Do lifers have the right to die?

Hundreds of prisoners serving life sentences in Italy have called on President Giorgio Napolitano to bring back the death penalty.

Sentencing someone to death for horrendous crimes is an act of justice. But keeping them alive through the life sentence can be bad for both the convicted and the state. Life sentence means for many prisoners the end of life itself as they have to keep locked in tiny cells the rest of their lives. They have little to hope for as their horizon is limited. There are cases of people who commit suicide because of continuous depression and hopelessness. Lifers must have this feeling.

For the state, they remain just a burden on the treasury and the taxpayer, especially those put in maximum-security prisons.

If in some countries, euthanasia is allowed for the terminally ill patients. Hara-kiri is a ceremonial of ending one’s life. In Japan, more than 30,000 commit suicide annually. A lifer should have his/her wish fulfilled if they should to change their life sentence into a death sentence. Keeping them alive itself amounts to torture. Such prisoners should have the right to choose between life and death as they are sentenced just to waste themselves inhumanely like keeping an animal in a cage.

Life sentence or death sentence will always remain problematic. Abolish or restore death sentence? Abolishing both death and life sentence for a limited period of imprisonment? There will be no easy choice by the legislators and the public. Lifers must have their choice respected, to die or keep alive till the last breath.

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China share fall and economic prospects

China has had unprecedented economic growth in its history. It has become a major economic rival on the world scale. Its economic expansion in the West as well as in Africa allows it to have assets. Its economic success isn’t without difficulties. It is likely to have a great impact on the environment. The majority of its population are unlikely to benefit from China economic boom in the foreseeable future.

China markets have entered the world of liberalisation and speculation. With them markets become unpredictable as they can go out of control. Buying shares in the hope of big returns is one of the biggest risks as a plunge of their values spread like a fire. The current “crush” in shares should be seen just as minor stroke as Chinese economy can recover through its huge investment. The danger is when it slumps through excessive speculation and unfavourable international trade. International economy has become intertwined with the Chinese on many levels.

The Chinese can’t afford to regress to the Mao era when all the economy was in the hand of the state. Chinese government still needs to create more enterprises to allow people to benefit from them. They can’t depend on healthy return from shares while lazily drowsing on their sofa. It’s just an equivalent to the fully communist era when the Chinese depended on the state to do everything for them without having the freedom for personal initiative and the right to pursue personal prosperity through one’s hard work.

At 05:22 PM on 30 May 2007

Iraq security situation , the New Far West

The latest kidnappings brought attention to Iraq, which has become the land of big adventure by all accounts. It is the most dangerous for its citizens, let alone foreigners. There are countless incidents of bomb attacks, which daily make the news but go unnoticed as people have become weary of the continuous bloodshed without any end to it in the horizon. The Far West in the USA was a dangerous land, at least as it was portrayed in movies. It took a lot of courage to get there as there were risks of attacks from the Red Indians (fighting for their land) as well as from gangsters who set all kind of ambush to anyone in sight.

Now in the 21st century the scenario is being repeated in Iraq. As in the Far West the risk was taken to get hold of gold and other riches, not to forget the vast lands, the New Far West (Iraq) is becoming a land of speculation and adventure for contractors as in the long run their investment can bring them the benefits of the black gold Iraq possesses in vast quantity.

There have been countless incidents in which Iraqis queuing for a job in the police forces, makeshift jobs or whatever were the victims of deadly attacks. Death seems to be one of the responses Iraqi workers get for their applications for a job – be it with the government or with particulars. It’s dreary to live in a country where even the needy are a target of attacks simply because they belong to a section of society whose enemies want to inflict on it any possible damage out of revenge or to spread terror among its members. It’s no wonder if big contractors are the target of attacks or kidnapping. They become a strong card to play for settling many issues.

