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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Big Pharma Is Spending Big Bucks Hoping That You Have Fibromyalgia

Even as new reports surface about alleged fake medical articles Pfizer planted to sell seizure drug Neurontin for unapproved uses from 1995 to 2002, it looks like deja vu all over again.

Pfizer gave nonprofits $2.1 million in grants in 2008 for medical courses about the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia for which its Neurontin follow-up pill, Lyrica, just happens to be approved.

Lyrica (pregablin), facetiously called Son of Neurontin at Pfizer, was discovered by Northwestern University chemist Richard Silverman in 1989, earning the university a cool $700 million when it sold royalties in late 2007.

It is funding the $100 million Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics & Diagnostics, under construction now, which will employ 245 faculty, staff and research assistants and hopefully lead to other promising molecules.

Like Neurontin (gabapentin), Lyrica (Pregablin) is an antiepilepsy drug (AED) that modulates calcium channels to dampen the excitability of nerve endings and seizure activity. And, like Neurontin which made $3 billion a year from unapproved uses like bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder and restless legs syndrome, Pfizer has high hopes for its "crossover appeal."

How You Can Train Your Brain to Help Reduce Stress

As Vicki Wyatt attaches electrodes to my scalp with a generous glop of slimy goo, I'll admit I'm a little skeptical about the calming effects of the treatment I'm about to experience. With newborn twins at home, I usually have enough slime in my life and on my clothes to push anyone over the abyss. But that, says Wyatt, is precisely why I could benefit from neurofeedback, a therapeutic tool that advocates claim can reshape our brains—and our lives.

After years on the outskirts of medical respectability, neurofeedback has been vindicated by a growing body of evidence showing its potentially remarkable benefits to everyone from elite athletes and musicians to violent criminals and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The U.S. National Library of Medicine's database of scholarly articles, for example, contains dozens of positive scientific studies on neurofeedback published in the last two years. The results, from some of the world's top universities and research hospitals, suggest that neurofeedback is a promising treatment for a range of cognitive health issues: seizures, low IQ in kids with learning difficulties, vertigo and tinnitus in the elderly, and substance abuse, even with notoriously addictive, destructive drugs like crack cocaine.

Neurofeedback doesn't cure conditions like ADHD, depression or addiction. Instead, it enables people to produce the appropriate brain waves, which helps provide the attention, rest or contemplative awareness needed to deal with underlying issues. You can't manufacture these brain waves by force of will. I quickly discovered that success comes from letting go. "It's not a conscious thing," Wuttke emphasizes. You have to "surrender to the process [and] let your brain take over. You are going to deep parts of the brain and neutralizing disruptive brain waves, and often in this extreme state of quietude, key memories and patterns come up, almost like you're in a half dream state, and there's sort of a rewiring that occurs."

TOUGH WORDS: Terrible transformations ahead? —Rafia Zakaria

No one is untouched and no one is clean. All political contenders from the president to the deposed judges to the opposition leaders all have their own histories of inside deals, corruption and surreptitious self-serving agreements with military generals or Saudi princes.In the midst of such moral degeneracy, ordinary people on the streets of Quetta and Lahore are left to wonder whether a packed court that curries favour with particular governments is really better than a stadium where barely educated mullahs hack off hands and hand out whippings to alleged criminals.

Terrible transformations ahead? —Rafia Zakaria

The Secret Formula That Destroyed Wall Street

A year ago, it was hardly unthinkable that a math wizard like David X. Li might someday earn a Nobel Prize. After all, financial economists—even Wall Street quants—have received the Nobel in economics before, and Li's work on measuring risk has had more impact, more quickly, than previous Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the field. Today, though, as dazed bankers, politicians, regulators, and investors survey the wreckage of the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression, Li is probably thankful he still has a job in finance at all. Not that his achievement should be dismissed. He took a notoriously tough nut—determining correlation, or how seemingly disparate events are related—and cracked it wide open with a simple and elegant mathematical formula, one that would become ubiquitous in finance worldwide.

For five years, Li's formula, known as a Gaussian copula function, looked like an unambiguously positive breakthrough, a piece of financial technology that allowed hugely complex risks to be modeled with more ease and accuracy than ever before. With his brilliant spark of mathematical legerdemain, Li made it possible for traders to sell vast quantities of new securities, expanding financial markets to unimaginable levels.

His method was adopted by everybody from bond investors and Wall Street banks to ratings agencies and regulators. And it became so deeply entrenched—and was making people so much money—that warnings about its limitations were largely ignored.
Then the model fell apart. Cracks started appearing early on, when financial markets began behaving in ways that users of Li's formula hadn't expected. The cracks became full-fledged canyons in 2008—when ruptures in the financial system's foundation swallowed up trillions of dollars and put the survival of the global banking system in serious peril.

David X. Li, it's safe to say, won't be getting that Nobel anytime soon. One result of the collapse has been the end of financial economics as something to be celebrated rather than feared. And Li's Gaussian copula formula will go down in history as instrumental in causing the unfathomable losses that brought the world financial system to its knees

Admiral Noman Bashir muddies Mumbai probe waters

There are two ways of interpreting Friday’s claim by Pakistani naval chief Noman Bashir that Ajmal Amir Iman ‘Kasab’ – the lone surviving gunman from last November’s terrorist attack on Mumbai – did not use the “sea route” to arrive in India.

The statement is astonishing mostly because it runs totally counter to what the government of Pakistan formally put out in a press conference held by its Interior Adviser Rehman Malik on February 1. At the time, Mr. Malik not only acknowledged that a part of the Mumbai terror conspiracy had been hatched in Pakistan but also confirmed the use of the “sea route” and provided details about the use of boats by the terrorists that India was not even aware of.

The first and most benign explanation for this flip-flop is that the admiral is seeking to deflect any criticism of the Pakistani Navy and Coast Guard for having failed to detect or stop the terrorists from launching their attack on Mumbai. His observation that the Indian Navy was “10 times bigger” than Pakistan’s and that the Pakistanis could not be blamed for failing to prevent the attack when the Indians themselves proved unable to do so suggests the Navy Chief was not contesting the reality of the sea voyage so much as protecting his service from the charge of incompetence or even collusion.

A second – and more ominous — possibility could be that the Pakistani military is taking advantage of the political turmoil into which the country has now plunged following the do-or-die struggle between President Asif Ali Zardari and Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif to flex its own muscles.

Robert Fisk’s World: Examine the Pope's words, and there's only one thing to conclude

So it's all the fault of the Pope's satraps. "Vatican advisers blamed for Pope's woes," I was informed by one headline. "A self-imposed cone (sic) of silence surrounds Benedict." And now poor old Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, the solitary German who found himself manning an anti-aircraft gun at the end of the Second World War ("briefly" and "unwillingly", I know) has had some "harsh words" for his advisers because – according to the Vatican – he "had no idea of Bishop Williamson's views before lifting an excommunication order against him last month".

Well, there you go. But I bring all this up today because of a remarkable article by Ralph Coury, professor of history at Fairfield University, Connecticut, which appeared in the latest issue of the Institute of Race Relations' journal Race and Class. The redoubtable professor has combed his way through Benedict's Regensburg peroration, in which the Holy Father quotes the 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus as telling a visitor to "show me just what Mohamed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and human". God, the good Paleologus told his interlocutor, "is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body".

Coury's detailed critique of Benedict's mistakes – his apparent belief, for example, that there is a doctrine of jihad in the Koran – is compelling, but he has also unearthed some revealing interviews in which Ratzinger/Benedict reveals a lot more than he should have done about his own bias against Islam. "There is a very marked subordination of woman to man," he says of Islam in 1996. "There is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society ... above all, Islam doesn't make any sort of concessions to enculturation (sic). Islam is Arab (sic), and anyone who becomes Islamic takes on this form of life."

Friday, February 27, 2009

CIA Following Bin Laden on Twitter - Andy Borowitz

In what some are calling a breakthrough in the hunt for the world's most wanted man, the Central Intelligence Agency revealed today that it is following Osama bin Laden on Twitter.

The decision to track Mr. bin Laden's movements, moods, and musical tastes came late last week after the agency discovered he was using the popular social networking utility.

"We thought we were detecting an increase in chatter from Osama bin Laden," CIA chief Leon Panetta told reporters today. "What it turned out to be was an increase in tweets."

Mr. Panetta said the agency's success in tracking Mr. bin Laden via Twitter would depend on its ability to decode a series of seemingly indecipherable messages.

"So far he is tweeting in code, using such terms as LOL and OMFG," Mr. Panetta said. "At this point we have no idea what he is trying to say."

Longest-Serving Senator Gives Obama a History Lesson

Senator Robert C. Byrd, whose career in the Senate has spanned five decades, advised President Obama this week to keep in check the powers of members of the White House staff to prevent an erosion of the “Constitutional system of checks and balances.” In a letter, Mr. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat, drew examples from the Republican administrations of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush to drive home his concerns. He suggested that the president’s creation of offices of health care reform, urban affairs and energy and climate change policy within the White House could undermine the role of cabinet secretaries.
“I am concerned about the relationship between these new White House positions and their executive branch counterparts,” Mr. Byrd wrote in the letter dated Feb 23. “Too often, I have seen these lines of authority and responsibility become tangled and blurred, sometimes purposely, to shield information and to obscure the decision-making process.”

