When I lived in Kuwait, many reporters self-censored, but there was still a lively – and, in relative terms, relative to the rest of the Gulf, free press. The Kuwait Legislature is going loony tunes with this proposed legislation. This, from the Kuwait Times:
Media draft law under fire for stiff penalties
KUWAIT: Former opposition MPs, writers, journalists and activists have strongly lashed out at a new media draft law that stipulates unprecedented hefty penalties against violators. The new draft law was approved earlier this week by the Cabinet but must pass the National Assembly to be effective. The 99-article draft law stipulates a 10 year sentence for insulting the Almighty, prophets, companions, relatives and wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It also stipulates a fine of between KD 50,000 and KD 300,000 for those convicted of insulting the Amir.
The draft law gives the Information Ministry the right to shut down with an administrative decision any publication for up to three years even without a court ruling, a key article in the current law. Former liberal opposition MP Abdulrahman Al-Anjari described the draft legislation as a “stigma” for the government which is “suffering from psychological disorders”. Former MP Obaid Al-Wasmi described it as the “capital punishment law” while former MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said it belongs to the old ages and will send too many people to jail.
Meanwhile, the criminal court yesterday issued a two-year jail term against opposition tweeter Hijab Al-Hajeri for writing tweets deemed offensive to HH the Amir in yet another verdict targeting activists. But the court asked the convict to pay a bail of KD 100 to suspend the implementation of the imprisonment until the appeals court issues its verdict on the case. Like several opposition tweeters, Hajeri was charged of insulting the Amir and undermining his status. Several tweeters and former opposition MPs have been handed several years in prison over the same charge and some of them have been sent to jail.
In another case, the criminal court postponed the case of Al-Youm Television to May 8. Two announcers for the pro-opposition station, its chairman and a director are facing charges of violating the law by reading a statement issued by the opposition several weeks ago. Another court also set May 1 as the date to issue its verdict on opposition tweeter Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi on charges of insulting the Amir.
In a related development, the public prosecution released well-known Islamist thinker and university professor Abdullah Al-Nafisi on a KD 5,000 bail after interrogating him on accusations of threatening national unity. Nafisi had reportedly undermined Shiites at a diwaniya meeting about two weeks ago which was held to highlight the dangers Iran was posing against the Gulf states including Kuwait. During the speech, Nafisi was cited as saying that some of the 17 Shiite MPs in the Assembly have links with Iran and claimed that one of them had taken part in a suicide car bombing on the life of the late former Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in May 1985. He also claimed that another MP was involved in the hijacking of a Kuwaiti passenger plane in 1988 that was blamed on Shiite militias.
Meanwhile, Islamist MP Hamed Al-Dossari called yesterday on the ministries of interior and foreign affairs to follow the footsteps of Bahrain and treat the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. He also charged that Iran has ambitions in the Gulf and is inciting discord in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf Arab states.
By B Izzak, Staff Writer
Today in our Lectionary, the church honors Pierre Tielhard do Chardin, a man who thought about God and the nature of the world and tried to figure out a logical explanation for the state of the world. He was condemned by the church for some of this thoughts, which were not in line with Catholic dogma. I’ve always thought that people who, like the Apostle Thomas, need to seek an explanation and need to see the evidence, are at pondering God and his ways, and in my mind, God must dance with joy – or with amusement – to be so pondered.
Eternal God, the whole cosmos sings of your glory, from the dividing of a single cell to the vast expanse of interstellar space: We bless you for your theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who perceived the divine in the evolving creation. Enable us to become faithful stewards of your divine works and heirs of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN
SCIENTIST AND MILITARY CHAPLAIN, 1955
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. His theological and philosophical works came into conflict with the Catholic Church and several of his books were censured.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born in Orcines, close to Clermont-Ferrand, in France on May 1, 1881. When he was 12, he went to the Jesuit college of Mongré, in Villefranche-sur-Saône, where he completed baccalaureates of philosophy and mathematics. Then, in 1899, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Aix-en-Provence where he began a philosophical, theological and spiritual career. Teilhard studied theology in Hastings, in Sussex (UK), from 1908 to 1912. There he synthesized his scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge in the light of evolution. From 1912 to 1914, Teilhard worked in the paleontology laboratory of the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris, studying the mammals of the middle Tertiary period.
