The 10th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death

Diana was very popular not in Britain but around the world. She was the symbol of the modern image of Britain. She was the focus wherever she went. She was a liberal and warm princess, reaching the hearts of common people who easily identified with her.

But she must have been an embarrassment to the British monarchy that was giving priority to traditional values. “The Queen” is a successful movie portraying the turbulent relations she ended having with the monarchy, especially with the queen and her husband. The fact that the queen yielded to popular pressure to commemorate her in a stately fashion is an indication of the power Diana had even after her death. Thanks to her, UK traditional monarchy found its feet again in unstoppably changing Britain, when it was on the verge of looking obsolete and out touch with people due to its stiff protocols. Her life and death stirred the monarchy to move with time.

She touched everyone by her royal nature although after her divorce she lost her title as a Royal. She will be remembered as the princess of people who lived triumphantly despite all the odds and died tragically. Her life was very short but very rich. Her anniversary is to celebrate her life and to wish her to rest in peace.


Suspension of armed activities in Iraq

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered a six-month suspension of activities by his Mahdi Army militia in order to reorganize the force. This doesn’t go far enough if the intent is to resume armed fighting leading to further casualties. What is needed is that all Iraqi factions should endeavour for durable national reconciliation.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s order must come after the threat of Bush to Iran supporting insurgents in Iraq with arms and training to attack US forces as well as after Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders have signed a reconciliation deal.

Having less insurgence must be good news. The good news for Iraq is when Muqtada al-Sadr’s armed groups join the Iraqi forces to fight foreign militias who have become warlords threatening the stability and the security of the Iraqis and even dividing their loyalty.

Stars and drugs

Singer Amy Winehouse has pulled out of a string of concerts in the US and Canada next month to “address her health“, her publicist has said.

The use of drugs by stars is outrageous. Stars are supposed to be role models for their fans. Many will be tempted to use it. Reggae music should have had a bad influence on many people in the past as listening to it is associated with drug consumption considered as a spiritual healing or part of a rituals.

There are countless stories of pop stars resorting to drugs like Whitney Huston who had to spend considerable time in rehab centres and even forced to sell some of her luxurious items like her dresses to face her financial difficulties.

As in sports, those caught using enhancing drugs are punished by suspension, disqualification or stripping of medals, the same should be applied to stars. Before giving a concert or recording an album, they should prove they’re drug free. Even after the publications of their album, when found drug users, their album should be withdrawn from sale.

Music is meant to lift the spirit and to have a good time. It shouldn’t turn into a destructive force. Stars are from time to time exposed to gossips related to their private lives like divorce, separation, financial troubles, accusations of misconduct etc. But they shouldn’t be seen as a crushed force falling from admiration to pity.

If stars, like Amy Whinehouse, with all their money and creativity can’t live without drugs, this means money can’t buy everything. It becomes a curse for those who can’t make the best of what they have instead of painfully seeking more what they can never get. As one drug therapist said a hug is better than a piece of drug. Do stars like Amy Whinehouse need a genuine hug for a definite cure?

Yahoo accused of helping human rights abuses in China

Internet giant Yahoo has asked a US court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of complicity in rights abuses and acts of torture in China.

Yahoo! is a business company in the first place. It seeks profit in markets that can provide the most. China is a huge market considering its population (1.3 billion), with its booming economy. Having a strong foot in it amount to having it in more than 100 small countries. In business, sometimes ethics are disregarded. What matters is survival in the face of competition. Rival Google admitted that it shared information about its users with the Chinese government.

There is one fact that stands out. Internet censorship is growing more and more. Not all countries have access to all sites. Many are banned. Not all BBC sites are available in some countries like Iran. They are blocked by the Iranian government.

The blame should be on the Chinese government for restricting access to information and jailing its citizens for expressing themselves freely. Yahoo! and Google are mere business companies. Like their American government, they turn a blind eye to excesses when there are interests.

The danger is when Yahoo! and Google become a worldwide network for all governments providing them with services which their intelligence services can’t do with expediency and precision, making any user under file.

