Saturday, October 30, 2010

Girls only schools.
Do you agree with the concept of single sex education?

Vancouver Media + Modesty

So Shelley Fralic, Peter Birnie, and Jo Ledingham all have articles out about Grease, this week, which is touring Vancouver right now. Fralic and Birnie, in separate articles in the Vancouver Sun slam it for being raunched up and sleazy, and Jo Ledingham in the Vancouver Courier thinks it is immodest, encourages casual sex, and sends the wrong message about social acceptance.

What do you think? Please discuss it all below, if you like :)
This article appeared this morning in Modern Mom, by Brooke Burke, about "sexy" Halloween costumes.

My Mistakes...
Obviously her get-up was not purchased by me- mistake #2! Last week, she showed me her “Alice In Wonderland” Halloween costume. The first thing I did was look at the packaging. To no surprise, I noticed it was an adult small, not a children’s large. That was the first red flag! Buy your children’s costumes in the kid's section, not the adult section. To make a long story short, we talked about looking 10-years-old not 20-years-old, even on Halloween. We jazzed up Alice to look much younger and cuter. You can imagine the look on my daughter’s face when I assured her that Alice’s dress was knee length with white knee socks and buckle shoes, NOT a frilly, short, blue mini-skirt with thigh-highs.

More Fairytale, Less Hottie-Tottie
So, I went picking through my own collection of tights and had her wear white tights, (NO FISH NETS) under her sexy socks. I added some young, rosy make-up to make her look more fairytale and less hottie-tottie. In the end, she got it. She was as happy and as appropriate as a 10 year old wanabee Alice could be

Oh Hannah...
At this morning's school costume parade, I saw many homemade creative costumes: funny ones, rented ones, and of course a few tramped out innocent kids. What happened to ghosts, two-headed monsters and pumpkins? The funniest costume was a Hannah Montana who looked more like a blonde street-walker than a pop star. I must confess that yesterday's article featuring slutty Miss Candy Corn had nothing on the THREE pre-tween candy corns I saw at school this morning- one of whom was my own eight-year-old! But, she’s pulled it off in a very sweet way. Sexy never came to mind. It really depends on how your kids wears the costume and what they look like in it.

"Ummm, MOM!"

The funniest thing happened last night when I was trying on my hot pleather Cat Woman suit. My daughter said, “MOM, you’re not going to wear that to my school parade are you? Don’t you think it’s a little hot for school?” I guess she told me, because I showed up with no costume, a t-shirt and a pair of baggy khakis. It was a great day! I volunteered in class and had so much fun making origami pumpkins and spiders.
Let it be said at the outset: I like boys. I'm used to boys-I spent almost every summer vacation with six boy cousins, almost like brothers, two of them close to my own age, and my constant playmates. While growing up, I gravitated towards boys. My parents had very few friends with kids, and the ones that did, had boys. He Man and GI Joe were my staples, burping on command was something I aspired to, and in pissing contests, I tried very hard to win. Later, as I entered adolescence, I was introduced to the concept of a girl friend, when boys became creatures of Mystery and Wonder, and we giggled about them and tossed our hair yearningly in their direction.

Even now, when my social circle contains more female friends than men, I find myself different around the opposite sex, a little more comfortable, perhaps, and usually, one of the lads. It's not unusual to find me in a group of all men, with me in the middle, all of us holding forth on subjects that most of us don't know very much about. And, to bring us to the point of this: I've lived with men. One as a flatmate and friend, the other as a lover.

Now, while it's all very well to like boys, living with them is another matter entirely. The first boy I cohabited with was a friend with whom I shared a flat in Bandra. We moved in, blissfully unaware of the consequences. As someone who had only lived with other women before, the idea of "modesty" didn't even strike me. I strode around in short-shorts and tank tops, only pausing half way to the television set to realise there was a man in the room. As someone who had never had to explain her relationships, here was I, claiming to be married for the sake of my landlord, all the while trying to figure out the best excuse for why we were sleeping in different bedrooms. As someone not overly domestic, I found the gender roles we were trying to automatically slide into, the most difficult. I cannot cook. I am a sloppy housewife. My flatmate on the other hand was a man who liked a clean house, homecooked meals and dusted bookshelves and who was prepared to go the distance to make sure that happened. Previously, the girls and I stuck to our own bedrooms. Now, with a shared living space, it was clear I would have to suck it up and handle half of the household responsibilities. We were friends, are friends, and in the end, our friendship stood the test of my shoddy household abilities, but I wouldn't be so lucky in the future.

