Maoists in India (South Asian News)
Last year, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that the biggest threat to India was the growing Maoist movement — in April, the Maoists brazenly attacked paramilitary forces in a central region killing 74 soldiers — the government announced plans to retaliate — but is that the answer? – I don’t think so and others including some members of India’s own ruling Congress party agree — the most enlightened comment came from the Financial Times of London: quote this is not just about restoring law and order. It is about giving tens of millions of outcaste Indians their first stake in modern India end of quote – [GFX in} the result: a red Maoist corridor stretching from Nepal in the Northeast to southern India – it is estimated that the Maoist control almost 40% of India’s land mass – says the FT: more than three quarters of India’s 660,000 villages are not connected to a road, have no drinking water, power, school or a medical clinic – and contrary to popular belief, it is not just the tribal races that join the Maoists [GFX out] — one of its leaders arrested last year Kobad Gandhi came from an extremely wealthy Zoroastrian family; two others, a husband and wife, were both well-established engineers – these intellectuals of the movement believe that unchecked foreign investment in India is pushing the country to the brink with the rich getting filthy rich and the poor worse off than before — a key line from Peoples March, the official magazine of the Maoists before it was forced off the Internet says it all: How much longer can the people tolerate such extreme injustice and inequality? indeed, how much longer? — think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmiri.
Sex Education (South Asian News)
Religion is a lethal force — even today, look how it has derailed a new sex education curriculum for Ontario — a document that told us that for the first time Grade 3 pupils would learn about sexual identity and orientation, meaning gays and lesbians, so as to cover the growing number of same-sex parents and older children in grades six and seven would be introduced to terms reflective of gay sex and straight sex — as expected, members of a religious family-
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The OMNI-TV File: March 2010… Quebec and Asbestor; India-Pakistan and Peace; Freedom and Tasleema Nasreen…
Quebec Asbestos (South Asian News)
Much as I want to keep the Quebecois happy and in Canada, one has to draw a line when it comes to a blatant disregard of human life — I’m talking about Ottawa’s acquiescence in Québec’s export of one of the most deadly elements known to man, asbestos — which brings in a cool half billion dollars and provide employment to several hundred Quebeckers — what it does at the other end was recounted at a press conference called by India’s Trades Union Congress during a visit to India by Québec premier Jean Charest – it included 30 asbestos disabled victims, workers from Hindustan Composites, a major asbestos manufacturer – trade unionist Gopal Krishna told reporters that Québec’s export quote will be remembered as an act of barbarism in the history of industrial development where asbestos was knowingly allowed to be used, and where workers were knowingly subjected to it end of quote – asbestos – a very fine fibre used to strengthen cement for construction, and construction in India is booming at least for the rich, gets into lungs despite masks, causing serious ailments and even death – and guess who is Québec’s biggest supporter? The government of Stephen Harper – but wait, it is not just the Conservatives, every Liberal government has also shied away so as not to offend the Québecois and win elections in Canada’s most populous province — the hypocrisy is multiplied when you consider that while Ottawa sanctions this killer export, it is funding a continuing project in Ottawa that involves removal of all asbestos from a parliamentary building — think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
India and Pakistan (South Asian News)
The resumption of peace talks between India and Pakistan is a good start — and yet why do I feel from within that nothing is going to come of this — for several years we have seen Pakistan’s attitude concerning peace with India and the thorny issues between them — a good example is Mumbai — while on the one hand Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was engaging in peace talks with India, Pakistan based terrorists were murdering scores of innocent Indians in Mumbai — simple logic tells me that either Pakistan does not know about these groups in which case it is a totally failed state, or it knows about these groups and will not do anything about them — in which case it cannot be trusted to engage in bona fide peace talks — in the words of India’s Foreign Minister Nirapuma Rao quote we have decided to stay in touch end of quote — reflecting what analysts have been saying for a while, that no breakthrough is going to come from these talks — there are three factors complicating the whole thing — the fact that both sides despite their poverty are armed with nuclear weapons go figure on this one, the issue of the decades old separatist movement in India’s Muslim Kashmir state continues to burn in the background and lastly Pakistan is as close to being a failed state as you can get — at this stage, even God is probably wondering how to fix the whole thing — think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Freedom of Press (South Asian News)
