United States’ first female Muslim judge found dead in Hudson River

A groundbreaking black jurist who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge was found dead in New York’s Hudson River on April 12, police said.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court, was found floating off Manhattan’s west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (3:45 p.m. GMT), a police spokesman said.

14judge-master768Police pulled Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

 Her family identified her and an autopsy would determine the cause of death, the spokesman said.

On Wednesday, after responding to an emergency call, officers with the New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit found the body of Judge Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on New York State’s highest court, in the Hudson River in Harlem with no apparent signs of trauma and no indications of foul play. The police are treating her death as a suicide, although an investigation is continuing.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass.” He added, “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

Abdus-Salaam graduated from Barnard College and received her law degree from Columbia Law School. She became a public defender in Brooklyn after law school, the New York Times said, representing people who could not afford lawyers.

In one of her first cases, she won an anti-discrimination suit for more than 30 female New York City bus drivers who had been denied promotions.

Well, let’s hear from the USA. The whole world is waiting to hear your story, guys!

“The President of the Universe holds no real power. His sole purpose is to take attention away from where the power truly exists…”

Once again, hats off to Douglas Adams. He saw it all!

“But it was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of culmination of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the Heart of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was also a great day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a decision which had sent waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy – Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President? Many had seen it as a clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

Zaphod grinned and gave the boat an extra kick of speed.

Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippy, good timer, (crook? quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch.

President?
 No one had gone bananas, not in that way at least.
 Only six people in the entire Galaxy understood the principle on which the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a fait accompli: he was the ideal Presidency fodder.

There was a mood of immense excitement thrilling through all of them. Together and between them they had gone to and beyond the furthest limits of physical laws, restructured the fundamental fabric of matter, strained, twisted and broken the laws of possibility and impossibility, but still the greatest excitement of all seemed to be to meet a man with an orange sash round his neck. (An orange sash was what the
President of the Galaxy traditionally wore.) It might not even have made much difference to them if they’d known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy actually wielded: none at all. Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.

Zaphod Beeblebrox was amazingly good at his job.”

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Chapter 4

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (Part 2)

I’m not a hundred percent sure who said it first – Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli or the first Duke of Wellington. Whoever it was, they drew our attention to the sad truth that “facts and figures” can be manipulated, distorted and misinterpreted to prove just about anything.

I want to share three items I came across recently, all circulated by people with Turkish names, but seeking to present Turkey in an unfavourable light. Two of them were posted on the business network LinkedIn, and the other, in our local English language news site, Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey & ChinaThe first item is a graph purporting to compare the “productivity” of Turkey and China over a 25-year period. The two countries were, allegedly, neck-and-neck in 1990. By 2014, China’s “productivity” had grown exponentially to ten times that of Turkey, which had clearly languished in a state of economic inertia.

Well, several questions arose in my mind as I studied the graph. First, what was the source? No sign of that, and the gentleman who posted it online was unable to provide an answer. Second, given that China’s population is twenty times that of Turkey, is it fair to compare their economies in absolute terms, rather than, say per capita GNP? Moreover, is it likely that their “productivity” was equal in 1990? A more serious question, however, is, what, exactly, does the y axis of this graph measure? 500,000 what? 2,000,000 what? Dollars? Automobiles? Chinese noodles?

bi_graphics_middleeast-3The second item is a graphic listing the fifteen most powerful militaries in the Middle East. Leaving aside the debatable matter of whether Turkey is in the Middle East, at least we know the source of this graphic: globalfirepower.com via Business Insider. The figures are not up-to-date (2014) but leave that aside too. What interested me was that Turkey is said to be Number One on the list despite the following:

  • Saudi Arabia’s military budget is three times that of Turkey – though admittedly the Sauds don’t seem to have got much for their money.
  • Israel has 80-200 nuclear warheads (its neighbours have none) and (which the table doesn’t show) an “Iron Dome” (provided at stupendous expense by the United States government) so that no other country can actually attack them.
  • Iran and Egypt both have more active personnel than Turkey, and Egypt also has more aircraft.
  • Syria has more tanks and Iran has more submarines.

Of course, Turkey’s military capabilities should not be underestimated, as Britain, France and Greece learned to their cost after the First World War. However, the figures suggest they wouldn’t be wise to start throwing their weight around in the region, even if they did have the inclination.

Graph 1Finally, there was a graphic in our local daily showing the world’s “Top 15 Manufacturing Countries”. The writer’s main focus was on “Turkey’s relative performance [which] says a lot about Turkey’s transformation. Turkey entered [the list] in 1990, hung on until 2000, but dropped out afterwards. Today, we are muddling around between number 16 and 17.” (My highlights)

The first thing that struck me is, the global economy is a competitive market, and to be ranked in the top 20 out of 200 is not a bad achievement for a country that was an economic basket-case less than a century ago. Then, once again, the unit of measurement puzzles me. What exactly is “global nominal manufacturing gross value added”?