9/11 attacks, conspiracy and facts

Accusations that the American Government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks are becoming increasingly bitter and widespread.

The conspiracy theory stands as a sensational approach to 9/11 attacks. It’s like making a movie or writing a book about the invasion of the Earth by aliens. The US could have fooled the public that the attack was carried by terrorists. But could it have fooled the governments who have highly expert intelligence services to check US government claims?

If there had been a conspiracy this should be with the aviation companies to register the loss of planes in the attacks. The passengers who died in the attacks should have been held by the government and killed not to contradict the US government version. The supposed terrorists were kidnapped before the attack and were later executed once the US government special planes ( without pilots) did their acts.

There is no government in its own right mind to purposely kill thousands of people just to attack terrorists threatening its stability. Some would argue the attack was done to overthrow the Taliban. But the US had enough power to do so without resorting to the carnage of its own people and other nationalities. It invaded Iraq despite opposition from France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well as other major countries like Germany.

If 9/11 attack was the work of the US government here is a possible scenario. The planes used in the attack were boarded by US secret agents who took control of the pilot cabin. They used one of their methods to make them unconscious. They diverted the plane to a desolate area. Once notified that other planes (without pilots) looking like the planes they were boarding hit the World Trade Centre, they jumped off the plane as in Mission Impossible II, then by remote control caused the plane to explode in the air. Other military aircrafts came to take the wreckage of the planes to avoid any evidence of their crush in the area?

Does this theory make sense?

If so, the aviation companies and the airport authorities should have been part of the conspiracy. The companies admitted the planes that had crushed were theirs. In the registration, they included the names of the Arab terrorists although they had never boarded the plane. They had been held by the US secret service that executed them later and produced fake CCTV recording of their presence in the airport and their boarding the hijacked planes. The Radar control made their reports that the planes followed their natural course.

Does this theory make sense? If so, 9/11 is a conspiracy meticulously carried out by a government who had all the threads at every level to make it successful.

It’s possible to say that the US government acted as agent provocateur to justify its war on terror or simply it was taken aback by the skill of the terrorists. But it’s hard to believe that the US government could have inflicted such a disaster as this should have needed a large network of people, civilian, military and secret service sworn to secrecy and betrayal to kill US citizens they’re sworn to protect.

It’s easy to distort facts relying on imagination to make a counterclaim. But 9/11 stands as a fact. It was the work of terrorists. Al Qaeda repeated its threat to do it again. The US produced a video showing Bin Laden in a private meeting thanking God for the devastating effect of the attack which was more than expected, destroying the Trade Centre and not just part of it. Some argued the video was fake. But Al Qaeda leaders defiantly claimed the attack was of their doing later on Al Jazeera news channel.

In short 9/11 conspiracy doesn’t make sense at all.

BBC WHYS, a show like no other

Ros’s comment #122, I agree with him that WHYS is unique in comparison with other news channels that set the agenda for its audience when he says, “Some news programmes (most news programmes) select the stories that they think are most important, we take the ones that are getting the biggest response around the world.”

There are news channels that have a section of their “Haveyoursay”. But the choices are limited. On Al Jazeera site there is only the possibility to comment on topics suggested/ imposed by the channel. It’s them who decide which comment to publish with no say for the contributors. Here is the site to make a comparison.

  • · BBC Haveyoursay offers a large choice for the contributors to interact with the news. Essentially the topics aren’t IMPOSED by the BBC. Contributors can send their suggestions through this link
  • · Sent comments are that is retroactively moderated or fully moderated.
  • · There is transparency in the number of comments sent. They’re categorised as published, rejected or unpublished.
  • · Registered contributors can retrieve their details and maker changes
  • · Registered contributors have their own archive of the comments they have sent. They can see them all (published and unpublished) while the visitors to their archives can see the published ones.
  • · Registered contributors can recommend or report the published comments.
  • · Extracts of some comments are published on BBC reports related to the topic as well as on the news front page, especially the Middle East section.
  • · Those whose comments are published can be contacted by BBC Haveyoursay or BBC world Haveyoursay to take part on televised or radio show.

