From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi

From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi
Science Advances  21 Sep 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 9, e1601247
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601247


Computer imaging techniques are commonly used to preserve and share readable manuscripts, but capturing writing locked away in ancient, deteriorated documents poses an entirely different challenge. This software pipeline—referred to as “virtual unwrapping”—allows textual artifacts to be read completely and noninvasively. The systematic digital analysis of the extremely fragile En-Gedi scroll (the oldest Pentateuchal scroll in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls) reveals the writing hidden on its untouchable, disintegrating sheets. Our approach for recovering substantial ink-based text from a damaged object results in readable columns at such high quality that serious critical textual analysis can occur. Hence, this work creates a new pathway for subsequent textual discoveries buried within the confines of damaged materials.


  • Micro-CT
  • virtual unwrapping
  • segmentation
  • digital restoration
  • visualization
  • digital flattening


In 1970, archeologists made a dramatic discovery at En-Gedi, the site of a large, ancient Jewish community dating from the late eighth century BCE until its destruction by fire circa 600 CE. Excavations uncovered the synagogue’s Holy Ark, inside of which were multiple charred lumps of what appeared to be animal skin (parchment) scroll fragments (12). The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) faithfully preserved the scroll fragments, although in the 40 years following the discovery, no one produced a means to overcome the irreversible damage they had suffered in situ. Each fragment’s main structure, completely burned and crushed, had turned into chunks of charcoal that continued to disintegrate every time they were touched. Without a viable restoration and conservation protocol, physical intervention was unthinkable. Like many badly damaged materials in archives around the world, the En-Gedi scroll was shelved, leaving its potentially valuable contents hidden and effectively locked away by its own damaged condition (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1The charred scroll from En-Gedi.

Image courtesy of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, IAA. Photo: S. Halevi.


The implementation and application of our computational framework allows the identification and scholarly textual analysis of the ink-based writing within such unopened, profoundly damaged objects. Our systematic approach essentially unlocks the En-Gedi scroll and, for the first time, enables a total visual exploration of its interior layers, leading directly to the discovery of its text. By virtually unwrapping the scroll, we have revealed it to be the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark. Furthermore, this work establishes a restoration pathway for damaged textual material by showing that text extraction is possible while avoiding the need for injurious physical handling. The restored En-Gedi scroll represents a significant leap forward in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis.

Virtual unwrapping

Our generalized computational framework for virtual unwrapping applies to a wide range of damaged, text-based materials. Virtual unwrapping is the composite result of segmentation, flattening, and texturing: a sequence of transformations beginning with the voxels of a three-dimensional (3D) unstructured volumetric scan of a damaged manuscript and ending with a set of 2D images that reveal the writing embedded in the scan (36). The required transformations are initially unknown and must be solved by choosing a model and applying a series of constraints about the known and observable structure of the object. Figure 2 shows the final result for the scroll from En-Gedi. This resultant image, which we term the “master view,” is a visualization of the entire surface extracted from within the En-Gedi scroll.

Fig. 2Completed virtual unwrapping for the En-Gedi scroll.

The first stage, segmentation, is the identification of a geometric model of structures of interest within the scan volume. This process digitally recreates the “pages” that hold potential writing. We use a triangulated surface mesh for this model, which can readily support many operations that are algorithmically convenient: ray intersection, shape dynamics, texturing, and rendering. A surface mesh can vary in resolution as needed and forms a piecewise approximation of arbitrary surfaces on which there may be writing. The volumetric scan defines a world coordinate frame for the mesh model; thus, segmentation is the process of aligning a mesh with structures of interest within the volume.

The second stage, texturing, is the formation of intensity values on the geometric model based on its position within the scan volume. This is where we see letters and words for the first time on the recreated page. The triangulated surface mesh offers a direct approach to the texturing problem that is similar to solid texturing (78): Each point on the surface of the mesh is given an intensity value based on its location in the 3D volume. Many approaches exist for assigning intensities from the volume to the triangles of the segmented mesh, some of which help to overcome noise in the volumetric imaging and incorrect localization in segmentation.

The third stage, flattening, is necessary because the geometric model may be difficult to visualize as an image. Specifically, if text is being extracted, it will be challenging to read on a 3D surface shaped like the cylindrical wraps of scrolled material. This stage solves for a transformation that maps the geometric model (and associated intensities from the texturing step) to a plane, which is then directly viewable as a 2D image for the purpose of visualization.

In practice, this framework is best applied in a piecewise fashion to accurately localize a scroll’s highly irregular geometry. Also, the methodology required to map each of these steps from the original volume to flattened images involves a series of algorithmic decisions and approximations. Because textual identification is the primary goal of our virtual unwrapping framework, we tolerate mathematical and geometric error along the way to ensure that we extract the best possible images of text. Hence, the final merging and visualization step is significant not only for composing small sections into a single master view but also for checking the correctness and relative alignments of individual regions. Therefore, it is crucial to preserve the complete transformation pipeline that maps voxels in the scan volume to final pixels in the unwrapped master view so that any claim of extracted text can be independently verified.

The volumetric scan

The unwrapping process begins by acquiring a noninvasive digitization that gives some representation of the internal structure and contents of an object in situ (911). There are a number of choices for noninvasive, penetrative, and volumetric scanning, and our framework places no limits on the modality of the scan. As enhancements in volumetric scanning methodology [for example, phase-contrast microtomography (612)] occur, we can take advantage of the ensuing potential for improved images. Whatever the scanning method, it must be appropriate to the scale and to the material and physical properties of the object.

Because of the particularities of the En-Gedi scroll, we used x-ray–based micro–computed tomography (micro-CT). The En-Gedi scroll’s damage creates a scanning challenge: How does one determine the correct scan protocol before knowing how ink will appear or even if the sample contains ink at all? It is the scan and subsequent pipeline that reveal the writing. After several calibration scans, a protocol was selected that produced a visible range of intensity variation on the rolled material. The spatial resolution was adjusted with respect to the sample size to capture enough detail through the thickness of each material layer to reveal ink if present and detectable. The chemical composition of the ink within the En-Gedi scroll remains unknown because there are no exposed areas suitable for analysis. However, the ink response within the micro-CT scan is denser than other materials, implying that it likely contains metal, such as iron or lead.

Any analysis necessitates physical handling of the friable material, and so, even noninvasive methods must be approached with great care. Although low-power x-rays themselves pose no significant danger to inanimate materials, the required transport and handling of the scroll make physical conservation and preservation an ever-present concern. However, once acquired, the volumetric scan data become the basis for all further computations, and the physical object can be returned to the safety of its protective archive.


Segmentation, which is the construction of a geometric model localizing the shape and position of the substrate surface within the scan on which text is presumed to appear, is challenging for several reasons. First, the surface as presented in the scanned volume is not developable, that is, isometric to a plane (1315). Although an isometry could be useful as a constraint in some cases, the skin forming the layers of the En-Gedi scroll has not simply been folded or rolled. Damage to the scroll has deformed the shape of the skin material, which is apparent in the 3D scanned volume, making such a constraint unworkable. Second, the density response of animal skin in the volume is noisy and difficult to localize with methods such as marching cubes (16). Third, layers of the skin that are close together create ambiguities that are difficult to resolve from purely local, shape-based operators. Figure 3 shows four distinct instances where segmentation proves challenging because of the damage and unpredictable variation in the appearance of the surface material in the scan volume.

Fig. 3Segmentation challenges in the En-Gedi scroll, based on examples in the slice view.

Double/split layering and challenging cell structure (left), ambiguous layers with unknown material (middle left), high-density “bubbling” on the secondary layer (middle right), and gap in the primary layer (right).


Our segmentation algorithm applied to the En-Gedi scroll builds a triangulated surface mesh that localizes a coherent section of the animal skin within a defined subvolume through a novel region-growing technique (Fig. 4). The basis for the algorithm is a local estimate of the differential geometry of the animal skin surface using a second-order symmetric tensor and associated feature saliency measures (17). An initial set of seed points propagates through the volume as a connected chain, directed by the local symmetric tensor and constrained by a set of spring forces. The movement of this particle chain through the volume traces out a surface over time. Figure 5 shows how crucially dependent the final result is on an accurate localization of the skin. When the segmented geometry drifts from the skin surface (Fig. 5A), the surface features disappear. When the skin is accurately localized (Fig. 5B), the surface detail, including cracks and ink evidence, becomes visible.

Fig. 4A portion of the segmented surface and how it intersects the volume.
Fig. 5The importance of accurate surface localization on the final generated texture.

(A) Texture generated when the surface is only partially localized. (B) Texture generated when surface is accurately localized.


The user can tune the various parameters of this algorithm locally or globally based on the data set and at any time during the segmentation process. This allows for the continued propagation of the chain without the loss of previously segmented surface information. The segmentation algorithm terminates either at the user’s request or when a specified number of slices have been traversed by all of the particles in the chain.

The global structure of the entire surface is a piecewise composition of many smaller surface sections. Although it is certainly possible to generate a global structure through a single segmentation step, approaching the problem in a piecewise manner allows more accurate localization of individual sections, some of which are very challenging to extract. Although the segmented surface is not constrained to a planar isometry at the segmentation step, the model implicitly favors an approximation of an isometry. Furthermore, the model imposes a point-ordering constraint that prevents sharp discontinuities and self-intersections. The segmented surface, which has been regularized, smoothed, and resampled, becomes the basis for the texturing phase to visualize the surface with the intensities it inherits from its position in the volume.


Once the layers of the scroll have been identified and modeled, the next step is to render readable textures on those layers. Texturing is the assignment of an intensity, “or brightness,” value derived from the volume to each point on a segmented surface. The interpretation of intensity values in the original volumetric scan is maintained through the texturing phase. In the case of micro-CT, intensities are related to density: Brighter values are regions of denser material, and darker values are less dense (18). A coating of ink made from iron gall, for example, would appear bright, indicating a higher density in micro-CT. Our texturing method is similar to the computer graphics approach of “solid texturing,” a procedure that evaluates a function defined over R3 for each point to be textured on the embedded surface (78). In our case, the function over R3 is simply a lookup to reference the value (possibly interpolated) at that precise location in the volume scan.

In an ideal case, where both the scanned volume and localized surface mesh are perfect, a direct mapping of each surface point to its 3D volume position would generate the best possible texture. In practice, however, errors in surface segmentation combined with artifacts in the scan create the need for a filtering approach that can overcome these sources of noise. Therefore, we implement a neighborhood-based directional filtering method, which gives parametric control over the texturing. The texture intensity is calculated from a filter applied to the set of voxels within each surface point’s local neighborhood. The parameters (Fig. 6) include use of the point’s surface normal direction (directional or omnidirectional), the shape and extent of the local texturing neighborhood, and the type of filter applied to the neighborhood. The directional parameter is particularly important when attempting to recover text from dual-sided materials, such as books. In such cases, a single segmented surface can be used to generate both the recto and verso sides of the page. Figure 7 shows how this texturing method improves ink response in the resulting texture when the segmentation does not perfectly intersect the ink position on the substrate in the volumetric scan.

Fig. 6The geometric parameters for directional texturing.
Fig. 7The effect of directional texturing to improve ink response.

(Left) Intersection of the mesh with the volume. (Right) Directional texturing with a neighborhood radius of 7 voxels.



Region-growing in an unstructured volume generates surfaces that are nonplanar. In a scan of rolled-up material, most surface fragments contain high-curvature areas. These surfaces must be flattened to easily view the textures that have been applied to them. The process of flattening is the computation of a 3D to 2D parameterization for a given mesh (61920). One straightforward assumption is that a localized surface cannot self-intersect and represents a coherent piece of substrate that was at one time approximately isometric to a plane. If the writing occurred on a planar surface before it was rolled up, and if the rolling itself induced no elastic deformations in the surface, then damage is the only thing that may have interrupted the isometric nature of the rolling.

We approach parameterization through a physics-based material model (42122). In this model, the mesh is represented as a mass-spring system, where each vertex of the mesh is given a mass and the connections between vertices are treated as springs with associated stiffness coefficients. The mesh is relaxed to a plane through a balanced selection of appropriate forces and parameters. This process mimics the material properties of isometric deformation, which is analogous to the physical act of unwrapping.

A major advantage of a simulation-based approach is the wide range of configurations that are possible under the framework. Parameters and forces can be applied per vertex or per spring. This precise control allows for modeling of not only the geometric properties of a surface but also the physical properties of that surface. For example, materials with higher physical elasticity can be represented as such within the same simulation.

Although this work relies on computing parameterizations solely through this simulation-based method, a hybrid approach that begins with existing parameterization methods [for example, least-squares conformal mapping (LSCM) (23) and angle-based flattening (ABF) (24)] followed by a physics-based model is also workable. The purely geometric approaches of LSCM and ABF produce excellent parameterizations but have no natural way to capture additional constraints arising from the mesh as a physical object. By tracking the physical state of the mesh during parameterization via LSCM or ABF, a secondary correction step using the simulation method could then be applied to account for the mesh’s physical properties.

Merging and visualization

The piecewise nature of the pipeline requires a final merge step. There can be many individually segmented mesh sections that must be reconciled into a composite master view. The shape, location in the volume, and textured appearance of the sections aid in the merge. We take two approaches to the merging step: texture and mesh merging.

Texture merging is the alignment of texture images from small segmentations to generate a composite master view. This process provides valuable user feedback when performed simultaneously with the segmentation process. Texture merging builds a master view that gives quick feedback on the overall progress and quality of segmentation. However, because each section of geometry is flattened independently, the merge produces distortions that are acceptable as an efficiently computed draft view, but must be improved to become a definitive result for the scholarly study of text.

Mesh merging refers to a more precise recalculation of the merge step by using the piecewise meshes to generate a final, high-quality master view. After all segmentation work is complete, individual mesh segmentations are merged in 3D to create a single surface that represents the complete geometry of the segmented scroll. The mesh from this new merged segmentation is then flattened and textured to produce a final master view image. Because mesh merging is computationally expensive compared to texture merging, it is not ideal for the progressive feedback required during segmentation of a scan volume. However, as the performance of algorithms improves and larger segmented surfaces become practical, it is likely that mesh merging will become viable as a user cue during the segmentation process.

Maintaining a provenance chain is an important component of our pipeline. The full set of transformations used to generate a final master view image can be referenced so that every pixel in a final virtually unwrapped master view can be mapped back to the voxel or set of voxels within the volume that contributed to its intensity value. This is important for both the quantitative analysis of the resulting image and the verification of any extracted text. Figure 8demonstrates the ability to select a region and point of interest in the texture image and invert the transformation chain to recover original 3D positions within the volume.

Fig. 8Demonstration of stored provenance chain.

The generated geometric transformations can map a region and point of interest in the master view (left) back to their 3D positions within the volume (right).



Using this pipeline, we have restored and revealed the text on five complete wraps of the animal skin of the En-Gedi scroll, an object that likely will never be physically opened for inspection (Fig. 1). The resulting master image (Fig. 2) enables a complete textual critique, and although such analysis is beyond the scope of this paper, the consensus of our interdisciplinary team is that the virtually unwrapped result equals the best photographic images available in the 21st century. From the master view, one can clearly see the remains of two distinct columns of Hebrew writing that contain legible and countable lines, letters, and words (Fig. 9).

Fig. 9Partial transcription and translation of recovered text.

(Column 1) Lines 5 to 7 from the En-Gedi scroll.


These images reveal the En-Gedi scroll to be the book of Leviticus, which makes it the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark and a significant discovery in biblical archeology (Fig. 10). Without our computational pipeline and the textual analysis it enables, the En-Gedi text would be totally lost for scholarship, and its value would be left unknown.

Fig. 10Timeline placing the En-Gedi scroll within the context of other biblical discoveries.

What is clearly preserved in the master image is part of one sheet of a scripture scroll that contains 35 lines, of which 18 have been preserved and another 17 have been reconstructed. The lines contain 33 to 34 letters and spaces between letters; spaces between the words are indicated but are sometimes minimal. The two columns extracted from the scroll also exhibit an intercolumnar blank space, as well as a large blank space before the first column that is larger than the column of text. This large blank space leaves no doubt that what is preserved is the beginning of a scroll, in this case a Pentateuchal text: the book of Leviticus.

Armed with the extraction of this readable text and its historical context discerned from carbon dating and other related archeological evidence (12), scholars can accurately place the En-Gedi writings in the canonical timeline of biblical text. Radiocarbon results date the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (table S1). Alternatively, a first or second century CE date was suggested on the basis of paleographical considerations by Yardeni (25). Dating the En-Gedi scroll to the third or fourth century CE falls near the end of the period of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (third century BCE to second century CE) and several centuries before the medieval biblical fragments found in the Cairo Genizah, which date from the ninth century CE onward (Fig. 10). Hence, the En-Gedi scroll provides an important extension to the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls and offers a glimpse into the earliest stages of almost 800 years of near silence in the history of the biblical text.

As may be expected from our knowledge of the development of the Hebrew text, the En-Gedi Hebrew text is not vocalized, there are no indications of verses, and the script resembles other documents from the late Dead Sea Scrolls. The text deciphered thus far is completely identical with the consonantal framework of the medieval text of the Hebrew Bible, traditionally named the Masoretic Text, and which is the text presented in most printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, one to two centuries earlier, the so-called proto-Masoretic text, as reflected in the Judean Desert texts from the first centuries of the Common era, still witnesses some textual fluidity. In addition, the En-Gedi scan revealed columns similar in length to those evidenced among the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Besides illuminating the history of the biblical text, our work on the scroll advances the development of textual imaging. Although previous research has successfully identified text within ancient artifacts, the En-Gedi manuscript represents the first severely damaged, ink-based scroll to be unrolled and identified noninvasively. The recent work of Barfod et al. (26) produced text from within a damaged amulet; however, the text was etched into the amulet’s thin metal surface, which served as a morphological base for the contrast of text. Although challenging, morphological structures provide an additional guide for segmentation that is unlikely to be present with ink-based writing. In the case of the En-Gedi scroll, for instance, the ink sits on the substrate and does not create an additional morphology that can aid the segmentation and rendering process. The amulet work also performed segmentation by constraining the surface to be ruled, and thus developable, to simplify the flattening problem. In addition, segmented strips were assembled showing letterforms, but a complete and merged surface segmentation was not computed, a result of using commercial software rather than implementing a custom software framework.

Samko et al. (27) describe a fully automated approach to segmentation and text extraction of undamaged, scrolled materials. Their results, from known legible manuscripts that can be physically unrolled for visual verification, serve as important test cases to validate their automated segmentation approach. However, the profound damage exhibited in the materials, such as the scroll from En-Gedi, creates its own new challenges—segmentation, texturing, and flattening algorithms—that only our novel framework directly addresses.

The work of Mocella et al. (12) claims that phase-contrast tomography generates contrast at ink boundaries in scans of material from Herculaneum. The hope for phase contrast comes from a progression of volumetric imaging methods (56) and serves as a possible solution to the first step in our pipeline: creating a noninvasive, volumetric scan with some method that shows contrast at ink. Although verifying that ink sits on a page is not enough to allow scholarly study of discovered text, this is an important prelude to subsequent virtual unwrapping. Our complete approach makes such discovery possible.

An overarching concern as this framework becomes widely useful has to do not with technical improvements of the components, which will naturally occur as scientists and engineers innovate over the space of scanning, segmentation, and unwrapping, but rather with the certified provenance of every final texture claim that is produced from a scan volume. An analysis framework must offer the ability for independent researchers to confidently affirm results and verify scholarly claims. Letters, words, and, ultimately, whole texts that are extracted noninvasively from the inaccessible inner windings of an artifact must be subject to independent scrutiny if they are to serve as the basis for the highest level of scholarship. For such scrutiny to occur, accurate and recorded geometry, aligned in the coordinate frame of the original volumetric scan, must be retained for confirmation.

The computational framework we have described provides this ability for a third party to confirm that letterforms in a final output texture are the result of a pipeline of transformations on the original data and not solely an interpretation from an expert who may believe letterforms are visible. Such innate third-party confirmation capability reduces confusion around the resulting textual analyses and engenders confidence in the effectiveness of virtual unwrapping techniques.

The traditional approach of removing a folio from its binding—or unrolling a scroll—and pressing it flat to capture an accurate facsimile obviously will not work on fragile manuscripts that have been burned and crushed into lumps of disintegrating charcoal. The virtual unwrapping that we performed on the En-Gedi scroll proves the effectiveness of our software pipeline as a noninvasive alternative: a technological engine for text discovery in the face of profound damage. The implemented software components, which are necessary stages in the overall process, will continue to improve with every new object and discovery. However, the separable stages themselves, from volumetric scanning to the unwrapping and merging transformations, will become the guiding framework for practitioners seeking to open damaged textual materials. The geometric data passing through the individual stages are amenable to a standard interface through which the software components can interchangeably communicate. Hence, each component is a separable piece that can be individually upgraded as alternative and improved methods are developed. For example, the accurate segmentation of layers within a volume is a crucial part of the pipeline. Segmentation algorithms can be improved by tuning them to the material type (for example, animal skin, papyrus, and bark), the expected layer shape (for example, flat and rolled pages), and the nature of damage (for example, carbonized, burned, and fragmented). The flattening step is another place where improvements will better support user interaction, methods to quantify and visualize errors from flattening, and a comparative analysis between different mapping schemes.

The successful application of our virtual unwrapping pipeline to the En-Gedi scroll represents a confluence of physics, computer science, and the humanities. The technical underpinnings and implemented tools offer a collaborative opportunity between scientists, engineers, and textual scholars, who must remain crucially involved in the process of refining the quality of extracted text. Although more automation in the pipeline is possible, we have now achieved our overarching goal, which is the creation of a new restoration pathway—a way to overcome damage—to reach and retrieve text from the brink of oblivion.


Master view results

The master view image of the En-Gedi scroll was generated using the specific algorithms and processes outlined below. Because we use the volumetric scan as the coordinate frame for all transformations in our pipeline, the resolution of the master view approximately matches that of the scan. The spatial resolution of the volume (18 μm/voxel, isometric) produces an image resolution of approximately 1410 pixels per inch (25,400 μm/inch), which can be considered archival quality. From this, we estimate the surface area of the unwrapped portion to be approximately 94 cm2 (14.57 in2). The average size of letterforms varies between 1.5 and 2 mm, and the pixels of the master view maintain the original dynamic range of 16 bits.

Volumetric scan

Two volumetric scans were performed using a Bruker SkyScan 1176 in vivo Micro-CT machine. It uses a PANalytical microfocus tube and a Princeton Instruments camera. With a maximum spatial resolution of 9 μm per voxel, it more than exceeded the resolution requirements for the En-Gedi scroll. A spatial resolution of 18 μm was used for all En-Gedi scans. Additionally, because this is an in vivo machine, the scroll could simply be placed within the scan chamber and did not need to be mounted for scanning. This limited the risk of physical damage to the object.

An initial, single field-of-view scan was done on the scroll to verify the scan parameters and to confirm that the resolution requirements had been met. This scan was performed at 50 kV, 500 μA, and 350-ms exposure time, with added filtration (0.2 Al) to improve image quality by absorbing lower-energy x-rays that tend to produce scattering. The reconstructions showed very clear separation of layers within the scroll, which indicated a good opportunity for segmentation. The scan protocol was then modified to increase contrast, where the team suspected that there may be visible ink. To acquire data from as much of the scroll as possible, the second and final scan was an offset scan using four connected scans. Final exposure parameters of 45 kV, 555 μA, and 230 ms were selected for this scan. The data were reconstructed using Bruker SkyScan’s NRecon engine, and the reconstructed slices were saved as 16-bit TIFF images for further analysis.


The basis for the algorithm is a local estimate of the differential geometry of the animal skin surface using a second-order symmetric tensor and associated feature saliency measures (17). The tensor-based saliency measures are available at each point in the volume. The 3D structure tensor for point p is calculated asEmbedded Image(1)where ∇u(p) is the 3D gradient at point pgσ is a 3D Gaussian kernel, and denotes convolution. The eigenvalues and eigenvectors of this tensor provide an estimate of the surface normal at pEmbedded Image(2)

The algorithm begins with an ordered chain of seed points localized to a single slice by a user. From the starting point, each particle in the chain undergoes a force calculation that propagates the chain forward through the volume. This region-growing algorithm estimates a new positional offset for each particle in the chain based on the contribution of three forces: gravity (a bias in the direction of the long axis of the scroll), neighbor separation, and the saliency measure of the structure tensor. First, n(p) is biased along the long axis of the scroll by finding the vector rejection of an axis-aligned unit vector Z onto n(p)Embedded Image(3)

To keep particles moving together, an additional restoring spring force S is computed using a spring stiffness coefficient k and the elongation factors Xl and Xr between the particle and both its left and right neighbors in the chainEmbedded Image(4)

In the final formulation, a scaling factor α is applied to G, and the final positional offset for the particle is the normalized summation of all termsEmbedded Image(5)

The intuition behind this framework is the following: The structure tensor estimates a surface normal, which gives a hint at how a layer is moving locally through points (Eqs. 1 and 2). The layer should extend in a direction that is approximated locally by its tangent plane: the surface normal. The gravity vector nudges points along the major axis around which the surface is rolled, which is a big hint about the general direction to pursue to extend a surface. Moving outward, away from the major axis and across layers, generally defeats the goal of following the same layer. The spring forces help to maintain a constant spacing between points, restraining them from moving independently. These forces must all be balanced relative to one another, which is done by trial and error.

