Faruq Faisel

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nepal: Once again Today is February One: I am writing this post from Ottawa on 31st January, 2006 around 11.PM. It is already February One morning in Nepal. I remember last year on this morning I was in Pokhara in Nepal. We were having an workshop for women journalists from that region. Prime Minister Deuba was supposed to come to inagurate this event. He never came as he was put under house arrest on this morning. King went on television and radio to announce his historic "coup".

Today, after one year, once again the King of Nepal is going to address the nation in few minutes. God knows waht he is going to say this time.

Kantipur Online reported today:

Royal announcement on Wednesday morning
Kantipur Report

KATHMANDU, Jan 31 - King Gyanendra is to address the nation at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, state-run Nepal Television said Tuesday evening.

The royal address which marks the completion of one-year direct rule by the King that began on February 1, 2005, will be aired on the state-run television at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Assuming total executive power, the King on Feb.1, last year, dismissed the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition government, suspended fundamental rights and declared a three-month state of emergency across the country.

He said that his move was essential to contain “escalating terrorism, as the successive governments in the past failed to counter it.”

The king also put almost all mainstream political leaders under house arrest or detention. Landline and mobile phone services and the Internet were shut down soon after the royal proclamation.

Security bodies ordered to arrest protestors

High-level sources said that a meeting of the central Security Council was held today morning to discuss the country’s current security situation. The meeting has reportedly directed security bodies to “arrest those who take out protest rallies tomorrow.”

Alliance to mark Feb 1 as “Black Day”

Meanwhile, issuing separate statements this evening, the agitating seven mainstream political parties criticized the one year of royal takeover and decided to mark Feb 1 as “Black Day.”

The alliance has decided to take out a protest rally from Teku, Kathmandu, burn the effigy of “regression” and demonstrate black flags tomorrow.

“The King’s move was in direct violation of the Constitution of Nepal achieved through the popular movement of 1990,” said Nepali Congress (NC), one of the largest political parties in the seven-party alliance, which has been launching protest demonstrations against the Feb.1 royal move.

The NC said, “This move of the king to seize absolute power through military force will ultimately prove detrimental to the monarchy itself.”

Issuing a statement CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal said that the the King’s Feb.1 move was aimed at “killing democracy and beginning his autocratic regime.”

"The King's words and deeds have proved that he was hatching a conspiracy to run a dictatorial rule right from the start by putting all blames on the political parties," Nepal said.
Nepali Congress-Democratic (NC-D) said, “During this period of autocratic rule, the country has been on a downward spiral not only politically and economically but from all aspects.”
The NC-D also said that the present government has been using the ongoing violent conflict in the country to extend its “autocratic rule.”

Terming the Feb.1 royal takeover as a “regressive move,” Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party today said the party would not stop its struggle unless the “regression” is corrected.

Authoritarian rule unsuccessful: US

Meanwhile, the United States has called the one year of direct rule by the King an “unsuccessful authoritarian rule.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the US Department of State said it remains troubled by the developments in Nepal, one year after the King seized power on February 1, 2005.

“Twelve months of palace rule have only made the security situation more precarious, emboldened the Maoist insurgents, and widened the division between the country's political parties and the King,” the statement said.

“The United States remains particularly concerned by the Maoist insurgency, which presents the most immediate threat to a peaceful and prosperous Nepal,” the statement said.

Urging the King to return to democracy by initiating a dialogue with the country’s political parties, the US also said after one year of “unsuccessful authoritarian rule,” this is the best way to address the Maoist insurgency and to build a brighter future for Nepal’s people.

AP also reported the following today:

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- On a cold morning one year ago the phones suddenly went dead in Nepal.

Heavily armed soldiers surrounded the homes of powerful politicians in the Himalayan country. Roadblocks went up in the streets.

The king had taken complete control.

King Gyanendra went on state-run television and radio last February 1 to say the move was necessary to bring sense to the nation's chaotic, corrupt political scene, and crush the Maoist insurgents who had seized control of much of the countryside.

But one year later, Nepal appears to be sliding deeper into crisis, with an autocratic king pitted against an unlikely coalition of fractious political parties and violent communist rebels.

Now, the monarch and the political parties seem on a collision course, with neither ready to give way.

The most recent conflict has arisen over the king's decision to push ahead with February 8 municipal elections, polls that Gyanendra says are the first step towards restoring democracy.
But in the past few weeks he has again clamped down on political freedom, thrown hundreds of politicians into jail, put others under house arrest and muzzled the media.

The parties, for their part, call the polls a sham and a way for Gyanendra to entrench his power. They're urging a boycott.

The Maoists, meanwhile, have threatened to take "severe action" against candidates and election workers. They're already accused of killing one candidate, wounding another and abducting a third.

Nepal has been in turmoil since Gyanendra assumed the crown in 2001 after his brother, King Birendra, was gunned down in a palace massacre apparently committed by Birendra's son, the crown prince, who also died.

Soon after Gyanendra became king, the Maoists intensified their attacks. Public disillusion grew with the politicians, who were seen as corrupt and only interested in keeping power.
Finally, a year ago, the king dismissed the government, accusing it of failing to hold parliamentary elections or end the insurgency.

But 12 months of royal dictatorship have widened the chasm between Gyanendra and the political parties, with leaders across Nepal's political spectrum arguing the king himself poses the biggest hurdle to democracy and a resolution to the decade-long insurgency that has killed more than 12,000 people.

Loyalists uncertain

"The root cause of the present situation is the king's intransigence. By refusing to hold a dialogue with the political parties and pushing ahead with these sham elections, the king has plunged the country into a crisis," said Ram Sharan Mahat, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress, the country's main political party, which ruled for 14 years before the king's takeover.

The king's actions, such as the clampdown on political activity and resorting to military offensives to deal with the Maoists, have even left many of his loyalists uncertain.
"The conflict cannot be won by mere military means," said Pashupati Shamsher J. B. Rana, once a royal confidant and head of the pro-royalist Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, or National Democratic Party.

"The ultimate solution is to bring the insurgents into the mainstream through a dialogue, in which ... the king and the parties engage jointly."

That is easier said than done.

The political parties insist the king must first restore the elected parliament and return to his position as constitutional monarch.

"We now have a single theme -- the king should go back to his constitutional role," says Surya Bahadur Thapa, a former prime minister and senior Nepali Congress leader.

Thapa says the king pushed the political parties into forging an alliance with the Maoist rebels.
"It was when the parties saw that the king would not heed them that they joined hands with the Maoists to jointly put pressure on the king," he said.

Opposition alliance

In November, an alliance of seven political parties and the Maoists agreed to a 12-point agenda to step up opposition to the king and restore democracy in Nepal.

However, the king has refused to negotiate with the parties and is determined to go ahead with municipal elections, despite an embarrassingly low candidate turnout. Candidates have registered in less than half the 4,146 election races for local offices in 58 cities and towns.

There is mounting anger on the streets of Kathmandu, where a shrinking economy and growing political unrest have increased the hardships of an impoverished populace.

Ranak Pandey, a Kathmandu shopkeeper, says words like democracy have little meaning when the lives of common people are shrouded in uncertainty because of protest rallies and strikes.
"People just want some order in their lives, some calm," says Pandey.
"Whoever can give us that, whether king or party or Maoist, is welcome."

World: Media Face Dilemmas In Covering Terrorism
By Jan Jun

Is the freedom the media enjoy in the world’s democracies being exploited by terrorist organizations? Some people say we should stop reporting on atrocities and the terrorists would be defeated by being starved of the oxygen of publicity. Others do not agree. They say freedom of speech is too important to be stifled, even in the interest of fighting against terrorism.

LONDON, 30 January 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Some people have argued the media should not report every suicide-bomb attack, hostage taking, or terrorist leader's statement.

They stress such exposure gives terrorists the publicity they crave.

Others, however, maintain that in democratic countries freedom of speech comes first.

'A More Critical Debate'

“For democracies to try to shut down media reporting of political violence and terrorism would be, in my view, a great mistake," says Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "If the media are able to report factually and objectively, they can inform discussion and help to develop a more critical debate, which we hope would improve policy in the future. So, there are great advantages having free media.”

Wilkinson agrees that terrorists seek publicity, but he stresses that the public has a right to be comprehensively informed about major international developments.

Still, there is mounting evidence that terrorist groups can benefit from access to the media and even by media reports of terrorist violence.

Negotiating With Hostage Takers

“The European Journal of Social Psychology,” a respected medical journal, recently published a report claiming that 16 percent of people are inclined to negotiate with terrorists after seeing images of distressed hostages on television.

Wilkinson argues, however, that most mainstream media avoid particularly horrific images and reports, and that this is the correct way to handle things.

