Saturday, July 30, 2005

You Can't Fight Terrorism With Racism

There are Paul Sperry, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes, and there are Colbert I. King, Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert amidst the myriad of other contrasting columnists. Some writes with hatred disguised in pious liberty, and some writes with genuine integrity. In America, the land of freedom and opportunities for immigrants for the last few centuries, the voice of malevolence is growing, but the hope is not dead, it is still thriving in the voice and words of sincere men and women whose conscience propel them lashing out to those bigots who want to see a demented America. These repugnant scribes want to see an America where hatred triumphs over sanity and tolerance. But don't you worry, dear readers. The voice of pure innocence is still bold and proudly erected in America over bigots and bigotry.


Regards,
Sohel

You Can't Fight Terrorism With Racism

By Colbert I. King

Saturday, July 30, 2005; Page A19

During my day job I work under the title of deputy editorial page editor. That entails paying more than passing attention to articles that appear on the op-ed page. Opinion writers, in my view, should have a wide range in which to roam, especially when it comes to edgy, thought-provoking pieces. Still, I wasn't quite ready for what appeared on the op-ed pages of Thursday's New York Times or Friday's Post.

A New York Times op-ed piece by Paul Sperry, a Hoover Institution media fellow ["It's the Age of Terror: What Would You Do?"], and a Post column by Charles Krauthammer ["Give Grandma a Pass; Politically Correct Screening Won't Catch Jihadists"] endorsed the practice of using ethnicity, national origin and religion as primary factors in deciding whom police should regard as possible terrorists -- in other words, racial profiling. A second Times column, on Thursday, by Haim Watzman ["When You Have to Shoot First"] argued that the London police officer who chased down and put seven bullets into the head of a Brazilian electrician without asking him any questions or giving him any warning "did the right thing."



The three articles blessed behavior that makes a mockery of the rights to which people in this country are entitled.

Krauthammer blasted the random-bag-checks program adopted in the New York subway in response to the London bombings, calling it absurd and a waste of effort and resources. His answer: Security officials should concentrate on "young Muslim men of North African, Middle Eastern and South Asian origin." Krauthammer doesn't say how authorities should go about identifying "Muslim men" or how to distinguish non-Muslim men from Muslim men entering a subway station. Probably just a small detail easily overlooked.

All you need to know is that the culprit who is going to blow you to bits, Krauthammer wrote, "traces his origins to the Islamic belt stretching from Mauritania to Indonesia." For the geographically challenged, Krauthammer's birthplace of the suicide bomber starts with countries in black Africa and stops somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. By his reckoning, the rights and freedoms enjoyed by all should be limited to a select group. Krauthammer argued that authorities should work backward and "eliminate classes of people who are obviously not suspects." In the category of the innocent, Krauthammer would place children younger than 13, people older than 60 and "whole ethnic populations" starting with "Hispanics, Scandinavians and East Asians . . . and women," except "perhaps the most fidgety, sweaty, suspicious-looking, overcoat-wearing, knapsack-bearing young women."

Of course, by eliminating Scandinavians from his list of obvious terror suspects, Krauthammer would have authorities give a pass to all white people, since subway cops don't check passengers' passports for country of origin. As for sweaty, fidgety, knapsack-bearing, overcoat-wearing young women who happen to be black, brown or yellow? Tough nuggies, in Krauthammer's book. The age-60 cutoff is meaningless, too, since subway cops aren't especially noted for accuracy in pinning down stages of life. In Krauthammer's worldview, it's all quite simple: Ignore him and his son; suspect me and mine.

Sperry also has his own proxy for suspicious characters. He warned security and subway commuters to be on the lookout for "young men praying to Allah and smelling of flower water." Keep your eyes open, he said, for "a shaved head or short haircut" or a recently shaved beard or moustache. Men who look like that, in his book, are "the most suspicious train passengers."

It appears to matter not to Sperry that his description also includes huge numbers of men of color, including my younger son, a brown-skinned occasional New York subway rider who shaves his head and moustache. He also happens to be a former federal prosecutor and until a few years ago was a homeland security official in Washington. Sperry's profile also ensnares my older brown-skinned son, who wears a very short haircut, may wear cologne at times, and has the complexion of many men I have seen in Africa and the Middle East. He happens to be a television executive. But what the hell, according to Sperry, "young Muslim men of Arab or South Asian origin" fit the terrorist profile. How, just by looking, can security personnel identify a Muslim male of Arab or South Asian origin goes unexplained.

Reportedly, after Sept. 11, 2001, some good citizens of California took out after members of the Sikh community, mistaking them for Arabs. Oh, well, what's a little political incorrectness in the name of national security. Bang, bang -- oops, he was Brazilian. Two young black guys were London bombers: one Jamaican, the other Somalian. Muslim, too. Ergo: Watch your back when around black men -- they could be, ta-dum, Muslims.

So while advocates of racial profiling would have authorities subject men and women of black and brown hues to close scrutiny for criminal suspicion, they would look right past:

· White male Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people, including 19 children, and damaged 220 buildings.

· White male Eric Rudolph, whose remote-controlled bomb killed a woman and an off-duty police officer at a clinic, whose Olympic Park pipe bomb killed a woman and injured more than 100, and whose bombs hit a gay club and woman's clinic.

