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Bangladesh’s anti-terrorism unit said it had arrested on Monday the main suspect in the killing of a U.S. blogger who was hacked to death in Dhaka last week in the latest attack on critics of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation.

Forces from the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Farabi Shafiur Rahman, who was previously jailed for his ties to the extremist Hizbut Tahrir Islamist group, at a bus stop in Dhaka, a RAB spokesman told reporters.

The spokesman said Farabi had confessed to threatening to kill blogger Avijit Roy. Farabi was still being interrogated.

Roy, an engineer of Bangladeshi origin, was killed by machete-wielding assailants on Thursday while returning from a book fair. His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed suffered head injuries and lost a finger. She remains in hospital.

The police said Farabi was arrested in 2013 for social media comments that supported the murder of another blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, but he was later released on bail. Last year, Farabi posted on Facebook: “It’s a holy duty of Bangalee Muslims to kill Avijit”, the police added.’

Holy duty of anyone who professes faith in a religion is to save and nurture lives, men and animals included. There are some 1.5 billions of Moslems world wide. Hardcore radical Moslems who espouse violence as the means to profess their belief is merely 250,000 or so. (I am not quoting exact figures) It is this lunatic fringe that hits the headlines while the pious believers go about their daily grind adding what is possible to the community in a positive manner. So it is not silent majority but the terrorists  that have come to misrepresent the religion. Tolerance, moderation, equity, justice all the virtues that the Prophet has demonstrated with his life and in writings have been thrown overboard by these misguided elements. The saying ‘A fly in the apothecary’s ointment spoils the whole contents’ sounds apt here. Since moderates prefer not to draw the ire of the Jihadists we may conclude that the Jihadists have won by default. This minority does not represent the religion. Secondly and of vital importance is their practice or Sunnat. In spirit and example their doings have nothing remotely linking to the teachings of the prophet. He said that believers should not be punished with fire since it was only reserved for the final judgment. When one hears ISIS trying to justify the brutal murder of the Jordanese flier by citing some cleric of the 13th century one may be sure it is a fraud. Such brutal edicts historically coincided with the falling off the Islamic hegemony under Mongol invasion. Having failed to live up to the Prophet’s teachings failure has to be laid on someone else.  With such stranglehold on intellectual ferment of the Moslem scholars what has the clerics achieved? What you see is a consequence of change in direction. Neither their religion nor their political ambitions ever found feet again.

Greatness of Prophet Mohammed or Buddha or Gandhii is in their ability to forgive and make peace with those who have chosen to disagree in the most vituperative manner. Of course we need not expect in the midgets who thrive in hate speeches such nobility. They prefer to slaughter the victims with a machete as occurred in Bangladesh.

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The other day I came across a news item: Stephen Hawking is working on a new Theory of Everything. Fine. Einstein before him was wrestling with a similar one even when brought to the nursing home during his final illness. Think of Einstein working on a branch of Science and Stephen Hawking on another branch of a giant tree. The tree is one and our brain has capacity to store information but how much?

According to late Carl Sagan human brain has neurons 10¹¹ with circuits and controlling switches for electro-chemical activities; and every neuron has tiny filaments called dendrites connecting with one another. If we assign each of these connection to a bit of information it can hold only 1 % of the number of atoms that a salt crystal can carry! It is not really mind boggling if we understand the nature of humans to create an order from information the brain gathers.

If we go from a mere speck of salt to the universe we would need a brain as big as the universe itself! Our commonsense experience and evolutionary history has prepared us to understand our workaday world. But if we were to seek exoplanets and other universes these are not reliable guides. When we hit the speed of light our mass increases prodigiously while our thickness decreases to zero in the direction of the motion. Time will cease to mean anything. Without a tangible reference- the context of time and space, would the brain unravel the pulses of information to know anything?

In my view Theory of Everything is a misnomer. It should be qualified as thus: The theory what human reason only can digest.

Take a sample of a tree with an auger. It shall carry everything essential of the whole tree, but also climate changes, time etc.,

What you get of an object is not its material content but its context as well. This context is rooted in our intuition and commonsense experience and beyond. Reason in our workaday world can analyze the object but it is restricted by our own finite nature.

