Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Origin of the term Red-Light District

The “red-light district,” or the place in a city where commercial sex is isolated or encouraged (or both), might be a concept now most associated with Europe and Asia, but it's an American invention. The Oxford English Dictionary puts the first print appearance of the phrase at 1894, in the Ohio newspaper the Sandusky Register, in reference to a group of Salvation Army volunteers who had set up shop in town to minister to presumed prostitutes. The term has its origins in the practice not of prostitutes, but their customers: in this case, rail workers who left red lanterns outside the doors and windows of the houses where they met prostitutes between their own work shifts. If their boss needed to find them, he could look for the light.

From  Alternet: When Prostitution Wasn't a Crime: The Fascinating History of Sex Work in America

Poverty, Squalor, Nuns and NGO's

From CounterPunch
As both a non-Catholic and atheist, I have all the creds I need when it comes to doing a number on the granddaddy of organized religions.  As a non-Catholic, I can mock their rituals, I can deplore their history, I can wail in indignation at their sexual molestation scandals, and I can snicker at the Pope’s hat.
And as an atheist I could fly to the moon on the gas created by Catholicism’s medieval hocus-pocus.  People may smirk all they like at Scientology (a religion invented by a pulp fiction writer), but I think the case can be made that if the Pope and L. Ron Hubbard had a pissing contest over which theology was more outlandish, the Pope would win.
But as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Northern India, who saw firsthand the humanitarian contributions made by the Catholic Church, I shall neither mock nor criticize them.  Indeed, the extent to which Catholic nuns were helping needy Indians was awe-inspiring.
Back then, the big, institutional relief agencies in India—the ones whose motorized vehicles constituted practically the only traffic on India’s rural, one-lane highways—were CARE, UNICEF, the Red Cross, OxFam, and the CRS (Catholic Relief Services).  The Peace Corps had a few, scattered outposts in the region, but their missions were more “project-oriented” (e.g. rural manpower, water wells, poultry, etc.) than “relief-oriented.”
Prior to India I had no experience with any of this stuff.  I was 22 years old.  Although I had heard of CARE, UNICEF, OxFam, et al, I had no idea how they operated.  It took me a while to figure out that, despite being dedicated to their jobs, the thing these guys cared most about was career advancement.
And the more I hung out with them, the more obvious this became.  Mind you, I’m not knocking them.  In their position, I would’ve behaved the same way.  These were educated, youngish Americans and Brits.  They were compassionate.  They were honest, diligent workers.  Most of them were working in fairly hostile environments.  And to their credit, they had chosen a career in charity rather than in high finance.
But they were fanatics when it came to promotions.  When you met them socially, say in a hotel bar in New Delhi, all they did was gossip about who was being transferred, who had left, who had moved up, who was hot, who was cold, and which job openings were considered the plums.  It’s doubtful these same topics were being discussed by Indian nuns.
Two impressive things about the nuns.  First, their mission was located in one of the most remote hell-holes you could imagine.  How they even found this spot was a mystery.  The way I found it was completely by chance.  One morning, with an urge to explore, I drove my Suzuki motor-bike deep into the rural scrub brush, miles from the nearest paved road.  What I found was poverty and squalor.  And nuns.
Second, these women were the happiest, most self-fulfilled people I had ever met.  They were doing God’s work—caring for children, feeding the hungry, ministering to the sick.  Speaking perfect English (they spoke Hindi as well), they told me that they’d been at the mission for many years, but couldn’t recall exactly how many.  And how long do you expect to stay here? I asked (Why on earth would I ask that??).  Until we are called back, they answered serenely.
Oddly, when I returned home, the only people who appreciated my nun stories were other Catholics.  While the Protestants grudgingly credited the nuns with helping the poor, they were quick to point out that these ladies were on a recruiting mission—sent to India to convert Hindus into Catholics.  So before we start handing out accolades, they said, we need to remember that these sharp-eyed nuns had a hidden agenda.
I can still recall how proud this display of inter-denominational bullshit and pettiness made me feel about being a Godless atheist.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bihar, farmers are growing world record amounts of rice – with no GM, and no herbicide

This was not six or even 10 or 20 tonnes. Kumar, a shy young farmer in Nalanda district of India's poorest state Bihar, had – using only farmyard manure and without any herbicides – grown an astonishing 22.4 tonnes of rice on one hectare (2.5 acres)  of land. This was a world record and with rice the staple food of more than half the world's population of seven billion, big news.

That might have been the end of the story had Sumant's friend Nitish not smashed the world record for growing potatoes six months later. Shortly after Ravindra Kumar, a small farmer from a nearby Bihari village, broke the Indian record for growing wheat. Darveshpura became known as India's "miracle village", Nalanda became famous and teams of scientists, development groups, farmers, civil servants and politicians all descended to discover its secret.

