Thursday, May 29, 2008

Is UK aid to India justified?

India’s economy is about 50% bigger than Britain’s, but India’s population (1.1 billion) is 18 times more than UK’s (60.7 million). UK’s GNI per capita is US $37,600. India’s GNI per capita: US $720, which means it is at least 50 times less than that of UK.

India on the surface of it looks richer than UK. And logically, it’s India that should send help to UK. But India has more social troubles than UK; some are almost inexistent in UK like illiteracy.

In India, there are still regions and population that still live in primitive conditions compared to the 21st development.

On many occasions, even very rich nations needed international help in times of disaster. The USA received outside help after Katrina Hurricane. Germany did the same when faced with flood some years ago. China wouldn’t have coped well after the recent earthquake without the massive international aid.

The Indian government still lacks full resources to help its entire people. UK still has an obligation to help its helpless population on humanitarian grounds. International help is a means of strengthening diplomatic and economic ties.

Indians living and working in UK are also helping UK economy through their high skills and economic enterprises. So the help given to India shouldn’t be seen as a waste of money but as a means to strengthen the relations between the countries. UK aid to India totalled £1billion. But surely UK gets more than that in its economic exchange with India.

So let’s say, every pound donated to India as aid will be returned by 10 pounds through commercial exchanges.

Monarchy, kings and queens

Monarchy in many countries is the symbol of national unity and identity. But as an institution, it should move with time. What makes some monarchies unpopular is when the monarch has disregard for popular attitudes, trying to keep privileges or authorities dating from centuries and which have little to do with the political aspirations of the new generations. But there are absolute monarchs under disguise in some republics like North Korea or Syria where the leaders continue to rule until their death, only to be succeeded by their sons without a popular vote for the presidency.

One negative aspect of absolute monarchy is when the king considers himself as the rightful guardian of society disregarding calls for change. It can be OK for a king to perpetuate a style of rule, subjugating his people by enshrining himself with sacredness. But in today's world, there is no place for despotism. Monarchy in Nepal was abolished because the king was out of touch with the reality of his country. Perhaps he was counting on the spiritual sacred side of monarchy to survive.

In Japan and Thailand, monarchy is popular and a stabilizing factor because it is constitutional, leaving the choice to people to decide through elected governments in whose policy the monarch doesn’t intervene. As Thailand and Japan succeeded in progressing without relinquishing their traditions, monarchy is sure to continue in these countries.

In Morocco, the King has given the monarchy a new image through constant contact with the population in every region of the country. It is seen as the most liberal and democratic country in the Arab world after Lebanon. Although there are calls from many political parties for constitutional change to allow the prime minister and the government more powers, there is still the public belief that the king should remain the arbitrator in political matters. The majority of people have lost faith in the political parties. The king remains for them a unifying figure. Morocco still has many economic and social problems. There is still corruption and a great need to reform the education and justice system. However the king remains popular, even among the poor, who believe that his initiatives can improve their living standards. And there is also the general belief that the king alone can’t solve all Morocco’s problem. It depends on the determination of everyone to do their best for the good of the country. In other words, only hard work and honesty at all levels that can solve Morocco’s problem.

After all, what people need is a leader, be it king or president, who can ensure the stability and the welfare of the country. Even in republics, there are people who have the lifestyle of kings and princes. Naming a country a republic or a monarchy can be deceiving. France, for example, still refers to its past strong monarchs like Napoleon with reverence and royal heritage is still kept as a national treasure. Russia is reconciling itself with the past negative attitudes towards the Tsar Era. Monarchy even if it doesn’t exist in many countries, now becoming republics, still has its mystic appeal.

Although monarchy is abolished in many countries, successful and popular stars are described as princes, princesses, kings and queens. Prestigious places have titles starting with royal like Royal Hotels. So many countries considered as republics still have a yearning for royal splendour.

A large number of people like to have a role model. Many role models are almost worshipped by their fans. Stars in sport and art are like idols for their fans. Very rich football stars are loved by their fans however poor they are. They know how much they earn, but they support them. They don’t boo them at the pitch because of their extravagant lifestyle and earning, but only when they don’t play well.

On Larry King show, there was a debate about British monarchy. An American speaker criticised the British monarchy for its lavish style, to which a defendant of the monarchy asked him, “What about your imperial presidency?”