Mr. Byrd pointed out what he viewed as Henry Kissinger’s outsized role in shaping the foreign policy of the Nixon Administration as an assistant to the president on the National Security Council and, more recently, to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, who as deputy national security adviser to President Bush, coordinated Iraq and Afghanistan policy from the White House.

Syed Saleem Shahzad: Pakistan's turmoil echoes in Afghanistan

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled that opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), a former two-time prime minister, could not stand for parliament as a result of an old criminal conviction. The court also disqualified his brother, Shahbaz, who was chief minister of the provincial government in Punjab, Pakistan's most prosperous and populous province, ordering him to resign immediately over a plane hijacking incident in 1999.

The decision sets the scene for political turmoil and unrest and a major challenge to the one-year-old government headed by President Asif Ali Zardari and his Pakistan People's party (PPP).


An added element this year will be a concentration on disrupting NATO's supply lines, whether they enter the country from Pakistan, Iran or Central Asia.

In these new struggles, the decisions that are made in Islamabad over the next few days or weeks will be crucial, that is, just which way the Pakistani military is going to jump.

Pepe Escobar: Backstage at the theater of 'terror'

Afghanistan is not only the graveyard of empires; it's a graveyard of misconceptions.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden believed that the mujahideen single-handedly defeated the Soviet empire; so a more compact mujahid band, al-Qaeda, would be the vanguard in defeating the American empire. It was never that simple.

In the United States, the myth rules that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) delivered the Soviets "their Vietnam"; thus this was

basically a US victory, with the "freedom fighters" (copyright president Ronald Reagan) as supporting actors. It was never that simple.

The Pakistani military-intelligence establishment believes since the late 1970s, that a puppet Afghanistan was essential for its "strategic depth". It was never that simple.

It's also useful to remember today that little has changed regarding the Afghan tragedy in these past three decades. And that makes the upcoming US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) surge in Afghanistan a certified road to ruin.

Historian, diplomat, strategist and US foreign policy establishment icon George Kennan - the author of the "containment" of communism strategy - was one
of these voices; he dismissed Carter as "immature".

Kennan also made two points that remain extremely valid today; that if the Persian Gulf was so "vital" for the US, that was because of US oil greed; and that instability in the Middle East was not due to USSR moves but to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the US blindly backing one side.

The freedom fighters return

Unlike standard Obama rhetoric, Afghanistan is not the "central front in the war on terror". The key to the riddle lies in the middle-echelons of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the army. The ISI "invented" the Taliban - and the middle to upper ranks, as well as some Pashtun army officers, continue to fully support not only the "historic" Taliban of the Mullah Omar group but the neo-Taliban of the Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Sufi Mohammed varieties.

The problem is Washington has no leverage, no credibility and no inside intelligence to conduct a wide-ranging purge of the ISI and the Pakistani army.

Obama Needs to Seek Justice for Bush's Crimes

In the wake of Sen. Patrick Leahy's (somewhat) surprising and determined call for a Truth Commission to investigate the abuses of the Bush-Cheney administration, the Obama administration has been -- to many progressives and those on the left of center -- disturbingly silent. It's safe to say that the president's less-than-forceful position on the issue has been a source of intense criticism and skepticism from the left about the president's sincerity regarding his claims to promote a new era of transparency and accountability in American politics.

These concerns reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the president's perspective as well as his role. A Truth Commission is a serious matter. In societies overcoming severe oppression or wrongdoing, Truth (or Truth and Reconciliation) Commissions can serve a critical role in healing the wounds wrought by the injustices and can promote much-needed trust, goodwill and reconciliation between the various parties. Peru, South Africa, Morocco and East Timor are just a few of the places where TRCs have helped their societies heal and have facilitated reform by acknowledging past wrongs and ensuring that the horrors of history will not be repeated.

As Americans and democratic citizens, we have an obligation to acknowledge the truth about our recent shared past and its present consequences. But this can only legitimately be done by those whose job it is to hold leaders accountable in a democratic society -- the people. And it can only justly be motivated by a genuine desire to adhere to the rule of law, not by a desire to seek political retaliation. Otherwise, our collective hope for evolution beyond the stains of our recent past is nothing more than a facade for our complicity in politics as usual.

How a Man Was Thrown into Gitmo and Tortured for Clicking on My Article

Read on and shake your head at Bush Inc.'s collective stupidity~~t

I like to think that some of the things I write cause discomfort in those readers who deserve to feel it. Ideally, they should squirm, they should flinch, they might even experience fleeting gastrointestinal symptoms. But I have always drawn the line at torture. It may be unpleasant to read some of my writings, especially if they have been assigned by a professor, but it should not result in uncontrollable screaming, genital mutilation or significant blood loss.
With such stringent journalistic ethics in place, I was shocked to read in the February 14Daily Mail Online a brief article headed "Food writer's online guide to building an H-bomb...the 'evidence' that put this man in Guantánamo." The "food writer" was identified as me, and the story began:
A British 'resident' held at Guantanamo Bay was identified as a terrorist after confessing he had visited a 'joke' website on how to build a nuclear weapon, it was revealed last night.

Binyam Mohamed, a former UK asylum seeker, admitted to having read the 'instructions' after allegedly being beaten, hung up by his wrists for a week and having a gun held to his head in a Pakistani jail.

Rauf Klasra: How PM consented to governor’s rule: the inside story

As the high political drama in the power corridors of Islamabad continues to unfold at a fast pace, it has been revealed that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was ignored in the decision-making process at the Presidency and Asif Ali Zardari took the decision to impose governor’s rule in the Punjab much before meeting his handpicked prime minister, who after finding no way out, quietly decided to fall in line instead of defiance.

The only laughable achievement of PM Gilani was that he successfully “convinced” President Zardari that he should not appoint Kamran Lashari as the new chief secretary Punjab, who otherwise was given clearance for this new assignment in the Punjab.

Gilani was said to be very happy with this single “achievement” as he was taking credit that he had made a determined president change his decision - an extraordinary milestone for many who know that Mr Zardari was not in the habit of changing his decisions.

The sources said Gilani was still hopeful that his personal position would be clearly understood by the political forces, media and civil society, as he had played his cards smartly. First, he quickly contacted Shahbaz Sharif on phone that he was not part of those decisions, which were being taken against them and this single call softened the tone of Sharif brothers against him as no one tried to blame him. Even Nawaz did not target him in his speech directed against Zardari in Sheikhupura.

Iran's Women Are Taking On The Mullahs

Zohreh Vatankhah slides into the driving seat of her BMW X3, flicks a switch to some pulsating Persian pop and we're soon zipping along the narrow lanes near her home in northern Tehran, almost in the foothills of the snow-capped Alborz mountains. Most Iranians behave in traffic as if they are in charge of dodgems, not potentially lethal vehicles: the traffic is heart-stoppingly dangerous, but with this woman I can relax. A professional racing driver, she's used to competing, and winning, at speeds of up to 180mph.

She's glamorous, too, wearing high-heeled boots over her jeans (a controversial look in the eyes of the Iranian morality police) and a Rolex on her wrist. When she's not confounding stereotypes of Iranian women by beating men on the rally circuits, she's climbing mountains (she recently conquered Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the Middle East), or, here, in the axis of evil, sworn enemy of the United States, watching US (banned but tolerated) satellite TV channels; 24 is one of her favourite shows.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

with apologies to blake

sorry dee, (and sorry W B)

Coward, coward, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame taliban symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of your idiocies?
On what wings dare you aspire?
What delusions dare seize the fire?

And what twisted and crazy thought
Could screw the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy loins began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the sickle? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the saints make thee?

Coward, coward, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame taliban symmetry?

'What is the End Game?': Why Obama Rejected a Bigger Surge in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama decided to approve only 17,000 of the 30,000 troops requested by Gen. David McKiernan, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander, after McKiernan was unable to tell him how they would be used, according to a White House source.But Obama is likely to be pressured by McKiernan and the Joint Chiefs to approve the remaining 13,000 troops requested after the completion of an Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review next month.

Restraining the Generals

Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, on whom Obama has reportedly relied for advice on foreign policy, told Sam Stein of the Huffington Post Wednesday, "We have to decide more precisely what is the objective of our involvement. Because we are increasingly running the risk of getting bogged down both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan in pursuit of objectives which we are lacking the power to reach."Brezinzski said the administration needed "very specific, narrow objectives".

PAKISTAN: Time Running Out to Restore Stability - U.S. Report By Ali Gharib and Jim Lobe*

The 27-page report, "Needed: A Comprehensive U.S. Policy Towards Pakistan," called for at least four to five billion dollars in new aid for Islamabad of which one billion dollars should be earmarked for the military and the police, to help ward off the growing threat posed to the central government by Islamic militants based in the frontier regions with Afghanistan and linked to al-Qaeda.

