16 December 2008

carbon atlas

the guardian has taken the latest Energy Information Administration figures (covering 2006) and put them in a nifty carbon atlas (a very cool graphic).

a brief explanation of the figures is given by duncan clark. the bottom line: global co2 emissions went up by 2.4 per cent in 2006, to 29,195m tonnes. china overtook the united states as the top emitter, producing 6018m tonnes. it's per capita production is only 4.6, while the united states' is 19.8.

hong kong is ranked 43, producing 85m tonnes, with 12.1 per capita. that's pretty high..

10 December 2008

race discrimination: employment code of practice

the equal opportunities commission (eoc) has extended the public consultation period for the employment code of practice regarding hk's new race discrimination ordinance to 19 january 2009. it has also translated the draft code of practice into urdu, nepali, hindi, thai, tagalog and bahasa. these can be downloaded here.
Primarily, the Code is intended to help employers to understand and comply with the RDO and to promote racial equality in the workplace by encouraging good practice. It is also intended to give employees a general understanding about the law and their rights, and what to do if they feel they are discriminated against on the ground of race by their employers.

the eoc is seeking to encourage ethnic minority (and all other) groups to better understand the code and give their opinions on it, which will be incorporated before it is tabled at legco in march 2009.

more information regarding the race discrimination law (which is quite poor in terms of rights protection) can be found here.

international human rights day; 60 years

today is international human rights day. it is also the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights, adopted at the end of world war II. on this occasion, amnesty international has taken out a beautiful children's edition of the declaration, with wonderful illustrations.

although the declaration has become the cornerstone of international human rights principles, and has resulted in other international treaties and norms, there is a stark gap between principles and practice. this is unfortunately true for most regions of the world.

with regards to asia:
(Hong Kong, December 8, 2008) “There is no getting away from the fact that 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the actual enjoyment of human rights in most countries of Asia is even less than what it was 60 years before,” said Basil Fernando, director of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR, Fernando noted that while there is now more talk about human rights in Asia, the region’s systems are mostly non rule of law systems. “The primary focus in human rights work should therefore be institutional reform,” he said.

According to the Hong Kong-based rights group, the primary obstacles to human rights protection are the defects in justice administration systems. Such defects exist because of the lack of political will to devote adequate funds to the administration of justice, as well as deliberate attempts to subvert justice institutions, so as to place the executive above the law and outside accountability.

In its statement marking the 60th anniversary of the UDHR, the AHRC distinguishes rule of law countries from non rule of law countries. While there are many limitations on human rights even in countries where rule of law systems are well established, in countries where the systems are fundamentally flawed, even the possibility of rights protection does not exist...

“What we have pointed to is a very serious problem,” said Fernando. “After 60 years of the UDHR, we cannot claim that the human rights situation in the region has improved. In many countries, both in civil and political rights, as well as in economic, social and cultural rights, there is a very significant deterioration. We may talk about human rights more than before. The people may be demanding human rights more than before. In actual fact however, violations of human rights have become far greater,” he stressed.

The work of the AHRC reveals that various forms of arbitrary deprivation of rights, torture and denial of fair trial are widespread in many places. There is more unemployment, and despite greater education, particularly among women, the actual enjoyment of rights has not become any easier for large sections of the population, who remain poor. Domestic violence against women is common, as is the deprivation of their personal liberties. Anti-terrorism is increasingly used as a pretext to suspend the rights of entire populations. Life for many remains a nightmare.

24 November 2008

malaysia: yoga haraam

according to malaysia's national fatwa council, yoga's hindu origins would 'corrupt' muslims and therefore should be banned:

The National Fatwa Council's chairman, Abdul Shukor Husin, said many Muslims fail to understand that yoga's ultimate aim is to be one with a god of a different religion — an explanation disputed by many practitioners who say yoga need not have a religious element.

"We are of the view that yoga, which originates from Hinduism, combines physical exercise, religious elements, chanting and worshipping for the purpose of achieving inner peace and ultimately to be one with god," Abdul Shukor said...

The edict reflects the growing influence of conservative Islam in Malaysia, a multiethnic country of 27 million people where the majority Muslim Malays lost seats in March elections and where minority ethnic Chinese and mostly Hindu ethnic Indians have been clamoring for more rights.

Recently, the council said girls who act like boys violate Islam's tenets. The government has also occasionally made similar conservative moves, banning the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims earlier this year, saying it would confuse Muslims...

In recent years, yoga — a collection of spiritual and physical practices, aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit — has been increasingly practiced in gyms and dedicated yoga centers around the world.

There are no figures for how many Muslims practice yoga in Malaysia, but many yoga classes have Muslims attending.

In the United States, where it has become so popular that many public schools began offering it in gym classes, yoga has also come under fire.

