Sunday, December 28, 2008

How to Nop in Laos

A cultural tradition that should be familiar to visitors of Laos is the nop, where two hands are presented in a prayer and accompanied by a friendly “sabaidee”. Sadly, young Lao people are finding less time for tradition as Laos enters the modern era, and the nop is becoming less common.

Traditionally, Lao children have been taught to give the nop to their elders, monks and Buddha as a sign of respect. When receiving a gift, it is polite to nop the giver. At parties, hosts and guests will show each other the nop to greet and welcome each other.

If you make a mistake you should nop to apologise because this can help you avoid arguments. The nop is also used in modern situations and places such as in offices, factories, restaurants and hotels across the country.

A young Lao person at a job interview may give the nop to show respect and demonstrate good manners. This can give them an edge over competitors, as polite people are pleasant to work with. The nop is also used in prayer. A Lao person may sit before a monk or Buddha image and perform the nop.

Monks perform the nop when receiving alms as do the people giving them. Lao people will also perform the nop to sacred stupas, or to stupas of their ancestors. The nop is seen most frequently around the time of traditional Lao festivals, such as Lao New Year, when young people ask their older relatives for blessings and also honour Buddha, monks and their ancestors at sacred stupas.

It is also performed at baci ceremonies and wedding parties. It is a beautiful custom that Lao people should be making every attempt to preserve.

To give the nop to monks or images of Buddha, bow your head slightly and join your hands together with thumbs slightly outstretched, positioning them between the eyebrows.

To nop your parents, do the same as above, but adjust your hand position so that the thumbs are near the end of your nose.

Students giving the nop their teachers should bow their heads slightly, join their hands together, and position the thumbs just below the lips.

To greet friends, or people of a similar age, position the hands on the chest and bow your head slightly.

For older people, or leaders of the country, join your hands together at the chest and raise them so that the thumbs are positioned near the chin. To achieve this, you may need to bow your head a little more than usual.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Amazing peculiarities of national smiles

Governments may often worry about their national traditions to smile. For example, Thailand’s Ministry for Culture set out its concerns in 2003 claiming that the country’s citizens did not smile a lot to confirm Thailand ’s reputation of the country of smiles. Ministerial officials decided that such a state of affairs may result in a decrease of the number of tourists visiting the nation. The ministry eventually launched a campaign to increase the number of smiles in the country.

“If you smile three times a day, then it means that you will have to smile six times a day from now on,” the announcement from the ministry said. Nevertheless, the results of the ‘smiling campaign’ were never exposed to the general public, and no one knows if that Thais began to smile more.

The government of Malaysia was concerned about another problem. State officials were not willing to smile and preferred to be rude with their visitors instead. Malaysia ’s Ministry for Culture decided to conduct another action: they sent 850,000 Malaysian officials to special courses to learn good manners.

The Chinese also had problems on the threshold of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In addition to a great deal of other rules, they were supposed to quickly learn how to smile to strangers in the streets, which is not a Chinese tradition at all.

It would never occur to anyone in the Russian authorities to issue any of such decrees. There were several experiments conducted among Russia’s major corporations, when the personnel had to display politeness to every client. The example of McDonald’s (“a smile for free”) showed that such experiments would have no success: the people behind the counter do not smile at all there. Moreover, it is difficult to make the Russians smile, and there are serious reasons for it.

The Russians do not smile a lot. Foreign tourists could notice that 100, 30, 10 years ago, and they can notice it now too. An elderly Russian woman attacked an American tourist in the center of St. Petersburg (Leningrad) at the end of the 1980s yelling: “Why do you walk here smiling all the time?” This remark actually unveils the essence of the Russian smile.

As a rule, the Russians do not differentiate between smile and laughter. One may hear the following question in return to one single smile: “Did I say anything funny right now?”

The Russians only smile to the people they know. An American usually smiles when he or she meet someone else’s eye in the street. A Russian will revert the eyes: it is not considered a national tradition in Russia to smile to strangers. That is why many Russian sales assistants look so gloomy and impolite as if they say: “What do you want from me? I don’t know you.”

The Russians say that only fools laugh for no reason. A laugh for no reason indicates a fool, they say. It is considered normal in Russia to smile for a reason, and other people surrounding you must be aware of this reason. If others do not seem to understand the reason behind your smile, they may perceive it as an action of mockery. “He knows something and doesn’t say a word about it, so he just mocks at us at the back of his mind,” this is exactly what many Russians may think in this case.

A historical and linguistic research conducted by I. Sternin said that a Russian person never smiles on duty or at work. Servants and waiters were always polite, but they could never allow themselves a smile. This old tradition is still alive. Many Russians returning from holidays in foreign countries cannot but notice the gloomy faces of customs officers working at airports. The officers may seem gloomy because they do serious business at work. The Russians do not smile at work - it is as simple as that.

A Russian smile is not used for communication. A Western smile is a signal of attention. “I am listening, I am all attention,” this is what a foreigner’s smile says. Wealthy Russians have a different attitude to smiling, though. The above-mentioned research said that a financial well-being is the most convincing argument for a smile. Those Russians who scrap and save and live from hand to mouth would say that they have nothing to smile about because they have so many problems to deal with.

To put it in a nutshell, a Russian smile is mostly a sincere smile, but it is never addressed to strangers.

On the other hand, a Western smile is not so simple as it may seem to be at first sight. It obviously makes communication easier, but it makes it difficult to understand other people’s true feelings and emotions.

Psychologists say that the effect of unaffected joy can only be produced with the help of the muscles which can hardly be toughened by the force of will. They are the greater zygomatic muscle and the orbicular eye muscles. The activity of the greater zygomatic muscle mirrors the level of subjective joy that a person demonstrates. The activity of other facial muscles, even those involved in smiling, does not correlate with the inner feeling of joy.

The sincere display of joy was dubbed as the Duchenne smile, in honor of Guillaume Duchenne, who was the first to conclude that a genuine smile must be morphologically different from all other smiles. A baby always gives genuine Duchenne smiles to his or her mother. Adults smile Duchenne smiles only when they watch or hear something funny.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Russia’s biggest yes-men do their utmost to flatter Putin

Russia’s Kommersant Vlast Journal made an unofficial list of Russia’s biggest yes-people in 2008. The list includes most flattering remarks, which Russian politicians made about Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. The journal already published such a list before, in 2007 – the chairman of the Russian Central electoral Committee, Vladimir Churov was named the biggest yes-man with his rhetoric question – “Can Putin be ever not right?”

This year’s list mostly includes flattering remarks about Vladimir Putin, but was slightly extended with appraisals of Dmitry Medvedev. Politicians, human rights activists, culture activists and journalists – they all flatter Putin, the Prime Minister and Medvedev, the President.

Ten best yes-people in 2008
1. “Your democratism has no limits!” – St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko said October 7 during the celebration of Putin’s birthday.

2. “I thank God for Putin and I respect Yeltsin for two things which he did in his life. The first one of them is the moment when he placed his Communist Party card on the table. The second one is the fact that he brought Putin to power,” Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov said November 25 at his press conference in Kiev.

3. “Vladimir Vladimirovich, it’s very good that you were born!” writer Daniil Granin said October 7 at Putin’s birthday.

4. “After the victory of the Russian national team at the World Hockey Championship, Russian officials have a right to ask their Western colleagues: “Don’t you understand that Putin was doing everything right?” State Duma deputy Sergei Markov said May 19 in an interview with Rosbalt news agency.

5. “If one asks our opposition what they don’t like about Putin and Medvedev they will say something like this: “They are both made of gold, it is true, but this gold is not enough,” a senior official spokesman for United Russia party, Oleg Morozov said June 30 in an interview with Itogi magazine.

6. “We were listening to Vladimir Putin’s suggestions with a lot of attention and respect,” Ekaterinburg Mayor Arkady Chernetsky said February 3 at a local meeting to support Medvedev as a presidential candidate.

7. “We see you as a person who represents a strategic phenomenon per se,” the head of the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions, Alexander Zapesotsky said October 7 when celebrating Putin’s birthday.

8. “Putin is a giant!” the chairman of board of directors of Financial Corporation Sistema, Vladimir Yevtushenkov said October 2 in an interview with the Vedomosti newspaper.

9. “The life and deeds of Vladimir Putin make an expressive proof of the saying – “It’s not a place that adorns a person. It’s a person that adorns a place.” No matter where he worked, whether it would be a public position or not, his talent, energy and determination have always resulted in success,” the Federation Council chairman Sergei Mironov said October 7 during his official visit to the Irkutsk region.

10. “President Putin has always commanded respect and admiration with me. The people have become kinder – this is an attribute of Putin’s policies,” legal expert of the Lipetsk region, Svetlana Semenova said May 7 in an interview with the Lipetsk Newspaper.
Other flattering remarks about Putin that did not make it in the top ten list.
“To achieve Putin’s level, Medvedev, at least, will need to make all the heroic deeds that Putin has done during eight years of his presidency,” deputy Sergei Markov said in an interview with website.

