Saturday, 12 April 2008

Friday, 11th April 2008





Regular readers of this blog - my mother who visits to look at her grandchildren, their aunt too - will know that the first four pictures of every day are of exactly the same thing, and that under the first photo, I post on agriculture and food.

But not today.

If you're new to this blog you will not know how rarely I do anything different.

That beech tree you see there through the cloud in the above photo - that is the first thing I study every day and every day I photograph it.

I very, very rarely write on this blog.

Instead I practice what I call 'Information Ebru'.

Ebru is a Turkish art form, the process of paper marbling that produces constantly changing interwoven patterns.

"We're not a mosaic, different from one another and fixed in glass," a Turkish anthroplogist said, talking about Turkish society. "Ebru is done on water. It is impossible to have clear lines or distinct borders."

The same is true of our the world, and the way we organise the information to look at it.

So I try to connect some dots, leaving space for the reader to either escape to or write their own story about Earth.

This blog is a destination for those who spend most of their lives 'inside', be it their office, airplanes, their own country or their own local media perspective of Earth.

It's a place to escape to, to go 'outside', perhaps to dream.

It's also a destination for people who want to understand what on Earth is going on, but who don't have the time to do so.

I try to filer the already filtered.

Every information source has is its problems (Noam and others, I know); in the time I have available I can only use the one I trust the most in the world - the Paris-based newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, owned by the New York Times

Their talented editors have already compacted the day's events into 20-odd pages. I think they use something in the region of 1% of all the articles that they have access to and which their editors study every day.

What I then do is to take that 1% and post about 1% of that on this blog. (Some of what I post I agree with, some of it appals me. You too can draw your own conclusions.)

However, what I don't do is follow the traditional main stream media (MSM)information hierarchies (with their distinct pages of news by geographical region, opinion and editorial and their sections on business,culture, sport etc.).

My premise is that (MSM) is parochial and uses information hierarchies, and time lines, which serve as barriers to understanding our world. (This is why MSM is in trouble, which is a shame because the better ones, and the better news agencies, are our eyes and ears and they need to be paid. I hope readers click on to the links I provide to and explore their website and earn them money.)

I then juxtapose pictures of the very simple life I lead along side the Information Ebru, because to understand the narrative of the 6 billion it helps to follow the narrative of just one of them.

I find it humanizes and gives a framework of reference to a story that is otherwise too vast to get a handle on.

Since the beginning of April, I have been regretfully spending virtually all my days inside, at my computer, working on the PR for the publication of the paperback of my book, A Place in Country, which comes out on 1st, May 2008.

(Why this isn't completely handled by my publisher is another subject for another day, but I have some interesting emails that might explain it and which I may in time post on this blog, if things don't pick up.)

It has not been pleasant: working virtually in 'The Shop', the confinement, the lack of time for my family and friends. It reminds me of a life I once led and will never return to, but all that is better explained in A PLACE IN MY COUNTRY.

Again, If you're new to this blog, you will also know that it is equally rare for me to make a posting of great length.

However, the following edited article (paragraph breaks on this blog normally indicate where I have edited a piece down) from The New York Times Magazine and in the IHT of Saturday, April 12, 2008, seemed to capture so many of the ideas and stories I am interested in.

(It's interesting to note that its web reference is under anthropology, although the IHT ran it as their lead Business section story. Ebru, a Turkish art form, has been used by an anthropologist as a metaphor for society.)

As it also deals with, inter alia, how we communicate - what I have been doing all month - it also seemed a good note on which to announce that is officially on holiday until the beginning of May.

It's the kids' holidays as of Friday evening, for two weeks (as you can see we spoilt them a bit, they don't have many toys compared with many houses they enter); I have to go to Paris next week for a medical RDV, then return briefly before leaving The Valley and heading to 'The Shop'.

I have also learnt that closely studying, every day, world news, and carefully and slowly comparing other people's experiences with the enormous good fortune of myself and my family, can be a harrowing experience.

I very much want to stop.I won't for at least one full calendar year, but I will enjoy this early spring break.

My main worry about taking this time off is that I will not be here to catch that one day when things change, when the air smells different, when the tint of the budding trees shifts almost imperceptibly into another season's shades.

I don't want to leave, I don't even want to even briefly leave The Valley. As the French would say, we have finally 'put down our suitcases'.

This coming August - if I make it - will be the third anniversary of our time here, and the first time since I was seven when I will have lived, more or less continually, in exactly the same spot for more than three calendar years.

This is my place now. Please explore it while I'm gone.

My story for the year thus far?

If 2007 was the year when the world finally took on board climate change, 2008 will be the year when the world finally takes on board the global food crisis.

Land and water, energy, population, industrialisation, migration, inflation.

I pose the question like this:

6 billion to 9 billion by 2050 = WHAT?




Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?
Chipchase is 38, a rangy native of Britain whose broad forehead and high-slung brows combine to give him the air of someone who is quick to be amazed, which in his line of work is something of an asset. For the last seven years, he has worked for the Finnish cellphone company Nokia as a “human-behavior researcher.” He’s also sometimes referred to as a “user anthropologist.” To an outsider, the job can seem decidedly oblique. His mission, broadly defined, is to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company — to the squads of designers and technologists and marketing people who may never have set foot in a Vietnamese barbershop but who would appreciate it greatly if that barber someday were to buy a Nokia. What amazes Chipchase is not the standard stuff that amazes big multinational corporations looking to turn an ever-bigger profit. Pretty much wherever he goes, he lugs a big-bodied digital Nikon camera with a couple of soup-can-size lenses so that he can take pictures of things that might be even remotely instructive back in Finland or at any of Nokia’s nine design studios around the world. Almost always, some explanation is necessary. A Mississippi bowling alley, he will say, is a social hub, a place rife with nuggets of information about how people communicate. A photograph of the contents of a woman’s handbag is more than that; it’s a window on her identity, what she considers essential, the weight she is willing to bear. The prostitute ads in the Brazilian phone booth? Those are just names, probably fake names, coupled with real cellphone numbers — lending to Chipchase’s theory that in an increasingly transitory world, the cellphone is becoming the one fixed piece of our identity. Last summer, Chipchase sat through a monsoon-season downpour inside the one-room home of a shoe salesman and his family, who live in the sprawling Dharavi slum of Mumbai. Using an interpreter who spoke Tamil, he quizzed them about the food they ate, the money they had, where they got their water and their power and whom they kept in touch with and why. He was particularly interested in the fact that the family owned a cellphone, purchased several months earlier so that the father, who made the equivalent of $88 a month, could run errands more efficiently for his boss at the shoe shop. The father also occasionally called his wife, ringing her at a pay phone that sat 15 yards from their house. Chipchase noted that not only did the father carry his phone inside a plastic bag to keep it safe in the pummeling seasonal rains but that they also had to hang their belongings on the wall in part because of a lack of floor space and to protect them from the monsoon water and raw sewage that sometimes got tracked inside. He took some 800 photographs of the salesman and his family over about eight hours and later, back at his hotel, dumped them all onto a hard drive for use back inside the corporate mother ship. Maybe the family’s next cellphone, he mused, should have some sort of hook as an accessory so it, like everything else in the home, could be suspended above the floor.
This sort of on-the-ground intelligence-gathering is central to what’s known as human-centered design, a business-world niche that has become especially important to ultracompetitive high-tech companies trying to figure out how to write software, design laptops or build cellphones that people find useful and unintimidating and will thus spend money on. Several companies, including
Intel, Motorola and Microsoft, employ trained anthropologists to study potential customers, while Nokia’s researchers, including Chipchase, more often have degrees in design. Rather than sending someone like Chipchase to Vietnam or India as an emissary for the company — loaded with products and pitch lines, as a marketer might be — the idea is to reverse it, to have Chipchase, a patently good listener, act as an emissary for people like the barber or the shoe-shop owner’s wife, enlightening the company through written reports and PowerPoint presentations on how they live and what they’re likely to need from a cellphone, allowing that to inform its design.
The premise of the work is simple — get to know your potential customers as well as possible before you make a product for them. But when those customers live, say, in a mud hut in Zambia or in a tin-roofed hutong dwelling in China, when you are trying — as Nokia and just about every one of its competitors is — to design a cellphone that will sell to essentially the only people left on earth who don’t yet have one, which is to say people who are illiterate, making $4 per day or less and have no easy access to electricity, the challenges are considerable.

