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Monday, December 31, 2007

Pakistan After Benazir

The Chairperson for Life of the Pakistan Peoples Party is not the Chairperson today. Life cut off its tenuous relationship with her. Some reports indicate it was shrapnel wound, others say shots fired at her killed her. Brigadier Cheema, a spokesperson for the government said she hit the back of her head hard on a lever on the sun roof of the Landrover in the shock wave of the suicide blast and that caused her death. The Xray of the skull he released clearly shows a hole. Either he is incredibly naive or thinks others are.

With the Iowa primary next week, her death has also surfaced in the US local politics. CNN is playing sound bites from Presidential hopefuls against each other. Hilary Clinton in an exclusive with Wolf Blitzer has declared her lack of faith in Musharraf Administration and has asked for an International Commission to probe her death.

Her Roll of Dice

Benazir Bhutto took a gamble when she ended her exile to return to Pakistan. Today she lies buried in Garhi Khuda Baksh next to her father Zulfikar and brothers Murteza and Shahnawaz.

She was admired and despised in equal measure. Admired by the common Pakistanis as the gritty daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a symbol of hope and defiance against former President Zina ul Haq, a young, educated, articulate person from a wealthy family of Sind. She was voted into power twice. She was admired by the West for her ostensible portrayal of liberal and secular values.

She was dismissed twice as Prime Minister on charges of corruption, nepotism and ethnic cleansing. She was also despised for her lack of tolerance within her party, for her autocratic ways when in power, for her arrogance and insensitivity to those in her service. She tolerated no dissent and developed no hierarchy in the party.


The Musharraf Administration is in a quandary. Pressure is on from the West to go ahead with the January 8 elections. With her successor yet to settle and consolidate (more on this shortly,) and Nawaz Sharif calling for a boycott, the elections obviously cannot go on schedule.

There are whispers from Benazir’s PPP to go ahead and participate in the elections and cash in on the wave of sympathy for the assassinated leader. Should that happen, Nawaz Sharif may yet again change his mind and agree to participate. [He is another thali ka baigan - a ditherer and procrastinator with short memory span, who is as autocratic and intolerant as Benazir was in her party.]

Preliminary Assessment

Winners: Baitullah Mahsud, Pakistan Talibans/Alqaeda, Jamaat e Islami and other right wing parties and orthodox Wifaq ul Madaris members.

Losers: Liberals, democrats, activists, citizens.

Baitullah Mahsud, the Pakistan Taliban leader on the run is a very strong suspect for the Pindi blast. He is also a prime suspect in carrying out the Karachi blast on October 18 on Benazir Bhutto that resulted in upwards of 180 deaths. In a statement released through an aide, Mahsud has denied involvement in her assassination.

It could have been avoided but for her fatalism and rolling of the dice. Benazir was still in Dubai, when Musharraf sent emissaries to apprise her of the suicide bombing threat to her. In fact, one of her last publicly acknowledged meeting with a Musharraf functionary was with Gen. Kiani the present army chief, then ISI chief, who apprised her of ground realities in Pakistan and warned her of the consequences. She brushed all those warnings aside and took a gamble in returning to Pakistan.

His options are dwindling by the day. He cannot impose yet another Emergency if things continue to get out of hand. Having relinquished Army Command, imposing Martial Law would be risky for him. It also augurs bad for politicians hoping to usher in some form of democracy in Pakistan.

Succession: Amin Fahim, Aitezaz Ahsan and Asif Zardari

Benazir, like most autocrats at heart, did not develop a hierarchy within her party. She wrestled the chairmanship from her mother and awarded herself the coveted title for life.

There are unconfirmed reports that in her will she has mentioned that the leadership of the party should remain within the Bhutto family. If true, the two leading candidates would be her apolitical sister Sanam and Benazir’s son Bilawal who is 19 years old.

Other candidates who can lay a claim would be Makhdoom Amin Fahim, a Sindhi, who looked after the party affairs in Pakistan while she was in exile. Asif Zardari, the Mr. 10 % is also in the running.

The PPP member who garners most respect nationwide is Aitezah Ahsan - a long time PPP member and very much in the fore front since March 09,2007 leading the case for former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Because of his immense popularity and respect within Pakistan and abroad Benazir and her minions have been cold shouldering Aitezaz Ahsan.

The other dark horse is the shadowy Rehman Malik, former head of FIA. Pakistan TV showed Asif Zardari and Rehman Malik prominently as they lowered Benazir’s body in the grave. If the two link up with other shadowy operatives and manage too wrestle the leadership away from long time party supporter and leaders, then the outcome will be hard to guess.

Nuclear Control

The US has two over riding objectives and concerns.

First is the control of what some say the breeding grounds for Al Qaeda terrorists. – control of Al Qaeda and their proxy, the Pakistani Talibans. The Talibans are mainly Pushtoons and live in the North West straddling both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They were the abandoned orphans of the Afghan War – the US used them and discarded them when their objective was realized.

The second US concern is the control of Pakistan’s Nuclear weapons. President Musharraf has gathered that control under himself with tacit US approval.

In parachuting Benazir they had hoped for a political solution for their first objective. They had hoped that Benazir could come to a political understanding with the Taliban and the Pushtoons.

Simultaneously, the Bush Administration needs President Musharraf and the Army to be in firm control of the Nuclear weapons.


The elections, if and when they are held, will have a predictable outcome. The results are fomented in GHQ and are known to the insiders days before they are held. This is the sad reality of an army occupied Pakistan.

Before here death, I had heard this: the elections would be a play on around 230 seats in the NA. A good bet would be 70-8- seats each for PPP, PML(N) and PML(Q). The elections would happen when the GHQ/ISI feel confident they can deliver pre-determined 'results.'

Anticipating this Benazir had taken to saying this in her interviews and rallies that if PPP does not win a majority she would no accept the ‘rigged’ elections.

Washington is caught without fig leaves. The dichotomy of their foreign policy is exposed and well known. In their doublespeak, they talk of democracy and human rights but show a propensity for dealing with puppets and autocrats – Zina ul Haq, Anwar Sadat, Hosni Mubarak King Hussain, the Saudi-Americans – the list is endless. They wanted to parachute Benazir while propping the occupying army.

This reluctant marriage was accepted by Musharraf and Benazir, who had no love lost for each other. Now with her assassination, the US is back to square one. Is there a plan B?

Who can replace Benazir and deliver? Should they explore General Kayani? How will the lawyers and activists, in the fore front of the restoration of democracy movement take another Army foray into politics? Can Imran Khan be persuaded to fill the political void?

The only thing that can be said with certainty is the coming months will be full of uncertainty. And the forces of dark glow with glee at it.

Benazir’s Last Will Shows Her True Colors

In her death, she spoke like the feudal she was at heart, treating her party like her jaagir (personal fiefdom.) She wrote the leadership of PPP should remain within the Bhutto clan.

