Islam Surpasses Roman Catholicism As World’s Largest Religion

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano announced yesterday that Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion.

Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population, a stable percentage, while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

Monsignor Vittorio Formenti attributed the change to Muslim families having more children, while Catholics have tended towards fewer offspring.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population.

[Source: Yahoo! News]
[Via: Truemors]

Not Reading And The Destruction Of Culture

I just came across this quote by Gandhi, which rang so very true…

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

Mohandas Gandhi

Now, I’m not going to go on a rant on how some group of people conspired against the Arab world to get them to not read books and thereby destroy our culture; I’m not really in the conspiracy theory mood right now.

But what is more important is how true the direct relation between not reading and the destruction of a culture really is; and how it is one of the main reasons behind the decline of Arab culture.

It is an obvious fact that we Arabs don’t read like we used to: apart from a very few who read a healthy amount of books yearly, the majority rest barely go through one book a year, if not none at all.

There are book fairs all around the Arab world, and they’re always full of people, but by just taking a closer look at what books are being bought, you can know who is actually a good reader, and who is buying books to decorate their bookshelves or just as general references.

But what makes books and reading them so important?
I’ve found another quote that says it all so beautifully…

From every book invisible threads reach out to other books; and as the mind comes to use and control those threads the whole panorama of the world’s life, past and present, becomes constantly more varied and interesting, while at the same time the mind’s own powers of reflection and judgment are exercised and strengthened.

Helen E. Haines

It is through books that we come to a better understanding of life; the past, present and future; and ourselves. It is also through books that our minds are opened, inspired and pushed to think, evaluate and innovate.
Books simply unlock our brains to their full potential; the more we read the more areas and doors we unlock, the more we take away, the more we have a clearer view of all that is around us, and the more we can be a factor in changing it.

By reading, we take the big step from being passive consumers to active thinkers, paving the way for us to become proactive creators, therefore pushing our culture and civilization a couple of steps forward.

Our local governments invest so much to get children into schools and reduce the illiteracy rates all over the Arab world, and in some countries these efforts have been very successful; but it’s not enough for people to be able to read and write, the aim should be to get them to actually do those things: read and write.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.

Mark Twain

Buy A Tree For The Rainforest And Watch It Grow

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched a new program called NEWtrees, through which you get to buy a tree for only $5.50, which is then planted in a rainforest in Sebangau National Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia and you are given the possibility to watch it grow on Google Earth (they send you a Google Earth KML file with the coordinates of your tree).

As Google Earth is updated with higher resolution satellite and aerial images, you should be able to keep an eye on your tree as it grows.
To see already planted trees and buy one of your own, you can check out: mybabytree.org.

NEWtrees is a joint initiative by WWF Indonesia, Nokia and Equinox Publishing.

I personally think this is a great way of encouraging people to actively support replanting projects for forests in Indonesia and across the world; hopefully more such projects will be launched to cover more areas and forests.

You can find a number of other good causes where Google Earth is coming in very handy here: Google Earth Outreach

[Via: Marketing Pilgrim, Google Earth Blog]

The World In The Eyes Of The Media

news heatmap

Above is a heat map of the world according to the attention each country gets in the New York Times’ coverage.

This is one of several heat maps developed in a project to indicate the regions that some of the major western media outlets, and the blogosphere, give more attention to.

These maps allow you to grasp several media trends at a glance. First, traditional newspapers are highly selective in their coverage of world news. Looking at the three British dailies, editors favour countries that are bigger and more populous, but also closer to home and better developed. They also give more room to the countries of origin of British immigrants, especially if they are white (look at the size of Australia and New-Zealand). Hardly surprising, but still disheartening, especially when you consider that the only brand that does not advocate objectivity, The Economist, covers the world more equally.

Second, we see that web-only outlets do not offer such a different view of the world. That makes sense, considering the narrowing of the news agenda on the web that was described in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest report. Their lack of resources forces them to contract their scope. Smaller issues are better covered by the blogosphere, which seems unbeatable at providing niche news.  

[Via: The Black IrisBoing Boing]

Life: Priorities, Perspective & Balance

Many of us talk about our priorities in life, how we’ve given them some thought, how we’ve figured them all out, and how we know we should act according to those priorities.