Here is a primer on freedom of the press and what it means to people in different parts of the world — we here in Canada take it for granted — after all it is a cornerstone of any democracy — but let’s look at a recent event in the Karnataka state of India — two local newspapers published a translation of an article written by controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslema Nasreen, a Muslim forced to flee to Sweden by fundamentalists because of her feminist writings — the article purportedly spoke out against the Burqa or veil worn by a tiny tiny fraction of Muslim women and claimed that even the prophet of Islam Mohammad was against the wearing of veils by Muslim women – Nasreen claimed the articles were wrongly translated – whatever the truth, violent protests followed the publication, causing the police to open fire and killing two protesters — scores of others were injured — and this is not the first time this has happened — involving writing or depiction that even the most ardent supporters of a free press found provocative or insulting to either Muslims, Hindus or Christians — in this case the respectable Hindu newspaper also labelled them such — and in each of those cases there has been loss of life, scores of injuries and homes burned down — before you jump to conclusions over such news, remember that we are not dealing with highly educated and comfortable societies, where religion takes a secondary place to the other joys of life — we are dealing with a poor country where the majority of people don’t have the luxury of education — think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
The OMNI-TV File: Jan./Feb. 2010 … Woman Among Warlords, Chemical Ali, Barbados and Colonialism, G-Spots et al…
A Woman Among Warlords and Criminals in Afghanistan (South Asian News & Diversity)
For all of you who believe that Canada is fulfilling a meaningful role in Afghanistan, a just released book by a young Afghan woman, a member of parliament in fact – will come as a shock – after finishing A Woman Among Warlords I’d
like to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper: we’ve lost a hundred and thirty nine lives for this? – Malalai Joya’s book is the story of a brave woman who grew up in refugee camps and ran underground schools for girls during the Taleban era when women with nail polish were beheaded – she looked forward to democracy under the US and NATO, including Canada – to her shock, the U.S. invasion was not about democracy and reconstruction, it was about controlling the region under the guise of a war on terror – in the US-designed Parliament she came face to face with warlords and drug dealers – people who control regions of Afghanistan in cahoots with US special forces – warlords whose armies continue to rape and plunder – when she demanded they be tried as war criminals, her microphone was cut off – there were assassination attempts and she continues to travel with bodyguards – eventually she was suspended from Parliament after being called a prostitute and a Communist – the warlords still have their privileged seats and mansions in a privileged area of Kabul, part of the most corrupt government in the world – in her own words quote this new Afghan government is not only a photocopy of the Taliban, but some of the prominent figures from that regime have been recycled and repackaged and now hold power end of quote – and President Barack Obama continues the rot of George Bush – this is a must read – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Chemical Ali (South Asian News & Diversity)
Most of you have probably forgotten a man nicknamed Chemical Ali by the media – Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain – whose claim to fame was a genocide that he launched against the Kurds in Northern Iraq –
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Goggle and China (South Asian News and Diversity)
No doubt all of you have followed the brouhaha over Google’s allegations that Chinese based hackers attacked its server and tried to infiltrate g-mail accounts of dissidents – backed by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who deplored such control and warned that countries which do this risk being cut off – and China’s response that it did no such thing and before the US accuses it of such cyber attacks, it should clean up its own act – clean up its own act? what does that mean? – [GFX IN] well pick up a copy of a recent book that left me spellbound and horrified at our eroding freedoms – The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping of America, by the well known security writer James Bamford – and you’ll understand very quickly that the alleged Chinese hacking was a drop in the bucket compared with what the National Security Agency does, [GFX OUT] forcing cell phone and internet companies to co-operate, its array of computers so powerful that they could fire up little computers in all of the Third World, its thousands of interpreters, its Satellites picking up whispers from thousands of miles away, its Satellite dishes sucking in tens of thousands of calls and e-mail messages every hour like a vacuum cleaner – processed through computers watching for pre-programmed words and phrases and names – this is what creates the lists of people America considers possible threats, their friends, their families and acquaintances – I am not saying that two wrongs make a right, but I find this obsession with attacking China at every step simply another power play by the West to maintain its dominance – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Free Speech (South Asian News and Diversity)
