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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Syria arrests artist in crackdown

At least 11 people have already been detained for attending an opposition meeting [GALLO/GETTY
Talal Abu Dan, a prominent Syrian artist, has been arrested in the latest crackdown against opposition activists, a rights group said.

"The painter and activist Talal Abu Dan was summoned by the security services in Aleppo [on Wednesday] and has not reappeared since," Ammar Qorabi, the National Organisation for Human Rights chief in Syria said.

Abu Dan was transported to Damascus, where the authorities were holding a number of dissidents on national security charges for attending an opposition meeting in the Syrian capital in December, Qorabi said in a statement on Thursday.

At least 11 people, including Riad Seif, a former MP, have already been detained for attending a meeting of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration, which calls for radical democratic change in Syria.

"Abu Dan's studio in Aleppo was ransacked on January 21 and paintings and canvases were all destroyed," Qorabi said.

Abu Dan, 55, married with three children, is a former political prisoner who spent over 10 years behind bars for belonging to a communist party banned in Syria.

Media Watch: Muslim Terrorists

The media in the west freely and routinely, often without substantiating facts, names the religion of terrorists.

The Basque terrorists, or the Irish terrorists, or the Red Army Faction, or Tamil separatists are not referred to by their religious leanings.

I am reminded of this when I read the following story: (Please remember to click on the heading to read it in full – t.)

USA Today Responds on Racist Labeling
Paper can't make judgments, editor says


USA Today Reader Editor Brent Jones responded to questions, prompted by a FAIR Action Alert (1/23/08), about the newspaper's failure to identify a white supremacist group by arguing that doing so
would have been an illegitimate "judgment" on the part of the paper.

USA Today had run two stories on the Nationalist Movement, a group that marched against civil rights in Jena, La. on Martin Luther King Day, that characterized the group only by its self-description of "pro-majority."

Jones wrote:
Your question -- why don't we call the Nationalists racists? -- is one I'm sure many people would ask. The simple answer is that the term "racist" is a judgment, and judgments are open to interpretation. It's the newspaper's responsibility to report only the facts. That way, all sides on an issue can be confident that we're reporting the truth without bias. If we give readers a full, accurate, factual picture, they can form their own judgments.

Of course, newspapers make judgments all the time-- from what language to use to which stories to cover. For example, the paper made the judgment that a small demonstration by the Nationalist Movement merited coverage in a national
newspaper; it's not as though all political gatherings involving a few dozen people are automatically reported.

These judgments routinely include choices about how to describe various groups. When USA Today refers to Al-Qaeda as a "terrorist group," it's not because that's how the organization identifies itself; it's because the paper believes that's a phrase that conveys the group's ideology and activities to its readers. In using or avoiding the word "terrorist," the outlet is making a journalistic judgment; in neither case is it reporting "only the facts."

Similarly, USA Today is making a judgment by choosing not to let readers know that the Nationalist Movement has a well-documented racist ideology. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented (9/23/07) the group's leader and spokesperson Richard Barrett openly advocates against racial equality, and has called for the expulsion of non-whites from America.

In his 1982 autobiography The Commission...he calls for the "resettlement" of blacks, Jews, Latinos and other U.S. citizens in other countries.. He has led rallies of Klansmen and others and worked alongside some of the most extreme racists in America. In 1988, he hosted a "Warrior Weekend" for racist skinheads at his Learned, Miss., home and used a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. for target practice. More recently, he demanded a pardon for assassin Byron de la Beckwith, who was convicted of the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

The Anti-Defamation League likewise describes the National Movement as a "white supremacist" group, citing Barrett's assertion that "the Negro race... possess[es] no creativity of its own [and] pulls the vitality away from civilization."

When Civilizations Clashed - Adam Kirsch

When Civilizations Clashed

Books | Review of: God's Crucible

January 30, 2008

The Granger Collection

A 15th-century manuscript illumination depicts the conquest of Antioch in present-day Turkey during the First Crusade.

How far back in history do you have to go before it stops making sense to take sides? Even today, it is impossible for an American to read about the Civil War or the American Revolution without engaging in silent partisanship. Hundreds of years after the fact we feel personally implicated in those struggles. In some sense that is not quite logical, but also far from discreditable, we root for the North to maintain the Union for the 13 Colonies to throw off the British yoke, as though our own fortunes were at stake. And of course they are: If those contests had gone the other way, we ourselves would not be the same people, and America would not be the country we know. To affirm our past is to affirm our present.

Likewise, to contest the past — to read history wishing that things had come out differently — is always a way of contesting the present. That is certainly the case in David Levering Lewis's new book, "God's Crucible" (WW Norton, 476 pages, $29.95). In telling the story of the rise of Islam and its conflict with Christianity between the sixth and 13th centuries CE, Mr. Lewis is driven by a 21st-century agenda. He means to strike a blow against what he perceives as Western arrogance and condescension towards the Islamic world. In fact, he argues, we should regard the Battle of Poitiers, where in 732 the Franks stopped the Muslim advance into Europe, not as a triumph but as a catastrophe. "The economic, scientific, and cultural levels that Europeans attained in the 13th century could almost certainly have been achieved more than three centuries earlier had they been included in the Muslim world empire," he writes in his preface.

Such a claim, with its simple value judgment on events that took place almost 1,300 years ago, raises the question of historical partisanship in an acute form. Mr. Lewis asks us to contemplate a past where the armies of Islam, which had already conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain, went on to sweep through France and Italy, trapped Constantinople in a continental pincer movement, and turned the Mediterranean into an Islamic lake. Yet if this had come to pass, the world today would be so different from the one we know that it is actually impossible to say whether it would be better or worse — not just because all of history since the eighth century would be unknowable, but because we ourselves, living in an Islamic West, would judge our fates by unknowably different standards. Mr. Lewis drives home his point by quoting Edward Gibbon's famous verdict on the Battle of Poitiers. If the Arabs had won, he shuddered, "the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools at Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet." For Gibbon this was a horror show; for Mr. Lewis it is a missed opportunity. But Mr. Lewis's mischievous reversal of Gibbon only highlights how unhistorical the great historian was being when he conjured this upside-down world. For in his hypothetical Muslim England, of course, there would be no Oxford University, just as there would be no "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." The counterfactual is so counter to fact that it is simply incommensurable.

Victoria's Secret - a review by Christopher Hitchens

Raj Quartet: The Jewel in the Crown/ The Day of the Scorpion
by Paul Scott

Victoria's Secret
A Review by Christopher Hitchens

[Ed. note: This review covers two books, Raj Quartet: The Jewel in the Crown/ The Day of the Scorpion and Raj Quartet: The Towers of Silence/ A Division of the Spoils.]

