Mika Brzezinski vs Paris Hilton or seriousness vs trivia

Celebrities are always in the spotlight. Every action, major or minor is of concern to some media, which tries to impose their trivial news on the public. There is little to learn from Paris Hilton’s experience in prison as she was in a special one. In the USA, there are about two million prisoners. There are executions that go unnoticed despite calls for the abolition of death penalties in states practising them.

Hilton’s imprisonment reflected somehow the flaws that can be in the justice system. First, she was put in prison to spend 45 days, then released to be put on house arrest, then brought back to prison, then released before finishing her sentence. Her imprisonment was like a serial in different instalments, making people follow her step by step as if she had been the only person imprisoned in the world. Her imprisonments can infuriate just ordinary prisoners who live in overcrowded jails with no preferential treatment.

The fact that Mika Brzezinski refused to read Paris Hilton’s release from prison it paradoxically put her in the news much further as it was shown on Youtube Famous people from MSNBC talking about famous Paris Hilton made a trivial incident more important. It isn’t common to see a news staff wrangling about a news item in public or to make it public. But the heavy weight of slim Paris made that possible. Paradoxically, Hilton becomes top news because Mika Brzezinski wanted her to be ignored in favour of other news items.

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Can the USA improve its image in the Muslim World?

US President George W Bush has said he will name an envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OCI) , to a coalition of Muslim countries. The would-be envoy will have a hard task to bring the American views and those of the Muslim public any closer. The USA popularity has a very low rate among the Muslims. They still feel unwelcome in the USA because of the heavy restrictions and conditions to get a visa. A Muslim name on a passport still raises suspicion at the US airports.

As long as its foreign policy in the Middle East, especially regarding Iraq and Israel doesn’t change, there is little it can do to change the views of Muslims, especially those imbued with anti-American propaganda. Many Muslims take delight in the rising power of countries like China and India to offset its global influence. Many see its threat towards Iran as a form of crusade aimed at weakening the Muslims at all levels.

For the US to improve its image among the Muslims, it should redress its foreign policies by winning the friendship of hardliner regimes like that of Iran. Friendly Muslim governments should work to spread moderate Islam and to implement democratic rules. Many moderate governments in the Muslim worlds are seen by their opponents as puppets of the USA. The USA remains a synonym of corrupt values threatening their traditions.

On a different note, Bush seems to be ignorant about Muslim countries, at least in the first years of his presidency. After 9/11 attacks he had a Muslim adviser to “teach” him about Islamic values following the misinterpretation or the exploitation of the term “crusade” he used. On Larry King, Bill Maher invoked an incident; I don’t if it was a joke or a reality. Bush was told by one of his advisers, “ In Iraq there are Sunnis and Shiaas.” To which bush responded, “ I thought there were only Muslims in Iraq.”

Perhaps both the Americans and the Muslims should know more about each other. They should know the good sides of each other. Focussing just on the negative sides or choosing to ignore basic facts about each other’s civilisation will just deepen the divide that can’t go any deeper.

Oil rationing and riot in Iran

Several petrol stations have been torched in the Iranian capital Tehran, after the government announced the rationing of fuel for private vehicles.

It’s quite ironic that Iran with abundant oil can’t have free use of it. There are countries with no oil at all that manage to refine the crude oil they buy from countries like Iran.

Metaphorically, the Iranians look like sailors surrounded with a big ocean but with little fresh water. Too much crude oil underground but little refined oil above the ground. The Iranian regime seems to have got its energy priority wrong. While it should focus at building refinery stations, it focuses on developing its controversial and suspected nuclear program. This will just give an opportunity for the USA and its allies to reinforce sanctions on it as refined oil will be on the sanctions list. USA, in particular will have a wide margin for its stick-and-carrot policy towards Iran. For Iran to be able to have the technology to refine its crude oil, it must shut its nuclear plantation, the US would say.