Free speech and freedom of the press have often been described as the cornerstone of a democracy – at the same time, legal experts found that Canada’s libel laws were such that they curtailed this freedom of expression – thanks to our Supreme Court, Canada’s strict libel laws have been loosened – with a simple test outlined in two decisions unanimously delivered by all nine judges of the highest court: libel lawsuits should not succeed against journalists who report their stories responsibly when those stores are in the public interest – [GFX IN] Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin stressed the importance of what the judges call a freewheeling debate to air issues important to Canadians – the court also stressed the importance of fearless commentary and investigative journalism – in keeping with the times, it also extended this protection to the Internet, especially to bloggers – all of which is quite welcome – however, one wishes that in the same vein the court had provided some guidelines for responsible free expression, [GFX OUT] specially the freewheeling attacks we see on religious groups such as Muslims and other visible minorities groups such as Blacks and Tamils – while I am all for freedom of expression I do not believe that a carte blanche can either serve a democracy or the wider human race when it stereotypes, slots identifiable groups and denigrates entire communities under the banner of freewheeling debate and free expression – what the court forgot is that media images are lasting and shape attitudes that in the past have led to pogroms and continue to cause mass killings – in countries such as Pakistan and India, entire neighbourhoods have been slaughtered thanks to free expression – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Black Students in Nova Scotia (Diversity)
It is sickening that we are in the year 2010 and then we hear from Nova Scotia that quote an alarming number of its four thousand Black students end of quote are in special ed programs designed for those with academic difficulties – the finding comes in a special report done on these students about 15 years after the first such report identified the issue – and forced Nova Scotia to act – the earlier report found that half the Black students in the province were dropping out and only a handful would go on to university or other post secondary education – it also said that many Black students found the very programs designed to assist them out of reach – the ministry of education blames the current situation on work overload and underfunding – haven’t we heard that before when it comes to minorities – and remember that these are largely the descendants of the original slaves who fled to Canada from the U.S. once England banned slavery and the U.S. fought a war over it – now they are slaves of another kind – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Swiss Minaret Ban (South Asian News)
Switzerland may call itself a neutral country, but the majority of its citizens are far from neutral – they have now voted to ban the building of minarets attached to a Muslim mosque – the ban was promoted by the right wing Swiss People’s Party which argued that minarets were the first step in turning pristine old Switzerland into an Islamic State – no evidence was put forward of course but the Swiss bought it anyway after seeing posters showing a figure of a woman shrouded from head to foot in a burka – Behind her the Swiss flag shaped like a map of Switzerland, with black minarets shooting out of it like missiles – and now the country’s parliament will amend the constitution to include the minaret ban – [GFX IN] the ban has received support from the likes of Canada’s own Rush Limbaugh, TV host Michael Coren, who says in his tabloid Sun newspaper column about minarets: quote To millions of non-Muslims, they signify terrorist attacks, hysterical mobs salivating with threats after the publication of a cartoon, promises to slaughter innocent people, attempts to introduce Sharia law – [GFX OUT] you know what, I think the ban is as full of holes as Swiss cheese – ban everything Muslim – starting with the hundreds of billions of Arab petro dollars invested there by various Mideast Arab states – shut down their bank accounts and refuse to sell them Swiss bonds – and then say Khuda Hafiz as their wealth zips over the Alps to London and New York – but you know that ain’t gonna happen – when it comes to moola, Swiss pockets run deeper than the height of the minarets they are banning – what a racist farce – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
My Dreams for 2010 (South Asian News)
Given that I won’t be seeing you until the new year, let me outline my hopes for 2010 – now remember that all this is totally idealistic, fictitious and doesn’t have a hope in hell of happening – Numero uno, I’d like to see the economic tables reversed – I sometimes dream of North Americans and Europeans lining up for immigration to India and China, Indonesia and Nigeria – I see an Indian immigration officer telling a French immigrant: what kind of a name is Nicholas Sarkozy? No, too difficult, your Indian immigrant name is Nathuram Sarkar – I would like to go into small towns and villages in Africa and Asia and be greeted with comfortable little houses and streetlights and running water and schools and libraries – and most important parks with colourful play equipment – full of children who today wait at busy intersections, their hand outstretched holding a begging bowl – and hospitals and pharmacies that supply inexpensive medicines – patents reduced to only 12 months from seven years for money grubbing pharmaceutical companies – so that within little over a year medicines that are exclusive to those with lots of cash sprout inexpensively all over – in my 2010, terrorism will disappear starting from the very top, meaning state terrorism committed by the US and its proxies in Europe and other parts of the world – and if Osama persists after that, we’ll drop him in downtown Detroit on a Friday night – but who am I kidding with all this nonsense – so don’t think about it, just enjoy your Christmas holidays and when you’re back in the new year – I’ll be back at it again – meanwhile, my best wishes to you and your loved ones – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
More Jails in Canada (South Asian News)