Monarchy is a matter of the past in many countries, but still they seek to have a distinguished person to rule their heats and mind. Monarchy, as a form of leadership, is an innate inclination to have one person turned to by the masses as personification of the glory the want to have in their lives.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Islamic schools in a modern world

In the past, Islamic schools in Morocco were the only place to get educated. At that time, just learning the Quran and having basic notions of religion entitled a person to be considered as educated and entitled to be an imam or a religious cleric. Until recently, many families sent their children to coranic schools where they learnt verses of the Quran and the Arabic alphabet before they joined public schools. Now such schools are facing extinctions. They can be found in very few areas. Families today want their children to have modern education. They send their children at the age of three to nurseries where they are introduced to modern education.

Following the terrorist attacks in Casablanca on May 16th, 2003, there has been a crackdown on many unauthorised mosques and building where religious sermons were given.

So while there are attempts in Western countries to build (more) Islamic schools, in Morocco the trend is that such schools are on the verge of extinction, as people here seek a modern education from which they can make a living.

But this doesn’t mean that educated people can’t further their studies about Islam. In Moroccan universities there are branches about Islamic studies. Also in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, there is an Islamic School called “Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania”. One of the conditions to get a diploma from this school is to be fluent in a foreign language, mainly English and French. And whose aim is to have a modern approach to daily affairs.

One difference is that current Islamic institutions and schools are directly directed by the state, unlike countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia where Islamic schools are a political force. These countries still have difficulties controlling them or imposing on them guidelines to foster openness rather than extreme views of what doesn’t seem to them Islamic.

Religious schools in general become a danger when they teach archaic views leading to extremism. Inculcating students just with religious notions without preparing them to be open on the reality of their societies and adapt to it can lead to an isolated section of the population that will use whatever means to impose its views or to seclude itself from society totally.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On Human Rights Issues

The issue of human rights is still problematic as it is still open to interpretations by the countries who have signed the Human Rights Treaty. Ironically, the governments who abuse human rights most are those who defend their records on respecting them. They accuse those seeking their rights as trouble makers or as a threat to national security.

Many countries are ruled by despotic regimes, with leaders seeking all means to stay in power by silencing their opponents through death, torture and imprisonment.

There are two countries in the news today which are an example of the violation of human rights: Zimbabwe and Burma. In Zimbabwe, there were many reported incidents of people victims of cruel physical assaults following the general elections. The government seemed to be doing nothing about it, by for example, opening an inquiry. In Burma, people hit by the cyclone are left exposed to hunger and disease for more than three weeks because of the military regime, despite the enthusiasm of the international community to help them.

These two cases show the impotence of the international community to intervene to put things right. There are sometimes political calculations. The West and other big countries like China and India turn a blind eye to the abuses of the human rights by regimes as long as they serve their interests.

What pressure can be put on governments abusing human rights to respect them? Are economic sanctions effective to make abusive regimes change their policies?

There are many illegal immigrants crossing to Europe mainly from Africa. What rights do these immigrants have to seek a better life?

My third question is about the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state:

On the Algerian territory, there are displaced people from Western Sahara who live in camps. They have been there since 1975. Many want to return to their homeland, but they are prevented by the Polisario Front fighting Morocco over this territory. Anyone caught trying to escape is subject to torture and imprisonment. Shouldn’t there be international pressure on this front to allow these people the freedom to live where they want to regardless of the differences it has with Morocco?

Children's safety and adults' responsibility

The situation of children has changed because of a change in the notions of families and neighbourhood and how they relate to each other. In the past, the role of parents was that the mother took care of the children while the father was out at work. Neighbours were like an extended family whose children could mix easily. Children were relatively safer.

Today, family structure has changed. The extended family is becoming a matter of the past. There are increasingly single parents with a single child. The child is left alone at home or in the care of schools. The itinerary from school to home can be dangerous for weak children as they have to move in a space where there can be a pack of children ready to attack as there can be malicious adults ready to sexually exploit the child.

It has always been normal that weak children are bullied by strong ones. What is worrying today is that some children are getting more violent, committing even murder. But there is no need to be alarmist despite all this as child safety is still guaranteed as long as child tutors know how to guide their children and to teach them how to be both safe and sociable. It is the lack of social skills on the part of children that makes them either aloof, frightened or aggressive.

