Lola’s Story

Today’s Needull is the very last article written by the renowned Pulitzer-winning journalist Alex Tizon, his last masterpiece before he succumbed to prolonged illness last month. In the article, he writes about Lola, his household ‘slave’ in the US, who was also his nanny-cum-cleaner-cum-cook-cum-gardener. Lola had joined Alex’s family from his native country, where her family was a victim of classism and casteism spanning generations. In the article, Alex revisits Lola’s past after her death and during his journey through his native Philippines, also takes us on a journey of realisation. As a UAE resident who knows many such ‘slave-owners’, it is an emotional eye opener of sorts for me. Hope it’s the same for you.

We landed in Los Angeles on May 12, 1964, all our belongings in cardboard boxes tied with rope. Lola had been with my mother for 21 years by then. In many ways she was more of a parent to me than either my mother or my father. Hers was the first face I saw in the morning and the last one I saw at night. As a baby, I uttered Lola’s name (which I first pronounced “Oh-ah”) long before I learned to say “Mom” or “Dad.” As a toddler, I refused to go to sleep unless Lola was holding me, or at least nearby.

I was 4 years old when we arrived in the U.S.—too young to question Lola’s place in our family. But as my siblings and I grew up on this other shore, we came to see the world differently. The leap across the ocean brought about a leap in consciousness that Mom and Dad couldn’t, or wouldn’t, make.

Full Article Here

The Atlantic – Alex Tizon

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The Man who brought the Nazis to Justice

70 years ago, the biggest murder trial in history took place as Nazis were brought to justice for the Holocaust. Benjamin Ferencz, at 97 , is the last surviving prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials and has fought for the victims of war crimes all his life. In today’s Needull, an interview by famous CBS reporter Lesley Stahl, he talks about his journey from an immigrant who did not know a word of English to being the main force behind prosecuting 22 members of Einsatzgruppen, Nazi extermination squads responsible for the deaths of more than a million Jews, and many thousands of Gypsies, partisans and others.

Only one piece of film is known to exist of the Einsatzgruppen at work.  It isn’t easy viewing…

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, this is typical operation.  Well, see here, this– they rounded ’em up. They all have already tags on ’em. And they’re chasing them.

Lesley Stahl: They’re making them run to their own death?

Benjamin Ferencz: Yes. Yes. There’s the rabbi coming along there. Just put ’em in the ditch. Shoot ’em there. You know, kick ’em in.

Lesley Stahl: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

This footage came to light years later. At the time, Ferencz just had the documents, and he started adding up the numbers.

Benjamin Ferencz: When I reached over a million people murdered that way, over a million people, that’s more people than you’ve ever seen in your life, I took a sample. I got on the next plane, flew from Berlin down to Nuremberg, and I said to Taylor, “General, we’ve gotta put on a new trial.”

Full Interview Here

The actual video interview on CBS 60 Minutes

Bonus Read: Interview in Guardian where Ben talks on current issues

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The story of a biohacker


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

Surviving In A Zombieland

“It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.”

The zombie apocalypse, be it due to movies or television or pulp fiction, is something we all have had nightmares about, but it might surprise you to learn a lot of researchers argue that a real zombie plague could be closer than you think. Well, so what should one be doing to survive such an apocalypse. Simply hiding inside buildings – or God forbid, running around smashing zombie skulls with a baseball bat – is a terrible idea, even though countless Z movies across the world, from Dawn of the Dead to Go Goa Gone, suggest the same.

Well, today’s Needull comes to your rescue. Pentagon wrote a 31-page report on how military should tackle a zombie uprising (as a training scenario, not based on some research….. hah!!) and this now declassified document is available for download on Scribd. So, browse through the manual and get prepared for ‘The Walking Dead’….

Will it really be useful? Well, only time will tell and hopefully we’ll never have to find out.

Full Report Here

Related (and more useful) article on how to survive a nuclear explosion

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The House Always Wins

After a spate of failed investments, I have come to realize the indubitable truth, that even seasoned investors like Warren Buffet admit to, that no one can consistently and predictably beat any sufficiently large market over an extended period of time.

It just doesn’t work this way.

What you can do is to work on gaining from spillovers, manipulate certain specifics for your benefit and be wary of what analysts at CNBC or Bloomberg say. On that ironical note, today’s Needull is a Bloomberg article on why it is impossible to ‘beat the market’.

Most of us have a vague sense that we’re being ripped off by investment firms that charge hefty fees while producing results that are no better than you’d get throwing darts at a page of stock listings. It’s troubling nonetheless to find out we’re correct. And it’s important to understand the mechanics of what has gone wrong.

Full Article Here

Bloomberg – Peter Coy

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Can a startup cure eating disorders?


There is a lot happening in the mental health space. There are many startups trying to solve various mental heath related issues. “More than 300 mental health startups have launched in the past two years alone, and venture capital investment has grown dramatically.”

“I finally realized my eating disorder was taking away way more than it was giving me. It was too painful to go on this way.” She ended up trying Lantern, which she stuck with for the full three months of the program. “I found the food logging on Lantern kind of triggering,” she said. “I’d feel ashamed if I was reporting a binge-purge.” But her coach persistently asked questions that pushed her to acknowledge that her problem was serious. “She would ask, ‘What is the eating disorder doing for you?’ or ‘Do you think you should consider a higher level of care?’” Joachim said. The generic responses didn’t bother her; it was the act of writing things out that helped.

The complete article

Diana Knapp — The California Sunday Magazine

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The Greatest Lovers in Art History


This is for Valentine’s Day. The needull captures some of the greatest lovers in art.

Here, Gérôme borrows a mythological tale of seemingly impossible love. With a little magic from the gods, however, anything can happen, as the French 19th-century academic master reveals in this canvas. It captures the momentous climax of Greek sculptor Pygmalion’s tale. Embarrassed that he had fallen madly in love with one of his female statues, he prayed to find a woman just like her. Aphrodite granted his wish later that day—represented in the painting by a happy, hovering cupid—when he landed a kiss on the ivory sculpture and she came to life.

The complete article

Alexxa Gotthardt — Artsy

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