We applied the computed offset iteratively to each particle, resulting in a surface mesh sampled at a specific resolution relative to the time step of the particle system. The user can tune the various parameters of this algorithm based on the data set and at any time during the segmentation process. We also provided a feedback interface whereby a human user can reliably identify a failed segmentation and correct for mistakes in the segmentation process.

For each small segmentation, we used spring force constants of 0.5 and an α scaling factor of 0.3. Segmentation chain points had an initial separation of 1 voxel. This generally produced about six triangles per 100 μm in the segmented surface models. When particles crossed surface boundaries because the structure tensor did not provide a valid estimate of the local surface normal, the chain was manually corrected by the user.


Two shapes were tested for the shape of the texturing neighborhood: a spheroid and a line. The line shape includes only those voxels that directly intersect along the surface normal. When the surface normal is accurate and smoothly varying, the line neighborhood allows parametric control for the texture calculation to incorporate voxels that are near but not on (or within) the surface. The line neighborhood leads to faster processing times and less blurring on the surface, although the spheroid neighborhood supports more generalized experimentation—the line neighborhood is a degenerate spheroid. We settled on bidirectional neighborhoods (voxels in both the positive and negative direction) using a line neighborhood with a primary axis length of 7 voxels. We filtered the neighborhood using a Max filter because the average ink response (density) in the volume was much brighter than the ink response of the animal skin.


Our flattening implementation makes use of Bullet Physics Library’s soft body simulation, which uses position-based dynamics to solve the soft body system. Points along one of the long edges of the segmentation were pinned in place while a gravity force along the x axis was applied to the rest of the body. This roughly “unfurled” the wrapping and aligned the mesh with the xz plane. A gravity force along the y axis was then applied to the entire body, which pushed the mesh against a collision plane parallel to the xz plane. This action flattened the curvature of the mesh against the plane. A final expansion and relaxation step was applied to smooth out wrinkles in the internal mesh.


In total, around 140 small segmentations were generated during the segmentation process. These segmentations were then mesh-merged to produce seven larger segmentations, a little over one for each wrap of the scroll. Each large segmentation was then flattened and textured individually. The final set of seven texture images was then texture-merged to produce the final master view imagery for this paper. All merging steps for this work were performed by hand. Texture merges were performed in Adobe Photoshop, and mesh merging was performed in MeshLab. An enhancement curve was uniformly applied to the merged master view image to enhance visual contrast between the text and substrate.


Supplementary material for this article is available at

table S1. Radiocarbon dating results of the En-Gedi scroll (25).

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.


Acknowledgments: We thank D. Merkel (Merkel Technologies Ltd.) who donated the volumetric scan to the IAA. Special thanks to the excavators of the En-Gedi site D. Barag and E. Netzer (Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Radiocarbon determination was made at the DANGOOR Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (D-REAMS) at the Weizmann Institute. We thank G. Bearman (imaging technology consultant, IAA.) for support and encouragement. W.B.S. acknowledges the invaluable professional contributions of C. Chapman in the editorial preparation of this manuscript. Funding: W.B.S. acknowledges funding from the NSF (awards IIS-0535003 and IIS-1422039). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. W.B.S. acknowledges funding from Google and support from S. Crossan (Founding Director of the Google Cultural Institute).Author contributions: W.B.S. conceived and designed the virtual unwrapping research program. C.S.P. directed the software implementation team and assembled the final master view. P.S. acquired the volumetric scan of the scroll and its radiocarbon dating and provided initial textual analysis. M.S. and E.T. edited the visible text and interpreted its significance in the context of biblical scholarship. Y.P. excavated the En-Gedi scroll on May 5, 1970. The manuscript was prepared and submitted by W.B.S. with contributions from all authors.Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors. All scan data and results from this paper are archived at the Department of Computer Science, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY) and are available at

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Wind farm
Once renewable energy can be stored for use on demand, Britain could become self-sufficient in its energy usage CREDIT: CHARLOTTE GRAHAM/REX SHUTTERSTOCK 

The world’s next energy revolution is probably no more than five or ten years away. Cutting-edge research into cheap and clean forms of electricity storage is moving so fast that we may never again need to build 20th Century power plants in this country, let alone a nuclear white elephant such as Hinkley Point.

The US Energy Department is funding 75 projects developing electricity storage, mobilizing teams of scientists at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and the elite Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge labs in a bid for what it calls the ‘Holy Grail’ of energy policy.

You can track what they are doing at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). There are plans for hydrogen bromide, or zinc-air batteries, or storage in molten glass, or next-generation flywheels, many claiming “drastic improvements” that can slash storage costs by 80pc to 90pc and reach the magical figure of $100 per kilowatt hour in relatively short order.

“Storage is a huge deal,” says Ernest Moniz, the US Energy Secretary and himself a nuclear physicist. He is now confident that the US grid and power system will be completely “decarbonised” by the middle of the century.

The technology is poised to overcome the curse of ‘intermittency’ that has long bedevilled wind and solar. Surges of excess power will be stored for use later at times when the sun sets, and consumption peaks in the early evening.

This transforms the calculus of energy policy. The question for the British government as it designs a strategy fit for the 21st Century – and wrestles with an exorbitant commitment to Hinkley Point – is no longer whether this form of back-up power will ever be commercially viable, but whether the inflection point arrives in the early-2020s or in the late 2020s.

One front-runner – a Washington favourite – is an organic flow battery at Harvard that uses quinones from cheap and abundant sources such as rhubarb or oil waste. It is much cheaper and less toxic than current flow batteries based on the rare metal vanadium. Its reactions are 1,000 times faster.

Harvard professor Michael Aziz working on his revolutionary ‘rhubarb battery’ CREDIT: HARVARD

Professor Michael Aziz, leader of the Harvard project, said there are still problems to sort out with the “calendar life” of storage chemicals but the basic design is essentially proven.

“We have a fighting chance of bringing down the capital cost to $100 a kilowatt hour, and that will change the world. It could complement wind and solar on a very large scale,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

The latest refinement is to replace toxic bromine with harmless ferrocyanide – used in food additives. The battery cannot catch fire. It is safe and clean. “This is chemistry I’d be happy to put in my basement,” he said.

The design is delightfully simple. It uses a tank of water. You could have one at home in Los Angeles, Lagos, Buenos Aires, Delhi, or Guangzhou, storing solar power in the day to drive your air-conditioning at night. It could be scaled up for a 500 megawatt wind farm.

The Harvard organic flow battery. It can run off rhubarb CREDIT: US ENERGY DEPARTMENT

Italy’s Green Energy Storage has the European licence. It is building a prototype with the Kessler Foundation at Trento University, backed by EU funds. “We have a chemistry that is ten times cheaper than anything on the market,” said Salvatore Pinto, the chairman.

“We are speaking to three utilities in Europe and we will install our first battery as a field test next year,” he said.

It is a race. Tim Grejtak, an energy expert at Lux Research, said Lockheed Martin and Pacific Northwest labs are both working on their own organic flow batteries, while others are developing variants with designed molecules.

I do not wish to single out this particular technology. I cite it as an example of how fast the picture is evolving as the world’s scientific superpower mobilizes in earnest, and investors start to chase the immense prize. Consultants Mckinsey estimate that the energy storage market will grow a hundredfold to $90bn a year by 2025.

Once storage costs approach $100 per kilowatt hour, there ceases to be much point in building costly ‘baseload’ power plants such as Hinkley Point. Nuclear reactors cannot be switched on and off as need demands – unlike gas plants. They are useless as a back-up for the decentralized grid of the future, when wind, solar, hydro, and other renewables will dominate the power supply.

I will be writing about the economics of offshore wind in coming days but bear in mind that renewables generated 18pc of UK power last year, and this is expected to double by the late 2020s as wind and solar capacity reach 50 gigawatts (GW). Once the power can be stored for overnight use, there will be extended periods in the summer when no base-load is needed whatsoever.

Perhaps the Hinkley project still made sense in 2013 before the collapse in global energy prices and before the latest leap forward in renewable technology. It is madness today.

The latest report by the National Audit Office shows that the estimated subsidy for these two reactors has already jumped from £6bn to near £30bn. Hinkley Point locks Britain into a strike price of £92.50 per megawatt hour – adjusted for inflation, already £97 – and that is guaranteed for 35 years.

That is double the current market price of electricity. The NAO’s figures show that solar will be nearer £60 per megawatt hour by 2025. Dong Energy has already agreed to an offshore wind contract in Holland at less than £75.

Michael Liebreich from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the Hinkley Point saga will be taught for generations as a case study in how not to run a procurement process. “The obvious question is why this train-wreck of a project was not killed long ago,” he said.

All the extra power capacity added since the mid-1990s in Europe has been renewableCREDIT: EWEA

Theresa May has inherited a poisonous dossier, left with the invidious choice of either offending China or persisting with a venture that no longer makes any economic sense. She may have to offend China – as tactfully as possible, let us hope –  for the scale of the folly has become crushingly obvious.

Every big decision on energy strategy by the British government or any other government must henceforth be based on the working premise that cheap energy storage will soon be a reality.

This country can achieve total self-sufficiency in power at viable cost from our own sun, wind, and waters within a generation. Once we shift to electric vehicles as well, we will no longer need to import much oil either. Rejoice.


Autodesk Just Gave Every Fab Lab Access to $25,000 in Design Software

Autodesk Just Gave Every Fab Lab Access to $25,000 in Design Software


Last year Autodesk granted Fab Labs, a global network of workshops and makerspaces connected through the Fab Foundation, access to Tinkercad, 123D Circuits, and Fusion 360 Labs, but that was just the beginning. Earlier this year, Autodesk expanded their generosity to the Fab Foundation’s Fab Academy (which is the foundation’s training initiative) by offering them access to their entire Product Design Collection, and today Autodesk announced that they will be offering all registered Fab Labs in the Fab Foundation’s network 10 licenses to the Product Design Collection.


The Autodesk suite of software is a reliable favorite of professionals and hobbyists alike, and having access to these tools is invaluable to a student or part-time inventor who might not otherwise be able to get their ideas off the ground.

The Product Design Collection includes the 14 software programs and would cost a person $2,460 a year to buy all of them as a collection, but individually purchasing the software would be even more expensive (Inventor Professional alone would be $1,890 and AutoCAD another $1,680). This means that each Fab Lab stands to gain $24,600 worth of software and that (given the fact the network includes over 1000 Fab Labs) there’s $24,600,000 in software available to the Fab Foundation’s members.

This offer is part of Autodesk’s extensive efforts to support the global maker movement through free software to students, educators, non-profits and educational institutions (like the Fab Foundation), theirEntrepreneur Impact Program for start-ups and hobbyists, and by open-sourcing design files for our 3D printer Ember.

Speaking about their partnership with the Fab Foundation specifically, Autodesk’s Rama Dunayevich, Senior Manager of Brand Partnerships, speaking about the partnership with the Fab Foundation specifically “At each step of the way, we are learning more about how best to support Fab Labs so we can improve and deepen our relationship. We are using an initial one-year renewable subscription term to collect feedback and data to be in a better position to consider further expansions, refinements and customization based on that data.”

The details of Autodesk’s offer are as follows:

Participating Fab Labs will receive a grant that includes 10 subscriptions to the Autodesk Product Design Collection for the Fab Lab which can be used on or off-site by its members. The subscription includes the professional-grade 3D design tools needed to succeed in the changing landscape for product makers, hobbyists and manufacturers including Fusion 360, Inventor Professional, AutoCAD, ReCap 360 Pro, 3ds Max, 25 gigabytes of cloud storage and more.

The Product Design Collection includes:

·         Inventor Professional

·         AutoCAD

·         AutoCAD Architecture

·         AutoCAD Electrical

·         AutoCAD Mechanical

·         AutoCAD 360 Pro

·         Cloud storage (25 GB)

·         Factory Design Utilities

·         Fusion 360

·         Navisworks Manage

·         ReCap 360 Pro

·         Rendering in A360

·         Vault Basic

·         3ds Max

Fab Labs registered as part of the Fab Foundation’s network of global Fab Labs can apply for the grant now. There is no limit to the number of grants Autodesk is willing to fulfill and no additional requirements besides being a registered Fab Lab.

To become a registered Fab Lab your space must have 5 different types of fabrication tools (CNC machining, 3D Printing, microelectronics workstations, etc.); it must be free and open to the public (for at least some portion of time if operated out of a private school or university); abide by the Fab Lab Charter; and participate in your community.  You can register here. There is no licensing fee and someone from your region will confirm that you meet the qualifications.

This announcement is being made now to coincide with the Fab 12 conference being held in Shenzhen. This conference is a gathering of Fab Labs members to discuss the future of community led, education-focused workspaces and participate in workshops centered on different fabrication projects.

Muslim doctor: My patient refused to let me treat her because of my religion



Muslim doctor: My patient refused to let me treat her because of my religion

 August 10

Making my rounds in the hospital one day, I put my stethoscope to a patient’s chest while she kept her eyes fixed on the television screen over my shoulder.

Hours before, bombs had torn through an airport and a train station in Brussels. My 65-year-old patient watched a flurry of images on Fox News showing unfathomable carnage, and I went through the all-too-familiar ritual of hoping that the perpetrators would not be identified as Muslim, that members of my faith would not be considered guilty by inexplicable association.

The sounds of my patient’s voice rose, eclipsing the thump of her heartbeat that I was painstakingly trying to hear.

She sounded distressed, anguished even, about the loss of the innocent lives on the TV screen. “These foreign people only come here to kill and ruin things,” she said. Then she said Donald Trump is right: America should ban all Muslims from immigrating here.

And then perhaps she noticed the subtle change in my facial expression. “I’m sorry, but your people and people who look like you make me uncomfortable,“ she said.

She refused to let me treat her.

I stood aghast at the bedside, wondering how my humanity and years of medical training had been negated by the acts of a sinister few an ocean away. With her words, the ascendant xenophobia of our time infiltrated the sacred patient-doctor relationship.

I had understood, in the abstract, the threat of Trump’s demagoguery and petulance. But until that moment, the bile he spewed seemed confined to Twitter and to rallies in faraway places. I didn’t think it would ever reach me, a physician, born here in the United States.

I should have known better.

Medicine is not practiced in a vacuum. It’s subject to the same influences affecting the rest of our society. In our current political environment, the toxic, Islamophobic rhetoric intended to incite and galvanize voters is of course seeping into hospitals and clinics.

A study published last year in AJOB Empirical Bioethics of Muslim doctors, who comprise 5 percent of U.S. physicians, found that 1 in 10 of these doctors has had a patient refuse their medical care because they are Muslim. Clearly my experience was not isolated.

That day, I deferred to my medical students to hastily complete the patient’s physical exam while I stepped aside and observed from the periphery. My impulses wrestled with my discretion, trying to suppress my desire to respond. Anger would only further alienate the patient, I knew.

I wondered what my responsibilities to the patient were in the face of this bigotry. Did any remain?

As a physician, I thought first of the Hippocratic oath, a doctor’s steadfast commitment to a patient. We doctors heal the affluent or the dispossessed. We heal regardless of sexual orientation, gender, religion or race. This oath compels us to invariably protect the patient from our biases and darkest demons. But it offers little wisdom when the physician is the one subjected to intolerance.

I needed more. And as I attempted to reconcile my desire to preserve my wounded personal dignity with the principles enshrined in the Hippocratic oath, I found my Islam.

Clarity arrived as I remembered one of my favorite verses from the Koran: “Believers, stand firm for God, be witnesses for justice. Never allow the hatred of people to prevent you from being just. Be just, for this is closest to righteousness.”

The concept of justice captured in this verse animated Muslims during the nascent stages of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad’s unprecedented message of egalitarianism threatened the entrenched social order and thus provoked considerable malice at the time. Yet this early Muslim community endured the ridicule and persecution because it was inspired by something far greater than itself.

Retreating into cynicism and rage was too tempting in the aftermath of my experience with the patient, but it would be an affront to the legacy and sacrifice of those that came before me.

In the end, this was all part of my personal inner jihad, which literally means “a struggle.” For a Muslim, jihad means the struggle of the soul to topple the barriers which prevent the realization of a divinely inspired life, a life that promotes the virtues of compassion, understanding and justice. A selfish focus on my own damaged ego detracted from this purpose.

My decision to work as a physician in the public setting of a hospital meant that I was an ambassador for my faith, whether I wanted to be or not. That’s an important role: the Pew Research Center has found that Americans are more likely to have a favorable opinion of Muslims if they know one.

As I reflected on the conversation with my patient that had gone awry, I realized the value in the seemingly mundane conversations I share daily with other patients. Perhaps the exchanges about their lives and mine are transformative. Our interactions allow us to see our common hopes and fears in each other.

Trump and others of his ilk have sought to sow division by stripping groups like Muslims, African Americans, Mexicans and women of their common humanity. His candidacy has brought long-hidden rancor into the open, even into our hospitals.

The finest and noblest traditions of medicine, however, are transcendent. My personal faith subsumes the Hippocratic oath and preaches mutual respect and tolerance. These are the sources of my continued dignity.

And they allowed me to knock on the same patient’s door again the next day.

Jalal Baig is an oncologist and a writer in Chicago.

Chinese Hui Muslims

China’s Complex Relationship With Islam Is Reflected in Ties to Hui

 How Islam Coexists With Communism in Atheist China 5:41

YINCHUAN, China — This imam wears heels — and a gold-flecked headscarf.

Ma Lijuan is one of the faces of state-backed Islam in officially atheist Communist China.

Female imams like her are unique to China’s Hui, a Muslim minority group — as are their women-only mosques.

Ma hails from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a sparsely populated province straddling an arid plateau on the Yellow River basin in north-central China.

“Here, [religion] is very normal for us,” said Ma, 33. “Our constitution grants us the freedom of religious belief, and we are thankful to live here.”

Image: Ma Lijuan
Ma Lijuan, an imam at Nanguan mosque in central Yinchuan, teaches Quran classes to dozens of women who repeat her chants in Arabic. David Lom / NBC News

Ma, who is married with two boys, helps lead a congregation of hundreds at the Nanguan Mosque in the provincial capital of Yinchuan. The mosque — with its onion-shaped domes and treed courtyard — dates to the 1900s but was refurbished in the 1980s.

“As a teacher, spreading Islamic truth is my duty,” Ma told NBC News. “When we are educating a Muslim woman we are also educating a family.”

Every morning Ma teaches Quran classes to dozens of mostly middle-aged and older women who repeat her chants in Arabic. She speaks in a gentle yet confident voice, and her infectious laugh punctuates conversations.

Ethnically Chinese Hui Muslims speak Mandarin and in recent decades have nurtured a coexistence with the Communist Party. The party has in return rewarded the community — which traces its roots to 10th-century Arab traders who married Chinese women — with the latitude and support to establish mosques, religious schools and museums.

However, the two haven’t always had such a harmonious relationship.

During the Cultural Revolution, religious communities throughout China were persecuted, and the Hui were no exception. After the country emerged from the tumult in 1976, the Hui reinstated the practice of their faith.

 Former Red Guard Remembers Communist Revolution 1:53

China’s constitution provides for freedom of religion, but within very strict limits. Five “recognized religions” — including Christianity and Islam — are permitted to worship at state-approved sites. Proselytizing in public is illegal and unregistered groups, such as Tibetan Buddhists or Falun Gong, routinely encounter problems.

Not all of China’s 23 million Muslims, a legacy of traders who centuries ago ventured from the Middle East along the Silk Road, practice as freely as the Hui do.

Turkic-speaking Uighurs have increasingly chafed at large-scale immigration of China’s dominant Han Chinese. Ethnic tensions fueled violence that Chinese authorities point to as justification for religious restrictions and repressive tactics.

Image: A veiled Muslim Uighur woman in Kashgar in 2014
A veiled Muslim Uighur woman walks passed a statue of Mao Zedong in Kashgar in China’s restive Xinjiang Province in 2014. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

This year the government barred Uighur Muslim civil servants, students and children in the far western region of Xinjiang from fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The rest of the year, burqas, long beards and calls to prayer over loudspeakers are banned throughout Xinjiang. People under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter mosques at all.

The government’s unease with Islam intensified with the rise of Islamic extremism and as groups like ISIS recruited followers in China. Late last year, a digital recording of an ISIS chant in Mandarin calling on Muslims to “wake up” and “take up weapons to fight” was posted online.

“It would be naïve to say China does not face a problem with jihadi-style extremism,” said James Leibold, an expert on China’s ethnic minorities at Australia’s LaTrobe University. “But I don’t think that problem is nearly on the scale that the government perceives it to be. They have overblown it, which is dangerous and counter-productive because it whips up anti-Islamic fear and suspicion.”

Gallery: Uighurs in Kashgar: China’s Muslims Try To Preserve Traditions

Aware of how its crackdown in Xinjiang might affect its image in the Middle East, China recently issued a white paper on religion that declared “no Xinjiang citizen has been punished because of his or her rightful religious belief.”

Beijing, meanwhile, has invested heavily in Yinchuan and the surrounding area.

The makeover includes a new airport terminal to handle what local officials hope will accommodate a flood of Muslim tourists from the Middle East as China seeks to boost its image in and trade with the Arab world. The government is also promoting Hui-made products and real estate developments as part of its ambitious “One Belt, One Road” strategy to revitalize trade along the ancient Silk Road.


Image: Hui men in the courtyard of Najiahu mosque
Hui men in the courtyard of Najiahu Mosque. Janis Mackey Frayer / NBC News

Even street signs are being translated to Arabic.

“Unlike some other minorities, Hui people follow the leadership of the government,” said singer Ma Shouyun. “The state supports our religion very much.”

Because of all that the Hui are allowed to practice in relative peace.

On a recent evening as the call to prayer echoed across a courtyard, dozens of men adjusted their white caps under the shade of a locust tree and filed into Najiahu Mosque. It is a ritual practiced five times a day by Muslims all over the world.

But even in Yinchuan amidst state support most Hui remain conscious of their delicate position. When the conversation with Ma, the singer, shifted from Hui culture to Islam, a nearby shopkeeper interrupted him.

“No questions about religion,” she warned him, sparking a tense discussion with bystanders about the risk of irritating officials.

Few of them noticed the singer take off his TV microphone, straighten his cap and quietly walk away. 

A Palestinian Village Tries to Protect a Terraced Ancient Wonder of Agriculture

Palestinian farmers in Battir, a West Bank village near Bethlehem, use a Roman-era irrigation system to water their crops. Credit Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency

BATTIR, West Bank — In this scenic Palestinian village in the West Bank hills near Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, a week is said to last eight days, not seven. That is because Battir’s eight extended families take daily turns watering their crops from the natural springs that feed their ancient agricultural terraces, a practice they say has worked for centuries.

The water flows through a Roman-era irrigation system down into a deep valley where a railway track — a section of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway built in Ottoman times — roughly marks the 1949 armistice line between the West Bank and Israel. The area is dotted with tombs and ruins upon ruins of bygone civilizations.

When the World Heritage Committee of Unesco — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — meets in St. Petersburg, Russia, over the next two weeks, this pastoral area will be thrust into the spotlight at least momentarily as the villagers and conservation experts fight to save what they say is a unique living cultural and historical landscape.

The experts say the Battir terraces are under imminent threat because Israel plans to build a section of its West Bank security barrier right through the valley, parallel to the railway track. They are seeking to have Battir nominated as a World Heritage site on an emergency basis, a move that might persuade Israel to change its plans for the construction.

“The people here constructed their village while always preserving the terraces,” said Hassan Muamer, 27, a civil engineer working for the Battir Landscape Eco-Museum. “It was part of the mentality,” he added. “It is living history.”

But the effort to secure a nomination for Battir has been bogged down by internal Palestinian disagreements, designs and interests. The formal submission of the case was blocked at the last minute on the grounds that it had come too late. Instead, the Palestinian delegation to Unesco is pushing a higher-profile, more political effort to have Bethlehem’s venerated Church of the Nativity and pilgrimage route inscribed on the list of World Heritage sites on an emergency basis.

A panel of experts has already determined that although the church needs renovation and conservation, it does not appear to be in imminent danger and therefore does not qualify for emergency status. Leaders of the three churches that share control of the Church of the Nativity, always leery of prospective changes to the delicate status quo, also expressed some early reservations.

Continue reading the main story



When Unesco granted Palestinians full membership in the organization last October, Israel and the United States viewed the development as part of a contentious, wider Palestinian campaign for international recognition of statehood in the absence of an agreement with Israel. The step cost Unesco one-quarter of its yearly budget — 22 percent, or about $70 million, contributed by the United States, and 3 percent contributed by Israel.

Now some Palestinian and Western officials say that by pushing the case of the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, the Palestinian leadership is putting prestige above professional and technical considerations.

In response to the criticism, the Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, Elias Sanbar, wrote a letter condemning what he called “a persistent campaign of rumors aimed at discrediting Bethlehem’s candidacy” by “those who do not want to see Palestine exercise its legitimate rights.” He attached a statement from two of the three church leaders expressing their thanks to the Palestinian leadership for its efforts to safeguard and advance the Christian congregations’ freedom and cause.

Battir is seeking World Heritage status from Unesco. Credit The New York Times

Still, experts in the Palestinian territories say Battir is in more urgent need of protection.