“Every party of the world would like to have a leader like Putin, intelligent, educated and effective,” the chairman of the State Duma Committee for Physical Culture and Sports, Vladislav Tretyak said April 15 prior to the beginning of the United Russia congress

CPC embraces great changes along with China's 30-year opening up drive

Special report: 30 Years of Reform & Opening Up

by Xinhua writers Zhang Chongfang and Ji Ming

BEIJING/SHANGHAI, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Thirty years of China's reform and opening-up drive has seen remarkable changes of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the baggiest ruling party in the world.

"Today, the CPC's policy and decision on internal affairs has a global influence," Martin Mulligan, a senior editor with Financial Times told his students at a training course held in Beijing.

"As leading force of the most-populated country and newly-emerging largest economy, the CPC's accurate decision against the globally developing financial crisis will help other countries find a way out, even for world economy," he said.

China held a meeting on Thursday morning to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its reform and opening-up drive, a watershed in China's development.

The decision to open up the once sealed off country and reform its struggling economy was made at the 3rd plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC, which started on Dec. 18, 1978.

Since economic liberalism, considered by some to be the root of the current global financial meltdown, has run into a brick wall, more people have paid attention to China's vigorous development pattern as well as its designer, the CPC.

According to the organization department of the CPC central committee, by the end of 2007, the CPC had more than 74 million members.

"The reform and opening-up has altered the appearance of China, the ruling party's membership and its component," said Qin Xuan, professor with Renmin University of China. "The CPC's ruling theory and style have also changed."

Xie Jinrong, a Malaysian and project manager of China Nokia, has been working in China since 2004. "I took for granted that the CPC is arbitrary and stuffy before I came to China," he said.
"Actually, it is not," Xie said, confessing that he was deeply impressed by the CPC's ruling ability and high efficiency.

Wang changing, an expert with Party School of CPC central committee, said the CPC has transformed from an all-powerful Party, rooted in the highly planned economy, to a service party so as to well match the market-oriented mechanism.

In addition, the CPC had also striven to enforce intra-party supervision, ensure party members' rights, reform the "election system" and nominating procedure of candidates, and bring more Party affairs into the open.

"In the past, the Party boss could solely decide promotion," said Chen Zhiquan, a retired worker with 40-year Party membership." And now, any promotion of cadres should be collectively decided via 'democratic' procedure."

"The greatest change of the CPC focus on innovation in theory research," said Qin Xuan who had given lessons in September at the collective study by members of the Political Bureau of the CPC central committee.

The 2nd collective leadership of the CPC central committee, with Deng Xiaoping as the core, linked Marxism with Chinese people's practice, and eventually Deng Xiaoping Theory came into being, which is considered a theory suited to China's national conditions.

Then, the 3rd collective central leadership, with Jiang Zemin as the core, raised the Important Thought of "Three Represents", namely the CPC has always represented the most advanced productivity and culture in China, as well as the most fundamental of interests of the majority of the Chinese people.

The 4th collective central leadership headed by President Hu Jintao brought forward the Scientific Outlook on Development, a guiding principle for China's economic and social development.

"The reform and opening-up drive ripens socialist theory with Chinese characteristics," said Shen Baoxiang, professor with Party School of the CPC central committee.

The system of the theories gave answers to what is socialism and how to build socialism. Experts named the theories "neo-socialism."
"Socialism with Chinese characteristics has a positive influence on communalism in the world. China and other 'socialist' countries have promoted socialism after overcoming austere challenges," Qin Xuan said.

Against the background of global financial crisis, he said, there would be a new round of controversy on "isms" as some Western scholars argued that the crisis has make it possible to replace capitalism with socialism.

However, the professor said, the CPC is still unsure as it is faced with many challenges, such as how to realize a sustained economy, widen socialist 'democracy' and resolve issues concerning peoples' livelihoods.

President Hu also admits that the CPC is up against new problems while its ruling becomes longer and its component is changing.

Qin Xuan said," the CPC should continue to pursue development in a scientific way, crack down corruption so as to promote social harmony and build a moderately prosperous society in all respects."

Statistics showed that more than 4 million cases had been filed with over 3.7 million party members published, including such high-ranking officials as former Beijing Party chief Chen Xitong and Shanghai Party chief Chen Liangyu.

"The CPC will show a new face as it persists in the reform and opening up policy in the future," he added.

Democratic society is a consistent goal

By Huang Mengfu/China Daily

BEIJING, Dec. 19 -- Not long ago, an American friend told me an interesting story about China. He said an American could write a book after returning from a weeklong trip to the East Asian nation but could only write a brief article after a three-month stay.

No single word, however, could be written after staying in the country a year, he said. That is because things in the booming ancient nation are much too complicated.

He is indeed correct. It is also why I have come to the United States to communicate with all of you.
There is no doubt the astonishing achievements made by China since its initiation of the historical reform and opening up policy in 1978 are worth eulogizing.

Over the past 30 years, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) has achieved 9.8 percent growth year on year, and the people's living standards have been substantively improved.
Thirty years ago, bicycles were the main means of transportation for Chinese urban residents and telephones were a luxury, but now private cars have become common, and one in every two people possesses a cell phone.

Thirty years ago, about 250 million Chinese people lived in sheer poverty. This figure was reduced to 15 million by the end of last year, only 1.1 percent of its population.
The country has basically solved the problem of food and clothing for its people and succeeded in building a moderately prosperous society.

Its human rights efforts have also been improved remarkably nationwide.
I still remember the home of one of my friends on the outskirts of Beijing at which I stayed for a period of time in the 1960s when I was at university. His home was rather sparsely furnished, and the family's meals consisted mainly of corn bread and vegetables. Today, he has color TV, a cell phone, a car and other luxury items, and the family is living a good life.

People who have visited Beijing know that today you can hear discussions on taxi cabs on political issues, and those taking part are free to do so.

Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in the New York Times on Aug 24, about the Chinese Internet and sensitive political issues.

The freedom enjoyed by foreign journalists covering the Sichuan earthquake and the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics demonstrated the progress the country has made on human rights issues over the past three decades.

In their pursuit of a better life, the Chinese people are also well aware that we are still a developing country. We have yet to solve a series of thorny issues on our way to modernization, such as how to slow population growth, further narrow the urban-rural divide, and how to set up a social security, education and medical system covering the whole population.

The Chinese people are committed to building a democratic, just, vigorous and orderly society in which people can coexist with nature harmoniously.

A discussion between late Chairman Mao Zedong and my grandfather Huang Yanpei in a cave in Yan'an, the headquarters of the CPC revolution before the new China was founded in 1945, is well known to many people. My grandfather asked Mao how the new Party would not repeat the old model of a Chinese regime from birth to prosperity.

"Democracy", Mao answered.
A democratic society has been a consistent goal pursued by the Chinese people in modern times. A democratic path with Chinese characteristics has been already chartered.
China has adopted a CPC-led multi-party cooperation and political consultation system and the National People's Congress system.

As the ruling party, the CPC is in close and interactive consultations with other participating democratic parties and social groups on major political, economic and social issues before any decisions are made.

Last year, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao participated in 18 such consultations. Not long ago, President Hu chaired a meeting with delegates from the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, a component of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, on rural construction and development. As head of the group, I recommended to the president that the government should pump more funds into rural areas to help farmers and reduce poverty in the vast underdeveloped areas. My recommendation was later accepted.

Earlier this year, I proposed to Premier Wen that the central government take into consideration the interests of small- and medium-sized enterprises while adopting a tight monetary policy. The proposal was also incorporated into the government's credit policy.

According to a survey conducted by the US PEW Research Center, 86 percent of Chinese people feel satisfied with the directions of China's development, ranking it No 1 in the world. That demonstrates the confidence of the Chinese people in socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The current world is a colorful and diversified one. We respect the rights of the people of America to choose their democracy and such rights of the Chinese people should also be respected.

The extent of democracy, freedom and opening up China has achieved was unimaginable 30 years ago, and it will not slow our efforts to improve our human rights situations.
The Chinese government is now actively drafting a blueprint for human rights reform. It will further enhance the development of the country's human rights.

(The author is vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the board of directors of the China Foundation for Human Rights Development. The article is an excerpt of his speech at Harvard University on Nov 24. )

(Source: China Daily)

Beijing Olympics -- China's come-of-age show

Special Report: Yearender 2008
By Sportswriter Gao Peng

BEIJING, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- China capped the most splendid year in its sports history when it concluded with a bang its debut as Olympic host in 2008.

After 16 days of near-flawless organization and first-class athletic achievement, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge called the Beijing Olympics "truly exceptional", validating China's seven-year efforts not only to stage a great Games but to use it as a gateway to gaining international recognition.

"It has been a long journey since our decision in July 2001 to bring the Olympic Games to China, but there can now be no doubt that we made the right choice," Rogge said on the final day of the Games in August.

Yet the run-up to the Beijing Olympics was not plain sailing, especially in the last few months before the opening ceremony.

