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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why 9.41 on Apple advert screens?

Apple's iPhone 6
I found this news item on Yahoo! brilliant and it brought back fond memories of the late Steve Jobs' era.
The author, Rob Waugh notes that in every Apple advert, one seemingly tiny detail is always the same -- the time on iPhone’s screen. He writes:
In the adverts for iPad and recent iPhones such as iPhone 6, it says 9.41.
In the very first adverts for iPhone, it read 9.42.
Question-and-answer site Quora.com threw light on exactly why this week -- and it’s all down to the late Steve Jobs’ determination to get the launch of the first iPhone exactly right.
The late Steve Jobs with the iPhone
When Jobs first announced iPhone, he wanted the phone to be “frozen” at the time he announced it on stage at MacWorld.
Quora writer Brian Roemmele says, “On January 9, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. Steve Jobs took the stage at the 2007 Macworld Conference & Expo and just about 35 minutes into his presentation he said, ‘This is a day I have been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years…’
“And at just about 9:42 a.m. Steve announced the iPhone. Thus frozen in time is the near exact time the iPhone was officially announced.”
Since then, Apple presentations have got a bit shorter, and newer iPhones such as iPhone 6 were announced at 9.41 -- hence the time on screen!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The General Election, NHS and my Mum

To David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg: Please keep the NHS, the biggest jewel in the UK’s crown, shining


Ahead of the general election in the UK on Thursday (May 7), maybe one of the most closely fought elections in recent times, my only concern is for the National Health Service (NHS) to which I owe my deepest gratitude.

The NHS is an issue of great public concern and has rarely been out of the headlines in recent months. Polls show the NHS will be one of the issues people will base their voting decisions on, and I certainly would.

The Conservative and Labor parties appear to be neck and neck according to polls carried out for the Sunday newspapers. This, says the BBC, suggests a hung Parliament is likely, and the Lib Dems have been setting out their “red lines” -- with public sector pay joining education spending, a £12,500 personal allowance, £8bn for the NHS and an emergency "stability budget."

If the recent series of TV debates produced just one moment of consensus, it was on the importance of the NHS. Despite cuts elsewhere all the major parties, from left and right alike, appear to be in agreement that the NHS should receive more funding -- the argument being how much is needed and where this should come from.

An Economist/Ipsos MORI poll  shows that two in five of the British public (38%) think that health care is one of the most important issues facing Britain today, currently ranked second only to immigration (45%), and above the economy (28%) and unemployment (21%).

I write about the general election because it will be held one day after the 23rd anniversary of my mum Vicky’s death on May 6, 1992.  And no one would have been a bigger defender of the NHS than her.

The NHS is what makes me proud to be British. Paying my taxes and National Insurance contributions was never a problem because they were my insurance for old age, as it was for Vicky.

Although I neglected to register in time to vote from abroad, I will follow closely and hope the party that will preserve and give adequate funding to the NHS wins the day.

The NHS is a life-safer and it is unthinkable how many people rely on it to survive.We certainly did.

My mum, Vicky
Vicky’s troubles began in 1984 when we were living in Beirut and she collapsed one July morning from an aneurysm. She came out of a coma five weeks later, albeit with no recent memory. That was difficult and traumatic enough, but after breaking a hip some years later, she was diagnosed with terminal viral liver cirrhosis.

We were in an out of the American University Hospital (AUH) in Beirut where she was then living. But with each visit, the costs were mounting to the point where I had to be accompanied by a cousin carrying a carrier bag full of banknotes to pay the bills. By 1990, this became practically impossible, added to the electricity and water cuts as well as the fighting and bombings. It was time for her to come and live with me in London.

A couple of months later, Vicky had a relapse and was admitted to Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, a teaching hospital. It was my first experience with the NHS, not having needed it before.

Vicky was there there for over a month. A month in hospital is a long time. You get to know everyone, all the shifts, the routines and how everything works.The doctors were reluctant to let us leave because they said her days were numbered. However, she lived for another year after that, thanks to the excellent medical care she received.

