Intizar Husain (1923 – 2016)

February 9th, 2016

A Pakistani writer who saw himself as part of ‘a great tradition, as much Muslim as Hindu’


Writer Intizar Husain PHOTO/Tanveer Shehzad, White Star/Herald

The well known Urdu writer, Intizar Husain passed away on February 2 in Lahore. He was 92 and was ailing for sometime.

Widely regarded as the best fiction writer in the language since Qurratulain Hyder, Husain’s main achievement was the perfection of a unique style of fiction writing, which departed from the mainstream tradition of realistic fiction – developed and enriched by writers like Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, and Ismat Chughtai – and, instead, built on the age-old traditional techniques of story-telling. The corpus of his stories shows his mastery of an extensive range of narrative traditions. He drew upon Babylonian, Greek and Hindu mythologies; Biblical, Quranic and Buddhist texts; magical tales of West Asian and Indian origin; the traditions of the moralistic fable, the Qissa and the Dastan. While his treatment and techniques were traditional, Husain’s concerns were unmistakably contemporary.

Born and educated in Uttar Pradesh, Intizar Husain migrated to Pakistan and settled in Lahore. He began his literary career during the difficult years of the late 1940s. His early writing – like the work of major Urdu writers of that time – described the painful experience of the partition and the accompanying riots. His celebrated novel, Basti concerns a group of people who were uprooted from their homes. Through different characters and their several though different stories, the novel gives powerful expression to the terrible atmosphere of tension and fear and the sense of loss – material as well as spiritual.

Although his more recent novels and stories do not make any direct reference to that difficult period in the history of the subcontinent, they nonetheless reflect a mind, a consciousness that was fundamentally shaped by that traumatic experience. Nostalgic memories of childhood and an anguished, restless quest for happiness; an irresistible longing for transcendence and a simultaneous awareness of the impossibility of such an escape; confusion, anxiety, and a sense of loss – these continued to be the threads of experience with which his stories were woven.

It was 1993 and Husain was visiting India to receive the first Yatra award for “excellence in writing in the Indian subcontinent” (instituted by Rupa and Harper-Collins, India). I met him at the India International Centre where he was staying. He talked to me at length about his work and his views on things of social and cultural significance. Although 23 years have passed since then what he said in the course of that conversation remains very relevant for us even today. Here are some excerpts from a conversation:

What made you abandon the realistic style of writing?

After about 8 to 10 years of writing in that tradition, I began to feel that realistic fiction had reached a dead end and had started repeating itself. The reason was that the social questions of the late 1940s for which realism was the most suitable form of expression had, in the subsequent decades, given way to new questions which required a very different treatment and expression.

What was it in these questions that caused you to turn towards the ancient traditional narratives?

A question that was most vigorously debated in Pakistan during the decades following independence was the question of its history. It was inevitable that such questions should arise. Now we had a new nation state, a new country. But then where did its history begin? Where and what were our roots? Where were the roots of those who had migrated from India? So there was an interesting controversy. Some argued that our history should be traced back to Mohammad Bin Qassim. Others disagreed, and said, no, it begins with Mohenjodaro and Harappa. These new types of questions had a profound influence on our fiction. For example, Qurratulain Hyder’s Aag ka Dariya starts with the Vedic age and proceeds from there. Thus an involvement with history, with questions from the past, was developing in society as in literature. This was the time when I started writing stories that were very different from my earlier work. They were not linear, realistic narratives. I also became increasingly more interested in mythologies and legends, which was perhaps an influence from my childhood.

Many of your stories draw upon Hindu or Buddhist sources. What made you turn to them?

As a Muslim, the stories from the Quran and Islamic history were available to me. As I was working with the Islamic  texts and Alif Laila stories, it occurred to me that there is an enormous treasure of old stories which belongs to our own land(the Indian subcontinent). These too are part of our tradition or heritage. I had known them from childhood and was inspired by them. I now tried to use them in my fiction. Buddha fascinated me as a great story teller.

The wire for more

Intizar Husain: Finding past again


Where the sparrows chirp, the cuckoo sings, the trees sway and the monkeys frolic, there lives Intizar Husain. In his idyllic abode, there exists no distance between the human and the natural, between the real and the ethereal. In fact the two worlds appear fused into each other. There is, indeed, no transition from one to the other but only a continuous flow in which everything – even houses, streets, trees, apparitions and ghosts – seems to be an inseparable ingredient of the community’s life. Sadly this heavenly lodging exists only in the mind of its sole human dweller.