Some Christian fundamentalists and even secular parents have argued that yoga's Hindu roots conflict with Christian teachings and that using it in school might violate the separation of church and state. Egypt's highest theological body also banned yoga for Muslims in 2004.

among those practicing yoga in malaysia are cancer patients, for whom yoga, qi gong and line dancing sessions are organized as methods of relaxation and light exercise, as well as group interaction to "promote positive thinking and unity among survivors of different race and religion".

hmm, i wonder what the reaction to this will be at my markaz yoga group?!

18 November 2008


i will not think of the friends i have lost
of the friends i could not make
of the time wasted
of the memories forgotten
of hearts broken.

i will not think of the places i never visited
of the journeys i never made
of the roles i never played
of a me i never found.

i will not think of the opportunities i did not take up
of the articles i did not write
of the presentations i did not make
of name cards thrown away.

i will not dwell on what could have been,
on a time long gone

i will not think.

someday, i will not think.

09 November 2008

soul satisfaction

the past three weeks or so have been awesome in terms of reading and music satisfaction. it started with 'bee season' by myla goldberg. while the plot was not bad, it was the prose that really engaged me, as well as several unique perspectives. the 'kaleidoscope' room at the end took the cake, i think. before finishing 'bee season' i also started reading kate atkinson's 'when will there be good news?'. apart from the aptness of the tile (this was around the time the usd 700 billion bailout plan was making waves), atkinson is one of my favorite authors. admittedly, she hasn't written anything as brilliant as her debut 'behind the scenes at the museum', but her recent foray into the literary mystery/suspense world has been very fruitful. i am already anticipating her next novel, in which two of her protagonists have to get together.

while in the middle of these two novels, i started listening to new music as well: jason mraz, travis' 'ode to j smith', leona lewis (not worth mentioning though) and ani difranco's 'red letter year', which is the best of the lot, not to mention 'nicer' than her previous music. on my waiting list are still new albums by keane, tracy chapman and dido; these should happily get me through the rest of the year (and beyond).

to top it all off, i have just started reading 'the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society', which is great; i am already in love with the characters. it's a very short novel and i can see myself soon mourning its end.

to have read three highly enjoyable books in succession is not such a common experience. to have the experience interspersed with wonderful new music is even rarer. i don't know what i will read next, but i will thoroughly enjoy tglappps first. recommendations are always welcome.

08 November 2008


"you need to come to terms with the fact that a certain situation has altered irrevocably and things will never be the same again. the time has come to move on. it should not be a problem as you like challenges. whatever comes next will be even better than what has passed."

23 October 2008

de-radicalizing terrorists

indonesia's fight against terrorism includes trying to 'de-radicalize' militants by debating religion with them. their greatest success is nasir abbas, a senior commander of jemaah islamiya, the group responsible for the bali bombings of 2002.

His remorse over the massacre of civilians and the Indonesian police's careful handling of him transformed Abbas. From a terrorist commander he became a terrorist counselor, working with the police to try to convince other captured militants that their interpretation of Islam is wrong.

"I (came to) understand that the Bali bombings were a crime, not a jihad," he says.


"Because terrorism is an ideologically motivated crime, it is not possible to stop it using mere physical operations," said Ansyaad Mbai, the head of the Indonesian government's Counter-Terrorism Coordinating Desk. "Based on our experience, the harder we hit them with military force, the more radical they become."

Mbai is critical of the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism. The war in Iraq, in particular, has made the job of handling terrorism in Indonesia harder, he said: "Even the moderate Muslim leaders find it difficult to explain that the war taking place in the Middle East is not a war against Islam."

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, treats terrorism as a crime, not a cause for war.

there are of course disputes about how effective this method has been in combating terrorism, but it seems an interesting alternative, one that could be developed further.

17 October 2008

political will

here's an interesting comparison: writing off third world debt would cost approximately "500 billion dollars or even less. Five hundred billion is a figure that has been tossed around (in recent weeks) to bail out bankers who have behaved irresponsibly and so on. But there is a political will to save this banking system, so resources can be found."

so says the ceo of the World Alliance for Civic Participation (CIVICUS) and one of the founders of the Global Coalition Against Poverty (GCAP), dr kumi naidoo. meanwhile, he notes that not even 20 per cent of the committments pledged by the G8 summit in 2005 to fight poverty and fund development in the south has materialized

there are popular concerns that amidst the present financial crisis, aid and funding for food, climate change and development will be reduced/lose priority, despite the huge numbers of people affected.

16 October 2008


last weekend i hung out with two friends; the three of us hadn't spent such quality time together in a LONG while. we laughed, argued and shared. it was like lip balm for the soul. not surprisingly, towards the end, we began a short walk down memory lane. some of the moments and individuals that flashed up had been pretty deeply buried, and my excitement at 'seeing' them was akin to being back in that time.

many of the memories are of places and individuals no longer part of my life, which is perhaps why i do not think of them much when i'm on my own (it would be too depressing). on that day though, it was not at all depressing. it felt good just to remember: the events and how they made me feel, as well as to acknowledge the pleasure (and thankfulness) of having those memories, of having had those moments.
it was one of those rare occasions when it didn't matter that friends were no longer around, that places had changed, that people had moved on; when it was enough just to have been.

rereading this post will be my solace on all those days when it is not enough!

