Monday, October 27, 2008

Insurance is Gambling

Ok, so everyone's panicking about the global economy..

It's clear that Capitalism as the West defines it is flawed. The West is saying this. Not communists or islamists or any kind of people who would be interested in gloating and pointing fingers saying "We told you so!".

The obviousness is so blinding that opponents of pure hardcore globalized capitalism are not even making an effort to Yteshammetoon.

So what is the west doing wrong?

Me for one, take my right and wrong primarily from Allah and his messenger Mohammad PBUH, and here are 2 main ways in which the "west" is doing business the "wrong" way:

1- Interest Loans. Reba in arabic. Which is how any loan is given out these days, and this is the most dangerous one, and I'll skip it for now and dedicate a future post about it inshalla.

2- Buying and Selling the Unknown. Bay3 gharar in arabic.

And I want to talk about this 2nd form in this post.

Gambling is 7aram because it involves buying an unknown. A yet undefined object. You pay 1 dollar, and you get a lottery ticket, and on the day of the draw, you MAY win (0.00-add appropriate number of zeroes-001 chance) and get millions of dollars, or you MAY lose (0.999-add appropriate number of 9's-999 chance) and get Zero. Nothing.

You can say any business proposition carries ambiguity, which is true, and Islamic economists acknowledge that, but they also differentiate between situations where the ambiguity is either:
A- Unavoidable. or..
B- Intentional

So lets take cases:
- Gambling? Risk is obviously engineered and designed, therefor VERY intentional. hence, 7aram.
- Opening a restaurant on top of Abraj liKuwait? Risk is still there that no one will eat there, or that the tower will collapse or whatever, but the risk is not intentional and largely unavoidable, and in most cases low anyway. hence, obviously and inarguably 7alal.
- So what about Insurance?
You pay X amount per year, and your car MAY get damaged, and MAY not.
The risk gets calculated and crunched endlessly and insurance companies work very hard to make their risk analysis as accurate as possible, putting all sorts of inputs into the equation like car make, car age, driver age, driver traffic history, regional norms of recklessness .. and on and on. They try to predict the future basically. And based on the probability that you'll crash this year, they put their insurance payment and their markup.

Can the insurance buyer (You) get access to all this information? they own multi-million dollar computers and software to do all that calculation, while poor you don't have the feintest idea. What if the odds were in reality on your side? but you buy the insurance anyway out of what?
what do you get out of it? simply assuaging and comforting your fear.

It's an industry based on Paranoia and Fear mongering.

They make you pay money simply so they can remove your fear of a crash.

But there's no limit to one's fear right? they can sell you insurance for ANYthing.

You start with a car's crash, but then you go into maintenance, then you go into REALLY crazy stuff like losing baggage while travelling, they even insured Jennifer Lopez's rear body part. because they made her fear getting fat and losing its attractiveness.

To sell more insurance and make more money they only have to foster FEAR inside you.

Islam deals with this nonsense swiftly. Islam calls it "Bay3 Gharar" which means literally "Trade in the Unknown". Fear is NOT quantifiable.

I faced this problem in my own work, regarding buying hardware support contracts, where simply put, if a server goes bust, the supplier is obliged to replace it. and I pay X KDs a year for this contract.

When I calculated the actual history of servers going KAPUT and which actual parts (usually the harddisks and maybe the fans) are more likely to fry, and the cost of buying a couple of spare parts to keep in the store for the case of an emergency, I found that we were paying atleast 10 times as much. Simply because we chose not to deal with our fear ourselves, and let someone else handle it for us.

Now.. PLEASE argue with me :)

My brother sent me this hilarious poster this morning. Take special notice of the blue box

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Embryonic Stem Cells can become Cancerous

First here's what I know about Embryonic Stem Cells from Wikipedia

The gist is that you can either get them from a newly formed embryo, which will then be destroyed after the cells are taken. This is obviously extremely controversial.

How moral is it to make a new embryo and then destroy (kill) it in order to save yourself? they say the embryo is only 4-5 days old when it's ready to be harvested for stem cells. But who can say when do you start seeing a fertilized human egg as a "child-in-development"?

We invent names to call each stage: Egg => Zygote => Blastocyst => Embryo => Fetus => Child

And then at which point do we give the "right of life"? which protects it/him/her from being killed?

