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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials?

It could all have been so different. Between September 2002 and April 2003, the five defendants in the forthcoming 9/11 trial at Guantánamo — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (aka Ammar al-Baluchi) and Walid bin Attash — were seized and transferred to secret CIA prisons, where they were subjected to an array of “enhanced interrogation techniques” including waterboarding. And yet they could, instead, have been questioned by skilled US interrogators for whom torture remains abhorrent, illegal and counter-productive.

These experts would, no doubt, have spent years building up cases against Mohammed and his alleged accomplices and encouraging them to talk through tried and tested methods. After 9/11, however, the White House and the Pentagon decided that skilled interrogation was somehow soft, and that al-Qaeda operatives were so tough that they had been trained to resist all types of traditional interrogation. But as the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer explained in an article last summer, a former CIA officer with knowledge of the techniques used on the al-Qaeda suspects explained, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable.”

If the same techniques used before 9/11 had been applied after the attacks, it’s probable that by now Mohammed and his co-defendants would have been tried in a US federal court, and the reputation of the United States — as a country that does not torture, rather than one with a lying administration that claims it does not torture because it has cynically redefined what torture means — would still be intact. A case in point, completely overlooked in the administration’s defense of its “robust” new approach, is Ramzi Yousef — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew, and the terrorist behind the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 — who, as Mayer has explained, “gave a voluminous confession after being read his Miranda rights,” following his capture and rendition to the US court system in 1995.

Only an Outgoing Politician Can Say This

Israel will have to give up "almost all" of the West Bank areas it occupies and accept the division of Jerusalem in order to take advantage of a rapidly closing window of opportunity for peace with the Arabs, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published Monday. "The decision we are going to have to make is a decision we have been refusing for 40 years to look at open-eyed," the Israeli leader told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper. "The time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table."

Olmert has resigned from the premiership because of a host of corruption investigations. But he remains in a caretaker position while Tzipi Livni, his successor as head of the ruling Kadima party, works to assemble a new government. His interview with the prominent Israeli daily amounted to both a challenge to beliefs held as central to the Jewish state and a personal mea culpa. Though fresh rounds of talks with the Palestinian Authority and Syria were launched under his watch, Olmert acknowledged some of the positions he was advocating in the interview -- such as the division of Jerusalem -- were things he opposed during most of his 35-year political career.

Dr. Joseph Stiglitz - Ron Garmon

CityBeat: You’ve been asked this today I’m sure, but how much of this week’s ongoing economic disaster can be traced to the war?
Joseph Stiglitz: It’s clearly played an important role in two important respects. First, I think the war had a lot to do with the increase in the price of oil. There could be debate about how much, but even if it’s only responsible for 30 percent, 40 percent, the chain of logic is that with the price of oil climbing, Americans were spending more money abroad. The Fed responded in what I’d say was a shortsighted way to the weakness of the economy by keeping interest rates lower, lending standards lower, and it’s precisely those lower rates, the flood of liquidity and the lower regulatory standards, which led to the current problem. Now, I think that you could argue it may in fact be the war that broke the camel’s back. The system has an enormous amount of resilience, so it can take a certain amount of abuse. People can gamble and it can survive. The second way, very important, goes back to 2001; when we had our economic downturn, we had a surplus of two percent GDP. It became clear in August 2007 something needed to be done, but they didn’t get around to it until February 2008. What it did was very mild and it was mild because we were constrained by a very big budget deficit. Even Bush’s advisor – now Fed Chairman – [Ben] Bernanke identified this as a main difference between 2001 and 2008.

Yes. The Clinton surplus, now gone.
Yes. It was still extant at that time. Now, in 2009, we’ll be looking at the largest deficit in our history.

Lordy. Give us the bad news, as if that wasn’t bad enough. Can a major and long-lasting world recession be far behind?
Um. Well. Um. [Long pause, as the professor makes a mildly discomfited face.] Economists are always two-handed, so I’ll be a two-handed economist. On the one hand, in many ways, this current financial meltdown, which is just beginning, is more complicated yet not so serious as the Great Depression – yet could easily become so. But the real consequences have been much milder. The Great Depression saw 25 percent unemployment. Most economists would say we now know how to combat that through Keynesian measures and there’s no need for us to wind up in that situation. That’s probably what’s behind some of the extraordinary events this week: the government going into the insurance business, the mortgage business, the government becoming the largest insurer, the largest mortgage company. Talk about socialism, we have it! It’s an irony the biggest increase in the role of government in the economy would happen this way.

IAEA Iran and Israel

But frustration among Muslim countries over Israel's refusal to put its nuclear program under international purview, and resistance from Israel to Muslim pressure on the issue, threatens to force a vote for the third year running. Muslim IAEA members were expected to put forward a resolution urging all Mideast nations to refrain from testing or developing nuclear arms and urging nuclear weapons states "to refrain from any action" hindering a Mideast nuclear-free zone.

After losing this vote two consecutive years, Islamic nations are threatening to up the ante this year, warning they will call for a ballot on every item, no matter how uncontroversial, unless they get conference backing on the Israeli nuclear issue. Arab members - backed by Iran - this year have again asked conference organizers to include an item on Israel - a move being protested by Israel. Focusing on Israel by name "is substantially unwarranted and flawed," said a letter prepared for review by the conference from Israel Michaeli, the Jewish state's IAEA representative. Sponsors of the item should instead "address the most pressing proliferation concerns in the Middle East," the letter said, an allusion to Iran's defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusal to stop uranium enrichment.

Big Achievement - Maxim

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman: His eyes did not turn brown - Philip French

Alistair Cooke, a very shrewd film critic, once wrote of 'stage acting as a form of sculpture and film acting as a performance with the face only - the best film actors do best with the eyes only'. He was writing about Edward G Robinson, Henry Fonda, Jean Gabin and Spencer Tracy. But Paul Newman, who has died at his home in Connecticut aged 83, belongs in that illustrious company.

Although a number of his finest pictures were in black and white (The Hustler, for example, perhaps his best film), what comes most immediately to mind when we think of him are those deep blue eyes that variously sparkle, interrogate, exude a deep pain and sadness - the sadness of innocent inexperience in such earlier roles as the troubled boxer Ricky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and the doomed Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun (1958); the sadness of a lifetime's experience in later character parts such as the retired private eye in Twilight, the elderly gang boss in Road to Perdition and the recidivist crook pulling his last heist in Where the Money Is. He once said: 'I picture my epitaph: "Here lies Paul Newman who died a failure because his eyes turned brown."'

More on Paul Newman - David Putnam, Michael Winner,Tom Hanks, Sidney Lumet, Michael Parkinson

Naazish Ata-Ullah

Naazish Ata-Ullah was born in Australia in 1950. Associate Professor and Head of Printmaking in the Department of Fine Art, National College of Arts in Lahore, and a graduate of studies in Printmaking at Slade School of Fine Art in London, Naazish Ata-Ullah has extensive printmaking experience. She has exhibited across Pakistan, India, UK and Scandinavia and has advised and prepared papers for International organisations.

Currently I am looking at the ageing body. The work is still in progress and I can only share some initial concerns. I want to juxtapose parts of the body with personal items such as spectacles or false teeth. These mundane items perform very specific and essential requirements over the passage of time as one becomes increasingly dependent on them. Hence their importance is enhanced along with the vulnerability and discomfort of the body.

Taleb on Mediocristan

In Taleb's coinages, most people live in 'Mediocristan,' a fake model of reality where no rare events occur, and not in 'Extremistan', the complex real world where unpredictable and devastating events can dictate the outcome.

One of Taleb's favourite allegorical tales is the story of the turkey and the butcher. As previously described by Bertrand Russell, a turkey may get used to the idea of being fed but when, the day before Christmas, it is slaughtered, it will incur 'a revision of belief'.

No one, he believes, is more guilty of living like turkeys in the false security of Mediocristan than economists and financial risk management analysts who rely on computer models that don't account for rare devastating events.

Robert Fisk's World: Bush rescues Wall Street but leaves his soldiers to die in Iraq

It was a weird week to be in the United States. On Tuesday, secretary of the treasury Henry Paulson told us that "this is all about the American taxpayer – that's all we care about". But when I flipped the page on my morning paper, I came across the latest gloomy statistic which Americans should care more about. "As of Wednesday evening, 4,162 US service members and 11 Defence Department civilians had been identified as having died in the Iraq war." By grotesque mischance, $700bn – the cost of George Bush's Wall Street rescue cash – is about the same figure as the same President has squandered on his preposterous war in Iraq, the war we have now apparently "won" thanks to the "surge" – for which, read "escalation" – in Baghdad. The fact that the fall in casualties coincides with the near-completion of the Shia ethnic cleansing of Sunni Muslims is not part of the story.

