What’s Wrong With Pakistan?

Clip_23Near the beginning of his book, What’s Wrong With Pakistan?, Pakistani journalist Babar Ayaz offers a diagnosis that the country has a genetic defect. He uses this as a basis to look at why Pakistan has remained a dysfunctional state and how its state of affairs continues to be in conflict with ‘twenty-first century value systems’. Excerpts from an interview with Open’s Rahul Pandita.

Q Your book offers an insight into how successive rulers in Pakistan have succumbed to what you call the ‘confused theory of Iqbal’—that religion and State should not be separated. Does that lie at the core of what ails Pakistan today?

A When so much goes wrong with a country and it remains, dysfunctional, then it is a serious issue. My view has been for a long time—much before I started writing this book—that we have to find the fundamental reason why we are what we are. And then I realised that once you exploit religion and create political formulations based on it to make a country, then that formulation is going to… set the future course. The ruling classes of Pakistan, the establishment of Pakistan, have used it at different times to achieve their own projects. The problem is that leaders use it for short-term gains. Now this is not something that only happens in Pakistan. Look at the United States, with all its vision and think-tanks and what not, and how it committed the fundamental mistake of using religion and religious militancy in Afghanistan. And what is happening? The mechanism set by it is today eating the Americans.

Clip_71Q You argue in the book that Pakistan suffered because of a ‘strategic collapse of Jinnah’s strategy’ to use the idea of Pakistan as a bargaining tool. But several researchers have argued otherwise—that for the Muslim League, the idea of Pakistan was very clear as the ‘new Medina’.

A If you see the documents… it is different from what the speeches say. And at times I see researchers putting too much emphasis on speeches. Speeches are made for public consumption. When you read the documents, they are very clear that what the Muslim League was asking for was basically maximum autonomy for the provinces that had a Muslim majority, and maximum autonomy for Muslims in provinces where they were in a minority.

And then there were other crucial demands: 33 per cent representation in the legislative assembly. And that the minorities… any minorities… if 75 per cent of them do not vote for a particular clause of the Constitution, then that clause will not go through. And the third was: we will get 33 per cent share of jobs. These were the issues—all documented—that people do not talk about. But Nehru did not accept it. The country got divided.

Come to 1971. In front of Pakistan’s legislative assembly, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wanted certain assurances from the majority party, the Awami League. But the Awami League did not agree. What happened? The country broke.

Fast forward—what happened in Egypt? Mohamed Morsi tried to implement a majoritarian constitution. He said: ‘we will have a referendum.’ But that was not representative—hardly 22 per cent of all people. What happened? Total chaos.

So you have to carry on with fundamental documents in a large-hearted way. I’ll give an example that is not usually liked by all three religions—that had Jews had a bigger heart, Christianity and Islam would have been two sects of Judaism. Same in India with Buddhism.

You need to have vision. Somebody told me the other day that Jinnah did not see it. I said, ‘Yes, but even Nehru did not see it’. But Maulana Azad could foresee it. So for that, an Oxford education is not necessary.

Q You have quoted various theses to argue that extremism is deeply embedded in Pakistan’s DNA. But was it clear from the beginning? Or did it really become clear from Zia’s regime?

A I would go back. I would say, because we used or exploited religion for getting public support when Pakistan was made, obviously Islamism was one narrative. As a result, the government, because it had propagated Islam, had to give it space. So the council of Ulemas was established to advise Pakistan on what kind of constitution we would have. The first thing that happened was anti-Ahmadi riots—although one of the persons who adopted the Pakistan Resolution was an Ahmadi and Pakistan’s first foreign minister was an Ahmadi. So right from the beginning, these forces started consuming Pakistan. Mr Bhutto, to please the fundamentalists, was the one who brought in the anti-Ahmadi law. So it is not only Zia.

Bhutto is the one who banned liquor, although he used to drink himself. It comes to the same thing: because you adopted this stance that Pakistan was made for Islam, for Sharia, once you accept that, it is very difficult to move away from it.

But yes, the qualitative and quantitative change came in Zia’s time. What he did was, he changed political Islam into militant Islam, and that changed the whole paradigm. That is what has created men who are committing all this violence; the men who want to bring in Islam through the barrel of the gun.

But the world over, religiosity—I would not say it is increasing, but it is becoming more pronounced. And assertive. In India, you have Hindutva. In America, you have Evangelists.

Q But in case of Pakistan it is much sharper, much more damaging—so damaging that it threatens the very existence of Pakistan.

A You are right. In the first place, it is sharper in all Muslim polities. Osama bin Laden is not a person, he is a phenomenon. What Osama has done is he has sharpened the contradictions between the people who want to live under Sharia and anybody who talks about modernity. That is what has led to this situation.

It is more acute in Pakistan because, one: it started from there. Osama was living there; Al-Qaida had a base there. And still, its main leader is somewhere around there. Two: Pakistan allowed so many non-State actors to equip themselves not only with arms but with that kind of ideology. Also because Pakistan is a nuclear power, it becomes ideal for Islamists to impose their rule. And then Afghanistan.

Q Is there a realisation now—especially within the Army—that this extremism has become a monster that is eating them up as well?

