They use to refer to John Kerry as a flip flopper when he was running against George W. Bush for the presidency. Now both Bush and Ben Bernanke, in a matter of a week, change their stance on the state of the American economy. Only last Friday did the two come to terms with a reality the rest of the United States was living.

President Bush on Friday acknowledged more starkly than ever that the economy has slipped into trouble, dogged by falling home prices and turmoil in financial markets.

“Our economy obviously is going through a tough time,” the president told the Economic Club of New York in a morning speech at a Midtown Manhattan hotel.

Shortly after Mr. Bush spoke, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, issued fresh warnings about the gathering wave of home foreclosures while pledging new regulations to limit the impact and crack down on predatory mortgage lending.

“Foreclosure rates have increased substantially,” Mr. Bernanke said during a speech in Washington before a meeting of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

“Behind these disturbing statistics are families facing personal and financial hardship and neighborhoods that may be destabilized by clusters of foreclosures,” Mr. Bernanke said. (NYT)

I’ve never expected anything from our president. As Maureen Dawd points out, “Boy George crashed the family station wagon into the globe and now the global economy. Yet the more terrified Americans get, the more bizarrely carefree he seems.”

But Bernanke is someone I respected. He doesn’t come from a family that made most money by owning oil companies, like the man who appointed him. And he is an intelligent individual that understands, and has always been fascinated with, economic depression and the Fed”s role during these times. He wrote “Essays on the Great Depression“.

One would think Bernanke would be more in tune with the struggles of middle and lower class American families. But we’ve yet to see him take any real action to slow down their affliction. Instead, he bails out rich douche bags breaking his own conservative rule about the Fed interfering too much in the financial markets.

The Federal Reserve seemed to toss out the rule book altogether when it assumed the role of white knight, temporarily bailing out Bear Stearn.

Mr. Bernanke has become Wall Street’s most important and most powerful friend. Many executives are praising him for his creativity and willingness to act boldly. (NYT)

Back in 1998, when the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund required a Fed-arranged bailout, Bear Stearns refused to join the rescue effort. Jimmy Cayne, then chief executive at the firm, told the Fed to take a hike. (NYT)

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A Dominican nun, a freelance writer and a principal of a prestigious school founded the International Community School in DeKalb County, Georgia to address the cultural and language barrier that many children of the refugee immigrants faced after arriving there in the late 1990’s.

In the last ten years, thousands of refugee children have come to DeKalb County, bringing not only gifts and talents but also the deep physical and spiritual wounds of war. Today the county is home to the highest percentage of refugees in the southeastern United States. (ICS)

Student population here represents over 40 nation and over 50 languages are spoken in the hallways. But children of refugees only compose half of all pupils. The other half is diverse in a socio-economic manner.

Parents from low-income families tend to choose the school over other nearby public schools because it is safe and has small classes. More affluent parents seek it for the potential benefits of exposure to so many cultures. Most of the middle- and upper-middle-class parents are social progressives from Decatur, a liberal enclave. (NYT)

Understandably, the community school faces expected challenges specific to each refugee student’s experience from the emigrated country.

Two sisters from Afghanistan seemed terrified as they arrived each day. As refugees in Pakistan, the children had worked making carpets. Exhausted, they regularly dozed at school, which drew beatings. The sisters had assumed such beatings were standard at every school.

A Sudanese girl was so traumatized from war and relocation that she insisted on sitting on the floor beneath her desk each day.

Fortunately, the school staff is as diversely represented as the student body. Which helps faculty understand or, in some cases, relate to their students.

Naza Orlovic, a teacher’s assistant from Bosnia, said her experience as a refugee allowed her to recognize and to soothe hurt feelings that frequently arose out of cultural misunderstandings.

“I constantly remind them how lucky we are,” said Hodan Osman, 27, a tutor separated from her parents at age 10 during the civil war in Somalia.

“We could have been killed,” she said, “and not only are we here, but we’re in a place where we’re celebrated. I tell them they can take everything away from you, but your knowledge is in your head, and it makes you brave.”

Presently, there are strong plans to add a middle school to the institution. And a founder desires to open a health clinic for the refugees there.

Maybe not apparent at first glance, but the location of the school is a bit ironic.  The region used to be a Ku Klux Klan haven.

Lately I’ve watching quite a lot of this special series running on the BBC World Channel called “Happiness Formula.” Coincidentally, The show began around a time I was making a few major modifications in my own personal life, right after realizing what I value most — happiness and close ones.

