January 22, 2018

Girls Live the Part

AfghanistanSix year old Mehran Rafaat from Kabul Afghanistan is like many girls her age – eager to discover the world in her middle-class neighborhood area – except for one important difference. Mehran's sisters put on black dresses and head scared while she wears green pants, a white shirt and necktie and short spiky black hair. For, out the door she is masquerading as an Afghan boy.

Many generations of Afghans have grown up disguised as boys. These children are neither daughter nor son, but "Bach posh" which means "dressed up as a boy" in dari.

The practice has remained mostly obscured to outsiders and cuts across class, education, ethnicity and geography enduring many wars and governments.

The reasons for pretending their girls are boys are economic, social and superstition. By making up a son can lead to the birth of a real boy. A return to womanhood takes place during puberty and is made by the parents.

Sons are highly valued as only they can inherit the father's wealth and pass down a name. Families without boys are objects of pity and contempt. the practice stretches back centuries. The pressure to produce a son fuels the practice as mothers are blamed if she gives birth to a daughter.

These things happening in Afghanistan are not really imaginable to the West but are just another amazing coping ability for Afghanis tans.

Globetrotting Close to Home

MuseumFamiliarity and exposure to the art, ideas and values of the rest of the world makes us full citizens. This season, "The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty" opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show documents a time when china was subjugated to foreign rule.

During the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) impulses flowed in from all over Central and western Asia creating a hybrid art. The most radically altered was ink-an-brush painting as Chinese artists turned from description to expressionism, from nature to personal being illustrated in the show "The Yuan Revolution: Art and dynastic Change."

Another Chinese show this season is "The emperor's Private Paradise: Treasure from the Forbidden city" debuting at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Mass. on Sept. 14. The material is overwhelming. The ruler Qianlong stayed on the throne for 60 years and collected art like mad to fill 2 dozen buildings of the palace complex. The 90 objects coming to Salem include: Buddhist paintings, lacquer screens, jade carving, trompe-l'oeil murals, all on loan from Beijing.

Opening Dec.12th is another exhibit "India's Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art depicting the muslim rulers in Northern India, the Nawabs of Lucknow.

For something different there's "Vishu: Hinduism's Blue-skinned Savior" at the First Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville on Feb. 25 heading to Brooklyn Museum in June. This show will catalog the manifold forms the deity assumed in art – Krishna being the most beloved figures in the Hindu world.

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opening Oct. 2 will be the significant "Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico". Also reopening is the Museum for African Art 15 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. "Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art of Ancient Nigeria" lands at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston on Sept. 19th. It has a fabulous array of bronze, terra cotta portrait heads dating back to the 12th century A.D. on loan from Nigerian museums as well as recent works from Mr. Anatsui in particular his fabric like sculptures made from crushed bottle caps.

"Impressions from South Africa: Printed Art 1960's to Now" will be due in March at the Museum of Modern Art while "Darkroom: Photography and New Media in south Africa Since 1950" will be showing at the Virginia Museum of fine Arts in Richmond till Oct. 24.

Something called the "Global Africa Project" kicks off at the Museum of Art and design on Nov.17. African-American artist Radcliffe Bailey will pair off his own work with African objects at the High Museum in Atlanta. In February "Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley" opens at the Fowler Museum at the University of California Los Angeles.

This will be a symposium like no other mixing history, anthropology, religion, ethic and politics into African sculpture, painting, performance, installation, sound art and conceptualism. African art, ephemeral in nature is beyond history and time, always looking fresh and new.

Opinion: Mandela’s Kitchen

Nelson MandelaA long way from when the famous Nelson Mandela walked out of jail to lead his people to democracy, South Africa today faces a new challenge in the form of anti-press legislation. One bill named the Protection of Information Bill gives the government power to classify information in the national interest, and a media appeals tribunal to regulate both printed and electronic press and is reminiscent of the censorship used by apartheid regime in the 70's.

This was not Mr. Mandela's vision of a South Africa synonymous with freedom and openness on all levels.

To remember a story about a reporter for the South Africa's Sunday Times, who went to Mandela's presidential residence late on afternoon for an interview only to find all doors and windows open and without being stopped, wandering into the kitchen. There he found Mr. Mandela preparing himself a cup of tea and a sandwich. Pleased to find company, the president invited the journalist to share a meal. The mood in the country at the time was this new sense of openness, self-reflection and honesty.