Indeed, a strange narrative is now being built into the daily history of America. First we won the war in Afghanistan by overthrowing the evil, terrorist-protecting misogynist Islamist crazies called the Taliban, setting up a democratic government under the exotically dressed Hamid Karzai. Then we rushed off to Iraq and overthrew the evil, terrorist-protecting, nuclear-weaponised, secular Baathist crazies under Saddam, setting up a democratic government under the pro-Iranian Shia Nouri al-Maliki. Mission accomplished. Then, after 250,000 Iraqi deaths – or half a million or a million, who cares? – we rushed back to Kabul and Kandahar to win the war all over again in Afghanistan. The conflict now embraces our old chums in Pakistan, the Saudi-financed, American-financed Interservices Intelligence Agency whose Taliban friends – now attacked by our brave troops inside Pakistani sovereign territory – again control half of Afghanistan.


Without any discussion, Israeli and US officials held a three-day security-technology forum in Washington this month which coincided with an equally undebated decision by the dying Bush administration to give a further $330m in three separate arms deals for Israel, including 28,000 M72A7 66mm light anti-armour weapons and 1,000 GBU-9 small diameter bombs from Boeing. Twenty-five Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets are likely to be approved before the election. The Israeli-American talks were described as "the most senior bilateral high-technology dialogue ever between the two allies". Nothing to write home about, of course.

A shattering moment in America's fall from power - John Gray

Our gaze might be on the markets melting down, but the upheaval we are experiencing is more than a financial crisis, however large. Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably. The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over.

You can see it in the way America's dominion has slipped away in its own backyard, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez taunting and ridiculing the superpower with impunity. Yet the setback of America's standing at the global level is even more striking. With the nationalisation of crucial parts of the financial system, the American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated. In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed.

How symbolic yesterday that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees.

Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive American administrations have lectured other countries on the necessity of sound finance. Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina and several African states endured severe cuts in spending and deep recessions as the price of aid from the International Monetary Fund, which enforced the American orthodoxy. China in particular was hectored relentlessly on the weakness of its banking system. But China's success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic yesterday that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees.

[thanks SR for the link]

The Size Of Our World

thanks SR for the link

Say Cheese

thanks jm for the pic

Laga Reh - Nadeem F. Paracha

Shahzad Roy’s latest video and song, Laga Reh, has created a prominent little ripple in the local pop scene. An irreverent take on the various socio-political forces of agitation in the country, the song has also managed to disturb the sterile homogeneity of today’s music scene. In spite of the fact that Roy began his career as just another run-of-the-mill pop peddler, his new video and song is the sort of work one can never expect from the scene’s current bigwigs such as Strings, Atif Aslam, Jal, Raeth, Fuzon or Ali Zafar.

These players remain isolated from situations and scenarios that cannot be ignored anymore. They are doing a wonderful job in making quality commercial music, but their content starts seeming rather regular and remote at the same time, as if stuck inside a glossy soap opera. The way Roy’s song and video (directed by Ahsan Rahim) addresses the political idiosyncrasies of Pakistan, it is apparent where Roy is coming from. He finds himself in the middle of a spiralling conflict between what can be called the establishment (the feudals, the dictators, the lotas) versus the new so-called “anti-establishment” forces in the shape of the lawyers, the mullahs and the politicians. Each one of these, especially the mullahs, now seem to be suddenly struck by a rude awakening of conscience, because even till the 1990s they had been very much a part of the same forces they are now disconcertedly gibbering about.

Maxim's Do More

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Linguistic dislocation By Rizwan Akhtar

Sujata Bhatt is the living example of a cosmopolitan writer staunchly attached to her native culture and language. Born in Ahmedabad in 1956 and brought up in Pune, she relocated herself in 1968 to the United States and went on to settle in Germany where she lives with her German husband. Bhatt and Anita Desai share Euro-Indian and German-Indian literary heritage. Having all the trappings of an international poet and a postcolonial literary identity, she depicts her love for the native culture and language. Gujarati is the most recurrent point of reference in her poetry. Poised to address the cultural and lingual issues of the Asian and particularly Indian immigrants living in European and North American landscapes, Bhatt has shown an extraordinary interest in the subtleties of language. Her primary preoccupation is to use language for purely creative purpose, realising that language cannot be separated from the issues of identity and culture.

Following the footsteps of the twentieth century English poets, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, Bhatt manipulates English language for a creative purpose but also relishes the instinctive pleasure of a native language. Often with a great aplomb she uses Gujarati words with English and creates a poly-lingual text. A poem for Bhatt comes into being either through a word or an image and these are more easily available in one's native expression but this does not mean that she plans to think in the Gujarati language. In the beginning a poem is a loose skeleton and the flesh comes around only as a lateral development. Many of Bhatt's poems confirm that imagination and language are interminably linked and neither phases out the other. Her images are recurrently sinuous, physical, erotic and meditative. Her thematic concerns complement her poetic diction but the form and the content are independent of each other. She sounds exceedingly traditional when she translates and uses actual Gujarati words in poems written in English. Similarly the readers cannot restrain from feeling that the bi-lingual mesh of languages also gave her poetry a depth and profundity:

(kahi nahi,hoo nathi boli shakti)

I search for my tongue

Essay: What My Copy Editor Taught Me - Dorothy Gallagher

My copy editor died.

No need to be upset on my account. I hadn’t seen Helene Pleasants for at least 10 years before her death; and even those closest to her would agree that her death was timely. After a long life, with one great adventure at its heart, many pleasures and pitfalls, Helene died at the age of 93. Hopefully, she died in her sleep. Helene would have killed me for that last sentence.

I mention Helene’s death because she was not only my first editor, but the editor of my life. When I was young, and thus necessarily ignorant, I was hired as a junior editor at Redbook magazine. This meant, essentially, that I was given into Helene’s tutelage. I had my notions (“But I wanted that sentence to read ambiguously . . .”) and Helene’s patience was not inexhaustible. Luckily for me, I wasn’t a total fool, and I caught on: what Helene offered was vital to anyone who cared about writing. In musical terms, she had perfect pitch.

Helene had no literary theories — she had literary values. She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader: good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later, I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own.

Sheer Abandon With Sarmad Sehbai By Harris Khalique

When I chanced upon a copy of Pal Bhar Ka Bahisht from a fresh stack of assorted newly published titles lying almost at the entrance of a bookstore, I called Sarmad to congratulate him. While instructing me to buy a copy at once, he used his characteristic expletives for the literary adversaries in the same vain and then asked me to meet him as soon as I finish the book.

Poet, playwright, film and theatre director, Sarmad Sehbai, is one of the most original and important artists Pakistan has ever produced in Urdu, Punjabi and English. His genius is multidimensional and atypical. Speaking to Sarmad at times reminds me of an incident from Agha Hashr Kaashmiri’s life. Agha Sahib, the pioneering dramatist of Urdu, left Benaras to visit all possible natak (drama) companies across India. He would meet the owners, directors, owner-directors, staffers, etc. and humbly tell them all about his skill and potential. He would read out passages and dialogues from his plays in a soft voice if allowed by them before getting dismissed.

People would not even give him a patient hearing, let alone a chance to write or perform for their companies. One day, he decided to change the style. He barged into the office of the owner of one of the biggest companies in the country. Thespians and business investors surrounded him. Agha Sahib, without any introduction, looked straight into the eyes of the owner and started reading from his work at the top of his voice.

After a while, he stopped and asked them all, who by that time were overwhelmed by his presentation, ‘Is there anybody in the whole of Hindustan who could write like this?’ Then Agha Sahib narrates how the meeting ended. ‘As I uttered these words, mouths of the envious were gagged forever.’ He got the job.

In the Name Of Allah the Merciful: Irfan Hussain

When private TV channels began to sprout across the airwaves, I had high hopes that they would alter the political and social landscape. Given the power of the medium, it can act as a major agent of change. However, while many of these channels have challenged the political establishment, they have seldom questioned the intolerance that holds sway in our society. Indeed, more often than not, they have reinforced existing prejudices.