Cue: the boyfriend. Not Indian, and someone who had lived on his own enough to be able to cook and clean and all that jazz. And who, once again, wanted me to help. This is not unreasonable, but as a neo feminist, the child of neo feminists, I hadn't really been raised with any domestic skills (which, yes, I suppose is mostly my fault.) The most I could do was sew, thanks to school, and that's not very useful these days. This created a rather large bone of contention. You see, I discovered, that while girls are a little more live-and-let-live about things like that, most men have this highly developed sense of fairness. "If I'm doing it," they say, "Then you should do it. It's only fair." What can be brushed under the carpet with a male flatmate leads to loud arguments with your boyfriend.

There were other things too: living together, much like a marriage, is a lot less glamorous than it looks and a lot more about compromise. That big 'c' word. You have what movie you're going to watch, what dinner you're going to order and worse: whose friends you're going to see. When everything is such a huge deal, your relationship itself is kind of fragile. The great thing about marriage is the legalities of it all —visas, leases, bank accounts — the world loves you if you're married. There is no such thing as a 'live in partner' visa. I know, because I looked. Also, if you break up (like I did), all you have to do is pack a suitcase and leave. There's nothing holding you there except for the echoes of what once used to be.

So I say: yes. Give the live-in relationship the stamp of legitimacy. Give it legal protection. A broken home is a broken home, whether it's your real husband moving out or your fake one.

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of You Are Here and Confessions Of A Listmaniac.

Friday, October 29, 2010

First Person: Margaret Evison

As told to Cole Moreton

Published: October 15 2010 23:49 | Last updated: October 15 2010 23:49

Margaret Evison
Margaret Evison’s son was fatally wounded when his patrol was ambushed in 2009
When my son Mark was killed I wanted to know whether his death had achieved anything, and to see for myself the country in which he had died while serving with the Army. So I went to Afghanistan.

Some people were very worried but my daughter said, “Mum, you should do it.” I thought that was brave of her, having just lost her brother. It is a dangerous place – at the time we were there, seven aid workers were murdered. I took leave from the hospital where I work as a psychologist and went in a group of seven led by Sandy Gall, the former war correspondent.

As we were flying into Kabul we came down tight and low over the mountains. Aircraft do sometimes crash there but there are so many mines it’s difficult to rescue survivors. We stayed in a lodge where you have to go past guards and through three big metal doors to get in. All cars are checked for bombs.

Mark was a lieutenant in the Welsh Guards and he loved it. One of my most precious possessions is a journal he kept while he was out there, absolutely beautifully written in longhand pencil, with no crossing out. At one point he writes, “Things are just great at the moment.” I spoke to Mark two days before he died – we had maybe 10 minutes that day and it felt good.

In May 2009 Mark’s patrol was ambushed and he was shot in the shoulder: the bullet severed a major artery. Two soldiers risked their lives to carry him on their backs, under fire, to the base.

They called for help at about 8.45am, but there was a 39-minute delay before the helicopter was authorised to go to them. If Mark had been picked up while he was still conscious he might have stood more of a chance. The Ministry of Defence won’t give a reason for the delay, and the inquest was unsatisfactory. Mark had written about the lack of supplies and support in his journal, just before he died.

I remember it was a particularly beautiful Saturday morning in May when I was told. An officer came to my house to tell me that Mark was being airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham, where a consultant broke the news that he was most likely brain-dead. Mark was lying there very peacefully, as if he was asleep. We were advised to switch off the machines – he was 26 years old.

Mark believed that young people need to take on challenges, to do things that are difficult and strengthening for them. We try to make that happen by giving out grants from a memorial fund, set up in his name. The first award was to fund two 16-year-olds climbing the four highest peaks in the UK. Another paid for some boys to have a day in a recording studio.

Going to Afghanistan was a challenge for me. Only the MoD can provide specific answers now, but it did help me to understand what had happened to my son, in the widest context. I found a very tribal country without a satisfactory legal system. Tribal people have had to use fighting and revenge as their tools to survive. When I was there, I met a young man in a market, who wanted to get on in life. He said that if he found someone from the Taliban he would get a gun and shoot him.

Mark wrote in his journal: “I seem to be the only one here who thinks that war might not be the answer.” I do agree with that. One would like to think that Mark died bringing some sort of relief from the brutality of the Taliban, for the locals and for women, for the sake of some sort of civilisation – but whether that is the case I am just not sure. Did Mark die for a just cause? Even after going there, it’s hard to know.