But some experts warn it is easy inadvertently to cross the line from reporting events to airing propaganda for a terrorist group.

Trying To Destroy Freedom Of Expression

Ali Reza Nourizadeh is director of the Arab-Iranian Studies Center in London. He says that “reporting an atrocity is a must,” but media should not air messages from the terrorists themselves.

“I don’t understand why some American and some European networks are giving such importance to [Al-Qaeda leader Osama] Bin Laden’s messages, [Al-Qaeda second in command Ayman al-] Zawahri’s latest statement -- which is broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network day and night -- what they want to achieve," Nourizadeh says. "At the end of the day, it is a statement by a terrorist who doesn’t give a damn about thousands of people who are killed in [the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States], in Afghanistan, in Iraq.”

Nourizadeh adds that terrorists abuse freedom of speech for their own goals, which often include destroying democracy and freedom of expression.

Analyzing Terrorists' Statements

Still, Wilkinson maintains that it is actually an advantage to be able to get all sorts of useful information about terrorists through the media. This includes statements from their leaders, which experts can use to evaluate the leaders' health or to speculate on their whereabouts, for example. And this may outweigh the fact that the message could persuade some people to support the terrorists’ goals.

Wilkinson adds that the Al-Jazeera television station -- which is often criticized by Western leaders -- verifies statements by terrorist leaders and their judgment rarely differs from that of CIA voice-recognition experts. And he concludes that media reporting of terrorist attacks against civilians has helped to turn public opinion against them.

“I don’t get the impression that, despite all their propaganda, Al-Qaeda has been suddenly winning over the opinion of the Muslim world," Wilkinson says. "On the contrary, I think there has been a very strong reaction in the recent past, particularly as a result of these dreadful atrocities in Iraq, where they are engaged in massacring the Shi'ites.”

Judge Each Case Individually

As for the media, most journalists react cautiously. Lord William Rees-Mogg is the former editor in chief of London's “The Times” newspaper. He says that media need to behave responsibly. He argues that it is not always right to give publicity to those who seek it, and each case has to be judged on its merits.

“I think it’s common sense," Rees-Mogg says. "Is this likely to lead to people being put at risk and lives being lost? That’s a question that needs to be considered. Is this genuinely important public information, even if unpalatable? There isn’t an answer which fits all cases. Newspapers have to show judgment. Sometimes it is right to publish, and sometimes it’s wrong to publish.”
Rees-Mogg concludes that the public is better off, however, when it is properly informed.

Monday, January 30, 2006

on Kantipur Online:

"This movement is a struggle for power between the people and the palace. It will end only after achieving complete democracy or Loktantra." - Gagan Thapa, student leader.

A representative of Nepal's conscious young generation and a prominent student leader affiliated to Nepal Students Union, Gagan Thapa has consistently called for a total restructuring of the state and its politics. A strong supporter of republicanism in the country, he has not even spared his own mother party, the Nepali Congress, criticizing it for the lack of intra-party democracy. Thapa recently spoke to Akhilesh Tripathi on a number of issues. Excerpts:

ekantipur: What are you doing these days?

Gagan Thapa: These days I am busy organising, coordinating and participating in the protest demonstrations of the seven political parties against the autocratic royal regime. As the royal government has resorted to cruel repressive measures including baton-charging, torturing and arresting political leaders and activists to curb peaceful public protests, I am trying to avoid arrest so that I can coordinate the protest programmes from my level.

ekantipur: How do you see the student movement in the current political movement to restore democracy?

Thapa: In the beginning, this movement was for the restoration of democracy. But it is my conviction that this movement, due to the students' commitment and clear vision, has taken a qualitative leap forward: now it's a movement for the restoration of Loktantra in the country. It is the students' front, which created the objective ground for this movement to come to this point. And even at this point, the students are simultaneously shouldering two very crucial responsibilities. First, they are in the frontline of the parties' movement. Second, they are working as a pressure group so that the parties cannot deviate from their agenda.

ekantipur: Where is this movement heading? Are the parties clear about the students' as well as their own agendas?

Thapa: Talking about clarity in the movement's agenda, I must say, the parties are much clearer than before. If you talk about the participation in the movement, it is much wider now. However, we need more clarity on certain agendas. For example, though the parties have envisaged a democratic system without the institution of monarchy, there still are some misgivings that the current movement of the parties will end after reaching a compromise with the palace. And this is why the people have not been able to take it as the decisive movement.

ekantipur: Will this movement reach its goal or it will conclude at a compromise with the palace? What do you think?

Thapa: Even if the parties spearheading this movement reach a compromise with the palace, the movement will move forward in a new way, leaving the parties behind. I am not saying this in a fit of emotion. This is the truth and world history is testimony to this truth. The parties will become irrelevant if they do so. In the past, the CPN-UML and the NC-D reached a compromise with the palace and formed a coalition government. But other parties gave continuity to the movement and now even the UML and the NC-D have joined them. Therefore, I am confident that the movement will not end at any compromise with the palace.
This movement is a struggle for power between the people and the palace. It will end only after achieving complete democracy or Loktantra. It will not end for petty issues like the postponement of the municipal elections, formation of an all-party government or the restoration of the dissolved parliament. The people should be able to feel the arrival of a complete change in the country when this movement ends. In one sentence, this movement should not be ended for anything less than the announcement for an election to a constituent assembly. This is the bottom-line of the movement.

ekantipur: The Maoists have been demanding constituent assembly elections from the very beginning. Now other parties, too, have made it their agenda. But it is said it was a result of pressure from the Maoists. What do you think?

Thapa: Our party, the Nepali Congress, had clearly expressed its commitment in its manifesto issued during the movement against the Rana oligarchy in 1950, for a legitimate body elected by the people to draft the country's new constitution after the end of the movement. Thus, the Nepali Congress is the first party to talk about constituent assembly elections in the country. In the last 50 years of the country's political history, different parties at different times have made constituent assembly election their demand. Therefore, it must be clear that constituent assembly election is not the agenda of only the Maoists. It is a purely democratic process, which, I think, should be welcomed by all democratic parties.

ekantipur: What is the situation of intra-party democracy in the Nepali Congress?

Thapa: Political parties are social organisations. They cannot keep themselves aloof from the different social changes. We want to establish Loktantra in the country and if the same is sought within the Nepali Congress or any other party then it should be taken positively. The intra-party democracy in the Nepali Congress is in crisis and our campaign is also to strengthen the intra-party democracy.

ekantipur: What do you think of the ad-hoc committee of Nepal Students Union that has been recently formed following the postponement of its Pokhara General Convention?

Thapa: Only the activists of the Nepal Students Union have the right to choose its leadership. It's their sovereign right and no one else's, not even the NSU's mother party has this right. After the postponement of NSU's General Convention in Pokhara, another convention should have been called to elect NSU's leadership. But the party, instead, formed an ad-hoc leadership by violating the party statute. By doing so, the party has snatched away the students' sovereign right to choose their leadership. For the time being we have slightly ignored this issue as we are dealing with a bigger issue- the national movement to establish Loktantra in the country. But we will not abandon our campaign of seeking intra-party democracy.

ekantipur: Many say that the Nepali Congress leadership wants to end your political career. Do you agree?

Thapa: Personally I feel that my accountability is more towards the generation I represent. The generation, feeling and the part of society that I represent are a priority for me. I am committed to them. At the same time I am confident that they put a lot of trust in me. This always keeps me full of energy and enthusiasm. I am an honest cadre of the party and I must observe the party discipline. But in the name of observing party discipline, I cannot obey the orders from the party leadership if they are against my commitment to the generation I represent. This is the problem between myself and the party.
It is not possible for a person or two to end the career of a political worker. Because, in the past two-three years, it's not only the people's understanding of the monarchy that has changed; people's understanding of the parties' leaderships, too, has changed.

ekantipur: Some say that the NC leadership gradually started to sideline you after your relation with NC President Girija Prasad Koirala's daughter Sujata Koirala worsened. Is it true?

Thapa: I am least concerned about the fact that she is the daughter of NC President Koirala. People have the right not to acknowledge even the person who is born a son to the King. To be respected and acknowledged can be nobody's birthright. At least I cannot do this to anybody just on the basis of the so-called birthright. However, she is an elected central member and therefore a leader of the party. Respecting her on this basis is a different thing altogether.
Another thing, for the past 4-5 years I have consistently moved forward with my ideology. Up to a certain point, she, too, agreed with this ideology of mine and it looked from outside as if we were in total agreement. I continued to move along sticking to my ideology but she deviated from it at a certain point. Maybe I am of lower rank in the party hierarchy and she is much above me but I have been consistent in my thinking and ideology.

ekantipur: Some say you are a royalist. Even NC President Koirala once said you and Narhari Acharya are royalists. Why do you think a politician as mature as Koirala said this?