A When you try to tell your army that ‘You are the defender or guardian of the ideology of Pakistan’, ‘You are the forces of Islam’, and ‘Pakistan is the fortress of Islam’, then you are doing it wrong. When you come under militant Islam, you are under conflict. That is why there are now statements from Pakistan’s Army Chief telling political leaders, ‘Please, do not create confusion by saying this is our enemy, this is our war’; people like Imran Khan who foolishly say ‘Tribal people are like animals because of the CIA’s drones’.

Ideologies, you see—anywhere in the world—do not stop at cantonment gates. They do not seek some kind of licence or pass to enter. And people in the army are human beings; they go home, they have their families. Then you have, according to an old survey, 250,000 mosques. That is around one mosque for 246 people. Mosques have a captive audience; they have a captive narrative.

Q And, so much sectarian violence?

A In the sectarian violence in Pakistan, there is an element of proxy warfare. A lot of Muslim labour is going to Saudi Arabia. When they go there, because people speak Arabic in Saudi Arabia and behave in a particular way, these men think that is true Islam. So the Islam that was localised in the Subcontinent is gradually changing its colour. So even here we have started saying ‘Allah hafiz’ instead of ‘Khuda hafiz’.

 

How Vladimir Putin Became Evil

By Tariq Ali

Clip_438The US and UK condemn him for Crimea but supported him over the war in Chechnya. Why? Because now he refuses to play ball.

Once again, it seems that Russia and the US are finding it difficult to agree on how to deal with their respective ambitions. This clash of interests is highlighted by the Ukrainian crisis. The provocation in this particular instance, as the leaked recording of a US diplomat, Victoria Nuland, saying “Fuck the EU” suggests, came from Washington.

Several decades ago, at the height of the cold war, George Kennan, a leading American foreign policy strategist invited to give the Reith Lectures, informed his audience: “There is, let me assure you, nothing in nature more egocentric than embattled democracy. It soon becomes the victim of its own propaganda. It then tends to attach to its own cause an absolute value which distorts its own vision … Its enemy becomes the embodiment of all evil. Its own side is the centre of all virtue.”

And so it continues. Washington knows that Ukraine has always been a delicate issue for Moscow. The ultra-nationalists who fought with the Third Reich during the second world war killed 30,000 Russian soldiers and communists. They were still conducting a covert war with CIA backing as late as 1951. Pavel Sudoplatov, a Soviet intelligence chief, wrote in 1994: “The origins of the cold war are closely interwoven with western support for nationalist unrest in the Baltic areas and western Ukraine.”

When Gorbachev agreed the deal on German reunification, the cornerstone of which was that united Germany could remain in Nato, US secretary of state Baker assured him that “there would be no extension of Nato’s jurisdiction one inch to the east”. Gorbachev repeated: “Any extension of the zone of Nato is unacceptable.” Baker’s response: “I agree.” One reason Gorbachev has publicly supported Putin on the Crimea is that his trust in the west was so cruelly betrayed.

As long as Washington believed that Russian leaders would blindly do its bidding (which Yeltsin did blind drunk) it supported Moscow. Yeltsin’s attack on the Russian parliament in 1993 was justified in the western media. The wholesale assaults on Chechnya by Yeltsin and then by Putin were treated as a little local problem with support from George Bush and Tony Blair. “Chechnya isn’t Kosovo,” said Blair after his meeting with Putin in 2000. Tony Wood’s book, Chechnya: The Case for Independence, provides chapter and verse of what the horrors that were inflicted on that country. Chechnya had enjoyed de facto independence from 1991-94. Its people had observed the speed with which the Baltic republics had been allowed independence and wanted the same for themselves.

Instead they were bombarded. Grozny, the capital, was virtually reduced to dust as 85 percent of its housing was destroyed. In February 1995 two courageous Russian economists, Andrey Illarionov and Boris Lvin published a text in Moscow News arguing in favour of Chechen independence and the paper (unlike its Western counterparts) also published some excellent critical reports that revealed atrocities on a huge scale, eclipsing the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre in Srebrenica. Rape, torture, homeless refugees and tens of thousands dead was the fate of the Chechens. No problem here for Washington and its EU allies.

In the calculus of western interests there is no suffering, whatever its scale, which cannot be justified. Chechens, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis are of little importance. Nonetheless, the contrast between the west’s attitude to the Chechen war and Crimea is startling.

The Crimean affair led to barely any loss of life, and the population clearly wanted to be part of Russia. The White House’s reaction has been the opposite of its reaction to Chechnya. Why? Because Putin, unlike Yeltsin, is refusing to play ball any more on the things that matter such as Nato expansion, sanctions on Iran, Syria etc. As a result, he has become evil incarnate. And all this because he has decided to contest US hegemony by using the methods often deployed by the west. (France’s repeated incursions in Africa are but one example.)

If the US insists on using the Nato magnet to attract the Ukraine, it is likely that Moscow will detach the eastern part of the country. Those who really value Ukrainian sovereignty should opt for real independence and a positive neutrality: neither a plaything of the west nor Moscow.

Tariq Ali has been a leading figure of the international left since the 60s. He has been writing for the Guardian since the 70s. He is a long-standing editor of the New Left Review and a political commentator published on every continent. His books include The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power, and The Obama Syndrome

 

A Middle Eastern Primer

by Roger Cohen

Clip_12Events in the new Middle East, which is located in western Asia like the old Middle East, can seem confusing. In the belief that clarity leads to understanding, which in turn leads to good policy, here is a primer for the region.