The first Anglo-Afghan war was fought in 1839-42 between Britain and Russia in central Asia. There are currently 9,500 British troops deployed in Afghanistan, and more than 300 British military personnel have died since the first military offensive on October 7 2001. British prime minister David Cameron said in July that the withdrawal of British troops could potentially begin next year, with a longer-term aim of no troops in a combat role in Afghanistan by 2015.
October 4, 2010

I am the foreign soldier whose guns you hear
There is no need to shake in fear
Uncover your head my Burka dear

Mr. Taliban is dead
His bandits exploded hamburger red
Burka you may unveil your head

Eternal virgins’ pleasure these rats will never paw
After the flash of our artillery – ha ha – ah
My dear Burka

Quick is the crow to feast on delicate fresh eye of awe
Manners unforgotten he invites the family with a calming caw
So peaceful to hear is it not Burka

Your father and uncle are truncated and wholly bled
There is nothing here for you to dread
Burka you may unhood your head

See here lies old decapitated Mullah
Ending his cruel merciless fatwa
Against you and yours my dear Burka

The village Burka you once knew
Is shot and shrapnel through and through
Our howitzer’s aim is precise and true

Burka your brother tied feet and hand
Lies deep inside a rumbling torture van
In long transport to another land

His shoulders sag
A still docile doe not a bucking stag
Blind and half suffocated Burka by a tight head bag

Uncover your head my Burka dear
There is no need to shake in fear
I am the foreign soldier whose guns you hear

By Dave
Russians entering Canada.
MOSCOW — Russia on Thursday called on the United States to carry out a detailed investigation into allegations contained in leaked Iraq war documents published by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

"The US authorities bear the responsibility to conduct a thorough, independent and transparent investigation of all the reports that have appeared in the media," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The statement pointed out that Washington regularly ticked off other countries for human rights violations and said it should live up to its own standards by investigating the allegations of abuses by troops in Iraq.

"We are convinced that such a position will demonstrate the United States' adherence to the high standards in the human rights sphere that it constantly calls on other countries to observe," it said.

The ministry called for the results of the investigation to be published and made available to human rights groups.

It expressed the hope that the US handling of the scandal would allow it to pass a "serious test" during an upcoming review by the UN Human Rights Council which evaluates respect for human rights in its member states.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hooching All Hallow's Eve?

Halloween skin: objectifying or empowering?
First, check out this article at SFGate.


Last Updated: October 25, 2010 8:01am

Naughty nurse, sexy schoolgirl, bad cop, foxy firefighter.

Ladies, what’s it going to be this year?

Year after year, the most popular Halloween costumes for young women are the risqué options, according to retailers.

“Women can come in and they can pick a costume out, something they wouldn’t wear for the rest of the year — something skimpy, low-cut and ... be that person in that costume as opposed to who they are on a day-to-day basis,” said Colleen Mitani, manager of Spirit Halloween Winnipeg.

Why the shift from scary witches and goblins to sexy firefighters and maids? A Winnipeg psychologist says Halloween is a day where people are “free from society’s inhibitions”, so they are given a license to wear things they normally wouldn’t.

“It’s an opportunity to act out our fantasies and fears ... you get a pass here. All bets are off,” Toby Rutner said. “It’s very interesting how things have evolved from death and gore to the projection ... of sexuality.”

While the French maid and harem woman have been around for years, there has been a shift in the last decade to more explicit depictions of sexuality, according to Fiona Green, chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg.

“I think there’s been a gradual sexing up of young women and girls, which has not happened to boys,” she said. “Pop music icons, like Britney Spears and other young women, to make it in pop music, videos, TV and film, there’s more and more exposure of not only nudity ... but it’s the sexualization of young females.”

The shift in what’s acceptable for every day wear has become more and more revealing, Green said, and that has reflected on to Halloween costumes.

“Everything is sexualized,” Green said. “If you’re a nurse, a doctor, any profession seems to be sexualized.”

But on the other hand, we generally don’t see men dressing up as Chippendales dancers. They tend to go for the frightening, intimidating or humorous costume.

“I think that the expectation that females are going to be attractive sexually, the pressure for that is far greater than for boys,” Green said.

Dressing up in a sexy Halloween costume may be a way for women to feel empowered, but it may also objectify them, Green said.

“What does it mean for the person who’s wearing it?” Green said. “I don’t think it’s unhealthy to express our sexuality ... but I think it may put a limitation on how (women) may see themselves.”

Happy Hallowe'en Week

Pumpkin Halva
Kaddu ka Halwa

Mamta Gupta

I had this halwa on a recent trip (November 2004) to India, at the well known Morya Sheraton Hotel in Delhi. It tasted so delicious that I thought I will try making it at home. I made it in the same way as I make 'Shakarkandi' or Sweet Potato Halwa, with a few minor changes. It came out quite delicious. It can be made in advance and heated in a microwave just before serving. It freezes well. Serves 6-7.