05 October 2008

awesome eid

eid was awesome this year. on many levels, in many moments. ilhumdolillah.

i am one of those persons who usually does not enjoy eid-il-fitr. i find it an anti-climax to the month long ibadat and camaraderie. sure, i'm happy that it's eid, that i can use lip balm and listen to music again, but i'm also sad that it's all over and that i have few friends to truly celebrate with (the bane of a small jamaat i believe). the two feelings are constantly in conflict, leaving me largely irritated and out of sorts.

so what made this year different? the shabab treasure hunt. it wasn't actually a treasure hunt as such--we were given a clue/riddle to solve, which would tell us whose house we were to go and wish eid mubarak. there, we would be given the clue to the next house. my team consisted of people (adults and kids) whom i had had little contact with previously, apart from the general social niceties. to my pleasant surprise, i enjoyed their company tremendously, and discovered interesting tidbits about their lives. the same can be said for a couple of houses i went to--most were families i'd not visited before, with whose menfolk i'd never exchanged conversation beyond 'hello'. to interact with them in an intimate setting was very nice.

and to top this off, there was a lunch afterwards (where more people showed up than at eid namaz-typical!). not only was it nice to mingle at the restaurant and listen to the very amusing list of lucky draw gifts, but it was a novelty to be at the semi centre of attention for having participated in this novel treasure hunt :)

all in all, it was one of my most social eids. and financially beneficial too, with all the eidy and lucky draw cash prize!

03 October 2008

will girls like her?

three reasons why sarah palin fails the 'will other girls like her' test:

1. she's too pretty
"pretty girls tend to be liked only by other pretty girls"

2. she's too confident
"too timid and you're a pushover. too self aggrandizing and you're a bad word.."

3. she could (has already done so in fact) embarrass them

hmm, i'm not sure whether to laugh or scowl..

what did make me laugh however, was a comment by writer kathleen parker, that "if b.s. were a currency, palin could bail out wall street herself".

22 September 2008

melamine contaminated products

tests carried out by hk's centre for food safety found melamine in the following milk products:

Natural Choice Yogurt Flavoured Ice Bar with Real Fruit

Nestle Dairy Farm UHT Pure Milk

Mengniu Pure Milk

Yili Pure Milk

Yili High calcium low fat milk beverage

Yili Super Bean Red Bean Chestnut Ice Bar

Yili Bean Club- Matcha red bean ice bar

Yili High Calcium Milk Beverage

Yili Bean Club- Red bean milk bar

Yili Prestige Chocliz - Dark Chocolate Bar

Yili Pure Milk

the centre for food safety also recommends consumers stay away from all Nissin Retort Pouch Cha Cha Desserts, which use yili milk as raw material.

meanwhile, both wellcome and parknshop have reportedly removed all Nestle milk powder products, Dutch Lady milk and Mr Brown coffee from their shelves, due to melamine being found in some of the products.

an email list in circulation includes even more contaminated products:

KLIM Instant Full Cream Milk Powder ( 1.8 kg )

Nestle Carnation Calcium Plus Non Fat Milk Powder ( 1.6 kg )


Monmilk Breakfast Milk Walnut Milk Beverage

Monmilk Suan Suan Ru Sour Milk Beverage (Mango Flavour)

Vita Fresh Milk

Nestle Vanilla Flavour Ice Cream Cone

Nestle Chocolate Flavour Ice Cream Cone

Meiji Ujikintoki (red bean and green tea frozen confection)

Meiji Hokkaido Azuki (red bean ice cream)

Trappist Dairy Low Fat Yogurt Drink

19 September 2008

irreverent beards

i came across the 'how to snag a bearded mozlem in 10 days' blog last night, and had a very good laugh. particularly enjoyable were the how to catch attention post and the manifesto. there was also a chart of various beard styles for those who might need some style tips. ahhh, it is nice to find such irreverent writing on regular (and somewhat serious) concerns :)

(z, in light of our conversation last night, the blog was even more amusing..)

13 September 2008

yeh hum naheen

the world's largest petition at present is in the form of a song titled 'yeh hum naheen' (this is not us). with over 60 million signatures, the song is attempting to redefine islam (and pakistan) as anti-terrorist.

the lyrics are beautiful, and self explanatory. (i suggest you read/listen to the urdu however..)

Hamarey Naam Say Pheli Howi Jhooti Kahani Hai
This story that is being spread in our names is a lie

Yeah Mohrein Mout Ki….. Mathay Pay Gheroun Ki Nishani Hain
These stamps of death on our foreheads are the signs of others

Hamein Jis Naam Say Tum Jantay Ho…. Woh Hum Naheen
The name by which you know us - we are not that

Humein Jis Aankh Say Tum Dehktay Ho…. Woh Hum Naheen
The eyes with which you look at us - we are not that

Yeh Hum Naheen, Yeh Hum Naheen, Yeh Hum Naheen,
This is not us - this is not us...