While there are more eligible candidates in the Bhutto clan, she did not mean them, but her own son Bilawal Zardari, 19 who promptly and publicly consented to change his name to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Following the Nuadero meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the PPP, Asif Zardari spoke impromptu, mixing languages, stammering and was incoherent at times. Until he learns public speaking, perhaps he should stick to 'reading.' Bilawal a teenager spoke well - in English - he has just lost his mother and has been thrust in the limelight - perhaps unwittingly. So, I would be kind and refrain from any comments.

If we are to believe reporters, PPP is a nationwide party with supports from people in all provinces, and had a good chance to win votes in the coming elections, then I wonder - who are the leaders at the provincial and local levels? And do they have any conscience? Or is PPP full off chamchas (yes man) like all other parties?

How can any party fight for democracy, and free and fair alphabet-soup of demands and display not one iota of conscience at this blatant travesty of democratic norms?

And the second tier leadership of PPP lacks in honesty too. At least, if they were honest, they would acknowledge they accept all this because their greed and lust for power overwhelms their other senses.

Today, greed won - injustice won - nepotism won- once again - and you, me and Pakistan lost.

My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade - Tariq Ali

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: "...As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him." The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People's Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.

Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People's Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

Benazir's last decision was in the same autocratic mode as its predecessors, an approach that would cost her – tragically – her own life. Had she heeded the advice of some party leaders and not agreed to the Washington-brokered deal with Pervez Musharraf or, even later, decided to boycott his parliamentary election she might still have been alive. Her last gift to the country does not augur well for its future. [for more click on the heading]

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nawaz Sharif's party to contest Pak polls

I don't know if this is a trial balloon. I don't know who this guy is. But I do know I predicted Mr. Thali ka Baigan aka Nawaz Sharif would back track yet again on his decision to boycott the elections. There is no honour amongst this breed of crooks. Almost without exception the current breed of politicians reek of opportunism and greed. Read on.

Overturning its stand to boycott the coming general elections in Pakistan, former premier Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party has decided to take part in the exercise following a similar decision by assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's party.

"Since the Pakistan People's Party is taking part in the elections and has appealed to us to take part, we decided to reverse our decision. The decision to participate in the polls will be formally announced after a meeting of the PML-N's top leaders on January 1," PML-N leader Siddique-ul-Farooq told PTI.

He said his party would work jointly with Bhutto's party to achieve democracy and end dictatorship. This was agreed on when Sharif met Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari at Naudero in Sindh province on Sunday.

"It was decided that we would go along with the decision made by the PPP with regard to participating in the polls," Farooq said.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bhutto's Skull X-ray, Bloody Vehicle

Check out the second xray. Is Brigadier Cheema naive or are we imbeciles?

Bhutto Assassinated: Victim of Suicide Attack

Scene at the Rawalpindi park
The blast happened by an entrance to Liaquat Bagh. photo courtesy BBC

Benazir Bhutto succumbed to a suicide attack and was pronounced dead at Rawalpindi General Hospital. She had just finished a political rally at Liaquat Bagh and was heading out from there. Liaquat Bagh was named after Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan who was assassinated here in 1952.

According to Absar Alam of GeoTV, Benazir finished her address at the Liaquat Bagh, and took a seat in her bullet-proof land cruiser. Beside her in the car were her former secretary Naheed Khan and journalist and spokesperson for PPP Sherry Rahman, and in the front Makhdoom Amin Fahim.

She got up and was waiving to the crowd through the sun roof when the suicide bomber fired and attacked. She fell back in the cruiser and was rushed to the nearby Pindi General Hospital where doctors tried to revive her for 35 minutes before declaring her dead at 6:16 pm local time.

She returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007 after 8 years of self-exile ignoring government intelligence warnings that her life could be in danger. She also underplayed intelligence from her own sources. Her convoy was attacked and over 140 civilians were killed and over 400 injured in targeted suicide attacks then.

Thirty other people have also been reported dead in the bomb blast at Liaquat Bagh

Benazir was the first born of Zulfikar Ali and Nusrat Bhutto. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on April 04, 1979 on orders from former President Zia ul Haq.

His second wife Nusrat Bhutto, now 78, suffers from Alzheimer and lives in Dubai. They had four children, Benazir (June 21, 1953 – Dec 27,2007), Murteza Sep 18,1954 – Sep 20, 1996), Sanam (b 1957) and Shahnawaz (1958 - 1985)

Shahnawaz died under mysterious conditions – drug over dose according to some – poisoned by ex suggest others. Murteza was killed outside family house at 70 Clifton when Benazir was the Prime Minister. Her Uncle Mumtaz Bhutto and Ghanwa, Murteza’s wife and Fatima his daughter openly accused Benazir and Zardari for orchestrating that assassination.

The last surviving child Sanam is a housewife and not in politics.



from blogger Henna P of Karachi Metroblog

There's a three day mourning announced by Mr. President.

Yes, I am already mourning for all the other people who have been mislead, in their passion for violence, for revenge. Every time, Karachi pays for the loss. As I speak National Hospital, right after Kala Pull has been set ablaze. Really, a hospital? A man has been shot, a bus has been torched near the Steel Mill. Shops are closed, people are panicking. A lot of people returning from offices have abandoned their cars in fear of being set on fire themselves. Gulistan-e-Jauher is the centre of violent activities.

Yes, no one should die in such dire circumstances. Terrorism is what it was. But the aftermath of terrorism must be terrorism as well?

From Momekh of Lahore Metroblog

Effectively, everything is closed for now. We have a Shell Select store next to our house and that was the last store/shop within the Cantt area to finally close down. The Select Store (normally open 24 hours) was flooded with people from all across the area probably. The shops are closing mainly because of fear of retaliation, which is already taking hold in many areas of Lahore. The situation may get worse outside with people burning anything they come up with. Most of the shopping areas (Fortress + MM ALAM confirmed) are closing down fast due to fear of violent protests.

Habib Bank at Bank Square Market in Model Town is the latest victim of mob mentality and violent reaction to Benazir's murder.

Watch Related Video

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

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Bush Condemns Bhutto Assassination

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Karzai: Bhutto 'Sacrificed Her Life'

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto's death likely to roil Pakistan markets - Polya Lesova

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will likely rattle the country's equity markets, eroding confidence at least in the short term in a market that's been one of the best performers in Asia, observers said.

Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, was killed Thursday in an attack that also killed at least 20 others at the end of a political rally in Rawalpindi. Read full story.
Bhutto's death will likely also destabilize Pakistan's equity market, among the best-performing bourses in the region.

"In the very short term, there will be a knee-jerk reaction as you saw at the time of the imposition of the rule of emergency by Musharraf earlier this year," said Rupert Neil Bumfrey, an advisor to emerging markets asset-management companies, in a phone interview from Dubai.