There have been “heroic” attacks even inside the green zone, in the parliament, ministries and mosques. So it seems Iraq has no safe place, especially in Baghdad, the area where there is a concentration of foreigners of all kinds. This put in question the level of security in Iraq as those in charge of security are infiltrated by militias and other groups. This put in question to what extent security forces can be trusted at the highest level. There can be the risk even of security personnel acting as double agents, ostensibly working for the government but at the same time acting as facilitators for those who get deep into the green zone.

Maybe Iraq will go down in history as a land for adventure, getting in it and out of it safely must be seen as an achievement. But the situation in it won’t deter speculators and adventures. In it, they can relive and have the taste of the Far West that exists just in movies. When the situations returns to normal, they can reap the rewards for what they have endured. Who knows, one day Iraq skies will be shining with fireworks in celebration instead of the choking smokes from bombs. That’s just a dream!

At 04:54 PM on 30 May 2007

TV Kidney competition and ethics

The kidney competition on Dutch TV is very absurd by all standards. Human organs, in this sense, are likely to become a part of a person’s will. So we may one day find in a person’s will statements like this, “as for my liver, it goes to my brother in law, my heart goes to my partner” etc.

There were shocking instances on the media like people committing suicide on the internet or the famous case of the self-confessed cannibal, 42-year-old computer expert who admitted that he had met a 43-year-old Berlin engineer, Bernd Brandes, after advertising on the internet, and had chopped him up and eaten him. So the media is running the risk of becoming a means of demeaning human life. There may one day be legal advertisements of people ready to sell their body parts or to act as intermediaries for those wishing to get them.

There may be competitions for childless couples to get a desired child by entering a competition. So human beings are offered in parcels through organs or in their entirety through children.

China has been criticised for the sale of the organs of executed people. It is a flourishing market of such a “trade” as patients can get the “goods” they want without being on the waiting list or going through the legal procedures.

In Holland, it must be a shame to see a competition of this kind. It is as shocking as seeing a person violently dying. People should live and die in dignity. Death as well as organ donation shouldn’t become commercialised to the point dying people are valued for what healthy organs they can leave to those on the waiting list. For those wishing to donate their organs, there are other means like charitable organisations. There should be no such nonsensical competitions where the dying are paraded before media viewers as a night show.

At 03:14 PM on 29 May 2007

Closing RCTV, a new era of Chavez dictatorship

Freedom of expression and dictatorship don’t go hand in hand. Chavez is emerging as the successor of Castro in dictatorial practices. Shutting RCTV channel is only the tip of iceberg of wide censorship in Venezuela. Chavez, seeking to be a personality cult, needs channels that broadcast only his speeches and praise his policies.

As he refuses internal criticism, the best thing for him is to shut the mouths of his opponents by closing any channel practicing freedom of expression in any form.

But Venezuela isn’t the only country to crack on freedom of expression. One-party regimes as in China give little space for criticism. To ward off the rise of criticism they simply impose censorship. In china, the internet is the most censored site. Maybe Chavez will take the lead of China and start closing any site deemed as publishing ideas not to his tune.

The message Chavez is sending through his approved channels is that he is there to stay. He is preparing all the means to go unchallenged. This is a familiar policy with dictators. They call for democracy when not in power. When they grip it, they find it hard to relinquish it. It won’t be surprising if another day he will amend the constitution making himself a president for life. He must have learnt a great deal from his “godfather” Fidel Castro, who despite his age and frail health is still “el presidente de Cuba”.

At 03:39 PM on 28 May 2007

BBC WHYS footprints in Africa


WHYS trip to Africa was very successful. It brought Africa to the eyes of the world from the perspective of ordinary people, especially the listeners. In a precedent, most of the team took a backseat leaving WHYS listeners from the countries visited take the floor as presenters and participants. They left the rest of the team deal with the technical aspects of broadcasting, including Richard Bowen whose voice wasn’t heard in conjunction with that of Ros.

The shows presented from Africa were an opportunity to get close to African people, not as portrayed in the news but by listening to them directly. It was a kind of celebrations as listeners were speaking to listeners, setting the agenda and expressing their divergent views. What attracts me in the shows is that Africans despite their difficulties ranging from corruption and social problems are lively people. WHYS through its different trips to many countries across the major continents: Africa, Asia, Europe and the USA succeeded in bringing people together and to share views.