The reason for the "super yields" is entirely down to a method of growing crops called System of Rice (or root) Intensification (SRI). It has dramatically increased yields with wheat, potatoes, sugar cane, yams, tomatoes, garlic, aubergine and many other crops and is being hailed as one of the most significant developments of the past 50 years for the world's 500 million small-scale farmers and the two billion people who depend on them.

Instead of planting three-week-old rice seedlings in clumps of three or four in waterlogged fields, as rice farmers around the world traditionally do, the Darveshpura farmers carefully nurture only half as many seeds, and then transplant the young plants into fields, one by one, when much younger. Additionally, they space them at 25cm intervals in a grid pattern, keep the soil much drier and carefully weed around the plants to allow air to their roots. 

SRI's origins go back to the 1980s in Madagascar where Henri de Laulanie, a French Jesuit priest and agronomist, observed how villagers grew rice in the uplands. He developed the method but it was an American, professor Norman Uphoff, director of the International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development at Cornell University, who was largely responsible for spreading the word about De Laulanie's work.
Given $15m by an anonymous billionaire to research sustainable development, Uphoff went to Madagascar in 1983 and saw the success of SRI for himself: farmers whose previous yields averaged two tonnes per hectare were harvesting eight tonnes. In 1997 he started to actively promote SRI in Asia, where more than 600 million people are malnourished.

From the Guardian

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reminisces of the 70's: Science Fiction and the Colombo Libraries

Read a lot of SciFi between the ages of 10 onwards. Started with the W. E. Johns (the author of Biggles)  Science Fiction series writtten in the 50's. I didnt own a single book of the series and read pretty much the whole series from the British Council.  Then graduated to authors like John Wyndham.

At that time (late 60's and early 70's) the British Council was at the house/building adjoining the Colombo Swimming Club in Colpetty.  The British Council allowed 3 books and once one became teenager, two magazines/periodicals as well.

The US Embassy and the now abandoned British High Commission were non existent. The site of the current US Embassy was a school, mixed but may not have been Govt.  I think it was like Althea, catering to an English medium school population. I used to travel by train from Koralawella, Moratuwa get off at Colpetty,  walk through the school to the Galle Road and then to British Council.  The site of the old British High Commission was walled around, and the wall facing the Galle Road had a pavement second hand bookshop, quite similar to the ones still around at McCallums Road, Maradana.  Bambalapitya and Wellawatte also had similar second hand pavement bookshops. I still remember the name of one of the bookshops in Wellawatte, Chinthaka which was the owners name.

Alexandre Dumas
My father who had made me a member of the British Council was also an avid browser at the second hand bookshops.  I recall he bought  Wilkie Collins (contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens)  Woman in White and  Moonstone  (considered to be one of the first English detective novels)from these second hand bookshops for himself and which I read as well a few years later.  Some of the other books I recall my father bought me was the Alexandare Dumas's Three Musketeers and the Man In the Iron Mask .  Eventually got the complete D'Artagnan series. At one point I got a brand new Black Tulip for one of my birthdays and my father already had The Count of Monte Cristo. 

Alexandre Dumas was one of the many personalities of fame whom many were unaware of their Black/African heritage.  Alexandre Dumas's grand mother was a slave in Haiti. 

Another famous personality was Paul Robeson of Swing Low Sweet Chariot fame, a favorite singer that my mother and father liked. Unhappily many African Americans are completely unaware of of the pioneering achievements  of Paul Robeson.  Varsity and NFL Football Player (Rutgers and NFL's Milwaukee Badgers) , Lawyer,  Actor and Social Activist.
Paul Robeson
The American Center at that time was at the Galle Face center.  Walked from the British Council and asked to be a member. Apparently I was still not of age (early 70's).  Maybe that day or another visit was able to  listen to records.  Does not seem a big deal this day and age. We did not have a record player at home, and even those who had did not have the latest and greatest (or at least the people we knew).   

Even with all the reading, I was still a "Godaya" who had no knowledge of what to listen. The Library Assistant an older gent (he was there in the Flower Road Center too) just had this supercilious attitude when I didnt even know what to records to request. He picked out two record to play which I still remember Osi Bisa  and Chicago . Every week I went to listen to records.  Listened to The Temptations

OsiBisa Album Cover of Woyaya
I was hooked, still recall the "Criss Cross Rythms" of Osi Bisa's.  Here is a link to the Survival track and you can hear the similarity of of the horn section (trumpet section) to Chicago exemplified in the 25 or 6 to 4 track or the Tower of Power track with Santana in 1977Dance the Body Music (1976) was much later and I probably listened to it at the Flower Road, American Center (no video).