"Again, the knee-jerk reaction will be don't go Pakistan," said Bumfrey, who travels often to Pakistan. "However, as we've seen with the stock market since the imposition and abandonment of emergency rule, the stock market has continued to be positive. In the long run, Pakistan remains an excellent investment. It has good value."

In Karachi, the benchmark KSE-100 stock index closed down 0.3% on Thursday. See the Karachi Stock Exchange's Web site.

It has rallied 47% year to date. By comparison, India's Sensex index has gained 46.6% year to date.

Another key indicator showed a similar advance. The MSCI Pakistan index's year-to-date gain has been 40.7%, while MSCI India has surged 70% and MSCI China has rallied 65%.

URDU - Gulgee and Ahtezaz Ahsan by Kishwar Naheed

Time to Pause and Think

Independent Judiciary

Let us think for a moment the worst nightmares come true for the Bhuttos, Sharifs, Khans, Ahsans and the Activists and miraculously an Independent Judiciary graces the SC building in Islamabad.

What happens next when the SC decides on:

---corruption and financial obfuscation against bhutto/zardari?
---ethnic cleansing (extra judicial killing) agains bhutto led peepeepee leadership
---eliminating rivals (ok getting them murdered) the younger sharifs
---loan defaults, money laundering, payola – papa sharif, son sharifs re: ittefaq foundry
---the private militias, jails, ‘justice’ dispensation by the waderas, zamindars, tribal jirgas
---the corruption within army brass – steel mills, NAB, procurement, kick back from qadir khan’s export club, siphoning off from American ‘aid’
---the ‘cantonment’ land grab by the military, parachuting military retirees into plum civilian jobs

I think you get an idea from above that if the SC really delivers on these there will be no group or party that will remain untarnished.


The outcome from the movement for an Independent Judiciary would not be acceptable to all the power groups in Pakistan. People – disenfranchised people do not count. Who really cares or gives two hoots? (This is not for the humour impaired.)

Like other issues not discussed here – Jobs, Housing, Civic Amenities, Free and Fair Elections - big haha – I can guarantee you this – should by a miracle the free and fair elections do take place all these politicians would out run each other in declaring them rigged and unfair.

The fall out is easy to predict. Protests will get out of hand. Army will have to be called. The new leader will give the right sound bites – we do tend to have short memories. Do we remember “free and impartial” elections in 90 days? And then Zina-ul Haq unleashed the Kalshnikov-Mullah culture from which we are still reeling!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Top ten good news stories of 2007 from altmuslim

For the past six years, I have compiled a list of positive news stories related to Muslim issues from around the world for altmuslim. I have tried to highlight trends and developments in human relations, politics, arts, culture, and media within the Muslim world. But good news is sometimes joyful and sometimes bittersweet. Though clouds gather, we must search for silver linings. They are always present and apparent to the optimist and the wisdom-seeker, as surely as springtime buds emerging from winter’s cold bareness (or is that bear-ness?). Anyway, on with the Top Ten Muslim Good News stories for 2007. (See past year's "Top Ten" lists for 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002.)

Wise Words of Ikram Sehgal

Adherence to principles cannot be selective about favourites; they require that the superior judiciary who refused to take oath on 30 Jan 2000 under PCO-1 (1999) be restored along with those of the superior judiciary affected by PCO-2. One would prefer going back to the CJ Sajjad Ali Shah period but maybe it could open a legal Pandora's Box, why not at least restore the 7 heroes of the superior judiciary in existence before PCO-1? The judges who took oath under PCO-1 (including CJ Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry) are legally and morally no different from those who took oath under PCO-2.

wise words - to read the rest of the column click on the heading and if it does not work here is the link:

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

After space, Pak woman now eyes South Pole

After space, Pak woman now eyes South Pole

Namira Salim is set to become the first Pakistani citizen to travel to the Poles (Angencies Photo)
ISLAMABAD: Namira Salim, who is undergoing training to be the first Pakistani to go into space, is also set to become the first citizen of the country to travel to the North and South Poles.

Salim will hoist Pakistan's flag at the South Pole when she travels there next month as a member of an international expedition.

Caretaker Prime Minister Muhammedmian Soomro on Monday presented the flag to 35-year-old Salim, a well-known artist who will blast off into space in the world's first commercial space liner in 2008.

The international expedition is expected to reach the South Pole in the second week of January.

Soomro told Salim the hoisting of the flag at the South Pole by a woman would "reflect a positive image of Pakistan as a peace-loving and progressive country".

The expedition will leave next week for the South Pole from Brazil. At the base camp near the South Pole, the team will be trained for five days.

Salim said it was a privilege for her to be the first Pakistani to visit the North and South Poles. She was born in the port city of Karachi but now lives in Dubai and France.

Her father hails from Pakistan's Punjab province while her mother was born in Allahabad and brought up in Delhi.

Salim's multi-dimensional mixed media art has been exhibited at summits of the UN, UNESCO and SAARC.

Paradise Lost - Why doesn't anyone read Dante's Paradiso? By Robert P. Baird

Illustration by Charlie Powell. Click image to expand.

Dante's Paradiso is the least read and least admired part of his Divine Comedy. The Inferno's nine circles of extravagant tortures have long captured the popular imagination, while Purgatorio is often the connoisseur's choice. But as Robert Hollander writes in his new edition of the Paradiso, "One finds few who will claim (or admit) that it is their favorite cantica." (A cantica, or canticle, is one of the three titled parts of the poem.) The time is ripe to reconsider Paradiso's neglect, however, since three major new translations of the poem we know as the Divine Comedy are coming to completion. (Dante simply called it his Comedy; in what was perhaps the founding instance of publishing hype, divine was added by a Venetian printer in 1555.) Hollander's edition, produced with his wife, Jean, was published this summer, and two more are due out next year: one by Robin Kirkpatrick and the other—the one I'm holding out for—by Robert M. Durling and Ronald L. Martinez.

December 25th - Newton Day - Abbas Raza

Mortals! Rejoice at so great an ornament to the human race!

NewtonThe title of this post is a translation of a Latin inscription on Sir Isaac Newton's tomb. This is the fourth year that we at 3QD celebrate the auspicious 25th day of December as Newton's Day, an idea that we coincidentally came to independently on the same day as Richard Dawkins proposed it. (Newton was born 365 years ago today.) Each year I have given some small snippet about Newton's life (previous years' posts here, here, and here in chronological order) and this year I'll present a simple experiment that changed our understanding of the nature of light. Even though Newton had done the experiment in 1666, he did not publish it as part of his first major bit of scientific writing until 1672. In fact, just as in a more fair world (with a more fair academy in Oslo!) Einstein should have won four Nobels for the work he published as a 26 year-old in 1905 (the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the derivation of the law of the equivalence of mass and energy, E=mc2, from the equations of special relativity), Newton's achievements of the summer of 1666 (which caused Murray Gell-Mann to joke about that annus mirabilis that Sir Isaac could have written quite a "What I did on my summer vacation" essay!) were no less astounding: the law of gravitation, the laws of motion, the work on optics, and the invention of the calculus! [click on the heading to read the rest]

Monday, December 24, 2007

Khuda ke liye - anjum niaz

"Jab main haram ka paisa le kar, halal gosht ki dokan dhoondta houn" is the salvo actor Naseer-ud-din Shah utters in his brilliant attack against a clergy that encourages hypocrisy, cruelty, inflexibility, ignorance and mediaevalism, the hall should have stood up and given a standing ovation. But the "hall" barely had more than 50 of us watching Khuda ke Liye!

