Sunday, August 29, 2010

Doda: How British Columbia Became a Drug Hub

A record 60,000 poppy plants were found growing near Chilliwack, British Columbia. Not for heroin production, but for drug called "doda":
Not too long ago, doda could be bought in stores across the Fraser Valley alongside South Asian goods, said Harry Bains, NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton. “You could walk into a dozen of local stores and they would sell it to you. Some even kept it right on the counter,” he said.
The drug has been called poor man’s opium, referring to its popular use among taxi and truck drivers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for boosting alertness.
Although the drug is illegal here and in India, Mr. Bains said it has become a problem only recently in Canada and police didn’t know about it two years ago. “We brought it to their attention, and to their credit they took it seriously. They didn’t know it was commercially produced and sold here,” said Mr. Bains, who was asked by community leaders to help stop the spread of doda in B.C.
“We don’t want to add another drug onto the drugs that our community is facing and causing havoc on our streets. … That is a serous concern if it starts growing here,” Mr. Bains said.
This isn't surprising considering British Columbia has become a North American drug hub in recent years.
Asian, Indo-Canadian and outlaw motorcycle gangs are not only putting pot, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and crystal meth into the hands of B.C. citizens, but they're also using globalization to reap profits planetwide, an RCMP intelligence report reveals.
"The involvement of organized crime has significantly expanded the Canadian illicit drug trade, posing a major threat both domestically and internationally," said the just-released Drug Situation Report 2006.
"Criminal organizations that previously specialized in one drug . . . have now branched out into multi-commodity trafficking, importation and exportation. These organizations are powerful, well-connected and are dealing in high-profit-yielding illicit ventures across the globe."
In essence, globalization and immigration are bringing drugs you've never heard of to Canada. And as a result, doda is taking its toll on the B.C. South Asian communities.
Dr. Gulzar Cheema said doda has been popular in the South Asian community for years and is currently sold under the counter in many pawnshops, video stores and other retail outlets.
Doda is a powder made by grinding the seed pods of opium poppies and is usually used to make a type of tea.
Police have ignored the problem for so long, it's now as common as marijuana in some circles, said Cheema.
Doda addiction is now the second biggest substance-abuse problem in the South Asian community, Surrey addictions counsellor Rajpal Singh said.
"It's spread a lot and it's spreading more," Singh said. "It is a big problem."
Doda users are often construction workers or truckers who use the drug to help them stay awake through long work shifts. Opiates often trigger bursts of energy before eventually causing pronounced tiredness in users.
So doda is basically the opium-equivalent of crystal meth. Can't find anything online right now to indicate if this has spread/become a trend in US cities with Afghan/Pakistani/Indian populations. However, it might only be a matter of time before doda catches on among other drug users across the continent.


And as it turns out, Doda also happens to be the name of a female Polish pop singer on trial for insulting religious feeling by claiming drunks and stoners wrote the Bible. Poland happens to be extremely Catholic.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Semi-Hiatus and Facebook/Twitter Feeds

Lately, I haven't had the time to write the kind of long, thoughtful posts I'd like to.

However, interesting tidbits happen every day, so I would strong suggest following Culture Bore on Facebook, and/or subscribing the CultureBore Twitter feed.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

We Still Call Countries By Greek and Latin Names

Coming Anarchy points out several presently existing countries with names originating from ancient Greek or Persian words.
Take Egypt. The ancient Egyptian name of the country is Kemet, and the modern Arabic name of the country is Misr (or Masr), a word with Semitic origin. Egypt comes from the the Latin Aegyptus, which in turn derives from the ancient Greek Aígyptos, which means “below the Aegean [Sea]”.
Then in the Caucasus, ethnic Georgians call themselves Kartvelebi, their land Sakartvelo, and their languageKartuli. Georgia comes from a belief that came back to Medieval Europe from the Crusades that the country is the home of St. George, a Roman Christian martyr. And in Armenia, the native name for the country is Hayk, which in the Middle Ages was extended to Hayastan, by addition of the Iranian suffix -stan (land). The name Armenia derives from old Persian and Ancient Greek.
Basically, we're using the names of dead empires in dead languages to describe whatever roughly exists in the same geographic area today...who cares what ethnic groups call their own homeland?

Interesting side note: the English language also inherited describing geographic south as "down" from the Greeks and Romans - because if Egypt were really underneath the Aegean Sea, it certainly wouldn't be a country today.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Was Greco-Roman Sculpture Actually Painted?

