Birzeit University strengthens academic ties with Greece

PNN/ Ramallah/

Under the patronage of the Palestinian Ambassador to Greece, His Excellency Mr. Marwan Toubasi, Birzeit University recently signed formal agreements with three Greek universities to strengthen academic cooperation in the areas of education, academic research, teaching, capacity building, as well as the exchange of expertise.

University President Professor Abdel Latif Abu Hijleh signed three independent MOUs with Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, National Technical University of Athens and the Technological Educational Institute of Athens.

“These partnerships are part of our University’s eagerness to integrate international and intercultural dimensions in our teaching, research and services. We strongly believe that working with our peers in Greece can serve as an indispensable resource for Birzeit University, that can allow us to build and expand linkages with the world’s top universities to benefit from their extensive experiences in education and higher education,” said Abu Hijleh.

“We pay special tribute to the foresight of the Greek government for its creation of a conducive, competitive and dynamic educational environment, and to its influential contributions to western civilization in the areas of philosophy, art, architecture and science. We are looking forward to building strong ties with Greece and ensuring that we can support each other,especially in education,”added Abu Hijleh.

Abu Hijleh extended his thanks to H.E. Marwan Toubasi for his efforts in organizing such ventures and his support during Abu Hijleh’s visit to Greece. In addition, Abu Hijleh also met with the Greek Minister of Education and discussed further mechanisms to enhance academic relations between the two countries.

“Developing international alliances and partnerships to support and build our capacity and capability in research is crucial increating a supportive environment and educational experience that correlate with positive outcomes for students,” concluded Abu Hijleh.

Abu Hijleh was warmly welcomed by members of the Palestinian community in Greece. He emphasized on the important role which Palestinians in disaspora can play in defending the Palestinian cause in the world.

Sure, Rihanna Was Not Around in Chennai When I Needed Her. But I Can Wish, Can’t I?

By Priyanka Joseph



If you are the kind who builds a weekly/monthly soundtrack to your life, then ANTI belongs on it for both Spring 2016 and the ongoing apocalypse. Every song is in first person, and their tones and lyrical content convey morally ambiguous, complex narratives of resistance and desire. Rihanna is unflinchingly, unapologetically in control of these narratives, and this fact, combined with the fact that the songs on this album shatter good girl/bad girl formulae make ANTI a very smart pop album, one that is, despite and perhaps because Rihanna is so mainsteam as a performing artist, both personal and political.

When I look outside my window

I can’t get no piece of mind

When I look outside my window

I can’t get no peace of mind

The opener, Consideration, is Rihanna sweetly telling everyone to go fuck themselves, she has her own plans. It’s this tightly produced piece of reggae, with a great sub-chorus from SZA, whose down-up-down lilt over bass and drums kept me hitting repeat. The second verse to this song has an insidious, subdued clap beat—totally burrowed into my brain. Consideration is a very private power groove. This is for alone time in the balcony at someone else’s party. This song has no fucks to give about who said what about which album. This song is a dropped mic—it couldn’t be bothered with being a diss track. This song doesn’t care what I think of RiRi’s previous work. Rihanna doesn’t need us to tell her she’s all grown up now. She doesn’t need us at all.

I’m tired of being played like a violin

What do I gotta do to get in your motherfuckin’ heart?

I wish this album had come out when I was still a teenager in Chennai Madras. I listened to horrible stuff as a kid. All the wrong songs. Songs where the girl cooed—metaphorically—about having tender, spirit-lifting first-time sex, or about withholding sex till the penis-carrier in question had proved that he could hang with her crazy, wacky, sexy friends. I spent 1997 to 2000 avoiding Celine Dion and her songs of monogamous devotion. At a crucial age, there was too little No Doubt. There was far too much Savage Garden. And all this served to reinforce dangerously coy ideas I had about love and sex, stitched together from my own awkward imaginings, as well as culturally reinforced nonsense—such as the assumption that any kind of relationship must always mean heartache and compromise. And worse—in my Madras at that time, there were no songs by women, no female-centric pop culture to pull from about being sexually independent or ambitious. And this is all the long way to say, listening to ANTI made me want to go back in time and fix what 16-22 year old me called pop music.