1) The US invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program. However, Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction. The invasion brought the Shiite majority to power, so advancing the interests of Shiite Iran, America’s enemy. It ousted the Sunnis, upsetting the Sunni-Shiite balance in the Middle East. This infuriated Sunni Saudi Arabia, America’s ally (in theory).

2) To redress the balance, the wealthy Saudi royal family backs Sunni Islamists in Syria against the country’s despot, Bashar al-Assad (who is from the quasi-Shiite Alawite sect), but at the same time is bankrolling the destruction of Sunni Islamists in Egypt. This wrong sort of Sunnis, known as the Muslim Brotherhood, commits the ultimate lèse-majesté of believing in the ballot box as a source of authority rather than royal lineage.

3) In the aftermath of the Arab Spring the three main Arab states — Egypt, Syria and Iraq — are in disarray. The Arab Spring happened three years ago. Several nasty despots were swept out. This event demonstrated that nobody controls the new Middle East: No nation could produce that much change that fast. The revolutions produced a vacuum. Sectarianism loves a vacuum. Sectarianism means looking out for your own and brutalizing the rest (see Egypt, Syria etc.).

The functioning or semi-functioning states in the Middle East are non-Arab: Israel, Turkey and Iran. Israel has been in a stop-go war with Arabs since 1948 over claims to the same land but is most angry with Iran, which is not Arab, not Sunni and not on its border.

4) Sunni-Shiite tensions have escalated through the Syrian war. They are now regional. The Sykes-Picot Middle Eastern order is in tatters. Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot were dyspeptic European diplomats who drew lines on maps that became the borders of the modern Middle East.

5) Turkey backs the Sunni fighters battling to oust Assad in Syria. But it is close to Iran, which supports Assad against this very Sunni insurgency. The Turkish government is furious about a military coup in Egypt that in 2013 ousted a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president. The US declines to call this coup a coup.

6) Think of the Middle East as a huge arms bazaar. The US plans to sell Apache helicopters to the Shiite government of Iraq, with which to suppress Sunni revanchist stirrings, while the US is supporting the Sunnis against the Shiite-backed Assad in Syria.

7) Saudi Arabia thinks the US is not backing the Sunnis enough in Syria. The Saudis blame Iran for everything, including (but not limited to) unrest in Bahrain, the Arab Spring, terrorism and the melting of the polar ice cap. The Sunni Wahhabi Islamism trafficked by the Saudi royal family sees Zionism as its enemy. However, Saudi views are often identical to Israeli views.

8) Israel has a nuclear deterrent but tries to pretend it does not because if it did it could presumably deter Iran, which does not have a nuclear weapon. The US and Israel have agreed never to talk about the Jewish state’s alleged nuclear weapons.

9) Like the old Middle East the new Middle East has a cottage industry called the peace process. This involves Israelis, Palestinians and various mediators, principally the US. Palestinians are represented by the Palestinian Authority, an authority that has no authority over Palestinians in Gaza, no democratic legitimacy, and no obvious claim to represent anything but itself.

10) Iran is a theocracy. The supreme leader stands in for the hidden imam, who disappeared long ago but could show up any time. (Sunnis and Shiites had an inheritance wrangle after Muhammad’s death in 632, which led to a split. One thing they don’t agree about is the hidden imam.) Iran has something called a nuclear issue. The US and other powers have reached an interim nuclear accord with Iran opposed by Israel, Saudi Arabia, the largest American pro-Israel lobby, and many members of the U.S. Congress who have drafted a bill President Obama vows to veto that says America should “stand with Israel” and provide “diplomatic, military and economic support” to Israel if it goes to war with Iran, which it has been threatening to do for a very long time.

Nawaz Government Will be Responsible for a Military Takeover

IMG_2002Imran Khan’s PTI August 18 has announced to resign from all the Assemblies, except at the moment from the KP Assembly.

PTI has professed to bring in one million marchers to its Dharna in Islamabad. It did not succeed but there is no doubt that there are thousands of Pakistanis who are part of the protest and support what both PTI and PAT are protesting about.

On August 17 evening, Imran Khan had announced to launch a civil obedience movement, asking people not to pay taxes and their electricity bills. He has been criticized for this announcement and by some for not launching a direct attack on the highly protected red zone. The critics failed to appreciate Imran Khan’s endeavor to avoid blood-shed to the extreme.

Rattled by plans for the protest, the Nawaz federal government and the Punjab government led by his brother employed heavy-handed tactics to handle the PAT and PTI protests. Riot police officers clashed with Qadri’s supporters across Punjab Province, resulting in at least two deaths.

Roads were closed leading to Islamabad and invoked public-order laws that ban meetings on its streets.

It is apparent that the reaction stems from speculation that the political tumult could open the way for a military coup. Military may intervene and the Nawaz government will have to be blamed for failing to resolve the issue through negotiations, just like Z.A. Bhutto did in his negotiations with PNA in 1977.

“The country cannot afford any more subversion and negative politics,” Nawaz Sharif said in a speech.

Imran Khan’s “independence march,” as he calls it, is driven by accusations that Nawaz Sharif’s party rigged the general election in May 2013. The results handed Sharif a handsome majority in Parliament, although PTI won control of the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The popularity of Mr. Khan, 61, a former captain of the national cricket team and an enduring sex symbol — he was photographed bare-chested outside his home in Lahore this week — is built on his appeal to young Pakistanis disillusioned by traditional politics. In recent days, supporters camped outside his home, and several spoke of “revolution.”

