Osama bin-Laden and Us

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Charlotte (N.C.)–May 5th–Coming home from the Southeast of the United States, I find myself in the Charlotte (North Carolina) airport.  Charlotte’s is the Seventeenth largest city in the United States.  In the last several years, Charlotte has become a major U.S. financial center, now the second largest after New York City, and the shenanigans here — such the executives of the Bank of America headquartered there, etc. — were partially the cause of the collapse of the housing market and the recession which followed from which, now, the B. Hussein Osama Administration is fighting to emerge.

Charlotte is referred to as the Queen City because the surrounding County was named after the Princess Charlotte of Mecklenberg, the Queen Consort of the (infamous “mad”  English) King George (the III) of American Revolutionary fame.  So, Charlotte is an (old for an American) city.  It is close to both the Appalachian (Mountains) and the Atlantic (Ocean).

Charlotte is not my story, but I was there when Osama bin-Laden was finally hunted down, and “slaughtered,” and, by the time I reached home on the North American Pacific Rim, he had been buried at sea; so, like Hitler last century, there would be no place for like-minded people to pilgrimage.

Arriving home last night, one of our regional (Oakland, Calif.) local evening news shows did a man-on-the-Street “survey” segment of (San Francisco) Bay Area (U.S.) citizens reaction to the “assassination” of an (undeniably) mass murderer (if you reject the conspiracy theories over 9-11 which I, personally, do).  There was one extremely thoughtful response from a Vietnam veteran: “Look., I was forced to take human lives, and sometimes this is necessary, but there is no pleasure in it!”  He is quite right.  While on this earth, life is the most valuable thing we can have, for it is only during life we can repent before Allah (SVT), and prepare ourselves for a righteous entrance into Paradise.  Bin-Laden had taken human life unmercifully, and his bloody ending is what a life of violence will lead.  That is, by his actions, his early death was inevitable.  

Fortunately, in my (forced) service as a young man, I never had to slaughter another soul, or, for that matter had been eradicated myself by an alien-commissioned “adversary.” either!  God is, indeed Great (and mercifully compassionate) to me!

Further, as an Afro-American woman interviewed on the aforementioned program, who had lost her son in battle in Afghanistan, said, because she was a Christian, she could take no delight in his passing, and Muslims, also, should not take delight in such a dispatch because he made the lives of American Muslims Hell, and worldwide more Muslim than non-Muslims had died from his policies! 

Although an evil and dangerous man, there is no joy in his death, for while we are alive we can repent before Allah (swt).  I cannot bemoan his passing, even though this man was responsible for so many — especially civilian deaths — in my natal land, and  began a tragic  war — like the Fuhrer in Germany.  I cannot delight in his death because like the Vietnam veteran, it has come to this.  I celebrate the bravery of the (U.S.) elite SEALS who accomplished what they were trained to do for their citizens!  According to reports, they did attempt to take him alive; so, we could see his sins of cruelty (or not); thus, the world could judge him in the bright light of day, and pronounce fitting justice in the cold thoughtfulness like the aloof International Courts in Nuremburg after the Second World War.

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Urban Art Flourishes in Dubai’s Dusty Industrial Zone

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Martina Fuchs and Shaheen Pasha

DUBAI, May 5 (Reuters) – A dusty industrial zone in flashy Dubai has become an unlikely home for a flourishing underground art scene that has grown even as the emirate’s fortunes declined, curbing appetites for extravagant pieces.

Al Quoz, home to stark warehouses and a huge cement factory in the shadow of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is a far cry from the glitz and glamour that has come to be associated with Dubai.

“It’s raw. It’s a clean plate that we can work on. This is a growing cultural hub, a warehouse district where the ceilings are high and rents are low,” said Rami Farook, founder of the Traffic gallery, where Emirati, Iranian and Saudi artists show works ranging from graffiti art to blaring video installations.

That’s a far cry from the art scene just a couple of years ago, when upscale galleries hosted champagne-fuelled purchases that reflected big money and status, like the Maseratis and Bentleys cruising along the emirate’s palm-lined streets.

Now, affordability and artistic message seem to carry more weight, and the seemingly underground vibe is drawing in a different crowd.

At Etemad Gallery, a former furniture warehouse in Al Quoz, a beige wax sculpture of a human torso riddled with bullets and shells stands in the shadows. Nearby is a series comparing the iris of the human eye to constellations of dying stars.

“There is a growing confidence in local contemporary artists and also an increase in interest in women artists from the region,” said Rory Miller, director of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at Kings College in London.

