Neda’s fiance visits Israel

March 23, 2010

There is more news on the Iranian election front. Although, what has been happening in Iran these last few months has gone far beyond a fraudulent election.

Those of you who, like me, have supported the rights of the Iranian people will remember the horror of watching this video, when Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead by a Basiji militiaman in Tehran.

Well, this happened last week:

The fiancé of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed during protests in Teheran following the Iranian elections last year, visited Israel as guest of Channel 2, the station reported Friday evening.

Soltan’s death was caught on a video widely disseminated through the Internet and on news outlets, and she has become a symbol of the Iranian opposition.

Caspian Makan was tortured by the Iranian government and escaped to Canada following Neda’s death.

He had said his dream was to come to Israel.

Now, that Makan landed here, he will have the honor of meeting President Shimon Peres.

“I have come here out of the brotherhood of nations,” Makan told Channel 2.

“Neda was just a voice that yearned for freedom. In the name of this cause she joined the protesters and this is why she was murdered by agents of the regime,” Makan said.

“I was arrested six days after Neda’s murder, because I exposed crimes committed by the regime,” a weary-looking Makan said.

In trembling voice, Makan said there was hope for change in Iran. “The Iranian people is aware of the rights its being denied. Today the Iranian people is steadfast to achieve victory and to overthrow the current regime.”

Makan said he hoped for an Iran “where no man comes against his fellow man, with no more executions, no more war, no more murder.”

Asked what he would tell Neda if he knew she could hear him, Makan said “I will continue along her path. Her path was the path of freedom, not just for Iranians but for the whole world.

“Love for mankind was part of [Neda’s] being,” Makan said.

On a Facebook thread I noticed sympathizers of Iran’s bloody theocracy and fraudulent government labeling Makan a “traitor”. How someone could even come to such a reprehensible conclusion, I do not know. Makan’s fiance, Neda, was killed by the Iranian government…subsequently, the government also tortured and threatened him. I do not understand any conceivable way a visit to Israel would make him a “traitor”, since Israel has never attacked Iran or threatened the security of the Iranian people. The only reason Israel has been drawn into the mess is because Ahmadinejad and his puppet masters would rather threaten the Jewish State than satisfy the needs of their people, including their right to choose their leader, who should be Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Khamenei and Ahmadinejad use Israel as an excuse to hold onto their power…and routinely demonize the Jewish State as a boogeyman to justify their sadistic actions. Israel has other things to answer for in the Middle East (far away from Iran), but anyone who thinks that an Iranian is a traitor for siding with Israel over their murderous government is delusional or brainwashed by the hate spewed out from Qom and more importantly, does not have the interests of the people of either country at heart.

Makan and Neda are heroes…may their courage inspire the freedom that Iran deserves.

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Africa builds a new foundation

March 5, 2010

There is good news in the world, according to an editorial that appeared in Pakistan’s DAWN Newspaper. It’s nice to report this, especially in light of the Chilean earthquake and its zone of destruction. However, this good news is on the other side of the Atlantic.

An evening in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city

Africa’s Poverty level is falling, ushering in what could become a new chapter for the continent. While ongoing rebel attacks in Somalia and resurgent violence in Darfur continue to lead the headlines, its possible that the major players in a developing Africa, like Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa,  will follow in the footsteps of India and Brazil, which are becoming more and more prominent on the international stage.

This was published in the DAWN Newspaper on Friday. I wanted to post it because the world needs to hear good news right now.

Africa’s Poverty Rate is Falling:

By Larry Elliott

FOR decades, it has been seen as the world’s lost continent. Now, a new study says that the view of Africa as a basket case is wrong.

As the continent prepares to welcome thousands of international football fans for the World Cup in June, it seems the image of an economically vibrant region the hosts are keen to project is closer to the truth than tired stereotypes suggest.

Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Maxim Pinkovskiy, two US-based academics, find that in the 10 years before the credit crunch began, poverty rates fell rapidly and inequality declined right across the continent.

They say that it is time to stop feeling so gloomy about the prospects for Africa, which they claim may meet the Millennium Development Goal target, of halving the number of people living on $1 a day, ahead of the 2015 deadline.

“Our results show that the conventional wisdom that Africa is not reducing poverty is wrong. In fact, since 1995, African poverty has been falling steadily,” the authors say. “Moreover, contrary to the commonly held idea that African growth is largely based on natural resources and helps only the rich and well-connected, we show that a great deal of this growth has accrued to the poor.”