Children should be given the opportunity to live their childhood fully. Neglecting them or overprotecting them can have adverse effect on their personality. They need guidance as well as the skill to make choices. They should not be dangerously exposed to scenes fit for the adults who can discern their right and wrong aspects. This has to do, for example, with the violence they’re exposed to on TV and video games.

The dangers facing children have different aspects according to regions. They are prey to the dangers according to the environment in which they live. In other words, this has to do with the practices of the adults in general.

There are children who are the victims of AIDS from the wombs of their mothers. There are children who are smuggled from one country to another for labour.

There is also the danger of exposing children to drugs. There are drug dealer who sell their goods to (school) children. There are those who start drinking alcohol at a very young age.

Helping children to live in a safe world has to do with preparing a clean environment for them. As long as the laws are barely enforced and some adults themselves need care and supervision, the victimized children will be left to face their situations helpless because of the failure society to have adequate means to help all children have a normal life.

The world can be safe for children as long as the adults, who should be concerned about their future, make it safe for them. If adults become totally disengaged from the education and the welfare of the children, each according to their responsibility, this can result in having children adrift, at the mercy of dangers that should be avoided.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Does a child need a father?

Single women and lesbian couples won landmark parental rights last night as MPs voted to remove the requirement that fertility clinics consider a child’s need for a father.

A fatherless child can apparently have a normal childhood if surrounded by the needed care. Currently there are cases of fatherless children because of the death of their fathers, divorce or the fathers simply have disappeared without leaving any trace.

What may matter for a child is to have a father-figure imbuing him with fatherly qualities. But for many, there is nothing like a real father, especially in societies where the mother and the father are the centre of the family. In many (Muslim) societies, it is an insult to describe someone as being illegitimate or the child of unknown father.

It seems only animals don’t need a father when born and they can altogether do without their mother when grownups. Needless to say, there are also types of birds as well as wolves that make everlasting couples, which jointly care for their offspring.

It remains to see if some people copulate without looking back at their actions or they take such action with responsibility as it can result in the birth of a human being entitled to have a family life.

Men who donate their sperms and women who donate their eggs must be crazy as they encourage lesbians and gays to act against prevailing social norms by having children that can know just one parent they’re from and without ever having the chance to know the other parent.

There are still people who are curious or proud of their family trees. With the new law, children can trace their families just from the side of their mothers.

But normally a child should know who his father is, at least later in life. When adults, these children are likely to feel something missing in their lives if they have never experienced fatherly attention.

Many adopted children feel they aren’t the natural children of adoptive parents. Relations can be good with them, but an essential part from which they were born is still missing.

Allowing mothers to have children, without necessarily revealing their fathers, is just a response to their egoistic desires to be mothers and have a family. But there is the denial of the right of the child to know his father, especially if that is possible.

As incest is still prohibited, it is likely that a daughter and her father can have sex or even get married without knowing the biological relationships between them.

Maybe UK society has gone a step much further. It is normal to have single mothers. There were 1.9 million single parents as of 2005, with 3.1 million children, 81% of single parents in the UK are mothers.

Now with the fact that fertility clinics no longer need to consider a child’s need for a father, it seems there will be a surge in the birth of children from gays and lesbians. It remains to see how these children can cope in society. Or will there be a community of gays and lesbians, transmitting these practices to their children? Contrary to straight people for whom it is a must the couple should be heterosexual, gays and lesbians may convince their children that the right way to live is to be homosexual.

There is also the position of the church. Will it baptise these children? Or in the end, will there be a church for this category of people?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

When does diplomacy become appeasement?

Diplomacy is the best way to conduct relations between countries to avoid direct confrontations, military or economic. It’s diplomatic relations that help countries channel their views and coordinate them for a collective or bilateral actions.

Appeasement shouldn’t be just face-saving for the weak party. It should be based on solid grounds to last. Saddam gave in to Iran when he was weak. But once the new Iranian regime was militarily weak, he launched military actions that lasted till his invasion of Kuwait in 1991.

After the Second World War the USA and its allies made peace agreement with their enemies Italy, Germany, and Japan based on turning a new page and helping them to become powerful again without threatening world peace.

Currently, appeasement should be based on helping the weak side to have the possibility to stay in power on condition of honouring the agreements to keep a balance of power. Seeking to annihilate an enemy outright can prove impossible, if that enemy has the means to rise from its ashes. In Iraq, there are reports of arrests and death of terrorist resistance key figures, but violence isn’t over there. Afghanistan still has no-go areas even for the heavily armed international forces operating there.