From an unseen distance, Chipchase used his phone to pilot me through the unfamiliar chaos, allowing us to have what he calls a “just in time” moment.
There are a growing number of economists who maintain that cellphones can restructure developing countries in a similar way. Cellphones, after all, have an economizing effect. My “just in time” meeting with Chipchase required little in the way of advance planning and was more efficient than the oft-imperfect practice of designating a specific time and a place to rendezvous. He didn’t have to leave his work until he knew I was in the vicinity. Knowing that he wasn’t waiting for me, I didn’t fret about the extra 15 minutes my taxi driver sat blaring his horn in Accra’s unpredictable traffic. And now, on foot, if I moved in the wrong direction, it could be quickly corrected. Using mobile phones, we were able to coordinate incrementally. “Do you see the footbridge?” Chipchase was saying over the phone. “No? O.K., do you see the giant green sign that says ‘Believe in God’? Yes? I’m down to the left of that.”
To someone who has spent years using a mobile phone, these moments are common enough to feel banal, but for people living in a shantytown like Nima — and by extension in similar places across Africa and beyond — the possibilities afforded by a proliferation of cellphones are potentially revolutionary. Today, there are more than 3.3 billion mobile-phone subscriptions worldwide, which means that there are at least three billion people who don’t own cellphones, the bulk of them to be found in Africa and Asia. Even the smallest improvements in efficiency, amplified across those additional three billion people, could reshape the global economy in ways that we are just beginning to understand.
It may sound like corporate jingoism, but this sort of economic promise has also caught the eye of development specialists and business scholars around the world. Robert Jensen, an economics professor at
Harvard University, tracked fishermen off the coast of Kerala in southern India, finding that when they invested in cellphones and started using them to call around to prospective buyers before they’d even got their catch to shore, their profits went up by an average of 8 percent while consumer prices in the local marketplace went down by 4 percent. A 2005 London Business School study extrapolated the effect even further, concluding that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people, a country’s G.D.P. rises 0.5 percent. Text messaging, or S.M.S. (short message service), turns out to be a particularly cost-effective way to connect with otherwise unreachable people privately and across great distances. Public health workers in South Africa now send text messages to tuberculosis patients with reminders to take their medication. In Kenya, people can use S.M.S. to ask anonymous questions about culturally taboo subjects like AIDS, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, receiving prompt answers from health experts for no charge.
Some of the mobile phone’s biggest boosters are those who believe that pumping international aid money into poor countries is less effective than encouraging economic growth through commerce, also called “inclusive capitalism.” A cellphone in the hands of an Indian fisherman who uses it to grow his business — which presumably gives him more resources to feed, clothe, educate and safeguard his family — represents a textbook case of bottom-up economic development, a way of empowering individuals by encouraging entrepreneurship as opposed to more traditional top-down approaches in which aid money must filter through a bureaucratic chain before reaching its beneficiaries, who by virtue of the process are rendered passive recipients. For this reason, the cellphone has become a darling of the microfinance movement. After Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel-winning founder of Grameen Bank, began making microloans to women in poor countries so that they could buy revenue-producing assets like cows and goats, he was approached by a Bangladeshi expat living in the U.S. named Iqbal Quadir. Quadir posed a simple question to Yunus — If a woman can invest in a cow, why can’t she invest in a phone? — that led to the 1996 creation of Grameen Phone Ltd. and has since started the careers of more than 250,000 “phone ladies” in Bangladesh, which is considered one of the world’s poorest countries. Women use microcredit to buy specially designed cellphone kits costing about $150, each equipped with a long-lasting battery. They then set up shop as their village phone operator, charging a small commission for people to make and receive calls. The endeavor has not only revolutionized communications in Bangladesh but also has proved to be wildly profitable: Grameen Phone is now Bangladesh’s largest telecom provider, with annual revenues of about $1 billion. Similar village-phone programs have sprung up in Rwanda, Uganda, Cameroon and Indonesia, among other places. “Poor countries are poor because they are wasting their resources,” says Quadir, who is now the director of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at
M.I.T. “One resource is time, another is opportunity. Let’s say you can walk over to five people who live in your immediate vicinity, that’s one thing. But if you’re connected to one million people, your possibilities are endless.”
During a 2006 field study in Uganda, Chipchase and his colleagues stumbled upon an innovative use of the shared village phone, a practice called sente. Ugandans are using prepaid airtime as a way of transferring money from place to place, something that’s especially important to those who do not use banks. Someone working in Kampala, for instance, who wishes to send the equivalent of $5 back to his mother in a village will buy a $5 prepaid airtime card, but rather than entering the code into his own phone, he will call the village phone operator (“phone ladies” often run their businesses from small kiosks) and read the code to her. She then uses the airtime for her phone and completes the transaction by giving the man’s mother the money, minus a small commission. “It’s a rather ingenious practice,” Chipchase says, “an example of grass-roots innovation, in which people create new uses for technology based on need.”
It’s also the precursor to a potentially widespread formalized system of mobile banking. Already companies like Wizzit, in South Africa, and GCash, in the Philippines, have started programs that allow customers to use their phones to store cash credits transferred from another phone or purchased through a post office, phone-kiosk operator or other licensed operator. With their phones, they can then make purchases and payments or withdraw cash as needed. Hammond of the World Resources Institute predicts that mobile banking will bring huge numbers of previously excluded people into the formal economy quickly, simply because the latent demand for such services is so great, especially among the rural poor. This bodes well for cellphone companies, he says, since owning a phone will suddenly have more value than sharing a village phone. “If you’re in Hanoi after midnight,” Hammond says, “the streets are absolutely clogged with motorbikes piled with produce. They give their produce to the guy who runs a vegetable stall, and they go home. How do they get paid? They get paid the next time they come to town, which could be a month or two later. You have to hope you can find the stall guy again and that he remembers what he sold. But what if you could get paid the next day on your mobile phone? Would you care what that mobile costs? I don’t think so.”
In February of last year, when
Vodafone rolled out its M-Pesa mobile-banking program in Kenya, it aimed to add 200,000 new customers in the first year but got them within a month. One year later, M-Pesa has 1.6 million subscribers, and Vodafone is now set to open mobile-banking enterprises in a number of other countries, including Tanzania and India. “Look, microfinance is great; Yunus deserves his sainthood,” Hammond says. “But after 30 years, there are only 90 million microfinance customers. I’m predicting that mobile-phone banking will add a billion banking customers to the system in five years. That’s how big it is.”
When he is not doing his field work, Jan Chipchase goes to a lot of design conferences, where he gives talks with titles like “Connecting the Unconnected.” He also writes a popular blog called Future Perfect, on which he posts photographs of some of the things that amaze him along with a little bit of explanatory text. “Pushing technologies on society without thinking through their consequences is at least naïve, at worst dangerous . . . and IMHO the people that do it are just boring,” he writes on his blog’s description page. “Future Perfect is a pause for reflection in our planet’s seemingly headlong rush to churn out more, faster, smaller and cheaper.”
We were sitting under a slow-revolving ceiling fan in a small restaurant in Accra, eating bowls of piquant Ghanaian peanut-and-chicken stew. Chipchase told a story about meeting some monk disciples at a temple in Ulan Bator, when he vacationed in Mongolia a few Decembers ago. (Most of Chipchase’s vacation stories, it turns out, take place in less-developed countries, often in forbidding weather and frequently relating back to cellphone use.) Despite their red robes and shaved heads and the fact they were spending their days in a giant monastery at the top of a windy hill where they were meant to be in dialogue with God, some of the 15 monk disciples had cellphones — Nokia cellphones — and most were fancier models than the one Chipchase was carrying. One of the disciples asked to look at Chipchase’s phone. “So he’s got my phone and his phone,” Chipchase told me. “And as we’re talking, he’s switching on the Bluetooth. And he then data-mines my phone for all its content, all my photographs and so on, which is absolutely fine, but it’s kind of a scene where you think, I’m here, I’m so away from everything and yet they’re so technically literate. . . . ”This is when I voiced a careless thought about whether there might be something negative about the lightning spread of technology, whether its convenience was somehow supplanting traditional values or practices. Chipchase raised his eyebrows and laid down his spoon. He sighed, making it clear that responding to me was going to require patience. “People can think, yeah, monks with cellphones, and tsk, tsk, and what is the world coming to?” he said. “But if you wanted to take phones away from anybody in this world who has them, they’d probably say: ‘You’re going to have to fight me for it. Are you going to take my sewer and water away too?’ And maybe you can’t put communication on the same level as running water, but some people would. And I think in some contexts, it’s quite viable as a fundamental right.” He paused a beat to let this sink in, then added, with just a touch of edge, “People once believed that people in other cultures might not benefit from having books either.”
“For the first time, there are more people living in urban centers than in rural settings,” Chipchase explained as we sat in the shade outside the studio. “And in the next years, millions more will move to these places.” At current rates of migration, the
United Nations Human Settlements Program has projected that one-quarter of the earth’s population will live in so-called slums by the year 2020. Slums, by sheer virtue of the numbers, are going to start mattering more and more, Chipchase postulated. In the name of preparing Nokia for this shift, he, Jung and Tulusan, along with a small group of others, spent several weeks in various shantytowns — in Mumbai, in Rio, in western China and now here in Ghana. People in the mobile-handset business talk about adding customers not by the millions but by the billions, if only they could get the details right. How do you make a phone that can be repaired by a streetside repairman who may not have access to new parts? How do you build a phone that won’t die a quick death in a monsoon or by falling off the back of a motorbike on a dusty road? Or a phone that picks up distant signals in a rural place, holds a charge off a car battery longer or that can double as a flashlight during power cuts? Influenced by Chipchase’s study on the practice of sharing cellphones inside of families or neighborhoods, Nokia has started producing phones with multiple address books for as many as seven users per phone. To enhance the phone’s usefulness to illiterate customers, the company has designed software that cues users with icons in addition to words. The biggest question remains one of price: Nokia’s entry-level phones run about $45; Vodafone offers models that are closer to $25; and in a move that generated headlines around the world, the Indian manufacturer Spice Limited recently announced plans to sell a $20 “people’s phone.”Even as sales continue to grow, it is yet to be seen whether the mobile phone will play a significant, sustained role in alleviating poverty in the developing world. In Africa, it’s still only a relatively small percentage of the population that owns cellphones. Network towers are not particularly cost-effective in remote areas, where power is supplied by diesel fuel. “I don’t see cellphones as a magic bullet per se, though they’re obviously very helpful,” says Ken Banks, founder of, a nonprofit entity that provides free text-messaging software and information-technology support to grass-roots enterprises, mostly in Africa. “Many people in the developing world don’t yet have a phone — not because they don’t want one but because there are barriers. And the only way companies are going to sell phones is to understand what those barriers are.” He cites access to reliable electricity as a major barrier, noting that Motorola now provides free solar-powered charging kiosks to female entrepreneurs in Uganda, who use them to sell airtime. The company is also testing wind- and solar-powered base stations in Namibia, which could bring down the cost of connecting remote areas to cellular networks. “Originally mobile-phone companies weren’t interested in power because it’s not their business,” Banks says. “But if a few hundred million people could buy their phones once they had it, they’re suddenly interested in power.”