An 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit southwest China's Sichuan Province in May, killing more than 80,000 people, and violent protesters disrupted the Olympic torch relay in France and other countries. In addition, there had been persistent concerns about Beijing's air pollution and the IOC initially said some outdoor endurance events might be re-scheduled in case of unhealthy air conditions.

To Beijing's credit, however, everything worked perfectly during the period of Games time, from the special Olympic bus lines bringing visitors in from around the city, to the thousands of smiling volunteers in blue-and-white uniforms offering help in different languages, to the tickets with embedded RFID chips that allowed for quick computerized scanning and to the clean skies that reminded many European visitors of Mediterranean conditions.

"The Beijing Games is testimony to the fact that the world has its trust rested in China," said Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Games. "The Chinese people, filled with enthusiasm, have honored the commitments they solemnly made."

These Games have attracted the most participants -- from a record 204 countries and regions -- and according to the IOC, television audiences achieved record high in most major markets and the games' presence online was by far the most extensive ever. The opening ceremony alone was seen by 1.2 billion people around the globe.

Rogge believed the largest extravaganza in Olympic history brought greater global understanding of once-reclusive China.

"Through the Games, the world has learned more about China, and China learned more about the world," he said.

For 100 years the Olympic dream has been a national obsession, as historical archives showed that shortly after the 1908 Games in London, a magazine based in north China's port city of Tianjin published an article and first raised the question: When will China be able to host the Olympic Games?

And for the past seven years the Olympics has been a driving force to push China forward. If nothing else, some of the 40 billion U.S. dollars invested in the Beijing 2008 preparations will remain in the form of the three new subway lines, a new airport terminal and sports facilities built for the Games. The thousands of young, smiling volunteers will take their warmth and enthusiasm back to their daily lives.

The Olympics also offered China another chance to adopt international practice. IOC officials, foreign administrative teams and foreign sponsors were engaged extensively in the preparations. From the design of the state-of-the-art Bird's Nest, to the broadcasting and administrative work, they helped improve the standard of the Games.

With the Olympic baton now passed on to London, the legacy will last well after.
"The Games gave us a more open and mature attitude," said Professor Hu Jiqing from Nanjing University. "This attitude featured magnanimity, tolerance and pluralism."
"More importantly, it embodies a more confident nation," added Hu.

In 2008, China impresses world in unprecedented way

Special Report: Yearender 2008
BEIJING, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- In 2008, the world has come to know China with the hitherto unprecedented scope, depth, and first-hand perception.

It has been an unusual year for China -- it faced up to unprecedented challenges brought about by the snow disaster in the south and the calamitous earthquake in the southwest, and took great delight in successfully hosting a spectacular Olympics gala and accomplishing the historic feat by completing the nation's first spacewalk.

In a year when the world has been undergoing a profound change, China has opened its doors wider with broad-mindedness, increased confidence and a stronger determination to improve itself, and shouldered a greater responsibility in global political and financial affairs.

China and the rest of the world have become more closely linked. As Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi put it: "Historic changes are taking place in the relationship between China and the world as a whole."

Riding out Difficulties, China Held in Higher Esteem by World
The expected and unexpected events that happened in China this year have drawn global attention.

On May 12, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake jolted southwest China, causing huge casualties and massive destruction. United as one and standing up to combat the disaster with prompt and effective rescue efforts, China won sympathy and respect from the world.

On Aug. 8, the Beijing Olympiad captivated some 2 billion spectators and TV audience worldwide with its splendid opening ceremony, enabling them to enjoy a charming night that epitomizes China's 5,000-year civilization.

The Beijing Olympiad drew a record number of 204 sports delegations that cover the widest ever geographical areas in the Games' history, and was given heavy coverage by world media. This has enabled the world to see not only a "truly exceptional" Olympiad, but also a more open and colorful China.

Then China impressed the world again by launching the Shenzhou VII spacecraft into space and accomplishing its maiden space walk. The feat has made China the third country in the world to stage extra-vehicular activity and the only developing country capable of manned space exploration.

Commenting on Chinese taikonaut Zhai Zhigang's space walk, Reuters had this to say: "Zhai's brief but historic outing in a Chinese-designed space suit... capped a year in which the country has both coped with the tragedy of the devastating Sichuan earthquake and reveled in the Beijing Olympics."

New Zealand minister on China's great achievements in reform, opening up

by Huang Xingwei

WELLINGTON, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Pansy Wong, New Zealand's newly appointed minister for ethnic affairs and women's affairs, says great changes have taken place in China since it launched reform and opening up 30 years ago.

Pansy also said in a recent interview with Xinhua that living standards in China have been greatly improved during that time.

Pansy was born in Shanghai, grew up in Hong Kong and moved to New Zealand in 1974. She became the first ethnic Chinese member of New Zealand's parliament in 1996.

She was appointed the country's first Asian minister holding the cabinet position of ethnic and women's affairs after the National Party won the general elections on Nov. 8.

Pansy told Xinhua that the Chinese government attaches great importance to infrastructure construction and urban planning.

"Their urban planning are quite successful, even taking account of the development in the next 50 years," she said.

New Zealand and China signed a free trade agreement in April, a first FTA China signed with a developed country.

Pansy said bilateral cooperation has huge potential and broad prospects.

"New Zealand boasts advantages in creative industry, environment protection, farming and animal husbandry, while China has huge markets. The two countries can cooperate in such areas," she said.

Pakistani senator deems China's reform policy "remarkable"

By Li Zhongfa, Li Jingchen
ISLAMABAD, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Syed Mushahid Hussain, chairman of Pakistan's Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday spoke highly of China's reform and opening-up launched three decades ago, saying the policy has benefited the Chinese people and the world at large.
"The transformation of China, which took place in a peaceful manner, has benefited the Chinese people and affected the peace and stability in Asia and world," said Mushahid in an interview with Xinhua.
The year of 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up drive, commonly regarded as a watershed in China's development.
The decision to open up the once sealed off country and reform its struggling economy was made at the 3rd plenary session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which started on Dec. 18, 1978.
The policy, pioneered by late leader Deng Xiaoping, has turned the once poverty-stricken country into one of the world's largest economies.
"Though the reform and opening-up, China has lifted about 400 million people out of poverty, who now have new quality of life. That's a remarkable achievement," Mushahid said.
Mushahid, also secretary general of the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Qauid (PML-Q), first visited China in the 1970s and has paid many visits since then.
Mushahid was impressed by the tremendous changes in the past three decades, especially in the aspects of people's life, infrastructure, high technology, and even language.
"At that time in 1972, very few people spoke English. But now it's very common language," said Mushahid.
Mushahid attributed China's achievements to the CPC's leadership, saying the party has played a "unique" role in bring "the world's most populous country" to the world's fourth largest economy.
"The ideology of the Communist Party of China is based on humanity, not based on control or dominance," said Mushahid, adding that China has not used "imperialistic power" but pursued peaceful development.
"The Chinese society is very pluralistic. China gives rights to the minorities and different communities, who all have opportunity to participate in the process of China," he said.
Mushahid also termed the "one country, two systems" policy as "unique contribution to modern history," saying Hong Kong and Macao returned to China in 1997 and 1999 respectively not by force, but "by diplomacy, negotiations and agreements."
With regard to China's stimulus package plan to revive economy in the face of current global economy, Mushahid expressed admiration for China's contribution to the world's development.
"The stability of China's economy sends a message of stability to the Asian and world economy," he said.
"We share the success of China as a neighbor. We want to learn from China's example, and we also want to benefit from what China had done in the past years," Mushahid said

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

When I was a teacher, I would often tell my students this hypothetical: “Our classroom has decided to form a new country and create a new government to run it. Now imagine that everyone in this class practices the same religion, except for two students.

History has shown that many nations have been involved in violent conflicts because of religious differences, and some are still engaged in such conflicts today. To eliminate this problem in our new nation, we are going to hold an election to decide what religion our citizens, and those who reside within our borders, can practice. Once we have a winner, all other religions will be banned.
Assuming that everyone will vote in accordance with their faith, it is obvious that two of your classmates will no longer be allowed to practice their religion. So my question is this: Since America is a democracy, why has such a vote never taken place?”

Usually, to my dismay, I would hear responses trumpeting the virtues of diversity and tolerance. But rarely did I hear the correct answer: Such a vote has never occurred in the United States because it is prohibited by the Bill of Rights.

What I wanted my students to understand is that America was created as a “democratic-republic,” where the “majority rules” in many instances, but not all. The nation’s founders determined that there are certain rights and liberties so fundamental to the individual that neither the government nor the majority can take them away. One of these, of course, is the right to “freedom of religion.”

The results of this freedom are evident. According to the book How the Great Religions Began, over two hundred denominations of Christianity exist in the United States. Clearly the outcry would be deafening if the followers of the most popular form of Christianity possessed the power to ban all others.

