Content about Technology

April 23, 2014

Contact: Matthew Gardner TMOA Public Relations
(877) 726-­‐0412
public.relations@iqou-­‐moa.org

 

(April 23, 2014, Binghamton, NY) – Today, a federal judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by The Muslims of America, Inc. against Islamophobes Martin Mawyer, Patti Pierucci and their hate organization, the Christian Action Network. In a 12-­‐page decision, Senior Judge Thomas J. McAvoy ruled that The Muslims of America, Inc., does not have the technical ability to sue on behalf of Muslims of the Americas, Inc., which was dissolved as a legal entity in 2013. The defendant also sought for the Plaintiff’s attorneys to be sanctioned by paying more than one hundred thousand dollars in legal fees-­‐ Judge McAvoy denied the motion.

The plaintiff acknowledges that this is a procedural issue that resulted in the case being dismissed. The plaintiff emphatically states that this is not a “victory” for the defendants, but is merely a procedural defect that the plaintiff believes can be easily cured. The Muslims of America is exploring all legal options with respect to this recent development. 

The Muslims of America have stated that the fight is not over by any means when Martin Mawyer and the Christian Action Network are committed to harming Muslims by spreading lies, fear and hatred. Thus, The Muslims of America is committed to countering the bigotry and will continue to pursue legal action against these individuals for as long as their actions are contrary to the law.

                                                                  ‐End-

December 11, 2013

A specter is haunting Israel; it’s the specter of democracy. In Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, the American journalist Max Blumenthal holds up a mirror to Israeli society and reveals the specter of a failed democracy now hurtling toward fascism.

In 73 chapters and 410 pages, Blumenthal documents the racism that pervades Israeli society and institutions and traces its origins to the Zionist movement’s settler-colonial project to create an ethnocratic state bent on excluding and dispossessing the indigenous Palestinian population. Others have done this before, but several things make Blumenthal’s book unique.

Based on four years of research, much of it spent in Israel and the occupied West Bank, Goliath may be the most comprehensive survey yet of contemporary Israeli society and politics. At the same time, its ability to link the past to the present shows a continuum of racism and authoritarianism throughout Israel’s history.

Unlike some critiques that focus mainly, if not exclusively, on the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Blumenthal confronts the Nakba — the forced displacement of Palestinians before Israel’s establishment in 1948 — to illustrate liberal Zionism’s hypocrisy. He excoriates its embrace of the two-state solution as a means of preserving Jewish supremacy and avoiding the “demographic nightmare” of Palestinian babies.

Moreover, Blumenthal provides a profile of Palestinian activists and legislators and an emerging anti-Zionist, Jewish Israeli left that is rarely, if ever, found in the mainstream corporate media.

Blumenthal tells his story in vignettes that detail just how openly racist Israel has become. These stories underscore the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, not just in the West Bank and Gaza but also within Israel itself, showing the growing popularity of the far right with its hate-mongering rhetoric aimed not just at Palestinians but also asylum-seeking Africans.

 

 

December 11, 2013

A specter is haunting Israel; it’s the specter of democracy. In Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, the American journalist Max Blumenthal holds up a mirror to Israeli society and reveals the specter of a failed democracy now hurtling toward fascism.

In 73 chapters and 410 pages, Blumenthal documents the racism that pervades Israeli society and institutions and traces its origins to the Zionist movement’s settler-colonial project to create an ethnocratic state bent on excluding and dispossessing the indigenous Palestinian population. Others have done this before, but several things make Blumenthal’s book unique.

Based on four years of research, much of it spent in Israel and the occupied West Bank, Goliath may be the most comprehensive survey yet of contemporary Israeli society and politics. At the same time, its ability to link the past to the present shows a continuum of racism and authoritarianism throughout Israel’s history.

Unlike some critiques that focus mainly, if not exclusively, on the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Blumenthal confronts the Nakba — the forced displacement of Palestinians before Israel’s establishment in 1948 — to illustrate liberal Zionism’s hypocrisy. He excoriates its embrace of the two-state solution as a means of preserving Jewish supremacy and avoiding the “demographic nightmare” of Palestinian babies.

Moreover, Blumenthal provides a profile of Palestinian activists and legislators and an emerging anti-Zionist, Jewish Israeli left that is rarely, if ever, found in the mainstream corporate media.

Blumenthal tells his story in vignettes that detail just how openly racist Israel has become. These stories underscore the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians, not just in the West Bank and Gaza but also within Israel itself, showing the growing popularity of the far right with its hate-mongering rhetoric aimed not just at Palestinians but also asylum-seeking Africans.

 

 

November 16, 2013

Ankara - Symbolizing the emerging trend of rejuvenation of the letter and spirit of Islam in practice, four Turkish Members of Parliament, who happen to be Muslim ladies, broke a decades-old veil ban by wearing their headscarves to work.

The ladies’ entrance into Turkey's parliament chambers in Ankara began their term in office, marking an end to the early 1920s ban on the Muslim symbol of female modesty imposed in the early days of the Turkish Republic, when secularist dictator Kemal Ataturk sought to transform Turkey into a progressive and prosperous nation by removing religious practice and effects from outward public expression.

The symbolic action highlights an emerging trend in Turkey where the issue of headscarves remains highly sensitive, as it is viewed by secularists as a sign of political Islam in stark contrast to the republic's strongly secular traditions, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

The four Members of Parliament (MP)  - Sevde Beyazit Kacar, Gulay Samanci, Nurcan Dalbudak and Gonul Bekin Sahkulubey are members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has [religious] roots and has gained a strong following in this nation of 74 million.

The main secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which had previously said it would contest any parliamentarians seeking to wear headscarves in the chamber, did not officially respond to the move, reported Reuters, mentioning that a few of its members did jeer as the four women entered the assembly, while another wore a T-shirt depicting the face of the Turkish Republic's secular founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who also founded the CHP.

Other fellow members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) greeted the four female lawmakers with hugs and kisses when they entered the chamber.

November 16, 2013

Ankara - Symbolizing the emerging trend of rejuvenation of the letter and spirit of Islam in practice, four Turkish Members of Parliament, who happen to be Muslim ladies, broke a decades-old veil ban by wearing their headscarves to work.

The ladies’ entrance into Turkey's parliament chambers in Ankara began their term in office, marking an end to the early 1920s ban on the Muslim symbol of female modesty imposed in the early days of the Turkish Republic, when secularist dictator Kemal Ataturk sought to transform Turkey into a progressive and prosperous nation by removing religious practice and effects from outward public expression.

The symbolic action highlights an emerging trend in Turkey where the issue of headscarves remains highly sensitive, as it is viewed by secularists as a sign of political Islam in stark contrast to the republic's strongly secular traditions, reported Agence France Presse (AFP).

The four Members of Parliament (MP)  - Sevde Beyazit Kacar, Gulay Samanci, Nurcan Dalbudak and Gonul Bekin Sahkulubey are members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has [religious] roots and has gained a strong following in this nation of 74 million.

The main secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which had previously said it would contest any parliamentarians seeking to wear headscarves in the chamber, did not officially respond to the move, reported Reuters, mentioning that a few of its members did jeer as the four women entered the assembly, while another wore a T-shirt depicting the face of the Turkish Republic's secular founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who also founded the CHP.

Other fellow members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) greeted the four female lawmakers with hugs and kisses when they entered the chamber.

November 16, 2013

Germany authorities are ready to deport several US diplomats if the information that they wiretapped on phone calls is confirmed, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has claimed. “It’s quite clear that if US embassy or other agencies employees are involved in the case, they will be punished. Speaking of diplomats, they will be deported,” Friedrich said in an interview to the ARD,  Allgemeine Rundfunk Deutschland news network in Berlin, Germany. Voice of Russia also reported that Washington still didn’t have answers to many questions Germany had asked the US in relation to the scandal.

The Jurist website stated that  Germany and Brazil have proposed a draft resolution within the UN General Assembly calling for member states to take measures to put an end to "gross invasions of privacy" such as excessive electronic surveillance and data collection. Although the resolution does not specifically indicate any countries, recent events such as allegations that the National Security Agency (NSA)has spied on more than 60 million phone calls made in Spain indicate that the resolution is directed at the US and its various surveillance programs.

According to European media reports, the US NSA eavesdropped on phone calls of 28 EU countries representatives, including Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. American secret services also spied on these countries’ embassies in Washington, the UK Guardian newspaper says. Earlier this month, German Der Spiegel magazine reported that US intelligence had allegedly tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. The complete outrage of the Germans has manifested in discussions about requesting Edward Snowden to verify the allegations of the German chancellor’s mobile phone surveillance in a Guardian UK news report:

“ The justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: "If the allegations build up and lead to an investigation, one could think about calling in Snowden as a witness."

Thomas Oppermann, of the Social Democrats, said: "Snowden's claims appear to be credible, while the US government has blatantly lied to us on this matter. That's why Snowden could be an important witness, also in clearing up the surveillance of the chancellor's mobile."

November 16, 2013

Germany authorities are ready to deport several US diplomats if the information that they wiretapped on phone calls is confirmed, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has claimed. “It’s quite clear that if US embassy or other agencies employees are involved in the case, they will be punished. Speaking of diplomats, they will be deported,” Friedrich said in an interview to the ARD,  Allgemeine Rundfunk Deutschland news network in Berlin, Germany. Voice of Russia also reported that Washington still didn’t have answers to many questions Germany had asked the US in relation to the scandal.

The Jurist website stated that  Germany and Brazil have proposed a draft resolution within the UN General Assembly calling for member states to take measures to put an end to "gross invasions of privacy" such as excessive electronic surveillance and data collection. Although the resolution does not specifically indicate any countries, recent events such as allegations that the National Security Agency (NSA)has spied on more than 60 million phone calls made in Spain indicate that the resolution is directed at the US and its various surveillance programs.

According to European media reports, the US NSA eavesdropped on phone calls of 28 EU countries representatives, including Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. American secret services also spied on these countries’ embassies in Washington, the UK Guardian newspaper says. Earlier this month, German Der Spiegel magazine reported that US intelligence had allegedly tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. The complete outrage of the Germans has manifested in discussions about requesting Edward Snowden to verify the allegations of the German chancellor’s mobile phone surveillance in a Guardian UK news report:

“ The justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: "If the allegations build up and lead to an investigation, one could think about calling in Snowden as a witness."

Thomas Oppermann, of the Social Democrats, said: "Snowden's claims appear to be credible, while the US government has blatantly lied to us on this matter. That's why Snowden could be an important witness, also in clearing up the surveillance of the chancellor's mobile."

November 12, 2013

Introduction

Since my childhood, each year on the 11th of Rabi us Sani, I have been attending the proceedings of the anniversary of the passing of Hazrat Ghaus E Azam Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani (Jilani), Rehmat Ullah Alayh (Mercy of Allah be on him), the Sultan of Awliya*, ( friends of The Almighty) the ‘Royal Falcon’ of the mystic way.  The proceedings invariably commenced with Tilawat (recitation of the Holy Qur’an), recitation of Durood Sharief (an invocation asking blessing of Allah upon the Holy Last Messenger) and few naats in the praise of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) held in the courtyard of our house.

My late grandfather often presided and before offering Fatiha (the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an), some learned elders would narrate a few events of the life and teachings of the Sultan of Awalia, .  Later, food and alms were distributed among the poor.  

After the death of my grandfather, my mother continued to offer Fatiha with depth and fervor of her devotion. The ladies enclosure was always separate.  I am proud to be a Gilani (Jilani) - a descendant of the Sultan of Awalia, Rehmat Ullah Alayh.  I have studied many books about his life, teachings, visits to various places, homage paid to him by great Awalia, and his charismatic miracles - karamat, whereas, only Messengers of Allah had been blessed with miracles - Mujizats.