Love isn’t wasn’t healthy in your my tweenties. I wasn’t the only one—there were hundreds and thousands of us being raised without sex education on the actual curriculum, in gender-segregated schools and colleges, conditioned to keep secret anything remotely sexual about ourselves. Key moment came in 2003, when a girl from some other college was slapped—now we’d say assaulted—outside Sathyam Cinemas. All day, us Second Years whispered about it in classrooms and hallways, till our Vice Principle glared at us and demanded WHEN THEY STEP OVER YOUR LINE, HOW OFTEN WILL YOU ERASE IT, STEP BACK AND RE-DRAW IT? TILL YOUR BACK IS AGAINST THE WALL?

None of us understood.

All I had to at my disposal to navigate my budding interest in sex were my blessed grandfather’s James Hadley Chase novels, very early internet, and bad, bad music TV. Everything would have failed the Bechdel Test. Far too much awful late 90s label-pop had turned me off what female artists I had access to—the Corrs? All Saints? The split-up Spice Girls? When I was 14, Britney drove me insane, because I couldn’t manage the thought that if I perhaps did not look like that I would then perhaps never have sex (a lie, I have since discovered).

How did those of us who wanted to have sex back then manage? Carefully. Clandestinely. Money and mobility made a big difference—being able to pay off police men, watchmen, drivers, and servants was an accepted practice, and a huge bonus. If you were middle class like me, that meant being as inventive as you could be. The goal was to always maintain a shining halo of decency. As long as no one pointed fingers, as long as the news didn’t make it to campus or an aunty, you were safe, your family was safe. How many of us built an elaborate system of missed calls on our little Nokia bricks, to coordinate meeting at Marina Beach, or for tiffin at some Bhavan? How many of us never held hands or kissed in public, believing it to be completely normal not to do so? Where could we touch and be touched — autos, hallways, bathrooms, terraces, doorways? Our houses if your parents and that nosy neighbor were away. A friend’s place if you had such a friend, and could make a strong enough chain of excuses to account for your absence from home or tuition or campus. Were we stressed back then?

Everyone pretended we were all sexless marionettes, walking around in gender-segregated campuses, and that it was normal. We went mad slowly, on the inside, as we began to believe our own lies. We didn’t love him/her—we were just hanging out with friends. It was always “just a thing,” because even calling someone boyfriend/girlfriend (yuck) meant they thought you wanted your parents to meet them or you wanted to meet their parents. We never called each other anything. When we kissed, one of us kept an eye out. When we took public transport with our lovers, we’d act like staid cousins, unless it was late at night and the Auto Anna was too tired to care. Love, or sex, or going to the movies, or just reading together didn’t call for honesty or integrity– it called for an iron-clad alibi.

How much time did we lose, posturing or lying to ourselves?



RiRi could’ve saved me from almost a decade of painful unlearning. She still might. Look, James Joint is a gorgeous little interlude. Loop that shit. Loop it. It’s a haiku-sized celebration of being both high and in love. It’s so important that the lyrics say it straight here: the pot reference is immediately stripped of posture, and is instead conveyed as a simple truth over a melody that is silk. RiRi embraces the everyday high, normalizing what people have tried to turn into a “thing” that edgy chicks do. See– Women (and some men, allegedly) of all ages love to get high and then maybe frisky, if we’re up to it. We never say this out loud though, because we are TIRED of then immediately being labeled as quirky girls who get high, broke girls who get high, teenagers who get high, statistics who get high. We are just women, and some of us smoke. Some of us feel that doing it with someone you can make out with after is even better.