The picture is further complicated by the return of Mr. Qadri, who normally lives in Canada and who led protests in January 2013 against the previous government, which was headed by President Asif Ali Zardari. Although Mr. Qadri’s party has no seats in Parliament, Sharif inadvertently bolstered his credentials in June when riot police officers clashed with his supporters in Lahore, resulting in at least nine deaths.

Although Qadri and Mr. Khan lead separate protest groups, they have formed a loose alliance and seemed set to appear, separately, on the streets of Islamabad, near Aabpara.

Imran Khan said he intended to lead a sit-in until his demands were met. His party published a photo showing him packing overnight belongings into a bag from Selfridges, a high-end London department store. Critics on social media said the picture belied his image as a man of the people.

As darkness fell, the military’s attitude remained the march’s greatest unknown. While there was little evidence that the generals wanted to take over, analysts said, they could take advantage of any discord to reassert themselves more openly in politics.

A Bubble Called Pakistan

by Husain Haqqani

IMG_2058Barely 14 months after convincingly winning a general election, PM Nawaz Sharif’s government is being asked to resign amid threats of street protests. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Canada-based Sunni cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri marched separately on Islamabad on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day and then merged on August 19.

Several politicians and parties known for their close ties to Pakistan’s deep state, the ISI, have announced support for the anti-Sharif protests.

Sharif will most likely ride out this first wave of attack. He retains an absolute majority in parliament and, by most accounts, there is no appetite in the country for a military coup. But the protests will weaken Sharif and sap the elected government’s energies, diminishing its effectiveness. That is exactly how the wings of the previous civilian government led by Asif Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani were clipped. Then, the judiciary played a critical role in tying up elected leaders in knots though, this time, the judges have yet to get involved.

The military has ruled Pakistan directly for more than half its existence as an independent country. When it can’t govern directly, the military and its intelligence services still want to exert influence, especially over foreign and national security policies. At any given time, there are enough civilian politicians, media personalities or judges willing to do the military’s bidding for this manipulation to persist.

Currently, the military wants Sharif to curb his enthusiasm about normalising ties with India and turn away from Pakistan’s past policy of meddling in Afghanistan’s politics. It also wants an end to the treason trial of General Musharraf.

In the Pakistani military’s worldview, coup-making should not result in a trial for treason. The armed forces represent patriotism, even if their errors result in the loss of half the country’s territory, as happened in 1971 with the loss of Bangladesh. Civilians, on the other hand, can be judged traitors merely for advocating a different path forward for the country.

Ironically, the latest effort to destabilise an elected civilian government is taking place at a time when the Pakistan army is ostensibly waging war against jihadi terrorists in North Waziristan. The chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif, has promised that the war will continue until all terrorist groups are eliminated. Usually, war unites political rivals, but there has been no effort by the military and its civilian political allies, or for that matter by Sharif’s PML-N, to overcome polarisation.

The current political chaos reminds me of a conversation I had with the then US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, soon after the covert American operation that resulted in discovering and killing Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

Grossman, who was in Islamabad at the time of the May 1, 2011 operation, described the atmosphere in Islamabad as “surreal”. He told me that he felt Pakistani officials and the rest of the world seemed to exist in “parallel universes”.

The veteran American diplomat noted that instead of realising the need to be apologetic about the world’s most wanted terrorist being found in their country, Pakistanis angrily protested America’s decision to kill bin Laden on Pakistani soil without informing Pakistani authorities.

As Pakistan’s ambassador to the US at the time, I could not tell Grossman that I agreed with him. But like many Pakistanis who worry about their country’s future, I have often noted my compatriots’ tendency to live in a world all our own.

The rest of the world is clearly concerned about the inadequacy of Pakistan’s efforts in eliminating the jihadis. The spectre of terrorism impacts Pakistan’s economy adversely and makes it difficult for Pakistanis to find jobs or travel abroad. Sri Lanka recently withdrew visa-on-arrival facility from Pakistani citizens, further reducing the number of countries where Pakistanis might travel without a visa.

But these adverse reports barely find mention in Pakistan’s media, which remains preoccupied with the shenanigans of people like Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri. Such is the media noise that Pakistanis are often kept ignorant of how the rest of the world looks at their country and remain confused about considering jihadist terrorism the principal threat to the country’s survival.

Pakistani leaders seem to prefer hyper-nationalist rhetoric and allegations of corruption against their rivals to an honest debate about the country’s loss of direction. Thus, Imran Khan and Qadri are not behaving differently from the way Nawaz Sharif and the lawyers’ movement acted against Zardari in the preceding five years.

Calls for a change of government, even if it is only a few months after its election, serve as a substitute for serious debate about how Pakistan may have lost its direction as a nation. There is virtual denial about real problems like rising extremism, increasing intolerance, widespread violence and the prospect of global isolation.

Denial leads to self-deception. The Pew Global Attitudes Survey recently found that even in Pakistan’s closest ally, China, only 30 percent of those polled had a positive view of Pakistan. But the poll and its implications were barely discussed in the Pakistani media, which has been focused on the verbal duels between Sharif’s supporters and opponents. Parallel universes indeed.

Why Cell Phone Towers Are So Bad For Your Health?

Towers atop residential buildings, schools, or  hospitals are particularly more harmful to people.

Towers atop residential buildings,
schools, or hospitals are particularly
more harmful to people.

