 Let’s see when we can add these two great nations in our list of First Female Presidents of the world