Most analysts and commentators seem to feel that the freedom of the press is to be used only to criticise the government of the day. But that’s the easy bit. Although useful, the true test of independence lies in the ability and willingness to take on rigid beliefs that have resulted in most of the country remaining backward and ignorant. And this, I am sorry to say, is a test the Pakistani media have failed.


Over the years, intolerance has hardened and become a murderous element that is now threatening to break up Pakistan. Whether this is expressed in the form of a truck of explosives detonated outside the Marriott; an Ahmadi killed because his beliefs do not conform to mainstream orthodoxy; a Christian attacked on the grounds of his faith; or a Hindu girl kidnapped because she has no protection in a Muslim state, it all leads back to the same strain of intolerance that says: ‘I am right, and you are wrong. And because you are wrong, I have the right to kill you.’

We need to be very clear that all these everyday examples from contemporary Pakistani society reveal a nation at war with itself. More than ever before, this violent zeal needs to be fought by moderates. We need to hear more voices of reason and sanity that oppose the simplistic, black-and-white worldview of the fundamentalists. And the media has a duty to promote this peaceful vision.

M J Akbar: Fuse of self-destructive terrorism gets shorter

An answer must begin with a question: when did terrorism begin? Too long ago. India is unique. Every faith has delivered its quota of terrorists. The Nagas who challenged Indian unity were Christians. The sister-regions of the Northeast gave us Hindu terrorists. Sikhs rose in Punjab, and Muslims in Kashmir. The overwhelming majority of Naxalites are Hindus.And now some young non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims are playing with dynamite. Some three years ago, when President George Bush visited India, Dr Singh proudly told his American mentor that Indian Muslims did not believe in terrorism. As evidence he pointed to the absence of any Indian Muslim name in the rolls of Al Qaeda.If this was true, then what has happened in the last three years?

Pakistan’s Faith in Its New Leader Is Shaken - Jane Perlez

Moody’s, the international credit rating agency, cut Pakistan’s credit outlook from “stable” to “negative” on Tuesday, citing dwindling foreign exchange reserves, risks from extremists and high inflation. Foreign exchange reserves have shrunk to $5.7 billion, with only about $3 billion available to cover payments for oil and food, according to the International Monetary Fund. A major disappointment for the government has been the failure of Saudi Arabia, a traditional benefactor, to announce concessions on oil. In past economic crunches, Saudi Arabia has agreed to defer payment for the 100,000 barrels of oil Pakistan imports daily from the kingdom, the economists said. That has not happened this time, and even with the recent drop in oil prices, Pakistan is eating through its reserves at the rate of about $1.25 billion a month, Pakistani economists say. “The international community cannot allow Pakistan to become a failed state,” said a senior economist from one of the international financial institutions trying to salvage the economy.

Neocon Haqqani Upstages Haroon: Zardari Miffed - Shaheen Sehbai

Neocon Hussain Haqqani's attempt to upstage Hussain Haroon ended as pie in his face. A miffed Zardari walks away without addressing the gathering, reports Shaheen Sehbai.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hussain Haroon stayed away from President Asif Ali Zardari’s dinner for PPP leaders from across the US as the event ended on a note of utter confusion on Friday night in the heart of Manhattan when the president left suddenly without addressing the audience.

Hussain Haroon was not even invited to the dinner though top sources in the presidential camp said he had even asked for an invitation card but was denied one. So he stayed at his home entertaining some guests. When journalists asked him for comments on phone, he admitted that he had not been invited to the function.

There is a tradition in the UN that the permanent representative always hosts a grand dinner for the president or the prime minister at his home in which the community notables are invited and that opportunity was denied to Mr Haroon.

But the turf war between the two Pakistani envoys was swept aside by President Zardari when he arrived late and left without any public announcement or information whether he would come back to address the crowd.

A senior official of the embassy told some journalists later that the president had gone for a private dinner to a popular New York restaurant, Geisha, located at the Madison Avenue and 61st Street, a place he used to visit while he was living in New York before he returned to Pakistan.

‘World safer place because of Bush’- Khalid Hasan & Maxim

I am perplexed what to make of this report by Khalid Hasan from NY.

NEW YORK: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the world is a ‘safer place’ because of President George W Bush’s leadership, adding, “It could have been much worse.”
Has the Chairperson of the Hand Written Will lost his marbles? Dubya is a lame duck President. He is the most reviled international politician in recent memory. Even in the US his ratings are at an all time low. He has caused nearly a million Muslim casualties, over 4000 US soldiers death, has nearly bankrupted his nation.

And the double whammy! Zardari also has a soft spot for the Mayor of Kabul.

Karzai went on to say, “I have faith in Zardari, and I am sure he will deliver. I am hearing good things about Gen Kayani as well. Afghanistan will do everything to give them a sense of confidence.”
Look at the way the Mayor of Kabul throws around "Afghanistan" - the US puppet does not control even Kabul suburbs.

Is this Benazir's revenge? Hum tou doobay haiN sanam tumhaiN bhee lay doobaiN gay?

McCain was wrong on Kissinger

Jim Lehrer missed an opportunity last night to help clarify for people watching the debate what is in dispute between Democrats like Barack Obama and Republicans like John McCain about U.S. policy towards Iran. For the record, this is what McCain adviser former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said about U.S. policy towards Iran, according to the transcript on CNN's website:

"I am in favor of negotiating with Iran.... But I do not believe
that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations."

This was at an event with five former U.S. Secretaries of State, three Republicans (Kissinger, Powell, and Baker) and two Democrats (Christopher and Albright.) All five agreed that the U.S. should negotiate with Iran, without preconditions.

What "without preconditions" means in this context is quite straightforward and well-known. The current policy of the Bush Administration has been that the United States will not enter into substantive talks with Iran unless Iran first agrees to suspend the enrichment of uranium. The five former U.S. Secretaries of State agreed that this was a mistake, and that the United States should drop this precondition for the beginning of talks.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Robert Fisk: Six years in Guantanamo

Sami al-Haj walks with pain on his steel crutch; almost six years in the nightmare of Guantanamo have taken their toll on the Al Jazeera journalist and, now in the safety of a hotel in the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer, he is a figure of both dignity and shame. The Americans told him they were sorry when they eventually freed him this year – after the beatings he says he suffered, and the force-feeding, the humiliations and interrogations by British, American and Canadian intelligence officers – and now he hopes one day he'll be able to walk without his stick.

The TV cameraman, 38, was never charged with any crime, nor was he put on trial; his testimony makes it clear that he was held in three prisons for six-and-a-half years – repeatedly beaten and force-fed – not because he was a suspected "terrorist" but because he refused to become an American spy. From the moment Sami al-Haj arrived at Guantanamo, flown there from the brutal US prison camp at Kandahar, his captors demanded that he work for them. The cruelty visited upon him – constantly interrupted by American admissions of his innocence – seemed designed to turnal-Haj into a US intelligence "asset".

"We know you are innocent, you are here by mistake," he says he was told in more than 200 interrogations. "All they wanted was for me to be a spy for them. They said they would give me US citizenship, that my wife and child could live in America, that they would protect me. But I said: 'I will not do this – first of all because I'm a journalist and this is not my job and because I fear for myself and my family. In war, I can be wounded and I can die or survive. But if I work with you, al-Qa'ida will eliminate me. And if I don't work with you, you will kill me'."

Six Short Takes on Why Obama Came out Ahead in the Debate

Read here the views of Joshua Holland, Don Hazen, Jane Hamsher, John Nichols, Taylor Marsh and Sheryl Crow.

A personal note: John McCain, the "expert" in foreign policy mispronounced Ahmadinejad's name four times in a row and screwed up Zardari's name to boot.

Another Face of the Near Bankrupt Super Power

In a car park across the street from luxury mansions, the evening brings a strange sight.

A few cars arrive and take up spaces in different corners. In each car, a woman, perhaps a few pets, bags of possessions and bedding.

Across the street from homes with bedrooms to spare, these are Santa Barbara's car sleepers.

Homeless within the last year, they are a direct consequence of America's housing market collapse.

In this woman-only parking lot, Bonnee, who gives only her first name, wears a smart blue dress and has a business-like demeanour.

'4x4 homes'

A year ago, she was making a healthy living as, ironically, a real estate agent. But when people stopped buying houses, her commission-based income dried up, and, like many clients, she too was unable to pay her mortgage.