The findings in the report, published by America’s National Bureau of Economic Research, contradict the views of the World Bank and the United Nations, which established the millennium goals in 1990.

Hopefully the work cited by these two authors is true. Its time for Africa to join ranks with the industrialized world, since its people are so hardworking and in many cases, are essential in today’s global economy. Earlier, I picked up a copy of Homeland by George Obama…where the President’s brother shares his stories of life in Nairobi’s slums. Maybe the children who are living there now will have a future where their country transforms itself.

Haiti and Chile stand together

February 28, 2010

I have been following the events that have taken place in Chile today, as well as the subsequent tsunami warnings that have spread across the Pacific. The Chilean government, society, and people should be praised for their readiness in dealing with such a catastrophic natural disaster…as of this writing, Chile has still not appealed for international help even though the death toll has topped 300.

Cars are piled together after an overpass collapse in Chile (AP)

Earlier, I read this article in the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, the president of Haiti visited the Chilean embassy in Port-Au-Prince just hours after the massive quake rattled the South American country. Many Haitian citizens, as one might imagine, are saddened to hear that the world is repeating its tragedies.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – News of Chile’s massive earthquake traveled fast in quake-hit Haiti, where people were saddened to hear about the latest quake, wondered aloud whether God was angry at the world, and worried that the globe’s attention would shift away from this tiny and impoverished nation.

“What’s going on in the world?” asked Nancy Brunet, a 54-year-old Port-au-Prince resident.

“Earthquakes here, in Chile, and in Japan. Nature is going crazy,” added Marlene Larco, a 49-year-old manager of a hardware store.

Having suffered so much since the Jan. 12 quake, many grieving Haitians expressed their heartfelt condolences. President Rene Preval went to the Chilean embassy in Port-au-Prince to give his personal message of sympathy. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was just in Haiti earlier this month to get a first hand look at the damage.

Haitians also marveled at the much lower death toll in Chile and said it was evidence that Haiti needed to enact much stricter building codes.

“There are very good structures in Chile, built correctly. That’s why not more people died,” said Moise Philogene, a 40-year-old unemployed lawyer. Mr.Philogene said he didn’t know much about science, but supposed there was a connection between the two quakes.

“It’s earthquake time. It started in Haiti, went to Chile… maybe Mexico is next,” he mused. “I don’t know. But it’s going around.”

As some news photographers left Haiti en route to Chile, locals wondered if the world’s attention would slip away from Haiti, where up to 300,000 people died in the quake and more than a million were thrown out of their homes.

The Haitian concern for the victims of the Chilean earthquake shows that there is much more to this story than body counts and cameras pointed at the ocean to await made-for-TV tsunamis. At the same time, Mr. Philogene makes a good point about the difference in casualties between the two countries…Chile was prepared for a massive earthquake, while Haiti was not. In addition, Haiti also suffers from a lack of legitimate governance. For years, the UN has served as the dominant police and political stabilizer on the island. Unfortunately, the 7.0 quake that ravaged the capital last month brought down the UN headquarters and killed several top officials, including the director.

Chile’s current president, Michelle Bachelete, and the president-elect, Sebastian Pinera, seem to be coordinating together efficiently. Hopefully next month’s transition will go through smoothly and even more importantly, we all should keep our fingers crossed that we have seen the worst of the devastation.

**Update** March 3rd,

Sadly, it appears the death toll in this disaster has now topped 800 in Chile as rescue crews continue to work round the clock.  Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens has an excellent article about Chile, the earthquake, and how its society was prepared for such a devastating event. Hitchens argues that Chile, as a free democracy and open society, was able to survive the quake “relatively well”, while a backwards dictatorship like Iran would not, should the Islamic Republic ever suffer a similar situation.

The world we live in is not the one they want

February 15, 2010

If you read the news headlines last week, you may have been led to believe that “hundreds of thousands” of Iranians rallied in support of “President” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he spoke in Tehran on February 11th, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Waves of police and Basiji terrorists were deployed across the city to stifle the opposition…and not one non-state media outlet was permitted to cover events outside of the official government rally.

Those of us in society who value freedom of speech and religion don’t have to be subjected to lies like this anymore. Google Earth, which is shown above, firmly debunks the government claims of popular support. According to these images, they were not even able to fill the square with supporters around Azadi Tower, where the fraudulent “president” puffed out his hot air.