I’ve got to hand it to our Tory government in Ottawa for its ingenuity in tackling joblessness – public safety minister – or should we call him a danger to the public minister Peter Van Loan is getting ready to increase the number of jails as his cabinet colleague, the lightweight justice minister Rob Nicholson toughens the criminal code by introducing minimum sentences for all kinds of crimes and taking away this discretion from judges – so get ready for more jailbirds – and if criminology studies show that jail by itself cures nothing and inmates keep recommitting crimes and end up in jail again, so what – there will be a warm bunk waiting for them – at ninety thousand dollars a year per inmate – estimated cost when you factor in everything from jail construction to the guards, the cooks, the cleaners and what have you – well I suppose in addition to being a service economy, we could also be a prison economy where a large number work to keep the rest of us in jail – hey we could even offer our services to the CIA – [GFX IN] but the Americans have already gone down this path and look at the result: privately run prisons with their shares soaring on the stock exchange and the highest rate of jailing – one in 99 Americans is in jail at any time – and its crime rate is among the highest – [GFX OUT] clearly any criminologist will tell you as a Sudbury Ontario judge did recently in handing down a non-jail sentence that jails should be a last resort in reducing crime – but then the judge does not have to look tough and run for elections and Van Loan and Nicholson do – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
OMNI-TV File: Nov. 2009 – Afghan Prisoner Abuse, Dump the Monarchy, Citizenship Guide, Mumbai Terror, Libya & IRA
Afghan Prisoners (South Asian News and Diversity)
I am shocked and appalled at all the drivel emanating from our government in Ottawa, its foreign affairs department and the former chief of our armed forces run amuck, general Rick Hillier over the Afghan prisoner abuse scandal – drivel aimed at a brave and moral foreign affairs officer who risked his life as a diplomat in Afghanistan and is now risking his career – Richard Colvin testified before a Parliamentary committee that for the longest time he sent memos warning everyone from the army chiefs to the foreign affairs minister – that our young soldiers were handing over prisoners to Afghan security which routinely uses torture – and a lot of these prisoners were not even Taliban – they were farmers, truck drivers and everyday folks who happened to be in the wrong place – the fact that Afghan authorities torture is no secret – torture is the common denominator that binds the security forces of South Asia, including India – in response the government launched a concentrated effort to assassinate Colvin’s character – Defence Minister Peter McKay started off by saying there was not a single case of torture that could be proven, and then flip flopped – General Hillier started off in his blustering style that even in Canadian prisons inmates get beaten up – Colvin was accused of helping the Taliban and undermining army morale – as I write this, Hillier and others are scheduled to testify – regardless of what they say, one thing is clear: if the Tories have an iota of decency left, they will call a public inquiry into a scandal that impugns our reputation as a decent nation – think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
New Citizenship Guide (South Asian News and Diversity)
In my time, Canada’s citizenship guide was a bureaucratic text book that you memorized for an exam: Canada has x number of provinces, x million people, blah blah blah – the just released version tells the story of Canada – it does not skip the Quebec separatist movement, for example, simple because the Liberal government at the time of the last guide was vehemently anti-separatist – our shameful treatment of the first nations and the Chinese is included – the pictures reflect the new Canada – everyone from Muslim women with hijab, Sikhs, African Canadians, Chinese to Anglos and the French – and yet it makes it very clear that despite multiculturalism and our charter of rights, Canada mandates equality between the sexes and quote barbaric practices end of quote such as female circumcision and honour killing are criminal offences – unfortunately, just as the last one bore the hallmarks of the Liberals, this one has the stamp of Steven Harper’s Conservatives – environmental concerns are out, of course because the Tory base is Alberta, home of the polluting oil sands – the Queen predominates as does the Canadian military with a rewritten profile – its role in the two world wars is essential history, but so is its history as the blue helmets, the peacekeepers established by Nobel peace laureate former prime minister Lester Pearson – don’t bother looking for the blue helmets in this guide – instead it offers you a website and an invitation to sign up with a full-fledged American style fighting force – my suggestion: for the next guide, strike up a non-partisan committee of experts and keep politics in the Commons – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Mumbai Terror – one year later (South Asian News)