Cell phones heat the brain while users make and receive calls.

Cell phones scramble the brain and play havoc with the nervous system. This can cause high blood pressure, which leads to strokes. If cell phones are used for longer periods of time, they can damage long-term memory and even cause brain tumor [1-2].

Cell towers are considered more harmful to people particularly those living within the radius of 500 meters as they continuously emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR) 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, and 365-days an year [3-5].

Towers emit radio-frequencies (RF), a form of EMR, which is essentially the same frequency radiation as microwaves and microwave ovens, for a distance as large as two miles.

Low levels of radiation emitted by mobile phone towers are harmful.

Scientists at the School of Public Health of Harvard University say that the radiation from cell phone towers is a serious health hazard [6].

Low levels of radiation can cause brain tumor, cancer, depression, miscarriage, insomnia, Alzheimer’s disease, apart from damaging cell tissues and the DNA.

People living close to mobile towers will have disturbed sleep, headache and their immune system could be affected.

The nearby apartments could become very hot. Television displays could show flickering images.  Massive increase in radiation in the environment due to these towers is associated with increase in the incidence of diseases such as asthma, learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, cataracts, hypothyroidism, diabetes, malignant melanoma, testicular cancer, heart attacks and strokes [7-13].

Although  radiation exposed by a person during a mobile phone call is 10 times higher than the exposure from a cell tower, mere standing in a wi-fi enabled area is equal to talking on your mobile for 20 minutes [14].

People want to escape this health hazard. Low-level microwaves have a cumulative effect on cancer promotion as well.

Several blood tests on public near cell towers to check their neutrophil levels revealed that the neutrophil level of those living near cell towers dropped to 3 or below when compared to the average neutrophil level of 5 to 9 for general population. Furthermore, when a person moves from his/her bedroom to an area in the home away from the mast the neutrophils are seen increasing and finally returning to normal levels when he/she spends time away from the area altogether.

A study conducted in Germany on people living close to cell tower transmitters reveals that those living within the radius of 400 meters from the tower were exposed to the radiation, which is 100 times more than those living in far off places.  Based on such studies, scientists have recommended that the cell tower antenna should be at least 500 meters away from the inhabited properties.

People living within the radius of 400-500 meters of mobile towers should get their houses tested for radiation and take appropriate precautions if necessary.

In another study conducted in Poland between 1970 and 1990 among soldiers exposed to microwave radiation from military equipment has shown that mobile users are more likely to develop a whole range of cancers 10 years earlier than those who had not been exposed to the radiation [15].

The majority of those involved in the study had been exposed to between 1 Watt/m² and 6 Watts/m² of microwave radiation. The European limit for mobile phone radiation is at present set at 4.5 Watts/m². Majority of mobiles give off between 2 Watts/m² and 4 Watts/m².

If cell phone service providers set up their towers on the terrace of a nearby building the high level of radiation transmitted by the towers is a potential health hazard. Any single cell phone tower may carry a multitude of antennae, each of which emits its own pattern of microwaves on its own set of wavelengths.  Consequently, a single tower can emit several different patterns of relatively intense signals to homes, schools and businesses within hundreds of feet from the tower.

A French study conducted among people living within 300 metres of cell phone towers shows an increased incidence of tiredness within 300 metres; of headache, sleep disturbance, and discomfort within 200 metres; and of irritability, depression, loss of memory, dizziness, and libido decrease among others within 100 metres.  It is worth noting that French Telecom giant Orangehas suspended operations at a school cell tower site in Paris after eight cases of cancer were confirmed among children in the district [16].

Multitude of antennae atop the tower emits pulsing microwaves.

Multitude of antennae atop the tower emits
pulsing microwaves.

Moreover, a French local council prohibited erection of cell towers within a radius of 300 meters from the schools. It should be recalled here that the Paris Town Hall and mobile phone operators have an agreement to limit the public exposure to electromagnetic waves generated by cell tower antennae and subsequent commitment by the operators to lower the exposure levels significantly.

More striking evidence comes from the documentary film called “Full Signal”, which depicts a map in Israel indicating a correlation between the locations of brain tumor clusters and cell phone towers across the country [17].

This along with multitude of other studies shows the incidence of adult brain tumors occurring within 400 meters of cell phone towers.

A Dutch study on mobile phone signals found that cell phone use in hospitals can be dangerous.  Researchers measured the impact of electromagnetic interference from cell phone use in hospital equipment such as ventilators and pacemakers. Signals from mobile phones significantly interfered with medical devices, and 75% of those incidents were found to be hazardous.  These included the sudden switching off or restarting  of machines which could mean disruption of a patient’s feeding tube, ventilator, pacemaker or dialysis machine and majority of these occurred when mobile phones were within 3 cm of critical-care equipment [18]. In another study conducted in USA, the researchers measured the visual field of persons in conversations on cell phone and found that cell phone use artificially constricted the peripheral awareness.  This suggests that cell phone use while driving can decrease the perceptual visual field, making the driver less aware of the surroundings and more susceptible to accident [19].