Thapa: The NC president has personally refuted this, saying he never said anything like this. One part of the story ended then and there. However, I am not the first person to be accused with such charges in the party. There have been other instances where the party leadership has, instead of trying to manage those who disagree with it in a legitimate way within the party, has tried to damage their political career by accusing them in some way. Within the past 2-3 years, I have been accused of being a royalist, an American agent, a Maoist sympathiser, and lately an Indian Embassy agent of Prakash Koirala who was recently expelled from the party. I have never really taken these allegations seriously.
However, I must prove myself. Just dismissing or refuting these allegations is not enough. I have to really prove everyday and every moment through my actions that I am not a royalist or anything as mentioned in the other allegations. Because, this is a bitter reality of Nepali politics. Who would think that Radha Krishna Mainali who spent decades in Nepal's communist revolution, would one day become a palace devotee? Therefore you cannot blindly trust anybody. One has to prove oneself everyday. And I think I have always proved myself.

ekantipur: You talk about republicanism whereas your own party has not made republicanism its agenda?

Thapa: I still remember the day when I had to furnish clarification to the party for publicly speaking in favour of constituent assembly elections. And when Maoist chairman Prachanda once mentioned my name in one of their programmes then again I had to clarify. I was sacked from my position in the NSU central committee when I raised the issue of republicanism. But now, the same party, through its last General Convention, has deleted all references to monarchy from its statute. And it has also agreed to the demand for constituent assembly elections. See! Our agenda is gradually gaining ground inside the party. Who could have imagined that the Nepali Congress would one day delete all references to monarchy from its statute and make constituent assembly elections one of its slogans? But it did. Therefore, I am confident that one day the party will make the demand for a republican set-up its agenda.

ekantipur: Will everything be alright if there is a republican set-up in the country?

Thapa: Republicanism is not a solution in itself. Monarchy is the root cause of the crisis plaguing the country. Therefore, for the country to come out of this crisis, a complete demolition of monarchy is a must. Only then is a solution possible. In this sense, republicanism is just the starting point. We can achieve Loktantra only through the path of Ganatantra (republicanism).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Please belive me, I am not making this up as I have a public presentation on Fri Day. BBC has repoted the following:

Sex 'cuts public speaking stress'

Researchers tested stress levels after public speaking

Forget learning lines or polishing jokes - having sex may be the best way to prepare for giving a speech.

New Scientist magazine reports that Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley, found having sex can help keep stress at bay.

However, only penetrative intercourse did the trick - other forms of sex had no impact on stress levels at all.

Professor Brody monitored how various forms of sex affected blood pressure levels in a stressful situation.

For a fortnight, 24 women and 22 men kept diaries of how often they engaged in various forms of sex.
Then they underwent a stress test involving public speaking and performing mental arithmetic out loud.

Volunteers who had had penetrative intercourse were found to be the least stressed, and their blood pressure returned to normal faster than those who had engaged in other forms of sexual activity such as masturbation.

Those who abstained from any form of sexual activity at all had the highest blood pressure response to stress.

It is not clear that the effects of homosexual sexual activity were studied.

Dr Brody found that the effect remained even after taking differences in personality and other health-related factors into account.

Nerves stimulated

He told the BBC News website it was possible the calming effect was linked to the stimulation of a wide variety of nerves which takes place during heterosexual intercourse, but not other forms of sex.

You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say and preparing thoroughly.
In particular, the vagal nerve plays a role in controlling some psychological processes.

In addition, the release of the hormone oxytocin during sex might have a calming effect.
Professor Brody said it made sense in evolutionary terms for standard heterosexual sexual intercourse to be associated with a wide range of positive effects on behaviour.

He said: "A growing body of research shows that it is specifically intercourse, and not other sexual behaviours, whether alone or with a partner, that is associated with a broad range of psychological and physiological benefits.

"And greater frequency of intercourse is associated with greater benefits."
But Dr Peter Bull, a social and political psychologist at the University of York, said there were other ways to prepare for a speech that were more likely to reduce stress.

He said: "You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say, and preparing thoroughly, rather than having sex the previous night."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let’s not lose sight of those heads of state who terrorize and abuse the rights of their own people.

PARADE’s Annual List Of...The World’s 10 Worst Dictators
By David Wallechinsky
Published: January 22, 2006

A “dictator” is a head of state who exercises arbitrary authority over the lives of his citizens and who cannot be removed from power through legal means. The worst commit terrible human-rights abuses. This present list draws in part on reports by global human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. While the three worst from 2005 have retained their places, two on last year’s list (Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan) have slipped out of the Top 10—not because their conduct has improved but because other dictators have gotten worse.

1 Omar al-Bashir, Sudan. Age 62. In power since 1989. Last year’s rank: 1

Since February 2003, Bashir’s campaign of ethnic and religious persecution has killed at least 180,000 civilians in Darfur in western Sudan and driven 2 million people from their homes. The good news is that Bashir’s army and the Janjaweed militia that he supports have all but stopped burning down villages in Darfur. The bad news is why they’ve stopped: There are few villages left to burn. The attacks now are aimed at refugee camps. While the media have called these actions “a humanitarian tragedy,” Bashir himself has escaped major condemnation. In 2005, Bashir signed a peace agreement with the largest rebel group in non-Islamic southern Sudan and allowed its leader, John Garang, to become the nation’s vice president. But Garang died in July in a helicopter crash, and Bashir’s troops still occupy the south.

2 Kim Jong-il, North Korea. Age 63. In power since 1994. Last year’s rank: 2

While the outside world focuses on Kim Jong-il’s nuclear weapons program, domestically he runs the world’s most tightly controlled society. North Korea continues to rank last in the index of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders, and for the 34th straight year it earned the worst possible score on political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House. An estimated 250,000 people are confined in “reeducation camps.” Malnourishment is widespread: According to the United Nations World Food Program, the average 7-year-old boy in North Korea is almost 8 inches shorter than a South Korean boy the same age and more than 20 pounds lighter.

3 Than Shwe, Burma (Myanmar). Age 72. In power since 1992. Last year’s rank: 3

In November 2005, without warning, Than Shwe moved his entire government from Rangoon (Yangon), the capital for the last 120 years, to Pyinmana, a remote area 245 miles away. Civil servants were given two days’ notice and are forbidden from resigning. Burma leads the world in the use of children as soldiers, and the regime is notorious for using forced labor on construction projects and as porters for the army in war zones. The long-standing house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and Than Shwe’s most feared opponent, recently was extended for six months. Just to drive near her heavily guarded home is to risk arrest.

4 Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe. Age 81. In power since 1980. Last year’s rank: 9

Life in Zimbabwe has gone from bad to worse: It has the world’s highest inflation rate, 80% unemployment and an HIV/AIDS rate of more than 20%. Life expectancy has declined since 1988 from 62 to 38 years. Farming has collapsed since 2000, when Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms, giving most of them to political allies with no background in agriculture. In 2005, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina (Clean the Filth), the forcible eviction of some 700,000 people from their homes or businesses—“to restore order and sanity,” says the government. But locals say the reason was to forestall demonstrations as the economy deteriorates.

5 Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan. Age 67. In power since 1990. Last year’s rank: 15

Until 2005, the worst excesses of Karimov’s regime had taken place in the torture rooms of his prisons. But on May 13, he ordered a mass killing that could not be concealed. In the city of Andijan, 23 businessmen, held in prison and awaiting a verdict, were freed by their supporters, who then held an open meeting in the town square. An estimated 10,000 people gathered, expecting government officials to come and listen to their grievances. Instead, Karimov sent the army, which massacred hundreds of men, women and children. A 2003 law made Karimov and all members of his family immune from prosecution forever.

6 Hu Jintao, China. Age 63. In power since 2002. Last year’s rank: 4

Although some Chinese have taken advantage of economic liberalization to become rich, up to 150 million Chinese live on $1 a day or less in this nation with no minimum wage. Between 250,000 and 300,000 political dissidents are held in “reeducation-through-labor” camps without trial. Less than 5% of criminal trials include witnesses, and the conviction rate is 99.7%. There are no privately owned TV or radio stations. The government opens and censors mail and monitors phone calls, faxes, e-mails and text messages. In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, at least 400,000 residents of Beijing have been forcibly evicted from their homes.

