Omid Memarian

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bill Mahar, Ahmadinejad, Columbia, and Bush....
(Sept. 28....But worth to watch it now....)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Keeping the Muslim Faith - And a Low Profile

Here is my latest piece about how Muslims feel about their religion these days in the United States, published in Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS):

"A survey released by Pew Research Center last month confirms that public attitudes in the United States about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.

"About four in ten Americans (43 percent) say they have a favourable opinion of Muslims, while 35 percent express a negative view. Opinion about Muslims, on balance, was somewhat more positive in 2004 (48 percent favourable vs. 32 percent unfavourable)," Pew reported.

"As in previous surveys, Muslim Americans are seen more positively than Muslims (53 percent vs. 43 percent); however, unfavourable opinions of Muslim Americans have also edged upward, from 25 percent in 2005 to 29 percent currently." (Continue...)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Prizing Doris Lessing

You probably have heard about Doris Lessing's Literature Noble Prize. Here you can read a thoughtful piece written by Christopher Hitchens on Slate. Look at her picture: it seems she's been waiting for something. It is not clear what that is, but I can imagine how it looks like being detached for this world to give you something anymore... you receive such an honor at such an age....However it seems whenever a dream comes true it's not late, as long as the dream stays a dream....:

"To review the depth and extent of Lessing's work is to appreciate that some writers really do live for language and are willing to take risks for it. It's also to understand that there is some relationship between the hunger for truth and the search for the right words. This struggle may be ultimately indefinable and even undecidable, but one damn well knows it when one sees it." (Continue...)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Are Feminism and Romance Incompatible?

I found this article very interesting. It's something beyond the common sense about feminism and romance:
Science Daily Contrary to popular opinion, feminism and romance are not incompatible and feminism may actually improve the quality of heterosexual relationships, according to Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan, from Rutgers University in the US. Their study* also shows that unflattering feminist stereotypes, that tend to stigmatize feminists as unattractive and sexually unappealing, are unsupported. (Continue...)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Bottom Billion: A One Billion Ghetto
My notes on Paul Collier's latest Book...

There are not too many academic books these days that entice the reader from beginning to end --expect perhaps books by Chalmers Johnson. The Bottom Million is one of the books that also fit into this category, especially for activists, journalists and scholars who have followed development concepts in underdeveloped or developing countries. The book rings true for people who have experienced the failure of international agencies in eliminating poverty and bringing hope to communities. (Watch Fareed Zakaria's interview with the author here)

Paul Collier, the author, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, has pinpointed this very alarming issue: A one billion ghetto. He makes the distinction between the countries which are “falling behind” and countries which are “falling apart”. This is a key issue in studying the development models and solutions which are presented by international agencies such as World Bank, IMF, and or United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Also, it challenges some of the United Nations’ programs including Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and UNDP on Good Governance, which has been a focus of its action plan in the past few years. Mainly because most of these programs are based on the government’s collaborations and engagements’ of civil society; however, in many of the very poor countries, the society suffers from a weak state and an incompetent public sector.

Collier distinguishes countries which have been fallen apart from the development train and explains how there is no hope for their growth, at least anytime soon, and we see how there is a need to review many of these plans and prioritize the urgency of actions toward some countries which are fighting, which is producing horrendous side affects of underdevelopment such as poverty, increased ignorance, and civil war. It becomes clear that MDG’s deadline in 2115 will be an outdated method.

The book cleverly provides the big picture to the reader without interrupting the flow by giving figures and footnotes which do not help the reader in understanding the main message.
One criticism of the book is that although the author introduces new terms based on his research with and academic background in the World Bank and Oxford University, he doesn’t provide a basis of his categorizations or further direction.

The book insists that it is trying to raise questions, but not give solutions. However, Collier talks about some of the unsuccessful methods which have been used to help such countries like giving them money or military intervention and or trade.

A key concept he raises is why people in the industrialized countries should think about “the Billion Bottom”: He briefly mentions that such a falling apart will be a “security nightmare” for people’s children in the future and then asks for “building a unity of purpose” which tries to “change the thinking” toward development.

The book raises the awareness that there are more than 58 countries in Central Asia and Africa where people are living in 14th century conditions and suffer from four “traps”: Conflict, resources, being landlocked with bad neighbors, and bag governance. The Kabila example in Zaire is an example where a small army could be hired with 10,000 dollars or Malawi, the poorest country on the continent and or planet which without any civil war has been experiencing the lowest growth in the history of humankind.

In Chapter four, different aspects of the civil war are discussed and at the end the author argues that growth is a key element for the society to get rid of the “conflict trap”. He says that sometimes peace cannot be achieved domestically and, in my opinion, believes that sometimes intervention could be an option to avoid other conflicts: “That’s why it matters for the G8 policy.”
The relationship between immigration and the billion bottoms also describe the nature of such countries which will face deeper challenges by losing their “human capitals.”

Collier reviews the aid process, military interventions and other means that could be used for breaking the traps. Although the book does not focus deeply on the cause and effects of this phenomenon, it addresses a very important issue which seems to go unnoticed by development experts and agencies. Something which does not catch any attention, because of its ugly nature, but an issue that needed to be talked about more and more for the sake of human being that share a similar destiny.

To some extent, the book appears as a guidebook since it provides some solutions, and criticizes other methods used to eliminate poverty and help underdeveloped countries to go forward.