When "Fahrenheit 911" was released in America some two years ago despite the Bush administration's best efforts to terrorise cinema halls not to screen the film, American audiences went berserk. They clapped; they whistled; they cheered; and they cried. I too clapped and stood up when the movie ended. The producer, director, actor, Michael Moore became a household name overnight. His film fetched him millions. America was ablaze with anti-Bush sentiment for months. In the film, candid shots of President Bush playing the monkey while getting ready for a TV interview or his father, Bush senior, hobnobbing with the Saudis on the day of 9/11 exposed the intellectual dishonesty of the US government crying revenge on "Islamic" terrorists. The Iraq war further exacerbated the American hypocrisy by showing the world that Iraq was conquered not for WMD's (weapons of mass destruction) but for oil.

Shoaib Mansoor is a genius and Geo TV is a standard-bearer of corporate social responsibility. By producing a film like Khuda ke Liye, Geo TV has exposed the crass ignorance on both sides of the Atlantic. In Pakistan, illiterate mullahs brainwash young men to become suicide bombers in the name of Islam; in America insular intelligence agents act like dolts, untaught and misinformed about Muslims. These shallow agents treat every Muslim, particularly Pakistani, as a terrorist, as happens in the movie. The torture of film star Shan who plays the part of a talented musician in Chicago is a scene so horrific and so prolonged that it remains with one long after the movie is over.
[click on the heading]

Aitezaz Ahsan: Frustration and Hyperbole

The judiciary is entirely hand-picked. State resources are being spent on preselected candidates. There is a deafening uproar even though the independent news med in Pakistan are completely gagged. Can there evenbe an election in this environment? Aitezaz Ahsan in NYT's Op Ed

The judiciary is entirely hand-picked.

Not a true picture. Former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry also took an oath under a PCO. And had enough time from that moment till March 09 to redress the situation.

And, not all current judges are puppets. He knows it and we know it.

State resources are being spent on preselected candidates.

The State is also aiding and supporting PeePeePee’s chairperson for life and his Party. And he is well informed of the back channels shenanighans between bhutto and musharraf. Why does he not call it publicly? Does he have other motives?

There is a deafening uproar even though the independent news media in Pakistan are completely gagged.

Completely gagged? Even sitting in TO I can see this is not true. Yes Geo is gagged and Ary has toned down – but completely is erroneous and misleading specially coming from him

Can there even be an election in this environment?

He should ask his party leader

All about the WOTY - Grant Barret

All about the WOTY

I’m definitely all about WOTY (as we call “words of the year") right now.

Oct. 31. Editors at Webster’s New World Collegiate nominate “grass station” as their word of the year. Two months early and a barely used word, most people scoff at the choice.

Nov. 12 Editors at Oxford University Press nominate “locavore” as their word of the year. A passable choice but at three years old it’s too new for some commentators, not old enough for others. I’ve been trying to avoid talking about it since 2004.

Nov. 16. I begin talking with editors for the New York Times Week in Review section about the shape of this year’s words-of-the-year list.

Nov. 26. A first draft of the NYT article is finished and submitted.

Dec. 9. WOTY fatigue has already set in for some language observers. I’m only just beginning.

Dec. 11. Editors at Merriam-Webster nominate “w00t” as their word of the year. Mob rule results in the word of the year for 1997 being nominated by accident, or so it seems.

Dec. 12. I post a history of w00t that triples web site traffic for a day. I record a WOTY interview for the Voice of America for their English-learning program Wordmaster.

Dec. 13. Record a WOTY interview for Weekend America. It’s to run after all the WOTY announcements have taken place, so my internal prognosticator is running on full tilt. Flashing lights everywhere. I’m either going to sound like I knew what I was talking about or like I was hit by a car and woke up in 1973. Global Language Monitor, a dubious outfit made mostly of one man, his bluster, and a fax machine, issues its annual press release, this year topped by “hybrid.” Apparently his algorithm is busted but he just heard some six-year-old Prius jokes that were very convincing.

Dec. 19. I collect and post the first round of early nominations for the American Dialect Society’s word of the year vote.

Dec. 20. I have a very pleasant hour-long chat with Julie Kredens, host of State of Affairs on WFPL in Louisville, about WOTY.

Dec. 21. The VOA Wordmaster interview airs.

Dec. 22. Martha Barnette and I do an episode about WOTY on the language-related public radio show we co-host, A Way with Words.

Dec. 23. My fourth annual words-of-the-year piece is published in the New York Times. I post the second round of early words-of-the-year nominations for the American Dialect Society.

Dec. 24. I am scheduled to talk with Joy Cardin on her show on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network, broadcast statewide, at 7 a.m. EST/6 a.m. CST.

Jan. 1, 2008. Collecting begins for next year’s list.

Jan. 4. American Dialect Society’s 18th annual words-of-the-year vote is held in Chicago. This is the WOTY event of the year. ADS members prefer to wait until the year has finished. Even that last day counts!

Jan. 5. Interview airs on Weekend America. More interviews tend to happen around this time.

Interviews are a lot of fun but I’m under no illusion: they’re not about me. They’re about the words. That reporters and radio hosts want to talk about them doesn’t make me important. I still clean my own toilet and I’m long since past the point of caring about my name in the paper or hearing myself on the radio. My goal is to do good shows, to help make great articles and, above all, to enjoy myself as I talk about why language change is interesting and inevitable. I love my work and it’s fantastic that these wonderful people let me trod about on their airspace and in their news pages as I explain it.

Top Ten Hottest Videos of 2007 - AlterNet Staff, AlterNet.

The most popular AlterNet videos of the year are an eclectic bunch. They feature plenty of animation and a rather animated Tim Robbins. There's shocking footage (US troops attacking Iraqi sheep with grenades) and probing insight (Noam Chomsky). What they all have in common is that they provoked a lot of laughter, anger or discussion this year.

1) Michael Moore Rips Wolf Blitzer on CNN: "Why Don't You Tell the American People the Truth"
Michael Moore slams Blitzer and CNN for their lies about universal health care and his film "Sicko."