7 King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia. Age 82. In power since 1995. Last year’s rank: 5

Although Abdullah did not become king until 2005, he has ruled Saudi Arabia since his half-brother, Fahd, suffered a stroke 10 years earlier. In Saudi Arabia, phone calls are recorded and mobile phones with cameras are banned. It is illegal for public employees “to engage in dialogue with local and foreign media.” By law, all Saudi citizens must be Muslims. According to Amnesty International, police in Saudi Arabia routinely use torture to extract “confessions.” Saudi women may not appear in public with a man who isn’t a relative, must cover their bodies and faces in public and may not drive. The strict suppression of women is not voluntary, and Saudi women who would like to live a freer life are not allowed to do so.

8 Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan. Age 65. In power since 1990. Last year’s rank: 8

Niyazov has created the world’s most pervasive personality cult, and criticism of any of his policies is considered treason. The latest examples of his government-by-whim include bans on car radios, lip-synching and playing recorded music on TV or at weddings. Niyazov also has closed all national parks and shut down rural libraries. He launched an attack on his nation’s health-care system, firing 15,000 health-care workers and replacing most of them with untrained military conscripts. He announced the closing of all hospitals outside the capital and ordered Turkmenistan’s physicians to give up the Hippocratic Oath and to swear allegiance to him instead.

9 Seyed Ali Khamane’i, Iran. Age 66. In power since 1989. Last year’s rank: 18

Over the past four years, the rulers of Iran have undone the reforms that were emerging in the nation. The hardliners completed this reversal by winning the parliamentary elections in 2004 —after disqualifying 44% of the candidates—and with the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005. Ultimately, however, the country is run by the 12-man Guardian Council, overseen by the Ayatollah Khamane’i, which has the right to veto any law that the elected government passes. Khamane’i has shut down the free press, tortured journalists and ordered the execution of homosexual males.

10 Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea. Age 63. In power since 1979. Last year’s rank: 10

Obiang took power in this tiny West African nation by overthrowing his uncle more than 25 years ago. According to a United Nations inspector, torture “is the normal means of investigation” in Equatorial Guinea. There is no freedom of speech, and there are no bookstores or newsstands. The one private radio station is owned by Obiang’s son. Since major oil reserves were discovered in Equatorial Guinea in 1995, Obiang has deposited more than $700 million into special accounts in U.S. banks. Meanwhile, most of his people live on less than $1 a day.

Contributing Editor David Wallechinsky has reported on world figures for PARADE, including an interview with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. For more on the worst dictators, visit parade.com on the Web.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Michael Moore and Canadian Election: I am going to vote in couple of hours. Before that reading this note from Michael Moore.

Michael Moore is currently in production on his next movie. As an avid lover of all things Canadian, he has issued the following statement regarding Canada's upcoming election on Monday:

Oh, Canada -- you're not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That's ajoke, right? I know you have a great sense of humor, and certainly a well-developed sense of irony, but this is no longer funny. Maybe it's a new form of Canadian irony -- reverse irony! OK, now I get it.

First, you have the courage to stand against the war in Iraq -- and then you elect a prime minister who's for it. You declare gay people have equal rights --and then you elect a man who says they don't. You give your native peoples their own autonomy and their own territory -- and then you vote for a man who wants to cut aid to these poorest of your citizens. Wow, that is intense! Only Canadians could pull off a hat trick of humor like that. My hat's off to you.

Far be it from me, as an American, to suggest what you should do. You already have too many Americans telling you what to do. Well, actually, you've got just one American who keeps telling you to roll over and fetch and sit. I hope you don't feel this appeal of mine is too intrusive but I just couldn't sit by, as your friend, and say nothing.

Yes, I agree, the Liberals have some 'splainin' to do. And yes, one party in power for more than a decade gets a little... long. But you have a parliamentary system (I'll bet youdidn't know that -- see, that's why you need Americans telling you things!). There are ways at the polls to have your voices heard other than throwing the baby out with the bath water. These are no ordinary times, and as you go to the polls on Monday, you do so while a man running the nation to the south of you is hoping you can lend him a hand by picking Stephen Harper because he's a man who shares his world view. Do you want to help GeorgeBush by turning Canada into his latest conquest? Is that how you want millions of us down here to see you from now on? The next notch in the cowboy belt? C'mon, where's your Canadian pride? I mean, if you're going to reduce Canada to a cheap download of Bush & Co., then at least don't surrender so easily. Can't you wait until he threatens to bomb Regina? Make him work for it, for Pete's sake.

But seriously, I know you're not going to elect a guy who should really be running for governor of Utah. Whew! I knew it! You almost had me there. Very funny. Don't do that again. God, I love you, you crazy cold wonderful neighbors to my north. Don't ever change.

Michael Moore

(Mr. Moore is not available for interviews because he now needs to address the situation in Azerbaijan. Buthe could be talked into it for a couple of tickets to a Leaf's game.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Friendless King:

United Nations:
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:The Secretary-General is dismayed by the latest developments in Nepal where, on the eve of a major demonstration planned for tomorrow in Kathmandu, the Government has arrested a large number of political party leaders and other critics.The Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, Ian Martin, has raised the matter with the Government. OHCHR-Nepal officers have visited 97 of the more than 120 persons reported to be in detention.The Secretary-General had repeatedly called for urgent dialogue in order to avoid confrontation, and for a bilateral ceasefire between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. This appeal was not heeded, and the four-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the Maoists came to an end.The Secretary-General once again appeals to all sides for calm, the suspension of fighting and the urgent initiation of an inclusive national dialogue.

Press StatementSean McCormack, SpokesmanWashington, DCJanuary 19, 2006Nepal: Arrests of Opposition LeadersThe United States condemns the decision by the King of Nepal to detain political party leaders and civil society activists in advance of political demonstrations scheduled for January 20. These arrests and harassment of peaceful democratic forces is a violation of their civil and political rights. The United States calls on the King to release these activists. Dialogue between the King and the parties and a return to democracy are the only effective ways to address the Maoist insurgency in Nepal.2006/69Released on January 19, 2006

FOREIGN OFFICE MINISTER CONDEMNS POLITICAL ARRESTS IN NEPAL (19/01/06)Responding to the arrest of political leaders and activists in Nepal on 19 January, in advance of their planned demonstrations on 20 January, Dr Howells, MP, said:'The UK is extremely concerned by the King’s actions, and we can see no grounds for these anti-democratic measures. I call on the King urgently to release those arrested, and to find ways to resume dialogue with the political parties. Only by reaching out to the political parties to develop a common agenda will there be any prospect of a meaningful exercise in democracy.'We will be making our profound concerns known to the Government of Nepal at the highest level.'

In response to a question on developments in Nepal19/01/2006In response to a question on developments in Nepal the Official Spokesperson said:We are receiving reports from Nepal about the arrest of leaders of political parties as well as human rights and civil society activists. We are also aware of the latest measures announced by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal curbing political activity in Kathmandu and other cities.These actions of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal are regrettable and a matter of grave concern to all those who wish to see the constitutional forces in Nepal working together to achieve peace and stability in the country.New DelhiJanuary 19, 2006

My Cool Friends: Jean Marc: Jean Marc and Jane are my friends for long time. I had a little bit of working encounter with him when I was holding the Afghanistan file at South Asia Partnership Canada when he was with the Humanitarian Assistance Division at Canadian International Development Agency- CIDA.

I never imagined that I will be working together with him at a overseas post ever. But when I went to Nepal with my new assignment, imagine what I found! Jean Marc is the CIDA boss in Nepal.

Forget about the working bussiness. Most important is that Jean Marc and Jane's daughter Catherine and our daughter Priya were born ten days apart. This is what bonded us in real sence. I had some of my most enjoyable times in Kathmandu at Jane and Jean Marc's place.

And now here is the interview of Jean Marc published in Nepali Times this week:

Canada has been providing development assistance to Nepal for 40 years and today focuses on supporting local NGOs, particularly those working in communities in primary health and rural livelihoods. But Jean-Marc Mangin, Canada’s first secretary (development), told Nepali Times that future aid has become more precarious since Nepal was left off a new list of nations on which Canada will focus its development efforts.

Why is Nepal not listed among those core countries?

Based on poverty criteria, Nepal should have been one of those 25 countries but it was not chosen in large part because of poor governance and the armed conflict. Instead of being able to attract additional resources (from Canada) Nepal’s long-term funding is now at risk. Each time money is tied up, it becomes more difficult for new programs to come online in countries like Nepal, not included in the key policy commitments.

So, governance was the main reason Nepal didn’t make the list?

Yes. The two main criteria were—poverty and governance. Certainly based on poverty, Nepal would make the list. But other poor countries are better able to absorb assistance.

Does that mean Canada’s funding to Nepal is at risk?

