A Lateral View on Israel:What Happened,What’s Happening,Why It’s Happening and Why We Don’t Care

About a week ago a decisive operation was launched by Israel, Operation Protective Edge. This Operation was launched in response to increased rocket attacks by Hamas, the terrorist group ruling Gaza who has been at knife’s edge with Israel for nearly a decade. The conflict has so far killed 170 Palestinians, wounded 1,100 of them and injured 27 civilians. There seems to be no sign of this conflict deescalating, and with Hamas using more and more inhumane methods to protect themselves, the question remains, will this conflict come to a peaceful end?

Conflict started in 2000, when there was a struggle against the then- Israeli government, which saw the growth of many Palestinian militias, and tactics such as suicide bombings and rockets (sound familiar?) against Israeli residential areas. The Israeli government retaliated with mass arrests and assassinations of militants and leaders of Palestinian organizations. In 2005, Israel completely withdrew from Gaza, leaving no civilians or military behind. However, they still controlled the airspace, ports and borders. After this, rocket attacks from Gaza increased, and had already killed 13 people, injured hundreds, and has led to PTSD occurring in adults and children, with 33% of the children in Sderot, a town near Gaza, reported suffering from it.

Meanwhile, there was unrest in the Palestinian Authority, which led to a civil war, splitting the PA into two major powers, Hamas and the Fatah. After Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, the conflict intensified, with Israel shutting it’s border near the Gaza strip, and Hamas launching rockets to towns near the border such as the above mentioned Sderot. A coup d’état conducted by Hamas violently ousted Fatah from Gaza, leaving them to rule it. In June 2007 a full scale battle between the two factions left 120 dead and Hamas in full control of the Gaza Strip. However, the Fatah was and is officially recognized internationally as the ruler, however they have no power in Gaza. In retaliation Israel restricted the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza. Armed groups have since fired their favourite weapon, rockets, into Israel, who responded to artillery fire.

Fast forward a few years, and Hamas signed a ceasefire in November 2012. This year, three Israeli teenagers were murdered by Hamas forces. Hours after their funeral, a Palestinian teenager was killed by Jewish extremists. Egypt brokered a truce where Hamas would cease rocket fire to Israel who in turn would stop their air raids on Gaza. Hamas didn’t agree to it, and instead amped up the rocket fire to Israel, firing 140 rockets in the span of 24 hours. Israel launched 50 air strikes on various target the next day. On July 8, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, which effectively stomped on any hopes of de-escalation and instead saw increased hostilities from both the sides. Hamas has announced that Jewish genocide is his goal (So original), and Israel says that they won’t stop until they have effectively ensured that their citizens are safe from the barrage of rockets coming towards them constantly.

Conflicts continue till the date of this post, but only Palestinian lives have been lost. The reason for no Israeli lives being lost is Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome anti-missile system, which can identify missiles which will hit civilian areas, launch a counter missile and detonate it in midair all before you finish this sentence. Each missile costs $50,000 to launch, and each battery (there are 5 of them) cost $30 million. Hasam also fires rockets all over the place, with most landing in fields and plains. However, Iron Dome has intercepted 70+ missiles heading towards civilian areas including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Also, Israel has opened it’s bomb shelters towards the public, while in Gaza they are reserved for militia and military. Hasam purposely launches missiles from schools, hospitals etc. to incite the IDF (Israel military) to launch counter attacks on them and kill civilians in the process.

The IDF has refrained from firing on such targets, risking more rocket fire and Israeli casualties, even though a lawsuit is being filed against them, stating that the lives of it’s own citizens are more valuable than an enemy citizen’s. The IDF also makes it a point to send SMS-es and airdrop pamphlets on sites that are targets for air strikes, and fire a warning shot before the full strike. However, Hamas has begun encouraging and forcing civilians to stand on roofs of the buildings as seen in this video forcing the IDF to risk civilian casualties or more missile fire. If any civilians are killed, Hamas uses that against them, pleading for foreign support, and heavily twists it’s media. However, there have still been about 150 casualties, 80% of which are civilian. Modern weapons are not laser-accurate as many believe them to be. There seems to be no end to this conflict now or in the foreseeable future.