Kiss it Better sounds like a Prince track. The way the song climbs and climbs at 00:45:

Man, fuck yo pride

Just take it on back, boy, take it on back, boy

Take it back all night

Just take it on back, take it on back

Mmm, do what cha gotta do, keep me up all night

Hurtin’ vibe, man, it hurts inside when I look you in yo eye

Ri delivers this lush mix of frustration and affection, and her voice will make your cold little heart prickle all over. If you’re my age (almost 31, fuckers) you may want to feel silly about thinking about feelings you haven’t considered since you were 24, but you don’t, because this song, like this album, is completely devoid of cynicism. It demands at least as much from you. The production on Kiss it Better is legit. Those are 80s Prince sounds with conviction. Ri has no room for rhetoric or gesturing. This entire song is a tender challenge—“what are you willing to do?” but with this 80’s deep eye stare—

80seye1 80seye2
80seye3 80seye4In Work, the lover is challenged to step up to the plate, recognize what the other is putting into this thing they have, and what they must both do, these fallible people who know each other’s dirt, to earn back the right to touch each other the way they used to. It feels like the third part of a trilogy, with the first being Oh Na Na (What’s My Name), followed by Take Care.

Work has a practical, every day sensibility. It’s a conversation. Side note: all this nonsense about the patois Ri deploys being unintelligible– fuck that instinct towards standardization. When RiRi sings patois, it’s a disruption. Because it’s her own, and always has been, so she just hangs with it, and it’s such a great vibe. She’s Kalki, she’s on that pale white horse she sings about riding in on in Consideration.


 ANTI is about claiming a space, not running towards finding a new one. Well-meaning folk might talk about the danger behind celebrating ANYTHING AT ALL about broken or abusive relationships, and they’d be right. But the incontrovertible, discomfiting fact is that human desire is aggressive. I’d like to posit that, thematically, that hunger drives the entire movement of this album, and can be most easily traced in five tracks, mid-album—Woo, Needed Me, Yeah, I Said It, and the Tame Impala cover, Same Ol’ Mistakes.

Woo is a three-chord goth melody that has Ri delivering her need in a tone that is all tender menace. The way she lets her voice get ragged on the delivery of “I don’t really mean to care about you no more” in the last chorus–she’s basically letting this guy know he’s barely relevant to her, but she’ll have him if he’s into it. This is not PG desire. This is unhealthy, selfish, void filling, and indisputably real. The persona Rihanna conjures is remorseless, unknowable, and aims to shatter all social constructs of what acceptable attitudes about romance look and sound like. In this way, these five tracks deconstruct the Bad Bitch.

You Was Just Another Nigga On The Hit List

Tryna Fix Your Inner Issues With A Bad Bitch

Didn’t They Tell You That I Was A Savage?

Fuck Ya White Horse And Ya Carriage

Caveat: There’s a little savior complex, a little Santa Maria in the final track on the version of ANTI that Rihanna first dropped on Tidal (i.e. what this review is based on). Close to You is not my favorite, though it is a lovely melody. The ballad is devoid of saccharine lyrics, but has a very earnest tone on the subject of still loving the absent or fallible lover. Take it or leave it.

FYI, Internet: I’m waiting for the fan cut of the track Desperado to clips of Selma Hayek and Antonio Banderas (from the movie Desperado) hurling themselves roof to roof, and unleashing lead, and having plenty of well-lit, tasteful sex.

I know you don’t think it’s right
I know that you think it’s fake
Maybe fake’s what I like
Point is I have the right

So yes, Rihanna drops some Lady Lazarus real talk on ANTI. And then, all of a sudden, she gets gentle. There’s the Dido-heavy Never Ending, and the incredibly beautiful Love on the Brain and Higher. The latter blew my mind, because the raw in her voice took me back to Janice Joplin. I’ve heard plenty of practiced honesty in pop lately—Adele, what’s up girl?!—but I wasn’t prepared for the places Higher goes to. In a piece by Julian Mitchell for Forbes, Bibi Bourelly, the writer of Higher, is quoted saying, “I understand the value of pain – pain made me everything I am – and if you approach art outside of anything but yourself, it loses authenticity.”