Bonnee, one of Santa Barbara's car sleepers
Bonnee still works in the real estate business

Soon she found herself with nowhere to live but her 4x4.

Piles of blankets are in the back of the vehicle. Personal documents are stuffed into seat pockets. Books litter the back seat. A make-up bag and gym membership card (she washes at the gym) are in the front. With her constantly, are photos of her former life.

She can't quite believe her situation.

"My God, America's heart is bleeding," she tells me.

Tears fill her eyes.

"I know it'll get better. But it feels sad. I really fought hard."

A medium-sized 4x4 pulls into the parking lot and 66-year-old Barbara Harvey gets out.

She opens the back door and two large Golden Retrievers jump out.

Barbara begins her nightly routine. She moves a few bags from the boot to the front seat and takes out pyjamas and a carton of yoghurt (her dinner). She then arranges blankets in the back of the car.

An Interview With President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - nyt

NYT: On another subject, you are a Persian; you are not an Arab. Your country has never directly at least fought a war with Israel, and yet you seem obsessed by the Jews. Why?

President Ahmadinejad: We have nothing to do with their business at all. Jewish people live in Iran; they have lived there historically. They have a representative in our Parliament. Although there are only 20,000 people, they still have one representative in Parliament. Whereas for the rest of the population you have a minimum requirement of 150,000 people to have one representative. So the Jewish people are treated just like everyone else, like the Christians and the Muslims and the Zoroastrians. They are respected. Everyone is respected.

The question is really over Zionism. Zionism is not Judaism. It is a political party. It is a very secretive political party, which is the root cause of insecurity and wars. For 60 years in our region people have been killed, they have been threatened for 60 years, they have been aggressed upon for 60 years. Several large wars have occurred. A large number of territories there are occupied. More than five million people have been displaced and become refugees. Women and children are attacked in their own homes. They demolish homes over the heads of women and children with bulldozer, in their own house, in their own homeland. These are not crimes that one can shut ones eyes to. We disagree with these criminal acts and we announce it loud and clear. The anger of the U.S. government does not prevent us from saying loud and clear what we think about these acts. As long as these crimes are not rooted out we will continue voicing our concern.

I am surprised that in your media there is hardly any attention to the human rights crimes committed by the Zionist regime, nor to the ongoing crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO troops went to Afghanistan to establish security, but the just expanded insecurity. Terrorism has increased. The production of illicit drugs has multiplied. Some days there are 10 people killed, some days there are 100 people killed. Sometimes wedding ceremonies are bombarded and insecurity has now affected Pakistan as well. In the process of occupying Iraq over one million people have been killed, a lot of women and children, several million people have been displaced. Is there enough forces in America to represent those innocents who have been deprived of their rights innocently those countries?

There are seven billion people living on this planet, close to 200 countries. Why is it that politicians here in the United States only rise to defend the Zionists? What commitment forces the U.S. government to victimize itself in support of a regime that is basically a criminal one? We can’t understand it. When human rights are violated in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, how come there is just not enough attention given to it? In a lot of countries that are friends of the United States there are vast human rights violations. Human rights has become completely politicized with multiple standards that apply to different parts of the world. I would like to repeat myself: People in Iran like their government. You will see in the election.

Time to heal —Saleem H Ali

Every year, MIT’s prestigious publication Technology Review selects 35 “young innovators” worldwide whose “inventions and research are most exciting”. Among the laureates this year is a 34-year-old Pakistani-American doctor named Bilal Shafi, who is based at the University of Pennsylvania.

When I interviewed Dr Shafi last week, he was quite direct and unapologetic about his devoutly Muslim identity as well as a sense of pride in his Pakistani lineage. Such patriotism among expatriate Pakistanis is becoming increasingly rare as the political situation declines in the country. Often, there is a sense of foreboding about the motherland or a detachment among young Pakistani-Americans who have grown up in the West. Yet Dr Shafi had no such complexes about his multiple identities and has excelled in his field with an aim to give his faith and ethnic homeland a good name.

Before starting his residency in Pennsylvania, he was based at Stanford University’s Biodesign Innovation Programme where he developed a biopolymer coating for the heart that can be highly effective in reducing mortality in patients with serious cardiac disease. The liquid coating is injected through a catheter immediately following a heart attack. The material subsequently gels but remains flexible enough to expand with each heartbeat, yet firm enough to support the heart during its natural healing process. The polymer is designed to degrade after six months as it is innocuously absorbed by the body.

Time to heal —Saleem H Ali

Words can never hurt us - Inayat Bunglawala

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses.

At the time, extracts from the novel were circulated by some Islamic organisations to mosques and Islamic societies across the country to help acquaint British Muslims with its contents.

I was in my second year at university and could not comprehend why someone like Rushdie, who had been brought up in a Muslim family, would write a provocative novel that he must have known would cause offence to millions of people.

Why constantly refer to the Prophet Muhammad as Mahound, the old medieval name for the devil? And to have a group of prostitutes in a brothel to take on the names of the prophet's wives in order to better arouse their clients – what was Rushdie thinking?


As per Islamic tradition, I have spent this month of Ramadan re-reading and studying the Qur'an. It is an unfailingly joyous experience. Every time I read it I marvel at the achievements of the Prophet Muhammad. He was the restorer of a pristine monotheism, blessedly free from the confusing Christian doctrine of the trinity and the narrow Hebrew tribalism of Judaism. His revolution in Arabia changed the course of human history and launched the Arabs on to the world stage for the first time.

The point I am trying to make is that his achievements are by no means diminished simply because of the writings of Rushdie or the Jewel of Medina author, Sherry Jones.

The Qur'an records the prophet being vilified as a "madman" and a "sorcerer" by his pagan opponents. The Qur'an consoled the prophet against these taunts and urged him to be patient while assuring him that "soon you will see and they will see which of you is afflicted with madness" (chapter 68, verses 5-6).

Let Rushdie, Jones and co write as they please. Muslims are likewise at liberty to use those very same freedoms to promote their own understanding of the mission of the Prophet Muhammad.

So what will happen when the Jewel of Medina is published next month? If the views articulated by my correspondents now constitute the majority view amongst British Muslims then that would be a hopeful sign.

IHRC nominates Rahman Malik for Int’l peace award 2008

As if Co Chairman of the Hand Written Will has not provided enough material to wordsmiths already, his wingman, the unelected "advisor" and right hand man of erstwhile Benazir, who eased himself into the same role for Zardari, and who is also reputed to be the "real" PM of Pakistan has been nominated for the “International Peace Award 2008 for War against Terrorism.”

This could only happen in Pakistan.

If you recall, it was Rehman Malik who insisted that Benazir's bullet/bomb proof car should have retractable roof against the advise of the manufacturers.

Read and cry:

ISLAMABAD: The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) Wednesday nominated Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior A. Rehman Malik for the “International Peace Award 2008 for War against Terrorism.”

Rehman Malik is the first male form Pakistan and 3rd member of Pakistan People’s Party to receive the honour as the award had also been conferred upon Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in the year 1996 for her outstanding contributions for democracy and human rights.

The award is recognition of the services rendered by Rehman Malik in the area of fighting war against terrorism and extremism for achieving the lasting peace in the country, strengthening the democratic institution after the establishment of newly elected government under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. IHRC nominates Rahman Malik for Int’l peace award 2008

A dangerous obsession By Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON - A group of hardline United States neo-conservatives and former Israeli diplomats were behind the controversial, allegedly Islamaphobic DVD which was recently distributed in US swing states ahead of November's presidential elections. The 60-minute movie,Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West , was an initiative of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), but produced by the Clarion Fund, an organization described as a "front" for Israeli group Aish Hatorah. Some 28 million copies of Obsession are currently being inserted in newspapers and delivered by mail in key electoral swing states - such as Michigan, Ohio and Florida which, according to recent polling, could go either way.

Critics allege the movie Obsession is "hate propaganda" which paints Muslims as violent extremists and, among other things, explicitly compares the threat posed by radical Islam to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s - at least two major metropolitan newspapers refused to run the movie because of its perceived bias. "Despite the perilous state of American newspapers, the St Louis Post-Dispatch advertising department took an ethical stand and refused to distribute the DVD of a film that for two years has troubled American Muslims," Tim Townsend, a reporter at Missouri's most influential newspaper wrote this month. The Clarion Fund is based at the same New York address as Aish Hatorah, a self-described "apolitical" group dedicated to educating Jews about their heritage. Its street address, as listed on the group's website and a DVD mailer for the film, is a "virtual address" that goes to a post office box in New York City. While initial press reports about the mass distribution focused on the Clarion Fund's financing role, it was EMET that organized and oversaw the distribution, EMET's spokesman and a former press officer for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Ari Morgenstern, told Inter Press Service.