Moreover, let’s take a look at the other economic powerhouses. The United States has lost its Number One ranking, and anyway I’d be interested to know how much of their manufacturing actually takes place on home turf? Australia, the Netherlands and Argentina, in the Top 15 in 1980, had all “dropped out” by 2013. The United Kingdom, Spain and Canada had fallen from fourth, ninth and tenth, to eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth respectively. On the other hand, South Korea, Russia and Indonesia, out of the running in 1980, had powered up to fifth, ninth and thirteenth places by 2013.

So what do we understand from this? One thing is certain, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Do these figures take any account of the proportion of a country’s population living in abject poverty, eg China and India? From a purely subjective point-of-view, the situation in Turkey doesn’t look too bad to me. Without getting into detailed comparisons, levels of air pollution are far below those of China. Destruction of the natural environment by rapacious business interests is nowhere near as bad as in Brazil or Indonesia.

In the final analysis, comparisons are odious (not sure who originated that one either) but one other thing is certain, we should treat statistical evidence with caution.


PS – For Part 1 click here

Solving the world’s problems – Different strokes for different folks

Tomahawk-míssil-disparado+de+destróier

Another creative response from the United States.

project-3815-body-13048067_461196257424031_6820238524470842579_o

Meanwhile, Turkey gets on with the job of dealing with 3 million refugees,

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and the European Union lends a helping hand.

According to the US Department of Defence’s annual budget, a single Tomahawk missile costs $1.59 million.

Combine that by the 59 missiles the US ordered to be fired off two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, and you’re looking at a bill of around $94 million. (Source)

And that’s not counting the cost of keeping a fleet of warships in the Mediterranean Sea. Why don’t they do something about poverty, health, education and equal opportunities in their own country?

080417TOMAHAWKonline

While the Tomahawk isn’t as devastating as some of the missiles carried on board manned aircraft, it is typically used when Western nations [especially the USA] want a long-range weapon that can be fired from safe territory.

But it seems the US Government is actually proud of what they’ve done:

“The United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles Friday afternoon in fiery retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians.

President Donald Trump cast the US assault as vital to deter future use of poison gas and called on other nations to join in seeking “to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”

A Homs governor has told the Associated Press that the missile attack at the Syrian base has resulted in deaths. Reuters reports six Syrian soldiers were killed and seven wounded at the air base.

Russia responded, saying the US strike on Syria is “aggression against a sovereign state” and violates international law,” reported AP.

Probably the only thing that will stop Russia from supporting Syria militarily is the likelihood that the US government will nuke them if they do.

_________________________________________________

PS – 100 tonnes of bombs and they only killed 6 people. Now there’s a precision strike for you!

Art dealer accepts prized coffin’s return to Turkey

Well, here’s an interesting news item. Apparently Swiss law is clear on the matter of stolen antiquities – but publicly encouraging the assassination of a visiting head of state is a grey area.

“Lawyers say a Roman Empire-era coffin depicting the 12 labors of Hercules is set to go home to Turkey, ending a legal battle over a prized artifact that had mysteriously turned up in Geneva’s secretive customs-office warehouse years ago.

WireAP_bc0eb7f4b91145f799325df7f3c09d72_12x5_1600

This undated photo shows a 2nd century BCE sarcophagus in sculpted marble depicting the 12 labours of Hercules. Authorities say thecoffin is set to return home to Turkey, ending a legal battle over an artifact that mysteriously turned up in Geneva’s secretive customs office warehouse years ago (Ministere public genevois via AP)

The Inanna Art Services, a private cultural goods importer that had legal possession of the three-ton marble sarcophagus, had tried for months to block the restitution before deciding two weeks ago “to contribute to the return” by abandoning its efforts in Swiss courts, Didier Bottge, a lawyer for the importer, said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

From his clients’ viewpoint, “the case is closed,” said Bottge. Inanna had appealed a decision in September 2015 by the Geneva’s public prosecutor’s office to hand over what it called the “priceless” sarcophagus to Turkey.

The planned handover, expected sometime in the coming months, marks a successful cooperation between Swiss and Turkish authorities at a time of tensions between their two countries.

Swiss authorities are investigating whether any laws were broken when protesters against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the weekend held up a banner bearing the words “Kill Erdogan,” as well as allegations of spying by people linked to Turkey in the Alpine nation.

The decision follows a nearly seven-year legal saga for the sarcophagus after it turned up in the secretive Geneva Free Ports warehouse. Cultural officials have said the coffin, showing scenes of Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion and killing the Hydra, is one of 12 of its kind known in the world.

It’s been traced to the Roman city of Dokimeion, thought to have been in the modern-day province of Antalya in Turkey.”