Canada intends to continue development assistance that delivers direct benefits to vulnerable populations as long as these three elements are in place: 1. the conflicting parties respect the Basic Operating Guidelines (BOGs) (on the rights and responsibilities of development agencies and their staff), 2. the security of our staff and partners is not compromised, 3. we can demonstrate to ourselves and to the people of Canada that we are still able to obtain good results in helping Nepal’s poor. The public endorsements of the BOGs by the Government of Nepal (last July) and by the insurgents (last December) were critically important milestones.

But when current projects end, will more funding be available?

I don’t have the answer to that question. We weren’t able to start new bilateral programs last year. And after 1 February, all assistance to the central government was frozen, though it wasn’t much. We’re working on a new interim strategy. Till now we have decided to maintain a presence. We believe our assistance is still making a positive difference, notably working directly with poor women, dalits and janajatis. Canada wants to remain engaged. Canada doesn’t want to abandon Nepal.

How much is Canada’s contribution this year?

In 2005, our funding to Nepal was between $ 8 million and $ 9 million US. This year it should be about the same but I don’t know because Canadian contributions to the CAP (Consolidated Appeals Process—a new UN-designed pool of money devoted to the humanitarian dimensions of the conflict) have not yet been finalised.

How will that CAP money be spent?

There will be assistance to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNHCR, OCHA and possibly other agencies. What is clear is that we support the analysis and rationale behind the CAP. One of the key aims of Canadian efforts here has been to support the UN’s response to the various dimensions of the crisis affecting the people of Nepal.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nepal Back to February First: For last few days I am noticing that my eight years old daughter is getting obsessed with "time machine". She would come to me often and ask me- "papa why no body has ever invented the time machine?" I asked her, why she needed a time machine. He reply was "yesterday was so fun- I went snow boarding, and then shopping- I want to go back to yesterday". Today it seems like that the King of Nepal has invented the machine that my daughter wanted. Nepal is going back to February One 2005. Nepali Times posted the following story on their web site today:

The government doesn’t seem to know who its real enemy is

While the Maoists are at the gates, threatening attacks on the capital, authorities decided to engage on a sweep of political party leaders and civil society activists instead.
It’s a scene many had expected to see during the municipal elections. But with the polls still 20 days away, the government started rounding up pro-democracy activists ahead of a promised mammoth rally on Friday.

“Under no circumstances will we take back our rally program,” said CPN (UML) chief Madhab Kumar Nepal at the Press Chautari on Friday, adding that the detention of leaders early Thursday morning was the act of a “desperate and fearful regime”.

“Despite all the prohibitions of the government, we will go ahead with our peaceful and non-violent demonstrations on Friday,” echoed NC leader Arjun Narsingh KC. “But if the situation turns violent, the government will have to take the responsibility.”

As for the government, Minister of State for Information and Communication Shrish Shumsher Rana told us: “We are prepared to safeguard the basic human rights of the people and we will not shirk from our duty.”

Immediately after the deadly Maoist attacks that left 12 policemen dead in the Kathmandu Valley on 14 January, the government introduced curfews and banned demonstrations within the Ring Road. The parties defied the bans. But in a scene reminiscent of February First last year, the government arrested more than 70 leaders and activists and cut mobile phones within the Valley on Thursday.

While the arrests were taking place, landlines also went out. Security personnel had been mobilised to make the arrests from late Wednesday night and some of them, in plainclothes, could be seen around party leaders’ homes from early morning. Some leaders evaded arrest by sleeping away from their homes.

UML leader Amrit Bohara who escaped the dragnet, told us from a secret location: “With such a condemnable action the government has admitted defeat.”

The government has been using last week’s well-planned Maoist attacks as evidence that the rebels have infiltrated the valley disguised as political party cadre. Said Rana, “The rebel-party pact clearly states that both would target the government in their own ways and that is what is exactly happening now.”

Party leaders refute the possibility of any infiltration, saying it has never happened in the past.
Meanwhile, Maoist chief Prachanda on Wednesday issued a statement saying the rebels would not infiltrate Friday’s rally nor use any kind of force to supplement street protests. “There is no reason why we should believe the Maoists,” Rana retorted. Even our security forces stopped passenger buses coming into the valley from the west and the east.

The parties want the government to cancel municipal polls due on 8 February. “If the polls are called off, there could be an environment for an outlet for the present crisis,” said Nepali Congress leader Girija Prasad Koirala.

Both sides look set for a confrontation on Friday, with the Maoists waiting and watching in the wings.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Borderlands Newsletter: My friend Maggie sent this newsletter:

Dear All,
Namaste and Welcome!
The tourist season (in Nepal) started well this year with the announcement of a three month ceasefire by an opposing political party. Nepal has always been one of the safest countries in the world for tourists to visit but, unfortunately, bad press has led to a decline in visitors over the last few years. All of us at Ultimate Descents and our sister company The Borderlands Resort, hope that the peace will continue and that the country will work together to make the rest of this decade one of harmony and prosperity. The people of Nepal, culturally rich, friendly, always ready with a smile and helpful attitude, deserve the opportunity to do what they do best – welcome visitors to their stunning and awe-inspiring country!

In the meantime, we must proudly announce that this is Borderlands 10th year in operation. We are always striving to improve our already impeccable reputation for safety and thrill-a-minute adventure! If you have not met us yet, you can be certain that when you do, it will be such a treasured experience that you will be telling tales of your escapades for years to come. And, if you already know us, then we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued interest in our operation and for your invaluable support.

The off-season has not seen our Director and experienced river guides relaxing. The guides have been sharing their skills all over the world, including Japan, Turkey, Europe and the United States. Every new river they run develops their already extensive domestic and international expertise and experience. Our customers can always be assured of globally endorsed standards of safety and proficiency, enabling them to relax and enjoy the exhilaration of their whitewater adventure. Our manager was not putting his feet up. He completed an intensive and rewarding course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) USA.

Leading the way, our Director Mr. Megh Ale has been brushing-up on his catalogue of skills and promoting Nepal whilst visiting the Lake District and Scotland. He spent much of the off-season in the Welsh valleys of the UK building high ropes courses with the company ‘Ropeworks’ and instructing the programs for such well known names as Philips, Ford Motors and Merloni Ltd.

Our Professional Development Programs in Nepal have been a resounding success but we like pushing our clients to their limits, and there is nothing like a 20 meter high ‘Postman’s Walk’ – traverse across a cable suspended between two trees – to energize a person and help them realize their own strengths and potential. Megh also helped instruct the Scientific Exploration Society crew, with Colonel John Blasford-Snell OBE, on the Tryweryn River at the National Whitewater Centre in Wales.

2005 saw The Borderlands Resort a become members of responsibletravel.com. Always determined to protect and conserve the environment and conscious of our role as a leading example of eco-tourism in Nepal, we were proud to be recommended as a company that offers real and authentic holidays that also benefit the environment and local people.
We have exceptional itineraries listed on responsibletravel.com, of which we are proud to be a member.

Clients of Borderlands Resorts will be reassured to know that our policy is for minimal disturbance of any physical, social, political or cultural environment visited. We ask that visitors do not intentionally disturb any natural/domestic fauna and flora or their natural habitat and we adopt a zero tolerance attitude to littering. Not only do we leave every campsite cleaner than when we've arrived, we've taken steps to protect Nepal's rivers and the people who live along them, including founding the Nepal River Conservation Trust (NRCT).

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us during the last year. Special thanks go out to our clients, the holiday makers, NGO workers, backpackers, round-the-world travelers, businesses, schools and local children whose thirst for adventure and eagerness to stretch their personal boundaries have made so many wonderful trips and special moments that we all treasure

All our staff are carefully chosen for their diverse range of talents, excellent inter-personal skills and commitment-loyalty to the local customs, people and environment of Nepal. We operate to promote environmental awareness and an appreciation of the wealth and fragility of Nepal's natural resources through sound ecological, conservation and preservation practices. Nepal, for all its massive mountain peaks and impressive geography, is actually an incredibly fragile environment. We feel an increased responsibility to protect and preserve these wild places. We believe that our clients, with guidance, will have the opportunity to learn respect for the delicate nature of the environment and for ancient cultures, their history and customs. With this increased knowledge visitors to Nepal will be better equipped to travel to any environment worldwide with deference, understanding and discernment.

The Borderlands Resort was the base for the children of Aastha House, Kathmandu, and their Leadership Development Program, October 7th – 11th 2005. Using games, initiatives and outdoor activities such as canyoning, rock climbing and rafting, students faced a number of challenges and problem-solving tasks. The teamwork, support and encouragement that they displayed were wonderful qualities and they learned new skills eagerly. The course was a fantastic success and the staff at The Borderlands Resort would like to congratulate every Aastha House student on receiving their Leadership Development Program Certificates.

