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Friday, September 14, 2007

Brain death

A brain-dead individual has no electrical activity in the brain and no clinical evidence of brain function upon physical examination. This includes no response to pain and no cranial nerve reflexes. Reflexes include pupillary response (fixed pupils), oculocephalic reflex, corneal reflex, no response to the caloric reflex test and no spontaneous respirations.

It is important to distinguish between brain death and states that mimic brain death (e.g., barbiturate intoxication, alcohol intoxication, sedative overdose, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, coma or chronic vegetative states). Some comatose patients can recover, and some patients with severe irreversible neurologic dysfunction will nonetheless retain some lower brain functions such as spontaneous respiration, despite the losses of both cortex and brainstem functionality. Thus, anencephaly, in which there is no higher brain present, is generally not considered brain death, though it is certainly an irreversible condition in which it may be appropriate to withdraw life support.

Note that brain electrical activity can stop completely, or drop to such a low level as to be undetectable with most equipment. This includes a flat EEG during deep anaesthesia or cardiac arrest. To preclude these states being defined as brain death, the term refers only to the permanent cessation of electrical activity.

The diagnosis of brain death needs to be rigorous to determine whether the condition is irreversible. Legal criteria vary, but it generally requires neurological exams by two independent physicians. The exams must show complete absence of brain function, and may include two isoelectric (flat-line) EEGs 24 hours apart. The proposed Uniform Determination Of Death Act in the United States attempts to standardize criteria. The patient should have a normal temperature and be free of drugs that can suppress brain activity if the diagnosis is to be made on EEG criteria.

Alternatively, a radionuclide cerebral blood flow scan that shows complete absence of intracranial blood flow can be used to confirm the diagnosis without performing EEGs.

Misdiagnosed death

Misdiagnosed death

There are many anecdotal references to people being declared dead by physicians and then coming back to life, sometimes days later in their own coffin, or when embalming procedures are just about to begin. Owing to significant scientific advancements in the Victorian era, some people in Britain became obsessively worried about living after being declared dead.

A first responder is not authorized to pronounce a patient dead. Some EMT training manuals specifically state that a person is not to be assumed dead unless there are clear and obvious indications that death has occurred. These indications include mortal decapitation, rigor mortis (rigidity of the body), livor mortis (blood pooling in the part of the body at lowest elevation), decomposition, incineration, or other bodily damage that is clearly inconsistent with life. If there is any possibility of life and in the absence of a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, emergency workers are instructed to begin rescue and not end it until a patient has been brought to a hospital to be examined by a physician. This frequently leads to situation of a patient being pronounced dead on arrival (DOA). However, some states allow paramedics to pronounce death. This is usually based on specific criteria. Aside from the above mentioned, conditions include advanced measures including CPR, intubations, IV access, and administering medicines without regaining a pulse for at least 20 minutes.

In cases of electrocution, CPR for an hour or longer can allow stunned nerves to recover, allowing an apparently-dead person to survive. People found unconscious under icy water may survive if their faces are kept continuously cold until they arrive at an emergency room.[ This "diving response", in which metabolic activity and oxygen requirements are minimal, is something humans share with cetaceans called the mammalian diving reflex.

As medical technologies advance, ideas about when death occurs may have to be re-evaluated in light of the ability to restore a person to vitality after longer periods of apparent death (as happened when CPR and defibrillation showed that cessation of heartbeat is inadequate as a decisive indicator of death). The lack of electrical brain activity may not be enough to consider someone scientifically dead. Therefore, the concept of information theoretical death has been suggested as a better means of defining when true death actually occurs, though the concept has few practical applications outside of the field of cryonics.

There have been some scientific attempts to bring dead organisms back to life, but with limited success . In science fiction scenarios where such technology is readily available, real death is distinguished from reversible death.


Death is the permanent end of the life of a biological organism. Death may refer to the end of life as either an event or condition. Many factors can cause or contribute to an organism's death, including predation, disease, habitat destruction, senescence, malnutrition and accidents. The principal causes of death in developed countries are diseases related to aging. Traditions and beliefs related to death are an important part of human culture, and central to many religions. In medicine, biological details and definitions of death have become increasingly complicated as technology advances.

Death can be caused by disease, accident, homicide, or suicide. The leading cause of death in developing countries is infectious disease. The leading causes of death in developed countries are atherosclerosis (heart disease and stroke), cancer, and other diseases related to obesity and aging. These conditions cause loss of homeostasis, leading to cardiac arrest, causing loss of oxygen and nutrient supply, causing irreversible deterioration of the brain and other tissues. With improved medical capability, dying has become a condition to be managed. Home deaths, once the norm, are now rare in the first world.

In developing nations, inferior sanitary conditions and lack of access to medical technology makes death from infectious diseases more common than in developed countries. One such disease is tuberculosis, a bacterial disease which killed 1.7 million people in 2004.