As most of you would know, July 8 was the same date Germany won 7-1 against Brazil, which was the headlines almost everywhere, except, of course, Israel and Gaza. The only news I heard about the next day in school and all the social media I’m on was the match. Arguably, the world cup is better known than the conflict. I mean, don’t get me wrong, watching people kick balls into nets is extremely entertaining. However, I think that people should be aware that this is occurring. The world cup should not be as prominent during a time of conflict as it is now. Shouldn’t this be getting a little more screen time? But does it really matter what the general populace thinks? Maybe. This conflict doesn’t seem to have a way to come to a peaceful end. If any pressure is put on foreign governments to interfere, it will only lead to more violence. Actually, 9 people were killed while watching a WC match. I guess football is; more important than this.

So, will Israel succumb to foreign pressure and stop it’s counter-offensive? Or will Gaza and Israel continue to rough it out until one has suffered to great a loss? I guess only time will tell.

A Lateral View on Teenagers

Adolescence is arguably one of the most feared phenomenon by parents, and one of the most looked forward to by children. Hormones, tantrums, rebellion, fears of relationships, drugs, alcohol etc. haunt the minds of parents, but how many of these are reasonable and to be expected?

The most widespread fear of parents by far is hormones. Although teenagers do have mood swings due to hormones, most of them are capable of dealing with them themselves, without much help. Some teenagers, if the triggers are right, may start overreacting and get panic attacks, but that is rare. As for tantrums and fear of rebellion, those are rare and are usually caused by external sources outside of home, and can be avoided by making sure they go to a decent school etc. Rebellion could also be caused due to mistreatment at homes. What most parents don’t realize is that disciplining methods used on their children won’t always work when they are teenagers, as teenagers start adopting the culture of the shows they watch, friends they have etc. And don’t like being forced into cultures their parents follow. Parents must be sympathetic towards their teenage children, and must understand that change is not always bad. The fascination of wanting to try something new draws some teenagers towards the mysteries of alcohol and (even less) towards drugs. Note that this also varies from culture to culture.

The behaviour of teenagers depends mainly on the media they watch, their peers and their parents. Movies and Television affect teens and children in various ways, such as teens adopting the culture of the television they watch. You’ll notice most teens nowadays share some of their behaviour with characters out of TV shows, even if it is oh-so-subtle. Again, parents should be open to change and instead of acting at the first sign of change, should monitor the teen and make sure that the teen is not changing for the worse. Parents are heavily programmed, and are often against teens radical thoughts and ideas. Teenagers can feel oppressed due to this. And the most important thing to remember is: be a good parent. Give them some freedom. Don’t reprimand them for every small mistake, as they are old enough to distinguish between mistakes and willful intent and don’t need it to be pointed out. Be happy and set a good example and chances are nothing negative will happen.

So, are teens really as bad as they are made out to be in popular media, or are they just misunderstood?

A Lateral View on Social Media

#new blog post #about time #internet

Facebook. Twitter. Google+. Tumblr. The most popular social networking sites today. Platforms for you to interact with your friends and let them know what’s going on with your life. Scroll down your feed and you’ll see people posting aboard their new endeavors such as going to the gym, posting selfies to show off a new hairstyle or T-shirt or simply to bask in attention. Relationship troubles, a vacation or success is broadcast  for the all your friends to see. We enjoy giving them advice or complimenting them. But why? Humans are social animals. This is true, but to what extent?

In school we are taught that humans wouldn’t survive without social interactions with other people. This is true, but we don’t need to interact as much as we do. Solitary confinement or being marooned can drive most people crazy, but that’s because they can go months without meeting someone else. We meet people everyday outside of social media and that is enough to satisfy our brain and prevent us from going insane. There are some people who prefer not to draw attention to themselves while others will post anything that will grab attention in a desperate plea. Social Networking sites aid those people in their goal by simultaneously broadcasting whatever they want to say to all their friends at once. Those interested in that post will like,share or comment their views, which may spark arguments and thus draw more attention. The only reason we post most of the stuff we do is to draw attention to ourselves. Unless it’s something big like getting married or graduating, which would draw attention anyway. You may say that there are some important things that need to be shared with some people but if it’s not important enough that it can’t be told to them directly then it’s not worth telling.