(via Washington Post)

We may have completely misunderstood Greco-Roman sculpture for centuries.

In the years to either side of 1500, more and more ancient sculpture began to be recovered. Centuries of burial or neglect had bleached the marbles, and greened the bronzes, beyond their makers' recognition. But it was those altered colors that became the model for how the ancient world had looked, and for what all new sculpture ought to look like.
By 1764, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, often named as the founder of art history, could look at the classical marbles that had come down to him and definitively pronounce that "the whiter a body is, the more beautiful it is as well."
That view went on to dominate. It led Lincoln in his Memorial to come out white on white.

Destroying conventional historical wisdom aside, I think I prefer the painted versions of the statues, myself.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque Debate Summed Up


1. Building a mosque in proximity to the location of a terrorist attack conducted in the name of Islam is insensitive, offensive, and disrespectful to families and friends of the victims.

2. The funders and supporters have connections to organizations that advocate global Sharia law.

3. Building the mosque emboldens those with a pro-Sharia law agenda/desire to commit acts of violence against non-Muslims.

4. Islam is an underestimated threat to American ideals and Western Civilization.


1. Part of what makes America special is freedom of religion.

2. Banning the mosque is a slap to the majority of American Muslims who do not engage in violent activities, and assimilate to American society quite well, for the most part.

3. Opposing a Mosque in America because Islamic countries ban Christan churches or Jewish synagogues puts America down to the level of those the mosque opponents are against.

4. Islam is an overestimated threat to American ideals and Western Civilization.


Fabius Maximus has a good, even handed-take of the issues at hand here, so just read the post.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pakistan's ISI Keeps Causing Trouble in the Neighborhood

Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) has been linked to:

1. the Taliban
2. the Maoist/Naxalite violence in eastern India
3. international terrorist/crime syndicate figureheads

I had no idea that fundamentalist Islam, militant Maoism, and the South Asian version of the Godfather had anything to do with each other, much less an official government agency of a UN member nation-state.

Especialy when that nation-state's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, spoke of ideas like these:

"Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.
"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State."

Oh, Pakistan, how far you have fallen. Who knows where you will go from here...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Martin Luther's Linguistic Legacy in German

Aside from catalyzing the Reformation, Martin Luther's other legacy was the word choice of his "German" translation of the Bible.
Luther’s genius was to infuse his translation with the words he heard on the street in his bit of Saxony, in east-central Germany. He obsessively asked friends and fellow scholars which dialectal words would be most widely understood. The common touch was so successful that a Catholic opponent complained that “even tailors and shoemakers…read it with great eagerness.” It was the bestseller of the century and remains the most popular German translation. Rarely has a single man had such a mark on a language. The German of Luther’s Bible was nobody’s native language in his day. Today it is so universal that it threatens Germany’s once-vibrant dialects with death by standardisation.
In the near future, Culture Bore will be reviewing books. I'll see if I can snag a reviewing copy of this one.

Religious Tolerance Takes Another Back Seat

Opposition to a mosque planned for construction near Ground Zero of the old World Trade Center towers has helped fuel anti-Muslim protests across America.
A Florida church, Dove World Outreach Centre, is planning a "burn the Qur'an" day on September 11 and has already outraged Muslims by planting a sign on its front lawn that reads: "Islam is the Devil."
The church's senior pastor, Terry Jones, has said he is "exposing Islam for what it is".
"It is a violent and oppressive religion that is trying to masquerade itself as a religion of peace, seeking to deceive our society," the church said. "Islam is a lie based upon lies and deceptions and fear. In Muslim countries, if you preach the gospel or convert to Christianity – you will be killed. That is the type of religion it is."
A leading Muslim educational institution, al-Azhar's Supreme Council in Egypt, has accused the Florida church of "stirring up hate and discrimination" and called on other American churches to condemn it.
Many religious leaders have spoken out against Muslim-bashing, including rabbis in New York who have defended the plans for the mosque two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, which would not be visible from Ground Zero.
But John Esposito, director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, said many Americans shared Jones's views. He said the dispute over the proposed mosque had given cover for more open hostility unleashed after the 9/11 attacks that was evident during the last presidential election when some of Barack Obama's opponents attempted to portray him as a Muslim.
Meanwhile, in a move that manages to fulfill every fearful claim against Islam, an al-Qaeda chief calls for the death of Christians in Saudi Arabia.
"Those of you who work in guarding the tyrants of princes or ministers, or the compounds inhabited by Christians, or can reach them, should seek God's help and kill them," said AQAP's number two, Said al-Shihri.
Shihri, a former inmate of the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, claimed that AQAP has received correspondence from members of Saudi armed forces asking for "guidance."
He urged the Qaeda followers, however, to make sure that they avoid killing Muslims by mistake during their attacks.
"Fear God with regards to Muslims' blood... even if that was a reason to postpone your attack," he said.
And finally, everyone who prefers to keep their relationship with their chosen deity personal suffers another collective defeat.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