There are not as many theories about the fall of the British Empire as there once were about the eclipse of its Roman predecessor, but one of the micro theories has always appealed to me more than any of the macro explanations. And it concerns India. For the first century or so of British dominion over the subcontinent, the men of the East India Company more or less took their chances. They made and lost reputations, and established or overthrew regional domains, and their massive speculations led to gain or ruin or (as in the instance of Warren Hastings) both. Meanwhile, they were encouraged to pick up the custom of the country, acquire a bit of the lingo, and develop a taste for "native" food, but -- this in a bit of a whisper -- be very careful about the local women. Things in that sensitive quarter could be arranged, but only with the most exquisite discretion.

Thus the British developed a sort of modus vivendi that lasted until the trauma of 1857: the first Indian armed insurrection (still known as "the Mutiny" because it occurred among those the British had themselves trained and organized). Then came the stern rectitude of direct rule from London, replacing the improvised jollities and deal-making of "John Company," as the old racket had come to be affectionately known. And in the wake of this came the dreaded memsahib: the wife and companion and helpmeet of the officer, the district commissioner, the civil servant, and the judge. She was unlikely to tolerate the pretty housemaid or the indulgent cook. Worse, she was herself in need of protection against even a misdirected or insolent native glance. To protect white womanhood, the British erected a wall between themselves and those they ruled. They marked off cantonments, rigidly inscribing them on the map. They built country clubs and Anglican churches where ladies could go, under strict escort, and be unmolested. They invented a telling term -- chi-chi -- to define, and to explain away, the number of children and indeed adults who looked as if they might have had English fathers and Indian mothers or (even more troubling) the reverse. Gradually, the British withdrew into a private and costive and repressed universe where eventually they could say, as the angry policeman Ronald Merrick does in The Day of the Scorpion, the second volume of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet: "We don't rule this country any more. We preside over it." [click on the heading for more]

Good Parenting Tips from DadCentric

I've learned a lot since becoming a parent. I've learned that two-year olds suck at hide and seek. I immediately recognize that look my wife gets when another 17 seconds of my daughter's irrational behavior could lead to her permanent injury. I unconsciously grab extra napkins off the table and shove them in my pockets "just in case." And I'm now 100% positive that all the breast-feeding in the world will not stop me from being a boob man.

But there's always more to learn, and here at DadCentric we like to educate as well as entertain. Here's a helpful guide to aid new parents who may not understand the subtleties of good parenting or who may simply have the surname Spears. Enjoy


There is more:) Just click on the heading

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

architecture: What we build. Don't Count Your Titanium Eggs Before They've HatchedWhy architects can't predict the future. By Witold Rybczynski

CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, by Rem Koolhaas. Click image to expand.

Abu Dhabi has recently announced plans to turn itself into a sort of Arabian Left Bank, with cultural venues designed by Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Jean Nouvel. Beijing, meanwhile, is completing the giant steel bird's nest of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron's Olympic Stadium, and also has Paul Andreu's titanium-egg National Theater, and Rem Koolhaas' unusual state television headquarters, which locals have dubbed "the twisted donut." An obscure sheikhdom on the Gulf and the world's largest Communist dictatorship have unexpectedly become the latest hotbeds of avant-garde architecture.

Avant-garde is a French term that originally meant the advance guard of an army, and in the late 1800s came to refer to pioneering painters, particularly the Impressionists, who considered themselves to be at the forefront of art. Since that time, the concept of an avant-garde has become popular in architecture, where "mainstream" has become a term of opprobrium, and anyone worth their salt is "experimental," "innovative," or "cutting edge." The clear implication is that buildings designed by avant-garde architects are ahead of their time. But are steel bird's nests, titanium eggs, and twisted helixes really a portent of the future?

In some ways, the term architectural avant-garde is an oxymoron, since an architect, unlike a painter, is able to experiment only within relatively narrow bounds. Buildings are expensive, and they are intended to last a long time, so the people who build them tend to be risk-averse. But even an architect who finds a patron—like the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, or the Chinese government—willing to take a chance, still faces the limitations of building regulations and existing construction materials and techniques. True experiments in building are few and far between. [for more click on the heading]

Arabic Books and Translations - True Freedom? - Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta

There is an interesting aspect to this article bemoaning the lack of translations into Arabic. How do we fare in this respect? Anyone knows about the statistics? How many books are translated into regional languages? How many books are published annually - a breakdown? How many copies of each book are bought? How many book stores per 100,000 we have? - t

* * * *

Reading this comment, I agree. In my travels around the country, the number of book shops were way too little but I did not realise that Kuwait does not have a bookstore at all. I did not see any bookstores in Riyadh, Bahrain, Jeddah, Dahran, Sharjah or perhaps I was not going to the right places. Sad. Same with Dubai, that great playground of the rich and famous, very sad collection of books, the little there is. Some time back, I was waiting in Dubai Airport and went looking to purchase some books, and couldn't find any. None!. [click on the heading to read it in full]

Required reading - Brian Whitaker

Visit an Arab bookshop and there's a fair chance you'll find more than a few copies of Shifra Dafinshi and the tales of Hari Butor. In case you haven't guessed, I'm talking here about Arabic translations of The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter.

While titles such as these find a ready market in the Middle East, just as they do elsewhere, people often lament the poor state of home-grown Arabic publishing and the dearth of worthwhile books translated into Arabic from other languages.

The Bush administration made much of this back in 2004 when it announced ambitious (but now mostly forgotten) plans to build a "knowledge society" in the Middle East. The nature of the problem is a good deal more complex - and its solution more difficult - than the US appreciated at the time, but a new Arab initiative due to be launched in November could be an important step forward.

The project, known as Kalima ("Word" in Arabic), aims "to fund the translation, publication, and distribution of high-quality works of classic and contemporary writing from other languages into Arabic" - starting with 100 titles in the first year.

"Currently in most Arab countries, 'great works' of world literature or academia are only available in the original language, limiting access to a select group of society," Kalima says. "The rest of the world has enjoyed a wealth of both domestic and translated writing, why should the Arab world be any different? Arabic is also a beautiful, expressive language, and one that should be celebrated and valued more by giving readers a greater choice of quality titles in translation."

Kalima is working in collaboration with existing publishers (more than 20 of them so far) - in effect carrying the financial risk on the books it selects for translation. Money shouldn't be too much of a problem since it's backed by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and funded by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. [click on the heading for more]

Pity the delusional suicide bombers and their quest for houris

Pity the delusional suicide bombers and their quest for houris. First off the suicide bombers indulge in an act that is haraam. (Recall that quote from Qur'an? - Killing one person (wrongly) is equivalent to killing all of humanity?) And they think they qualify for 72 virgins? Heh, too late when reality dawns on them after they are dead. Too late to come back and haunt the Jaahil Mullahs who brain washed them.