“If Battir is submitted only next year, it may be too late,” said Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, the cultural heritage program specialist at the Unesco office in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “If the wall goes through the valley, it will totally destroy the integrity of the site,” he added.

Noting that the terraces are supported by dry stone walls made up of many millions of stones, Mr. Fontana characterized the valley as “not monumental but historical, an example of outstanding engineering.”

“The work of human beings there needs to be valued,” he said. “It is the work of centuries.”

Israel says its barrier, a system of fences and walls, razor wire and patrol roads, is essential to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israeli cities.

The villagers have petitioned the Supreme Court in Israel to have the barrier rerouted here to prevent the destruction of the striking beauty of the area and its ancient system of cultivation. A court decision is pending. The conservationists hope that a recommendation from the World Heritage Committee may help persuade the court not to reject the villagers’ petition.

Local Palestinians like Raed Samara, a planning and development expert who has been active in promoting the case of Battir, say construction of a barrier would destroy the tranquillity that has prevailed here for decades.

The steep slopes across from Battir are in Israel, making this shared landscape a transboundary site in the Unesco lexicon.

“Nobody thinks that Israel’s security concerns are not legitimate or important,” said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization that works to promote cooperation on environmental issues in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. But, he added, “there are alternative ways to bring about security without destroying 4,000 years of cultural heritage for the Israelis, the Palestinians and all of humanity.”

On a recent evening, Mohannad Abu Hassan, a schoolteacher, was working a small triangular plot in the valley with his son Muhammad, 12. Water poured in from one corner as they turned the rich soil planted with green beans, zucchini, eggplant and chard. As soon as they were finished watering, a sprightly elderly woman, a distant relative, skipped down to a nearby plot across the railway track and turned her water on. In the old core of the village, children bathed in the cool waters of the central spring.

Until the late 1940s, Battir was the last stop before Jerusalem on the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. The train platform used to turn into a bustling market, and the villagers maintained strong connections with the city. The train does not stop here anymore, and most of the produce is now for home use or for local sale. But the villagers are keeping up with the times, swapping news about the Unesco effort through a Facebook group of 2,000 residents and supporters.

Akram Bader, the mayor of Battir, recently traveled to Unesco headquarters in Paris to push his case and plans to go to St. Petersburg. “For three months I couldn’t sleep,” Mr. Bader said. “I cannot imagine my village divided. If we have lived in peace these last 60 years, we can live the same way forever.”

Lung cancer “breathalyzer” wins $100K Entrepreneurship

  • MIT $100K grand-prize-winning team Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli.

    MIT $100K grand-prize-winning team Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli.

    Photo: Michael Last


  • MIT $100K grand-prize-winning team Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli.

    MIT $100K grand-prize-winning team Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli.

    Photo: Michael Last


  • MIT $100K grand-prize-winning team Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli.

    MIT $100K grand-prize-winning team Astraeus Technologies (left to right): Graham Lieberman, Jay Kumar, Alexander Blair, and Joseph Azzarelli.

    Photo: Michael Last


Lung cancer “breathalyzer” wins $100K Entrepreneurship Competition

Team’s smartphone-connected device can detect lung cancer early from a single breath.

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office 
May 12, 2016

A team of MIT and Harvard University students who invented a smartphone-connected sensor that detects lung cancer from a single breath took home the grand prize from Wednesday night’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

Astraeus Technologies won the $100,000 Robert P. Goldberg Grand prize at the 27th annual competition, beating out seven other finalist teams that pitched business ideas to a panel of expert judges and a lively capacity crowd in Kresge Auditorium. Five other teams innovating in big data, creative arts, and food service took home separate category prizes totaling $40,000.     

Astraeus has developed a postage-stamp-sized device, called the L CARD, that detects certain gases indicative of lung cancer. When someone blows onto the device, a connected mobile app turns a smartphone screen red if those gases are present and green if they aren’t. 

Inventor Joseph Azzarelli, an MIT PhD student in chemistry, demonstrated the device on stage by spraying a syringe filled with the lung-cancer-signaling gases onto the device, causing the smartphone screen to flash red. “The L CARD reacts and sends instantaneous information to the physician that further attention is required,” Azzarelli said while a ripple of excitement spread through the crowd.

“We love that demo as much as you guys do,” added team member Jay Kumar, a student at Harvard Medical School.

After the competition, Azzarelli told MIT News the prize money will go toward product development and first-round clinical trials in research hospitals in the area.  

Cheaper, safer screening

Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer in the United States, causing more deaths than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, according to the World Health Organization. “Part of the reason lung cancer is so deadly is that the current gold standard screening test — the low-dose CT scan — is wholly inadequate in a variety of ways,” said team member Graham Lieberman, an MBA student at the Harvard Business School.

Kumar delved into more detail, explaining that CT scans cost about $800 for each scan, have a high false-positive rate, and expose patients to radiation that can increase their cancer risk.

Due to the risks and costs of CT scans, Lieberman added, only about 1.6 million of the 94 million Americans at risk for lung cancer — as estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are scanned each year. “A cheaper, safer screening device can be applied to a much larger percentage of that population,” he said.

The L CARD (which stands for Chemically Actuated Resonate Device) is essentially a modified near-field communication tag. Certain volatile organic compounds unique to the breath of lung cancer patients modify the tag’s radio frequency identification signal. A smartphone then pings the device and determines, from the modified signal, if those volatile compounds are present.

Kumar said the devices are an order of magnitude (about 10 times) more accurate than CT scans and can be made for less than $1. Astraeus will sell L CARDS directly to hospitals and clinics for use during routine annual checkups, he said. “We’re going after lung cancer,” Kumar said. “The root cause is bad screening: We’ve developed a better screening test, and it’s cost effective.”  

Last night’s win was the second for Astraeus in the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, which consists of three independent contests: Pitch, Accelerate, and the Launch grand finale. Astraeus, which formed last November, also won the $10,000 Danny Lewin Grand Prize and the $3,000 Audience Choice Prize at the Accelerate competition on Feb. 10.

Going through the competition helped the team focus on all the steps it takes to establish and expand a business, Azzarelli told MIT News. “Going into the $100K — the Launch competition in particular, which is taken so seriously by so many — really forces you to think, ‘If we’re really going to do this, at the level we really want to do it at, how are we going to move forward,’” Azzarelli said.

Big winners

Several additional awards were granted last night to finalist and semifinalist teams: Finalist team Spyce, which developed a tumbler-type machine stocked with raw ingredients that autonomously cooks and serves meals in bowls to customers, won the $5,000 Audience Choice award.

A $10,000 data prize from Booz Allen Hamilton went to semifinalist team ReviveMed, which developed a platform that can be used to repurpose safe but shelved drugs at pharmaceutical firms, for other uses. Two teams split a $10,000 Thomson Reuters Data Prize: finalist teamHive Maritime, which is developing analytics and optimization algorithms for shipping routes and vessel speeds, based on predicted queues at ports and canals; and semifinalist teamSwift Calcs, which is creating a cloud-based computational platform for engineers to collaborate on calculations.

Taking home the $15,000 Creative Arts Prize was Tekuma, which developed a service that matches people who want to rent property with artists who create and curate art, and ships the art to the rented space.   

Five other finalist teams pitched ideas: AquaFresco developed a water-recycling technology that lets people use one batch of soapy water to clean their laundry for several months;DoneGood is an app that lets people rate businesses based on practices such as being green, supporting diversity, buying locally, and adequately supporting workers, among other causes; Lux Labs created a nanoscale film that selectively filters light to reduce energy consumption on mobile devices and improve efficiency of solar cells; Solugen invented a green, safe, scalable process for producing hydrogen peroxide, which is used for things like semiconductor fabrication, plastic production, and water purification; and ABA Power is making aluminum-based batteries that have 30 times the energy density of traditional lithium batteries and are manufactured with zero emissions.

Since its debut in 1990, the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition has helped launch 160 companies worldwide that have raised an additional $1.3 billion in funding, have a combined market value of $16 billion, and have employed more than 4,600 people.

This year, 160 teams applied to the entrepreneurship competition. That number was winnowed to 50 semifinalist teams for the Launch contest. Judges then chose eight finalists to compete in Wednesday’s grand finale event. Semifinalist teams receive mentoring, prototyping funds, media exposure, and discounted services.

Tesla’s inherent safety saves five joyriding teenagers in Germany

Tesla’s inherent safety saves five joyriding teenagers in Germany

The car left the road, flew through the air and rolled into a field.

What’s left of the Model S after a teenager crashed and then rolled it into a field.
Sabine Hermsdorf

Do you have a teenage child that likes to borrow your car and then destroy it in a spectacular crash? We sincerely hope the answer to that question is a resounding “no,” but in the off chance that you do, you may want to consider changing your current vehicle for a Tesla Model S. Last week in Germany, the joyriding daughter of a Tesla owner discovered first-hand just how safe the electric vehicle is, after losing control at high speed and rolling into a field.

According to German newspaper Merkur, the 18-year old and four of her friends were messing around in her father’s Model S before losing control. The car flew more than 80 feet (25m) into a field before rolling once and coming to a halt. Although three of the occupants had to be helicoptered to hospitals in Munich for treatment, none of their injuries were life-threatening, a testament to the safety of Tesla’s skateboard chassis.

Enlarge / The skateboard chassis used by the Model S and Model X is extremely safe, with crumple zones that are unconcerned with engines that can transfer kinetic energy into the passengers during a frontal collision.
Jonathan Gitlin

Unlike a conventionally powered car, the Model S (and Model X) have no large engine up front to intrude into the passenger compartment during a collision. This means the front and rear crumple zones can effectively dissipate the kinetic energy of a crash, as seen to good effect in the photographs taken after the accident.

While the Model S was heavily damaged, one doesn’t need much of an imagination to think that a similar crash in a front-engined internal combustion vehicle would have had a much worse outcome for the car’s five occupants. (According to comments left at, about the only way to fatally crash a Tesla appears to be driving one off a cliff at high speed.)

Well done, Tesla.

Wind power generates 140% of Denmark’s electricity demand

Wind power generates 140% of Denmark’s electricity demand

Unusually high winds allowed Denmark to meet all of its electricity needs – with plenty to spare for Germany, Norway and Sweden too

Offshore windfarm, Middelgrunden, Copenhagen, Denmark
 The Conservative UK government has announced a withdrawal of support for onshore windfarms. Denmark’s windfarms have strong government backing. Photograph: Max Mudie/Alamy

So much power was produced by Denmark’s windfarms on Thursday that the country was able to meet its domestic electricity demand and export power to Norway, Germany and Sweden.

On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterday evening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%.

Interconnectors allowed 80% of the power surplus to be shared equally between Germany and Norway, which can store it in hydropower systems for use later. Sweden took the remaining fifth of excess power.

“It shows that a world powered 100% by renewable energy is no fantasy,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for trade body the European Wind Energy Association. “Wind energy and renewables can be a solution to decarbonisation – and also security of supply at times of high demand.”

The figures emerged on the website of the Danish transmission systems operator,, which provides a minute-by-minute account of renewable power in the national grid. The site shows that Denmark’s windfarms were not even operating at their full 4.8GW capacity at the time of yesterday’s peaks.

A surge in windfarm installations means Denmark could be producing half of its electricity from renewable sources well before a target date of 2020, according to Kees van der Leun, the chief commercial officer of the Ecofys energy consultancy.

The British wind industry may view the Danish achievement with envy, after David Cameron’s government announced a withdrawal of support for onshorewindfarms from next year, and planning obstacles for onshore wind builds.“They have a strong new builds programme with a net gain of 0.5GW in new onshore windfarms due before the end of the decade,” he said. “Some 1.5GW from new offshore windfarms will also be built, more than doubling the present capacity. We’re seeing a year-on-year 18% growth in wind electricity, so there really is a lot of momentum.”

Joy said: “If we want to see this happening on a European scale, it is essential that we upgrade the continent’s ageing grid infrastructure, ensure that countries open up borders, increase interconnection and trade electricity on a single market.”

Around three-quarters of Denmark’s wind capacity comes from onshore windfarms, which have strong government backing.

Savarkar justified the idea of rape as a political tool

Reading Savarkar: How a Hindutva icon justified the idea of rape as a political tool

The controversial figure castigated Maratha ruler Shivaji for sending back the daughter-in-law of the Muslim governor of Kalyan, whom he defeated.

Decades before the sexual assault of women during the 2002 Gujarat and 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, Hindutva propounder Veer Savarkar justified rape as a legitimate political tool. This he did by reconfiguring the idea of “Hindu virtue” in his book Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, which he wrote in Marathi a few years before his death in 1966.

Six Glorious Epochs provides an account of Hindu resistance to invasions of India from the earliest times. It is based on historical records (many of them dubious), exaggerated accounts of foreign travellers, and the writings of colonial historians. Savarkar’s own febrile and frightening imagination reworks these diverse sources into a tome remarkable for its anger and hatred.

Savarkar’s account of Hindu resistance is also a history of virtues. He identified the virtues that proved detrimental to India and led to its conquest. He expounded his philosophy of morality in Chapter VIII,Perverted Conception of Virtues, in which he rejected the idea of absolute or unqualified virtue.

“In fact virtues and vices are only relative terms,” he said.

Virtues or vice?

Savarkar added that the test of determining what is virtue or vice is to examine whether it serves the interests of society, specifically Hindu society. This is because circumstances change, societies are always in a flux. What was deemed virtuous in the past could become a vice in the present if it is detrimental to mankind, he said.

For instance, said Savarkar, the caste system with its elaborate rules of purity and pollution helped stabilise Hindu society. But some of these rules became dysfunctional, degenerating into “seven fetters” of Hindu society.

These shackles, according to Savarkar, were untouchability, bans on drinking water from members of other castes, inter-caste dining, inter-caste marriage, sea-voyage, the ban on taking back into the Hindu fold those who were forcibly converted to Islam or Christianity, and ostracism of those who defied these prohibitions.

These “seven fetters” proved advantageous to the Muslim conquerors, wrote Savarkar, because they exploited caste rules to increase their population.

The conquerors forcibly converted Hindus who had been defeated, provided them with food and water, abducted women who were either kept as concubines or wives, certain that the ban on taking them back into the Hindu fold left them with no option but to live as Muslim, the Hindutva propounder wrote. This meant the “transformation of a man into a demon, the metamorphosis of a God into a Satan”.

Rape as a political tool

It is in this paradigm of ethics that Savarkar mooted the idea of rape as a political tool. He articulated it as a wish, through a question: What if Hindu kings, who occasionally defeated their Muslim counterparts, had also raped their women?

He expressed this wish after declaring, “It was a religious duty of every Muslim to kidnap and force into their religion, non-Muslim women.” He added that this fanaticism was not “Muslim madness”, for it had a distinct design – to increase the “Muslim population with special regard to unavoidable laws of nature.” It is the same law, which the animal world instinctively obeys.

Sarvarkar wrote:

“If in the cattle-herds the number of oxen grows in excess of the cows, the herds do not grow numerically in a rapid number. But on the other hand, the number of animals in the herds, with the excess of cows over the oxen, grows in mathematical progression.”

He cites examples from the human world too. For instance, he wrote, the African “wild tribes” kill only their male enemies, but not their women, who are distributed among the victors. This is because these tribes consider it their duty to increase their numbers through the progeny of abducted women. Similarly, he wrote that a Naga tribe in India kills women of rival tribes whom they can’t capture because they believe, rightly so, that paucity of women would enhance the possibility of their enemies dwindling in number.

Savarkar said that the Muslim conquerors of Africa too followed this tradition. Immediately thereafter, he spoke of the well-wishers of Ravana who advised him to return to Rama his wife, Sita, whom he had abducted. They said it was highly irreligious to have kidnapped Sita. Savarkar quotes Ravana saying, “What? To abduct and rape the womenfolk of the enemy, do you call it irreligious? It is Parodharmah, the greatest duty!”

It is with the “shameless religious fanaticism” of Ravana that the Muslims, from the Sultan to the soldier, abducted Hindu women, even the married ladies of Hindu royal families and notables, wrote Savarkar, adding that this was to increase the population of Muslims, to demographically conquer India, so to speak.

Savarkar is venomously critical of Muslim women who, “whether Begum or beggar”, never protested against the “atrocities committed by their male compatriots; on the contrary they encouraged them to do so and honoured them for it”.

Savarkar, even by his own standards, takes a huge leap by claiming that Muslim women living even in Hindu kingdoms enticed Hindu girls, “locked them up in their own houses, and conveyed them to Muslims centres in Masjids and Mosques”.

Muslim women were emboldened to perpetrate such atrocities because they did not fear retribution from Hindu men who, argued Savarkar, “had a perverted idea of women-chivalry”. Even when they vanquished their Muslim rivals, they punished the men among them, not their women, he said.

“Only Muslim men alone, if at all, suffered the consequential indignities but the Muslim women – never!” wrote Savarkar.

When Shivaji was wrong

This regret prompts him not to spare those who commend Shivaji for sending back the daughter-in-law of the Muslim governor of Kalyan, whom he defeated, as well as Peshwa Chimaji Appa (1707-1740), who did the same with the Portuguese wife of the governor of Bassein.

Savarkar wrote:

“But is it not strange that, when they did so, neither Shivaji Maharaj nor Chimaji Appa should ever remember, the atrocities and the rapes and the molestation, perpetrated by Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, Allauddin Khalji and others, on thousands of Hindu ladies and girls…”

Savarkar’s febrile imagination now flies on the wings of rhetoric. He writes:

“The souls of those millions of aggrieved women might have perhaps said ‘Do not forget, O Your Majesty Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and O! Your Excellency Chimaji Appa, the unutterable atrocities and oppression and outrage committed on us by the sultans and Muslim noblemen and thousands of others, big and small.

“Let these sultans and their peers take a pledge that in the event of a Hindu victory our molestation and detestable lot shall be avenged on the Muslim women. Once they are haunted with this dreadful apprehension that the Muslim women too, stand in the same predicament in case the Hindus win, the future Muslim conquerors will never dare to think of such molestation of Hindu women [emphasis added].”

Their chivalry was perverted, said Savarkar, because it proved highly detrimental to Hindu society. This chivalry was “suicidal” because it “saved the Muslim women (simply because they were women) from the heavy punishment of committing indescribable serious crimes against Hindu women”, Savarkar laments.

Even worse, he said, was the foolish notion among the Hindus that to have “any sort of relations with a Muslim woman meant their own conversion to Islam”. This belief became an impediment to Hindu men inflicting punishment on the “Muslim feminine class [fair (?) sex]” for their atrocities [words in parenthesis Savarkar’s].

Savarkar’s readers cannot but see that he has overturned the code of ethics and freed the Hindus from the shackles that prevent them from descending into barbarism. But Savarkar doesn’t seem convinced of his persuasive powers.

So under a subsection titled, But If, he seeks to hammer in his point. He asks readers:

“Suppose if from the earliest Muslim invasions of India, the Hindus also, whenever they were victors on the battlefields, had decided to pay the Muslim fair sex in the same coin or punished them in some other ways, i.e., by conversion even with force, and then absorbed them in their fold, then? Then with this horrible apprehension at their heart they would have desisted from their evil designs against any Hindu lady.” 

He adds:

“If they had taken such a fright in the first two or three centuries, millions and millions of luckless Hindu ladies would have been saved all their indignities, loss of their own religion, rapes, ravages and other unimaginable persecutions.”

Thus, the use of rape as a political tool stands justified.

But why should Savarkar’s idea of rape as a political tool apply today, given that Six Glorious Epochs deal with India’s past?

This is because Savarkar very explicitly stated that a change of religion implies a change of nationality. It was Savarkar, not Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who first categorised Hindus and Muslims as two nations. From the Hindutva perspective, the two nations – Hindu and Muslim – have been locked in a continuous conflict for supremacy since the 11th century.

In the Savarkarite worldview, only those ethical codes should be adhered to which enable the Hindus to establish their supremacy over the Muslims. Thus, he reasoned, it is justified to rape Muslim women in riots because it is revenge for the barbarity of Muslims in the medieval times, whether proven or otherwise. After all, today’s riots are a manifestation of the historical conflict.

This is why BJP leaders clamour to celebrate the heroes of what they call Hindu resistance. The most recent example of this trend is Union Minister VK Singh, who wants Delhi’s Akbar Road to be renamed after Maharana Pratap. It is from Savarkar they have got their cue.

Later in Six Glorious Epochs, Savarkar adopted a distinct Nietzschean tone to cry out: “O thou Hindu society! Of all the sins and weaknesses, which have brought about thy fall, the greatest and most potent are thy virtues themselves.”

These virtues were cast aside in Gujarat in 2002 and Muzaffarnagar in 2013. That is something to remember as some people come out to pay homage to Savarkar who was born on this day 133 years ago.

This is the second article in a two-part series on VD Savarkar. The first part can her read here.

Read Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History here.

Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It is available in bookstores.

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Was Veer Savarkar really all that brave?

History revisited: Was Veer Savarkar really all that brave?

Savarkar was chargesheeted in the assassination of Gandhi but exonerated, largely because no corroborative evidence of his involvement was furnished.

On May 28, India will commemorate the 133rd birth anniversary of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was born on this day in 1883. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders will recall his valour, because of which he has been given the honorific, Veer.

But, really how veer, or brave, was Veer Savarkar?

Savarkar died in 1966. During his 83 years, he was involved in the political murder of three British officials. From the nationalist perspective, these murders have been cited as examples of Savarkar’s revolutionary zeal to violently uproot British rule, unmindful of the consequences.

Savarkar was also chargesheeted in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was subsequently exonerated, largely because no corroborative evidence of his involvement was furnished. It has helped perpetuate the myth of Savarkar the brave.

But this myth has been shattered because of the new evidence gathered over the years. He manipulated his followers to assassinate British officials, yet took care to conceal his links to the crimes he conceived. He did not hesitate to betray his acolytes, as he did Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi.

His famed fortitude was rarely on display during his years of imprisonment in the Andamans. He tendered craven apologies to the British, willing to bargain for his own freedom, not the country’s.

Political Murder No. 1

On July 1, 1909, Madanlal Dhingra shot dead Sir William Curzon Wyllie, political aide-de-camp at the India Office, London. Earlier, Dhingra had planned to assassinate former Viceroy Lord Curzon and former governor of Bengal, Bramfield Fuller, at a function they were to attend. But Dhingra was woefully late for the meeting, by which time Curzon and Fuller had left the venue.

Dhingra was arrested, tried and hanged for killing Wyllie. The British suspected Savarkar’s involvement, but had no concrete evidence against him. The evidence surfaced months after Savarkar died in 1966, courtesy Savarkar’s biographer.

Following Savarkar’s death, Dhananjay Keer reissued his 1950 publication,Savarkar and His Times, as Veer Savarkar. Keer wrote that the new edition contained a “plethora of new material”, which was made available to him by Savarkar himself.

In the 1966 edition, Keer said that Savarkar gave Dhingra a nickel-plated revolver on the morning of Wyllie’s assassination and told him, “Don’t show me your face if you fail this time.” Keer also confided in Robert Payne, author of Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi, that Savarkar had trained Dhingra for months, and often mocked him for having missed the opportunity to assassinate Lord Curzon and Fuller.

These new details in Keer’s 1966 edition prompted the lawyer and historian AG Noorani to note wryly in his seminal work, Savarkar and Hindutva: The Godse Connection:

“One wonders whether Savarkar also stipulated that they [the new contentions] should be published only after his death. The interval of sixteen years between the two editions is inexplicable on any other assumption.”

Political Murder No. 2

Before leaving for England to study law, Savarkar had been a member of a secret society, Mitra Mela, which was subsequently renamed Abhinav Bharat. Its goal was to overthrow the British through violent methods.

Savarkar’s older brother, Ganesh, alias Babarao, was an Abhinav Bharat member too. The police nabbed Ganesh Savarkar and stumbled upon a stockpile of bombs. Ganesh Savarkar was sentenced to transportation for life on June 8, 1909.

His comrades decided to retaliate. On December 29, 1909, Anant Kanhere shot dead AMT Jackson, district magistrate of Nasik, as he was watching a Marathi play, Sharada, in a theatre. Jackson had committed Ganesh Savarkar to trial, but was not the judge who had banished him to the Andamans.

From Kanhere’s accomplices, whom the police arrested, were discovered Savarkar’s letters. The Browning pistol used in the assassination was linked to Savarkar, who was accused of sending 20 such weapons to India from England. A telegraphic warrant of arrest was sent to London, and Savarkar surrendered to the police on March 13, 1910. He was brought to India.

For his role in the assassination of Jackson and for waging war against the King, Savarkar was sentenced to transportation – for two terms of 50 years each – to the Andamans. He arrived in Port Blair on July 4, 1911.

Savarkar’s apologies

The condition in the Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands was undoubtedly horrific. For instance, Savarkar was yoked to the oil mill. Quite understandably, his revolutionary fervour fizzled out. It must, however, be pointed out that he wasn’t the only person singled out for barbaric punishment.

In 1911 itself, Savarkar petitioned the authorities for clemency. The text of the 1911 petition hasn’t been found. But Savarkar referred to it in his petition to the British on November 14, 1913, seeking mercy and requesting a transfer to a jail in India. He wrote:

“The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?” 

In return, Savarkar offered to serve the “government in any capacity” as it thought fit. He declared he no longer believed in violence, justifying his conversion to constitutionalism because of the reforms the British government had introduced.