IED's, Counter-insurgency, and How Money Shapes Tactical Adaptivity

This post at Global Guerrillas (along with the quoted Wired article) goes to show 1. how rapidly insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed cheap, lethal explosives 2. how easily they can be made and deployed, and 3. the absolutely mind-boggling disparity between insurgent expenses and the multi-trillion dollar US military-industrial complex.

The main point I want to draw out is this: we've got two different economic incentives at work on either side:

A. ideological Islamic insurgent groups have low/inconsistent material resources, so they need the best bang for buck (literally) to fight the US. Thus, scarcity breeds brutal efficiency.

(yes, I am not factoring in unnamed foreign funders from Saudi Arabia/Iran/Pakistan or the heroin trade, but neither the Iraqi insurgent groups nor the Taliban have sophisticated, high-cost supply chains of any sort.)

B. well-connected military contractors and lobbyists in the United States making sweetheart deals to siphon as much of the vast US defense budget as possible, and a large, professionally-trained military using expensive manufactured equipment halfway across the world from their country of origin in a highly technologized, bureaucratized environment without consistently clear goals and endpoints. Thus, surplus breeds massive waste.

If I were a ranking Pentagon official, I would take a serious look at the war spending and try to figure out the millions of ways that millions of dollars could be better spent. But that might make too much sense.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Power Abhors a Naval Vacuum: Past-and-Present China and The Bush-Obama United States

Will a shrinking Navy mean shrinking US influence abroad?
In the following year the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. combat fleet numbered 466 ships. By 2001, it had shrunk to 316. The decline continued throughout George W. Bush’s two terms to the current level of 285 ships. Since February 2006 the Navy has consistently maintained that it needs at least 313 ships to perform the missions assigned to it.
Between budget constraints, the decline of shipbuilding, and quicker-than-expected ship deterioration, it looks like US naval shrinkage is here to stay (text bolded for emphasis):
As manpower diminished, the interval at which the Navy conducted burdensome but effective individual ship inspections rose from 3.6 to 5 years. The failure rate recorded by these inspections also increased over ten years beginning in the mid-1990s, from 3.5 percent to almost 14 percent. Insufficient maintenance aboard ships produces the same result as it does in cars: It shortens their useful life. Baslisle predicted that crew shortages and associated problems with the material condition of destroyers will shorten their service lives from the expected thirty and hoped-for forty years to 25–27 years. Fleet levels are calculated by multiplying the number of ships built annually by their anticipated length of service. If either number falls, so does the size of the fleet.
If Balisle is right, a significantly smaller fleet lies in our future. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead knows there’s a problem, but the solution is elusive. The Navy needs another 6,500 personnel to supply current deficiencies ashore and at sea. Evaporating resources sparked the search for efficiency; efficiencies contorted the fleet, and now the fleet needs additional resources to correct the contortions. So, like the children’s song in which repairing a hole in the bucket turns out after a long series of needed fixes to be impossible because there’s a hole in the bucket, the Navy’s options are circumscribed by the budget, existing manpower commitments and the upwardly spiraling cost of added personnel.
So what? Well, a worldwide naval presence means (among other things):

- worldwide political influence
- boats to transport personnel, weapons, and material to international hot-spots
- leverage with allies and enemies alike

Thus, a smaller US navy means smaller US influence outside the continental 48 states - like in the Persian Gulf or the Western Pacific. And where there's no strong patrolling naval presence, things like piracy emerge.