• 1 kg. pumpkin (800 gm. peeled and deseeded). You can use butternut or other squash instead.
• 8 almonds (can be blanched if you like)
• 12 pistachio (can be blanched if you like)
• 2 tbs. desiccated coconut
• 3-4 tbs. ghee or clarified butter
• 1/2 cup milk
• 100-150 gm. jaggery or muscovado sugar (unrefined cane sugar)
• 1 tsp. cardamom powder
• 50 gm. raisins (optional)
• 2-3 tbs. skimmed milk powder. You can use grated Mawa or khoa

1. Place pumpkin on a chopping board and cut into slices, like a melon. Use a sharp knife.
2. Remove seeds and fibre and discard.
3. Peel the thick skin off, removing all of the hard and thick skin.
4. Cut flesh into small, 2 cm. cubes.
5. Heat ghee in a heavy based pan or karahi/kadahi. Add pumpkin and stir fry for a minute.
6. Add 1/2 cup milk and allow to simmer until flesh is soft. 10-15 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, shred/thinly slice almonds and pistachios. These days, I do this with a garlic slicer, which I keep separate for slicing nuts (not for garlic). Thinly shredded nuts look better than chopped ones. Keep aside.
8. Place coconut on a plate and microwave at full for 2+2 minutes, stirring in between. Keep aside. If you do not have a microwave, you can dry fry the coconut in a clean pan, on low heat, until there is a nice aroma of coconut.
9. Returning to cooked, soft pumpkin, turn the heat off. Mash it well, using a potato masher or back of a spoon.
10. Add sugar and cardamom seeds to the pumpkin mash and stir fry on medium heat until liquid dries up, ghee separates and pumpkin looks shiny. It has mashed potato like consistency.
11. Sprinkle powdered milk or add grated mawa/khoa and stir fry for a few more minutes.
12. Add most of the almonds and pistachios, saving a little for garnish, all the coconut and raisins, if used.
13. Transfer to serving dish or individual little bowls and decorate with saved almond and pistachio nuts.
14. Serve Hot.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just five weeks after Vicki Hopkins' got married, her husband Matt flew a world away to fight in a war that has gone on longer than the Second World War. Her baby son Alex has only ever had four days where he has ever even been held by his father. Death embraced Matt, and will never let him go.

Vicki, shown above, and at this link, wiping tears from her eyes at her lover's grave, believes that one day, she will explain this story to her child, who will never even remember the sound of his voice. She hopes he will understand this war. I know that I don't, but I do understand Vicki's grief, her hollow bone aching feeling that something is ended, and has disappeared forever, and that only she has known that person's world in the way that she has. And she feels that it was eons too soon, and that life will never really be quite as it was.

I can't feel my love anymore
I can't feel my love anymore
mystery and the splendor
don’t thrill me like before
I can't feel my love anymore

I don’t want to talk to anyone
I don’t want to talk to anyone
all the words that used to work
are melted in the sun
and I don’t want to talk to anyone

Faces look familiar,
but they don’t have names
towns I used to live in
have been rearranged
Highways I once traveled down
don’t look the same
Everything has changed
Everything has changed

I can’t find my joy anywhere
I can’t find my joy anywhere
all the magic vanished into the misty air
and I can’t find my joy anywhere
Faces look familiar,
but they don’t have names
towns I used to live in
have been rearranged
Highways I once traveled down
don’t look the same
Everything has changed
Everything has changed

I understand better than you think that people like I do, Vicki. And my heart breaks for your wee lamb, his eyes shut to the shadow of his protector, ripped away from him, leaving the two of you to fend on alone.

I hope that you heal.

This is a prayer for you, in ancient Sanskrit.

"Gyate, gyate harag yate, harasogyate botchi sowaka". Someday, I hope that you will say this to yourself, as you breathe in and out, as you kindle love in your heart, for yourself and your beautiful son.

It is the great prayer of the Heart Sutra, which the ancient yogis used to recite.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I recommended this book, The Beckoners, by Carrie Mac, to a young woman who was still in high school a couple of days ago, and because she had never heard of it, thought that it deserved house room on this blog. Its about being young, in a world that is cut loose from the adult sphere, and the wild west of kids, groups, school, and bullying. A great tale for just about any teenager- and adults too.

The October Book

Dear Reader,

I can't wait to read Shannon Hayes' wondrous new novel, Radical Homemakers.