In reality, Husain lives in a single-storey concrete house among a jungle of brick and mortar off one of Lahore’s busiest roads. Car dealers, auto-workshops and private schools thrive where he would have liked his Garden of Eden to exist. Yet he is quite satisfied, having spent his childhood in a town which was as close to his ideal as possible. “I have idealised my childhood,” he tells the Herald while talking about his native town of Dibai. Located near Aligarh city in Uttar Pradesh, the town was “closer to nature than to cities,” he recollects. “People there had never heard any unfamiliar voice. New sounds – like the noise of a moving train – were not known to them.”

For young Husain, born on December 12, 1925 to a “fundamenalist” father, life in Dibai was an unceasing carnival of religious festivities.

“There was a lot of glamour attached to Shab-e-Baraat then. Alas, it no longer exists because of the puritans among us,” he laments. In those days, recalls Husain, the Hindus and the Muslims would participate in each other’s festivals without fear or trepidation. In fact, the young Husain would steal lamps from the parapets of his Hindu neighbours on the night of Diwali. “No one ever objected to that.”

This is not to say that life was all bliss in Dibai; it’s just that he does not want to remember its unpleasant aspects. “We are always selective about our past. We remember only the things which we want to remember. If there was a Hindu-Muslim riot in Dibai, I would better not remember it.”

His father, Manzar Ali, was an orthodox Shia Muslim and wanted his only son – born after four daughters – to acquire religious education. “My father was against modern education,” he says, “So I was schooled at home and was mainly taught Arabic, Persian and religious texts. I also memorised the translation of a sizeable portion of the holy book.”

The Wire for more

(Thanks to Robin Khundkar)

Error found in study of first ancient African genome

February 9th, 2016


This rocky area in Mota cave held bones that yielded the first ancient African genome PHOTO/Kathryn and John Arthur

Finding that much of Africa has Eurasian ancestry was mistaken.

An error has forced researchers to go back on their claim that humans across the whole of Africa carry DNA inherited from Eurasian immigrants.

This week the authors issued a note explaining the mistake in their October 2015 Science paper on the genome of a 4,500-year-old man from Ethiopia1 — the first complete ancient human genome from Africa. The man was named after Mota Cave, where his remains were found.

Although the first humans left Africa some 100,000 years ago, a study published in 2013 found that some came back again around 3,000 years ago; this reverse migration has left its trace in African genomes.

In the Science paper, researchers confirmed this finding. The paper also suggested that populations across the continent still harbour significant ancestry from the Middle Eastern farmers who were behind the back-migration. Populations in East Africa, including Ethiopian highlanders who live near Mota Cave, carried the highest levels of Eurasian ancestry. But the team also found vestiges of the ‘backflow’ migration in West Africans and in a pygmy group in Central Africa, the Mbuti.

Andrea Manica, a population geneticist at the University of Cambridge, UK, who co-led the study, says the team made a mistake in its conclusion that the backflow reached western and central Africa. “The movement 3,000 years ago, or thereabouts, was limited to eastern Africa,” he says.

Incompatible software

Manica says that the error occurred when his team compared genetic variants in the ancient Ethiopian man with those in the reference human genome. Incompatibility between the two software packages used caused some variants that the Ethiopian man shared with Europeans (whose DNA forms a large chunk of the human reference sequence) to be removed from the analysis. This made Mota man seem less closely related to modern European populations than he actually was — and in turn made contemporary African populations appear more closely related to Europeans. The researchers did have a script that they could have run to harmonize the two software packages, says Manica, but someone forgot to run it.

Nature for more

The Anti-Empire Report #143 (part 2)

February 9th, 2016


United States Secretary of State John Kerry PHOTO / Business Insider

(Link to part 1)

We should never forget

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a virtual failed state … the United States, beginning in 1991, bombed for much of the following 12 years, with one dubious excuse after another; then, in 2003, invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis,” reported the Washington Post in 2007, that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.”

The United States has not paid any compensation to Iraq.

The United States has not made any apology to Iraq.

Foreign policy is even more sensitive a subject in the United States than slavery of the black people and genocide of the Native Americans. The US has apologized for these many times, but virtually never for the crimes of American foreign policy.

In 2014, George W. Bush, the man most responsible for this holocaust, was living a quiet life in Texas, with a focus on his paintings. “I’m trying to leave something behind”, he said.

