Saturday, 31 December 2011

Photos of the day

Here are a selection of photos I saw on They are incredible photos from the early 20th century, and were taken by the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn.

Using his massive fortune, Kahn sent a group of photographers to more than 50 countries worldwide. They took the earliest colour photographs in countries such as Brazil, the United States and Benin republic.
 I think they are simply mind blowing. Please I would love to get your comments on the photos. What do you think?

Stunning: The hustle and bustle of the Thames in early 20th Century London is captured in this image
The river Thames in early 20th century London

Different times: Revealing how the world has since changed, this picture shows a traditional-looking couple in Holland in the early 20th Century
A traditional-looking couple in 20th century Holland

Changing world: The earliest versions of cars can be seen in this early 20th Century Canadian street
Twentieth century Canada

Amazing: This picture was taken in the then West African country of Dahomey - which is now the Republic of Benin. For these villagers it was most likely the first time they had seen a camera
Villagers in the west African country of Dahomey, now known as the republic of Benin

Revealing: This culture of Algeria was brought to life in this picture, which was part of Albert Kahn's attempt to promote peace and understanding across the world
A colourful display of Algerian culture

Uniting the world: The ambition of Albert Kahn's project is captured in this early 20th Century image of China, with two curious youngsters watching the photographer at work
Two curious youngsters watch the photographer in China

Opening up the world: A traditional scene from Vietnam. This picture is one of the earliest-known colour photographs from the country
A traditional scene from Vietnam

click here for more photos on Daily Mail.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

We stop being selfish at 33

A recent study by a UK charity claims that when we reach 33 we lose the 'all about me' attitude and begin to consider others' feelings more frequently.

The Make-a-Wish foundation revealed in its study that the older we grow, the more selfless we become in almost all areas of life. Over 33's are likelier to
  • Look out for their neighbours
  • Give up their seats for elderly people on public transport
  • Donate their unwanted clothes and items to charity rather than throw them away
  • Get involved in issues affecting their communities
In contrast the under 33's were likelier to put themselves first in all circumstances.

What do you think of the study?

Do you agree? Has growing older made you less selfish?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Cartoons for a laugh

Okay, this is not your typical 'cartoons for a laugh'. I laughed at some of the cartoons but I also had a tear in my eye. What do you think?

World at a Glance

Egyptian court bans female virginity tests

In Egypt, a court has put an end to forced virginity tests on females detained in military prisons. 

Judge Aly Fekry, head of Cairo's administrative court, ruled that the army could not use the test on women held in military prisons after protester, Samira Ibrahim filed a case.

Ibrahim accused the Egyptian army of forcing her to undergo a virginity test after she was arrested in Tahrir Square during a protest in March. 

Fekry decreed that what happened to Ibrahim was illegal and any similar occurrence in the future would also be considered illegal. 

The military said the tests were used so women would not later claim they had been raped.

Meanwhile, the trial of the ousted Egyptian president,Hosni Mubarak, has resumed following a delay of almost two months.
Mubarak, his two sons, the former interior minister and senior police officers face a range of charges including involvement in the deaths of hundreds of protesters and corruption during his three decades in office.
Mozambique to produce antiretrovirals

Mozambique is set to become the first African country to its produce its own anti-retroviral drugs. Health Minister, Alexandre Manguele announced that the drugs used to treat HIV/Aids will be ready by July 2012.

 It will be produced in partnership with Brazil.
 Both countries signed an agreement last week to build a factory producing antiretrovirals and other drugs in the southern city of Matola.

It is hoped that the factory will benefit thousands of HIV-positive Mozambicans in need of treatment.

One in three Yemeni children malnourished

In Yemen, a survey has found that nearly one in three children suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition. The survey conducted by Yemen’s ministry of public health and population, and UNICEF, found that nearly 60 per cent of children were underweight and more almost 55 per cent were stunted in their growth.
The UN says more than seven million people – a third of the population – go to bed hungry. The harsh economic condition in the country means it will probably need some form of assistance for two to three decades.
Aid workers hope the shocking figures will prompt donors to act immediately.
Nigeria's Christian body warns of religious war

 Nigeria’s top Christian organisation has warned that a spate of bombings in the country could lead to a religious war. The warning from the Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) came after the Islamist group, Boko Haram, launched a series of bomb attacks near churches in three different states on Christmas day, killing up to 40 people. 