Often, even well-read people (friends and colleagues etc.) would ask the difference between Jilani and Gilani.  The real name is Gilani.  In Arabic ‘G’ (Gaff) is inserted with (Jeem); therefore in the Arabic speaking world it is called Jilani.  The Sultan of Awalia was born in Gilan, a province situated in the south of Caspian Sea - Iran.

In this article, effort has been made to narrate, briefly, the following salient events pertaining to the fascinating personality of the Sultan of Awalia, Hazrat Ghaus E Azam, Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, Rehmat Ullah Alah.

    1.   Parentage

    2.   Birth

    3.   Journey to Baghdad

    4.   Spiritual Guides

    5.   Homage by the great Awalia

    6.   Teaching

    7.   Karamat

    8.   Traits and Habits

    9.   Passing away

   10.   Reality of Giarhavin Sherief

Parentage

Hazrat Abu Salih Jani Dost, father of Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, was descendant in the direct line of Hazrat Imam Hassan (11th in line), mercy of Allah be on them.  His mother, Syeda Fatima Ummul Khair, was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hussain.  He is therefore, Hassani and Hussaini and progeny of the Holy Last Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.

Sheikh Abdullah Sumi was the maternal grandfather of Ghaus E Azam, and an accomplished awalia and prominent for his piety, who lived in Gilan.  Hazrat Abu Salih was a native of Naif in the district of Gilan, south of the Caspian Sea.  He was a God-fearing, seeker of truth and fond of fighting against the infidels.  He was a man of courage and would not hesitate to publicly condemn the wrongdoings of even the Caliph in power.  One day he saw a few servants of the Caliph carrying pitchers full of wine on their heads.  He broke all the pitchers, but no one dared to intervene on account of his extreme respect in the society.  He was summoned in the court and when asked by the Caliph as to why he had broken the pitchers, he replied, “I am Muntasib, it is my duty to execute Divine laws.”  The Caliph asked, “who appointed you Muntasib?” Abu Salih boldly replied “The Lord who appointed you Caliph, taking pity on you and liberated you from humiliation in the world and hell fire. I broke the pitchers!”  The Caliph immediately appointed him as the Muntasib and from that day he was called “Jangi Dost”.

One day, while sitting on the bank of a river in the pursuit of Divine light, he saw an apple floating down the current.  He had not taken any thing for several days, he picked the apple up and ate it, but immediately his conscience pricked as he had eaten the apple without permission of the owner.  He got up and walked up stream in order to trace the owner of the apple.  He reached an orchard where he saw apple trees hanging over the river.  He deducted that the apple he had eaten must have fallen from the same tree.  His inquiry took him to Hazrat Abdullah Sumi and begged his forgiveness for having eaten the apple without his permission.  During conversation it was revealed that the boy was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hassan and perceived that he was extraordinarily virtuous and a seeker of truth.  He said, “I am ready to forgive if you agree to work in my orchard for twelve years.”

The young man accepted the condition.  After the completion of the period, he asked for permission to leave.  Hazrat Sumi said, “I shall forgive you, but you will have to marry my daughter who is blind, deaf, dumb and crippled.”  The young man agreed and the marriage took place.  At night when he entered the chamber of the bride, he was surprised to see an extremely beautiful and flawless lady, having no sign of disability on her.  In confusion, he left the chamber thinking that he had entered the wrong chamber.  The next morning he went to see Hazrat Sumi.  Upon seeing him, Hazrat Sumi understood this man’s predicament regarding his bride.  He called him, and explained to him the reasons behind his claims.  Hazrat Sumi stated that “my daughter was blind because she had never seen any man with whom she could be married; she was deaf because she had never paid any attention to falsehood; she was told to be paralytic because she had never touched any unlawful thing; she was told to be lame as she had never stepped towards any unjust act.  Hearing Hazrat Sumi, Syed Hazrat Abu Salih Jangi Dost felt spiritually enlightened.  Her name was Ummul Fatima.

Birth

It is said that Hazrat Abu Salih saw the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) at the night of Ghaus E Azam’s birth in a dream, along with the companions present in his house.  The Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O Abu Salih! Allah has bestowed a son to you who is my son.  His rank amongst the Awalia is like that of mine amongst the Messengers.”  The night in which Ghaus E Azam was born, all the women of Jilan gave birth to eleven hundred males, all of whom turned Awalia.  In the middle of his shoulders a sign of the footprint of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was visible.  He was born during 470 AH (1077-78 C.E.), in the holy month of Ramadan and according to his illustrious mother, never sucked during fasting hours.

According to some eminent Awalia like Imam Hassan Askari, Hazrat Junayed Baghdadi, Hazrat Mansur Bathie, Sheikh Abu Bakr Bin Harrar, Sheikh Mohammad Shambky and some others, had predicted the advent of Hazrat Abdul Qadir Gilani during the fifth century B.H.(before Hijrah) who would be the chief of all the Qutbs, spiritual polestars or axises of the world.  His foot would be on the neck of all the foremost and later Awalia, meaning his rank would be the highest amongst all the Awalia.

At the age of one year, his father returned to Allah, therefore his basic religious education was imparted under the care of his mother and maternal grandfather Hazrat Sumi, who showered all the love, affection and spiritual blessings on him.  But when Hazrat Sumi did returned to Allah, he was left alone with his mother.  When he was five years old, his mother sent him to a local school in Jilan, where he completed his basic education in religious sciences.  Allah had endowed him with extraordinary brilliance, insight, a refined disposition and excellent memory.  He memorized the Holy Qur’an at a very young age at his native school in Jilan.

Journey to Baghdad

The thirst for knowledge was raging in his heart.  He requested his mother to allow him to go to Baghdad, which in those days was  world famous as a center of learning for higher education.  The aged mother - according to historians she was 60 years old when she had given birth to Abdul Qadir, which is considered past the child bearing age - with a heavy heart, tears in her eyes and broken voice, accorded permission to her son to embark upon the journey for higher studies.  His mother advised him to observe strictly the following instructions:

1.   Always speak the truth come what may.

2.   Obey Almighty’s Commands.

3.   Abstain from unlawful and forbidden acts.

4.   Always be pleased with the Divine Decree.

His mother had at that moment 80 dinars left by her husband for Abdul Qadir and his brother.  Abdul Qadir took 40 Dinars and left 40 for his brother.  His mother sewed 40 dinars into the armpit of his garment and with trembling hands she embraced her son and kissed his forehead and said, “I entrust you in the protection of the Great Protector who will protect you.  I separate myself from that which is dearest to me for Allah’s Sake.”

Abdul Qadir joined a trading caravan destined for Baghdad.  But near Hamdan, a band of 60 robbers attacked the caravan, looted their belongings, money and whatever they had been carrying.  No one came near the Ghaus E Azam, thinking that the boy was penniless.  One robber asked him if he had anything.  The boy gave a fearless answer that he had 40 dinars sewed into his garment, but the robber thought it to be a joke.  A few more robbers came and enquired but Ghaus E Azam gave them the same reply.  They reported the matter to their chief named Ahmad Alafi, who summoned the boy, who gave the same reply and indicated the place where the 40 dinars had been sewn.  The garment was cut open and the dinars were found.  All the robbers were amazed at the courage and truthfulness of the young boy.  The chief asked what made him tell the truth.  The young boy replied, “My mother had advised me to speak the truth whatever circumstances confront me.  I cannot disobey her advice.”  This reply shocked the chief so that tears came into his eyes.  He said, “You have not disobeyed your mother, but I have been breaking the commands of Allah all my life.”  He instantly vowed to give up banditry, returned all the belongings to the travelers and all of them became true Muslims.  This incident is clear karamat of Ghaus E Azam at the school-going age.  

After traveling nearly 400 miles of dangerous journey, he reached Baghdad during 488 AH (1098 C.E.).  It was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate and a great centre for learning.  Here he was a complete stranger, left with a small amount of money that was utterly insufficient to meet his needs.  The state was not paying any grants to the institutions, therefore every student had to make personal effort to earn his living and bear the expenses for his education.  For higher education at Jamia he experienced unending hardship.  He had no money for his needs.  He never stretched his hand to anyone for help.  During bitter hardships he would be on the ground facing the heaven and recited.  “So verily with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.”

By reciting the above verse his sufferings would diminish.  As a student of Fiqh, Islamic Jurisprudence,  he often went to a jungle, for hours walked on thorny and stony ground to test his determination.  He used to eat the vegetables grown on the bank of the river Tigris.

Once the fellow students urged him to go with them to see a great scholar Sharif Yaqoobi.  The nobleman cast a spiritual glance at him.  His eyes revealed to him the personality of Ghaus E Azam.  He said, “Seekers of truth and pious people never beg, they do not stretch hands before anyone.  You are specially graced and favored by the Most Gracious!”  These words left a deep impact and he immediately withdrew from the company of other students who had gone to collect charity from a rich landlord.  Also, he never allowed his students to beg from others.

While roaming into deserted area, he saw the ruins of old palaces where he found seventy Divinely guided persons hungry and searching for something to eat.  Without disturbing them, he returned to Baghdad.  On the way, he met a stranger who belonged to this area who gave him a piece of gold saying that his mother had sent this for him.  He immediately went back to the ruins, kept a small sum for himself and distributed the rest amongst the hungry awalia.

Weeks and weeks passed and Ghaus E Azam would stay in deserted areas for studying his lessons.  During the famine in Baghdad he was hungry and penniless, in this state he went to the River Tigris to pick up some vegetables thrown as garbage by the people.  He found many people there, searching for food but he did not interfere in their search and came back to Baghdad in extreme hunger and entered a mosque and sat in a corner.  In the meantime, a young man entered carrying bread and roasted meat and started eating.  On seeing the weak condition of Ghaus E Azam, the man offered him to take some food, but he refused the offer.  The stranger however persisted for him to accept his offer.  During conversation, Ghaus E Azam disclosed his identity.  The young man became perturbed.  He said, “Your mother had given me eight dinars to hand over to you, but for a number of days I could not trace you.  During this period, my money was spent, as I had no food for two days and to save my life I bought food with your money.  I am sorry and seek your forgiveness.  This is your food and the balance of your money.”  On hearing his explanation, Ghaus E Azam consoled him, pardoned him, kept two dinars for himself and advised the stranger to keep the balance to meet expenses of the journey and food.

Spiritual Guides

During his stay in Baghdad, the Ghaus E Azam used to see the awalia and holy men in order to gain Divine knowledge and blessings of their company.  He met Hazrat Hammad Al-Dabbas, who recognized Ghaus E Azam and cast a glance of love and affection, which created unbreakable spiritual light in him.  Sheikh Hammad was always kind to discuss mystical problems and solutions.

Soon, the Ghaus E Azam got admission for higher education at some prestigious institutions.  He got admission to the Jamiah of Sheikh Abu Saeed Mubarik Bin Ali Makhzoomi in  Baghdad.  There were several eminent scholars in this school.  He had already memorized the Holy Qur’an.  He studied Fiqh (Islamic Laws),  Tafseer (Hadith) under Abu Qasim Ali and Abu Zakariya Yahya Tabrizi, Principal of Jamiah Nizamia and writer of many books.  There were 14 other eminent scholars under whom he had studied.

At the time of his graduation from the Jamiah, the certificate included the following citation:

“Oh Abdul Qadir, we hereby confer upon you the degree in all kinds of knowledge acquired by you.  You are a genius and your capability of understanding the subject was so excellent that on several occasions we ourselves were benefitted by your interpretation of Hadith.”