Jung and Tulusan [Nokia employees that run mobile participatory design studios] said they’d found this everywhere, the phone representing what people are aspiring to. “It’s an easy way to see what’s important to them, what their challenges are,” Jung said. One Liberian refugee wanted to outfit a phone with a land-mine detector so that he could more safely return to his home village. In the Dharavi slum of Mumbai, people sketched phones that could forecast the weather since they had no access to TV or radio. Muslims wanted G.P.S. devices to orient their prayers toward Mecca. Someone else drew a phone shaped like a water bottle, explaining that it could store precious drinking water and also float on the monsoon waters. In Jacarèzinho, a bustling favela in Rio, one designer drew a phone with an air-quality monitor. Several women sketched phones that would monitor cheating boyfriends and husbands. Another designed a “peace button” that would halt gunfire in the neighborhood with a single touch. Interestingly, the recent post-election violence in Kenya provided a remarkable case study for the cellphone as an instrument of both war and peace. After the government imposed a media blackout in late December last year, Kenyans sought news and information via S.M.S. messages on their phones and used them to track down friends and family who’d fled their homes. Many also reported receiving unsolicited text messages to take up arms. The government responded with an admonition, sent, of course, via S.M.S.: “The Ministry of Internal Security urges you to please desist from sending or forwarding any S.M.S. that may cause public unrest. This may lead to your prosecution.”

French troops seize Somali pirates after hostages are freed

Helicopter-borne French troops swooped on Somali pirates Friday after they released 30 hostages from a yacht, capturing 6 of the pirates and recovering sacks of money - apparently ransom paid by the yacht's owners to win the crew's release.
Witnesses said the helicopters fired rockets at the pirates. But French officials, while confirming that troops had fired on a vehicle with pirates on board, said they had not shot at people, had not fired any missiles and had not killed anyone.
The district commissioner of Garaad, where the attack took place, said the helicopters landed and troops jumped out to grab members of a group of 14 pirates who had just come ashore where three pickup trucks with heavy weapons were waiting.
"Local residents came out to the see the helicopters on the ground," Commissioner Abdiaziz Olu-Yusuf Muhammad said by telephone. "The helicopters took off and fired rockets on the vehicles and the residents there, killing five local people."
In Paris, French officials said that the operation was conducted with minimal use of force for fear of causing collateral damage.

They said a Gazelle helicopter with a sniper on board and a Panther helicopter with three commandos on board were involved in the incident. In addition, two missile-armed Gazelle helicopters stood by in support but did not intervene.
They said the only shot fired was by the sniper to disable the engine of a vehicle containing the pirates.
"No shots were fired directly at the pirates," Jean-Louis Georgelin, chief of the armed forces general staff, told a news conference.



Former French President Jacques Chirac has undergone surgery to have a heart pacemaker implanted, his office said Friday.


A bearish man with a boiling corona of steel-gray hair, Khalifa, 44, has a clownish humor that undercuts his large literary ambitions. He smoked, drank and plowed through a table full of appetizers during a late-night interview at Ninar, a Damascus restaurant popular with Syrian artists and intellectuals, his long answers interrupted by bursts of raucous laughter.
THE novel, he said, took him 13 years to write, and draws on his early years growing up in Aleppo. There he watched the conflict between the Islamists and the security forces of Syria's secular Baath Party become steadily more violent, with what he calls a "culture of elimination" developing on both sides.
"The main thing I wanted to get at was the struggle of two fundamentalisms," he said. "I remember that heaviness, that feeling of death dominating the whole city. You were always surrounded by armed men who agreed on only one thing: If you're not with us, you're against us."
Although the novel is centered on a single Aleppo family, it encompasses the broader global story of political Islam over the past three decades. Some real people make appearances, including Abdullah Azzam, a leader of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union and a mentor of Osama bin Laden.
But Khalifa insists he has no interest in social realism or didactic fiction. Political ideology infected the work of too many Arab writers in the 1960s and '70s, he said. His own aims are purely aesthetic, and his heroes are William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez. He chose to write about "the Events" not to make a political point, but to give artistic life to the increasingly brutal realities of the world he grew up in.