Grade 12 Lincoln School, Kathmandu, spent their Leadership Development Program with us in Gokarna Forest. From October 24th – 28th 2005 they traversed gorges, climbed giant ladders and solved the many initiatives designed to stretch their powers of communication, cooperation, support, analysis, decision and strategy making. Grade 7, Lincoln School, commenced their Environmental Study Course of the Shivapuri Watershed – Bagmati River on the same dates.

With expert field leadership in the forms of an Environmentalist, a Botanist and an Ornithologist the students spent a fascinating time trekking the River’s source, learning to investigate, consider and respect the environment that they have inherited. A deep and lasting impression has been left with these youngsters as they studied first-hand the effects of communities and their interactions upon the fragile natural resources that we have. We congratulate both grades on receiving their Program Certificates and wish all Grade 12 students the very best with their college applications.

What makes The Borderlands Resort so popular?
Our quality and safety standards which have built up a formidable reputation.

What makes every trip so rewarding?
Our customers, whose thirst for adventure and eagerness to stretch their personal boundaries have been the core of each successful, exhilarating expedition and program.

As usual there are many events to look forward to at The Borderlands Resort which are posted at: http://www.borderlandresorts.com/events.htm

Included in this year’s calendar:
 our sumptuous Christmas celebrations
 the tranquility of our 9th Annual Buddha Jayanti
 and dazzling Nepali New Year festivity

We are eagerly looking forward to extending to you all our bountiful Borderlands hospitality. We hope that, over the year to come, we will see old friends return and new friends arrive.
We invite you all to join us for a fabulous 2005-2006!
Email: info@borderlandresorts.com URL: http://www.borderlandresorts.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The following is an edited version of the prepared text for Bill Moyers’ speech to the National Conference for Media Reform on May 15, 2005 in St. Louis. The story I’ve come to share with you goes to the core of our belief that the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined. I can tell this story because I’ve been living it. It’s been in the news this week, including reports of more attacks on a single journalist — yours truly — by the right-wing media and their allies at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.As some of you know, CPB was established almost 40 years ago to set broad policy for public broadcasting and to be a firewall between political influence and program content. What some on this board are now doing today — led by its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson — is too important, too disturbing and yes, even too dangerous for a gathering like this not to address.We’re seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age-old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.Let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right-wingers who have not given up demonizing me although I retired over six months ago. They’ve been after me for years now, and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don’t come back from the dead.

Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle-class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s OK to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn’t play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.Jonathan Mermin writes about this in a recent essay in World Policy Journal. (You’ll also want to read his book Debating War and Peace, Media Coverage of US Intervention in the Post Vietnam Era.) Mermin quotes public television’s Jim Lehrer acknowledging that unless an official says something is so, it isn’t news. Why were journalists not discussing the occupation of Iraq? Because, says Lehrer, “the word occupation … was never mentioned in the run-up to the war.” Washington talked about the invasion as “a war of liberation, not a war of occupation, so as a consequence, “those of us in journalism never even looked at the issue of occupation.”

… recent admissions by journalists that their reporting failed to prepare the public for the calamitous occupation that has followed the ‘liberation’ of Iraq, reveals just how far the actual practice of American journalism has deviated from the First Amendment ideal of a press that is independent of the government.”Take the example (also cited by Mermin) of Charles J. Hanley. Hanley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Associated Press, whose fall 2003 story on the torture of Iraqis in American prisons — before a U.S. Army report and photographs documenting the abuse surfaced — was ignored by major American newspapers. Hanley attributes this lack of interest to the fact that “it was not an officially sanctioned story that begins with a handout from an official source.”

Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s 1984. They give us a program vowing “No Child Left Behind,” while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily calling for “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” that give us neither.

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy — or worse.

Public television, unfortunately, all too often was offering the same kind of discussions, and a similar brand of insider discourse, that is featured regularly on commercial television.
… economic coverage was so narrow that the views and the activities of most citizens became irrelevant

… America could be entering a long war against an elusive and stateless enemy with no definable measure of victory and no limit to its duration, cost or foreboding fear. The rise of a homeland security state meant government could justify extraordinary measures in exchange for protecting citizens against unnamed, even unproven, threats… Furthermore, increased spending during a national emergency can produce a spectacle of corruption behind a smokescreen of secrecy.

For these reasons and in that spirit, we went about reporting on Washington as no one else in broadcasting — except occasionally 60 Minutes — was doing. We reported on the expansion of the Justice Department’s power of surveillance. We reported on the escalating Pentagon budget and expensive weapons that didn’t work. We reported on how campaign contributions influenced legislation and policy to skew resources to the comfortable and well-connected while our troops were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with inadequate training and armor. We reported on how the Bush administration was shredding the Freedom of Information Act. We went around the country to report on how closed-door, backroom deals in Washington were costing ordinary workers and tax payers their livelihood and security. We reported on offshore tax havens that enable wealthy and powerful Americans to avoid their fair share of national security and the social contract.

And always — because what people know depends on who owns the press — we kept coming back to the media business itself, to how mega media corporations were pushing journalism further and further down the hierarchy of values, how giant radio cartels were silencing critics while shutting communities off from essential information, and how the mega media companies were lobbying the FCC for the right to grow ever more powerful.

the success of NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington. The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party became. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth

… I’ve always thought the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing. The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. Both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it’s no longer an eagle and it’s going to crash.

The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s little red book on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.“But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They’re in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.So I closed the broadcast one Friday night by putting an American flag in my lapel and said :

… I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don’t have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what Bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it’s not un-American to think that war — except in self-defense — is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”That did it. That — and our continuing reporting on overpricing at Haliburton, chicanery on K Street, and the heavy, if divinely guided hand, of Tom DeLay.When Senator Lott protested that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting “has not seemed willing to deal with Bill Moyers,” a new member of the board, a Republican fundraiser named Cheryl Halperin, who had been appointed by President Bush, agreed that CPB needed more power to do just that sort of thing. She left no doubt about the kind of penalty she would like to see imposed on malefactors like Moyers.

… I thought the current CPB board would like to hear and talk about the importance of standing up to political interference. I was wrong. They wouldn’t meet with me. I tried three times. And it was all downhill after that. I was naive, I guess. I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out for the White House. But that’s what Kenneth Tomlinson has done.On Fox News this week he denied that he’s carrying out a White House mandate or that he’s ever had any conversations with any Bush administration official about PBS. But the New York Times reported that he enlisted Karl Rove to help kill a proposal that would have put on the CPB board people with experience in local radio and television.

Mr. Tomlinson also put up a considerable sum of money, reportedly over $5 million, for a new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Gigot is a smart journalist, a sharp editor, and a fine fellow. I had him on NOW several times and even proposed that he become a regular contributor. The conversation of democracy — remember? All stripes.But I confess to some puzzlement that the Wall Street Journal, which in the past editorialized to cut PBS off the public tap, is now being subsidized by American taxpayers although its parent company, Dow Jones, had revenues in just the first quarter of this year of $400 million. I thought public television was supposed to be an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it.But in this weird deal, you get a glimpse of the kind of programming Mr. Tomlinson apparently seems to prefer. Alone of the big major newspapers, the Wall Street Journal has no op-ed page where different opinions can compete with its right-wing editorials. The Journal’s PBS broadcast is just as homogenous –- right- wingers talking to each other. Why not $5 million to put the editors of The Nation on PBS? Or Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! You balance right-wing talk with left-wing talk.

There’s more. Only two weeks ago did we learn that Mr. Tomlinson had spent $10,000 last year to hire a contractor who would watch my show and report on political bias. That’s right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson spent $10,000 of your money to hire a guy to watch NOW to find out who my guests were and what my stories were. Ten thousand dollars.

… Someone has said recently that the great raucous mob that is democracy is rarely heard and that it’s not just the fault of the current residents of the White House and the capital. There’s too great a chasm between those of us in this business and those who depend on TV and radio as their window to the world. We treat them too much as an audience and not enough as citizens. They’re invited to look through the window but too infrequently to come through the door and to participate, to make public broadcasting truly public.”To that end, five public interest groups including Common Cause and Consumers Union will be holding informational sessions around the country to “take public broadcasting back” — to take it back from threats, from interference, from those who would tell us we can only think what they command us to think.

Bitter Taste of Police Harrasment: So, I got the first bitter taste of the racial profiling by the Ottawa police.
Yesterday at around 1.00 PM, I was returning from the Alta Vista shopping center to my apartment after getting a cup of coffee. A male and Caucasian police officer, in his car, stopped me on the drive way to my building. He asked for my ID, which I submitted. He asked me if I was involved with police. I replied negative. He asked me if I was trying to sell cellular phones. I replied no. Then he asked me if I was begging. I said no. He also asked me if I was working. I said yes. Then he said if I lived in this building. I replied: “ yes, I am sharing an apartment with a friend.” After hearing this, he ridiculed me by saying, “oh you work and you share a place?”