Unmourned and unmissed —Rafia Zakaria

Read Rafia and then forget - like we are famously prone to. It is Bibi Hawwa's Curse or Baba Adam's? And while the moderates, and liberals and secular and leftists at the least write and raise the decibel levels the greatest silence overwhelms the right of center, religious and far right parties. Or at the worst, in a predictably knee-jerk reaction they blame the west for these (local) travesties. - t


According to AF’s latest quarterly report, crimes of violence against women are at an all-time high in Pakistan. 1705 cases of violence against women were reported between April 1 and June 30 this year (as data is compiled from newspaper reports, this excludes the high number of unreported cases). 491 of these 1705 women died as a result of the violence, mostly at the hands of their husbands or other close relatives. 135 of these deaths were described as honour killings while the rest were characterised as murder. Over 356 women were abducted from their homes.

According to AF, the report signifies a rapid increase in the number of crimes against women compared to even the last quarter, January to March 2008. In that quarter, 1321 cases were reported in newspapers from around the country. Cumulatively, the numbers of female deaths is daunting: a total of 857 women have lost their lives due to violence this year and of these 225 were killed in crimes of honour.
Unmourned and unmissed —Rafia Zakaria

The war on terror and Nawaz Sharif

The beauty of this column by Inayatullah is in the heading ("The war on terror and Nawaz Sharif") and what he laments in the column. Anything more I say on this would be a spoiler.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Edward Said and Mahmoud Darwish- Mona Anis

It is five years today -- Thursday 25 September -- since the death of the Palestinian public intellectual and political activist Edward Said, "the most brilliantly eloquent emissary of Palestine to the outside world" in the words of an equally eloquent and brilliant fellow compatriot -- Mahmoud Darwish.

The anniversary of Edward Said's death will be commemorated next Tuesday at Columbia University in New York, the city and university where Said lived and taught for the last 40 years of his 68-year-life. Conspicuously absent from the event will be Mahmoud Darwish, who had been invited by Columbia University to give the keynote address. Sadly, his sudden death last month -- at about the same age at which Said died -- prevents him from addressing next Tuesday's gathering in New York.

Darwish, who died on 9 August following open-heart surgery in Houston, was very keen on keeping this appointment, so much so that he had even contemplated postponing surgery until the end of September and after he had delivered the Edward Said Memorial Lecture in New York. "I am going to see what the doctors say in Houston, but I will try to postpone a decision until after my visit to New York in September," he told me over the phone at the beginning of July.

Sarah Palin's Very Bad Interview

The first half of the Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin did not start off well. It was a complete disaster in fact.

It's like watching a train wreck, she seems to have no idea what she is talking about.

But hey, people sometimes get off on the wrong foot. It couldn't get any worse right? She just probably needed to find her rhythm, right?

Well, no. If the first half of the interview was bad, well then the second half of the interview was much, much worse.

From Ryan Powers over at Think Progress:

During the interview, Couric asked Palin why she believes the Wall Street bailout is needed. Palin responded incoherently by claiming that the bailout would "help those who are concerned about health care reform." Palin then appeared to look down at her notes and said, "Oh, it's got to be all about job creation":

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? ... Instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy- Oh, it's got to be about job creation too. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions

"She's not always responsive when she's asked questions," Couric said of Palin. "It was a really interesting experience for me to interview her yesterday," she added.

First Palin, Then Campaign Suspension. What Now?

Slate predicts McCain's next 10 Hail Mary stunts.

1. Returns to Vietnam and jails himself.
2. Offers the post of "vice vice president" to Warren Buffett.
3. Challenges Obama to suspend campaign so they both can go and personally drill for oil offshore.
. Learns to use computer.
5. Does bombing run over Taliban-controlled tribal areas of Pakistan.
6. Offers to forgo salary, sell one house.
7. Sex-change operation.
8. Suspends campaign until Nov. 4, offers to start being president right now.
9. Sells Alaska to Russia for $700 billion.
10. Pledges to serve only one term. OK, half a term.

Bailout Backlash: Five Surprising Things That Happened on Thursday

1. Outrage over the bailout spreads across the Internet and to Wall Street

The Internet is flooded with angst about Treasury Secretary Paulson's proposed $700 billion bailout:

A lot of the online rage is channeled in the form of signatures on petitions and electronic letters to members of Congress. Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vt.) is circulating a popular one on the left-wing blog Huffington Post. The 1.9-million member Service Employees International Union is also circulating a sign-on letter to Congress that reads in part: "No deal. No blank check." reasons: "A bailout tells responsible Americans that they are suckers."
The anger is coming from right-leaning groups as well. The National Taxpayers Union's "No More Bailouts!" petition reads: "Bailouts that keep mismanaged organizations afloat delay natural corrections to unsound business practices . Enough is enough. No more bailouts. Not with my tax dollars."
The conservative site features a similar petition. Right-wing blogger Patrick Ruffini, meanwhile, urges Republicans to vote against the bailout, since "God Himself couldn't have given rank-and-file Republicans a better opportunity to create political space between themselves and the Administration."

And as Steven Wishnia reports for AlterNet, protesters took to New York's financial district:

Enraged by the prospect of $700 billion of their taxes going to reimburse Wall Street speculators for their dubious investments, about 500 protesters paraded through Lower Manhattan's financial district Thursday afternoon, their chants of "You broke it, you bought it" reverberating through the narrow office building canyons and off the flag-draped wall of the New York Stock Exchange.

2. White House pow-wow flops

Urban Dictionary: The best place to watch language evolve

Urban Dictionary might seem a frivolous place for a poet to go a-browsing. But it's a brilliant window on English in transition

In just over an hour online I have learned 20 new words (or more properly neologisms). I have learned that to remove a friend on Facebook, is to "deface", that "thumb me" is to ask someone to send you a text message, and that "veepstakes" are "the process a candidate for president goes through to choose a running mate … a portmanteau word combining the colloquial pronunciation of VP as "veep" and sweepstakes".

For the third time in a week I am on, and haunted by the feeling that this is not quite what my time as poet-in-residence at the Wordsworth Trust should be spent doing. Isn't this simply a transatlantic, online version of Viz's famous Profanisaurus? Well, no, it isn't really.

Contentious clerics By Salama A Salama

While the West grapples with its anti-Muslim activists, we're being educated by clerics with a fondness for trivia. And it's not only the preachers that are to blame. Our politicians are playing the same game. They like the one- upmanship of a Sunni-Shia divide. They thrive on the polemics of sectarianism.

Muslim nations are suffering not because of the Shias, but because of the frightening reality that is engulfing us all. Muslim nations are suffering because human rights are being trampled upon, and because Muslims are faced by hate in their expatriate abodes. Muslim nations are suffering because we are not doing much about the massacres in Darfur and Somalia, or turbulence in Iraq and Yemen.

We mustn't go on encouraging doctrinal debates that can only worsen sectarian tensions, as is already happening in several parts of the Arab world, Bahrain and Lebanon included. We cannot go on encouraging theological trivia for we would soon lose track of what's relevant and what is not. Clerics, both Muslim and Christians, must start speaking of things that really matter. And there is no shortage there.

Open Season on Co Chairman

But we'll have to do something, and pretty quickly, about our leadership problem. Consider in this context Zardari's performance when he met President Bush in New York. After Bush's opening remarks, Zardari said: "As always you prove to the world that your heart is in there for us Pakistanis." This is embarrassing stuff but wait for the next bit: "We respect your feelings, we respect the American ideals. And we bring to this the whole concept of your promise to the world of bringing democracy to Pakistan."

