Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Have Cool Friends

“Men shall have the benefit of what they earn, and women shall have the benefit of what they earn.” – Holy Qur’an 4:32
Photo credit/Hijab flutter: Nadia Afghani
More information on the struggle of service workers at LAX: Daily Breeze

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wake Up America

Aside from the mistake from his mouth at 5:29, I <3 this man:

And in case you were wondering, "what a police state looks like":

Monday, August 25, 2008

End Poverty at UC

To whom it may concern:

I support the 8,500 University of California service workers who are struggling for decent wages. Many of these workers and their families live in poverty, trying to make ends meet on as little as $10 an hour. It doesn't have to be this way. California community colleges and hospitals pay family-sustaining wages that average 25 percent more than those at UC.

As many as 96 percent of UC service workers can qualify for some form of public assistance, including food stamps, child care and public housing subsidies. That's just not right. Parents who work in our state's great university system should not have to rely on food stamps to put food on their tables.

I want UC's campuses and medical centers to be a place where employees are treated fairly and are able to live as hard-working families should.

As a stakeholder in the UC system, I urge you to make family-sustaining wages, rather than poverty wages, a reality for all UC workers. If California community colleges and other hospitals do it, so can UC.

Zahra Billoo

Send your own letter: Take Action
(Hijab flutter: Marya Bangee)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Desi Aunty Story

At a party on Saturday night, enjoying my last night in Southern California, I encountered a fabulous aunty. My conversation with her was so OUTRAGEOUS, that I can't help but to want to share:

Aunty: "Zahra beta, when are we going to hear your good news?"

Knowing full well what she was attempting to hint at I said "well aunty, I'm insha'Allah graduating from law school this coming May."

Aunty: "beta, thats not good enough news for us."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sen. Joe Biden on Apartheid Israel

Doesn't this just make the Obama ticket sound even more appealing?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

War Against Women: The Use Of Rape As A Weapon In Congo's Civil War

(If you're in a hurry, skip past the video and just read the article excerpts I've posted. It's the type of story that makes one's "problems" seem non-existent.)

Right now there's a war taking place in the heart of Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and more people have died there than in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur combined.
. . .
Dr. Denis Mukwege is the director of Panzi Hospital in eastern Congo. In this war against women, his hospital is the frontline. One of the latest victims he’s treating is Sifa M'Kitambala. She was raped just two days before the team arrived by soldiers who raided her village.

"They just cut her at many places," Dr. Mukwege explains.

Sifa was pregnant, but that didn't stop her rapists. Armed with a machete, they even cut at her genitals.

In the last ten years in Congo, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, most of them gang raped. Panzi Hospital is full of them.
. . .
"Has rape almost become the norm here?" Cooper asks Anneka Van Woudenberg, who is the senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"I think because of the widespread nature of the war, because there has been so much violence, rape is now on a daily basis - rape is the norm," Van Woudenberg replies.

"Women get raped in wars all the time. How is it different here?" Cooper asks.

"I think what's different in Congo is the scale and the systematic nature of it, indeed, as well, the brutality. This is not rape because soldiers have got bored and have nothing to do. It is a way to ensure that communities accept the power and authority of that particular armed group. This is about showing terror. This is about using it as a weapon of war," she explains.
. . .
In some villages as many as 90 percent of the women have been raped; men in the villages are usually unarmed, and incapable of fighting back. In Walungu the team found 24-year-old Lucienne M’Maroyhi. She was at home one night with her two children and her younger brother, when six soldiers broke in. They tied her up and began to rape her, one by one.

"I was lying on the ground, and they gave a flashlight to my younger brother so that he could see them raping me," she recalls.

"They were telling your brother to hold the flashlight?" Cooper asks.

"Yes," she says. "They raped me like they were animals, one after another. When the first one finished, they washed me out with water, told me to stand up, so the next man could rape me."

She was convinced they'd kill her, just as soldiers had murdered her parents the year before. Instead, they turned to her brother. "They wanted him to rape me but he refused, and told them, 'I cannot do such a thing. I cannot rape my sister.' So they took out their knives and stabbed him to death in front of me," she recalls.
. . .
"When they take a woman to rape her, they'll line up the family, they'll line up other members of the communities to actually witness that," Registre says. "They make them watch. And so, what that means for that particular woman when it's all over, is that total shame, personally, to have been witnessed by so many people as she's being violated."

Many of the women in Dr. Mukwege’s hospital are not only blamed for what happened to them, they are shunned because of fears they’ve contracted HIV and shunned because their rapes were so violent they can no longer control their bodily functions.

Dr. Mukwege says he's doing about five surgeries a day.

His patients often have had objects inserted into their vaginas, like broken bottles, bayonets. Some women have even been shot between the legs by their rapists.

"Why would somebody do that? Why would somebody shoot a woman inside?" Cooper asks.