· White male Dennis Rader, the "bind, torture, kill" (BTK) serial killer who terrorized Wichita for 31 years.

· D.C.-born and Silver Spring-raised white male John Walker Lindh, who converted to Islam and was captured in Afghanistan fighting for the Taliban.

· The IRA bombers who killed and wounded hundreds; the neo-fascist bombers who killed 80 people and injured nearly 300 in Bologna, Italy; and the truck bombings in Colombia by Pedro Escobar's gang.

But let's get really current. What about those non-Arab, non-South Asians without black or brown skins who are bombing apartment buildings, train stations and theaters in Russia. They've taken down passenger jets, hijacked schools and used female suicide bombers to a fare-thee-well, killing hundreds and wounding thousands. They are Muslims from Chechnya, and would pass the Krauthammer/Sperry eyeball test for terrorists with ease. After all, these folks hail from the Caucasus; you can't get any more Caucasian than that.

What the racial profilers are proposing is insulting, offensive and -- by thought, word and deed, whether intentional or not -- racist. You want estrangement? Start down that road of using ethnicity, national origin and religion as a basis for police action and there's going to be a push-back unlike any seen in this country in many years.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Fear

You may say it madness, insanity, or whatever word you like to use to define this recent phenomenon of bombings around the world. Or you may simply turn off your television or radio set, log off internet, and immerse in mind numbing music blaring from your boosted speakers on the wall instead, but you may not deny the underneath fear creeping spine and chilling sensation in blood witnessing the tremor on earth like a forewarning earthquake, as if a monstrous truck is rushing toward your way and you have no where to go in this abandoned road of discarded humanity.

Seeing the picture of a grief stricken petrified daughter, screaming in tearful agonies squatting just beside her bullet ripped lifeless father in Iraq, or the panicked commuters in London fleeing from recent spade of bombings, and even the collapsed buildings and twisted, burned metals of luxurious cars in Egypt's most secured resort place, invoke terror in its most elemental form.

And if you are a colored person like me, you may think twice taking any public transportation, you must have thick skin to avoid glaring suspicions from your fellow travelers, or their instant moving away from your closeness to a more distant secured place as if you are an untouchable, maligned with deadly disease, only cured in isolation or incarceration in above the law Gitmos.

Your heart-felt condemnation is suspected. Your good gestures toward victims are openly mocked.

You must not run. You must not wear out of "normal" clothing even if you are the Samba loving Brazilian, or you may simply get multiple shots in your head from over zealous "security" force.

You are marked.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Gawking the Pain and Deaths of Others

When bombs blasted through London subways and double-decker bus, I grimaced. No not again. And this time around, it rings to home more closely. My sister is on a study group from her university in Europe for the last few months, and she will be visiting London in the coming days from Italy and France.

That’s what human beings are. When violence seems to be a thing of distant shore, almost abstract in its taste and texture, we feel comfortable in nurturing various kinds of theoretical aspects of wars and terrorism. But when one’s dearest one has remotest chance of being victim, less alone being the unfortunate one, one sees thing from a different perspective.

Yes, there were deadlier attacks and violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and occupied Palestine, Israel, Sudan, Rwanda, Vietnam, South America and many other parts of our world after the deadlier Second World War inferno. Innocent men, women and children were ripped apart from their earthly flesh and bones by powerful explosions of hundreds of pounds of bombs, swishing bullets and bulldozers, or simple primitive machetes were used in fracturing skulls or puncturing lungs and hearts, but that doesn’t provide any humane reasons whatsoever in killing other innocent men, women, and children.

In the times of ignorance like dark ages before (even after) Christianity’s reformation or even in pre-Islamic Arabia (and after), retribution, eye for an eye, was the norm for most intra and inter tribal disputes, witches were burnt to ground, slaves were lynched, defeated forces and civilians of a tribe or nation decimated.

It is not to say that we “moderns” are doing any better either. We shroud our eye for an eye in the cloak of war on terrorism, or “Jihad” or “Crusade” against the “infidels” or “heathens”. The difference is that we have become more playful. We hide our true ugly intentions under the disguise of spreading freedom and liberty or proselytizing religion or beliefs of choice.

Ours are collapsing civilizations, from East to West, North to South. Ours is a dying race cataleptic to see its own making destruction while being secretly euphoric gawking the pain and deaths of others.

For the sake of our loved ones, we must stop!

Regards,
Sohel

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Profits, A Penny At a Time

I haven't read C. K. Prahalad's "path breaking book" that David Ignatius describes in his Washington Post column, but it sounds impressive in its theme and contents. There are so much tears (real or fake) abound about the plight of poor and dismal poverty, serious thoughts on how to reduce poverty are emerging, especially a few recent books including C. K. Prahalad's might be worth spending time on.


Regards,
Sohel


Profits, A Penny At a Time

By David Ignatius
Post
Wednesday, July 6, 2005; A17

At the Group of Eight summit this week in Gleneagles, Scotland, the leaders of rich countries will be talking about how they can aid poor countries. That's a noble mission, but a remarkable new book argues that it misses the point. Treating the poor as wards of the global economy ignores the fact that they are a vast market -- and that companies can profit right now by serving their needs.

"If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up," writes C.K. Prahalad, a professor at the University of Michigan Business School, in his new study, "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits."

