The man who planted a forest in Kerala

Abdul Kareem, 66, of Parappa, Kasargod, Kerala had a liking to ‘Kavu’, the sacred forests of Kerala, right from his childhood. He would frequently visit his wife’s house in Puliyankulam village and it was during such visits that he noticed the barren hillside land nearby. In 1977, as if on an impulse, he bought five acres of the land for Rs 3750. The people nearby and even his family were not able to comprehend his action, and he became a laughing stock in the locality. The property had only a single well that remained almost dry throughout the year. Since it could not provide enough to water the saplings that he planted, he would carry water in cans from outside sources on his two-wheeler. This continued for three years, at the end of which, nature started responding to his unrelenting efforts and the trees actually started growing.

The change was now to be seen – birds came in flocks and helped Kareem by bringing seeds of umpteen varieties and started setting their nests in this new haven. Soon other forms of life also appeared. The ecosystem was developing at a good pace. In the meanwhile, Kareem bought another 27 acres of land and planted trees all over the place with the new-found vigour, motivated by the fruits of his efforts.

One notable feature of Kareem’s forest (that is what the Department of Tourism, Kerala Government, calls this place) which makes it a forest in the true sense is that Kareem never tried to interfere in its natural development once it started sustaining itself, rather he gamely prevented anything and everything that would interfere with the natural growth of his forest. He has never weeded the forest; neither does he sweep away the fallen leaves. There is no effort for intervention of any kind.

The forest has brought about amazing changes to the surroundings. The once dry well in the plot is now brimming with pure, fresh water. The underground water table in an area of about 10 kilometers has risen, it is said. The temperature inside the forest is markedly cooler than outside. Kareem has been living inside the forest since 1986, keeping constant vigil on his creation, which is dearer to him than anything. Visitors are allowed inside, even to stay as paying guests for a few days, provided they comply with Kareem’s regulations. Plastic is banned inside the forest; so is the use of automobiles. Wild partying, loud noises – all are a strict no-no.

Kareem has resisted various offers to commercialize the forest and to turn it into a theme park…For those who know him, the man who was once a laughing stock, has now grown colossal in stature, along with his creation – one that generations will cherish.

Inspiring.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

A Pharma payment a day keeps your doctor’s finances OK

Few days went by last year when New Hampshire nephrologist Ana Stankovic didn’t receive a payment from a drug company.

All told, 29 different pharmaceutical companies paid her $594,363 in 2014, mostly for promotional speaking and consulting, but also for travel expenses and meals, according to data released…detailing payments by drug and device companies to U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals.

Search for your own doctor on ProPublica’s updated Dollars for Docs database.

Stankovic’s earnings were certainly high, ranking her about 250th among 606,000 doctors who received payments nationwide last year. What was more remarkable, though, was that she received payments on 242 different days — nearly every workday of last year.

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Stankovic declined to comment.

That doctors receive big money from the pharmaceutical industry is no surprise. The new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that such interactions are widespread, with not only doctors, but thousands of dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors receiving at least one industry payment from August 2013 to December 2014.

What is being seen for the first time now is how ingrained pharmaceutical companies and their sales reps are in the lives of those who write prescriptions for their products. A ProPublica analysis found that 768 doctors received payments on more than half of the days in 2014. More than 14,600 doctors received payments on at least 100 days in 2014…

The doctor with the second-highest number of interactions with drug and device reps, John Fritz, of Jersey City, N.J., logged payments on 256 days last year. His payments totaled $232,003. Fritz was indicted in June for referring patients to a medical imaging company from 2006 to 2013 in exchange for about $500,000 in kickbacks. He was charged with fraud and bribery, according to a release from the state attorney general’s office. A woman who answered the phone at his office on Tuesday said he declined to comment.

Dr. Aaron Kesselheim said that to have such extensive contact with industry reps can indicate that doctors are getting their information about the drugs they prescribe from the companies that make them, and not from impartial sources. “There’s good evidence that that affects prescribing practices and physician behavior.”…

All told, 1,617 companies reported 15.7 million payments valued at $9.9 billion. Nearly all of those payments — 14.9 million — were classified as “general payments,” covering promotional speaking, consulting, meals, travel and royalties. They totaled $3.5 billion over the 17-month period.

There were far fewer research payments, 826,000, but they were valued at $4.8 billion. The remaining payments related to ownership or investment interests that doctors had in companies. Research and ownership payments are currently not shown in Dollars for Docs.

Keep on rocking in the Free World. And while you’re at it – keep your eyes and ears open for greater understanding of the depth of resistance, core motives for opposition, to affordable healthcare for Americans.