2) The Cartoon Mitt Romney Doesn't Want You To See
This piece of propaganda may or may not be inaccurate, but it definitely would persuade or provoke a lot of people to be uncomfortable with Mitt Romney.

3) Colbert Says Impeach Bush Now
Or you're a bunch of wimps...

4) Tim Robbins: "If You F**k Things Up You Can No Longer Be An Expert"
Tim Robbins and Bill Maher clash with Cheney biographer Stephen Hayes about the rationale for the Iraq War.

5) Cartoon Marketing Ignites Bomb Scare
Pranksters give finger to the media...

6) Noam Chomsky Weighs In On 9/11 Conspiracy Theories
The legendary linguist and activist explains why he's highly skeptical about Bush Administration involvement in perpetrating 9/11.

7) Evangelist Chuck Missler Disproves Evolution With Jar Of Peanut Butter
Was that "smooth or crunchy"?

8) The Simpsons' Vicious Fox News Parody
FOX: "Your voice for evil"

9) US Troops Attack Iraqi Sheep with Grenades
Bored soldiers+flash grenades+occupied country=sick laughs

10) "Look": The First Major US Film Made Entirely With Surveillance Footage
What safeguards exist to make sure highlights of YOUR ass are not making it onto the most viewed list on YouTube?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

BODY SNATCHER - A disease that steals the self - Josef Hall

Diane Schaef is in an advanced stage of frontotemporal dementia, commonly known as FTD. It's a degenerative neurological ailment that attacks the brain's frontal and temporal lobes, where personality traits and language control largely reside.

It's a disease, says Dr. Tiffany Chow, that attacks men and women equally and can replace a loved-one with a doppelganger stranger. Unlike Alzheimer's disease – which steals memory yet can leave personality intact for lengthy periods – FTD is a body snatcher.

"So you no longer have a partner helping you run a household and parent children," says Chow, a clinician and scientist with the Baycrest Centre's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. "You've got another person who is an unknown quantity." [for the rest click on the heading] | News | A disease that steals the self

Agreement between thieves

Headlines from the Frontier Post

Shahbaz hints at seat adjustment with PPP

The next query is: Is there honour among these thieves?

Here is how the media manipulates in the US : USA Today Squeezes Edwards Out of Race

In a good example of corporate media striving to narrow down the Democratic primary field (FAIR Media Advisory, 5/8/07), USA Today (12/18/07) had a story on candidates' electability that wrote all but two of them out of existence. The story opened with the statement that "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama fares better than New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against prospective Republican rivals," and went on to report:

In hypothetical matchups for the general presidential election, Clinton and Obama each led Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and [Mitt] Romney, although at times narrowly. Obama was somewhat stronger, besting Giuliani by 6 points, Huckabee by 11 and Romney by 18. Clinton had an edge of 1 point over Giuliani, 9 points over Huckabee and 6 points over Romney.

Missing from USA Today's polling about electability was John Edwards--even though aside from Clinton and Obama, Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who consistently polls in double digits. And when other polls have included Edwards in questions about electability, Edwards generally does better than the other two, sometimes by wide margins. In a CNN survey of December 6–9, Edwards beat Romney by 11 points more than Clinton and 9 points more than Obama. He beat Huckabee by 15 points more than Clinton and 10 points more than Obama. Clinton lost to McCain in this polling by 2 points while Obama and McCain were tied, but Edwards beat him by 6. There's not as much of a difference with Giuliani, but Edwards still did 3 points better than Clinton and 2 points better than Obama. [ click on the heading for the rest]

Right-wing Think-tank Busted for Dodgy "Islamic Extremism" Report -

A Question of Receipts
By Brian Whitaker
Comment is Free

Last night's shouting match between Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and Dean Godson of the Policy Exchange thinktank may have been fascinating television but I'm not sure it was very illuminating.

Back in October, Policy Exchange issued a much-publicised report on extremist literature sold at mosques and other Islamic institutions in Britain.

On visits to almost 100 of these places across the country, the thinktank's researchers found extremist material available - either openly or "under the table" - in around 25. Some of this material was certainly alarming, as I wrote at the time. More reassuringly, though, Policy Exchange has also pointed out that three-quarters of the places it surveyed were "nothing other than perfectly reputable centres of Muslim worship and learning".

Shortly before the report was published, Newsnight and Policy Exchange agreed a deal giving the BBC programme exclusive access to the findings. Newsnight's editor, Peter Barron, takes up the story on his blog:

Policy Exchange had given us the receipts to corroborate their claim that a quarter of the 100 mosques their researchers had visited were selling hate literature.
On the planned day of broadcast our reporter Richard Watson came to me and said he had a problem. He had put the claim and shown a receipt to one of the mosques mentioned in the report - The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in London. They had immediately denied selling the book and said the receipt was not theirs.
We decided to look at the rest of the receipts and quickly identified five of the 25 which looked suspicious. They appeared to have been created on a home computer, rather than printed professionally as you would expect. The printed names and addresses of some of the mosques contained simple errors and two of the receipts purportedly from different mosques appeared to have been written by the same hand.
I spoke to Policy Exchange to try to clear up these discrepancies but in the end I decided not to run the report.

Instead, Newsnight continued to investigate the suspicious receipts with the aid of a forensic scientist - and the result was last night's programme casting doubt on their authenticity. A Guardian report has more details here.

If substantiated, Newsnight's allegations will knock some of the shine off Policy Exchange, a thinktank closely associated with the Conservative party, which boasts that it is "committed to an evidence-based approach to policy development." [for the rest click on the heading]

Where Did All the Good Journalism Go? rory o'connor

For the past two years, I've been volunteering as NewsTrust's Editorial Director. This fledgling social news site offers citizens an integrated online service, which includes a quality news filter, media literacy tools and -- most importantly -- a trust network. One major feature is its daily feed of quality news and opinions drawn from hundreds of sources, submitted and then rated by community reviewers. NewsTrust members are encouraged to check their personal opinions at the door and instead judge the news based on quality, and not simply popularity. (One observer dubbed NewsTrust "Digg for Grownups.") The NewsTrust web review tools enable its members to evaluate fairness, evidence, sourcing and other core journalistic principles. The service also rates its own reviewers and validates their expertise, to ensure the reliability of its quality ratings. Given that questions of trust, quality, accountability and verification are among the most important issues facing journalism today -- and given the further fact that a truly functioning democracy requires an informed citizenry -- finding real answers to these media-and-democracy questions is crucial to helping us all make more informed decisions about our lives and governments -- and thus to our very future as a democratic society.