BBC WHYS has distinguished itself by tirelessly choosing topics weekday from around the world on different issues. WHYS team, I guess, is the only gang in the jungle of media that has closer link with its audience. Those used to contributing or taking part in the show feel they’re contacting friends and not just journalists. Thanks to the team, many contributors have become known to the regulars like Lubna from Iraq. The depth and the casualty of the show plays a factors in making listeners interact with people of different kinds from politicians, journalists, authors, etc as well as with ordinary people like you and me. Interestingly, the show is always a success. Time with it flies quickly. The fact that is broadcast in the USA where there are hundreds of competing radio stations is an indication that is a mind and eye opening on the rest of the world. The fact that BBC on FM in some countries (recently in Pakistan and Russia) is banned is an indication that telling the truth or presenting the views from different perspectives isn’t to the liking of some politicians.

And finally, not all the topics are every one’s cup of tea. There are topics that can sound uninteresting or worth commenting upon. But there are other topics that cause heated debates and receive thousands of comments on Haveyoursay and hundreds on BBC WHYS. For Leilia who complained that the topic of the show was ridiculous tabloid “news”, it isn’t bad to break from the routine and to discuss sensational news. The fact that tabloids sell well means they have their avid readers. So why don’t WHYS raise such topics for additional listeners? Everyone has the right to set the agenda and all views should be aired and not censored as it is the case in many official channels from which many listeners flee to live a direct and live broadcasting that has no political affiliation or government control.

London, the biggest cultural city in the world

To mark the end of “London Calling Week” on the BBC World Service, teamed up and simulcast LIVE with four radio stations in London, Toronto, Sydney and New York…and asking which of these is the most successful multicultural city.

Having listened to the whole show about which is the most multicultural city (London, Sydney, Toronto or New York), all these cities sound great. They all portrayed themselves as welcoming. But London stood out as the richest. It has a cultural history running for centuries from the Normans and beyond. Its architecture speaks for moments of glories and tragedies. The other cities just followed, many of which took their authentic shapes just at the beginning of the 20th century. In London, you can travel through different periods. There is Westminster, the birthplace of tolerant democracy. In that, the British were the first implicitly to combine Republicanism and Monarchy. They kept the hereditary system of kings and lords while they empowered their elected Parliament and the Prime Minister. British traditions and culture are a fascination for the comers; especially the Europeans whose countries abolished Monarchy and it remained just a part of their history or objects of museums.

London was welcoming to the new comers, especially from Asia and Africa. They thrived in it while sticking to their culture, especially the Asians. There are no distinctly racial areas as it is the case in New York. British culture is proudly enriched with the cultures of immigrants, especially Asia and the Caribbean Islands. The tolerance is visible as extreme right wing ideology has no popularity in London.

One advantage of London is that it is relatively near other multicultural cities in Europe like Paris and Rome. From it you can have a tour of the cities and come back to London the cradle of tolerant multiculturalism. For me, if I settle in London I will need just a 5 hour (cheap) flight to get to my city Marrakesh at any time as there are more than 100 weekly flights between the two cities.

Settling in London is an opportunity to be relatively in the centre of the world. Britain has been a reference to time around the world through GMT. Its clock is still ticking showing how multiculturalism and native cultures are going through time.

Listen to a part of the show.

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Listen to the shorter version of the show

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Vietnam, a Lesson for Iraq?

President George W Bush has warned a US withdrawal from Iraq could trigger the kind of upheaval seen in South East Asia after US forces quit Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was one of the black periods in modern US history. It cost it more than 50 thousands lives, not to mention the injured and those who were mentally affected by it, whether because they took part in it or as a result of the loss of the loved ones. The history/memory of this war was revived because of the ongoing situation in Iraq. On the BBC there is an interesting analysis by Paul Reynolds,
BBC World affairs correspondent.

The war that lasted 8 years achieved little in Vietnam as far as the US is concerned. It entered it with all its might to uproot communism in it and to make of it a liberal country. But it left it in the hands of those it had come to fight. The important gain the USA had is that it limited the spread of communism in Asia-Pacific that would have toppled non-communist governments in other countries like the Philippines. That could have been disastrous for the US as communism would have swept the most part, if not the whole, of Asia. In this case, US relations with Russia and China could have worsened, making international relations even more critical.