The Theory must go beyond it and also farther than reason. As finite beings we abridge Truth into workable truth that has limited use. So reason alone cannot get hands on Ultimate nature of our universe.

benny

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‘Migrant ship’ in distress off Corfu.’BBC News
A cargo ship believed to be carrying hundreds of migrants has sent out a distress signal near the Greek island of Corfu, reports say.
Now end of the world seems to have come for African states and for Syria. More than 150 years ago,it was the turn of Ireland. The Great Famine wasn’t just another chapter in the history of the Emerald Isle — it threatened the nation’s survival before it even became a nation.
One million died. Two million fled. Today, the population of Ireland and Northern Ireland combined is still lower than it was before Abraham Lincoln became president.
Now, the remains of some of those who tried to flee this cataclysm have been identified — on a beach in Canada.
The bones — vertebrae, pieces of a jawbone — washed up in 2011 on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, about 500 miles from Montreal. After three years of research, Parks Canada says that they likely belonged to Irish children fleeing the Great Famine who died in a shipwreck.
“They are witnesses to a tragic event,” said Pierre Cloutier, an archeologist at Parks Canada, “You can’t have a more tangible witness to tragedy than human remains.”
When famine descended on Ireland in the 1840s, North America beckoned. Another continent — one not gripped by a potato blight — was just a shallow ocean away.
But Irish without means who wanted to fill their bellies in the New World faced one major problem: The only way to get there were “coffin ships.” were themselves deadly, claiming the lives of up to 100,000 would-be migrants.
“These ships were packed with people,” Kathryn Miles, author of “All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, the Legendary Irish Famine Ship,” . “Most families of four would be given a platform that was about 6 feet square. So they were sleeping head-to-toe and there was no sense of quarantine or hygiene.”
One coffin ship, the Carricks, set sail from Ireland to Quebec City in 1847. But there would be no salvation for many aboard: The ship went down in a storm off of the peninsula. Survivors — 100 of them, by some accounts — washed up onshore and were taken in, while 87 people perished. In 1900, a monument was erected to memorialize the disaster.
But more than a century after the memorial went up, skeletal remains of some what Parks Canada said were victims of the Carricks  were found 40 yards away from the memorial. Without DNA testing and carbon dating, the agency can’t be sure the victims were aboard the doomed coffin ship.
But there is quite a bit they do know. The bones belonged to children — two between 7 and 9, and another as old as 12. They showed evidence of rickets, a vitamin-D deficiency found among the malnourished. Analysis of a tooth showed its former owner ate a plant-based diet. And a button found near the site was linked to a Europe that had not yet endured the Great War.

(Justin Moyer/The Washington Post/12/31/14)
benny

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When doctors suspect that a patient might be in a “vegetative” state following a serious brain injury, they run a plethora of tests to confirm the diagnosis. These usually consist of asking patients questions about their environment, and all are aimed at determining their level of consciousness.”Looking at brain activity just isn’t the standard of care,” says Lorina Naci, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario, in Canada. “And unfortunately patients with brain injuries are notoriously bad at answering questions,” so doctors sometimes miss clues that they might have seen if they had used other methods. Naci and her team came up with a test that combined an Alfred Hitchcock TV show with an fMRI machine and it just showed a patient with an unknown levels of consciousness was in fact capable of understanding the events happening around him — even though his initial injury had taken place over 16 years ago, and he had been unresponsive since then. In the study, Naci and her colleagues showed an eight-minute edit of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bang! You’re dead” — a video that’s considered suspenseful and engaging — to 12 healthy participants, while monitoring their brain activity using an fMRI machine. Then, they repeated this experiment with two unconscious patients who had retained the ability to hold their eyes open for long periods of time. “All the healthy patients showed synchronized brain activity in the brain regions that are … used as a proxy for awareness,” Naci says. And so did the unresponsive male patient.

The results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Russell Poldrack, a cognitive neuroscientist at Stanford University who didn’t participate the study, comments that the main takeaway of this study is that there may be “big differences in the mental function of people who are labeled as ‘vegetative.’’”( ack: the Verge)

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An Indian student who travelled to Iraq to join the Islamic State group has returned home disillusioned after jihadists made him clean toilets and do other menial jobs.

This is nothing by way of news coming from Middle East roiling under radical version of Islam. As Prophet envisioned it is a religion of peace. But by some curious contradiction,- the fault must surely lay with the manner the precepts of the glorious prophet are implemented. Surely those who lay down religious laws and political laws must bear some blame. You see their mindset from below.