Leaders since Mr. Mandela, such as Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, have been resistant to criticism and truth-telling and whose government, The African National Congress has proposed the new censorship measures. The press has become inhabited by lies, distortions, pretenses, subterfuges and inadequacies of all kinds.

Censorship has involved much more than removal of books from the shelves (mine being the first book in Afrikaans to be banned under apartheid). Once a book is prohibited, it then entered the Government Gazette and the notorious Jacobesen's Index- a record of banned literature of more than 20,000 titles. Once in the index, a book draws the attention to the brutal Security Police for endangering the "security of the state".

Attention from the Special Branch means the author could be interrogated, have his books, manuscripts and typewriters confiscated, (and if black) risk immediate arrest, detainment and disappearance.

Once, I was removed from a plane bound to London for the book's publication, and was ordered to open my suitcase for inspection. A government that owes it's existence to the invisible freedom of it's people can betray that faith through such arrogance.

Andre Brink author of "A Dry White Season" and "A Fork in the Road"

Death at World Sauna

SaunaAt the Sauna World Championships in a Finnish town of Heinola, a Russian amateur wrestler, Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy, who is in his 60's, died. He collapsed with severe burns in the final stage of an event requiring contestants to sit in a 230 degree room. He collapsed roughly six minutes into the final round with reigning champion Timo Kaukonen of Finland.

There were nearly 1,000 spectators gathered to watch 130 competitors from 15 countries waving flags and cheering. Medical workers had to pull the shaking and bleeding men out of the sauna and calm the spectators.

The men were bleeding from severe burns and the family has demanded an investigation into Ladyzhenskiy's death.

Sauna bathing is a popular pastime in Nordic countries and Russia with as estimated 1.6 million saunas for 5 million people. Temperatures are normally kept around 158 to 176 degrees. It is not unusual to have 110 degrees celsius in a sauna. Competitors have sat in higher temperatures than that.

The annual death rate in Finnish saunas was less than 2 per 100,000 inhabitants representing 100 Finns a year usually due to natural causes such as heart problems, or under the influence of alcohol. Only 25 percent of deaths were the direct result of heat exposure.

All rules, temperatures and times were followed in Saturday's competition similar to previous years. Police are investigating the death.

Lessons from Pakistan to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

ClassroomGreg Mortenson's been building schools for girls in Pakistan for over 17 years and founded the Central Asia Institute CAI in 1996 after living in Pakistan for three years and seeing the difficulties facing girls who had no chance at good education.

145 schools have been built and 64,000 students have improved their education standards from haphazard lessons in outdoor classrooms with dirt and stick chalkboards into real schools with qualified teachers.

For CAI students, snow and sleet won't deter them but heat, night, rugged mountains, roadside bombs, occupying troops and insurgents might.

The unparalleled success is attributed to the locals in each of the 145 communities that support a school. Projects anywhere can only be successful this way says Mortenson.

The only way to discover locals' ideas and help them manage a project is to sit down and have a cup of tea (or three) and listen which is the title of Mortenson's first book "Three cups of Tea".

Three cups of Tea as well as Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a field guide for troops' counterinsurgency efforts.  Throughout war torn areas and rugged terrain from Afghanistan and Pakistan girls are still denied educations.

Mortenson and CAI will keep climbing towards the elusive peak this is education and empowerment for all.

Bone Drugs May Raise Throat Cancer Risk

PillsA new study reveals people who take many bone-strengthening drugs for several years may have a higher risk of esophageal cancer. Researchers analyzed records of nearly 3,000 people with esophageal cancer and compared each case to similar people who didn't have the disease. It looked at 10,000 people with bowel cancer, 2,000 people with stomach cancer and over 90,000 people in all for about 8 years.

Normally the risk of developing cancer of esophagus (throat) in people aged 60-79 is 1 in 1,000. Both those who had 10 or more prescription drugs to prevent osteoporosis for 5 years, the risk was 2 in 1,000.

A clinical epidemiologist of the University of Oxford, Jane Green, says the chances of developing esophageal cancer from bisphosphonates (bone-building drugs) are much smaller than known causes like obesity, smoking or drinking.

