Faruq Faisel

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Can this chocolate bar really beat PMT?
Too good to be true? Chocolate touted as cure for PMT

A new chocolate bar designed to relieve the symptoms of PMT (pre-menstrual tension) means women can indulge their tastebuds without guilt. The Women's Wonder Bar contains rose oil to sooth frayed nerves and is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, said to reduce stomach cramps and headaches. FEMAIL of Daily Mail, London asked four writers to put it to the test . . .

TRACY SCHAVERIEN, 40, lives in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, with her partner, Jerry, and one yearold son, Paddy.

She says:
Who ever coined the phrase 'period drama' must have been referring to me and my monthly mood swings. Ever since I was a teenager, I've been prey to manic highs and terrible lows in the run-up to that time of the month: I cry, I shout and I slam doors.

The only time my PMT was ever under control was when my doctor prescribed the contraceptive Pill to stabilise my hormones. It worked like a dream.

I was still on the Pill when I met my husband. Cunningly, I kept taking it until after our wedding, by which time he was legally bound to stick with me. When I decided to give my body a break from it, my true colours came shining through. Admirably, his spirit remains unbroken - so far!

I doubt very much that a humble bar of chocolate will make a dent in my monthly madness, even if it is "top quality Swiss chocolate" with an "exclusive blend of soy and chaste tree berry with a subtle taste of rose to help soothe the symptoms of PMS and menopause", as the manufacturer claims.

Surely in a world where I drink alcohol and coffee and breathe in pollution the whole time, a little square of chocolate won't have that much bearing on my hormonal state?

As soon as I bite into the dark, smooth chocolate and let it dissolve on my tongue, I can tell it's good quality stuff. But it has a funny taste, a bit like rose petals. If you're a fan of Turkish Delight, you'll adore it. Unfortunately, it makes me feel a bit queasy, but the slightly unpleasant taste means I am able to treat the chocolate as a medical supplement, to be eaten sparingly once a day.

By the end of the month, I have grown to like the taste of my rosy chocolate, but I've got into the habit of savouring one square every evening. And in the run-up to my period, I'm astonished to find that I do feel a little bit calmer than usual.

Of course, my PMT hasn't been eradicated - after watching a documentary about lions I still cry for a day after the mummy lion dies - but I'm noticeably less tense and snappy.

I'm cautiously impressed with the results so far. But perhaps thinking about my PMT has made me more conscious of what's going on in my head, and therefore able to recognise and control mad episodes before they overwhelm me. Whatever the case, it's good to feel a festive spring my step.

ERIN KELLY, a writer, is 30 and lives in North London with her husband, Mike, an actor.

She says:
I have never really considered myself to be a victim of my hormones. OK, so there are a few tell-tale signs when that time of the month is approaching; a little less patience than usual with my loved ones, my computer and, in particular, with bad drivers.

But I'm not the sort of woman whose premenstrual moods make my partner fear for the safety of his private parts. Neither am I the kind of girl who passes up an excuse to eat chocolate. Not just any old chocolate, but healthy chocolate. Every day. In the name of research.
The Wonder Bar is packed with virtuous-sounding ingredients: chaste tree berries, soy, flaxseed. It even contains 'healthy fat' and four times as many antioxidants as green tea. And it's organic.

The manufacturers don't specify how much, or how often, we should eat to reap maximum benefit from the wonder bar, so I prescribed myself one or two squares a day, which I started around midcycle.

For a healthy chocolate, the bar tastes surprisingly decadent. The rich and slightly bitter dark chocolate, infused with essential rose oil, creates a cocoa-cum-Turkish Delight flavour.
The chocolate is also rich and intense, so I didn't feel the need to devour a whole bar at a time.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting the wonder bar to be anything more than a gimmick, a guilt-free excuse to satisfy those pre-menstrual chocolate cravings which, according to the manufacturers, we can blame on natural feel-good chemicals in chocolate.

But a couple of weeks into my experiment something odd happened. My period arrived. Without any warning. No fights with my PC, no horn-blasting at traffic lights.
Admittedly, I suffer from the very mildest symptoms of PMS, and perhaps it was just a happy coincidence that I didn't notice any this month. Or maybe the makers of the Wonder Bar are on to something.

Like any health supplement, its benefits are debatable. But it tastes nice and does no harm, so it must be worth a try.

TESS STIMSON, 38, is a British-born writer and author. She lives in Florida with her husband and three children aged 12, nine and four.

She says:
I don't suffer from PMT and - at certain times of the month - I'll kill anyone who says otherwise. But roughly once every four weeks, my husband goes out of his way to irritate me. He'll suggest we go out to see a movie, which obviously means he thinks I'm fat (why else would he want to take me somewhere dark?) Or he'll buy me flowers, which means he's got something to hide. Or offer to wash up, which means he thinks I'm fat and he's got something to hide.

At times like these, it's only natural for a girl to turn to chocolate. And I do, in industrial quantities. For five days a month, I eat enough Cadbury's Dairy Milk to supply a small country (or, indeed, build one). It doesn't have any noticeable effect on my temper, but it makes me feel better.

So when I'm asked to test a new Swiss chocolate bar that promises to 'take sweet revenge' on PMT as well as being good for you, I'm very keen to know more (although not nearly as keen as my husband).

I'm slightly put off by the fact it describes itself as "an exclusive blend of soy and chaste tree berry with a subtle taste of rose". Chocolate is supposed to be sinful, not chaste. But it is organic, and packed with fibre - as much as an apple - as well as being low-glycaemic, the diet Holy Grail du jour.

It smells of rosewater. And it's dark chocolate, which I hate. I know it's good for me, with its solid cocoa and anti-oxidants. But I don't eat chocolate because it's good for me. I eat it because it makes me feel good. The Wonder Bar doesn't. It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste which even a strong coffee doesn't kill.

Nor do I notice any improvement in my temper: my husband is just as irritating the week before my period as he always was. I still radiate enough heat to solve the world's energy crisis and burst into tears at the sheer poignancy of Desperate Housewives.
Nonetheless, I continue to eat the recommended 2oz per day. In the interests of scientific study,
I have even eliminated all other chocolate from my diet, and asked my husband, as an independent observer, to monitor my moods.

His response is unequivocal. Three weeks into the trial, I come home to find the Wonder Bar in the bin, and four family-sized bars of Cadbury's Dairy Milk on my desk.

CLAUDIA CONNELL, 40, is single and lives in South-West London.

She says:
For years, I always thought that I didn't suffer with PMT because none of the people who knew me well ever mentioned a drastic change in my personality.