“Following the economic downturn which hit Dubai hard, there is a move, especially among the younger age group, to look to art that is grittier, more relevant and reflective of their own lives and recent experiences.”

Art houses have taken note of shifting local tastes, even as the higher end of the art market sees signs of a rebound on the back of Dubai’s economic recovery.

“We included a lot more younger artists who are more affordable because we want to increase the depth of participation,” said Michael Jeha, managing director of auction house Christie’s Middle East, which recently held a sale focusing on contemporary artists from Saudi Arabia and Iran.

A number of the pieces sold for less than $10,000, Jeha said, with others available for between $2,000 and $3,000.

All of the works in the Traffic gallery priced between $1,000 and $3,000 sold out. “This made me realize that people in Dubai had this passion for the alternative,” said Traffic’s Farook. “This is the niche I am trying to tap into.”

Raj Sehgal, managing director at Credit Suisse Private Banking in the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, said some of his clients were looking for investments that could deliver future returns.

“A trend that is quite evident among many of our clients in Dubai is that they have started buying street art due to its appreciation value over time,” Sehgal said.

The political and social upheaval sweeping across the Arab role also appears to be playing a role in the renewed interest in more affordable and urban art.

At Art Dubai, the emirate’s annual contemporary art fair, a number of politically-themed pieces were on display, including one painting that portrayed ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s using icons from Facebook, the social networking site that played a role in uniting street protesters against him.

“Possessing a piece of art because of a certain name or status is holding little relevance,” said Omer Alvie, creative director at Villa No. 6, which showcases emerging artists from Pakistan and arranges exhibitions of alternative art in Dubai.

“Now collectors are interested in the theme of the piece and what the artist is saying. It’s a record of history.”

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

13-21

Post-Mothers’ Day Musings

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

Spring comes with it the exorcism of demons. Singing out loud. Dancing in the kitchen. Cleaning out the house from dirt. Digging ourselves out from under the mess. Yes, it is important. If we don’t do it, nobody else will. Going for long walks. I love the community that has a spring festival. Let’s all put flowers in our hair and wave at our neighbors. Let the Dandelions Live! At least until my toddler gets to them. The young leaves are tasty, nutritious, and help with ailments such as arthritis. If you go to Europe they will serve you dandelion salad at the restaurant. Anyway, we all know that spring is a time to enjoy the sun, the rain, and the wind with those you love.

All I ever wanted for Mothers Day was for my children to clean their rooms and by God they did it. They even mopped the kitchen too. My daughter gave me a lipstick for a gift. I totally needed this, since my younger ones had destroyed any cosmetic item I had before their birth. Hallelujah! There is nothing better than children. I always wanted a houseful of them. They are baking brownies right now. Can I hear another Hallelujah? Well, let’s hope they clean up after themselves.

Given the amount of work that the younger generation requires, it seems to be a miracle that the human race survives. It is amazing, how women take this burden upon themselves, with or without the help of a husband. I mean, it’s wonderful if a man can come home from work and read his children a story, but we are talking about a half hour of teeth brushing, prayers, and water refills. What about the other 23 ½ hours? Either these children have a mother at home, or she paid for child care.

Caring for children is a full time job. A 24 hour a day job. Those of us who work day jobs realize that after we come home, at least 50% of that remaining time belongs to our children. There isn’t anyone else around to pick up our slack. We cannot call in sick just because we have the flu. If our child has a bad dream, throws up, or feels cold in the night, we wake up and we deal with it. Even after the child has long gone back to sleep, sometimes we lay awake, wondering about all the problems and uncertainties of life. Even the worrying is part of being a parent.

Mothers Day is a beautiful day, but we must also give strength to all who give strength to the Mother. Do these people even exist? What will it take for us to will them into existence? Ultimately, we are all talking about loyalty to Our Mother, the Earth. Can we make things right by her? Can we help each other not to harm others? Can we stop trying to define and control other people?

There are so many beautiful women raising families in our community. Some of them have emotional support; some don’t. Some of us are enjoying life, yet some of us are merely surviving. Within our circle of influence, is there more that we can do to help children feel welcome in the community? It is impossible to separate women from children. You cannot insult the mother, yet praise the child, without putting the child in an ethical dilemma. If there are shortcomings in the mother, usually she needs help. We have to find ways of strengthening women’s participation in the community while allowing her children to tag along. So many political causes require adult participation without children.