Jaisay Sham Aatay hi Koi Rasta Hum Bola Baithay
As with the coming of night one loses one's way

Andhairo Say Daray Itna Kay Hum Ghar Hi Jala Baithay
We are scared of the dark so much that we are burning our own home

Yeah Kya Charo Taraf Urti Howi Rayegani Hai
What is this rising all around us...

Hamarey Naam Say Phali Howi Jhoti Kahani Hey
The stories that are being spread in our names are lies

Yeh Hum Naheen, Yeh Hum Naheen, Yeh Hum Naheen,
This is not us...

Gira Bathay Hain Rastay Mein Sabak Hum Sath Rehnay Ka
We have lost on the way the lesson of living together

Humain Ek Doosray Say Isliye Bhi Lag Raha Ha Darr
We are now even scared of each other.

Woh Koi Aur Hain Jin Kay Teray Hathon Main Chehray Hain
They are others whose faces are on your hands

Tumhara Dukh Samandar, Hamaray Zakham Ghehray Hain
Your hurts are a deep sea - our wounds are deep.

Yeh Hum Naheen, Yeh Hum Naheen, Yeh Hum Naheen,
This is not us...

you can learn more about the song and campaign here.

12 September 2008

lost girl power

this article, 'girl power at school but not at the office', by hannah seligson resonated powerfully with me, particularly the parts about the workplace not being a meritocracy and the necessity of having to ask for what you want, without being sensitive to people saying 'no'.
When I was in college, the female students excelled academically, sometimes running laps around their male counterparts. Women easily ascended to school leadership positions and prestigious internships. In my graduating class (more than half of which was female) there was a feeling of camaraderie, a sense that we were helping each other succeed.

indeed. succeeding at university was easy, and largely, girls did better than boys. and yet, even there, i remember having a conversation with one professor about how even though his best students were girls, they were the ones who found it the hardest in the workforce.

as for myself, i totally expected the environment at work to be similar to that of university: the same equality, opportunity and fairness.
...a larger issue that women, coming directly out of the colleges that nurtured and rewarded them and gave them every advantage, may have trouble grasping. For me, it was crystallized in a comment made to me by Myra Hart, a retired senior faculty member at Harvard Business School who studies women as entrepreneurs: “By and large women believe that the workplace is a meritocracy, and it isn’t.”

the other thing is the issue of pay. even after working for five years, i still find asking for a pay rise difficult and distasteful. as seligson says, "Coming into the work force, I thought that, just as my professor had given me the grade I deserved on my political science midterm, my company would pay me what I 'deserved'." this is not of course the case. instead, 'the central tenet of a bigger paycheck is ask and you shall receive'.

and this requires some other qualities seligson mentions: a thick skin, the ability to promote yourself, to stop being a perfectionist, and creating a professional network, all of which are "abilities that men are just more likely to have already".

well, now i know what to work on..

10 September 2008

measly health care vouchers

the hk government is introducing a new scheme of health care vouchers for the elderly, so they may access private health care. sounds good so far. except, the vouchers will amount to a measly $250 per year. how did they come up with that amount, considering $250 is the consultation fee for many private practitioners? (depending on the type of health care, fees can range from $150-600). as one practitioner noted, it would make more sense to have each voucher worth $200 (at least).

why does the government continue with these half-baked schemes that do not actually benefit the recipients? this is like the 'fruit money' of social assistance. how insulting.

09 September 2008

what a wonderful word

charming: 'pleasing the mind or senses in a high degree; delighting; fascinating; attractive.'

its synonyms include: enchanting, alluring, captivating, graceful, lovely.

oh my. after all the recent put downs, to be described as charming (and by more than one person too!) is a marvelous balm.

29 August 2008

i want to believe

ten years of wearing rida full time. if i had ever thought about what that would mean, surely it would have included feeling an overwhelming sense of peace, a keener sense of faith, of belonging.

and yet I feel none of those things right now. (and whatever embarrassment i would feel at admitting this, is numbed by a strange weariness.)

i recall a conversation i had with someone many years ago (i must have been 19 or so). for her, one of the hardest misaaq oaths was this: that you will not question why koi ne uncha kare, koi ne neecha kare. i looked at her in total surprise (and naivete) and said that was the easiest of oaths.

i want that conviction back.

life is easier, more meaningful when you believe, when there is a point. for so long i took that belief for granted. and now, when i want to believe, I find myself struggling..