He had taken nine years from 488 AH to 496 AH at the Jamiah of Abu Saeed to complete university education.  Abu Saeed appointed him as a teacher in his Jamiah and finally handed over the institution to his care before his death in 513 AAH.

He had great respect for all the great Muslim jurists.  He was made guardian of the tomb of Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa (mercy of Allah be on him) for some time.  For him it had become a daily routine to issue fatwas, rulings on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority.  There used to be several clerks to deal with his work as day after day he received legal questions from all parts of the Muslim world.  All the famous scholars and jurists would wonder at the speed and ease by which Ghaus E Azam would give his decisions in the legal matters.

Various Titles of The Ghaus E Azam

His name is Abdul Qadir, his nickname is Abu Muhammad.  Later he gained the title of Muhiyuddin, that is,  the reviver of religion.  His other titles are Sultan of Awalia, Hazrat Qutb-Al-Aqtab, Syed Us-Sadat, Qutb-Al-Wajoo, Pir Piran, Mir-Miran, Sheikh Al-Syed Muhiyuddin Samdani, Abu Muhammad Abdul Qadir Jilani, Al Hasani, Wal Hussaini, Al Baghdad.

Note: Bibliography will be mentioned in the end of Part II of the article.

About the Author

Initial schooling was from Military College Jhelum.   Mr. Gilani completed Aeronautical Engineering from the United Kingdom or UK. After on the job training, he was granted Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s License by the Civil Aviation Authority, UK.  Mr. Gilani returned to Pakistan to serve with Pakistan International Airlines also known as PIA, which at that time was one of the best airlines in the world.  After acquiring Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s License, Syed Nokhez Gilani Qadri was busy advancing his professional status and was promoted and transferred as Engineering Manager to Quetta, Pakistan.  He served with PIA for 12 years, then with Emirates International Airline in Dubai.  Mr. Gilani attended and passed professional courses with distinction at Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and General Electric Aero Engine.

* The difference between Awalia (Friends of Allah) and the term ‘Saint’ is that the title Saint has been used by the Pope, as he desires and for whomever he chooses.  The qualities or characteristic of the person are not taken into consideration.  You cannot compare a Wali (Friend of Allah), whom Allah holds in high esteem and carries excellent characteristics, with a Saint.

November 12, 2013

Introduction

Since my childhood, each year on the 11th of Rabi us Sani, I have been attending the proceedings of the anniversary of the passing of Hazrat Ghaus E Azam Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani (Jilani), Rehmat Ullah Alayh (Mercy of Allah be on him), the Sultan of Awliya*, ( friends of The Almighty) the ‘Royal Falcon’ of the mystic way.  The proceedings invariably commenced with Tilawat (recitation of the Holy Qur’an), recitation of Durood Sharief (an invocation asking blessing of Allah upon the Holy Last Messenger) and few naats in the praise of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) held in the courtyard of our house.

My late grandfather often presided and before offering Fatiha (the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an), some learned elders would narrate a few events of the life and teachings of the Sultan of Awalia, .  Later, food and alms were distributed among the poor.  

After the death of my grandfather, my mother continued to offer Fatiha with depth and fervor of her devotion. The ladies enclosure was always separate.  I am proud to be a Gilani (Jilani) - a descendant of the Sultan of Awalia, Rehmat Ullah Alayh.  I have studied many books about his life, teachings, visits to various places, homage paid to him by great Awalia, and his charismatic miracles - karamat, whereas, only Messengers of Allah had been blessed with miracles - Mujizats.

Often, even well-read people (friends and colleagues etc.) would ask the difference between Jilani and Gilani.  The real name is Gilani.  In Arabic ‘G’ (Gaff) is inserted with (Jeem); therefore in the Arabic speaking world it is called Jilani.  The Sultan of Awalia was born in Gilan, a province situated in the south of Caspian Sea - Iran.

In this article, effort has been made to narrate, briefly, the following salient events pertaining to the fascinating personality of the Sultan of Awalia, Hazrat Ghaus E Azam, Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, Rehmat Ullah Alah.

    1.   Parentage

    2.   Birth

    3.   Journey to Baghdad

    4.   Spiritual Guides

    5.   Homage by the great Awalia

    6.   Teaching

    7.   Karamat

    8.   Traits and Habits

    9.   Passing away

   10.   Reality of Giarhavin Sherief

Parentage

Hazrat Abu Salih Jani Dost, father of Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani, was descendant in the direct line of Hazrat Imam Hassan (11th in line), mercy of Allah be on them.  His mother, Syeda Fatima Ummul Khair, was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hussain.  He is therefore, Hassani and Hussaini and progeny of the Holy Last Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.

Sheikh Abdullah Sumi was the maternal grandfather of Ghaus E Azam, and an accomplished awalia and prominent for his piety, who lived in Gilan.  Hazrat Abu Salih was a native of Naif in the district of Gilan, south of the Caspian Sea.  He was a God-fearing, seeker of truth and fond of fighting against the infidels.  He was a man of courage and would not hesitate to publicly condemn the wrongdoings of even the Caliph in power.  One day he saw a few servants of the Caliph carrying pitchers full of wine on their heads.  He broke all the pitchers, but no one dared to intervene on account of his extreme respect in the society.  He was summoned in the court and when asked by the Caliph as to why he had broken the pitchers, he replied, “I am Muntasib, it is my duty to execute Divine laws.”  The Caliph asked, “who appointed you Muntasib?” Abu Salih boldly replied “The Lord who appointed you Caliph, taking pity on you and liberated you from humiliation in the world and hell fire. I broke the pitchers!”  The Caliph immediately appointed him as the Muntasib and from that day he was called “Jangi Dost”.

One day, while sitting on the bank of a river in the pursuit of Divine light, he saw an apple floating down the current.  He had not taken any thing for several days, he picked the apple up and ate it, but immediately his conscience pricked as he had eaten the apple without permission of the owner.  He got up and walked up stream in order to trace the owner of the apple.  He reached an orchard where he saw apple trees hanging over the river.  He deducted that the apple he had eaten must have fallen from the same tree.  His inquiry took him to Hazrat Abdullah Sumi and begged his forgiveness for having eaten the apple without his permission.  During conversation it was revealed that the boy was a descendant of Hazrat Imam Hassan and perceived that he was extraordinarily virtuous and a seeker of truth.  He said, “I am ready to forgive if you agree to work in my orchard for twelve years.”

The young man accepted the condition.  After the completion of the period, he asked for permission to leave.  Hazrat Sumi said, “I shall forgive you, but you will have to marry my daughter who is blind, deaf, dumb and crippled.”  The young man agreed and the marriage took place.  At night when he entered the chamber of the bride, he was surprised to see an extremely beautiful and flawless lady, having no sign of disability on her.  In confusion, he left the chamber thinking that he had entered the wrong chamber.  The next morning he went to see Hazrat Sumi.  Upon seeing him, Hazrat Sumi understood this man’s predicament regarding his bride.  He called him, and explained to him the reasons behind his claims.  Hazrat Sumi stated that “my daughter was blind because she had never seen any man with whom she could be married; she was deaf because she had never paid any attention to falsehood; she was told to be paralytic because she had never touched any unlawful thing; she was told to be lame as she had never stepped towards any unjust act.  Hearing Hazrat Sumi, Syed Hazrat Abu Salih Jangi Dost felt spiritually enlightened.  Her name was Ummul Fatima.

Birth

It is said that Hazrat Abu Salih saw the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessing be upon him) at the night of Ghaus E Azam’s birth in a dream, along with the companions present in his house.  The Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O Abu Salih! Allah has bestowed a son to you who is my son.  His rank amongst the Awalia is like that of mine amongst the Messengers.”  The night in which Ghaus E Azam was born, all the women of Jilan gave birth to eleven hundred males, all of whom turned Awalia.  In the middle of his shoulders a sign of the footprint of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) was visible.  He was born during 470 AH (1077-78 C.E.), in the holy month of Ramadan and according to his illustrious mother, never sucked during fasting hours.

According to some eminent Awalia like Imam Hassan Askari, Hazrat Junayed Baghdadi, Hazrat Mansur Bathie, Sheikh Abu Bakr Bin Harrar, Sheikh Mohammad Shambky and some others, had predicted the advent of Hazrat Abdul Qadir Gilani during the fifth century B.H.(before Hijrah) who would be the chief of all the Qutbs, spiritual polestars or axises of the world.  His foot would be on the neck of all the foremost and later Awalia, meaning his rank would be the highest amongst all the Awalia.

At the age of one year, his father returned to Allah, therefore his basic religious education was imparted under the care of his mother and maternal grandfather Hazrat Sumi, who showered all the love, affection and spiritual blessings on him.  But when Hazrat Sumi did returned to Allah, he was left alone with his mother.  When he was five years old, his mother sent him to a local school in Jilan, where he completed his basic education in religious sciences.  Allah had endowed him with extraordinary brilliance, insight, a refined disposition and excellent memory.  He memorized the Holy Qur’an at a very young age at his native school in Jilan.

Journey to Baghdad

The thirst for knowledge was raging in his heart.  He requested his mother to allow him to go to Baghdad, which in those days was  world famous as a center of learning for higher education.  The aged mother - according to historians she was 60 years old when she had given birth to Abdul Qadir, which is considered past the child bearing age - with a heavy heart, tears in her eyes and broken voice, accorded permission to her son to embark upon the journey for higher studies.  His mother advised him to observe strictly the following instructions:

1.   Always speak the truth come what may.

2.   Obey Almighty’s Commands.

3.   Abstain from unlawful and forbidden acts.

4.   Always be pleased with the Divine Decree.

His mother had at that moment 80 dinars left by her husband for Abdul Qadir and his brother.  Abdul Qadir took 40 Dinars and left 40 for his brother.  His mother sewed 40 dinars into the armpit of his garment and with trembling hands she embraced her son and kissed his forehead and said, “I entrust you in the protection of the Great Protector who will protect you.  I separate myself from that which is dearest to me for Allah’s Sake.”

Abdul Qadir joined a trading caravan destined for Baghdad.  But near Hamdan, a band of 60 robbers attacked the caravan, looted their belongings, money and whatever they had been carrying.  No one came near the Ghaus E Azam, thinking that the boy was penniless.  One robber asked him if he had anything.  The boy gave a fearless answer that he had 40 dinars sewed into his garment, but the robber thought it to be a joke.  A few more robbers came and enquired but Ghaus E Azam gave them the same reply.  They reported the matter to their chief named Ahmad Alafi, who summoned the boy, who gave the same reply and indicated the place where the 40 dinars had been sewn.  The garment was cut open and the dinars were found.  All the robbers were amazed at the courage and truthfulness of the young boy.  The chief asked what made him tell the truth.  The young boy replied, “My mother had advised me to speak the truth whatever circumstances confront me.  I cannot disobey her advice.”  This reply shocked the chief so that tears came into his eyes.  He said, “You have not disobeyed your mother, but I have been breaking the commands of Allah all my life.”  He instantly vowed to give up banditry, returned all the belongings to the travelers and all of them became true Muslims.  This incident is clear karamat of Ghaus E Azam at the school-going age.  

After traveling nearly 400 miles of dangerous journey, he reached Baghdad during 488 AH (1098 C.E.).  It was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate and a great centre for learning.  Here he was a complete stranger, left with a small amount of money that was utterly insufficient to meet his needs.  The state was not paying any grants to the institutions, therefore every student had to make personal effort to earn his living and bear the expenses for his education.  For higher education at Jamia he experienced unending hardship.  He had no money for his needs.  He never stretched his hand to anyone for help.  During bitter hardships he would be on the ground facing the heaven and recited.  “So verily with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.”