Mobilised in December 1914, Teilhard served in World War I as a stretcher-bearer in the 8th Moroccan Rifles. For his valour, he received several citations including the Médaille militaire and the Legion of Honour.
In 1923 he traveled to China with Father Emile Licent, who was in charge in Tianjin of a laboratory collaborating with the Natural History Museum in Paris. Licent carried out considerable basic work in connection with missionaries who accumulated observations of a scientific nature in their spare time. Teilhard would remain there more or less twenty years. From 1926 to 1935, Teilhard made five geological research expeditions in China. They enabled him to establish a first general geological map of China. He joined the ongoing excavations of the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian as an advisor in 1926 and continued in the role for the Cenozoic Research Laboratory of the Geological Survey of China following its founding in 1928. During this tima and after, he also made a great number of travels throughout the world, studying and lecturing.
Teilhard died on April 10, 1955 in New York City, where he was in residence at the Jesuit church of St Ignatius of Loyola. He is buried on what is now the grounds of the Culinary Institute of America, in Poughkeepsie, NY.
In 1925, Teilhard was ordered by the Jesuit Superior General Vladimir Ledochowski to leave his teaching position in France and to sign a statement withdrawing his controversial statements regarding the doctrine of original sin. Rather than leave the Jesuit order, Teilhard signed the statement and left for China. This was the first of a series of condemnations by certain ecclesiastical officials that would continue until long after Teilhard’s death. The climax of these condemnations was a 1962 monitum (reprimand) of the Holy Office denouncing his works. It states:
“The above-mentioned works abound in such ambiguities and indeed even serious errors, as to offend Catholic doctrine… For this reason, the most eminent and most revered Fathers of the Holy Office exhort all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers.”.
Teilhard’s writings, though, continued to circulate — not publicly, as he and the Jesuits observed their commitments to obedience, but in mimeographs that were circulated only privately, within the Jesuits, among theologians and scholars for discussion, debate and criticism. As time passed, it seemed that the works of Teilhard were gradually becoming viewed more favourably within the Church. However, the 1962 statement remains official Church policy to this day.
In his posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard writes of the unfolding of the material cosmos, from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is “pulling” all creation towards it. He was a leading proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal driven way, argued in terms that today go under the banner of convergent evolution. Teilhard argued in Darwinian terms with respect to biology, and supported the synthetic model of evolution, but argued in Lamarckian terms for the development of culture, primarily through the vehicle of education.
Teilhard makes sense of the universe by its evolutionary process. He interprets complexity as the axis of evolution of matter into a geosphere, a biosphere, into consciousness (in man,) and then to supreme consciousness (the Omega Point.)
Teilhard himself claimed his work to be phenomenology. Teilhard studied what he called the rise of spirit, or evolution of consciousness, in the universe. He believed it to be observable and verifiable in a simple law he called the Law of Complexity / Consciousness. This law simply states that there is an inherent compulsion in matter to arrange itself in more complex groupings, exhibiting higher levels of consciousness. The more complex the matter, the more conscious it is. Teilhard proposed that this is a better way to describe the evolution of life on earth, rather than Herbert Spencer’s “survival of the fittest.” The universe, he argued, strives towards higher consciousness, and does so by arranging itself into more complex structures.
Teilhard here proposed another level of consciousness, to which human beings belong, because of their cognitive ability; i.e. their ability to ‘think’, and to set things to purpose. Human beings, Teilhard argued, represent the layer of consciousness which has “folded back in upon itself”, and has become self-conscious. So in addition to the geosphere and the biosphere, Teilhard posited another sphere, which is the realm of human beings, the realm of reflective thought: the noosphere. The noosphere has been compared to C. G. Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious.