Except in rare cases, women are the primary caretakers of children, and in fact, of the entire family. How can we make this job easier for them? Because our communities need these giving people to contribute their creativity, not just their daily survival abilities. Can we create a world where these people with so much life experience can still contribute to the community? Can we create a forum where these people’s opinions are welcome and their advice is heeded?

Some of the women in our communities are so intelligent, so empathetic, so clearly able to see the future. We need to listen to them. We need to find a way to make them feel like their contribution is valuable. We need to care about how they feel. We need to take their advice.

The most important thing you can do to validate a woman is to respect her opinion. When you do that, she becomes energized. Once a woman becomes energized, there is no stopping her. She will lead the way. This spring, let us validate the women in our lives and give them the energy to continue the struggle.

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Arabian Sea Host to Rare Humpbacked Whales

April 28, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

humpback_2The Middle East is host to a veritable smorgasbord of treasures ranging from the Oud, or Arabian stringed instrument, to the finest breeds of horses in the world.  At the onset of this year Marine Scientist Robert Baldwin, in cooperation with the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), revealed that a rare species of humpbacked whale was discovered in the Arabian Sea specifically alongside the coast of Oman.

Baldwin led his own team of researchers in studying the new species, which has just recently been named the “Arabian Sea Humpback Whale” by the International Whaling Commission. The researchers were able to collect an immense amount of data including samples of DNA and more than 10,000 photographs of the whales in their natural habitat. They also studied behavioral and social patterns of the newly discovered mammals to better understand how to preserve and protect the species from harm. 

What makes the Arabian Sea Humpbacked Whales so unique from other whales is that they do not migrate. Other breeds of whales are nomads and regularly migrate in search of food, better water temperatures depending on the season and for breeding purposes. These whales prefer to stay close to home, off the coast of Oman, and will spend their lifetime in the exact same place. The Arabian Sea Humpbacked Whales must be able to fulfill all of the activities of a regular whale while never moving too far from home.

According to Baldwin, the newly discovered breed of whale is so unique that it is one of the most at risk whale species in the world. In a recent statement Baldwin said, “Not only are these whales distinct in this regard, but our recent research also indicates they are one of the smallest and potentially most vulnerable whale populations in the world.” The whales face threats both on land and in the sea in the form of pollution, urban development that often extends into the ocean with manmade islands, sea crafts and rising sea temperatures during the summer months that force the warm-blooded whales to marinate in water the temperature of soup.

Several of Oman’s ministries, including the Ministry of Fisheries, have vowed to take whatever measures necessary to protect the newly discovered national treasure. The Executive Director of ESO, Lamees Daar, recently was quoted as saying “Now, more than ever, we have a huge responsibility to keep our seas healthy and by working with both Ministries our combined efforts will have a greater impact on the protection and conservation of this species.”

In the interim the Omani-Based Renaissance Whale and Dolphin Project, currently managed by Marine Scientist Andrew Wilson, will oversee the well being of the whales until more data is gathered and processed to determine the best course of action to ensure the longevity of the population.

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Family Planning in Islam

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO
In every bed, there is a promise.     – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Politicians like to talk about “freedom of choice.” They are talking about abortion. The assumption is that if a woman chooses not to have an abortion, then the blame, and thus, the financial and emotional responsibility for the child, rests squarely on her shoulders.

Yet, others take another approach. I’ll never forget my Italian teacher in college giving us undergrads a lecture on morals. She said something I’ve never heard anyone say out loud. “When you choose to have sex, you have made that choice.” God bless her for her audacity to speak out in the face of the victimization of women and children!

Does anyone have any idea how many poor yet honest men all over the world are living without love for months and years at a time, often going to another city for work so they can send money home to their families?

Can you imagine the terrified lifestyle of a typical Afghani woman existing on a couple bags of rice, taking care of her children alone, in the middle of a violent war, waiting for her husband to come back with some groceries in a few months?

Many families who are blessed to be together are very much together. As in, living in one room. Sharing a house with their siblings and their spouses and their children. Many families, even in Europe, live in a one room apartment. During the night, the living room becomes the bedroom.

If you have never witnessed childbirth, let me explain something to you. It really hurts. It turns your body inside out. For a woman to choose to let a man put his “gushing fluid” inside her is the voluntary personal choice to go through an experience that feels about as pleasant as having a bus roll over your body very, very slowly.