Prahalad turns the usual view of the global economy upside down. He argues that the 4 billion people who live on less than $2 a day make up a huge, underserved market. Companies that learn how to make and distribute good products cheaply for these consumers can be very successful. They may earn their money a penny or a fraction of a penny at a time, but when you have 4 billion potential consumers, those pennies can add up.

"Four billion poor can be the engine of the next round of global trade and prosperity," Prahalad argues. He calculates that the purchasing power of nine big developing countries -- China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa and Thailand -- is equivalent to $12.5 trillion. "This is not a market to be ignored."

What makes Prahalad's book a revelation is that he includes case studies of companies that are serving this "Bottom of the Pyramid" market. These success stories begin with a recognition that poor people are like everyone else -- they just have less money. They're brand-conscious, for example, and when they want shampoo, they are just as eager as anyone else to buy a high-end product such as Procter & Gamble's Pantene. The problem is, they can't afford to buy a whole bottle. But P&G learned it could make good money selling shampoo in India in single-serve sachets.

Prahalad argues that "a single-serve revolution" is sweeping poor countries, as companies learn to sell small packets of shampoo, ketchup, tea, coffee or aspirin. In India, a single serving of shampoo or tea might cost the equivalent of a penny; a serving of ketchup or fruit juice might cost two cents; detergent or cookies might cost four cents. The margins might be low for each unit, but we're talking volume here, on an unprecedented scale.

One of Prahalad's case studies involves marketing of hand soap in India by Hindustan Lever Ltd., a unit of the global giant Unilever. The company realized it couldn't sell to the bottom of the pyramid unless it found cheap ways to distribute its products. So it created a network of hundreds of thousands of shakti amma ("empowered mothers") who sell Lifebuoy soap and other products in their villages through an Indian version of Tupperware parties.

Another case study is a Brazilian company called Casas Bahia, which sells high-quality appliances to poor people. Through innovative financing and credit-rating strategies, the company has achieved a very low default rate -- just 8.5 percent compared with 15 percent for its competitors, according to Prahalad. Poor Brazilian consumers are intensely loyal to Casas Bahia because they feel the company cares about them.

Some of Prahalad's most startling examples involve innovations in health care. An Indian company called Jaipur Foot makes artificial limbs for poor villagers. Such prosthetic devices can cost $8,000 each in the United States; Jaipur Foot manages to create them for $30 each. A company called Aravind Eye Care System has used specialization and mass marketing to cut the cost of state-of-the-art cataract surgery to $25, compared with the $3,000 often charged in the United States.

Prahalad's book is mind-blowing because it makes you think about markets in a different way. It's a developing-world version of Chris Anderson's much-discussed article "The Long Tail" in Wired magazine last year about e-commerce, in which he argued that there's more money to be made in millions of niche markets than from a few mega-hits at the high end.

The top of the global pyramid is a mature market, saturated with competing companies and products. I suspect Prahalad is right that the big money will be made in serving the bottom of pyramid with its billions of eager consumers. If the G-8 summiteers have any spare time for reading this week, they might take a look at Prahalad's path-breaking book.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/05/AR2005070501289.html

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Lung Cancer

Every minute progress in battling lung cancer is a success, no matter how marginal that seems to be to the general mass. For a patient of lung cancer, any cancer, 21 months of more longevity with their friends and family, soaking up life's last aesthetic essences, even though going through measured morphin, surgery and chemotherapy, surely a positive aspect of human beings' continuous struggle in combating a disease, cancer in its various forms and shape, that still remains to be a pronounced death sentence for the majority of patients.

Significant numbers of research are being conducted in world's top notch universities around the world, and in time, one can only hope, that complete cure from this all invasive disease will surely emerge, perhaps too late for many, including our generation, too engrossed in raging superficial wars against one another.

Regards,
Sohel

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is such a remorseless killer that any gain against it is reason for applause. That is why the latest news about startling improvements in treating early-stage victims of the most common form of lung cancer is especially heartening.

Lung cancer will kill more than 160,000 Americans this year, making it the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Those found to have the disease have, on average, only a 15 percent chance of surviving for five years, mostly because the cancer has already invaded nearby regions or spread to distant sites by the time it is detected.

Even when the disease has been detected at a relatively early stage, surgery to cut out the tumor has had only moderate success. Some 20 percent of all lung cancer patients have surgery, but only 30 percent to 60 percent survive for five years after treatment, depending on the size and status of their tumors.


Now a report says that adding chemotherapy after surgery can greatly improve the survival rate. A paper published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine described the results of a 10-year clinical trial in 482 patients, half of whom had received two chemotherapy drugs after surgery.


The patients all had early stages of non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease. Of those given the drugs, cisplatin and vinorelbine, 69 percent were alive five years later, compared with only 54 percent of the control group. Overall, the patients given chemotherapy lived for 94 months, while those who had surgery without the added drugs lived only 73 months.


In a field where gains are often marginal, these advances were hailed as "stunning" and "astonishing" by leading experts. About 50,000 people a year in this country will probably be candidates for the combined surgical and drug treatment. If all of them received the combined treatment, some 7,500 more people per year might survive for five years after treatment, a significant gain.


Still, the overall outlook for lung cancer patients remains gloomy.

There is no accepted screening test to detect lung cancer early, when it is most treatable, and chemotherapy does not work well against the most advanced stages. Only 2 percent to 8 percent of those patients survive for five years.