Long-term effects of microwave radiation from mobile towers are not fully studied.  Mobile Operators does not have scientists, nor they conduct a site survey, but erect a tower on an available site by a computer guesstimate.  Pulsing of the signal, and not its energy level that enables deep penetration of the body. Only thermal effects are considered in a multi-national case-control study INTERPHONE [20] and are used for regulation while several studies indeed show biological effects of electromagnetic radiation at exposure levels far below where heating occurs (non-thermal effects) [21]. The human body reacts more complexly than acknowledged in the thermal model and is sensitive to extreme periodic stimuli. The biological system takes the “energy” as well as the “information” which is brought by the continuous pulsed modulation pattern. A cell tower antenna is emitting a pulsed signal, and it interferes with the natural pulsing of our body, via the pineal gland in the head. If the pulsing enters your bedroom, it will interfere with your sleep patterns. Regular disruption of sleep patterns will break down the melatonin process, the repairing of which takes place when the body enters a deep sleep. This will lead to a lowered functioning of the human immune system. Other reported examples of non-thermal biological effects include: changes in the electrical activity in the human brain, increase in DNA single and double strand breaks from RF exposure to 2.45 GHz, and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier in rats.

Pregnant women and children are in greater danger from cell phone towers than the normal population.  Developing organs of fetus or child are most sensitive to any possible effects of EMR exposure.  The thinner skulls of kids and rapid growth rates make children more susceptible to the tower’s waves [22].  A recent study on pregnant women with heavy cell phone use found behavior problems in their children.  According to Dr. Om Gandhi, an eminent scientist in the area of bioelectromagnetics, cell phone radiation makes children more susceptible to DNA breakage, genetic damage, and incidence of cancer.  It reduces their life span.  It is very unfortunate to see huge cell towers thronging the rooftops in and around schools or educational institutions and this has become more or less a common sight in cities across India and elsewhere. This is largely because the managements at schools or educational institutions see a definite upside of income from cell towers and lease their property to cell tower companies ignoring the health risks that these towers pose on their students who in turn are prone to prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation. The parents associations should be very watchful and play more active role in reigning on the school boards and prevent siting of cell phone towers within or around the schools premises.

Similar is the case with home-builders and mushrooming of cell phone towers atop the residential apartment buildings. A new dimension however in this case is that most of the apartment builders claim perpetual ownership of terrace rights and thereby absolute ownership of the buildings premises and lease the terrace to the cell phone companies for a period of not less than ten years or more even before the building is handed over to the owners association thus leaving individual flat owners and residents completely in the dark about the siting of cell towers on their rooftop.  This is in clear violation of Apartment Laws.  Generally, terraces cannot be privately owned as they are deemed to form part of the communal areas and, as such, are owned in common by the apartment owners.  Builder cannot, therefore, legally exclude other co-owners from these areas

In their efforts to get these towers removed, owners associations almost always end up fighting a prolonged legal battle while builder enjoys hefty rentals and all perks from the cell phone companies. What an irony?  Furthermore, cell phone companies work hand in glove with the builders in their efforts to set up as many towers as they can and their numbers look staggering too.  The city of Delhi tops this list.  Out of 5,364 cell towers in the city, only 2,412 had requisite permission and the remaining 2,952 were illegal.  Bombay comes second in this list.  Out of 3,489 towers built within the jurisdiction of BMC, only 1,500 are authorised.  The situation in Hyderabad is much worse.  Out of 2,800 towers identified in the GHMC area as on December 2008, 1154 cell phone towers are on building rooftops, 50 are ground based, and 1791 are on rooftop poles.  The irony is only 500 of them have requisite documentation leaving nearly 2,000 towers virtually unauthorised entities [23].

The local municipal authorities should proactively remove such unauthorised sitings and not buckle under the bullying tactics of the big bosses of cell phone companies.   The government should also tighten the laws and must not allow such sitings in the residential areas without prior approval of the local residents.  This seems to be happening.

The Government of India has recently formulated a new policy on Cell Towers, the salient features of which are:

Mobile phone towers should not be erected near hospitals, schools and residential buildings because of the possible risk to the people [24]. To minimize the risk mobile towers should be at a height of 40-50 metres, above the highest point of the neighbouring buildings, as it is done abroad. Also, the minimum distance between the towers and the nearby buildings should be 100 metres.

But the studies have shown that the cell towers should be at least 500 metres away from flats or buildings. If cell tower antenna is installed on the rooftop of a building, the building is virtually not salable in many countries. Estate agents are mandated to tell a potential buyer about the problem. If a cell tower antenna is within 200m to a building, or a flat the value of the building or flat drops by 50% [25].

Here is some of the internationally allowed standard levels of cell tower radiation by the countries across the world: Australian standard limits the radiation level to 200 microwatts per sq. cm.; Russia, Italy and Canada allows only 10 microwatts per sq. cm; China, six microwatts per sq. cm. and New Zealand 0.02 microwatts per sq. cm.  Strangely cell phone towers in the United States are most lenient and least protective in the world – US allows 580 to 1,000 microwatts per sq. cm. [26].  In light of the serious health risks discussed above, all cell phone towers should be removed from residential areas and placed where they don’t harm people and are placed on proper height.

A collage depicting potential health risks associated with prolonged exposure to electro- magnetic radiation from cell phone towers.

A collage depicting potential health risks associated with prolonged exposure to electro-
magnetic radiation from cell phone towers.