Savarkar said his conversion to the constitutional line would bring back “all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide [emphasis added]”. In one stroke, the Indian revolutionary movement was disowned.

The British government was not convinced, but his cringing petition did help alleviate his plight. He was made a foreman. Noorani points out, “Few revolutionaries would have accepted this ‘honour’ from their captives who were also rulers of their captive land.”

Savarkar’s trait of encouraging others to take the precipitous course without joining them was evident in the Andamans as well. Historian RC Majumdar quotes Trailokya Nath Chakravarti, an inmate of the Cellular Jail, saying that Savarkar encouraged him and others to go on hunger strike but neither he nor his brother joined it. Even inmates older than Savarkar participated in the strike.

Savarkar justified his decision saying he would have been put back in solitary confinement and denied the right to send an annual letter to India. Savarkar does seem a leader who endorsed revolutionary action as long as he wasn’t required to pay the price.

Return to the mainland

In May 1921, Savarkar was transferred from the Andamans to the Indian mainland. Three years later, the government put forth conditions to Savarkar for his release from the Yerwada Jail in Pune.

These conditions were: Savarkar was to reside in Ratnagiri district; he could not go beyond the district’s limits without the government’s approval; he was not to engage in political activities publicly or privately; these restrictions were for five years, subject to renewal at the expiry of this period.

Savarkar accepted these terms, shattering the myth spun around his much-serenaded bravery. But there was also a humiliating coda to these conditions, not known until Frontline magazine published, in 1995, an additional undertaking Savarkar agreed to give the government.

Savarkar declared he had a fair trial and just punishment. He also wrote: “I heartily abhor methods of violence resorted to in days gone by, and I feel myself duty bound to uphold Law and the constitution…”

For sure, Savarkar was no Nelson Mandela.

In 1925, there was a Hindu-Muslim riot over Rangeela Rasool, a scurrilous booklet on Prophet Mohammad. The communal conflagration soon spread to parts of Punjab. Savarkar wrote an inflammatory article in the English newspaper, Mahratta, in March 1925.

The government communicated to Savarkar that any such writing in the future could lead to a reconsideration of his release. The warning had Savarkar foreswear that he would have no truck with the idea of Swaraj.

Political Murder No. 3

During the period of conditional freedom, Savarkar is said to have inspired yet another assassination attempt. On July 22, 1931, VB Gogate fired two shots at acting Governor of Bombay Sir Ernest Hotson during his visit to Ferguson College, Pune. But Hotson survived miraculously.

Nobody suspected Savarkar’s role. However, Keer in the 1966 edition ofVeer Savarkar disclosed that Gogate had been a staunch Savarkarite and had met him days before the assassination. Was Keer suggesting that Savarkar had inspired the failed assassination attempt on Hotson?

Savarkar’s role in Gandhi’s assassination

When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, Savarkar was taken into police custody on February 5. Seventeen days later, he wrote a letter to Bombay’s Commissioner of Police:

“I shall refrain from taking part in any communal or political activity for any period the government may require in case I am released on that condition.”

It was this gratuitous offer, which had the government suspect him of having a central role in the assassination of Gandhi. But his role could not be proved in court. It subsequently came to light because of the depositions his aides made, years later, after Savarkar’s death.

There were two attempts made on Gandhi in January 1948. The first was made on January 20 – it was a botched up affair for which a Punjabi refugee, Madanlal Pahwa, was arrested. The second attempt was successful – Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi dead on January 30, 1948.

There were eight accused in the Gandhi assassination case – Nathuram Godse and Gopal Godse, his brother, Narayan D Apte, Vishnu Karkare, Madanlal Pahwa, Shankar Kistayya, VD Savarkar, and Dattaraya Parchure. The ninth member of the group – Digambar R Badge – turned approver. It was his testimony to the court that linked Savarkar to Gandhi’s assassination.

Badge gave a detailed account of the two visits he, Godse and Apte made to Bombay’s Savarkar Sadan, on the second floor of which their mentor resided. The first visit was made on January 14, which was the day on which Badge had handed over to Godse and Apte two gun-cotton slabs, five hand-grenades and detonators.

Badge, however, did not enter the Sadan. Apte later confided in Badge that he and Godse had met Savarkar, who told them that Gandhi and Nehru should be “finished” and had “entrusted that work to them.”

On the second meeting of January 17, Badge entered the Sadan. Godse and Apte went to the second floor. After 10 minutes or so, they came down the flight of stairs, followed by Savarkar. Badge testified that he heard Savarkar tell Godse and Apte, in Marathi, “Be successful and return.” However, Badge did not see Savarkar.

The trial court judge, Justice Atma Charan thought Badge was a “truthful witness”, but exonerated Savarkar only because there was no corroborative evidence in support of the approver’s deposition.

This was also because Godse and others did their best to ensure their mentor wasn’t implicated in the assassination case. For instance, Godse made out that his relationship with Savarkar wasn’t beyond what a leader has with followers.

Godse said that he and others decided in 1947 to “bid goodbye to Veer Savarkar’s lead and cease to consult him in our future policy and programme… I re-assert that it is not true that Veer Savarkar had any knowledge of my activities which ultimately led me to fire shots at Gandhiji.”

The prosecution had harped on Godse and Apte’s devotion to Savarkar. Savarkar, as was his habit, disowned them:

“Many criminals cherish high respect to the Gurus and guides of their religious sects… But could ever the complicity of the Guru or guide in the crimes of those of his followers be inferred and held proved only on the ground of the professions of loyalty and respect to their Gurus of those criminals?”

Savarkar’s deposition deeply hurt Godse, a fact testified to by lawyer PL Inamdar, who had defended Gopal Godse. In his account of the trial, Inamdar wrote:

“How Nathuram yearned for a touch of Tatyarao’s [Savarkar’s] hand, a word of sympathy, or at least a look of compassion in the secluded confines of the cells. Nathuram referred to his hurt feelings in this regard even during my last meeting with him…”

The new evidence

On the release of Gopal Godse from prison in October 1964, a felicitation ceremony was organised for him on November 11, 1964. On that occasion former editor GV Ketkar claimed that Nathuram would often discuss with him the advantages of killing Gandhi.

It created a furore in Parliament, prompting the setting up of a commission of inquiry under Justice JL Kapur in March 1965. The commission was to ascertain whether there had existed prior information to assassinate Gandhi and whether or not it was communicated to the government.

Months later, in February 1966, Savarkar voluntarily courted death, by stopping all consumption of food and water. He said it was better for a person to die willingly at the end of his life mission. But did Savarkar take this decision because he wanted to evade the prospect of the commission inflicting ignominy on him late in life?

That question cannot be answered. But it did perhaps free Savarkar’s bodyguard, Appa Ramachandra Kasar, and his secretary, Vishnu Damle, to depose before the commission. They testified to the close relationship Savarkar had with Godse and Apte, even travelling together for Hindu Mahasabha meetings. They also said, quite damningly, that Vishnu Karkare had brought a Punjabi refugee boy (Pahwa) in the first week of January to Savarkar for an interview that lasted 30-45 minutes.

In 1967, Gopal Godse published Gandhi Hatya, Ani Mee (Gandhi’s murder and I), in which he said Nathuram Godse came to know Savarkar way back in 1929 in Ratnagiri and had daily personal contact with Savarkar.

The new depositions prompted Justice Kapur to summarise: “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”

Is it possible that despite their deep relationship with Savarkar, Godse and Apte might not have confided in their mentor their plan to kill Gandhi? Perhaps the answer to it lies in History & the Making of a Modern Hindu Self, published in 2011.

Its author, Aparna Devare, cites personal communication she had with her great-uncle, Dr Achyut Phadke, whom Narayan Apte had taught physics in high school. Phadke told Devare that Apte would openly talk of his and Godse’s plan to assassinate Gandhi. It does seem incredible that Apte wouldn’t confide in Savarkar about what he openly spoke to schoolchildren.

BJP’s love for Savarkar

Savarkar is the progenitor of the political philosophy of Hindutva, which the Sangh Parivar adheres to. It is this that has made them perpetuate the myth of Savarkar’s bravery, and ignore his betrayal of his diehard followers and his entreaties to the British government.

But what really symbolises a breakdown in consensus over the ethical norms in the country is that we dedicate public buildings to the Father of the Nation as we do to Savarkar, who mentored the killers of Gandhi if not directly guided them.

Worryingly, the cult of Savarkar persists. Lt Col Shrikant Purohit formed Abhinav Bharat, which has been accused of bombing Malegaon, the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and the Samjhauta Express. The underground outfit to which Savarkar belonged was also called Abhinav Bharat. It does suggest a more than 100 years of continuity of a violent ideology.

This is the first article in a two-part series on VD Savarkar. You can read the second part here.

Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid. It is available in bookstores.

Now a chewing gum that treats Islamophobia

Now a chewing gum that treats Islamophobia
A satirical video that challenges discrimination against Muslims


In an attempt to challenge rising Islamophobia in the United States, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has released a mock commercial. The one-minute satirical video, released on Facebook, raises awareness about the kind of discrimination  Muslims in the US face in their everyday lives – including being labelled a terrorist.  The commercial is for “Islamophobin” a chewing gum that promises to cure people of bigotry and intolerance “within five minutes”. There’s no better way to “spread love” than using humour. 

Watch the video:

16 Oldest Masjids in The World

16 Oldest Masjids in The World

Minaret and courtyard of Ummayad Masjid, Damascus (Syria)

Ever wondered about the oldest masjids in the world? If the answer is affirmative, you have come to the right place.

In this post, we have enlisted some of the world’s oldest masjids, in order of their respective age (the oldest one comes first, followed by the next oldest masjid, and so on). 

16 Oldest Masjids in The World

1. Masjid al-Haram, Mecca (Saudi Arabia)

Masjid Al-Haram, Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
Masjid al-Haram, Mecca (Saudi Arabia)
Image: Maria Alexandra

Masjid al-Haram is the oldest and largest masjid in the world surrounding the Holy Ka’abah. Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and his son Prophet Isma’il (PBUH) raised the foundation of the Ka’abah, as mentioned in the Quran.

2. Masjid al-Aqsa, Jerusalem (Palestine)

Masjid Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem (Palestine)
Masjid al-Aqsa, Jerusalem (Palestine)
Image: Godot13

Masjid al-Aqsa or Bait al-Muqaddas, the first Qiblah of Muslims, was constructed forty years after the construction of Masjid al-Haram.

3. Masjid al-Quba, Medina (Saudi Arabia)

Masjid Al-Quba, Medina (Saudi Arabia)
Masjid al-Quba, Medina (Saudi Arabia)
Image: Abdelrhman Habashy

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) laid the foundation of Masjid al-Quba when he first reached Medina, in the year 622 CE.

4. Masjid an-Nabwi, Medina (Saudi Arabia)

Masjid an-Nabwi, Medina (Saudi Arabia)
Masjid an-Nabwi, Medina (Saudi Arabia)
Image: SeekQuran

Masjid an-Nabwi was built by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in Medina in the year 622 CE, few months after Masjid al-Quba.

5. Masjid al-Qiblatain, Medina (Saudi Arabia)

Masjid al-Qiblatain, Medina (Saudi Arabia)
Masjid al-Qiblatain, Medina (Saudi Arabia)
Image: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Masjid al-Qiblatain (Masjid of the two Qiblahs) was built in the year 623 CE. This is where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received the Revelation to change the direction of prayer (Qiblah) from Jerusalem to Mecca.

6. Huaisheng Masjid, Guangzhou (China)

Huaisheng Masjid, Guangzhou (china)
Huaisheng Masjid, Guangzhou (china)
Image: EastAsia

Huaisheng Masjid was built around 627 CE by Hz Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqas (RA), an uncle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was part of the first Muslim envoy to China sent in the 620s.

7. Jawatha Masjid, al-Ahasa (Saudi Arabia)

Jawatha Masjid, Al-Ahasa (Saudi Arabia)
Jawatha Masjid, al-Ahasa (Saudi Arabia)
Image: Almrsal

Jawatha Masjid in al-Kilabiyah village of al-Ahasa was built in the year 628 CE by the tribe of Abd al-Qais. It has since been renovated many times.

8. Cheraman Juma Masjid, Kerala (India)

Cheraman Juma Masjid, Kerala (India)
Cheraman Juma Masjid, Kerala (India)
Image: നിരക്ഷരൻ

Cheraman Juma Masjid, built in 629 CE, was the first masjid in India. It was built by Hz Malik Dinar (RA) in memory of the noble Chera King Cheraman Perumal.

9. Palaiya Juma Palli Masjid, Kilakarai (India)

Palaiya Jumma Palli Masjid, Kilakarai (India)
Palaiya Juma Palli Masjid, Kilakarai (India)
Image: Kilakarai

Palaiya Juma Palli Masjid is located in Kilakarai, a town in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It was constructed by Yemeni merchants as per the orders of Bazan ibn Sasan, the Governor of Yemen, in 630 CE.

10. The Masjid of Uqba, Kairouan (Tunisia)

Uqba Masjid, Kairouan (Tunisia)
Uqba Masjid, Kairouan (Tunisia)

The Great Masjid of Kairouan, or the Uqba Masjid, was established by the great General Hz Uqba ibn Nafi (RA) in the year 670 CE.

RELATED  13 Masjids That Are Surrounded By Water

11. Umayyad Masjid, Damascus (Syria)

Minaret and courtyard of Umayad Masjid, Damascus (Syria)
Umayyad Masjid, Damascus (Syria)
Image: american_rugbier

Caliph al-Walid I commissioned the construction of Umayyad Masjid in the year 706 CE, and it was completed in 715 CE, shortly after the death of Caliph al-Walid I.

12. The Great Masjid of Aleppo, Aleppo (Syria)

Great Masjid of Aleppo, Aleppo (Syria)
Great Masjid of Aleppo, Aleppo (Syria)
Image: yeowatzup

The Great Masjid of Aleppo was built by Caliph Suleyman ibn Abd al-Malik in 717 CE, following the successful construction of Umayyad Masjid, Damascus. Sadly, the minaret of this beautiful masjid has been destroyed recently during the Syrian Civil War, and as of now, the masjid is no longer in use.

13. al-Zaytuna Masjid, Tunis (Tunisia)

Minaret of Al-Zaytuna Masjid, Tunis (Tunisia)
al-Zaytuna Masjid, Tunis (Tunisia)
Image: Citizen59

al-Zaytuna Masjid was built in the year 732 CE by the liberator of Tunis, Hassan ibn Nu’man (RA).

14. The Great Masjid of Xian, Xian (China)

Xian Masjid, Xian (China)
The Masjid of Xian, Xian (China)
Image: Dennis

The Great Masjid of Xian was built in the year 742 CE, during the rule of Tang dynasty. It served as the religious center of Arab merchants and traders based in China.

15. Koutoubia Masjid, Marrakech (Morocco)

Koutoubia Masjid, Marrakech (Morocco)
Koutoubia Masjid, Marrakech (Morocco)
Image: Stuart Pinfold

Construction of Koutoubia Masjid began somewhere around 1150 CE. It was completed during the reign of Sultan Yacoub el-Mansour (1184-99).

16. Djenne Masjid, Djenne (Mali)

Djenne Masjid, Djenne (Mali)
Djenne Masjid, Djenne (Mali)
Image: mauro gambini

Djenne Masjid, the largest mud-structure building in the world, was initially built in 13th century. It is said that Sultan Koi Kunboro, a popular ruler, embraced Islam and transformed his own palace into a masjid.

Idea of Bharat Mata is European import: Irfan Habib

Idea of Bharat Mata is European import: Irfan Habib


‘Bharat’ was first used in an inscription of King Kharavela in Prakrit, says the historian

Wading into the political controversy around the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (glory to Mother India), veteran historian Irfan Habib said here on Monday that the idea of Bharat Mata was an import from Europe and there was no evidence of any such imagination in either ancient or medieval India.

“Bharat Mata has nothing to do with India’s ancient or medieval past. It is a European import. Notions of motherland and fatherland were talked about in Europe,” Prof. Habib said, delivering a lecture in the memory of late historian Bipan Chandra at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

This statement comes at a time when leaders of the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS have upheld the slogan as intimately related to nationalism in India.

In the Maharashtra Assembly, All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA Waris Pathan was suspended recently for refusing to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai,’ with Congress MLAs also siding with the BJP and the Shiv Sena on the matter.

Later, talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the event, Prof. Habib elaborated on his statement. “Bharat is mentioned in ancient India. It was first used in an inscription of King Kharavela in Prakrit. But representation of the country in human form as a mother or father was unknown in ancient India or medieval India,” he said. “This was an idea that emerged in Europe with the rise of nationalism, and it was found in Britain, Russia, etc.”

He added that Madar-e-Watan in Urdu was also a case of the European idea being borrowed.

Prof. Habib had irked many in the Sangh Parivar months ago too, when he reportedly drew parallels between the RSS and the IS.

In another lecture dedicated to the scholarship of Prof. Chandra, historian Aditya Mukherjee recalled freedom as a key value of the Indian national movement.

“Mahatma Gandhi had said that liberty of speech was unassailable even when it hurt. I hope the government is listening,” he said.

Why Kerala Eats With its Hands

Why People Eat With Their Hands in Kerala

You may have often wondered why people eat with their hands in Kerala. Eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit. That is the Vedic wisdom behind Kerala’s famous Banana Leaf Experience whose pleasure can only be appreciated fully, it is said, if one eats with hands and not fork and spoon.

(10 best Kerala recipes)

Traditionally, Indians — not just in Kerala — have always eaten with their hands but the experience and its virtues have been elevated to a gastronomic art by the chefs at Vivanta by Taj Bekal, a picturesque 26-acre resort in the northern Kasaragod district of Kerala, flanked by the famous backwaters and the Lakshadweep Sea.

(Celebrating Onam: A Taste of Kerala in Restaurants All Over India)

And to lend logic to the eating-by-hand experience for fussy foreigners, especially Westerners who would think twice before scooping up curry with their fingers, the maitre d’hotel lays before each guest at Latitude – the multi-cuisine restaurant with an accent on regional Kerala cuisine and a scenic view of serene waters and swaying palm fronds .

(All About Onam Sadhya – The Grand Feast)

“Our hands and feet are said to be the conduits of the five elements. The Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. The thumb is agni (fire) — you might have seen children sucking their thumb, this is nature’s way of aiding the digestion at an age when they are unable to chew; .

(10 Best Onam Recipes)

The ‘banana leaf experience’ has been redefined by the hotel from the traditional ‘sadya’, or banquet, in Malayalam, says Ashok Pillai, the executive sous chief. Sadya is traditionally a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf on special occasions, during weddings and other celebrations. All the dishes are served on the leaf and eaten with hands sans cutlery, the palm and fingers being cupped to form a ladle.

A sadya can have about 24-28 dishes served as a single course and is usually served for lunch as it is quite heavy on the stomach. Preparations begin at dawn and the dishes are made before 10 in the morning on the day of the celebration. “At Vivanta by Taj at Bekal we have given a twist to the experience by adding delectable preparation of fish or meats as per request,” Samir Khanna, the affable general manager, told IANS during a recent trip.

The centerpiece of sadya is navara, a medicinal rice type, that is one of the native genetic resources of Kerala and famed for its use in Ayurveda. Navara is used as a nutritional rice and health food and is said to be therapeutic for conditions such as arthritis, paralysis, ulcers, urinary tract infections, neuralgic and neurological disorders.

(Your Guide to Celebrating the Auspicious Festival)

For a novitiate to Kerala cuisine, the food does not stop coming, and the helpings are as much as you can ingest. Most people stop at the second helping and react in surprise when waiters with buckets of curry offer to ladle more on the leaf-plate.

Foreigners, after their initial cultural reservations about eating with their hands, awkwardly slurp and lap up the food, any messiness be damned. As a concession to non-vegetarians, karimeen or pearl spot, the local fish, is served fried or in curry form.

(10 Things You Must Eat in Kerala)

Since the “experience” requires some preparation, those guests who want to partake of it need to intimate the chef in advance and tables are laid out separately in the restaurant for those who are eating on the banana leaf.

A typical sadya menu –

Banana Chips

Jagerry Chips


Kerala Pappadom
Parippu Curry (Simmered lentils enhanced with ghee)
Pachadi (Preserved cucumber in Yoghurt)

Inchi Puli (An emulsion of tamarind, jaggery and ginger)

Kichadi (Coconut enriched gravy with pineapple)
Erissery (Mashed Pumpkins and red beans in coconut)
Kaalan (Raw banana cooked in mildly spiced coarse coconut)

Olan (White pumpkin simmered with beans in coconut milk)
Avial (Ethnic vegetable cooked dry with coarsely ground coconut and yoghurt)
Thoran (Any local vegetable cooked dry with coarsely ground coconut)

Kootu Curry (Assortment of vegetables and spices)
Sambar (Stew of lentil and vegetables)
Pulissery (Tempered yoghurt with turmeric with curry leaf infusion)

Pachamoru (Spiced butter milk)

Banana Payasam (Dessert with jaggery, coconut milk flavored with cardamom)

Other Recipes

Paal Payasam
Kozhikodan Biryani
Thenga Choru
Kerala Chicken Roast
Kerala Fried Prawns
Kerala Vegetable Stew
Meen Moilee with Steamed Rice
Malabari Parotta



Positive Action vs. Negative Reaction: An American Muslim Doctor Reacts

Positive Action vs. Negative Reaction: An American Muslim Doctor Reacts

By Maryam Sultan

The day after my toughest 24-hour call of residency at the hospital so far, I got called a “f—ing terrorist” by a stranger in the parking lot of my local supermarket. As I loaded groceries into my trunk at that moment, there was so much that I wanted to say to the man who claimed to know me after just viewing the back of my head. I most wanted to ask him what he was doing the night prior while I was dealing with minimally-conscious 18-year olds, trying to figure out what to give a 13-year old with a brain injury for sleep that wouldn’t affect his participation in therapy the next day, and working to stabilize my paralyzed patient’s blood pressure long enough for him to complete his life-sustaining hemodialysis session. And then I’d ask the strange man with the not-so-witty comment what part of that qualified as terrorism. But I didn’t say anything. I just continued loading my groceries and didn’t even give him a second glance. Would it have changed his mind had I yelled out that roughly 10% of American physicians are Muslims, according to the American Medical Association? Or that, per the Islamic Medical Association of North America, approximately 20,000 American physicians- who have all had nights like mine described- are Muslim? Probably not. And so, at the peak of my anger, coupled with fatigue and sadness, I chose to remain silent. I remembered 2 verses in one of my favorite chapters of the Qur’an, and was pleased to have the opportunity to act on them. In describing the “slaves of the Most Merciful”, Allah says:

“And when the ignorant address them, they say words of peace.”  Surat al-Furqan: 63

“And when they pass by ill speech, they pass by it with dignity.”  Surat al-Furqan: 72



I chose to maintain my dignity and let this one man’s comment float past me. I did not want to be the angry Muslim woman yelling at a man in a parking lot who would pretend to not hear my words and would have gotten a kick out of riling me up. Not only would that be a pointless, if not deleterious, use of my energy, but it would place me in a potentially dangerous situation as well. I understood that expressing my anger would bring no benefit- not to me, not to him, and not to my religion.


In our da’wah (inviting to/teaching about Islam), we seek to bring positivity to others. When Allah sent Prophet Musa [Alayhis] to Pharoah, the man whose arrogance before God and cruelty to his creation was unparalleled, Allah commanded his prophet to “speak to him with gentle speech; perhaps he may take heed of the reminder or become conscious of God.” Surat TaHa: 44



With the understanding that our goal in da’wah is to teach and remind others in a way that will instill in them God-consciousness, it becomes clear that responding in anger to those who taunt us is not the ideal mode of achieving this goal. Among such individuals, if words of peace cannot be expressed, a dignified silence is a fine alternative. However, our da’wah should not be in large-part a reactive one. We should not be waiting for our next opportunity to wittily respond to a bigot. Rather, it is important to proactively express Islam in our actions and speech on a regular basis.

On the night preceding the parking lot incident, da’wah for me, despite being the only doctor in a 120-bed hospital, was getting my new patient’s family chairs at 9pm when I realized that they had been standing in their son’s hospital room for the past 2 hours— the father had a bad back and the 8-year old sister just sat on the floor during my exam. It was me taking the time to explain their son’s treatment plan at length using language that they could understand. My da’wah that night was essentially me doing my job well and doing it with kindness. Then, when this patient’s mother from a rural west-Texas town asked me to tell her again how to properly pronounce my last name and expressed regret that I would not be her son’s doctor on Monday, I knew that my da’wah was successful.

While we may whine when the actions of those who appear outwardly Muslim are used to judge the entire Islamic religion, it would behoove us to reframe that thought into a positive one. That those of us who choose to “wear” Islam on a daily basis are constantly portraying our religion is a huge opportunity. It is for good reason that our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) stated that he “was not sent except to perfect good character.” [Musnad Ahmad, 8595] A person’s character is one of the first and most-consistent aspects of the self by which others may gauge him/her. It defines how at-ease others feel around us, as stated in the Qur’an: “And had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have fled from around you”  Surat Aale-Imran: 159.