By reciting the above verse his sufferings would diminish.  As a student of Fiqh, Islamic Jurisprudence,  he often went to a jungle, for hours walked on thorny and stony ground to test his determination.  He used to eat the vegetables grown on the bank of the river Tigris.

Once the fellow students urged him to go with them to see a great scholar Sharif Yaqoobi.  The nobleman cast a spiritual glance at him.  His eyes revealed to him the personality of Ghaus E Azam.  He said, “Seekers of truth and pious people never beg, they do not stretch hands before anyone.  You are specially graced and favored by the Most Gracious!”  These words left a deep impact and he immediately withdrew from the company of other students who had gone to collect charity from a rich landlord.  Also, he never allowed his students to beg from others.

While roaming into deserted area, he saw the ruins of old palaces where he found seventy Divinely guided persons hungry and searching for something to eat.  Without disturbing them, he returned to Baghdad.  On the way, he met a stranger who belonged to this area who gave him a piece of gold saying that his mother had sent this for him.  He immediately went back to the ruins, kept a small sum for himself and distributed the rest amongst the hungry awalia.

Weeks and weeks passed and Ghaus E Azam would stay in deserted areas for studying his lessons.  During the famine in Baghdad he was hungry and penniless, in this state he went to the River Tigris to pick up some vegetables thrown as garbage by the people.  He found many people there, searching for food but he did not interfere in their search and came back to Baghdad in extreme hunger and entered a mosque and sat in a corner.  In the meantime, a young man entered carrying bread and roasted meat and started eating.  On seeing the weak condition of Ghaus E Azam, the man offered him to take some food, but he refused the offer.  The stranger however persisted for him to accept his offer.  During conversation, Ghaus E Azam disclosed his identity.  The young man became perturbed.  He said, “Your mother had given me eight dinars to hand over to you, but for a number of days I could not trace you.  During this period, my money was spent, as I had no food for two days and to save my life I bought food with your money.  I am sorry and seek your forgiveness.  This is your food and the balance of your money.”  On hearing his explanation, Ghaus E Azam consoled him, pardoned him, kept two dinars for himself and advised the stranger to keep the balance to meet expenses of the journey and food.

Spiritual Guides

During his stay in Baghdad, the Ghaus E Azam used to see the awalia and holy men in order to gain Divine knowledge and blessings of their company.  He met Hazrat Hammad Al-Dabbas, who recognized Ghaus E Azam and cast a glance of love and affection, which created unbreakable spiritual light in him.  Sheikh Hammad was always kind to discuss mystical problems and solutions.

Soon, the Ghaus E Azam got admission for higher education at some prestigious institutions.  He got admission to the Jamiah of Sheikh Abu Saeed Mubarik Bin Ali Makhzoomi in  Baghdad.  There were several eminent scholars in this school.  He had already memorized the Holy Qur’an.  He studied Fiqh (Islamic Laws),  Tafseer (Hadith) under Abu Qasim Ali and Abu Zakariya Yahya Tabrizi, Principal of Jamiah Nizamia and writer of many books.  There were 14 other eminent scholars under whom he had studied.

At the time of his graduation from the Jamiah, the certificate included the following citation:

“Oh Abdul Qadir, we hereby confer upon you the degree in all kinds of knowledge acquired by you.  You are a genius and your capability of understanding the subject was so excellent that on several occasions we ourselves were benefitted by your interpretation of Hadith.”

He had taken nine years from 488 AH to 496 AH at the Jamiah of Abu Saeed to complete university education.  Abu Saeed appointed him as a teacher in his Jamiah and finally handed over the institution to his care before his death in 513 AAH.

He had great respect for all the great Muslim jurists.  He was made guardian of the tomb of Hazrat Imam Abu Hanifa (mercy of Allah be on him) for some time.  For him it had become a daily routine to issue fatwas, rulings on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority.  There used to be several clerks to deal with his work as day after day he received legal questions from all parts of the Muslim world.  All the famous scholars and jurists would wonder at the speed and ease by which Ghaus E Azam would give his decisions in the legal matters.

Various Titles of The Ghaus E Azam

His name is Abdul Qadir, his nickname is Abu Muhammad.  Later he gained the title of Muhiyuddin, that is,  the reviver of religion.  His other titles are Sultan of Awalia, Hazrat Qutb-Al-Aqtab, Syed Us-Sadat, Qutb-Al-Wajoo, Pir Piran, Mir-Miran, Sheikh Al-Syed Muhiyuddin Samdani, Abu Muhammad Abdul Qadir Jilani, Al Hasani, Wal Hussaini, Al Baghdad.

Note: Bibliography will be mentioned in the end of Part II of the article.

About the Author

Initial schooling was from Military College Jhelum.   Mr. Gilani completed Aeronautical Engineering from the United Kingdom or UK. After on the job training, he was granted Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s License by the Civil Aviation Authority, UK.  Mr. Gilani returned to Pakistan to serve with Pakistan International Airlines also known as PIA, which at that time was one of the best airlines in the world.  After acquiring Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s License, Syed Nokhez Gilani Qadri was busy advancing his professional status and was promoted and transferred as Engineering Manager to Quetta, Pakistan.  He served with PIA for 12 years, then with Emirates International Airline in Dubai.  Mr. Gilani attended and passed professional courses with distinction at Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and General Electric Aero Engine.

* The difference between Awalia (Friends of Allah) and the term ‘Saint’ is that the title Saint has been used by the Pope, as he desires and for whomever he chooses.  The qualities or characteristic of the person are not taken into consideration.  You cannot compare a Wali (Friend of Allah), whom Allah holds in high esteem and carries excellent characteristics, with a Saint.

November 10, 2013

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) voted in favor of NSA spying on Americans and other congressional leaders followed suite. Such decisiveness raises the question:  why would legislative  leadership vote for something that is illegal, invades the privacy of citizens and is detrimental to international relationships? The chair of the House Intelligence Committee – Mike Rogers – said recently, in a NSA spying hearing which he led, that there is no right to privacy in America. Does the Agency know something about them that we do not? As DSWright, writer at Firedoglake, an online news source,  put it -  “Intelligence is all about having as much information as possible, that’s the training and that’s the game.”

The breadth of the NSA’s newly revealed capabilities makes the emergence of such suspicions in our society inevitable. Especially given that we are far, far away from having the kinds of oversight mechanisms in place that would provide ironclad assurance that these vast powers won’t be abused. And that highlights the highly corrosive nature of allowing the NSA such powers. Everyone has dark suspicions about their political opponents from time to time, and Americans are highly distrustful of government in general. When there is any opening at all for members of the public to suspect that officials from the legislative and judicial branches could be vulnerable to leverage from secretive agencies within the executive branch—and when those officials can even suspect they might be subject to leverage—that is a serious problem for our democracy.

There is already prominent speculation about this threat.  Back in August,  General Keith Alexander, Director of NSA, was asked by a member of Congress, ”Can we see our own files?”  Alexander answered, “No.” David Sirota of NSFWCorp, Not Safe For Work Corporation, said,

“Consider the deep messaging of the NSA’s brand. Only forty years removed from the blackmail-tinged reign of J. Edgar Hoover, the NSA has developed an image which implies the agency is vacuuming up more than enough incriminating phone records, emails and text messages, etc., to politically torpedo any rank-and-file congressman, should that congressman step out of line...”

Whistleblower Russell Tice has also alleged that while at the Agency he saw wiretap information for members of Congress and the judiciary firsthand. Such fears explain why it is considered an especially serious matter any time elected or judicial officials are eavesdropped upon. The New York Times reported in 2009 that some NSA officials had tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant. Members of Congress and perhaps the judiciary surely also noted a Washington Post report based on Snowden documents that the NSA had intercepted a “large number” of calls from the Washington DC area code due to a “programming error.”

Dark suspicions about the NSA will also draw powerful support from the historical record. Already a sitting U.S. Senator, Carl Levin, has invoked the memory of J. Edgar Hoover as a means of expressing misgivings about NSA spying. It can be useful to recall the history with a little detail. Journalist Ronald Kessler describes the former FBI director’s M.O. in his book on Hoover:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover had picked up derogatory information on them.

“He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,” Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had picked up evidence of  impropriety, “he [Hoover] would have him say, ‘This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.’ But nobody has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you want from that.”

Even in 1945, a month after taking office, President Truman wrote of Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” Two years later he observed, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.”

It wasn’t just the FBI. In the 1970s, for example, the “intelligence” division of the Chicago Police Department similarly engaged in widespread institutionalized blackmail efforts. “A principal tactic of this operation was the dissemination of file material for the purpose of doing damage to targets held in disfavor,” writes Frank Donner in his chronicle of Cold War-era police repression, Protectors of Privilege.

Although Chicago under Mayor William Daley was the worst, Donner points out that these kinds of abuses by “intelligence units” were widespread during the Cold War, and before that, during the labor battles of the early 20th century.

If we allow the NSA to retain the powers it wants, it’s not at all crazy to worry about how those powers could be used now or in the future to grab even more frightening power through blackmail of ostensible overseers. And it doesn’t require crude, explicit blackmail to affect behavior and confer power through personal information. Even the vaguest threat or intimation of eavesdropping and exposure can introduce substantial chilling effects, even on those who may think they have “nothing to hide.”

In many ways such fears, although often unspoken, lie at the core of what so many people find objectionable about allowing government agencies such vast eavesdropping powers. The understanding that personal information about people can confer leverage over those people is at the heart of the privacy issue.

And again, even in the absence of any actual malfeasance, suspicion of such is itself a problem.

November 10, 2013

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) voted in favor of NSA spying on Americans and other congressional leaders followed suite. Such decisiveness raises the question:  why would legislative  leadership vote for something that is illegal, invades the privacy of citizens and is detrimental to international relationships? The chair of the House Intelligence Committee – Mike Rogers – said recently, in a NSA spying hearing which he led, that there is no right to privacy in America. Does the Agency know something about them that we do not? As DSWright, writer at Firedoglake, an online news source,  put it -  “Intelligence is all about having as much information as possible, that’s the training and that’s the game.”

The breadth of the NSA’s newly revealed capabilities makes the emergence of such suspicions in our society inevitable. Especially given that we are far, far away from having the kinds of oversight mechanisms in place that would provide ironclad assurance that these vast powers won’t be abused. And that highlights the highly corrosive nature of allowing the NSA such powers. Everyone has dark suspicions about their political opponents from time to time, and Americans are highly distrustful of government in general. When there is any opening at all for members of the public to suspect that officials from the legislative and judicial branches could be vulnerable to leverage from secretive agencies within the executive branch—and when those officials can even suspect they might be subject to leverage—that is a serious problem for our democracy.

There is already prominent speculation about this threat.  Back in August,  General Keith Alexander, Director of NSA, was asked by a member of Congress, ”Can we see our own files?”  Alexander answered, “No.” David Sirota of NSFWCorp, Not Safe For Work Corporation, said,

“Consider the deep messaging of the NSA’s brand. Only forty years removed from the blackmail-tinged reign of J. Edgar Hoover, the NSA has developed an image which implies the agency is vacuuming up more than enough incriminating phone records, emails and text messages, etc., to politically torpedo any rank-and-file congressman, should that congressman step out of line...”