Its easy to see why the “Islamic Republic” would prefer to live in the dark ages, isn’t it? The regime recently opened fire on Google by announcing the indefinite suspension of Gmail (this is unfortunate, as I use this with many of my Iranian friends). Its good to see Google bite back — and this time, Ahmadi can’t blame this one on “mistranslation” like his supporters have done with many of his stupid statements and rants.

Worthy of a peace prize

January 22, 2010

I’m working on a more thorough post at the moment and I’m also getting ready for a new project next month, which I will be announcing shortly. In the meantime, I’ve had this on my mind…

Glenn Beck disappointed me with his comments about Scott Brown after the soon-to-be-senator won the Massachusetts election…other recent statements and actions by this commentator have led me to fear that he is aligning himself with the Ron Paul-type fringe movement. However, I still think that he has done tremendous good, in spite of what others may say about him. Just look at this video he made a few years back, when all hope seemed lost in Iraq and the media was reminding us *every* day. Personally, I think Beck should have been awarded a peace prize for being one of the few media figures willing to embrace the truth.

Glenn Beck, you are a hero for making this video and I wish everyone in the media was more like you on this subject, including today.

Slumdog Billionaires

January 11, 2010

If you’ve ever seen the stories of people who are addicted to meth, cocaine, and other drugs, its tragic. But there is A LOT more too it, because these people are not only ruining their own lives — their actions are fueling what has become a civil war south of the border. This can no longer be ignored…its time for action, and not just from the besieged government of President Felipe Calderon in Mexico. This battle demands the involvement and decisions made by the individual, in addition to international governments, police, and the military.

Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana (Photo by Corey Hunt)

Considering the lack of coverage this phenomenal situation south of the US border has recieved on television news, you might be shocked by this:

Mexico opened the new year with what could be its most dubious distinction yet in the 3-year-old battle against drug trafficking – 69 murders in one day.

The country resembled a grim, statistical dart board Saturday as law enforcement and media reported the deaths from various regions, including 26 in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, 13 in and around Mexico City and 10 in the northern city of Chihuahua.

More than 6,500 drug-related killings made 2009 the bloodiest year since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in late 2006 and deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight organized crime, according to death tallies by San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute.

Two weeks into 2010, gang bloodshed is becoming more grotesque as drug lords ramp up their attempts at intimidation. Last week a victim’s face was peeled from his skull and sewn onto a soccer ball. On Monday, prosecutors in Culiacan identified the remains of 41-year-old former police officer divided into two separate ice chests.

This goes beyond words. I only wish that the meth, crack, and pot heads getting a fix every night here in the US knew where their stashes were coming from and worse, who is profiting from it.  Years of bringing drugs across the border into the United States has made people like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted man,   billionaires…If “Slumdog Millionaire” had a dark version, these guys would be the stars, recruiting hundreds, if not thousands of young Mexican men from the poorest neighborhoods into a Jihadi-style violence mafia, where anyone deemed as a threat is done away with in the most psychopathic of ways. In fact, comparing Jihadis and Al-Qaeda to the above violence might not be enough, because over the last couple of years, more beheadings have taken place in Mexico than anywhere else in the world. Even Hakimullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader mentioned in my last post, might cringe at the thought of stitching a rival’s face onto a soccer ball. Exactly how evil does a Homo Sapiens have to be to do something like this?!

Religious beliefs and politics don’t have much of a place in Mexico’s violence…just pure human greed and a desire to come out on top. It makes me angry when I think of America’s obsession with drugs. Is it really worth sneaking out into the dark of night, evading the cops, breaking the law, and enabling what is tantamount to a civil war  just to take a hit of crystal meth? Its people like this that are empowering the drug cartels and making them the “Slumdog” billionaires of a country that is increasingly becoming North America’s version of Somalia.

Some people will say we need to legalize drugs and that will stop the violence. Maybe that’s true, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. So for the time being, the best advice I can give to my fellow Americans is PLEASE stop using drugs! Mexico has become the world’s meth lab and it needs to be shut down…if only people cared more about the children of Mexico than rotting their teeth out with meth and tweaking with crack and LSD. Mexico’s slumdog billionaires have the clueless drug-using population in America and the terrorized people of their own country in the palm of their hands. It’s like a playground where Satan would frolic with Jeffrey Dahmer and America won’t stop its investments.