Endnotes 

[1]. (a)  Disconnect-The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family by Devra Davis. Published by Dutton Adult (September 23, 2010).  For more on this visit the website Environmental Health Trust. (b) Bryan Walch, Health: A Cancer Muckraker Takes on Cell Phones,http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2010/09/27/health-a-cancer-muckraker-takes-on-cell-phones/  September 27, 2010. (c) Martin Mittelstaedt, The disturbing truth about cellphones, The Globe and Mail, September 24, 2010. 
[2]. (a) Cell Phone Radiation Science Review on Cancer Risks and Children’s Health (September 2009) by the Environmental Working Group, Washington D.C. (b) Khurance VG, Teo C, Kindi M, Hardell L, Carlberg M. (2009)Cell phones and brain tumors: a review including the long-term epidemiologic data. Surg Neurol;72:205-14. (c)Sarah J Hepworth, Minouk J Schoemaker, Kenneth R Muir, Anthony J Swerdlow, Martie J A van Tongeren, Patricia A McKinney: Mobile phone use and risk of glioma in adults: case-control study. BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38720.687975.55 (published 20 January 2006). (d) Sadetzki S, Flint-Richter P, Ben-Tal T, Nass D:Radiation-induced meningioma: a descriptive study of 253 cases. J Neurosurg 97: 1078-1082, 2002.

[3]. “The Impacts of Radiofrequency Radiation from Mobile Phone Antennas”, EMR Australia PL , 2008.

[4]. Santini, R., Santini, P., Danze, J.M., Le Ruz, P., Seigne, M. (2002). Study of the health of people living in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations: I. Influences of distance and sex. Pathol. Biol. 50:369-373

[5]. Santini, R., Santini, P., Danze, J.M., Le Ruz, P., Seigne, M. (2003). Symptoms experienced by people in vicinity of base stations: II. Incidences of age, duration of exposure, location of subjects in relation to the antennas and other electromagnetic factors. Pathol. Biol. 51:412-415.

[6]. A news article from the Boston Globe alerts that even Harvard University has become pro-active in opposing cell tower siting.  This article appeared on page B03 of 16th June, 1997 issue.

[7]. (a) Microwave and Radio Frequency Radiation Exposure, San Francisco Medicine , Vol. 74, No 3, March 2001. (b) Navarro, E.A., Segura, J., Portolés, M., Gómez-Perretta de Mateo, C. (2003). The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain. Electromagn. Biol. Med. 22:161-169.

[8]. Bortkiewicz, A., Zmyslony, M., Szyjkowska, A., Gadzicka, E. (2004). Subjective symptoms reported by people living in the vicinity of cellular phone base stations. Med. Pr. 55:345-351.

[9]. Hutter, H.P., Moshammer, H., Wallner, P., Kundi, M. (2006). Subjective symptoms, sleeping problems, and cognitive performance in subjects living near mobile phone base stations. Occup. Environ. Med. 63:307-313.

[10]. Abdel-Rassoul, G., Abou El-Fatech, O., Abou Salem, M., Michael, A., Farahat, F., El-Batanouny, M., Salem, E. (2007). Neurobehavioral effects among inhabitants around mobile phone base stations. Neurotoxicology 28:434-440.

[11]. Wolf, R., Wolf, D. (2004). Increased incidence of cancer near a cellphone transmitter station. Int. J. Cancer Prev. 1:123-128.

[12]. Eger, H., Hagen, K.U., Lucas, B., Vogel, P., Voit, H. (2004). Influence of the spatial proximity of mobile phone base stations on cancer rates. Umwelt-Medizin-Gesellschaft 17:273-356.

[13]. Meyer, M., Gärtig-Daugs, A., Radespiel-Tröger, M. (2006). Cellular telephone relay stations and cancer incidence. Umweltmed. Forsch. Prax. 11:89-97.
[14] Dr. Howard W. Fischer, “The Invisible Threat: The Risks Associated With EMFs” (2007), Wood Publishing. 
[15]. Report in Sunday Mirror, March 26, 2000.

[16]. Sarah Benson (2007). Electromagnetic Radiation ( EMR ) And Potential Adverse Health Affects.http://www.ecolibria.com.au/Resources/Electromagnetic-Radiation-EMR-And-Potential-Adverse-Health-Affects

[17] Filmed in Ten countries and Six US states, the documentary “Full Signal” focuses on interviews with scientists around the world who are researching the health effects related to cellular technology; with veteran journalists who have called attention to the issue for decades; with activists who are fighting to regulate the placement of antennas; and with lawyers and law makers who represent the people wanting those antennas regulated and examines the contradiction between health and finance, one of the many ironies of the fight to regulate antenna placement.http://www.fullsignalmovie.com/
[18] Bao P. Dang, Pierre R. Nel, John A. Gjevre (2007). Mobile communication devices causing interference in invasive and noninvasive ventilators, Journal of Critical Care, Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 137-141.
[19] W.C. Maples, Wes DeRosier, Richard Hoenes, Rodney Bendure (2008). Sherl Moore, The effects of cell phone use on peripheral vision, Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association, Volume 79, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 36-42, ISSN 1529-1839.

[20]. A multinational case-control study, INTERPHONE, was set-up to investigate whether mobile phone use increases the risk of cancer and, more specifically, whether the RF fields emitted by mobile phones are carcinogenic. The study focused on tumors arising in the tissues most exposed to RF fields from mobile phones: glioma, meningioma, acoustic neurinoma and parotid gland tumors. In addition to a detailed history of mobile phone use, information was collected on a number of known and potential risk factors for these tumours. The study was conducted in 13 countries. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK using a common core protocol. For more on this study, please see “The INTERPHONE Study Group (2010).Brain tumour risk in relation to mobile telephone use: results of the INTERPHONE international case–control study.” Int. J. Epidemiol., 1-20 and references therein.http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/ije/press_releases/freepdf/dyq079.pdf.