Yes, he has certainly done that – mountains of rubble for one thing; rubble that once was cities and towns. His legacy also includes the charming Islamic State. Ah, but Georgie Boy is an artiste.

We need a trial to judge all those who bear significant responsibility for the past century – the most murderous and ecologically destructive in human history. We could call it the war, air and fiscal crimes tribunal and we could put politicians and CEOs and major media owners in the dock with earphones like Eichmann and make them listen to the evidence of how they killed millions of people and almost murdered the planet and made most of us far more miserable than we needed to be. Of course, we wouldn’t have time to go after them one by one. We’d have to lump Wall Street investment bankers in one trial, the Council on Foreign Relations in another, and any remaining Harvard Business School or Yale Law graduates in a third. We don’t need this for retribution, only for edification. So there would be no capital punishment, but rather banishment to an overseas Nike factory with a vow of perpetual silence. Sam Smith

On March 2, 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

Iraq 2003 was in the 21st century. The pretext was completely trumped up. Senator John Kerry voted for it. Nice moral authority you have there, John.

On the same occasion, concerning Ukraine, President Obama spoke of “the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked”.Do our leaders have no memory or do they think we’ve all lost ours?

Does Obama avoid prosecuting the Bush-Cheney gang because he wants to have the same rights to commit war crimes? The excuse he gives for his inaction is so lame that if George W. had used it people would not hesitate to laugh. On about five occasions, in reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted the like of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. for mass murder, torture and other war crimes, former law professor Obama has stated: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards.” Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Noam Chomsky has observed: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States. The US is now a full-blown pathological society. There is no other wonder drug to deal with American-exceptionalism-itis.


  1. Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States, November 19, 2015
  2. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994
  3. Washington Post, May 5, 2007
  4. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 25
  5. New York Times, September 16, 2014
  6. Sam Smith of Maine, formerly of Washington, DC
  7. Reuters, March 3, 2014

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

? Issue #142

The Anti-Empire Report #143 (part 1)

February 8th, 2016


Bernie Sanders PHOTO/Mother Jones

Is Bernie Sanders a socialist?

“Self-described socialist” … How many times have we all read that term in regard to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders? But is he really a socialist? Or is he a “social democrat”, which is what he’d be called in Europe? Or is he a “democratic socialist”, which is the American party he has been a member of (DSA – Democratic Socialists of America)? And does it really matter which one he is? They’re all socialists, are they not?

Why does a person raised in a capitalist society become a socialist? It could be because of a parent or parents who are committed socialists and raise their children that way. But it’s usually because the person has seen capitalism up close for many years, is turned off by it, and is thus receptive to an alternative. All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life:

  • Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.
  • In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.
  • The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.
  • Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned wages.

What do these examples have in common? It’s their driving force – the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But social democrats and democratic socialists have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.”

I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production.

The question thus facing “socialists” like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?

The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Sanders has expressed his support for such systems and there is indeed much to be said about them. But the problem I find is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.

Eliminating the profit motive in American society would run into a lot less opposition than one might expect. Consciously or unconsciously it’s already looked down upon to a great extent by numerous individuals and institutions of influence. For example, judges frequently impose lighter sentences upon lawbreakers if they haven’t actually profited monetarily from their acts. And they forbid others from making a profit from their crimes by selling book or film rights, or interviews. The California Senate enshrined this into law in 1994, one which directs that any such income of criminals convicted of serious crimes be placed into a trust fund for the benefit of the victims of their crimes. It must further be kept in mind that the great majority of Americans, like people everywhere, do not labor for profit, but for a salary.

The citizenry may have drifted even further away from the system than all this indicates, for American society seems to have more trust and respect for “non-profit” organizations than for the profit-seeking kind. Would the public be so generous with disaster relief if the Red Cross were a regular profit-making business? Would the Internal Revenue Service allow it to be tax-exempt? Why does the Post Office give cheaper rates to non-profits and lower rates for books and magazines which don’t contain advertising? For an AIDS test, do people feel more confident going to the Public Health Service or to a commercial laboratory? Why does “educational” or “public” television not have regular commercials? What would Americans think of peace-corps volunteers, elementary and high-school teachers, clergy, nurses, and social workers who demanded well in excess of $100 thousand per year? Would the public like to see churches competing with each other, complete with ad campaigns selling a New and Improved God?

Pervading all these attitudes, and frequently voiced, is a strong disapproval of greed and selfishness, in glaring contradiction to the reality that greed and selfishness form the official and ideological basis of our system. It’s almost as if no one remembers how the system is supposed to work any more, or they prefer not to dwell on it.