Smoking remains the main cause of lung cancer, accounting for perhaps 90 percent of the deaths. While smoking rates have been inching down, they are still alarmingly high. The best cure for lung cancer is to prevent it, by not smoking and by avoiding the exhalations of those who do.

The Two Wars of the Worlds

I am one of the lucky ones to see The War of the Worlds in its first week of release. Spielberg has made a scary movie, tension filled and heart pumping action drama, non-stop, overall a terrific movie must be seen this year, in my humble view.

I am also one of the lucky ones not to see George Walker Bush's out of reality speech last week when he invoked 911 five times and tried to link the Iraq war with it. I didn't miss much, I believe. I glanced over his speech found in various online newspapers, and quite literally found myself choked with laughter though being aware of the grim reality of Iraq war in seeing Bush acting like that old shepherd boy whose fake cries for repeated non-existent wolves became the thing of mockery to his peers that quite literally cost him dearly when the moment of real terror arrived.

In War of the Worlds, Tim Robbin's brief but powerful acting was memorable along with his profound words: "Occupations always fail". And it did in Spielberg's modernized version of H.G. Wells' famous old story, the fierce tripod weapons of aliens, so powerful in their extermination of world populace, so devastating in overpowering force, but in the end imploded, fell belly up and down, became useless metals and lifeless long eyed and large headed organic aliens in heaps and piles of their own created destructions.

Regards,
Sohel

The Two Wars of the Worlds

ON the morning after George W. Bush spoke to the nation from Fort Bragg, Americans started marching off to Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds." Both halves of this double feature invoked 9/11, perfectly timed for this particular holiday. Ever since "Jaws," a movie set on the July Fourth weekend, broke box office records 30 summers ago, Independence Day has come to stand for terror as much as for freedom.

Decide for yourself if "War of the Worlds" is more terrifying than "Jaws." Either way, it's scarier than the president's speech. Yet the discrepancy between Mr. Spielberg's ability to whip up fear and Mr. Bush's inability isn't merely a matter of aesthetics. On Independence Day 2005, this terror gap is an ideal barometer for gauging the waning political power of a lame-duck president waging what increasingly looks like a lame-duck war.

As we saw on Tuesday night, doomsday isn't the surefire hit it used to be for Mr. Bush. Now that the rhetorical arsenal of W.M.D.'s and mushroom clouds is bare, he had little choice but to bring back that oldie but goodie, 9/11, as the specter of the doom that awaits us if we don't stay the course - his course - in Iraq. By the fifth time he did so, it was hard not to think of that legendary National Lampoon cover: "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog."

Planned or not, the sepulchral silence of Mr. Bush's military audience was the perfect dazed response to what was literally a summer rerun. The president gave almost the identical televised address, albeit with four fewer 9/11 references, at the Army War College in Pennsylvania in May 2004. It's so tired that this time around even the normally sympathetic Drudge site gave higher billing to reviews of "War of the Worlds." Fewer TV viewers tuned in than for any prime-time speech in Mr. Bush's presidency. A good thing too, since so much of what he said was, as usual, at odds with reality. The president pledged to "prevent Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban" a full week after Newsweek and The New York Times reported on a new C.I.A. assessment that the war may be turning Iraq into an even more effective magnet and training ground for Islamic militants than Afghanistan was for Al Qaeda in the 1980's and 90's.

"War of the Worlds" makes as many references to 9/11 as Mr. Bush did. The alien attack on America is the work of sleeper cells; the garments of the dead rain down on those fleeing urban apocalypse; poignant fliers are posted for The Missing. There is also a sterling American military that rides to the rescue. Deep in the credits for "War of the Worlds" is a thank-you to the Department of Defense and some half-dozen actual units that participated in the movie, from the Virginia Army National Guard to a Marine battalion from Camp Pendleton, Calif. Indeed, Mr. Spielberg seems to have had markedly more success in recruiting extras for his film than the Pentagon has had of late in drumming up troops for Iraq.

That's not the only way that "War of the Worlds" shows up Mr. Bush. In not terribly coded dialogue, the film makes clear that its Americans know very well how to distinguish a war of choice like that in Iraq from a war of necessity, like that prompted by Al Qaeda's attack on America. Tim Robbins - who else? - pops up to declare that when aliens occupy a country, the "occupations always fail." Even Tom Cruise's doltish teenage screen son is writing a school report on "the French occupation of Algeria."

Mr. Spielberg's movie illuminates, too, how Mr. Bush has flubbed the basic storytelling essential to sustain public support for his Iraq adventure. The president has made a tic of hammering in melodramatic movie tropes: good vs. evil, you're with us or you're with the terrorists, "wanted dead or alive," "bring 'em on," "mission accomplished." When you relay a narrative in that style, the audience expects you to stick to the conventions of the genre; the story can end only with the cavalry charging in to win the big final battle. That's how Mr. Spielberg deploys his platoons, "Saving Private Ryan"-style, in "War of the Worlds." By contrast, Mr. Bush never marshaled the number of troops needed to guarantee Iraq's security and protect its borders; he has now defined "mission accomplished" down from concrete victory to the inchoate spreading of democracy. To start off sounding like Patton and end up parroting Woodrow Wilson is tantamount to ambushing an audience at a John Wayne movie with a final reel by Frank Capra.