Green says the findings shouldn't affect patients taking osteoporosis drugs but should be watched closely for other known side affects such as throat ulcers, abdominal pain and irregular heartbeat. The pills cause inflammation in the esophagus which could make cancer more likely.

Patients should take the medicines with a full glass of water before eating, not reclining for at least 30 minutes afterward, and to report difficulty in swallowing, throat, chest or digestive discomfort to discontinue the drug promptly.

Hitting the Beach

SurfingSurfing isn't just a sport or hobby for Caleb Remington who hits the beach every opportunity he gets. It's a new treatment for patients suffering from debilitating illness. Nearly 30,000 Americans suffer from cystic fibrosis which causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive track making it difficult to breathe and break down food. The ocean helps him with breathing.

Patients undergo a rigorous routine including breathing treatments twice a day in a vest that fills with air to help break up the mucus in the chest. Research has shown that the salty mist can help break up thick mucus in the lungs. Cystic fibrosis patients living near the beach should take advantage of the natural health benefits found in saltwater air.

Surf camps are held for kids suffering from the disease by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Orange County. Parents say it is a god-send.

Caleb Remington moved from Illinois to California to discover the ocean air and says surfing is a way to overcome the disease while waiting for a cure.

Greener Champagne Bottle

Champagne"We're remaking the future of champagne" says Thierry Gasco, master vintner for Pommery a deep lush landscape of ripening grapes in REIMS France. In order to reduce the 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide it emits every year this industry has embarked on a design slimming the shoulders of the Champagne bottles making it lighter despite it's symbolic image and tradition by Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk who first thickened the glass in the mid-1600's.

The current retooling uses 65 fewer grams (2.3 ounces) of glass will cut down it's carbon footprint 25 % by 2020 and 75% by 2050. Vineyards worldwide are making efforts to improve ecology, reduce packaging, pesticides, water use and transportation.

The new wave of bottles will hit stores after 3 years of fermentation and will trim carbon emissions by 8,000 metric tons annually – the equivalent of taking 4,000 small cars off the road. Consumers around the world may have already uncorked some specimens without noticing the new bottle.

For Champagne producers to reduce the weight of their packaging is definitely a step in the right direction.

Hurricane Earl Update

Hurricane WarningFriday morning, Hurricane Earl (category 1 storm) delivered a blow to North Carolina's Outer Banks and began to make it's way north. With 85 mph sustained winds, the hurricane is due to pass by Cape Cod and Long Island N.Y. later today.

Forecasters say it may pick up strength and turn into a category 2.  So what are some of the ways to stay safe in a Hurricane?

1. Learn what a hurricane could do to your home.
2. Find a safe place to take refuge like a closet or hallway on the lowest level.
3. Make an evacuation plan for your pets well before a storm hits; with vaccination records, collar, leash, portable cage.
4. Stay indoors, away from windows and glass doors. Bring outdoor furniture inside.
5. Turn propane tanks off.
6.  Stock up on food,water and first aid equipment in advance.
7.  Drive your mobile home out of town.
8.  Have a battery-powered radio on hand along with plenty of fresh batteries.
9.  Plan escape routes and locations tens of miles from home.
10. Don't use the phone, and unplug all electrical appliances.

Acetaminophen Use May Double the Asthma Risks in Kids

Asthma InhalerThe American Thoracic Society reports new evidence linking the use of acetaminophen to development of asthma. From a research gathered from more than 300,000 kids aged 13-14 yrs. old from 50 countries, they found more than a double increased risk associated with frequent use which is at least once a month. It also increased risks for eczema- itchy and scaly skin and nasal congestion.

Dr. Holly Phillips of WCBS-TV New York explains: "Asthma affects one in 20 children. The researchers here speculate that the increasing use of acetaminophen may have contributed to the rise of asthma. They think that it may have an inflammatory effect. And as we know, asthma occurs when your airways get constricted. Also, acetaminophen may suppress the immune response to respiratory infections."

However, more research needs to be done before you stop using products like Tylenol. Acetaminophen has been proven to be a safe and effective pain reliever for many years.

Phillips reinforced that the study found a link done by surveys. Always talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's respiratory illnesses or bouts of wheezing. Other factors may increase the risk of developing asthma such as family history, certain food allergies, and environmental factors like pollution and tobacco smoke.