It is in our best interest to persistently work to improve our manners in an effort to improve our da’wah. Increasing in acts and words of kindness, demonstrating a good work ethic, and smiling often are all rooted in Islam and work wonders in opening closed hearts. The more often that you say “Good morning” with a smile to your Fox News-watching neighbor, the more seriously will she reconsider her favorite news channel’s portrayal of people who look and dress like you. It is upon us to seek out these opportunities and act upon them in a positive manner, rather than negatively reacting to other situations, and I expect that our satisfaction with our da’wah will increase exponentially when we do.

Internet Blocked? A Baker’s dozen Hacks to Free Internet

Courtesy :

Blocking the user access to various social media websites and other internet services have become one of the most common tactics that is followed widely in organizations and educational institutions like schools and colleges.These usually involve websites like Facebook, bebo, MySpace and so on. When it comes to the question how to unblock blocked websites, you must have already heard about different techniques. When all those tactics fail to bypass the internet filters, just give a try to the following tricks. It works!

Trick No: 1

Access the restricted websites using unblock website proxy servers

Do you have any idea on how web proxies work? No? Let me explain now. It acts like a middle man or an inter-mediator between your system and  the internet. It downloads your requested pages directly from its server and in turn it transfers the pages to the users. When you use proxy servers, your requests bypass all the internet filters and even those annoying firewalls. is one such website proxy server (for unblocking) which also helps in protecting your online identity.  Apart from doing the job of unblocking websites and bypassing the internet filters, it even helps you handle your sensitive data in a much secured way. If the website you want to access has no SSL certificate, you don’t need to worry about it. Because, when you  access the websites through web proxies like, it will automatically add SSL security on the fly.  This way you can make your data go hidden from the malicious programs and potential hackers as well. Isn’t that great now? is one of the most popular and reliable proxy servers which was available at free of cost until quite recently before. Now it comes with the price tag though.You can make use of the following free proxy servers to achieve the premium like service anyway.

Some Free web proxies that help you unblock the blocked websites


Note: These days many school boards and organizations block proxy servers too. Sadly, if this is the case then trick no 1 will not work but don’t be disappointed because we do have many other options too. You can give a try with other techniques explained here.

Trick No: 2

Internet Archive (Wayback Machine)

how to unblock websites


It’s a non profit organization. To be more technical, we can call it as Way back machine. It stores the data of any website in an archive format. You cannot expect it to have up-to-date copy for all the time though. It will show you the website in such a way like how it was looked on some particular dates. So when you enter the name of the website in the Wayback Machine, hopefully you can get its recent cached copy. Apart from using this to access the blocked websites, you can make use of this amazing feature to visit websites which are down or suspended now. It is a very useful site for webmasters too.

Trick No 3

Translation services

how to unblock a website

I can hear your question. How to unblock websites using the Translation Services? Think a bit! Follow the below instructions so you can unblock websites in not more than a minute. You can use the translation services like Yahoo! Babel Fish or Google Translate. But to do this, your filters should allow access to search engines. Eager to know how to unblock a website? Follow the below steps

Step 1: Type the URL of the website you want to access in the translation field.


Step 2: Choose the language in the “Translation from” and “Translation To” Field. In “Translate From” field select the language that is different from your current web page language. For example, if your current language is “English” then select any other language like ” French, Spanish, German etc” in “Translate From” field. In ” Translate To” field choose  “English”.  This method is one of the most effective ways  to unblock the blocked website. So I hope you are now clear with how to unblock websites. However, the article doesn’t end here. There are some more tricks too. Read on.

Trick No : 4


Even if you are searching all over the internet on how to get around blocked websites, i bet you can’t find any simpler method than this one.

All you need to do is to just replace http with https in your URL. Obviously this will cause a confusion to the software program restricting the access.

On the flip side, we can’t expect this hand trick to work every time.


Trick No : 5

Unblock Websites Through IP Addresses

how to unblock website

how to unblock blocked websites websites using IP Address? If this is something that you are literally looking for then just read on. When all the above tricks to unblock websites fail, you can try this method.

unblock teh blocked websites

  • Find out the IP Address that is been allocated to the website you wish to open. Getting the IP address is pretty simple.
  • Open the command prompt & type [ping](type without brackets). Hit enter .
  • For Example ping This command will return the IP address of your desired website.Isn’t that cool? Now instead of the real URL, enter the IP address in the browser’s address bar . This trick has higher probability to open up any restricted website.

Trick No : 6

Convert IP Address into Decimal URL

how to unblock blocked websites

You can unblock a blocked website using IP address. But some website sites have their IP address blocked too.

If this is the case, try converting the IP address into its decimal values.

For example, instead of using http:// (IP address of Google), you can use the decimal format of the IP address HTTP://1249766560.

How will you convert the IP address into Decimal value?  Go to the website, type the blocked website’s IP address that you want to convert.

Trick No : 7

Use TOR- Effective And Risky Way

how to unblock blocked websites

Have you ever heard about TOR ( The Onion Router)? Well, it is one of the best free software for those who are looking for how to unblock blocked websites.

Tor is an internet browser that is specially designed to encrypt the confidential military communications.  UNRL (The US Naval Research Lab) has designed this browser.  Tor channels data via multiple nodes to prevent the scrambling of original data. To use Tor, you need to download this piece of software from Then you can start to browse your unblocked website through the Tor. Even though browsing through this site is little bit slow, it is considered as one of the effective methods to access the blocked sites.

Warning: Keep in mind that the Tor is so famous with the cyber criminals; the users of the Tor may be flagged as the immoral intent, so use this browser with caution. If you like to use Tor with ambiguity, it is recommended to create a different new identity on each time you use the web. It helps you to guarantee that you’ll never be attached to the identical server twice. The new identity can also helps to browse faster, because each time you change the identity you will be switched to another browser.

Trick No : 8

Unblock Websites via VPN

Another worth noting trick on how to get around blocked sites is none other than using VPN (Virtual Private Network). It will create a protected tunnel between VPN server and your System. Once you are connected with a VPN Server, your entire communication will start to travel via a secured tunnel, hence 3rd parties can’t able to track it. In this technique, your IP address that is your online identity will be anonymized, hence you are free to access your restricted websites. In addition, VPN also provides higher range of security than the available proxy servers do. There are many VPN software available to provide you this service, the following are best of them:

  1. HotspotShield VPN
  2. Hola unblocker
  3. TunnelBear VPN
  4. ProXPN VPN

How To Use Hola Browser
how to unblock blocked websites

Hola unblocker is the free VPN Proxy service that permits you to access the censored or blocked websites in your school, college or country. This simple and very effective software never affects the speed of your Browsing. This browser extension is available in all famous browsers.

  1. Install the Hola extension
  2. Go to the blocked website
  3. Click the icon of the Hola extension (you can see it at the browser’s top right spot)
  4. Choose the country you like to bypass the site and enjoy accessing of the blocked site

How To Get Hotspot Shield VPN

how to unblock blocked websites

Go to the official website of Hotspot shield ( in your browser and download the free version.

  • Install it on your PC
  • Open your browser Firefox, Opera, Mozilla, Safari or whatever it is. You can see the Hotspot Shield placed at the top.

Trick No : 9

Use blocked sites with Google Cache

Google maintains cache for each and every file published on the internet on every single day.  To access the cached version of any website type  the following in Google search box “”. Anyway to use this trick, your network should allow access to Google anyway.

This will give you the sites from the old Google Cache. Before using this trick just ensure that the browser caching is enabled in the browser. Keep in mind that this technique wouldn’t provide the current version, but still it can help you to get the piece of information you wish to read.

Trick No : 10

Use URL Shortners

how to unblock blocked websites

Wondering how to unblock websites using URL shortner? It’s one of the best possible ways around. Generally, to short the lengthy website url, we use this service.It shortens the url length.  By using these sites, you can sidestep the access and security of the website, as they redirect the URL of the blocked website to the unblocked one.

Try using the following url shortners.


  • Google’s


Trick No : 11

Try Opera Mini Simulator

how to unblock blocked websites

Opera mini is a web-based version of Opera. This demo version is designed to access the blocked websites that offer their mobile version. But it does not mean, you can’t access the websites that doesn’t offer a mobile version. You can. Only drawback is, quality will be much lower.

  • Just install opera mini 5 beta into your mobile device
  • Open the simulator, type the URL of the restricted site you like to open.Press Enter
  • Now you can gain access to the unblocked website.

Trick No : 12

Get The Help Of Web2Mail


As you are looking to find a way to unblock websites, i suggest you to try Web2Mail.With this site, you can enjoy the access of the blocked websites. Send a message to the email with the subject line that refers to your “intended site url”. Web2mail take this mail as a request for the website or webpage and return you a mail. That mail contains the website that you requested. For getting daily email for the selective webpage, you need to subscribe. You can sign up an account in the web2mail to receive websites by mail.

Trick No 13 :Internet Options – Restricted Websites

If switching between http and https does not work, check out the error message if you get any.

If it says that the page couldn’t be opened because of the “restrictions imposed on this account”, it may be due to the family safety software. In such cases, your choices to bypass the internet filters are limited. You can use trick no 11.

What if the error message doesn’t have anything to do with your account? In this is the case, the chances are, site you were trying you to access may be blocked by the internet options.

You can unblock blocked websites with the following simple procedure

1. Open control panel.

2. Click on the internet options. Under the security tab, click the restricted websites.

3. Hit on the button labeled “sites”. Check out whether the site you are trying to access is on the list. If it’s there, simply removing it from that list would give you access to that particular site.

This option is one of the simplest and least useful ways to get around the blocked websites because organizations and big concerns would not simply block the sites through this basic blocking method. They prefer network level restrictions which are often hard to overcome.

The Bottom Line

When the network administrator notices people bypassing the internet filters using one way or the other chances they will catch up the rule breakers soon. So keep your eyes wide open folks. Be little careful while applying these tricks. Going against your school rules or organization policies may make you land in some serious troubles. So use these kinds of access violations with more caution at your own risk.


Learning how to unblock blocked websites is not a bad thing. But to enjoy a trouble free life, make sure you play it safe.

ഫലസ്തീന്‍ പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയെ വെടിവെച്ചുവീഴ്ത്തിയ ഇസ്രയേല്‍ സൈന്യം വീല്‍ചെയറിലെത്തിയ യുവാവിനെ ചവിട്ടിവീഴ്‍ത്തുന്ന ദൃശ്യങ്ങള്‍ വൈറലാകുന്നു

ഫലസ്തീന്‍ പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയെ വെടിവെച്ചുവീഴ്ത്തിയ ഇസ്രയേല്‍ സൈന്യം വീല്‍ചെയറിലെത്തിയ യുവാവിനെ ചവിട്ടിവീഴ്‍ത്തുന്ന ദൃശ്യങ്ങള്‍ വൈറലാകുന്നു

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World’s largest solar plant goes live, will provide power for 1.1M people

World’s largest solar plant goes live, will provide power for 1.1M people

noor morocco solar power plant

The parabolic mirrors of Noor’s solar power plant.

 Credit: ACWA Power

Up to 11% of the world’s electricity could come from concentrated solar by 2050


The world’s largest solar power plant, now live in Morocco, will eventually provide 1.1 million people with power and cut carbon emissions by 760,000 tons a year.

The $9 billion Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market.

The Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), paid for with funds approved by The World Bank, is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Morocco, about 6 miles from Ouarzazate town. It began operation on Thursday. While the World Bank and other development partners provided financial support, the Noor solar plant is a wholly Moroccan project.

“With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, said in a statement. “The returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.”

Noor concentrated solar power

The World Bank

On the left, phase 1 of the Noor Concentrated Solar Power plant is generating energy. On the right, phase 2 will be completed in 2017 and phase 3 in 2018.

The plant will be able to store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt, which allows for the production of electricity even at night.
Overall, the new Noor CSP plant will increase Morocco’s energy independence, create 1,600 jobs during construction and 200 jobs during the power plant’s operation, and increase the installed capacity of solar power stations from 22MW in 2013 to 522MW in 2018, according to The World Bank.

noor solar power plant morocco

ACWA Power

A parabolic mirror at the Noor solar power plant in Morocco.

Unlike concentrated photovoltaic solar power, CSP plants do not create electrical current through the photovoltaic effect, where particles of light (photons) break electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Instead CSP uses either lenses or parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun’s light onto a small point where water or another substance is heated.

The heat is used to create steam, which runs a turbine that produces electricity. In the Noor CSP, concave mirrors focus on molten salt, heating it anywhere from 300 degrees to 660 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant

BrightSource Energy

Much like the Noor CSP, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a concentrated solar thermal plant in the California Mojave Desert.

Currently, the Noor CSP can generate 160 megawatts (MW). But as additional phases are completed, in two years it’s expected to generate more than 500MW — enough power to meet the needs of 1.1 million Moroccans.

Phase 2 (Noor 2 and 3 plants) are due to open in 2017 and 2018 and will store power for up to eight hours. In all, the Noor CSP plant will cover an area of 6,178 acres.

brightsource energy luz power tower stateline solar


The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a concentrated solar thermal plant in the California Mojave Desert. Like the Noor CSP, sunlight is concentrated onto a tower containing molten salt. 


At full power, the new solar power plant will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year, which would equate to 17.5 million tons of carbon emissions over 25 years, according to Climate Investment Funds.

The International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11% of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.

Morocco’s goal is to have 42% of its energy come from renewable resources by 2020.

The whiteboards of tomorrow: 3 interactive

The hanging of Afzal Guru is a stain on India’s democracy


The hanging of Afzal Guru is a stain on India’s democracy

Despite gaping holes in the case against Afzal Guru, all India’s institutions played a part in putting a Kashmiri ‘terrorist’ to death


Police bring Afzal Guru to court in Delhi in 2002

 Indian police bring Afzal Guru to court in Delhi in 2002. Photograph: Aman Sharma/AP

Spring announced itself in Delhi on Saturday. The sun was out, and the law took its course. Just before breakfast, the government of India secretlyhanged Afzal Guru, prime accused in the attack on parliament in December 2001, and interred his body in Delhi’s Tihar jail where he had been in solitary confinement for 12 years. Guru’s wife and son were not informed. “The authorities intimated the family through speed post and registered post,” the home secretary told the press, “the director general of the Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] police has been told to check whether they got it or not”. No big deal, they’re only the family of yet another Kashmiri terrorist.

In a moment of rare unity the Indian nation, or at least its major political parties – Congress, the Bharatiya Janata party and the Communist party of India (Marxist) – came together as one (barring a few squabbles about “delay” and “timing”) to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law. Live broadcasts from TV studios, with their usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts, crowed about the “victory of democracy”. Rightwing Hindu nationalists distributed sweets to celebrate the hanging, and beat up Kashmiris (paying special attention to the girls) who had gathered in Delhi to protest. Even though Guru was dead and gone, the commentators in the studios and the thugs on the streets seemed, like cowards who hunt in packs, to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because, deep inside, themselves they knew they had colluded in doing something terribly wrong.

What are the facts? On 13 December 2001 five armed men drove through the gates of the Indian parliament in a car fitted out with a bomb. When challenged they jumped out of the car and opened fire, killing eight security personnel and a gardener. In the firefight that followed, all five attackers were killed. In one of the many versions of the confessions he was forced to make in police custody, Guru identified the men as Mohammed, Rana, Raja, Hamza and Haider. That’s all we know about them. They don’t even have second names. LK Advani, then home minister in the BJP government, said they “looked like Pakistanis”. (He should know what Pakistanis look like right? Being a Sindhi himself.) Based only on Guru’s custodial confession (which the supreme court subsequently set aside, citing “lapses” and “violations of procedural safeguards”) the government recalled its ambassador from Pakistan and mobilised half a million soldiers on the Pakistan border. There was talk of nuclear war. Foreign embassies issued travel advisories and evacuated their staff from Delhi. The standoff lasted months and cost India thousands of crores – millions of pounds.

Within 24 hours, the Delhi Police Special Cell (notorious for its fake “encounter” killings, where suspected terrorists are targeted in extrajudicial attacks) claimed it had cracked the case. On 15 December it arrested the “mastermind”, Professor SAR Geelani, in Delhi, and Showkat Guru and his cousin Afzal Guru in Srinagar, Kashmir. Subsequently, they arrested Afsan Guru, Showkat’s wife. The Indian media enthusiastically disseminated the police version. These were some of the headlines: “Delhi university lecturer was terror plan hub”, “Varsity don guided fidayeen”, “Don lectured on terror in free time.” Zee TV, a national network, broadcast a “docudrama” called December 13, a recreation that claimed to be the “truth based on the police charge sheet”. (If the police version is the truth, why have courts?) The then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Advani publicly applauded the film. The supreme court refused to postpone the screening, saying that the media would not influence judges. It was broadcast only a few days before the fast-track court sentenced Geelani and Afzal and Showkat Guru to death. Subsequently the high court acquitted Geelani and Afsan Guru. The supreme court upheld the acquittal. But in its 5 August 2005 judgment it gave Afzal Guru three life sentences and a double death sentence.

The BJP called for an immediate execution. One of its election slogans was “Desh abhi sharminda hai, Afzal abhibhi zinda hai”, which means (in stirring rhyme), “Our nation is ashamed because Afzal is still alive”. In order to blunt the murmurs that had begun to surface, a fresh media campaign began. Chandan Mitra, now a BJP MP, then editor of the Pioneer newspaper, wrote: “Afzal Guru was one of the terrorists who stormed parliament house on 13 December 2001. He was the first to open fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died.” Even the police charge sheet did not accuse Afzal of that. The supreme court judgment acknowledged the evidence was circumstantial: “As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.” But then, shockingly, it went on to say: “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”

Who crafted our collective conscience on the parliament attack case? Could it have been the facts we gleaned in the papers? The films we saw on TV? Before celebrating the rule of law, let’s take a look at what happened.

The people who are celebrating the victory of the rule of law argue that the very fact that the Indian courts acquitted Geelani and convicted Afzal proves that the trial was free and fair. Was it?

The trial in the fast-track court began in May 2002. The world was still convulsed by post 9/11 frenzy. The US government was gloating prematurely over its “victory” in Afghanistan. In the state of Gujarat, the massacre of Muslims by Hindu goon squads, helped along by the police and the state government machinery that had begun in late February, was still going on sporadically. The air was charged with communal hatred. And in the parliament attack case the law was taking its own course. At the most crucial stage of a criminal case, when evidence is presented, when witnesses are cross-examined, when the foundations of the argument are laid – in the high court and supreme court you can only argue points of law, you cannot introduce new evidence – Afzal Guru, locked in a high-security solitary cell, had no lawyer. The court-appointed junior lawyer did not visit his client even once in jail, he did not summon any witnesses in Guru’s defence, and he did not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. The judge expressed his inability to do anything about the situation.

Even so, from the word go the case fell apart. A few examples out of many: The two most incriminating pieces of evidence against Guru were a cellphone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest. They were not sealed, as evidence is required to be. During the trial it emerged that the hard disk of the laptop had been accessed after the arrest. It only contained the fake home ministry passes and the fake identity cards that the “terrorists” used to access parliament – and a Zee TV video clip of parliament house. So according to the police, Guru had deleted all the information except the most incriminating bits. The police witness said he sold the crucial sim card that connected all the accused in the case to one another to Guru on 4 December 2001. But the prosecution’s own call records showed the sim was actually operational from 6 November 2001.

How did the police get to Afzal? They said that Geelani led them to him. But the court records show that the message to arrest Afzal went out before they picked up Geelani. The high court called this a “material contradiction” but left it at that.

The arrest memos were signed by Bismillah, Geelani’s brother, in Delhi. The seizure memos were signed by two men from the J&K police, one of them an old tormentor from Afzal’s past as a surrendered “militant”.

It goes on and on, this pile up of lies and fabricated evidence. The courts note them, but for their pains the police get no more than a gentle rap on their knuckles. Nothing more.

Anyone who was really interested in solving the mystery of the parliament attack would have followed the dense trail of evidence on offer. No one did, thereby ensuring the real authors of the conspiracy will remain unidentified and uninvestigated.

The real story and the tragedy of what happened to Guru is too immense to be contained in a courtroom. The real story would lead us to the Kashmir valley, that potential nuclear flashpoint, and the most densely militarised zone in the world, where half a million Indian soldiers (one to every four civilians) and a maze of army camps and torture chambers that would put Abu Ghraib in the shade are bringing secularism and democracy to the Kashmiri people. Since 1990, when the struggle for self-determination became militant, 68,000 people have died, 10,000 have disappeared, and at least 100,000 have been tortured.

What sets Guru’s killing apart is that, unlike those tens of thousands who died in prison cells, his life and death were played out in the blinding light of day in which all the institutions of Indian democracy played their part in putting him to death.

Now he has been hanged, I hope our collective conscience has been satisfied. Or is our cup of blood still only half full?

Olympic Fencer, a Muslim, Can Fight Fully Covered


Ibtihaj Muhammad of Maplewood, N.J. is expected to be the first American Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab. CreditHiroko Masuike/The New York Times

The fencing team events rotate in and out of the Olympics; there was no team event for women’s saber in 2012, a disappointment to the Americans, who had won the bronze medal in the event at the world championships in 2011 with Muhammad on the team. Olympic rules permitted a maximum of two Americans in the individual event, leaving Muhammad out.

The Americans have continued to shine in women’s saber in the years since and have now won five consecutive team medals at the world championships, including a gold in 2014. Muhammad was a part of all five teams, giving her a great chance at an Olympic medal in Rio.

The team is led by Mariel Zagunis, the most accomplished fencer in American history, winner of individual Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008 and still one of the best in the world. Russia and Ukraine are the main opposition.

Muhammad’s accomplishments led her to be invited when Mr. Obama made his first visit as president to an American mosque last week in Baltimore. Muhammad was among the prominent American Muslims invited to a round-table discussion with the president before his speech.

The subject was “the varying concerns that people have within the Muslim community, like Islamophobia, mass incarceration, anti-Muslim rhetoric,” Muhammad said. “I talked about my experiences as a minority member of Team U.S.A.”

Muhammad is glad her mother noticed the fencers in the cafeteria that day.

“On a Saturday, you’ll see 200 kids here learning to fence” under the auspices of the Peter Westbrook Foundation, she said at the Fencers Club in Midtown Manhattan. “Sports gives girls a sense of confidence that’s very hard to find in this society.”

#TraditionallySubmissive eh?

Photo from TweetImage copyrightTwitter/@Soukeina
Image caption‘#TraditionallySubmissive? I don’t think so @David_Cameron’ read the caption with this tweet

It’s not clear what exact words David Cameron used in private conversation but many Muslim women have taken to Twitter to tell him that they are not quite the timid creatures he is reported to have portrayed them as.

Using the hashtag #TraditionallySubmissive some have posted pictures of themselves and their achievements to politely put the British prime minister straight.

tweeted photoImage copyrightTwitter/@AyyLaLaLaLa
photo of tweetImage copyrightTwitter/@asmaam
Tweeted picture of graduateImage copyrightTwitter/@RuwaydaMustafah

The trouble started when Mr Cameron announced a £20m fund to provide English lessons in homes, schools and community facilities. The government says that 22% of Muslim women living in England speak little or no English and that the cash will help rectify that situation.

Announcing the cash, Mr Cameron said more Muslim women should speak English so that they are less isolated within British society.

He was also reported by The Telegraph as having privately suggested that some young men are vulnerable to radicalisation due to the “traditional submissiveness of Muslim women,” which prevents them from speaking out. And these are the words – whether they were actually said or not – that inspired the hashtag.

Explaining his thinking, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “I’m not saying there’s some sort of causal connection between not speaking English and becoming an extremist – of course not, that would be a ridiculous thing to say.

“But if you’re not able to speak English, you’re not able to integrate, you may find, therefore, that you have challenges understanding what your identity is and you could be more susceptible to the extremist message that comes from Daesh (so-called Islamic State).”

tweetImage copyrightTwitter/@loveinaheadscarf

Shelina Janmohamed, the author of the memoir “Love in a Headscarf” told BBC Trending she was offended by Mr Cameron’s reported remarks.

“My heart just sank when I saw the headlines,” she said. “It’s just making things harder for Muslim women. That’s just one stereotype about Muslim women, it’s not how we all are. We are vibrant, diverse, we’re talented and we have opinions. The prime minister is always saying we need to take up British values, so I responded in the most British way I could – with sarcasm.”

So Janmohamed created #TraditionallySubmissive as a way to counteract the idea that Muslim women are submissive. She encouraged her followers to tweet about their successes, professions, hobbies and views. In just a few hours more than 33,000 people tweeted using the hashtag, many of them alongside pictures of themselves. Some trumpeted the achievements of other British female Muslims such as Nadiya Hussain, the winner of last year’s Great British Bake Off TV series..

photo of tweetImage copyrightTwitter/@arifadavdani
Tweet with pic of Nadiay HusseinImage copyrightTwitter/@SaffiyyaM

Follow BBC Trending on Facebook

Join the conversation on this and other stories here.

The social media campaign has even been supported by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has been retweeting many of the pictures to her millions of followers.

Photo of tweetImage copyrightTwitter/@FizaAzlam

Janmohamed told BBC Trending that although many of the tweets are funny, there’s a serious message behind them. “The serious point is, these Muslim women are not hiding, they are participating, they want the prime minister and government policy to respond to their participation. Muslim women in the UK have asserted they have something to say and he ought to listen. I’d love David Cameron to respond,” she said.

Blog by Emma Wilson

Ashwagandha Cured Cancer?