Whistleblower Russell Tice has also alleged that while at the Agency he saw wiretap information for members of Congress and the judiciary firsthand. Such fears explain why it is considered an especially serious matter any time elected or judicial officials are eavesdropped upon. The New York Times reported in 2009 that some NSA officials had tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant. Members of Congress and perhaps the judiciary surely also noted a Washington Post report based on Snowden documents that the NSA had intercepted a “large number” of calls from the Washington DC area code due to a “programming error.”

Dark suspicions about the NSA will also draw powerful support from the historical record. Already a sitting U.S. Senator, Carl Levin, has invoked the memory of J. Edgar Hoover as a means of expressing misgivings about NSA spying. It can be useful to recall the history with a little detail. Journalist Ronald Kessler describes the former FBI director’s M.O. in his book on Hoover:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator,” said William Sullivan, who became the number three official in the bureau under Hoover, “he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter. But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Lawrence J. Heim, who was in the Crime Records Division, confirmed that the bureau sent agents to tell members of Congress that Hoover had picked up derogatory information on them.

“He [Hoover] would send someone over on a very confidential basis,” Heim said. As an example, if the Metropolitan Police in Washington had picked up evidence of  impropriety, “he [Hoover] would have him say, ‘This activity is known by the Metropolitan Police Department and some of our informants, and it is in your best interests to know this.’ But nobody has ever claimed to have been blackmailed. You can deduce what you want from that.”

Even in 1945, a month after taking office, President Truman wrote of Hoover’s FBI, “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex life scandals and plain blackmail.” Two years later he observed, “all Congressmen and Senators are afraid of him.”

It wasn’t just the FBI. In the 1970s, for example, the “intelligence” division of the Chicago Police Department similarly engaged in widespread institutionalized blackmail efforts. “A principal tactic of this operation was the dissemination of file material for the purpose of doing damage to targets held in disfavor,” writes Frank Donner in his chronicle of Cold War-era police repression, Protectors of Privilege.

Although Chicago under Mayor William Daley was the worst, Donner points out that these kinds of abuses by “intelligence units” were widespread during the Cold War, and before that, during the labor battles of the early 20th century.

If we allow the NSA to retain the powers it wants, it’s not at all crazy to worry about how those powers could be used now or in the future to grab even more frightening power through blackmail of ostensible overseers. And it doesn’t require crude, explicit blackmail to affect behavior and confer power through personal information. Even the vaguest threat or intimation of eavesdropping and exposure can introduce substantial chilling effects, even on those who may think they have “nothing to hide.”

In many ways such fears, although often unspoken, lie at the core of what so many people find objectionable about allowing government agencies such vast eavesdropping powers. The understanding that personal information about people can confer leverage over those people is at the heart of the privacy issue.

And again, even in the absence of any actual malfeasance, suspicion of such is itself a problem.

November 10, 2013

A judge in Mexico City, Mexico, has recently approved a temporary injunction against the approval of any new genetically modified or GM food permits for experimental or commercial corn plantings.The suspension is to remain in effect until pending lawsuits alleging environmental dangers are resolved. This is a victory for food sovereignty and agricultural integrity. The announcement was made at a press conference in Mexico City, where officials notified the public and press that all GM corn plantings including pilot commercial plantings were to be immediately suspended.

Though not necessarily permanent , the injunction came after years of protest against  transgenic crops, particularly those that threaten the continued cultivation of staple crops like corn.

For Mexico, corn, also known as maize, is a primary food crop for which there are hundreds, if not thousands of heirloom varieties currently being grown. If GM corn varieties are allowed to be cultivated along side them, at any considerable scale, Mexico's entire agricultural heritage could become extinct.

“The decision came after years of lobbying by activist who noted that Mexico, the birthplace of modern day maize and its cultivation in Mexico-knows a little bit about how to create various disease resistant strains of corn, given that Mexicans….have been doing it for millennia, ”writes Gustavo Arellano for the OC weekly.

Despite a moratorium on GM corn cultivation in Mexico that dates back to 1998, many native maize varieties have still tested positive for low levels of modified genes, which proves that Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs cannot be contained and have a tendency to contaminate other crops. Because of this, a coalition of 53 groups and individuals which includes scientist and human rights groups, filed a lawsuit last year to suspend all trials of GM corn and other experiments that could be causing contamination.

Agreeing with their argument, a Mexican judge ruled that all field trials of GM corn in Mexico must  end, citing specific imminent environmental risk.

A press release recently issued by the non-governmental organization, La Copenacha, affirms this decision, noting that Mexican law requires Justices to protect the interest of the people rather than the interest  of big business, which in this case means multinational chemical companies like Monsanto.

                Mexico will still import GMO corn, despite suspension

The  ruling is timely, as many areas of Mexico have been pressured in recent years to accept not only field trials of GM corn, but also commercial plantings, despite their risk to native corn varieties. Unfortunately, the ruling does not go far enough, say experts, as Mexico will continue to import GM corn from other countries like the U.S.- roughly one third of the corn Mexico consumes is imported.

“The ruling has understandably caused joy across Mexico and the entire anti - GMO world, but its also not as far reaching as you think,” added Arellano. “The judge in question didn't ban the import of GMO corn into Mexico and in this globalized society, Mexicans are just as likely to eat corn from Minnesota as they are [to eat the variety] elote from Puebla.”

Even so,the decision has earned considerable attention the world over, as Mexico is now the only country in North America to ban the cultivation of GMO crops. Neither the U.S. nor Canada has taken any action, thus far, against the growing onslaught of GMO pollution within their borders, despite the fact that most other developed countries in the world have either banned GMOs or require them to be at least properly labelled.

November 10, 2013

A judge in Mexico City, Mexico, has recently approved a temporary injunction against the approval of any new genetically modified or GM food permits for experimental or commercial corn plantings.The suspension is to remain in effect until pending lawsuits alleging environmental dangers are resolved. This is a victory for food sovereignty and agricultural integrity. The announcement was made at a press conference in Mexico City, where officials notified the public and press that all GM corn plantings including pilot commercial plantings were to be immediately suspended.

Though not necessarily permanent , the injunction came after years of protest against  transgenic crops, particularly those that threaten the continued cultivation of staple crops like corn.

For Mexico, corn, also known as maize, is a primary food crop for which there are hundreds, if not thousands of heirloom varieties currently being grown. If GM corn varieties are allowed to be cultivated along side them, at any considerable scale, Mexico's entire agricultural heritage could become extinct.

“The decision came after years of lobbying by activist who noted that Mexico, the birthplace of modern day maize and its cultivation in Mexico-knows a little bit about how to create various disease resistant strains of corn, given that Mexicans….have been doing it for millennia, ”writes Gustavo Arellano for the OC weekly.

Despite a moratorium on GM corn cultivation in Mexico that dates back to 1998, many native maize varieties have still tested positive for low levels of modified genes, which proves that Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs cannot be contained and have a tendency to contaminate other crops. Because of this, a coalition of 53 groups and individuals which includes scientist and human rights groups, filed a lawsuit last year to suspend all trials of GM corn and other experiments that could be causing contamination.

Agreeing with their argument, a Mexican judge ruled that all field trials of GM corn in Mexico must  end, citing specific imminent environmental risk.

A press release recently issued by the non-governmental organization, La Copenacha, affirms this decision, noting that Mexican law requires Justices to protect the interest of the people rather than the interest  of big business, which in this case means multinational chemical companies like Monsanto.

                Mexico will still import GMO corn, despite suspension

The  ruling is timely, as many areas of Mexico have been pressured in recent years to accept not only field trials of GM corn, but also commercial plantings, despite their risk to native corn varieties. Unfortunately, the ruling does not go far enough, say experts, as Mexico will continue to import GM corn from other countries like the U.S.- roughly one third of the corn Mexico consumes is imported.

“The ruling has understandably caused joy across Mexico and the entire anti - GMO world, but its also not as far reaching as you think,” added Arellano. “The judge in question didn't ban the import of GMO corn into Mexico and in this globalized society, Mexicans are just as likely to eat corn from Minnesota as they are [to eat the variety] elote from Puebla.”

Even so,the decision has earned considerable attention the world over, as Mexico is now the only country in North America to ban the cultivation of GMO crops. Neither the U.S. nor Canada has taken any action, thus far, against the growing onslaught of GMO pollution within their borders, despite the fact that most other developed countries in the world have either banned GMOs or require them to be at least properly labelled.

November 8, 2013

WASHINGTON - Pakistani survivors of American drone strikes who live in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwest Pakistan, spoke to members of the US Congress Tuesday, and called for an end to killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiqur Rehman; his son Zubair (12); and daughter Nabila (9) told a packed room in the Rayburn House Office Building that Momina Bibi, who perished on October 24, 2012, while working in a field near their home in North Waziristan, was “the string that held the pearls of our family together, and that string has been broken, and we are all lost”.

Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat, invited Rafiq to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed his 67-year-old mother who, he said, was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized CIA drone executed Momina in front of her grandchildren on Oct 24, 2012.

The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq said during the Tuesday morning panel. “Only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rafiq said in an emotionally choked voice. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”

Speaking before members of Congress, Rafiq thanked Congressman Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government were willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

If he has the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama, Rafiq said, he will ask him to “find a peaceful end to the war in my country, and end these drones.”

Rafiq said he has seen people living peacefully in the United States and wants a similar peaceful environment in North Waziristan and dreams that his children would be able to complete their education and help rebuild Pakistan.“We can achieve peace through education,” he said.

The US and Pakistan should work together to resolve the problem, he said.

“I am a teacher, my job is to educate,” said Rafiq. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rafiq’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

“As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear (a) drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. “I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream...I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

They were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the US because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. “We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Congressman Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”

November 8, 2013

WASHINGTON - Pakistani survivors of American drone strikes who live in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwest Pakistan, spoke to members of the US Congress Tuesday, and called for an end to killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.

Rafiqur Rehman; his son Zubair (12); and daughter Nabila (9) told a packed room in the Rayburn House Office Building that Momina Bibi, who perished on October 24, 2012, while working in a field near their home in North Waziristan, was “the string that held the pearls of our family together, and that string has been broken, and we are all lost”.

Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat, invited Rafiq to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed his 67-year-old mother who, he said, was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized CIA drone executed Momina in front of her grandchildren on Oct 24, 2012.

The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq said during the Tuesday morning panel. “Only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.

“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rafiq said in an emotionally choked voice. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”

Speaking before members of Congress, Rafiq thanked Congressman Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government were willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.

If he has the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama, Rafiq said, he will ask him to “find a peaceful end to the war in my country, and end these drones.”

Rafiq said he has seen people living peacefully in the United States and wants a similar peaceful environment in North Waziristan and dreams that his children would be able to complete their education and help rebuild Pakistan.“We can achieve peace through education,” he said.

The US and Pakistan should work together to resolve the problem, he said.

“I am a teacher, my job is to educate,” said Rafiq. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”

Rafiq’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.

“As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear (a) drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. “I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.

“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.

Zubair’s sister, Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream...I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.

They were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Qaeda jealous.

“Yes, there are 100 or 200 fanatics, but now you have 800,000 people in this area who hate the US because of this policy,” Greenwald said. Greenwald added that the research he’s seen indicated that 178 children have been killed in Pakistan by US drone strikes. “We’ve gone from being the most popular country among Pakistani to, according to the polling I’ve seen, the least popular,” Grayson said. “And if you ask people why, the reason is this program.”

“I hope that by telling you about my village and grandmother, you realize drones are not the answer,” pleaded 12-year-old Zubair.

Congressman Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, said at the hearing that she would bring up the witnesses’ plight with the White House. Grayson said that “friends of the military industrial complex” in Washington would likely keep a full discussion from occurring immediately in Washington, adding that “I don’t expect to see a formal hearing conducted on this subject anytime soon.”