- Smart Samaritans Michael A. Clemens, From Foreign Affairs,
September/October 2007 (This is a very in depth review of the book.)

- The aid evasion: raising the “bottom billion- Paul Collier, Open Democracy

Aid made the G8 headlines, but it is a sideshow alongside the real-world anti-poverty measures of people in Africa..

- Action will speak louder than words-Guadian
Paul Collier's polemical The Bottom Billion gets past the wristbands and slogans to the harsh realities of world poverty, says Heather Stewart Sunday June 10, 2007The Observer

-The Least Among Us -New york Times
Collier’s title refers to the 980 million people living in what he calls “trapped countries,” those that are “clearly heading toward what might be described as a black hole.”

- How the Bottom Billion Live- Time
In the slums of the Third World, a daily battle against hunger, disease and the elements is waged, and it is much the same in Rio's favelas as in Calcutta's bustees.


-The Bottom Billion - London Book
- The Bottom Billion review Non-fiction book reviews - Times Online
- New Statesman - Escaping the poverty trap

Friday, October 12, 2007

Run, Gore, Run!
From Oslo to Washington?

Among the articles and commentaries which are published during last few days about Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, I like the one by Chris Hitchens. His argument is pretty fresh and to the point:
"I am occasionally asked why it is that so many Europeans display reflexive anti-Americanism, and I force myself to choose from a salad of possible answers. One of these is the resentment that I can remember feeling myself when I lived in England in the 1970s: the sheer brute fact that American voters who knew nothing about Europe (and cared less) could pick a president who had more clout than any of our elected prime ministers could exert. America could change our economic climate by means of the Federal Reserve, could use bases in Britain to forward its policies in Asia or the Middle East, and all the rest of it. Americans could also choose a complete crook like Richard Nixon, or a complete moron like Jimmy Carter, and we still had to watch our local politicians genuflect to the so-called Atlantic alliance." (Continue....)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Muslim-Phobia on the Rise in the US?

A few weeks ago I was working on a story about
Ramadan and Muslims in the Bay area , where I live. I was surprised by some of my findings during the research and interviews, in particular the increasing concern about practicing religion in public and being identified as a Muslim in some communities.

I am getting sick of my editors assigning me to cover anything connected to Muslims and the Middle East, because it doesn’t allow me to explore other areas and environments. However, this turned out to be quite an interesting experience.

Almost all of the men and women I talked to, whether in mosques, metro stations or even on the
UC Berkeley campus -- which is well known for its multicultural environment -- told me they find it difficult to practice Islam. Very few of them wore scarves or other kinds of Hijab, and they said they felt pressure from their environment to avoid clearly identifying themselves as Muslims by praying in their work places, reading the Koran, or wearing clothing that might mark them off from others. They also mentioned that they think people’s prejudice against Muslims has greatly intensified since September 11. Many of the people I talked to initially thought I was a Federal cop and didn’t want to talk to me.

I could feel the anxiety my presence aroused when I arrived at a mosque in Oakland, California with a notebook and a pencil in my hand. One of the people praying asked not to be photographed and a few others refused to talk to me. The director of
the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (CCNC) told me that he has seen a decline in attendance since September 11, because some people are worried that if they are associated with an Islamic Center, there will be repercussions. “If later on some government entities come and want to investigate this issue, they are afraid to get into trouble or maybe something would happen to them,” he added.
My interviews with people praying in a few mosques in Oakland, plus airport stories that has become a stereotyped during the last years and all my personal observations, even my experiences on the Berkeley campus although can not be generalized as a whole but shows a serious trend. The information I received in my interviews, paired with my observations and experiences whether on the UC Berkeley campus, at airports, or at a mosque, indicate a general fear and misunderstanding of Muslims” on one hand, a fear of practicing Islam freely on the other hand.

A survey released by
Pew Research Center on September 20 2007, also, confirms that public attitudes about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years. “About four-in-ten Americans (43%) say they have a favorable opinion of Muslims, while 35% express a negative view. Opinion about Muslims, on balance, was somewhat more positive in 2004 (48% favorable vs. 32% unfavorable),” says the report. “As in previous surveys, Muslim Americans are seen more positively than Muslims (53% vs. 43%); however, unfavorable opinions of Muslim Americans have also edged upward, from 25% in 2005 to 29% currently.”

I believe the unfavorable opinion about Islam and Muslims are heavily influenced by skewed media coverage. Americans should take this issue seriously and raise their concerns about creating a new kind of polarization, marginalization, and discrimination. This country was based on freedom of religion, and it is very ironic that after 300 years, we are facing with a sort of religious discrimination, consciously or unconsciously!
(This post was originally published on HuffingtonPost....)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shifting Targets
The Administration’s plan for Iran.
Seymour M. Hersh

Symour Hersh in his serial stories about Iran in the latest issue of New Yorker has talked about the recent changes in the US Foreign policy toward Iran. Like many other experts who follow the news and political events, he believes that the possibility of attacking Iran is still high....

"In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and
Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.” (Continue...)

Tyranny in Tehran

"Baiting Bush, denying the Holocaust... Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has also been busy dealing with simmering unrest within his own borders. Now, Iran's leaders have launched a ferocious crackdown after accusing their opponents of conspiring to topple the Islamic system in a velvet revolution. Robert Tait reports from inside Iran ...."(Continue...)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ahmadinejad, Gays and SNl...