Arab Press torn on Ahmadinejad statement

The media across the Middle East has been torn on how to think about the statements made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad told some 3,000 students in Tehran last week that Israel's establishment had been a move by the West against the Islamic world.

"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," he said, referring to Iran's late revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

While some Arabic newspapers received the statement with sympathy with respect to the Palestinian plight, others believe that it was in bad taste and counter-intuitive.

UK-Based Al-Hayat: The 'elimination of Israel' stems from the same frame of mind as the Israeli strategic aim of 'eliminating Palestine'... which Israel accomplishes on a daily basis through organised killings... Whatever people think about the Iranian stance, the fact remains that highlighting 'indifference to Zionist crimes' is legitimate and true.

Egypt's Al-Ahram: It is most likely that the Iranian president was not thinking when he made these statements, or perhaps he was imagining that he was still in his fanatical days of youth and not yet president of Iran. Unfortunately, the situation is now different... If the Iranian president feels concerned about the Palestinian lands, then it is best for him to withdraw from the three islands of the Emirates that Iran has occupied for over ten years. It is best for him to stop interfering in Iraq's internal affairs. It is also best for him to know that the ordinary Arab knows very well that such fanatical statements will only spell disaster.

Iran's Resalat: Following their defeat in Gaza and Iraq, Israel and America are trying to intensify their psychological war against Iran... America and the Zionist regime have often expressed their wish to subvert the Islamic republic. But they find it intolerable when the Iranian president repeats the words of the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] and the Iranian nation.

Iran News: Some observers point out that Ahmadinejad's controversial comments were in fact an exact quote from the late Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini]. However, the West has opportunistically used the president's remarks in line with its strategic goal of pressuring, isolating and confronting the Islamic republic. Furthermore, this pre-staged scenario provides further ammunition for Europe and the USA, which aim to report Iran's nuclear dossier to the Security Council. What's more, the West has now found a pretext to blame Iran for the violence in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jordan's Al-Ra'y:No-one knows whether the Iranian president's remarks on Israel on 'wiping Israel off the map' were merely a slip of the tongue or simply deliberate. Whatever the case, Ahmadinejad's remarks have caused an additional problem for Iran... in the light of [Israeli deputy prime minister] Shimon Peres' demand that the UN secretary-general and the Security Council revoke Iran's membership in the world body.


BBC World Launches Arabic Network

BBC World will relaunch their Arabic-language satelite television channel in March 2007. The service is intended top compete with Al Jazerra, the popular Arab TV channel accused of bias by Washington and Downing Street.

In order to fund this the BBC will close down 10 local language radio services, mostly in Eastern Europe. This is seen as a reflection of post Cold War priorities.

"The Middle East's media landscape has changed profoundly following the spread of satellite television," said World Service Director Nigel Chapman. "Without a BBC news presence in Arabic on television, we run the risk of always being second to television, despite the quality of our radio and new media offers."

Chapman said that in many of the affected countries, newly liberal democracies had resulted in an explosion in local news media outlets, resulting in less need for the World Service. Broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai will stop by the end of March 2006.

However, Chapman denied it would serve the political or diplomatic aims of the British government.

"There's no political motive in this," he said. "Our job is to be a broadcaster."


Obituary: Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa Parks, the African American seamstress who became famous for not given up her bus seat to a white man in 1950s segregated Alabama, died Monday night at the age of 92 of progressive dementia.

Rosa Parks was born as Rosa Lee McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, daughter of James and Leona McCauley. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks, who was active in civil rights causes. In the 1940s, Mr. and Mrs. Parks were members of the Voters' League. In December 1943, Parks became active in the Civil Rights Movement and worked as a secretary for the Montgomery, Alabama branch of the NAACP. Of her position she said, "I was the only woman there, and they needed a secretary, and I was too timid to say no." She continued as secretary until 1957 when she left Montgomery. Just six months before her arrest, she had attended the Highlander Folk School, an education center for workers' rights and racial equality. Some accounts portray her as an individual with no particular political background or training.

After her arrest, Parks became an icon of the civil rights movement and suffered hardship as a result. She lost her job at the department store and her husband quit his after his boss forbade him from talking about Rosa or the legal case. Mrs. Parks traveled and spoke extensively to raise money for her legal fees. In August 1957, weary of phone death threats and fearing firebomb attacks on the homes of their supporters, she and her husband accepted the urging of family who feared for her safety and moved to Detroit to live near her younger brother. In 1958 she moved to Hampton, Virginia, where she found a job as a hostess in an inn at Hampton Institute. However, there was not enough room for either her husband and mother to live with her and she moved back to Detroit and worked as a seamstress. She became a staff assistant to U. S. Representative John Conyers in 1965, a position she continued in until her retirement in 1988.