She's a fluid, luminous writer with glimmering, easy prose. I found her today, and her joy in living well and encapsulating others is a wellspring- a soul balm.

Thank you for writing this book, Shannon.

I hope more people find it- and buy it!

love and hope to all who are reading.

p.s.- here's a sneak look over at a recent entry in Shannon's blog.
The book is published by Left to Right press.
Scott Burchhill in the Sydney Morning Herald

US should stay out of Afghanistan: K state collegian.

Phil Mercer on the war in Voice of America.

Murray Wardrop and Anita Singh cover this story about an antiwar protestor from the BBC.

Here is another story on the drone attacks in Pakistan.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Afghan Fact of the Day

In 1978, on windswept plains of northern Afghanistan, archaeologists unearthed tombs of ancient nomads that had been sealed for two thousand years and discovered an extraordinary trove: some 22,000 individual pieces of gold buried with the remains of six Bactrian Central Asian nomads. Within months of this discovery at Tillya Tepe, the country descended into war, and the so-called Bactrian Hoard disappeared into legend once more. Twenty-five years later, in 2003, Afghanistan surprised the world by announcing that the priceless artifacts had been located intact in the presidential palace bank vault in Kabul. They had been rescued, along with other masterpieces of the National Museum, Kabul, and protected in the intervening years of turmoil by a group of selfless Afghan heroes who have come to be known as “the key holders.”
MADGE protestors in Australia show up at Monsanto headquarters to demand genetically modified organism labelling today.
Here's a army perspective on what happened in Afghanistan this week.

And another NATO soldier was killed.
See a photographer's mission.. to show Afghan people as beautiful and human.
A new film, the Garden at the End of the World, on what war, drug addiction and poverty are doing to Affy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The cognitive benefits of bilingualism in preschool, according to the the Wall Street Journal.
The Irish Writer's Union on what the Irish tax exemption for writers has done for Ireland. Writers and artists from all over the world continually locate there, and write about that country.
Egypt should actively enforce last year's ban on plastic bags to save the Red Sea, write the Guardian.
Bill 22, introduced by Kim Craitor in the Ontario legislature, is intended to ensure that grandparents have visitation with their grandchildren. It has "passed another hurdle".
The Greens campaign to label genetically modified food in Australia, writes Pankaj Sharma.
A city council in Maryland is asked permission to help with legislation so that gardens can be started at three local schools.
"Its kinda punk rock to have natural childbirth"- Judy Greer, on Ricki Lake's amazing documentary, The Business of Being Born.
In light of the recent revelations around trafficked women in Vancouver, here is a link to the tronie foundation, which is located in Seattle, Washington, which operates a shelter and lobbies for better trafficking laws and protocols. It was founded by two people who were actually trafficked themselves. Also, here is another resource: Real Men Don't Buy Girls.

What an awful situation, and its incredible that these women managed to escape from their harrowing ordeal.
All of the Chilean miners are in good health.

Best of luck to all of the miners and their families :)
Britain and Italy announce new trainers for Afghanistan.

A Polish soldier has been killed in Afghanistan.

Finally, news is seeping out of Bagram, thanks to the fabulous Associated Press.

Sixty-seven percent of Georgians want out of Afghanistan according to a newspaper poll.

One can't wait to read Tea with the Taliban.

More on the Afghan war from the Economist; they are reporting on a splurge in services and remark that the Afghans would just much rather have troops out of their country killing people.

Eight NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan.

Neil Campbell, an Australian, has been picked up for extradition to America for alleged fraud as he delivered aid projects in Afghanistan. This is a startling development and because it is a holiday in India, it remains to be seen what Mr. Campbell has to say about the allegations. He was in Indian custody awaiting extradition. Update: Campbell's family speaks out in the Brisbane papers here.

New American media has this to say on the war- its a thoughtful summing up.

JJ Sutherland reports that four more people from NATO have died in the war, in amongst other interesting tidbits.

Contracts are still being awarded for defence in Afghanistan and Iraq (Operation Enduring Freedom was mentioned), as late as last week. You can see who is making big money out of these operations here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans. It's idiotic. This war is nothing but a huge waste of money," Bundeswehr soldier to German minister touring Afghanistan, as reported by Der Speigel, published today.
Russia and Britain have pledged to increase cooperation in Afghanistan.

Four US missiles have killed 11 people in Pakistan.

Nine civilians have been killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb, update CNN.

Johnathan Monpetit has reported that Pakistan is considering letting the Americans use a base in that country to further the war in Afghanistan.