November 5, 2013

Genocide is state sponsored mass murder. It takes two forms, the most known is the annihilation of an entire race or ethnic group. Then there is the more subtle form that takes effect over generations - “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part”, as defined by Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, “Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides: Identification and Measurement of Cases Since 1945.” Center on Law and Globalization.In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its “Indian problem” within two generations. Indigenous children of Canada were deliberately starved in the 1940s and ’50s by government researchers in the name of science.

Rochelle Johnston wrote on Rabble, an online news source covering Canada:

“While there may not have been a master plan to execute every Aboriginal person in Canada, throughout much of our history there has been a deeply and widely held belief that First Nations, Metis and Inuit, as groups, should cease to exist. Reducing the number of Aboriginal people and eliminating those who weren’t willing to assimilate into Euro-Canadian society was helpful to this cause. Evidence of genocidal desires can be found in any number of government documents and public statements, and when the conditions were right, Canadians, whether bureaucrats, researchers, doctors, missionaries, social workers or entrepreneurs, felt justified in carrying out a range of genocidal acts.”

The Research

Milk rations were halved for years at residential schools across the country. Essential vitamins were kept from people who needed them. Dental services were withheld because gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and dental care would distort research.

For over a decade, indigenous children and adults were unknowingly subjected to nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.

This disturbing look into government policy toward indigenous peoples after World War II comes to light in recently published historical research.

When Canadian researchers went to a number of northern Manitoba reserves in 1942, they found rampant malnourishment. But instead of recommending increased federal support to improve the health of hundreds of the people suffering from a collapsing fur trade and already limited government aid, they decided against it. Nutritionally deprived people would be the perfect test subjects, researchers thought.

The details come from Ian Mosby, a post-doctorate at the University of Guelph, whose research focused on one of the most horrific aspects of government policy toward indigenous peoples during a time when rules for research on humans were just being adopted by the scientific community.

Researching the development of health policy for a different research project, Mosby uncovered “vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians’ ” and began to investigate. Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 indigenous, most of them children.

Any time the body is depleted of vital liquids and nutrients, there are several physical side effects that take place. These effects essentially happen because the body is trying to conserve energy for survival. According to the LiveStrong Foundation, even if a child survived long periods of starvation, they might experience abnormal growth and other forms of permanent damage. For example, nearly all bone development happens before adulthood, so children who fail to get sufficient calcium in their diets are likely to experience osteoporosis or other bone composition problems later as adults.

Academics and social activists have said Canada’s historical treatment of indigenous people meets the UN definition of genocide, which is the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group through any of a number of means. They include killing the group’s members, causing them serious mental or physical harm, subjecting them to unsustainable living conditions, preventing births and forcibly transferring their children to another group.

This atrocity is one of many church-run, government-funded assimilation efforts of residential schools for native children, to rid them of their heritage. The aims were devastating for those who were subjected to various physical and emotional abuse; many were forced removed from their families and tribes.

Johnston writes, “If it wasn’t for Canada, and a contingent of colonizing nations who in 1948 gutted a whole section of the UN Genocide Convention, the other “kinder” and “gentler” techniques of genocide we were and are still using against Aboriginal peoples would also be crimes.”

In 2008, the Canadian government made a formal public apology to the surviving children of the residential schools, their families and their nation.

November 5, 2013

Genocide is state sponsored mass murder. It takes two forms, the most known is the annihilation of an entire race or ethnic group. Then there is the more subtle form that takes effect over generations - “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part”, as defined by Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, “Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides: Identification and Measurement of Cases Since 1945.” Center on Law and Globalization.In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its “Indian problem” within two generations. Indigenous children of Canada were deliberately starved in the 1940s and ’50s by government researchers in the name of science.

Rochelle Johnston wrote on Rabble, an online news source covering Canada:

“While there may not have been a master plan to execute every Aboriginal person in Canada, throughout much of our history there has been a deeply and widely held belief that First Nations, Metis and Inuit, as groups, should cease to exist. Reducing the number of Aboriginal people and eliminating those who weren’t willing to assimilate into Euro-Canadian society was helpful to this cause. Evidence of genocidal desires can be found in any number of government documents and public statements, and when the conditions were right, Canadians, whether bureaucrats, researchers, doctors, missionaries, social workers or entrepreneurs, felt justified in carrying out a range of genocidal acts.”

The Research

Milk rations were halved for years at residential schools across the country. Essential vitamins were kept from people who needed them. Dental services were withheld because gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and dental care would distort research.

For over a decade, indigenous children and adults were unknowingly subjected to nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.

This disturbing look into government policy toward indigenous peoples after World War II comes to light in recently published historical research.

When Canadian researchers went to a number of northern Manitoba reserves in 1942, they found rampant malnourishment. But instead of recommending increased federal support to improve the health of hundreds of the people suffering from a collapsing fur trade and already limited government aid, they decided against it. Nutritionally deprived people would be the perfect test subjects, researchers thought.

The details come from Ian Mosby, a post-doctorate at the University of Guelph, whose research focused on one of the most horrific aspects of government policy toward indigenous peoples during a time when rules for research on humans were just being adopted by the scientific community.

Researching the development of health policy for a different research project, Mosby uncovered “vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians’ ” and began to investigate. Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 indigenous, most of them children.

Any time the body is depleted of vital liquids and nutrients, there are several physical side effects that take place. These effects essentially happen because the body is trying to conserve energy for survival. According to the LiveStrong Foundation, even if a child survived long periods of starvation, they might experience abnormal growth and other forms of permanent damage. For example, nearly all bone development happens before adulthood, so children who fail to get sufficient calcium in their diets are likely to experience osteoporosis or other bone composition problems later as adults.

Academics and social activists have said Canada’s historical treatment of indigenous people meets the UN definition of genocide, which is the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group through any of a number of means. They include killing the group’s members, causing them serious mental or physical harm, subjecting them to unsustainable living conditions, preventing births and forcibly transferring their children to another group.

This atrocity is one of many church-run, government-funded assimilation efforts of residential schools for native children, to rid them of their heritage. The aims were devastating for those who were subjected to various physical and emotional abuse; many were forced removed from their families and tribes.

Johnston writes, “If it wasn’t for Canada, and a contingent of colonizing nations who in 1948 gutted a whole section of the UN Genocide Convention, the other “kinder” and “gentler” techniques of genocide we were and are still using against Aboriginal peoples would also be crimes.”

In 2008, the Canadian government made a formal public apology to the surviving children of the residential schools, their families and their nation.

October 21, 2013

Representatives of the governments of France, Mexico, Brazil and the European Union are demanding detailed explanations from the US regarding covert telecommunications spying operations which have been identified and exposed  by the news media.  Most recently, the French government summoned the US ambassador to provide details related to allegations published in the French newspaper Le Monde that the National Security Agency (NSA) collected tens of thousands of phone records of French citizens, as reported by Reuters. The summons, it was mentioned,  was conveyed on the same day as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris enroute to Syria.

Hundreds of ‘top secret’ US National Security Agency  documents containing highly classified Information were leaked when Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor,  transferred access to the files to the British newspaper The Guardian and the US Washington Post.  The revelations  continue to be a cause of grave concern to the affected nations,  most of whom run intelligence operations of their own; however, as ‘allies’, the extent and nature of the breaches committed by the NSA spying has led to a serious rupture of confidence and trust between them.  The Reuters report also elaborated that earlier, France's interior minister, Manuel Valls, said Le Monde's revelations that 70.3 million pieces of French telephone data were recorded by the NSA between Dec 10, 2012 and Jan 8, 2013 were "shocking."

"If an allied country spies on France or spies on other European countries, that's totally unacceptable," Valls told Europe 1 Radio. French prosecutors opened an inquiry into the unethical spy program named ‘Prism’ which was first revealed in the German weekly Der Speigel  and the British Guardian as well.

Agence  France Presse (AFP) coverage of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the United Nations reported that she blasted the US during her UN General Assembly address in September , cancelling  an October visit to the US in outrage at the worldwide spying network that she said ‘violates the sovereignty of other countries and the civil liberties of their citizens.’ Ms. Rousseff said the transgressions of the covert program was tantamount to ‘disrespect’ and a breach of international law, describing arguments that the technological surveillance of individuals, businesses and diplomatic missions is necessary in the global fight against terrorism as "untenable" and an affront to the sovereignty of nations.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom stated that  the European Union was ‘not satisfied’ with the responses provided by Washington to the EU’s inquiries about NSA spying on international bank transfers and promised that the EU would be  “seeking exhaustive explanations, comprehensive information.” Reports that US intelligence services tapped into the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) have strained relations between Washington and Europe, and if the reports are confirmed ” will certainly  further weaken the confidence between the EU and the US and would undoubtedly impact our cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism,” Commissioner Malmstrom told AFP.

Information leaked by the Snowden NSA files also documented the fact that the personal email account of former Mexican President Philippe Calderon had been ‘hacked’ by NSA spy technology during his tenure as president. Revealed in Der Spiegel, the intrusion occurred in May of 2010 and provided a ‘lucrative’ source of private information, while an additional hack into a central network server used by Calderon’s administration provided  a ‘trove’ of diplomatic and economic information to the NSA,  and in turn the US government.

"This practice is unacceptable, illegal and against Mexican and international law. In a relationship between neighbors and partners there is no place for the actions that allegedly took place," the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the infraction could damage ties between the US and Mexico, one of America’s biggest trading partners, and also cause tensions in other cooperative dealings such as border security and the ongoing war against organized crime.  The Reuters report mentioned that US president Barack Obama promised a vigorous and thorough investigation into the charges of espionage to current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto who, according to other reports, had already remarked that the covert   transgressions were totally unacceptable. Still, eighty- percent of Mexico’s exported goods are sold to the US, a critical factor for the Mexican economy which could explain its  measured response to the spy allegations.  

According to information published on the Guardian.com, the NSA, founded in 1952, is the USA’s signal intelligence agency, and the biggest of the country’s myriad intelligence organizations. It supposedly has a strict focus on overseas, rather than domestic, surveillance. It is the phone and internet interception specialist of the USA, and is also responsible for code breaking.

October 21, 2013

Representatives of the governments of France, Mexico, Brazil and the European Union are demanding detailed explanations from the US regarding covert telecommunications spying operations which have been identified and exposed  by the news media.  Most recently, the French government summoned the US ambassador to provide details related to allegations published in the French newspaper Le Monde that the National Security Agency (NSA) collected tens of thousands of phone records of French citizens, as reported by Reuters. The summons, it was mentioned,  was conveyed on the same day as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris enroute to Syria.

Hundreds of ‘top secret’ US National Security Agency  documents containing highly classified Information were leaked when Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor,  transferred access to the files to the British newspaper The Guardian and the US Washington Post.  The revelations  continue to be a cause of grave concern to the affected nations,  most of whom run intelligence operations of their own; however, as ‘allies’, the extent and nature of the breaches committed by the NSA spying has led to a serious rupture of confidence and trust between them.  The Reuters report also elaborated that earlier, France's interior minister, Manuel Valls, said Le Monde's revelations that 70.3 million pieces of French telephone data were recorded by the NSA between Dec 10, 2012 and Jan 8, 2013 were "shocking."

"If an allied country spies on France or spies on other European countries, that's totally unacceptable," Valls told Europe 1 Radio. French prosecutors opened an inquiry into the unethical spy program named ‘Prism’ which was first revealed in the German weekly Der Speigel  and the British Guardian as well.