"In the beginning I was asking myself the same question. This is a show of force, of power, it's done to destroy the person," Dr. Mukwege says. "Sex is being used to commit evil. People flee. They become refugees. They can't get help, they become malnourished and it's disease which finishes them off."
. . .
There may be no justice in Congo, but there are organizations trying to help rape survivors get back on their feet. "Women For Women" teaches survivors how to make soap, how to cook - skills they can use to earn money. They also learn how to read and write. It is the first time many of these women have ever been in a classroom - it is their chance for a whole new life.

Remember Lucienne M’Maroyhi? She’s jumped at that chance. She hopes to start her own business one day.

She is also now the mother of a little baby girl, born a year ago. The father is one of her rapists, one of the men who killed Lucienne's brother. She named the girl "Luck."

"I named her Luck because I went through many hardships," she explains. "I could have been killed in the forest. But I got my life back. I have hope."

Hope is not something you’d expect Congo’s rape survivors to still cling to. But they do.

Each morning in Panzi hospital they gather to raise their voices, singing at a religious service. Our sufferings on earth, they sing, will be relieved in heaven.

Relief in Congo, it seems, is just too much to ask for.
Full Story: 60 Minutes

Sunday, August 17, 2008

For the Record: Georgia Started It, Not Russia

The American-armed and trained Georgian army swarmed into South Ossetia last Thursday, killing an estimated 2,000 civilians, sending 40,000 South Ossetians fleeing over the Russian border, and destroying much of the capital, Tskhinvali. The attack was unprovoked and took place a full 24 hours before even ONE Russian soldier set foot in South Ossetia. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Americans still believe that the Russian army invaded Georgian territory first. The BBC, AP, NPR, the New York Times and the rest of the establishment media have consistently and deliberately misled their readers into believing that the violence in South Ossetia was initiated by the Kremlin. Let's be clear, it wasn't. In truth, there is NO dispute about the facts except among the people who rely the western press for their information. Despite its steady loss of credibility, the corporate media continues to operate as the propaganda-arm of the Pentagon.
Full Story: Counter Punch

Friday, August 15, 2008

Smoke Free University of California

All University of California campuses (including UCSF) will become entirely smoke-free on Thursday, Nov. 20, coinciding with the day of the Great American Smokeout. Smoking will not be permitted in any area of campus, including outdoor areas and in residential units. Even designated campus “smoking huts” will be removed. How’s that for “advancing health care worldwide”?

Additional Information: UCSF Today

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"The Ramadan Nutrition and Workout Plan for Success"

If you're one of those people who not only does not lose weight in Ramadan, but goes even further and gains weight this article is for you!

Rehan Jalali on working out and eating healthy, while fasting:

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how can I workout and eat properly while I am fasting? Most people see the blessed month of Ramadan as a time when they will surely lose strength and or muscle mass and some people think they can only "maintain" during this month. This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, if you use some of the strategies I am about to share with you, you can make some of your best gains during this month! It's all about maximizing nutrient uptake, maintaining proper hydration, and modifying key fat burning/muscle building hormones in your favor during this month.

First of all, let's look at what happens to your body during Ramadan. While you are fasting, obviously you become more dehydrated at rest--but actually less than if you had exercised aerobically for over an hour (so exercise causes greater dehydration for that time period versus fasting). Your main metabolic fuel source for bodily function during fasting is mainly fat, which is a good thing. There is a great advantage fasting when the days are shorter as more meals can be eaten during the night. So the goals during Ramadan are to maximize metabolism (even though your metabolism will slow down due to less frequent meals), preserve and enhance as much lean muscle mass as possible (which will inherently increase metabolic rate and allow you to burn more calories at rest), and maximize your workout (both cardio and weight training). During Ramadan, depending on your goals, I really recommend that you limit cardio to 2 days a week at the most. This is again to preserve as much lean muscle tissue as possible. There is actually research showing the health benefits of fasting. It is truly a physical purification.

Training Times

Ok, enough of the background, let's get to the meat of it! I am going to set the record straight here. The best time to do a weight training workout is NOT while fasting. This can create way too much muscle breakdown and cause a significant rise in the catabolic hormone cortisol. Training while in a state of dehydration can decrease strength significantly. In fact, research indicates that dehydrating a muscle by as little as 3% can cause a 12% loss in strength. Training while you are fasting can actually be more detrimental than beneficial! The best time to weight train during Ramadan is after Taraweh prayers at night. This will insure that you will have several meals and plenty of water in your system before going to the gym. This will also allow you to consume your all-important post workout meal or shake which is essential to muscle growth and even fat loss. If this is too late then the next best time to weight train is about 1 hour after Iftar before taraweh prayer. The best time to do cardio work for maximum fat loss is before suhur—yep that's the truth. Of course, most people I know will not want to get up at around 3: 30 AM and do cardio! If you CAN pull this off then the best thing to do is get up and drink plenty of water with a cup of coffee or green tea, wait 30 minutes and perform 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity cardio work like a brisk walk on a treadmill. If this is out of the question for you, then the next best time to do cardio is approximately 30-45 minutes after a "light" iftar (I will define this shortly).

So now you know when to train, it's time to learn what to eat and drink (think water, water, and more water!).