The secretary general for CAN, Saidu Dogu called on Muslim leaders to control their faithful, saying Christians will be forced to defend themselves against further attacks.

The spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar said that it was not a conflict between Islam and Christianity.

India passes anti-corruption bill

The lower house of India's parliament yesterday passed an anti-corruption bill after hours of debate. The 'Lokpal' or watchdog bill was passed by a majority of the lawmakers present, however a portion of the bill that aimed to amend the constitution and make the watchdog a constitutional body was rejected.

 The legislative showdown is the culmination of months of angry political debate and public protests that brought tens of thousands of middle-class Indians to the streets. The bill must now be passed by the upper house and signed by the president before it comes into effect. Critics say the watchdog will be ineffective without constitutional backing.

Giant escalator for Colombian slum 
ritics say the watchdog will be too weak without constitutional authority.

Officials in Colombia's second-largest city on Monday have installed a giant, outdoor escalator for residents of one of its poorest slums.

For generations, the 12,000 residents of Medellin's tough Comuna 13, which clings to the side of a steep hillside, have had to climb hundreds of large steps which, authorities say, is the same as going up a 28-story building. Now they can ride an escalator, in what the mayor of Medellin said is the first massive, outdoor public escalator for use by residents of a poor area.

Officials say the $6.7 million escalator will shorten the 35-minute hike on foot up the hillside to six minutes.

Researchers predict drop in frankincense production

Dutch and Ethiopian researchers have predicted a 50 per cent decrease in the production of frankincense in the next 15 years due to the falling population of frankincense trees.
 A study of Boswellia trees in Ethiopia found that their numbers could drop by 90 per cent in the next 50 years if the trees are not protected from fire, grazing and insect attacks. The aromatic resin — which is used in incense and perfume, and is one of the gifts that features in the Christmas story of the Nativity

Thursday, 22 December 2011

West African Sun

I love West Africa’s Sun

Shining bright

Beaming vibrant energy

Penetrating earth’s center

Giving life to this citadel on earth's equator

Tanned skin

Dark chocolate candy

Earth yields

And flows with its bounty

Sweet yams

Fresh corn

Sprouting vegetables

Strong scented-meat

roasting on wooden spines

Goats and rams

Wild chickens and boar

Youthful energy

Skips and hops

Feet grazing against

earth’s red soil

Women’s hips gyrate


Earthy hands

Scoop water from the spring

Clay pots balance

on sore scalps

As we toil and laugh

In the shade of trees

We find rest

Muslims and Christians

Idol worshippers, herbalists

And voodoo doctors

We devour the flesh

Of zesty fruits

Licking our juice-laced


Enjoying the warmth of

West Africa’s Sun

This is true harmony

This is true oneness

Let earth feel her worth

Let dreams be birthed

(by Uzo Ugwu)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Rage Against Religion

(This is the concluding part to 'We "don't do God" in politics. Enjoy it).

Before Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne of England, the country had had its fair share of religious strife and bloodshed. Her predecessor, Queen Mary I, notoriously burned protestants in a bid to return England to Catholicism.
It was under the prevailing circumstances that Elizabeth I declared:

“I never had any intent that (my) subjects should be troubled or molested by examination or inquisition in any matter either of their faith or for that matters of ceremonies, as long as they shall in their outward conversation show themselves quiet and not manifestly repugnant to the laws of the realm.”

She laid the foundation for religious freedom and tolerance.

That was back in the 16th century. Things have moved on since then. As I mentioned in the previous post, secular neutrality is now touted as the best stance governments should take towards religion.

Under a secular government:

• Citizens are granted religious freedom

• The legal system is free from religious control

• Political leaders are free to exercise whichever religion they choose
• State religion is disestablished

• Public funds are not used for religious purposes

In essence, the machinery of state is neutral, leaving individuals free to hold their own beliefs.

One of my readers summed it up eloquently in a comment he posted. He wrote:

“ I think it is better for governments to steer well clear of religion, because,as history has shown the tendency to inflict harm on society increases exponentially when religion is cited as the driving force for a particular course of action.”

On paper, neutral secularism looks good. In arguments, it sounds cogently reasonable. However, it is impossible to separate politics and religion.

Why? Well, first of all, we need to go back to the basics. What is religion?

The website defines religion as:

• The belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: ideas about the relationship between science and religion

• A particular system of faith and worship

• A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion

The two underlying words here: belief and devotion.