26 August 2008

the other side of olympic discipline

forget the medal count, matthew syed has a far more interesting story regarding what goes on inside the olympic village:

I am often asked if the Olympic village - the vast restaurant and housing conglomeration that hosts the world's top athletes for the duration of the Games - is the sex-fest it is cracked up to be. My answer is always the same: too right it is. I played my first Games in Barcelona in 1992 and got laid more often in those two and a half weeks than in the rest of my life up to that point…

I spoke to an Aussie table tennis player this week to check out the village vibe [in Beijing] and he launched into the breathless patter common to any Olympic debutant: “It is unbelievable in there; everyone is totally crazy once they are out of their competitions. God knows what it is going to be like this weekend. It is like a world within a world.” A British runner (anonymous again: athletes are not supposed to talk to journalists unaccompanied by a PR type, least of all about sex) said: “The swimmers finished earlier in the week and it was like there was an eruption.”

…it is worth noting an intriguing dichotomy between the sexes in respect of all this coupling. The chaps who win gold medals - even those as geeky as Michael Phelps - are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes… But - and this is the thing - success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating.

the reactions to his article were just as entertaining:

Why on earth didn’t anyone let me know about this earlier? I might have tried to be a volunteer in the village . . . Wang, Beijing, China

Surely this is all the motivation those 14-to-18-year-old athletes on GB’s various Olympic development programs should need to inspire them to get to London 2012. It should be pinned to the notice board of every school and sports centre in the country. Tim, Manchester

That was the most awesome Olympics-related article I’ve read since Beijing 2008 started. Drake, Alabama, US

if you’re still interested in the medal count though, i came across this widget, which apparently calculates the medals according to population and GDP, with jamaica leading.

18 August 2008

musharraf's highly entertaining speech

i just spent a very amusing hour listening to pervez musharraf’s rambling speech (and the occasional foibles of the translator). after repeatedly emphasizing how all his actions were taken in ‘good faith’ and in the interest of the country, he detailed his numerous ‘achievements’ over the past nine years, including the opening of art galleries and high hotel occupancy (how could i not be amused?!). finally, after voicing his concerns for what an impeachment would do to pakistan’s ‘international reputation’ as well as internal stability, he announced his intention to resign (ilhumdolillah!).

it was a good break. we should do this more often--who's next?

27 June 2008

thousand islands

a few days ago i visited the thousand islands, which is an archipelago of over 1000 islands located in the st. lawrence river, canada. some of the islands are in american waters; new york. most of the islands are pretty small, with single houses built on them. one of the bigger islands has a wonderful castle built on it. all the architecture was wonderful and quaint; a lot of time was spent discussing our own preferences and ideal designs :P i meant to upload some photos as well, but sorting them all out is taking longer than anticipated.

the most amusing moment of the trip was when our guide mentioned that the infamous thousand island salad dressing (which was a staple part of my childhood diet, particularly in pizza hut) was named after these beautiful islands. ra, fb and myself doubled over in laughter. how surreal, for this ordinary bottled dressing, regularly consumed halfway across the world (and in many other places i'm sure) to have originated from this beautiful scene.

29 May 2008

when the system isn't working

the following two stories speak to the absurdities of bad governance.

in burma, naval officers and seamen have been detained for abandoning ship mid-cyclone:

“Twenty-three men from those on vessel duty at Thilawar, including officers, have been detained at the Irrawaddy Naval Headquarters. It’s understood that they’re to be charged with abandoning ship. I know that some of them have been kept under house arrest. In the fierce storm some went ashore and took to high ground. Some also disappeared. It’s not known if they disappeared in the water or if they deserted and didn’t send word.”

meanwhile, in bangladesh, a frustrated high court bench of the country's Supreme Court suggested an apellant seek bail from Allah; since emergency rule was imposed in january 2007, the court has been barred from entertaining bail petitions.

27 May 2008

shopping therapy

it's very strange, but lately i have started shopping when i'm feeling down, or even if i have nothing else to do. i never understood how shopping could make people feel better... no, to be more accurate, i didn't see why people would want to GO shopping when they were depressed. i still don't get it, but hey, i'm glad it's working.

it started some months ago with an unhappy confrontation at work, to escape which i went down to langham place and bought some lipstick (yes, i can see the raised eyebrows; no comments please!) i wonder if i saw the film 'priceless' at around the same time--that film definitely made me want to shop. either way, since then i've been on a roll. not that i'm throwing money around or anything (what money?!), but i suddenly
like the idea of buying new things for myself.

as ksa said, it's better (and cheaper) than indulging in alcohol!

15 May 2008

donations for burma

despite all calls to postpone the referendum in the wake of cyclone nargis, burma's military proposed constitution has now been approved, with a reported 99% turn out. this is while an estimated 2.5 million citizens are struggling to find clean water, food and shelter for survival. some of these are being turned away from public buildings designated as polling stations for the referendum on may 24 (postponed only in certain affected areas). what a sham.

while the burmese military continues to prevaricate and resist opening its doors to international aid, local groups and individuals are attempting to overstretch their limited resources and assist their fellow citizens as much as possible.