Herbal therapy gives cancer patient hope



Last updated 05:00 27/01/2012
tdn hari
Cancer survivor Hari Nath used a herb to free himself from throat ulcers thought to be caused by chemotherapy.

Alternative medicine is proving the answer for one Taranaki cancer patient who claims his immune system was wrecked by chemotherapy.

Hari Nath, a chemical engineer from New Plymouth, was 20 kilograms underweight and in a wheelchair when he travelled to India to find a solution to the painful recurring throat ulcers he developed after being treated with intravenous chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

He said he tried everything modern medicine had to offer, including controversial drug thalidomide, at hospitals in Bangalore and Kerala, but nothing worked apart from high doses of the steroid prednisone, which worsened his diabetes, and left him prone to infection and in an emotional tailspin.

Every time he tried to reduce his dosage of the steroid his ulcers would return – making it so painful to eat even liquidised food that he had to numb his throat with an anaesthetic before he could get anything down.

“Even to watch him eat was a torture,” his wife Geetha Nath said.

Mr Nath turned to alternative medicine, but with equally little success.

He tried several traditional Indian Ayurvedic remedies, but abandoned them when he found no improvement.

“After a year of unsuccessful struggle and a life with pain killers and antidepressants, the feeling of hopelessness crept in and I googled to search for a naturally occurring steroid equivalent and stumbled across a herb called ashwagandha (witheria somnifera) used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine over thousands of years for improving immune system,” he said.

He did some more research and found on the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre’s website that studies had been done where the herb had killed cancerous cells in mice.

“I decided to make myself the mouse,” he said.

Mr Nath consulted both an Ayurvedic doctor and his oncologist before beginning treatment with ashwagandha, and got the go-ahead from both of them. They were out of other ideas.

Being a chemical engineer, Mr Nath had a keen scientific interest in his health.

“I took the results of all my blood tests since I was diagnosed in 2002 and plotted them on a graph.”

Shortly after starting to take the herb, Mr Nath began to feel better.

Within a week he was able to halve his steroid dose without the ulcers coming back, and a month later his blood tests began to show a remarkable improvement.

“A blood test showed a sharp jump in total white cell counts with my lymphocytes increased from previous level of 600-700 to a whopping 2500-2800. Interestingly my ESR [indication of inflammation/infection] also had a sharp dip from 80 to below 20, ” he said.

Three months later he was able to stop taking the steroids altogether and got back to a healthy weight and state of mind.

Mr Nath said that if a year before someone had suggested he take a herb to treat his problem he would’ve dismissed it out of hand.

“It got to the point where I had no choice, I had to do something.”

Since then he’s discovered that clinical trials using ashwagandha to treat cancer patients were in progress in the United States and India, and patents pending in the US and Japan.

“I had contacted the concerned head of clinical trials and was told that they had several positive feedbacks from cancer patients on ashwagandha,” he said.

In November last year he was finally able to return home to New Plymouth and has been ulcer and cancer-free since.

“Now I am hoping for a long remission and possibly a complete cure,” he said.

The romance of an Indian Muslim Freedom Fighter and a Lithuanian Jewish Woman

A Story of the Holocaust and the AIDS Epidemic: The romance of an Indian Muslim Freedom Fighter and a Lithuanian Jewish Woman


By Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod

In 1992, the editor of the Times of India telephoned one of Mumbai’s most prominent businessmen, Dr. Yusuf K. Hamied. The editor asked Hamied “as a Muslim leader” his opinion on communal riots that were taking place in the city. Hamied replied: “Why aren’t you asking me as an Indian Jew? Because my name is Hamied? My mother was Jewish!” His maternal grandparents perished in the Holocaust.



K.A. & Luba

Hamied, chairman of one of India’s largest pharmaceutical firms, is the son of an aristocratic Muslim scientist from India and a Jewish Communist from what is now Lithuania. Defined by his parents’ extraordinary marriage, he unites his father’s scientific skills, business acumen, and Indian patriotism with his mother’s compassion for the less fortunate. He charges the Western pharmaceutical industry with “holding 3 billion people in the Third World to ransom by using their monopoly status to charge higher prices,” and has devoted himself to making life-saving inexpensive generic medications for the inhabitants of poorer countries.


India’s Robin Hood” Yusuf K. Hamied: Maker of generic life-saving medications and scourge of the giant multi-national pharmaceutical houses

Khwaja Abdul Hamied (1898-1972)

Yusuf Hamied’s father, Khwaja Abdul (K.A.) Hamied, was born in Aligarh. His paternal grandfather Khwaja Abdul Ali (1862-1948) traced his lineage through spiritual guides to the Mughal emperors of India back to Khwaja Ubaidullah Ahrar (1403-1490), a great Naqshbandi Sufi in Uzbekistan. His mother Masud Jehan Begum (1872-1957) came from the family of Shah Shuja ul-Mulk, the pro-British Amir of Afghanistan (1803-1809 and 1839-1842), whose family fled to India after his assassination in an anti-British uprising. Khwaja Abdul Ali’s uncle was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1819-1898), the great Muslim educational and social reformer.


K.A. Hamied with his his father, brothers, nieces, and son Yusuf

KR5The family of K.A. Hamied

Khwaja Abdul Ali entered the judicial service of the British government in India, but his son K.A. Hamied passionately opposed “the evils of foreign rule.” When Mahatma Gandhi’s noncooperation movement called for a boycott of government-run educational institutions, Hamied organized a strike at his school, Muir Central College. As a result he was expelled from the university, then arrested when he tried to disrupt graduation ceremonies.

Hamied now returned to Aligarh, where Muslim nationalist leaders founded a new university, Jamia Millia Islamia, which refused government funding. Hamied taught chemistry there. He also supervised the production and sale of khadi, or homespun cloth, which Gandhi had made a central element of Indian nationalism. At his maternal uncle’s home, he first met Gandhi as well as Motilal Nehru and his son Jawaharlal.


K.A. Hamied would continue to be active in Indian political affairs throughout his life


K.A. and Luba Hamied with his good friend Zakir Hussein, who became President of India

While teaching at Jamia, K.A. Hamied began a lifelong friendship with Zakir Hussain, later President of India. Hamied and Hussain later left for Germany to pursue graduate studies. Hamied studied with one of the world’s leading chemists, Professor A. Rosenheim.

Luba Derczanska (1903-1991)

One day in 1925, Hamied joined some friends on a lake cruise near Berlin. One of the passengers on the boat was a young woman named, Luba Derczanska. Luba was born in Wilno in Russian Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) and had come to Berlin to study. From their first meeting, the romance between Abdul Hamied and Luba Derczanska blossomed. In 1928, Hamied married Luba in Berlin’s only mosque, and the following year they were again married in the Choral Synagogue in Wilno and the marriage was “solemnized” at a Register Office in London.

Luba was active in Communist circles in Berlin, and sought to bring her Indian beau into the movement: the first gift that she ever gave Hamied was a postcard of Lenin and for a time the couple were regulars at party meetings. (In later life, Hamied had very strong reservations and concerns about Communism.) Hamied was a prominent member of Indian revolutionary circles in India.


K.A. Hamied and Luba with Maulana Mahommad Ali (trademark crescent in his hat), the leader of the pan-Islamic political protest Khilafat Movement. Berlin, 1928    

Their parents were open-minded and welcoming, and the warmth with which Luba’s parents Rubin and Paulina greeted Hamied on his first visit to Wilno was matched by the welcome extended to Luba by Abdul Ali and Masud Jehan when she went to Aligarh.


The Hamieds with Luba’s family in 1929. In the center are Luba’s brother Zorach and aunt. Zorach Derczanski came to India in 1934. The aunt came to India in 1938 and was joined there in 1946 by her non-Jewish husband Arthur Taenzler, a German flying ace in World War I 

Their son Yusuf was born in Wilno during his parents’ last visit there before the Holocaust. Yusuf is the Arabic form of the Hebrew name Joseph. It was the name of Luba’s grandfather, and hence pleasing to her family, as well as the first name of the Polish president, Józef Piłsudski, and so flattering to the Hamieds’ Polish friends. A month after his birth, Yusuf’s parents took him back to Bombay.


The Hamieds with her Jewish parents and their children Yusuf and Sophie


Yusuf and Sophie with their paternal grandmother Masud Jehan Begum, who was descended from the family of Amir Shuja ul-Mulk of Afghanistan

Though Luba was not an observant Jew, her son Yusuf chose to memorialize her in the most active Indian synagogue. He heavily supported the reconstruction of the Shaar Hashamaim Synagogue in Thane.


Shaar Hashamaim Synagogue, Thane

Hamied’s Views on Religion

K.A. Hamied defined himself as an Indian who happened to be a Muslim, and he became openly hostile to the Muslim League. He rejected the notion that Hindus and Muslims were “separate nations” as Jinnah argued. Unlike his brothers who opted for Pakistan, he always hoped for reconciliation in India between Hindus and Muslims.

In a speech to the Inter-Religious Seminar in Delhi on October 18, 1971, K.A. said that the “study of religion is my special hobby” and that “the basic attributes of this mysterious power, by whatever name we call it, are the same in all religions.” He quoted Zoroaster, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad  and Guru Nanak as “prophets” and said that “an ideal man must be a good man by virtue of his actions in society (and) may belong to any religion so long as he follows the tenets of his religion”.


K.A. Hamied believed that there should be “no compulsion in religion”

Hamied always enthusiastically urged a partnership between Jews and Muslims. He loved to talk about Islamic Spain, where Jews and Muslims had joined to create a golden age, and once said that “if the Jews, with their wealth, knowledge and scientific skill and Arabs made a common cause, they would have a strong empire covering West Asia and the entire coast of South Mediterranean”.  He even “asked President Nasser as to why he was seeking help from the communists, who weremulhids (non-believers in God) to fight Jews, who were nearer to Islam.” He always emphasized that “the Arabs and Israelis should see the necessity of getting out of this whirlpool of Russian and Western power politics” and “sit together at a round table conference away from Western powers to thrash out their differences and carve out a new future based on ancient friendship, alliance and mutual regard”.

The Holocaust

He regularly visited Germany, where he had many friends as well as business dealings. Once, Germans mistook him for a Jew and insulted him. He foresaw something far worse than discrimination and insults, and urged his Jewish friends to leave Germany. They insisted that, as members of the intellectual élite, they had nothing to worry about.

The horrors of the Holocaust were to touch Hamied and Luba directly. In June 1941, Nazi troops occupied Wilno, and almost immediately began the extermination of the city’s Jews. Luba’s siblings survived: her brother Zorach was working for Hamied in Bombay, and her Communist sisters had escaped to Moscow before the coming of the Germans.

However, the Nazis murdered her elderly parents who were unable to emigrate. Hamied tried to obtain visas so his in-laws could come to India. The papers finally came through two weeks after the Derczanskis were killed.

Their son Yusuf was very moved when in 2008, during a visit to his birthplace, Vilnius, he went to the Ponary forest, where German units massacred up to 100,000 people, the great majority of them Jews. Recently, he commissioned statues of Gandhi and his Lithuanian Jewish disciple Hermann Kallenbach in Vilnius. In honor of his mother, he sponsored a concert there by his life-long friend Zubin Mehta.

Yusuf, though focused on the lessons of the Holocaust, does not feel threatened personally as a Jew. He sees anti-Muslim mob violence in Bombay as particularly chilling, since to him it evokes the fear that Indian Muslims may share the same fate as European Jews. He remembers his father’s stories of Jewish friends who believed that their elevated place in society would protect them, and he says that Indian Muslims who echo this sentiment are as naive as European Jews were.


After several years in India, Hamied gained success as a businessman, and in 1935 he founded the Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories (CIPLA). It has since become one of India’s most important pharmaceutical companies.



K.A. And Yusuf Hamied created a successful multinational pharmaceutical company with a social conscience

K.A. Hamied had written in The Times of India on December 11, 1964 that patent law should enforce “compulsory licensing” to other manufacturers to prevent monopolistic predatory pricing. Later Yusuf picked up this same battle in the case of the astronomical pricing of AIDS medications by patent holders. By retro-engineering the first medication and antiretroviral cocktail effective against HIV and AIDS and selling them at a fraction of the price, he helped saved millions of lives.

Perhaps with the murders of his own grandparents and six million other Jews in mind, Yusuf has called Big Pharma “global serial killers,” “traders in Death,” and “death profiteers.”   He sees the lack of access to life-saving medication by poor people in the developing world due to cost as a form of “selective genocide in healthcare” driven by Big Pharma’s desire for profits.


Yusuf Hamied addressing the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, 1976

Note:  A more comprehensive study of the Hamieds by the authors will be included in one of seven forthcoming volumes dealing with Jews in South Asia. This project, conceived by Kenneth X. Robbins, has already resulted in the publication of Western Jews in India and Jews and the Indian National Art Project as well as the current  American Sephardi Federation exhibition, Baghdadis & the Bene Israel in “Bollywood & Beyond: Indian Jews in the movies. Objects and Arifacts from the Kenneth And Joyce Robbins Collection. Dr. Robbins is presently working with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts on a comprehensive exhibition dealing with Jewish communities in India and contributions to India made by Jews.

Dr. Kenneth X. Robbins is a collector and independent scholar. He has curated more than a dozen Indian exhibits and five scholarly conferences. In addition to publishing more than seventy articles, he is co-editor of Western Jews in India: From the Fifteenth Century to the Present (2013), Jews and the Indian National Art Project (2015), and several other volumes about Jews in South Asia.

Dr. John McLeod holds a Ph.D. in Indian history from the University of Toronto, and is Professor of History at the University of Louisville. He is the author of Sovereignty, Power, Control: Politics in the States of Western India, 1916-1947 (Brill, 1999; South Asian edition Decent Books, 2007) and The History of India (2nd edition, ABC-Clio, 2015), and (with Kenneth X. Robbins) is the co-editor ofAfrican Elites in India: Habshi Amarat (Mapin, 2006). He is currently completing a biography of the Indian statesman and community leader, Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownaggree.

How a Muslim-Jewish romance shaped a pharma with conscience

How a Muslim-Jewish romance shaped one of India’s biggest pharma firms

January 25, 2016 Quartz India

In 1992, the editor of The Times of India telephoned one of Mumbai’s most prominent businessmen—Yusuf K Hamied. The editor asked Yusuf, “as a Muslim leader”, his opinion on communal riots that were taking place in the city. “Why aren’t you asking me as an Indian Jew? Because my name is Hamied? My mother was Jewish,” Yusuf replied. His maternal grandparents perished in the Holocaust.



Yusuf K. Hamied.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Yusuf, chairman of one of India’s largest pharmaceutical firms, is the son of an aristocratic Muslim scientist from India and a Jewish Communist from what is now Lithuania. Defined by his parents’ extraordinary marriage, he unites his father’s scientific skills, business acumen, and Indian patriotism with his mother’s compassion for the less fortunate. He charges the Western pharmaceutical industry with “holding three billion people in the Third World to ransom by using their monopoly status to charge higher prices.” And he has devoted himself to making life-saving inexpensive generic medications for the inhabitants of poorer countries.



Yusuf’s father

Yusuf’s father, Khwaja Abdul (K.A.) Hamied (1898-1972), was born in Aligarh. His paternal grandfather Khwaja Abdul Ali (1862-1948) traced his lineage through spiritual guides to the Mughal emperors of India back to Khwaja Ubaidullah Ahrar (1403-1490), a great Naqshbandi Sufi in Uzbekistan. His grandmother Masud Jehan Begum (1872-1957) came from the family of Shah Shuja ul-Mulk, the pro-British Amir of Afghanistan (1803-1809 and 1839-1842), whose family fled to India after his assassination in an anti-British uprising. Khwaja Abdul Ali’s uncle was Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1819-1898), the great Muslim educational and social reformer.



K.A. Hamied remained active in Indian political affairs throughout his life.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

K.A. and Luba Hamied with his good friend Zakir Hussein, who became India’s president.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Khwaja Abdul Ali entered the judicial service of the British government in India, but his son K.A. passionately opposed “the evils of foreign rule.” When Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement called for a boycott of government-run educational institutions, K.A. organised a strike at his school, Muir Central College. As a result, he was expelled from the university, then arrested when he tried to disrupt graduation ceremonies.



K.A. now returned to Aligarh, where Muslim nationalist leaders founded a new university, Jamia Millia Islamia, which refused government funding. He taught chemistry there. He also supervised the production and sale of khadi, or homespun cloth, which Gandhi had made a central element of Indian nationalism. At his maternal uncle’s home, he first met Gandhi as well as Motilal Nehru and his son Jawaharlal.



While teaching at Jamia, K.A. began a lifelong friendship with Zakir Hussain, later India’s president. K.A. and Hussain later left for Germany to pursue graduate studies. K.A. studied with one of the world’s leading chemists, professor A Rosenheim.



Yusuf’s mother

K.A. Hamied and Luba Derczanska.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

One day in 1925, K.A. joined some friends on a lake cruise near Berlin. One of the passengers on the boat was a young woman named, Luba Derczanska (1903-1991). Born in Wilno in Russian Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), she had come to Berlin to study. From their first meeting, the romance between K.A. and Luba blossomed. In 1928, they married in Berlin’s only mosque, and the following year they were again married in the Choral Synagogue in Wilno, and the marriage was “solemnised” at a register office in London.



Luba was active in Communist circles in Berlin, and sought to bring her Indian beau into the movement: the first gift that she ever gave Hamied was a postcard of Lenin and for a time the couple were regulars at party meetings. (In later life, K.A. had very strong reservations and concerns about Communism.) He was a prominent member of revolutionary circles in India.



K.A. Hamied and Luba Derczanska.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Their parents were open-minded and welcoming, and the warmth with which Luba’s parents, Rubin and Paulina, greeted K.A. on his first visit to Wilno was matched by the welcome extended to Luba by Abdul Ali and Masud Jehan when she went to Aligarh.



Their son Yusuf was born in Wilno during his parents’ last visit there before the Holocaust. Yusuf is the Arabic form of the Hebrew name Joseph. It was the name of Luba’s grandfather, and hence pleasing to her family, as well as the first name of the Polish president, Józef Piłsudski, and so flattering to the K.A.’s Polish friends. A month after his birth, Yusuf’s parents took him back to Bombay.



Though Luba was not an observant Jew, Yusuf chose to memorialise her in the most active Indian synagogue. He heavily supported the reconstruction of the Shaar Hashamaim Synagogue in Thane.



Shaar Hashamaim Synagogue, Thane.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

K.A. Hamied and Luba with Maulana Mohammad Ali (trademark crescent on his hat), the leader of the pan-Islamic Khilafat Movement. Berlin, 1928.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Jews-Muslims partnership

K.A. defined himself as an Indian who happened to be a Muslim, and he became openly hostile to the Muslim League. He rejected the notion that Hindus and Muslims were “separate nations” as Jinnah argued. Unlike his brothers who opted for Pakistan, he always hoped for reconciliation in India between Hindus and Muslims.



K.A. Hamied with his his father, brothers, nieces, and son Yusuf.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

The family of K.A. Hamied.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

In a speech to the inter-religious seminar in Delhi on Oct. 18, 1971, K.A. said that the “study of religion is my special hobby” and that “the basic attributes of this mysterious power, by whatever name we call it, are the same in all religions.” He quoted Zoroaster, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, and Guru Nanak as “prophets” and said that “an ideal man must be a good man by virtue of his actions in society (and) may belong to any religion so long as he follows the tenets of his religion”.



K.A. Hamied believed there should be “no compulsion in religion”.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

K.A. always enthusiastically urged a partnership between Jews and Muslims. He loved to talk about Islamic Spain, where Jews and Muslims had joined to create a golden age, and once said that “if the Jews, with their wealth, knowledge and scientific skill and Arabs made a common cause, they would have a strong empire covering West Asia and the entire coast of South Mediterranean”. He even “asked president Nasser as to why he was seeking help from the communists, who were mulhids(non-believers in God) to fight Jews, who were nearer to Islam.” He always emphasised that “the Arabs and Israelis should see the necessity of getting out of this whirlpool of Russian and Western power politics” and “sit together at a round table conference away from Western powers to thrash out their differences and carve out a new future based on ancient friendship, alliance and mutual regard”.



The Holocaust

He regularly visited Germany, where he had many friends as well as business dealings. Once, Germans mistook him for a Jew and insulted him. He foresaw something far worse than discrimination and insults, and urged his Jewish friends to leave Germany. They insisted that, as members of the intellectual élite, they had nothing to worry about.



The Hamieds with Luba’s family in 1929. In the center are Luba’s brother Zorach and aunt. Zorach Derczanski came to India in 1934. Her aunt came to India in 1938 and was joined in 1946 by her non-Jewish husband Arthur Taenzler, a World War-I German flying ace.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

The horrors of the Holocaust were to touch K.A. and Luba directly. In June 1941, Nazi troops occupied Wilno, and almost immediately began the extermination of the city’s Jews. Luba’s siblings survived: her brother Zorach was working for K.A. in Bombay, and her Communist sisters had escaped to Moscow before the coming of the Germans.



However, the Nazis murdered her elderly parents who were unable to emigrate. K.A. tried to obtain visas so his in-laws could come to India. The papers finally came through two weeks after the Derczanskis were killed.



The Hamieds with Luba’s Jewish parents and their children Yusuf and Sophie.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Yusuf and Sophie with their paternal grandmother Masud Jehan Begum, who was descended from the family of Amir Shuja ul-Mulk of Afghanistan.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Their son Yusuf was very moved when in 2008, during a visit to his birthplace, Vilnius, he went to the Ponary forest, where German units massacred up to 100,000 people, the great majority of them Jews. Recently, he commissioned statues of Gandhi and his Lithuanian Jewish disciple Hermann Kallenbach in Vilnius. In honour of his mother, he sponsored a concert there by his life-long friend Zubin Mehta.



Yusuf, though focused on the lessons of the Holocaust, does not feel threatened personally as a Jew. He sees anti-Muslim mob violence in Bombay as particularly chilling, since to him it evokes the fear that Indian Muslims may share the same fate as European Jews. He remembers his father’s stories of Jewish friends who believed that their elevated place in society would protect them, and he says that Indian Muslims who echo this sentiment are as naive as European Jews were.



Most important pharma company

After several years in India, K.A. gained success as a businessman, and in 1935, he founded the Chemical, Industrial and Pharmaceutical Laboratories (CIPLA). It has since become one of India’s most important pharmaceutical companies.



K.A. and Yusuf Hamied created a successful multinational pharmaceutical company with a social conscience.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

K.A. and Yusuf Hamied created a successful multinational pharmaceutical company with a social conscience.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

K.A. had written in The Times of India on Dec. 11, 1964, that patent law should enforce “compulsory licensing” to other manufacturers to prevent monopolistic predatory pricing. Later, Yusuf picked up this same battle in the case of the astronomical pricing of AIDS medications by patent holders. By retro-engineering the first medication and anti-retroviral cocktail effective against HIV and AIDS and selling them at a fraction of the price, he helped saved millions of lives.



Perhaps with the murders of his own grandparents and six million other Jews in mind, Yusuf has called Big Pharma “global serial killers,” “traders in death,” and “death profiteers.” He sees the lack of access to life-saving medication by poor people in the developing world due to cost as a form of “selective genocide in healthcare” driven by Big Pharma’s desire for profits.



Yusuf Hamied addressing the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, 1976.(Kenneth X. Robbins & John Mcleod)

Note: A more comprehensive study of the Hamieds by the authors will be included in one of seven forthcoming volumes dealing with Jews in South Asia. This project, conceived by Kenneth X. Robbins, has already resulted in the publication of Western Jews in India and Jews and the Indian National Art Project as well as the current American Sephardi Federation exhibition, Baghdadis & the Bene Israel in “Bollywood & Beyond: Indian Jews in the Movies. Objects and Artifacts from the Kenneth And Joyce Robbins Collection.” Dr. Robbins is presently working with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts on a comprehensive exhibition dealing with Jewish communities in India and contributions to India made by Jews.



This post first appeared on Café Dissensus. We welcome your comments


Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath


Dr. Chinnaramaswamy Iyengar was bewildered. Never in his 25 years tenure as professor of IIT Delhi (Mechanical Engineering Department, Thermal Science Stream, Applied Quantum Chromodynamics Section, Hyperspace Heat Transfer Subsection, and Specialisation Picard-Iyengar Tesseracts) had he ever been confronted with such a dilemma, “But we cannot accept an incomplete application form. “Mr…., er, Miss…, I mean… “ He gazed in mute appeal at the new student, dressed nattily in the latest androgynous fashion of the year 2112.

                “Just call me Yar, sir, without the appellations” said the new student.


Dr. Iyengar was appalled. A strict disciplinarian, he had always been impersonal-in his dealings with students. And now this!

His spectacles oozed down his nose. He was one of those diehards who hold old traditions dear. Nowadays, when you could install a force field generator in a single hair of your eyelashes at any ophthalmologist’s clinic by laser microsurgery, he defiantly wore his anachronism.

“I don’t mean the Hindi word sir“, The rich tenor voice was continuing pleasantly “Just part of my acronym O-YAR. Stands for Organic Yttrium Articulated Robot”


“Yes Sir!! I am part of a new secret experiment being conducted by the Non-Human Resources Development Council. I am required to register for an M.Tech  course under the quality improvement Programme”.


Dr. Iyengar appeared to possess a rather limited vocabulary.