One of the flattering headlines that greeted the release last week of the first Pakistani film to be shown in India in four decades, one stuck in the mind of the director Shoaib Mansoor.
"We didn't know that Pakistan had such good houses," the headline went, Mansoor recalled in an interview in Delhi.
It was a striking reminder of how little people in India know about the way their immediate neighbors across the border live.
For the past 43 years no Pakistan-made film had been distributed commercially to cinemas in India until Mansoor's "Khuda Kay Liye" ("In the Name of God") premiered here April 4 - a fact that has contributed to widespread ignorance in India about modern Pakistan.
This week, Indian filmgoers were offered a rare glimpse of life on the other side, the architecture, the unfamiliar landscape, the homes and the lifestyles. The film provided an unusual opportunity for audiences here to peer into the lives of middle-class Muslims in Pakistan, a country geographically close, but set apart by such entrenched political hostility that very few Indians have ever visited it.

The release of Mansoor's film (which broke all box-office records when it came out in Pakistan last year) was hailed here as a significant moment in the slow-motion Indo-Pakistan peace process.
An official ban was imposed by the Pakistan government on the distribution and broadcast of Indian movies, after the war between the two countries in 1965 (one of three wars fought between the two nations since the region was split by Partition in 1947). No formal reciprocal order was made by India, but initial political hostility to the idea of showing Pakistani films was superseded in later years by commercial considerations. In the second half of the 20th century, the Pakistani film industry (Lollywood) slipped into severe decline and produced nothing meriting distribution in India, (which is well-served by its own film industry).

Despite the ban, pirated, illegal copies of all the Bollywood hits have always been hugely popular in Pakistan. And in 2006, amid improving political ties, the Pakistan government gradually began to relax its approach, allowing a limited number of Indian films to be screened in cinemas legally.
The effect has been a cultural two-way mirror dividing the two countries, with Pakistan able to observe India (or a glitzier Bollywood version of India), but with Indians unable to see beyond its frontiers.
"Indian films never stopped coming to Pakistan, on DVDs," Mansoor said. "So every Pakistani is absolutely clear about the way of life in India, about how everything works in India. But there is nothing coming in the other direction, with the result that India has very clear misconceptions about Pakistan."
His film was edited in Delhi, where he was, he said, "shocked by the ignorance" of Indian colleagues in the cutting room. "They had very surprising ideas about Pakistan. They asked 'Do you have taxis there?' 'Can women drive?' 'Are women allowed to go to university?' They thought Pakistan consisted entirely of fanatics and mullahs.



Berlin police have found a body that is probably that of a missing Russian artist who had been condemned by the Orthodox Church for an exhibit in her homeland. The death was an apparent suicide, police said Friday.
Anna Mikhalchuk, who moved to Berlin in November, has been missing for three weeks. She created a stir in Russia with an 2003 exhibition that the church considered blasphemous, and was tried and acquitted by a Moscow court on charges of inciting religious hatred.
Police said a body found Thursday in a section of the Spree River running through central Berlin is "in all probability" that of Mikhalchuk.
"So far there are no indications that Ms. Mikhalchuk was the victim of a crime," police said in a statement. "She apparently took her own life."
Police are waiting for autopsy results, due early next week, to determine without a doubt that it is the missing 52-year-old.


Hundreds of thousands of index cards fill the cellar of the former prison. Each card carries a name and often a list of war-crime prosecutions. A librarian leafs through the indexes, looking for names put forward by callers researching family members they may have never known.
For Schrimm, the face of one such bewildered teenage girl is as vivid a memory as that of her Austrian grandfather, Josef Schwammberger - the "most brutal Nazi" he ever put behind bars.
Schwammberger's purges in a Polish ghetto included shooting 40 children in an orphanage and offering a false amnesty to Jews living underground, only to order them stripped and executed.
After paying 500,000 Deutsche marks to an informant, Schrimm traced Schwammberger to Argentina, which extradited him in 1987.
In his initial interviews, Schwammberger appeared to be a gentle, grandfatherly figure. He told Schrimm he had turned to the pope for help in escaping the advancing allied forces.
But over the course of his trial, he emerged as a sadist who had once encouraged his dog to maul a man to death.
During the hearings, Schrimm received a visit from a 17-year-old girl.
"His granddaughter had read it in the newspapers and wanted to know firsthand if it was true," Schrimm recalled. "She was totally shaken.


At least five Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank and gun fire in central Gaza on Friday, two of them boys aged 12 and 13, local Palestinian hospital officials said.

An army spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity under army rules, said the soldiers came under heavy mortar and sniper fire and clashed with local gunmen. She said she had no information about youths having been killed, but that if children were in the area of the clashes, they would have been at risk.



Terror and Consent

The Wars for the Twenty-First Century By Philip Bobbitt 672 pages.

$35, Alfred A. Knopf; £25, Allen Lane.

"Terror and Consent" is quite simply the most profound book to have been written on the subject of American foreign policy since the attacks of 9/11 - indeed, since the end of the Cold War. It should be read by all three of the remaining candidates to succeed George W. Bush as American president.
Bobbitt's originality lies in his almost unique ability to synthesize three quite different traditions of scholarship. The first is history. The second is law. The third is military strategy.


A human rights group has urged Kosovo authorities to investigate claims in a book by a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor that ethnic Albanian guerrillas killed dozens of Serbs and sold their organs at the end of the war in Kosovo.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Carla Del Ponte has presented "sufficiently grave evidence" in her newly published book to warrant an investigation into claims guerrillas took Serbs into Albania, killed them and then sold their organs to international traffickers in 1999.


The soldiers were told that they might be needed in Sadr City for a few days. Instead, they have been here for almost two weeks and are now preparing to stay longer. The Americans' working relationship with the Iraqis is professional but not always clear.
"There is no good liaison right now between the IA and the coalition forces," Bowen said. "It makes things kind of confusing to come up here not knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into tactical-wise. So you come up, figure out what the tactical situation is and try to push through from there."

As the Iraqi and American officers huddled, the Iraqi lieutenant said some of his soldiers had been receiving threatening calls on their cellphones from members of the Madhi Army warning them to leave. The Iraqi lieutenant could not say how the Mahdi Army obtained their phone numbers, but some Iraqi soldiers who participated in the Basra fighting deserted after their families were threatened.
As the discussions continued, one stocky Iraqi soldier stepped forward and announced that he was not afraid of the fighters from Jaysh al-Madhi —or JAM as it is called by American military — regardless of the threats.
"In case I see a bad guy I will not arrest him," the Iraqi soldier said through an American military interpreter. "I will kill him immediately to get revenge for my guys who were lost."
"That is absolutely understandable," Bowen responded. "If they have a weapon and if you ID them as a JAM member, eliminate the threat."

The militias have their own unique way of signaling the presence of the foes. The Americans say the militias have been using trained pigeons to signal the presence of American and Iraqi troops. The Iraqis wanted to know if they could fire on the pigeon keepers as American troops have done during the bitter fighting here.
As long as the Iraqis determined that the flocks of birds were not a coincidence, the Americans advised, the pigeon keepers were fair game.

"Before the IA came up here this entire area was ridiculously dangerous," he said. But alleys remain a problem.
"Typically, they have not cleared it because they don't have enough troops," Bowen said. "They don't feel secure as they move down these alleyways. I think a lot of that is because they might be new. I think a lot of it is them being green. That is what we are trying to overcome by bringing an American presence up here, giving them suggestions, giving them a helpful shove."

Lewis said the performance of the Iraqi troops had improved noticeably during the Sadr City fight, but added that they also had a long way to go.
"They have their experienced guys," he said. "But there are more new guys than experienced guys. The experienced guys are the ones in the higher ranks, the officers and senior enlisted guys. Down at the lower levels, like squad leader, platoon leader or team leader, there are not very many experienced guys to lead them in the right direction. That is where the problem lies right there."



Now we are moving another step forward, with emerging markets looking further afield to safeguard and expand their own interests. Sovereign wealth funds (SWF) have been scouring the world for lucrative investment opportunities, and not only in the industrial countries.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the bulk of SWF investment is in fact channeled into other emerging markets - Saudi Arabia, for example, has invested heavily in the Turkish telecom sector and China has focused most of its attention on Africa.