At the same time of the US naval decline, Chinese naval power has sharply risen.
The Chinese military is seeking to project naval power well beyond the Chinese coast, from the oil ports of the Middle East to the shipping lanes of the Pacific, where the United States Navy has long reigned as the dominant force, military officials and analysts say.
China calls the new strategy “far sea defense,” and the speed with which it is building long-range capabilities has surprised foreign military officials.
The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or defending the Chinese coast. Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country’s economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas.
It's worth pointing out that during the 15th century, the Chinese Empire had the largest, most powerful navy in the world, led by explorer and commander, Zheng He. But after a dynasty change led to centuries of isolationism, the empire eventually learned the hard way about the perils of a poorly-operating navy to national security.
Many historians still hold the ancient authorities that neglected China's maritime potential responsible for the "shameful" rule over China by western powers in modern times, claiming the failure to maintain its first modernized navy cost China dearly.
The Imperial Beiyang Fleet, established during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was said to be the "best navy in Asia" and the "eighth best in the world" in the late 1880s. But it was destroyed ships from Japan within six hours, partly because the Qing leaders were careless with the country's maritime security.
After the defeat, the commander even ordered the destruction of the fleet's 7,100-ton, flagship Dingyuan to prevent it being seized by the enemy. The armored turret ship was the biggest battleship in East Asia at that time and was still the largest combat vessel in China's recent naval history.
As a consequence of the defeat, China was forced to concede Taiwan to Japan and did not retrieve it until after World War II.
Hence, the investment in naval security for Chinese interests.
With this in mind, the PLA has offered consistent defense budgets to upgrade weapons and technologies in recent years, added Senior Colonel Li Jie, a researcher at the navy's Military Academy.
The bold move to send fleets to protect Chinese merchant vessels against Somali pirates last December has also caught the attention of the nation. It was the first overseas military combat mission for the navy since Zheng He's six centuries ago.
Netizens praised the efforts to protect national interests, even though the mission zone near Somalia is 5,000 nautical miles from China's shores. 
Flush with over $2.5 trillion foreign exchange reserves, China has invested in South Asian and African littoral states so as to secure its sea lanes of commerce and to avoid sending its oil ships through the straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombok. In pursuance of its “strings of pearls policy”, China not only gifted and built the Gwadar Port for Pakistan (which will unload West Asia oil, to be moved by Chinese-gifted roads and pipelines to China through the proposed Karakoram highway), but is now building ports in three countries which are India’s neighbours. In Sri Lanka the Chinese are funding and building the $9 billion Hambantota seaport (three times larger than Colombo) and the nearby Mattala International Airport, both to be ready by 2015. In Bangladesh the Chinese are funding and building two deep water terminals at Chittagong and a brand new seaport nearby. Both these terminals and the new port will be linked by road and oil pipelines to Kunming in China, and will pass through Burma. Similarly Sittwe deep water port in Burma is being funded and built by China, and will also be connected to Kunming by road and oil pipelines. China has also invested in similar facilities in Tanzania and Angola.
So in the very near future, PLA (People's Liberation Army) naval ships will skim around the Pacific and Indian Oceans to back up China's commercial and security interests, and have plenty of "safe zones" to dock all around the world.

Certainly, the United States, India, Australia, and Japan will still have active navies in the area - but China has planted the seeds for regional dominance, and international tensions will only increase from here. 

Guess it must be a great time to be in the Chinese shipbuilding industry.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sea Sponge DNA and The Cure For Cancer

Turns out humans share 70% of its DNA with Sea Sponges.

Science Daily reports that sequencing the the DNA of the Great Barrier Reef marine sponge -- a 650 million-year-old group of organisms -- reveals basic information about cancer, including the emergence of a network of specialized cells. The researchers explain that as organisms evolved from single cell to multicellular, a conflict is created in that individual specialized cells want to keep replicating. Cancer is the uncontrolled replication of cells, and understanding the evolution of animals from sea sponges all the way up to primates can help reveal more clues to how cancer works, and can be prevented.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

China: Where Does It Go From Here?

With the rapid urbanization, mass construction, and societal plunge into tech-savvy consumerism, China is predictably facing some complicated issues regarding its cultural identity and what China "ought to be."

After all, when the Communist Party embraces capitalism and does it better than the United States and Europe, the traditional left-right dichotomy no longer neatly applies to the American/European understanding to the terminology. The last century of societal upheavals have done much to remove the majority of the remnants of the millenia-old Chinese civilization continuum. Chinese media censorship still pervades and even extends to dating shows and televised dramas, but a resurgence of Chinese political science-fiction may help begin to turn the tide against Party-controlled thought.