Social Networking sites also feature ‘freemium’ games which gets people addicted to them and after a while demands payment to continue playing. Think about it: What goes through your mind when you open your preferred social networking site? Is it: I wonder what’s going on with xxxx and his sister yyy? Or is it ‘I wonder how my crops are doing’,’I’m sad and depressed! Let me share to the world unneccessary  details about my life in an over exaggerated manner?’ Do you do it out of boredom? Curiosity? The answer of course varies from person to person. You can also follow people you want and stay up to date with current affairs, but you can also do the same with various news sites. So why do you stay hooked? You go there when you’re sad, you go there when you’re happy, you go there when you are confused or lost or in need of help or a self esteem boost. Support from friends is guaranteed to be received from social media sites, and you can meet and interact with people you’ve never met before who share the same views as you.

In the end, is that it? Is is solely the feeling of constant companionship and support that keeps you coming back for more? Is it the feeling of relaxing and finding out what’s been going on in your best friend’s life? Or is it just the euphoria of constantly being in touch with the people you love? I wonder how many of us actually know the answer to this question.


Social Media provides moral support and can lift you up when you’re down










—————————————————————————————————————————–Hey! Check out the amazing talk given by one of my close friends on Being a Polymath (Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with math.) in Goa for The Goa Project. You can watch it on YouTube here.

Thank You for your attention, and have a nice day!

A Lateral View on Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly!  Christmas has come(and gone, as it is). Christmas, as most people know is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. But it is one of the only religious celebration celebrated by members of various religions. But among other religions, the appeal of Christmas is not due to the religious significance, but because of a bearded felon wanted for breaking and entering. also known as Santa Claus. But how is Santa Claus related to Christmas?

He’s not. There is absolutely no relationship between Santa and Jesus. So essentially, people who are not Christian are celebrating an entirely different festival, but under the same name. Stop for a moment and think about this. What is meant to be a celebration of the birth of the founder of a major religion is associated with the exchange of gifts for no apparent reason. Children are told that Santa Claus is giving them presents, but only a few will wonder why. Once they find out Santa is not real, the gift giving still continues regardless of what religion you follow. It is understandable that Christians can exchange gifts like the three wise men to celebrate the birth of Christ, but I find it weird that everybody else do it for absolutely no reason whatsoever. If you ask yourself ‘Why do we celebrate Christmas with such vigor?’ You’ll find no logical answer. But Christmas is still celebrated by opening of gifts and reunion of family members. This gathering is looked forward to by many people, maybe because you get to meet your brother after he was away all year, etc.

The other side of Christmas is buying the actual gifts. Christmas has been commercialized, with sales occurring everywhere-it’s the most profitable time for markets along with Black Friday. The only ads you will see are about sales or Christmas-related events. Commercially, Christmas is related to Santa, with Santa mascots in every mall you visit. In media, Christmas is portrayed as a secular festival, showing the exchange of gifts and the decoration of the Christmas trees with ornaments such as candy canes. The religious factor has been almost entirely eliminated from Christmas, so that markets can sell to more consumers. Due to this, the way Christmas is celebrated has changed over the years, with most people welcoming the change but some are indignant to follow it and adhere to old traditions. Christmas has become a time for families to reunite, have fun and let loose for a few days.

A Lateral View on Racism

It was a proud moment for Nina Davuluri as she was crowned Miss America 2014.  The first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America, a little confusion was understandable. But the outbreak on Twitter was unfathomable, with thousands of tweets being tweeted on how she was Indian, and it was Miss America. The more offensive ones labeled her a terrorist, and considered India and Saudi Arabia and such the same country. As she was crowned Miss America close to the 9/11 anniversary, more and more racial slurs spilled from xenophobic Americans. This proves that racism is still prevalent in modern society, even in developed countries such as America.