Yet today many of the minority sects of Christianity—that might not even exist if America had been created as a pure democracy—are hypocritically promoting the idea of “majority rule” when it comes to another fundamental right—the right to marry. This was in evidence during the November 2008 election, when many religious organizations in California successfully campaigned for the passage of “Proposition Eight.”

“Proposition Eight” banned same-sex marriages, which had been legal in California, via a constitutional amendment. But, in a paradox that is nonetheless true, this constitutional ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

Just as the federal government has the United States Constitution, every American state has its own constitution. State Constitutions can provide more legal protection for the fundamental rights of their residents than the Federal Constitution requires, but they cannot provide less.

An example of how a State Constitution provides greater protection was shown in the case of a convicted drug dealer who, under state law, was sentenced to a long-term prison sentence. This individual challenged the law in federal court, arguing that its harsh penalties violated the Federal Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The United States Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that while the punishment this law demanded was either “cruel,” or “unusual,” it was not both, and to be declared unconstitutional a law has to offend both prongs of the Eighth Amendment.

Fortunately for the defendant the Constitution of the State where he was convicted banned “cruel or unusual” punishment; therefore the challenged law only needed to offend one of these prongs to be declared unconstitutional. Since it had already been held to do so, the defendant’s sentence was overturned.

An example of how the Federal Constitution can provide more protection than State Constitutions occurred in the 2003 case of Lawrence vs. Texas, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the “liberty” prong of the due process clause voided state sodomy laws that prohibited consenting adults from engaging in certain types of sexual activity.

The Lawrence decision was an anomaly for two reasons: first, it occurred within the confines of a legal system that has historically been loath to protect the liberty interests of gays and lesbians; second, it overturned Bowers vs. Hardwick, a case this same Court had decided just seventeen years earlier. Bowers had held that laws prohibiting certain types of sexual activity between consenting adults did not offend the Federal Constitution. When one considers that it took over half-a-century to overturn Plessy vs. Ferguson, the case that once made racial segregation the law of the land, the Court moved with remarkable speed.

Still, despite this progress, America remains a nation where gays and lesbians appear to be the last minorities who can be openly hated, ridiculed and maligned, even by those in power. Vice-presidential candidates Joseph Biden and Sarah Palin, in a debate conducted prior to the November 2008 election, did not hesitate to condemn gay marriage in front of a national television audience.

But would Biden and Palin have been equally at ease condemning interracial marriages, or marriages between people of different faiths? It is doubtful, because such condemnations would not be politically profitable in today’s environment. But just a few decades ago politicians were perfectly comfortable condemning interracial marriages as “abnormal” and “immoral.”

This changed in 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that laws banning interracial marriages violated the Federal Constitution. In its opinion the Court confirmed that marriage was “one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’” and that denial of this right can “deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.”

This recognition of marriage as a fundamental right means that neither the government nor the majority can take it away, unless there is a “compelling reason” for doing so.
In the Lawrence decision, Justice Kennedy writes, “Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.” Denying “equality of treatment” in these areas is “an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and private sectors.”

Yet gays and lesbians in California, and numerous other states, only enjoy three of the four freedoms that “liberty presumes.” They are conspicuously denied equality of treatment in the area of expression—the right to express love and commitment through the institution of marriage.

In overturning the Bowers decision, Kennedy noted that the Court committed a fundamental error when it confined its analysis strictly to the “sexual conduct” involved: “When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.... To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward, just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse.”

This right to an enduring personal bond, and this acknowledgment that the motivations of gays and lesbians seeking to marry are not significantly different from heterosexuals seeking to marry, establishes that there is no legal basis, compelling, rational or otherwise, for the government to ban same-sex marriages. In fact, as reported by USA TODAY, heterosexual couples are increasingly choosing to cohabit rather than marry; thus it should be refreshing to learn that same-sex couples still place a great deal of importance on the institution of marriage.

The courts, when dealing with cases involving religious discrimination, never question the sincerity of one’s faith, nor does society question whether a man and woman are marrying for the “right” reasons. Why then should such litmus tests be required for same-sex marriages? Why is it not presumed that two people in love sincerely wish to spend the rest of their lives together?

The tragedy of American society, and indeed of all societies, is it is so easy to blame scapegoats for all social ills. Throughout American history people of different races, religions and ethnic backgrounds were often looked upon by the majority with fear and loathing, and thus had to struggle to gain the rights that others took for granted. Sadly, when it comes to the rights of gays and lesbians, the descendants of many of these people are now chanting “majority rules.”

Perhaps a constitutional amendment should be passed decreeing that those who seek to deny fundamental rights to others must sacrifice those same rights themselves. After all, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bush comes under Iraqi "shoe attack"

An Iraqi reporter called U.S. President George W. Bush a 'dog' in Arabic and threw his shoes at him during a news conference in Baghdad.

In Baghdad, Bush told Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that the war, which began when U.S.-led troops invaded the country in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, was not yet over.
"The work hasn't been easy but it's been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace," he said.

Talabani called Bush "a great friend for the Iraqi people, who helped us liberate our country".
Bush later signed a security pact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011. They are to withdraw initially from Iraqi cities by June 2009.

However, Bush's brief visit to Iraq was not all smiles. During a press conference with Maliki, a correspondent for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV hurled his shoes at the U.S. president, shouting in Arabic, "this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, dog" and "this is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq."

He was then overpowered by security personnel and taken away.
Bush, who dodged both shoes, said "I don't know what the guy's cause is." He later commented that, "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw"

Showing the soles of shoes is considered an insult in Arabic culture. In 2004, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi pointed the sole of his shoes towards then-British prime minster Tony Blair during talks in Libya. The gesture was interpreted in the Arab world as "the worst of all insults."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Russian blonde named new Miss World

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Russian blonde Kseniya Sukhinova was crowned the 58th Miss World Saturday after a two-hour spectacle in South Africa that combined elements of travelogue and reality show, and the kind of flag-waving usually seen at sports events.

Sukhinova beamed as she was crowned, and was composed and smiling moments afterward in a brief interview with The Associated Press. She said her immediate ambitions included meeting Russia's president, and that she planned to return soon to her studies at the Tyumen Oil and Gas University in her home region of northwestern Siberia.

"I am so happy to be here," she said of South Africa, which was hosting its sixth Miss World final. "I am so excited. It's amazing."
Sukhinova, who in a biography on the Miss World Web site listed becoming a super model as a goal, also had won the contest's top model award and was third in the swimsuit competition. She was a crowd favorite — though not as popular as hometown beauty Miss South Africa, Tansey Coetzee. Coetzee made the final five.
Second runner up was Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Gabrielle Walcott. First runner up was Miss India, Parvathy Omankuttan. Miss Angola, Brigite Santos, completed the top five.

In addition to the swim suit and modeling segments, the 109 contestants competed in a "pentathlon" that included building a small boat and taking soccer penalty kicks; a talent show; and an event showcasing their charity work in the monthlong lead-up to Saturday's live international broadcast.

The contest was to have taken place in Ukraine, but was moved to South Africa because of tensions between Russia and Georgia and fears conflict could spread to Ukraine. South Africa has hosted more Miss World finals than any other country.

South Africa, often in the news for its high violent crime rate and questions about whether it will pull off hosting the 2010 soccer World Cup, made the most of the attention. The broadcast included clips of the contestants visiting game parks, golf courses and pristine beaches in South Africa and dancing in the famed Johannesburg township of Soweto. South Africans designed evening and beach wear and jewelry for the 109 contestants.

"I've experienced South African culture and everyday traditions," Sukhinova told the AP.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No more rubber for Luang Namtha

There will be no more rubber plantations in Luang Namtha province until the government assesses the socio-economic impact and profitability of rubber, provincial authorities said on Monday.

Rubber plantations in the province now account for a total of 21,600 hectares and provincial authorities want to provide for other crops to ensure food security in the province.
“Now nobody knows whether the rubber is good for our economy and poverty reduction so we will stop it to study the impact,” said provincial administration office Deputy Head, Mr Bounma Phandavong.

Forestry officials said rubber plantations were approved in the past in response to requests from investors who claimed rubber was good for poverty reduction, but there was no proof of this claim.

China is the biggest market for Lao rubber, but the price of rubber in China has plummeted from 870,100 kip (700 yuan) per kg in February to only 372,900 kip (300 yuan) recently.
Commerce officials said there was no agreement about price guarantees between companies and villagers in Luang Namtha and they were concerned about the lower prices at a time when rubber trees were mature enough for extraction.

Luang Prabang provincial authorities also said they would try to stop rubber plantation development and focus on growing beans that feed lacquer-producing insects. These insects produce resin, which is then processed into lacquer and used in the production of handicrafts.
Villagers could earn 13 million kip a year from producing lacquer from one hectare, compared to only nine million kip from planting rubber in the same area, according to authorities. Officials also said it took only six months to produce lacquer but rubber needed at least six years.

In February, the government issued a notice to suspend the approval of new rubber plantation projects to study the positive and negative impacts of rubber in terms of the environment, socio-economic impact and profitability, according to Deputy Director General of the Forestry Department, Mr Thongphat Vongmany. He said the suspension aimed to ensure that rubber plantations were truly beneficial to local villagers.