In Wikipedia the Fetal Rights page mentiones:
The 1978 American Convention on Human Rights states, in Article 4.1, "Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception."

Muslims sometimes use a 7adeeth by irrasool PBUH when they bring up this issue, that a fetus receives a "soul" after the 40th day of conception. ya3ne approx. 5-6 weeks. Is that an appropriate marker to use? would that make it OK to exploit embryos younger than 40 days?

Very dodgy stuff.

More than this, I consulted with a close Dr friend who happens to specialize in genetics and he sent me these links about Uncontrollable Growth of some Embryonic Stem Cell treated patients:

Embryo Stem Cells Genetically Unstable after Long Cultivation

Embryonic stem lines unstable

Ten Problems with Embryonic Stem Cell Research

pay attention to point number 9

9- The promises of ESCR are right now nothing more than hoped for possibilities. Successful clinical trials for people are years away at best. Why? The reality is that the scientific evidence so far does not support public statements.

First, one minor complication is that use of human embryonic stem cells requires lifelong use of drugs to prevent rejection of the tissue. Second, another more serious disadvantage is that using embryonic stem cells can produce tumors from rapid growth when injected into adult patients. A third disadvantage reported in the March 8, 2001, New England Journal of Medicine was of tragic side effects from an experiment involving the insertion of fetal brain cells into the brains of Parkinson's disease patients. Results included uncontrollable movements: writhing, twisting, head jerking, arm-flailing, and constant chewing. Fourth, a recent report in the Journal Science reported that mice cloned from ESC were genetically defective. If human ESC are also genetically unstable, that could materially compromise efforts to transform cells extracted from embryos into successful medical therapies. Finally, the research may be hampered because many of the existing stem cell lines were grown with the necessary help of mouse cells. If any of this research is to turn into treatments, it will need approval from the FDA, which requires special safeguards to prevent transmission of animal diseases to people. It is unclear how many of these cell lines were developed with the safeguards in place. This leads to a host of problems related to transgenic issues.

Ya3ne they can cause cancer.

But Adult Stem Cells avoid all this controversy, as well as the cell rejection problem by only taking cells from your own bone marrow. But.. since I'm not in a hurry, and since both methods are not yet approved by major medical centers.. and since my MS Dr. also urged me not to go..

I decided to cancel my trip to Costa Rica and not go ahead with the Stem Cell treatment. Maybe if I wait a year or two, more solid research will get published. Allah a3lam.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bob Dylan's Prophetic Song

I'm not a Bob Dylan fan and I never really listened to any of his songs, but one day on the BBC I heard about this Picture Show made by Mark Edwards, a photographer who put together a series of images of human strife and misery around the world, which go along with Dylan's song "Hard Rain", try listening to it with the lyrics and you'll be stunned how it fortells how the end of the 20'th century as well as the 21st. is unfolding, it's pretty creepy how accurate it can get. Famine, War, Deforestation, Floods, Tsunamis:


Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin',
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin',
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin',
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Funny British Controversial Racism

First for the sketch from the show Harry and Paul which caused Philipino UK citizens to be offended:

Then for another funny sketch about a elderly american tourist couple and a veiled woman:

Did the 2nd sketch offend you like the 1st one offended the philipino community?

I found both to be very funny.

The 1st obviously portrays philipino women as house help sex objects. But it also makes more fun of the english northerner who think of people as livestock, and it makes even more fun of him for being oblivious to his appalling treatment of the maid.

I mean, a stereotype is offensive if:
1- It is false. therefor is a blatant lie and needs to be corrected in people's mind. Or..
2- It is true. But we get offended because the truth is unjust and should be corrected. that philipino ARE being forced into domestic jobs which put them in a disadvantagous position where they easily get abused physically and sexually.

Which do you think it is?

If you think it's 1, then why would it be funny at all? I mean, a lie is not funny, it's silly and irrelevant right?

So if it's 2, why do we object to it? shouldn't the producers of the show be applauded for revealing a "truth" which needs to be corrected?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Got Multiple Sclerosis? La Tghabbi

I got diagnosed with MS early this year. It's a mystery disease and has no cure, but in most cases it's also not life threatening, or disabling right away. In most cases disabilities only start showing after 10+ years and usually only if it's left without treatment. My point for this post is that the best weapon I found yet was information and knowledge. When you know more about it, you fear it less and your plans for your future are less uncertain. Having MS is not the end of the world.