For me, the trip to Africa raised my curiosity to know more about the countries visited by browsing BBC country profile and checking other websites about them. The period spent by WHYS in these countries was, for me, more or less an opportunity to know about the history and geography of these countries.

Perhaps the most memorable part of this trip was the broadcasting of WHYS from Issa’s house. This gave the programme a special touch, as it was possible for listeners to see his house on the blog. That gave the impression that all the listeners were in his house, not only WHYS team and the neighbours. What was impressive was when Issa and the other participants talked about their day-to-day lives regarding among other thing their difficulties with their energy and running water. The casual atmosphere in which the program was run from Issa’s house was a real depiction of a local atmosphere, mixing African hospitality, hopes and worries.

There were previous “long” trips to India and the USA. But with each trip WHYS grows into more appeal. But the trip to Africa was really something special showing the world what the people in this continent aspire for.

Through the three countries visited -Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya- Africa seems a continent still plunged in difficulties but it has wonderful people who are very welcoming. The hot discussions showed how the Africans are passionate about their state. Maybe with more democratic development, the Africans will have a chance to have their say at home regarding their political, economic and social matters. With more integration, African countries can have their say on the world stage. Some African countries, like DR Congo, should come to their senses instead of remaining at the mercy of internal wars, calling for peacekeeping forces which can only observe a ceasefire or stop bloodshed but can’t force reconciliation unless the parties have the will to do so.

But one thing that remains is that despite the joviality shown throughout the programmes, these countries like the rest of Africa still have a long way to go for general prosperity. WHYS is about to end its trip in Africa, but Africa needs to really start its trip for progress and prosperity by confronting its deep-rooted problems. It can’t continue to blame its problems on colonialism. This could have been accepted in the first decade of its independence, as emerging countries needed a firm ground to stand unshaken. The majority of African countries have been independent for more than thirty years. They can’t spend a longer period blaming it all on “imperialism” and “colonialism” while they continue either fighting with one another or turning their backs to one another, not to mention the absence the national cohesion among its different political forces.

So as the WHYS team bid farewell to Africa after linking it to the world for two weeks, Africans need to fortify their existing links. All that is needed is to talk and listen to one another without shouting or fighting. Africans from their independence split too much blood, with more deaths than during the colonial era or fight for independence. Now with the era of stability and emerging democracy, Africans have the chance to have a rich life in parallel with their natural and cultural riches.

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An extended vesrion of the debate on the status of Africa

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At 03:32 PM on 25 May 2007

Economic status of African women, a case of inequality

The economic status of women in Africa has been inferior to that of men. There are very few successful businesswomen as the major economic activities are in the hands of men. Because of illiteracy and traditions, many African women have limited economic scopes. It is rare to find women at the top of the executives in key economic sectors like banks and companies. In many African countries, women are limited to selling their goods in open-air markets.

In Morocco, more and more women go out for work. There is now a substantial number in public services, mainly education and health services. But very few of them are heads of services as men still dominate key sectors in the country’s economy.

Illiteracy is still dominant among women in the countryside. Girls are sent to cities to work as maids because of their parents’ poverty. Women who leave for the city usually to work in food factories or continue working in farms.

There are associations, especially NGOs, whose aim is help this category of women. The loans provided to women starts at about 2000 MDH ($ US 200). There have been success stories as the loans helped women to have their own income from the skills they have, be it animal raising, sewing, making carpets and so on. Banks remain reticent at offering bigger loans to this category of women unless they produce substantial guarantees.

Small loans are just a small step for women to have a good economic start. The current generations of women missed on many things like education. It will be better to offer good educational conditions for today’s girls not to be street sellers or hired farmers like their mothers. Women should be helped to set up their projects through financial institutions like banks. They should not be faced with more obstacles because of gender and lack of academic education.