Thousands of workers from Asia are recruited by touts for the Gulf and they are promised drink from gold basins and splurge on fat of the land. Only when they land in Saudi Arabia or Qatar they have to surrender their passports. ‘By Allah it is law of the land’ reply the agents and having taken cut from the worker and his employer he disappears. Does the migrant worker get the perks, salary and work conditions he is promised in the first place? Does he get to work in safety and free hours from toil? Oh no  he has to shovel in the inhuman conditions while the big fat cats are lolling in gold plated bath tubs. Slowly it begins to dawn on the migrant workers that the touts were only right in parts. The promised drink from gold basin is the soapy bath water; instead of splurging on fat of the land they are eating their bread of sorrow while the stable for goats is air-conditioned and goats are treated with respect. I dare to think that paradise as promised by Jihadists is no different from the manner workers are shortchanged at every level in Gulf countries. The radical change of present political governments with the Caliphate will be no different. Promise of sweeping old way of governing in practice will be cleaning up their mess.

benny

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Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for Republican Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, had said via a Facebook post that Obama’s daughters, Malia, 16, and Sasha, 13, needed to show “a little class,” complaining they appeared to look disinterested last week during an appearance with their father at a White House pre-Thanksgiving ceremony at which he had “pardoned” a turkey.

A President is representative of the nation’s various strengths and weaknesses. He has great many problems of global magnitude that keep coming to his table every day. As President Truman famously pointed ‘The Buck Stops Here.’ Cannot a Titan carrying the world on his shoulders relax a little? He may even indulge in a bit horseplay at times. Where the humbug and hypocrisy rule and stuffed shirts sit around according to a rigid protocol and speakers haranguing the audience of lost values and yet avoid fulfilling simple obligation like tax, a President must do the honours. If he has to pardon turkeys on a Thanksgiving dinner he is merely entering into the spirit of things which is like ISIS with one voice crying ‘Allahu Akbar‘ while some 30 souls are despatched to kingdom come. Ms. Lauten’s hatchet job was certainly unwanted. Who can expect,for god sake’ two teenagers to fake interest in Presidential pardon to turkeys? To top this she hypocritically prayed many times for guidance before she deleted her  ‘rebuke.’ After an insult asking in prayer is an hypocrite’s face saving formula. benny

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A new study on participants in a Toronto homeless shelter found that 45 percent of the homeless men in the research had suffered some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). And amongst them, 87 percent of their brain injuries had occurred before the men became homeless. . They encompassed a broad age range and all completed a detailed series of questions chronicling their mental health history. The St. Michael’s Hospital study also mirrors a similar study released last week in which half of all men entering NY jail system aged 16-18 reported a TBI before they were arrested. According to Dr. Jane Toplovec-Vranic who led this study “You have a concussion, and you can’t concentrate or focus. Their thinking abilities and personalities change. They can’t manage at work, and they may lose their job, and eventually lose their families. And then it’s a negative spiral.” A concussion is not merely an injury but it triggers whole lots of events that runs a gamut of social, economic personal territories for which no agency wants to own up. Cluster principle applies here.

 

“You need to train the correction officers to understand brain injuries so that when somebody may be acting rude or answering back or forgetting what they’re supposed to do, it’s not a sign of maladaptive misbehavior or disrespect, it’s a sign of a brain injury,” Wayne Gordon, a brain injury expert at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, said about that study’s results.

The St. Michael’s study looked at the cases of 111 homeless men and found that assault accounted for some 60 percent of the TBI’s. Drug and alcohol were the leading factors for men under 40, while assault was the most common factor for men over 40 years of age.Amongst those cases, sports and recreation related injuries accounted for 44 percent of the TBI’s, while motor vehicle accidents or falls made up another 42 percent. A significant percentage of people received their TBI in non-violent accidents. “Injury commonly predated the onset of homelessness, with most participants experiencing their first injury in childhood,” Topolovec-Vranic wrote in the study, which was published in the journal CMAJ Open.“Additional research is needed to understand the complex interactions among homelessness, traumatic brain injury, mental illness and substance use.”(ack: Eric Pfeiffer/Yahoo News of April, 26,2014)

benny

 

 

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