"Among those doing this work, many are ordinary local people and civic groups in places where survivors have been relocated who have gathered together their money and goods to help as best as they can. People from religious groups of all persuasions are also actively involved. Others are famous actors who have some financial security and a concern for the wellbeing of their fellow citizens. And some are members of human rights networks who have at this time put aside their ordinary activities to concentrate on the cyclone recovery effort.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is in contact with some of these persons and in view of the dramatic delay in assistance from abroad and continued restrictions on what is getting in, has recognised the urgent need for continued support for these people and groups until the situation changes. Therefore, it is now accepting donations on their behalf. Money received can be forwarded within the same day. Unfortunately, for the safety of recipients the AHRC is not able to reveal their details publicly; however, for financial purposes some information can be given to credible institutional donors and those known to the AHRC upon request."

To donate online, click here. For other methods, see here.

24 April 2008

from darfur, with love

"Tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of the Darfur conflict. On this occasion, a remarkable petition, consisting of over 30,000 handwritten signatures and testimonies from Darfuri refugees, will be submitted to Gordon Brown in Downing street."

you can read the entire post here. when i first read about the petition, it made me cry.

22 April 2008

the quirks of US politics

you can imagine my surprise at this particular headline, 'pay up or risk long battle, obama told' in today's guardian. the lead paragraph surprised me even more:

"Barack Obama has been warned that his refusal to pay the traditional "street money" to local operatives to help get the vote out in Philadelphia today could cost him the crucial percentage points needed to knock Hillary Clinton out of the race for the White House."

my immediate impression was that of bribery and gang warfare, reminiscent of politics in many parts of the world. as i continued reading however, i learned that 'street money' is apparently a normal practice in america:

"The committee people and the ward leaders have to buy lunch for hundreds of people, otherwise they won't have good workers. They have to buy coffee, orange juice and doughnuts. That's just the way it is."

i also learned that obama has not been playing by the rules, instead building up his own 'volunteer network'. if he hadn't, estimates suggest he would've paid out between usd 400,000-500,000 (just in philadelphia). wow. maybe this is why he hasn't reported any debts yet, unlike hilary.

but seriously, the amounts of money involved in the us presidential elections are
staggering. and disturbing.

another disturbing (but highly amusing) story told to my news class by scmp's foreign correspondent last week: when he was covering the 2000 elections, he went to a town in new hampshire, where al gore was to speak. there were apparently many student supporters present, ready to wave their banners and all as soon as the tv cameras arrived. none of them however, were in fact from new hampshire; they'd all been transported from columbia university and other places.

again reminiscent of political practices in other countries. countries where we're trying to change the norms.

15 April 2008

hk's three-month health care reform 'consultation'

health care reform in hk has been on the books for a long time, with one of the first commissioned reports appearing in 1999. nearly 10 years later, the government has prepared yet another report, which is now (supposedly) under public consultation. in other words, you have three months to choose from a list of options set out in the report.

from the government's point of view, it is the financing of hk's health care that is in need of urgent reform, due to 'an aging population and rising medical costs' which are an increasing burden on the current tax funded health care system. for this reason, a substantial part of the report focuses on different financing options, all of which require additional funding. from the middle class it seems.

legislator fernando cheung notes the absurdity of the government refusing to tax capital while insisting on the necessity of taxing those with an average wage of hkd 10, 000 or more in its various financing options (such as a mandatory medical savings account like in singapore).

"one cannot but feel that true to its character as a bulwark of business, the SAR government recognizes a tax only when it is levied on profit-making; when a tax is levied on wage-earners, the government finds it appropriate to call the tax by numerous other names except admit it is a tax... the government owes society an explanation as to why it considers it appropriate to impose the entire burden on wage-earners with monthly income at $10,000 and above."

it is therefore important that issues of equity and access are discussed, and some social consensus reached on the reasons and benefits of health care reform and financing.

01 April 2008

cairo cycler's club

while living in cairo, i would never have envisioned a cycler's club as being feasible, let alone something i (or my friends!) would join. while i'm still not confident enough on a bike to think of navigating cairo's crazy streets, i am very excited that such a club exists. all the more so since it involves social activism, awareness and ck! (did you get the helmets yet?!)

24 March 2008

world tuberculosis day

today, march 24, is the international day against tuberculosis. if you're wondering why we need such a day, the world health organization's latest report will tell you that 9.2 million people were infected with the disease and 1.5 million died from it in 2006 (the latest year for which data is available). the majority of these people live in the developing world.

i became familiar with the disease over the past few months, when reading cases of starvation and tb related deaths amongst a weaving community in varanasi, india.

"The decline of India’s weaving industry, particularly the hand woven sari trade of Varanasi--which once enjoyed great prosperity—has led to many deaths, from hunger and tuberculosis... While the cases involving malnutrition and starvation clearly indicate the complete failure of India’s food distribution system and relevant government bureaucracies, the cases of tuberculosis infection spotlight the country’s failing health care system."