The Iranian president can fuel his policy with fiery speeches against the USA, promising glory for the Iranians. But the Iranians want to be on the move and not at a standstill. They seem to be filled with rhetoric. Now they want just oil to fill their vehicles. The oil rationing can just trigger protests without limits as the economy seems to be going badly along with the ethic restrictions imposed on them Perhaps, too radical measures are an invitation to a widespread revolt against a government establishing itself as revolutionary.

When the regime is surrounded with further international sanctions and wide protests at home, it can be faced with a blaze of difficulties, started by the rationing of oil that, in the first place, should be as easily available as drinking water. How the regime can put off the blaze it started remains to see. The climate seems too hot now. The regime needs to find ways to cool it through its international and domestic approaches.

Can a pan-African state be a reality?

Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi has described the African Union as a failure and vowed to press ahead with plans for a single African government .

It’s hard to imagine the African continent turning into a pan-African state. There are many difficulties in the way for this. Many veteran African leaders will find it difficult to step down like Omar Bongo of Gabon and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. African states have different agendas as they have different alliances outside the African continent. Up to now they failed to unite regionally, let alone continentally. African unity has been a dream for decades and it is likely to remain so. African union needs democratic basis, which is lacking in many African countries. Sooner or later, differences will emerge on how to conduct internal and external policies. Small states like Benin will be just swallowed or marginalised by big states like Nigeria. Countries doing well won’t seek to be embroiled with the difficulties of other countries.

African countries can’t now become federal states. They still have a long way to go before we see them with a common policy that can enable them to have a common government.

It’s rather ironic to see the African Union cherishing the idea of a pan-African state while they have among them the Algeria-backed Polisario front ( in conflict with Morocco since 1975) years seeking to form a state in the Western Sahara. They should first convince it to accept the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco for this territory to ease an effective Arab Maghreb Union.

The EU wasn’t made of its current members from the start. At first there were just three countries which formed the Benelux. That expands through 50 years to be made of 27 states. Perhaps African countries should be successful at regional integration with realistic aims before they dream of becoming one super state. Without peace in the whole of Africa and without putting an end to the current conflicts, especially in Sudan, Chad and DR Congo, the idea of a pan-African state will remain a joke among the African ordinary people, let alone political experts who can draw tens of examples of why the idea for pan-African state should be shelved before the majority of African countries should clean their houses before inviting their neighbours in and or getting into theirs.

Listen to part of the conversation on Africa have Your Say

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Can Tony Blair make a good peace envoy in the Middle East?

Tony Blair will be in the spotlight after his resignation. Through his experience in politics for a decade, he must be a good asset for many circles. As for a possible job as a peace envoy in the Middle East, he can be fit at least for pathfinding missions. He must know the ins-and outs of the situation there.

Historically, Britain is one of the rare countries that have more knowledge about the Middle East than any other does. He’s been just fresh from his office as PM, he can have good contacts with the movers and shakers in Middle East policies. This can be of good help to the UK Foreign Office, as it will have another foreign secretary in disguise, focussing on a very turbulent region, which in fact must take a large proportion of the Foreign Office agenda.

However, success isn’t guaranteed. Different politicians who made the Middle East their priorities failed, including Bill Clinton during his presidency. It’s common that in the Middle-East you can get just signed agreements. On the ground, reality changes everything. So his slogan must be, “Never get tired of going to square one.” He must draw on British cold blood to continue his job without quickly getting in the bloody moods that are prevalent in the Middle East.

Another point is that the ground on which Tony Blair is going to work isn’t laid with roses. The situation in the Middle East is very intricate. If it was impossible for him to broker a solution when he was in power, how can he succeed when he’s simply an envoy. He can succeed in coordinating views if the conflicting parties first agree on a peaceful solution.

On my part, to commemorate, Tony Blair’s ten years in office, I will re-watch the “Queen”. It starts in when he took office and it ends with the stroll he took with the Queen. Tomorrow he will have a stroll with her wile the corgis are leaping around. One thing the Queen will be pleased about is that Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah Macaulay– pigeon-natured, isn’t suspected of being republican, unlike the cat-looking Cherrie Booth , Blair’s wife!