By now we all have a story about a job outsourced beyond our reach in the global economy. My favorite is about the California publisher who hired two reporters in India to cover the Pasadena city government. Really.
There are times as well when the offshoring of jobs takes on a quite literal meaning. When the labor we are talking about is, well, labor.
In the last few months we've had a full nursery of international stories about surrogate mothers. Hundreds of couples are crossing borders in search of lower-cost ways to fill the family business. In turn, there's a new coterie of international workers who are gestating for a living.
Many of the stories about the globalization of baby production begin in India, where the government seems to regard this as, literally, a growth industry. In the little town of Anand, dubbed "The Cradle of the World," 45 women were recently on the books of a local clinic. For the production and delivery of a child, they will earn $5,000 to $7,000, a decade's worth of women's wages in rural India.
But even in America, some women, including Army wives, are supplementing their income by contracting out their wombs. They have become surrogate mothers for wealthy couples from European countries that ban the practice.

It's the commercialism that is troubling. Some things we cannot sell no matter how good "the deal." We cannot, for example, sell ourselves into slavery. We cannot sell our children. But the surrogacy business comes perilously close to both of these. And international surrogacy tips the scales.
So, these borders we are crossing are not just geographic ones. They are ethical ones. Today the global economy sends everyone in search of the cheaper deal as if that were the single common good. But in the biological search, humanity is sacrificed to the economy and the person becomes the product. And, step by step, we come to a stunning place in our ancient creation story. It's called the marketplace.



Not long ago, a young Ohio woman named Trina Bachtel, who was having health problems while pregnant, tried to get help at a local clinic. Unfortunately, she had previously sought care at the same clinic while uninsured and had a large unpaid balance. The clinic wouldn't see her again unless she paid $100 per visit - which she didn't have.
Eventually, she sought care at a hospital 30 miles away. By then, however, it was too late. Both she and the baby died.
You may think that this was an extreme case, but stories like this are common in America.
Back in 2006, The Wall Street Journal told another such story: that of a young woman named Monique White, who failed to get regular care for lupus because she lacked insurance. Then, one night, "as skin lesions spread over her body and her stomach swelled, she couldn't sleep."

The Journal's report goes on: "Mama, please help me! Please take me to the ER," she howled, according to her mother, Gail Deal. "OK, let's go," Deal recalls saying. "No, I can't," the daughter replied. "I don't have insurance."
She was rushed to the hospital the next day after suffering a seizure - and the hospital spared no expense on her treatment. But it all came too late; she was dead a few months later.
How can such things happen? "I mean, people have access to health care in America," President George W. Bush once declared. "After all, you just go to an emergency room." Not quite.

According to a recent estimate by the Urban Institute, the lack of health insurance leads to 27,000 preventable deaths in America each year.

And if being a progressive means anything, it means believing that we need universal health care, so that terrible stories like those of Monique White, Trina Bachtel and the thousands of other Americans who die each year from lack of insurance become a thing of the past.


They say the 21st century is going to be the Asian Century, but, of course, it's going to be the Bad Memory Century.
Already, you go to dinner parties and the middle-aged high achievers talk more about how bad their memories are than about real estate.
Already, the information acceleration syndrome means that more data is coursing through everybody's brains, but less of it actually sticks.
It's become like a badge of a frenetic, stressful life - to have forgotten what you did last Saturday night, and through all of junior high.
In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.

Society is now riven between the memory haves and the memory have-nots. On the one side are these colossal Proustian memory bullies who get 1,800 pages of recollection out of a mere cookie-bite.
They traipse around broadcasting their conspicuous displays of recall as if quoting Auden were the Hummer of conversational one-upmanship. On the other side are those of us suffering the normal effects of time, living in the hippocampically challenged community that is one step away from leaving the stove on all day.
This divide produces moments of social combat. Some vaguely familiar person will come up to you in the supermarket. "Stan, it's so nice to see you!" The smug memory dropper can smell your nominal aphasia and is going to keep first-naming you until you are crushed into submission.
Your response here is critical. You want to open up with an effusive burst of insincere emotional warmth: "Hey!"
You're practically exploding with feigned ecstasy. "Wonderful to see you too! How is everything?" All the while, you are frantically whirring through your memory banks trying to anchor this person in some time and context.
A decent human being would sense your distress and give you some lagniappe of information - a mention of the church picnic you both attended, the parents' association at school, the fact that the two of you were formerly married. But the Proustian bully will give you nothing. "I'm good. And you?" It's like trying to get an arms control concession out of Leonid Brezhnev.
Your only strategy is evasive vagueness, conversational rope-a-dope until you can figure out who this person is.
You start talking in the tone of over-generalized blandness that suggests you have recently emerged from a coma.
Sensing your pain, your enemy pours it on mercilessly. "And how is Mary, and little Steven and Rob?" People who needlessly display their knowledge of your kids' names are the lowest scum of the earth.





Thurday, 10th April 2008



Energy, growth and food shortages

Most people in the world's wealthiest countries take food for granted. Even the poorest fifth of households in the United States spend only 16 percent of their budget on food. In many other countries, it is less of a given. Nigerian families spend 73 percent of their budgets to eat, Vietnamese 65 percent, Indonesians half. They are in trouble.
Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 percent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years. The increases are already sparking unrest from Haiti to Egypt. Many countries have imposed price controls on food or taxes on agricultural exports.
Last week, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, warned that 33 nations are at risk of social unrest because of the rising price of food. "For countries where food comprises from half to three quarters of consumption, there is no margin for survival," he said.
Prices are unlikely to drop soon. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says world cereal stocks this year will be the lowest since 1982.
The United States and other developed countries need to step up to the plate. The rise in food prices is partly because of forces beyond their control - including rising energy costs and the growth of the middle class in China and India. This has increased demand for animal protein, which requires large amounts of grain,

But the rich world is exacerbating these effects by supporting the production of biofuels. The International Monetary Fund estimates that corn ethanol production in the United States accounted for at least half the rise in world corn demand in each of the past three years.
This elevated corn prices. Feed prices rose. So did prices of other crops - mainly soybeans - as farmers switched their fields to corn, according to the Agriculture Department.
Washington provides a subsidy of 51 cents a gallon to ethanol blenders and slaps a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imports. In the European Union, most countries exempt biofuels from some gas taxes and slap an average tariff equal to more than 70 cents per gallon of imported ethanol. There are several reasons to put an end to these interventions. At best, corn ethanol delivers only a small reduction in greenhouse gases compared with gasoline. And it could make things far worse if it leads to more farming in forests and grasslands. Rising food prices provide an urgent argument to nix ethanol's supports.
Over the long term, agricultural productivity must increase in the developing world. Zoellick suggested rich countries could help finance a "green revolution" to increase farm productivity and raise crops yields in Africa. But the rise in food prices calls for developed nations to provide more immediate assistance. Last month, the World Food Program said rising grain costs blew a hole of more than $500 million in its budget for helping millions of victims of hunger around the world.
Industrial nations are not generous, unfortunately. Overseas aid by rich countries fell 8.4 percent last year. Developed nations would have to increase their aid budgets by 35 percent over the next three years just to meet the commitments they made in 2005.
They must not let this target slip. Continued growth of the middle class in China and India, the push for renewable fuels and anticipated damage to agricultural production caused by global warming mean that food prices are likely to stay high. Millions of people could need aid to avoid malnutrition.
Rich countries' energy policies helped create the problem. They should help solve it.



Cameroon's descent

Leaving Yaoundé, Cameroon's capital, after a recent business trip, my colleagues and I settled into our airliner's seats and breathed a sigh of relief. We had planned a retreat for emerging African leaders to devise practical ways to produce change within their individual countries and institutions. We had selected Yaoundé as the meeting place because of Cameroon's presumed political stability, relatively reliable infrastructure and easy access.
But within days of our arrival in my country, riots and protests ignited by the rising costs of fuel and food resulted in a nationwide lockdown.