The NewsTrust experiment is still in beta form and no one -- particularly its visionary founder Fabrice Florin -- claims the approach has been perfected. "I'd say it shows great promise, but we still have a ways to go," says Florin, who is rightly concerned about over-hyping a service that is still in its infancy, "But it could become one of the best systems out there for filtering the news based on quality -- as well as for increasing our own media literacy." The good news is that the "social news network" concept does seem to be working. One indication can be found by examining NewTrust's own 'Best Journalism of 2007' lists, featuring both the 'Top 10 News Stories' and 'Top 10 Opinions' of 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Muslim students file rights complaints over Maclean's article - cbc

Four students at Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School are accusing Maclean's magazine of violating their human rights over an article titled The Future Belongs to Islam.

They've filed complaints with the federal, Ontario and British Columbia human rights commissions over the October 2006 article.

The article discusses the high birth rate among Muslims and speculates that Islamic people could become the majority population in Europe. It also says some Muslims are violent radicals.

Naseem Mithoowani, one of the Osgoode Hall law students bringing forward the complaint, said the article was one of a series of articles offensive to Muslims.

"This isn't just one article in a context of fair and balanced media. This really was the straw that broke the camel's back because it's one in a string of articles that are anti-Islam and anti-Muslim," she told CBC News. [click on the heading for the rest]

The Year Gone By: 2007 - readersworld

A somewhat early wrap up of the year’s reading, before this blog goes into a month long winter hibernation.

The most significant book I read this year was undoubtedly Rahul Banerjee’s Recovery of the Lost Tongue, the author’s memoirs of his life and struggles among the Bhil adivasis of central India. Interestingly the link to this book whose complete text is available online was left in the comments of my annual wrap up post last year. Thanks to Rama for the same! (link to my review of the book)

The book is unduly long and written in a long winded manner and it is not the easiest one to read, but the reader is amply rewarded by the author’s acute observations and insights into the processes at work in contemporary India. I would rather read this book than dozens of tomes by Ramachandra Guhas and Shashi Tharoors to understand India as it has evolved in the last three decades. There is much to disagree with what the author calls an ‘anarchist’ manifesto, but then it is always exciting to disagree with someone who is not only honest but also has an amazing capacity to traverse the dialectic between theory and practice. [for more click on the heading]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

South Asia: united we stand -By Navaid Husain

Tell me if our choice, or lack of choice on January 8, 2007 will lead to which path?

In Pakistan, we are involved with our age-old political issues such as who should run the country, the people or the army, or a mix of the two which we currently have. We have had this contest since 1958. One of which broke the country in two! We fought two wars with India and nearly had another pitched battle with India in 2002. In July 1977, the army staged a coup d'etat and two years later with a rigged judiciary and the support of the fundamentalist parties hanged the elected and charismatic prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In the west and in international institutions, Pakistan is considered a failed state.

On the other hand, look at India's democracy where a minority community (Sikh) is the prime minister, a woman as president, a Muslim as vice-president, a Dalit as chief justice and a foreigner settled in India as the head of a democratic political party, the Indian National Congress. India's super rich are now part of the Fortune Five Hundred. Over 150 research and development centres have been relocated in India due to the low cost of carrying out research. In economic terms, just in 43 years India will surpass United States of America.

Recently, the Tata group gave $7.5 billion to NGOs while keeping the amount in fixed accounts from which it can pledge for widening its base. A while back, another Indian group bought out a scotch distillery in Scotland called Whyte & McKay. It represents 3.5 per cent of Scotland's distillery capacity. The richest person in the UK is Lakshmi Mittal and he is of Indian descent. Kingfisher, which is a brewery, has also set up an airline with 80 new planes under its name.

India manufactures mobile phones, radios, televisions, computer chips, motorcycles, scooters, cars, trucks and helicopters. There are numerous call centres in India and it has a $50 billion and ever-increasing software industry, and this is estimated to double in the next few years. A subway train to be built in Mumbai measuring 11 km is going to cost $500/million; could Pakistan ever conceive of this expenditure?

[to read the rest click on the heading]

What After January 8?

What will happen after January 08, 2008? Will we see the same level of activism against that election results as we see now? Or will the majority of the activists withdraw to lick and regroup? They cannot keep the present momentum indefinitely. This has already taken a toll on their (home) lives and finances and will take more from them.

Yes, there will be a few brave souls that will continue to fight but my concern is for numbers. Numbers that multiply and ignite.

Acceptance of reality after Jan. 08 – acceptance of any winning party, still in bed with the occupying army is a negation of this ‘elitist’ movement.

Will this opportunity go down again as the ones before?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

where do you go to my lovely

I know where you go to my lovely
When you're alone in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
'Cause I can look inside your head

i fell for her so long ago
today only her smiling face
peers out through a sepia haze

when did we meet, where did we meet
punch-cool, college or gymkhana?
these gray cells fail to connect

she must be tall, slim---has to be
short and barreled were not in vogue
then or now, if i may confess

she must have been articulate
even in those days i was
allergic to beauty sans brains
and she must have been charming too
and no am not conjecturing

phir kahaaN chali gaee woh
aur gar itni achchi thii tou
hum nay aaj say pehlay oos ko
kabhi miss kyuN nahin kya

what happened then, where did she she go
why did i not remember her
till i read of paan and naswaar
was it because she ate them paans?

acknowledgments: peter sarstedt and sahar rizvi

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why don't you give up Mr Cowasjee?

You have written how many columns over this? Ten! And not even the King of Suo-Moto Iftikhar Chowdhary cared to entertain you. I can visualise you reading this with a twinkle in your eyes because you know why they do not listen to you.

"One other matter now pending in the Supreme Court is the case filed by Asghar
Khan against the military generals of the ISI for their distribution of public funds to influence a general election. Can Chief Justice Abdul Hamid Dogar not locate this human rights petition (HRC 19/96), speedily hear it and decide before January 8? As the law stands, the ISI and its sister agencies can fiddle with the elections to guarantee that they are ‘free, fair and transparent’ to the detriment of the people."

(Btw, the Dawn webmaster should fix the numbers)

(September 2, 2007)
(August 19, 2007)
(August 12, 2007)
(August 5, 2007)
We never learn from history - 6 (Oct 31, 2004)

(Aug 25, 2002)
(Aug 18, 2002)
(Aug 11, 2002)
(Aug 04, 2002)
(July 21, 2002)

Family tragedy no time for cultural warfare -haroon siddiqui

No sooner had the news of the Aqsa Parvez murder filtered out than cultural warfare broke out.

Some said the killing proved the backwardness of Muslims, indeed Islam, that retrograde and violent religion which subjugates women.

Quebecers complaining about the wretchedness of the hijab were right, after all: "These people" do not share "our" values.

Others said that the isolated incident was a family tragedy, an intergenerational feud gone horribly wrong, leaving a 16-year-old dead and her father charged with murder. No religion teaches dads to kill their daughters.

The media – forever entangled in clichés about immigrants, especially Muslims – seemed incapable of rising above mob mentality.

Violence against women knows no bounds of race, religion, culture or class.

The Parvez murder was also a clash of immigrants' old country cultural/religious values versus their children's evolving ones in Canada.