Finally, the keystone to his phenomenology is that because Teilhard could not explain why the universe would move in the direction of more complex arrangements and higher consciousness, he postulated that there must exist ahead of the moving universe, and pulling it along, a higher pole of supreme consciousness, which he called Omega Point.
Teilhard re-interpreted many disciplines, including theology, sociology, metaphysics, around this understanding of the universe. A main focus of his was to re-assure the converging mass of humanity not to despair, but to trust the evolution of consciousness as it rises through them.
The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers
Today the church remembers Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332.
Armenia, the first Christian kingdom in history, was converted through the efforts of Gregory. This kingdom came to an unhappy end as an independent state in 430, yet some two and one-half million persons today are still culturally Armenians. They enjoy a racial, linguistic, and religious heritage which is one of the world’s oldest and richest. Their community has endured fifteen hundred years of dispersion, harassment, and often severe persecution.
The truly marvelous story of Christian Armenia began when the infant Gregory, who was a prince by birth, was exiled by enemies and reared by a compassionate Christian family in Cappadocia (modern central Turkey). As an adult and a Christian he returned to Armenia and converted the king, Tiridates, heir of Gregory’s old enemies. This was not done easily. Indeed, many legends have grown up around the tradition of Gregory’s great difficulties, hardships, and sufferings in effecting the conversion of the king and subsequently the kingdom. For this work he is called the “Illuminator.” Gregory was eventually consecrated Bishop of Echmiadzin and was the organizer of the Armenian Church.
The Episcopal Church has enjoyed a warm and friendly relationship with the Armenian Church for many years. Offer thanks for that friendship.
We thank you, O God, for the witness of Gregory the Illuminator and for the people of Armenia. Amen.
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in all your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
We were so efficient at the Mobile Botanical Garden that we had plenty of time to hit the nearby Mobile Museum of Art. Actually, we loved the whole park area; there is the Botanical Garden, the Museum of Art, also walking paths, a huge water . . . something, it might be a river or a large lake with a dam in it, I don’t know what it is, but it is a large amount of water. There are athletic fields and even some offices, not large office buildings but some smaller outlying kinds of state or county offices. It’s a nice park, it has a nice feeling, a lot going on.
It doesn’t hurt that it is one of the prettiest days of the year, not hot, not humid, and no mosquitos!
I love it that not all the art is inside the building. There is statuary outside, along the walking path, and this huge made-from-found-objects butterfly at the entrance. It is wonderful. As you enter the museum, looking through miles of glass out through trees at the water, you immediately think “what a place for an event!” thinking wedding, reception, small chamber group performance, etc. Truly beautiful spaces; I would show you but they have a really strict policy about photographing inside the building, so I didn’t.
They have some surprising pieces, surprisingly good for a small museum. They have some very odd pieces, par for the course in a small museum. They have an amazing art glass collection, beautifully displayed in a room with gorgeous natural light that allows each piece to shine. They had an exquisite visiting exhibit based on a Vietnamese classic, with intricate, ethereal pieces.
Too much to take in on one visit! I think our favorite piece in the exhibit were some gorgeous silvery angel wings on a wall near the gallery entrance on the top floor. When you get closer to the exhibit, you see it really, REALLY is silvery – it is silver spoons! The bowls of the spoons form the outer part of the feathers, hundreds of spoons, and the base of the spoon the lower part. It is whimsical and surprising, and made me whoop a little (trying to be respectful in a museum ) with delight. We are eager to go back and to take our little grandson, as he gains in ability to focus his attention
Driving Directions From I-65
From I-65, take the Springhill Avenue Exit (Exit 5) and head west on Springhill Avenue. Go approximately 1 1/2 miles and turn left on John D. New Street (traffic signal). Take an immediate right onto Museum Drive. The Museum is the first building on the right.