In 1999 a lawsuit was filed on her behalf against the popular American hip hop duo OutKast and LaFace Records, claiming that the group had illegally used her name without her permission for their song "Rosa Parks", the most successful radio single of their 1998 album Aquemini. The case was dismissed in 2004.

Parks received the Rosa Parks Peace Prize in 1994 in Stockholm, Sweden, followed by the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the U.S. executive branch, in 1996. In 1998, she became the first awardee for the International Freedom Conductor Award given by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The next year Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given by the U.S. legislative branch, as well as the Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Freedom Award. In 2000, her home state awarded her the Alabama Academy of Honor as well as the first Governor's Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage. Also, in 1999, Time magazine named Parks one of the top twenty most influential and iconic figures of the twentieth century. She was also awarded two dozen honorary doctorates from universities worldwide and was made an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.


UN Day: 60 years of Success and Failures

The international community today are commemorating the work for peace and prosperity of the United Nations. Scholars are reminicising about the organization's past and ponder it's future. With recent changes for the need for reform, some wonder if the United Nations is still relevant today.

On a recent edition of the US radio program, The Tavis Smiley Show, Christopher O’Sullivan, author of The United Nations: A Concise History and Pedro Sanjuan, author of The UN Gang: A Memoir of Incompetence, Corruption, Espionage, Anti-Semitism, and Islamic Extremism at the UN Secretariat discussed the challenged that face the United Nations today.

O'Sullivan brought some historical context to the conversation. He says that when the UN was first created in 1945, the world had just come out of two world wars with over 75 million lives lost. Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his comtemporaries wanted to create an institution where conflicts could be resolved peacefully.

Sanjuan argues that while the UN has done some good things for the world, the organization is marginalized, mainly in part because of post colonialism and the Cold War. The creators of the UN didn't anticipate that most of Africa, Latin America and Asia would be decolonized 20 years later. He feels that this is why the UN is not as effective as it could be.

Sanjuan also recommended that reform is badly needed at the UN. He gave the example of the Oil-for-Food program and the secrecy around it.

"The UN should not be a secret organization," said Sanjuan. "It is the property of 191 countries. People should be able to look at the books. It needs reform not because it is corrupt, but because it is ineffectual."

O'Sullivan argues that while that the reform initiatives are only coming from Western states. The Global South he states would like to see more economic reforms that would be more effective for their countries.

"Reform is in the eye of the beholder," said O'Sullivan.


New Fuel to Help Prevent Petrol Sniffing

New Fuel to Help Prevent Petrol Sniffing

By Talia Whyte

October 14, 2005 Weekly Indigenous News

In an effort to combat gas sniffing in Aboriginal communities, the Australian government announced on September 13 that it will provide $6 million towards the use of Opal fuel in central desert indigenous communities. Opal fuel contains very low levels of aromatic hydrocarbons, the particles that cause intoxication, and does not cause the inhalant to become high.

An additional $500,000 will help state and local governments prevent the trafficking of petrol into dry communities, and $3 million will be put into diversionary and rehabilitation programs in the Northern Territories, as reported in the New Indigenous Times.

Australia’s rural aboriginal groups have been struck by a petrol sniffing epidemic for generations. Most popular among young men, chronic inhalation of petrol fumes can produce physical ailments, including seizures, tremors, loss of appetite, hyperactivity, unusual behavior and malnutrition.

But the same week the funding plan was announced, the federal government voted against providing Opal fuel for all of Central Australia, as the Labor party had initially proposed.
"It is important that we have a comprehensive strategy on petrol sniffing," said Warren Snowden, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia and Indigenous Affairs in a statement. "If unsniffable petrol is going to be a part of that strategy, it’s no good having gaping holes in its availability."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone and Health Minister Tony Abbott, who both signed the plan, agree that Opal fuel is not going to solve the problem. "It is an important part of a bigger solution that involves support programs and community commitment to tackle destructive behavior," they said in a joint press release.