A friend asked on Desicritics the basis for the 72 vigins referred to in response to an article. The writer quoted wikipedia which was not received well. She asked me and I quoted from here:

Christoph Luxenberg, a scholar of ancient Semitic languages in Germany, argues that the Koran has been misread and mistranslated for centuries. KoranHis work, based on the earliest copies of the Koran, maintains that parts of Islam's holy book are derived from pre-existing Christian Aramaic texts that were misinterpreted by later Islamic scholars who prepared the editions of the Koran commonly read today.

So, for example, the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality "white raisins" of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens.

Christoph Luxenberg, however, is a pseudonym, and his scholarly tome The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran had trouble finding a publisher, although it is considered a major new work by several leading scholars in the field. Verlag Das Arabische Buch in Berlin ultimately published the book.


For example, the famous passage about the virgins is based on the word hur, which is an adjective in the feminine plural meaning simply "white." Islamic tradition insists the term hur stands for "houri," which means virgin, but Mr. Luxenberg insists that this is a forced misreading of the text. In both ancient Aramaic and in at least one respected dictionary of early Arabic, hur means "white raisin."

Mr. Luxenberg has traced the passages dealing with paradise to a Christian text called Hymns of Paradise by a fourth-century author. Mr. Luxenberg said the word paradise was derived from the Aramaic word for garden and all the descriptions of paradise described it as a garden of flowing waters, abundant fruits and white raisins, a prized delicacy in the ancient Near East. In this context, white raisins, mentioned often as hur, Mr. Luxenberg said, makes more sense than a reward of sexual favors.

Smirk of the Union - Rick Perlstein

A small and beaten man spoke to Congress and the nation last night, convinced in his own mind he's a hero. Snoopy battling the Red Baron. Walter Mitty, imagining himself dying bravely before a firing squad.

For those who missed it, here's the Big Con run-down. Let me start with the facial expressions. Because, more than any of the words, they told the sad story.

The entrance: He raises both eyebrows puckishly, like the frat boy he is. Introduced by Speaker Pelosi, he reacts curiously to the wave of applause: he blushes. He actually thinks this applause is for him--they love me!!--and not a perfunctory gesture of respect for the office. He still thinks he is a great man, and that others think he is a great man. He looks about a thousand years old. He begins: "Seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum." Or that's what the transcript says he said. If you missed it live, what he actually said was, "...stood before yuh at this rostr'm...."

John Wayne taking on the desperadoes.

Then, the arrogant bastard, he makes a joke: "These issues"--he's named "peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens"--"deserve vigorous debate. And I think history will show we've answered the call." He gives the chamber that famous smirk, to let them know it's OK to laugh, even amid all the pomp: get it? These people keep insisting on debatin' with me. Washington! Bicker, bicker, bicker.

Then, he obliquely announces the speech's theme, also with a smirk: Bush's greatest hits. A golden trip down memory lane. He says, of public servants' job to "carry out the people's business," that "it remains our charge to keep." Dog whistle: this is the Methodist hymn that by which entitled his campaign book. Because remember: George Bush is a Christian Unleashing the "armies of compassion." Or it it this "army of compassion"? [for more click on the heading]

pure wine / sharaab e tahoor

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pure wine

you and You
gleam and Light
goblet and sea
stone and water
death wish
death of wish
fleeing climax
lasting orgasm
love and Love
dot and circle

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painting by moin

sharaab e tahoor

tu aur tu
naar aur noor
saghar aur sagar
patthar aur paani
khwaahish e mar'g
mar'g e khwaahish
hangaam joozvi
milaap abdi
ish'q ta shauq
daira e safar

Pak another thriving illegal organ market

NEW DELHI: It appears that the trade in illegal organ transplants is a thriving one in the subcontinent. In a disturbing trend, several hospitals in Delhi have complained about Indian patients going to Pakistan for kidney transplants and returning with severe complications.

"The trend started two years ago. In the last year alone, we got six patients who had gone to Pakistan for transplants and returned with complications. All these cases came in days after the patient returned,’’ said Dr Vijay Kher of the department of renal transplant at Fortis Hospital in a recent interview.

Dr Kher added that six patients came in a critical state. Out of the six, two were from Delhi, two from Punjab and two from Uttaranchal. Two of them later died due to complications.

According to reports in the foreign media, many patients make their way into Pakistan as the country offers a “cheap kidney bazaar.” There too, incidents of kidney selling by the poor are rampant, and as a result, transplant tourism is a thriving trade. [for more click on the heading]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Benazir Bhutto - A Feminist?

I read an op-ed piece by Rafia Zakaria, (Rafia Zakaria is an attorney living in the United States where she teaches courses on Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy) in the Daily Times today with a very tongue in cheek heading Feminism: Women on top.

I cannot say with any certainty whether this was the heading given by the copy editor at the Times or her original heading.

I do not wish to take an issue with BB's feminism agenda, if there was one. Beena Sarwar, Asma Gilani and others are better qualified to write about it. My beef is an unfair comparison of BB with Hilary Clinton: apples and oranges.

The similarity of the criticisms levelled at the late Benazir Bhutto during her political career and those faced by Hillary Clinton literally a world away also present some lessons in terms of the particular gender-biased challenges faced by female political actors

This is painting with too broad a stroke and an unfair narration of events. There are too many variables.

But first the similarities. Both of them belonged to a political gharana. One was born and the other one married into one. Both are/were intelligent, bright and somewhat attractive women. Both portrayed a disregard of their husband's frailties. IN BB's case far longer than Hilary's dealing with Bill's Monica indiscretion.

The differences are both stark and gross.

While Hilary is yet to be tested as a President, BB had two shots at power and even by charitable accounts she did not have any positive or lasting contributions. That she was vying for a third opportunity reflects in equal measure the paucity of formidable opposition to the occupying army in Pakistan, her greed for power at any cost, and the stupor of the public masses.

And the other dissimilarities are more stark. Where to begin? Nepotism, sycophancy, corruption, abuse of power, ethnic cleansing. What is worse, BB showed no remorse either in her writings or her speeches.

Must we denounce Hilary or Benazir because of their last names that could pave the otherwise rough road to political power?

No, that would be unfair and shallow to do. But, we should not shirk away from calling a spade a spade.

In the Chairperson for Life's case, she did eventually treat the PPP as a jaagir - a family heirloom. And for now she has succeeded in installing her son as the Chairperson - oh - as a Co-Chairperson till he is groomed and finishes his studies. I pity the young man whom fortune has thrust in unchartered waters.

And, she swam against the corruption charges levied at her and her husband Asif Zardari. Check here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. This reduces her incantations in speeches and in the election manifesto of the PPP to levels below a rodent's under belly. [an update: Chaudhry Aitezaz Ahsan wrote a clumn that appeared today in the daily times: in memoriam: Benazir Bhutto. I wish he would, someday, respond to the corruption charges against M/s Zardaris in the links provided above. And yes, this was a eulogy of sorts, but he cannot be blind to the obvious and his input would indeed be informed and useful.]