After the incidence, I have discussed it with my friends and came to know that a police officer is not supposed to ask for my ID unless there was a charge against me. I also feel that the kind of questions the officer asked me were inappropriate. I have submitted a complain to the Police Department and waiting to see what they have to say.

Since my return from Nepal, I am living in a neighborhood where most of the people are new Canadians, (which means they are newly arrived immigrants) and visible minorities (which also means that they are not white). Living in this ghetto of immigrants for last three months gave me a great insight on why things went wrong in Paris and Sydney. I am talking with my friends that some thing needs to be done immediately to end this social exclusion of the newly arrived immigrants, otherwise Canada would also be in risk of facing same problem that Britain, France and Australia experienced recently. I talked to my old organization to undertake a Canadian program for South Asian youths on social inclusion. I am scheduled to meet an ex- Foreign Minister to discuss this further on Monday.

I am glad that I experienced the police harassment first hand. Now I will not be talking about the theory but I can talk from my experience.

The bitter experience with the police yesterday gave me more reasons why we need to bring the race-relations, social inclusion and racial profiling issue to the forefront.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Nepalese soldiers used as guinea pigs by US?
From Sudeshna Sarkar DH News Service Kathmandu
Deccan Herald, Tuesday, 10 January 2006

The fate of the volunteer soldiers is also not known

Medical researchers in the US and Nepal are now raising concerns that the US intended to use Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, as aguinea pig to find a drug that would help US soldiers. It could be a plot straight out of a Robin Cook medical thriller but it really happened. Between 1995 and 2003, the US government carried out the trial of a new vaccine for Hepatitis E on Nepal soldiers and now, that the vaccine is reported to be successful, questions are being raised about how ethical the test was.

The story goes back to September 1995, when Peter Bodde, then deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Nepal, sought the permission of Nepal's Ministry of Health to establish a Nepal unit of the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS), the foreign branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research that conducts military-related biomedical research in the US.

Glaxo Smith Kline was developing a Hepatitis E vaccine and the US government wanted to test it on humans to see how safe and effective it was.The Nepal government allowed a trial on about 8,000 "volunteers" in Lalitpur city, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, but the plan had to be shelved when the deal triggered protests from NGOs, media and local government officials, who said the mayor had not consulted them before giving his approval.

'Bribes for consent'

The then deputy mayor Ramesh Chitrakar also alleged he and other members were offered watches and other items to consent. After headlines like "Belgium drugs to be tested on Nepalese bodies" began to appear in the media, AFRIMS approached the Royal Nepalese Army, who agreed to provide 2,000 soldiers to "volunteer". At that time, the US government was providing Nepal with substantial militaryaid and training to fight the Maoists and activists say the RNA was not in a position to say no. The trial ended in 2003 and recently,Glaxo said the vaccine was found effective. However, the US government is yet to announce any plans for making the vaccine available inNepal.

The fate of the volunteer soldiers is also not known. Medical researchers in the US and Nepal are now raising concerns that the US intended to use Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, as aguinea pig to find a drug that would help US soldiers.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Canada and Australia close embassies in Jordan

In October last year, when I was in Amman for few days, I stayed at the Kempinski Hotel. The conference that I was attending was at the Marriott Hotel. Soon after arrival, I went to the Marriott to register. Met two old friends who were also at the conference. Three of us took a walk from Marriott towards my hotel. Found a Falafel Restaurant on the way and decided to have our dinner there. The people at the restaurant did not speak much English but were friendly.

We were sitting outside. Soon after our food came to the table two girls, around 12 years old, came from nowhere and started talking to us in Arabic. It was not very difficult to guess that they were asking if they could have some food from our orders The waiter came out fast and tried to shoo these two girls away. We stopped him and gave some food to the girls. We realized that they were street kids and well known to the restaurant people. They were the only street kids that we came across in our four-day stay in the Jordanian capital.

When we came out of the restaurant after dinner we found the Canadian Embassy just next door to that restaurant. My companions made fun of me that the Embassy of my country was on top of a shopping center. We also noticed that the office of the general sales agent of Air Canada was across the road from the Canadian Embassy.

Today, the Canadian and Australian embassy in Jordan shut their doors to the public because of an undisclosed security threat a day after Britain closed its embassy in Amman for the same reason, diplomats said.

A press report says:''The two embassies closed until further notice due to the security situation. It's possibly related to the same security threat received by the British embassy,'' one Western diplomat who requested anonymity told Reuters.Britain closed its embassy in Jordan yesterday because of fears of attacks on Westerners. Jordanian authorities said the closure was unnecessary.A spokesperson at the Foreign Office said its advice to British travelers to Jordan remained unchanged, but there was sufficient reason to close the mission temporarily.The move comes two months after triple suicide bomb attacks on luxury hotels in Amman killed more than 50 people. Al Qaeda in Iraq led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility.Last August, militants linked to Zarqawi were accused by Jordan of being behind a failed rocket attack on US warships in the Red Sea port of Aqaba.Australia and Britain became targets over their support for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Canada did not take part in the war but supports the US-backed Iraqi administration.Jordanian officials said security authorities that assessed an undisclosed threat received by the British embassy had concluded the closure was unnecessary.Police had tightened security around Western missions and hotels since the triple bombings that shattered Jordan's sense of being an island of stability in a troubled region.”

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Letter from Al Jazeera Cameraman imprisoned in Guantanamo
Bumped into the following post on the Peacepalestine blog today.

A letter from the Aljazeera cameraman prisoner in Guantanamo, to his British lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith (the first of three letters) Punished for three grains of rice and four ants
By Sami Muhydin al-Hajj
Guantanamo Bay, November 6, 2005

Dear Clive:
Let me make a confession: I cannot stop asking myself this question, why do they punish me? It is becoming an obsession, but I cannot get it out of my head. All these punishments began when they put me in prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. They only allowed us to go to the athroom twice a day, the first time just after dawn and then just before dusk. We could only go when it was our turn. I remember that once I was very desperate and I whispered to the man in front of me in the queue, to let me get in front of him. The soldier, guarding us, bellowed with fury, “Do not speak!” and then ordered me to get out. He tied my hands to a wire and left me there all day on my feet and shivering with the cold weather. Eventually, I soiled my trousers, to the enjoyment of the soldiers and the whores present.Then to Kandahar:In full summer, under the blazing sun and walking on the burning soil, one soldier shouts, “You! Hold it there... the second one... the third one and also the fourth one! Why did you speak? Get on your knees with your hands on your head! We were left like this, under the torrid sun and kneeling on the burning stones until one of us collapsed and the rest went to his aid. One week, after arriving in Guantanamo, the soldiers got to the cages, very early in the morning and ordered all the prisoners to put their arms through the gap in the door that they used to get our food to us, because, they said, they were going to vaccinate us against tetanus.

When it was my turn, I said to them that I had been vaccinated before I left Doha, against tetanus, yellow fever, cholera and other illnesses and that according to the doctor there that these vaccines were active for five years. There was no point in having them again. The officer bellowed telling me not to argue, " Get your arm out or we'll get it out for you!” I refused. They left me alone for the moment, and then, they returned after finishing with the rest.

However, I kept refusing again and again. As a punishment they took all my things, from the mattress to the toothbrush, and I had to sleep on the floor for three days and three nights. I kept asking myself the same question that torments me: Why do they punish me?Are we to take medicines by force? Have we suddenly turned into a flock of sheep? Do we have to accept everything without protest; without objecting to the excesses—without finding out at least what all this is about?

Many things worse than what I have described happened to me. One night I went to bed quite early. I was exhausted after spending many hours under interrogation. I was awakened by the shouts and commands from the soldiers. “Get your head and your hands out of the blanket!” I was startled so I complied. As a matter of fact, it was forbidden for us to sleep with our heads or hands covered by the blanket. I went to sleep again. Some time later a soldier started hitting the door of the cage as hard as he could and started bellowing, "Why did you put the toothpaste in the place of the toothbrush?” He accused me of refusing to obey military laws and regulations and ordered me to get all my things together. I was punished for a whole week.

And here I am again, asking the same question. Why do they punish me? How can they justify punishing me for a week, taking away all my things, leaving me with no mattress or blanket, obliging me to sleep on the floor?

Another time, I was having breakfast, which consisted of the cold contents of a can. When I finished a soldier collected the leftovers and the plastic bags. He stopped at the door of the cage and counted the pieces, trying to put them together again. Suddenly he shouted, "Where is it... the piece that is missing?" I started looking among my things but I could not find it.