There’s something I’ve been trying to put my finger on since Adele’s single dropped– the way the lyrics of Hello feel so– conformist. WHICH ISN’T A BAD THING AT ALL. The song is basically a first person account of being upset that your ex-lover won’t let you apologize, explain, and then depart with dignity. Hello, unrealistic expectations! If 20-year-old me listened to Hello, all 20-year-old me would have gotten from it was reinforcement of outdated, dangerously romanticized notions of pining over exes, and maintaining unrequited love for a (hetero-as-fuck and smelling-of-dad-cologne) man despite him having long since moved on. I mean I had those notions, and since I kept quiet about them, no one challenged me. And since my Type A moronic self sounded like I thought I knew what I was doing, everyone, from parents to mentors, let me be.

This set me up for a laughable amount of what my people call love failure. The problem is that back then, only South Indians understood how other South Indians secretly managed their hormones. When I arrived in the US, I still found it impossible to explain why I couldn’t be honest about my needs, and in my silence I made myself vulnerable. Don’t make yourself vulnerable in a foreign country. It’s easy to lose five years in a relationship if you’ve gotten used to staying silent, in order to comply with some vague yet awful social conditioning.

It took me leaving my ex—in the teeth of friends and my parents, who suggested compromise—to finally understand that desire is not predicated on love, that desire comes and goes, and does not, should not be validated in any way, least of all by a relationship, unless the urge is spontaneous and the power equally distributed between all parties involved in that relationship. I will wholly admit to this next bit—I have had to fight to resist the urge to paint a picture that gains your sympathy or interest. I was an immature fool before, and a mature fool after. My greatest regret is not being as confident on the inside as I wanted to be on the outside. I did not have any closure rituals. People and your time with them will mark you, man, and there’s no candle or spell that can erase that. And you may hate them for it, but you cannot deny your world is forever changed because of them.

Speaking of closure rituals, the persona Adele adopts in Hello is grieving the fact that hers were thwarted. So when I patronize Adele, I only do it after comparing it with the raspy heart of Higher on ANTI:

You’re like my fire

Let’s stay up late and smoke a J

I wanna go back to the old way

But I’m drunk instead, with a full ash tray

With a little bit too much to say

Now, Negative Nellys (and Structuralists) will argue that the whole point of a pop song is to achieve the distraction, manipulation, and submission of the consumer. While this might be true of pop tracks manufactured by record companies, I’d like to think albums like ANTI do something special for us who know we are being manipulated, who know our place as consumers– we who navigate daily the thin line between being fully immersed in the horror of now, and buying into some manufactured distraction. Or to put it another way, per Jacques Attali (1977), the art of music is to sublimate or repress the universal fear of personal and collective disintegration. Rihanna, by vocalizing these (her?) desires and frustrations, makes her catharsis accessible to me, by not apologizing for her feelings or sweeping her dirt under the proverbial carpet.

I’m not saying listening to better American R&B and pop would have changed my life. But it would have been nice to be surrounded by narratives where impressionable, randy young idiots like myself could hear that it was okay to want. That desire was fantastic and amazing, not something that immediately made you a potential victim or worse, a slut. If you grew up like me, then this album will make you think with such tenderness about your 20-year-old self, and you will want to go back and embrace younger you, and kiss your own face, and smile, and say, Hold on. You are more than enough for yourself. It’ll be fine. Just hold on.

Priyanka graduated from the MFA Creative Writing program at American University in 2015, where she was managing editor of FOLIO. Her nonfiction has appeared online in Bluestem and Tehelka magazine.

The post Sure, Rihanna Was Not Around in Chennai When I Needed Her. But I Can Wish, Can’t I? appeared first on The Ladies Finger.

Guillain-Barre syndrome: The Other Zika Concern


Although the primary concern right now with the Zika virus is its tentative link to microcephalic birth defects, a secondary concern has been the concurrent rise in the number of Guillain-Barre syndrome cases in French Polynesia and South and Central America following Zika’s arrival.

Today, a brief overview of this rare neurological condition.

Not quite 40 years ago Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) made global headlines following the roll-out of the 1976 emergency swine flu vaccine, which after 40 million doses were administered, was linked to roughly 500 cases of (mostly temporary) paralysis and 25 deaths.