[21]. Haumann, T., Munzenberg, U., Maes, W., Sierck, P. (2010). HF-Radiation levels of GSM cellular phone towers in residential areas.  http://no-celltower.com/German%20RF%20Research%20Article.pdf and references therein.

[22].  (a) Mobiles Risk to children, Daily Mail (U.K.), May 11, 2000. (b) Elliott, P., Toledano, M. B., Bennett, J., Beale, L., Hoogh, K. D., Best, N., Briggs, D. J. (2010).  Mobile phone base stations and early childhood cancers: case-control study. BMJ, 1-7.

[23] Data obtained from press releases by the respective Municipal corporations or from local news reports.

[24]. Bembalkar, M., Londhe, M. S. Health hazards arising due to radio frequency radiation from mobile towers/antenna.  www.karmayog.org/UNITE/upload/86/1/MOBILE%20TOWER.doc

[25] (a) Read this New York Times news story, “A Pushback Against Cell Towers,” published in the paper’s Real Estate section, on August 27, 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/realestate/29Lizo.html?_r=1&ref=realestate. (b)”The effect of distance to cell phone towers on house prices” by Sandy Bond, Appraisal Journal, Fall 2007, see attached. Source, Appraisal Journal, found on the Entrepreneur website,http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/171851340.html orhttp://www.prres.net/papers/Bond_Squires_Using_GIS_to_Measure.pdf. (c) Sandy Bond, Ph.D., Ko-Kang Wang,“The Impact of Cell Phone Towers on House Prices in Residential Neighborhoods,” The Appraisal Journal, Summer 2005; see attached. Source: Goliath business content website, http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-5011857/The-impact-of-cell-phone.html
[26] (a) Radiofrequency Radiation Health Studies, Wireless Antenna Site Consumer Information Package, Sage Associates, Montecito, CA, 2000, www. sageassocciates.net. (b) Tower concerns should be health, not aesthetics, Burlington Free Press, January 12, 2001.

Why Mosquitoes Attack Us?

Clip_251Mosquitoes are picky creatures — unsurprising if you’re the one always ducking for cover under a swarm of bloodsuckers while your friend remains unscathed. Good thing scientists are on the hunt to discover what makes certain people especially attractive to the tiny insects.

Here are nine reasons they’ve come up with so far.

You Breathe

In many ways, no one is immune. The fact that humans breathe makes us all mosquito targets to varying degrees.

More than 30 years ago, researchers discovered that carbon dioxide is one of the main reasons mosquitos seek us out. The insects will fly to higher concentrations of CO2 (i.e. – large groups of people at sporting events and backyard parties), then use other sights and smells to narrow down their target.

You’re Tall

Because larger people produce more carbon dioxide and more body heat, they’re naturally more attractive to mosquitoes. This is why, when in groups, adults usually get bitten more than children, and men are targeted more often than women.

You’re Pregnant

Along with swollen feet and morning sickness, pregnant women are also nearly twice as likely to get bitten than those who are not expecting. Two reasons: Pregnant women produce excess amounts of carbon dioxide and body heat.

You Exercise Regularly

During a workout, the body produces a chemical called lactic acid, which is released through sweat glands on the skin. And one German study confirmed that mosquitoes can detect and are attracted to lactic acid at close range.

Your Feet Stink

People with a higher abundance but lower diversity of bacteria on their feet are highly attractive to mosquitoes. The bacteria, which is pungent, is also found in Limburger cheese and is so effective at attracting mosquitoes, that scientists are using the cheese to trap and control the flies in Africa.

You’re Wearing Perfume

Mosquitoes suck the nectar of flowers for energy, so they’re attracted to floral scents. And certain floral odors are effective enough that researchers are figuring out how to use them to lure mosquitoes with their sweetness.

You’re Genetically Predisposed

Your genes are responsible for your body odor, so scientists are starting to test how genetic makeup could affect one’s susceptibility to mosquitoes. People with a particular HLA gene are more likely to be bitten.

You Drink Beer

Downing just one 12-ounce beer can increase the risk of being bitten, although it’s unclear why. Just make sure that backyard beer is worth it.

You Have O Blood Type

This one is debatable. People with blood type O are more likely to get bitten.

Role of the Burmese President Thein Sein in the August 1988 Massacre

Clip_5On 8th August 1988, thousands were massacred, many of them students, who had been protesting for democracy in Burma. The Burmese soldiers opened fire on the protestors, and in the following weeks at least 3,000 people were killed. There has never been a full investigation into the massacre.

The current Burmese President Thein Sein played an important role in crushing the uprising in 1988.

Burma’s Information Minister Ye Htut said that Thein Sein was in Kale, not Rangoon in 1988. However, this misses the point. The crackdown took place all over Burma. The question remains as to what role Thein Sein played at this time.

If there is nothing to hide, why won’t they publish his military record?

President Thein Sein has always denied that the Burmese Army has committed any human rights violations. They don’t want to release military records of the President and ministers because they have been involved in human rights abuses which violate international law.

Justice and accountability are their greatest fears – that is why they are so angry that people are asking these questions.

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