“I have no doubt sir, that you would have received a copy of the G.O. connected with my enrolment here”

Dr. Iyengar forced his grey cells to work. He remembered no G.O. But then, he thought, bureaucratic lethargy increases exponentially with its age. More than one and a half centuries after independence, Indian bureaucracy had reached colossal heights of bungling inefficiency. The extinction of bamboo in the beginning of the 22nd century was attributed by many conservationists to the Paper Mountains created by millions of smug bureaucrats at the drop of a hat. If paper had not been replaced by cheap holograms which could present the printed word on thin air as it were, no organism with cellulose in its cellular makeup would have survived.

“May I suggest sir, that you peruse this copy I have at your leisure?”

Wordlessly Dr. Iyengar accepted the hologram but his eyes remained on the features of the new student.

They were not bad features at that. Familiar as he was with anthropomorphic robots, he was nonetheless dumbfounded by the life like object he saw. Longish hair was brushed back from a broad forehead, sparking wide set eyes, an aquiline nose and a rather wide mouth over a determined chin.

Dr. Iyengar recovered the use of his vocal cords.

                “Do you mean to tell me that you are …, synthetic?”

“No, not at all sir, my flesh and bones and blood vessels are quite real and do function normally as in a human being. It is mainly in the central nervous system that the difference lies. It’s all made of organic chip circuitry. As you know we have never been successful in growing human nerve cells in vitro”.

Dr. Iyengar nodded. Unlike others who personify the tongue-in- cheek definition of a specialist as one who knows more and more about less and less, he took an active interest in fields other than his own. The VLSIC of the 21st century had been relegated to museums by the development of huge organic molecules which could act as diodes and transistors, thereby increasing the density of a circuit a thousand fold. A super computer of the 2010s could now be placed on a desk. And not a big desk at that. 

“And your power sources?”

“I have three independent ones. The first a fusion reactor with force field plasma containment, the second ordinary metabolic processes as in living organisms but with a catalysed ATP* energy release and finally an Iqbal modified Stirling engine drawing energy from the ambient with the heat sink in hyper space. The last will be of particular interest to you I think, sir.”

“Yes indeed.”

Dr. Iyengar’s eyes gleamed.

“And to think I never heard of this project!”

“Well sir, the whole project was shrouded in secrecy. The Americans would have loved to get hold of something like this”.

“Hmpf…yes indeed.”

Deprived of all its Asian born scientists and professionals, during the reverse brain drain of the 2020s, American economy and technical invincibility had collapsed like a pricked balloon. Hard core capitalism had gone the way of hard core socialism: down the drain.

* Adenosine Tri Phosphate, the chemical responsible for the release of energy from food.


The “Arab Spring” and “Occupy Wall Street” movements of the early 21st century had dealt Autocracy and heartless Capitalism, blows from which neither recovered.

The occidental was now inferior to the oriental; at least technologically. India led the world in technology. Technology! Dr. Iyengar snapped out of his reverie.

“Tell me,” he asked, “Why do you have to study? It should have been a simple thing to program all the requisite data into your memory.”

“Quite so sir, but one of the main reasons for my creation is to study the efficacy of the present higher education system and its effects on the social interactions of the student.”

“Social interactions?… Hmmm…”

The good doctor suddenly became aware of the registration form in his hands.

“But you have to fill up this column.”

“I leave it to your discretion sir; I can take care of the physical aspect by simply changing my objective reality module.”

“Oh in that case,…” Dr. Iyengar took hold of his hologram stylus and firmly ticked the box marked – “Male”.



Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys In Front Of Their Mothers

Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys In Front Of Their Mothers

John Vibes
December 17, 2014


(TheAntiMedia) According to a number of global mainstream media sources, the Pentagon is covering up a disturbing video that was never made public with the rest of the recent torture report.

According to various well respected journalists, including Seymour Hersh, the appalling video was recorded at Abu Ghraib, the notorious US torture dungeon in Iraq that made headlines roughly a decade ago, when the inhumane tactics being used at the prison were exposed.

Sadly, it seems that the evidence released years ago was only scratching the surface.

While the video has remained under wraps thus far, Hersh says it is only a matter of time before it comes out.

Giving a speech at the ACLU last week after the senate torture report was initially released, Hersh gave some insight into what was on the Pentagon’s secret tape.

In the most revealing portion of his speech he said that:


“Debating about it, ummm … Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib … The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.”

“It’s impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers and so we’re dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will. You know there’s enough out there, they can’t (Applause). …. So it’s going to be an interesting election year.”

Put into context with another speech that Hersh gave earlier this year, it becomes clear that the women who witnessed these young boys being raped were actually their mothers.

At a speech in Chicago this past June Hersh was quoted as saying:

“You haven’t begun to see evil… horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.”

Other stories at the London Guardian also talked of young Iraqi detainees getting violently raped by US soldiers.

Ten years ago when the initial Abu Ghraib scandal was in the news, the Guardian published the testimony of an Abu Ghraib detainee who allegedly witnessed one of these brutal attacks.

Former detainee Kasim Hilas said in their testimony that:

“I saw [name blacked out] fucking a kid, his age would be about 15-18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard the screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [blacked out], who was wearing the military uniform putting his dick in the little kid’s ass, I couldn’t see the face of the kid because his face wasn’t in front of the door. And the female soldier was taking pictures.”

Now, over a decade later the evidence of these events are beginning to surface, but the Department of Defense is still doing their best to keep it under the radar. That is why now more than ever, it is important to keep the pressure on and force the release of this evidence, while the torture report is fresh in the minds of the general population.

This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive our latest articles. 

John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work he is also the owner of a successful music promotion company. In 2013, he became one of the organizers of the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at

Sorry, vegans: Eating meat and cooking food is how humans got their big brains

Sorry, vegans: Eating meat and cooking food is how humans got their big brains

 November 26, 2012

Vegetarian, vegan and raw diets can be healthful, probably far more healthful than the typical American diet. But to call these diets “natural” for humans is a bit of a stretch in terms of evolution, according to two recent studies.

Eating meat and cooking food made us human, the studies suggest, enabling the brains of our prehuman ancestors to grow dramatically over a few million years.

Although this isn’t the first such assertion from archaeologists and evolutionary biologists, the new studies demonstrate that it would have been biologically implausible for humans to evolve such a large brain on a raw, vegan diet and that meat-eating was a crucial element of human evolution at least a million years before the dawn of humankind.

Calories to grow our brains

At the core of this research is the understanding that the modern human brain consumes 20 percent of the body’s energy at rest, twice that of other primates. Meat and cooked foods were needed to provide the necessary calorie boost to feed a growing brain.

One study, published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined the brain size of several primates. For the most part, larger bodies have larger brains across species. Yet humans have exceptionally large, neuron-rich brains for our body size, while gorillas — three times as massive as humans — have smaller brains with one-third the neurons. Why?

The answer, it seems, is the gorillas’ raw, vegan diet (devoid of animal protein), which requires hours upon hours of eating to provide enough calories to support their mass.

Researchers from Brazil, led by Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, calculated that adding neurons to theprimate brain comes at a fixed cost of approximately six calories per billion neurons.

For gorillas to evolve a humanlike brain, they would need an additional 733 calories a day, which would require two more hours of feeding, the authors wrote. A gorilla already spends as much as 80 percent of the tropics’ 12 hours of daylight eating.

Similarly, early humans eating only raw vegetation would have needed to munch for more than nine hours a day to consume enough calories, the researchers calculated. Thus, a raw, vegan diet would have been unlikely, given the danger and other difficulties of gathering so much food.

Cooking makes more foods edible year-round and releases more nutrients and calories from both vegetables and meat, Herculano-Houzel said.

“The bottom line is, it is certainly possible to survive on an exclusively raw diet in our modern day, but it was most likely impossible to survive on an exclusively raw diet when our species appeared,” Herculano-Houzel told LiveScience.

The study puts an upper limit on how big a brain is able to grow while on a premodern raw, vegan diet. But the researchers could not determine whendaily cooking began. Was it about 250,000 years ago, when humans were nearly fully evolved with big brains, which is supported by archaeological findings? Or was it about 800,000 years ago, when prehumans began their most dramatic brain-growth spurt, an era for which there is little archaeological evidence of controlled fires for cooking?

Meet the meat-eater

If cooking wasn’t routine before the dawn of modern humans, eating meat certainly was.

The second study, published in October the journal PLoS ONE, examined the remains of a prehuman toddler who died from malnutrition about 1.5 million years ago. Shards of a skull found in modern-day Tanzania reveal that the child had porotic hyperostosis, a type of spongy bone growth associated with low levels of dietary iron and vitamins B9 and B12, the result of a diet lacking animal products in a species that requires them.

The child was around the weaning age. So either the child’s mother’s breast milk lacked key nutrients or the child himself did not consume enough nutrients directly from meat or eggs.

Either way, the finding implies that meat must have been an integral, and not sporadic, element of the prehuman diet more than 1 million years ago, said the study’s lead author, Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, an archaeologist at Complutense University in Madrid.

This supports the theory that meat fueled human brain evolution because meat — from arachnids to zebras — was plentiful on the African savanna, where humans evolved, and is the best package of calories, proteins, fats and Vitamin B12 needed for brain growth and maintenance.

“Carnivore animals, whether terrestrial or aquatic, are bigger-brained than herbivores,” Dominguez-Rodrigo told LiveScience. He added that “there is no [traditional] society that live as vegans,” essentially because it wouldn’t be possible to get Vitamin B12, which is only available in animal products.

Vegetables still healthful

Both sets of researchers said their conclusion — that cooked food and meat were necessary for human brain development — is not a statement of how the human diet must have been but rather how it likely was in order to make humans “human.”

With supermarkets and refrigeration, humans today can and increasingly do eat a vegetarian or vegan diet year-round. And given the amount of heart-stopping saturated fats in factory-produced animal products, a plant-based diet can be more healthful.

Yet both extremes of the meat argument — the unapologetic meat-eater and the raw vegan — should remember that few of today’s so-called natural foods were around as little as a few hundred years ago, from the modern invention called corn-fed beef to genetically altered strains of Queen Anne’s lace called the carrot.

There are many reasons to go vegetarian, go vegan and even go raw, but evolution isn’t one of them.


Wanjek is the author of “Hey, Einstein!,” a comical nature-vs.-nurture tale about raising clones of Albert Einstein in less than ideal settings. His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on LiveScience.

Beards may be more hygienic and bacteria-resistant than shaven skin, study finds

Beards may contain bacteria which could potentially be developed into new antibiotics, a study has found.

Researchers found that clean-shaven men were actually more likely to harbour infection-causing bacteria resistant to antibiotics when compared to bearded men.

The study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, tested swabs from the faces of 408 hospital staff with and without facial hair.

According to the results, clean-shaven men are more than three times as likely to be carrying methicillin-resistant staph auerus (MRSA) on their cheeks as their bearded counterparts.

Clean-shaven men were also more than 10 per cent more likely to have colonies of Staphylococcus aureus on their faces, a bacterium that causes skin and respiratory infections, and food poisoning.

Researchers suggest this may be due to micro-abrasians caused by shaving in the skin, “which may support bacterial colonisation and proliferation”.

The report reads: “Overall, colonisation is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair, however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair.”

Dr Adam Roberts, a microbiologist from University College London, was able to grow over 100 different bacteria from beard swab samples in a separate analysis.

Among the petri dishes, he found the presence of a microbe that appeared to be killing the other bacteria.

Dr Roberts isolated the microbe and tested it against a form of E. coli that causes urinary tract infections, and found the microbes killed the bacterium efficiently.


Science Explains Why a Beard Makes You Look Hotter

 02/04/2015 08:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015
    Jonha RevesencioBusiness strategist exploring the intersection of business, leadership and technology

The next Movember, which is also known as No-Shave November, is still several months away. However, this does not mean that you should switch to a clean-shaven look, especially if you are interested in attracting the attention of a potential mate.

scientific study conducted by the Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society also indicated that specific types of facial hair have a major impact on how others perceive individuals with a beard.

Therefore, depending on your personal preferences, you might want to grow ayeard or stick with thick stubble.

So what type of beard is right for your lifestyle? That depends on which qualities you want to be associated with:


  1. Most Attractive – Female participants in studies that have analyzed male facial hair have rated heavy stubble as the most attractive look. Men equally enjoyed the appearance of heavy stubble or a full beard.
  2. Healthiest – Men and women indicated that men who have a full beard appear to be healthier than those without any type of facial hair.
  3. Best Parenting Skills – This was another category that both genders ascribed to men who maintain a full beard.
  4. Masculinity – The perception of a man’s masculinity increases with the amount of facial hair that he has. So if you want to be seen as a highly masculine individual, you should consider cultivating a full beard.



2015-02-05-BeardMakesYouLookHotterWeKnowMemes.jpgMeme showing men with beard look ‘hotter’, Photo Credit:


Men who are clean-shaven or who have a light amount of stubble were rated as being the least attractive by women and men.

Additionally, it is interesting to note that a heterosexual woman’s interest in masculine looking men becomes more pronounced during the ovulation portion of her fertility cycle. In other words, if you and your female spouse or partner have been trying to conceive or are dealing with intimacy issues, it could be beneficial to grow your facial hair out.

After all, increasing your level of attractiveness in your partner’s eyes is definitely a good way to boost their sex drive.

There are also scientifically proven health benefits associated with having a beard. According to researchers from the University of Southern Queensland, beards are able to block up to 95 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays, and this will reduce your risk of contracting skin cancer.

Men who suffer from asthma could experience some relief from symptoms by growing a beard because this will help prevent dust and pollen from getting into their respiratory system. As an added bonus, a full beard will keep your skin looking healthier and more youthful.

It sounds like it is time to toss out your razors, gentlemen, but make sure that you take steps to keep your beard in good shape so that you can look your best!



Facial hair strongly influences people’s judgments of men’s socio-sexual attributes. However, the nature of these judgments is often contradictory. The levels of intermediate facial hair growth presented to raters and the stage of female raters’ menstrual cycles might have influenced past findings. We quantified men’s and women’s judgments of attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities for photographs of men who were clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded. We also tested the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on women’s ratings. Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. In contrast, men rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive, followed closely by clean-shaven and light stubble as least attractive. Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Masculinity ratings increased linearly as facial hair increased, and this effect was more pronounced in women in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, although attractiveness ratings did not differ according to fertility. Our findings confirm that beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring.


I didn’t even know I thought beards are more attractive until my boyfriend shaved his facial hair for Halloween. He looked so different, I felt I was cheating on him with his clean-shaven twin. And I dated that twin for over a month while we waited for his beard to grow back. (And you know, that waiting is the worst part — dealing with the itchy, in-between beard phase.) But we should commend our boyfriends’ patience — Men’s Journal saysthere’s a lot to maintaining a beard: “Trimming, shaping, fading, cleaning, combing, and conditioning is all part of the game and changes depending on what style you want and type of facial hair you were born with.”

Thinking back to men before that boyfriend, I realized more were bearded than not. Maybe it was in my psyche from when I was growing up, surrounded by uncles who had beards in Chicago — perhaps as a result of the near-arctic winters and their effort to keep warm? Or maybe it was an influence of where I live now, in L.A., and the prevalence of hipsters and bearded men there — particularly in trendy neighborhoods like Silverlake and Venice — versus other parts of the country? Or perhaps the surge of bearded celebrities seeped into my head, like George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Zach Galifianakis?

Celebrity or not, beards can change a man’s look nearly overnight (well, quite a few overnights to get the desired result, depending on what you want that to be).

No matter what type of beard your boyfriend may have, we can all agree that beards (seemingly) change the man. You can even check out this dating site,Bristlr, that caters to men with beards and the people who love them. My reasons for loving bearded boyfriends include:

1. Men With Beards Look Older, Wiser, And Tougher.

Maybe this goes back to what I said about being raised among a lot of bearded men, like a Freudian thing. I think we women who like men with beards are not anti-clean-shaven men, we just prefer bearded ones, like these on Instagram. When you look at the men sans a beard versus with a beard, the latter makes them look more mature and someone who’d win an onscreen fight against their non-bearded nemesis. Beards make men look years older, in a very appealing way.

2. Beards Are For A Good Cause.

Aside from beards looking good, they’re also for a great cause. Movembertook our men’s beards away while men focused on growing moustaches (and sometimes beards), but No-Shave November brought them back. Movember raises money for prostate or testicular cancer while No-Shave November raises money for cancer, as well, and partnered with the American Cancer Society in 2013. They figure that if men grow out their beards for the month of November instead of spending money going to the barber, they can donate that money toward cancer research instead.

3. Beards Are Seductive (And Soft).

If you don’t believe me, have the guy you’re dating grow one. A friend of mine was practically the spokeswoman for anti-bearded men and happy her boyfriend was clean-shaven. But when he decided to participate in No-Shave November, she dreaded the bearded result, then grew to love it (and he still has the beard today). Just check out these before and after photos of men with beards and decide for yourself which look you prefer.

4. Beards Are Part Of Our History.

According to Live Sciencethe popularity of beards and facial hair has varied over time, sideburns being most prevalent in 1853, sideburns with mustaches in 1877, and solely beards in 1892. Facial hair is so popular that there’s even an annual World Beard and Moustache Championship (last year’s was in Portland and this year’s is in Austria). Judging criteria includes “…which contestant’s facial hair best enhances his overall appearance, style, and personality. In the freestyle categories the judges will be asked to consider originality and creativity as well.” There are 18 categories within three primary categories, complete with pictures: Moustaches, Partial Beards, and Full Beards. One of the official rules states: “artificial facial hair is not permitted.”

Artificial facial hair? Yep, beards are so hot right now that some people are spending around $3,000-7,000 on beard transplants (depending on how much hair they want filled in) — and you may not even realize it. Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a facial plastic surgeon in New York, has been doing them for over 12 years. He went from doing a handful ten years ago to a few a week as of last year (in Midtown East and Miami).

5. Beards Make Guys More Attractive — Science Said So.

A study in Evolution and Human Behaviorfound that women rate bearded men as more masculine, healthy, and more likely to make good parents. After showing participants pictures of clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded men, researchers explained:

“Our findings confirm that beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring.”

So there.

Images: beardbrand/Instagram; Giphy (1-5)

വാത്മീകി രാമായണത്തില്‍ രാമന്‍ മാംസാഹാരിയെന്ന് വിവരിക്കുന്നു

Reposted from Rajeev Edappal’s post



ഗോംമാംസം ഭക്ഷിച്ചതിന് ഒരു മനുഷ്യനെ തല്ലിക്കൊന്ന കാലഘട്ടത്തില്‍ ആരെ മുന്‍നിര്‍ത്തിയാണോ സംഘപരിവാര്‍ സംഘടനകള്‍ ഇത്തരം കൃത്യം നിര്‍വ്വഹിച്ചത് എന്ന് നോക്കുന്നത് നന്നായിരിക്കും. ശ്രീരാമന്‍ മാംസാഹാരിയാണോ സസ്യാഹാരി ആണോ എന്ന് പരിശോധിക്കുകയാണ് ഇവിടെ. വാത്മീകി രാമായണത്തില്‍ കൃത്യമായി തന്നെ രാമന്‍റെ ആഹാരശൈലിയെ കുറിച്ച് വിശദീകരിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്.

വാത്മീകി രാമായണത്തില്‍ പല ശ്ലോകങ്ങളിലും കൃത്യമായി തന്നെ രാമന്‍ മാംസാഹാരിയെന്ന് വിവരിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്.വനവാസത്തിന് പോകുമ്പോള്‍ രാമന്‍ കൗസല്യയോട് പറയുന്നുണ്ട്,

“चतुर्दश हि वर्षाणि वत्स्यामि विजने वने |
मधु मूल फलैः जीवन् हित्वा मुनिवद् आमिषम् || २-२०-२९”.

മലയാള പരിഭാഷ ഇങ്ങിനെ,”പതിനാലു വര്‍ഷം ഞാന്‍ ഇറച്ചി ഒ‍ഴിവാക്കി, ഫലമൂലാദികളും തേനും മാത്രം ഭക്ഷിച്ച് കാട്ടില്‍ ക‍ഴിയാം- അയോധ്യാകാണ്ഡം 2-20-29″

സുന്ദരകാണ്ഡത്തില്‍ ഹനുമാന്‍ സീതയോടു പറയുന്നുണ്ട്,

“न मांसं राघवो भुङ्क्ते न चापि मधुसेवते |
वन्यं सुविहितं नित्यं भक्तमश्नाति पञ्चमम् || ५-३६-४१”.

മലയാള പരിഭാഷ ഇങ്ങിനെ,”രാമന്‍ ഇപ്പോള്‍ മാംസം ക‍ഴിക്കുന്നുമില്ല, ലഹരി ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നുമില്ല, വൈകുന്നേരങ്ങളില്‍ കാട്ടില്‍ നിന്ന് ലഭിക്കുന്ന സസ്യാഹാരങ്ങളാണ് രാമന്‍ ഭക്ഷിക്കുന്നത്, സുന്ദരകാണ്ഡം 5-36-41″

ആരണ്യകാണ്ഡത്തിലെ ഒരു ശ്ലോകം ഇങ്ങിനെ,

“निहत्य पृषतम् च अन्यम् मांसम् आदाय राघवः |
त्वरमाणो जनस्थानम् ससार अभिमुखः तदा || ३-४४-२७”.

മലയാളം പരിഭാഷ ഇങ്ങിനെ,”രാഘവന്‍ ഒരു മാനിനെ കൂടി കൊന്നു, അതിന്‍റെ ഇറച്ചിയുമെടുത്ത് ജനസ്ഥാനയിലേക്ക് പോയി, ആരണ്യകാണ്ഡം 3-44-27″, അതായത് വനവാസകാലത്തും രാമന്‍ മാംസം ഭക്ഷിച്ചിരുന്നുവെന്ന് വ്യക്തം.

വാത്മീകി രാമായണത്തെ പുതുക്കിപ്പണിഞ്ഞവരില്‍ ജൈന-ബുദ്ധമതങ്ങള്‍ ചെലുത്തിയ സ്വാധീനമാണ് രാമന്‍ സസ്യാഹാരിയാണെന്ന വിശദീകരണത്തിലേക്ക് എത്തിച്ചത്. രാമന്‍ മൃഗങ്ങളെ ബലി ക‍ഴിച്ചിരുന്നുവെന്നും മൃഗത്തോലു കൊണ്ടുണ്ടാക്കിയ വസ്ത്രം ധരിച്ചിരുന്നുവെന്നും വാത്മീകി രാമായണം വ്യക്തമാക്കുന്നുണ്ട്. രാമായണത്തില്‍ മാത്രമല്ല വേദങ്ങളിലും മാംസാഹാരം ഒരു ജനകീയ ശീലം ആയിരുന്നുവെന്ന് വ്യക്തമാക്കുന്നുണ്ട്.

മാംസാഹാരികള്‍ക്ക് നേരെ നടക്കുന്ന സംഘപരിവാര്‍ അക്രമം കരുതിക്കൂട്ടിയുള്ള വര്‍ഗീയ നീക്കങ്ങളാണെന്ന് വ്യക്തമാക്കുന്നതാണ് മുകളില്‍ വിവരിച്ചിരിക്കുന്ന ശ്ലോകങ്ങള്‍. രാമന്‍റെ പേരില്‍ നടക്കുന്ന അക്രമത്തെ രാമന്‍റെ ജീവിത കഥ സാധൂകരിക്കുന്നില്ല. താത്കാലിക രാഷ്ട്രീയ ലാഭങ്ങള്‍ക്കും മ്ലേച്ഛമായ വര്‍ഗീയ ചിന്തകള്‍ പരത്തുന്നതിനും മാത്രമാണ് ഇത്തരം അക്രമങ്ങള്‍. ജനാധിപത്യ ഇന്ത്യ ഒറ്റക്കെട്ടായി ഈ ഇരുട്ടു മനുഷ്യന്‍മാര്‍ക്കെതിരെ അണിനിരക്കേണ്ടിയിരിക്കുന്നു

Israel to announce major land appropriation in Jordan Valley

Israel to announce major land appropriation in Jordan Valley

Government to declare 370 acres near West Bank settlement south of Jericho as state land in largest such seizure since 2014

 January 20, 2016, 4:18 am 213
The Jordan Valley. (photo credit: CC BY Trocaire, Flickr)
The Jordan Valley. (photo credit: CC BY Trocaire, Flickr)

The Israeli government will announce the allocation of 370 acres of West Bank agricultural land near the Palestinian city of Jericho as state lands, the largest such land appropriation since August 2014.

The area, part of which has been worked in recent years by Israeli farmers, is situated north of the West Bank settlement of Almog, in the Jordan Valley, according to an Army Radio report on Tuesday. Additional details about the move were to be published Wednesday morning.

Israel has previously used an 1858 Ottoman law stating that land which lies fallow for several years could revert to government property as the legal basis for such moves.

The procedure was approved by Israeli government officials and was to receive final approval in the coming weeks, according to the report.

Map data ©2016 Google, Mapa GISrael, ORION-ME

The move comes amid heightened tensions with the European Union, which earlier this week said in a declaration that its agreements with Israel didn’t extend over the Green Line, angering Jerusalem.