"Simply put, time is running out for stabilising Pakistan's economy and security," the task force warned. "We cannot stress the magnitude of the dangerous enough nor the need for greater action now," it stressed, adding that failure to provide needed assistance could well result in "state failure."

"If we fail, we face a truly frightening prospect: terrorist sanctuary, economic meltdown, and spiraling radicalism, all in a nation with 170 million inhabitants and a full arsenal of nuclear weapons," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry at a Capitol Hill briefing on Wednesday, at which the report was released.

"The stakes could not be higher, and (this) report could not be more timely,''Kerry said.

Kerry, who served as the working group's honorary co-chair along with former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, used the report to push for swift Congressional passage of a bill that would authorise 7.5 billion dollars in non-military aid for Pakistan over the next five years.

POLITICS-PAKISTAN: Court Ruling May Deepen Political Crisis Analysis by Beena Sarwar

But the alliance between Pakistan’s two main political parties fell apart, mainly over the restoration to office of chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Choudhry - whose dismissal by Musharraf in 2007 sparked unrest led by the legal fraternity.

"The move [Wednesday’s apex court ruling] plunges Pakistan back into familiar territory," said PML-N parliamentarian Ayaz Amir, talking to IPS on the phone from the capital Islamabad. "Another crisis, another round of turbulence... We seem to be cursed with the Chinese saying, ‘may you live in interesting times’."

For most, the Supreme Court ruling - which upheld a lower court verdict, last June, that made Nawaz Sharif ineligible to stand for elections on airplane hijacking charges - has come "like a bolt from the blue," as Asha’ar Rehman, resident editor of the daily ‘Dawn’ in Lahore put it.

"The political repercussions will be horrific. We were hoping they would show some maturity and let a reconciliation happen," added Rehman, talking to IPS from Lahore, capital of the Punjab and the stronghold of the Sharifs.

Iqbal Haider, advocate and chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, termed the decision as being "against democracy, not against the Sharif brothers’’.

In a no-holds barred press conference at his Lahore residence, shortly after the court ruling, a belligerent Nawaz Sharif said he had no problems with the PPP, but held the party head, Zardari, directly responsible for the contentious judgement.

The country was bracing for a lawyers’ ‘long march’ to restore Choudhry, scheduled to kick off on Mar. 12 and ending with a sit-in or ‘dharna’ in Islamabad. The PML-N has enthusiastically supported the move.

Ayaz Amir, who has warned against making the restoration of Choudhry the "be all and end all" of politics, told IPS he felt his PML-N party had "stuck its horns too much into this one issue".

The planned long march, Amir predicted, ''will get more momentum now, but it won’t restore the judges. There will be more instability and tumult, with politicians being further discredited in the public eye''.

More ominously, widespread unrest could also leave the army with "no choice" but to step in - something it is, at this point, clearly reluctant to do.

Amir hopes it will not come to that. "We’re not at that point yet. We have to wait and see what happens when the situation plays itself out."

A Brother’s Keeper: The Other Wordsworth By DWIGHT GARNER

Will the real Dorothy Wordsworth please stand up?

For many readers she will always be, as Frances Wilson writes in her elegant new book, “one of the casualties of 19th-century femininity”: the spinster’s spinster, a “quintessential Victorian virgin” who sacrificed every ambition, including marriage, to be her brother William Wordsworth’s muse, caretaker, walking companion, secretary and most trusted reader.

At the same time, Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855) has come down to us, as the scholar Ernest de Selincourt put it, as probably “the most distinguished of English prose writers who never wrote a line for the general public.” Her journals, not intended for publication, are small, filigreed masterpieces. In The Norton Book of Nature Writing, she is the first woman to be chronologically represented, the Annie Dillard of the Romantic movement.

So much, yet so little, is known about Dorothy Wordsworth that she is impossibly attractive to biographers and scholars, who glide down her empty expanses like skiers, some of them leaping from helicopters to explore the stranger, more forbidding peaks. (Did she have an incestuous relationship with her famous brother? Probably not, and let’s not go there. But they were so determinedly intimate that speculation will never cease.)

[thanks VN]

ENVIRONMENT-PAKISTAN: Warnings From Vanishing Vultures By Zofeen Ebrahim*

The mystery of vanishing vultures over South Asia was cracked by Virani who led research in the Punjab province of Pakistan after the decline was first noted in 1997 by the prestigious Bombay Natural History Society, India.

"It was in April 2003 that we discovered that veterinary diclofenac was the main reason that white-backed vultures were dying," said Virani, who is currently with the ornithology section in the National Museum of Kenya. Diclofenac is a painkiller commonly given to sick livestock.

While there may be other reasons for the vanishing vultures, Virani attributes the decline in South Asia to birds ingesting contaminated carcasses. "We collected dead vultures on a daily basis over four years, examining some 1,000 dead vultures," said Virani.

TPF found that 80 percent of the dead birds had a condition called "visceral gout" in which a chalky white paste of uric acid engulfs internal organs. But the cause eluded the scientists who were baffled by the fact that there was no ready evidence of a pathogen.

The breakthrough came in December 2002 when a vulture died of gout in a U.S. zoo after being treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, said Virani. "Our survey showed that veterinary diclofenac was the most commonly used form of medication on cattle and caused gout in vultures resulting in their deaths.’’

By 2006 diclofenac was banned, but environmentalists fear that it is still being used across South Asia. "It is available in the smaller towns across the country," confirmed Uzma Khan, manager at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Pakistan, talking to IPS from Lahore over phone.

"The WWF, along with IUCN and a few other non-governmental organisations, were very active in lobbying for the ban. We emphasised that the drug must be completely off the market. But we could not enforce the ban and hoped the government would support us,’’ said Khan.

Bobby Jindal Response Panned By Pundits, Republicans And Democrats Alike

Gov. Bobby Jindal's task tonight, to rebut President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress, was a thankless one. But it still constituted an opportunity for the Louisiana Republican to show that he could handle the national spotlight, present himself as a fresh face of the Republican Party, and stand up to the current president oratorically.

On each of these three hurdles, he came up short. Both Democrats and Republicans alike panned Jindal's rebuttal in terms that were decidedly harsh: "amateurish," "laughable" and, most commonly, "a missed opportunity."

"After watching Jindal," one Democratic strategist emailed, "I'd pay a lot of money to be back watching a Palin speech."

"Awkward with capital A," emailed another.

The punditry was equally brutal. Part of the problem was the crux of Jindal's address, which consisted almost entirely of red meat for conservatives. The Governor offered criticism for anything other than tax cuts and ridiculed government spending for items that are either widely supported -- "$8 billion for high-speed rail" -- or seemingly essential -- "$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring'" (isn't Louisiana Exhibit A in the need for natural disaster warning?).

Will Revelations About Bobby Jindal's Weird Secret Past Destroy His Political Career? By Max Blumenthal,

How many Americans know that Jindal boasted of participating in an exorcism that purged the spirit of Satan from a college girlfriend? So far, Jindal's tale of "beating a demon" remains behind the subscription wall of New Oxford Review, an obscure Catholic magazine; only a few major blogs have seized on the story.

Born in Baton Rouge in 1971, Jindal rarely visited his parents' homeland. His birth name was Piyush Jindal. When he was four years old, Piyush changed his name to "Bobby" after becoming mesmerized by an episode of The Brady Bunch. Jindal later wrote that he began considering converting to Catholicism during high school after "being touched by the love and simplicity of a Christian girl who dreamt of becoming a Supreme Court justice so she could stop her country from 'killing unborn babies.'" After watching a short black-and-white film on the crucifixion of Christ, Jindal claimed he "realized that if the Gospel stories were true, if Christ really was the son of God, it was arrogant of me to reject Him and question the gift of salvation."

Jindal's Hindu parents were non-plussed. "My parents have never truly accepted my conversion and still see my faith as a negative that overshadows my accomplishments," he wrote. "They were hurt and felt I was rejecting them by accepting Christianity I long for the day when my parents understand, respect and possibly accept my faith. For now I am satisfied that they accept me." (In a subsequent interview with Little India, Jindal claimed his parents were "very supportive. They felt like it was important that I was embracing God.")

Everyday Products Are Filled With Toxins -- And We're Not Doing a Thing About It By Amy Goodman,

Is your lipstick laden with lead? Is your baby's bottle toxic? The American Chemistry Council assures us that "we make the products that help keep you safe and healthy." But U.S. consumers are actually exposed to a vast array of harmful chemicals and additives embedded in toys, cosmetics, plastic water bottles and countless other products. U.S. chemical and manufacturing industries have fought regulation, while Europe moves ahead with strict prohibitions against the most harmful toxins. The European Union says regulation is good for business, inspiring consumer confidence and saving money over the long term.

Most people would be surprised to learn that the cosmetics industry in the United States is largely unregulated. Investigative journalist Mark Schapiro is the author of "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power." In the absence of oversight, researchers and journalists like Schapiro and grass-roots organizations have stepped into the breach.