The search for a feminist leader must not be marred by a misguided search for perfection that blinds us to the courage and capabilities of real female leaders who have fought their way to the top.

I agree with this in full with this caveat: this should only apply till such time in future where we have elevated ourselves to the level where in judging people we become oblivious of their gender.

Is a true feminist leader only one whose ascendance to power is in no way trammelled by the presence of a husband or a father?

While this is the main thrust of Rafia Zakaria's article, will only make the following comment in passing.

There is a large body of men out there who support women in their daily and worldwide struggle for gender equality, for gender neutral laws, for end to discriminatory practices in the work place, for end to domestic abuse, for not being victimised in honour killings, for equal dignity and respect in front of law, for equal pay for same work. They may not subscribe to the feminist agenda in full. Some men may not even understand it as well. But they do support equality with dignity for all human beings.

If you read her articles, study her speeches you would conclude that Benazir Bhutto did not believe in this and when she did speak up on the odd occasion it was to pay lip service only. If you study her deeds while in power she comes off worse.

Her last will and testament, as read by the Asif (Mr. 10%) Zardari in Naudero, and testified as to its accuracy by her sister Sanam Bhutto is a proof of her medieval and fedual mindset - do as I say, don't do as I do.

New treatment can clear brain clots - By LAURAN NEERGAARD

It's a tiny vacuum cleaner for the brain: A new treatment for stroke victims promises to suction out clogged arteries in hopes of stopping the brain attack before it does permanent harm.

Called Penumbra, the newly approved device is the latest in a series of inside-the-artery attempts to boost recovery from stroke, the nation's No. 3 killer.

Most strokes occur when blood vessels feeding the brain become blocked, starving delicate brain cells of oxygen until they die. For those, the clot-busting drug TPA can mean the difference between permanent brain injury or recovery - but only if patients receive intravenous TPA within three hours of the first symptoms.

Yet fewer than 5 percent of stroke sufferers get TPA, because they don't get specialized care in time. And of those treated, it only helps about 30 percent, because the clot is often too big or tough for TPA to bust.

Enter Penumbra, an option for patients who miss out on early care - it can be tried up to eight hours after a stroke strikes - or if standard TPA treatment fails.

Specialists thread a tiny tube inside a blood vessel at the groin and push it up the body and into the brain until it reaches the clog. Just like a vacuum cleaner, it sucks up the clot bit by bit to restore blood flow.

For the right patient, Penumbra can produce dramatic help, says Dr. Demetrius Lopes of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, one of two dozen hospitals that tested the device in 125 severe stroke patients. [ for more click on th eheaqqding]

The Great Indian Gender Divide - Neeta Lal

With a booming economy, an exponentially growing Information Technology (IT) sector and surging economic prosperity amongst its 300 million-plus middle class, India seems poised for superpower status.

However, beneath the spectacular "India Shining" story lurks an area of darkness -- the unequal status of its women, who constitute more than half its demographic. The latest official document to highlight this inequity is the 2007 Gender-Gap Index Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF); it places India at the bottom of the global pyramid.

Of 128 countries evaluated by the WEF, India ranks way down at 114th, followed, among others, by Yemen, Chad, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Botswana are all positioned better than India. In terms of economic participation and opportunity, India, with its surging economy, has done even worse than last year -- it is now ranked at the 122nd position. Meanwhile, its overall rank has slipped from 102nd to 114th this year. In other words, Indian women are even more marginalized than they were a year ago.

It's interesting to analyze the WEF report: While India scores an overall 59.4 percent on gender equality, it only manages an abysmal 39.8 percent on economic participation and opportunity. In terms of wage equality, India ranks 59th, with 67 percent gender equality; shockingly, given India's high tech boom, for professional and technical workers, it comes in at 97th (down in the 27th percentile). While India has a 36 percent female participation in the overall labor force, for professional and technical workers the figure is an abysmal 21 percent. [for more click on the heading]

Dark Truths About the Israeli Occupation - Daniel Levy

Edith Zertal and Akiva Eldar end their exhaustive study of Israeli settlement policy with a poignant question: Is it possible, they wonder, that Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will become a "first step in Israel's journey of liberating itself from the enslavement to the territories that it occupied in 1967, and which have occupied [it] since then and have brought it to the verge of destruction"? Negotiations that have been set in motion by the Annapolis peace conference in November will likely provide a partial answer. Zertal, a leading Israeli historian, and Eldar, a chief political columnist and a former Washington correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, have recently published Lords of the Land: The War for Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007. It is a detailed history of Israel's nearly forty-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank with a painful contention at its core. The occupation, say Zertal and Eldar, has wounded Israel's very psyche, damaging both its sense of self and its moral standing in the world. "The prolonged military occupation and the Jewish settlements that are perpetuating it have toppled Israeli governments," write the authors, "and have brought Israel's democracy and its political culture to the brink of an abyss."

The Hebrew version of this book was a best-seller in Israel, and sparked a debate there on the devastating realities and consequences of Israeli settlement policy. It would be useful to replicate that debate here in the United States -- in the belly, as it were, of the enabler. The book's unflinchingly provocative title is matched by a narrative that pulls no punches, and the cast of villains (there are precious few heroes) runs the gamut from Jewish militia terrorists and their supporters in the Rabbinate to Labor Party apologists for the settlers and feckless judges who looked the other way as settlers created illegal outposts within Palestinian territory. [for more click on the heading]

The Strangulation of the Palestinians in Gaza - Chris Hedges

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert uses words like war to describe the fight to subdue and control Gaza. But it is not war. The Palestinians have little more than old pipes fashioned into primitive rocket launchers, AK-47s and human bombs with which to counter the assault by one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. Palestinian resistance is largely symbolic. The rocket attacks are paltry, especially when pitted against Israeli jet fighters, attack helicopters, unmanned drones and the mechanized units that make regular incursions into Gaza. A total of 12 Israelis have been killed over the past six years in rocket attacks. Suicide bombings, which once rocked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have diminished, and the last one inside Israel that was claimed by Hamas took place in 2005. Since the current uprising began in September 2000, 1,033 Israelis and 4,437 Palestinians have died in the violence, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem. B'Tselem noted in a December 2007 report that the dead included 119 Israeli children and 971 Palestinian children.

The failure on the part of Israel to grasp that this kind of brutal force is deeply counterproductive is perhaps understandable given the demonization of Arabs, and especially Palestinians, in Israeli society. The failure of Washington to intervene -- especially after President Bush's hollow words about peace days before the new fighting began -- is baffling. Collective abuse is the most potent recruiting tool in the hands of radicals, as we saw after the indiscriminate Israeli bombing of Lebanon and the American occupation of Iraq. The death of innocents and collective humiliation are used to justify callous acts of indiscriminate violence and revenge. It is how our own radicals, in the wake of 9/11, lured us into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. [ for more click on the heading]

Frequent Flyers Beware

By Jeanne Meserve and Mike M. Ahlers
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Editor's note: CNN's Jeanne Meserve and producer Mike M. Ahlers recently went along with a Transportation Security Administration official on an undercover test of airport screeners. Here is what they witnessed. CNN agreed not to disclose the name of the tester.