Racism started mainly around the Renaissance, when the British coming into contact with people of darker pigmentation while exploring.  The bible was used as justification by slave traders for their actions. The situation got worse and worse till it climaxed in the twentieth century. It was then people started protesting and people like Martin Luther King played a major role in bringing equality to the African-American community in the eyes of the Government. But some people were unable to adopt to this change of perspective they were encouraged to take. The number of such people reduced over time, but African Americans are now perceived as dangerous and most people think that most black males they see are criminals. This is a picture that forms in the mind of every american as they walk past them. Another much more offensive and serious stereotype is that in which anybody from the Middle East is perceived as a terrorist, as proved by the Miss America outrage, even though she wasn’t from the Middle East which shows how ignorant some people can be. Any Muslim is under suspicion not only by civilians but by police and airport security agents as well. This is obviously because of terror groups like Al-Qaeda being Muslim and running operation in the Middle East, but is still not reason enough to judge every Muslim and middle eastern as a terrorist. You would think that since America is the fourth most educated country in the world people would be more open minded, but that is not the case. The role social media has to play in forming the above stereotypes in people’s mind is no small one. Shows and movies usually portray Middle Eastern terrorist groups as the antagonist, while only a few shows like Homeland offer another perspective on things. This justifies the image that has been formed in their minds.

The prior situation is in the minds of people and is irrational. The only reason it exists, is because it is passed down from generation to generation and the sooner people understand this it will be gone. The latter is much harder to solve. It has been permanently imprinted in the minds of people over a period of time. If the media stops generalizing terrorists as Muslims and stop associating terrorism with Muslims then maybe people will become aware of the fact that terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda use it as a weapon to brainwash people who have no where else to go in third-world countries. Government agencies need to stop thinking that every Muslim is a threat of some kind, they need to be as cautious of them as they are other people. Some teachers are also racist, and this racism is passed onto their students unless someone else interferes. If the media stops portraying Muslims as terrorists and parents keep their views to themselves, the next generation won’t be racist at all. When you think about it, it really isn’t that hard to achieve. Racism originated 500 years ago, it’s time to stop having faith old beliefs

So, why can’t we all just accept the fact that racism is unreasonable and an outdated tradition?

A Lateral View on Genetically Modified Crops

I recently had to write an essay on Genetically Modified Crops for my Biology project, which took up most of my weekend. This got me into thinking further on the subject.

Genetically modified crops, or GM crops, are very simply put crops with foreign genes inserted into them. The most popular GM crop is Bt cotton, which is grown in India, and is the only mass-produced GM crop in the country.  GM crops have been the subjects of controversy from the word get go – but what exactly are people debating about? Some people are debating GM crops as a product itself; saying that they can be injurious to our health, kill pollinating agents and lead to super bugs and super weeds. But other people are protesting the role of multinational corporations like Monsanto. So how many of these allegations are true?

GM crops are known to produce highly evolved species of pests and weeds. This is due to evolutionary pressure being put on that species as crops like Bt cotton are made to kill bollworms, which eat cotton leaves. Now there have been reports of bollworms eating the GM cotton and surviving, along with reports of weeds not dying with herbicides. In Andhra Pradesh Bt cotton yield decreased because of bollworms eating Bt cotton, and the farmers were forced to buy an improved variety of the seed, which was more expensive and is said to have no effect on the bollworms in some regions. GM crops are also known to kill pollinating agents such as bees and butterflies. That is what one group of people says.