But in the end of the day, many many of us don’t do anything about it, we know what our priorities should be, we know what we care about most in life, but when it comes to our everyday acts in life, they simply don’t reflect those priorities at all.

Sometimes it takes something very powerful, a shock, to just open our eyes, bring everything into perspective, and show us that the way we’re leading our lives is just not the way they should be led, that our time and effort isn’t divided fairly and according to the priorities we have in our minds.

Today, I went through such a shock, it was definitely one of the worst and scariest moments of my life. Fortunately, things worked out fine in the end, but what’s for sure is that it left my eyes wide open; re-evaluating my life, my priorities, my spent time, my invested efforts and showed me that I needed to reach a better balance in my life.

What do I do or what does anyone do next? I really don’t know.
But I’ll certainly be trying to push myself to do whatever is necessary to get my priorities straight and everything else well aligned to them and as balanced as they can ever be.

Send A Message On Israel’s Illegal Wall

 

A really interesting idea using the illegal Israeli barrier wall to support local Palestinian businesses…

As Israel continues its illegal land grab of Palestinian territory, by caging in the West Bank, the controversial barrier wall has become more than just oppressive concrete slabs to some; it’s become an easel for various artists. Two Palestinians have come together to put a new spin on rendering the wall into an art form, by starting an organization called send.a.message, whereby you can pay them (online) to spray paint whatever message you want on the wall. It’s only $45 and it goes towards supporting micro-projects for all the Palestinian businesses hurt by the wall, mostly in Ramallah where their first partner-projects are.[Via: The Black Iris]
sendamessage

[More: OptimumHaaretz]

 

 

See-Saw To Power African Schools

A really creative and useful idea to help power African schools in a clean way…

A young inventor is hoping to tap the unbounded energy of children in a playground to power schools in Africa. 

Design student Daniel Sheridan has created a simple see-saw which generates enough electricity to light a classroom.

The device works by transferring the power, created by a child moving up and down on it, to an electricity storage unit via an underground cable.

The Coventry University student has won £5,500 in funding to develop the idea.

[Source: BBC News]

“Intellectual property” is a silly euphemism

Fundamentally, the stuff we call “intellectual property” is just knowledge – ideas, words, tunes, blueprints, identifiers, secrets, databases. This stuff is similar to property in some ways: it can be valuable, and sometimes you need to invest a lot of money and labour into its development to realise that value.

But it is also dissimilar from property in equally important ways. Most of all, it is not inherently “exclusive”. If you trespass on my flat, I can throw you out (exclude you from my home). If you steal my car, I can take it back (exclude you from my car). But once you know my song, once you read my book, once you see my movie, it leaves my control. Short of a round of electroconvulsive therapy, I can’t get you to un-know the sentences you’ve just read here.

Cory Doctorow, “Intellectual property” is a silly euphemism

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction

I just heard about the newly created “International Prize for Arabic Fiction,” which this year went to Egyptian author Baha Taher for his book ‘Sunset Oasis’, a book that explores one man’s existential crisis.

The winning book will get published throughout the Arab world, and translated outside of it, thus helping the author gain a wider readership. The cash awards included; which are: $10,000 for shortlisted authors, $50,000 for the winner; should also give a good boost to authors in the Arab worldm a region where it is nearly impossible to live off of writing up to now.

The list of finalists included:

June Rain by Jabbour Douaihy (Lebanon)
The Land of Purgatory by Elias Farkouh (Jordan)
In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa (Syria)
Walking in the Dust by May Menassa (Lebanon)
Swan Song by Mekkaoui Said (Egypt)
Sunset Oasis by Baha Taher (Egypt)

I think it’s a great idea, certainly more than welcome, and hopefully it will play its important role and breathe life into the Arab book world, encouraging more authors and publishers to write and publish.

It’s a shame that there are no authors from the Arab Maghreb on the list of finalists, more should be done from both sides, the organizers and Maghreb publishing houses/authors, to ensure they are included in the future.

I haven’t read any of the books on the finalists list, but one sure thing is that I’ll be looking for them in the Tunis Book Fair that isn’t too far away now.

[Source: Bloomberg]
[Via: Laila Lalami, Mental Mayhem]