Many leading first world causes of death can be postponed by diet and physical activity, but the accelerating incidence of disease with age still imposes limits on human longevity. The evolutionary cause of aging is, at best, only just beginning to be understood. It has been suggested that direct intervention in the aging process may now be the most effective intervention against major causes of death.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Religious fasting

Religious fasting


In Islam, fasting for a month is an obligatory practice during the holy month of Ramadan, from fajr (dawn), until maghrib (sunset). Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse while fasting. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Islam, and thus one of the most important acts of Islamic worship. By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to their Lord by abandoning the things they enjoy, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic:Allah) all the more evident.

The Qur'an states that fasting was prescribed for those before them (i.e., the Jews and Christians) and that by fasting a Muslim gains taqwa, which can be described as the care taken by a person to do everything God has commanded and to keep away from everything that He has forbidden. Fasting helps prevent many sins and is a shield with which the Muslim protects him/herself from jahannam (hell).

Muslims believe that fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. It also includes abstaining from any falsehood in speech and action, from any ignorant and indecent speech, and from arguing and fighting, and lustful thoughts. Therefore, fasting helps develop good behavior.

Fasting also inculcates a sense of fraternity and solidarity, as Muslims feel and experience what their needy and hungry brothers and sisters feel. However, even the poor, needy, and hungry participate in the fast. Moreover, Ramadan is a month of giving charity and sharing meals to break the fast together.

While fasting in the month of Ramadan is considered wajib (obligatory), Islam also prescribed certain days for non-obligatory, voluntary fasting, such as:

  • each Monday and Thursday of a week
  • the 13th, 14th, and 15th day of each lunar month
  • six days in the month of Shawwal (the month following Ramadan)
  • the Day of Arafat (9th of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Hijri (Islamic calendar))
  • the Day of Ashuraa (10th of Muharram in the Hijri calendar), with one more day of fasting before or after it (Sunnis only)

Although fasting is wajib, exceptions are made for persons in particular circumstances:

  • Children under the age of 10; some parents will encourage their children fast for only three hours a day once they reach four years old, so the children get used to fasting.
  • Serious illness; the days lost to illness will have to be made up after recovery.
  • If one is traveling, since the fajr and duhr' time will change; but one must make up any days missed upon arriving at one's destination.
  • Women who are pregnant and too physically weak.
  • A woman during her menstural period; although she must count the days she missed and make them up at the end of Ramadan.

Bahá'í faith

In the Bahá'í Faith, fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset during the Bahá'í month of `Ala' (between March 2 through March 20). Bahá'u'lláh established the guidelines in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. It is the complete abstaining from both food and drink (including abstaining from smoking). Observing the fast is an individual obligation, and is binding on all Bahá'ís who have reached the age of maturity, which is fifteen years of age.

Along with obligatory prayer, it is one of the greatest obligations of a Bahá'í. The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi, explains: "It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires."


Fasting is a very integral part of the Hindu religion. Individuals observe different kinds of fasts based on personal beliefs and local customs. Some are listed below.

  • Some Hindus fast on certain days of the month such as Ekadasi or Purnima.
  • Certain days of the week are also set aside for fasting depending on personal belief and favorite deity.
  • Thursday fasting is very common among the [[Hindu][Hindus]] of northern India. On Thursdays devotees listen to a story before breaking their fast. On the Thursday fasters also worship Vrihaspati Mahadeva or Jupiter. They wear yellow clothes, and meals with yellow colour are preferred. Women worship the banana tree and water it. Food items are made with yellow-coloured ghee.
  • Fasting during religious festivals is also very common. Common examples are Maha Shivaratri or the 9 days of Navratri (which occurs twice a year in the months of April and October/November during Vijayadashami just before Diwali, as per the Hindu calendar). Karwa Chauth is a form of fasting unique to the northern part of India where married women undertake a fast for the well-being, prosperity, and longevity of their husbands. The fast is broken after the wife views the moon through a sieve after sunset.

Methods of fasting also vary widely and cover a broad spectrum. If followed strictly, the person fasting does not partake any food or water from the previous day's sunset until 48 minutes after the following day's sunrise. Fasting can also mean limiting oneself to one meal during the day and/or abstaining from eating certain food types and/or eating only certain food types. In any case, even if the fasting Hindu is non-vegetarian, he/she is not supposed to eat or even touch any animal products (i.e. meat, eggs)on a day of fasting.