Countries with uneasy relations have different means to talk. Either directly at different levels from the level of ambassadors to that of head of states. There is the means of intermediation as it happened in Qatar between the Lebanese. The most failed intermediations are between Hamas and Fatah despite efforts by many Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. For these, they can agree just to talk at best without honouring their agreements, especially those signed in Mecca. This is the result of the interference of outside forces like Iran.

The other level of talk can be carried by international organisations like the UN. There have been some successes about this, at least for appeasement. Morocco and the Polisario Front were at open war from 1976 to 1991, the year in which they agreed to a ceasefire, holding up to now. They started direct negotiations last year. The problem isn’t resolved. But at least diplomatic initiatives have put a brake to their military confrontations. There were no causalities from either side since 1991.

The success of diplomacy depends on the will of the parties to have normal relationship. They can discard military actions to solve their problems if that proves to be costly for both sides. But there are other means to perpetuate the conflict by having no bilateral cooperation or economic exchange. The US has used economic embargo against Cuba as a means to fight its communist regime. Talking to any Cuban politician is still considered a crime.

Diplomacy becomes appeasement only when the parties find military confrontation is of no good to either side, despite the possession of the weapons and the soldiers to do so. Diplomacy in many cases becomes a stick and carrot to solve a problem. The case of Iran shows this when the West has used economic incentives to dissuade it from pursuing its nuclear programme, while at the same time it is imposing gradual sanctions on it, when the US politicians are blowing hot and cold about a possible military strike.

As long as countries that are the centre of major international diplomatic crises are piling weapons and sophisticating them, there is no guarantee that there will be no temptations to use them as a gamble to solve a situation that diplomacy has failed to do.

Appeasement can be possible when all parties see eye to eye. But as there are deep divergence between the parties that can’t live side by side, skirmishes, bomb attacks and wars will remain an inevitable outcome in a world that historically has innumerable record of wars.

No one has a magic wand to put an end to armed actions as long as there are military and diplomatic options. Each option is valued according to the results it can yield. Appeasement and confrontations will remain the reality governing the thinking of politicians, either for their survival or the survival of their countries.

Diplomacy, if it can’t solve problems and make things better, should keep “safely” bad situations the way they are before they become dangerously worse.

When a reporter should be detached

Researching the day's topic, Mark Sandell came across this blog on CNN. A senior, experienced and respected correspondent, John Vause, writes frankly about being in China in a car with an empty seat as hundreds of people ask him to take them out of the quake zone. If you read it, you’ll see he still isn’t sleeping after the answer he gave.

This raises the question, “When should reporters stop and help, and when should they simply report ?

Good reporters are supposed to be detached, so as the give credibility to their stories and to reach an audience of different persuasions. A report embedded with personal opinions and attitudes is likely to attract a specific section only.

There are of course reporters who work for news agencies known for their bias and ideological leanings. So the reporter has to reflect that. But for an independent reporter working for an independent and neutral news agency the reporting should be done professionally as the job for reporting is to make people know about facts and not to try to make them a certain position.

There are cases in which reporters find themselves reporting in difficult situations or in areas in abject poverty or plunged in disaster. During their reporting they have all the facilities like food and shelter to report on people without a home or food. They become just witnesses of situations they can do nothing about, but which is a stuff for reporting a story.

Some journalists become so involved with the events they report about. There is the example of Kevin Carter whose work drew praise and condemnation in almost equal measures until finally, haunted by the horrors of the scenes he had witnessed, and beset by financial problems, he committed suicide at the age of 33.

The picture for which Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography on May 23, 1994 at Columbia University's Low Memorial Library is an example horrors of the scenes he had witnessed before committing suicide.

For journalists, “doomed” to report just about such disasters are unlikely to remain indifferent. If they can do nothing, they’re at least beset by the memories of what they have witnessed.

Journalism remains a hard job, especially for those who are activists, and because of this they can’t remain detached. They try to help by whatever means through connections and by using their reports to raise awareness about issues close to their hearts.

The best help reporters can do professionally is to report the truth and nothing but the truth, especially about political scandals or abuses to make people aware of what’s around them. Getting personally implicated can have an effect with dealing with a situation that should be reported with total objectivity. A reporter who says, for example, in his/her report “ I was sad to see so many dead and injured people in an earthquake.” isn’t the same as the one who says, “ There were many dead and injured people in an earthquake.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Children and natural disaster

The death toll from last week's earthquake in south-west China has risen to 40,075, officials have said.