Green Tea Could Aid Fight Against Dementia, Study Suggests
PA | Posted: 06/02/2013 11:18 GMT | Updated: 06/02/2013 11:18 GMT
Chemicals in green tea and red wine may block the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, an early study suggests.
Scientists targeted a process that allows harmful clumps of protein in the brain to kill off neurons.
Using purified extracts of the chemicals EGCG in green tea and resveratrol in red wine, they were able to stop nerve cells from being harmed.
The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, could pave the way for new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s, say the researchers.
Lead scientist Professor Nigel Hooper, from the University of Leeds, said: “This is an important step in increasing our understanding of the cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s a misconception that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of ageing; it’s a disease that we believe can ultimately be cured through finding new opportunities for drug targets like this.”
Alzheimer’s is characterised by a build-up of amyloid-beta protein in the brain which clumps together to form toxic, sticky balls.
The amyloid balls latch on to molecules called prions on the surface of nerve cells. As a result, the nerve cells start to malfunction and eventually die.
“We wanted to investigate whether the precise shape of the amyloid balls is essential for them to attach to the prion receptors, like the way a baseball fits snugly into its glove,” said Dr Jo Rushworth, another member of the Leeds team.
“And, if so, we wanted to see if we could prevent the amyloid balls binding to prion by altering their shape, as this would stop the cells from dying.”
Previous research had shown that the red wine and green tea compounds are able to reshape amyloid proteins.
When they were added to amyloid balls in a test tube, the toxic clumps of protein no longer harmed human and animal brain cells.
“We saw that this was because their shape was distorted, so they could no longer bind to prion and disrupt cell function,” said Prof Hooper.
“We also showed, for the first time, that when amyloid balls stick to prion, it triggers the production of even more amyloid, in a deadly vicious cycle.”
The next step for the team is to uncover exactly how the amyloid-prion interaction destroys neurons.
Prof Hooper added: “I’m certain that this will increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease even further, with the potential to reveal yet more drug targets.”
Dr Simon Ridley, from the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK which part-funded the study, said: “Understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s is vital if we are to find a way of stopping the disease in its tracks.
“While these early-stage results should not be a signal for people to stock up on green tea and red wine, they could provide an important new lead in the search for new and effective treatments. With half a million people affected by Alzheimer’s in the UK, we urgently need treatments that can halt the disease. That means it’s crucial to invest in research to take results like these from the lab bench to the clinic.”
Ignorant militants destroy ancient Islamic documents and writings; from yesterday’s BBC News:
A group of jihadis came knocking at the gate late on Wednesday night last week. But the Ahmed Baba centre in the Malian city of Timbuktu is not the kind of library that would accept visitors after dark.
The Islamist militants tricked the guard and said they were coming to secure the place. But once inside, they ransacked the centre’s reading room.
When historian Abdoulaye Cisse arrived early in the morning, the pile of ashes was still warm.
“They probably spent most of the night in there,” he said.
Dozens of empty handcrafted boxes still litter the floor of the hallway. Ashes haven’t been removed yet either.
A few people come in and out surveying the irreparable damage and lament the remains of a cultural trove kept in Timbuktu for centuries.
Treasure trove of African history
At least 2,000 manuscripts were stored in this centre that was opened in 2009, funded by the South African government.
The project was meant to catalogue and preserve the city’s historical documents, many of which continue to be held by families or smaller libraries.
Another 28,000 were due to be transferred to the Ahmed Baba premises but were instead sent to the capital after al-Qaeda militants arrived in the city last year.
Each box is tagged with a reference number and if the search is properly done, these tags should reveal the full extent of the damage.
It could also reveal how many were simply stolen.
“These fighters know too well how much these papers are valued, it’s a huge wealth that will be impossible to replace,” Mr Cisse told the BBC.
The Institute’s manuscripts date back to the 13th century (file image)
“When I surveyed the reading room, I found about 30 left so I brought them home to secure them,” he said.
The offending texts ranged from history to geography and astronomy, medicine and Islamic law; writings dating back in some cases as far as the 13th Century.