The "acceptable fast" is discussed in the biblical Book of Isaiah, chapter 58:3-7, and is discussed metaphorically. In essence, it means to abstain from satisfying hunger or thirst, and any other lustful needs we may yearn for. The blessings gained from this are claimed to be substantial. Christian denominations that practice this acceptable fast often attest to the spiritual principles surrounding fasting and seek to become a testament to those principles. The opening chapter of the Book of Daniel, vv. 8-16, describes a partial fast and its effects on the health of its observers. Fasting is a practice in several Christian denominations or other churches. Other Christian denominations do not practice it, seeing it as a merely external observance, but many individual believers choose to observe fasts at various times at their own behest, and the Lenten fast observed in Anglicanism is a forty day partial fast to commemorate the fast observed by Christ during his temptation in the desert.



Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. Concerning that from which one fasts, and the period of fasting, a fast may be total or partial. It may be observed unbroken for many uninterrupted days, or be observed only for certain periods during the day, as is the Muslim practice during the holy month of Ramadan. Depending on the tradition, fasting practices may preclude sexual activity as well as food, in addition to refraining from eating certain types or groups of foods; for example, one might refrain from eating meat. Medical fasting can be a way to promote detoxification.

Fasting for religious and spiritual reasons has been a part of human custom since pre-history. It is mentioned in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, the Qur'an, the Mahabharata, and the Upanishads. Fasting is also practiced in many other religious traditions and spiritual practices.

Fasting is also used in a medical context to refer to the state achieved after digestion of a meal. A number of metabolic adjustments occur during fasting and many medical diagnostic tests are standardized for fasting conditions. For most medical purposes a person is assumed to be fasting after 8-12 hours. A diagnostic fast refers to prolonged fasting (from 8-72 hours depending on age) conducted under medical observation for investigation of a problem, usually hypoglycemia. Fasting has occasionally been recommended as a therapeutic intervention by physicians of many cultures, though it is uncommonly resorted to for this purpose by modern doctors.


The three parts of the month of Ramadan

These parts are called ashra (Arabic for ten) which means of ten days or about one third of the month.These are named respectively as

Rahmat: which means mercy of God.

Maghfirat which means forgiveness of God.

Nijat which means salvation or going to heaven.

Eid ul-Fitr

Six days of Shawwal

Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in ‘Shawwal’, the month following Ramadan beginning after Eid ul-Fitr. There are six days of fasting during Shawwal which, together with the Ramadan fasts, are equivalent to fasting "perpetually" (according to Sahih Muslim). Usually, this is taken to mean the whole year. It is a common misconception that the six days of fasting must be undertaken on consecutive days. It is said that fasting six days of Shawwal is like fasting for one full year

Ramadan رمضان


The third pillar of Islam, which is fasting, is practiced during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat and scorched ground. (in Arabic: رمضان, Ramaān) – – and it is the ninth month of the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, established in the year 638 CE. It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month.

"Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who wi

tness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. Allah wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify Allah for guiding you, and to express your appreciation."[2:185] This is a muslims favorite holiday.

Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) is considered the most holy night during Ramadan.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, and months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year, Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons.


The most prominent event of this month is the fasting practiced by most observant Muslims. The fasting during Ramadan has been so predominant in defining the month that some have been led to believe the name of this month, Ramadan, is the name of Islamic fasting, when in reality the Arabic term for fasting is Sawm. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world break their fast when the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib, is due. They eat before the sun comes up at a certain time and they eat Proscriptions and prescriptions during Ramadan

Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Istanbul in Ramadan (the writing with lights called mahya)

During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backstabbing, and gossip. They are encouraged to read the Qur'an. Sexual intercourse during fasting in the day is not allowed but is permissible after the fast (when referring to sexual intercourse, it is intended to mean with one's spouse alone, as all pre- and extra-marital relations are strictly forbidden in Islam). Obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. Properly observing the fast is supposed to induce a comfortable feeling of peace and calm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, sacrifice, as well as sympathy for those who are less fortunate, intending to make Muslims more generous and charitable.

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an.

Sunni Muslims tend to perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (‘Juz', which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an has been completed. Tarawih is an Arabic phrase referring to those extra prayers. This prayer is performed after salah of Isha'a. Sunnis believe it is customary to attempt a khatm (complete recitation) of the Qur'an in Ramadan by reciting at least one juz per night in Tarawih. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad was begun during Ramadan.

Shia Muslims view this prayer as a Bid'ah and caution all to stay away from it. Instead of performing Tarawih, Shia Muslims perform the night prayer during Ramadan just like any other night. This night prayer performed every night is called Qiyam al-layl, better known as Tahajjud. It must be noted, that Shia Muslims also attempt to read the entire Qur'an by the end of the month.

"The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" Announced via webcast

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Harry Potter

For everyone who has dreamt of walking the streets of Diagon Alley, they soon will have the chance."The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park will make the magical world of the famous book a reality for its legions of fans. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Universal Orlando Resort are partnering to create the worlds first fully immersive Harry Potter themed environment based on J.K. Rowling's books and the Warner Bros. films. "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" is expected to open in 2009.

ABC News Homepage

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