In a catastrophe, resulting from natural disasters or wars, children are the most vulnerable; especially, when they are orphaned and left without relatives to take care of them.

Concerning the situation in Burma and China, each should be considered differently. In Burma, the government is to a large extent responsible for the misery of children there. It refused all sorts of help from “unfriendly” donors, especially the West, which it regards with suspicion. The military junta there preferred to see people of all ages suffer rather than open its seclusive country to foreign aid workers. Perhaps their human actions will be contrasted with the brutal treatment of the military regime by the affected people.

China has the responsibility to take care of orphaned children because of its birth control policy that has reduced the members of each family. Each family has the right to only one child, which means orphaned children can’t have a grown-up brother or sister to turn to. This catastrophe is a test for the Popular Republic of China to show that it can really care for all its population, especially in hard times like these.

On the whole, children, orphaned or having witnessed horror, need support to overcome the trauma experienced in their tender years. They shouldn’t be left alone, the victims of an experience that can accompany them for the rest of their lives.

Children of this kind having become familless should be adopted by the whole society that should cater for them by sheltering them in decent homes, and providing them with special education to face life when adults. They can also be adopted by other families. For them, unlike adults, they don’t need just material aid to survive, but also psychological support to feel they have a new life for better after having experienced the worst.

It is also the responsibility of the international and local aid agencies to closely follow their needs. The natural disaster may be over. The land it destroyed can be rebuilt easily. But to rebuild a shattered life needs to be done piece by piece without neglecting any essential side.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who has the final say on a child’s medical treatment?

An 11-year old in Hamilton has leukaemia and does not want to continue with chemotherapy. It’s a decision the child's parents support. They want to look at alternative therapies, but the doctors treating the child say chemo is by far the best option. So who should decide?

The health of any person is the responsibility of society as long as there are services to cater for that. Medical treatment shouldn’t be stopped if this becomes life-threatening.

In the case of children, they’re too young to take decisions on such matters. They should get all the support to bear with the treatment however painful it can be if it can save their lives.

Yielding to a child’s refusal to get medical treatment is a tacit form of euthanasia, as his /her death becomes a permanent cure.

Doctors and psychiatrists should work out ways to convince the child that it is in his/her interest to be courageous enough to get the best cure to enjoy a healthy life through which they can fulfil their ambitions.

It must be a painful experience for the parents to have a critically ill child refusing crucial treatment. But their support and care will be the cure needed for the child to voluntarily accept medical treatments. Sometimes the psychological support plays wonder when the physical side is run down. It’s the mental preparations for a morale lifting that can defeat the physical pain.

After all, doctors know better. If they are sure of their treatment, they should have the final say. Parents can be just the moral support of their child to go through a life saving experience. For parents, it’s better to feel that they have done all they can than to feel that they have let their child down by being soft out of compassion instead of being firm about a matter of life and death.

Riot and xenophobia in South Africa

Some 6,000 people have fled a wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa, which has left at least 22 dead, aid workers say.

South Africa has always been considered one of the most dangerous countries, with a high rate of murders and armed attacks. The black leadership seems to have failed to implement the principles of South Africa for all South Africans. During the apartheid era, the wide economic gap was between whites and blacks. Now the gap has widened even among blacks themselves. There are ultra rich blacks as there ultra poor blacks. With the influx of foreigners, especially from Zimbabwe, black South Africans must feel under economic invaders. But the blames shouldn’t be put on this “invaders” but on the SA government policies which have so far failed to bridge the gap between the-have and the-have-not.

The current troubles seem not to have occurred at a good time for South Africa, as it is just two years away from holding the 2010 World Cup. This must be a signal to it on how events can turn up then. Sport events have become occasions to express political discontent. The situation in Tibet was highlighted during the Olympic torch tour as well as with demonstrations in Tibet and in many places around the world.

Disadvantaged South Africans can use the 2010 World Cup to stage civil disobedience and to turn their areas into disaster zones if their government doesn’t work right away to solve their urgent problems. This is not good for the image of South Africa, supposed to represent the African continent.