Which brings us to the issue of "teghebbi" or "hiding the info" from your friends and not-so-close family. When I first got my diagnosis I instantly became more sensitive to stories about other people who have similar symptoms, and I started asking if it was possible to call these people and ask them about MS and how it affected them so I can learn for myself. But I immediately started getting resistence and not very subtle hints that these people did not wish for others to know about their MS.

Seems to me that since MS has the possibility of disability, it becomes a taboo, sort of like cancer. Cancer is called "ilmarath ishain", as if naming it out loud is bad luck. "He Who Must Not Be Named", like Voldemort or something.

Respecting people's wishes and privacy in this matter is fine, but I found out that hiding can be harmful to you. I personally benefitted alot from being gradually more and more open about my MS. I'll tell you how.

Two weeks ago I got a call from a close friend who knew about my MS. He told me that someone who works with his brother took his niece who has MS to a clinic in Costa Rica (Institute for Cell Medicine) which does "Adult Stem Cell" treatment for multiple diseases:
1- Multiple Sclerosis
2- Diabetes Type 2 (mid-aged people who's pancreas stopped working)
3- Autism
4- Cerebral Palsy
5- Osteoarthiritis & Degenerative Joint Disease
6- Rheumatoid Arthiritis
7- Heart Failure & Stroke
8- Parkinson's Disease

I know that it sounds fishy and too good to be true. and I know that if it does sound too good to be true, then it probably is. So I took the lead and started doing my own research and found many examples of people who went there personally and had treatment and did get better. The first one being the one I talked to in person, who was a friend of a brother of a friend, who if I hadn't told about my MS, would never have occured to him to relay the information to me in the 1st place.

I even have a 2nd cousin who had MS for 6-7 years and I didn't know if it was MS or not until very recently, mainly because his Dad didn't want others in the family to ask about his condition. And only last month after me and my Dad ignored his Dad's wishes and visited him did I know for sure it was a particularly aggressive and rare type of MS where he can barely walk now. So I tell him about this new stem cell treatment and I'm surprised when he tells me that infact he knows about it and already booked a flight to try "Embryonic stem cell" treatment. There's a whole controversy around that one so I didn't press the issue with him, seeing that you create a human emryo then have it get destroyed. But I guess he was desperate.

Here's a few links of people's blogs who did go to the clinic:
Autistic child
MS cop

Here's the summary of my own case so anyone who wanted information can compare:

I'm 35yo, married with 3 children, not obese, don't smoke, don't drink alcohol.

Symptoms & History:
May 2007 - I started feeling numbness and tingling in both my feet, legs, up to my lower torso. The sensation was of hyper-sensitivity as well as less sensitivity to light touches (e.g. a cotton). with slight pain when touched. I also had some problems with balance, and fell a few times. this lasted until Nov-Dec 2007.

Dec 2007 - I developed double-vision when looking sideways to the left, this lasted for a month or so, and the tingling and numbness in my feet subsided slowly and is now almost completely gone. and no balance issues remain. But in the same time I developed the same tingling and numb sensation in the outer 3 fingers of my left hand only. slightly so in my index finger. no other symptoms remained and this sensation in my left hand remains until today.

My first MRI was done in Nov 2007 and it showed multiple hyper-intense lesions in the brain's gray matter as well as the cervical section of the spine. After that a Lumbar Puncture (spinal fluid taken) was done to test for Oligoclonal bands and it was positive. So I was diagnosed with MS in January 2008 and immediately was started on treatment using Betaferon shots every other day. I do these shots myself at home.

My neurologist suggested doing an MRI every 6 months because Kuwait was proving to be having an epidemic of MS and also because my sister (31yo) was also diagnosed with MS 2 weeks after I was, using the exact same method of LP+MRI. so my latest MRI was done 27 May 2008 and showed recession in the old lesions along with development of newer lesions. My symptoms remain the same with my left hand only. My youngest sister (24yo) also did an MRI and an LP and had small lesions and was also positive for Oligoclonal bands, but never had any symptoms, and the reason for doing the tests was my own MS and my other sister, so her neorologist was unsure if she should be treated or not, and decided to wait and do another MRI in 6 months or a year then decide. My other 2 brothers don't have any brain white spots.

I hope this was helpful. I have other information but the post is already way too long