OsiBisa had great Psychedelic album covers too.  The first two albums had artwork (and logo) by famed rock artist Roger Dean (before he became famous for his artwork), depicting flying elephants which became the symbol for the band.

Update: Looks like Osibisa is quite the PC musical group, playing Raghupati Ragava Raja Ram ( Ishvar Allah tero naam)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ritual Piercing at Paniaddi Temple (Noracholai, Kalpitiya)

Body Piercing Ritual called Kavadi (or Kaavadi) at a Hindu Kovil (I think Kali Amman) at Paniaddi near Noracholai (Kalpitiya Road)I was fascinated and amazed at the ecstasy and joy clearly visible in the devotee. (The property for this Kovil was donated by a long time friend's father, a Sinhalese Methodist who owned the ancestral coconut property Dostorawatte)

See wiki on Body Piercing for Background Info
Couple of Links to other Body Piercing Rituals
Thailands Vegetarian Festival
Thaipusam in Singapore
Passing Thought:
I read somewhere "You'll find more shockingly pierced people at any random heavy metal concert"

East Asian Small Breasts Linked to 35,000-Year-Old DNA Mutation

Here are the excerpts from the NY Times article
The traits — thicker hair shafts, more sweat glands, characteristically identified teeth and smaller breasts — are the result of a gene mutation that occurred about 35,000 years ago, the researchers have concluded. 

The discovery explains a crucial juncture in the evolution of East Asians. But the method can also be applied to some 400 other sites on the human genome. The DNA changes at these sites, researchers believe, mark the turning points in recent human evolution as the populations on each continent diverged from one another. 
The first of those sites to be studied contains the gene known as EDAR. Africans and Europeans carry the standard version of the gene, but in most East Asians, one of the DNA units has mutated.
Mice already have EDAR, an ancient mammalian gene that plays a leading role in the embryo in shaping hair, skin and teeth. The Broad team engineered a strain of mice whose EDAR gene had the same DNA change as the East Asian version of EDAR. When the mice grew up, the researchers found they did indeed have thicker hair shafts, confirming that the changed gene was the cause of East Asians’ thicker hair. 

A series of selections on different traits thus made the variant version so common among East Asians. About 93 percent of Han Chinese carry the variant, as do about 70 percent of people in Japan and Thailand, and 60 to 90 percent of American Indians, a population descended from East Asians
Journal Reference:
Yana G. Kamberov, Sijia Wang, Jingze Tan, Pascale Gerbault, Abigail Wark, Longzhi Tan, Yajun Yang, Shilin Li, Kun Tang, Hua Chen et al. Modeling Recent Human Evolution in Mice by Expression of a Selected EDAR Variant. Cell, 14 February 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.01.016

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gibson Bateman: Prolific Author on Sri Lanka Human Rights Issues

On and off you find these prolific apparently objective unbiased authors who write "scholarly" articles on controversial subjects such as Sri Lanka's Economy and Human Rights.

Arjuna Sivanathan was one such predicting the dire straits and collapse of the Sri Lankan economy. His pronouncements were given quite a good hearing based on his PhD and Masters in economics from the University of Glasgow and experience Trading Corporate and Sovereign bonds and credit derivatives.  Then it turned out Arjuna no longer worked in Investment Banking and was also a Executive member British Tamil Conservatives and had called for "Sri Lanka must be subject to a regime of punitive economic sanctions".  Suddenly his unbiased "scholarly" predictions were in question.

New on the scene is Gibson Bateman who focuses on Sri Lankan Human Rights issues with many "scholarly" articles in the International Policy DigestForeign Policy Journal and GroundViews (Clicking on the links will list the articles. Foreign Policy Journal calls them "stories")

Gibson Bateman's has written 15 articles over a period of 14 months (Oct 2011 to Dec 2012) makes one starts to wonder what motivates the man to this prolific authorship.

So, lets start with what we know.  According to Gibson Bateman's LinkedIn profile he is a former Peace Corps volunteer (2001-2003) and a Independent Management Consulting Professional.  The blurb heading his articles is that
Gibson Bateman is an International Consultant based in New York City. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Bateman has worked for leading NGOs in Latin America, Africa and South Asia.
 All well and good and impressive. However this does not answer the question what motivates Gibson Bateman to write 15 articles over a 14 month period and also visit Sri Lanka on a Tourist Visa from April 2012 to Jan 2013 (see these articles; Immigration Anxiety and Dengue Fever).  To put it more crudely where is the money.

The International Policy Digest and Foreign Policy Journal are online Journals that accept unsolicited submissions, are not peer reviewed and no compensation provided.  So, these two publications are not really Main Stream Media (MSM) where you get paid for your journalistic efforts. Neither are they peer reviewed Journal.  Truth be told International Policy Digest and Foreign Policy Journal are no different from GroundViews (but fancier names and US based) or a blog with multiple authors (but fancier website).