Apartheid in South Africa is now a matter of the past. The struggle to end white minority rule is over. The burden now is on the current black leadership to engage in ending social strife. Otherwise, poor Africans will have no means but to attack the unprotected foreigners who they think, rightly or wrongly, behind their current difficult situation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Palestinian refugees and the right to return to their homeland

Sixty years after the establishment of Israel, there is no Arab-Israeli issue that remains as utterly divisive as the fate of Palestinian refugees .

I still remember an extremist from the Sash Party who found a quick solution to the Palestinian issue. He argued that Arab countries should divide the Palestinian population among them, especially those living in Israel. As for Al Aqsa Mosque, it should be transferred to Mecca. Thus inferring all the territory should be left just to the Israelis.

On my part I have even a crazier solution to this problem. The Israeli and the Palestinian land makes no more than 30,000 square kilometres. It won’t be spacious enough if the Palestinian refugees return there. Which means more than 10 million people should live in it, while in a decade or two that population can jump into 15 million. What I suggest is that a portion of the Israelis should return to their countries of origin, i.e. the countries from which they migrated to make room for the Palestinian refugees to have breathing space in the land from which they fled after the creation of Israel.

Now trying to be serious, I think the Palestinian issue will remain unresolved as long as the refugees aren’t granted the right to return to their homeland. This of course doesn’t mean all of them will seek to return, especially if they know the economic difficulties they can face. Currently, many of those living in Palestinian controlled territories are seeking to migrate to Europe, the Gulf States, or the USA. Many try to enter Egypt or Jordan, the nearest countries with which Israel has peace agreement. But they are confronted by the border guards and barbered wires.

What can solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees is a general peace agreement between the Arabs and the Israelis after solving territorial and border issues with mainly Syria and Lebanon. Economic cooperation in the region will make the Palestinians seek a better life in neighbouring countries while remaining attached to their homeland.

It is the political issue that makes the question of refugees of paramount importance. There are countries whose at least tenth of its population live abroad as immigrants or residents. The majority of the Lebanese live abroad in the Americas and even in Africa. The difference is that immigrants and even their offspring have the right to return to their countries of origin. For the Palestinians, a category of Palestinians living in refugee camps don’t yet have the right to return to the Palestinian territories, while the Palestinians living in Palestinian territories must have the permit to enter the Israeli territory. That’s what makes the issue look prickly. It still needs resilience on all sides to find a solution to it without politically trading in the rights of the people concerned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

China earthquake and openness

Nearly 15,000 people died in the devastating earthquake that hit China's Sichuan province, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.

China has now become more open than it used to be due to its increasing economic ties with different countries around the world. It has to show itself as a modern state no longer under the stiff grip of communism and repressive measures.

By its old standard, China has been patient with the international media dealing with the situation in Tibet. This for it was a political trial by the international public, although governments distanced themselves, using at most public statement without going into further measures.

The earthquake, however disastrous for the local populations, is an opportunity for China to show a new face to the world. Its being open about it shows that it is somehow no longer ruled by the Forbidden City but by a young generation of politicians ready to move with the times.

Thanks to its relative openness, China is under further scrutiny by the international media. Now they can have access to some areas considered as closed to foreigners. The speed with which China dealt with the earthquake is somewhat a drill in how it can deal with emergencies during the Olympic Games. The fact that it revealed the number of death exceeding 20,000 is an indication that China wants to show that it has nothing to hide, especially in the age of the internet when pictures from cell phones can be quickly published on the internet , thus possibly contradicting official statements if they happen to be contrary to facts.

China has to be more open. There are still human rights issues to be dealt with, especially those affecting the poor. The biggest issue still awaiting the Chinese government is to rescue its hundreds of millions of its impoverished people to the shore of well-being. The persistence of the wide gap between the rich and the poor can be a social earthquake that no international aid can deal its disastrous effects. The rescue of the country from potential chaos comes through new political and economic reforms that can secure China to be a secure and stable country.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Social networking, virtual and real friendship

Friends are important in our lives as long as they help us to have a bearable life. Sometimes we feel regret for having got to know a person as other times we regret coming to know another person later rather than sooner.

But friends are like life. They change. In the modern world there is only “contractual” friendship. Many friendships can’t stay permanent because of continuous changes. Friends change addresses, cities and places of jobs. It becomes difficult to keep at pace with those changes. Sometimes, friends become just a memory as there is no way to get into contact with them.