The US succeeded over the years to establish itself in Asia-Pacific through its military bases in allied countries, mainly South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Its withdrawal from Vietnam didn’t bring peace to the region as tension remained in countries like Cambodia and wars erupted between China and Vietnam. The Americans were left to assess their war while the regions remained plunged in human catastrophes through boat people, genocides in Cambodia, not to mention the abject poverty of the people whose countries were taken by revolutionaries who had only speeches full of ideology and promises to give, but little means to bring prosperity.

The lesson for the USA is that Iraq and the whole region can fall in a disastrous situation if the Iraqis are left to fight each other without the presence of a coalition force that can at least protect an allied government while the Iraqis are exposed to the daily risks of suicide bombing or car bombs. The USA has relatively few losses compared to those sustained in Vietnam. Losing just more than 3,000 soldiers in Iraq in four years looks small compared to the loss of 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam in eight years. By keeping the insecure situation in Iraq, it is securing the stability of allied countries in the regions, especially the oil rich Gulf States and by this securing the interests of US oil companies and the other companies that have huge investment there. So in a sense any dollar spent on the war is returned by hundreds. Just a simple example, the Gulf States have signed the purchase of hundreds of Boeing planes. This purchase can be cancelled in case of grave instability costing the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Iraq may be the New Vietnam of the 21st century. For the US, with Bush Administration or the next one, the political calculations make staying in Iraq a bit longer less risky than losing influence and interests in the region for ever due a hasty withdrawal.

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A journey of discovery in Brick Lane, London

Salaam Brick Lane is a fascinating book. It’s a depiction of Brick Lane as a social fabric of different facets. The tensions that occur in it are played down by comic situations or comic reactions to them.

Tarquin Hall, although he was the centre of the experiences in Brick Lane through his direct involvement with its inhabitants, remains somehow detached when it comes to the evaluations of the values of the different ethnic groups. His involvement was mainly through the Asian community through Ali, the Bengali landlord and the Indian aunties he came to know through his engagement to Anu who is of Indian origins. It was through them that he depicted the traditions of the Muslim and Indian communities in East London.

Tarquin entered Brick Lane as a full stranger as he had never lived in it before. While seeking the original cockneys in East London, he discovered that the inhabitants of England are of different origins from different lands. The current settlers, especially from Asia, are just an addition to the population fabric. He left Brick Lane,-after settling in it for a year- with the sensation that, as he said at the end of the book, ” Perhaps I would always remain something of an outsider.”

The book makes a good reading, especially for those seeking to know a part of London vibrant with racial and cultural interactions, featuring the riches and the predicaments of each.

Supressing protests in Burma

Supporters of Burma’s military junta have broken up protests against the doubling of fuel prices.

Burma, like North Korea, looks one of the most awkward countries in Asia Pacific. Its military leaders have no regard for democratic process as they have turned the country to a military base where all the citizens are to obey orders and not to discuss them. This is the drawback of the military being exclusively in power as the civilian power looks a threat to their prestige. The top high ranking military leaders must find it beneath them to keep to their barracks while democratically elected institutions are running the country.

International sanctions, apart from isolating Burma, have done little to put pressure on the military for whom that was a driving cause to keep their grip on power. It seems they are the only ones benefiting from Burma’s income – legal or illegal. Their monopoly of the trade of the country’s good goods like eak, pulses and beans, prawns, fish, rice, opiates and bad goods like heroin is making them richer, allowing them to build a new capital Nay Pyi Taw despite economic hardship.

The suffering of the Burmese is also the responsibility of the countries, like India, supporting Burma military by selling them weapons . These are going mainly to be used to suppress any civilian uprising in demand for improved living and respect of human rights.

The Burmese military have little to fear from being toppled by a foreign force. They have no nuclear weapons. They don’t support terrorism. As such they have problem just with their people, not with the international community. It doesn’t mind if the Burmese are a nation of slaves to their military masters and Burma’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is kept in a cage.

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