First I started with getting in touch with all those that have had an impact in my life, throughout my lifetime. I spontaneously e-mailed and phoned a lot of folks from middle school and high school, old family friends, old professors, and family members from the motherland. Almost all of them responded with the same enthusiasm I reached out to them with. We agreed it was unfortunate that we’ve lost touch — which was mostly due to laziness and life getting in the way — but to have spoken to each other again was a genuine delight.

Secondly, I quit my job. And replaced it for a one that pays less, makes me work harder for longer hours, and is a further commute. But all of my new colleagues are so incredibly cooperative and fun to be around, that to be in their presence, it’s truly a pleasure.

Mind you, I don’t have any negative feeling towards my previous coworkers. Rather, some of them have become, what I believe, long term friends. I’m really referring to the complete work environment that existed there. Sure, it paid more. And I was recognized by thousands. But to not have a peace of mind was proving to be detrimental to my well being.

Going back to the BBC special mentioned above. I learned that Bhutan measures its progress based on the country’s gross national happiness, contrary to the traditional measurement — gross domestic product.

While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. (Wiki)

And the BBC series also mentioned that

Britain is less happy than in the 1950s – despite the fact that we are three times richer. (BBC)

Strange, isn’t it? But it makes sense though. I just wished I realized this perspective a few years earlier. I would’ve not had any gray hair at such a young age.

Regardless, I’m glad I know now to make decisions weighing in what I treasure most: sanity, happiness and the company of good people.

He a young, striving Muslim, she a fabulously wealthy Hindu, both daring to marry despite her family’s archresistance and, in the end, paying a terrible price. (link)

Priyanka Todi, left, was married to Rizwanur Rahman, right, barely a month when he died. -- The Telegraph (of India)

Rizwanur Rahman and Priyanka Todi seem like the protagonists of that famous Shakespeare play, don’t they? Unfortunately, it’s a similar tragedy as well.

On a Friday in September, barely a month into their marriage, the body of Mr. Rahman, 29, turned up on the railroad tracks, his head mangled almost beyond recognition.

Whether murder or suicide, that is up for debate. But what’s more controversial are the events that lead up to the death.

First, her father came to urge her to leave. Then the police summoned the couple to the headquarters of the “anti-rowdy” division. On one occasion, Rukbanur Rahman recalled, police officers threatened to chain-gang the entire Rahman family to the police station if the couple refused to come with them for questioning.

In Mr. Rahman’s family home, police interrogated the couple no fewer than three times, apparently at the request of Ms. Todi’s family. The police chief at the time, Prasun Mukherjee, justified his officers’ intervention by saying, at a news conference, that he found resistance to the marriage by the bride’s family “natural.”

The likely bribed police department is what’s coming under fire by both the press, and the city’s community — which considers itself one of the most historically tolerant of religions in India. Although, even community leaders agree that is changing.

“Money didn’t make a difference in this city,” said Bonani Kakkar, founder of a citizens’ group that calls itself Public, an acronym for People United for Better Living in Calcutta “Today it does.”

The police chief expectedly was transferred. But the community remains in mourning and demands justice to be served.

For three weeks, students, families and ordinary people of all faiths flocked there every evening, signing giant banners and lighting up a narrow sidewalk with hundreds of small white candles. “Candles of conscience,” read a banner. “Why is Todi so cozy?” asked another, referring to the bride’s father, Ashok Todi, a prominent businessman and a men’s underwear baron.

[UPDATE] The father is the prime suspect and is being interrogated. He’s to take a lie detector test soon. (link)

[UPDATE 2]

Two men, real estate developer, Hasan and his associate Majid, who allegedly had threatened Rizwanur Rehman at the behest of Ashok Todi, have come out in the open and have confessed that they had pressurised the couple for a divorce.

It’s learnt that both the men were roped in by the Todi’s to negotiate with Rehman’s family and were sent by the Todi’s to negotiate a settlement at the behest of their solicitors. Majid confessed that he was asked to convince the Rehman family to agree to a divorce so that Priyanka could go back to her family. (link)

[UPDATE 3] Rizwanur’s last words.

“My father-in-law spoke to me. He told me that I would have to convert to Hinduism to which I agreed.

“I engaged myself in making new creatives for my father-in-law’s company, hoping that I would show it to him and things would take a positive shape.”(link)