Thanks to the new communication technology, it’s possible to have contact with them through emails and chatting. New social working has made it possible to know people from different places without ever meeting them.

But there is nothing like direct friendship, through face to face contact. After all we are humans. Through facebook and the like, we can have just impressions of the persons we claim to have as friends. Getting to know them can best be done through direct contact and not through live chats.

For those who like to meet people just to pass time and to have their fantasies displayed through fake names and pictures, they can have their satisfactions as they are just making use of one another. But those seeking deep friendship, there is nothing like classical friendship based on sincerity and great sharing of everything from a joke to notions.

WHYS has won a Sony Radio Academy Award in GOLD

WHYS has won a Sony Radio Academy Award in GOLD

Here are the spectacular photos of the award ceremony.

The BBC isn’t new to receiving prestigious international a wards through its programmes and journalists. HARDtalk won the Royal Television Society’s prestigious award through Tim Sebastian . Talking point which later became known as Have Your Say has also won the award of The One World Media: . I cited these two programmes because the first is still alive and kicking while the second was unfortunately put to sleep, without the BBC giving justification for this blunt euthanasia.

WHYS also deserves to be award winning as most of the show’s agenda are set by the listeners, which I guess something unique in international media. WHYS has helped people from all over the world to connect through comments on the blog or live contributions on the show.

From its start in October 2005, it has made up to now more than 600 shows, with thousands of listeners taking parts from all over the world. It has tackled subjects of different interests, from politics, economics, religion, morality, sports, social issues etc. I can “certify” that the show has so far left no stone unturned! On my part I have tried to send my contributions on every topic, however shallow they may be. I hope the committee deciding the award for WHYS won’t use them as an excuse to deprive WHYS from its merited award.

Congratulations to all. In fact, this should be self-congratulation on the part of the team, the listeners and the contributors, via live participation, the blog, emails or text messages.

WHYS deserves its award. it was hard won considering the other programmes it had to compete with.

I still remember Maestro Mark Sandell was sceptical about winning this award when he said, “We’re up against some top shows - most of whom have won Sony gold awards in the past - so it’s a bit like West Ham being in the Champions League.”

Now I think WHYS has all the potentials to compete with the Radio Champion League after this spectacular win.

This all should be the result of the ceaseless efforts of the WHYS team, including those of who have sadly departed like Anu Anand, Richard Bowen and Kevin Anderson. It is also the results of the thousands of contributions of all parts of the world.

I think Mr Ros, you should send tomorrow a special daily email with the picture of the award. Needless, to say it will be a good idea if you include a video footage of the ceremony in which you appear in dinner jacket as an alternative to your customary T-shirts.
I hope the sweat of anxiety has dried and now you are sweetly sweating in merriness.

My experience with WHYS is that it has never stopped evolving. The latest is the inclusion, of the Blank page, a testimony of the mutual trust and appreciation between the WHYS and its international contributors.

As everyone who has joined, CONGRATULATIONS and may the show continues to get better and better through time. Let it be a show through which listeners nod in approval, laugh up in their sleeves or show whatever reaction. The important is that dialogue between listeners of different persuasions should continue.

Once again, congratulations. May the glory of WHYS continue.

Cheers to all, including WHYS detractors!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Should aid agencies go political?

Starving impoverished populations for political reasons is worse than an economic embargo on regimes accused of human rights violations. Aid agencies should continue their work in every spot as long as they have no political agenda. Their job should be limited to humanitarian issues.

A regime can fall alone with or without aid if there are no outside forces to back it or when there is an international intervention to topple it.

Aid agencies should be like médecins sans frontières whose job is to save lives and not to dictate the governments what they should do. This should be the job of international banks like the World Bank which should monitor the loans they offer to despotic and corrupt regimes.

After all the aids distributed are just hand to mouth. They barely answer the basic necessities like infrastructures for an economic upsurge. At heart, it’s better to see a population under a despotic and corrupt regime survive than to see it starving causing human catastrophes.

Perhaps, aids agencies should have more autonomy in their distributions. They shouldn’t be under the nose of local authorities that can use the aids just for their own advantages.