We were initially in a ward but as my sister and I were with my mum all the time, we were moved to a room on our own. With sisters and nurses much too busy and overworked, we did the basics, but the nurses and doctors were on hand for the essential care, reassurance and the numerous cups of tea and Horlicks needed to keep us going.

The room was cleaned daily, without having to tip anyone to do it. The sheets were always clean, the support and kindness in abundance.

What was even more remarkable was the after-hospital care we received.

We were given a wheelchair and visited at home to see what needed to be adjusted to help Vicky and ourselves cope.

We were provided with all the medicine, the pads and all kinds of equipment for the bathroom to make washing easier. A dentist and nurse even came home and set up to treat a problem Vicky had with a tooth. A carer was also arranged for when I had to leave her to go out and do chores.

There is not one thing Vicky needed to make her comfortable at home that was not provided by the NHS.

The NHS, its staff and services were our lifeline for the year and a bit until Vicky’s death that terrible May 6 morning.


So dear Messrs. Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and co, hands off the NHS or rather, hands on it -- it is our treasure!

What is the NHS?

The NHS was launched in 1948. It was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth -- a principle that remains at its core. With the exception of some charges, such as prescriptions and optical and dental services, the NHS in England remains free at the point of use for anyone who is a UK resident. That is currently more than 64.1 million people in the UK and 53.9 million people in England alone.

The NHS in England deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. It covers everything from antenatal screening and routine screenings such as the NHS Health Check and treatments for long-term conditions, to transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care.

In 2014, the Commonwealth Fund declared that in comparison with the healthcare systems of 10 other countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US) the NHS was the most impressive overall. The NHS was rated as the best system in terms of efficiency, effective care, safe care, coordinated care, patient-centered care and cost-related problems. It was also ranked second for equity.

The NHS employs more than 1.6 million people, putting it in the top five of the world’s largest workforces together with the U.S. Department of Defense, McDonalds, Walmart and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Funding for the NHS comes directly from taxation. Since the NHS transformation in 2013 the NHS payment system has become underpinned by legislation. When the NHS was launched in 1948, it had a budget of £437 million (roughly £9 billion at today’s value). For 2015/16, it was around £115.4 billion.

The UK Parliament sets the overall budget available to the NHS in England. It also allocates a block grant to each devolved national government to spend on local needs. Each government may choose how much of its block grant to spend on its health care system.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Roger Waters to Robbie Williams: Don’t play in Tel Aviv

One UK superstar to another: If you take children and human rights seriously, please don't play Israel

Waters and Williams (Photo Credit: AP/Evan Agostini/Gero Breloer)
In a letter last week, Roger Waters explains to Robbie Williams why his decision to play in Tel Aviv tomorrow, May 2, “gives succor to [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and his regime and endorses their deadly racist policies.”

The following is Waters’ letter published in Salon on April 28:

* * * *

Roger Waters to Robbie Williams: “Your decision to play in Tel Aviv gives succor to Netanyahu and his regime, and endorses their deadly racist policies”


Robbie Williams:

One of the most horrifying incidents during Israel’s massive assault on Gaza last summer was the killing of four Palestinian boys playing soccer on a beach.  This war crime was meticulously documented by human rights organizations and by journalists on the scene at the Al-Deira Hotel. NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin tweeted that just minutes prior he had joined the children in their soccer game.  War-hardened journalists tweeted their eyewitness distress.

Gaza beach last summer (Photo by Tyler Hicks, The New York Times)
I bring up this gruesome scene because popular UK entertainer Robbie Williams, soon to play a May 2 concert in Tel Aviv, is known to be a huge soccer fan.  He is also UNICEF’s UK ambassador and a declared supporter of its Children in Danger campaign. Yet, sadly, when it comes to Palestinian children, like those killed on that beach in Gaza that day, Williams is showing a chilling indifference to their well-being.