Listen to the conversation on African women’s economic status in Africa:

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Renewed clashes in Lebanon

The recent clashes in Lebanon show that the seeds of trouble are in this country’s political and religious structure. It is a country torn by political differences that make it regularly exposed to clashes of minor and major magnitude. Lebanon seems to have entered a phase of endless violence since the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. The irony of the situation in Lebanon is that the antagonists look outside their country for support. The current government is supported by the West, mainly the USA as it is supported by Saudi Arabia. The “strong” opposition led by Hezbollah is supported by Iran and Syria. Adding to this there is the problematic issue of the Palestinian refugees as there are sections in the Lebanese political class who want them to leave the country while Israel is refusing the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland. This adds to the internal tension.

Lebanon needs to be cleansed of foreign interferences as the Lebanese need to unite for their country instead of remaining divided into sections with different foreign allegiances to countries like Syria and Iran.

Without national unity and immunity from foreign interference, Lebanon is likely to continue being like a volcano that needs to emit its lava from time to time. Any section, Palestinian refugees, political parties can be manipulated by these forces for their political ends. As there are political views in Lebanon that are vehemently opposed, violence eruption will continue being triggered from one side or the other. This should be taken for granted.

Uganda and Asians

“The Last King of Scotland” brought to the world’s attention the history of Uganda, which was known until the 90s of the last century as a troubled country. This film was very forceful in depicting the state of Uganda, which witnessed one the worst atrocities in Africa, with more than 300,000 killed by Idi Amin’s forces.

One of the scenes in this film is the expulsion of more than 80,000 Asians although their commercial activities were the backbone of Ugandan economy. That added just to the economic hardship of Uganda, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. Thanks to the return of stability under the current government, it is estimated that more than 15,000 have arrived in the country.

Last month there were attacks on the Asians as it was reported by the BBC

Linking the past with the present, there are questions to ask like:

How good are the relations between Ugandans and Asians? Is there any risk of a repetition of their forced expulsions from Uganda, in other words, will they continue to be the scapegoat for the economic problems the country is suffering from?

Reaction to Gaddafi’s interview on BBC haveyoursay

The Libyan leader has taken part in a Have Your Say special recorded at the Oxford University Union. These are the questions I sent for an answer from him.

Colonel Gaddafi,

1) Do you still believe in the possibility of Arab political & economic unity, now your main focus is on Africa through the African Union, whose creation you were behind.

2) It seems that the Arab Maghreb Union is practically a piece of paper. Do you think the regional unity among Arab Maghreb countries can be a reality, now there are just ministerial meetings between Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria and Tunisia without any summit among the heads of states since 1994?
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Colonel Gaddafi,

Do you still believe in the political and economic integration of North African countries ( Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, Algeria and Tunisia) under the Arab Maghreb Union which was created in 1989? Or will this Union remain just an occasion to remember the date of its creation without implementing its basic objectives? Needless to say the peoples of these countries have seen little implemented on the ground because of among other things the issue of Western Sahara.
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This is what he had to say when asked by a Tunisian student, Tarik, at Oxford University:

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Muammar Gaddafi was evasive in answering Tarik’s question on the state of the Arab Maghreb Union. He just have good wishes its leaders, distancing himself. One of the impediments to its becoming effective is the issue of Western Sahara. But he was behind the issue as he was the main supporter of the Polisario through arms and money. He let it down later, but the problems he caused are continuing. Unfortunately, he made no statement on how he stands now on the issue of Western Sahara.
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On the issue of Israel-Palestinian conflict this is what he said:

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Gaddadfi learnt to sound and be moderate through hard ways. He’s started to see the reality of the world as it is after past international isolation, sanctions and US military strikes. His reconciliatory attitude towards Israel is an indication of his deep changing attitudes towards the notion of Arab Nationalism. His notion of Isratine is unlikely to be a reality as there is little indication that radical Israelis and Palestinians cherish the idea of a confederate Isratine.

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