A mock bomb -- as slim as a wallet -- gets placed in a back support of a TSA tester going undercover as a passenger.

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TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- Jason -- that's the name CNN was asked to call him -- slides a simulated explosive into an elastic back support. The mock bomb is as slim as a wallet; its fuse, the size of a cigarette. He wraps the support around his torso, and the bomb fits comfortably into the small of his back.

It's hard to tell he's concealing anything; harder still when he dons a black T-shirt and a maroon golf shirt.

Then, with CNN's cameras in tow, Jason heads to Tampa International Airport, where he'll try to sneak the fake explosive past security screeners.

Jason, a covert tester for the Transportation Security Administration, has been probing airport weaknesses for five years, beginning with big mock bombs before switching to ever smaller devices as the TSA adapts to evolving terrorist threats. Video Watch the tester slip past security »

As jobs go, this one comes with its own unique set of satisfactions and tribulations. Jason wants to succeed at his task -- and he wants to fail. Success is a measure of his stealth, hewn by 40 years in law enforcement. But failure is satisfying too, because it means airport screeners are growing more adept at detecting threats.

So Jason -- looking every bit the middle-aged man on an uneventful trip to anywhere -- shows a boarding pass and an ID to a TSA document checker, and he is directed to a checkpoint where, unbeknown to the security officer on site, the real test begins. [for more click on the heading]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Obituary: George Habash

Whatever one may write about the tactics of Dr. Geroge Habash, and I do not condone the violence he perpetrated, let it also be said he was true to the cause and did not sell out the Palestinians at Osla, unlike his more famous comrade. For more click on the heading- t

Obituary: George Habash
By Crispin Thorold
BBC News, Amman

George Habash in 1970
In 1970, Habash had to flee Jordan
For decades George Habash was one of the most important Palestinian militant leaders.

In 1967 he founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) - at one time the most notorious of the many Palestinian factions.

The group and its leader pioneered the tactic of hijacking aeroplanes, to try to achieve political objectives.

For many years the PFLP was very influential within the PLO, second only to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

George Habash was born into a Christian family in Lydda (present-day Lod) in Palestine around 1926. His family fled their home in 1948, when Israel was founded. Soon afterwards George Habash enrolled at the American University of Beirut where he studied medicine.

Fake Mummy May Become Real Mummy (by the time it is buried)

“It was of a middle-aged woman who probably died in 1996 or 97 (b)ecause of a broken back,” said Dr Asma Ibrahim, an archaeologist (w)ho was then curator of the Karachi Museum and a member of the (t)eam that examined the mummy.

As for the evidence for the mummy being a hoax, Asma said, “There (w)ere flaws in the ancient script, and a physical examination (s)howed that the process of mummification was also not the same as (t)hat followed in ancient Iran.”

The body is now being kept in the mortuary of the Edhi Trust, (w)hich is waiting for the police departments of Balochistan and (S)indh to authorise the burial.

“Keeping a body in the mortuary for three days costs us 500 (r)upees and this body has been lying here for seven years,” said nwar Kazmi, a trust spokesman.

Karachi Mummy Hoax

According to Kazmi, Edhi Trust has since written to Karachi (M)useum for permission to bury the body, but has been told that a (c)learance must come from the police because the body is property (o)f a criminal case.

“But, the police seem to have lost all interest in the case,” (s)aid Kazmi.

“We have been writing to the authorities in Sindh and (B)alochistan, but there has been no reply,” he added.

Listening To Grasshoppers - Arundhati Roy

to read this in full click on the heading - t

Gujarat 2002: Can goofy secularism combat organised hatred?
Listening To Grasshoppers
Genocide, Denial And Celebration
It's an old human habit, genocide is. It's a search for lebensraum, project of Union and Progress.
Arundhati Roy

The day I arrived in Istanbul, I walked the streets for many hours, and as I looked around, envying the people of Istanbul their beautiful, mysterious, thrilling city, a friend pointed out to me young boys in white caps who seemed to have suddenly appeared like a rash in the city. He explained that they were expressing their solidarity with the child-assassin who was wearing a white cap when he killed Hrant.

The battle with the cap-wearers of Istanbul, of Turkey, is not my battle, it's yours. I have my own battles to fight against other kinds of cap-wearers and torchbearers in my country. In a way, the battles are not all that different. There is one crucial difference, though. While in Turkey there is silence, in India there's celebration, and I really don't know which is worse.

In the state of Gujarat, there was a genocide against the Muslim community in 2002.

Gaza Blockade - A War Crime - Uri Avnery

The government scenario was a repeat of Lebanon War II (the report about which is due to be published in a few days). Then: Hizbullah captured two soldiers on the Israeli side of the border, now: Hamas fired on towns and villages on the Israeli side of the border. Then: the government decide in haste to start a war, now: the government decided in haste to impose a total blockade. Then: the government ordered the massive bombing of the civilian population in order to get them to pressure Hizbullah, now: the government decided to cause massive suffering of the civilian population in order to get them to pressure Hamas.

The results were the same in both cases: the Lebanese population did not rise up against Hizbullah, but on the contrary, people of all religious communities united behind the Shiite organization. Hassan Nasrallah became the hero of the entire Arab world. And now: the population unites behind Hamas and accuses Mahmoud Abbas of cooperation with the enemy. A mother who has no food for her children does not curse Ismail Haniyeh, she curses Olmert, Abbas and Mubarak.

SO WHAT to do? After all, it is impossible to tolerate the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot, who are under constant fire.

What is being hidden from the embittered public is that the launching of the Qassams could be stopped tomorrow morning.

Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.

A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the "targeted" assassinations and the blockade.

Why doesn't our government jump at this proposal?

Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.

Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext - much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.

In simple and blunt words: the government sacrifices the fate of the Sderot population on the altar of a hopeless principle. It is more important for the government to boycott Hamas - because it is now the spearhead of Palestinian resistance - than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate with this pretence. {click the heading to read in full]

Army needs to pull out for its own survival'

Army needs to pull out for its own survival'
-- Dr Ayesha Jalal, renowned historian and Professor at Tufts University

The News on Sunday: Given the circumstances in which Pakistan was created, with the country inheriting a huge army, do you think the military's intervention in politics was but natural?