It would appear that, at least on a gut level, Americans have had it up to here with free enterprise. The great irony of it all is that the mass of the American people are not aware that their sundry attitudes constitute an anti-free-enterprise philosophy, and thus tend to go on believing the conventional wisdom that government is the problem, that big government is the biggest problem, and that their salvation cometh from the private sector, thereby feeding directly into pro-free-enterprise ideology.

Thus it is that those activists for social change who believe that American society is faced with problems so daunting that no corporation or entrepreneur is ever going to solve them at a profit carry the burden of convincing the American people that they don’t really believe what they think they believe; and that the public’s complementary mindset – that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done – is equally fallacious, for the government has built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it’s used for), landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, social security, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

Activists have to remind the American people of what they’ve already learned but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want more government, or less government; they don’t want big government, or small government; they want government on their side. Period.

Sanders has to clarify his views. What exactly does he mean by “socialism”? What exactly is the role the profit motive will play in his future society”?

Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Warsaw: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.”

(Part 2 will appear in tomorrow’s edition.)

Democracy thrives on dissent

February 8th, 2016



In 1993, over thirty political organizations joined hands to form a coalition group known as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). The conglomerate comprised Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Ghani Lone of the People’s Conference, Maulvi Abbas Ansari of the Liberation Council, and Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat of the Muslim Conference (MC), and was headed by the then teenaged religious leader of the Awami Action Committee, Maulvi Omar Farooq. The commonality that bound these politicians and religious leaders of disparate ideologies was the necessity to give the people of J & K the right of self-determination. The various components of the APHC were at loggerheads about whether independence was the most desirable solution for the troubled state, or whether unification with Pakistan was the better alternative. The APHC gave the militants a forum at which they could voice their collective political ideology, but their demands were such that they could not consider a viable solution within the framework of the Indian constitution. The APHC has since been joined by the leader of a breakaway faction of the JKLF, Yasin Malik. While most of the other components of the conglomerate lean toward unification with Pakistan, Malik tenaciously adheres to JKLF’s ideology of independence for the former princely state. A leader of one of the core groups of the APHC, Abdul Ghani Lone was assassinated in 2002. Another unyielding Islamist member of the organization, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, severed ties with the APHC after Maulvi Omar Farooq seemed to do a volte-face by beseeching the militant factions to adopt a more reconciliatory approach. It is necessary to point out here that Geelani was a member of the J & K Legislative Assembly from 1972 to 1977, 1977 to 1982, and 1987 to 1990. During his three tenures as a member of the assembly, Geelani was not quite as vociferous about the illegitimacy of the accession of J & K to the Indian Union, nor did he publicly prioritize the autonomy of the state. I consider it pertinent to point out that Syed Ali Shah Geelani owes his post-June resurrection to the quadriplegia of the government. The Omar Farooq-led APHC has been vacillating about its political stance vis-à-vis the status of the state, equivocating between reversion to the pre-1953 autonomous status of Indian-administered J & K within the Constitution of India as the most expedient solution to the Kashmir conflict, and the unacceptability of any solution within the said Constitution. The leadership of the APHC has participated in various international fora. The bona fide intentions of this organization can come under question; they can be held accountable; but they cannot be brow beaten into quelling their opinions at a legitimate forum. Although some of us might not agree with the modus operandi of the APHC, the manhandling of their leadership at seminars organized by and for the civil societies of various Indian cities cannot be condoned.

It is clear as day that in the past two decades the policies of the Indian administration have not only failed to win the “war” in Kashmir, but have also led to an increase in alienation. While the current administration’s rhetoric toward militancy and separatism might have softened, has there been any substantive change in its policies towards the populace of J & K, especially the marginalized? Historically, there are plenty of examples of governments creating and/or reinforcing national tradition in a fascist form.

A democracy thrives on dissent and does create legitimate spaces for voicing political opinions that conflict with those of the establishment. Every intelligent and right thinking person would find the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community in 1989-1990 reprehensible; an exodus that not only caused the dispossession and dislocation of an entire community, but also attenuated the sociocultural fabric of Kashmir. There is no doubt in my mind that the organized removal of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley dealt an irreparable blow to the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir. The heart rending displacement particularly of those Pandits who looked for safe havens in refugee camps has been horrific, but that doesn’t justify the attempt to repress arguments for the restoration of autonomy to J & K; holding arguments for a plebiscite in J & K under UN auspices, which some would consider a seemingly unviable solution in this day and age; holding state agencies responsible for human rights violations in the now predominantly Muslim Valley.