Both Mr. Bush's critics and loyalists at times misunderstand where his failure leaves America now. The left frets too much that the public just doesn't get it - that it is bamboozled by the administration and won't see the light until it digests the Downing Street memo. But even if they couldn't bring themselves to vote for John Kerry, most Americans do get it. A majority of the country view the Iraq war as "not worth it" and going badly. They intuitively sense that as USA Today calculated on Friday, there have been more U.S. military deaths (roughly a third more) in the year since Iraq got its sovereignty than in the year before. Last week an ABC News/Washington Post survey also found that a majority now believe that the administration "intentionally misled" us into a war - or, in the words of the Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration "fixed" the intelligence to gin up the mission.

Meanwhile, the war's die-hard supporters, now in the minority, keep clinging to the hope that some speech or Rovian stunt or happy political development in the furtherance of democratic Iraqi self-government can turn public opinion around. Dream on. The most illuminating of all the recent poll numbers was released by the Pew Research Center on June 13: the number of Americans who say that "people they know are becoming less involved emotionally" with news of the war has risen from 26 percent in May 2004 to 44 percent now. Like the war or not, Americans who do not have a relative or neighbor in the fight are simply tuning Iraq out.

The president has no one to blame but himself. The color-coded terror alerts, the repeated John Ashcroft press conferences announcing imminent Armageddon during election season, the endless exploitation of 9/11 have all taken their numbing toll. Fear itself is the emotional card Mr. Bush chose to overplay, and when he plays it now, he is the boy who cried wolf. That's why a film director engaging in utter fantasy can arouse more anxiety about a possible attack on America than our actual commander in chief hitting us with the supposed truth.

If anything, we're back where we were in the lazy summer of 2001, when the president was busy in Crawford ignoring an intelligence report titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" and the news media were more preoccupied with a rash of "Jaws"-like shark attacks than with Al Qaeda. The sharks are back, and the "missing girl" drama of Natalee Holloway has echoed the Chandra Levy ur-text. Even the World Trade Center is making a comeback, if we are to believe that the new Freedom Bunker unveiled for ground zero might ever be built.

AS those on all sides of the Iraq argument have said, the only way for Mr. Bush to break through this torpor is to tell Americans the truth. Donald Rumsfeld did exactly that when he said a week ago that the insurgency in Iraq might last as long as 12 years. If that's so, then what? Go ahead and argue that pulling out precipitously or setting a precise exit timetable is each a bad option, guaranteeing that Iraq will become even more of a jihad central than this ill-conceived war has already made it. But what is Plan C?

Mr. Bush could have addressed that question honestly on Tuesday night. Instead of once more cooking the books - exaggerating the number of coalition partners, the number of battle-ready Iraqi troops, the amount of non-American dollars in the Iraq kitty - he could have laid out the long haul in hard facts, explaining the future costs in manpower, money and time, and what sacrifices he proposes for meeting them. He could have been, as he is fond of calling himself, a leader.

It was a blown opportunity, and it's hard to see that there will be another chance. Iraq may not be Vietnam, but The Wall Street Journal reports that the current war's unpopularity now matches the Gallup findings during the Vietnam tipping point, the summer of 1968. As the prospect of midterm elections pumps more and more genuine fear into the hearts of Republicans up for re-election, it's the Bush presidency, not the insurgency, that will be in its last throes. Is the commander in chief so isolated in his bubble that he does not realize this? G.W.B., phone home.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Let's Proudly Hail the Rights of All

Selective freedom and selective exclusions, aren't these grand in defining the liberty of selectivity?


Regards,
Sohel


Let's Proudly Hail the Rights of All

By Colbert I. King
Post
Saturday, July 2, 2005; A29

Principles of liberty and justice always draw a focus on the Fourth of July. In 1852 Frederick Douglass used the occasion to bring attention to the gross injustice of slavery, telling an anti-slavery audience in Rochester, N.Y.: "The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. . . . This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn."

On this Fourth of July, what must Muslims in America be thinking? Do they feel within or beyond the pale of our national celebration?

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union released a report last month called "U.S.: Scores of Muslim Men Jailed Without Charge." The groups charge that after Sept. 11, 2001, the Justice Department, operating behind a wall of secrecy, thrust scores of Muslim men living in this country into a world of indefinite detention without charge because of baseless accusations of terrorist links. The men -- 70 in all -- were held as "material witnesses." Sixty-four were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Seventeen were U.S. citizens. All but one were Muslims. Many weren't told why they were arrested and were not given immediate access to lawyers or allowed to see the evidence against them. The report said that court proceedings were conducted against the men behind closed doors, and that all the court documents were sealed. "Almost half of the [men] were never brought before a grand jury or court to testify. The U.S. government has apologized to 13 for wrongfully detaining them. Only a handful were ever charged with crimes related to terrorism," according to the report.

In a time of national peril, protecting America from terrorists should be paramount, you might argue. Yes, but pulling Muslims of Middle Eastern descent off the streets for indefinite incarceration because they have worked, dined or prayed with someone who looks like them or has a similar name and is under suspicion as a possible terrorist -- this is inconsistent with our notions of justice and the full and free exercise of rights. Think about it as we commemorate our anniversary. And please don't pooh-pooh the fear that race or national origin could be used as the basis for the U.S. government's mistreatment of people in this country during a time of war. To do that is to ignore history.