Dr Ayesha Jalal: There were structural constraints. Pakistan's defense requirements were out of proportion with its resource base. We inherited 30 per cent of the Indian defense forces and only 17 and a half per cent of the financial assets. Moreover, the entire defense of the undivided India was based on defending the North West Frontier regions. So, effectively, what it cost to defend the undivided India cost to defend Pakistan. With the resource base that was much less -- 17 and a half per cent (23 per cent of land base and 18 per cent of the population), there was a disjunction.

As a historian, I don't subscribe to inevitability; there are structural restraints but there's always a choice. So, choices were made, to bring Kashmir into Pakistan. And following that policy, priority was given to military's requirements for defense. Once hostility started on Kashmir, India withheld arms and ammunition and that, of course, created a need to go to the world markets. And the story goes on.

All I'll say is that, yes, structurally there was a problem, but ultimately human choice was responsible for the direction Pakistan took, which eventually resulted in greater military domination.

I think one of the great flaws in our understanding of Pakistan history has been that everybody assumes that it's in 1958, but military dominance had started much earlier. Certainly it started in '51 with Liaquat's assassination and in '53. So, in fact, we need to distinguish between phases of dominance and actual intervention by the military. Even when we say the military has ruled us for 36 years, in fact it was much more when you weigh in the dominance factor.

TNS: So, where does that leave us?

AJ: The military's dominance in politics is something that we have to conceptualise. What we mean when we talk in terms of where Pakistan should go. Because, when you look at the dominance of the military in other countries -- let's say, Latin America, especially Argentina and Brazil, two countries where the military ruled the roost for long -- they have succeeded in the last 10-odd years.

Now the question arises as to why did that happen. First of all, what did happen in the case of Argentina was a complete loss of face on the part of the army. There was a huge civil society movement against the missing people. And, even if we talk about the army pulling out of politics we must realise that the space that is created must be occupied by the civil society which has been asleep and pulverised for too long. That's what Argentina's example shows you.

But, the more interesting thing that has to be kept in mind -- which I think has echoes of the situation currently facing Pakistan -- is the Brazilian example. The Brazilian army chose to withdraw because it was in there, because it began to realise that there were parts of the army that were getting infiltrated. So, the coherence of the army as an institution was at stake. The Brazilian army intelligently withdrew from politics but did not give up its prerogatives. So, what I want to suggest is that even if the Pakistan army withdraws from politics, we cannot assume that its prerogatives and privileges will go. The dominance will stay for extended periods of time.

TNS: Why should the army pull out?

AJ: An army pulls out when its internal coherence is at stake. We need the army to carry out the operations in FATA. It's vital. But, the civil society has to occupy the space that the army will try to concede. The army needs to focus on what it is supposed to be doing rather than in running the country or its intelligence interfering in elections. That is clear. And, that is achievable. I think, some of the things are in place. Clearly the army itself has to be persuaded to pull out a little bit, and I think the internal coherence point is there, too, but the pressure from the civil society has to continue. The press and media have also got to continue to play their roles.

The other point that I want to make is that the civil society has been weak in this country; it's been pulverised and manipulated. But the civil society has to have a more effective means of constantly holding the electoral process and the political process accountable. We can't just think that the civil society has to become active at election time only; it's a constant thing. And, this is what we haven't had.

TNS: But, where is the impetus going to come from?

AJ: Debate is clearly very important. We've done it before. Remember what happened in '73? When Bhutto came and after Bangladesh seceded, there was a great opportunity but it wasn't exploited.

TNS: How do you view Pakistan's strategic placement and the US strategic compulsions that turned Pakistan into a 'strategic rentier'?

AJ: Pakistan was definitely strategically placed. The land entry points of Frontier happened to fall in Pakistan. We needed the same amount of defense as was required to the undivided India. For its part, the US started off with a far less of an interest. In 1947, when Pakistan went begging for money to avert bankruptcy, America was less interested and more involved, at that stage, with Greece and Turkey. In '49, it became more lukewarm. The Americans began to strike out on their own in South Asia only around the time of the Korean War, and they were also concerned about what was happening in the Middle East. But, the relationship was based on divergent interests. For America, it was an opportunity to use Pakistan's forces to defend what it called the Persia-Iraq sector, the lucrative oil fields. For Pakistan it was a means to raise a shield of defense against India, to acquire the weapons. We didn't have the money. So, in a sense, it is right to say that Pakistan basically sold itself to acquire those bits and pieces of arms and ammunition it needed to build an army. I am currently reading Gauhar Ayub's book and it has chapters on arms procurement. Gauhar also says that it was an obsessive dimension.

TNS: Was it the military leadership that was taking the initiative each time?

AJ: The military said they needed arms. When Jinnah told Gen Messervy to go into Kashmir, the fact is that there was no army. Messervy said that army was not capable of putting up a fight against the Indians in Kashmir. They had to come through the international border. So, they had to give up the idea, the desire for Kashmir, which means that the political leadership was itself involved. But, yes, the drive ultimately was coming from the military for arms.

In the first few years, the army was looking more at the British, and Pakistan wasted a lot of very precious money to pick up obsolete World War II arms which had to be then got rid of. So that drive was very important. But that still doesn't explain the ultimate involvement -- the involvement that begins with the removal of Liaquat Ali Khan -- a clear shift, first of all, from the Karachi-based Urdu speaking group to a die-hard pro-West consisting of the likes of Ghulam Muhammad and Gurmani. All these characters were then in cohorts with the army. The other main reason was to keep the Bengalis at bay, because you didn't complete constitution-making since the Bengalis were in a majority. So, you got to sort of play around with the Constitution. That shifted from '51 -- then getting rid of Nazimuddin in '53 -- that was our first coup carried out by Ghulam Muhammad. From that point onwards, the army's involvement has prevented the civil, elected institutions from strengthening and blossoming.

TNS: Would you also accuse our politicians of showing a lack of sagacity?

AJ: Your first lot of politicians was emmigre politicians. They were from India. Liaquat had support among the Mohajir group, but he didn't have a natural constituency in Pakistan. So, they were not pushed to build the Muslim League in the real sense. They were, in fact, threatened by the Muslim League. So, the result was that the Pakistan Muslim League was handed over to Khaleeq-uz-Zaman -- a UP politician -- and he began to appoint wayward people from the top to the provincial leagues. The provincial leagues then revolted, with people like Mamdot wanting their own fiefdom. Instead of building up the Muslim League as a party with a base of support throughout the country, what they did was to focus on state consolidation. That worked to the advantage of the civil bureaucrats. They were taking decisions that should have been taken by the politicians. So, you see, it happened very early on. A confluence of factors resulted in a scenario where the civil officials -- in cohorts with certain army guys -- began to play a very prominent role.

The other point I'd like to make is that Pakistanis have always been crying 'America!' But, the Americans have had their own legitimate strategic interests in Pakistan. You are taking money from America, and then you are saying, 'How dare you dictate?' You can't have it both ways.