The revenge of the drones

January 9, 2010

The US military should release this video to Hakimullah Mehsud, his Pakistani Taliban, and the other terrorists swarming Pakistan in response to the video that was released on Saturday:

Hakimullah has become the Pakistani version of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda leader who conducted massive terrorism against Iraqi civilians…and now he is angry about the death of his own leader, Baitullah Mehsud, who was taken out by a predator drone back in August. In response, the Pakistani Taliban has released punishing attacks on Pakistani civilians from Peshawar to Karachi, killing almost 1,000 people in the last few months and terrorizing fellow Muslims. Now they’ve claimed responsibility for an attack on the CIA. The CIA bomber–a Jordanian double-agent–targeted a base in Afghanistan used for US drone attacks in Pakistan.

Here is the video that was released by the bomber…he’s seen sitting beside Hakimullah. Honestly, I find this very frightening. The face of extremism has changed a lot in recent years…while Bin Laden may be dead, Hakimullah Mehsud (who is only in his 20’s) is leading a new campaign of violence that has brought chaos down upon a nuclear-armed state.

What’s even scarier than Hakimullah though is the Pakistani Army’s complete inability to see who the real enemy is. As attacks bring carnage to its cities, it seems there’s always some police chief, intel officer, or government minister who blames India, instead of fellow Muslims, for the violence. Pakistan continues to keep its best soldiers on its border with India, even as the Taliban destabilizes the country to unprecedented levels that could lead to an fundamentalist Revolution.

It’s important to say that the drone attacks have continued…with 6 of them taking place in the last week alone. As Hakimullah and his allies continue to hide, drones are flying over the snow-capped peaks of Pakistan with their images in mind. Zarqawi and Baitullah Mehsud lived by the bomb…and they died by the bomb. As Johnny Cash would say “When the man comes around…”

The Taliban should think things through. Hakimullah has used a disproportionately high number of teenage suicide bombers for his attacks, which suggests that he and his top commanders might not be as willing to face death as they say claim they are.

The Avatar Experience

December 26, 2009

On Christmas Day, I went to go see “Avatar” and I left the theater thinking I had seen one of the best movies of the decade. I thought it was amazing–the visual effects, the acting, the story, and the 3D experience. The story brought a myriad of emotions with it too, and it feels like you are almost like you are there. I’ll explain how, but if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, see it below.

I have heard that James Cameron first wrote the script to “Avatar” as far back as 1994 and had hoped to have it in theaters before the year 2000. After watching the visual effects of the movie, I am thankful that he waited, because technology 10 years ago would have no way been able to take on such a huge project. “Jurassic Park III” tried to use CGI animation around that time and failed miserably. Needless to say, the world is ready for Avatar today.

Deciphering messages, politics, and the “Dens of Infidelity”

After I watched the movie, I began thinking about the subtle politics that bubbled up to the surface during the film.  The story features a native tribe–the Na’vi–fighting corporate mercenaries mining the natural resources of Pandora, the planet that the Na’vi inhabit. I got the impression that this has a message about the Native Americans and other indigenous people like the Aztecs and South American Indians who fell victim to European colonialism and imperialism, which is something that everyone should learn about. It also could relate to the conflicts in Darfur and Eastern Congo, where tribes are facing complete destruction. Some critics have even suggested a connection to “American Imperialism” in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I have difficulty accepting this because it could make sense only in a parallel universe–one where a complete idiot would use a beautiful, harmonious place like Pandora as a metaphor to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Just the same, if the movie is a caricature of the Iraq War, surely some of the Na’vi tribesmen in the movie would have strapped explosives to their chests, blown themselves up among Na’vi children, and then refer to Pandora as the “Den of Infidelity” like the so-called “resistance” fighters have done in Iraq…that’s the only real way you could drive such a message home. I did take a 60-second break in the middle of the movie to go to the bathroom, but I don’t think the plot managed to work any of this madness into it during that very short time frame.

