For the Global Thinker

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sesame Street in Afghanistan

There's a headline I thought I'd never read...

Singing, dancing and barking are out, but Sesame Street is teaching Afghan children to count, read and write...


"In a country with an extremely young population and an education system that is not up to standard, then reaching millions of kids through television seems to us the way to go," said Saad Mohseni, chief executive of Moby Media.

Also present in the Afghan version is the social activism that once caused consternation in parts of 1970s America with its portrayal of a racially harmonious inner-city neighbourhood. For a film about a girl's first day at school, the Afghan production team deliberately chose a character from the Hazara community, a much put-upon minority in a country where there are growing fears of ethnic fragmentation.

Sherrie Westin, vice-president of Sesame Workshop, said the programme's daily mini-documentaries about the daily lives Afghan children "celebrate diversity and introduce children from Afghanistan's various provinces to each other".

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Famous Failures

Whenever we attempt to do something and fail, we end up doing something else or producing something else. You have not failed; you have produced some other result. The two most important questions to ask are: "What have I learned?" and "What have I done?"
Failure is only a word that human beings use to judge a given situation. Instead of fearing failure, we should learn that failures, mistakes and errors are the way we learn and the way we grow. Many of the world's greatest successes have learned how to fail their way to success. Some of the more famous are:

  • Michael Jordan: Most people wouldn't believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, Jordan didn't let this setback stop him from playing the game and he has stated, "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
  • Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published and the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.
Read more here:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Man Who Was "Cured" of HIV

Sonia Arrison explains how in the future we could live to be 150 years old and about the man who was "cured" of HIV...fascinating stuff!


"...the average person may soon celebrate over 150 birthdays. Many Big Thinkers wondered whether lifespan extension is even meaningful unless it is also accompanied by an increase in the quality of life experienced by super-centenarians. Arrison couldn't agree more.
What would be the point of living longer, if the Golden Years were filled with nothing but physical suffering? “We are at the cusp of a revolution in medicine and biotechnology that will radically increase not just our life spans but also, and more importantly, our health spans," she says.

More anecdotal, and more striking, is the case of Timothy Brown, known as "The Berlin Patient." Brown first tested positive for HIV in 1995. For a decade afterwards, he lived a healthy life in Berlin, controlling the virus with anti-retroviral therapy. But in 2006, he began feel extreme exhaustion when riding his bike to work. His doctor diagnosed him with leukemia, completely unrelated to HIV - the only possible lifesaving treatment for which was a stem cell transplant from a bone marrow donor. A specialist at Charité Medical University managed to find a donor who was a match, and who also happened to have a gene which made him resistant to the HIV virus.
The transplant was gruelling - scientists are wary of using the word "cure" - but Brown now tests negative on even the most sensitive HIV tests. He is the only person in the world to have ever been rid of HIV. "That’s one example of how scientists might be able to recode our systems to fight off diseases," says Arrison."


You can also read more about Timothy Brown in this New York Magazine article...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fighting Back, One Brothel at a Time

A fascinating look inside the war on human trafficking...


This town of Anlong Veng is in northern Cambodia near the Thai border, with a large military presence; it feels like something out of the Wild West. Somaly, whose efforts are financed mostly through American supporters of her Somaly Mam Foundation, had sneaked into this brothel and surreptitiously photographed very young girls. With the photographs, she convinced Cambodia’s anti-trafficking police to mount the raid.
It didn’t help my nerves that Somaly, whom I’ve known for years, is fearless. Brothel-owners have fought back ferociously against Somaly: They’ve sent death threats, held a gun to her head and shot up her car.

“We all know that our lives are in danger,” she says, a little too cavalierly. “I’ve never been so happy in my life. They can kill me now.”

When Somaly refused to back off, she said the traffickers kidnapped her 14-year-old daughter and gang-raped the girl with a video camera rolling. The daughter was recovered in a brothel, and Somaly blames herself. It’s a credit to the courage of mother and daughter that they remain steadfast, upbeat and close, and determined to make a difference. These days, Somaly is very careful with that daughter and her other children.

The three unmarked police cars ahead of us pulled up in front of the brothel...

Read full article here:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

Here are a selection of submissions from the National Geographic photo contest...captions are written by the photographers and to enlarge the photo just click on it...