The other group has no problem with GM crops; they just have problems with Monsanto. Monsanto is a huge multinational corporation and the leading producer of GM crops in the world; exporting it’s products throughout the globe except most of Europe. It mainly exports corn, soybean, cotton, wheat, canola, sorghum and sugar cane seeds, each with it’s own modification or ‘version’. Monsanto drew attention (the bad kind) when it patented a gene for a GM crop. This had never been done before and people didn’t like it. The patent meant that if you buy the GM seeds, you can’t harvest the seeds, and if you do, you will be prosecuted. Monsanto has sued more than a 100 farmers for doing this, alleging breach of contract and infringement. Most farmers couldn’t afford the costs of a prolonged legal battle with a giant like Monsanto and went bankrupt. The others couldn’t even afford to pay a lawyer to take Monsanto to court. Monsanto also sued a farmer who harvested the seeds of a GM crop unknowingly after the seeds blew in from another farm. Bottomline, all the farmers who raised a voice against Monsanto, perished into oblivion, enraging this group who are now protesting against the MNC.

People also think that GM seeds are too expensive. That is true. While regular cotton seeds cost Rs. 50-60/KG, Bt seeds cost Rs.3,000-4,000/KG. And since Bt cotton stopped working, Monsanto released a new seed with two Bt genes instead of one, and some people think this is a marketing strategy and does nothing different. The high price of GM seeds combined with the fact that GM crops are now fast replacing organic crops, encourages farmers to harvest the GM seeds – against Monsanto policies – and risk getting sued.

On the plus side, GM crops have bigger yield and less use of herbicides and pesticides. Crops like Bt cotton kills the bollworm so that the farmers don’t have to spray pesticides on their crops. GM crops have better flavor and some GM crops contain extra nutrients like Golden Rice containing extra Vitamin A. Also crops can be cold tolerant or drought tolerant so that it can be grown in places that the normal seed cannot be grown. GM crops are also disease resistant, and some GM crops are herbicide resistant – this leads to less herbicide sprayed on the crops and thus damage to the environment is reduced. Although these benefits don’t look very important they however are. GM crops can grow in a variety of climates, which means that more food can be produced in areas where food is scarce. Golden rice can help in Vitamin A deficiency. Crop yield is increased because farmers don’t have to worry about weeds, pests or diseases. This can have major implications as GM crops become more and more mainstream, cheaper ways to produce them can be invented and this could end world hunger. But corporations like Monsanto who patent the gene for pure profit stop this from happening. If other people could research the gene, GM crops could be much more advanced. If Monsanto changes its policies, it would be beneficial for the entire world.

So, which group are you a part of?


A Lateral View on Video Games

Gaming has become a popular activity among adults and children alike. If you are like me, you will be reading every article you can find on the game that you’re itching to get your hands on, and feel conflicted because you want the day it releases to come faster, but at the same time you don’t want your exams to come faster. *Sigh!!* Talk about first world problems.

Video games are fun, but they do come with their downsides. First off, they can ruin your eyes. Who doesn’t know that? Some people think that it’s the games that ruin your eyesight. It is actually the screen itself, whether you’re playing video games or not, and gadgets like the Oculus Rift  don’t affect your eyes at all. Although it’s meant for video games, it can be used for military practice, education etc. And some of the most popular channels on YouTube are related to gaming. But you can play too many games, for too much time. If you play video games while you are supposed to be doing something else, the results can be disastrous. Excess of video games can take a toll on your work and social life. If you have a project due, you will procrastinate and put it off for later just so that you can play a few more hours! This can get serious and your career and social life can take a huge hit.

But, on the other hand, video games are fun, engaging, and they improve hand-eye co-ordination, team work, reduce depression and improve your decision making skills. First person shooters are said to increase aggression in kids, but several studies have been done in this regard and the consensus is that the aggression shown in violent video games are not transferred to all the kids playing them, and is dependent on the home environment and the overall nature of the child. Games like Minecraft also help build resource management skills. Games also help increase the eyes’ agility, as long it is not exposed to the screen for a long period of time. The video game industry is in it’s prime and joining a game developing company such as EA or Ubisoft as a game tester or game designer is a  viable career option. In 2012 the video game industry was worth $67 billion, and is expected to rise to $82 billion by 2017.  Video games are also used to cure many mental illnesses and cataracts. Video games provide the player with a surreal experience that can’t be found in real life, and although this is the cause for most addictions, if they are balanced with other things, they can be fun and engaging.