So Bush promised the world---when did he do this?---that democracy would be brought to Pakistan. President Zardari should choose a good speech writer and keep him close by his side at all times. Ayaz Amir

In New York, the president called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "the father of modern India". That's no way for Pakistan to prepare for a return to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that is set to take place when Rahul Ghandi takes oath as prime minister next year. Manmohan Singh is a nice old man, but he is simply a more capable and credible version of Shaukat Aziz. He's got no political legitimacy other than what Sonia Gandhi affords him. If anything, it should have been Singh singing President Zardari's praises, a man whose wife was murdered, who served over 11 years in jail, and who is maligned for unproven corruption charges that still weigh over him like a ton of gold bricks. Singh has no such record to his credit. He's a decent economist, and an accommodating bureaucrat to the Royal Family of India, a modern munshi at best. President Zardari, blemishes and all, is the head the Royal Family of the Pakistan, Fatima Bhutto's seething anger notwithstanding. There's no comparison. More importantly, there is only one father of Modern India, and his name is Jawaharlal Nehru, any insinuation otherwise is an insult to the Indian first family, and more importantly an utter misrepresentation of history. It is bad enough that young Indians have forgotten the debt they own to Nehru, bad enough that the mass-consumption Bollywood culture has no time, or space to recognize the enormous imprint Nehru has left on the world, and on statesmanship. Pakistanis need not exacerbate things. Mosharraf Zaidi

Thursday, September 25, 2008

10 Ways to Bail Out Wall Street (and Main Street) Without Soaking Taxpayers in Debt - By Chuck Collins and Dedrick Muhammad

As Congress debates the particulars of the Bush-Paulson bailout, one key question has gone largely unexplored: Who will pay for this mess?

Lawmakers in Congress appear to have assumed that the federal government will simply borrow more money to foot the bill for the bailout. The national debt ceiling will rise to a whopping $11.3 trillion, up from $8 trillion a year ago.

But this rush to borrowing merely shifts the bailout burden onto the backs of future taxpayers. Congress needs to change course -- and develop a "pay as we go" plan that makes Wall Street pay.

The lion's share of bailout funding should come from the high-finance gamblers and the wealthy CEOs who have so profited from our casino economy.

Funding the Bailout: Basic Principles

  • Wall Street and speculators should pay now for the mess they created.
  • Instead of borrowing from the super-wealthy beneficiaries of the casino economy, we should tax them.
  • Any bailout should stimulate the real economy with investments in Main Street, not just Wall Street.

Broadening the Bailout Dollars

The debate over the bailout has so far concentrated on the $700 billion purchase of "troubled assets" proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. A real "bailout" would also target the troubled households of working American families. A $200 billion "Main Street Stimulus Package" could bolster the real economy and those left vulnerable by the subprime mortgage meltdown. This package should include:

  • A $130 billion annual investment in renewable energy to stimulate good jobs anchored in local economies and reduce our dependency on oil.
  • A $50 billion outlay to help keep people in foreclosed homes through refinancing and creating new homeownership and housing opportunities. These funds could also help those locked out of the American Dream to purchase homes through nonspeculative mortgage programs.
  • A $20 billion aid package to states to address the squeeze on state and local government services that declining tax revenues are now forcing.

A Responsible Plan to Pay for Recovery: $900 Billion in New Revenue

Below is our 10-point program to pay for this broader bailout. This plan would generate $900 billion a year until the costs of the bailout and stimulus program are paid for.

Weekly Date With Mic for "Siblings of Doctors" Comic - Naazish YarKhan

If you are of Indian or Pakistani descent, you know the drill. When you grow up you have to be either a doctor, engineer and lately, a computer programmer. If you're anything else, guess what? You're not worth much. Apparently that's what even brides think when they go a-hunting for grooms. Any Indian matrimonial column will attest to this and comedy writer Ranjit Souri, who is of South Asian heritage, is acquainted with this factoid only too well.

Ranjit is a Chicagoan. A comedy writer and actor, he has performed his work at colleges and universities throughout the United States, as well as at comedy festivals in Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York City, Portland (Ore.), San Francisco, and Seattle. He has co-written numerous comedy shows for the stage with Stir-Friday Night!, Cupid Players, Paper Monkeys, and Siblings of Doctors (an Indian-American comedy trio which also includes Rasika Mathur and Danny Pudi). He has improvised many one-act plays with the dramatic improvisational group doubleplay.

I think what must give desi parents in the audience sleepless nights is the fact that Ranjit has an MBA from Columbia University (!!!) and a B.S. in Accounting from Case Western Reserve University. I can almost imagine parents quaking in fear when their teen comes up to them after a Souri performance and says, "I want to be like him once I have my MBA!"

"All those loans and you want to be a comedian!?!" I bet they gag, recovering quickly only to begin shouting, squirming and bulging eyes.

Poessay: On Writer's Block

Is there an affliction known as writer's block? Or is it an overblown condition to camouflage fear, lethargy or lack of discipline? Why does it affect some writers and not others? Why does it affect good writers and not not-so-good ones?
"One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily." (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

The key to come out is in preparation: Getting Started.

Sit down. Roll out a fresh sheet or turn on a fresh page on the laptop. Look around. Start writing. Don't stare.

You have seen so many things, have smelled the dew and the tea leaves, have experienced joy and sadness, cherished memories, weathered loss. Recall one and express your thoughts as they come.

You have tried it and it does not work for you? You are still staring at the blank page/screen?

OK, do not wait for the deluge of thoughts to flow. If they do not descend on their own, and if your efforts to persuade them to come out have borne no result you will get stuck and dig yourself deeper into this self afflicted despair.

Try harder. You can coax them, it is simple. Just write down a thought - the first thought you have and out it on the page. Slowly, more words will follow and the haze would lift. From that page you will be able to pick up something that would start the flow.

You do not believe me?

You are not convinced? OK, let' are sitting at a desk...twirling a pen gazing at that paper...looking around...self, some books, a painting or a print, color on the wall, paint fresh or faded, phone perhaps, or a cell phone, that cuppa, some old mail, maybe bills, a window, curtains or blinds!

I don't know what you write...what genre you favour...for me poetry at times is easier than! you stare at the wall...the wall?


the wall

silent, fortuitous, obtrusive
a witness to lost laughter

sighs, sobs and smiles
emotions overt, suppressed

the wall
never subpoenaed

has seen many
pacing the room
- expectant fathers

lost in thoughts
elusive dreams

the wall
keeper of sighs
and silent shouts

it supports
but does not offer
comfort stands
immovable, unmoved

yes the walls can be tough
like my friend

the tongueless wall
knows so much
why can't it be my friend?


I would look this over tomorrow. Would bounce it off some trusted folks, sit on it, chisel and polish, save, look it up another time in a few months time and work on it again...a poem is never finished really.

So friend, despair not...look around and write that first word. Good luck!

The multi-purpose Nokia for Pakistan

thanks RJ for this link

Book Review - The Arrangement

Like many single women looking for love in New York, the journalist Anita Jain was fed up with the local dating scene. In 2005, Jain, who was then 32, wrote an article for New York magazine ­— “Is Arranged Marriage Really Any Worse Than Craigslist?” — in which she wondered whether she should let her Indian relatives find her a husband.

It seemed tempting. What marriage-minded woman doesn’t dream of never having to walk into a singles bar again? Yet, while few modern Westerners would be willing to outsource their spousal selection (heck, most won’t even let their mothers set them up on a coffee date), Jain actually hopped on a plane to Delhi. It was the reverse journey her father had taken more than three decades earlier, when he left his homeland for America in search of better job opportunities. Jain, on the other hand, was going to India for what she hoped would be better dating opportunities.

The Accidental American Discovers Discrimination - Rinku Sen

A very absorbing and at times a rather disturbing read: t

AT 8 A.M. ON SEPTEMBER 11, 40-year-old Fekkak Mamdouh was asleep, having worked the previous night's late shift from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. His wife, Fatima, lay beside him; she had dropped off their daughter at kindergarten four blocks away and then climbed back into bed. For six years, Mamdouh, whom everyone knew by his surname, had been a waiter at Windows on the World, the luxury restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower. He had started working there in 1996 when Windows reopened after the 1993 terrorist bombing in the World Trade Center basement. Mamdouh's wide brown eyes and the round apples of his cheeks gave him a disarming look of innocence. These mellow features hid the scrappiness that had made him a beloved, though sometimes controversial, union leader.

Hate Speech II - Fasi Zaka and Zahid Hamid

As far as me being a Zionist Banker goes, I have never worked for a bank, or own shares in any. I did work briefly once for the World Bank, a development organization (one that I also believe has done some harm to the people it is mandated to help), but that was a short-term consultancy to research the value chain of apples for export and it had nothing to do with lending money. I do have two bank accounts, and the public is welcome to verify that in neither is there an exemption from paying the government Zakat, nor are there any withdrawals before it is imposed.