On October 5, Northern Territory Country Liberal Party Senator Nigel Scullion won broad support across party lines for a Senate committee inquiry into petrol sniffing problems. According to a press release from Scullion’s office, the Community Affairs References Committee will look for meaningful solutions through wide-ranging stakeholder input.
"It is absolutely essential that the Committee hears from those with a direct interest and experience dealing with petrol sniffing issues," said Scullion. "This is our best opportunity yet to address a serious problem affecting too many individuals, families and communities."

High petrol sniffing is especially prevalent in the remote regions of the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia, where officials support the federally proposed plan to create a zero tolerance policy for petrol traffickers. The plan will also create alternative activities for Aboriginal youth, and contains provisions for treatment and rehabilitation, communication, and educational programs to strengthen communities.

According to most reports, the plan to promote the use of Opal fuel in these areas is lauded by the Aboriginal community and political supporters alike. But community members say they would like the government to stop lagging behind on reaching the most affected, usually remote, areas with the fuel.

"We need to do everything we can to stop this hugely destructive habit and the development of Opal fuel offers the opportunity to stop petrol sniffing," said Vaughan Johnson, Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy in a press statement. "We need to encourage it se in remote areas where sniffing is out of control."

The Committee is expected to travel to communities throughout Central Australia and is due to make Senate recommendations by November 9, 2005.


Kofi Annan Speaks on Earthquake Relief, Hussein Trial and Uganda "Genocide"

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday at a press conference that more aid is needed from the international community for earthquake victims in Pakistan to prevent "a second, massive wave of death." He said that the latest death toll stands at 42,000 with at least 67,000 injured, but fears that these numbers will go up as rescue teams go into more remote area.

"That will require more funds: so far, donors have made firm commitments for only 12 per cent, or $37 million, of our appeal for $312 million," said Annan. "If you add loose commitments, you get a total of $84 million, or 27 per cent. In comparison, the Tsunami Flash Appeal was more than 80 per cent funded within 10 days after the disaster."

So far only Arab states have made significant donations to the efforts. Annan is calling on Western governments to make pledges at the emergency donors’ conference in Geneva convened by the United Nations next week.

"There are no excuses," said Annan. "If we are to show ourselves worthy of calling ourselves members of humankind, we must rise to this challenge. Our response will be no less than a measure of our humanity."

Annan said that he is satisfied with the cooperation between India and Pakistan on dealing with the victims. There has been talk that there will be free crossing at the Line of Control in Kashmir.

"I think that, when it comes to saving lives, we should not let politics and other disagreements get in the way," said Annan. "And I think the reactions of both leaders and the two Governments have been exemplary, and I hope other Governments around the world will follow that example when they find themselves in a similar situation."

On the Saddam Hussein trial Annan said that "people who have committed crimes against humanity will have to be brought to justice, but the proceedings and the work of the court must conform to international standards."

Finally Annan was not able to say that the situation in Uganda can be declared a genocide yet as he has not investigated the situation thoroughly yet. There have been reports of children being kidnapped by rebels.

"We have had frequent contacts with President Museveni and Kony, the leader of the rebels –- not me directly, but there is a group working for a peace process," said Annan. "Clearly, it has not yet succeeded, and now it is being taken up by the International Criminal Court. So the situation is becoming a bit more complicated, but we must not drop our efforts for peace in the region. "


Saddam Hussein's Day in Court

The trial of Saddam Hussein began today in Baghdad in the same building that once served as the National Command Headquarters for Hussein's Baath Party. The former Iraq leader defiantly answered questions about the validity of the trial before pleading not guilty.

The case concerns the rounding up and execution of 148 men in Dujail, a Shia village north of Baghdad, following an attempt there on Saddam Hussein's life.

Reaction from the Arab world has been slow because this is the middle of Ramadan. However the consensus is that many people in the Middle East quietly support the idea of bringing their leaders to account, though few openly voice such dangerous sentiments. However most are skeptical about US intentions in the trial. Observers are wondering if Hussein can have a fair trial.

“For nearly two decades, we have called for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to be brought to justice,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program, who is leading a team of trial observers in Baghdad. “We have grave concerns that the court will not ensure fair trials. To ensure justice and its own legitimacy, the court must fix these deficiencies.”

In a 18-page report produced by Human Right Watch, problems have been found with the Suprem Iraqi Criminal Tribunal and its statutes.