During our trip, I found the presence of armed security forces across the capital's hilly landscapes frighteningly reminiscent of the atmosphere in Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s. Thousands of ordinary citizens suspected of participating in the protests were arbitrarily rounded up and detained, subjected to summary trials and harsh sentences, some for up to six years in prison. Witnesses reported that many people in custody were beaten, tortured and abused. There were also reports of dead bodies floating on the Wouri River in Douala, the country's economic capital, although it is unclear how many people died.

Even more disturbing is the inflammatory and divisive rhetoric by some high-level government officials seeking to incite hatred and manipulate ethnic differences. In a country with over 125 different ethnic groups, this is a sinister game that could trigger inter-community conflict.


Climate change is now one of the World Bank's top concerns because of its expected impact on health and economic grwoth in developing countries, the bank's top environmental economist said. Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are where global warming's damage will disproportionately be felt, and that makes it a crucial issue for the World Bank and other financial institutions aiming to foster development, said Kirk Hamilton, co-author of the Global Monitoring Report.

The environmental damage is already happening in the world's poorest's places and is likely to be exacerbated as the planet warms, the report said.

(Source: Reuters IHT April 11, 2008)



The world's resource companies could be lining up to rebuild Zimbabwe's once mighty gold mines and metal refineries if President Robert Mugabe's government falls.
"It is often painted as a treasure trove for miners, and with solid reason," said Anne Fruehauf, analyst for southern and east Africa at a consulting company, Control Risks. The southern Africa country, once a big producer of minerals, is hardly undiscovered ground for the world's miners.



When an airplane carrying Lukoil workers crashed in the far north of this Arctic region three years ago, killing 29 of 52 people on board, many blamed the weather.
When, one year later, in March 2006, a helicopter carrying victims' relatives to a commemoration ceremony at the crash site also fell, killing another person, the indigenous people thought something else was at play. The land, they said, was cursed.
One of the newest oil-producing regions in Russia, the Nenets autonomous district is home to lucrative projects for Lukoil and Rosneft. It is also home to a population of 7,000 indigenous Nenets whose livelihood and semi-nomadic way of life are being increasingly threatened by the growing oil industry.
"They defied the energy of the land," said Kolya, a Nenets shaman who at 39 looks at least 20 years older, speaking of the crashes. Squatting in his tent, called a choom, 5 kilometers, or 3 miles, from Naryan-Mar in the snow-covered tundra one recent evening, he spoke slowly.
"The earth started to sink and all the souls started to rise," he said.

Yet von Gartzen was not content. Consulting archives and with the help of the staff of the Jägerblatt, a magazine for Luftwaffe veterans, he tracked down veterans who had flown in von Bentheim's unit, the Jagdgruppe 200. He contacted hundreds of former pilots, most now in their 80s; hundreds more had already died.
Then in July 2006, he telephoned a former pilot in Wiesbaden, Germany, Horst Rippert, explaining that he sought information about Saint-Exupéry.
Without hesitating, Rippert replied: "You can stop searching. I shot down Saint-Exupéry."
Rippert, who will be 86 in May, worked as a television sports reporter after the war. It was only days after he had shot down a P-38 with French colors near Marseille that he learned of Saint-Exupéry's disappearance.
He was convinced he had shot him down, though he confided his conviction only to a diary. In 2003, when he learned that Saint-Exupéry's plane had been found, his suspicion was confirmed. But still he said nothing publicly.
Over the years, the thought that he may have killed Saint-Exupéry had troubled Rippert. As a youth in the 1930s, he had idolized the aviator-turned-author and had devoured his books, beginning with "Southern Mail," in 1929, an adventure tale written while Saint-Exupéry was flying the Casablanca-to-Dakar route.
When Rippert's identity was finally made public in March, the storm of interview requests and efforts to contact him was such that he withdrew from sight.
"The last days have been terrible, with phone calls and doorbells ringing all hours of the day and night," said his wife, by telephone, before hanging up.

Evidence to support Rippert's claim is lacking because documents, like flight logs, were destroyed in the war. But Rippert described in detail to von Gartzen how in the summer of 1944 German radar had alerted his fighter squadron at Marignane, near Marseille, to a group of allied reconnaissance planes over the Mediterranean. Rippert, then 22, found a P-38 with French colors and shot it down.
He described the odd, evasive loops flown by Saint-Exupéry, who at the time was 44, overweight and in pain from fractures sustained in numerous flying accidents. Several days later, when German radio intercepted American reports of a search for Saint-Exupéry, he suspected he may have shot down his idol.
When Rippert told him of learning that Saint-Exupéry was missing, "he had tears in his eyes," von Gartzen said.

The police sprayed tear gas at demonstrators who threw rocks at riot police officers on the edges of a mostly peaceful protest here Thursday by high school students angry about teacher job cuts.
The police said about 19,000 students marched from the Luxembourg Gardens down the Boulevard du Montparnasse on the Left Bank, while the protest's organizers put the figure at 30,000.
It was the fifth such protest in two weeks, and the largest by far. Smaller demonstrations were organized in provinces across the country.
Strapped for cash and seeking ways to trim the national budget, the conservative government of President Nicolas Sarkozy plans to cut 11,200 jobs in the national education system in the next school year, with 8,800 of them in junior high schools and high schools.

Marseille, France's oldest city, is emerging as its newest entrant to the luxury real estate market.
Only three hours from Paris by the fast TGV train, the city center still is in the process of renovation but it already has gleaming new boutiques, its own volume in the chic Louis Vuitton City Guide series, and a Michelin three-star restaurant, Le Petit Nice, whose third star was awarded this year.
"Marseille has changed. It has a new, more seductive identity and many people now want to come and live here," said Isabelle Viatte, who opened a Marseille office last autumn for Emile Garcin, one of the French real estate firms that deal exclusively in top of the line properties.
"The demand for exceptional properties between €2 million and €5 million is so strong that I can't find enough luxury homes with sea views, gardens or terraces to satisfy it," she said, referring to a $3.1 million to $7.8 million range.
Founded about 600 B.C. when Greek sailors discovered the inviting natural harbor that is now Vieux Port, Marseille is considered France's second city after Paris. Backed by a natural semicircle of white limestone mountains, the town has always looked toward the sea for its livelihood. Twenty-six centuries of trade with the far-flung outposts of the Mediterranean, from North Africa to the Middle East, is reflected in a melting pot population, eclectic architecture and a notable independence of spirit.

Marseille possesses all the virtues of the south of France: brilliant sunshine, blue sky, indigo sea and a Provençal lifestyle that makes time for a game of boules, a bouillabaisse lunch or a sunset pastis in a café.
"There are no longer high or low seasons. One can dine outdoors almost all year round," Viatte explained, which means having a private space for al fresco entertainment is a housing requirement. "People don't come to Marseille to stay indoors."
Near the top of a slope in the exclusive Palais de Justice neighborhood, Viatte showed off a prestige property on her list, a duplex in a historic townhouse that combines some of the exotic decor of its original owner, Michel Pacha, with the allure of a spacious private garden.
Pacha, who was born Blaise-Jean-Marius Michel to a naval family in nearby Sanary in 1819, became a ship captain who navigated the sometimes hazardous Mediterranean trade routes. In 1855, his life took a turn worthy of Hollywood when Sultan Abdul Medjid of Constantinople named him director of lighthouses. By 1864, Michel had created a network of more than 110 beacons along the entire Ottoman Empire coast, from the North Sea through the Marmara and Aegean seas to the Mediterranean, and amassed a considerable fortune. In 1879, a later sultan, Abdul Hamid II, asked Michel to construct a modern port for Constantinople and granted him the title of pasha, which, with the alternate spelling of Pacha, became Michel's new surname.
Meanwhile, the ship captain-turned-builder had established his wife and family in a luxurious townhouse in Marseille. He became renowned as a philanthropist and went on to establish his dream resort at Tamaris on the bay of Toulon. He died in 1907 and the Marseille house passed through various owners over the last century.
The owners of a renovated apartment in the townhouse, a couple of art and antiques collectors, bought it in 2000 from a bank that had leased it to a business school. The townhouse interior itself had been divided into classrooms, but the original frescoes, plasterwork and the painted ceilings of Pacha's Orientalist inspired décor had survived, protected as listed landmarks.
"The owners told me that when they visited, the only attractive features were the historic décors and the garden," Viatte said. "The house was in terrible shape; there were partitions and false ceilings; the parquet had disappeared under cement and the plants were dying of thirst in the abandoned garden. They called it an apocalypse, terrifying."

