Syria – To strike or not to strike?

syria 150x150 Syria   To strike or not to strike? From my layperson viewpoint, there are 3 options:

1. Do nothing: The easiest, least expensive course of action, but isn’t that reminiscent of what happened in Europe during WWII? And how would  Syria, Iran and North Korea view inaction after all that talk about a narrow red line?

2. Conduct a limited strike: President Obama is gearing up to do precisely this. No troops on the ground, limited duration of attack. The UN – think Russia – will oppose this, but the US can proceed anyway…

3. Broker a solution with the United Nations to remove Assad: This is a more long-lasting, mature solution as long as Russia and China pitch in too.

So what do you think?

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Palin’s Latest Blunder

palin1 150x150 Palins Latest BlunderThe ex-governor of Alaska (and future presidential candidate?) messed up yet again. During her “One Nation” bus tour, she claimed that Paul Revere’s famous ride was intended to warn both British soldiers and American colonists. Seriously, Sarah? Even my fourth-grade son who studied the poem this year knows better. Paul was trying to warn the Americans that the British were coming!

What baffles me is how a woman who has been known for her ignorance since 2008 has done so little to shape up. She’s had three years to get the facts right. Yet she blunders her way through tours and speeches, then insists she was either factually correct or that the “mainstream media” misunderstood her. That’s right – news-anchors on major US networks have trouble undertsanding English.

And Ms. Palin may one day be our President. A very, very scary thought…

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Kate Middleton’s Dukan Diet

kate1 150x150 Kate Middletons Dukan Diet

Like there aren’t enough diet plans/fads already. But the Dukan Diet, which has been popular in France for years, is making the news  because Kate Middleton is allegedly using it to shed pounds before the royal wedding.

The diet seems to be a French version of the Atkins diet that was hugely popular in the US until…well, until Dr. Atkins, the main champion, passed away. (Interesting fact – he was several pounds overweight when he died but the doctors claimed it was “water-weight”). So, anyway, back to Dukan. The diet consists of high-protein, low-fat meals along with lots of water and oat bran. It is divided up into week-long cycles. Some weeks include vegetables but fruits are taboo. Wine and dessert are allowed, which is why the diet is popular in France. Excercise seems to be an afterthought – 20 minutes a day.

The Dukan diet sounds downright dangerous to me. Meat, barely any veggies, and no fruit? Sounds like a meal-plan for nutritional deficiency and kidney problems. Even the French admit the hazards -France’s National Agency for Food, Environmental and Work Health Safety said the Dukan Diet was one of 15 imbalanced and potentially risky diets.

And does Kate really need to lose weight? She looks like she’s a Size 2 on a fat day.  But if she MUST shrink further, why not just eat balanced, low-calories meals (whole-grains, veggies and fruits) and excercise an hour a day? That works just as well and is far, far healthier.

Oh well. To each her own.

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Sarah’s Key

 sarahs key4 Sarahs Key

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups, in which the French police arrested thousands of Jews and held them under inhuman conditions at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, before transporting them to Auschwitz. The story is told from the viewpoints of two people in different time periods: a ten-year-old Jewish girl who is part of the roundup, and an American-born French journalist, Julia Jarmond, who researches the story in 2003.

Sarah’s Key draws readers in effortlessly with its dramatic opening – the police drag the little girl and her mother out of their apartment while neighbors watch silently. Meanwhile the girl has locked her four-year-old brother in a secret cupboard to save him, assuring him she will soon return. Juxtaposed with the girl’s story is Julia Jarmond’s narrative. As Julia learns more about what happened to the child, troubling secrets about her own French husband and his family come to light.

The first half of Sarah’s Key is absolutely riveting. The plot is suspenseful, moving and tight, the pacing perfect. A Jewish child’s  innocence being gradually eroded, from her time at Vélodrome d’Hiver to her return to her brother, is beautifully portrayed, as is Julia’s emotional and cultural conflict as she learns more about the Paris roundup and her own family.  

However,  the major climax takes place midway through the book. The narrative loses steam after that; events appear somewhat forced and rambling.  It isn’t clear why Julia is so traumatized by the idea of her husband’s family living in the apartment where the Jewish girl once lived, or why she desperately tries to find the now-grown girl and her acquired family. There is a second revelation of sorts towards the end, but the construction seems amateurish compared to the first. Several one-dimensional characters who serve no clear purpose are also scattered through the book.

Perhaps my expectations are too high from having read Holocaust books like “Sophie’s Choice” and “The Boy in Striped Pajamas, but I’d rate Sarah’s Key a “Must Read But Borrow”.

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Stop The Bullying!

 Article first published as Stop the Bullying! on Technorati.

bullying3 Stop The Bullying!

The latest bullying episode – 13-year-old Nadin Khoury from Pennsylvania was kicked, punched and hung from a tree by his jacket by four older students. He was lucky. A Good Samaritan rescued him before things got worse.

Not everyone is that fortunate. We all know of the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince in January 2010 after she was repeatedly bullied. In another case, 14-year-old Brandon Bitner stepped in front of a tractor-trailer to escape the relentless torment.