I find certain aspects of the disparate ideologies espoused by the leadership of the APHC questionable, but they have as much right as any mainstream organization to reach out to civil societies in Indian states; articulate their opinions; be placed in the dock and held answerable; given legitimate refutations of their opinions; shown through rebuttal if their politics lack substance. Unless the democratic aspirations of the people are respected; the need for civilized dialogue is recognized; and the ability to bring about meaningful change without brutal military intervention is recognized, there can be no construction of stable and lasting democratic institutions in J & K. Nationalistic aspirations do not have to be fanatical to be effectual, nor does the demand for fundamental rights have to be self-destructive. Writers/ orators/ ideologues do not have to conform to a homogenized Indian identity nor do they have to kowtow to nationalist ideology in order to participate in political dialogue. Speaking truth to power is the need of the day.

(Nyla Ali Khan is a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma, and member of Scholars Strategy Network. She is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. She is editor of the Oxford Islamic Studies’ special issue on Jammu and Kashmir. She can be reached at

A commercial village brings business to poor Kenyan farmers

February 8th, 2016


Tangakona Commercial Village Office and Tangakona Market Centre, Busia County Western, Kenya PHOTO/Justus Wanzala/IPS

High incidents of poverty coupled with decreasing land acreage amid a changing climate pouring havoc on weather patterns has compelled farmers in the Tangakona area of Busia County in western Kenya to embrace an innovative initiative to improve livelihoods.

The farmers cultivate cassava and orange fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP,) both of which are drought resistant, under an initiative that involves value addition to the two tuber crops and is dubbed a “Commercial Village. “

The initiative is generating income and ensuring food security not only at Tangakona but for the entire Busia County. The farmers grow the crops in groups or individually but process and sell the products collectively.

Initially the farmers, who are mostly peasants, grew cassava and sweet potatoes mainly for domestic consumption.

This has since given way to commercial cultivation of the two. They have also established a cooperative society under which they save their money and have access to loans.

A key aspect of the commercial village is the value addition to the two crops. From the cassava and OFSP they make products such as cakes, crisps, fries, scones and flour for making chapattis (flat pancakes) and mandazi’s (Swahili buns) among other products. The products attract many buyers and fetch better prices.

According to Catherine Amusugut, who is in charge of value addition, the Commercial Village concept which began in 2011 has roots in a self help farmers group established in 1999. The concept was introduced by Farm Concern International, an Africa-wide market development Agency which promotes marketing models appropriate for smallholder farmers.

A commercial village is an umbrella of registered self-help farmers groups that partner in the production of crops, processing and marketing. Amusugut said that the village was started with 11 groups and 196 members but has since grown to incorporate individual members. Currently it serves over 10,000 people all growing cassava and OFSP.

“By coming together we have been able to increase production, enhance the quantity of our products and sustain the market needs,” said Amusugut. The two tuber crops have improved food security and income levels of the local communities.

Inter Press Service for more

Weekend Edition

February 5th, 2016

Sanders’ spell – Hillary utters “progressive”

February 5th, 2016


IMAGE/Bernie Sanders Video

She was Arkansas’ First Lady for 12 years, United States’ First Lady for 8 years, US senator for 8 years, and US Secretary of State for 4 years and now wants to be the President of the US for 4 to 8 years. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chances of winning the Iowa Democratic primaries was considered a smooth sailing. However, it didn’t happen that way. She won – but by just 0.3 percentage point. Till Iowa primary, she didn’t face much trouble.

February 3, 2016 CNN question answer session with presidential candidates, Hillary and Bernie Sanders, at a town hall meeting had put Hillary on the spot about her getting $675,000 from Goldman Sachs as speaking fees, but the February 4 MSNBC debate between both of them saw her bouncing back.

On February 3, she said she is a “progressive” but the next day she showed her preference for capital punishment. She defended the death sentence by citing Timothy McVeigh, the person behind the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1995, which 168 people got killed and the number of injured was over 600. Her reasoning for invoking McVeigh’s name must be: the larger the number of casualties, the bigger the chances of people accepting the death sentence. But a true progressive will never support a death penalty.