That has been so throughout our history and will be in the future.

Intergenerational clashes, too, transcend race, religion and ethnicity, notes Vivian Rakoff, former director of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, and an eminent author.

"It's the story of almost every single immigrant group adhering to the strict values of their past or indeed their present. I've heard this from Greek families, Italian families where the daughter wants to go and be with friends on the Yonge St. strip and the father calls her a whore and kicks her out and she gets beaten up."

[for the rest click on the heading]

The Transitionist vs Transformationist Debate in Pakistan - A perspective - Bevivek

There is an ongoing debate in the Pakistani media on the issue of whether to adopt a Transitionary or a Transformationary approach to changing Pakistan. Initiated by Daily Times editor, Ejaz Haidar on August 31st, this has led to a lively exchange with several participants including Ayesha Siddiqua the author of Military Inc. on Sep 3rd and the redoubtable Kamran Shafi on Sep 6th. Interested readers are urged to refer to the additional articles: an editorial in Daily Times on Sep 7th, Haidar's response to others again on Sep 7th and by Afiya Shehrbano on Sep 11th. Articles on this continue to appear.

The ultimate goal of both approaches appears to be the same, establishing the primacy of democratic civilan rule and moving the military back to the barracks for good with no political role. The two camps differ in the approach.

[for the rest click on the heading]

and this was my response to bevivek:


interesting article on the transitionist vs. transformationist angle

it is never easy to predict what might happen but that does not deter us to venture in la la land:)

the struggle against the army as personified by musharraf is kept alive by the lawyers, the media and the citizen activists...i call them the 'elitist' putsch

and for this to arrive anywhere near success it has to entice and win over the people.... the masses ... that has not been happening...(which is why to my friends discomfort i have lableled it 'elitist'!)

these are/were transformationists

the other approach - the transitionist - or what i have termed the Gul approach after turkishh president Gul - has not been tried yet

here you approach gain some, retreat if the opposition to your advance is firm, regroup, advance elsewhere, retreat, push - in the end you gain albeit slowly your goals

it has not been tried in pakistan yet

but this imho holds the best promise

my response to Emergency Rule Lifted in Pakistan - aaman lamba

With apologies to Lord Alfred Tennyson for abusing The Brook


I come from haunts of boot and urn,
I make a sudden sally,
And sparkle out a new uniform,
To bicker down a valley.

Till last by Delhi's farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

I tinker over stony ways,
In beaten ground parades,
I bubble into marching bays,
I babble on stone marbles.

I order, order, as I flow
To join the gravy river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

I steal by laws and grassy plots,
Under Margalla cloud covers;
I move the judges and justices
That grow for happy lawyers.

I shoot, I slide, I charge, I glance,
Among my skimming gallows;
I make the wary peasants dance
Against my sandy khakis.

I murmur under crescent stars
In Balochi wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my epaulets;

And out again throw curve and flow
To join the crying river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fighting jihadists with inkjet printers - Irfan Yusuf

Exposing wackos

I’m always most grateful to anyone who exposes the nastiness of Muslim wackos (or indeed of wackos of any persuasion). But I’m not grateful to those who associate me with those same wackos. I might be somewhat conservative, but I’m no cultural jihadist. I might be Muslim, but I’m not about to wear a suicide vest. Further, nothing is to be gained by pretending a real threat doesn’t exist. At the same time, there is no virtue in overstating a threat. Let’s call a spade a spade, not a (non-Sudanese) teddy bear or a hijacked airliner.

Some of the allegedly dangerous books exposed in the PE’s most recent study are hardly a problem. For instance, the study refers to Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi’s Behishti Zewar, a classic book containing a mix of Hanafi fiqh (sacred jurisprudence) and nasihat (advice) written especially for women. My mother had an old copy of this book in her library. Like many South Asian Muslim women, she probably received it from relatives on her wedding day as part of her dowry. She takes it off her shelf to read maybe once a year.

I know the book contains crazy misogynist, sexist, anti-British material. There’s plenty in the book to laugh at. Just as there are plenty of other cheaply-printed books published (or pirated) in India and Pakistan filled with spelling errors, bad grammar and weird conspiracy theories. But to describe Behishti Zewar as a hate-filled jihadi tract of salafist extremism is really over-the-top.

[for the rest click on the heading]

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites" - Mark Benjamin


Exhibit I: Rendering of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah's first cell in Afghanistan (based on Bashmilah's own drawings).

Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites"

A Yemeni man never charged by the U.S. details 19 months of brutality and psychological torture -- the first in-depth, first-person account from inside the secret U.S. prisons. A Salon exclusive.

By Mark Benjamin

Dec. 14, 2007 | WASHINGTON -- The CIA held Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in several different cells when he was incarcerated in its network of secret prisons known as "black sites." But the small cells were all pretty similar, maybe 7 feet wide and 10 feet long. He was sometimes naked, and sometimes handcuffed for weeks at a time. In one cell his ankle was chained to a bolt in the floor. There was a small toilet. In another cell there was just a bucket. Video cameras recorded his every move. The lights always stayed on -- there was no day or night. A speaker blasted him with continuous white noise, or rap music, 24 hours a day.

The guards wore black masks and black clothes. They would not utter a word as they extracted Bashmilah from his cell for interrogation -- one of his few interactions with other human beings during his entire 19 months of imprisonment. Nobody told him where he was, or if he would ever be freed.

It was enough to drive anyone crazy. Bashmilah finally tried to slash his wrists with a small piece of metal, smearing the words "I am innocent" in blood on the walls of his cell. But the CIA patched him up.

So Bashmilah stopped eating. But after his weight dropped to 90 pounds, he was dragged into an interrogation room, where they rammed a tube down his nose and into his stomach. Liquid was pumped in. The CIA would not let him die.

[click on the heading to read rest]

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Benazir, Where is Your Alternative?

Former Prime Ministers Nawaz Shariff and Benazir Bhutto continue to struggle to reach consensus on how to deal with the elections announced by President Parvez Musharaff. Both filed nominations. Shariff has been disqualified. Benazir announced the Pakistan Peoples Party’s election manifesto on 30 November 2007. Since then, Shariff and Bhutto have been trying to cobble together a pro-democracy alliance but so far they have succeeded only in undermining the democracy movement; the lawyers, journalists and human rights activists – have been sidelined.

Benazir Bhutto’s election manifesto offers no alternative. The proposals lack any substance. She has nothing to offer in terms of governance. There is nothing substantive on human rights.

Some of the key issues of concern are highlighted below.