London Palestine Action has pointed to his hypocrisy in that he purports to represent UNICEF while preparing to play a gig in Tel Aviv: “We hope UNICEF will remain steadfast in defense of children’s rights, including Palestinian children, and ask Robb

UNICEF, as declared in its mission statement, insists that “the survival, protection and development of children are universal development imperatives that are integral to human progress.”

Dear Robbie, playing this concert on May 2 would be giving your tacit support to the deaths of over 500 Palestinian children last summer in Gaza, including the four soccer players on the beach in Gaza, and condoning the arrest and abuse of hundreds of Palestinian children each year living under Israeli occupation, as has been documented by UNICEF itself.

To declare my own history, I confess I myself played a gig in Israel in 2006 before I knew any better. At that time and afterward, moved as I was, I listened to voices from all sides and made it my business to learn as much as I could about the situation in Israel and Palestine. I traveled widely in Israel and the West Bank and now nine years later having done my research, I have come to the conclusion that BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) is the most viable, peaceful way to end the suffering of, and forge a better future for, all the people of the Holy Land. I encourage you, Robbie, and all other artists, not to play in Israel until Israel complies with international law and recognizes the basic human rights of all the people of the region, including the Palestinian people, which, Robbie, includes Palestinian children playing soccer.

Since my 2006 gig, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has emerged as a dynamic force to be reckoned with. Covered heavily in mainstream media around the world, BDS has succeeded in publicizing the Palestinian people’s predicament, their lack of freedom, equality and access to justice.


Now, in 2015, there is really no excuse for musicians agreeing to play in Tel Aviv. The jury of world opinion is in; global civil society supports equal rights for all. We are approaching the same tipping point as when artists lent their support to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Those innocent soccer-playing children in Gaza were the victims of a violent indiscriminate Israeli attack.

That was more than nine months ago.  Since then, one of those kids, 12-year-old Montasser Abu Bakr, who was playing alongside his brother, and three friends, has attempted suicide and is regularly subject to uncontrollable fits of screaming and sobbing. This is one of the children whose “survival, protection and development” you, Robbie, have promised to uphold. Tragically, it is too late for Montasser’s dead brother and the other three children needlessly slain that day. But, Robbie, you can still stand up and send a powerful message as an individual and as a genuine human rights ambassador, that “business as usual” with Israel is unacceptable until such time as our Palestinian brothers and sisters are afforded equal human rights under international law and their children are not subject to this kind of obscene random slaughter.

As a UNICEF ambassador and a man of humanity and honor, you have, in my opinion, a duty to respect the picket line created by Palestinian civil society and a growing number of engaged musicians, artists and academics around the globe.  Not just Ken Loach and Stephen Hawking and Elvis Costello and Brian Eno and me, but all the other artists, thousands and counting, standing up for the oppressed and the occupied, those subjugated people that Israeli officials describe as needing to be made to “lose weight, but not to starve to death” or, worse, as grass to be mowed.

To be clear, Robbie, whether intended or not, your decision to play in Tel Aviv gives succor to Netanyahu and his regime, and endorses their exceptionalist and deadly racist policies.

So, I say, please, Robbie, look inside yourself and find the soccer fan, the man, the father who can feel another father’s loss.

If you cannot see yourself in the eyes of a Palestinian father, you should do the decent thing and resign from UNICEF, or failing that, UNICEF should let you go.

Love.
Roger Waters.

PS: To all of you reading this who care about children, thank you, we are bound together by the love we have for children, not just Montasser Abu Bakr, his brother and his friends, but the other children in Gaza and the West Bank and Israel and all the other children all over the world who should have the right to live and play in peace and safety. Our love and goodwill extends to each of them equally as we strive to encourage the creation of a Holy Land worthy of that name.

TOMS partners with UNRWA to shoe Palestinian children


I will not look at a pair of TOMS shoes in the same way again. I didn’t find the canvas ones that so many people wear very attractive. My bad! Now, I can’t wait to get a pair and be able to support such a noble initiative by the company and its founder.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has partnered with TOMS to supply Palestinian refugee children living in Jordan and Gaza with shoes.