Hillary is a very sly politician and Sanders is too much of a gentleman which does not bode well for his campaign. He’ll have to attack her foreign policy record, which she’s never tired of reminding people. Sanders should draw the attention of his audience, readers, and listeners about her misadventure in Libya and the subsequent consequences. Libya, like any developing country had its problems, but it was a stable country. The Libyans didn’t have very many political rights but they did enjoy a good standard of living. In 2011, the Western countries, mainly France and the US, overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and turned that country into chaos. Today, Libya is divided into sections where different groups, including the ISIS or Islamic State, are holding power. From the US side, it was Hillary who was the major player behind the destruction of Libya. After Gaddafi was murdered, Hillary laughingly told a reporter:

“We came, we saw, he died.”

Sanders should let his audience know about her foreign policy achievements – none of them are to be proud of. Sanders’ campaign will have to work hard to go after Hillary. Her people are already at work to discredit Sanders.

A case in point: Black writer Ta Nehesi Coates, who lives in France, recently attacked Sanders in one of his columns in The Atlantic magazine. The Black Agenda Reports’ Bruce A Dixon termed it as a transatlantic brain fart. What problem does Coates have with Sanders? He attacked Sanders, for his interview in Fusion, in which he refused to support reparations to blacks for slavery and past racism. Sanders’ reasons: the bill won’t pass in Congress and it will be divisive. The arguments are not very convincing. Yes, it will be hard to get it passed in Congress but then as a president it’s your work to go after it. Once it turns into a movement, the chances are that it might pass. But you have to try. The divisiveness can be minimized by cutting the $600 billion plus defense budget and diverting it to the Reparation Fund. One can understand Sanders’ hesitation to jump into this fray when he’s trying to concentrate on his campaign.

Hillary was asked the same question and she averted a direct answer. But Coates has nothing to say about Hillary, whose supporter he is, as if she is waiting with Reparations Fund to distribute it to the eligble blacks..

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

Sleeping Beauty’s Necker cube dilemma

February 5th, 2016


ILLUSTRATION/Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine

We are used to the idea that perception can be ambiguous — there are visual illusions such as the famous Necker cube that can be perceived in two completely different ways. We accept that both perceptions are equally valid and that it is fruitless to debate which one is “right.” Most of us imagine that such radically different views of the same object cannot occur in the realm of mathematics; after all, we are taught to think that every problem has a single correct answer. As we saw in “The Slippery Eel of Probability,” this is not always the case when the technique to be used in solving the problem is not given. For this month’s Insights puzzle, we consider a famous problem that has divided people across the board and generated endless debate: the Sleeping Beauty problem.

The famous fairy-tale princess Sleeping Beauty participates in an experiment that starts on Sunday. She is told that she will be put to sleep, and while she is asleep a fair coin will be tossed that will determine how the experiment will proceed. If the coin comes up heads, she will be awakened on Monday, interviewed, and put back to sleep, but she won’t remember this awakening. If the coin comes up tails, she will be awakened and interviewed on Monday and Tuesday, again without remembering either awakening. In either case, the experiment ends when she is awakened on Wednesday without being interviewed.

Whenever Sleeping Beauty is awakened and interviewed, she won’t know which day it is or whether she has been awakened before. During each awakening, she is asked: “What is your degree of certainty that the coin landed heads?” What should her answer be?

If you’re having trouble picturing the problem, Julia Galef explains it nicely in this video:

Watch here

This problem has intuitively appealing solutions that are so entrenched that they have been given names: the thirder position and the halfer position. Before we review these, remember that in the Bayesian view of probability, the degree of subjective certainty is constantly updated by new knowledge. Thus, if we knew nothing about a coin toss except that the coin was fair, our subjective probability of it being heads is one-half. But if a hundred reliable witnesses tell us that it was heads, or we see a video of the event, our subjective probability can change from one-half to one.

Let’s see how the thirders and halfers apply this notion to the above problem.

Thirders argue that in the universe of possibilities, there are three possible situations in which Sleeping Beauty could have been awakened, which are indistinguishable to her. The coin could have come up heads and it is Monday, the coin could have come up tails and it is Monday, or the coin could have come up tails and it is Tuesday. Each of these is equally likely from her perspective, so the probability of each is one-third. So her subjective probability that the coin came up heads is one-third.

“Not so fast!” cry the halfers. Since the coin was fair, the chance that it came up heads is half. Sleeping Beauty has received no new information about the result of the coin toss when she is woken up. So her subjective probability that the coin came up heads should continue to be half.

Quanta Magazine for more

A dining table in the Gulf – waste and squander

February 5th, 2016


Angry Arab