TNS: Regarding Kashmir, would you say that we had a choice at all? Kashmir remains the 'unfinished agenda' from partition times?

AJ: Well, one always has a choice. Gauhar Ayub writes in his book that troops were sent into Sri Nagar, and that the opportunity was there, but they didn't take it. I disagree with that. Clearly, it was not something that Pakistan could have achieved militarily. It was going to have to be done politically -- either with the Kashmiris, and you've got to look at the reality on the ground which was that Abdullah was very popular at that stage. The opportunity came in '53 when Abdullah was thrown out. But once you had got yourself entangled militarily, it became much more difficult to press the advantage politically.

It's not a complete zero-sum game. India will need to give you something in order to justify taking that position. This may be an opportunity to get a solution on Kashmir that is acceptable to the people of Kashmir. That has changed, by the way, in Pakistan. That hand-us-over-Kashmir business has done us a lot of damage, because the world didn't buy that. It was a legitimate stance, but the world saw Pakistan as an opportunist and that undermined the country's position.

Kashmir is certainly a flashpoint, but it is by no means the only issue, because, let's say, tomorrow the Kashmir issue is solved, do you think that we will be in a position to roll back the defence? My answer to you is, we won't. What's very interesting is that in 1951, prior to the Rawalpindi conspiracy case, the British and the Americans were pushing the Pakistan army to accept a division of Kashmir along the Chenab River. This was acceptable to senior officers as the only practical solution. From a military point of view, however, it was the politicians who couldn't sell it -- because it meant giving India three quarters and living with one-thirds that you have. So, in that sense, you have to admit that the politicians are to blame, and I connect Liaquat's stance with the fact that he made up for his lack of popular support with the Kashmir issue, or tried to. They paid a price.

TNS: The issue has been there throughout. We fought the 1965 war over Kashmir.

AJ: The famous story is that civilians were responsible for the war. But, clearly, there has been a nexus on as far as Kashmir is concerned between the politicians. It's not that we're to point the finger strictly at the army, but the army has been the ultimate beneficiary of this. And, once it got into the saddle, it has prevented every other institution from developing. There has been constant interference -- and the politicians are to blame as well -- because if you look at the past few decades, all the politicians were happy to work with the ISI or get the ISI on their side to deploy against the others.

TNS: By the 1990s, the common understanding was that military is a 'given'. How can we get out of that situation?

AJ: I think what has been fundamentally flawed with this country is that institutions haven't been able to strike any kind of a balance. Either we've had no institutions or utter chaos, or the army comes in and then tries to rule it. It's very possible that people think they're doing their best. But, the net result today is that there is a severe institutional imbalance. Army is far too involved in everything. And, for its own sake, it's own institutional coherence as an effective fighting force and as an effective army, it needs to pull out.

TNS: How sincere, in your view, are Gen Kiyani's intentions to pull the army out of civil institutions?

AJ: Frankly, I would't know. I don't know Mr Kiyani. But, the past record of the army suggests that we have to take this very lightly -- because, there are structural reasons why the army can't pull out. It may well be that they will pull out the serving officers, but not the retired lot. The sum total of the issue is the army's involvement in politics. Are they going to now allow some degree of freedom to the political process? Every political process has its dynamics. You cannot constantly manipulate and manage. There is far too much manipulation and management of the intellectual scene in Pakistan.

TNS: Would you say that independent judiciary could ensure democracy?

AJ: See, judiciaries don't ensure democracy; democracies ensure the independence of the judiciary. The lawyers' movement has definitely been a remarkable one. It is because of them that we've come this far. But, we've got to go further on from here. A vibrant, vigorous debate through the press should be of help.

TNS: Constitutionally, is there a provision of ISI getting involvement in politics?

AJ: See, the 1973 Constitution has been distorted to the extent that to call it a constitution would be a misnomer; thanks to constant amendments. The Army Act is also a disaster -- totally unconstitutional.

TNS: What are the dangers to the Pak federation under a military rule?

AJ: That's quite obvious. In smaller provinces, it is perceived as a Punjabi colonising army. And, unfortunately, this has always magnified under a direct military rule. I mean, under whatever combination. The fact of the matter is that it is seen as a military prerogative. You have a full-fledged insurgency going on in Balochistan. There is resentment in Sindh. But I do think that the counter to that has been the PPP and Benazir Bhutto's stance and now Zardari's. So, the federation, unfortunately from the perception of the non-Punjabi provinces, is inherently inequitable, as it stands. It is very necessary to re-constitute it. And, if we cannot re-constitute it democratically, the threat will be there. And, that, in itself will ricochet on the nuclear assets. There, too, the army has to balance its own institutional interests with broader interests of the state. Pakistan has become a military barrack and it's meant to be a state.

TNS: Why we don't find parallels in the post-partition India?

AJ: First of all, India inherited British India's military state apparatus, whereas we were cast in the role of the seceding state despite protests by the Quaid. He had protested the retention of the name 'India' by the Congress, saying that this was an unfair advantage. Moreover, Congress in India was a better organised party than Muslim League was in Pakistan. Like Pakistan, Congress also adopted the 1935 Act. Three quarters of the Indian Constitution is still the 1935 Act. So, basically, India was unitary in substance and federal in form. Then, we find that our prime minister was assassinated, whereas Jawahar Lal Nehru took India to elections. By the time we broke up in '71, India had gone to elections four times -- in '51, '57, '62 and '67.

Most interestingly, if you look at it geographically, India's science has been its saviour. I don't want to underestimate the steps taken by Nehru to keep the army in place. If you look at protocol, tell me what the protocol of an army chief is. It comes down to 7 or 8 -- very low, compared to what it actually is.

In Pakistan, it was the bureaucracy and the army that forged the alliance against the politicians. Some politicians did help them, but to keep the Bengalis in place. Another factor was the international dimension. India and Nehru kept the foreign powers at bay while Pakistan invited America. Finally, every normal Pakistani knows how a coup is carried out. It's not possible in India because it's a very large country and the army would break. All these reasons have meant that India has definitely kept army in its place.

So, what we need is a continuous political process. Otherwise the military will come and go, and everytime it comes into power, it will make martyrs and saints out of politicians.

Bravo Farrukh Saleem for asking the questions - but do not expect answers gushing forth

Here's how 169 million consumers are being ripped off:

One, no refinery in Pakistan is technically capable of producing 0.5 per cent sulphur diesel (emission control standards in Europe and North America now require refineries to produce ultra low sulphur diesel). All that our refineries produce is 1 per cent sulphur diesel. In essence, Pakistani consumers are being supplied an inferior quality product at the price of a superior product. The average differential in price--between 0.5 per cent sulphur diesel and 1 per cent sulphur diesel--is $18 per ton. Pakistani consumers are being ripped off a hefty Rs4 billion a year. Two, in November 1999, the freight component on a litre of diesel fuel stood at Rs0.65. In December 2004, 'Inland Freight' on HOBC amounted to a scandalous Rs12.24 a litre. Someone is making truckloads of money because transporting a litre of gasoline should not be costing more than Rs0.30.