How the coming generations will view China, Chinese culture, and "Chinese-ness" in the context of the country that exists today will be interesting to see.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Culture Clash Round-up (8/4/10)

Germany is debating its immigration laws concerning bringing skilled migrants to the country.
In 2000, the center-left government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder introduced a "green card" system in an effort to streamline the immigration of IT specialists. Despite the need for computer experts, however, opposition to the plan was intense, with Jürgen Rüttgers, then campaigning to become the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, coining the phrase "Kinder statt Inder" -- "children instead of Indians" -- to indicate his preference for training Germans rather than opening up the borders to foreigners.
"Few seem to have understood that Germany needs to make itself more attractive. The problem: Many here still have the impression that foreigners take jobs away from Germans. The reality, however, is different: Since 2008, Germany has actually been a country of emigration instead of immigration. More people are leaving than are arriving. In addition to qualified foreigners, well-trained Germans are also leaving. In the last few years, fewer than 700 highly qualified foreigners have chosen to make Germany their home -- a vanishingly small number."
Bolivia confiscates an American-born farmer's land under charges of indigenous servitude. 
Larsen denies that, insisting in interviews with the AP since the government first moved to seize his land in February 2009 that he has treated his workers well.
He claims he was singled out as a relatively wealthy white American in a racially divided nation by an Aymara Indian president who grew up dirt poor.
Morales, the Larsens claim, was more interested in getting access to natural gas and petroleum deposits that likely underlie Caraparicito — exploratory drilling began there last year — than in restoring indigenous lands.
Bolivia's government has also confiscated ranches totaling more than 60 square miles (15,500 hectares) from two powerful white opposition leaders in Bolivia's eastern lowlands, the stronghold of Morales' most bitter foes.

Graham, who had considered working with Democrats on immigration reform earlier this year, told Fox News last week that “birthright citizenship is a mistake.”
“We should change our Constitution and say if you come illegally and you have a child, that child is automatically not a citizen,” Graham said. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Thin (Complicated) Line Between Racial and Cultural Purity

A few items to consider.

Israel is deporting the Israeli-born children of migrant workers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new policy was intended to stem a flood of illegal immigrants, whose children receive state-funded education and healthcare benefits, and to defend Israel's Jewish identity.
"On the one hand, this problem is a humanitarian problem," Netanyahu said during a meeting Sunday of the Cabinet, which had debated the move for nearly a year. "We all feel and understand the hearts of children. But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel.
And the migrants aren't just from neighboring Arabic countries.
Sunday's Cabinet decision underscored Israel's ongoing struggle to cope with the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 foreign workers on its soil. About half arrived illegally or have lapsed permits.
Chinese construction workers, Philippine elder-care aides, Thai farmers and others began arriving in the 1990s. They replaced Palestinians as Israel's main source of cheap labor after the West Bank uprisings, which made it more difficult for Palestinians to work in Israel.

On a similar note, Maltese-born, American cartoonist Joe Sacco on African immigration to Malta as a stepping stone to mainland Europe, a comic that captures both the angry, fearful Maltese and the desperate, hopeful migrants from all across Africa who don't even want to stay in Malta to begin with.

Compare this to the recent study released by the Population Reference Bureau.
The 2010 World Population Data Sheet shows the contrasts between developing and developed countries. Comparing Ethiopia and Germany illustrates how stark the contrasts can be (see table). Even though Ethiopia and Germany have almost the same population size today, Ethiopia is projected to more than double its population from 85 million today to 174 million in 2050. Germany's population will likely decline from 82 million to 72 million over that same time. The cause of these enormous differences is lifetime births per woman. Ethiopia's total fertility rate of 5.4 is four times greater than Germany's rate of 1.3.

Finally, a quote from a book summary that perfectly articulates a good point better than I could:
Without a doubt, the sophisticated Egyptian, Phoenician, Minoan, and Persian societies deeply influenced the classical culture of ancient Greece, which some still imagine as the West’s pure and unique source. That story is still to come, for the obsession with purity—racial and cultural—arose many centuries after the demise of the ancients. Suffice it to say that our search for the history of white people must begin in the misty mixture of myth and reality that comprises ancient Greek literature.

Rather than try to tie all these links together into a cohesive essay and point, I'll leave it up to you to read, ponder, and draw your own conclusions.

Perhaps the essay(s) will come another day.

Like What You Read? Share It.

Share |