Agence  France Presse (AFP) coverage of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the United Nations reported that she blasted the US during her UN General Assembly address in September , cancelling  an October visit to the US in outrage at the worldwide spying network that she said ‘violates the sovereignty of other countries and the civil liberties of their citizens.’ Ms. Rousseff said the transgressions of the covert program was tantamount to ‘disrespect’ and a breach of international law, describing arguments that the technological surveillance of individuals, businesses and diplomatic missions is necessary in the global fight against terrorism as "untenable" and an affront to the sovereignty of nations.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom stated that  the European Union was ‘not satisfied’ with the responses provided by Washington to the EU’s inquiries about NSA spying on international bank transfers and promised that the EU would be  “seeking exhaustive explanations, comprehensive information.” Reports that US intelligence services tapped into the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) have strained relations between Washington and Europe, and if the reports are confirmed ” will certainly  further weaken the confidence between the EU and the US and would undoubtedly impact our cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism,” Commissioner Malmstrom told AFP.

Information leaked by the Snowden NSA files also documented the fact that the personal email account of former Mexican President Philippe Calderon had been ‘hacked’ by NSA spy technology during his tenure as president. Revealed in Der Spiegel, the intrusion occurred in May of 2010 and provided a ‘lucrative’ source of private information, while an additional hack into a central network server used by Calderon’s administration provided  a ‘trove’ of diplomatic and economic information to the NSA,  and in turn the US government.

"This practice is unacceptable, illegal and against Mexican and international law. In a relationship between neighbors and partners there is no place for the actions that allegedly took place," the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the infraction could damage ties between the US and Mexico, one of America’s biggest trading partners, and also cause tensions in other cooperative dealings such as border security and the ongoing war against organized crime.  The Reuters report mentioned that US president Barack Obama promised a vigorous and thorough investigation into the charges of espionage to current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto who, according to other reports, had already remarked that the covert   transgressions were totally unacceptable. Still, eighty- percent of Mexico’s exported goods are sold to the US, a critical factor for the Mexican economy which could explain its  measured response to the spy allegations.  

According to information published on the Guardian.com, the NSA, founded in 1952, is the USA’s signal intelligence agency, and the biggest of the country’s myriad intelligence organizations. It supposedly has a strict focus on overseas, rather than domestic, surveillance. It is the phone and internet interception specialist of the USA, and is also responsible for code breaking.

October 16, 2013

Many of us grow old before our time.  The worries of this world overwhelm us.  We are always aspiring for something worldly that is far reaching.  It takes us away from our true focus, Almighty Allah.  One hundred years ago, the life expectancy for men was 48 and for women 52.  Today, we outlive our ancestors because life isn’t as hard.  Years ago people walked long distances, which of course, kept them in shape.  Today, we walk very little.  As our bodies change, so do our organs inside.  Our heart rate becomes slightly slower, and our hearts may even become bigger.  Our blood vessels and arteries also become stiffer, which causes the heart to work harder.  Often times, this leads to hypertension and other cardiovascular problems. What can we do to improve our aging and get the best quality of life as well?  

Understanding how your body works is a step in the right direction.  Let’s look at an overview of how the body works.

Our Cardiovascular System, bones, joints and muscles

 A healthy heart needs oxygen, and the best oxygen is obtained through breathing deeply.  Exercise such as walking, running, stepping in place, playing catch and throwing the ball over your head are all activities that force you to breathe deeper, if done long enough.  Healthy foods play their part also.  Wild salmon, blueberries, spinach, cumin, cinnamon, sweet potatoes, green tea, and nuts are all good foods for overall aging.

When we age, the bones tend to shrink in size and density, which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have trouble balancing. To promote bone, joint and muscle health:

  • Get adequate amounts of calcium. For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day for women age 51 and older and men age 71 and older. Natural sources of calcium include organic dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, wild salmon, parsley, sage, basil, dark leafy vegetables, thyme and fresh sardines.

  • Get adequate amounts of vitamin D. For adults ages 19 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IU a day for adults age 71 and older. When using supplements, make sure they are of vegetable sources.  Many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, this might not be a good enough source for everyone. Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, the herbs horsetail, nettle, alfalfa and parsley, egg yolks and vitamin D-fortified organic milk.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs, and strength training can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.

Our Digestive System

Constipation is more common in older adults. Many factors can contribute to constipation, including a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluids and lack of exercise. Medications such as diuretics and iron supplements and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome may also contribute to constipation.  To prevent constipation:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure your diet includes high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit meats that are:  high in fat, dairy products and sweets, which might cause constipation. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can help prevent constipation and is important for your overall health.

  • Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Holding in a bowel movement for too long can cause constipation.

  • Use Herbal supplements such as;

   A mixture of the following herbs brewed into a tea

  • 3 tsp.  powdered psyllium husk

  • 2 tsp.  dandelion root

  • 2 tsp.  senna pods crushed

  • 1tsp.  ginger root

  • 1tsp.  licorice root

Our Bladder and Urinary Tract

Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) is common with aging. Medical conditions, such as diabetes, might contribute to incontinence — as can menopause, for women, and an enlarged prostate, for men.
To promote bladder and urinary tract health:

Losing weight is a very good beginning.  Getting enough magnesium in the diet (peppers, bananas ALL ORGANIC), vitamin D from sunlight and cutting out the caffeine.  You will be surprised to learn that caffeine is in energy water drinks.  Pure drinking water is your best choice.  Staying hydrated is a must throughout life and especially in you.our later years,. drinking more water and staying hydrated.  A few herbs that are helpful are saw palmetto, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, and extract.

Our Memory

Memory tends to becomes less efficient with age. It might take longer to learn new things or remember familiar words or names. To keep your memory sharp:

  • Eat a healthy diet. A heart healthy diet might benefit your brain. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. What you drink counts, too.  Herbs to help are ginkgo biloba, st john’s wort, and alfalfa.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This might help keep your memory sharp.

  • Drink pure clean water, there is no replacing it.  It is easier to dehydrate when you are older.  Make a point of drinking lots of good clean water.  Avoid bottled water as much as possible.  There are a ton of harmful chemicals in the water and the plastic.  It is most often tap water in a bottle.  It is important to have a pure water source.  It affects healing and good health in general.

  • Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape.  Read Holy Quran and listen to it.  Play games with your grandchildren.  Crochet, knit, grow a garden, paint or do crossword puzzles. Take alternate routes when driving.

  • Be social. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others.  Open up and share your life with others.

Finally, there was a study done on 678 elderly nuns between the ages of 74- 104.  During this study, which ended barbarically (because they did autopsies on all of the deceased), they found that these women were extremely energetic and looked younger than their actual ages. Here are their findings;  AD stands for Alzheimer’s Disease.

  • High linguistic ability in early life seems to protect against AD.

  • Lifestyles can affect one's chances for a mentally healthy old age.

  • A positive attitude and spirit, involvement in community, and faith contribute to health and longevity.

This is no secret.  Living a healthy, happy life can be obtained by doing your daily worship rituals.  These poor women were used as guinea pigs for the pleasure of demented scientists.  Fast food is the killer of many, as we now know.  Stay away from all processed foods.  Love your community and work for it.  Play with your grandchildren, take an interest in their Islamic education - they are our future.  Stay active in your community, learn new things and help everyone who needs your help, solely for the Sake of Allah.  Learn to love, and be loved in return.

October 16, 2013

Many of us grow old before our time.  The worries of this world overwhelm us.  We are always aspiring for something worldly that is far reaching.  It takes us away from our true focus, Almighty Allah.  One hundred years ago, the life expectancy for men was 48 and for women 52.  Today, we outlive our ancestors because life isn’t as hard.  Years ago people walked long distances, which of course, kept them in shape.  Today, we walk very little.  As our bodies change, so do our organs inside.  Our heart rate becomes slightly slower, and our hearts may even become bigger.  Our blood vessels and arteries also become stiffer, which causes the heart to work harder.  Often times, this leads to hypertension and other cardiovascular problems. What can we do to improve our aging and get the best quality of life as well?  

Understanding how your body works is a step in the right direction.  Let’s look at an overview of how the body works.

Our Cardiovascular System, bones, joints and muscles

 A healthy heart needs oxygen, and the best oxygen is obtained through breathing deeply.  Exercise such as walking, running, stepping in place, playing catch and throwing the ball over your head are all activities that force you to breathe deeper, if done long enough.  Healthy foods play their part also.  Wild salmon, blueberries, spinach, cumin, cinnamon, sweet potatoes, green tea, and nuts are all good foods for overall aging.

When we age, the bones tend to shrink in size and density, which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have trouble balancing. To promote bone, joint and muscle health:

  • Get adequate amounts of calcium. For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day for women age 51 and older and men age 71 and older. Natural sources of calcium include organic dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, wild salmon, parsley, sage, basil, dark leafy vegetables, thyme and fresh sardines.

  • Get adequate amounts of vitamin D. For adults ages 19 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IU a day for adults age 71 and older. When using supplements, make sure they are of vegetable sources.  Many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, this might not be a good enough source for everyone. Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, the herbs horsetail, nettle, alfalfa and parsley, egg yolks and vitamin D-fortified organic milk.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs, and strength training can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.

Our Digestive System

Constipation is more common in older adults. Many factors can contribute to constipation, including a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluids and lack of exercise. Medications such as diuretics and iron supplements and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome may also contribute to constipation.  To prevent constipation:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure your diet includes high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit meats that are:  high in fat, dairy products and sweets, which might cause constipation. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can help prevent constipation and is important for your overall health.

  • Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Holding in a bowel movement for too long can cause constipation.

  • Use Herbal supplements such as;

   A mixture of the following herbs brewed into a tea

  • 3 tsp.  powdered psyllium husk

  • 2 tsp.  dandelion root

  • 2 tsp.  senna pods crushed

  • 1tsp.  ginger root

  • 1tsp.  licorice root

Our Bladder and Urinary Tract

Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) is common with aging. Medical conditions, such as diabetes, might contribute to incontinence — as can menopause, for women, and an enlarged prostate, for men.
To promote bladder and urinary tract health:

Losing weight is a very good beginning.  Getting enough magnesium in the diet (peppers, bananas ALL ORGANIC), vitamin D from sunlight and cutting out the caffeine.  You will be surprised to learn that caffeine is in energy water drinks.  Pure drinking water is your best choice.  Staying hydrated is a must throughout life and especially in you.our later years,. drinking more water and staying hydrated.  A few herbs that are helpful are saw palmetto, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, and extract.

Our Memory

Memory tends to becomes less efficient with age. It might take longer to learn new things or remember familiar words or names. To keep your memory sharp:

  • Eat a healthy diet. A heart healthy diet might benefit your brain. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. What you drink counts, too.  Herbs to help are ginkgo biloba, st john’s wort, and alfalfa.

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This might help keep your memory sharp.

  • Drink pure clean water, there is no replacing it.  It is easier to dehydrate when you are older.  Make a point of drinking lots of good clean water.  Avoid bottled water as much as possible.  There are a ton of harmful chemicals in the water and the plastic.  It is most often tap water in a bottle.  It is important to have a pure water source.  It affects healing and good health in general.

  • Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape.  Read Holy Quran and listen to it.  Play games with your grandchildren.  Crochet, knit, grow a garden, paint or do crossword puzzles. Take alternate routes when driving.

  • Be social. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others.  Open up and share your life with others.

Finally, there was a study done on 678 elderly nuns between the ages of 74- 104.  During this study, which ended barbarically (because they did autopsies on all of the deceased), they found that these women were extremely energetic and looked younger than their actual ages. Here are their findings;  AD stands for Alzheimer’s Disease.