The UN Security Council voted to allow ISAF to continue its work for another year in Afghanistan, carry Sify.

Opposition politician Tony Abbot in Australia has dropped his call for increased troops to Afghanistan after speaking to commanders in the field; the Australians are further speaking with the Iranians in regards to their positionality on Afghanistan, report the Age.

Eight people are feared dead in yet another plane crash in Afghanistan, say UK media today.

Italy will equip its troops in Afghanistan with bomber jets only if there is widespread support in that country, says La Russa on behalf of the government.

John Campbell and Pierre Chavancy give a progress report from their fight on the ground in Afghanistan.

The dangers of militarized aid in Afghanistan ends with the stark revelation that Afghanistsn is second only to Niger on the Human Development Index.

Penny Kome's Straight Goods has some good details from Malalai Joya's recent Canadian tour, by Ish Thelheimer.

ISAF has reported that the commander allegedly behind the deaths of Spanish soldiers has been killed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

VOA is reporting that one Afghan leader has been killed by NATO. Also, they restate the recent news that Italy has announced that it will withdraw from Afghanistan in 2011.

Columnist Eric Margolis' latest concerns on mission creep in Afpak.

Pakistan's Gilani talks peace in Afghanistan.

A woman and two small children were among the dead when six civilians were just killed in Paktika province, report Press TV.

One Afghan interpreter was killed and seven ISAF troops wounded after an unexplained blast on a NATO helicopter yesterday, according to NBC.

Australia prepares to debate the Afghan mission next week, in a completely unscripted exercise that one hopes will receive a great deal of coverage.

Six more Afghans have been killed protesting the occupation of their country.
From all of us out there who care, thank you to the Grossman Burn Foundation for taking care of Aisha, who was recently featured in Time magazine.

People who want to help others in many countries (including the United States) can donate to the foundation here.
Women Make Movies is one of my favourite distributors of documentaries on the planet!
They're based in New York City, and I've just put out a link to their latest.

Wired for sex and bullying: its a teen's world.
The Virginian Pilot interviews one of the jurors in the mistrial case of three civilians being shot by Blackwater guards in Afghanistan. The juror revealed the thoughts of his peers.

Afghan Fact of the Day

Rice plays a very important part in Afghan cooking, and Afghans are very particular about the grain of rice they use. The best quality rice in Afghanistan is found in the south, particularly the province of Laghman. That is where one can find "Aahu Barah" rice meaning "The Deer's Valley". Aahu Barah rice is in the Basmati Rice family and is considered one of the finest qualities of rice available. It is best described as a long grained and extremely aromatic rice as all true Basmatis.
The Spoof (satirical website) has this amusing piece on an interview with an Afghan freedom fighter.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This recipe is out of Baltimore, from our friends at the Baltimore Sun, who went in and did a special on pumpkins :)

The Helmand's great pumpkin appetizer recipe

Gathering background for next week's Taste story following up on last year's pumpkin shortage, The Sun's Susan Reimer contacted chefs and restaurateurs around town who love to work with the big orange gourd. Among them, of course, was Qayum Karzai, the owner of The Helmand.

And to her surprise, Karzai was willing to share the recipe for this beloved, multi-award winning appetizer.

Karzai said it reflects Afghan cooking traditions: A lot of reliance on vegetables, especially squashes, and long, slow cooking because of limited refrigeration.

The sugar and the tiniest hint of cinnamon contrast smartly with the sharp taste of garlic in the yogurt. It's served with a peppery flat bread.
Here's a taste; look for the full article next week:

Kaddo Bowrani (Baked Pumpkin) from The Helmand Restaurant in Baltimore

Makes: 4-6 servings


For pumpkin:

1 small pumpkin (baby or spookies work best)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil


For Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon fresh-cut diced garlic

Dash salt

Slice pumpkin and remove seeds. Peel outer skin. Slice 2-inch pieces lengthwise. Place oil in skillet pan and heat to medium heat. Add pumpkin. Cook on medium heat covered for approximately 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from pan and place in small roasting or baking pan. Sprinkle the pumpkin with the sugar and cinnamon. Cover tightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minute or until soft. Time may differ according to the hardness of the pumpkin.

For yogurt sauce, stir ingredients together until smooth.

Serve pumpkin warm with yogurt sauce.

Afghan Fact of the Day

For people who can’t afford to buy new clothes, there is a second hand market (Bazzar-e- Lilami) that sells clothes that comes from abroad. There are several shops specializing in different second hand goods such as shoes and different types of clothes for men, women, and children.