At the moment, it is still in doubt whether rubber can bring wealth to villagers.
Two months ago, Xekong provincial authorities announced a rubber plantation project in the province had been stopped after local villagers sold their land to investors because the villagers feared that local authorities would take their land for this purpose.
Another reason for the stoppage was to save land for other crops after 6,000 hectares of the trees had been planted.

National Land Authority President, Mr Kham-ouan Boupha, said he was concerned there were not enough Lao labourers to meet the needs of the rubber industry. During the plantation process one person is needed to work per hectare, but during the extracting period five people per hectare are needed.

Mr Kham-ouan was also concerned about environmental problems because, in the past, rubber plantations had been approved without adequate study to determine land use and which crops are best suited to certain areas.

“I think that we need to study three things about rubber: one is the economic return, second is the environmental impact and the third relates to social issues,” he said.

“If the rubber project is not suitable based on these three things then we will not approve land for investment.”

Calcium-rich diet lowers heart disease

A new study shows that adopting a calcium-rich diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

According to the study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, regular exercise and a calcium-rich diet lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome, linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study reported that metabolic syndrome is more prevalent among elderly, underprivileged and less educated individuals along with those suffering from hypertension and hypercholesterolemia and those who exercise less and consume less calcium-rich foods.

Findings revealed that while a sedentary lifestyle doubles the metabolic syndrome risk, consuming foods low in calcium is associated with a 1.5 times higher risk of the condition.

The metabolic syndrome, characterized by abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, high blood pressure and glucose intolerance, places individuals at an increased risk of coronary heart disease and other related ailments such as stroke, peripheral vascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Alternative medicine: Coconut

Coconut is not only an active ingredient in many hair and skincare products, but is also an essential component in weight loss diets.

Botanical: Cocos nucifera Family: Arecaceae (palm family) Habitat: The coconut tree grows throughout the tropics; its origin, however, remains unknown due to its ability to naturally pollinate over distances of thousands of miles.

Description: The Coconut tree is a large palm-like tree that grows up to 30 meters tall, with pinnate leaves and a smooth trunk. The fruit is a simple dry nut known as a fibrous drupe. When young, it has fruit-like properties and becomes nutty after maturing.

Constituents: Coconut meat is rich in fat. Approximately 90% of the fat found in coconut meat is saturated; its fat, however, is less than that of other dry nuts such as peanuts and almonds. It also contains low amounts of sugar along with high amounts of protein and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.

It is also a good source of vitamins such as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), B6 and C, and folates. Parts used medicinally: Seed tissue (endosperm), coconut water (the sour liquid inside young seeds), and coconut meat.

Medicinal Uses: For years, coconut has been known as a valuable source of food and medicine. It has antiviral and antibacterial properties; therefore, it can be used to tackle as influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS and AIDS.

Coconut is also effective in treating ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia along with fungal infections including candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush and diaper rash.

Considered a quick source of energy, coconut is used to improve physical performance. It also promotes weight loss by increasing the metabolic rate. It improves the absorption of calcium and magnesium and therefore results in stronger bones and teeth.

Coconut also has anti osteoporosis properties. Coconut is effective in improving digestion and increases the absorption of certain nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It is effective in treating malabsorption and cystic fibrosis. It can alleviate symptoms associated with gallbladder disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.

Coconut has anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties and helps improve the immune system responses. The fruit can protect the body against various cancers including breast and colon malignancies.

Due to its effects on insulin secretion, coconut can help reduce diabetes-related symptoms. Coconut is also heart tonic, fights atherosclerosis and helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Coconut is also effective in treating periodontal disease and tooth decay. It also protects the body against kidney and liver diseases. It helps dissolve kidney stones. It boosts thyroid function and fights hypothyroidism. Coconut oil Because of its high lauric, capric and caprylic acid content, coconut oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrition for hair; it helps hair look healthy and shiny. The oil also helps in the re-growth of hair. It is commonly used as hair care oil effective in nourishing damaged hair, conditioners and dandruff relief creams.

The oil is also used in massage therapy because of its stress relieving effects. It is also commonly used in skin care oils. Coconut oil is an effective moisturizer on all types of skins.

Unlike mineral oil, however, its use is not associated with any side effects. Due to its antioxidant properties, coconut oil helps prevent premature aging and degenerative diseases. It softens the skin and prevents from wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Coconut oil also forms a chemical layer on different wounds and bruises and protects against infection while speeding up the healing process. The oil not only protects the skin against infections and diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis, but also helps with the natural chemical balance of the skin.

Using coconut oil as cooking oil helps improve digestion and fight diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcer. It is also effective in weight loss diets. Because of its low calorie content, it is preferred by athletes and body builders.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's time to rethink ideas on urban planning

BEIJING, Nov. 5 -- MailPaul Farmer, chief executive officer of the American Planning Association, once summarized his planning concept as "honor history, celebrate the present, and choose the future."

In reality, especially at the current development stage in China, we seem to have too many "celebrations" of the present at the expense of historical heritage and future generations' well-being.

This pattern of unsustainable development has been challenged in recent years worldwide. It was once again refuted at the Global Planners Network Congress held in Zhenjiang of East China's Jiangsu province. The event preceded the Fourth United Nations World Urban Forum (WUF4) scheduled for November 3-7 in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu.

In the Zhenjiang Communique adopted by the Congress on Sunday, more than 80 planners from some 40 countries and regions agreed that "today's ailing settlements are the price for failures to plan." They urged governments to "embrace and implement strategic and integrated approaches to the planning of cities, metropolitan areas and regions."

This notion gives people a new vision of planning, which I understand is no longer an alien matter for us ordinary citizens.

The world today is confronted, as we know, with rapid urbanization of poverty and the hazardous impact of climate change. Planning therefore has become an important tool for healthy urban development and environmental management to halt the formation of slums and mitigate hazards.

In other words, planning is a means to realize the social harmony we have been pursuing.
To reach that goal, planning should be made an integrative and inclusive process, in which voices of different stakeholders can be aired and interests of different groups can be balanced.

The pity is, quite a few decision makers, including some planners themselves, don't treasure the value of planning as a process but often reduce it to the drawing of a physical blueprint. They simply turn planning into drawing pictures of their own liking, without consulting any stakeholders.

For instance, some officials are impressed by broad ways and thoroughfares. So they have big and wide highways built inside the city, making things so inconvenient for pedestrians that they find it hard to walk along the sideway, not to mention crossing the street.

As a result, very few of such big and wide highways could hold people on to build a bustling downtown atmosphere. The entire space is used for a single function, which is to facilitate smooth running of vehicles. The spacious, broad ways are often empty. This is not only a waste of resources but also affects the city's outlook.

Effective planning should steer toward harmonious settlements, putting places in harmony with nature and between people, as the Zhengjiang Communique highlights. It should alleviate poverty and reduce inequality.

That calls for higher requirements from planners. A qualified planner will have the journalist's capacity to be good at listening to all kinds of views, an economist's capacity to be skilled in calculating the input-output costs, the social worker's capacity to work with the communities, and a politician's capacity to balance various groups' conflicting interests.

Not many Chinese planners have come to value their profession this way, and the result is dissatisfying urban sprawls featuring inadequate services and inconvenient settings, which are particularly unfavorable to the low-income families.

A harmonious society should witness a narrowing rather than expanding gap between different social groups. And it is evident that planning has a growing role to play in getting every member of society to benefit from economic growth.

With the revaluation of their profession, planners will enhance their links with other professionals, communities, formal and informal sectors as well as the government to choose the best possible future for us and for our future generations.

The author is a media consultant with the Global Environmental Institute.

Chinese model of development suits 21st century

BRUSSELS, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- It's amazing that China, with 20 percent of the world's population, managed to accomplish tremendous economic feats through relatively smooth reforms in three decades, former Dutch cabinet junior minister Annette Nijs told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"It's intriguing that China carried out far-reaching reforms without serious upheavals," said Nijs, who was recently named Executive Director Global Initiative of the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.

The Chinese model of development, which favors prudence in market opening-up and maintains state regulation, has been increasingly recognized as a better alternative in this century to the Washington Consensus which champions free trade, she said.


Nijs praised the Chinese government for introducing reforms in a steady and stable way.
"Often you see an opening-up of a country after a war. But in China it is a well-planned shift rather than a shock, which is gradually carried out with sufficient control," she said, noting the remarkable balance China developed between its political system, the market economy and the social stability.

"Although there are internal clashes sometimes, China on the whole is a stable country. We all thank China for that because if China is not stable, the rest of the world will see unrest," said Nijs, who was the Dutch state secretary for education, culture and science between 2002 and 2004.

Nijs also spoke highly of China's ability to maintain a coherent policy in the pursuit of prosperity. "China is one of those countries which are very clear in their long-term planning. It planned and set targets far more clear than most European economies," she said.
"Most countries have a budget for a few years and they don't look beyond those years. But China has long-term and short-term planning. All the national five-year plans are moving towards the long-term targets. That is a very practical approach," said Nijs, who made numerous visits to China since 1987.