TOMS will provide shoes and support the local distribution expenses through its “Last Mile Contribution.” The expenses covered include, freight, vehicle rentals, fuel, storage, and labor required to get the shoes from their factory to the children in Gaza and Jordan.

TOMS is an American company founded by Blake Mycoskie, who had a vision to help children in need of shoes. He started with the TOMS Shoes “One for One” project. The company donates a shoe to a child in need every time a consumer purchases a TOMS shoe.

Distributing TOMS shoes in Gaza (photo via UNRWA)
TOMS shoes were distributed to students enrolled in 1st and 2nd grade in UNRWA schools. In March alone, approximately 100,000 pairs of TOMS were distributed to children in Gaza where UNRWA provides education to approximately 240,000 students in 252 schools. Many families, living on less than $1.53 per person per day, lack even the means to meet their basic food and living requirements. Receiving an essential item such as shoes for their children allows families to free some resources to purchase food.

Having shoes to wear to school is an important component of the right to an adequate standard of living, as enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reiterated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In Jordan, shoes were distributed to students enrolled in grades one and two in UNRWA schools, and out-of-school children receiving social safety net benefits or on the social safety net waitlist. UNRWA provides basic education to over 117,000 students at 175 UNRWA schools in Jordan. This education program helps young people develop the knowledge and skills they need to thrive as adults in an evolving, challenging landscape.

TOMS STORY

Blake Mycoskie distributing shoes to children
In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need – One for One.
TOMS has given over 35 million pairs of shoes to children in need. TOMS® Shoes are always given to children through humanitarian organizations who incorporate shoes into their community development programs.

Realizing that One for One could serve other global needs, Mycoskie launched TOMS Eyewear in 2011 to help restore sight to persons in need with every purchase of sunglasses and optical frames.
TOMS Eyewear has helped restore sight to over 275,000 people in need in 13 countries. The eyewear initiative provides prescription glasses, medical treatment and/or sight-saving surgery with each purchase of eyewear.

In 2014, TOMS Roasting Co. launched with the mission to provide safe water to developing communities with the purchase of premium coffee.

In 2015, TOMS Bag Collection launched in four countries with three Giving Partners to help address the need for advancements in maternal health. Purchases of TOMS Bags help provide training for skilled birth attendants and the distribution of birth kits containing items that help a woman safely deliver her baby. Every TOMS bag purchased helps provide a safe birth for a mother and baby in need.

Will stop now and go find a TOMS store…

Saturday, April 25, 2015

7 facts about Khadija, the first Muslim

Narrated by 'Aisha
I did not feel jealous of any of the wives of the Prophet as much as I did of Khadija (although) she died before he married me, for I often heard him mentioning her, and Allah had told him to give her the good tidings that she would have a palace of Qasab (pipes of precious stones and pearls in Paradise), and whenever he slaughtered a sheep, he would send her women-friends a good share of it. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 164)

There is so much to read and learn online these days. But every so often, one comes across an article that just has to be shared. The following piece by Yasmina Blackburn is an example. It is reproduced it here in case you missed it:

* * * * *
7 Remarkable Things About Khadija, Wife of the Prophet of Islam
By Yasmina Blackburn 
Writer, Consultant, Activist, Mom