Out for a Walk in Affy

Injuries Associated With Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance—Afghanistan, 1997-2002

JAMA. 2003;290:1846-1848.

MMWR. 2003;52:859-862

2 tables omitted

Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) pose a substantial public health risk.1-2 Approximately 60-70 million landmines are scattered in approximately 70 countries,3 and an estimated 24,000 persons, mostly civilians, are killed or injured annually by landmines and UXO.4 In Afghanistan, approximately 5-7 million landmines are scattered throughout the country.4 During 2000-2001, Afghanistan had the highest number of reported landmine and UXO casualties in the world.5 This report presents analyses of surveillance data on landmine- and UXO-related injuries in Afghanistan during January 1997–September 2002, which indicate that the proportion of victims injured by UXO increased during this time, compared with the proportion injured by landmines. The majority (61%) of adult victims were injured by landmines, and the majority (66%) of children and adolescents were injured by UXO. Mine-risk education programs should focus on UXO hazards for children and on landmine hazards for adults and should address age-specific risk behaviors.

Data on landmine- and UXO-related injuries were obtained from the United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan (UN MACA), which conducts surveillance for these injuries in Afghanistan. The data include geographic location of incident, victim demographics, type of injury, type of explosive involved, activity at the time of injury, and other information about the circumstances of the incident. Approximately 70% of records in the database came from the clinic-based surveillance system operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which uses both active and passive data-collection methods. ICRC clinic-based surveillance began in 1998 and has expanded during the observation period to include approximately 390 health clinics and hospitals in Afghanistan.6 The remaining data on landmine- and UXO-related injuries were collected from mine-clearance teams and community mine-risk education programs operated by the nongovernment organizations working in mine clearance, mine-risk education, and victim assistance under the auspices of UN MACA. Rates were not calculated because no reliable data were available on large population changes during 1997-2002 and the sensitivity of the system is unknown. Duplicate entries were excluded, and statistical analyses were performed by using JMP (version 5.0) software from SAS Institute. Statistical significance of associations was tested by using chi-square tests.

During January 1997–September 2002, a total of 6,114 injuries from landmines and UXO were reported to UN MACA in Afghanistan. The number of reported victims of landmines and UXO was highest in 1999 and decreased gradually; sex and age distributions of victims remained relatively stable. Injuries in males were approximately 10 times higher than in females. In each year during 1997-2002, approximately half of all injuries occurred in persons aged <18 years. The greatest number (1,830 [29%]) of injuries occurred in children aged 10-14 years, followed by persons aged 15-19 years (891 [14%]) and children aged 5-9 years (834 [13%]). During this period, the proportion of UXO-related injuries increased, and that of landmine-related injuries decreased (chi square for linear trend = 114.8; p<0.001). The proportion of children injured by UXO was 2.3 times as high as that of adults (chi square = 729.7; p<0.001). The proportion of adult victims sustaining amputation was 1.3 times higher than that of child victims (chi square = 67.7; p<0.001). The case-fatality rate was the same (approximately 7%) in both age groups. Children were injured most often while playing or tending animals; adults were injured most often while traveling or engaging in military activities.

Reported by:

M Wennerstrom, United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan, Kabul; S Baaser, P Salama, MD, United Nations Children's Fund, Kabul, Afghanistan. M Brennan, MD, BA Woodruff, MD, National Center for Environmental Health; O Bilukha, MD, EIS Officer, CDC.

CDC Editorial Note:

The data presented in this report demonstrate that injuries from landmines and UXO remain a public health concern in Afghanistan. The majority of landmines were laid during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s3; however, many areas have been newly contaminated with UXO during recent episodes of fighting between Taliban and allied forces.5 Mines often are laid around objects of economic importance (e.g., industrial buildings, roads, water sources, and fertile land), resulting in injuries among persons who are traveling or performing activities of economic necessity (e.g., farming, collecting wood or water, and tending animals). UXO often lie on the surface of the ground and thus are more visible and easier to avoid. However, because of their visibility, UXO pose a particular threat to children and adolescents who like to play or tamper with strange objects.

The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, because surveillance for landmine- and UXO-related injuries is predominantly clinic-based, it probably undercounts victims who die before reaching the clinic, whose injuries are too minor to seek medical care, or who do not have access to medical facilities. The overall sensitivity of the system is unknown but is thought to be <50%.5, 7 Second, the reported case-fatality rate probably is underestimated because surveillance detects predominantly victims who survive long enough to receive medical care. Survey data from Afghanistan and other countries have shown case-fatality rates as high as 50%-55%.8-9 Third, the time trends in recorded injuries should be interpreted with caution because of the low sensitivity of the system and variability in system coverage over time depending on the availability of resources, the security situation, and other factors. However, sensitivity of the system to landmine-related injuries versus sensitivity to UXO-related injuries probably has not changed substantially over time, suggesting that the data reflect a true increase in the proportion of UXO-related injuries among all recorded injuries. Finally, although this surveillance system identifies acute injuries, it does not monitor long-term disability or psychological impact on victims and their families, which can add substantially to the public health burden.