"The decline of the handloom weaving industry—caused by the introduction of the power loom, cheap imports and a lack of government intervention—has led to many weavers being out of work. These weavers were proud of their occupation, which was a family trade, passed on through several generations. One such weaver, Jamaluddin, who has been working as a weaver for about 20 years, is racked with illness and weakening eyesight. He has now given up weaving and taken to carpentry, a trade alien to him. He earns only 20 -25 rupees a day, with which he cannot make ends meet. His child is also sick, but he cannot afford medical treatment for his child or himself. Jamaluddin told the tribunal that he burns up all the medical prescriptions in rage and frustration."

you can read the entire article here.

another concern regarding tb is the prevalence of infection amongst those suffering from HIV/AIDS. (this might be a good topic for my next africa post). according to india's health and family welfare minister, not only are women more prone to HIV infections, but at present tb is the "single biggest killer of young women".

world tb day tells you what is being done to change this situation.

12 March 2008

representation of islam in american media

managing editor of the washington post, Philip Bennet, gave a lecture titled "covering islam: a challenge for american journalism" at the university of california, irvine on march 3.

"The United States news media has failed to produce sustained coverage of Islam to challenge the easy assumptions, gross generalizations or untested rhetoric that shape perceptions of Muslims."

with regard to Middle East coverage, Bennett says the media "fails to demonstrate a critical understanding of the region’s history, culture and context." (this can be said of many regions and many media).

one of Bennett's solutions to this failure is to bring in more muslim journalists. hmm, i can see this going down well with the more conservative sector of the american population.

i agree with the principle, but i don't think that by simply having more muslim journalists, the issue of representation is solved. more importantly, as he noted himself, "coverage of Islam is always dominated by political and military conflict and for all sides 'the media is a part of the battle space'." all media has its own ideology and political stance; this will inevitably affect its portrayal of anything, including islam. in that case, it is not the journalists but the editors and managing boards that would need to be muslim.

03 March 2008

what do muslims want?

a Gallup poll of more that 50 000 muslims in 35 countries (90 per cent of the global muslim population) has been done, and the results will form part of a new book, Who Speaks for Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think.

how interesting. you can read the bbc story here, which gives some info on the poll results; the majority of muslims want democracy, but not a democracy imposed by the west, for instance. doesn't sound much like the muslims the mainstream media generally portrays. more info on the book is also available here.

02 March 2008

china's influence in africa

the romance of china and africa is suddenly the talk of all media. every site i read, has some story regarding china's increasing influence in the continent. this is possibly because i have been reading far more on africa than i usually would due to my international news class, as well as the fact that the beijing olympics has everyone ready to blackmail china for everything, the most obvious being steven spielberg's recent resignation. i was quite amused by that whole episode, as well as the various blog posts it generated. my favorite by far was this one by zhongnanhai.

today, i came across a bbc story on how china is responsible for africa's eroding press freedom, according to a report by reporters without borders. the story was not able to prove the claim in anyway; i don't know if the actual report does any better. you can read some african reactions to this here, all of which, needless to say, were quite scathing of the claim.

i haven't researched chinese reactions yet, but i wouldn't be surprised if they were just as harsh. i make no denial of china's atrocious human rights record, but i have to say that it is arrogance of the highest order, to claim that china is somehow responsible for all of africa's ills. especially when you fail to take into account all the players involved.

25 February 2008

mobile art container at star ferry

staring out of a city hall window the other day, i saw a very unusual dome-like structure sitting atop of the car-park. i mentioned it to a few people, none of whom knew what it was meant to be; most of us had been under the impression that the car-park was to go soon, to make way for some vague water-front promenade stuff.

since then, i have learnt that the structure is a mobile art container designed by architect zaha hadid, whose work i saw (and loved) at new york's guggenheim museum. the mobile art exhibition is a chanel sponsored project, and you can check out this interactive website for more info.

the mobile container is debuting in hk on february 27, and will go on till april 5, before being dismantled and taken on to tokyo, new york, london, moscow and paris.

according to hk ticketing, over 20 artists from all over the world have taken part in this:

"MOBILE ART is not so much an exhibition to be visited as a landscape to wander through in a completely new way: to experience the artists' installations, visitors equipped with a MP3 player must let themselves be guided mentally and physically by a soundtrack created by the label "Soundwalk" in collaboration with each of the artists. This soundtrack mixes the original music of a diverse range of artists with voice and ambient sound effects.