I often get into debates with people about women in Islam. How we dress. How we don't dress. What we think or don't think or should-be-thinking. I get into debates about feminism. What it is and what it isn't. I think I've spawned permanent foes because I don't care to apply the label, feminist, to describe myself. (I'm not one for labels, sorry. But if it's even required of me, "Muslim woman" suits me just fine.) But if we could agree for a moment that there exists a pure definition of the word feminist to mean: awesomely fierce to the millionth degree, then I'd like to introduce you to Islam's first feminist.
Her name is Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. She was the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him.) And she is one of the people that I think about when I face or debate issues surrounding women today. Khadija's existence precedes mine by more than 1,400 years; and, if I can at the very least, continuously strive to emulate her character, I will consider myself a success in life.
7 things you might not know about the awesomely fierce, Khadija (may God be pleased with her):
1. She was a successful and esteemed business woman.
I would give anything to do an on-the-job, ride-along with Khadija. Gladly swipe my car for a camel- my laptop for a government-issued glass weight to measure goods in trade. What could I learn in one day of shadowing this highly-respected business leader, trading furniture, pottery and silks? Khadija was born to a father who was a successful merchant in their Quraysh tribe of Mecca. She inherited her father's skills in a time in history where society was male-dominated and dangerous. Upon her father's death, she took over the business and traded goods through the primary commerce centers at that time, from Mecca to Syria and to Yemen, hiring the most trustworthy men of character to brave the dangerous trade routes. Her business was larger than all of the Quraysh trades combined and the most acclaimed with a reputation of fair-dealing and high-quality goods. She had a keen eye and was highly intuitive, earning the monikers, Ameerat-Quraysh ("Princess of Quraysh") and al-Tahira ("The Pure One") due to her stellar reputation. Khadija knew what she was doing business-wise, never compromising her modesty or integrity to succeed in the male-dominated trades- hiring only those that could meet these standards. Glass ceiling? Hah! 1,400 years ago, yes, Khadija shattered it.
2. She turned down many marriage proposals.
Being the most successful woman around, rich in worldly attainment as well as character, it seems Khadija faced a consistent campaign of men seeking her hand in marriage. She was married twice before her wedlock to the Prophet; both of these marriages produced children and both left her widowed. Her keen sense of character left her picky; and, she was less than eager to suffer another painful loss of a husband. She resigned herself to being a widowed woman taking care of herself and her family. Until ...
3. She asked the Prophet to marry her.
Love comes when you aren't looking, or so I have heard. (And experienced.) Khadija learned of the stellar character of Muhammad as well as his experience managing caravans on the trade routes accompanying his uncle, Abu Talib. She hired him into her conglomerate. Marriages at this time were typically necessary for survival and not always about love as we know it in today's world. Khadija didn't need a husband to take care of her financially. And Muhammad did not have the means to seek a wife. She fell in love with him, and through a friend, asked him to marry her. (He said yes.)
4. She was 15 years older than Muhammad.
If Khadija's story hasn't broken stereotypes about Islam yet, it might intrigue you to know that she was 40 years old when she married Muhammad. He was 25.
5. She was an ideal wife; theirs was a true love story.
"Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them." (Qur'an 2:187)
Taking multiple wives was a common practice, yet Khadija and Muhammad's marriage was monogamous until her death 25 years later. Muhammad's prophethood began during his marriage to Khadija, when he received the first of God's revelations through the Angel Gabriel that left him frightened, strained and feeling alone when no one believed in him. Khadija comforted her husband and encouraged him during the most difficult days of his life. She bore him 6 children. He loved no one more than Khadija during his lifetime.
6. She was the first Muslim.
Khadija, the mother of Islam, was the first person on earth to accept Muhammad as the final prophet of God and accept the revelations that culminated into the Holy Qur'an. She was greeted with "Salam" (peace) by God himself as well as the Angel Gabriel. She bequeathed her worldly goods and put herself in the face of danger to stand by the Prophet Muhammad as Islam became established in the land.
7. She spent her worldly riches on the poor.
In Islam, whether rich or poor, one's financial condition is a test. Khadija gave her earnings to the poor and to the orphans, to the widows and the sick. She helped poor girls get married and provided their dowry.
Khadija was one of history's most remarkable women. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said that the four greatest women of mankind were: Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Fatima bint Muhammad (his youngest daughter,) Mary bint Emran (the Virgin Mary) and Asiya bint Muzahim (the wife of Pharaoh). Khadija continues to inspire people to this day who revere her for taking great care of the Prophet of Islam and for showing the world, through her behavior, what a pious, modest and courageous woman can accomplish. The example she left for mankind remains timeless.