Follow the money.

Meditating in his seat before plane takes off — removed as terrorist suspect

A Portuguese actor humming a prayer as he meditated to a sacred Tibetan text onboard a plane awaiting takeoff from Paris was mistaken for a terrorist by alarmed passengers and taken off the flight by police.

“Police told me that I had been denounced as a terrorism suspect aboard the plane because I was reciting the Koran aloud, that I was reading a text involving words ‘death’ and ‘bomb’,” the man, Heitor Lourenco, said…

Lourenco, 47, said his text, which he was reading on a tablet device, contained Tibetan characters and the device had the timer on to tell him how long he had meditated, which probably caused associations with a bomb.

If you’re fool enough to consider anything with a timer a potential bomb!

He was released after six hours of questioning during which police watched videos of him on the Internet showing that he is a theater and television actor, and checked his profile on Wikipedia, which states that he is a Buddhist.

Double indemnity. On one hand, we have the Western disease of paranoia afflicting the guilty memories of someone French looking at someone else who might be Algerian. Or a Confederate bigot watching a Black teenager.

On the other hand, the matching affliction of an unsophisticate who can’t differentiate between the sounds of Tibetan vs Arabic or the different alphabetic characters. It’s all foreign-looking. Must be suspicious.

Nobel Laureates sign declaration calling for urgent action on climate change

In 1955, partly out of urgency and partly out of guilt, a group of 52 Nobel Laureates signed a declaration on Mainau Island in Germany calling for an end to the use of nuclear weapons. The work of some of these prizewinners—including that of Otto Hahn, who discovered nuclear fission—was used to build nuclear weapons. They were horrified their work was turned into technology that could kill billions.

Now, 60 years on, again out of a mix of urgency and guilt, a group of 36 Nobel prizewinners have signed a new Mainau Declaration calling for urgent action on climate change. The document is open for other Nobel Laureates to join.

The discoveries of these signatories have mostly improved the quality of life of people around the world, but they now stand horrified at the prospect of what unchecked use of natural resources could do to the future.

In our fight against climate change, another declaration—even if it’s signed by some of the most eminent living scientists—probably won’t do much. But the declaration comes at a time when world over preparations are being made for a climate-change summit to be held in Paris in November 2015. Although previous global summits have resulted in more talk and less action, there is hope that the Paris talks would be different.

One of the leaders of the 1955 Mainau Declaration was Linus Pauling, whose relentless work against nuclear weapons won him the 1962 Nobel Peace prize—putting him in the rare category of a single individual winning two Nobel prizes. Who knows? Perhaps the same could happen to one of these Nobel Laureates.

Click the link above and you’ll find the full statement from this group of scientists at the end of the article. Certainly, it will mean a great deal in the world of science. But, hey, those are just folks who advance knowledge, medicine, healthcare, technology, biology, botany, all the intellectual pursuits that brought us a modern lifespan.

It will take further action from ordinary folks like you and me to push our politicians into doing something positive in response.

Down East Darwin Award candidate

CALAIS, Maine — A local man was killed instantly Saturday when he placed a fireworks mortar tube on his head and set it off…

Devon Staples, 22, of Calais was with friends in a friend’s back yard on South Street when the accident occurred at approximately 10 p.m. The explosion caused a fatal head injury and Staples died instantly, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Staples had been drinking with his friends when the accident occurred

The fatality was the first reported since fireworks became legal in Maine in March 2012…

Ayup.

Lloyd hat-trick inspires U.S. Women to World Cup victory


Click to enlargeReuters/Michael Chow

The United States won the Women’s World Cup for the third time, crushing Japan 5-2 on Sunday with striker Carli Lloyd scoring the tournament’s fastest ever hat-trick, including a spectacular goal from the half-way line.

The American captain struck three times inside 16 minutes as the U.S. stormed into an unexpected and unsurmountable 4-0 lead over their shell-shocked opponents.

Japan, winners four years ago, were utterly stunned as the U.S’s deadly finishing ensured they added to their 1991 and 1999 titles, and became the first nation to win the Cup three times…

No team had ever scored more than two goals in a Women’s World Cup final but the brilliant Lloyd went one better all by herself — and within just 16 minutes…

And got her the Golden Ball for the tournament.

Japan restored a little bit of pride in the 27th minute when Yuki Ogimi turned Julie Johnston in the area and fired past Hope Solo to make it 4-1.

The Japanese have been widely praised for their short-passing game but it was an old-fashioned route that brought them, temporarily, back into the game early in the second half.