How time flies – it is now one year since a brazen terrorist attack in the heart of Mumbai left a hundred and sixty-six people dead and hundreds wounded – ten terrorists following their own deviant version of Islam took over two luxury hotels, separating Muslims from non-Muslims and shot dead the latter – attacked a downtown café a favourite hangout of foreigners, a Jewish centre, Mumbai’s busiest railways station – the killings were senseless and barbaric – but as senseless is the fact that the entire episode has simply disappeared – from the radar screen of the media, government and the world – nine of the terrorists were shot dead by cops and one, Ajmal Kasab, whose photograph shooting randomly in Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus was published in every corner of the world, is being tried and tried and tried – in Pakistan, the government claims that it has charged the master minds of the attack from the Lashkar-e-Toiba group — but of course it has the perfect excuse to stall: battling an internal insurgency by the Taliban, as if the two can’t take place at the same time – India which had threatened war with Pakistan over the affair is busy battling an internal Maoist insurgency that controls more than a quarter of the landmass – besides in the worlds most populous democracy life is cheap and memory is short – as for the rest of the world, it is either battling hunger or is battling to get out of the recession depending on where you are on the latitudinal scale – the whole thing is bizarre, almost like a box office hit – whose run-time has ended – its rhetoric and visuals reduced to a DVD – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Pension reform (South Asian News and Diversity)
Watching the pensioners of bankrupt Nortel protesting outside Parliament, I thought I was back in India – or reading about disappearing pension money in a Third World country – no – but this was first world Canada – where workers, many of them immigrants seeking stability, who have helped produce the wealth of a company for twenty and thirty years end up losing a large chunk of their pension if the company goes belly up – for example, Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection – leaving behind an underfunded pension plan – logic would dictate that the pension plan would get first dib at the money from its asset sale – not quite – large secured creditors such as the fat cat banks are first in line – workers come somewhere towards the end – a case in point is Bob Dawson of Brampton who retired from Nortel after 32 years – his total pension is/was $32,000 a year – given Nortel’s woes, it could be reduced by as much as thirty per cent – even as Ottawa and the provinces point fingers at each other – stuck in the middle are tens of thousands of retired workers – among them a quarter of a million seniors who live below poverty line income – meanwhile studies show that more than eighty per cent of federally regulated and Ontario regulated company pension plans are underfunded – As federal finance minister Jim Flaherty promises a lofty overhaul of the pension laws, I would ask him to start with something very very simple: in cases of a bankruptcy and an underfunded company pension plan: put workers first and then the large lenders – as Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti says: today greed is winning over need – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Prince Charles Visit (South Asian News and Diversity)
I am sorry to offend some of you, but the visit of Prince Charles, successor to the English throne and potentially Canada’s next titular head of state, and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles just bores me to tears – and I agree with my favourite columnist the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson that it is time for Canada to allow Queen Elizabeth, 83, to finish her reign, and when Prince Charles takes over, dump the monarchy – this is no reflection on Charles, who I understand is a fine man – it is a reflection on Canada as a democracy – where our reps in the capital can be turfed out at the next election – but not so with the Monarch in England who continues regardless of how most Canadians feel – several polls taken over recent years have found that most Canadians couldn’t care a tuppence about Buckingham Palace except as a tourist destination – it also bothers me that we are paying close to forty million dollars a year towards the institution that preserves the monarchy in Canada – not including the costs of royal visitors to our nation – and each visit could run into millions of dollars – and heavens don’t ask the future king to pay his own airfare – how about using this money to dig wells in Africa and find cures for deadly illnesses – and really, do we have to see a foreign face on our bank notes and postage stamps? – I believe we have far worthier Canadians – it is time I say to relinquish the kings and queens of England to history books and take charge of our own multicultural democracy – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Libya and IRA (South Asian News and Diversity)
It really irks me when former colonial powers such as England continue to throw their weight around and get their way – for instance the pressure on Libya to fork up money for victims of violence by the Irish Republic Army or IRA because the IRA was getting weapons and explosives from Libya – regardless though I believe this is unfair because the reverse will never happen – the supply of weapons by countries such as England and America to countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia – weapons that have caused far more violence in the name of fighting Communism or a people’s revolution that was not pro-west – Libya’s arming of the IRA because it believed the IRA was fighting a just war, is a drop in the bucket compared with the state terrorism and thousands of deaths unleashed over the decades by England and America and even France for that matter – but Libya has just been allowed back into the fold of a world controlled by the West – and much as it should tell Britain to get lost, it probably won’t – and will pay up – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
OMNI-TV File – Oct. 2009: Tamil Refugees, Afghanistan & Opium, Latin American currency, Darwin, Muslim population, Capitalism, Life Expectancy, China Anniversary…
These commentaries were aired on Canada’s OMNI-TV. The longer ones on Fridays, after the South Asian News Hour (about 8:55 p.m.), and the shorter ones at various times. Click here then choose ‘commentaries’ to watch them on OMNI’s website in Ontario, South Asian News. Occasionally I post one on YouTube.