Aid agencies shouldn’t become a political weapon. They should continue as humanitarian agencies, whose sole purpose is to help the needy without any political agenda. As a professional doctor, they should spot the ills and find remedies to them. They shouldn’t seek to equate the political affiliations or non-affiliation of the recipients or that of those governing them to scale how much hand-out should be offered.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Israel's sixtieth birthday

Since its creation, Israel has been the focus of the international media and policy. It’s one of the rare states that are rarely not in the news whose existence and policies raise debates by friends and foes. For some it’s a role model of democracy in the Middle East as the countries surrounding it are ruled through one party system as it is the case of Syria or through a dominant party despite the existence of others as it is the case in Egypt.

In the past sixty years, it outlived the storms surrounding it. It had no friendly neighbouring state. Its existence depends on the generous aids of the USA and the strong Jewish lobby around the world that secures it from the sanctions of the Security Council in regards to its policies towards the Palestinians. Still it isn’t a secure state as there are countries after it like Iran as there are armed groups like Hezbollah waiting for any moment to inflict on it the heaviest blows in the hope of seeing it dead rather than continuing to celebrate its birthdays year after year.

The Middle East needs the birth of a really peaceful policy for everyone to live in peace. While Israel is counting the years since it was born, others are counting the deaths it has inflicted on the Palestinians, making the two sides look like Tom and Jerry. They can’t feel at ease without playing cat and mouse, just for the fun of it or by being serious about it.

One thing is sure. Israel is now a fact. It’s a fait accompli whether its enemies like it or not. But still it has to show more resilience towards the Palestinians as it is now in a strong position. Capitalizing on their weaknesses to go ahead with its intransigent policies will just perpetuate the current conflict.

So let’s hope that in its next birthday, Israel will have grown into a state with internationally recognised borders and the Palestinians have their free state instead of continuing to feel as Israel’s collective prisoners.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The media, balance and influence

The media has a great impact on how people react to the events or the type of the news they are exposed to. Foreign news sometimes becomes more important and talked about extensively. In the Arab world the Palestinian- Israeli conflict and the situation in Iraq are the dominant news in the Arab media. Some repressive Arab governments prefer their populations to talk openly about problems in these areas and criticise Israel without reserve instead of criticizing them.

Many people are made to care about certain issues more than others. There is sometimes sensational news that tops all the news. The case of a star being called to the police station to account for the slapping and headbutting of an individual becomes news as it happened with Amy Winehouse a few days ago while somewhere in the world there are people exposed to hunger and torture.

Death is death. Pain is pain. But the way suffering and death are reported depends on the “weight” of the nationality of the persons or even the animal concerned. There was an incident in which a dog was stuck in the Berlin Wall before the unification of Germany. To rescue him there had to be contacts through the diplomatic channels of East Germany and West Germany.

There are many stories that go around the world untold or they are reported just as footnote.

There are many countries that are rarely reported in the news and therefore they are little known. Nigeria is in the news because of the kidnapping of foreign oil workers because they are in majority westerners. Chad was in the news because of the alleged kidnapping of Chadian boys by French aid workers.

What matters is that people should get real facts about what’s going on in their own countries or communities and be mobilized to find solutions to their problems. Being briefed about the problems in another country isn’t enough if they don’t know about the problems in their homeland.

People get more interested in a news item through hot and witty debates. When debates are plain they become boring. What make them interesting are the challenging questions and the opposed parties on the qui vive not to give ground.

It’s also queer that in some countries, people don’t know even the name of ministers forming the government and they are knowledgeable about foreign heads of states and prime ministers, simply because they are constantly in the news.

The commercial media is in most cases concerned about attracting the largest audience or readership. They report for them what can be more exciting than informative. It turns out to be just a big machine of propaganda. News in depth in long articles has little chance of catching the eye. Light news is enriched with pictures has popularity as it is a way to, pass the time rather than getting deep knowledge.

The media despite all this has been greatly instrumental in making people have their own vies about challenging events. There are issues on which concerns diverge like the environment and the threat of hunger around the world. So it isn’t easy to portray the media just as black and white. Let’s not forget the case of hunger in Africa in the 80s was brought to the world through a BBC report about starvation in Ethiopia. That triggered global awareness from politicians to stars to ordinary people to alleviate misery in this continent. But support is still debatable.

As long as a story has depth, it’s worth reporting globally. What is worrying is when the media becomes a propaganda machine with imbalanced and one-sided approaches to events for political and economic reasons. It’s the responsibility of the recipient to choose which side to take and which item to pick up be it of international, national or local concern.