"But it was summer," she continued, "and the sun was shining into the house through the leaves of the plane trees in the garden. It was magic." They decided to take on the challenge.

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Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul who saved the lives of thousands of Jews in Lithuania, said: "Those people told me the kind of horror they would have to face if they didn't get away from the Nazis and I believed them. There was no place else for them to go. . . . If I had waited any longer, even if permission came, it might have been too late."

In short, these officials chose not to be indifferent and to rise to a higher moral calling.
My grandfather, Tadeusz Brzezinski, who is honored in the exhibit, was such a diplomat. He served as the government of Poland's consul general in Leipzig from 1931 to 1935. That was before the most vicious phases of the Holocaust, but already Jews were being moved to concentration camps and losing their legal status - being made "stateless."
As consul general, Tadeusz Brzezinski provided Polish passports to Jews, both Polish and German, so they could be freed from internment or be able to leave Nazi Germany.
In doing so, Tadeusz Brzezinski went beyond his diplomatic instructions, which certainly placed him in potential conflict not only with the Nazi authorities but with his own superiors.

China's multiple victims include its own public


The onrush of Western sympathy for the cause of Tibet is well-intentioned but often naïve. The way the Tibet story has been reduced to a binary matter, almost literally of Tibetan saints and Han Chinese sinners, is problematic on many levels, not least because of hypocrisy implicit in the West's selective outrage.

Moreover, our many oversimplifications and perceived double standards fuel nationalist outrage in China and provide ready ammunition for ripostes by propagandists, whose task is to drum up popular support for the government as it digs deeper into the very positions that protesters seek to overturn.
Unfortunately for conventional Chinese opinion, the first instance of hypocrisy that needs to be dealt with involves the plight of the Uighurs, whose situation very nearly mirrors that of the Tibetans, the distinction being that Tibetans have become lovable because of popular notions about Buddhism and because of the way Hollywood has romanticized Tibet and its saffron-robed monks and supported the Dalai Lama.
Natives of Xinjiang, by contrast, are Muslim, and geopolitics and popular culture have combined in ways that have been deeply prejudicial to the Uighurs, who have no celebrity sponsors or young Western sympathizers eager to identify with their culture or support their cause.

LAMU, Kenya
Joseph Kony, the brutal, phantom-like leader of an insurgency in Uganda, on Thursday delayed by at least one day a ceremony to sign a peace agreement that could end one of Africa's longest and most bizarre civil wars.

Tens of thousands of people are thought to have been killed and more than a million displaced in the conflict, which destabilized a large swath of central Africa, including parts of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The main hitch with the peace deal, though, is that Kony and his inner circle have insisted they will not completely give up until the International Criminal Court in The Hague lifts indictments issued in 2005 against Kony and three commanders.
The Ugandan government initially pressed the court to get involved but it now says that local courts — and traditional justice systems — are capable of handling Kony.
Many Ugandans have said that they are more eager for lasting peace than international tribunals, and they have been urging the court to cancel the indictments, which accuse Kony, thought to be around 45 years old, and his top commanders of crimes against humanity.
But so far the court is not budging.

The Acholi people of northern Uganda have their own solution. It is called the mataput — the word means drinking a bitter root from a common cup -- and it is a traditional reconciliation ceremony.
Peace is more important than punishment, many Acholi elders have said, and they would rather have Kony return to northern Uganda for a mataput than rot in some European prison.
And the Acholis seem to know something about punishment.
For decades, it was customary for members of southern tribes in Uganda to get the prized university spots and good office jobs, while northerners like the Acholis were stuck in the fields.
The Acholis were known as superstitious -- and tough -- and filled the ranks of the national army. They fought rebel forces led by Yoweri Museveni, and after Museveni seized power in 1986 — he has been president since -- the Acholis were marginalized and persecuted.

Enter Kony, a former Catholic altar boy revered in his village near Gulu, in northern Uganda, as a prophet since he was 12. He smeared himself with shea butter, said his body and those of his Acholi followers were impervious to bullets and vowed to overthrow the government.
Kony claimed to be guided by the Ten Commandments but soon his army was violating each and every one. From about 1988 on, the rebels terrorized their own people, raping, robbing and killing across Acholiland.
According to former rebels, Kony communed with spirits and his rules became stranger by the minute — anyone caught bicycling had to have his feet chopped off; all white chickens were to be destroyed; no farming on Fridays. Kony usually traveled with a harem of dozens of child wives.
Few adults wanted to join his bloodthirsty movement, and soon the only recruits were children, most forced to join against their will. Pre-teen boys were made to beat people to death. It was called registration and continued for years, nourished by the Arab-led government of Sudan, which gave the Lord's Resistance Army sanctuary as payback for Ugandan support for the Christian rebellion in southern Sudan.


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"Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century: Al Qaeda and Iran," Bush said.
"If we fail there, Al Qaeda would claim a propaganda victory of colossal proportions, and they could gain safe havens in Iraq from which to attack the United States, our friends and our allies," he said. "Iran would work to fill the vacuum in Iraq, and our failure would embolden its radical leaders and fuel their ambitions to dominate the region."

Obama Says Real-Life Experience Trumps Rivals’ Foreign Policy Credits
“Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world,” he continued, provoking laughter among those present. “This I know. When Senator Clinton brags, ‘I’ve met leaders from 80 countries,’ I know what those trips are like. I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do a native dance. You meet with the C.I.A. station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of plant that” with “the assistance of Usaid has started something. And then, you go.”
During the speech, Mr. Obama also spoke about having traveled to Pakistan in the early 1980s. Because of that trip, which he did not mention in either of his autobiographical books, “I knew what Sunni and Shia was before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” he said.

Fifty-four illegal Myanmar migrants, most of them women, suffocated as they were smuggled into Thailand in a cramped seafood container, police said on Thursday.
Another 67 were rescued from the 20-ft container truck, with more than 20 being treated in hospital, the police officer in the western coastal Thai province of Ranong told Reuters.
"They were kept inside the sealed truck for hours without air because the air-conditioning system failed. Many of them pounded the sides of the truck for help," Sergeant Phuvanai Wattanasamai said.
Police were hunting for the driver who abandoned the truck on a road near the Andaman Sea coastline, let the survivors out and fled the scene late on Wednesday night.
One survivor said the driver told them the container's air conditioning system was broken.

"It was very crowded inside with standing room only," the 40-year-old migrant told reporters at a Ranong hospital.
"It was hot when the truck started moving, so we asked the driver to turn the air-conditioner on, but he said it was broken. The heat made me pass out and the next thing I knew I was in hospital," he said.
More than one million people from neighbouring army-ruled Myanmar are estimated to work in Thailand, most of them illegally in factories, restaurants, at petrol pumps, and as domestic helpers or crew on fishing trawlers.
They are usually hidden under goods such as vegetable or fruit in small or big overloaded trucks, leading to tragic road accidents.



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Japan executed four convicted murderers Thursday in a marked acceleration of hangings amid rising international concern about the fairness of the country's secretive justice system.
The round of executions was the third since December, when the Justice Ministry first started disclosing the identities of those hanged and details of their crimes.
Japan is one of the few industrialized countries that continue to impose capital punishment. It has executed 10 criminals in the past four months under Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, an outspoken supporter of the death penalty. In comparison, only one inmate was executed in 2005.
Hatoyama, who took office last August, denied his ministry was purposely picking up the pace of hangings. Three men were executed in December, and three more in February.
"I just carry out executions solemnly as justice minister in response to what the law requires," Hatoyama told reporters.