Although some people complain that China is not opening its market fast enough and the country is still asked to go further in its system reforms, Nijs said she believes China has done a good job.

China has delivered many fundamental reforms including introducing nine years of free education, she said.

The country aims to increase its per capita income from 2,000 U.S. dollars to 5,300 dollars by 2020 and raise the percentage of rural population with health care from a quarter to 80 percent. "If all those targets are met, China is going really fast," she said.


In Nijs' view, China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and enriched the middle class, which are its biggest achievements in the past 30 years. "Millions of Chinese now have a living standard similar to the Europeans," she said.

Nijs is also impressed by the fact that almost 40 percent of China's GDP are generated in the science and technology sectors. "This means China has been able to make the shift from 'made in China' to 'created in China' which is a remarkable achievement," she said.

Another positive sign is China's decreasing dependence on energy consumption for its growth. In 2005, China had to retain a double-digit GDP growth with double-digit energy consumption growth. But now the annual growth of energy consumption has been reduced to 4-5 percent.

"China may still has a long way to go to increase the energy efficiency, but what it has done is a big shift," she said.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Chinese companies are going global and some 30 have listed in the renowned Fortune Global 500 rankings, which Nijs considered a major accomplishment.

She said these companies are taking stakes in or acquiring other companies especially in the energy and the financial sectors across the world. In some sectors Chinese companies are having a large market share in the world, such as container transportation, steel production and kitchen appliances. Chinese automotive companies are even reaching to the United States.

"This shows that Chinese companies have moved from trade to production, logistics, marketing and sales in foreign countries. That is a major achievement in merely three decades," she said.


Nijs believes that the Chinese model of development, the so-called Beijing Consensus which emphasizes prudence in market reforms and national sovereignty, has its advantages.

"The West are used to telling African countries that if you are liberalized, privatized and become more democratic, we will help you. But China treats African countries as equal partners -- the partnership rather than conditional relationship," she said.

"More and more economists, including me, are considering the Beijing Consensus a better model in this century than the Washington model," Nijs said.

China should not be forced to change its characteristics. "People sometimes make the mistakes that modernization equals Westernization. It's not the case. We cannot force the Western model on anything in the world," she added.

Instead, the West should see China as a stakeholder in its own right, and a co-maker of a new world order. "China's rise lies on the changing of geo-economy which is tilting towards the East, not the financial crisis in western countries. China is expected to represent 15 to 20 percent of global GDP in 15 years. It's not wise to close eyes to it," she said.


China has been affected by the current financial crisis, but Nijs does not expect China's economy to make a sharp downturn. Compared with those of the United States and the Europe, Chinese stock markets experienced less volatility in recent weeks and so did the Renminbi exchange rate. Inflation in China is far less a cause of concern than that in Iceland, she said.

"I think we will see China as the motor of world economic growth in the next few years with its growth rate of 8 percent maybe," she said.

Nijs said major challenges for China are from internal rather than from external.
China has to secure the main resources it needs, such as energy, steel, clean water and soya beans. "The society will be under pressure if such needs are turned down, which could lead to social unrest," she said.

Another challenge is to continue the system reforms, including enhancing the rule of law, fighting corruption and further developing the private sector.

Nijs said the Chinese government has taken initiatives to tackle the problems by putting into place programs to meet international accounting standards and efforts to improve the rule of law.

China is also trying to bring back traditional ethical standards, such as Confucianism, to counter the influence of materialism, she said.

The Chinese government, Nijs said, is trying hard to keep what she called "five balances": the urban vs. the rural; the western region development vs. that of the eastern regions; the nature vs. the human needs; economic growth vs. stability in the society; and the internal development vs. going global.

"These five balances are essential to China's long-term development," she said.
With the rise of China as a trading power comes increasing frictions between China and its major trading partners. Nijs suggested that China handle them carefully, such as the issues concerning anti-dumping and safety of productions with the European Union.

In Nijs' opinion, Europe and China should favor each other in order to improve their relations. "It is time for Europe to recognize China as a market economy and on the other hand for China to start creating jobs in Europe," she said.

When Chinese companies set up production lines or open research and development centers in Europe, like what Chinese auto industry is doing in North America, Europeans will treat China more positively, Nijs said.

"Like Germans who are proud to work for the American company of Opel, more and more Europeans will be proud to work for big Chinese multinationals such as the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Haier and Bao Steel. It will demonstrate that the rise of China is an opportunity for the world," she said.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grapes can fight high blood pressure

A new study shows that grapes not only are heart tonic but can also help tackle high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks.

According to the study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences, flavonid-rich grapes can fight high blood pressure caused by a salty diet.

Findings revealed that adding grape powder to the diet improves the heart's function while reducing inflammation, oxidative stress and heart muscle damage in rats on a salty diet.

Compared to rats on anti-hypertension medication, those fed by grape powder experienced less heart damage secondary to diet-related high blood pressure.

Scientists recommended hypertensive individuals to adopt a low-salt diet to prevent from complications including heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure.

Related News
Alternative medicine: Grapes
Grapes encourage weight loss
Grape juice treats arteriosclerosis

Monday, October 20, 2008

Biggest women in politics and their weird hobbies

It is an open secret that politics is a very serious and severe matter, and those women, who dedicate their lives to it, are forced to play the game according to men’s rules. However, women are women, and every woman has her own soft corner. Women in politics also have their own hobbies that can be purely masculine, feminine, neutral, extraordinary and even strange.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, was nicknamed as the Steel Magnolia in her youth. A young woman bearing such an unusual name often had to literally fight for her dignity and honor during the times of racial discrimination in the United States. Condoleezza eventually decided not to burden herself with a family for the sake of her political future. She also gave up the career of a pianist, although she tries not to forget her skills today. Ms. Rice became known in big politics for her cruelty and irreconcilability.

Several years ago Rice called a regular meeting on Iraq, which then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then-CIA Director George Tenet did not attend. Condi burst into tears like a little girl, whose guests did not show up for her birthday.

The former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who never became a presidential candidate, has a very unusual hobby. When she has free time, she communicates with another former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. It is worthy of note that nearly all American presidents and their wives indulged in magic and astrology, and stories of presidential spiritual sessions do not surprise common Americans anymore.

The notorious Sarah Palin also has an invisible adviser – the Lord. To make this communication more effective, Sarah, a Christian Dominionist, falls into a trace during the sacral minutes. In addition, the woman also enjoys shooting wolves right from her helicopter.

When Angela Merkel, the would-be German Chancellor, appeared on TV for the first time, reporters joked that Merkel was probably representing the party of housewives. Indeed, Merkel does look like a typical German lady, who does laundry and house cleaning on Mondays, goes shopping on Tuesdays and bakes pies on Sundays. We do not know if Frau Merkel cooks or not, but she does like to listen to Bah and Beethoven and read books on the life and works of Dostoyevsky. Angela Merkel is also a very big football fan, which always helps her establish close ties with male politicians.

Tzipi Livni, the new Prime Minister of Israel, a lawyer by education, produces an impression of a kind-hearted woman. However, she used to work for the Mossad. It is not known if the woman was ever involved in any Hollywood action-like scenes in her past experience, but she took a direct part in the liquidation of Arab terrorists.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the orange princess, goes in for sports. She swims, plays volleyball, tennis and she skates. These are all image-making hobbies. She has a great passion for expensive clothing, which is the biggest hobby of the Ukrainian prime minister.

Evolution Theory Lacks True Transitional Forms

Many individuals who believe in evolution are convinced that there exists an abundance of transitional forms to support evolution. However, what they regard as "transitional" are simply biological similarities between various species or groups, and are not true or actual transitions in Nature. Creationists believe that the biological similarities between various species are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes in all of the various forms of life, from the simplest to the most complex. Evolutionists believe that the biological similarities between species are evidence of common ancestry between all forms of life. Neither position can be scientifically proved.