Tamil Boat Refugees (Diversity)
History generally repeats itself – consider the 76 Tamil refugees who arrived off the British Columbia coast – fleeing the vicious conflict in Sri Lanka – immediately there were cries that they should not be allowed in as they would inspire others – right wing columnists in our national media want them shipped back – thanks to the Sri Lankan government’s brutal final solution of the Tamil conflict, other boatloads have fled Sri Lanka to Indonesia and Australia, which is putting its foot down – Canada like Australia is also talking tough – well their toughness should have been expressed at the Sri Lankan government for maintaining disgusting detention camps in which displaced Tamil civilians are still forcibly housed and often abused – but Sri Lanka is already forgotten, written off the front pages – the Tamil civilians still languish in these camps – and the ones who were able to save cash and gold are buying their freedom to shores that have traditionally welcomed refugees – and caught in the enthusiasm of fighting terrorism, our RCMP is getting its information on the 76 from Sri Lanka – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Afghanistan and Opium (Diversity)
Listen to this and you’ll understand how foolish is our involvement in the American Afghan war – Afghanistan is responsible for 92 per cent of world heroin – the money from this helps arm the Taliban against NATO forces, including those of Canada, which has lost more than 130 young soldiers – says a UN report, the 65 billion dollar trade is feeding 15 million addicts and killing a hundred thousand every year – in the NATO states alone, ten thousand people die each year form Afghan heroin – not only is NATO like every other fighting force since Alexander the Great learning its Afghan lesson, but its efforts to enhance the living standards of Afghans, boost education, raise the status of women, ensure fair elections, have failed – as for the opium – an international group of doctors suggested buying all the opium directly from the farmers and using it to produce heavy duty pain killers for distribution in the Third World, where such pain killers are way beyond the reach of the average person – international drug companies killed that idea to protect their profits – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Latin American Currency (Diversity)
I have always been a sucker for David and Goliath stories, watching the little guy win – such as the plan by several Latin American countries to set up their own single currency – the sucre – named after Jose Antonio de Sucre, who along with Venezuelan freedom fighter Simon Bolivar, fought to oust the evil Spanish colonialist regime from Latin America – it is modelled after the ECU, the precursor to the current European currency, the euro – the nine countries involved in this move are part of a group called ALBA – the idea they say is to use only the sucre for inter-regional trade and once and for all replace the Yankee dollar – now that has a nice ring to it – of course the sucre will also replace the euro and other European currencies, if the countries involved want to trade with ALBA members – you know once you’ve read and understood the toll that colonialism continues to take in the developing world, nothing gives me more joy than to witness one more imperialist pillar knocked down – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Multilingual Internet (Diversity)
Just in case you thought that to surf the web you’ll always need to know a language that uses the Latin script, some good news – the Internet Protocol or IP as it is known is being programmed to recognize domain names in Hindi and Arabic and Chinese among scores of non-Latin scripts – and then to translate this so that they behave the way you and I expect it to behave when we surf the net – and it was about time this happened because living in this part of the earth, we tend to take English and Latin based scripts for granted as the mainstay of the world – well guess what – almost half the world’s Internet users are based in languages other than those scripted in the Latin alphabet – and this number continues to grow – in a few years says ICANN, the Internet regulator, the non-Latin scripters will outnumber the Latin ones – with the script change, I believe the Internet will truly become a democratizing force that will truly turn the world into what Canada’s Marshall McLuhan called a global village – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Muslim Population (diversity)
Okay so we keep reading about Muslims and Hijabs and terrorism – and almost always Islam is associated with Arabs and the Middle East – well a recent study completed by the US-based Pew Forum on Religion found that one in four humans in the world is a Muslim and that those in the Middle East and North Africa hardly account for 20 per cent of world Muslims – Here are some more myth exploders from the study, no pun intended: there are as many Muslims in Europe as the entire population of Canada – there are more Muslims in Russia than in Jordan and Libya – Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon – the largest Muslim population is in Indonesia, followed by Pakistan and India – Professor Amaney Jamal of Princeton University says This whole idea that Muslims are Arabs and Arabs are Muslims is really just obliterated by this report – I think it is also worth remembering that the bulk of Muslims are neither Arabs nor are their terrorists – but decent human beings trying to make a buck and look after their families – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
ome controversies never die down – such as teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in science classes in schools without teaching Biblical Creationism – consider the most recent evolution of this controversy: a survey by Ipsos Mori of Great Britain conducted in 11 diverse countries found that more than half the adults wanted the unscientific creationism theory taught alongside Darwinism in science classes – the largest number was in Argentina followed by Great Britain – conversely, the highest number who did not want to mix religion with Science and Darwinism was in India, followed by Spain – in China and in South Africa, one in five wanted other perspectives taught in science classes and not evolution – surprising given China’s scientific achievements – the survey was conducted for the state owned British Council and designed by the Darwin Now movement – personally I have no problem believing and teaching Darwin in science classes and Creationism in literature classes – for proof of Darwin, look at our politicians in Ottawa or religious extremists, and I don’t just mean Muslims – how much more evidence does one need of monkey business and aggressive self preservation – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri
Pianist Harper (Diversity)