You have your entire life ahead of you," is the leitmotif repeated by well-meaning adults to the 20-something protagonists of a new Italian film that suggests, instead, that when it comes to the future, Italy's youths are headed for some hard times.
The platitude doubles as the intentionally ironic title of Paolo Virzì's "Tutta la vita davanti," (All Your Life Ahead of You), which opened March 28 to rave reviews here.
It tells a commonplace tale in contemporary Italy: unable to find employment in her field (philosophy), a recent university graduate turns to an underpaid job in a multinational call center where she has no long-term prospects and few short-term gratifications.
On the surface, with its surreal juxtaposition of motivational psychology and reality-show feel, Virzì's vision is more whimsical comedy than biting reportage. But like other masters of the popular "commedia all'italiana" genre, Virzì's underlying critique of Italian society pulls no punches. The characters working at the call center exist in a permanent state of insecurity and fear.
'You have your entire life ahead of you," is the leitmotif repeated by well-meaning adults to the 20-something protagonists of a new Italian film that suggests, instead, that when it comes to the future, Italy's youths are headed for some hard times.
The platitude doubles as the intentionally ironic title of Paolo Virzì's "Tutta la vita davanti," (All Your Life Ahead of You), which opened March 28 to rave reviews here.
It tells a commonplace tale in contemporary Italy: unable to find employment in her field (philosophy), a recent university graduate turns to an underpaid job in a multinational call center where she has no long-term prospects and few short-term gratifications.
On the surface, with its surreal juxtaposition of motivational psychology and reality-show feel, Virzì's vision is more whimsical comedy than biting reportage. But like other masters of the popular "commedia all'italiana" genre, Virzì's underlying critique of Italian society pulls no punches. The characters working at the call center exist in a permanent state of insecurity and fear.

Formulas put forth by the leading candidates in the April 13-14 national elections have mostly elicited criticism. The center-left candidate, Walter Veltroni, for one, proposed a monthly minimum wage of $1,000, more than $1,500, for people with precarious jobs. (Italy has no minimum wage, and there is strong resistance to instituting one.)
Silvio Berlusconi, the center-right leader and magnate, took a more hands-on approach. During a television interview he told one attractive young woman with an unsteady work situation that she should "marry a millionaire, like my son, or someone who doesn't have such problems." The outraged reaction was predictable.
Tiraboschi noted that Italy had "one great anomaly that gives rise to feelings of insecurity that go with precariousness, even for workers with fixed contracts, and that is that many Italians enter into the work force when they're already in their late 20s." Starting job training or landing a temporary job that may not offer important formative experiences at that age "increases the feeling of unease."
A poll published in February by the Piepoli Institute for the Ministry of Labor indicated that 84 percent of Italians between 18 and 34 (based on a sample of 1,000 polled) had never even heard of the term flexicurity, a welfare-state model first implemented in Denmark that combines flexible labor practices for employers with benefits for employees.
Then, Tiraboschi added, Italians tend to snub manual labor while post-secondary education is seen as means to personal enrichment rather than a preparation for the labor market. "People are getting degrees in media communication or languages, where there is no market," he said. "They're not going for the physics degrees." At the same time, universities, which should offer students some orientation, "don't dialogue with the marketplace."
Marta, the protagonist of Virzì's film, played by a newcomer, Isabella Ragonese, is a brilliant philosophy graduate who ends up at a call center after her attempts to break into the world of academia and publishing are rebuked.
"In a university system that works, the best and brightest would not be allowed to leave," Virzì said.
Eventually, Marta manages to publish an account of her call-center experiences for an elite philosophical journal at Oxford, exploring the dynamics between call centers, reality shows and the German philosopher Martin Heidegger.
Celestini's documentary about the Atesia workers ends on a more depressing note. What is happening in Italy, Celestini says, is like "the Titanic with its lights on and the orchestra playing, while the ocean begins to seep into the hull


The credit crisis is far from over, billionaire financier George Soros warned Thursday, urging regulators to move faster to contain damage from the collapse of the housing finance markets.
"I think the situation is more serious than the authorities admit or recognize," Soros told journalists in a conference call. Measures taken so far to slash interest rates and stimulate the economy were "necessary but not sufficient," he said.
"Because of that, I think the situation is going to get worse before it gets better."
Soros is promoting a new book, "The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis and What It Means." He has urged regulators to move more aggressively to improve market oversight to curb risks from excessive reliance on debt for financial speculation.
He said he agreed with the International Monetary Fund's estimate of more than US$1 trillion (€640 billion) in losses linked to the collapse of mortgage-backed securities.

Losses disclosed by financial institutions so far are related only to the decline in value of those financial instruments, Soros said.
"They do not reflect in any way a possible decline in the value of the loans held by the banks," he said. "We have not yet seen the full effect of the possible recession."
Soros said that hedge funds struggling to clear up massive levels of debt are another pitfall.
"They are all now in this ... very painful process of wealth destruction," he said.

Slavery By Another Name The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II By Douglas A. Blackmon 468 pages. $29.95. Doubleday.
In "Slavery by Another Name" Douglas A. Blackmon eviscerates one of our schoolchildren's most basic assumptions: that slavery in America ended with the Civil War. Blackmon unearths shocking evidence that the practice persisted well into the 20th century. And he is not simply referring to the virtual bondage of black sharecroppers unable to extricate themselves economically from farming.
He describes free men and women forced into industrial servitude, bound by chains, faced with subhuman living conditions and subject to physical torture. That plight was horrific. But until 1951, it was not outside the law.
All it took was anything remotely resembling a crime. Bastardy, gambling, changing employers without permission, false pretense, "selling cotton after sunset": these were all grounds for arrest in rural Alabama by 1890. And as Blackmon explains in describing incident after incident, an arrest could mean a steep fine. If the accused could not pay this debt, he or she might be imprisoned.
Alabama was among the Southern states that profitably leased convicts to private businesses. As the book illustrates, arrest rates and the labor needs of local businesses could conveniently be made to dovetail.

It was a Wednesday night around 7:30 and Casellula, a small, boxy wine bar in Clinton, was filling up. Patrons packed the seats at the small polished wood bar and the inexpensive wood tables, trading sips of wine, sharing beautifully composed cheese selections and passing plates back and forth.
No sharing for me, though. My open sandwich, made with morcilla, a delectable Spanish blood sausage, layered over multicolored roasted peppers, was too good to sacrifice a bite. I washed it down with a gutsy aglianico del Vulture, a nice combination, and hungrily eyed an intriguing dessert selection, French toast pudding, made with applewood-smoked bacon and spiced maple syrup.

Frequent Traveler Q & A
Q. My husband and I wish to take the ashes of our little dog back to France in the next few months. The urn is quite small. Can we take it with us in the cabin, and are there papers to prepare? Yunyun Yeh, Shanghai
A. You should have nothing to worry about at either end of the trip if you carry the urn discreetly in your hand baggage. You are most unlikely to have to open the urn to prove that it contains no dangerous substance. But expect to have to pass it separately through the X-ray scanner as with photographers' cans of film. You would need to be a professional paranoiac like me to worry about "papers," although some sort of certificate from a pets' crematorium would increase your credibility.

"Sweetheart, not long to go now," Khan says as he holds his daughter and kisses her. "And I'm going to miss you a lot." He concludes: "I'm doing what I'm doing for the sake of Islam, not, you, know, it's not for materialistic or worldly benefits."
The 'wow' factor and real estate prices
Great design often produces a bigger payoff

"Lifestyle has seeped into people's consciousness," said Mark Garside, who runs a design company in London and contributes to Living etc. magazine. "Some styles - such as hotel interiors, with their neutral palettes, are now finding their way into the home - probably as a result of people traveling more and bringing home with them a desire to emulate hotel interiors they have come across."