A true transitional form would be something like a fish having part fins…part feet, or a bird having part scales…part feathers, partially one function, partially another with neither being complete or functional. Even the top experts of evolution theory have admitted that there are no indisputable transitional forms in the fossil record to support evolution across biological groups or kinds, although this news is rarely made public in the media or in textbooks.
The fossil record contains fossils of only complete and fully-formed species. There are no fossils of partially-evolved species to indicate that a gradual process of evolution ever occurred. Even among evolutionists there are diametrically different interpretations and reconstructions of the fossils used to support human evolution from a supposed ape-like ancestry. In fact, all of the fossils, with their fancy scientific names, that have been used to support human evolution have eventually been found to be either hoaxes, non-human, or human, but not both human and non-human. Yet, many modern school textbooks continue to use these long disproved fossils as evidence for human evolution.
Evolutionists once reconstructed an image of a half-ape and half-man (known as The Nebraska Man) creature from a single tooth! Later they discovered that the tooth belonged to an extinct species of pig! The "Nebraska Man" was used as a major piece of evidence in the famous Scopes Trial in support of Darwin's evolutionary theory.
At times evolutionists have used various bones gathered from many yards of each other and classify them as belonging to the same creature (even when there's no proof). They then reconstruct from these bones whatever will support their hypotheses. The fossil case "Lucy" is an excellent example of this. Scientists have only forty percent of the bones for Lucy. The bones were found yards from each other, some were found even a mile or more away! The knee joint (the main evidence used) was found two hundred feet below ground from the rest of the bones. Many of the leading scientists doubt that the bones all belong to the same species or individual. And, some of the key bones are crushed. Yet, from all of this evolutionists have reconstructed a drawing of an ape-man creature (in full color)for display in textbooks and museums!
Many experts are not convinced that Lucy was an ape-man because they're not convinced all of the bones belong to the same individual or even the same species. Many leading authorities have said that "Lucy" is really an extinct ape, but not an ape-man. Those scientists who are convinced that Lucy was an ape-man are the ones that receive all the attention from the mainstream media.
Evenen if evolution takes millions and millions of years, we should still be able to see some stages of its process. But, we simply don't observe any partially-evolved fish, frogs, lizards, birds, dogs, cats among us. Every species of plant and animal is complete and fully-formed.
Another problem is how could partially-evolved plant and animal species survive over millions of years if their vital organs and tissues were still in the process of evolving? How, for example, were animals breathing, eating, and reproducing if their respiratory, digestive, and reproductive organs were still incomplete and evolving? How were species fighting off possibly life-threatening germs if their immune system hadn't fully evolved yet?
Scientist Dr. Walt Brown, in his fantastic book "In The Beginning", makes this point by saying "All species appear fully developed, not partially developed. They show design. There are no examples of half-developed feathers, eyes, skin, tubes (arteries, veins, intestines, etc.), or any of thousands of other vital organs. Tubes that are not 100% complete are a liability; so are partially developed organs and some body parts. For example, if a leg of a reptile were to evolve into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing."
A lizard with half-evolved legs and wings can't run or fly away from its predators. How would it survive? Why would it be preserved by natural selection? Imagine such a species surviving in such a miserable state over many millions of years waiting for fully-formed wings to evolve!
Some evolutionists cite the fossil of an ancient bird known to have claws as an example of a transitional link. However, there are two species of birds living today in South America that have claws on their wings, but even evolutionists today do not claim that these birds are transitional links from a reptilian ancestry. These claws are complete, as everything else on the birds.
What about all those spectacular and popular claims reported in the mass media of evolutionists having discovered certain transitional forms in the fossil record? Such claims have not been accepted by all evolutionists and, after much investigation and analysis, these claims have been found to have no hard basis in science. This has been the case of every so-called "missing link" and "transitional" form discovered since Darwin.
Recently it was thought they had discovered fossils of dinosaurs with feathers until they found out that the so-called feathers were really scales which only had the appearance of feathers. Scientists theorize the scales took upon a feather-like appreance during some brief stage of decomposition before being fossilized. Even if they were feathers, this still wouldn't be any kind of evidence to support macro-evolution unless they can show a series of fossils having part-scale/part-feather structures as evidence that the scales had really evolved into feathers.
Again, evolutionists often use similarities of traits shared by different forms of life as a basis for claiming a transitional link. But, the problem for evolutionists is that all the traits which they cite as transitional are complete and fully-formed. And evolutionists are not consistent. The duck-billed platypus, for example, has traits belonging to both mammals and birds but even evolutionists won't go so far as to claim that the duck-billed platypus is a transitional link between birds and mammals!
Not only are there no true transitional links in the fossil record, but the fossils themselves are not in the supposed geological sequential order as evolutionists claim in their textbooks. Of course, evolutionists have their various circular and unsupported arguments or reasons for why this is so.
If evolution across biological kinds (known as macro-evolution) really occurred then we should find millions of indisputable transitional forms in the fossil record instead of a few disputable transitional forms that even evolutionists cannot all agree upon. And, again, the point needs to be emphasized that species cannot wait millions of years for their vital (or necessary) organs and biological systems to evolve.
In fact, it is precisely because of these problems that more and more modern evolutionists are adopting a new theory known as Punctuated Equilibrium which says that plant and animal species evolved suddenly from one kind to another and that is why we don't see evidence of partially-evolved species in the fossil record. Of course, we have to accept their word on blind faith because there is no way to prove or disprove what they are saying. These evolutionists claim that something like massive bombardment of radiation resulted in mega mutations in species which produced "instantaneous" changes from one life form to another. The nature and issue of mutations will be discussed later and the reader will see why such an argument is not viable.
The fact that animal and plant species are found fully formed and complete in the fossil record is powerful evidence (although not proof) for creation because it is evidence that they came into existence as fully formed and complete which is possible only by creation.
Although Darwin was partially correct by showing that natural selection occurs in nature, the problem is that natural selection itself is not a creative force. Natural selection is a passive process in nature. Natural selection can only "select" from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. Natural selection itself does not produce any biological traits or variations.
The term "natural selection" is simply a figure of speech. Nature, of course, does not do any conscious or active selection. If a biological variation occurs which helps a member of a species to survive in its environment then that biological variation will be preserved ("selected") and be passed on to future offspring. That's what scientists mean by the term "natural selection". Since natural selection can only work with biological variations that are possible, the real question to ask is what biological variations are naturally possible.
The evidence from genetics supports only the possibility for microevolution (or horizontal) evolution within biological "kinds" such as the varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc., but not macroevolution (or vertical) evolution which would involve variations across biological "kinds"), especially from simpler kinds to more complex ones (i.e. from fish to human). Even if a new species develops but there are no new genes or new traits, but only new variations of already existing genes and traits, then there still is no macro-evolution (variation across biological kinds) and the different species would remain within the same biological "kind" even though they would no longer have the ability to inter-breed. Unless Nature has the intelligence and ability to perform genetic engineering (to construct entirely new genes and not just to produce variations and new combinations of already existing genes) then macroevolution will never be possible in Nature.
The early grooves in the human embryo that appear to look like gills are really the early stages in the formation of the face, throat, and neck regions. The so-called "tailbone" is the early formation of the coccyx and spinal column which, because of the rate of growth being faster than the rest of the body at this stage, appears to look like a tail. The coccyx has already been proven to be useful in providing support for the pelvic muscles.
Abortion clinics have been known to console their patients by telling them that what they're terminating isn't really a human being yet but is only a guppie or tadpole!
Variations across biological kinds such as humans evolving from ape-like creatures and apes, in turn, evolving from dog-like creatures and so on, as Darwinian evolutionary theory teaches, are not genetically possible. Although the chemicals to make entirely new genes exist in all varieties of plant and animal kinds, the DNA or genetic program that exists in each plant or animal kind will only direct those chemicals into making more of the same genes or variations of the same genes but not entirely new genes.
But, didn't we all start off from a single cell in our mother's womb? Yes, but that single cell from which we developed had all of the genetic information to develop into a full human being. Other single cells, such as bacteria and amoeba, from which evolutionists say we and all other forms of life had evloved don't have the genetic information to develop into humans or other species.
There is no scientific evidence that random mutations in the genetic code caused by random environmental forces such as radiation will increase genetic information and complexity which is what ultimately would be necessary to turn amoebas into humans. In fact, the law of entropy in nature would prevent random mutations from being able to accomplish such a feat!
Biological variations are determined by the DNA or genetic code of species. The DNA molecule is actually a molecular string of various nucleic acids which are arranged in a sequence just like the letters in a sentence. It is this sequence in DNA that tells cells in the body how to construct various tissues and organs.
The common belief among evolutionists is that random mutations in the genetic code produced by random environmental forces such as radiation, over time, will produce entirely new genetic sequences or genes for entirely new traits which natural selection can act upon resulting in entirely new biological kinds or forms of life . Evolutionists consider mutations to be a form of natural genetic engineering.
However, the very nature of mutations precludes such a possibility. Mutations are accidental changes in the sequential structure of the genetic code caused by various random environmental forces such as radiation and toxic chemicals.
Almost all true mutations are harmful, which is what one would normally expect from accidents. Even if a good mutation occurred for every good one there will be thousands of harmful ones with the net result over time being disastrous for the species.
Most biological variations, however, occur as a result of new combinations of previously existing genes - not because of mutations, which are rare in nature.
Mutations simply produce new varieties of already existing traits. For example, mutations in the gene for human hair may change the gene so that another type of human hair develops, but the mutations won't change the gene so that feathers or wings develop.
Sometimes mutations may trigger the duplication of already existing traits (i.e. an extra finger, toe, or even an entire head, even in another area of the body!). But mutations have no ability to produce entirely new traits or characteristics.
Furthermore, only those mutations produced in the genes of reproductive cells, such as sperm in the male and ovum (or egg cell) in the female, are passed on to offspring. Mutations and any changes produced in other body cells are not transmitted. For example, if a woman were to lose a finger it would not result in her baby being born with a missing finger. Similarly, even if an ape ever learned to walk upright, it could not pass this characteristic on to its descendants. Thus, modern biology has disproved the once-held theory that acquired characteristics from the environment can be transmitted into the genetic code of offspring.
Young people, and even adults, often wonder how all the varieties and races of people could come from the same human ancestors. Well, in principle, that's no different than asking how children with different color hair ( i.e., blond, brunette, brown, red ) can come from the same parents who both have black hair.
Just as some individuals today carry genes to produce descendants with different color hair and eyes, humanity's first parents possessed genes to produce all the variety and races of men. You and I today may not carry the genes to produce every variety or race of humans, but humanity's first parents did possess such genes.
All varieties of humans carry genes for the same basic traits, but not all humans carry every possible variation of those genes. For example, one person may be carrying several variations of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown, green, blue ) , but someone else may be carrying only one variation of the gene for eye color ( i.e., brown ). Thus, both will have different abilities to affect the eye color of their offspring.
Some parents with black hair, for example, are capable of producing children with blond hair, but their blond children (because they inherit only recessive genes) will not have the ability to produce children with black hair unless they mate with someone else who has black hair. If the blond descendants only mate with other blondes then the entire line and population will only be blond even though the original ancestor was black-haired.
Science cannot prove we're here by creation, but neither can science prove we're here by chance or macro-evolution. No one has observed either. They are both accepted on faith. The issue is which faith, Darwinian macro-evolutionary theory or creation, has better scientific support.
If some astronauts from Earth discovered figures of persons similar to Mt. Rushmore on an uninhabited planet there would be no way to scientifically prove the carved figures originated by design or by chance processes of erosion. Neither position is science, but scientific arguments may be made to support one or the other.
What we believe about life's origins does influence our philosophy and value of life as well as our view of ourselves and others. This is no small issue!
Evolution Theory Lacks True Transitional Forms
Must because the laws of science can explain how life and the universe operate and work doesn't mean there is no Maker. Would it be rational to believe that there's no designer behind airplanes because the laws of science can explain how airplanes operate and work?
Natural laws are adequate to explain how the order in life, the universe, and even a microwave oven operates, but mere undirected natural laws can never fully explain the origin of such order.
Of course, once there is a complete and living cell then the genetic program and biological mechanisms exist to direct and organize molecules to form into more cells. The question is how did life come into being when there was no directing mechanism in Nature. An excellent article to read by scientist and biochemist Dr. Duane T. Gish is "A Few Reasons An Evolutionary Origin of Life Is Impossible" (
The author's article "Textbook Biology's Origin of Life Deception" may be accessed at:
There is, of course, much more to be said on this subject. Scientist, creationist, debater, writer, and lecturer, Dr. Walt Brown covers various scientific issues ( i.e. fossils, "transitional" links, biological variation and diversity, the origin of life, comparative anatomy and embryology, the issue of vestigial organs, the age of the earth, etc. ) at greater depth on his website at
On his website, Dr. Brown even discusses the possibility of any remains of life on Mars as having originated from the Earth due to great geological disturbances in the Earth's past which easily could have spewed thousands of tons of rock and dirt containing microbes into space. In fact, A Newsweek article of September 21, 1998, p.12 mentions exactly this possibility.
An excellent source of information from highly qualified scientists who are creationists is the Institute for Creation Research ( in San Diego, California. Also, the reader may find answers to many difficult questions concerning the Bible (including questions on creation and evolution, Noah's Ark, how dinosaurs fit into the Bible, etc.)at
It is only fair that evidence supporting intelligent design or creation be presented to students alongside of evolutionary theory, especially in public schools which receive funding from taxpayers who are on both sides of the issue. Also, no one is being forced to believe in God or adopt a particular religion so there is no true violation of separation of church and state. As a religion and science writer, I encourage all to read my Internet article "The Natural Limits of Evolution" at my website for more in-depth study of the issue.
The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, is an experienced Christian writer. Mr. Ranganathan has his B.A. degree with concentrations in theology and biology. As a religion and science writer he has been recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis Who's Who In The East. The author's articles have been published in various publications including Russia's Pravda and South Korea's The Seoul Times.
The author's website may be accessed at: .