Surprises are always nice – such as seeing the Prime Minister of your country take centre stage at a National Arts Centre gala to raise funds for the National Youth and Education Trust – play the piano in the presence of World famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma – and sing his favourite Beatles song, I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends – and receive a standing ovation – a surprise because Harper earlier on had criticized such galas as the playground of the elite – his government had just cut arts funding – but also a surprise because Harper, is an avowed and religious opponent of decriminalizing marijuana – and guess what his favourite song is all about – in I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends the friends are doobies, joints, marijuana, the favourite drug of his favourite band – Okay Stephen Harper, how about now doing the honourable thing and decriminalizing marijuana – a drug that is far less harmful than the legally sold alcohol – the move would spare a criminal record for thousands of well meaning young people and pull the rug from under organized crime – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Capitalism: A Love Story (Diversity)
Nothing to do you say – go to the nearest cinema and watch Michael Moore’s latest called Capitalism: A Love Story – and take your high school kids with you and let them see a fun primer on growing up in an unchecked capitalist system that at best has become a cesspool for greed and corruption and immorality of the worst kind – [GFX in] the movie is vintage Michael Moore telling you a story through his eyes – and uncovering some creepy and inhuman details of corporations – [GFX out] among them a practice called dead peasant insurance, where a company insures the life of employees without telling them – in one instance a young man of modest means dies of cancer – his wife and children are left with hardly anything – but his employer collects a million and a half – he takes you to the real power behind the elected government, the titans of money on Wall Street and then brings you face to face with the working class who make it all happen – bottom line: does real democracy lie somewhere between capitalism and the forbidden word called socialism – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
What happens when results from a study carried out by specialists are completely at odds with your own experience and observation? – in question: an English study that shows that children of working mothers are more apt to lead unhealthy lives, indulging more in junk food and sweets than children with stay-at-home mothers – the study by the Institute of Child Health involved more than twelve thousand children – it found five year olds whose mother worked more apt to drink sugar drinks in between meals, and spend at least two hours a day in front of their TVs or computers – working mothers were more apt to drive their children to school versus at-home mothers who cycled with them or walked them to school – the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology or Child Health found the working mom child also more likely to put on weight – you know what, I did not observe this either in my own case or in those around me, the majority of whom were working mothers – nevertheless, it should at least awaken parents who do act as the study suggests – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Some events give you goose bumps – such as the sixtieth anniversary of the Chinese revolution that brought the Communist Party of Mao Zedong to power in 1949 after the Great March that saw the overthrow of feudal fascists – Growing up in India I was fascinated – I remember thinking: if only we had a Mao in India which was full of strife and corruption and no discipline – Mao brought together the various ethnicities in China and inculcated a lasting work ethic – sure there were excesses and I am not trying to gloss over this – but thanks to his efforts where China saw drought after drought and famine after famine – growth under Mao ended this even as India continued to see famine and mass poverty – eventually when his successors dabbled with global trade – Mao’s efforts paid off – and today, China is the No. 2 superpower and a UN report has said its eradication of poverty is unparalleled in human history – when a Chinese astronaut steps on the moon next year, I do hope he leaves behind a permanent landmark devoted to Chairman Mao and the Chinese flag – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Life Expectancy (Diversity)
Nothing, absolutely nothing shows up the difference between rich and poor countries than life expectancy – the average age when people can be expected to die – a study in the medical journal, The Lancet tells us that scientists are now forecasting that more than half the babies born in developed countries will live to be more than one hundred years old – and health authorities have already started planning for these centenarians – says Professor Kaare Christensen from the University of Southern Denmark, who led the study, People are not only living longer, but also living longer, with less disability and fewer functional limitations – compare this with the countries in Africa, where most people are expected to live at the most into their forties – or those in India and Pakistan, who will kiss this planet goodbye around sixty – I believe it was Dr. Samuel Johnson, who put together the first English dictionary, who said: some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and others are born with a wooden ladle – a wooden ladle that lies on an empty plate – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
OMNI-TV File – Sept 2009: India Education Bill, Omar Khadr, Afghan vote, cancer drugs in Canada, Free marijuana…
Indian Education Bill (South Asian News and Diversity)
One of the hallmarks of India’s democracy is that it passes high principled laws that dissipate when they hit the ground – child marriages, bride burning, freedom for gays and lesbians, the protection of untouchables who are murdered every day – and now its promulgation: guaranteeing universal, free and compulsory education for all children aged six to 14 – I wish – when I left India thirty years ago, India was spending two and a half percent of its GDP on education – thirty years later figures show it is spending little over three per cent even as functional illiteracy runs at almost 70 per cent – so who are those charming young people that speak flawless English in call centres to which we are transferred? – the children of the well to do who can afford to send their kids to private English schools – okay – so is this education thing going to happen? Building new schools and forcing private schools to keep a quarter of their space for poor kids? – hardly likely – even today, parents pay enormous bribes to get their kids into private English schools – as for putting more resources into education for the poor, Indian has announced that it will spend more than four billion dollars to build a hundred warships over the next ten years – it is worried about China – while a former nuclear big wig now running a think tank says India should go ahead and conduct a whole slew of nuclear tests to perfect its atom bombs and delivery systems – and I suppose if there is any money left over, it could build a few schools and make this a media event – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Omar Khadr (South Asian News)