It would be absurd to presume that any single human being is devoid of these two qualities.

Atheism is premised on the belief that there is no God.

Humanism rejects religion and favours human welfare and values.

Secularism is premised on the belief that keeping religion separate from the state is essential to promote equality.

Even if a person claims not to be religious, an atheist or agnostic, s/he must be devoted to something. It could be the pursuit of fame, money, fitness, health or knowledge. We are wired to want, and our wants drive us to pursue. Therefore by nature we are religious. How then can we separate religion from politics?

In theory it looks so simple - take a big knife and lop them asunder. In reality, it’s like going down to the seashore and trying to separate the water from the sand. An impossible task!

The very idea that a state can be neutral is a myth. Who determines what is neutral? The atheist? The agnostic? Why should their beliefs, which boils down to religion, be favoured over others?

Many times neutrality is a rejection of religion, which in itself is a bias against religion and removes the claim of neutrality.

Interestingly many states categorised as ‘secular’ maintain a lot of religious practices and symbols.

In France for example, many Christian holy days are official holidays for the public administration, and teachers in Catholic schools are paid by the state.

In April this year France banned women from wearing face veils in public. Anyone seen wearing niqabs and burqas could be fined up to €150, or attend lessons in French citizenship.

As stated earlier a neutral country allows individuals the right to hold their own beliefs. Question: does France’s actions display neutrality?

The United States is another example of a secular government. How is it that since 1937, the United States presidential inauguration has included one or more prayers given by members of the clergy? It doesn’t add up.

As mentioned in the earlier post, in the UK critics were kicking up dust because the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that Britain is a Christian country. Many found it insulting that the PM should make such a suggestion in a multicultural society that is home to various religions. It is a secular country, they argued. Illusions of grandeur. In Britain’s upper house – the house of Lords - Twenty-six bishops (including the two Archbishops) are members and are known as the Lords Spiritual. They are thought to bring a religious ethos to the secular process of law.

The simple advice Cameron proffered was: traditional Christian values should be revived in order to counter the “moral collapse” in Britain. He said "live and let live" had too often become "do what you please".

And that’s the problem with neutrality, it also implies anything goes, so there’s no moral compass that people can collectively follow.

Conversely religion offers a clear roadmap about acceptable and unacceptable moral behaviour. Now this does not translate to theocracy or the chopping off of heads and hands in the name of religion. No. It means each country has its religious base which sets the norm for its citizens. As Queen Elizabeth I said, people are entitled to individual faiths as long as they fall within the boundaries of the law.

One of my favourite Obama quotes is, what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart. I believe that.

We might practice different religions, but there are always meeting points. Most, if not all religions advocate love, fairness, honesty, tolerance and kindness amongst other virtues. The forces that bind us together are greater than the forces that drive us apart.

So if a leader says his/her country is a Christian or Islamic or humanist country, he could be saying in essence; this is our moral frame work. We will not persecute you for practicing a different religion, but we expect you to adhere to this way of life.

While neutrality might be upheld as the best policy, it opens the door to moral decline and a lack of direction. It is religion that molds a better tomorrow.

Inside the 'world's largest' blood store

This photo posted on shows a blood bank said to be the largest in the world.

The centre located in Bristol, south west England, stocks more than 1,000 gallons of blood.

It handles 11,500 donations every week, i.e. 850,000 donations a year, making it the largest processing centre in the world.

One hundred hospitals in the south west of England benefit from the centre.

Demand for lifesaving blood is expected to rise over the festive period.

Monday, 19 December 2011

World at a Glance

 Rise in W.Kazakhstan deaths

Clashes in an oil region of western Kazakhstan has left 14 people dead according to a government official.

Violence erupted at the weekend after police officers fired at striking oil workers who had occupied the city square for six months demanding better salaries.

Kazakh authorities said that the police resorted to the use of force when protesters refused to withdraw from the railroad tracks, and became violent.

Sudan invites bids for oil blocks

 Sudan will invite bids from firms to operate in six new oil and gas blocks early next year, according to a government official.
The Minister of Petroleum Awad Aljaz told reporters investors will be treated well as long as “they come without any strings or baggage.”

Sudan has been aiming to boost crude production since South Sudan split off in July under a 2005 peace deal, taking about three quarters of the formerly united country's roughly 500,000 barrels per day of oil output with it.