• No requirement to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
• Inadequate protections for the accused to mount a defense on conditions equal to those enjoyed by the prosecution.
• Disputes among Iraqi political factions over control of the court, jeopardizing its appearance of impartiality.
• A draconian requirement that prohibits commutation of death sentences by any Iraqi official, including the president, and compels execution of the defendant within 30 days of a final judgment.

The Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal has the authority to try Iraqis for grave crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Funded mostly by the U.S. government, the court will try some of the most notorious human rights violations that took place under the previous government - including the poison gas attacks against Iraqi Kurds and the brutal suppression of the 1991 rebellion in the south.

“We want these trials to succeed. We will be carefully monitoring the proceedings,” said Dicker. “We hope the court respects the right of the accused to mount a vigorous defense.”

The trial has been adjourned until November 28.


Obituary: Milton Obote 1924-2005

Milton Obote was the first prime minister of a post colonial Uganda, replacing the British colonial administration. He is most famous for being overthrown by Idi Amin in 1971 and regaining power in 1980, only to subject his citizens to death and civil war.

The former construction worker came to power in the the Uganda People's Congress. As prime minister, Obote was implicated in a gold smuggling plot, together with Idi Amin, then deputy commander of the Ugandan armed forces. When the the Parliament demanded an investigation of Obote and the ousting of Amin, he suspended the constitution, abolishing the roles of leaders of Uganda's five tribal kingdoms and giving himself almost unlimited power under state-of-emergency rulings; he had several members of his cabinet arrested. Obote's judiciary cleared him of the gold-smuggling charges, but the episode created tensions between him and Mutesa, who was critical of Obote for suspending the constitution. Obote staged a coup against Mutesa and had himself declared president on March 2, 1966.

His socialist ideals made him unpopular with the Western powers, particularly Britain, and his regime was greatly destabilized by the military. In 1971 he was deposed by his army chief, Idi Amin, after which he fled to Tanzania. The British government of Edward Heath is known to have given at least tacit approval for the coup.

After Idi Amin was ousted an election was held and Obote's UPC party was reelected. Nonetheless other political parties believed the elections were rigged, leading to many guerilla rebellions, including Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army.

It has been estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 people died as a result of fighting between Obote's UNLA and the Guerillas.

Obote was deposed in 1985 and Museveni to control of Uganda. After his downfall Obote went into exile in Zambia, claiming her would return to Ugandan politics soon.

The war during the 1980s between Museveni's rebel forces and the then President Milton Obote's national army left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.

But Mr Obote's death led to a change of heart by the Ugandan government.

The BBC's Will Ross in Kampala says that the cabinet was reportedly split over the matter, but when the Ugandan government announced a state funeral for the former president, many Ugandans were surprised.

He says that regional leaders may have played a role in persuading the Ugandan government to honour Milton Obote because of the support he offered during the 1960s to exiled South Africans fighting against white minority rule.


Zimbabwe Watch: Mugabe, 'Unholy Men,' and Colonial Injustices

Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe got a round of applause after giving a speech at a UN food policy meeting in Rome denouncing George W Bush and Tony Blair as being 'unholy men.'

The Rome conference is being held to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Mugabe is officially banned from travelling to the European Union, but is only allow to enter for UN meetings.

Western governments and human rights organizations have accused Mugabe of starving his people and as Tony Hall, US ambassador to the FAO said, " food has been used as a weapon."

It is reported that Zimbabwe imports at least 37,000 tons of maize (corn) a week to feed an estimated 3.8 million people, mostly in rural areas.

Mugabe used most of his speech to lambast the two leaders.

"Must we allow these men, the two unholy men of our millennium, who in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini formed [an] unholy alliance, form an alliance to attack an innocent country?" asked Mr Mugabe, apparently referring to Iraq.

"The voice of Mr Bush and the voice of Mr Blair can't decide who shall rule in Zimbabwe, who shall rule in Africa, who shall rule in Asia, who shall rule in Venezuela, who shall rule in Iran, who shall rule in Iraq," he said.

Mugabe sees his land reforms, which enable the government to seize hundreds of farms owned mostly by white Zimbabweans, as a way to correct 'colonial injustices.'

He blamed agricultural subsidies offered to farm produce from developed countries for crippling "the development of agriculture in developing countries."

Delegates applauded Mr Mugabe at the end of his speech. Mugabe also received a congratulatory hug from Venezuela president Hugo Chavez.


Post Colonial Moment: Millions More Movement

Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke to thousands of attendees about foreign policy yesterday in Washington DC during the Millions More Movement, the tenth anniversay commemoration of the Million Man March.