Let's hold Zaid Hamid to his own standards by looking at his record. On the website of his security consulting firm, also called Brass Tacks, he proudly mentions testimonials from employees of both Deutsche Bank and Bank of America (amongst ten other banks), and from Shell. Wait a second! Isn't this the same Zaid Hamid who does a TV programme that claims banks are in the hands of the Zionist Jews hungry to kill all Muslims? What is he doing profiting from protecting them after creating public animosity towards them? Is this the same Zaid Hamid who believes the world is being overrun by multinationals that are out to secure resources that will eventually harm Muslims? What is he doing profiting from protecting Shell, which has just signed an agreement to sell natural gas in the Governorate of Basra in Iraq under the US occupation? He is not living what he is preaching. He devours banks and multinationals on television but profits from them when the cameras stop rolling.


In the end, I would like to add a few cautionary notes. Brass Tacks is not a programme entirely without merit, and neither is Zaid Hamid. For example, he is right when he discusses the rancid imperialism of the US and its misadventures abroad, he is right when he believes that unfettered capitalism is bad, or that Muslims need to awaken from their slumber. He is right when he mentions there are flaws in an economic system that allows for hot money, that sells credit irresponsibly for mindless consumption. These are legitimate themes, and the fact that Zaid Hamid is non-sectarian is applause worthy.

But where Zaid Hamid should draw the line is upholding the facts that withstand query, abstaining from hate speech even if he opposes large swathes of humanity and verifying tracts that may not fit into his presuppositions. There is a place for both the right and left on television, after all that is what creates consensus through dialectic. What should be common is remembering Islam is a religion of peace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Militants shake off Pakistan's grip-SSS

A senior Pakistani defense analyst admitted that despite the difficulties, the Bajaur operation was the only ray of hope for the security forces. If this battle is lost, Pakistan will not be able to stop the march of the Taliban towards the cosmopolitan centers of the country. Already, the Taliban's success in Bajaur has emboldened them. They have made incursions into Peshawar and, loaded with sophisticated weaponry, they have forced the police to restrict themselves to their stations.

On Monday, the Taliban tried unsuccessfully to hit the main oil depot of Peshawar. According to a militant who spoke to ATol, the aim was to wipe out Peshawar's power for at least 15 days, during which time the Taliban could launch attacks. Four rockets were also fired at Peshawar's airport on Monday and again on Tuesday. If nothing else, these attacks have created something of a reign of terror in the provincial capital. This is likely to spill over to the outskirt districts of Shabqadar, Charsada, Matni, Dara Adam Khel and Kohat. For the past two weeks, a main trade artery - the Kohat tunnel - has been closed to traffic due to military operations in Dara Adam Khel. One of the most significant developments has been in the strategic Khyber Agency, the main North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply route into Afghanistan. The majority population here has traditionally been of the anti-Taliban Sufi school of thought. A recent tribal council (jirga) decided to close down the activities and offices of all religious organizations in the agency. The only exception, the jirga agreed, would be the Taliban. It was mutually agreed that the Taliban would not disturb the peace in the area or intervene in local affairs, and the tribes would not get involved in the Taliban's activities.

Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2008

Copyblogger: As the undefeated champ, this blog has held the number-one spot for three straight years! The baby of Brian Clark, this blog keeps winning because of its excellent and educational articles.
Men With Pens: James Chartrand and Harry McLeod are the dynamic duo who continue to deliver rich content and community discussion.
Freelance Writing Jobs: Founded by Deb Ng, this site is the first stop for freelance writers seeking new work and great articles (and it remains a top winner since this contest began).
Write to Done: This blog delivers a steady stream of excellent articles for all writers and is the product of top blogger Leo Babauta.
Confident Writing: Looking for encouragement? Joanna Young will help you take your writing to the next level.
The Renegade Writer: Linda Formichelli and Dianna Burell, authors of a book by the same name, help freelance journalists find inspiration.
Remarkable Communication: One part writing, one part marketing and one part selling, this excellent blog by Sonia Simone will help any writer succeed.
Writing Journey: Looking for a great stop on your writing journey? Bob Younce’s blog will refresh and energize you.
Freelance Parent: Two moms, Lorna Doone Brewer and Tamara Berry, provide excellent perspective on writing while balancing time with little ones.
Urban Muse: Susan Johnson covers a wide range of excellent topics that all writers will enjoy.

Books of The Times: A Dialogue and a Discourse on America’s Global Role

In the months before the American invasion of Iraq, among the few members of the foreign policy establishment to speak out forcefully about the dangers of going to war unilaterally against Saddam Hussein were Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter.


The End of American Exceptionalism

By Andrew J. Bacevich

206 pages. Metropolitan Books. $24.


Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy

By Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. Moderated by David Ignatius

291 pages. Basic Books. $27.50.

In August 2002 Mr. Scowcroft warned that a “virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq” would degrade “international cooperation with us against terrorism,” and he presciently predicted that such a war “would not be a cakewalk,” as some members of the George W. Bush administration contended, but could involve “a large-scale, long-term military occupation” and “would be very expensive — with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy.”

That same month Mr. Brzezinski cautioned that “war is too serious a business and too unpredictable in its dynamic consequences — especially in a highly flammable region — to be undertaken because of a personal peeve, demagogically articulated fears or vague factual assertions.” In February 2003, he added that “an America that decides to act essentially on its own regarding Iraq” could “find itself quite alone in having to cope with the costs and burdens of the war’s aftermath, not to mention widespread and rising hostility abroad.”

In a trenchant new book, “America and the World: Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy,” Mr. Brzezinski and Mr. Scowcroft (along with the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, acting as moderator) incisively discuss the fallout of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, including the empowerment of Iran, the recruitment of more terrorists and the inflaming of hatreds within the region. They also survey the foreign policy landscape as a whole: the consequences of globalization, the rise of China as a new economic behemoth, the ambitions of a new Russia under the leadership of Vladimir V. Putin and Dmitri A. Medvedev.

Poem of the week: Surprised by joy - impatient as the wind

This week's choice is the sonnet written in the aftermath of the death of his three-year-old daughter, Catherine. The opening line is much quoted, and wonderfully, strikingly original: "Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind." Those two adjectival clauses, separated by a dash – or, rather, a delicious gasp - instantly focus attention on the sensations rather than the subject, "I". And, of course, the "I" is unimportant, relatively. The second line - "I turned to share the transport – Oh! With whom" - pushes onward to its apostrophe, deferred until the last possible moment – "With whom/ but thee …" The lines rise to a crescendo, and "thee", addressing the child no longer there, is the word with which they peak.


Surprised by joy - impatient as the wind

Surprised by joy – impatient as the wind
I turned to share the transport – Oh! With whom
But thee, long buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind –
But how could I forget thee? - Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss? – That thought's return
Was the worse pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;
That neither present time nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

10 Things You Should Know About Bush's Trillion Dollar Fleecing Plan

The Bush administration's proposal to bail out some of Wall Street's biggest players with an unprecedented transfer of public wealth to the private sector sent shock-waves throughout the nation.

Already deep in deficit, the administration wants to borrow $700 billion dollars -- in addition to the $900 billion already spent this year to prop up troubled lending institutions and deal with the fall-out from the housing crisis -- and entrust it to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, fresh from a long run on Wall Street himself. He'd then buy up worthless paper from struggling banks.

Who would get the money? Nobody knows. Paulson says he wants to hire Wall Street firms to oversee the process.

Under Bush's plan, the taxpayer would get little, if anything, in return. The whole thing would happen without Congressional oversight, save for a semi-annual report on the process, and Paulson's actions would be beyond challenge in the courts.

It is an economic coup d'etat in the making. And people are talking about little else. Here's 10 things that have been on our radars ...

Where Have All The Commas Gone?

(Voice of police dispatcher): “Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the lookout for escaped commas. Last seen after years that follow dates, and after state names that follow cities. Can be recognized by their downward curves. Please recapture and replace immediately. Reward is clarity of meaning.”

We’re talking about a parenthetical comma, which sets off information: “She was born July 20, 1995, and went to school in Springfield, Ill., where she graduated at the top of her eighth-grade class.” The loss of all those commas may not be a crime, but it certainly is a mystery.

The parenthetical comma isn’t an optional comma. It serves two purposes: the first is to set off the year/state from the date, and the second is to set off the year/state from the rest of the sentence. Without it, readers can be momentarily distracted into thinking that the year/state is part of phrase by which it is followed.