Anjum Niaz: Zardari Missed the Boat

And did you know that the NRO is dead?

When did the death occur? Oh, just a couple of months after it was born on October 5, 2007, according Justice Ramday. Hello, the PPP and MQM leaders still clutching the NRO card 'get-out-of-jail-free' gifted by Musharraf 16 months ago can face conviction. Not Asif Ali Zardari though. He enjoys presidential immunity.

Do we need a Jesus Christ kind of Lazarus resurrection? Who can resurrect this short-lived ordinance? There are two ways to do it, says Justice Ramday. First, if this parliament validates the November 3 Martial Law by Musharraf, the NRO will automatically revive. The second way (morally better) is for the parliament to make the defunct NRO an act. A simple majority will do it.

As an act of the parliament, the NRO will be indestructible. Bye-bye Supreme Court. PPP breathe easy. The Iftikhar Chaudhrys of this world will be powerless to undo the NRO when made an act. Why then the slugfest? Zardari's two ninjas: Law Minister Naek and Attorney General Khosa have taken the high road against the deposed Iftikhar Chaudhry. The stubborn pair will have a lot to explain once the national shemozzle is over. They have scared away foreign investment making Pakistan lose quadrillion rupees.

Does anyone care? NO!

Plan to Tax and Legalize Pot Offered Amid California's Cash Crunch By Bruce Mirken

California state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has announced the introduction of legislation to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcoholic beverages. The bill, the first of its kind ever introduced in California, would create a regulatory structure similar to that used for beer, wine, and liquor, permitting taxed sales to adults while barring sales to or possession by those under 21.

Estimates based on federal government statistics have shown marijuana to be California’s top cash crop, valued at approximately $14 billion in 2006 — nearly twice the combined value of the state’s number two and three crops, vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion) — in spite of massive “eradication” efforts that wipe out an average of nearly 36,000 cultivation sites per year without making a dent in this underground industry.

Independent experts from around the world, from President Nixon’s National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972 to a Canadian Senate special committee in 2002, have long contended that criminalizing marijuana users makes little sense, given that marijuana is less addictive, much less toxic, and far less likely to induce aggression or violence than alcohol. For example, in an article in the December 2008 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Australian researcher Stephen Kisely noted that “penalties bear little relation to the actual harm associated with cannabis.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

He said She said game begins: Verdict not in favour because Zardari’s offer refused: Sharif

Nawaz said that this decision was not a judicial decision but was an executive order and ‘everyone knew the source of this order.’

As part of the reaction to the decison, the Presidential Spokesman announced that Governor Rule had been imposed in Punjab for at least two months.

The Supreme Court also nullified on Wednesday the election last year of Punjab province's chief minister, a lawyer said, effectively dismissing Shahbaz Sharif from office.

Nawaz said that they had been cooperating for nearly a year and tried to never go to a point of no return. He said that contrary to that, Zardari kept on falling back on his promises.'Instead of reinstating the deposed judges, Zardari wanted us to accept the status quo,' Nawaz Sharif said.

Josh Silver: CNN's Wolf Blitzer Lapdogs While Senator Hatch Lies

Blitzer would probably say that his job is to present news, give members of each major party equal airtime, and let the public decide. But when you conduct an interview without another guest to provide counterpoint, it is the host's responsibility to cite facts and expose spin. And don't give me the "we had members of both parties on the show" myth. Both parties are awash in cash from corporate lobbyists that compromises their integrity. Yet they continue to get most of the airtime while real experts like economists and public interest advocates are largely ignored.

Just look at the bank bailout if you need proof.

Blitzer-style lapdog reporting and the 10-second soundbyte-ification of important news by commercial television - with a few notable exceptions - is the biggest reason that the American public continues to be fundamentally misinformed, and led time and again to support policies and politicians that hurt - rather than help - the public interest. The media's failure to hold the powerful accountable is, along with the corrupting influence of money in politics, the biggest threat to the future of our democracy and our nation.

Al Kennedy on Writing: Why it's pointless telling anyone that writing isn't worth it

On the road again ... Somebody once described me as The Littlest Hobo Of Literature. Although I save far fewer orphans (in fact, none) and lack the buoyant charm of the raggle-eared original, I can see what they meant. I do have a home, of course. I know that it contains furniture, tinned foodstuffs and items of clothing (probably black) that I may never have worn. I also know I don't really live there. So – less time worrying about the neighbours and more time worrying about why so many B&B's are run by former law-enforcement personnel. On the one hand, their emergency-related skills are probably cracking and on the other, they clearly harbour a pressing need to lock people up overnight in tiny rooms with inadequate plumbing and facilities. When I started writing no one told me it would come to this.

But I do try to tell other people what it will come to – hence my occasional visits to Warwick University and its creative writing students. They want to write, they have application and vigour, they've all come on since I read them last and yet ... it would be unfair not to remind them of how horrible their futures may become. If they're unsuccessful, they'll be clattering through a global Depression with a skill no one requires, a writing demon gnawing at their spine to be expressed and a delicately-nurtured sensitivity that will only make their predicaments seem worse – and yet somehow of no interest to anyone else. If they're successful, they still may not make a living, will travel more than a drug mule, may be so emotionally preoccupied that they fail to notice entire relationships, will have to deal with media demands no sane person would want to understand and may well wear far too much black. (Yes, it is slimming, but unisex Richard III isn't always what the occasion demands. Trust me: experience is a painful teacher.)

The Ambassador How a Turkish diplomat saved 20,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

Behic Erkin fought in both World War I and the Turkish war of independence. He was the Ottoman army's expert on railroads, and his logistical gifts proved critical during World War I, earning him five medals from the German government. The Iron Cross First Class was awarded to him personally by the German commander Liman von Sanders, and it would prove instrumental in Erkin's later effort to save Jewish lives.

Erkin was a close friend of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, who entrusted him with the transportation of troops and ammunition to the front lines during the war of independence. Atatürk's confidence in Erkin was complete. "If you agree to transport our troops to the battlefront, I assure you I will win this war," the Turkish leader said to Erkin. After the formation of the republic, Erkin served in parliament, representing Istanbul, and later as minister of transportation and development. He was appointed Turkey's ambassador to France on August 1, 1939--a month before Nazi Germany declared war on Poland.

As Vichy France increased its collaboration with the Nazis on the "Final Solution," Erkin doubled his efforts. He ordered the consul-general in Paris to issue birth certificates to Turkish expatriates living in France who had given up their citizenship before 1940. (Turkey had enacted new citizenship laws in 1935, and, if you did not register as a Turkish citizen, you were stripped of your citizenship.) Many of them lacked proper documentation to prove their ties to Turkey. In one of his orders to Paris, he said, "I do not care if they do not have the necessary papers. Teach them to recite 'I am Turkish. My relatives live on Turkish soil' and issue a birth certificate to anyone who can repeat these ten words in Turkish."

The ambassador also ordered his staff to produce a list of non-Jewish Turkish citizens living in France, looking for individuals with clean records and employment histories. On a cold winter night in February 1942, he summoned a group of people from this list and asked them to volunteer to take custody of the businesses and properties that their fellow Turkish citizens were being forced to give up and to pledge to return everything when this ordeal finally came to an end. He called them the "Turkish Custodians of the Properties of our Jewish Citizens" and presented the list of volunteers to the leadership of the Turkish Jewish community in Paris for its approval.

When World War II erupted, 330,000 Jews lived in France: 10,000 of them were Turkish citizens, and another 10,000 had previously been Turkish citizens. Erkin managed to get Turkish citizenship for the latter 10,000 Jews and then convinced both French and Nazi governments to allow them all to return to Turkey. Behic Erkin saved the lives of 20,000 innocent souls during Europe's darkest moment.


The largest jihadi network in Punjab, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), was infiltrated by army officers after their retirement which led to an immoral relationship between the LET and the military establishment. The premier Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JI), was set up by its ideologue Syed Abul Ala Maududi in such a way that it could not deviate from the democratic path and it had to work within the confines of the laws of the land.

Unprecedented pressure was mounted on the JI leadership to be vocal in favor of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and this could have a vital influence on the selection of a new party president next month. This is happening at a time that Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani is visiting Washington on an extraordinary trip that could lead either to Kiani being sidelined or his empowerment and a major political change in the country. The reason for the uncertain outcome is that the American establishment is confused over who is actually pulling the strings. In this context, the JI's elections are being closely monitored by all quarters as they could turn this powerful pro-establishment party in the other direction, eventually leading it down the path of radical Islam.


Jamaat-e-Islami at the crossroads The Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan is the country's only party to hold genuine elections for its president, every four years. All other parties, whether religious or secular, are the personal fiefdoms of family politics. The chief of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) Fazlur Rahman is the son of the previous party chief, Mufti Mehmood. The JUI's another faction is led by Maulana Samiul Haq, who is the son of the previous chief of the faction, Maulana Abdul Haq. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz group is led by the Sharif family (brothers and now sons and sons-in-law). The Pakistan People's Party was led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then his wife Nusrat Bhutto, then his daughter Benazir Bhutto and it is now co-chaired by Benazir's son Bilawal and her widower Asif Zardari. The Awami National Party (ANP) has been led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's family members - his son Wali Khan, then his wife Naseem Wali Khan and now his grandson, Asfandyar Wali Khan.