He immediately went away to report the problem to his superiors and came back with his orders. I had to be made an example. Yet again, they took away all my possessions for three days and yet again the same old question came back...Why do they punish me? What on earth would I want with a small piece of a plastic bag?

Once more, providence reunited me in the same cage block with Yamel from Uganda, Mohamed from Chad and Yamel Blama from Britain. The colour of the skin and the hated orange of our boilersuits also united us. The black of our skins was enough to make the guards hate us and make our lives hell. Often they woke us up during the night under the pretext of searching the cage.

One night the soldiers woke me up for yet another search. They did not find anything suspicious, that is, except for three grains of rice on the floor that I had saved for the ants. This time they punished me for seven days and yet again, the same old question came back to haunt me… Why do they punish me?

I just couldn’t understand why three grains of rice and four ants were sufficient reason for them to punish me.

Another night two soldiers stood in front of my door. They were carrying chains and shackles. They banged on the door very hard and I felt afraid when I woke up. They chained me and took me to the Romeo Barracks. They pushed me into a cage. They took my boilersuit and I was left in my underwear. Nothing more, no soap or toothbrush or anything else.

No matter how many times I asked them why I was being punished I never got an answer. However, sometime later I was told that I was in solitary confinement for two weeks, because a soldier found a nail sticking out of the vent in my cage. I asked them from where they thought I got the nail or how did they think that I managed to stick it onto the outside of my cage. No answers—they just turned on their heels and left.

I spent 14 days sitting there, able to say my prayers as I could not do it with respect and dignity in that state of undress. I had to sleep for 14 cold winter nights on the ground without a mattress or blanket.

The harassment and the provocations from the soldiers went from bad to worse. Once we found out that a soldier had trampled on the Holy Koran and left the mark of his boots on it. All prisoners rebelled and decided to return all the copies of the holy book to the administration office so that they were not desecrated in front of us. The Camp Commandant promised that it would not happen again. But, of course, the promise was not fulfilled... The prisoners decided not to leave the cages, not even for walks or desperately needed showers, until they collected all the copies of the Holy Koran.

As always, the culprits came back barking orders and threats. The ruthless riot units arrived. They opened all the cages and beat up all the prisoners before putting shackles and chains on them. They all had their hair; moustaches and beards shaved by force and were thrown into isolation cages.

As it happened to all the others, when my turn came, I was sprayed with gas, beaten up and thrown onto the floor. Once there, a soldier got hold of my head and started banging it against the cement floor. Another one kicked me very hard in the face and immediately blood started pouring out of the injury. All this was happening as I was pinned down to the floor, chained and shackled. Like the others I lost all my hair and was thrown, drenched in blood into an isolation cage.

After an hour or so a soldier asked me through the vent if I wanted to see a doctor. I said no and prayed to Allah, putting before Him the injustices of those who had robbed us of our freedom and dignity. At one point, I felt very faint and I asked to see a doctor. When the doctor got there he gave me three stitches, put a dressing on my head and gave me some sleeping tablets, saying they were antibiotics. All that, through a gap of a few centimetres wide. I fell asleep knocked down by the terrible injustice perpetrated by those men.

The following morning the same old question came back as a curse... Why do they punish us?Perhaps to defend my faith and my religion is a crime punishable with prison. Is it also a crime to ask that all copies of the Holy Koran are collected and kept in a safe place so they are not desecrated in front of us? Why am I here? Because I travelled to Afghanistan with my camera to film for four weeks the brutal war waged against the Afghan people, working on behalf of Al Jazeera. Is this also a crime, which has to be punished with (so far) more than four years in prison? Why did they accuse me of being a terrorist?

Far too many questions are swimming in my head and tormenting my spirit, together with all the slogans promoting deception and the justifying so many crimes committed by those who like to see themselves as promoters of freedom, defenders of democracy and protectors of peace on earth.

Original : http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/08DE9B0F-391A-42B4-B391-A73AE742F133.htm/

Translated from Arabic into French by Ahmed Manaï, a member of Tlaxcala,the network of translators for linguistic diversity (transtlaxcala@yahoo.com ),

from French into Spanish by Juan Vivanco at http://www.rebelion.org/ ,

and from Spanish into English by Ernesto Paramo, a member of Tlaxcala.

This translation is copyleft.
French version : http://quibla.net/guantanamo2006/guantanamo1.htm
Spanish version : http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=25069
Italian version by Mirumir http://mirumir.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Liberation Comes to America:
The Sunday Times
December 18, 2005

Christians strip to build a new Eden
Tony Allen-Mills, New York

IN THE beginning was the word of God and God never said anything about brassieres or boxer shorts. Thus was born Natura, America’s first Christian nudist camp.

After two years of biblical debate over Adam and Eve and their fig leaves and whether or not nudity is sinful, a 67-year-old Quaker grandfather is preparing to open a modern-day Garden of Eden 40 miles north of Tampa, Florida.

Bill Martin’s ambitious plan for a 200-acre Christian- oriented Family Naturist Village has survived legal challenges, doctrinal disputes and a plague of internet prudes. Land is now being cleared for the opening next year of what may become the world’s only Christian community to feature nude volleyball.

Despite howls of complaint from fundamentalists who have likened Martin to the Antichrist — and described his nudist plans as “graphic evidence of America’s moral collapse” — Natura intends to build 50 houses around a non-denominational church where clothing for services will be optional.

He has fought with his neighbours over property rights, fallen out with other nudists over his promotional material and sparked a vigorous internet debate over whether the true path to godliness really involves getting naked.

Yet Martin remains confident that Christians will flock to Natura to experience the spiritual benefits of a lifestyle “free from body shame”. He is spending more than $2m on a nudist recreational complex that will also feature a hotel, campsites and a children’s water park.
“As evidenced by Adam and Eve, we believe that when God’s children are in the right relationship to Him, they will be naked and unashamed,” explains one of Natura’s brochures.

American Christians have long been intrigued by the biblical implications of nudity and Ilsley Boone, a Baptist pastor, was the founder in 1931 of the American Sunbathing Association, an early naturist group.

Martin and his supporters argue that nudism is unhealthy, especially for children, unless it occurs in a proper Christian context. He has criticised non- religious nudist camps for encouraging alcohol and sensuality. “We are going after a totally different group, a group that doesn’t want a sexual atmosphere,” he said. “There is absolutely no relationship between nudity and sex.”

Much of his group’s philosophy appears in a book, Nakedness and the Bible, self- published on the internet by Paul Bowman, a Canadian author. The book cites several biblical references suggesting that God does not disapprove of nudity and that Jesus may have been naked at several key moments of his life — notably when he washed the feet of his disciples.
Martin’s supporters also claim that nude worship is much more in keeping with modest Christian values than are the ostentatious displays of wealth on show at the suburban “megachurches”, where women attend services in “designer clothes and $90 haircuts”, says one internet posting.

None of which has stopped Martin’s critics from battling against his project. Texe Marrs, who operates a website called Conspiracyworld.com, has pointed to Martin’s project as evidence that Satan is subverting Christianity.

Daniel Bellows, chief executive of the new development, said that he regularly receives e-mails from Christians appalled by the idea of nude worship and warning him that he faces eternal damnation.

Although Martin’s land has been used by naturists before — the area has the largest concentration of nudist camps in America — he has alienated local residents with proposed property improvements that have spawned half a dozen lawsuits.

He has also upset America’s largest naturist association with his “holier-than-thou” approach. Earlier this year Natura was expelled by the American Association for Nude Recreation, representing 270 member organisations, on the grounds that his website was publishing “sexually exploitative material”.

Martin, who made his money building nursing and retirement homes in Washington, dismissed the allegations as professional jealousy and defended the photographs as harmless.
“Christ has forewarned us that we would be persecuted for his sake,” he told supporters in an e-mail. But he later removed all photographs from his site.

Martin also became embroiled in a bizarre dispute about an article that appeared on his website discussing male erections — a perennial concern for novice nudists. Martin told the St Petersburg Times that the article was meant to help young men worried about an embarrassing reaction when first confronting naked women.

“If you can’t speak about human nature, I don’t know what you can speak about,” he said. “Erections have got to be addressed. It’s a major concern of teen males.”
Martin’s critics depict him as a religious fanatic whose criticisms of rival resorts are damaging the naturist industry. “We are not concerned about him taking our members,” said Elf Anderson, who conducts nude marriage ceremonies at other resorts. “But we are concerned about the impression he gives to the public about us.

“We are all for wholesome family nudism — but he’s just way off the scale.”