As expected, the right wing government of Stephen Harper is appealing a Federal Court decision ordering Ottawa to protect its own citizens – in this case a young man named Omar Khadr – picked up by the shock troops of the former American president George Bush during his illegal invasion of Afghanistan after nine eleven – Khadr was then 15 – the Americans believed that he had flung a hand grenade that killed a US soldier in Afghanistan – his father was a cohort of Osama bin Laden and took the family there for a jihad – Khadr was held at the infamous American concentration camp Guantanamo – and guess what, after 21 hours of sleep deprivation he was interrogated by Canadian spies who then turned over their conversation details to the Americans – essentially making Ottawa a part of not just an illegal detention, but also torture – Khadr was a minor at the time and had no lawyer – very rightfully our Federal Court ordered Ottawa to demand his repatriation after current president Barack Obama stopped all trials – The ongoing refusal of Canada to request Mr Khadr’s repatriation to Canada offends a principle of fundamental justice and violates Mr Khadr’s rights,’ Judge James O’Reilly ruled – and now Harper’s justice minister from Niagara Region, Rob Nicholson, is spearheading an appeal of the Federal Court decision – essentially arguing one that Ottawa has no duty to defend its citizens abroad – and two that it is perfectly fine for Ottawa to be complicit in the torture of a under aged citizen – either he is marching to his boss’s tune or he has a moral compass that swings like a weather cock – I await a decision from the highest court which has agreed to rule on this – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Afghan Elections (South Asian News)
Here is an interesting thought from my favourite English newspaper, The Independent – if you want to sow the seeds of democracy, you sow them in calm weather, not in a storm – the case in point Afghanistan, where the vote has become one of the biggest frauds in the history of democracy – stuffed ballot boxes, ballots for sale, threats, payoffs – a correspondent for the Times of London visits a polling station one hour after it opens and already the boxes are full with five thousand three hundred phantom votes, the entire voting list – an Afghan teacher who questions ballot stuffing is kidnapped – as far as I am concerned the west has lost both, the war and the battle for the hearts of the Afghans – and it is time for NATO to start thinking of holding talks with the Taliban – even with its fugitive head Mullah Omar – remember that in the 1990s Texas oil companies were negotiating pipelines with the Taliban – but the biggest sucker in this misguided war is Canada – until the middle of September Ottawa had sacrificed 130 young Canadian soldiers for a war that is not only unwinnable – but is not even our war, it is an American war – that is neither helping the average Afghan and nor is it turning Afghanistan into a democracy – nor is it helping the oppressed women of Afghanistan that our mainstream media never tires to write about when there is a news hold to fill – there is still time for Canada to recall all our troops, give them back the blue helmets of the UN peacekeeping force started by former Prime Minister Lester Pearson – and reclaim our glory as the peacekeeper of the world – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Cancer Dugs (South Asian News)
I’ve always defended Canada’s universal healthcare system and attacked the profit oriented US system, where living and dying is determined by your bank balance – but we can’t be complacent – not with the propaganda from drug and insurance companies for whom your health is a footnote to their profit – enter the Cancer Society of Canada with its shocking report that that when it comes to this killer illness, Canadians could be out of their savings, maybe even their homes – its reports shows that more than a billion dollars was spent on cancer drugs last year but that one out of 12 Canadians paid as much as three per cent of the household income as their share – the cost could be prohibitive, and price differences across the country run into the thousands of dollars – in one case, the monthly cost to an older woman was seven thousand plus dollars while her annual salary was twenty thousand dollars – she faced selling her home and RRSPs – says Dan Demers of the Cancer Society, quote What we’re seeing is the erosion of universal health care – figures show that just under half of Canadian men and women will develop some form of cancer – that cancer drugs taken at home are not covered by our health plan and only partially covered by company plans – only British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Nunuvut and North West Territories cover cancer drugs one hundred per cent – the Society is pushing for a national catastrophic drug plan for such situations – great idea – let’s enlist our MPs to make sure we get one and don’t end up in trailer parks like Americans – remember that more than sixty per cent of American bankruptcies are due to medical costs – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
Finally, country after country in Latin America is coming to the realization that it makes absolutely no sense at all to criminalize people found in possession of marijuana for personal use – Argentina’s Supreme Court has come out and actually declared it unconstitutional to punish people for such possession – already personal use marijuana has been decriminalized by countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia – long overdue when countries such as Holland actually allow marijuana bars in Amsterdam – given all this, one wonders why Canada continues to live in the charade of persecuting young people for possessing a little marijuana – is it simply the illogical personal religious beliefs of the Conservative Party? – I would even support the stand of the ultra conservative Economist magazine which says that all such illegal drugs should be legalized – that way the government makes a huge amount of tax money, it puts organized crime out of business and best of all, it brings authorities face to face with users, many of whom can then have easy access to treatment for addition – it makes so much sense – think about it – I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.