The bidding process will start on the 15th of January and the government aims to announce winners by May.

Sudan is largely reliant on petroleum earnings.

Guinea postpones elections indefinitely

Guinea has indefinitely postponed legislative elections initially set for December 29 to meet opposition demands for a role in planning the polls to prevent fraud, officials said.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has also suspended its activity for two weeks, as demanded by the opposition, CENI said in a statement.

The west African country's opposition wants a role in the planning for the elections, accusing the government and CENI of setting the December 29 date without consultation and of planning to hold sham elections.

S.Korea urges compensation for WW2 prostitutes

South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak yesterday urged Japan to compensate Korean women who were forced to work as prostitutes by the Japanese military during World War Two. On a visit to Japan, the president pushed for a speedy resolution of the matter that is a longstanding sore point between the two countries.

Historians say that thousands of women, many of them from the Korean Peninsula occupied by Japanese troops, were forced to work as sex slaves during the war. Of all the women that have come forward, only 63 are still alive, and their average age is 86. Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda said that a 1965 treaty that normalised relations between the two countries also ended all claims for compensation.

China: self-cleaning fabric breakthrough

Chinese researchers are on the verge of producing self-cleaning fabrics, according to a BBC news report.

Engineers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Hubei University for Nationalities in China have created a cheap, ecologically-friendly coating which they say causes cotton to clean itself of stains and odors when exposed to sunlight.

Their research was based on the use of titanium dioxide which already forms a part of compounds used to create self-cleaning windows, odour-free socks and stay-clean tiles

Clothing analysts suggest demand could come from warm, humid countries where there is an interest in functional clothing to cope with perspiration problems.

U.S study says 1/3 arrested by 23

A study in the United States has found that almost a third of Americans have been arrested by the age of 23. According to the study published in the journal, Pediatrics, 30.2 per cent of the 23-year-old participants had been arrested for an offence other than minor traffic violations. Researchers said it may be indicative of the justice system becoming more punitive and more aggressive in its reach during the last century. There has been an increase in arrests for drug related offences, and zero-tolerance policies in schools.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

What would you like to read?

I've been thinking of it for a while and, as the title suggests, I'd like to give you an opportunity to suggest a topic you would like me to write on. It could be anything.

This is just an experiment. Your response will determine whether or not it is worth pursuing.

What do you think? Do you fancy submitting topics you'd like to get a fresh angle on, or would you prefer topics generated soley by me?

If not, what topics do you fancy seeing up on the blog?

Thanks in advance for an overwhelming response! 

We don't 'do God' in Politics (1)

It is difficult to be neutral sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a subject that jars with your personal beliefs.

But difference is one of life’s beauties. It is the variegation of beliefs, philosophies and perspectives that come together to create a colourful tapestry that gives life its spice.

However, despite having this at the back our heads, feelings still run high when we run into statements that cut through our personal beliefs.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has repeatedly found himself on the receiving end lately, because of decisions/statements he made. The latest being his proclamation that Britain is a Christian country, and that British people should not be ashamed to say so.

Many people refuted the statement vociferously. On one radio programme, a Muslim listener said she felt his comment was ‘rude’ because Britain is home to many different religions, which is true.

Another commonly-held argument was that Britain is not a Christian country. It is a secular state that must keep religion out of politics. Borrowing the words of a former government PR officer, “We don’t do God”.

The thrust of the argument for critics is that secular neutrality is a safer bet.
A secular country will, at all costs, remain neutral in matters relating to religion. It will neither support religion nor non-religion. That ensures the equal treatment of citizens.

The opposite of secularism is theocracy. It is derived from a Greek word which means ‘rule of God’, and it is a rule in which God and his law is sovereign. Iran and Saudi Arabia are examples of theocratic countries.
Both are Islamic states, hence they enforce Islamic laws which can have dire consequences. Last week (December 13th), a woman was beheaded for practicing witchcraft and sorcery.

In a secular state, that would not happen. Hence such incidents lend credence to the argument for secularism. But that is just one side of the coin.

In the next post, I will examine if government’s can be neutral and if neutrality is the best option.

Before then feel free to send in your comments/suggestions. Do you think religion has  a role to play in politics, or should it be left out completely?