China breaks its silence on Afghanistan

The People's Daily admits that the outcome of the US's surge strategy in Afghanistan remains uncertain. It takes note that the US is also moving toward "a compromise with moderates within the Taliban", as President Hamid Karzai would not otherwise have ventured onto that track. The commentary lauds such thinking as a manifestation of the use of "smart power", an idea "frequently mentioned" by Clinton. That is to say, while the US troop build-up is a "hard measure", "policies like helping the Afghan government to consolidate its regime for gradually stabilizing the country will be the 'soft measure'." All the same, Beijing is aware that the real US agenda could be strategic insofar as Afghanistan is located "at the crossroads of Eurasia". While smashing up al-Qaeda indeed constitutes a goal, Washington's strategy will also "enhance NATO cooperation and alliance to guarantee that NATO's first military action out of Europe will not fail". In turn, that will enable the US to "raise its leadership status among its allies and reinforce its presence in the heart of Eurasia by using these means". It seems China has no problem with such an agenda. China will "hide its capacities" - to quote Deng - even as the US and Russia collide and negate each other and eventually drop down in exhaustion. As The People's Daily concludes, Afghanistan is known as the "tomb of empires". Therefore, China must focus on securing its position and simply bide its time - a strategy Deng could surely appreciate.

MONA ELTAHAWY - The sister we missed

Meantime, a host of U.S. Muslim organizations – mostly led by men, of course – swore up and down that Islam was innocent of Ms. Hassan's murder and that it was just another case of domestic violence. Domestic violence being the more mundane crime, they determined, with a keen eye on the demonization of Muslims.

I would take them more seriously had they fought violence against women with the same vehemence they fight to preserve the image of the “community.” At Musawah, I heard horror stories from Muslim women activists from the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand whose work to help abused women was hampered by their community's denial, which often fed on anti-Muslim bigotry in their respective countries.

That same “community” has been frighteningly silent about the way some religious leaders use a controversial verse in the Koran to justify beating women. It's hard to fight a man who beats you. How do you take on God, too?

Just last month in Australia, a video surfaced of an imam saying there was no such thing as marital rape and advising men how to beat wives without bruising them.

Type Muslim+woman+beating into an online search engine and you get a monster's parade of what I call “YouTube imams” explaining how to beat a woman according to “Islamic teaching.”

“Islam can be a source of empowerment, not a source of oppression and discrimination,” Musawah project director Zainah Anwar said at the opening ceremony. “For there to be justice in the 21st century, there must be equality. … These values must be at the core of what it means to be Muslim today.”
The 9/11 terrorist attacks sensitized Muslims to what our imams said about violence in the name of Islam. Now, in honour of Aasiya Hassan, if a religious leader justifies violence against women, we must walk out, complain and push for his removal.

Zero hour approaches for premier - Rauf Klasra

This is a long rambling and repititous piece by Rauf... the editor must be sleeping on the does offer a few insights on what might happen if Gilani looks in the mirror~~t

So, whether Zardari wants to get rid of first Shahbaz Sharif, then Nawaz Sharif and finally Yousuf Raza Gilani, or not. It is to be seen whether the plan succeeds or the powers, which are working on the minus-one formula, succeed.However, it is clear the moment that always scared Yousuf Raza Gilani has finally approached. When he became the prime minister, he had only one thing in mind that he would not turn another Farooq Leghari, but the situation took a turn so rapidly that in the days to come, either he would have to submit his resignation to Asif Zardari or defy him on the pretext of saving the system, because if the Shahbaz Sharif government in the Punjab was removed and Nawaz Sharif was got disqualified from the Supreme Court, then nothing would remain intact in Islamabad.Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani feels he has reached a crucial juncture of his political career. He has to decide either to stay with Asif Zardari, who is suffering from extreme political isolation and in whom nobody is ready to trust, or stand with Nawaz Sharif, who, along with the lawyers, is threatening to march on Islamabad next month. Gilani has very little time because he has to decide before the president’s return from China either to support the efforts for the removal of the Shahbaz government in the Punjab or to betray his leader, who had exactly one year ago named him the prime minister. Gilani knows it well that if the Shahbaz government was removed, he too would be unable to stay in the Prime Minister’s House for a long time, so it’s in his interest that the present political dispensation in the Punjab remains intact.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

7 Ways to Understand Why Obama's Speeches Are So Powerful

The Obama Code is based on seven deep, insightful, and subtle intellectual moves. What President Obama has been attempting in his speeches is a return to the original frames of the Framers, reconstituting what it means to be an American, to be patriotic, to be a citizen and to share in both the sacrifices and the glories of our country. In seeking "bipartisan" support, he is looking beyond political affiliations to those who share those values on particular issues. In his economic plan, he is attempting to realign our economy with the moral missions of government: protection and empowerment for all.

The president hasn't fooled the radical ideological conservatives in Congress. They know progressive values when they see them - and they see them in their own colleagues and constituents too often for comfort. The radical conservatives are aware that this economic crisis threatens not only their political support, but the very underpinnings of conservative ideology itself. Nonetheless, their brains have not been changed by facts. Movement conservatives are not fading away. They think their conservative values are the real American values. They still have their message machine and they are going to make the most of it. The ratings for Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are rising. Without a countervailing communications system on the Democratic side, they can create a lot of trouble, not just for the president, not just for the nation, but on a global scale, for the environmental and economic future of the world.

Aunty Vijay’s house —Ayeda Naqvi

Aunty Vijay would open up her whole house and her heart for us. She would get us special Kashmiri food that she knew was not available in Pakistan, take us to our favourite chaat houses and indulge our every wish — expressed and unexpressed. There would be a car and driver at our disposal. And we would go back loaded with gifts.

Two years ago, as I attended the Urs of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the great Sufi mystic who is buried in Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, Aunty Vijay and Aunty Rama, another childhood friend of my mother’s from Kashmir, expressed their interest in accompanying me to a Zikr. I was not sure how this would work. But that evening as they sat at the shrine, dressed in their signature saris, with a group of strangers chanting “La ilaha ill-Allah”, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

And with the chanting, the universe seemed to be speaking: there is only One. And we are all His children, whether we realise it or not.

I trace the lives of my mother and Aunty Vijay back through the years. They have come a long way from the days of those black and white photos when they spent their time splashing each other in lakes and streams; sometimes those chiselled features and wide grins are hard to find. They have been through marriage, children, grandchildren and now widowhood.

They once lived across the street from each other. Now they belong to two different countries. Often they don’t get visas to visit with each other. But when they do, it is like they are fifteen again, at a time and in a place when they were no divisions, only trees to be climbed and apples to be picked.

Aunty Vijay’s house —Ayeda Naqvi

Haroon Siddiqui Obama gives Canada opening to redefine role in Afghanistan

It took Barack Obama just one sentence to sum up NATO's misery in Afghanistan. And it took him two to highlight the democratic deficit afflicting our own mission there.

Michael Ignatieff reported that when he suggested to Obama that the West is "strategically adrift" in Afghanistan, the president replied:

"We feel the same way."

Obama obviously understands that after eight years of war, its goal remains elusive, principally because we don't know what it is.


While Zardari has been complaining about those deaths, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has revealed that the remotely piloted drones dropping the missiles have, in fact, been taking off from a secret base in Pakistan. Either Zardari did not know or he has been lying. Either way, it shows his government getting squeezed between the Americans on the one hand and the militants on the other.

This is no way to help democracy in Pakistan.

The way for Canada is clear:

• Ask Washington to be included in the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategic review. Cultivate Gen. Jim Jones, the national security adviser, who came to Ottawa with the president.

From his White House perch, Jones is the one who will co-ordinate the reports and finalize the recommendations to Obama.

• Identify the diplomatic initiatives and development and civilian projects that Canada can help with.

In short, let's define the role that we can play up to and beyond Feb. 2011, rather than wait to be pressured, again, into an assignment.


"After Musharraf, neither the Indians nor the Americans knew who was in charge of the country. The army chief's visit aims to sort out this problem with a clear-cut strategy,” a source said of Kiani's visit. Whether Kiani is the man to do this is another matter. In conversations with senior representatives of the media, he has indicated that the military does not want to intervene in the affairs of the government. The trouble is, the situation is rapidly being controlled by non-state actors, and the agreement in Malakand is a major milestone in this regard. The JI, which boycotted general elections early last year and therefore rapidly disappeared into political oblivion, has been quick to claim "ownership" of the Taliban's victory in Swat and other areas as a victory of Islamic forces. Its chief in NWFP, Sirajul Haq, was the first leader to hold a press conference to endorse the agreement. The JI has also sent a message to all its members saying that the lawyers' protest should be the "Jamaat-i-Islami's show". The JI sees this as a turning point, where JI-led countrywide protests against the government could draw together scattered Islamic elements in the urban centers under its umbrella, much like the Taliban did in NWFP.