The Hundstei (dog stone) is a very special place for me. I know this might sound silly, but since my dog and I grew up just around the corner and the naming of the mountain, I chose this very calm lake as a final resting place for Spock (my dog) so he would have the biggest gravestone of all dogs out there. That morning we had a farewell ceremony for Spock. I took this picture and we summited the Hundstei in his honor (which was a very emotional challenge). This picture of his resting place is now hanging in our kitchen to remember him. (© Nino Benninger)

Cage divers confront a great white shark. (© David Litchfield)

 An adult male gelada rests in the early morning light after ascending the steep sleeping cliffs of the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. (© Clay Wilton)

Pinki Kundu,a 13 yrs old girl is suffering from a chronic disease & is being treated in Mother Teresa TB Hospital in Kolkata. She is under CAT 1 drug therapy & is doing well.The day I photographed her she was very hopeful mood that she would be returning back to her parents soon. (© Saibal Gupta)

This is a streetcar in New Orleans traveling back towards The Quarter on St. Charles Ave. I held the camera against the window sill, making sure to divide the image equally between the inside and the outside. (© Don Chamblee)


Monday, November 7, 2011

How and Why to Write

Margaret Atwood, Cambridge 1963.

Advice about writing that is actually helpful from some of this century's greatest authors...

 James Baldwin
I don't know if I feel close to them, now. After a time you find, however, that your characters are lost to you, making it quite impossible for you to judge them. When you've finished a novel it means, "The train stops here, you have to get off here." You never get the book you wanted, you settle for the book you get. I've always felt that when a book ended there was something I didn't see, and usually when I remark the discovery it's too late to do anything about it.
It happens when you are right here at the table. The publication date is something else again. It's out of your hands, then. What happens here is that you realize that if you try to redo something, you may wreck everything else. But, if a book has brought you from one place to another, so that you see something you didn't see before, you've arrived at another point. This then is one's consolation, and you know that you must now proceed elsewhere.

Read more here:

Steal This Book

"Steal This Book" is a legendary survival guide for those living on the fringes of society.  From creating fake ID's to "first aid for streetfighters" this book covers many topics. 

Read more of this book here... 

Also here's a PDF version of another controversial book entitled The Anarchist's Cookbook, both are very interesting reads, enjoy!

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      Study: Alcohol Is “More Than Twice As Harmful As Marijuana”

      Alcohol consumption causes far greater harms to the individual user and to society than does the use of cannabis, according to a new review published online in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the journal of the British Association of Psychopharmacology.

      Investigators at the Imperial College of London assessed “the relative physical, psychological, and social harms of cannabis and alcohol.” Authors reported that cannabis inhalation, particularly long-term, contributes to some potential adverse health effects, including harms to the lungs, circulatory system, as well as the exacerbation of certain mental health risks. By contrast, authors described alcohol as “ a toxic substance” that is responsible for nearly five percent “of the total global disease burden.”

      Researchers determined, “A direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis showed that alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to [individual] users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others (society). … As there are few areas of harm that each drug can produce where cannabis scores more [dangerous to health] than alcohol, we suggest that even if there were no legal impediment to cannabis use, it would be unlikely to be more harmful than alcohol.”

      They concluded, “The findings underline the need for a coherent, evidence-based drugs policy that enables individuals to make informed decisions about the consequences of their drug use.”

      The researchers’ findings should hardly come as a revelation. Last week, a just-published study that was completely ignored by the mainstream media reported that alcohol consumption increased lung cancer risk by 30 percent.

      Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, a February 2011 World Health Organization report concluded that alcohol consumption causes a staggering four percent of all deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence. A just-published analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that in the United States alone, an estimated 79,000 lives are lost annually due to excessive drinking. The study further estimates that the overall economic cost of excessive drinking by Americans is $223.5 billion annually.

      Naturally, any health costs related to cannabis use pale in comparison. A 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal estimated that health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers of alcoholic beverages than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers. “In terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user,” investigators concluded.

      In an op/ed I wrote last year entitled “Pot Versus Alcohol: Experts Say Booze Is the Bigger Danger,” I cited the findings of numerous independent commissions, all of which pronounced that the risks of marijuana were nominal compared to those associated with booze. You can read these findings here and much of this evidence is discussed in even greater detail in my book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

      Nevertheless, despite its enormous societal toll, alcohol remains celebrated in this country — American Craft Beer Week is now endorsed by the U.S. Congress — while cannabis remains arbitrarily criminalized and demonized. It’s a situation illogical enough to drive most anyone to drink.

      Original article here.

      Also check out this article...
      Alcohol more harmful than heroin, cocaine, study finds

      Alcohol is the "most harmful" of a list of 20 drugs -- more dangerous even than crack cocaine and heroin -- according to a new study released Monday.
      The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, rated the drugs using a 100-point scale that weighed the physical, psychological and social problems they caused and determined that alcohol was the most harmful overall.

      Read more: