Saturday, July 31, 2010

A NATION IN MOURNING

A one-day national mourning was observed yesterday (Thusrday, July 29) after a private airline’s plane crashed in the Margalla Hills on Wednesday morning. There were 152 people on board, including the crew. Unfortunately, no one survived. This has been the biggest aviation tragedy in Pakistan’s history. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost their loved ones in the crash. The whole nation mourns their loss and feels their pain.

According to some reports, the bad weather conditions and poor visibility could have been the reason for the crash. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the pilot was given directions to land. “The plane was at 2,600 feet before landing but suddenly it went to 3,000 feet, which was unexplained,” he said. Why the pilot chose to abort the landing and instead kept circling around and then going off towards the no-fly zone is something that cannot be explained without a proper investigation. The real reasons for the plane crash will not be known for sure until the black box is recovered. Initially there were reports that the black box had been found but apparently it was a “box-like something”. This indicates that it would be better if everyone exercises restraint rather than indulge in speculation until the inquiry is complete, as it would only lead to further confusion.

The media’s role needs to be looked at critically. In a race for ratings, we saw new lows in the way the electronic media covered the tragic event. There were reporters who boasted of removing ID cards from the dead passengers’ bodies, which in itself is a criminal act because only the authorities in charge of the rescue operation can remove anything from the scene. Not only was it criminal but downright unethical on the part of these journalists. They had no business removing things from the site. The way some channels had an animation of a crashing plane was disgusting to say the least. It seemed as if there was no editorial control over the way reporters went up to the families of the victims for a sound-byte. The bereaved families were already going through a tough time not knowing if their loved ones were alive or not after the interior minister and some media channels talked about ‘survivors’. It was extremely irresponsible of the government officials to give false hope to the families. In other countries when a tragedy like this occurs, we see how measured, cautious and responsible the remarks of officials are.

Another thing that was missing was the response of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Granted that even if we had the best disaster management system in place, the hilly and wooded terrain made it an inherently difficult operation, especially with the rain and bad light, but the response was not what it should have been. Be it the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the private airline or the government, the culture of mismanagement was evident everywhere.

One thing that we saw was how good the people’s response was towards the tragedy: that of helping their fellow human beings. Many volunteers helped the rescue workers even though it was very difficult to reach the area. But the concerned authorities need to revamp their systems and learn from their mistakes and inadequacies. Declaring a national mourning day is merely tokenism and not enough unless we learn from experience and always be prepared for a calamity, natural or otherwise.

Courtesy DAILY TIMES
July 30, 2010

ANY SOP'S FOR AIR SAFETY OR DISASTER MANAGEMENT?

The tragic air crash that consumed 152 precious lives has not only exposed the incompetence of the management gurus of the federal capital, disaster management and civil defence, but also highlighted, yet another time, the lack of coordination amongst the federal cabinet members, which only helped increase the chaos and miseries of the families looking for information about their loved ones.

Sitting in a chamber of parliament, our seniors at the Senate were in a state of grief, but equally dismayed at the poor performance of the cabinet members, the Capital Development Authority administration as well as the National Disaster Management Authority. Those, even from the People’s Party, agreed at the government’s apathy and the non-existence of any standard operating procedure (SOP) to block any unwanted flying object, not only in the no-fly zone of Islamabad, but also over the Diplomatic Enclave, the Presidency, the Prime Minister’s House, the Parliament House and, of course, the Supreme Court building. Why this flight was not interrupted the moment it entered the highly-sensitive area and has anyone cared about this at all or not, asked one of the seasoned senators from Punjab.

Just as nobody would ever know the cause of this crash, nobody would be bothered to find out that a pilot in his mid-60s, reportedly fasting and up all night for the Shab-e-Baraat, was allowed by AirBlue to fly with 152 people onboard, said a senator from Karachi. A knowledgeable former pilot sitting amidst the senators informed them that rumours were flying around that the pilot panicked when he was informed about violation of the no-fly zone and he might have committed the deadly mistake that cost him his life. The senators, however, were more interested in talking about the gaffes of the federal cabinet members throughout the incident-day. If it was Interior Malik, who pushed everyone to break the barriers, both at the crash site and at PIMS after announcing on one of the TV networks that six survivors have been rescued, then it was our Info-Champ Kaira who announced that the black box had been found, they said.

Another said if Interior Malik was announcing to probe any possibility of terrorism or sabotage, then a look-busy-do-nothing sort of Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar refused to consider this as sabotage. This perhaps enraged a senator from Karachi, who said that Mukhtar should better focus on his sons’ adventures in the US, which include, but are not limited to, gateway tele-exchanges, instead of venturing into ministry affairs, which in anyway are run by someone else and not by him.

Ironically, the situation was not that different on the administrative front, where seven various rescues agencies were occupying the Margalla Hills without even any clue as to how to drop their ill-prepared, ill-trained and ill-equipped rescue staff to the crash site. Had it not been for PAF choppers and the aviation rescue units of the army, it would have taken them a day to reach the spot, confided a reliable mole within the CDA.

The Capital Development Authority, which is supposed to look after and ensure the smooth functioning and planning of the city, proved again that they can best be used to find out plots for bureaucrats, politicians, judges, journalists, DMG batch mates or exhaust their budget on buying cheap land at higher rates from middle-men of the Oceanic town-cons, but when asked to provide rescue services, were found lacking. As per CDA Chairman Imtiaz Elahi, he had deputed over 500 people for rescue operations, but in shalwar kameez, with no fire-fighting gear, climbing kits or even proper rain-boots, adding that they were only combing the bushes and looting the remains of the ill-fated victims.

How much each of them and many other civilian rescuers have plundered is anyone’s guess, confided one of the rescue workers, who managed to get hold of only a Rado watch from one of the limbs, 150 metres away from the crash site. Does Imtiaz Elahi know about this? One can only hope for a better answer from him, if he is free from administrative and financial juggling. Nevertheless, we heard just a few days back that the salary bill of the Capital Development Authority has jumped from Rs 7 billion to over Rs 9 billion, out of the total budget of Rs 28 billion. Yet, we continue to hear stories of undue promotions of officers and placements of junior officials at higher positions on the basis of their ‘exemplary work’. Instead of asking for training and fire-brigade stations/equipment, we continue to hear that the wife of an officer is using a newly-bought Prado of the CDA or official vehicles meant for staff usage are being used for pick and drop services to officers’ wives from beauty parlours or their children from the best private schools around.Then there was Gen Nadeem from the much-hyped-about National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), whose agency continued to flip-flop throughout the crash-day by giving misleading figures – and figures were all they remained restricted to. As one senator friend reminded us that how could we forget the ‘good work’ of the NDMA during Cyclone Phet, which was highlighted in the previous session of the Senate when a number of senators spoke on the plight of the people living in the coastal areas of Balochistan, which have been battered by the cyclone.

Records show that senators Kalsoom Parveen, Rehana Yahya, Hasil Bizenjo and Sabir Baloch raised their voices about the issue, as they claimed that more than 2500 Cyclone Phet-affected people were living under open skies in more than 40 coastal villages of Gwadar, Ormara, Sonmiani and Pasni and the NDMA had failed to reach them.

So it is better to leave them to deal with the donors, digitised presentations and building grand bungalows in posh localities of the city, added a Baloch senator. About the district administration of Islamabad and civil defence, it’s better to leave them for some other time.
Courtesy Saeed Minhas
Daily Times, July 30,2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

THE 'NOT SO' LESSER HALF

By Andleeb Abbas

A working woman carries a negative perception in society, especially if she is a businesswoman. Parents feel that her chances of attracting a good marital prospect go down because she is not perceived as good material for focusing on the house and family

The privilege, or peril, of being a woman depends not only on the culture in which you live, but also the beliefs that you have nurtured within. Women are equal to men in rights but unequal to men in approach and abilities. That does not mean there is a superiority contest but simply a difference of strengths, which is actually complementary rather than supplementary.