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro also said Monday that Washington was “concerned and perplexed” by Israel’s settlement policy which he said raised “honest questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”

“This government and previous Israeli governments have repeatedly expressed support for a negotiated settlement that would involve mutual recognition and separation,” he said. “Yet separation will become more and more difficult” if Israel continues to expand settlements, Shapiro said.

The anticipated appropriation was expected to garner negative responses from the European Union, United States and Palestinian Authority, Army Radio reported.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry body serving as the Civil Administration in the West Bank, confirmed the report saying that the move was awaiting final approval, having already received the green light from senior officials and professional experts.

The last such move by the Israeli government, in August 2014, involved the appropriation of nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land near the site of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens months before. The Israeli army declared that there was no claim of Palestinian ownership on the land in question, but the action was roundly condemned by the US and European governments.

The head of Peace Now said at the time that it was the largest such confiscation of West Bank land by the Israeli government since the 1980s.

How a Nation of Tech Copycats Transformed Into a Hub for Innovation

How a Nation of Tech Copycats Transformed Into a Hub for Innovation | WIRED

HOW A NATION OF TECH COPYCATS TRANSFORMED INTO A HUB FOR INNOVATION Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon Ricoh’s Theta S Camera Captures CES in 360 Terrifying, Beautiful Degrees Misfit’s Wearables Hide Their Tech Behind Cool Minimalism SLIDE: 1 / OF 6 . Caption: Employees at rising mobile star Xiaomi take a break at their office in Beijing. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 2 / OF 6 . Caption: A worker at ecommerce giant Meituan. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 3 / OF 6 . Caption: Offices of livestreaming enterprise YY. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 4 / OF 6 . Caption: Zepp Labs employee testing hardware at the company’s office in Beijing. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 5 / OF 6 . Caption: Meituan office lobby. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 6 / OF 6 . Caption: Jerry Liu, CEO of ShenZhen YueJiang Technology, during an open house at a XinCheJian hackerspace. ZACHARY BAKO Advertisement Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon Ricoh’s Theta S Camera Captures CES in 360 Terrifying, Beautiful Degrees Misfit’s Wearables Hide Their Tech Behind Cool Minimalism SLIDE: 1 / OF 6 . Caption: Employees at rising mobile star Xiaomi take a break at their office in Beijing. ZACHARY BAKO THE YOUNG PROGRAMMER had an idea, and everyone thought it was nuts. Just out of college, he’d gotten a job writing software for YY, a livestreaming company based in the mas­sive city of Guangzhou, in China’s Pearl River Delta. More than 100 million users every month stream them­selves, or tune in to broadcasts of others, singing, playing video­games, or hosting talk shows from their Beijing apartments. The audience chats back, prolifically, via voice or text. The programmer thought YY should try something new: use its proven streaming technology to run a dating service, which would operate kind of like a TV dating show. A host would set up an online lounge, then invite in some lonely singles and coax them to ask each other questions and maybe find a partner. Company executives were dubious. “The CEO almost killed it,” says Eric Ho, chief financial officer, sitting in YY’s head­quarters, atop three floors of furiously coding engi­neers and designers. Are you sure you want to do this? the CEO asked the kid. This is very stupid. I don’t think people will like it! But the programmer was hungry and persistent, so they waved him on: Give it a try. The old attitude—keep your head down and stay safe—is vanishing, swept aside by the surge in prosperity. In China, this type of employee didn’t used to exist. Ten years ago, high tech observers complained that the nation didn’t have enough bold innovators. There were, of course, wildly profi­table high tech firms, but they rarely took creative risks and mostly just mimicked Silicon Valley: Baidu was a replica of Google, Tencent a copy of Yahoo, JD a version of Amazon. Young Chinese coders had programming chops that were second to none, but they lacked the drive of a Mark Zucker­berg or Steve Jobs. The West Coast mantra—fail fast, fail often, the better to find a hit product—seemed alien, even dangerous, to youths schooled in an educational system that focused on rote memorization and punished mistakes. Graduates craved jobs at big, solid firms. The goal was stability: Urban China had only recently emerged from decades of poverty, and much of the countryside was still waiting its turn to do so. Better to keep your head down and stay safe. That attitude is vanishing now. It’s been swept aside by a surge in prosperity, bringing with it a new level of confi­dence and boldness in the country’s young urban techies. In 2000, barely 4 percent of China was middle-class—meaning with an income ranging from $9,000 to $34,000—but by 2012 fully two-thirds had climbed into that bracket. In the same time frame, higher education soared sevenfold: 7 million graduated college this year. The result is a generation both creative and comfortable with risk-taking. “We’re seeing people in their early twenties starting companies—people just out of school, and there are even some dropouts,” says Kai-Fu Lee, a Chinese venture capitalist and veteran of Apple, Microsoft, and Google, who has spent the past decade crisscrossing the nation, helping youths start firms. Now major cities are crowded with ambitious inventors and entrepreneurs, flocking into software accelerators and hackerspaces. They no longer want jobs at Google or Apple; like their counterparts in San Francisco, they want to build the next Google or Apple. Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon SLIDE: 1 / OF 4 . Caption: YY programmer Mo Wengang, who pitched the idea of using the company’s streaming tech for a dating service. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 2 / OF 4 . Caption: YY employees line up for a mid-afternoon snack. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 3 / OF 4 . Caption: The offices of YY in Guangzhou. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 4 / OF 4 . Caption: The offices of YY in Guangzhou. ZACHARY BAKO Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon SLIDE: 1 / OF 4 . Caption: YY programmer Mo Wengang, who pitched the idea of using the company’s streaming tech for a dating service. ZACHARY BAKO Anyone with a promising idea and some experience can find money. Venture capitalists pumped a record $15.5 billion into Chinese startups last year, so entrepreneurs are being showered in funding, as well as crucial advice and mentoring from millionaire angels. (It’s still a fraction of the US venture capital pool from 2014, $48 billion.) Even the Chinese government—which has a wary attitude toward online expression and runs a vast digital censorship apparatus—has launched a $6.5 billion fund for startups. With the economy’s growth slowing after two decades of breakneck expansion, the party is worriedly seeking new sources of good jobs. Tech fits the bill. The new boom encompasses both online services and the hardware arena. Recent local-kid-makes-good models like Xiaomi, the fast-rising Beijing mobile phone firm, or WeChat, Tencent’s globe-conquering social networking app, are leading the way forward. Homegrown firms have distinct advantages, namely familiarity with local tastes, the ability to plug into a first-class manufacturing system built for Western companies, and proximity to the world’s fastest-growing markets in India and Southeast Asia. The combination of factors is putting them in a position to beat the West at its own game. Xiaomi, for example, was the fourth-highest seller of mobile phones worldwide last year, behind Samsung, Apple, and Huawei. As for YY, it turns out it was good that the executives indulged their enterprising programmer. The dating show launched last year and became a hit. It also generated serious profits. YY has no advertising; it earns revenue when users fork over real Chinese currency to buy virtual items they give as gifts to each other or to the “broadcasters” streaming their own lives online. YY takes a 60 percent cut of each purchase, with the recipient getting the rest as actual cash. (Popular broadcasters make so much money that they live off their YY earnings.) At a laptop on Ho’s table, I peer at the screen, where a dating event is livestreaming. Money is flying around as male and female guests give each other—and the host—virtual presents: rings (worth $1.55), kisses (16 cents), and love letters (5 cents). Some items are pricier yet; for about $1,000, you can buy someone a virtual Lamborghini. In its first nine months, YY’s dating show brought in about $16 million, a sum growing rapidly every month. Last year YY itself brought in $580 million, and three years after going public on the Nasdaq, its market cap tops $3 billion, even after the market gyrations of 2015. The next Silicon Valley has emerged—and it’s in the East. CHINA’S TECH BOOM in the late ’90s produced its own Web 1.0: search engines, email and blogging tools, news portals, and Alibaba’s sprawling online sales market. Back then, China very much needed local copies of US companies, because US firms often couldn’t operate easily in China. The government blocked many foreign sites by using a complex system of filters known as the Great Firewall of China. Local firms had an edge anyway: They understood the particular demands of the Chinese digerati in the early ’00s, when Internet access was still scanty. Ten years ago, for example, eBay tried to dominate in China but failed, partly because many small businesses—the places that might otherwise have used eBay to sell their products to the world—didn’t yet have computers or a connection to the Internet. At Alibaba, however, founder Jack Ma understood this, so he assembled a huge sales force that fanned out across the country, teaching merchants how to get wired. (He also outcompeted eBay’s PayPal with Alipay, which holds a buyer’s payment in escrow until they receive their goods and pronounce themselves happy with the purchase; this helped build trust in online markets.) Riding that first crest, firms like Baidu and Alibaba became the “big dragons” of Chinese high tech, minting millionaires much as Microsoft had in the ’90s. The success of copycat firms paved the way for “little dragons”—creative, upstart Web 2.0 firms that emerged in the late ’00s. The big dragons provided role models, but even more significantly, they built the infrastructure crucial for today’s high tech boom, including the cloud services that allow any twentysomething to launch a business overnight and immediately start billing customers. One of the most successful in this second wave is Meituan, a firm that has become an ecommerce giant by enabling small merchants across the country to broadcast deals to nearby shoppers who have opted in, on the web and within Meituan’s mobile app. When I visit the Beijing headquarters, it looks like a tropical forest: There are leafy green plants plunked down between each workstation, while humidifiers puff clouds of moist air upward. It’s nearly silent, but there’s a lot of money flowing through the office. Suspended above dozens of coders is an LCD the size of a table for four that reads “8,309”: the number of deals Meituan has broadcast so far today. The firm’s revenue has skyrocketed in its five years of operation; in 2014 it processed more than $7 billion in deals for its 900,000 partners. It’s aiming to reach $18.5 billion by the end of this year. China’s techies don’t want jobs at Apple or Google—they want to build the next Apple or Google. Meituan’s CEO, the slender and soft-spoken Wang Xing, is a serial entrepreneur who tracks the emerging creative shift in Chinese startups. He had already made Chinese clones of Facebook and Twitter when, in 2008, he noticed the rise of Groupon. “There’s no doubt that we got influenced by Groupon,” he admits. But by then he was seasoned enough to spot the flaws in the discounter’s business model. Groupon took a big cut—up to 50 percent—of the revenue from each deal, which left participating merchants bitter. They’d routinely lose money by issuing Groupon deals, so they’d grit their teeth and hope it would attract new permanent customers; usually it didn’t. Wang, in contrast, wanted to make Meituan the easiest way for small merchants to charge their customers and stay in contact with them. Setting Meituan’s cut at only 5 percent ensured that merchants nearly always made money. He also began developing proprietary ecommerce tech. Wang whips out his phone to show me a recent example. His programmers fanned out to movie theater chains across the country, laboriously connecting Meituan’s app to their booking systems. It was a hassle, but now moviegoers can not only buy a ticket from the Meituan app, they can pick their seats. Wang clicks on The Hobbit to show me. “When you go to the theater you don’t have to wait in line and talk to any people—you can just go to a vending machine and scan your passcode” to get in, he says. It’s slick and simple, and now one-third of all movie tickets in China are bought via Meituan. Last year it was 10 percent of the firm’s annual income. Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon SLIDE: 1 / OF 4 . Caption: Zepp Labs’ cofounder Robin Han at the company’s offices in Beijing. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 2 / OF 4 . Caption: Zepp Labs’ cofounder Xiaowei Dai uses the company’s tech to capture his golf swing. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 3 / OF 4 . Caption: Hardware startup Zepp Labs in Beijing. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 4 / OF 4 . Caption: A Zepp Labs employee tests hardware. ZACHARY BAKO Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon SLIDE: 1 / OF 4 . Caption: Zepp Labs’ cofounder Robin Han at the company’s offices in Beijing. ZACHARY BAKO It’s an adroit move, because service—and convenience—is what China’s urban middle class increasingly craves. Sporting high-end mobiles and elite fashion from Europe, they pull out their phones for nearly every purpose: using Alipay to cover a cab ride to a DJ’d party in the artistic outskirts of Beijing; opening WeChat and using its location-sharing function so their friends can find them; posting selfies on Meitu, a picture-sharing service with built-in beautifying filters. The service economy commanded 44 percent of all money spent by the Chinese middle class in 2013, a figure that consulting firm McKinsey expects will grow to 50 percent by 2022, as young urbanites splurge via their phones on everything from massages to takeout food, hairstyling, and nail salons. Even the market meltdown of this year doesn’t seem to have dented middle-class consumption: During China’s travel-focused Golden Week national holiday in October, box office sales were up 70 percent over the previous year, and overseas trips were up 36.6 percent, according to Bank of America-Merrill Lynch analysts. Ecommerce, already big in China, has an astonishing amount yet to grow—a tremendous number of everyday services are not yet online. For example, 80 percent of China’s hotel rooms are still booked offline. And people are eager for ecommerce not just because it’s convenient, but because it’s much less corrupt and opaque than brick-and-mortar businesses. As Kai-Fu Lee points out, the latter are, by American standards, riddled with inefficiencies and hucksterism. “In the US, hundreds of years of fair competition made commerce relatively fair and transparent,” he says. Not so in China. “If you were to sell real estate, there is no transparency. If you buy a used car, there is no Consumer Reports or Ralph Nader.” By removing middlemen and creating reputation systems, ecommerce firms are making transactions more transparent and trustworthy, he argues. “So a mobile social-based solution will be dramatically better,” Lee says. Corruption is just one of the many challenges China faces. The country’s leaders and investors also contend with nontransparent banks, government regulators on the take, rampant pollution, fierce crackdowns on political speech, and a rural population yearning for better jobs in the cities. It’s not clear whether the party can solve all these messy problems. In the short run, though, the high tech gold rush has produced manic and fierce competition. Whenever a new category opens up, it’s immediately swarmed upon by dozens or even hundreds of entrepreneurs. By comparison, competition in the US is mild; for example, there are only two major firms—Uber and Lyft—duking it out for car bookings. But Lee estimates that in its early days, Meituan had to fight 3,000 competitors dotted across the country. Whoever is left standing is battle-hardened. That’s Wang now. Halfway between the old guard and the new, he has become an angel investor himself, on the lookout for youngsters with daring ideas: the next little dragons. One company he’s investing in is eDaijia, which, rather hilariously, lets car owners find someone to drive their vehicle home when they’re drunk. “They are totally dominant in China, and last year they went to Seoul,” he laughs, “because, they told me, that’s the most drunk city in the world.” CHINA’S CREATIVE BOOM in web services is significant enough, but arguably it has an even bigger edge over the US in hardware. The country has spent 30 years becoming the manufacturing capital of the world, so coastal cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou are now crammed with electronics facilities, from tiny three-person shops to Foxconn’s 30,000-employee city-factory complexes cranking out iPhones. All have a deep knowledge of how to make things, so it was almost inevitable that homegrown entrepreneurs would get in on the act. Living next to the factories or being able to stroll the electronics markets, they’re the first to know when trends in hardware emerge: for example, when a cutting-edge sensor arrives that lets you collect new forms of data—or when the cost of an existing one suddenly drops to a penny, allowing it to be sprinkled anywhere, like dust. The high tech gold rush has produced manic and fierce competition among the swarms of entrepreneurs. “It’s easier in China than in other places,” Robin Han says, “because we have Shenzhen.” Han is the 32-year-old cofounder of Zepp Labs, a Beijing-based hardware startup that is the darling of the sports world: It makes a square sensor that tracks your swing—of a golf club, a baseball bat, a tennis racket—then uses an iPhone app to help you improve. Han got the entrepreneurial itch five years ago as a PhD student working in Microsoft’s Beijing research office. Big-company life might be stable, but you could toil for years on a project that might never become a real product. Success was out of your control, he tells me, sitting in the brightly lit Zepp office, where, behind him, two dozen coders and designers pilot keyboards. Han had noticed gyroscopes being used in HTC and HP phones as well as Nintendo Wii remotes and figured they would go down in price as big companies continued to include them in their products. That had potential. He and a friend, Peter Ye (now Zepp’s head of R&D), loved sports and hit on the idea for a swing sensor. Players could analyze their motions or compare them to those of professionals; coaches could scrutinize an entire team’s practice swings, even remotely. Han and Ye started with golf. They figured duffers would be willing to spend money on a sensor that promised to improve their game. They lead me to the basement, where they have constructed a huge batting-and-golfing cage. “We spent a lot of hours in here perfecting the sensors and working on our swings,” Han says. The walls are studded with marks from errant balls. Their prototype worked so well it attracted the attention of an Apple rep who was touring China, looking for products for the Apple Store. Satisfying Apple’s precise aesthetics required them to slowly refine the design through 14 prototypes, but it paid off: Since the Zepp sensor launched in Apple Stores worldwide in 2012, Zepp has activated more than 300,000 of them. Han and Ye got Zepp Labs off the ground with $1.5 million in seed money from angel investor Xiao Wang and worked their contacts to find a good factory to help prototype and mass-produce their device. That last step—finding a talented, Foxconn-class factory that has deep experience in elegantly solving design challenges—has traditionally been the hard part of getting things made in China. But in recent years, that’s gotten easier too. A set of middlemen has emerged specifically to help bridge that gap, including Highway 1, a program by the manufacturing giant PCH: It picks gadget inventors from around the world and finds topflight factories willing to take a risk manufacturing a product by an unknown new talent. There’s also been a hackerspace movement in China. The first one—Shanghai’s XinCheJian—was cofounded in 2010 by Chinese Internet entrepreneur David Li, when he noticed how cheap prototyping tools were allowing kitchen-table inventors to produce increasingly slick prototypes. Now local creators from across China mix with expatriates who flock to XinCheJian from around the world, brainstorming ideas with each other and going on tours of factories organized by Li to help them understand how China’s hardware ecosystem works. Much like a gym, members pay monthly fees to XinCheJian, which gives them access to the hackerspace’s tools and, just as important, advice and networking from fellow inventors. “I always encourage people: Get to your prototype fast, try to find manufacturing partners, and get your Kickstarter campaign finished,” Li tells me, sitting at the hackerspace’s main table, in front of a fridge emblazoned with a sticker that reads DO EPIC SHIT. The rooms behind him are filled with metal lathes, electric tools, and rows of 3-D printers. One successful product that recently emerged from XinCheJian is Wearhaus headphones, which enable one person to stream music from their phone while friends listen in, letting them privately enjoy the same music while, say, coworking or studying. The first run of 3,000 headphones sold out, and now a larger run is in the pipeline. THE ACME OF China’s innovation boom can be found in four office towers that loom over a sprawl of condos in the suburbs of Beijing. These are the headquarters of Xiaomi. Founded in 2010, the company has become famous for making mobile phones comparable to the iPhone—fast processors, large screens, and a sleek operating system called MIUI—but at half the cost. It may be even more famous for its chiefly online sales model and explosive growth. Xiaomi sold 61 million phones last year, and for part of 2015 it was the top-selling mobile brand in China. Though it’s still private, last year investors said it was worth $45 billion. Xiaomi was founded by a serial entrepreneur who got a chance to make his early mistakes—and fortune—10 years ago: CEO Lei Jun founded the online bookseller Joyo, which he later sold to Amazon. He quickly became an angel investor, pouring money into the next generation of innovators, like YY, and making connections with the country’s brightest young designers and engineers. By 2010, a new vision had taken hold: to build an operating system and a new business model for selling mobile phones. Lei formed Xiaomi and hired a team of crack talent to quickly produce a gorgeous mobile phone OS and put it online in August of that year. China’s techies loved it. But only the most nerdy were willing to endure the hassle of downloading an OS to their existing phones. If Xiaomi wanted to get the system into the hands of millions, it would need to make—and sell—handsets. Foxconn became one of Xiaomi’s primary manufacturers. Meanwhile, the startup hit upon a hugely effective sales system. Each new model would initially be sold in a limited quantity—perhaps 50,000—via a weekly flash sale on its website. The exclusivity drove fans wild. The lucky few who scored phones would flaunt them to their envious hipster friends—and later, Xiaomi would open up a larger run to satisfy pent-up demand. Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon SLIDE: 1 / OF 5 . Caption: David Li, cofounder of hackerspace XinCheJian. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 2 / OF 5 . Caption: XinCheJian’s first 3-D printer, an open-source machine called Printrbot. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 3 / OF 5 . Caption: A vintage oscilloscope at XinCheJian in Shanghai. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 4 / OF 5 . Caption: The SofaBike at XinCheJian. ZACHARY BAKO SLIDE: 5 / OF 5 . Caption: Every Wedneday evening, XinCheJian hosts an open house where makers present their ideas to the public. ZACHARY BAKO Related Galleries How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car Space Photos of the Week: A Supermassive Black Hole Burps The Best Photos of CES 2016: Drones, VR, and … a Pigeon SLIDE: 1 / OF 5 . Caption: David Li, cofounder of hackerspace XinCheJian. ZACHARY BAKO Xiaomi’s office is brightly lit and decorated with huge paintings. A mutt that workers adopted off the street sleeps in his doghouse on the first floor. One flight up, a sprawling room is filled with customer-service reps chattering into phones, attempting to solve users’ issues around the world. Though China is Xiaomi’s largest market, in 2013 the firm hired Hugo Barra, previously Google’s product manager for Android, to oversee global expansion. “These are phones for the generation that will never have access to a computer,” Barra says. “They’re discovering the Internet from their phones.” Xiaomi’s edge, he says, is that it continuously produces new upgrades. “We build hardware, but we take a very software way of doing it. We do a software update every week!” These updates often incorporate the voluminous feedback that Xiaomi gets from its deeply involved fans: A single post by Xiaomi’s team on the company’s customer forums can receive 100,000 replies discussing the latest tweak to the operating system. Indeed, Xiaomi’s willingness to talk online with its customers has been a key part of both understanding the demands of young consumers and cultivating their manic devotion. Xiaomi sells its phones at close to cost; much of the company’s revenue comes from its line of accessories, like headphones and step-tracker wristbands, as well as from app store purchases of things like new OS skins. The hope is that eventually even more revenue will come from the many ecommerce transactions that Xiaomi owners will engage in, buying everything from meals to plane tickets to clothing. But to see the company’s broader vision for the future, you need to head downstairs to a spare and elegant showroom. It’s filled with Internet of Things devices that the company is bringing to market, all of which can be operated remotely via the mobile OS. There’s a smart lightbulb, a connected webcam, a bathroom scale, a TV, a power strip—and an air purifier, a crucial appliance for the Chinese, who must contend with the country’s out-of-control air pollution. Once you buy one product, you’ll very quickly buy the others, because they all work so well together, Barra boasts. “The game in China is building walled gardens and getting them to stay in your garden.” Xiaomi didn’t design and manufacture this hardware itself. The executives went on a hunt for the country’s hungriest cutting-edge startups, then invested in them and demanded they produce Apple-quality design. It is astonishing to see the ecosystem laid out. It makes Google’s toe-dip into the Internet of Things—its Nest smart thermostat and security camera—look several years behind the curve. Western entrepreneurs now flock to hardware and software accelerators in China’s coastal cities. China’s creative generation, in other words, has proven it is ready to compete head-on with the world’s top high tech brands. “Apple and Samsung are right to be worried,” says Bunnie Huang, a well-known hardware hacker. (Indeed, Samsung’s global share of the smartphone market dropped to 21.4 percent in the second quarter of 2015, from 32.2 percent in the same period of 2012.) When it comes to hardware, Chinese inventors benefit from proximity to the world’s largest base of consumers, which is growing fast. Xiaomi’s first major foreign expansion wasn’t to the US but to the much huger—if poorer—India, where it sold 1 million phones in the third quarter of this year. Sew up China and India, it realized, and that’s a third of the planet. In context, the US, where many consumers already own smartphones, isn’t a particularly big market. Yet while Chinese firms like Xiaomi are challenging the big tech firms, the flow of opportunity goes both ways: It’s getting easier and easier for Western entrepreneurs to go work in China. They now regularly flock to hardware and software accelerators in the coastal cities so they can meet local collaborators or find factories. One French woman arrived in Shanghai last year to team up with Chinese coders and create an online market for French wine, targeting the chic restaurants where urbanites dine. Young American inventors congregate at H@xlr8r in Shenzhen, where they prototype everything from retro animated-GIF cameras to customized-pill-creation robots. China is essentially becoming a mecca, a destination for people with ideas—much as Silicon Valley did a generation ago. RELATED STORIES CADE METZ China’s Alibaba Just Beat the US in a Global Machine Battle ISSIE LAPOWSKY Techies Are Trying to Get Chinese Consumers to Rack Up Debt ANDREW CURRY Building a New Silicon Valley in a Post-Soviet Dictatorship I saw that one day toward the end of my visit. I dropped by David Li’s XinCheJian hackerspace, where Li was meeting with a startup team he’d been mentoring, including a Dutch-Italian man named Lionello Lunesu, who has lived in China for eight years, and a Latino man named Berni War. They were looking over their latest prototype, which had been sent by courier from a nearby factory. It was a little device that gives you alerts from your computer or phone, almost like an Apple Watch that sits on your desk instead of on your wrist. “For David, we’re not going nearly fast enough,” Lunesu says. Li picked up the gadget and stroked its sleek white sides. “That’s the same plastic they use for the iPhone 5c,” he says. The entrepreneurs grin. A lot of this opportunity is not available in the US. That’s why they’re here. Contributing editor CLIVE THOMPSON (@pomeranian99) is the author of Smarter Than You Think. Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.