MOBILE ART is above all a new form of artistic expression, an unique experience, combining architecture, art, sound creation and fashion. "

16 February 2008

international news

for my international news class, we are required to choose one of four topics and write a weekly piece on it for the class website throughout the term; i have chosen to write on africa. the idea is to go beyond superficial and stereotypical reporting, and to make use of a variety of alternative and local/specialist media sources.

one of these is the inter-press service, which is a really good source of alternative stories and information--a must check out for everyone interested in international news.

whither rule of law in hong kong?

i read an article on how David Li, one of hk's tycoons, was recently implicated for insider trading by the US securities and exchange commission. he apparently tipped off a close friend, Michael Leung Kai-hung, about the impending bid by Rupert Murdoch for Dow Jones, of which Li was a non-executive director. although criminal charges were not pursued, Li has agreed to pay a civil penalty of USD 8.1 million.

David Li is chairman and ceo of Bank of East Asia, as well as a member of the Executive Council. a letter has been written to hk's chief executive Donald Tsang, regarding the need for Li to resign. there seem to be suggestions that this will not happen; that such behaviour is common in hk, and rarely makes any political waves. i do not keep up with hk's financial news, but i find this indifferent and callous attitude to the law appalling. (even worse, this attitude is far from confined to finance and business..)

11 February 2008

my little mosque

the canadian sitcom, little mosque on the prairie, which i finally got around to watching, is a very cool show. the first such show about muslim life in the west, it manages to be funny without being offensive. this works as the characters are ready to poke fun at themselves. i enjoy the humor and the stories, but more than anything else, i enjoy being able to identify with the characters and their lives (obviously i am not referring to fred the radio host here). i came across a blog that seems to be centered around rayyan's clothing; and why not, with veiled role models/icons being thin on the ground.

the series also does a good job of being informative, which is always a good thing. (having said that, i wouldn't want anyone to think it was representative of all muslim communities).

23 January 2008

sharing knowledge

the concept of 'knowledge cafes' is apparently quite popular in the information and knowledge management field, as i recently discovered. knowledge cafes are basically a group of people who meet to discuss issues of common interest, over a meal, snack or cup of coffee. i assume there are by now countless variations of this, although one of the initial ideas was to have a diverse group of people meet up and participate in small-group discussions for a certain amount of time, after which all but one of the group would move tables and share a summary of their earlier discussion. in this way everyone gets a chance to speak, and you (ideally) get a significant amount of input and discussion.

the idea metamorphosed from the 'world cafe', which is more about dialogue and collective action ('if you can change the conversation you can change the future').

my interest however, is on sharing different knowledge; discussion with a group of people from different fields, with different talents. i recall a long ago conversation where z mentioned having all her friends--comprising of artists, musicians and writers--live in one apartment building, and having them take turns teaching their kids their various talents. or a more recent conversation with colleagues, of how amongst us we can teach our kids numerous languages.

before we get to the kids, we can consider applying this to ourselves. if i look at my immediate circle of friends, they all have their own areas of professional expertise, together with other talents. and yet, we rarely discuss such things. as fascinating as the idea seems, i am not sure how practical or feasible it really is... any ideas/thoughts?

21 January 2008


please support the following petitions:

Stop blocking a UN human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka

"The state, as the sovereign, has an obligation to investigate into all crimes irrespective as to whether these are done by organised criminal gangs, terrorists or state agencies themselves. This obligation implies that there needs to be a competent and impartial criminal investigation branch within the policing system which has not been corrupted or impaired by political interference. There is consensus within Sri Lanka that the capacity of the police investigation system has been gravely diminished due to political interference over several years and that its internal capacity for investigations has become extremely limited. When it comes to organised crimes, acts of terrorists and also extrajudicial acts of the military and the police, the police investigation system has not demonstrated any capacity for effective investigations in recent years."

There have been calls by civil society groups within Sri Lanka as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, for the government to agree to a UN field presence in the country. The recent ending of the 'official truce' (such as it was) with the LTTE by the government can only worsen the widespread killings, disappearances and other abuses faced by citizens on a daily basis. While an OHCHR presence in the country will not stop all of this absolutely, it will definitely make a difference.

Protect the independence of Korea's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

"The NHRCK is an internationally highly regarded national human rights institution (NHRI), indeed a model for other countries. The Commission is a very active institution at the national level, and an engaging force at the regional and international levels as an important member of the Asia Pacific Forum and a Vice Chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC).

The intended placement could negatively influence the international standing of the NHRCK and could erode its national position. It could also impact on public perceptions of its independence and compliance with the internationally accepted benchmarks for NHRIs, the Paris Principles, (UN GA resolution 48/134). This could in turn affect the NHRCK accreditation with the ICC and the Republic of Korea’s excellent reputation in the international human rights system."

18 January 2008


the past 10 days went by so quickly that i am left wondering what i did during that time. i know i attended all the waaz, and i definitely paid attention (as evidenced from my considerable notes). moreover, on most nights i would get home and discuss the topics with my family, as well as conduct quasi post mortems with my dad and brother on their renditions of various nohas and marsiyas.

even though i KNOW all this occurred, it seems very ephemeral now. it is one day later, and i already feel like much time has passed. like the wisps of ilm that i could not fully grasp, which float around inside my head, and will very soon fade away.