Read more

What’s going on out there?

spanish+armada

Another Queen Elizabeth; another woman Prime Minister; another war coming up?

Will another civil war break out in the (Dis)United States?

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-our-dishonest-president/

Will (Great) Britain declare war on Spain?

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11831007

The upcoming referendum in Turkey pales into insignificance.

Human Development in Turkey

More sad news for Turkey. The United Nations Development Programme released its latest global report last week, placing Turkey 71st out of 188 countries on its Human Development Index. “71st! How bad is that!” I thought.

But then I looked a little closer. The first thing I noticed was that Turkey had actually moved up one place from the previous year. In fact, from 1990 to 2015, the country’s HDI value had increased by more than 33%.

The UN uses three factors to determine its HDI value: Life expectancy at birth; expected years of schooling and mean (average) years of schooling; and per capita Gross National Product. Over that period since 1990, life expectancy had increased by 11.2 years. Average years of schooling had increased by 3.7 years. Per capita GNP increased by 78.2%.

slaves_of_dubia_coverIt is also important to recognise that, as a country moves higher up the rankings, it becomes increasingly difficult to overtake those ahead on the list. The top five countries are Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. The USA ranks 11th, and the United Kingdom, 16th; Japan is in 17th place, and Finland, 23rd. Even if Turkey’s standards improve markedly, how is it possible to overtake countries that have such a head start? Turkey is, however, well placed in the second category of countries, labelled as having “High Human Development”, its HDI index placing it in the upper half of this group.

Then there are other countries ahead of Turkey on the list whose high rankings are open to question. How does Greece, for example, with its economy in tatters, manage to slot in at number 29? Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have healthy rankings of 39 and 42 respectively, yet many of their residents are poorly-paid migrant workers, without the benefits of citizenship and, one assumes, not counted for statistical purposes.

Kazakhstan (57), Cuba (68) and Iran (69) all have higher rankings than Turkey – which makes me wonder how much credence I can give to the UN report.

I suspect that few people will actually read the report’s 288 pages. Most likely, those in countries at the higher end of the list will wallow in unjustified complacency. One point the report writers make is that average figures can hide wide discrepancies in internal standards. This is a concern in developed countries,” they say, “where poverty and exclusion are also a challenge, with over 300 million people – including more than one-third of all children – living in relative poverty.” This is undoubtedly true in New Zealand, despite its HDI ranking of 13.

one+percent_vectorized“Legal and political institutions can be used and abused to perpetuate group divisions,” the report says. It cites the LGBTI demographic as an example – but what about the broader situation in the United States, where Wall Street financiers buy political influence with professional lobbyists, and 45% of eligible voters do not even bother to participate in presidential elections?

“The top 1 percent of the global wealth distribution holds 46 percent of the world’s wealth.” Well, we knew that. So what does that mean in reality? Those Western First World countries may have high per capita GNPs, but clearly the average figure is distorted by a small number of multi-billionaires. Far more than half of their population exists well below that per capita average GNP.

The report goes on to make a number of recommendations which, sad to say, are unlikely to receive much serious consideration in the corridors of global power:

“Measures are needed to strengthen strategies that protect the rights of and promote the opportunities for migrants, to establish a global mechanism to coordinate economic (voluntary) migration and to facilitate guaranteed asylum for forcibly displaced people.” Can you see the Saudi royals or those United Arab emirs taking much interest in rights and opportunities for those indentured labourers from Asia and Africa who do most of the unskilled work? As for rich countries in Europe “facilitating guaranteed asylum for forcibly displaced people” from Syria, for example – Dream on!

“Accountability is central to ensuring that human development reaches everyone, especially in protecting the rights of those excluded. One major instrument for ensuring accountability of social institutions is the right to information.” The people at Wikileaks are doing their best here – but it’s also clear that Western governments have little interest in transparency, and deal harshly with whistleblowers who challenge their right to withhold information.

whos-the-one-percent-look-in-the-mirror__1500x670_q85_crop_subsampling-2

Work harder, and you too can have one of these 😉

Sustainable development activities at the national level must be complemented with global actions. Curbing global warming is possible. Continuing advocacy and communication on the need to address climate change and protect the environment are essential.” It may be possible – but to me it seems that the forces of conservative capitalism are working to undo most of the progress that had been made in protecting the fragile ecosystem of Planet Earth.

“Reforms should focus on regulating currency transactions and capital flows and coordinating macroeconomic policies and regulations. One option is a multilateral tax on cross-border transactions; another is the use of capital controls by individual countries. To move towards a fairer global system, the agenda for global institutional reforms should focus on global markets and their regulation, on the governance of multilateral institutions and on the strengthening of global civil society.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for Wall Street and the puppeteers of global finance to “regulate currency transactions and capital flows” and “move towards a fairer global system”.

Once again we see the need to view all published statistics with a healthy measure of scepticism.