"It makes me sick to see Prime Minister Blair offered Africa $40 billion dollars in debt relief, and we applaud this," said Farrakhan. "The British have robbed Africa, the Carribbean, isles of the Pacific of trillions of dollars. Then they offer $40 billion and you think this is progress?"

Farrakhan also disagreed with the late Pope John Paul II's request to forgive white Christians for their mistreatment of the "indigenous people around the world." "Pope John Paul is not wrong to ask for forgiveness," he said, "but first admit the crime...Acknowledge that the Church did wrong, as the Church did wrong with sexual deviance. Repent for what you have done and forgiveness will come out of the hearts of the indigenous people if the Church atones. By atonement we mean not just asking for forgiveness, but giving back to the indigenous people for what you have taken from them."

Farrakhan would like to see Europe atone for what it has done to Africa by forgiving all debt and rebuilding the infrastructure there. He also purposed that African Americans take the initiative to help Africa.

"We haven't given up on Africa," he said. "We should reclaim it and help rebuild, and Africa what it is destined to become.

He also thinks the Carribbean islands need to unite against poverty. "Why are we educating them so they can serve rich black white and brown people who come to lay up there for a week or two," he said. "We don't want to be the servants of others if we can't be the servants of ourselves."


Zimbabwe Watch:Asylum Seeker Wins Case

A Zimbabwean has won his battle against deportation in a test case ruling that puts in doubt the United Kingdom's policy of returning failed asylum seekers to the country. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has ruled that an unnamed man will be at rish if he is sent back.

However British officials feel that this is opening a flood gate giving asylum to all who seek it now.

"This judgement drives an entire coach and horses through that and leaves the entire system open to abuse," said immigration minister Tony McNulty.

However shadow home secretary David Davis said the decision was made necessary by the "abject failure" of the government's policy on Zimbabwe.

An Amnesty International spokeswoman said it hoped the Home Office would "recognise today's judgement when making future decisions about the claims of Zimbabwean asylum seekers".

A ban on deportations to Zimbabwe to Britain, which had been in force for two years, was lifted last November. Zimbabwean asylum seekers staged hunger strikes and public protests at immigration centres earlier this year. Some 12,000 people from Zimbabwe claimed asylum in the UK between 2002 and 2004.


Mary Frances Berry discusses her new book

Her Writing is Powerful, Is True
Author and Civil Rights Leader Honors a Heritage

By Talia Whyte
Special to the BPV September 22, 2005

Mary Frances Berry, former chairwoman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, came to Boston last Wednesday to discuss her latest book. The event was hosted by the Museum of Afro American History and the Center for New Words. My Face Is Black Is True is the story of Callie House, a poor African American laundress from Tennessee who led the first movement to secure reparations for former slaves during the beginning of the 20th century.

"This book really was a labor of love," said Berry. "I found out about her when I was at a reception some years ago and a gentleman started chatting to me. The guy said that he met a 90-year-old man from the South who knew of this woman who lead a reparations movement."

Berry was intrigued by this woman’s works and started to do intensive research into her life. Berry wrote an article about House for an obscure journal and abruptly abandoned her research. She regained interest in House about ten years ago when the discussion about reparations started up again in the African American community. Berry wanted to bring historical context to the highly contested debate.

Callie House led a 30-year campaign to secure pensions for former slaves, which started with the creation of the Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension Association in 1899 to also provide aid to the poor and the sick. House knew first hand the need for pensions to support former slaves left destitute and as a reward for blacks that served in the Union army. At this time the US government only provided pensions to white Union veterans and sought to compensate Southern plantation owners. Coincidentally as her organization grew, so did the ire of the US government. House and her supporters charged with mail fraud and subjected to scrutiny, harassment, and prosecution.

Berry got the book’s title from a letter House wrote to the government asking why it is harassing the association. "She didn’t know why they [US government] bothering them," said Berry. "She was puzzled. Poor people have rights under the government. So she wrote this letter to the government stating that ‘my face is black is true but its not my fault but I love my name and my honest in dealing with my fellow man.’ And I believe in the constitution."

The association had to change their tactics and filed a lawsuit arguing that cotton tax levied to go towards former slaves. The suit was lost because of government immunity. House would later be convicted by an all white male jury and imprisoned for her activities. Ironically she was incarcerated in the same prison with another famed contemporary, activist Emma Goldman. House defied the definitions of race, class and sex during that time. However, she is almost forgotten in most African American historical research. Berry admits that it was hard to find background information on House because the lives of poor people during that time were not documented.