I. No commitment on an independent National Human Rights Commission

II. No commitment at international level

III. Improving the plight of the minorities

IV. Empowerment of women

V. PPP’s silence on the American War against terror

VI. Deathly silence on the plight of the Balochis

VII. Judiciary

VIII. Press and media Freedom

[click on the heading for the full article]

Private tragedy and public issues - Kathy English Public Editor The Star

Facts: Teenager Aqsa Pervez was strangled to death. Her father Mohammed Pervez is charged with murder. This happened some days back here in TO suburbs and the news has been splashed all over the world as a conflict between cultures with clash of the civilisation undertones. Kathy English who is the public editor at the star writes on this. t

I wondered, had my teenaged conflict happened now, and had it somehow escalated to the point of such tragedy, would the media have reported it as a teen's rejection of Catholic faith, or would it be contained as an age-old story of conflict between controlling parents and a rebellious adolescent or covered primarily as an incident of domestic violence?

It must be clearly understood that we don't know what went on in the Parvez home. We know that the family came to Canada from Pakistan and is Muslim and clearly there was conflict between Aqsa and her parents. Police have not confirmed the reports of Aqsa's friends that she rebelled against the hijab. But if that is found to be so, many readers question why this has been primarily portrayed as a broad conflict between Canadian culture and Islam rather than as an issue of domestic violence.

Indeed, from the outset, media reports in the Star and other newspapers and broadcasts, were quick to focus on Aqsa's friends' comments, which immediately framed the story as a cultural clash, in line with the "clash of civilizations" thesis – the idea that there is inherent conflict between Western values and Islamic faith.

Reader Abubakar Kasim charged that "the media disregard objectivity and balanced reporting and forget their ethical and professional responsibility when the suspect of a crime is thought to be a Muslim. Eventually all Muslims are forced to defend their faith."

[click on the heading to read rest]

The Top Ten Best Environment Stories of 2007 - AlterNet Staff, AlterNet.

From the top 100 ways global warming with change your life to anti-environmental homeowners associations to the biofuel hoax, read this year's best.

Thanks to Al Gore and a dedicated group of international scientists boosting global warming into worldwide consciousness, this has been a great year for environmental reporting. We narrowed down our hundreds and hundreds of Environment stories to the Top 10 Most Read of 2007.

This list represents a great sampling of our content, with AlterNet favorites like Stan Cox, David Morris and Bill McKibben. Not to mention a few fun pieces mixed in with those reports on a warming planet, rising seas, and disappearing drinking water.

10. The Property Cops: Homeowner Associations Ban Eco-Friendly Practices by Stan Cox, AlterNet

Homeowner association regulations often make environmental responsibility impossible by outlawing clotheslines, solar panels -- even gardens.

9. Do You Live in One of the World's 15 Greenest Cities? by Grist Magazine

Here's the top 15 cities and few runners up who have made the most impressive strides toward eco-friendliness and sustainability.

8. Why Having More No Longer Makes Us Happy by Bill McKibben, Mother Jones

The formula of human well-being used to be simple: Make money, get happy. So why is the old axiom suddenly turning on us?

7. Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water by Tara Lohan, AlterNet

The Bush administration is helping multinationals buy U.S. municipal water systems, putting our most important resource in the hands of corporations with no public accountability.

6. Ice Caps Melting Fast: Say Goodbye to the Big Apple? by Paul Brown, AlterNet

The talk of sea level rise should not be in centuries, it should be decades or perhaps even single years. And coastal regions like New York and Florida are in the front line for devastation.

5. The Great Biofuel Hoax by Eric Holt-Gimenez, Indypendent

Touted by politicians and industry as "green" energy, biofuels come with a high price tag.

4. Top 100 Ways Global Warming Will Change Your Life by Center for American Progress

Say goodbye to French wines, baseball and the Great Barrier Reef. Say hello to massive amounts of mosquitoes, the northwest passage and hurricanes.

3. Ten Ways to Prepare for a Post-Oil Society by James Howard Kunstler,

The best way to feel hopeful about our looming energy crisis is to get active now and prepare for living arrangements in a post-oil society.

2. You Call Yourself a Progressive -- But You Still Eat Meat? by Kathy Freston, AlterNet

Eating a plant-based diet is an easy, cheap way to end animal cruelty and clean up the environment. Why, then, are so many progressives still clinging to their chicken nuggets?

1. What Al Gore Hasn't Told You About Global Warming by David Morris, AlterNet

George Monbiot's new book Heat picks up where Al Gore left off on global warming, offering real solutions without sugar-coating the large personal sacrifices they will require.

Ten Reasons Why I Broke Up With God - By Annabelle Gurwitch

By Annabelle Gurwitch, Posted December 13, 2007.

You see, I broke up with God years ago, but not really because of the big stuff that leading godless heathens like Christopher Hitchens write about. As with most relationships, it's the little things that drove me crazy. Here's my top-ten list of reasons I gave God the old heave-ho. In no particular order:

1. Shellfish. My God would never make mussels, clams and oysters taste so good and then prohibit me, a Jewish gal, from eating them.

2. The meek shall inherit the earth. In my family, like much of America's workforce, not only have the meek inherited nothing, they are barely holding on to their standard of living. So on this point alone, I reject the Bible.

3. American Gladiators. If there were a God, American Gladiators would not be returning to TV this winter.

4. Iran. If there were a God one part of our government wouldn't be opening doors to negotiate with Ahmadinejad, while another fans the flames for military action.

5. There's not enough good Szechwan in Los Angeles. If there were a God, he would make better Chinese food more readily available in Los Angeles. LA is mostly made up of transplanted New Yorkers, so why can't we get good old chicken and broccoli in garlic source out West?

6. Britney Spears. If there were a God, Britney Spears wouldn't be one of the most Googled topics on the Internet. Although perhaps there is a God and this is one of the signs of the apocalypse. Example: Spears gave us views of her vajayjay: 3,450,000 Google hits. Jonas Salk gave us the polio vaccine: 212,000 Google hits.

7. Multitasking is of dubious effectiveness. Recent studies have shown that multitasking isn't that productive. If there were a God, he wouldn't allow my illusion of being able to accomplish more on a daily basis to be taken away from me.

8. God doesn't give you anything you can't handle. My God wouldn't allow people to make up inane aphorisms about him. I'm disorganized, easily distracted, have a fear of anything medical and have a kid with health issues. My God would know that I was a poor choice for this assignment, that this saying is just moronic and only serves to make people like me feel worse when we inevitably fail.

9. Trannies. Most all of the little beauty tips I've employed in my career as an actress I learned from the transvestites and transsexuals I used go-go dance with on the bar at the Pyramid Club in NYC. Especially tricks with crazy glue. My God simply would not stand for unequal treatment of gay people.

10. Darfur, AIDS, my awe and respect for the mysteries of science, that lead paint is in kids' toys, that we allow people to live on the streets, that we haven't passed stricter gun legislation... OK, I lied. I have a million top ten reasons why I reject the notion of the kind of God invoked in particular by the Republican candidates, though most of the Democrats have also enrolled in the campaign God-a-thon.