The Last Diplomat


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Dear Readers, today, I present to you the story of Robin Raphael who worked for state department as diplomat. In a career spreading over four decades and 5 countries, Robin distinguished her self in a profession dominated by male. She was from generation where information was gathered not by electronic surveillance but by rubbing shoulders with Politicians, Journalists, Military Officers over tea, dinner and cocktail parties. This also included working through informal channels to bypass government bureaucracy. Lest she knew that her traditional diplomacy will result in her being branded as mole by FBI

“Pakistan is a country of 200 million people. But its leadership is like a deck of cards,” said Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to Washington. “However you shuffle them, the same 52 people will show up in one hand or another. Robin understood that.”

The FBI is very structured about communications. Agents see things as binary—on or off, authorized or unauthorized, black and white. State has a bunch of informal communications channels. Things are gray. It’s just the way State is.

The agents investigating Raphel didn’t have extensive experience dealing with State Department diplomats. They had even less exposure to diplomats of Raphel’s generation. By the way she spoke, Raphel sometimes made it sound as if she was giving Lodhi and other Pakistani contacts extremely valuable information.

Full article here

Image Source – Wall Street Journal

 

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The story of a biohacker


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Gut flora is complex community of microorganisms that reside in our body. The relationship between us and the microbes residing inside us are of mutualistic one. We both benefit out of each other. The composition of gut bacteria is heavily dependent upon our diet and overall health and also, its not same in every people. There has been an increasing evidence that these bacteria some how also connects to human brain and control feelings like depression and anxiety.

Is it possible to change that microbial layer to suit to our desire ? Could it be an effective alternative to gastric bypass surgery ? Could it help us win war against obesity ? Dear readers, I present to you an enthralling story of a man, who replaced his gut flora with somebody else’s because he thought his was broken one.

Zayner imagines the collection of organisms that live on him — his microbiome — as a suit. As such, it can be worn, mended, and replaced. The suit he was living with, he said, was faulty, leaving him with severe gastrointestinal pain. A new suit could solve all that. “You kind of are who you are, to a certain extent,” he said. “But with your bacteria, you can change that.”

Gut bacteria has been shown to influence what a person eats and Michael, Zayner’s friend-turned-stool-donor, has a serious sweet tooth: he can consume an entire a box of Oreos in one sitting. Before the transplant, Zayner was never one for cookies. “Now I crave them,” he said.

Full article here

Bonus Read – Link Found between Gut Bacteria and Depression

Image Source – Huffington Post

Portrait of a serial winner


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Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz. A cheater, a biter, a diver, a genius, a team man. Depending upon which camp you are in, you will have one of these emotions. You will either hate him or love him. There is no middle ground. There has never been…..

I fall in the later camp. I fell in love with this footballer when I saw him stopping a goal with his hand in a world cup match against Ghana. Suarez got a red card. His team advanced to semi final. Not a bad deal, eh ?  His journey from streets of Montevideo to Catalan capital has been an inspirational one. I present to you, Dear Readers, this piece of article which tries to find out what lurks inside the surface of this man. Why he bites ? Why he dives ? Why he stops goals with his hand ? Why is Luis Suárez…..Luis Suárez ?

So although there is a case to be made that Suárez cannot be reduced to the bites and headbutts, there is an equally compelling case that those few seconds are the most authentic he’s ever been. Suárez wears many masks, each of them true in the moment he puts them on, but perhaps nothing reveals his truest self like the mask he wears when he’s threatened, for that is the one that shows all the hurt he wants to hide.

Everyone in Uruguay knows what Suárez fought against, and rose above. That’s how he exists in the national consciousness, as someone who fights to win, no matter what. A man doesn’t bite simply because he is crazy. He bites because he is clinging to a new life, terrified of being sucked back into the one he left behind.

The mask came from Central Africa, made by the Songye tribe, famous for its warriors and for what an art broker describes as the most belligerent masks on the continent. The mask is long and oval, streaked with lines representing the scars on the face of a soldier. Some experts believe warriors wore them to hide human weakness, to frighten their enemies. They allowed normal people to trick themselves into being superhuman on the field of battle. Its eyes are blank, dead, creepy to look at for too long. These blanks serve as symbolic pools, a way for the warrior to collect and channel the spirits of the ancestors. The whole metaphor seems a bit much, but Enriquez thought it fit Suárez perfectly

This one is old but I had to share it because it so good. Dear Readers, I hope you enjoy it.

Full Article Here

Image Source – ESPN

The Blerch


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On a wintery Sunday morning your alarm goes off. Its 6 am. You are supposed to get out of bed and go to gym(or run, or substitute anything that you do to keep yourself fit). But then you hear some voices. “You can always go to gym…. later in the day. Just sleep for now in the comfort of your bed and duvet. You have earned it…“. Lie. Deep down you know this won’t work. It had never worked. But still you give in.  Dear Readers, have you ever had that feeling ? Mathew Inman calls these voices as Blerch.

I present to you a cartoon strip from theoatmeal, The terrible & wonderful reasons why I run long distances.  I hope you enjoy it.

Mathew Inman is a very talented cartoonist who has uncanny knack of personifying these abstract ideas in a very humorous form. I will be in future, posting a lot more of his work because some of them are just epic.

 

 

Chasing the Higgs Boson


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Physics can be really humbling. Success does not come easy. You do thousand runs of experiments (and a lot of them are failed ones) before you are able to establish a fact. I wonder what keeps these scientists driven?

I share with you a brilliant piece by The New York Times describing the Hunt for ‘The God Particle‘.

For all their equipment and brainy multitudes, physicists would never be able to hold the Higgs Boson in their hands. As soon as it was created, it would disintegrate in a shower of lesser particles — sometimes, for example, in a flash of gamma rays, or into a spray of lightweight particles.

“Afterward he marveled at how attitudes toward physics had changed from a few years earlier, when some people feared the new collider would destroy Earth. That and the ‘God particle’ talk had gotten the public’s attention, he had to admit: ‘Once neighbors find out that Sharma is involved in that black hole thing, the dog doesn’t pee in my yard anymore.’”

By then they had already collected as many collisions — some 400 trillion — as they had the entire previous year

Chasing the Higgs Boson

Image source

NB: This article was a finalist for Pulitzer Prize(2014)