Inspiration, hope, and adventure

But hidden politics aside (where they belong), the most important message I took from the movie was the need for humanity to appreciate the miracles of the universe we live in. Walking out of the cinema after Avatar really makes you feel that life here on Earth is kinda, well…dull. Think about it–we live in a society where too many of us go through grade school, find a place to function in society, pay taxes, create children to live the same lifestyle, and eventually die. How boring is that?! Is there not so much to life? I really hope that in my lifetime I will see the world change so we can explore the new frontiers–whether its venturing to Mars or exploring the depths of our oceans, which I should say, are as amazing and unknown as the floating mountains and waterfalls on Pandora. Avatar, to me, is a reminder to keep moving forward in exploring our home–from the bottom of the sea to the highest Cosmos–and to appreciate it for what it is. The world today is lacking in mysticism and adventure, something that at one time was human nature. Unfortunately, because we’ve settled for so much laziness and mediocrity in our society, we’ve forgotten what its truly like to live on the edge. As Sugarland would say, “there’s gotta be something more”.

At the moment, I am planning to see Avatar a second time…its vying with “Slumdog Millionaire” for my personal title of “Movie of the Year” and I think seeing it again will help me decide. The former, believe it or not, played a major role in my decision to travel to South Asia and see India for myself…Avatar, while completely fictional, makes me wish to do something more with my life, too. Maybe I’ll go buy a telescope or go out and visit the majestic Farallon Islands.

Avatar is an amazing journey that you, the viewer, get to take part in. My legs actually felt wobbly during some of the flight scenes over huge mountains because I felt like I was there.  Its a visual effects masterpiece and a futuristic story that feels almost like Lawrence of Arabia meets Pocahontas, and even Titanic, James Cameron’s last major film. I have yet to meet anyone who was disappointed in the film…its almost impossible. Cinemas across the country are erupting to applause to the movie even as I write this.

Toby Keith brings reality to Norway

December 11, 2009

As the attacks on President Barack Obama intensify over his Afghanistan policy, country music star Toby Keith is standing beside him–supporting his decision with a performance in Oslo, Norway.

While I have my disagreements over whether or not Obama deserved the Peace Prize, it goes without question that an effort to stabilize Afghanistan by crushing the Taliban fall under the category of trying to bring peace to the world. Even the Dalai Lama, who many see as the most peaceful man on earth, has said that fanatical extremists like the Taliban cannot be reasoned with. Some of the European “peace activists” and the American leftists back home who have gone up in arms (sic) over Obama’s surge strategy need to be reminded of this. No amount of reasoning and dialogue is going to stop the Taliban from hating women, blowing stuff up, or wanting to bring about a global backslide into the dark ages.

From AP:

OSLO — There’s no reason to apologize for supporting U.S. war efforts, American country singer Toby Keith said Friday, just hours before performing at the annual Nobel Peace Prize concert.

Keith, whose 2002 saber-rattling hit “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” was inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he stands by President Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Keith’s appearance at the downtown Oslo Spektrum arena, scheduled for 1900 GMT (2 p.m. EST), has been questioned by Norwegians dismayed that a performer known for a fervent pro-war anthem is playing at a show focused on peace.

The musician dismissed the criticism.

“If President Obama has to send (more) troops into Afghanistan to fight evil, I’ll pull for our guys to win, and I won’t apologize for it,” Keith said. “I’m an American, and I do pull for our team to fight evil.”

His comments come the day after Obama traveled to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize and defended his decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. “Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world,” Obama said in Thursday’s speech.

The peace prize laureate normally attends the concert, which is held in his or her honor. Obama’s seat, however, will remain empty. The president left the Norwegian capital early Friday morning, blaming a jammed schedule for cutting the usual three-day stay to just over 24 hours.

The Taliban are no doubt angry about Obama’s decision, so Afghans and Pakistanis at the center of this battle might want to avoid going to mosques and shopping centers for a while. The insurgents tend to take their violence to civilian areas when things don’t go their way.

So dry your tears, I say

December 8, 2009

If you have been following the news these last few days, you might like this video. Just the same, if you haven’t watched the news, don’t start now. The horrendous terrorist strikes that have killed hundreds in Iraq and Pakistan threaten to break the will of humanity…and the only way you can get comfort from this on cable news is if you want to hear about Tiger Woods’ half-dozen mistresses instead. So let’s light up the darkness, if I may take a cue from Will Smith’s character in “I am Legend”.

I was first introduced to Bob Marley’s message a couple of years ago when  I learned about his “Smile Jamaica!” concert in Kingston, where he came out on stage to share the love of Reggae music even after being shot by gunmen in his home. Despite suffering bullet wounds alongside his wife and producer, who were also hit, Marley sang some of his greatest and most inspirational songs to the thousands of people who had gathered in the war-ravaged city.

This man has changed my life in so many ways.