As it turns out, I had the all-time worst PMT in history and no one dared say anything in case I killed them or burned down their house. The rage starts to build about five days before the big day and stays with me for the next four days.
In other words, I am a vile, spiteful, bitchy nightmare for two weeks out of four. No wonder I'm single! Like all women, I crave chocolate at certain times of the month, so the idea of a bar that satisfies my cravings while, at the same time, helps calm my psychotic tendencies is enormously appealing.

The Women's Wonder Bar was formulated by a U.S. doctor called Philip Cohen, who either wanted to do all he could to help womankind in her days of need, or had a wife that suffered the world's worst PMT and had to invent a cure or get a divorce.

As well as claiming to reduce premenstrual symptoms, the chocolate bar also says it aids sleep, promotes a glowing skin and boosts brain power. It really would be a 'wonder' bar if it did all that.

I started by eating three bars of chocolate a week before my period was due. Even though plain chocolate would never be a first choice, I had to admit the Women's Wonder Bar was incredibly tasty.

However, its sickly sweet smell reminded me of a granny's bedroom - with a hint of parma violets and rose perfume - and it is all packaged in a ridiculously girly pink wrapper, the logic clearly being: "OK, she might be a bitter, miserable hag, but she still likes pretty things."
But once you get beyond the off-putting smell and sample it, the chocolate tastes surprisingly good. As the days ticked by I built up to a greedy two-bar-a-day habit, and as the dreaded day dawned I felt so much livelier and less bloated than normal. I even escaped the skin break-out that usually makes the big occasion for me. Could the Wonder Bar really have worked?

The test came later on when someone stole my parking space in the supermarket car park - I only tooted my horn and made a rude gesture, rather than get out of my car for a screaming face-to-face confrontation, as I would otherwise have done.

Friends normally shun my company at a certain time of the month, but on this occasion I conned a girlfriend into having dinner with me and she remarked that I seemed: 'vaguely normal', which I took as a massive compliment.

I wouldn't say the Wonder Bar turned me from Cruella De Vil into Pollyanna, but it seemed to make a marked difference and I will be tucking in at the same time next month - I always knew chocolate was the answer to all my problems.
• To get the Women's Wonder Bar by Eccobella, log on to: www.healthbychocolate.com

Teachers emphasize the Indians' side of Thanks Giving
Associated Press Writer Tue Nov 21, 6:20 PM ET

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Teacher Bill Morgan walks into his third-grade class wearing a black Pilgrim hat made of construction paper and begins snatching up pencils, backpacks and glue sticks from his pupils. He tells them the items now belong to him because he "discovered" them. The reaction is exactly what Morgan expects: The kids get angry and want their things back.

Morgan is among elementary school teachers who have ditched the traditional Thanksgiving lesson, in which children dress up like Indians and Pilgrims and act out a romanticized version of their first meetings.

He has replaced it with a more realistic look at the complex relationship between Indians and white settlers.

Morgan said he still wants his pupils at Cleveland Elementary School in San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving. But "what I am trying to portray is a different point of view."
Others see Morgan and teachers like him as too extreme.

"I think that is very sad," said Janice Shaw Crouse, a former college dean and public high school teacher and now a spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America, a conservative organization. "He is teaching his students to hate their country. That is a very distorted view of history, a distorted view of Thanksgiving."

Even American Indians are divided on how to approach a holiday that some believe symbolizes the start of a hostile takeover of their lands.

Chuck Narcho, a member of the Maricopa and Tohono O'odham tribes who works as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles, said younger children should not be burdened with all the gory details of American history.

"If you are going to teach, you need to keep it positive," he said. "They can learn about the truths when they grow up. Caring, sharing and giving — that is what was originally intended."
Adam McMullin, a member of the Seminole tribe of Oklahoma and a spokesman for the National Congress of American Indians, said schoolchildren should get an accurate historical account.
"You can't just throw an Indian costume on a child," he said. "That stuff is not taken lightly. That's where educators need to be very careful."

Becky Wyatt, a teacher at Kettering Elementary School in Long Beach, decided to alter the costumes for the annual Thanksgiving play a few years ago after local Indians spoke out against students wearing feathers, which are sacred in their culture. Now children wear simple headbands.

"We have many mixed cultures in Long Beach, so we try to be sensitive," Wyatt said. "What you teach little children is important."

Laverne Villalobos, a member of the Omaha tribe in Nebraska who now lives in the coastal town of Pacifica near San Francisco, considers Thanksgiving a day of mourning.
She went before the school board last week and asked for a ban on Thanksgiving re-enactments and students dressing up as Indians. She also complained about November's lunch menu that pictured a caricature of an Indian boy.

The mother of four said the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations in schools instill "a false sense of what really happened before and after the feast. It wasn't all warm and fuzzy."
After she complained, it was decided that pupils at her children's school will not wear Indian costumes this year.

James Loewen, a former history professor at the University of Vermont and author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong," said that during the first Thanksgiving, the Wampanoag Indians and the pilgrims had been living in relative peace, even though the tribe suspected the settlers of robbing Indian graves to steal food buried with the dead.

"Relations were strained, but yet the holiday worked. Folks got along. After that, bad things happened," Loewen said, referring to the bloody warfare that broke out later during the 17th century.

Morgan, a teacher for more than 35 years, said that after conducting his own research, he changed his approach to teaching about Thanksgiving. He tells teachers at his school this is a good way to nurture critical thinking, but he acknowledged not all are receptive: "It's kind of an uphill struggle."

No Thanks to Thanksgiving
By Robert Jensen, AlterNet.
Posted November 23, 2006.

Instead, we should atone for the genocide that was incited -- and condoned -- by the very men we idolize as our 'heroic' founding fathers.

One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.

In fact, indigenous people have offered such a model; since 1970 they have marked the fourth Thursday of November as a Day of Mourning in a spiritual/political ceremony on Coles Hill overlooking Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, one of the early sites of the European invasion of the Americas.

Not only is the thought of such a change in this white-supremacist holiday impossible to imagine, but the very mention of the idea sends most Americans into apoplectic fits -- which speaks volumes about our historical hypocrisy and its relation to the contemporary politics of empire in the United States.

That the world's great powers achieved "greatness" through criminal brutality on a grand scale is not news, of course. That those same societies are reluctant to highlight this history of barbarism also is predictable.

But in the United States, this reluctance to acknowledge our original sin -- the genocide of indigenous people -- is of special importance today. It's now routine -- even among conservative commentators -- to describe the United States as an empire, so long as everyone understands we are an inherently benevolent one. Because all our history contradicts that claim, history must be twisted and tortured to serve the purposes of the powerful.

One vehicle for taming history is various patriotic holidays, with Thanksgiving at the heart of U.S. myth-building. From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.

Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it's also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.

Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.

The first president, George Washington, in 1783 said he preferred buying Indians' land rather than driving them off it because that was like driving "wild beasts" from the forest. He compared Indians to wolves, "both being beasts of prey, tho' they differ in shape."

Thomas Jefferson -- president #3 and author of the Declaration of Independence, which refers to Indians as the "merciless Indian Savages" -- was known to romanticize Indians and their culture, but that didn't stop him in 1807 from writing to his secretary of war that in a coming conflict with certain tribes, "[W]e shall destroy all of them."

As the genocide was winding down in the early 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt (president #26) defended the expansion of whites across the continent as an inevitable process "due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway."

Roosevelt also once said, "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."

How does a country deal with the fact that some of its most revered historical figures had certain moral values and political views virtually identical to Nazis? Here's how "respectable" politicians, pundits, and professors play the game: When invoking a grand and glorious aspect of our past, then history is all-important. We are told how crucial it is for people to know history, and there is much hand wringing about the younger generations' lack of knowledge about, and respect for, that history.

In the United States, we hear constantly about the deep wisdom of the founding fathers, the adventurous spirit of the early explorers, the gritty determination of those who "settled" the country -- and about how crucial it is for children to learn these things.

But when one brings into historical discussions any facts and interpretations that contest the celebratory story and make people uncomfortable -- such as the genocide of indigenous people as the foundational act in the creation of the United States -- suddenly the value of history drops precipitously and one is asked, "Why do you insist on dwelling on the past?"

This is the mark of a well-disciplined intellectual class -- one that can extol the importance of knowing history for contemporary citizenship and, at the same time, argue that we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about history.

This off-and-on engagement with history isn't of mere academic interest; as the dominant imperial power of the moment, U.S. elites have a clear stake in the contemporary propaganda value of that history. Obscuring bitter truths about historical crimes helps perpetuate the fantasy of American benevolence, which makes it easier to sell contemporary imperial adventures -- such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- as another benevolent action.

Any attempt to complicate this story guarantees hostility from mainstream culture. After raising the barbarism of America's much-revered founding fathers in a lecture, I was once accused of trying to "humble our proud nation" and "undermine young people's faith in our country."

Yes, of course -- that is exactly what I would hope to achieve. We should practice the virtue of humility and avoid the excessive pride that can, when combined with great power, lead to great abuses of power.

History does matter, which is why people in power put so much energy into controlling it. The United States is hardly the only society that has created such mythology. While some historians in Great Britain continue to talk about the benefits that the empire brought to India, political movements in India want to make the mythology of Hindutva into historical fact.

Abuses of history go on in the former empire and the former colony. History can be one of the many ways we create and impose hierarchy, or it can be part of a process of liberation. The truth won't set us free, but the telling of truth at least opens the possibility of freedom.
As Americans sit down on Thanksgiving Day to gorge themselves on the bounty of empire, many will worry about the expansive effects of overeating on their waistlines. We would be better to think about the constricting effects of the day's mythology on our minds.

AlterNet orginally ran this article on Thanksgiving 2005

The First Annual Synchronized Global Orgasm for Peace

Come on, give peace a chance! ;-)

The Global Orgasm for Peace, conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, wants everyone in the world to have an orgasm on Dec. 22 as part of a massive anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter.

This is the First Annual Solstice Synchronized Global Orgasm for Peace, leading up to the December Solstice of 2012, when the Mayan Calendar ends with a new beginning.

The couple who believe war is an outgrowth of men trying to impress mates in a case of "my missile is bigger than your missile," said interest is strong with 26,000 hits a day to their website. http://www.globalorgasm.org/ .

The mission of the Global Orgasm is to effect change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy. Now that there are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti- submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, the time to change Earth’s energy is NOW!

The intent is that the participants concentrate any thoughts during and after orgasm on peace. The combination of high- energy orgasmic energy combined with mindful intention may have a much greater effect than previous mass meditations and prayers.

The goal is to add so much concentrated and high-energy positive input into the energy field of the Earth that it will reduce the current dangerous levels of aggression and violence throughout the world.

Global Orgasm is an experiment open to everyone in the world.

Initiators of this event hope that the results will register on the worldwide monitor system of the Global Consciousness Project.

Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell co-founded the anti-war organization Baring Witness www.BaringWitness.org, a worldwide collective of peace activists who are alarmed enough to spell peace publicly with their naked bodies. The Global Orgasm is a way for even more men and women to be involved in changing the way human affairs are conducted in the world.

Donna and Paul conduct Redefining Seduction http://www.RedefiningSeduction.com. At present they are co-producing the feature-length documentary film Baring Witness and a stage play.


WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass

WHEN? Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd, at the time of your choosing, in
the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, so the time to change Earth’s energy is NOW!

Our minds influence Matter and Energy fields, so by concentrating any thoughts during and after The Big O on peace and partnership, the combination of high orgasmic energy combined with mindful intention will reduce global levels of violence, hatred and fear.

This is something just about everyone can do and enjoy. And you can do it by yourself or with someone else. You don't even have to tell anyone you're going to do it!

The Global Consciousness Project http://noosphere.princeton.edu , Princeton University, runs a network of Random Event Generators around the world, which record changes in randomness during global events. The results show that human consciousness can be measured to have a global effect on matter and energy during widely-watched events such as 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami. There have also been measurable results during mass meditations and prayers.

It's free! It's private! It’s easy! It's fun! It just might be the most important thing you could do for yourself, your family, the planet and our species.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mexican Embassy to face noisy Ottawa protest

Activists condemn Canada's silence on repression in Mexico

Since October 27, the people of Oaxaca Mexico have faced massive police and paramilitary repression at the hands of the government authorities legally obligated to protect them. The recent crisis follows a period of several months of a peaceful popular mobilization in sympathy with a mass teachers' strike launched in May. The teachers' campaign generated widespread support, and various sectors - students, workers, the unemployed, and indigenous communities - joined in. Since June, Oaxaca City has been controlled by the popular movement coalition that emerged, known as the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). On October 27, the unpopular Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, moved aggressively to try to regain control of the region. Early that day, thousands of federal police invaded the community, supported by armed overhead helicopters, water-cannons, tear gas, and armoured vehicles. Within three days, APPO estimated that at least 6 people had been killed, and many others wounded, arrested, jailed, "disappeared", and tortured.

One of those killed was U.S. independent journalist Brad Will. The shooting of Will, captured on videotape, is reported to have been carried out by paramilitary forces working on behalf of the police and Governor Ulises Ruiz. The 2004 election of Ruiz is considered by many in Oaxaca as fraudulent, and his resignation has been a focal demand of the APPO movement.

A spokesperson for Oaxaca Solidarity Ottawa, Roberto Miranda, is shocked not only by the violence, but by what he calls the "apparent indifference" to the crisis from the Government of Canada.

"These criminal acts carried out against the people in Oaxaca constitute grave violations of their rights. The silence of Prime Minister Harper regarding the behaviour of his NAFTA partner throughout this crisis is simply appalling."

Miranda and his group are organizing a demonstration at the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa (World Exchange Plaza) on Monday, November 20, 2006 at 4:30 pm.

"Ambassador Garcia Segovia de Madero must convey to the Mexican government that people in Canada and around the world are watching this crisis very closely. This repression must stop immediately."

The event is part of an international day of action in support of the people of Oaxaca.

Roberto Miranda (English, Spanish, French), (613) 864-1590 (cell)Ben Powless (English), (613) 614-4219 (cell)
Links to the poster and to the flyer:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mexico: What is happening in Oaxaca?

Roberto Miranda forwards some e-mails on Mexican issues once on a while. Today I was reading one of his messages. There I found an e-mail written by a Vancouver activist who is inOaxaca now.

She wrote:
It was a quiet morning, after an anxious night. Rumors at around 11 pm of the police circling, another call around nine in the morning that six trucks of the dangerous federal police (PFP) had left their occupation in the city centre and were headed on the highway in our direction. There is a sense that it is only a matter of time, but in the meantime, everything is rather ordinary. We cook and clean, and scrub out our socks and undies and hang them up to dry. We run out of cooking gas, and the women from Cotzocon don't blink but haul in some brush from the yard and start a fire and the beans and coffee cookover a roaring flame, and are they ever good. The garden has been totally abandoned since June, so Pedro, Chayo, and I start to pull down dry corn stalks, and we are going to fix the garden up. It is a sign of life. There have been 500 years of Indigenous resistence in Oaxaca, and sometimes just surviving is an act of resistance, an act of foolish faith, in the face of overwhelming violence. Fixing up the garden might be just as important as reconstructing the Calicanto barricade.

I am extremely frustrated with the church presence in this time of grief and hope. The Roman Catholic church has tried to be "neutral", to be a force for reconciliation, which is all good and well, but there are times of trial when reconciliation is not what is required.

The church in Nazi Germany had to hang its head in shame later when its bland stand for neutrality was exposed. The church in Oaxaca which has huge power and influence has not made an obvious stand in favour of the marginalized, although there are a few dedicated priests.

Chayo and I go to visit Sara Mendez, the Coordinatorof the Network of Oaxacan Human Rights Groups. She is in her office her head in her hands crying. Another woman smooths her back, comforts her. But it's a scene that brings us all to a quiet throat-burning place.

It has been a long, terrible five months. Another young man has been killed, Daniel Gomez Lopez, aged 26. His body had been recovered by his family, who then turned it over to a supposed PRI official (or policeman, the situation was still unfolding, and was not completely clear). Now no one knows where the body is. It has disappeared completely, and his family are undone.They are ordinary, poor people, they don't know what's going on, says Sara.

Things are grave, we are entering into a dirty war, she says, there is much fear, there is a clear strategy of terror.

Good night to all my beloved, pray for me and for theIndigenous people of Oaxaca, who just want to beallowed to be, emilie"

Then I read this following AP story:

Oaxaca Governor Refuses to Step Down
Friday November 17, 2006 9:31 AM
Associated Press Writer

OAXACA, Mexico (AP) - His name is scrawled on buildings and streets next to the word ``murderer.'' Protesters accusing him of corruption seized the state capital for five months, and thousands of federal troops have failed to resolve the standoff. Even his own party's lawmakers want him gone.

But Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz says he'll serve out his term, which ends in 2010. The slim, mustachioed politician from the once all-powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party is an unfortunate symbol of Mexico's democratic growing pains, a throwback to old-style politics in a nation that has moved on.

He has largely ignored demonstrations that have left nine people dead, calling on the federal government to restore order while he spends four days a week zipping about in a helicopter over the rugged mountains of southern Mexico, visiting 400 villages in 18 months.
Ruiz, a native of Chalcatongo village in the heart of Mixtec Indian country, defended his administration in an interview with The Associated Press.

``I have the backing of the Oaxacan people. I have their affection,'' he said.

Oaxaca, Mexico's poorest state, has been ruled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party since the party's founding in 1929. The democratic changes that have swept much of Mexico since Vicente Fox's 2000 victory ended the party's 71-year grip on the presidency have passed Oaxaca by. Poverty is profound, and many of the state's 3.5 million people lack electricity or nearby roads.

In many ways, Ruiz is no different from any past Oaxaca governor. He just happened to be in office when voters decided they were fed up.

``Oaxaca was a time bomb waiting to go off,'' said protest leader Flavio Sosa. ``Ruiz was just the detonator.''

Violence in the picturesque state capital has gotten so bad that the U.S. Embassy said Wednesday it was extending a warning advising against travel to the once-popular tourist destination, where protesters have crippled the economy by building barricades and torching buses.

On Thursday, Oaxacan teachers officially returned to schoolhouses after a six-month strike against Ruiz. But only a handful of the state's 13,000 schools opened with many teachers in the capital city staying away, saying they feared assaults from pro-government thugs.

The protesters accuse the governor of rigging the 2004 election by buying votes and intimidating opponents with gun-toting thugs who have been captured on videotape firing at protesters. Ruiz denies the charges, and his attorney general, Lizbeth Cana, publicly blames ``urban guerrillas.''

During the campaign, alleged ruling party militants were photographed beating to death two supporters of Ruiz's leftist rival. The state's judicial system - which answers to Ruiz - hasn't produced any arrests or major leads.

The protest movement's members - who include trade unionists, leftists, Indian groups and students - say the problem goes deeper than electoral fraud and political violence. Ruiz, they argue, is the latest in a long line of corrupt Mexican politicians who have looked after the rich and ground down the poor.

Ruiz dedicated much of his first year in office to promoting Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, who finished third with a mere 22 percent of the vote in July. The party has struggled to survive since, and Ruiz has been left without its usual support.

Since protesters took over Oaxaca City in June, Ruiz has been unable to get to his office most of the time - let alone walk the streets of the historic center.

Even the arrival last month of 4,000 federal police has not guaranteed him safe passage, and on Wednesday he gave his annual government report in a taped video message rather than risk a trip to the state legislature.

Last week, when Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal demanded Ruiz pacify the state or resign, the governor shot back that Abascal should solve his own problems or resign himself.

Ironically, Mexico's democratic changes may be the only thing saving Ruiz's job. In decades past, presidents often removed controversial governors; Carlos Salinas de Gortari got rid of 16 of Mexico's 31 governors during his 1988-94 term, some of whom faced protests far less severe than those in Oaxaca.

Fox, in contrast, has been reluctant to get involved, arguing that only voters can remove elected officials from office.

``The president does not install or get rid of governors. That era has gone, and is gone forever,'' said spokesman Ruben Aguilar.

Many analysts predict Ruiz will eventually fall. The federal Senate has the power to remove governors if it determines they have lost control of their state. Last month, it threw out one bill to get rid of Ruiz, but another has been presented.

``Four more years of this conflict would be disastrous,'' said political analyst Jose Antonio Crespo. ``The pressure will have to break this governor in the end.''

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Palestinian Women Pay Health Toll at Checkpoints

By Brenda Gazzar, Women's eNews
Posted on November 16, 2006, Printed on November 16, 2006

SHEIKH SA'AD, West Bank -- At the entrance of this small village near Jerusalem, Palestinian grandmother Khadijeh Musa Alaan was told at an Israeli checkpoint that she could not leave to visit her daughter in a nearby village.
Two Israeli volunteers, Laura Sznajder and Tamar Bilu, politely tried to persuade an Israeli army official to let the 59-year-old woman pass on that hot August afternoon.
He refused. Alaan, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank, did not have a temporary permit from the district commander's office, he said..

She was also turned back at the checkpoint in July while trying to visit a doctor for treatment of her diabetes, she says.

Alaan is just one of many women whose health and safety have been placed in jeopardy as a result of Israel's nearly 40-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and increasingly restrictive security measures.

"Health is one of the most basic needs of a human being," says Sznajder, who as part of the Israeli women's organization Machsom Watch monitors military checkpoints in the West Bank for potential human rights abuses and violations. (Machsom means "checkpoint" in Hebrew.)

"The minute that you hurt mobility, you hurt health. They go together."

Palestinian women have for decades faced a multitude of health risks shared by the overall population, including restricted access for patients and medical professionals due to the occupation, the deteriorating economic situation, traditional cultural beliefs, and lack of adequate services and facilities. Since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in September 2000, those hardships have been aggravated.

Between Sept. 28, 2000, and Aug. 20, 2006, for instance, 10 percent of women in the West Bank and Gaza who needed to give birth in medical centers or hospitals were delayed by Israeli forces from two to four hours, according to the Palestinian Health Information Center, an agency of the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Sixty-eight women gave birth at checkpoints during this period, considered a factor in the deaths of 34 newborns and four mothers. 'Constantly Anxious' Pregnancies
"Palestinian women live in frustration of not being assured that they can reach a maternity facility on time," said Rita Giacaman, professor of public health at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "That means they are constantly anxious during their pregnancy."

An already weak economy has been worsened by sanctions by the United States, Israel and the European Union that followed the election of the militant Hamas government earlier this year. In the Gaza Strip, recent Israeli military actions and a tight siege on goods have resulted in shortages of food, water and medicine that increase the prospects of malnutrition and disease for the more than 1.4 million Palestinians who live there.

About 65 percent of the population in the Palestinian territories lives under the poverty line and about 30 percent of the population is unemployed, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, 18 civilians in Gaza were killed in a shelling that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said was caused by "technical failure." In response, Hamas threatened to resume suicide bombings for the first time since striking a partial cease-fire with Israel in 2005.

Military checkpoints and the new dividing wall known as the "Security Fence," located partly within the West Bank and partly along the border between the West Bank and Israel proper, are meant to deter such attacks, but pose travel problems for Palestinians.

"Militarily, it works," said Capt. Noa Meir, spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces, who spoke with Women's eNews before the most recent shelling in Gaza. "The number of suicide attacks has gone down.. To a large part it's due to the security fence and checkpoints. And the fact that terrorists have been stopped at checkpoints shows that they try to get through them."
Humanitarian Groups Step In

On a humanitarian level, however, several Palestinian and Israeli organizations consider the defensive barriers a humanitarian problem to be alleviated.

In 2004 the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, the largest Palestinian nongovernmental health organization with at least 350 employees that works throughout the West Bank and Gaza, established the Mythaloon Maternity Home near Jenin in the Northern West Bank. The facility is intended to reduce the number of women who deliver babies at checkpoints or on roads and to provide services to expectant mothers, such as birthing counseling, home visits and health instruction for the mother and her family.

The relief society is trying to raise enough funds to open two more maternity homes in the West Bank areas of Ramallah and Hebron. About 60 to 70 deliveries take place at the Mythaloon clinic each month and the need for similar facilities, particularly for communities separated from health services by the security barrier, is great, says Dr. Khadijeh Jarrar, women's health program director.

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society also offers affordable clinical services for women in 26 primary health care clinics throughout the West Bank and Gaza, including breast exams, pap smears and family planning services.
Since 1984, the organization has trained close to 300 women -- mainly in villages -- to serve as community health workers. The women go through a two-year program of nursing and public health.

Another organization is the Tel Aviv-based Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. Founded by Israeli and Palestinian doctors, it advocates on behalf of patients and medical personnel in the West Bank and Gaza who are refused passage into Israel on security grounds.

The organization succeeds in attaining permits for Palestinians in about 98 percent of the cases it advocates for, said Maskit Bendel, director of the Occupied Territories Project for the group in Tel Aviv, which submits about 1,000 appeals for patients denied entry each year..
Palestinians "don't know they can appeal. Nobody tells them," Bendel said.
Waging a Court Campaign

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is also waging a campaign in the Israel Supreme Court to allow Palestinian ambulances from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem, something that has been forbidden since 2002.

Today, Palestinians in the West Bank who need emergency care in Jerusalem must take a Palestinian ambulance to a checkpoint, then be transferred by stretcher to an Israeli ambulance and pay for the expense themselves, Bendel said.

Machsom Watch, which has approximately 400 members and opposes both the Israeli occupation and West Bank military checkpoints, has Israeli women monitoring checkpoints, documenting any violations and intervening to prevent violations, whether it is unwarranted detentions, the prevention of passage of citizens or violence. In extreme incidents, the organization files complaints to the Army.

Many Palestinians haven't been able to leave their towns or villages for years and permits are often given arbitrarily, says Adi Dagan, spokesperson for Machsom Watch.

The organization's goal is to inform the Israeli public and the world "and tell them the story of what is going on there so eventually one day, this will stop," Dagan said. "We don't believe in a nice occupation or an enlightened occupation."

Jarrar of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society agreed, saying that her women's program is merely trying to help Palestinian women survive a crisis.

"We are trying our best to help our women bear their life, not to live a quality life," said Jarrar from her office in Ramallah. "It is impossible. There is no quality in occupation."
Brenda Gazzar is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dubai Swats Pests Ogling Beach Beauties

Tamara Abdul Hadi for The New York Times

The police have arrested more than 500 men suspected of leering at women or photographing them on Dubai public beaches like Jumeirah.

Published: November 12, 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 11 — Temperatures have dropped from blazing hot to balmy, the turquoise waters now have a refreshing chill and the sand is just about bearable to walk on.

As winter arrives in this Persian Gulf city, the masses are thronging by the tens of thousands to its white sandy beaches, wearing, in an unlikely exercise in maritime coexistence, everything from black flowing abayas to slinky bikinis.

Thronging right alongside them are Dubai’s “beach pests,” the gangs of men who trudge through the sand, fully dressed, to ogle the women.

Mostly laborers at the front lines of Dubai’s building boom — toiling on manmade islands, innumerable high-rises, even a dome in the desert for the world’s largest indoor snow park — they flood the beaches every weekend to leer at women, photograph them and occasionally try to grope them in the water.

“They pretend to take pictures of their friends, but they are really taking pictures of you,” said Anika Graichen, 23, a German hotel receptionist who has lived here for three years. She lay on the beach last week trying to ignore various groups of men who passed by with their eyes locked on her.

She is almost used to them now, she said. “I think I can understand it,” she said. “It’s the only place they can have a look at women.”

Indeed, for the estimated 500,000 foreign workers here, most from the Indian subcontinent, the chance to spot a woman in a bikini may be hard to pass up.

They typically live in a Dickensian world of squalor, working 12-hour shifts six days a week, often denied their wages of about $150 per month for months at a time. Most of them secure work by taking out loans from recruiting agencies at home to get here, forcing most to stay on for years without seeing their families and loved ones. The workmen have become prevalent in Dubai’s public parks and beaches as their numbers have swelled, and because of the lechery-on-the-beach factor, they are especially noticeable at this time of year.

They tend to beachcomb in groups, their camera-equipped cellphones always at the ready. Many do not know how to swim; some enter the water wearing their traditional robes, made of thin white cloth that becomes transparent when wet — and reveals far more of their anatomy than most beachgoers want to see. Incidents of physical harm to women are rare, though the police have arrested flashers and men committing lewd acts in public.

On Friday, Saifi, a metalworker who would give only his first name, walked along a beach with four friends, pausing from time to time to look around and chat. All in their mid-20s, the men were dressed in jeans and slacks. Saifi’s bright orange shirt made him impossible to miss.
“I come here almost every weekend,” he said. “This beach has no problems, but the others have become more problematic for men.”

He meant the police. He said that he was stopped at another beach two weeks earlier.
“The police said to me, ‘Why are you here, why aren’t you wearing a bathing suit?’ ” he said. “Then they told me to leave.” With a giggle, he admitted that the cause for his eviction was that he had been staring at women.

“Every man looks at a woman in a bathing suit when he sees her,” he said. “What can I do? I’m a normal man.” At a ladies-only day at a local beach earlier in the week, Nisrine Ben-Stitou, 28, a Moroccan citizen who moved here and works in a clothing store, said the harassment was such that she no longer went to the park or the beach on the weekend.

“Some people take pictures, which makes me crazy, or they stay and they watch you,” Ms. Ben-Stitou said. “I went one time, and I said I will never go back. I feel so free in this country and I feel safe, but what happens on the beach — I don’t know why the authorities don’t do something about it.”

Dubai officials, keen to attract tourists to the beaches, say they are trying. They have vowed to crack down with a security plan that includes plainclothes officers and a “three-strikes policy” aimed at keeping out the worst of the offenders.

“The goal is to get people to use the beaches for what they’re meant to be used for,” said Brig. Khamis al-Mazeina, director of Dubai’s Criminal Investigation Department, which polices the harbors and beaches. “There are naturally people who create problems and who are ignorant, but we intend to deal with them.”

Mr. Mazeina said his department had built new watchtowers to scan the beaches and added 35 undercover policemen to patrol as beach bums, looking for the first signs of trouble. Though many workmen fear being barred outright, Mr. Mazeina insists he intends to protect their rights, too, by ensuring that they are treated with courtesy and respect.

“When they see people hanging around for no reason other than to harass women or to try to speak with them, police are authorized to take action,” he said. “We want people to feel secure on our beaches, and we can easily spot people who are not there for the beach. We’ll be watching and if we see anything we will be getting involved.”

On a recent day, plainclothes officers stood atop a watchtower as several officers approached a man who had been photographing a group of women. The man and several of his friends were quickly brought up to the air-conditioned watchtower.

“If we see someone taking pictures like that, we are going to demand to see the photos,” said one officer, who identified himself only as Abdullah because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. He took the man’s camera phone and began flipping through the photos. “We would then delete the suspect photos and give him a warning.”

If the men are spotted taking photos again, Abdullah said, the police will make a formal notice; on a third episode, they will be barred from the beach.

The police say they have arrested more than 500 people under the new policy, the vast majority of them on immigration violations, and several more for outstanding warrants. But 15 were detained, according to police department records, for “a breakdown in public behavior.”
“You try to scare them a bit just to get them to stop,” Abdullah said. “Ask him, ‘What are you going to do with this picture? Would you like it if someone was photographing your sister?’ That’s usually enough to get the point across.”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Shame on Them
Corrupt millionaire ministers in Bangladesh

Added: (Sat Apr 15 2006)

Corruption is the number one problem for Bangladesh . Transparency International in its annual report placed Bangladesh at the top of the list of most corrupt nations in the world. Certainly, it makes the politicians in Bangladesh , especially those in power, extremely uncomfortable and worried. Although the immediate past ruling alliance in the country were making frantic bids in cleansing the image of Bangladesh, it was well understood that, international community were not convinced that, Begum Khaleda Zia’s government was doing anything in eliminating corruption from different sections in the country.

An intelligence agency of Bangladesg identified 11 mid ranking officials with National Board of Revenue, who own 15 luxurious villas in countries port city of Chittagong , which costs US$ 2.5 million. It is important to mention here that, monthly salary of these officials are less than US$ 400 per month! Police and Customs (revenue) are the most corrupt departments in Bangladesh . Almost all the officers, on their retirement, emerge as multi-millionaire. They acquire wealth and properties in their own name or in the names of their spouses.

The immediate past Government also knew these facts, but was unable to take any action. Names of some of the members of the BNP-Jamat cabinet in Bangladesh came out as the worst corrupts. They minted money like wild gambling. Sixty members of the past parliament rose complaint against a particular minister, while the Prime Minister did not take any action against him. Many of the family members of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia became fabulously rich, by using state power.

The most talked about corrupt figure in Bangladesh is Tareq Rahman, eldest son of Khaleda Zia and Ziaur Rahman. Tareq became billionaire just in few years, while many of his friends, also became very rich under the direct patronization of the son of the PM.

Tareq has established Hawa Bhaban, which is considered as one of the offices of BNP. There are solid evidences of this office’s involvement in interfering in almost all the business contracts in the country during the BNP-Jamat rule. Hawa Bhaban palls are considered as the most influential figures in Bangladesh . One of the Hawa Bhaban palls is Giasuddin Mamun, who is known as Tareq’s closest friend. Hailing from an extreme poor family in the southern part of Bangladesh , Mamun is today one of the richest men in Bangladesh through various corruption, smuggling and many other forms of illegal activities.

Surprisingly one of the assistant press secretaries of Khaleda Zia, when she was the PM, Touhidul Islam alias Ashik Islam was simultaneously working in the PMO as well as in Hawa Bhaban as its spokesman. Moreover, this man is also involved with Tareq’s private television channel, Channel One. There are numerous allegations on Ashik’s involvement in a number of financial irregularities as well of misappropriating state money with various excuses. Government did not take any action against this man, as he is considered to be one of the closest aides of Tareq Rahman.

Khaleda Zia was notified several times about this man’s illegal activities by country’s intelligence agencies. But, she could not take any action against Ashik, as Tareq always stood behind him with fullest support. Khaleda’a own brother, Sayeed Iskander, who is a sacked major of Bangladesh army, also turned into multi-millionaire by using the influence of his sister. Sayeed runs a company named Dandy Dying, which is appears to be a camouflage of his other activities. Behind the mask of Dandy Dying, Sayeed is involved in minting fabulous amount of cash through kick backs and other means. He was virtually the unseen defense advisor to the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia. No posting or promotion in the army was possible without his blessings or recommendations. Sayeed Iskander placed a number of his course-mates and even some of his close relatives in the sensitive and important positions in Bangladesh Army.

Khaleda’s late husband President Ziaur Rahman sacked Sayeed Iskander from Bangladesh Army for his alleged involvement in a number of corruption charges.

Names of most corrupt ministers of the immediate past cabinet are already coming into circulation, with figures of cash they minted during the five-year term of the BNP government since 2001. The corrupt ministers are:

  • Barrister Nazmul Huda, amount earned – US$ 0.5 billion
  • Mirza Abbas, amount earned – US$ 43 million
  • Begum Khurshid Jahan Haque (sister of khaleda Zia), amount earned – US$ 40 million
  • Tariqul Islam, amount earned – US$ 38 million
  • Abdul Mannan Buiyan, amount earned – US$ 35 million
  • Salahuddin Ahmed, amount earned – US$ 32 million
  • Barrister Aminul Huq, amount earned – US$ 31 million
  • Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Yusuf, amount earned – US$ 30 million
  • Altaf Hussain Chowdhury, amount earned – US$ 28 million
  • Iqbal Hassan Mahmood Tuku, amount earned – US$ 26 million
  • Dr. Khandekar Musharraf Hussain, amount earned – US$ 25 million
  • Barkatulla Bulu, amount earned – US$ 24 million
  • Abdullah Al Noman, amount earned – US$ 23 million
  • Lt. Col Akber Hussain, amount earned – US$ 22 million
  • Major (Retired) Qamrul Islam, amount earned – US$ 21 million
  • Shajahan Siraj, amount earned – US$ 20 million
  • Advocate Gautam Chakracarty, amount earned – US$ 17 million
  • Amanullah Aman, amount earned – US$ 15 million
  • Ziaul Haque Zia, amount earned – US$ 14 million
  • Jafrul Islam Chowdhury, amount earned – US$ 13 million
  • ANM Ehsanul Haque Milon, amount earned – US$ 11 million
  • Asadul Habib Dulu, amount earned – US$ 10 million
  • Fazlur Rahman Patal, amount earned – US$ 9 million
  • Advocate Ruhul Quddus Talikder Dulu, amount earned – US$ 8 million
  • Lutfur Rahman Khan Azad, amount earned – US$ 6 million

Ex-Finance Minister M. Saifur Rahman though considered to be a clean man, his sons were engaged in minting money by using the influence of their father. His sons are involved in several businesses like multi-level marketing (a company, which just disappeared after taking a few million dollars from the innocent people), customs clearing and forwarding business (this company is handling most of the big businesses in the country, just because, the then finance minister’s sons are partners in the business), readymade garments (smuggling of narcotics are done under the cover of this business) etc.

Are these realy true?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pakistan's ground-breaking transvestite
By Syed Shoaib Hasan BBC News, Karachi

"Darling, you are sooo naughty," purrs an elegant sari-clad woman glowing out of primetime television.

Going by the name of Begum (Lady) Nawazish Ali, she hosts an eponymous talk show that has taken Pakistan by storm.
Flirting and skirting her way through politics, society gossip and plain old sexual chemistry, Begum has become the most popular icon to inundate Pakistani fantasy in a while.

How is this possible in Pakistan where what is acceptable behaviour from female actors is still largely determined conservative Islamic values?

The answer lies in the identity of the Begum - who is a woman in every sense except the biological one.

"I am God's child," says a smiling Begum Nawazish Ali, or Ali Saleem to give him his birth name, talking to the BBC in his "normal guise".

Clad in jeans and T-shirt, 27-year-old Ali talked passionately about his life and work.
"As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a woman," he declares.

Twirling his shoulder length curly brown hair, Ali looks wistfully in the distance as he recounts how it was growing up in Pakistan for someone so unconventional.

"My father was in the army and we used to move around quite a bit," he says.

With his parents, he accepts there were problems, leading to his examination by a psychologist when he was 14-years-old. The psychologist, however, allayed all fears, and "from that time on my parents were totally behind me".

That Ali was different from other boys was quite evident from his interests. "I loved playing with dolls and dressing up with my female cousins to whom I have always been very close," he recounts.

In those days of innocence, he would often dream of becoming a woman. "I wanted to be Sri Devi, Nazia Hasan, Benazir Bhutto... all the beautiful and powerful women in my world," explains Ali.

Gifted with a great voice and a natural sense of the theatrical, he delighted in displaying his talents. That was in the early 1990s in Islamabad. Soon after, in 1995, Ali shifted with his family to Karachi.

This was "the worst period in my life", he confesses, with his parents going through a divorce.
It was during these depressing days that Ali met "Yasmin, who made everything possible".

Yasmin Ismail was one of Pakistani television's finest actresses, who died of cancer last year.
"She was the best thing that ever happened to me," says the screen star.

Ali explains how Ismail introduced him to theatre, groomed his natural histrionics and generally played the part of his mentor.

"She was my mother, father and best friend," says Ali wistfully, adding "I give her 100% credit for any success I have achieved."

Ismail was involved in a popular theatre group called Gripps, and that was where Ali started out.

"My first performance was in a play called 'Art ya Atta' (Art or Bread) in May 1998," Ali says. He did an impersonation of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the play.

"When I spoke, there was pin drop silence and then the house came down," he exclaims.
The applause was thunderous and the show did record business.

The next six years were those of learning and growth. During these times, Ali expanded his repertoire with considerable success.

In March 2004, the idea for transvestite chat show hostess Begum Nawazish Ali first came up during a discussion with friends Nadeem Baig and Omar Adil, a national TV host, in Lahore.

"Omar said that he saw me as much more than the typical characters I was doing and we came up with the idea of this middle aged divorced socialite who knows everybody," gushes out Ali.

Initially, Ali promoted it with GEO, one of the largest TV channels. That deal failed to materialize and rival channel Aaj took up the challenge, quickly putting out a pilot.

"Nadeem was Director entertainment and he told me to bring it over," Ali explains. Aaj moved quickly, and a pilot was soon out.

"It was like nothing anybody had seen," says Azfar Ali, a local television producer. "The most amazing thing was the fact that he was able to deliver it all in a way that the masses could relate to it."

No sooner had the first programme finished than the show was the talk of the town. From politicians to movie stars to sportsmen, all have had their turn on the show. So popular has the show become that a sitting federal minister specially requested to be invited. That may have been unnecessary, as Ali smiles and declares saucily, "I never refuse anyone anything".

The show is not without critics, who accuse it of trivialising politics in a country that has had more than its fill of dictators. Ali denies this, saying "our politicians have been destroyed under a well thought campaign", adding "I want them to be popular again". Furthermore, he says that the military - such a powerful influence in Pakistan - have been deliberately kept out of the show.

"I believe that democracy is the only option for us, and this is my contribution to the cause," Ali says determinedly. He also wants to show what kind of country Pakistan really is, in contrast to the 'Terrorism Central' nation that it is often portrayed as.
"And I will do it," Begum exclaims and, smiling seductively, adds "after all who can resist me?"

Nepal rebels lock weapons under UN
November 5, 2006

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- The leader of Nepal's communist rebels said they have made significant progress in peace talks with the government and have informally agreed to lock up weapons under United Nations supervision.

Rebel leader Prachanda told reporters Sunday that an informal agreement has been reached with the government on arms management.

"We are going to hold peace talks in the next couple of days and make the announcement," Prachanda said.

He said both sides have agreed in principle that weapons held by the rebels and government soldiers would be locked up separately and left under U.N. supervision.

The issue of weapons held by the guerrillas has been the biggest hurdle in the peace process, which is aimed at ending a decade-old insurgency.

The government has been insisting that the guerrillas give up their weapons before joining an interim government, but the rebels have refused to part with their guns.

The two sides declared a cease-fire and began peace negotiations in April after weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations forced King Gyanendra to give up his authoritarian rule.

Talks faltered in June, mostly over the rebels' refusal to disarm.

Prachanda and his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, returned to Kathmandu on Sunday and later held talks with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. They were joined by U.N. representative Ian Martin.

They declined to talk to reporters afterward.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Kalimpong Controversy and Kiran Desai’s Prize-winning Novel

CBC in Canada reported today that the residents of the Himalayan town featured in Kiran Desai’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Inheritance of Loss are upset over her portrayal of them.

Desai, 35, is the youngest woman to capture the prestigious book award, a trophy that has eluded her mother, writer Anita Desai.

The jury saidThe Inheritance of Loss was selected because of its "humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness."
Desai's aunt recently told a magazine in India that she has not told people in the town of Kalimpong about her niece because "the book contains many insensitive things."

The majority of the town’s 60,000 inhabitants are of Nepalese descent and some have complained the book unfairly portrays them as petty criminals and stupid.
The Inheritance of Loss unfolds in the 1980s and focuses on an affair between a young girl and her math tutor, an Indo-Nepali man who comes from a poor family. Many ethnic Nepalese rebelled during the 1980s, protesting their poor treatment by Indians.

"The book is just an outsider’s view of Kalimpong," Bharat Mani Pradhan, a social worker in the town, told The Guardian newspaper.

Critics say Desai has super-imposed her feelings about the Nepalese onto the novel, a thinly disguised autobiography.
Desai has admitted the book is close to her family’s history and just like the main character, she attended a convent school in the town and lived in her aunt’s house.

Anmole Prasad, another resident, calls it a "one-sided account" which imparts Desai's own "estrangement from this dark, ominous place where Nepalese are just transient interlopers."

Some internet forums in India have been alive with debate about the novel, with people threatening to hold public book burnings of Desai’s novel.

"We see the book as pure fiction and these views are not an issue for us or Ms. Desai," said Hemali Sodhi, Penguin books’ head of marketing for India.

Desai is planning to visit the area, according to Sodhi, and does not fear any possible reprisals.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Female academic claims Muslim veils originally worn by prostitutes

A 92-year-old historian has been acquitted of insulting Muslim women in a book linking the origins of the headscarf to prostitutes 5,000 years ago.

An Istanbul court judge said Muazzez Ilmiye Cig's writings had not insulted religious honour nor incited hatred and enmity as charged by the prosecution in the overwhelmingly Muslim but secular European Union candidate country.

Dozens of intellectuals, notably Nobel literature prize winner Orhan Pamuk, have been prosecuted over the past year for insulting concepts held dear by Turks, such as Turkish identity or the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

"I am a person of the Ataturk revolution and as a Turkish woman I try to bring people together, I'm not someone who is trying to incite hatred," Cig, flanked by 15 lawyers who came to support the Sumerian historian, told the court.

Cig, who has translated 3,000 stone tablets and published her findings last year, had faced up to three years in jail if convicted of all charges. She was applauded by supporters as she left the court house.

Lawyer Yusuf Akin brought the case against Cig saying her conclusions about the headscarf insulted Muslim women.
In its annual progress report on Turkey due to be published on Nov. 8, the European Commission is expected to sharply criticise Turkish prosecutions of intellectuals and journalists for expressing peaceful opinions.

Brussels is particularly critical of article 301 of the penal code, which makes it a crime to insult Turkish identity. Cig was charged under a separate article in the law.

Turkey's centre-right government has resisted EU pressure to modify articles criticised as curbing freedom of expression, saying more time is needed to build up a body of case law. Most cases involving freedom of expression are dropped, it says.

The Sumerians were among the first settled societies considered a civilisation, ruling southern Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq, from 3000 to 2000 BC.

In her book 'My Reactions as a Citizen' Cig said headscarves were worn by women who worked as prostitutes in temples during the Sumerian period to differentiate them from women who worked primarily as priests. Females often presided over the temples in the polytheistic society, Cig said.

Turkey's ruling AK Party, which has roots in political Islam but has since coming to power distanced itself from those beliefs, wants to relax rules on wearing the Islamic-style headscarf at universities and public offices in Turkey.
Pro-secularists, including the powerful armed forces and parts of the judiciary, fear easing such restrictions will undermine the ideas of Ataturk.