In the reading room, shelves were emptied and the desk equipped with a magnifying glass vandalised.
Named after a saint of the ancient city who wrote many manuscripts himself, the Ahmed Baba centre stands out for its modernity but was designed to echo the famous Timbuktu style of dry-mud walls.
The Islamist militants prepared to flee last week knowing that an assault by the French-led forces on their positions here was imminent.
But in their haste, they took the time to commit one last act of vengeance.
They had sparked worldwide condemnation last year when they destroyed sacred tombs and shrines designated as Unesco World Heritage sites on the pretext that they violated principles of Islamic law.
Timbuktu was a centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th Centuries
700,000 manuscripts had survived in public libraries and private collections
Books on religion, law, literature and science
Elhadj Djitteye, who used to guide visitors in town, reckons that the fighters linked to al-Qaeda carried out the attack on the library in response to the French military intervention ordered earlier in January by President Francois Hollande.
Noting that the jihadis hadn’t touched the manuscripts in 10 months of occupation, Mr Djitteye sadly comments that they “hit Timbuktu straight at its heart”.
The militants’ destructive parting gesture left many residents feeling that another part of their celebrated city’s history had just been erased.
The people of Timbuktu have been anxious to return to some kind of normal life since the French and Malian troops entered they city and were hailed as “liberators”.
Reminders of the extremists, like the black banners proclaiming sharia at the city gates, are being removed.
But in just under a year, the Islamist militants have inflicted lasting damage on Mali’s most renowned cultural centre. The scars left by Timbuktu’s occupation are likely to take much longer to heal.
• Timbuktu was a centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th Centuries
700,000 manuscripts survive in public libraries and private collections, books on religion, law, literature and science
• Added to Unesco world heritage list in 1988 for its three mosques and 16 cemeteries and mausoleums
• They played a major role in spreading Islam in West Africa; the oldest dates from 1329
• Islamists destroyed mausoleums after seizing the city
When I was student teaching in EFL/ESL, my Arab Gulf students often complained that they couldn’t go directly to US universities, that they had to take English classes first.
“How did you do on the TOEFL?” I would ask, and their response would be a combination of anger and sheepishness.
“They all think we are rich. They just want our money. They make us take classes we don’t need, just to make money on us,” they would bitterly complain.
Most of these guys could speak passable English. Their writing skills were almost non-existent. They weren’t ready for real universities, with standards and accountability. The very first thing – and this is cultural, not something that is “right” is being ON TIME.
We don’t even realize what a priority it is in our own culture to be where we are supposed to be at the time we are supposed to be there. To be habitually late is to be morally inferior in some undefined way, lazy, a slacker. It’s custom, it’s cultural, it’s not a universal. But if you’re going to go to school in the United States, you need to respect the need to be on time – especially for things like exams, boarding a flight, when a paper is due, paying a bill by the due date.
We all learn when we confront our own assumptions by knocking up against another culture. I learned a lot about my own erroneous assumptions living in Saudi Arabia. I hope they are learning as much here. I wish these students well. I hope some of the students are Saudi girls; I hope they are driving around Pensacola having a good old time.
Saudi students flood U.S. colleges for English lessons
Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — That University of South Carolina cap on Meshari Albishi’s head? Just for looks, he says. Its colors match the red of his vest, where a metallic pin displays flags for the United States and Saudi Arabia, his homeland.
For now, his allegiance is to the University of Mary Washington, which Albishi says “is like my second home.”
Technically, Albishi is not a student here, but he has made “a lot of friends,” and has access to the library, workout rooms and other campus facilities. The university has offered him admission, on one condition: Before he can enroll, he must complete a non-credit program, called English for Academic Purposes.
Albishi, 25, is one of thousands of international students arriving each year in the United States to study English as the first step toward a college degree. They come from all over the world, but Saudi Arabia, where the government has poured billions of dollars into a generous scholarship program, is driving the recent surge.