Listen to part of the conversation on BBC WHYS broadcast on June 26th, 2007

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Protests over Cologne biggest mosque

A right-wing citizens’ initiative is protesting against Germany’s largest mosque, which is being built in Cologne. They have enlisted the efforts of the far-right from Austria and Belgium in their fight against the “Islamization of Europe.”

Building the biggest mosque in Germany shouldn’t be the cause of such protests as it was reported. It should be the symbol of the big religious tolerance in Germany. Germany isn’t the only European country where Muslims face bureaucratic difficulties to build a mosque. Some local authorities in France refuse construction permission for election results.

Germans should have no fear of a mosque. There are bigger mosques in France, the USA and Gibraltar. A mosque with a capacity for 2,000 believers doesn’t look that big even if it is considered as the biggest in Germany.

The Germans should take the example of UK regarding its Muslim communities. The Muslim community centre is one of the largest of its kind in western Europe. It can hold 10,000 worshippers.

A mosque isn’t the source of terror. You can close mosques. But you can’t close all internet sites that spread terror. Such acts will fuel just hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany. Muslims citizens or legal residents should feel at home. Denying them a mosque when it is possible for them to build one amounts to open hostility. The best thing to do is to live and let live. It isn’t fit for Germany to be a land of religious persecution.

Unesco and World Heritage

UNESCO is meeting in New Zealand to decide which sites to add to its World Heritage list -and also to its “endangered” list. Sites vying for endangered status include the Tower of London, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu in Peru. The committee must decide if they are at risk from war, tourism, overdevelopment or neglect.

Campaigners say the UN must take urgent action to protect six World Heritage sites, including Mount Everest, from the impact of climate change.

Putting endangered sites on UNESCO list doesn’t guarantee they can be out of risk even if they are recognized to be so. In Morocco, Fes city has been on the list of world heritage for more than 20 years. Yet many old houses are still crumbling because there aren’t enough funds to restore them. Marrakesh, being on the list, is a success story thanks to the restoration of the old city houses by the Europeans who bought them. The local authorities mainly work to restore its ancient ramparts.

But there are other places around the world that don’t catch the eye as a heritage because of their notoriety and they’d better be forgotten. Yet , they must be a part of collective memories for generations to remember. From the Second World War rose the holocaust memorial and the Berlin Wall. Today, Notorious prisons like Guantanamo and Abu Gharib should be on the list to remind people of what man has made of man and to serve as an example of what extreme measures by detainers and detainees can lead to.

For the preservation of sites, natural or monumental, We shouldn’t focus just on sites that can be of tourist values as they have all the chances to be restored. There are other sites that will remain neglected because they need huge funds or they exist in unknown zones. Big Ben is world famous. How many know about Bab Mansour in Meknes?

Above all, there are ways of life that are threatened because of globalisation. Some of these ways have become just tourist curiosity. People keep to them just for tourist attraction. They in a sort become just actors, acting their own reality for gain and not out of conviction. We can preserve sites. They are static. But sometimes, it becomes difficult to preserve a culture because the people who should make it a part of their lives don’t want to look archaic. They want to move with time. So it is no wonder if we have museums with effigies and pictures of people whose lifestyle has become extinct.

Preserving local cultures should go in parallel with preserving sites and monuments. Monuments are after all the result of a culture. Both should be preserved for the enrichment of human knowledge and to make the world more diverse.

Oil find, Ghana’s hope and Morocco’s disappointment

Oil alone isn’t the key to development and prosperity. There are many countries that don’t have oil at all and yet they are ranked among the richest. Japan and Germany are just examples. What makes a country rich is the way it is run in the spirit of democracy and hard work. Oil is just a part of the riches that one can have. Without economic activities, it becomes worthless. You can have oil, but if you don’t have, for example, a car to use it, it will just lay to waste. Oil is just a means to make machines work. The machines should be efficient and productive.