Three, in July 2002, the government of Pakistan allowed refineries to impose a 5 to 10 per cent 'deemed duty' in order to create a special reserve for the purpose of upgrading. The refineries have sucked up Rs18 billion from Pakistani consumers but not a rupee has been spent on up-gradation.

Four, since 2001, the government of Pakistan has been collecting an average of Rs40 billion to Rs50 billion a year in the form of 'Petroleum Development Levy' to be used for the stabilization of prices in future years. That reserve should have crossed Rs200 billion (the levy was ended in 2005). Can anyone please tell me where that reserve is?

Five, refining margins charged by Pakistani refineries are, in some cases, twice as high as being charged by refineries outside Pakistan. The cartel has served its members well. Look at who is making millions if not billions: PARCO made Rs1.2 billion in 2000-01 and now makes in excess of Rs10 billion. NRL has gone from a meagre Rs23 million in 2000-01 to Rs4 billion. ARL has gone from making Rs29 million in 2000-01 to Rs1.7 billion.

Yes, Pakistan's oil cartel is now demanding from the government a colossal Rs49 billion as 'Price Differential Claim'. Yes, Pakistani consumers would have to pay more because the international price has gone up. But, governments around the world support consumers, not cartels. We are special. Governments around the world break cartels. We are special.

words to ponder about from a young woman

Why don't we ask questions? Democracy means accountability. It means fostering the right to free expression and dissent. It means taking leaders, criminals, and party officials to task.

We have been silent for too long. Why is it that Pakistanis aren't interested in demanding answers to our questions? Except for this one, this is our all-time favourite question: Whom can we blame for everything? Is America/Punjab/the army responsible for all our problems?

No, we are. America and other assorted bogeymen certainly take advantage of our reluctance to band together as a nation, but they are only able to do so because we give them the necessary space.

We are responsible for our past and we are responsible for our political future. If we hadn't joined this catastrophic War on Terror in the manner that we had (obsequiously and eagerly), but rather negotiated our strategic importance and insisted on referring the matter to our citizens, maybe we wouldn't have the Taliban wreaking havoc in Swat because they think their state betrayed their own people in the interest of a foreign power.

If the mass of men had a stake in the distribution of justice and access to the law, maybe we could take our compendium of colourful criminals to trial? Maybe if Pakistanis bothered to get registered and walk their important selves to a polling station on Election Day in 2002 we would have had a government more representative of the people and their needs. Maybe.

Waving Goodbye to Hegemony - Parag Khanna

Photo Illustration by Kevin Van Aelst

It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth. [click on the heading to read the full essay]

Parag Khanna is a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation. This essay is adapted from his book, “The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order,” to be published by Random House in March.

The Future of Marriage - by Stephanie Coontz

All that has changed today. Today, men rank intelligence and education way above cooking and housekeeping as a desirable trait in a partner. A recent study by Paul Amato et al. found that the chance of divorce recedes with each year that a woman postpones marriage, with the least divorce-prone marriages being those where the couples got married at age 35 or higher. Educated and high-earning women are now less likely to divorce than other women. When a wife takes a job today, it works to stabilize the marriage. Couples who share housework and productive work have more stable marriages than couples who do not, according to sociologist Lynn Prince Cooke. And the Amato study found that husbands and wives who hold egalitarian views about gender have higher marital quality and fewer marital problems than couples who cling to more traditional views.

[to read the rest of this essay and more on Cato Unbound click on the heading]

Suharto: ‘Water will wear away the Stone’

Because we have to eat roots
while grain piles up in your storeroom...
Because we live crowded together
and you have more space than you need...
Therefore we are not on the same side.

Because we're all creased and crumpled
and you're immaculate...
Because we're crowded and stifled
and you lock the door...
Therefore we are suspicious of you.

Because we're abandoned in the street
and you own all the shelter...
Because we're caught in floods
while you have parties on pleasure craft...
Therefore we do not like you.

Because we are silenced
and you never shut up...
Because we are threatened
and you impose your will by force...

The shooting of students at Jakarta’s Trisakti university was one of the events leading to Suharto’s fall. The day after the shooting, leading political figures came to the Trisakti campus. So did the poet Rendra, who read a poem directed at the dictator. (English translation by Tom O’Lincoln.)

Link courtesy
a reader's words

Top Agents in Secret Trip to Pakistan - Pamela Hess

WASHINGTON — The top two U.S. intelligence officials made a secret visit to Pakistan in early January to seek permission from President Pervez Musharraf for greater involvement of American forces in trying to ferret out al-Qaida and other militant groups active in the tribal regions along the Afghanistan border, a senior U.S. official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity given the secret nature of the talks, declined to disclose what was said, but Musharraf was quoted two days after the Jan. 9 meeting as saying U.S. troops would be regarded as invaders if they crossed into Pakistan to hunt al-Qaida militants.

The New York Times — which first reported on the secret visit by CIA Director Michael Hayden and Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence — said Musharraf rebuffed an expansion of an American presence in Pakistan at the meeting, either through overt CIA. missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan has been under growing U.S. pressure to crack down on militants in its tribal regions close to the Afghan border, a rugged area long considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, as well as an operating ground for Taliban militants planning attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barack Obama Buries Hillary Clinton in South Carolina -Steven Rosenfeld

Sen. Barack Obama decisively won South Carolina's Democratic Primary Saturday, where his grassroots, upstart campaign with its defiant message of change and new leadership defeated a formidable new political machine assembled by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, her husband the former president, and administration veterans.

As Obama stayed to celebrate a victory that creates new momentum for a nationwide campaign, Hillary Clinton left for Tennessee and Bill Clinton headed to Missouri.

"After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, we have the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans that we have seen in a long, long time," Obama said to thunderous cheers in the convention center in South Carolina's capital city, Columbia. "In nine short days, nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying we are tied of business as usual, we are hungry for change and we are ready to believe again."

"We are looking for more than a change of the party in the White House," Obama said. "We are looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington. It is a status quo that that is bigger than any one party. And they are fighting back with everything they have got."

Obama promised to take his message to the entire country in coming days.

"Yes we can heal this nation," he said, speaking in a preacher-like cadence. "Yes we can seize our future. And as we leave this great state with a new wind in our backs, in a county we love ... We will take the same message we had when we were up and when we were down: When we are many, we are one."

A Decisive Victory

Obama received 55 percent of the vote in a record turnout of 428,000 voters, with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Four years ago, 290,000 South Carolinians voted in the Democratic Primary. On Saturday, Clinton received 27 percent -- half Obama's vote -- and former Sen. John Edwards, received 18 percent of the vote. [for more click on the heading]