Now we know that Gibson Bateman is very busy writing for a blog that calls itself a journal and provides no compensation.  Real peer reviewed journal articles requires you to provide funding sources.  International Policy Digest and Foreign Policy Journal are no better than glorified blog and requires no such disclosure.

So how does Gibson Bateman fund his writing and travel to Sri Lanka. I doubt Gibson is going to give us full or for that matter partial disclosure. Given the tenor of Gibson Bateman's articles I am sure your suspicions are no different from mine.

I guess its a case of "Reader Beware" and "Beware of False Prophets".

Monday, February 4, 2013

Saudi preacher tortures 5 yr old daughter and Walks free

You just wonder why Rizana Nafeek deserved to be executed.

Public anger has gripped Saudi Arabia after a prominent preacher Fayhan Ghamdi, who raped and beat to death his 5-year-old daughter was sentenced to a few months in jail and a $50,000 fine – known as 'blood money' – to compensate the victim's relatives.
­According to Islamic law, the 'blood money' can be paid in lieu of the death penalty. The preacher's fine was reportedly half the usual amount because the victim was a girl.
Saudi preacher Fayhan Ghamdi, a frequent guest on Muslim TV networks, confessed to using cables and a cane to inflict the injuries, AFP reported, quoting activists from the group ‘Women to Drive.’
Ghamdi reportedly doubted that his 5 year old daughter, Lama Ghamdi, was a virgin, and forced her to undergo a medical inspection.
In December 2011, Lama was admitted to hospital with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, and extensive bruising and burns, according to the activist group. Hospital worker Randa Kaleeb said that the girl's back was broken, and that she had been raped "everywhere."
­The hospital told the victim's mother that her child's “rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed,” AFP reported on Saturday.
Lama al-Ghamdi (Screenshot from incident sparked public anger in Saudi Arabia, prompting an online Twitter campaign calling for more severe punishment for violence against women and children. The 'Women to Drive' campaign, launched by women's rights activist Manal Sharif, has demanded the creation of legislation that would criminalize violence against women and children.
The petition is circulating on Twitter under the hashtag 'Ana Lama' – "I am Lama" in Arabic.
The issue has gained widespread traction in Saudi Arabia, and authorities promised to set up a 24-hour hotline that will take calls regarding child abuse.

When she asked her former husband at the hospital why he tortured Lamaa, he replied with a “chuckle only.”

Activists say under Islamic laws a father cannot be executed for murdering his children. Husbands can also not be executed for murdering their wives, the group say.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

India Diesel prices to be hiked 40-50 paise (approx LKR 1,00) every month

Will Sri Lanka follow as well
NEW DELHI: Diesel prices will be hiked by 40-50 paise per litre every month till losses on the nation's most used fuel are completely wiped out, oil minister M Veerappa Moily said today.

"Until further orders, oil marketing companies can increase it (diesel price) by 40-50 paise (per litre) every month," he told reporters here.

The government had on January 17 decided to move towards deregulating or freeing diesel prices from state control and gave powers to state-owned oil firms to raise prices in small measures every month till all of their losses are wiped out.

More at:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Extremes: Rizana Nafeek executed: Tangalle Tourist murderers Free

Some times you wonder if the world is going crazy.

Rizana Nafeek gets executed for an accidental death.

In Sri Lanka the Tangalle murderers of a British Tourist and rapists of his girlfriend are still to be given a verdict and are roaming free on bail.

Saudi Sergeant Rapes boy, 13 in Las Vegas

What bets this guy gets extradited to Saudi Arabia and given a slap on the wrist.
Also this has not been reported on the major news channels such as NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times or even the New York Post.
See also the Khamis Mushayt Girl who killed the person who was raping her being sentenced to be executed. She was later pardoned and given SR 500,000 as compensation.
Not quite the same justice for Rizana Nafeek.
The defense lawyer said that if sex took place, it was consensual.
Prosecutors say that even if the boy wanted to have sex, Nevada state law says a child under age 16 cannot give consent.
Alotaibi told police he was drinking Hennessy all night and was drunk when he met the boy. He first denied allegations, but later admitted to raping the teen after he refused to have sex with him for money.
The report stated that the 23-year-old Saudi national told investigators that he had the boy perform oral sex on him 'for just a couple of seconds,' and then 'accidentally' raped him.

Saudi Arabia operates under Sharia, or Islamic law, and punishes homosexuality, or sodomy, with sentences of corporal and capital punishment.
Saudi law also bans the consumption of alcohol. Those found guilty of drinking liquor could face anything from several weeks to several months in jail. 

Read more: