Monday, April 30, 2007

Should Turkey have an Islamist President?

Turkey was the scene of a huge rally in protest over the prospect of having an Islamist Abdullah Gul as president amid concerns of the military . this has raised concerned for its future political stability . Amid all this, should Turkey have an Islamist president?

Turkey as Muslim country should stick to its cultural identity intertwined with religion. Secularism didn’t alter the face of it as a Muslim nation. The rise of Islamism comes after all from within the social strata. As there is freedom to practise religion in Turkey, political institutions will have little to curb it if it is a part of people’s daily lives. After more than 80 years of secularism, Turks must have grown up to the fact there is a separation between religion and states.

The fear of having an Islamist president is unjustified. The JDP (Justice and Development Party) has ruled Turkey without putting in question its secular principles. It didn’t seek to break up ties with Israel, contrary to what the Islamist did in Iran when they took power. Turkey has signed new military agreements with Israel under JDP government. There can be only the military in Turkey who are fearful of such a president. With time and with Turkey's aspiration to join the EU, their political role will be next to none.

The president has limited power as the power is mainly in the hands of the parliament and the government. This kind of fear is a reminder of the similar one the JDP created among many when it came to power. Maybe the opposition to have an Islamite president is the fear that JDP will have more power than it has now. If the president doesn’t represent any political party and he is the president of all; in this case, the whole state, civilians and military, should rally behind him as long as he has respect for the secular constitution and no intention to mix religion with politics.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Exchange on BBC status and standards on BBC WHYS

At 03:32 PM on 25 Apr 2007, Mark wrote:

This has been going on for many months. For most corporations, this would be unacceptable. Too bad you didn't take advantage of your recent trip to India to hire competent IT people to replace your obviously less skilled crew. Apparantly this sputtering bus which barely makes it up a mild incline is a posterchild screaming for sweeping changes at BBC. Since this is the face BBC presents to the public to which it is most available to talk back to, one would assume this is the best one you have available. One can only imagine the others.

At 09:31 PM on 25 Apr 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:

To mark, comment #1
You seem to be steering your sarcasm towards the BBC itself, which, ironically, you seem you can't live without! Other organisations exercising censorship would have barred you from sending any further comment. Sometimes you have good points. Unfortunately, you blend your knowledge with sarcasm. On this blog, you are the most pugnacious contributor ready to bounce on anyone who responds to disagree with your comments. Your other defect is that you think the USA is the best and the rest of the world is the worst!

As for you statement, “Apparantly [note your selling mistake, once you shamelessly told Richard Bowen on this blog to use BBC English to improve his grammar] this sputtering bus which barely makes it up a mild incline is a posterchild screaming for sweeping changes at BBC. “ the BBC has always been innovative in its approach to spreading information. It doesn’t select the nationality of contributors. News companies in the USA like abc, CNN and Foxnews don’t accept comments from outside the USA as contributors should click on the US state they are from.

BBC has the biggest numbers of emails from contributors from around the world. Each day it receives thousands of emails. It has a record number of emails never received even by the prestigious news organisations in the USA. Last summer, it received the staggering number of more than 130,000 in response to the war between Hezbollah and Israel. It doesn’t look at their nationalities but at the merit of their comments. It doesn’t impose debates for discussion. It invites people like you and me to make their suggestions. I had the chance to suggest at least four topics to Haveyoursay. The first was about selling human organs in China, Prince Harry’ tour of duty in Iraq, and the right of schools in UK to ban the hijab.

The case of Alan Johnson proves its popularity. More than 50,000 people signed a petition calling for his release. statistically there are 8703 from UK, which means there are 43297 signatures from the rest of the world including 3635 from USA. You can check on this link . You may argue that the BBC used its “propaganda” to galvanise people on his side. But if you look at the petition, the Americans come at least second in their number to show their support. I wonder if you signed the petition or you just contented yourself with criticising the BBC for following the development of his kidnapping.

Overall, the BBC’s motto is “Nations shall speak unto Nations”. The aim of this blog is to foster dialogue between different peoples and people. It isn’t for showing one’s conceived “superiority” and utter dissatisfaction with whatever done outside the USA.

At 01:33 PM on 26 Apr 2007, Mark wrote:

Abdelilah Boukili #5?

Did I make a selling mistake? Maybe that explains why no one is buying.

You are mistaken, I don't have any defects.

Do I think the US is best and the rest of the world is worst? Well I think that depends on who you are in life. If you are an African dictator who lives off the labors of millions of people who are your slaves, I'd say moving to the US would be a big step down. But countless tens of millions of people have moved to the US, made a good life for themselves here they otherwise would have had no chance at, and never looked back. My own grandparents were among them. Can you name any other nation which can boast that endorsement? I've been in probably over 40 countries. I have no further desire to travel let alone move. For me, this is the best.

Did I comment on Richard Bowen's grammer without commenting on his grandpa too? Well my apologies Mr. Bowen, my regards to both of them.

Seeing as I am forced to subsidize BBC whether I like it or not because my federal income taxes subsidize NPR and PBS which in turn have contracts to rebroadcast BBC, I feel I have a right to comment on their performance, after all, I in part pay for it. I view them as I would view any other public employees and feel every right to express my dissatisfaction when I find their work less than adequate. Even citizens in Britain have greater choice should they elect not to own a television set and pay a license fee. I have the same option to decline CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News by not buying cable or satellite services and as they are private companies funded by their commercial sponsors, they can institute what policies they like.

As for BBC's innovation for spreading whatever it spreads, I do not keep up with the latest trends in media broadcasting such as who was the first to podcast. I wouldn't always characterize it as information, sometimes I'd call it misinformation, sometimes disinformation, and sometimes propaganda.

So BBC got 130,000 emials during the war in Lebanon, so what. That lasted about a month, only about 4000 a day then. Hardly seems like a lot for a modern communications network to handle without being overloaded. In my part of the world, an organization of BBCs type whose network performs as poorly and unreliably as BBC's does would be unacceptable. But being a quasi monopoly on their home turf, they get away with it because their domestic audience has little alternative and the government which oversees it doesn't seem to care either.

I did not sign the petition for the release of BBC's reporter held captive. I think it is a waste of effort as those who hold him assuming he is still alive will not respond to it. Secondly, I see it as the consequence of a reckless policy, he never should have been there in the first place. I think it's up to BBC and the British government to handle it, not me. I don't see Mr. Johnston's life as any more valuable than anyone elses, I don't agree with what he was doing in Gaza, and I don't think the profession of journalism is nearly as crucial to the state of well being of the world as journalists would like everyone else to believe it is, at least not in priority compared to those functions vital to the day to day survival of all people such as the delivery of food and medical services or the function of police. Others who chose to sign the petition disagree, so what?

Your interpretation of the purpose of this blog and whether or not any particular posting on it meets those criteria is irrelevant, only BBC's management can and will make that judgement.

At 01:33 AM on 27 Apr 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:

To Mark , comment #7
You raised many points which need answering one by one:

1- “Countless tens of millions of people have moved to the US”/ “Can you name any other nation which can boast that endorsement?” It’s true. But without immigration, the US wouldn’t be what it is now. But don’t forget that Europe is also a land of opportunities although on a lesser scale. The USA has the land and the resources to absorb even more millions.

2- “as I am forced to subsidize BBC whether I like it or not because my federal income taxes subsidize NPR and PBS which in turn have contracts to rebroadcast BBC, I feel I have a right to comment on their performance, after all, I in part pay for it.” But this is not an excuse to lavish your sarcasm on the rest of the world. The tax you pay can’t exceed 10 dollars a year while the electricity you use browsing BBC sites, sending comments and responding to others must cost you much more. After all, the contract is about broadcasting and not about BBC website. You can criticise the content of debates and information and not about the technical problems facing the blog.

3-” I wouldn't always characterize media broadcasting as information, sometimes I'd call it misinformation, sometimes disinformation, and sometimes propaganda.” It can be so for some news organisations. But the BBC isn’t just about politics. Would you call information on the weather mere disinformation when there is forecast about rain which turns out to be snow? Is it propaganda to broadcast about social events?

4-“The BBC gets away with it because their domestic audience has little alternative.” But BBC isn’t the only news organisation in UK. The British have larger choices through other channels. I refer you to the following:
• BBC TV - operates BBC1, BBC2 and digital services including BBC News 24
• BBC World - commercially-funded international news channel
• ITV - major commercial network, organised around regional franchises
• Channel 4 - commercially funded but publicly owned national station
• Five - national commercial channel
• Independent Television News (ITN) - supplier of news to ITV, Channel 4
• British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) - operator of digital satellite platform, Sky, and provider of film, entertainment channels and news channel Sky News
Not to mention the countless radio channels.
You may argue that these channels are the same. They have different names for fake variety and alternatives.

5- “I see it as the consequence of a reckless policy, Alan Johnston never should have been there in the first place.” So you think journalists shouldn’t go any further than their countries and the public should know nothing about the outside world. This goes with your belief that as you don’t care about the outside world and that to quote you, “ I have no further desire to travel let alone move. For me, this is the best.”

6- “I don't think the profession of journalism is nearly as crucial to the state of well being of the world.” Here you are contradicting yourself. How comes that you are so interested in the events taking place around the world and yet dismiss journalism as worthless. You can argue that “I've been in probably over 40 countries.” Does this mean you know everything about the other countries of the world? So if journalism is nothing to you, why are you and avid consumer of the news brought to you by journalists?

7- “Only BBC's management can and will make judgement if a posting meets criteria. “ Do you recall any time you sent a comment to WHYS which wasn’t published? The other interactive site Haveyoursay has become transparent by showing the number of total comments, published comments, and rejected comments. Do you know if any other news website exceeding the BBC in its level of interaction and popularity internationally and domestically?

At 04:40 PM on 27 Apr 2007, Mark wrote:

Abdelilah Boukili #10

Is Europe a land of opportunity? Ask the North Africans who were brought to France to work menial jobs and whose children are French but cannot get a job no matter how well qualified they are because they are seen as different and other. Ask Turks who work in Germany but who can never become full fledged citizens and will never be seen as equal to other Germans no matter how many generations they live there. Discrimination is rampant in much of Europe and while it still exists in the US, it is unlike anything it once was or the way it is in Europe today. Contrast the candidacy of Barack Obama who has a real chance to be the next President of the United States with the chances of anyone considered a minority in becoming a head of state in Europe. How many North Africans are ther in the French Senat. How many Turks in the German Parliament? How many of them are business leaders holding executive positions of power in large corporations? Contrast that with my neighbor who lived two doors down from me. He came to America from Cuba in 1958 with his wife, two children and ten cents. He is now a multimillionaire who owns several homes around the country, owns several McDonalds restaurants, and was President of the Hispanic McDonald's owners of America Association. This is a typical story. Anyting like it in Europe is rare at best.

2. Why is criticizing BBC's inability to correct its technical problems with this website off limits? Isn't that what the initial blog entry was all about? Isn't that what invited comments would be assumed to be about?

3. I said "it isn't always information" and sometimes it is something else. Broadcasters have a right to editorialize the news. BBC's editorial policy seems to be out of control and beyond supervision. But much worse, its editorializing is often not distinct from its reporting, in fact its reporting is performed in the service of its editorial stance. That is very bad journalism...if it can even be called journalism.

4. Perhaps BBC has more competition these days than I thought. But how many of its competitors have such lavish budgets and are subsidized so heavily by an audience which has no choice if it wants access to televison programs? Even so it complains that it doesn't have enough money and is now miffed that it cannot expand by buying additional television networks.

5. The subject of Alan Johnston is a very delicate one for BBC right now and not one they want freely discussed openly at this moment. That is entirely understandable and so I have communicated with them in private. However, the only comment I want to offer today is that IMO reporters should only have their lives placed in jeopardy to get a story when there are extraordinary events occurring and the value of some unusual news item is carefully weighed against the risk. I'm not satisfied that this happened here. I also hope he is safe and will be freed soon. I look forward to his account of his recent experience and what perspective he puts it in.

6. I didn't say journalism means nothing but if my house was on fire, I'd rather see a fireman a the front door to put it out than a journalist to report it.

7. Many of my comments were not published. The ones you read and find "pugnacious" have been screened as the mildest and most acceptable of them. I acknowledge this as BBC's right and obligation to set and uphold its standards as it sees fit. If it publishes my comment, it doesn't mean it agrees with them, it just feels it is acceptable to present my point of view. If it doesn't and finds it objectionable for any reason, that is OK too because that is one of the conditions anyone who posts on a managed site accepts.

To Mark #11

Europe is a land of opportunity for many. Immigrants are starting to have political responsibilities in countries like France, Belgium and Holland. There are ministers and MP although they can still be counted on fingertips. Isn't Nicholas Sarkozy (the presidential candidate in France) of Hungarian origin? I assure there are a lot of millionaires in Europe who are of immigrant origins. Just browse the internet to get more information.

In USA, the WASP relinquished power only after the protests and struggles of the 60s. You know the history of this better than me. Only towards the beginning of the 21st century that black people saw their chance to be in the US administration through Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. It is now only speculation that Obama will be the future US president.

I am glad that you changed your attitude to Alan Johnston. Now you care for him when in you other comment you said, “I don't see Mr. Johnston's life as any more valuable than anyone else, I don't agree with what he was doing in Gaza,”

I salute your openness to different views and readiness to respond to those who disagree with you. I look forward to agreeing and disagreeing with you on this blog as without opposite views it will look like a propaganda site favouring one side and not the other.

Should Pope Benedict revive the Latin Mass?

Pope Benedict's plans to revive the Latin Mass will just trigger clashes between Jews and Catholics. The Vatican is historically involved in actions against Jews, the most remembered in modern history is the relations between the Vatican and Hitler concerning the repression of Jews.

The Catholic Church should be concerned just with its followers and those volunteering to join it. Praying for Jews "they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ." amounts to an open campaign to convert them. Some Muslim groups are criticized for teaching exerts of the Koran unfavourable to Jews. the same criticism should be directed to the Vatican showing the Jews as irreligious and needing direction through conversion to Christianity.

The Vatican is criticised on many issues which portray it as lagging behind modern thinking and attitudes. It shouldn't seek to fuel tension between faiths by showing them as unrecognisable by God.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Zimbabwe and the conspiracy of silence by South Africa

South Africa as a regional power has a lot to do to redress the situation in Zimbabwe. Both countries had almost the same history in fighting for democracy. Zimbabwe fought against colonialism; in other words, against the “supremacy” of the whites. South Africa had the worst fight as blacks fought against apartheid. While South Africa seems to have plunged in a democratic process despite the social and economic problems, Zimbabwe is getting just from bad to worse. It can take pride in that blacks are the major rulers. But ironically the Zimbabweans are suffering from a regime that set itself to bring them prosperity.

South Africa through its historic leaders like Nelson Mandela can put more pressure on Pt Mugabe to stop his intransigent policies proving unpopular at home and abroad. If South Africa continues to play the conspiracy of silence, it is just contradicting its principles for justice and freedom. It will be just a mockery for those regarding it as the champion of political liberation.

One of the face saving choices for Mugabe is to opt for economic integration with South Africa and leave power to a new generation of politicians. Mugabe can’t fight alone when the international community is turning its back on him, leaving him just use his muscles against the continuously impoverished people. South Africa, for its part, shouldn’t continue to condemn abuses far away while it has glaring examples of atrocious human abuses on its borders. South Africa can’t claim to be pan-African and democratic priding itself on its struggles against apartheid while it continue to maintain political with a despotic regime.

Russia, a confrontational or a cooperative power?

Vladimir Putin has attacked foreign intervention in Russia, the US missile defence plan and called for an increase in domestic oil processing in a defiant final annual address to parliament before he steps down as Russian president in 2008.

The speech shows in a certain way the escalating tension on different levels between Russia and the other major powers, especially the EU and the USA.

It is true Russia made giant economic steps after the fall of communism thanks to liberalism and the huge income from the exported oil and gas. But the problems it is facing now is more internal than external. There is widespread corruption in business circles. This benefits just the oligarchy and the foreign and national investors. Russia needs to crack down on those taking most of its assets without putting much in its treasury through tax evasion, embezzlement and gifts in return for unaccountability.

Russia seems to be keen on returning to the world stage as a force to reckon with. After the fall of communism, it was busy laying the basis for its shift to liberalism. Like the polar bear, it was in a state of hibernation. Now it is getting more and more awake after being warmed up by what it sees the approaching erosion of its icy and firm land.

Russia, as it appears, doesn't want to be seen as a middle power with the rise of China and India as the potential superpowers in the future. Russia doesn't want to be cornered by the EU and the USA, the major economic and political blocs. Russia needs an aggressive policy by putting its house in order through democracy and ending corruption. The current powers should deal with it without hurting its pride. As a giant country, it has the power to be both a constructive or destructive force on the world stage. So it’s better to let the sleeping bear in it lying instead of stirring it to push against anything in its way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Abortion or adoption?

Abortion is one of the contentious issues regarding women’s rights. The reasons behind it are many, not taking into account the obvious ones like rape and health concerns. Some women argue that they can’t cope to have a child because of the responsibility that entails, jeopardizing their freedom and also their budgets.

In societies where there is sexual freedom and where single mothers have become the norms, abortion is concerned with personal choice as abortion can be seen as synonym to contraception.

In traditional society, especially in Muslim countries, abortion is prohibited by religion as that is seen as ending a human life. But many pregnant unmarried women resort to abortion to avoid embarrassment in their surrounding. An unmarried woman with a child is seen as immoral and even as a mere prostitute. So the solution for her is to resort to abortion to escape social punishment and to ensure marriage. There have been incidents of abortions leading to death and infirmity as they are carried out in backstreet “clinics” and in secret, sometimes through the use of traditional methods.

Abortion remains problematic for the mothers. They have to choose between carrying it out and accepting the baby with all its consequences. One way to lessen the frequency of abortion is sexual education. When women know how to conduct themselves sexually there can be rare chances of them falling pregnant. Traditional societies should be more tolerant towards women falling in “the big sin.” Another possibility is to ease the adoption of unwanted children. It’s better for babies to enjoy life after their birth through adoption than to be killed when they’re still in the womb.

When there are two evils, we should choose the lesser. Between adoption and abortion, society should decide. Abortion shouldn’t after all become an automatic act. Each time a woman is pregnant, she can resort to abortion. There should be laws regulating it guaranteeing the rights of the child and the mother alike.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Obesity, are children the victims of their parents?

Child obesity isn't the responsibility of parents alone as in the market there are food items leading to child obesity. Advertisement and peer pressure play a great part in making children consume fattening food. Parents themselves don't have time to prepare healthy food for their children. Most of the time some buy prepared food from supermarkets or take away food chains. What is needed is to withdraw any food item leading to obesity and shut down fast food restaurants selling fatty foods.

To help children not become fat, markets should be supplied with only bio-food. Organic food is still out of reach for many because of its quantity and price. Parents should have more time at home to prepare healthy food instead of consuming preserved and fatty food. There must aggressive campaigns at schools and in the media showing shocking examples of child obesity and the health complications resulting from it. And above all children should be encouraged to take up exercises regularly.

The way to ward off obesity among children is simple:

- parents should cook fresh food themselves and be knowledgeable about the food quantity and quality they should have.

- there should be incentives for them to take up physical exercises in gyms or at home with their parents.

- there must be constant checks on their weight accompanied with doctor's recommendations on how they should keep in good form.

- They should be taught that being negligent about their weight has dire consequences.

Contrasting elections in France and Nigeria , update

Elections in France and Nigeria unfortunately provide a contrast between one of the oldest democracies in Europe and a new but still stumbling democracy in Africa. Elections in France have been the centre of attention as, for the first time; there are candidates who have never been presidents after Jack Chirac decided not to stand again. In Nigeria, Pt Olusegun Obasanjo couldn’t stand as constitutionally he can’t stand two terms.

What is interesting in these elections is that in France, debates were hot and peaceful. In Nigeria, there are still mutual accusations of fraud and other irregularities, not to mention violence leading to death.

In France, it took decades for it to become a full-fledged democracy after the establishment of the Fifth Republic and the seizure of power by De Gaulle. Nigeria is still a young democracy, still struggling to have full civil power as the military still have political and economic power. They change just uniforms with plain clothes. But the military mentality is still gripping government style.

Nigeria because of its oil and population is a considerable regional power. But it is still setting a bad example to other African countries. Surprisingly, small sates in Africa like Senegal and Mauritania, despite their scarce resources, look more democratic than it.

So the excitement regarding the elections in France is still about whether Royal will be the first female president as now she stands with Nicholas Sarkozy in the second round. Breath will continue being held until May 6th. For Nigeria, the expectation will be how this big country will keep holding together. Now the winner has been declared, it remains to see how the calming of election fever will keep the country politically and socially stable despite its acute economic problems. It seems the Nigerians have Nigerians resigned themselves to the reality of power in their country when the government and the people each go to their own business till another round of elections spark international interest and heated debates at home resulting as it has become the custom in sporadic or intense violence.

Remembering Boris Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin, despite his shortcomings as a president, will be remembered as one of the heroes of modern. Russia. He had different stumbles, appointing and dismissing prime ministers, threatening the parliament with dissolution in case it objected to his major decisions. He was surprising in his political decisions. The biggest surprise was appointing Vladimir Putin as prime minister paving the way for him to become president. Maybe the best legacy he left was Vladimir Putin who has seen his popularity ascending with time.

He was for the west a man they could do business with, enjoying mainly the support of the USA. Through his presidency he made friends with heads of states around the world, especially with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

Listen to the conversation on BBC WHYS in memory of Boris Yeltsin

Friday, April 20, 2007

Contrasting elections in France and Nigeria

Elections in France and Nigeria unfortunately provide a contrast between one of the oldest democracies in Europe and a new but still stumbling democracy in Africa. Elections in France are the centre of attention as, for the first time, there are candidates who have never been presidents after Jack Chirac decided not to stand again. In Nigeria, Pt Olusegun Obasanjo can’t stand as constitutionally he can’t stand two terms.

What is interesting in these elections is that in France, debates are hot and peaceful. In Nigeria, there are mutual accusations of fraud and other irregularities, not to mention violence leading to death.

In France, it took decades for it to become a full-fledged democracy after the establishment of the Fifth Republic and the seizure of power by De Gaulle. Nigeria is still a young democracy, still struggling to have full civil power as the military still have political and economic power. They change just uniforms with plain clothes. But the military mentality is still gripping government style.

Nigeria because of its oil and population is a considerable regional power. But it is still setting a bad example to other African countries. Surprisingly, small sates in Africa like Senegal and Mauritania, despite their scarce resources, look more democratic than it.

So the excitement regarding the elections in France is still about whether Royal will be the first female president. Maybe the question will stop being asked this Sunday if she doesn’t qualify for the second round. Breath will continue being held if she passes for the second round. For Nigeria, the expectation will be how this big country will keep holding together. In case the proclaimed winner is unrecognized by his opponents,this can plunge the country in public unrest until the Nigerians resign to the reality of power in their country when the government and the people each go to their own business till another round of elections spark national and international interest.

Building tunnels, what is the end of it all?

Building tunnels like Channel Tunnel needs among other things the political will to do so. The link between France and UK by the Channel Tunnel took decades to materialise because of political and economic concerns. Economically, it isn’t yet a success stories for investors as it is still, plunging into financial trouble. The Gibraltar link between Morocco and Spain through a tunnel has taken decades to contemplate about. The project has many times been put off for geological and economic reasons. Now this project has been revived as it was reported by BBC correspondent Richard Hamilton.

As for the hoped for link between Russia and the USA through a tunnel, both countries have what to benefit from as it will provide for the development of the regions around which the tunnel will be built. This will depend on the level of the economic relationship between the two countries. But now Russia seems not to have good entente with the EU, economically speaking. These economic blocs need to improve their economic relations further.

EU and Russia need each other economically. Both have great potentials for an integrated economy. Russia has the huge energy resources, if exploited in partnership with the EU, can ease dependence on it from other parts of the world like the Middle East. EU has the capital and the expertise for grandiose investments in Russia. One step like Russia becoming a member of the World Trade Organization, and why not a member of the EU, can help the establishment of harmonious mutual relationships.

When Russia becomes fully integrated with the US and the EU economy, the tunnel will have meaning for all. If the economic relations are stagnant, it will be just a hole in which money was thrown away. Its economic difficulties will be a disaster for investors worse than that experienced by investors in the Channel tunnel.

Up to now a link with Russia and the USA and another between Morocco and Spain is a wishful thinking. Tunnel links between the three continents, Africa, Europe and America still need decades to materialise in face of political and economic uncertainty.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Australia and US to swap refugees

Australia and the United States have announced a plan to swap up to 200 asylum seekers every year.

It remains to see what criteria USA and Australia will be using for this new and curious swap. Maybe once this plan succeeds, they will embark on exchanging foreign prisoners in their jails after their final verdict. Who knows Guantanamo prisoners may be relocated in an undisclosed area in Australia in exchange of terrorists caught in it who will spend their sentence in the USA. Then Australia and the USA will have the challenging tasks of finding third countries to accept them if their home countries reject them.

On the whole, there are refugees who seek any safe place to make a good living. For refugees from poor countries it doesn't matter to them where they can live as long as they can secure living in a prosperous country giving them the rights they were denied in their home countries.

As we say, beggars can't be choosers. Asylum seekers should accept any proposed country respecting human rights. As such, the move by USA & Australia will have little impact on curbing illegal immigrants eager to live in either.

For some, seeking asylum it will become a new kind of gambling. Once set on taking refuge, they consider all possibilities: never reaching their destination, being turned back in a single moment after a long time of preparation, being allowed to enter but put in a refugee camp and the final innovation being swapped with other asylum seekers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Free BBC Alan Johnston

Alan Johnston banner

Dear Alan,
I still remember your reports from Gaza when the Palestinian territory was in high tension due to internal fights between Hamas and Fatah. Your report were,as always, professionally balanced . They were never meant to take side with any party but they reflect the view of each side. The efforts you made along with other BBC journalists, until your presumed kidnapping, showed the reality of a territory catching attention worldwide. Journalists of your status have brought the conflict in this region to prominence without stirring violent emotions but depicting things as they are. The BBC has sometimes been criticized over its reporting of events in the Israel and Palestinian Territories but never in the person of Alan.

It is sad that a reporter of the stature and integrity of Alan Johnston should be the victim of abduction. It's sad to see a reporter meant to cover events becomes a topic in the news, leaving his friends, family & fans at pain about what he might be through. It is also sad that he should fall to such a bad luck when previously kidnapped reporters were quickly released as soon as possible for the relief of your colleagues around the world in general and in Palestinian territories who've relentlessly shown their solidarity with you.

We all pray for your safe return to your parents to the BBC to continue your reporting and fact-finding mission. I know your courage won't allow you to lessen your professional dedication to reporting.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How strong is the opposition rally in Russia?

Hundreds of anti-Kremlin demonstrators have held a rally in St Petersburg, a day after a protest in Moscow ended in scuffles and arrests. The question to ask if the opposition rallies will have tangible effect in this freshly liberal country. It will take time for Russia to become a full-fledged democracy as the spectre of communist mentality still exists. The Kremlin still needs an iron fist to control everything in Russia. The opposition, despite all this, can be easily cornered as Vladimir is still very popular despite cases of human right abuses. The Russians need just to have a good share of their country's current economic boom. They aren't seeking a change of president. This will make the opposition look weak in the face of such an attitude.

Opposition in Russia doesn't have enough teeth to rally nationwide public protest against the current government despite the social ills like corruption and a rise in crime. Russia is witnessing a soaring economic status never enjoyed since the fall of communism. The opposition can be an embarrassment only if it shows Putin to be undemocratic by stifling any kind of legitimate public protest.

How relevant is the World Bank?

The World Bank is coming under criticism because of what some see as its shortcoming in fostering the desired development in poor countries. but it seems that its job is principally to grant loans based on criteria in favor of economic and social projects. The World Bank shouldn’t be the sole to blame for projects failing to see the light of the day.

The real development works are the responsibility of the governments that get loans from it. Many have failed to reach their development targets due to mismanagement and corruption. But many governments misuse loans from it because of mismanagement and corruption. Its loans should be linked to governments records on achievements in economic policies aimed at narrowing the gaps between the rich and the poor. Many loans remain just a burden on state budget for years, just aggravating the economic situations which they are meant to mend

The World Bank remains influenced by politics. This also can contribute to its double standards regarding the loans it offers, some seen as preferential others as more exigent. Radical reform is needed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Obesity, genes, self-image and health

According to a recent study, it was revealed that obesity is related to genes. But despite all this, obesity is a growing problem all over the world. It affects the poor and the rich, the old and the young. The problem becomes – not mentioning the health complications resulting from it- apparent for obese people when wanting to swim in public. Their shapes become an embarrassment to them, especially their fat hips and bellies. There can be many explanations to obesity as heredity as well as lifestyle. There are people who become hopeless about their shape no matter what they do. Diets and exercises just exasperate them, as they yield no results despite great patience and determination.

The only beneficiary of all this can be some commercial companies offering “miracle” products to desperate obese people who eventually find themselves wasting their time and money on products proving useless. There can be success stories for fat people getting the right shape. Stars like Opera Winfrey are promoting programs to fight obesity. She herself underwent rigorous exercises to reshape herself.

Obese people should receive social sympathy and be encouraged to look after themselves by avoiding all that can worsen their conditions. They shouldn’t be subject to discrimination. In the West, it can be argued that fat people are a burden on the health system where most, if not all, the workers have medical insurance. Their medical cases necessitate a special budget ands further medical research. In poor countries where even basic health care isn’t general, fat people are left to cope with their conditions. They can have only family support that alleviates, at least psychologically, the pain they can undergo.

Obesity should remain an issue. Scientific research shouldn’t remain limited just to stating it as a genetic occurrence. More research should be done to alter the genes responsible for it. Genetic studies have made a lot of progress. They should give more attention to obesity, now having become one of the most widespread chronic cases around the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Casablanca Bombers die in despair

The suicide bombers in Casablanca who blew themselves up show that Islamic militants have changed tactics, becoming more sanguine. But the vigilance of the security forces and the cooperation of the public has made it difficult for them to continue in hiding. They will be smoked out of their holes soon or later as the majority of Moroccans aren't ready to live under deadly fear. The influence of Al Qaida on hard Islamic militants has made them ready to kill anyone, including themselves. They have become driven by despair, as Morocco is moving for moderate and open type of Islam. Now they are surrounded by the fact that Moroccans are for social justice, not for bloody one claiming innocent lives. They can spread terror for a while but they can't spread their type of Islam.

Morocco is lucky so far in its fight of Islamic militants. They succeed just in killing themselves thanks to the vigilance of the security forces which has so far succeeded in surrounding them before they access their targets. Morocco has sadly entered its own phase of war on terror. It still needs more vigilance before the most dangerous elements are caught and put in cage. They deserve no mercy as those released from prison become more intent on more destruction for which they were pardoned in the first place.

Because of this increasing threat of terrorism, Moroccans are now obliged to be more vigilant, especially in the areas from which the suicide terrorists originate. But on the whole Morocco remains a safe country as Moroccans in general are for social justice and political reforms through democratic means and not through the use of deadly violence. Such bombing are far and between. The danger that lurks is when the suspected terrorists get out of hand through lenient measures in the hope that they will redress themselves to a normal life .

Monday, April 09, 2007

Should freed UK sailors sell their stories?

There a criticism following the sale by some released UK sailors of their stories to the media. This has also been followed by a ban by MoD on such sales to continue among the armed forces. The good thing is that not all of the freed sailors are zealous about making money out of their stories. The biggest price/reward the 15 sailors have got is that they went down history as being the cause or the instrument of a severe diplomatic crisis between UK and Iran. They have been in the spotlight worldwide, having top diplomats endeavour for their release. They were seen throughout their capture and on the day of their release as heroes. Now they can be seen just as mercenaries trading an experience they underwent which was also felt by the UK as the public and the government sided with them.

Defending one's country has no price. The sailors have the right to make the best of the bad situation they were in but not to the point of falling from the sublime to the ridiculous; in other words, they shouldn’t become traders in an event which has become the property of the public, so to speak. It's better for them to be asked how well they came out of their ordeals than to be asked how much money they've made from disclosing them to commercial press.

They should have in mind other soldiers who have been in worse situation and whose cases were forgotten because it hadn’t stirred any political storm anywhere. . The sailors were arrested as team. They should have team spirit by thinking of those who were less lucky than them in having a period of detention, coming back with a lost limb or simply disused by society. They’d better tell their story to a film director to make an award winning movie. Its revenues should go to former members of the armed forces who are now facing difficulties. They’d better be contented with hero medals, which can be their national pride and that of their families and offspring for generations.

Friday, April 06, 2007

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter?

Terrorism has become a hard word to define. To repeat the cliché “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". Terrorism is a form of political action in some circles where blind killing is the norm as it is the case in Iraq. More random killing means escalating fight against the enemy. Many states are accused of sponsoring terrorism like Syria and Iran. Israel, accusing Hamas of terrorism, is also accused of state terrorism as it practises kidnapping and killing of Palestinian opponents within or outside its territories.

The latest incident of British sailors can be seen as an act of terror if only their televised accounts of the circumstances before and after their capture are to be believed. For sailors to be snatched out of the sea by another army when there is no official declaration of war between their respective countries can be seen as an aggression or an attempt to spread terror. It can be seen as an act of piracy as the Iranian sailors were more interested in acquiring the British boats more than the sailors who could have later been used to get a ransom of whatever kind.

Terrorism takes place when the doors of inhuman and indiscriminate killing are open when all doors of dialogue are closed and when people become ideologically blind or can't see eye to eye.Terrorism tactics have evolved in the past years. The rate of suicide bombing has become the biggest of its kind as it has become for terrorists the most popular, effective and least costly. As some terrorists have no scruples about who and where to hit, any means can be a target. they will continue their acts, careless of what is said about them as long as their acts trigger the biggest loud explosions leaving behind them the biggest bloodbaths and the biggest ruins. To their pleasure, they watch their deeds on major news channels- without which they don’t feel totally self-congratulating.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Legalising adultery in Uganda

On BBC have your say there was a debate of whether one would spy on their partners In Uganda thanks to the adultery law, which has been scrapped by the Constitutional Court -because it treated men and women unequally - spouses don’t need to spy on each other or even get jealous as the law permits them to have free sex. This law also seems to recognise that marriage is no longer a pact of mutual possession as there is union only by the notion of marriage while physically each is free to lead a sexual life of one’s choosing. Maybe the law should evolve by allowing the spouses to bring their lovers home and share the same bedroom. In this case, one of the couple will have to spend the night on the sofa as the sleeping premise is occupied by a nightly guest!

The positive side of the law is it recognises the reality of marriage. Not all spouses are faithful to each other. They need moments of change so marriage isn’t boring or a lifelong cage. It can be a substitute to polygamy as marriage of this kind is costly involving extra expenses. Accepting adultery within marriage is morally disgusting. For a man to accept sharing his wife with other men is the worst aspect of manhood. A woman accepting other women to have sex with her husband is another form of prostitution. Marriage should remain sacred. Those who can’t remain faithful had better separate and seek mating partners.

British sailors release, Who's won and who's lost

The winners are the freed sailors and their families. Politicians try to make the most of events like these. It’s an opportunity for them to show shrewdness, resilience, toughness, let go- all combined for good effect. The political point the Iranians succeeded in scoring is to make British politicians and the British people have their blood boiled when they are famous for having cold blood. Personally the grim look I saw on Tony Blair’s face was similar to the one he was having on July 7 bombing. This shows the severity of the situation the British government was in. Tony Blair kept his firm look even after the release of the sailors when he made his public announcement contrary to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who looked relaxed.

The biggest win can be when all the movers and shakers in Middle East affairs work together as equal partners to diffuse the long running tension. Iran has no means but its gigantesque propaganda and limited power to confront the West. UK has behind it an armada in the form of EU, NATO and the USA to secure its powerful position in the world. The question to ask is who is going to win the remaining battles that can prove difficult to settle by a mere declaration. For the Iranians, it can be easy to say we pardon the sailors and set them free. But it will be difficult for them to make a surprising announcement by saying we changed policy and we are going to close our nuclear sites and start a fresh era with the West.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Iran releases UK captured sailors

The announcement of the release of UK sailors must come as a happy end avoiding dire consequences for both UK and Iran in a volatile region. The capture of the sailors was meant by Iran to be exploited to draw attention to its differences with the West. This made diplomats in the West hold their breath as UK, a member of the EU, NATO and very close ally of the US, found itself in a difficult situation where it had to take into accounts the implications of any step vis-à-vis Iran at the international level. In others words, it had to avoid jeopardizing the fragile peace in the region and its wider implications.

By all accounts, UK seems to have scored a diplomatic victory over Iran as the pressure seemed to have been on Iran to bring the crisis to an end. The Iranian regime has tried to look forgiving as a face-saving tactic. But at heart it knows well that it can’t further isolates itself over a controversial incident out of which it can’t gain a substantial political capital.

However, this incident should make both UK and Iran work jointly to improve their relations regarding wider and deeper issues, especially those concerning stability in the Middle East. Historically, there has been no love lost between UK and Iran since the Iranian Revolution. The latest sailors’ incident is just another chapter of the cat-and-mouse relationships between them. Every time Iran tries to play the cat by catching any Brit in sight from businessmen to soldiers. But its catch always slips from its paws because of being faced by a torrent of attacks.

To be fair, it seems behind the scenes diplomacy has worked for both, sparing them public and lingering confrontations at all levels, diverting attention from other important matters. Let’s hope each will keep vigilant for the perpetuation of peace as war, be it verbal, diplomatic or military, will be costly for all directly or indirectly implicated in it.

Listen to extracts of declarations and reactions to the release of the UK soldiers.

Who do you think has won over UK sailors release?
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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Polesi trip to Syria

Pelosi’s trip to Syria is another indication of the disagreement between the White House and the Congress over the steps to take vis-à-vis Iraq and Syria. It seems President Bush will have a hard time with the congress in the remaining years of his term, considering that his popularity at the lowest level.

It also seems that while Bush is pursuing a hard policy regarding Syria using all possible means, including economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, the Congress is seeking to open a new page. Maybe for it, it’s better to win and ideologically dangerous regime whose weapons are mainly propaganda and arming fighting groups than to have two allied enemies. Making Syria distance itself from Iran, can harden the pressure on it over its nuclear program as it will have fewer friends in the Middle East.

Pelosi seems to be paving the way for a Democrat administration, as it is likely the voters won’t return the Republican to power. By doing this, the congress is trying to paint a new landscape for the Bush post era. To make things easy for them, they don’t want to inherit Bush’s policy. They want to start afresh by improving the relations with the White House sworn enemies like Syria and by having the US troops in Iraq back home before the presidential elections in 2008.

Is Pelosi right to take a trip to Syria? She isn’t the only one to do so. There was the controversial trip by former Pt jimmy Carter to Cuba in 2002. His visit didn’t yield any concrete results. Pelosi’s trip at present will be just a media event with little impact on the White House approach to the regime in Syria. For the Syrian regime, such visits will be an opportunity to believe and make believe that it is getting out of its isolation after renewing contact with the EU at the highest level.

As long as the White House and the Congress don’t see eye to eye, there will be more surprising moves by the Congress at home and abroad, making the US administration bewildered and having no power but the constitutional power of the president to veto decisions that are in sharp contrast with its foreign policy.

Is Pelosi right to go to Syria?
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