"A Jap's A Jap," read the headline on a Washington Post editorial on April 15, 1943. That was a quotation from an American general concerning thousands of Americans who had been moved against their will from the Pacific Coast after Pearl Harbor because of their racial background. The commander of the evacuation and relocation, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, declared: "A Jap's a Jap. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not. . . . The West Coast is too vital and too vulnerable to take any chances."

And just like that, as The Post observed, without having been charged with any violation of law or sentenced by any court and having been found guilty of nothing except the peculiar pigmentation of their skins, these native-born Americans of Japanese ancestry, known at the time as "Nisei," were rounded up by the government and held indiscriminately.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were still around in World War II. But we also had the panic of Pearl Harbor, governmental zeal and prejudice, as expressed by Sen. Tom Stewart, a Tennessee Democrat who, in arguing for his bill to seize all Japanese living in the United States regardless of where they were born, told the Senate: "Where there is a drop of Japanese blood there is Japanese treachery."

And, of course, the oxen being gored were not America's majority.

The Post, arguing against the continued internment, warned in a Dec. 17, 1943, editorial: "Every American has a direct interest in protecting the rights of these citizens of Japanese ancestry, for our own rights may be vitally linked to theirs."

Continuing the editorial campaign into 1944, The Post observed that excluding Japanese Americans based on nothing more than racial hostility raised an ugly threat to the fundamental principles of American life. "If the freedom of citizens can be restricted because of the spelling of their names, then none of us can claim more than a temporary and illusory hold upon freedom."

Ah, you might say, that was then. It was a time when the Hood River American Legion Post took out an advertisement in a local paper urging Japanese not to return to Hood County, Ore.; when the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Gardena, Calif., refused to put the names of Japanese Americans on the World War II honor rolls and scratched off the names that had been posted; when a barber in Parker, Ariz., refused to cut the hair of a wounded soldier because he was Japanese American.

All that, you say, is in the past -- another time in America. Well, yes. But consider June 2005:

· A man is sentenced for firebombing a mosque in El Paso.

· A Koran is desecrated with human waste in Nashville.

· A bag stuffed with burned Korans is left in front of an Islamic center in Blacksburg, Va.

· A mosque is burned to the ground in Adelanto, Calif.

· An Islamic school is vandalized for the third time in Miami.

As my son Stephen, a former federal prosecutor, would remind me: There is a weakness in contrasting private acts of violence with government activity after Sept. 11, 2001, and during World War II. And, he would want you to know, there are several reasons why people held as material witnesses don't testify before grand juries -- some of which have to do their own decisions. Finally, he posits that some so-called legal analysis of government actions borders on the hysterical and biased. Granting all that, and I do, there is still ample reason to be concerned.

Frederick Douglass asked in the 1852 Fourth of July commemoration: "Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?"

In 2005 the question may be asked once more: Whose Fourth of July is it?

Friday, July 01, 2005

America Held Hostage

This war brought nothing but miseries. Started on deceited premises, this war is about more deceptions, deaths and destructions.

Stop this war. Stop these ubiquitous real terror mongrels.

Regards,
Sohel



America Held Hostage

A majority of Americans now realize that President Bush deliberately misled the nation to promote a war in Iraq. But Mr. Bush's speech on Tuesday contained a chilling message: America has been taken hostage by his martial dreams. According to Mr. Bush, the nation now has no choice except to keep fighting the war he wanted to fight.

Never mind that Iraq posed no threat before we invaded. Now it's a "central front in the war on terror," Mr. Bush says, quoting Osama bin Laden as an authority. And since a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would, Mr. Bush claims, be a victory for Al Qaeda, Americans have to support this war - and that means supporting him. After all, you wage war with the president you have, not the president you want.

But America doesn't have to let itself be taken hostage. The country missed the chance to say no before this war started, but it can still say no to Mr. Bush's open-ended commitment, and demand a timetable for getting out.

I know that this argument will be hard to sell. Despite everything that has happened, many Americans still want to believe that this war can and should be seen through to victory. But it's time to face up to three realities. First, the war is helping, not hurting, the terrorists. Second, the kind of clear victory the hawks promised is no longer possible, if it ever was. Third, a time limit on our commitment will do more good than harm.

Before the war, opponents warned that it would strengthen, not weaken, terrorism. And so it has: a recent C.I.A. report warns that since the U.S. invasion, Iraq has become what Afghanistan was under the Soviet occupation, only more so: a magnet and training ground for Islamic extremists, who will eventually threaten other countries.

And the situation in Iraq isn't improving. "The White House is completely disconnected from reality," said Senator Chuck Hagel, referring to upbeat assessments of progress. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Mr. Hagel claims to believe that we can still win, but it's hard to see how.

More troops might help, but pretty much the whole U.S. Army is already in Iraq, on its way back from Iraq or getting ready to go to Iraq. And the coalition of the willing is shrinking.

Helping Iraqis rebuild their country could help win hearts and minds. But for all the talk of newly painted schools, the fact is that reconstruction, originally stalled by incompetence and corruption, is now stalled by the lack of security. When Ibrahim al-Jafaari, the Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington, he was accompanied by Iraqi journalists. One of them asked Mr. Bush, "When will you begin the reconstruction in Iraq?"

Meanwhile, time is running out for America's volunteer military, which is cracking under the strain of a war it was never designed to fight.