Aya Miyami’s long free-kick into the box was aimed at Sawa and Johnston rose for the ball but could only deflect a header past a helpless Solo.

The glimmer of hope flickered for just two minutes, however, when a U.S. corner fell to Morgan Brian beyond the far post and she did well to find Tobin Heath, who confidently fired home to make it 5-2 and effectively end Japan’s hope of a comeback.

Bravo! The US Women’s team proved their worth, demonstrated that a nation that still hasn’t grown to full participation in the world’s most popular sport can grow through school programs and amateur leagues to play at the best professional level.

U.S. Census Maps = the True America

non-english at home

In 1874, the U.S. Census Bureau published the Statistical Atlas of the United States. For the first time, essential information about who we were, where we lived and how we lived was available in the form of user-friendly U.S. census maps that could be accessed by all. The Bureau continued to publish atlases after each census until 1930, when the powers that be decided to cease production. In fact, no such atlas was produced again until 2007, when the Bureau published the Census Atlas of the United States, based on the results of the 2000 census. But with no plans in the works for an atlas based on the 2010 census (with only some U.S. census maps made available and hardly anyone else stepping up), one intrepid statistician, Dr. Nathan Yau of FlowingData, took matters into his own hands.

Yau’s elegant and endlessly fascinating homemade U.S. census maps, sport a design similar to those in the original atlas nearly 150 years ago. Some of these maps will, no doubt, confirm your assumptions (population density). Others will upend them (proportion of non-citizens). Others still will address issues about which you likely had no assumptions in the first place (cancer mortality). Some show how slowly the gears of history can move (population with French ancestry). Some show how fast the gears of history can move (English not spoken at home). And almost all show that, for whatever reason, Nevada is a major wild card.

Maps are fascinating. The best compress a great deal of information into a severely limited space. Some are ginormous. These arem’t very big; but, they are a delight. Worth studying to add to your knowledge of this cranky nation.

Which is probably why there are politicians who would rather these maps didn’t exist.

Climate-change is turning males into females

Dragon lizards, that is…

The researchers, who have long studied Australia’s bearded dragon lizards, have been able to show that a reptile’s sex determination process can switch rapidly from one determined by chromosomes to one determined by temperature.

Lead author Dr Clare Holleley, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Applied Ecology, explained: “We had previously been able to demonstrate in the lab that when exposed to extreme temperatures, genetically male dragons turned into females.”

“Now we have shown that these sex reversed individuals are fertile and that this is a natural occurring phenomenon.”…

University of Canberra Distinguished Professor Arthur Georges, senior author of the paper…highlighted the importance that these discoveries have in the broader context of sex determination evolution.

“The mechanisms that determine sex have a profound impact on the evolution and persistence of all sexually reproducing species,” Professor Georges said.

“The more we learn about them, the better-equipped we’ll be to predict evolutionary responses to climate change and the impact this can have on biodiversity globally.”

Imagine how quickly our Congressional do-nothings would get off their rusty-dustys if it was determined that just a fraction of the semi-literate, obedient, party lever voters in the hotter climes of this nation were being tweaked from male to female!

We’d have a nationwide policy of carbon-reduction before you could say Koch Brother seven times in a row.

“Serving the public” still means ALL the public


Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, with their two childrenFrancisco Xavier Vargas

The owners of a Portland-area bakery that denied service to a same-sex couple must pay $135,000 in damages, the bureau of labor and industries has ruled.

The damages are for emotional suffering caused by Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which two years ago refused to bake a wedding cake for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer.

A 2007 Oregon law protects the rights of LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations. It provides an exemption for religious organisations, but the agency ruled that exemption does not allow private businesses to discriminate against potential customers.

“This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage. It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal,” Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian said in the final order.

In April, an administrative law judge proposed the same damages.

The bakers said their refusal to bake for the couple was prompted by religious beliefs, blah, blah, blah

Jeana Frazzini, co-director of the gay-rights group Basic Rights Oregon, praised the order.

“This case struck a chord with many Oregonians because allowing businesses to deny goods and services to people because of who they are and whom they love is hurtful and wrong,” she said in a statement.

Part of this nation’s fight for freedom was to get out from under a state religion. Sadly, there are beaucoup fundamentalist Christians who think they hold the only keys to the door of this democratic republic – and that they can deny full citizenship on the basis of their ideology.

If we had a bit more courage on the Democrat side of Congress, a bit more honesty on the Republican side, we’d have sorted out all this crap decades ago. Not that that would prevent jive theocrats from trying to turn this country from the path of secular civil law – serving all the people.