I was a young paramedic at the time, and chronicled my little part in that bit of influenza history several years ago in Deja Flu, All Over Again

In the nearly 4 decades since that fiasco, there has been little or no evidence of flu shots causing Guillain-Barre Syndrome – and since influenza infection has been linked to causing GBS – the flu shot is believed to have reduced the number of GBS cases over the years (see  Lancet: The Influenza – Guillain Barré Syndrome Connection).

While the exact cause of GBS isn’t well understood, we do know that most cases occur after a bacterial or viral infection. Camplyobacter Jejuni, in particularly, has been linked to GBS, but other bacterial and viral infections (including influenza and Dengue) have as well.

GBS isn’t a single neurological illness, but rather a collection of syndromes all of which damage nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. With modern medical treatment (including Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), plasma exchange, and ventilatory assistance if needed), most victims survive.

But between 5%-10% of GBS cases are fatal, and a large percentage of survivors carry forward some form of neurological sequelae (cite), including motor deficits, persistent fatigue, and sensory loss.

There are a number of GBS variants (whose symptoms often overlap) with their incidence varying around the world.  A few of the major subtypes include:

  • Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (or AIDP) is the most common form of GBS reported in the United States.
  • Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) is more prevalent in pediatric age groups, with many cases reported in rural China. Once again, C jejuni infection is often linked to onset.
  • Acute motor-sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) typically affects adults. 
  • Miller-Fisher syndrome is observed in about 5% of all cases of GBS, and presents as a triad of ataxia, areflexia, and ophthalmoplegia.Recovery generally occurs within 1-3 months.
  • Acute panautonomic neuropathy is the rarest GBS variant, Cardiovascular involvement is common and recovery is often slow and incomplete.

Now that polio is no longer a factor, GBS (in all of its forms) is the primary cause of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in the the United States with an incidence of between 1.2 and 3.0 per 100,000 (3,000 to 9,000 cases annually).

In 2011 we looked at a rare cluster of GBS linked to C jejuni water contamination in  The Sonora/Arizona GBS Cluster, but most cases are one-offs, and are not epidemiologically linked.

Almost two years ago, in Zika, Dengue & Unusual Rates Of Guillain Barre Syndrome In French Polynesia, we saw an outbreak of Zika in the South Pacific that – quite unusually – seemed to be linked to an increase in Guillain Barré Syndrome cases. In March 2014 the journal Eurosurveillance carried a Rapid Communications describing the first case and reporting a 20-fold increase in GBS during the outbreak.

Since then we’ve seen apparent spikes in GBS in Brazil, El Salvador, and other regions where Zika has recently emerged.  While a causal link has not been established, the WHO cited the rise in GBS as one of the factors in declaring Zika a public health emergency a week ago, and on Friday CDC director Thomas Frieden indicated that the linkage between Zika and GBS grows stronger the more we learn.

Infection by other mosquito-borne viruses – such as Dengue, Chikunungya, EEE, and West Nile Virus  – are known to occasionally cause serious neurological symptoms, including AFP (acute flaccid paralysis), making a Zika-GBS link at least plausible. 

While the literature isn’t exactly overflowing, some relevant links include:

Guillain-Barre syndrome following dengue fever and literature review.

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurring during dengue fever.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome after Chikungunya Infection

Neuromuscular Manifestations of West Nile Virus Infection

The good news in all of this is that neuroinvasive illness from arboviral infections (Dengue, CHKV, WNV, and Zika) are very rare, and many infections can be avoided by taking some simple mosquito precautions.

The 5 D’s of Mosquito Protection

It should be noted that the Aedes mosquitoes, linked to Zika and Dengue transmission, are aggressive daytime biters – and so it is important to protect yourself throughout the day.

And lastly, a  2003 CDC EID study found that economics and lifestyle (window screens, A/C, etc.) may help to limit the spread of arboviruses in the United States (see Texas Lifestyle Limits Transmission of Dengue Virus) – at least compared to many tropical regions.

None of this is to suggest there won’t be some places in the U.S. that could see limited outbreaks of Zika, only that the kind of pervasive spread we’ve seen in Central and South America seems unlikely in the United States at this time.