So what would happen if the United States gave up its open-ended commitment to Iraq and set a timetable for withdrawal?

Mr. Bush claims that such a step would "send the wrong signal to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission." But what the troops need to know is that their country won't demand more than they can give. He also claims that it would encourage the insurgents, who will "know that all they have to do is to wait us out." But the insurgents don't seem to need encouragement.

It's far more likely that if the Iraqi government knew that our support had an expiration date, it would both look to its own defenses and, more important, try harder to find a political solution to the insurgency.

The Iraq that emerges once U.S. forces are gone won't bear much resemblance to the free-market, pro-American, Israel-friendly democracy the neocons promised. But it will pose less of a terrorist threat than the Iraq we have now.

Remember, Iraq wasn't a breeding ground for terrorists before we went there. All indications are that the foreign terrorists now infesting Iraq are there on the sufferance of a homegrown insurgency that finds them useful for the moment but that, brutal as it is, isn't interested in an apocalyptic confrontation with the Western world. Once we're no longer targets, the foreign terrorists won't be welcome.

The point is that the presence of American forces in Iraq is making our country less safe. So it's time to start winding down the war.

No Way to Die

No way to die in pain. No way to die in vain. In rain while straining the gasp of fear, the death, oncoming absolute certainty, stokes imagination, of the ultimate terror, of pain and fear of absolute non-existence, or perhaps anger filled "god's" reddened face like scripted conflagration in supposed hell, nastier than the hellish world, where devilish "angels" whip their devilish lashes......shooop, shooop, shooop......punishment for being born.........punishment for not obeying thousands and millennial old scriptures, clear and contradictory, as if, being born is a curse, as if, "nirvana" or "heavens" cannot be achieved without adopting secluded monastery or ancient rituals.

No way to die! But die, we shall!

Regards,
Sohel




No way to Die

We all hope to pass away peacefully, but despite the best efforts of 21st-century medicine, too many of us end our lives in agonising pain and distress. Why are we seemingly incapable of managing death effectively? Sarah Boseley reports, while Alan Rusbridger describes his father's final days 'clouded by his growing pain and sense of betrayal' - and asks, must it be this way?



Death can be a shocking experience. Not because we didn't expect mum or granny to die, but because we had no idea that her last hours or days would be so distressing. There is, I am sure, such a thing as "a good death" - a peaceful, emotional but pain-free interlude in which to say farewell - but start to talk about the way we die and you find that when it comes to their own loved ones, a lot of people have experienced something very different.

In my case, I remember my ferociously independent, professional spinster cousin, 50 years older than me. I went to see her in a nursing home, having been told she might not have long to live, but still expecting a political lecture or some sharp comments on my lifestyle. She was raving, didn't appear to recognise me and called constantly for help from a nurse who didn't come. She appeared to be in pain, and we begged medical staff for drugs. She died a few days later. When I related the story to a colleague, he immediately said the same thing happened with his mother. Everybody I have mentioned it to has a similar story.

Part of the problem is our problem - we the living don't know anything about death. It's hidden from us; we don't know what to expect, what to do and how to behave. But that's not all. In spite of the scanners, the drugs and the humming technological advances of 21st-century medicine, some people still suffer a death that is medieval in its pain and distress. And ironically, as the importance of palliative medicine - the alleviating of pain rather than attempting to cure a condition - becomes better recognised, there is growing evidence that many doctors are now reluctant to give large doses of painkilling drugs, even to people who are manifestly in extreme distress.

Frustrated by this situation, more and more of us are asking why it is illegal to hasten death or ask somebody to do it for us. In April, a House of Lords select committee recommended further examination of the assisted dying for the terminally ill bill, which would have allowed a person who is suffering unbearably to ask for and receive assistance to die, within strict safeguards (the bill fell, but will almost certainly be presented again). Yesterday, the British Medical Association, which has for so long said the duty of a doctor is to preserve life as long as possible, dropped its opposition to physician-assisted suicide and to euthanasia. It is now a matter for society and for the law, it said. The BMA will only seek to safeguard the right of those doctors and patients who do not want to be involved.

In spite of the best intentions, 60% of us end up dying in hospital. Yet hospitals are usually not the place we find most comforting, and oddly, when death is inevitable, it does not necessary follow that the best care should come from doctors and nurses whose job is to make us better, not to help us die. Treating the living and treating the dying are two quite different types of medical care and, says Ged Corcoran, Macmillan consultant in palliative medicine at University Hospital, Aintree, Liverpool. It is not easy to take the crucial decision that a patient is not going to recover, so that their care can switch from an attempt to cure to the relief of symptoms and pain. (There is, however, such a thing as an identifiable "dying phase", he says, lasting two to three days, where the person has clearly changed. In many cases there is "an element of clouding of the consciousness" before death shortly follows.)

Alleviating pain requires an understanding of what it actually is. Pain is an alarm system - a warning that the body is in danger. It is caused by the stimulation of certain sensory nerve endings by chemicals that have been released by the damaged cells. But pain is not only a physical discomfort, relievable by a drug. Dame Cicely Saunders, credited as founder of the hospice movement in the UK, talked of "total pain" - physical pain mingled with and even partly caused by emotional and spiritual pain.