Suhur meal (morning/pre-dawn)

For suhur, it is imperative to drink plenty of water, eat a good blend of protein, carbohydrates, and essential fat—that's right "good fats" have many fat burning and muscle building properties and their importance is even greater during Ramadan. Some good "suhur" foods include:

Egg whites (1 yolk)
Chicken breast
Cream of wheat
Protein shake
Raw, Dark Honey
Raisins or dates
Fibrous vegetables –This will help increase the feeling of fullness as well.
All natural peanut butter
Flax seed oil
Olive oil – preferably extra virgin (which means it's cold processed and the essential fatty acids are preserved)
Plenty of water

It is important to take a solid Multi-Vitamin/ multi-mineral supplement with suhur as well to make sure daily minimum requirements of key nutrients are met. One good one is Opti-Pack by Super Nutrition. Taking extra vitamin C and vitamin E can also be helpful. It is very important to watch your sodium intake at this time as high sodium can cause greater dehydration plus increase thirst during the day—not good for fasters. Avoid high sodium foods like soups, sauces, condiments, gravies, high sodium bread products, and canned meats.

Iftar meal

This is a key time for rehydration. The wisdom in Islam is never ending. We break our fast with dates and water but if you investigate this nutritionally, you will see that dates are very unique in their nutrient content. They contain very high levels of potassium, a key re-hydration mineral and a special carbohydrate blend that enhance hydration above and beyond water alone. So basically when you eat a date and water for iftar your body gets hydrated again much faster than with water alone (this is a complex topic but I don't want to bore you with the details—You can think of dates and water as a very advanced form of Gatorade?). You should also eat some quality protein at this time as well. I recommend three dates and a meal replacement protein powder like ZI Diet MRP from VPX Sports, Lean Body by Labrada, or Myoplex from EAS. Of course, drink plenty of water. Then 1- 1.5 hours later have a food meal (or follow the schedule above for cardio). Then during taraweh, depending if you pray 8 or 20 rakahs, have a protein bar in the middle (not while you are praying of course!) or have another small protein and complex carbohydrate meal after the 8 rakahs—drink plenty of water if you have a protein bar. Then go train about 30-45 minutes after eating the bar. After the workout, have another nutrition shake (as mentioned a few lines ago) with plenty of water. Eating small meals at night can trick your body into speeding up metabolic rate (not to mention increase nutrient absorption and stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels). Your body loves homeostasis and wants to maintain a certain balance—you literally have to shock it constantly to lose fat and gain muscle over the long run! There is so much wisdom in "Eat and drink but not to excess" and we should try and follow that especially during Ramadan.

SAMPLE Ramadan MEAL PLAN for fat loss and muscle gain
(*This plan is for a 170 lb male, please adjust amounts for body weight)


Eat 6-8 egg whites (one yolk)
One bowl of plain oatmeal w/ cinnamon, raisins and a banana
1 teaspoon all-natural peanut butter or olive oil or flax seed oil
Plenty of water (16-24 oz.)
Opti-pack by Super Nutrition (one pack) –multi-vitamin/mineral

Iftar (the evening opening of the fast):

Three Dates and a Nutrition Shake (ZI Diet MRP from VPX Sports, Lean Body by Labrada, or Myoplex from EAS)
Plenty of water

For cardio wokouts --Do cardio 45 minutes after this meal for 30-45 minutes at a moderate pace or do a sprint workout if you have less time and then have the next meal before taraweh. (Have a cup of green tea with Iftar on cardio days)

For weight training days: Eat another food meal before Taraweh like chicken breast (or baked salmon), brown rice and some veggies OR
Baked Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Orange Roughy, or Mahi mahi), sweet potato, and a garden salad or some steamed vegetables.

Drink plenty of water during taraweh--Go to the gym after taraweh. (If you pray 20 rakahs, then have a protein bar in the middle of taraweh). Drink plenty of water during the workout and you can even have Powerade™ or a sports drink during the workout.

After the workout, have another Nutrition Shake --lots of water of course. Then sleep 45 minutes later or stay up all night eating and working like I do!

Following these simple workout and nutrition tips can really help you make great gains during this blessed month. May God help give us patience and strength in this month and throughout the year and make us strong mentally, internally, spiritually, and physically!

Monday, August 04, 2008


You ask me why the I.W.W. is not patriotic to the United States. If you were a bum without a blanket; if you had a left your wife and kids when you went west for a job, and had never located them since; if your job had never kept you long enough in a place to qualify you to vote; if you slept in a lousy, sour bunkhouse, and ate food just as rotten as they could give you and get by with it; if deputy sheriffs shot your cooking cans full of hiles and spilled your grub on the ground; if your wages were lowered on you when the bosses though they had you down; if there was one law for Ford, Suhr, and Mooney and another for Harry Thaw; if every person who represented law and order and the nation beat you up; railroaded you to jail, and the good Christian people cheered and told them to go to it, how in hell do you expect a [wo]man to be patriotic? This war is a business man's war and we don't see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs we now enjoy.