Without illusions - Doug Ireland

Ronald Aronson’s new book, Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided, represents a radical departure from the recent attention-grabbing anti-religion polemics from Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Michel Onfray. While Aronson pays heartfelt tribute to all of these authors, his is a much more pragmatic proposal. He suggests that “even after reading Harris, Dennett, Dawkins or Hitchens, secularists often have difficulty discussing what it is we believe in, if not God.” And what that means, for Aronson, is that humanism needs to recouple thought with action, morality with socialism.

“To live comfortably without God today means … rethinking the secular worldview after the eclipse of modern optimism,” Aronson insists. “This can happen only by working through the secular outlook itself, in light of the disasters and disappointments of the last century, and the dangers of this one.”

Dilip Hiro on Zardari's Dilemma

But pro-American, secular Zardari faces a Herculean task. Anti-Americanism is rife in Pakistan, and exists not only among ordinary citizens but also the ranks of the security forces, from the regular army to paramilitary Frontier Corps and police.

To most Pakistanis, the military strikes against the Islamist militants in Fata and the Swat Valley, 100 miles north of Islamabad, are tantamount to "Muslims killing Muslims" for the sake of America. They believe that under the guise of conducting "war on terror", Bush is waging "war on Islam". The two countries he has invaded so far, Afghanistan and Iraq, are almost wholly Muslim, they say.

Against this backcloth of rampant anti-Americanism, Zardari needs to devise a strategy that allows him to distance his government from the United States and repress Islamist extremists on a nationalist agenda of maintaining law and order and the territorial integrity of Pakistan. Still, such a strategy would need to be underwritten by regional powers.

Zardari is reported to have drafted such a plan. It envisages the convening of the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, China, and Russia to discuss the burgeoning threat of Islamist terrorism, and formulate a common, cooperative strategy. At that gathering America and Britain will be present, but only as observers.

"A consensus [of the regional states] is necessary so that the war on terror is not considered an American war but is owned by all countries," the Zardari position paper states.

Whatever the merits of the Zardari plan, which are considerable, it is unlikely to appeal to Bush. The last thing Bush wants is to see the US downgraded to a bit-player in the armed onslaught on Islamist radicals. He is embarrassingly aware of his bravado statement about Osama bin Laden after 9/11: "We'll get him, dead or alive".

Ten National Security Myths

Myth 3. We cannot allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists. We therefore must redouble our military efforts there or face another terrorist attack.
Since Barack Obama and John McCain both support sending more troops to Afghanistan, the election may create a bipartisan consensus for increasing the US military commitment to "winning" the "right" war. But such a consensus would be based on several mistaken notions.
First, the United States and its NATO allies are losing the war in Afghanistan not because we have had too few military forces but because our military presence, along with the corruption of the Hamid Karzai government, has gradually turned the Afghan population against us, swelling the ranks of Taliban recruits. American airstrikes have repeatedly killed innocent civilians. Sending thousands of additional troops will not secure a democratic and stable Afghanistan, because the country is not only deeply divided but also fiercely resistant to outside forces. Indeed, more troops may only engender more anti-American resistance and cause groups in neighboring Pakistan to step up their support for the Taliban in order to stop what they see as a US effort to advance US and Indian interests in the region. As the British and the Soviets discovered before us, Afghanistan can easily become a trap for any great power seeking to establish control of the country.

Ahmadinejad: 'American empire' nearing its end

(CNN) -- In a blistering speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed "a few bullying powers" for creating the world's problems and said the "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road."

At the United Nations, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said countries are turning their backs on "bullying powers."

At the United Nations, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said countries are turning their backs on "bullying powers."

And while he insisted Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful, Ahmadinejad blamed the same powers for seeking to hinder it "by exerting political and economic pressures on Iran, and threatening and pressuring" the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Those powers, meanwhile, are building or maintaining nuclear stockpiles themselves, unchecked by anyone, he said.

As Ahmadinejad spoke, the only person at the United States table was a note-taker; no U.S. diplomat was present. When President Bush spoke earlier Tuesday, however, Ahmadinejad was in the room.

"As long as the aggressors, because of their financial, political and propaganda powers, not only escape punishment, but even claim righteousness, and as long as wars are started and nations are enslaved in order to win votes in elections, not only will the problems of the global community remain unsolved, but they will be increasingly exacerbated," the Iranian leader said.

Full Text of his speech

Without a Peep

THATTA: Heavy machinery, including bulldozers and excavators, is being used for bulldozing and excavation at the site of the Makli necropolis for the past 24 hours. This is being done by ex-MPA Ghulam Qadir Palijo, who is also the father of Sindh Minister Sassui Palijo.A visit to the site revealed that the bulldozing and excavation was being done on the Makli hill monuments site area that was adjacent to the land of Ghulam Qadir Palijo. This site leads to the shrine of great Sindhi warrior Dolah Darya Khan and Sindh ruler Jam Nizamuddin. There were remnants of old graves already flattened by bulldozers. As per the workers, they were digging a drainage water channel for the land of Ghulam Qadir Palijo. Local people said several graves were destroyed and flattened during the bulldozing work and several graveyards of some local communities were also destroyed.The incident has generated wide-scale resentment among the socio-political circles and members of the civil society, and is being condemned by the people of all walks of life here.Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) leader Bashir Khan Qureshi said his party would launch a movement in Sindh to stop this action by Ghulam Qadir Palijo and demanded punishment to all those responsible for this sacrilege of the historic site.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Anger Management

Ask anyone to keep count of the number of times they get angry in one day and my guess is the figure would head towards double digits pretty quickly. If you're a woman with a stressful full-time job, three children under six, a diabetic Airedale terrier, a pregnant nanny, a partner who also works full-time and a staff of 35 other women to manage then, believe me, that number easily surpasses double digits by lunchtime. But given our time-poor (and now cash-poor) "have-it-all" lifestyle, isn't a simmering level of female fury understandable? To be expected even? I thought so, until my colleagues suggested I take an anger management course.

Let me explain. I wanted to commission a debate on how cross women seem to be today - from the media-hyped explosion of aggressive girl gangs to the observation that the women taking part in the BBC's Apprentice seemed to get so much angrier than the male contestants. "Let's get someone to test anger-management solutions," I said. Ten minutes later my features editor popped her head round my office door and suggested I was the perfect candidate.

The good news? My team weren't too scared to suggest anger management to me in person; I mean I'm not Tony Soprano for goodness sake. The bad news? When quizzed, a friend confirms I do spend a ludicrous amount of time getting angry about everything and nothing, barely keeping a lid on the "mean reds" as Holly Golightly called them in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Let's be clear, I am not the female equivalent of Gordon Ramsay. I never shout at people, and I cope well in a crisis. No cover for the October issue? I'm as cool as a cucumber. Mobile phone lost at bottom of handbag? Steam is coming out of my ears.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: We Muslims who despair of terrorism

The admired Scots-Pakistani novelist Suhayl Saadi and his wife, Alina Mirza, who runs a Pakistani film festival in Glasgow, are dear friends. They got married at the Marriot in Islamabad, just bombed by Islamicist murderers who sent in a delivery of lethal explosives in a lorry, during Ramadan. Nice work, guys. Allah will surely reward you aplenty for the slaughter of the blameless, sent off with less ceremony than goats and chickens who, at least, are prayed for as their throats are cut. Ah but they only razed a temple of Western decadence, and many Muslims who worked or went there weren't "real" Muslims, only Shias and disobedient women, reprobates and sinners for sure.

Armageddon is on its way as Pakistan dissolves at its north-western borders into that lawless territory that is Afghanistan. American interventions, demands and military incontinence in the region bolster Islamic reactionaries and guerrillas.

India meanwhile, with many similar endemic problems and ruthless governance in Kashmir, nevertheless flowers economically and still holds on to democracy and fundamental freedoms. Sadly Pakistan "proves" what the rest of the world believes, and not without reason, that Muslims are incapable of decent leadership or progressive politics and move instinctively to political and personal tyranny.

Look around and the evidence punches you in both eyes. Saudi Arabia, Iran and various nations in the Middle East and most "Islamic" states elsewhere are failing entities where the people are either afraid or oppressing others. I, a Muslim who fights daily against the unjust treatment of Muslims in the West, have to face the blinding truth that although we have serious external enemies, more Muslims are hurt, wounded, killed and denied by other Muslims who feel themselves to be virtuous.