Any country, especially a developing country, needs contribution by both men and women to really emerge out of the status of the nations not really there. In this context Pakistan has a lot to make up for. The Economic Intelligence Unit, which publishes an annual report on the women’s economic opportunity index, has placed Pakistan at 108 out of a total of 113 countries. As usual, all other South Asian countries are better placed than Pakistan with India at 84 and Bangladesh at 104.

One of the basic reasons is access to education. Education improves a woman’s prospects of finding employment or initiating a business venture. Even in this category, i.e. of education and training, women in Pakistan stand at 23rd place compared to India at 11 and Sri Lanka at 18. Mere numbers are also not true representatives of the real story behind the non-contribution of this sector. The type of education and the attitude towards the purpose of education and training, both in the rural and urban areas, also strongly determines whether this facility will actually activate women in the country to become a productive part of the workforce or not.

However, having a more educated populace is not a guarantee of more female participation in the economy. Many studies have proved that poor people are unwilling to invest in female education because the return on this investment is not very fruitful. Poverty is a factor that does affect the decision of sending children to school but those who send their daughters to charity schools often complain about the discouraging environment of these schools and the unproductive learning in them. Most poor parents feel that sending their daughters to school actually has an unsettling effect on them not only financially but psychologically as well. They are sent to school instead of working at home or in the fields and, thus, there is an opportunity cost. The education they get rarely enhances their chances of earning better and instead creates frustration as they find themselves to be misfits in their homes and culture. Thus the unrest created by the awareness of a better world but the inability and lack of opportunity to get to that better world make parents feel that perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

Here it is important to distinguish between the formal and informal employment market. The females of the rural areas may not be doing a formally documented and structured job but many of them are taking care of the cattle at home or working in the fields to support their families. Even in the cities, the poor family female is employed in households carrying out mostly menial chores. Most of the time, you may find that the male members are unemployed while their female counterparts are constantly working. Another strange phenomenon is that, in cities, where the education levels are much higher, the corresponding levels of female employment and entrepreneurship are very low. The proportion of females going for higher education has been increasing. In professional fields like medicine and business, increasingly we see female enrolment going up, but does this registration enhancement actually translate into a practical productive workforce increase is a question that ends up with a negative answer. What are the reasons for this discrepancy amongst professional studies and practical economic participation? Many studies have pointed out that cultural factors are hindering female employment or entrepreneurship opportunities. A working woman carries a negative perception in society, especially if she is a businesswoman. Parents feel that her chances of attracting a good marital prospect go down because she is not perceived as good material for focusing on the house and family. This perception is also fuelled by the fact that a male chauvinistic culture still persists where an aware and independent woman is seen as a challenge to male superiority and is thus shunned in preference for the meek and demure damsel in distress who is totally dependent on the whims and fancies of the in-laws and husband.

Despite these cultural and economic constraints, one party responsible for the low economic participation is females themselves. The prevailing mindset of many of our educated and blessed females is still of waiting for things to happen rather than making them happen. It is astonishing how girls outshine boys in medicine, in business, and in media studies. But it is equally astonishing how few of them are ready to go through the rigour of the discipline or struggle required to make it in practical life. Most of them blame the environment but they are to be blamed themselves as well. They want to be given equal status with their male counterparts but, when it comes to workloads and timings, they want to be given preferential treatment. Many of those who are working do not have a serious career-oriented approach. Either work is a good pastime or just an economic necessity. The ability to look at work as an ingrained opportunity to learn, develop, earn and discover one’s passion is very rare, with the result that many of them end up conjuring excuses for their preference of not having the courage and conviction to balance life both at home and in the office.

In most emerging countries like India and China, women contribute substantially to the economy. We, as a country, must own up that we have not provided enough opportunities for our women to really educate themselves and become more productive. We, as a culture, must own up that we are not ready to accept women in the non-traditional role of an independent decision maker. We, as women, must own up that we have not broken free of our mental shackles and made an honest effort to really contribute meaningfully. By owning up and acting on these three imperatives we can definitely challenge the best in the world.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at andleeb@franklincoveysouthasia.com
Courtesy DAILY TIMES July 25, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

OBSESSION FOR BIG CATS

Scientists find cheetahs and jaguars attracted to Calvin Klein fragrance

Big game cats like lions or tigers are attracted to Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men more than any other fragrance, scientists have found.

Researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronz Zoo in New York experimented with a range of different fragrances and how two cheetahs reacted to them.

To their surprise, the cats spent more than 11 minutes sniffing and nuzzling up to a tree sprayed with Obsession for Men.

The perfume's effect on big cats is so potent that it is even used in the field by conservationists.

One program director in Guatemala has been using the perfume since 2007 to to try and determine the jaguar's population in the jungle.

Roan Balas McNab who works in a a protected tropical forest uses the perfume's unique properties to keep jaguars still enough so that he can take images of them using motion-sensitive cameras.

'But this technique is only effective if animals pass through the cameras' detection range and we get adequate photos,' Mr. McNab told the Wall Street Journal.

After hearing about its potency, his team tried spraying the perfume onto a rag tied to a stake in the ground.

To their amazement three times as many jaguars walked by and those that did lingered nearby making them far easier to identify.

The use of Obsession has even led to the researchers being able to capture footage of jaguar's mating rituals, something that had been rarely seen before the perfume was used.

'We're just starting to get an idea of how jaguars behave in their habitat,' Mr. McNab says. 'Before we used Obsession for Men we weren't able to get these images at all.'

Obsession for Men launched in 1986, just as the Calvin Klein brand was pushing the boundaries of sexuality in advertising. Early ads typically featured nude models and little else.

Ann Gottlieb, one of the creators of Obsession for Men's distinctive cat-friendly scent says the scent had synthetic 'animal' notes.

'It's a combination of this lickable vanilla heart married to this fresh green top note—it creates tension,' she told the paper. 'It sparks curiosity with humans and, apparently, animals.'

One of the main problems for scientists is being able to source enough of Obsession for Men as it is hard to find in shops near where much of the research is carried out.
COURTESY MAIL

SMILING INCREASES YOUR HAPPINESS: STUDY

If you have undergone a Botox treatment, you should smile more often to feel happier, suggests a new research.

Botox, used to fight facial wrinkles, is made of an extremely toxic protein called Botulinum toxin that temporarily paralyses the muscles that cause creases. So, your face looks frozen if you don’t have facial expressions at all.

Now the lack of facial expressions may influence emotional experiences as well, the research found. Which means, that being unable to smile when you are happy feeds back to the brain reducing the intensity of feeling.

"With Botox, a person can respond otherwise normally to an emotional event, [such as] a sad movie scene, but will have less movement in the facial muscles that have been injected, and therefore less feedback to the brain about such facial expressivity," The Telegraph quoted researcher Joshua Davis, a psychologist at Barnard College in New York, as saying.

In a before-and-after experiment, researchers noted the facial expressions and emotional experiences of some patients who were injected with Botox and found that they exhibited an overall significant decrease in the strength of emotional experience.
AGENCIES

YAWNING- 'A SIGN OF SEXUAL ATTRACTION'

The next time you yawn in front of others, be a bit careful, for a new study says that yawning is a sign of sexual attraction rather than a desire to sleep.

Scientists have claimed at the first International Conference on Yawning held in Paris that the act can actually demonstrate a range of emotions, including interest, stress and even wanting to have sex. However, they are not yet able to differentiate between a yawn that signifies erotic arousal and simply the need to catch some sleep, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Much about yawning remains a mystery, despite the fact that the average person yawns 240,000 times in a lifetime. Scientists still don't know exactly why we do it but - though it is certain that the favourite theory that it provides extra oxygen to the brain is completely wrong.

Wolter Seuntjens, a Dutch academic who is a pioneer in chasmology (the science of yawn studies) was quoted as saying, "We can send a man to the Moon but we cannot explain this most trivial of acts."


The concept of the erotic yawn was created after Seuntjens noted that many sexologists were consulted by people who yawned during sex or foreplay.
Courtesy PTI