Uri Avnery: The Great Gamble

Iacta alea est - the die is cast - said Julius Caesar and crossed the River Rubicon on his way to conquer Rome. That was the end of Roman democracy. We Israelis don't have a Julius Caesar. But we do have an Avigdor Lieberman. When he announced his support the other day for the setting up of a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, that was the crossing of his Rubicon.

I hope that this is not the beginning of the end of Israeli democracy.

Until the last moment, Lieberman held the Israeli public in suspense. Will he join Netanyahu? Will he join Tzipi Livni?

Those who participated in the guessing game were divided in their view of Lieberman.

Some of them said: Lieberman is indeed what he pretends to be: an extreme nationalist racist. His aim is really to turn Israel into a Jewish state cleansed of Arabs - Araberrein, in German. He has only contempt for democracy, both in the country and in his own party. Like similar parties in the past, it is based on a cult of (his) personality, the worship of brute force, contempt for democracy and disdain for the judicial system. In other countries this is called fascism.

Others say: that is all a façade. Lieberman is no Israeli Fuehrer, because he is nothing but a cheat and a cynic. Police investigations against him and his business dealings with Palestinians show him to be a corrupt opportunist. He is also a friend of Livni. He cultivates a fascist image in order to pave his way to power.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Lament of the Blind and the Deaf

The usually well informed and articulate Anjum Niaz in this column is way off base.

The one cardinal mistake she, and most of us make, is putting all our eggs in one basket. The controversial Chaudhry Iftikhar is not a panacea for all that ails us.

Pakistan does not have the luxury of time.

While we listen to the muezzin's call from the minaret the world has left us way behind.

We delude ourselves. We kill ourselves in the name of the same Allah we bow down to. There is no national institution that is not hollow and crumbling. And sadly that includes the bomb-hugging Army. Edhi is NOT an national institution, but a collective sigh.

Bereft of faith and self confidence, we tire not of screaming at perceived attacks at our state, nation, religion, sovereignty, integrity, ideology.

We love to point fingers at others when we should look in the mirror.

That is our dilemma. I hope that it is not our undoing.

Binyam Mohamed’s statement on his release from Guantánamo

I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media on the moment of my arrival back to Britain. Please forgive me if I make a simple statement through my lawyer. I hope to be able to do better in days to come, when I am on the road to recovery.

I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, “torture” was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways — all orchestrated by the United States government.

While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers. My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten.

I am grateful that in the end I was not simply left to my fate. I am grateful to my lawyers and other staff at Reprieve, and to Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, who fought for my freedom. I am grateful to the members of the British Foreign Office who worked for my release. And I want to thank people around Britain who wrote to me in Guantánamo Bay to keep my spirits up, as well as to the members of the media who tried to make sure that the world knew what was going on. I know I would not be home in Britain today if it were not for everyone’s support. Indeed, I might not be alive at all.

I wish I could say that it is all over, but it is not. There are still 241 Muslim prisoners in Guantánamo. Many have long since been cleared even by the US military, yet cannot go anywhere as they face persecution. For example, Ahmed Belbacha lived here in Britain, and desperately needs a home. Then there are thousands of other prisoners held by the US elsewhere around the world, with no charges, and without access to their families.

And I have to say, more in sadness than in anger, that many have been complicit in my own horrors over the past seven years. For myself, the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence. I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realised, had allied themselves with my abusers.

I am not asking for vengeance; only that the truth should be made known, so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured.

Thank you.
Binyam Mohamed

Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent British resident and torture victim Binyam Mohamed, has just released this statement from Binyam, who arrived back in the UK from Guantánamo this afternoon:

Essay Can’t. Stop. Writing - Geoff Nicholson

Matters of literary quantity have been much on my mind since a new book of mine was published recently. A fair percentage of the reviews described me as “prolific” or “highly prolific,” in one case “wildly prolific.” Now, I’m not going to argue about the accuracy of this. I’ve published 20 books in 22 years (some quite short), and I’d say that’s not excessive, given that I don’t have a day job. But accurate or not, “prolific” definitely didn’t feel like an unalloyed compliment.

I’ve consoled myself by noting that the “prolific” tag puts me in some good, if otherwise unlikely, company — that of Joyce Carol Oates, for instance (more than 100 books in 45 years). Has anyone in recent decades been able to review her work without mentioning prolificacy? John Updike couldn’t manage it. His review of Oates’s “You Must Remember This” referred to her “astounding productivity,” and suggested she was born a hundred years too late and “needs a lustier audience” of “Victorian word eaters.”

Coming from Updike (60 or so books in 50 years, more if you include all the poetry), this seemed a bit rich. He, if anybody, should have understood. Those who wrote his recent obituaries certainly found it hard to get past the astounding fact that Updike was a writer who actually did a lot of writing. The Associated Press called him “prolific, even compulsive,” and The Los Angeles Times declared, “For better or worse, John Updike produced a nearly endless stream of work.” Not completely endless, then.

On Poetry The Great(ness) Game - David Orr

In October, John Ashbery became the first poet to have an edition of his works released by the Library of America in his own lifetime. That honor says a number of things about the state of contemporary poetry — some good, some not so good — but perhaps the most important and disturbing question it raises is this: What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness.

That may seem like a strange (and strangely fraught) way of putting things. But the concept of “greatness” has a special significance in the poetry world that it often lacks elsewhere — after all, in most areas of life, greatness is to be cherished, but it isn’t essential. The golf world idolizes Tiger Woods, sure, but duffers will still be heaving 9-irons into ponds long after Woods plays his last major. Poetry can’t be as confident about its own durability. Poetry has justified itself historically by asserting that no matter how small its audience or dotty its practitioners, it remains the place one goes for the highest of High Art. As Byron put it in a loose translation of Horace: “But poesy between the best and worst / No medium knows; you must be last or first: / For middling poets’ miserable volumes, / Are damn’d alike by gods, and men, and columns.” Poetry needs greatness.

Robert Fisk: Obama was unconvinced by Bibi’s desire for peace

Mr Obama, who figured out the Middle East pretty quickly, apparently found Bibi arrogant and unconvincing in his professed desire for peace with the Palestinians. What Mr Netanyahu thought of Mr Obama is not known, but he could scarcely have tried to hide his election line: security for Israel, but no Palestinian state.

Much depends, of course, on whether Tzipi Livni will consent to join a Netanyahu government. For if Avigdor Lieberman slips into a ministerial position, Obama is in trouble. Does he congratulate a new Israeli prime minister who has introduced into his government a man who is prepared to demand loyalty signatures from his own country’s Arab minority? How would that go down in the United States, where a similar proposal – for a loyalty pledge by American minorities, for example – would be a scandal?

But those Palestinians who believe that Lieberman should be in a Netanyahu administration – on the grounds that the “true” face of Israel would then be clear to all Americans – are being a little premature. Obama is not going to change the US relationship with Israel. American foreign policy – like that of most states – is based not on justice but on power.

Very Bad News: Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base Will Be Obama's Guantanamo By Stephen Foley

Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed "Obama's Guantanamo."

In a single-sentence answer filed with a Washington court, the administration dashed hopes that it would immediately rip up Bush-era policies that have kept more than 600 prisoners in legal limbo and in rudimentary conditions at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

Now, human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended rather than curtailed under the new U.S. administration. The air base is about to undergo a $60 million expansion that will double its size, meaning it can house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.

Apart from staff at the International Red Cross, human rights groups and journalists have been barred from Bagram, where former prisoners say they were tortured by being shackled to the ceiling of isolation cells and deprived of sleep.

Goodbye Dubai

The best part of this acerbic and witty post is the exchange between the writer and Tom - do screoll down and read it ~~t

Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world’s worst business idea, and there isn’t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous. Dubai threatens to become an instant ruin, an emblematic hybrid of the worst of both the West and the Middle-East and a dangerous totem for those who would mistakenly interpret this as the de facto product of a secular driven culture....

Michael Dirda on 'In Other Rooms, Other Wonders'

Because of Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Rohinton Mistry, to mention just a few of the most prominent authors, American readers have long been able to enjoy one terrific Indian novel after another. But Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is likely to be the first widely read book by a Pakistani writer. Mueenuddin spent his early childhood in Pakistan, then lived in the United States -- he attended Dartmouth and Yale -- and has since returned to his father's homeland, where he and his wife now manage a farm in Khanpur. These connected stories show us what life is like for both the rich and the desperately poor in Mueenuddin's country, and the result is a kind of miniaturized Pakistani "human comedy."

In the original Comédie humaine, Balzac had the ingenious notion of tying his various novels together by using recurrent characters. Eugène de Rastignac is the protagonist of Le Père Goriot but is subsequently glimpsed in passing or sometimes just referred to in several other books. In like fashion, Mueenuddin interlaces eight stories, while also linking them to the household of a wealthy and self-satisfied landowner named K.K. Harouni. In "Saleema," for instance, Harouni's elderly valet, Rafik, falls into a heartbreaking affair with a young maidservant, and we remember this, with a catch in our throat, when in another story we see him bring in two glasses of whiskey on a silver tray. In "Our Lady of Paris," we discover that Harouni's nephew is madly in love with a young American woman named Helen; later on, we discover that he is married -- to an American named Sonya.