  • High linguistic ability in early life seems to protect against AD.

  • Lifestyles can affect one's chances for a mentally healthy old age.

  • A positive attitude and spirit, involvement in community, and faith contribute to health and longevity.

This is no secret.  Living a healthy, happy life can be obtained by doing your daily worship rituals.  These poor women were used as guinea pigs for the pleasure of demented scientists.  Fast food is the killer of many, as we now know.  Stay away from all processed foods.  Love your community and work for it.  Play with your grandchildren, take an interest in their Islamic education - they are our future.  Stay active in your community, learn new things and help everyone who needs your help, solely for the Sake of Allah.  Learn to love, and be loved in return.

October 8, 2013

The most obvious and well-reported casualties of the last decade in program-slashing educational policy include traditional elective courses like art, music, and physical education. But these are not the only subjects being squeezed out or eliminated entirely from many public K-12 curriculums.

Social studies--a category that includes courses in history, geography, and civics--has also found itself on the chopping block. Whereas in the 1993-1994 school year students spent 9.5 percent of their time in social studies, by 2003-2004 that percentage had dropped to 7.6, despite an increase of total instructional time.

Why has a traditionally “core subject”, which was ranked in the same academic hierarchy as English, science, and math for decades, been sidelined in thousands of American classrooms?

The shift in curriculum began in the early years of the Cold War. While U.S. military and technological innovation brought World War II to a close, it was a later use of technology--the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957--that historian Thomas A. Bailey called the equivalent of a “psychological Pearl Harbor” for many Americans. It created deep feelings of inadequacy and a belief that the U.S. was falling behind in developing new technology and weapons, which led to the passage of the 1958 National Defense Education Act. This legislation pumped $1 billion over four years into math and science programs in both K-12 schools and universities.

Despite this extra focus on math and science, social studies managed to make it through the end of the Cold War relatively unscathed, in fact, the number of classroom hours dedicated to teaching social studies in grades 1-4 peaked in the 1993-1994 school year at 3 hours a week. But drastic change came a decade later with the passage of President George W. Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ legislation.

No Child Left Behind was signed into law in an attempt to address the growing achievement gap between affluent and low-income students. It was a controversial piece of legislation from the start, mainly because of its “one size fits all’” approach: It uses annual standardized tests to determine how well students are performing in reading and math and then uses those scores to determine the amounts of federal funding schools receive.

Besides the obvious criticism that low-performing schools--arguably the ones that need the most increase in funding--are disproportionately punished for their low scores, critics also believe that No Child Left Behind has narrowed the curriculum. Since the standardized tests focus exclusively on English and math, and those scores determine the bulk of a school’s federal funding, schools have been forced to increase time and resources in these subjects at the expense of all others, including social studies.

A 2007 study from the Center of Education Policy supports this allegation: 62 percent of elementary schools, and more than 20 percent of middle schools, increased time for English language arts and/or math since No Child Left Behind passed.  At the same time, 36 percent of schools decreased the time allocated to the social studies. According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, this adds up to a net loss of four weeks of social studies instruction per academic year.

This devaluation of social studies as a core subject in the K-12 curriculum has troubling economic, political, and social implications. For one, social studies at all grade levels encourages students to develop skills in critical thinking--one of the top traits employers look for in a candidate. It also requires students become strong written and oral communicators who know how to structure and articulate their opinions. Unfortunately, a survey of employers done by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that these are the exact skills today’s entry-level workers are lacking. Without the skills gained from social studies, students are less attractive to employers.

Perhaps even more troubling, however, is that reducing students’ exposure to a solid curriculum in social studies leads to what a growing number of experts are calling a “civic achievement gap”. Closely related to the general achievement gap between affluent, mostly white students and low-income minority students, the civic achievement gap has made it increasingly difficult for those who grow up in low-income households to participate in civic affairs. According to data from Associate Professor Meira Levinson of Harvard University, people living in families with incomes under $15,000 voted at just over half the rate of those living in families with incomes over $75,000.

Many experts agree that a stronger curriculum in social studies could help close this gap.  A study from the Carnegie Corporation of New York found that students who receive effective education in social studies are more likely to vote, four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues, and are generally more confident in their ability to communicate ideas with their elected representatives.

Fortunately, policymakers have begun to acknowledge the shortcomings of the recent decade of educational policy. “President Obama and I reject the notion that the social studies is a peripheral offering that can be cut from schools to meet [Adequate Yearly Progress] or to satisfy those wanting to save money during a fiscal crunch,” wrote U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2011 in Social Education, a journal published by the National Council for Social Studies. “Today more than ever, the social studies are not a luxury, but a necessity. We need to fix [No Child Left Behind] so that school leaders do not feel forced to ignore the vital components of a good education.”

While the Obama Administration has pledged to revisit certain components of No Child Left Behind, it has kept its fundamental model of high-stakes standardized testing with new programs such as Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standard Initiative. Like No Child Left Behind, both of these programs focus primarily on English and math.

It’s clear that something has to change when only one-third of Americans can name all three branches of government.

October 8, 2013

The most obvious and well-reported casualties of the last decade in program-slashing educational policy include traditional elective courses like art, music, and physical education. But these are not the only subjects being squeezed out or eliminated entirely from many public K-12 curriculums.

Social studies--a category that includes courses in history, geography, and civics--has also found itself on the chopping block. Whereas in the 1993-1994 school year students spent 9.5 percent of their time in social studies, by 2003-2004 that percentage had dropped to 7.6, despite an increase of total instructional time.

Why has a traditionally “core subject”, which was ranked in the same academic hierarchy as English, science, and math for decades, been sidelined in thousands of American classrooms?

The shift in curriculum began in the early years of the Cold War. While U.S. military and technological innovation brought World War II to a close, it was a later use of technology--the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957--that historian Thomas A. Bailey called the equivalent of a “psychological Pearl Harbor” for many Americans. It created deep feelings of inadequacy and a belief that the U.S. was falling behind in developing new technology and weapons, which led to the passage of the 1958 National Defense Education Act. This legislation pumped $1 billion over four years into math and science programs in both K-12 schools and universities.

Despite this extra focus on math and science, social studies managed to make it through the end of the Cold War relatively unscathed, in fact, the number of classroom hours dedicated to teaching social studies in grades 1-4 peaked in the 1993-1994 school year at 3 hours a week. But drastic change came a decade later with the passage of President George W. Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ legislation.

No Child Left Behind was signed into law in an attempt to address the growing achievement gap between affluent and low-income students. It was a controversial piece of legislation from the start, mainly because of its “one size fits all’” approach: It uses annual standardized tests to determine how well students are performing in reading and math and then uses those scores to determine the amounts of federal funding schools receive.

Besides the obvious criticism that low-performing schools--arguably the ones that need the most increase in funding--are disproportionately punished for their low scores, critics also believe that No Child Left Behind has narrowed the curriculum. Since the standardized tests focus exclusively on English and math, and those scores determine the bulk of a school’s federal funding, schools have been forced to increase time and resources in these subjects at the expense of all others, including social studies.

A 2007 study from the Center of Education Policy supports this allegation: 62 percent of elementary schools, and more than 20 percent of middle schools, increased time for English language arts and/or math since No Child Left Behind passed.  At the same time, 36 percent of schools decreased the time allocated to the social studies. According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, this adds up to a net loss of four weeks of social studies instruction per academic year.

This devaluation of social studies as a core subject in the K-12 curriculum has troubling economic, political, and social implications. For one, social studies at all grade levels encourages students to develop skills in critical thinking--one of the top traits employers look for in a candidate. It also requires students become strong written and oral communicators who know how to structure and articulate their opinions. Unfortunately, a survey of employers done by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that these are the exact skills today’s entry-level workers are lacking. Without the skills gained from social studies, students are less attractive to employers.

Perhaps even more troubling, however, is that reducing students’ exposure to a solid curriculum in social studies leads to what a growing number of experts are calling a “civic achievement gap”. Closely related to the general achievement gap between affluent, mostly white students and low-income minority students, the civic achievement gap has made it increasingly difficult for those who grow up in low-income households to participate in civic affairs. According to data from Associate Professor Meira Levinson of Harvard University, people living in families with incomes under $15,000 voted at just over half the rate of those living in families with incomes over $75,000.

Many experts agree that a stronger curriculum in social studies could help close this gap.  A study from the Carnegie Corporation of New York found that students who receive effective education in social studies are more likely to vote, four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues, and are generally more confident in their ability to communicate ideas with their elected representatives.

Fortunately, policymakers have begun to acknowledge the shortcomings of the recent decade of educational policy. “President Obama and I reject the notion that the social studies is a peripheral offering that can be cut from schools to meet [Adequate Yearly Progress] or to satisfy those wanting to save money during a fiscal crunch,” wrote U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2011 in Social Education, a journal published by the National Council for Social Studies. “Today more than ever, the social studies are not a luxury, but a necessity. We need to fix [No Child Left Behind] so that school leaders do not feel forced to ignore the vital components of a good education.”

While the Obama Administration has pledged to revisit certain components of No Child Left Behind, it has kept its fundamental model of high-stakes standardized testing with new programs such as Race to the Top and the Common Core State Standard Initiative. Like No Child Left Behind, both of these programs focus primarily on English and math.

It’s clear that something has to change when only one-third of Americans can name all three branches of government.

October 8, 2013

The European Times wrote about hockey fans in Washington state who had more to worry about during a recent hockey game than avoiding a puck to the face; the Department of Homeland Security, DHS,  tested their facial recognition system during the game, a technology that’s raising concerns among privacy advocates.

DHS utilized a sophisticated scheme of cameras to collect pictures of attendees in real-time from as far away as 100 meters and then match them up with images of faces stored on a database.

The exercise marked the latest drill for the DHS’ Biometric Optical Surveillance System, or BOSS, and when it’s fully operational it could be used to identify a person of interest among a massive crowd in the span of only seconds.

With assistance from researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PNNL, DHS attempted to quickly compare faces caught on camera with the biometric information of 20 volunteers. The other faces in the crowd — potentially 5,980 hockey fans — existed as background noise to see the accuracy of BOSS when it comes down to locating a person of interest.

Facial recognition technology has been around for almost three decades. The mobile and social   revolutions are rapidly driving the field forward, along with digital photo proliferation, cloud computing power acceleration and software capabilities advancing.

According to Charlie Savage of the New York Times, earlier testing proved unsuccessful because it took operators roughly 30 seconds to identify a person caught on camera with its database of photographic mug shots. Biometric specialists who spoke to the Times told Savage that 30 seconds “was far too long to process an image for security purposes.”

As surveillance cameras continue to become pervasive in American cities, fixed on buildings and in traffic lights, facial recognition technology  could soon be used to pick people out of crowds randomly for essentially anything.  

“This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications,” Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told Savage. “We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hopes that it will have its state-of-the-art Next Generation Identification program, also known as NGI, rolled out in 2014, which will ideally provide the FBI with a database containing the biometric information of millions of Americans. Law enforcement will then be able to use that trove of data to compare persons of interest caught on film with images already used on state drivers’ licenses and other governmental files.

A lawsuit against the FBI filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, over the NGI program is currently pending. In the complaint filed earlier this year, the organization wrote;

The proposed new system would also allow law enforcement to collect and retain other images, such as those obtained from crime scene security cameras and from family and friends, and would allow submission of civil photographs along with civil fingerprint submissions that were collected for non criminal purposes.

“Facial recognition blows up assumptions that we don’t wear our identities on our person; it turns our faces into name tags,” said Ryan Calo, director of privacy at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. “It can be good and helpful, or it can be dangerous.”