Cartoons for a laugh


Funny Santa list cartoon

Friday, 16 December 2011

Photo of the week

At 62cm tall, Jyoti Amge has entered the Guinness book of records as the world's smallest woman. The 18-year-old hopes to celebrate her success by launching a Bollywood career. 

Get it off your chest!

I was listening to BBC radio four this morning – one of my favourite stations – and up until I left the house there was nothing captivating on their news programme. That’s highly unusual. Shows that even the most creative media outlets can struggle to keep things lively and exciting in the midst of a news drought.

So you’ll have to bear with me if I sound like scratched CD, revisiting the same issues over and over again.

This week yet another video popped up on the web. It was another train journey kerfuffle. This time in Scotland. It showed a lad arguing with a ticket collector for not having a valid ticket. He swears at the collector who repeatedly tells him to get off the train. The melee drags on a little until a bulky passenger now dubbed ‘big man’ butts in and asks the collector, “Do you want me to get him off for you?”

He then proceeds to shove him off the train. The lad attempts to get back on but he pushes him back onto the platform. Apparently he received a round of applause from fellow passengers.

I laughed at first when I watched it but my sister pointed out that the big man had no legal right to touch the boy. Oops, I thought. I’d never dream of laying a finger on anyone in such a circumstance but I thought how ignorant many of us are of the law. The next day I read that the boy’s father wants the big man to be charged for assault.

Presently the big man has garnered more support judging from the comments on news sites and forums.

Firstly, I strongly condemn the big man’s tactics. I know what it is like to endure the antics of a passenger who turns out to be a nuisance on public transport BUT big man should have saved his display of strength for the boxing ring. If he’s really that strong, he should sign up with WWF go enter a wrestling ring and take on Hulk Hogan and the likes. Yes, the guy was getting on his last nerve but it is inexcusable for him to toss him about like a raggedy doll.

Besides there are two sides to every story so next time before assigning yourself the position of an arbiter, think twice.

The lad’s family argued that he was sold the wrong ticket at the station. That is possible. But that does not excuse his use of language. Okay, I risk sounding like a grumpy old woman here even though I’m far from one, but if I could pass one law it would be that the use of the F-word should be banned in public. If your mouth is so itchy that you’re dying to swear, wait until you’re behind closed doors, in your house!

Why must young people especially litter every sentence with F this and F that? Gosh, it’s as if having a sense of decorum is becoming an exception!

It’s a shame some newspapers are even permitting its use on their pages.

Another story that cracked me up came out of Nigeria. A man is away from home but on his return what does he see? A young man having his way with his 20-year-old daughter! The man doesn’t wait for the judge to decide whether or not it is rape. He administers justice there and then by slicing off the assailant’s manhood. Dear me. The young man alleged that the daughter was actually his girlfriend. But he was charged for unlawful break in and rape.

As for the father, a judge has ordered his arrest for taking the law into his hands.

This might sound controversial but the father went too far. If it were a six-year-old girl, he would have my sympathy. But his daughter is 20. How could an unarmed man possibly break into the house and rape her? Rape in my opinion, would be more possible if he was armed .Perhaps she was his girlfriend and she only put up a show of resistance upon sensing her father’s return and not knowing how to back out. Okay, I’ll stop here.

The young man on the other hand is nothing short of a fool, I don’t need to mince words. Nigeria is a very conservative society with strong moral traditions. Even if the girl was his girlfriend, common sense would tell him it is forbidden in Nigerian culture to have a girl under her father’s roof!

Continuing with the topic of sexual assault, a report has emerged of the sexual abuse of children in catholic institutions. According to the report tens of thousands of children have suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions since 1945. It also said Catholic officials had failed to tackle the widespread abuse at schools, seminaries and orphanages.

I’ll take a deep breath here because my catholic friends are not going to like what I’m about to say. If the oath of celibacy is causing so much controversy and leading to the abuse of children – which is very destructive – then it should be scrapped or made optional.

The gift of celibacy, is a rare one and very few people are privileged to be born celibate if you ask me. Even Jesus acknowledged the fact. He said, “…there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother's womb and there are eunuchs who became eunuchs by men and there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever can receive it let him receive it.”

Obviously the priests involved in the abuse of children cannot receive it. The fact they signed up for celibacy does not mean they have the gift of celibacy. And there is no magic machine that can detect that even if they are subjected to years of training.

My two cents: if a tradition is causing more harm than good, it’s time to have a rethink.