EVERYTHING OSCAR: News, Photos, Video & More

Sunday's Oscars are the culmination of a long award season. Below is a collection of Oscar and Oscar-related stories from Huffington Post.

PHOTOS: See Oscar show photos here

Read about the winners (updated throughout)

Oscar red carpet PHOTOS

See photos of the Oscars' best trends
and worst trends

Jennifer Aniston brought John Mayer

How some attendees snuck in the back and skipped the red carpet

Ryan Seacrest's interview with the kids from "Slumdog Millionaire"

Check out this slideshow of favorite moments in Oscar history.

Saturday night were the Independent Spirit Awards. See dozens of photos and better, watch Mickey Rourke's hilarious best actor speech.

Also Saturday the Razzies were awarded for the year's worst acting and film.

Video leaked of Hugh Jackman rehearsing

Friday night was a UNICEF fundraiser, see photos.

Huffington Post interviewed "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle. Watch the interview.

PHOTOS: Take a look back at current nominees Oscar fashions past, both the women and the men.

Leading up to the awards
-The "Slumdog Millionaire" kids flew to LA
-Heath Ledger's family came to LA to celebrate
- Producers defended "The Reader" against criticism

Stories from Bahary... some true revelations

"Bahary" is the simple title of an exhibition now running at the Picasso Gallery in Zamalek. The exhibition, which will continue until 3 March, displays about 30 paintings by the artist Farid Fadel, who is also a physician, pianist and a singer.

The paintings depict beautiful scenes from Alexandria and from towns and villages in the surrounding Nile Delta. The exhibition is the outcome of a two-month journey to various places along the coast, including Mahala, Alexandria, Mit Ghamr and Samannoud.

Click to view caption

Born in Assiut in 1958, the artist was raised in a family renowned for its involvement in the arts and classical music. In 1965 Fadel joined the Conservatoire where he eventually graduated as a violinist and pianist, and 16 years later he graduated in medicine from Cairo University. In 1998 he was awarded a PhD from Cairo University for a study on preventive chemistry.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One writer, many hats: Ramachandra Guha is a polymath who happens to write superbly on cricket

The challenge here is to write about Guha without dwelling on how he has been picked as one of the Top 100 public intellectuals in the world, or that he is the recipient of India's third-highest civilian award, or that he is a historian, biographer, sociologist, environmentalist, anthropologist with profound, seminal works on each of these subjects. He is among the finest essayists and columnists around, with a range of interests that goes beyond even that list, and takes in music, science, literature, fiction, travel.

But this is about Guha the cricket writer, and - after acknowledging that his work in other fields must inform his writings on cricket, placing them in context and taking them into avenues others leave unexplored - we must descend from the general to the particular.

Provoked by the sociologist Ashish Nandy's procrustean approach to cricket history in his book The Tao of Cricket, Guha wrote Wickets in the East; thrown into depression over the demolition of the Babri Masjid, he sought solace in cricket, and dashed off Spin and Other Turns in a week's furious writing. With these books Guha liberated cricket writing in India from the two poles it had been tethered to - the cynical-journalistic and the statistical-dogmatic. Cricket, he underlined in these anecdotal histories, is about the human stories, not just of the players but of the fans too; its humour is rich, its culture varied.

On Walls

Ejaz Haider talks about walls here.

Those walls portray a far off world.

I would talk of different walls here. In the Karachi ( and Lahore and Pindi) of my youth the walls, if present were no more than three feet high.

With the change of seasons and passage of years these walls grew.

And grew.

Was it for self preservation, protection or refuge?

Today these walls are sky high, with barbed wires, cut glass and reinforced with cameras and guards.

To protect against what?

What Journalists Get Wrong About Gaza

KB: Reading about the current conflict in Gaza, it’s been difficult to understand the role of Hamas as an organization. Can you give us some sense of its role in Palestinian society?

PM: A hiatus in a crisis like this tends to get locked into broad scripts written by the various players. Now, if you take a helicopter view of the Middle East crisis, you see Hamas in a different light. People keep repeating that Hamas’s charter is opposed to the existence of Israel. Yes it is, but Hamas has not stood by its charter for the best part of the last ten years. Hamas has recognized the Oslo peace process, which it said it would oppose. It has taken part in democratic elections, which it has won. It has de facto recognized the two-state solution by seeking to be elected as the government of the Palestinian Authority. It has not struck outside historic Palestine; it never has. So to dismiss it as a terrorist group that has to be stamped out misses entirely the point of its position in Palestinian society.

Again, take the helicopter view of what’s happened in the Middle East since 1948, with the setting up of the state of Israel. In 1967, the Israelis could have negotiated with King Hussein of Jordan in the aftermath of the Six-Day War; they chose not to. Because they chose not to, Yasser Arafat and the Fatah movement and the PLO all got a huge head of steam [built] up. And because they weren’t negotiated with in a way that gave Palestinians an identifiable outcome, they fell by the way.

And now you have Hamas. Hamas came into being and thrived because there was no breakthrough. There was nothing in the land-for-peace basis -- a foundation of the Oslo process -- there was nothing in that for the Palestinians. They were negotiating on the basis of land for peace when their land was being consumed by Israeli settlements. So now Hamas is there, and if you take Hamas out of the equation, God knows what you get in its place.

KB: Is is accurate to say that Fatah wants Hamas dismantled as a part of this current conflict?

A Fish Called Denial - Jamie Lee Curtis

Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." The London Underground is not a Political Movement and Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Sorry John Cleese but I couldn't help myself...
The brilliant New Yorker cover with A-Rod signing autographs for juiced, pumped up young fans started this particular blog train. Where we stop on the way is of course the economy, the stimulus, né bailout, and then of course ending this weekend at the Hollyweird Station: Oscar-ville.
First stop -- the roids.

Twitter Nation Has Arrived: How Scared Should We Be?

Welcome to Twitter Nation. What was once an easily avoided subculture of needy and annoying online souls is now a growing part of the social and media landscapes, with Twittering tentacles reaching into the operations of major newspapers, networks, corporations and political campaigns.
Suddenly, our skies are dark with brightly colored cartoon birds. As in a nightmare, they are everywhere.

This has all happened very fast. It was less than three years ago that Twitter hatched as a harmless Web 2.0 curio modeled on Facebook's status-update feature. Twitter offered people a forum devoted exclusively to short blog entries known as "tweets," most of which answer the company's tagline question, "What are you doing?"

By mid-2008, the San Francisco-based site was garnering feature coverage in national magazines and batting away $500 million buyout offers. With nearly 6 million users and counting, it is now on a Plaguelike pace to obliterate last year's growth clip of 900 percent. Twitter is growing so fast that 2009 may come to be known not as the year America swore in its first black president or nationalized the banks, but the year America learned to think and communicate in 140 characters or fewer.

Aaker Patel: The complicity of India's news channels

In the following comments/analysis on the media Aaker touches raw nerves. He does not talk about the Muslim adventurists whom Mytahliuk ostensibly aped. You know the guys who emailed about the bombs just prior to their attacks. ....Oh well! ~~~t

One problem that television stations have is the quality of their journalists. Television reporters in India are a notch below print reporters (who are also not particularly competent by global standards). There is no process of training and fresh reporters are let loose on their beats with marginal understanding of the world they are covering. The majority of English reporters in India, print and television, would also fail the test of language, which should be worrying given that they trade in information.

English TV anchors depend heavily on stock phrases and cliche. Their questioning is long-winded and inevitably laced with a moral position. Information is rarely sought from the interviewee through precise questioning; what is sought is assent to the opinion that the anchor holds. This is something that comes naturally to the Hindi journalist, and he does it better.

A second problem in journalism is that of internal integrity, which Indian media have surrendered, along with their independence.

In the last decade, newspapers decided they would sell their editorial space just as they sold advertising space: through a rate card. People could have a story written about themselves or their product and the paper would publish this without informing the reader that this was actually an advertisement. All this was open and legitimate. There is little difference between this and the coverage of Muthalik, who also wanted to be covered, but with the difference that he did not have to pay.

Krugman: Who Will Stop the Economic Pain?

Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of the most recent meeting of its open market committee — the group that sets interest rates. Most press reports focused either on the Fed’s downgrade of the near-term outlook or on its adoption of a long-run 2 percent inflation target.

But my eye was caught by the following chilling passage (yes, things are so bad that the summarized musings of central bankers can keep you up at night): “All participants anticipated that unemployment would remain substantially above its longer-run sustainable rate at the end of 2011, even absent further economic shocks; a few indicated that more than five to six years would be needed for the economy to converge to a longer-run path characterized by sustainable rates of output growth and unemployment and by an appropriate rate of inflation.”