According to statistics, 77% of students are bullied in some form. Schools have a charter agreement between the trustees and the Minister of Education that directs the school to “provide a safe physical and emotional environment”. Yet these tragedies continue.

So what can we do?
Quite a lot. Provided schools, parents and kids work together.

What Schools Can Do:
Schools have to enforce a zero-tolerance policy with regard to bullying. Complaints must be thoroughly investigated and stern punitive action taken when required. Bullying is often not reported, so a watchdog committee of some sort would make a big difference. Schools also need to foster an environment where the victim feels safe enough to complain.

What Parents Can Do:
Parents should watch for signs that their kids are being bullied (school phobia, lack of confidence, damaged clothes and property) and provide support. Sometimes talking to the bully’s parents helps. In other cases, discussion with school authorities can make a difference. Legal recourse is also possible.

What Kids Can Do:
Kids can avoid bullying by taking a few simple steps. They can walk away from the bully, use the buddy system and control their own anger. They can confide in an adult. A self-defense class is always a good idea, as is participating in activities and clubs that build confidence.

If everyone did their part, bullying in schools would dramatically decrease. And young lives could be saved.

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Are Chinese/Asian mothers superior?

I read this deliciously controversial article in the WSJ by Yale law Professor Amy Chua called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.  

Chua begins by stating some of the things her kids weren’t ever allowed to do – have playdates, watch TV, or be in a school play. She then advocates her style of coercive, military parenting with anecdotal (and often funny) personal examples. She wraps up by conceding that while there are different ways to raise your progeny, the Chinese way is clearly superior.

Predictably, her article has roused very strong feelings – some commentors are deeply disturbed by her parenting approach while others are awed by it. However, most readers seem to have missed the tongue-in-cheek apsect of her writing. Sure, she believes in tough love but Chua appears to be laughing at herself even as she shocks us with her opinions. It makes me wonder if she really is all that harsh or just exaggerating to make a point.

Personally, I wouldn’t go to the extremes Chua says she does, but I do believe a child’s primary goal is to learn. If teachers or parents can device ways to make learning fun, more power to them. If not, tough. The kid still has to learn, practice and compete in order to succeed.

What do you think? Chinese parenting or the Try-your-best-honey approach? Please vote.

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Die For You by Lisa Unger

dieforyou1 Die For You by Lisa Unger

I just finished “Die For You” by Lisa Unger.
The Plot: Isabel, a successful writer, and her computer games designer husband, Marcus, have a perfect life in Upper West Side Manhattan until the morning he kisses her goodbye and simply disappears. Isabel will stop at nothing to find out what happened to Marcus, though each nugget of uncovered truth further erodes her perception of her marriage.

I enjoyed the book. It drew me in with its great pacing, engaging prose and well-etched characters. I felt I was with the protagonist at each turn of her frantic quest, from the concrete streets of Manhattan to the cobble-stoned lanes of Prague. To an extent, I foresaw what was coming, as the first few pages hinted that the Isabel-Marcus union was not entirely idyllic, but the adroit unpeeling of both plot and character layers kept the novel suspenseful till the end.

On the flip side, the double-life theme is rather unoriginal (though handled well). The climax was satisfying but not heart-stopping. While some of the sub-plots distracted me from the story, they were interesting enough to be forgiven.
I recommend borrowing the book.

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Author of how-to book for Pedophiles arrested!

This is an update to my post http://www.geetamenon.com/news/free-press-or-devolution/

As many of you know, a book called “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” was released last month on Amazon. Amazon yanked the book from it’s website soon after the release. Now the author, Philip Greaves, has been arrested.

There’s hope for society yet!

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Online or In-store?

I went to the mall today to pick up a pair of those cool new denim leggings. It was a NIGHTMARE: long parking lines , exhausted & unhelpful sales clerks, two respectable-looking matrons nearly coming to blows over a marked-down coat.

I left legging-less. I’ll just get them online.

What about you? Online or In-Store shopping this Holiday season?

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Th New “Thrifty” Gene and Obesity

Article first published as The New “Thrifty” Gene And Obesity on Technorati.

thriftygene Th New Thrifty Gene and Obesity

Scientists recently discovered another “thrifty” gene called CRTC3 that affects obesity.  The concept of thrifty genes was first explored in the 60s. These genes are believed to slow down the body’s fat-burning process, and once helped our ancestors survive famines.

Mice bred without CRTC3 stayed lean irrespective of diet. Studies also showed that some humans have more potent variants of CRTC3 which makes it extra hard to lose weight, but only among certain ethnic groups. For example, Mexican-Americans with the variant-gene have greater rates of obesity, but non-Hispanic whites with the variant-gene do not.

While “thrifty” genes were once useful, they haven’t evolved at the same pace as society; they persist in making us retain excess fat though famines are unlikely in our current world.

So what can we do about these pesky genes?

Since “breeding” humans without them isn’t a viable option, and pharmaceutical companies will take time to develop a drug that turns CRTC3 and other similar genes “off”, we currently have only one choice. Consume fewer calories than we expend.

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