"If it wasn’t for the government harassing the association, I wouldn’t have had such a great body of evidence which I could use," said Berry. "Not only was I able to do this because I was a historian, but because I was a lawyer so I know what legal documents to look at. If her letters to the government were not in those file, then I wouldn’t have been able to any information on her."

Berry also notes that House’s absence from history may also be due to the African American community’s inclination to celebrate other blacks of a certain class and respectability.

"For years in the African American community we like to write about people who W.E.B. Dubois would call the ‘talented tenth,’" said Berry. "These were well educated, respectable people. Callie House was not respected; she was a troublemaker. She was a woman who left her children in the care of her brother. She didn’t care about what people said about her. She didn’t have the respectability at that time that historians wanted to talk about."

Now that times and sensibilities have changed Berry hopes there will now be resurgence in learning about House’s life.

"African Americans should give praise to this woman," said Berry. "This woman’s legacy lives on…She gave her heart and soul to this movement and it was worth the sacrifice."


Zimbabwe Watch: AIDS rate declines

A preliminary UN report shows that HIV infection rates have actually been on the decline in Zimbabwe over the last five years.

According to a UNAIDS review, the prevalence rate among pregnant women has decreased from 24.6% to 21.3% between 2002 and 2004.

The review attributes its conclusions to growing awareness of the disease and condom use.

While UNAIDS sees the evidence of decline as encouraging, it also stresses that this is not the time to be complacent. HIV rates in Zimbabwe are still among the highest in the world and the rates can rise again if underlying vulnerabilities are not addressed accurately. Such vulnerabilities include gender inequity, poverty and population mobility.


Pakistani Press reacts to Earthquake Relief

An estimated 30, 000 people have died in region where the worst earthquake in a century occured. Similar to reaction of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, the press in Pakistan is beginning to point fingers at the government for slow response.

"The human tragedy this killer earthquake has wrought is, by every reckoning, of colossal dimension," said Pakistan's The Frontier Post. " And the administration was expected to act extraordinarily to cope with this horrendous aftermath. But it has not. It has palpably, flatly failed to rise up to the challenge. Public complaints are increasingly pouring in from all around the affected areas for its inertia and inaction."

"It is the prime responsibility of the government to dispatch rescue teams to the worst affected and inaccessible areas," said Ausaf newspaper. "It should also restore communication systems as soon as possible and provide tents, blankets and food to those affected. Despite numerous announcements by the government, many people are still miserably awaiting help."

Other newspapers such as the Daily Times came to the defense of the government. "TV channels have subjected the government to criticism and unconsciously helped spread the impression that earthquake tragedy was caused by the government simply because rescue work did not begin quickly enough. The truth is that no government anywhere, but particularly in the Third World, can be prepared for large-scale post-disaster management... Fortunately, the government in Islamabad is much better placed financially than past governments to cope with the aftermath of the tragedy."

Khabrain newspaper seeks the Muslims world to step up to the plate with aid. "After the devastating earthquake, other countries have offered aid and co-operation to Pakistan. China said it would send technical experts for rescue work, Turkey said it would send medicines and Britain also offered help. But an active part should be played by the Muslim countries, and particularly Pakistan's own people. The government alone can do nothing to rehabilitate those affected, it is the duty of the entire nation to come forward and take an active part in the relief and rescue efforts."

The Nation would like both Pakistani and Indian politicians to put aside their difference and put the best interest of the victims first. "As the nation attempts to pick up the pieces after this great disaster, nothing is more important than unity. The entire spectrum of civil society, shedding aside all differences, must come forward with maximum effort for the relief operation. Indeed, at this point, whatever help can be managed across the Line of Control [between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir], should be given and accepted."


Out South: Queer Asia Rising

The BBC is reporting that a gay couple in Pakistan took part in what is considered the country's first gay marriage. Witnesses said a 42-year-old Afghan refugee held a marriage ceremony with a local tribesman of 16 in the remote Khyber region bordering Afghanistan.

When news broke that the wedding occurred a tribal council ordered the couple to leave the area or be subject to execution. Gay marriage is illegal in conservative Muslim Pakistan. A gay couple caught having sex were lashed publicly in the Khyber region in May.