At the North London hospice in Finchley, a place of peace and beauty with rooms full of natural light opening on to gardens and a central courtyard full of plants, medical director and palliative care consultant Christopher Baxter says that everybody has an identifiable pain threshold - a point at which a sensation becomes pain - and that this can be altered with appropriate care. "When somebody comes into the hospice, unless they are in agony, I will change nothing for 24 or 48 hours. With quite a lot of people, the pain will disappear. They are in a warm environment, they are comfortable and they are safe."

Because of the large local Jewish community, the hospice has taken quite a number of Holocaust survivors. "Some of them will have buried it in their psyche, but when they are faced with their own death, they are reliving it. Some of their pain may be reliving the camps."

But if pain is more complex than we sometimes understand it to be, drugs remain the principal mechanism by which to manage it. Morphine, still the most useful pain management medication, is a safe drug when used properly with gradual increases in the dose; the biggest problem is the drowsiness it causes. Benzodiazepines and barbiturates may be needed for the symptoms of dying, which can include suspicion, paranoia and hostility (caused by toxins in the body). "Some patients are in such distress that you can virtually only treat them by sedating them," says Baxter.

However, doctors admit that even where they have the required drugs to alleviate a patient's suffering, they are frequently holding back from doing so. This they attribute to the Shipman effect - the fact that the worst ever serial killer in Britain was a doctor who ended the lives of patients with lethal injections of diamorphine, a controlled drug used legitimately to dull pain at the end of life.

"The Shipman case is having and will continue to have enormous impact on everything we do," says Laurence Gerlis, a central London GP. "It has certainly affected me. I'm very uncomfortable about prescribing controlled drugs at all ... If a well-meaning doctor just gives slightly too much and the morphine appears to have ended life, you could be held as the next Shipman. I certainly worry terribly about that."

Post-Shipman reforms include proposals to train coroners to "think dirty" and not assume that what a doctor tells them of the cause of death is always accurate and truthful. A survey of 1,000 doctors by Medix UK found that 74% thought this would make them more nervous of prescribing pain relief to the dying. "I tend to commence lower, and often return to see the patient - still in pain - and hate myself and curse Dr Shipman for my not having the guts to prescribe a decent dose of analgesia," says one. "There is no doubt that many years of the hospice and palliative care world building up confidence to use opiates well has been set back by Shipman," says John Wiles, consultant in palliative medicine in Bromley and medical director of a hospice.

Good quality palliative care is, of course, about more than drugs. The intention is that those who enter hospices feel loved, supported and listened to. "It was like coming into paradise," says Myra Hersh, a 69-year-old former ITV production manager, whose cancer has spread from breast to lungs to bone. She had never realised, she says, that there could be two different forms of nursing - treatment and care. "An extraordinary calmness has descended on me. When I first got here, I was so nervous, thinking to myself, I'm never going to get out of here. I wasn't walking, I had no appetite and no energy. I was in pain. Now the pain is completely under control."

But with only 220 hospices in the country - the vast majority independent charities dependent on donations and volunteers - only a small minority of the dying can expect to receive this kind of treatment. Most hospitals are trying to get closer to the hospice model of care, but it is hard. There are significant shortages of palliative care consultants and specialist nurses in the UK, points out Helen Clayson, medical director of St Mary's Hospice, Ulverston, in Cumbria. "You have junior doctors being the first line of contact and they don't have the experience or the knowledge of the complexities involved in end-of-life issues."

Guidelines for palliative care developed by the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals and the Marie Curie Centre are being rolled out across the UK. They are intended to help all doctors and nurses who come into contact with the dying to change tack and ask the right questions. Do the family know the person is seriously ill? Have any unnecessary drugs, given to try to improve their condition, been stopped? Have all the right drug treatments been started?

But Irene Higginson, professor of palliative care and policy at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' in London, says doctors and nursing staff do not volunteer for the training. "The big problem for palliative care teams is having enough clout in hospitals," she says. There are also too few of them. The House of Commons health select committee last July applauded the "ambitious goal" of the government to double the number of consultants by 2015 and put an extra £50m into palliative care. There is little doubt, meanwhile, that the pressure on doctors and nurses in a big hospital, the focus on getting patients into beds and out of them again to meet targets, the sheer urgency of the place, are unconducive to a pain-free death, even if copious morphine is available.

"I don't think it is about blaming or condemning those who aren't doing well," says David Clark, director of the international observatory on end of life care at Lancaster University. "It is about looking at how we change the culture of dying in a hospital. Are people being routinely screened for their pain? Is it being monitored carefully?"

Families tend to be happier with hospice care, but this is not the answer, because the best care ought to be where most people die - in hospital. And it can be very good. "I say to people, I promise you, when you feel desperate, we will make it so that you are not frightened," says Corcoran, who deals directly with 110 deaths a year in his unit and advises on 350 more. "When the person dies, it is a very gentle thing."

But the suffering that some experience, and the fear of others approaching death that they will experience pain, is distressing for them and swells the ranks of the euthanasia movement. Corcoran is disturbed by the assisted dying bill, which he feels is "almost a counsel of despair". There are a few, he agrees, who cannot be relieved of their pain, "but the vast majority reach a point where they can be cared for satisfactorily".

That, clearly, is how it should be, but not yet how it is for too many people nearing the end of their lives. There is much to do until we can all walk away from the hospital for the last time feeling, through the sadness, that at least mum or granny had a good death.