The more restricted mobility of Afghan women and the resulting lower likelihood that women engage in activities that put them at risk for landmine- and UXO-related injuries might account for the low proportion of female victims. In addition, because of cultural restrictions, women, if injured, might be less likely to receive medical care or to be interviewed and recorded by the surveillance system. Among children aged <=5 years, sex-specific differences in mobility generally do not apply, and the proportion of female victims is 35%.

The increasing proportion of injuries from UXO and the high proportion of such injuries among children and adolescents underscore the need for effective mine-risk education programs for children and adolescents that focus on UXO hazards and address age-specific risk behaviors, such as playing, tending animals, and tampering with explosives. Mine-risk education programs for adults should focus more on hazards from landmines. Such programs also should address the approximately two million refugees who returned to Afghanistan in 2002 and who might be at higher risk for landmine- and UXO-related injuries because they are unaware of dangerous areas.

Surveillance data about the incidence and types of injury sustained by victims of landmines and UXO should be instrumental in planning and implementing victim-assistance programs. Similarly, mine-clearance programs should use surveillance data to prioritize areas for clearance. Expansion of community-based reporting will improve sensitivity and representativeness of surveillance.


This report is based on data provided by the United Nations Mine Action Center for Afghanistan and the International Committee of the Red Cross.


1. Kakar F, Bassani F, Romer CJ, Gunn SW. The consequence of land mines on public health. Prehospital Disaster Med. 1996;11:2-10. PUBMED
2. CDC. Landmine-related injuries, 1993-1996. MMWR. 1997;46:724-6. PUBMED
3. Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs. Hidden killers: the global landmine crisis. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Political Military Affairs, 1998.
4. Giannou C. Antipersonnel landmines: facts, fictions, and priorities. BMJ. 1997;315:1453-4. FREE FULL TEXT
5. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Landmine monitor report 2002. Washington, DC: Human Rights Watch, 2002.
6. International Committee of the Red Cross Mine Action Program. Semi-annual report (January-June 2002). Kabul, Afghanistan: International Committee of the Red Cross, 2002.
7. Human Rights Watch. Landmine use in Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch, 2001. Available at
8. Andersson N, da Sousa CP, Paredes S. Social cost of landmines in four countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Mozambique. BMJ. 1995;311:718-21. FREE FULL TEXT
9. Ascherio A, Biellik R, Epstein A, et al. Deaths and injuries caused by land mines in Mozambique. Lancet. 1995;346:721-4. FULL TEXT | WEB OF SCIENCE | PUBMED

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Hallowed Halls

A language that is unknown to anyone in the west has been found in India, with about a thousand speakers, called Koro. It is spoken by people living in the eastern province of Andhra Pradesh, and three linguists have now made its existence known to the outside world. Researchers Anderson and Harrison have decided that it is an Indian language.

That was the scuttlebutt but as always with academe, there was just recently a salvo of dissension. Do read this exerpt, from the Morung Exress:

One week after two American linguists “uncovered a hidden language” in Arunachal Pradesh, an academician based in that frontier state said his post-doctoral book in 2008 dealt extensively with the Koro dialect.
But Gibji Nimachow would rather not stake any claim to discovering Koro, which he insists is a dialect and not a language as Americans K. David Harrison and Gregory D.S. Anderson announced.
Anderson is the director of Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages in Salem, US, and Harrison is a linguist at the Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. They claimed to have uncovered Koro during a trip to Arunachal Pradesh in 2008.
Nimachow, an assistant professor of geography at the Rajiv Gandhi University near Itanagar, should know. He belongs to the Aka tribe that is divided into two sub-groups – Hrusso and Koro. Besides, he had between 2004 and 2008 researched on all aspects of his tribe for his thesis.
“To say one has uncovered a language known to many in our reasonably educated state is a bit too much,” Nimachow said. “That is half as ridiculous as turning a dialect into a language, although the Koro dialect is distinct from the Hrusso dialect, as I had mentioned in my book.

One wonders, if in the tradition of scholarly ribbing, whether the yea and nay will continue...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Afghan Fact of the Day

Hasta shireen is a type of Afghan nut brittle.