So people at the Fed are troubled by the same question I’ve been obsessing on lately: What’s supposed to end this slump? No doubt this, too, shall pass — but how, and when?

We Who Recite thew Kalima

Aaakar Patel narrates about his life as he 'aarives' in Bombay.

What is interesting in this narration is the underlying spirit - perhaps inadvertent - and invisible to others.

Bombay or Mumbais asked newcomers not who they were or where they came from, their caste (or religion) but simply what they can do.

Compare this with similar experiences of the new comer to Lahore or Karachi.

Enough said.

Ponder, if you want to.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Top 12 U.S. Banks: From Zombies to Hidden Gems By Martin Hutchinson Contributing Editor

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week proposed a series of programs, totaling $1.5 trillion, to bail out the U.S. banking system. Of course, Geithner hasn’t told us precisely how he plans to spend the money, or identified which banks require such an enormous outlay.

So I thought it was worth looking at the United States’ 12 largest banks to see where the problems might be and identify which banks might need big infusions of government cash. I perused the financial statements of all 12 banks, and also looked at their market valuations.

Unlike when the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was proposed in September - when the projections for potential losses were largely financial conjecture - we now have important concrete data on the banking system’s troubles; namely, each of the bank’s annual financial reports for 2008.

Those figures were calculated with the most current knowledge of the economy’s housing crisis and other related financial disasters, and with the potential for losses on "bad assets" fully taken into account and examined in detail by auditors. Further economic bad news might weaken new batches of assets, but at least the biggest problems should by now be fully apparent.

India grapples with the Obama era By M K Bhadrakumar

Khuda aisay dostON say humaiN bacha'aye ~~t

Three factors have shaken up the Indian complacency. First, Indian strategists seriously underestimated the military stalemate that was developing in the war in Afghanistan and the consequent acute dependence of the US on Pakistan's cooperation. This may sound surprising, but the knowledge of Afghan affairs remains shockingly poor among Indian strategists.

Two, Indian strategists underestimated the gravity of the global financial crisis that erupted last year. They couldn't comprehend that the crisis would fundamentally change the world order. Even hard-nosed Indian strategists placed a touching faith in the "New American Century" project.

Three, the Indian establishment failed to grasp what Obama meant when he spoke of "change". The Indian skepticism about Obama's capacity to change US policies remained fairly widespread. The Indian establishment concluded that Obama would ultimately have to work within the box, hemmed in by America's political, foreign policy and security establishment. It failed to see that the US's capacity to sustain its global dominance was itself weakening and that necessitated radical changes in Obama's policies.

Is the U.S. Paying Off the Italian Government for Forging the Niger Documents? By Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere,

"Obama Confronts a Choice on Copters" read this week's New York Times. The President soon "will have to decide whether to proceed with some of the priciest aircraft in the world -- a new fleet of 28 Marine One helicopters that will each cost more than the last Air Force One....The choice confronting Mr. Obama encapsulates the tension between two imperatives of his nascent presidency, the need to meet the continuing threats of an age of terrorism and the demand for austerity in a period of economic hardship."

This is a gross misrepresentation of the choice Obama faces. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) and others have alleged that the contract for 28 Marine One helicopters was awarded to the Italian firm Finmeccanica as a thank you for Italy's participation in the Iraq War. The evidence, however, indicates that the contract was more specifically a payoff to the Italian government for supplying the forged documents showing Saddam had obtained weapons grade uranium from Niger. President Bush famously used this fraudulent "yellowcake" intelligence to justify launching the war.

When reviewing the helicopter contract, President Obama can either be actively complicit by continuing with Finmeccanica; he can duck and cover by simply switching to the proper supplier, Sikorsky; or he can use the mandated review of this purchase decision to root out those in military, the aerospace industry and Congress who were willing to compromise the security of all subsequent American presidents so that Bush could cover up his core war crime.

I Was Illegally Detained by the U.S. Government and Held in CIA-Run "Black Sites" By Mohamed Farag Bashmilah

From October 2003 until May 2005, I was illegally detained by the U.S. government and held in CIA-run "black sites" with no contact with the outside world. On May 5, 2005, without explanation, my American captors removed me from my cell and cuffed, hooded, and bundled me onto a plane that delivered me to Sana'a, Yemen. I was transferred into the custody of my own government, which held me -- apparently at the behest of the United States -- until March 27, 2006, when I was finally released, never once having faced any terrorism-related charges. Since my release, the U.S. government has never explained why I was detained and has blocked all attempts to find out more about my detention.

What I do know is that the Jordanian government -- after torturing me for several days -- handed me over to a U.S. "rendition team" in Amman, which then abducted me, forced me onto a plane, and flew me to Afghanistan. During this, and several other transfers between CIA prisons, I was subjected to a brutal and deeply humiliating "preparation" ritual. I was stripped naked, dressed in a diaper, shackled, blindfolded and hooded, and then boarded onto a waiting plane. I was forced into painful positions, often reeling from the blows and kicks of the men who had "prepared" me for flight.....

Why Eric Holder’s “race speech” was better than Barack Obama’s.

Eric Holder’s confrontational speech to members of the Justice Department on Wednesday spoke plainly and bluntly about the level of racial discourse in America. “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot,” he said, “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” However equivocal his windup, Holder’s line was a punch in the face to America. As top cop of the United States, it’s his job to play the disciplinarian—but the lengthy admonition, given in honor of Black History Month, by the first African American attorney general, was the verbal equivalent to shock and awe.

"On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago,” Holder said. “This is truly sad.” He spoke, with a tinge of bitterness, of the “polite, restrained mixing that now passes as meaningful interaction but that accomplishes little.” Sure, blacks and whites mingle at the workplace or in the marketplace, on the subway or in line at the deli, but voluntary segregation, he assured his listeners, is still rampant.

America talked a lot about race during the 2008 campaign. We chewed over Barack Obama’s biraciality, his cleanliness and articulateness, the question of whether he'd be black enough, the reluctance of older blacks to back him, Michelle Obama’s American-ness and her collegiate views on race relations, the role of the Hispanic vote in sending western swing states into the blue column, and the maelstrom of commentary that followed the “revelation” that when it comes to race, Pastor Jeremiah Wright is not, in fact, a big fan of the United States.

a reader’s words : VG Kiernan

An excellent read (and an great blog) ~~t

For those of us in South Asia, Victor Kiernan was known primarily as the translator of Mohammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. His works as a historian are relatively unknown. Even his translations, for that matter, are not so much read as they are appreciated, mainly because few need to when they can read the original in Urdu. His relative ignorance in India is also difficult to understand because he was one of the few of the British Marxist Historians who actually spent some time in India. In Kiernan’s case, he was even married to an Indian lady, though for a short time. For all this, however, India (and Pakistan) seems to have been a passing interest for him and his personal and intellectual association ended pretty much around 1950. He lived to the ripe age of 95, and passed on earlier this week on 18th February.

A google search yesterday led to a tract ‘Marxism and Gramsci‘ (pdf), written by Kiernan in 1972 when Gramsci’s works were being introduced to English readers. Besides a number of insightful and critical comments on both Marxism and Gramsci, he provides a comment on the state of Marxism in India as well:

Meanwhile Marxism was spreading outside Europe, as earlier it had spread outside western Europe; but here still more one- sidedly as a guide to immediate political action, rather than a comprehensive philosophy. In India this narrowly practical-not to say philistine bent has persisted all along, and can be seen to have done much practical harm. Never-ceasing demands of the struggle first against the British and then against native Indian reaction, in a land of crushing poverty, made anything like abstract thinking-impossible without a. certain leisure and detachment-seem a superfluity, a mere luxury, as biochemical researches would seem to a patient with a broken leg waiting to be set. Even in China, Mao’s grand extension of Marxism belonged to the realm of actual struggle, the management of class war and anti-foreign resistance in the conditions of a peasant society. It must not be forgotten too that, with all its universality of vision, Marxist philosophy in conception and gestation was highly specific to western Europe, because many of the elements that entered into it- Judaism, western Christianity, Enlightenment, Hegel-had no counterparts anywhere else.

Others from the Group have been much better known in India, particularly Eric Hobsbawm, EP Thompson and Raymond Williams, and to a lesser extent Christoper Hill. After completing my engineering degree, I spent about four years studying history, mainly Indian history (DD Kosambi, Romila Thapar, RS Sharma, Satish Chandra, KM Ashraf, Bipan Chandra, Sumit Sarkar and the historians of the subaltern school). The works of the Annales School (Braudel) too were an eye opener as was the Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, written in the 13th century. The late Mohit Sen was to a large extent responsible for introducing me to the works of the British Marxists Historians, particularly to Eric Hobsbawm. The fact that he had been a student of some of them brought a sense of personal affinity for them. The appeal of Hobsbawm also remains because his work has been on the 18th- 19th centuries and therefore relatively more relevant. He has also been very active and intellectually agile after the collapse of ‘existing socialism’ and continues to write and comment prolifically. His latest piece in the Guardian is an obituary on Kiernan.

Related Posts:
Ralph Russel
Gramsci and India