On 2011-01-28 Tunisia got 6 new ministers. Among them is a former student of mine that I taught at the Lycée de Gafsa while I was in the Peace Corps:
Mme Habiba Zéhi Ben Romdhane : Ministre de la Santé publique
Le Pr Habiba Zehi Ben Romdhane, originaire de Gafsa et spécialiste en médecine préventive, a un véritable parcours militant à raconter. Par respect pour la religion, elle porte un châle, le temps de prêter serment. Puis, elle le met sur les épaules et se présente pour saluer le chef de l’Etat par intérim. Interview accordée, sa priorité est de rejoindre son nouveau bureau, même vendredi après-midi, pour s’attaquer au travail.
La nouvelle ministre de la santé est militante et membre fondatrice de la section tunisienne d’Amnesty international, de l’Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates et de l’Association tunisienne pour la recherche sur le développement.
“PhysOrg reports on a study by Robert Rowthorn, emeritus professor at Cambridge University, that predicts that the genetic components that predispose a person toward religion are currently “hitchhiking” on the back of the religious cultural practice of high fertility rates and that provided the fertility of religious people remains on average higher than that of secular people, the genes that predispose people towards religion will spread. For example, in the past 20 years, the Amish population in the US has doubled, increasing from 123,000 in 1991 to 249,000 in 2010. The huge growth stems almost entirely from the religious culture’s high fertility rate, which is about 6 children per woman, on average. Rowthorn says that while fertility is determined by culture, an individual’s predisposition toward religion is likely to be influenced by genetics, in addition to their upbringing. In the model, Rowthorn uses a “religiosity gene” to represent the various genetic factors that combine to genetically predispose a person toward religion, whether remaining religious from youth or converting to religion from a secular upbringing. Rowthorn’s model predicts that the religious fraction of the population will eventually stabilize at less than 100%, and there will remain a possibly large percentage of secular individuals. But nearly all of the secular population will still carry the religious allele, since high defection rates will spread the religious allele to secular society when defectors have children with a secular partner.”
Today’s NY Times has an article on WikiLeaks and Tunisia. It it we find this gem:
An upbeat August 2008 cable giving Condoleezza Rice, then the secretary of state, a survey of Tunisia before a visit reported that “Tunisia styles itself ‘a country that works’ .” The writer added, “While Tunisians grumble privately about corruption by the first lady’s family, there is an abiding appreciation for Ben Ali’s success in steering his country clear of the instability and violence that have plagued Tunisia’s neighbors.”
I spoke with my Congressman two nights ago about Tunisia. He had been there in 2009 and could tell from a single taxi ride, where he discovered that the driver was afraid to say anything political, that Ben Ali was not appreciated.