There are many oil producing countries that can’t manufacture their oil sufficiently at least for home consumption. Iran and Nigeria are an example. Iran has to import manufactured oil when it has crude oil in abundance. It has introduced a quota for drivers who can’t exceed 4 litres a day or they should pay more for an extra quantity.

Ghana was once called the Gold Coast. But after independence it missed many golden opportunities for a good start due to coups and dictatorship. Now it has another gold opportunity for an economic surge thanks to the discovered oil. Oil will be a test of its current democracy. If it isn’t used beneficially for all the Ghanaians, it can threaten the current stability as it can be the source of corruption and deep economic inequalities between classes and regions.

In 2000, there was an official announcement that a big oil reserve was found in the east of Morocco in Talsint. That was widely reported on the media including the BBC. That raised a lot of hope. One year later, it was announced the find was a hoax or rather a banana oil. The expected amount of oil wasn’t in the discovered fields. The hopes evaporated in smoke, the way the would-be discovered oil should have done. Instead of getting cheap oil, Morocco had to pay more for it due to the unprecedented soaring prices.

For Ghana, let’s hope it will see the flame of it oil burning to enlighten its path for progress. Good paths should be laid for it not to go just in fumes without moving the country anywhere.

EU resuming aid to fatah, will it help?

Resuming aid by the EU to Fatah alone is likely to deepen the tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Fatah will be viewed just as a puppet of Israel and the USA by its opponents. However aid to Fatah should be seen as an encouragement for moderation. It’s better to have at least a section of the Palestinians benefiting from such aid than to have all them deprived of it because of Hamas positions.

Due to the support Fatah has from the USA and Israel, Hamas will have no choice but to stick to its armed resistance as a way to keep its present felt. Hamas has opted for isolation as it refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. If Gaza remains under its control amid international isolation, we may witness a human catastrophe in this region. While the West Bank is going to benefit from US aid, Gaza will be deprived from it under intransigent Hamas. The Palestinian problem will persist. . Aid alone will do little to resolve the Palestinian problem as compromise is needed from all parties.

Marrakesh is the most expensive city in Morocco, but not in the world

The survey by Mercer Human Resources Consulting measured the cost of 200 items such as housing, clothing and food in 143 cities on six continents. Russia’s capital, Moscow, has been named as the world’s most expensive city for expatriate staff to live, for the second year in a row.

The soaring prices in big cities are mainly linked to their reputation and the opportunities they can offer. A city can still look cheap by European standards but it’s very expensive for the locals and the nationals. In Morocco, Marrakesh has become the most expensive city. People with middle or low income can’t afford to get a house but simply a small flat whose mortgage can extend for 25 years. For a European, it still cheap as a high standing eighty square metre apartment in city centre can be acquired at $120,000. This is too much for the locals whose annual income in most cases doesn’t exceed $6,000

In the old city, houses are much more expensive as they are favoured by foreign buyers who prefer to live in the exotic atmosphere of the East. Now most of the locals can’t afford them as their price jumped a lot in the past years. One of the advantages of selling these houses to Europeans is that they restore them beyond recognition. Many of these houses were in a state of ruin. Because of their size, their poor owners couldn’t repair them. The old city retrieved its boom thanks to investment by the Europeans, mainly French. The houses have become guest houses.

The economic advantages are that the guest houses created employment on many levels. Local artefacts got revived in terms of building and furniture after the domination of industrialised items. Artisans have a source of living.

So Marrakesh remains expensive for its population while it is reasonably cheap for the Europeans, including those with a low income.

On my part, I wish to have the chance to live just in a small town or a village. Marrakesh has become congested, relatively polluted. What makes it charming for many is that in it, you can live in two separate worlds. There is the old city; called the medina, which extends over six square kilometres and the new city which doesn’t stop sprawling in all directions.

Maybe as the city is getting more and more international reputation and the increasing prestigious tourist projects, it may rank as one of the most expensive city, at least in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

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