Despite the fact that homosexuality is still taboo, it is quite common in Pakistan. There is an increasing number of gay couples living together in Karachi and Islamabad.

According to a local Urdu-language newspapers, "the marriage was held amid usual pomp and show associated with a tribal wedding."

Malik Waris Khan, a prominent local politician and former federal minister, confirmed to AFP that the marriage had taken place.

"I checked the report with people in Tirah Valley and they confirmed it," he said.

Meanwhile pop star Elton John has donated more than $40,000 (£25,000) to the leading gay rights group in Nepal to help the fight against HIV/Aids.

Sunil Babu Panta, the group's head, said the money would help fund clinics for HIV positive gay men and women.

The World Health Organisation estimated in 2002 that more than 60,000 people were infected with HIV in Nepal.

Homosexuality is legal in Nepal, but gays and lesbians often face discrimination, he said.


Zadie Smith In Her Write Mind

Postcolonial heroine Zadie Smith came to Boston recently to discuss her latest book, On Beauty. She told a packed auditorium about her thoughts on her writing technique and American culture. Unlike her first book, White Teeth, the inspiration for her book came from her brief time as a teaching fellow at Harvard University.

"I was living in America for a while," said Smith. "I had an idea that I wanted the book to be split. It was lovely to live somewhere else. I have lived on the same street in London all my entire life. Part of the book takes place in London. It was a cultural shock to move, and it proved to be fruitful."

Smith's decision to write about America's cultural wars came naturally to her. She was also amazed by how Amercans are "steeped in history," as opposed to Britons. Smith herself got in trouble recently for her dismay of her home country, which she says the media took out of content.

The author, who lives in north London, told New York magazine England was full of "stupidity" and "vulgarity". "When I think of England now I just think about the England that I loved, and it's just gone," she said.

Smith says that she meant that she was going through cultural shock to see London changing. "I have a fondness for England," said Smith in Boston. "When anything changes I freak out." She also added that she will never permanently move away from London.

One of the things Smith does like about London is Charles Dickens, who the literary world compares her work to.

"When I grew up Dickens was my hero," said Smith. "Maybe it is our Englishness. Anyone I am a fan of usually turns up in my writing."

The inspiration for her latest book the comparisons are now being made of EM Forster.

"He was not one of the greatest minds in literature," said Smith of Forster, "but he was one of the greatest novelists because he the greatest intuitive about people, which is an important thing to have as a writer."

A new attribute in the new book is the introduction of women characters who aren't thinly portrayed as in her previous books. Her relationship with women has changed over the years.

"I always called myself a feminist." said Smith. "But realized recently that I didn't like women that much. I grew up with men around me. Now that I am older I realized that I didn't really like 14-year-old girls. I have a better understanding of women now."

However, Smith goes back to the perennial issue of race and cultural sensitivity. While in America she noticed how the races don't interact with each other.

"Interracial couples are so common in England," said Smith. "Brown girls like me we are practically our own race. Whereas mixed race people are less common in America. Interracial dating became more acceptable in the US about ten years ago. Whereas this was never an issue in England.

A attendee in the auditorium asked if she could cast the actors for the movie version of On Beauty. "I think Queen Latifah would be a good choice for Kiki," said Smith. "I think she [Latifah] is not given enough good roles to play in."


Turkey and EU hail membership talks

After 40 years of political manuvering, Turkey finally took its first steps towards requesting membership to the European Union. However the move is not universially excepted in Europe and in Turkey particularly.

Agreement was reached on the framework for the membership at the last minute. The turning point came when Austria withdrew its demand that Turkey be offered an option short of full membership - a possibility flatly rejected by Turkey.

Austria's Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has defended his country's position, saying he was "proud" of its tough stance. Austria eventually thawed at the idea that Croatia's membership being up for discussion.

Mixed feelings about the milestone were coming out of Istanbul this morning as concerns about changing Turkey's cultural and social habits to accommodate EU ministers surfaced. In light of the War on Terror Turkey's creditials will be particularly scrutinized.

Interviews of Turkish citizens from the BBC:

"I do not want to join the EU, it's a christian club!" fumed Yavuz, a newsagent in the heart of the European side of this city that spans two continents. "Europe has been hypocritical since Ottoman times. They don't have good intentions towards us. They only want our land. They will never take us in."

"I don't feel good about the EU now," Ayshe admitted. "They will give us such long dates to become members. They will make us come crawling and then wring everything out of us."