In just seven years, Saudi student enrollments have skyrocketed from 11,116 in 2006, to 71,026 last year, according to the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to the United States, the Virginia-based agency that administers the scholarship. Nearly all recipients (95%) start with language training, which can take anywhere from a month to a year or more, officials say.
The infusion of full-paying international students has been a boon for cash-strapped U.S. colleges.
For instance, Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, which founded its Center for English Language and Culture for International Students 38 years ago, enrolled a record 267 international students last semester, nearly half from Saudi Arabia, says center director Diana Vreeland. The University of Dayton’s language center, established in 2006 with eight students, now enrolls 400.
The Saudi scholarship grew out of a meeting in 2005 between Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, and President George W. Bush as a way to strengthen ties — and ease tensions — between the two countries in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Saudi scholarship students can receive up to a five-year visa. The scholarship covers full tuition, housing and health benefits for students and family members. All that, plus round-trip tickets home once a year. After language training, business and engineering are the top fields of study.
When students are finished, “they come back with a collective experience that can help move the country forward,” says Mody Alkhalaf, the Saudi Arabian mission’s assistant attaché for cultural and social affairs.
Even so, the arrangement doesn’t sit well with skeptics, who argue for stricter visa policies. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia; and several had entered the USA with student visas.
In 2011, after a Saudi engineering student was charged in a failed plot to bomb U.S. targets, Investor’s Business Daily repeated its concern that a new initiative for Saudi students opened the door for terrorist attacks. “How many will overstay their visas and become sleeper agents?”
Programs for international students have recently come under greater federal scrutiny. In 2010, Congress tightened rules for English-language programs after an investigation found that a for-profit language school in Florida served as a front for the sale of fraudulent student visa applications. Last year, a federal report urged U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to strengthen oversight of the Homeland Security program that oversees compliance with a student-visa system. Recently, immigration officials have raised concerns that some colleges might be mishandling documentation for students accepted into an academic program on the condition that they first complete language studies.
Some schools mention only the academic degree program on federal forms, a practice that is “essentially defrauding the immigration requirements” and potentially “defeating the purpose” of a student tracking system, says Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ELS Educational Services, a for-profit company that operates the center housed at the University of Mary Washington, lists language study on its paperwork, says communications director John Nicholson, based in Princeton, N.J.
No language students have continued their academic studies at the University of Mary Washington. But officials say they value the diversity such students bring to campus. Last semester, Arabic studies professor Maysoon Al-Sayed Ahmad organized a regular coffee hour for Saudi and U.S. students. “I wanted American students to change their idea about what they think about the Arab people, so they can become friends,” she says.
Saudi students have similarly had their eyes opened. Until he arrived on campus, “I thought all (Americans) had guns,” says Abdullah Khalid Maghrabi, 19. He stayed indoors for a week before he thought it was safe to go outside. Now, he says, weather is a more pressing concern.
“I don’t know what to wear every morning. In my country, all the seasons are the same — it’s hot.”
AdventureMan, half way to his goal of becoming a Master Gardener, spent the last week cleaning out the pots and gardens in back, but couldn’t bear to get rid of these two valiant tomato plants which continue bearing well into January. We’ve had delicious tomatoes since August! Who know we would live in a place where you plant tomato seeds in June and continue to have fresh tomatoes growing into January?
We also have a wonderful aloe plant, which got a little confused in the warmth of a couple days of December and sent up a flower. The first year we were here, the flowers came up in April, but Spring seems to be coming earlier and earlier . . .
We’re having a little tree work done, and AdventureMan is studying pruning techniques, so as to judiciously and minimally trim back some of our fruit trees, and clear some of the dead branches off our huge oak tree. I’ve got two avocado trees that I’ve grown from seeds, in large pots now, and some basil plants that still appear to be doing well. I still remember the hedges made of basil, which grew year round in Qatar at the Ramada Hotel, and in Kuwait would go dormant during the brutal heat of summer but come roaring back once the heat moderated.