US Elections: The collective responsibility of the citizens of the USA

For the last eight years. The rest of the world has looked on aghast at the Republican Party’s policies lurching from one domestic and international disaster to the next. The new order of the Third Millennium turned into a nightmare as the United States of America, that bastion of freedom and democracy of yesteryear, became the champion of mass murder, torture chambers, rape of detainees, child abuse, acts of sexual depravity more befitting of a lunatic asylum and concentration camps.

It is always amusing when the US media speaks about “The President’s policies” as if George W. Bush was able to formulate a single policy in his head. The real power in the White House is wielded not by this intellectually challenged, perhaps well-meaning simpleton but by the clique of elitists whose grasp on the energy and arms lobbies is complete and who dictate the external and internal policy of the USA. Donald (the Torturer) Rumsfeld, Richard (Dick) Cheney and Condoleeza (I am not a Diplomat) Rice are the most famous faces of the Bush regime, all of whom, including the invisible barons who masterminded these eight long years of failed policies, are intrinsically connected to the Republican Party.

The Republican Party of Bush, Cheney and Rice and now John (Failed War Hero) McCain and Sarah (Failed Hockey Mum) Palin is indeed like an elephant in a china shop. More seriously, the policies that this party has produced have managed to divorce the USA from the hearts and minds of the international community, where a growing number of US citizens travel under the guise of Canadians, so ashamed are they of their country.

While the shocking and horrific act of 9/11 was no different from what the USA has meted out to civilians in other parts of the globe, it was nonetheless unacceptable – yet provided a convenient launching pad for the internationalization of the Bush doctrine, namely a carte blanche for the US to invade sovereign nations under the disguise of bringing freedom and democracy, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, targeting civilian structures with WMD and military hardware, blasting the limbs off kids, blasting families into oblivion, torturing detainees and the rest, which is unfortunately now the external image of the country and its citizens.

Therefore with the citizens of the United States of America lies today the chance to redeem their great country in the eyes of the world and in the hearts and minds of the international community. While McCain and Palin try desperately to distance themselves from the Bush regime, the fact of the matter is that the Bush regime is composed of Republicans. And what party do McCain and Palin belong to?

And what exactly do they represent? McCain, the great war hero, who was so competent that he trashed how many machines? And spent the war in captivity? What kind of credentials are those? A war hero is someone who fights the enemy, operates behind enemy lines, gets decorated for acts of real heroism, in action, not someone whose incompetence as a pilot and as a soldier sees him sitting on his ass in jail living at the mercy of his captors. This, the man vying for the Presidency of the USA, who chose Sarah Palin because she lives in Alaska and can look at Russia? And who the Hell is Sarah Palin? Some pith-headed bimbo from the back of beyond who knows absolutely nothing about anything at all, whose claims to fame are clowning around on Saturday night TV. What if McCain dies? This, the woman who threatened to go to war with Russia? What does she want to do, get her country carpet-nuked or what?
True, the Barack Obama ticket brings with it a Zionist, Joe Biden. Nobody outside Washington or Tel Aviv supports Israel’s expansionist policies, stealing lands that do not belong to it and perpetrating the most blatant acts of imperialism, constructing colonies for Jews on Palestinian lands. True, the corporate elitists who are backing Barack Obama will want some pay-back for their support.
However, Barack Obama is the closest thing to real change, the best opportunity for the United States of America to change direction and work in tandem with the international community and not against it, that the USA will have in a long, long time. He represents the fundamentals of democracy which Americans respect – debate, discussion and dialogue, not the ABC of the Republican regime, arrogance, bullying and chauvisism, which McCain and Palin represent.
The international scenario which was supposed to follow the third millennium of Christ’s birth soon became a scene more befitting of a horror movie, a visitation of the Devil himself, an incubus right in the heart of the Republican Party. After what these war criminals have done, it is doubtful that a single member of the current regime will dare to step off an aircraft anywhere outside the USA, where they will live the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders. No cocktail circuit for these, no chicken run of after-dinner speeches. Sooner or later arrest warrants will be issued for them to face the consequences of their evil deeds, although Bush might be let off on grounds of insanity or sheer idiocy.
The Republican Party provided the USA and the world with the worst President and Vice-President, the worst Secretary of State and the worst Defence Secretary (Rumsfeld) in history. What is amazing is that anyone at all would dream of casting a vote in their favour – all one has to do is take a look at the mess they have created both internally and internationally. The greatest national security risk is Screaming Sarah Palin and her master who wants to “unleash” his bitch on Washington, Wacky John Mommy’s Boy Temper Tantrum McCain.
I’m Backing Barack. He is intelligent, he is well-read, he is sharp, he is a diplomat and a gentleman. Talking about the colour of his skin is racist and racism is ignorance. He is as black as he is white and as white as he is black, and so what? What matters is he cares and he will be a memorable leader of the best team Washington has put together in decades.