Pregnancy is a time of such sickness that if she were a man, he would choose not to work that day. Childbirth can last for days. It takes a woman three years to get back the full use of her body after having a baby, if she exercises daily. No matter what, she permanently loses the strength of her eyesight and teeth. What an unthinking man might have thought was simply a beautiful moment, for her it was a life investment. There is no such thing as “accidentally” getting someone pregnant.

In Islam, men are the maintainers of women. There is none of this weird American marital squabbling about who pays what. Motherhood is a full time job. A loving woman carries the child in her womb for nine months and then nurses the child for two years, sacrificing her calories, her strength, and her free time. A mother cannot come and go as she pleases. She cannot fall asleep whenever she feels tired. And it’s not a question of whether she wants to do it or not. Women are biologically programmed to suddenly wake up on emergency alert if her baby so much as coughs in his sleep.

Full responsibility for a baby deprives the caretaker of REM sleep.

People who are deprived of sleep for a prolonged period of time spend a lot of energy merely “coping.” But somebody has to get the bills paid while someone maintains the living standard of the home. That is why parenting is a shared responsibility. There should be no burden on the woman in addition to the full time job of raising a child in a clean and safe environment. The least a man can do is pay all her expenses.

If he cannot afford to buy his family a house, his wife and the kids can share one mattress like the majority of people in the world. Even if a man is sleeping outside, he can put a tarp over his family’s head.

Because every soul born is someone that God commanded to be born and a man must take full responsibility for his family. Anything a woman spends on household expenses is rewarded by God like donating to charity, while anything a man does to help in the home is rewarded by God as charity.

In Islam, even if the marriage does not work out, the children are still the man’s full financial responsibility. He has to keep them alive and well – not just send their mother a “donation” per month.
Women have to start taking themselves more seriously. Motherhood is a full time career worthy of a six digit income. Find a man who will do everything he can to find a way to love the mother of his children, provide them with food and a roof over their heads, and if they cannot work things out he would be aware of what it costs to raise a child.

This is what you need to be thinking about on your first date. Does the man value his future offspring? Does he have a sense of personal honor?

A man must provide for his children, not only out of some ambiguous and fluctuating emotional attachment but because they are his flesh and blood, part of his lineage. A good man is looking for a good woman who has the qualities he wants in his descendants. He is always thinking long term about how to put his DNA to proper use. The sure sign of a no good man is a man who just lets things happen. Some men think that a crime is less criminal if it’s done in the heat of passion. Yet, the act is still a deliberate act. Don’t do it without getting married first.

13-18

Every Child Left Behind

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

child-desk-400The allure of the Middle East, for western foreigners, is primarily found in monetary perks that makes life in the region more financially savvy than back at home.  First of all, skilled and specialized workers from the US and Europe stand to earn three to four times more money than could be earned at home and they face less job competition. Second, not having to pay taxes and enjoying heavily governmentally subsidized utilities as well as health care are added bonuses. However, what most expatriates do not realize is that there is a heavy price to be paid. And it is in the form of the education of their children.

Wealthy Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE provide a cradle-to-grave welfare system that keeps their citizens living a very comfortable life with free education only being one out of hundreds of social benefits. Expatriate children are not allowed to attend public schools which are reserved exclusively for the children of the citizens of the country. Expatriate parents must put their children in private schools which are often costly, poorly managed, overcrowded and understaffed. Many Gulf nations are host to several European and American private schools which boast a curriculum on par with the most exclusive schools in the world. Unfortunately, the tuition fees are so high that many expatriate parents can only afford to send one child, if any, to school while the others must attend less expensive private schools. And that is in the event that the child can even get into the school.

For countries, like Kuwait for example, private schools are regulated by the Ministry of Education. Each school is ranked according to student performance and receives special preference as well as accolades based on the percentage of students that do well. What is unfortunate is that most private schools in Kuwait require an admission test to ensure that only the best and brightest students get admission which guarantees a high percentage of student performance. Prospective students are not given a book or even a manual to study from in preparation for the test. All they can do is hope that they have the knowledge to pass it. For those who do not pass, they will most probably miss an entire school year or more. Until a student can pass the admission test there is no hope that his journey for a quality education can begin.

What is painfully ironic is that, while there are stringent controls for the admission of students to private schools, there are no such requirements for the hiring of teachers. The private schools in Kuwait, and other regions of the Gulf, are full of teachers who do not possess college degrees and have little experience teaching in the classroom. It is not uncommon for housewives to become teachers without having even a basic college degree. And for many teachers who do possess a “degree”, a careful inspection of the document will most likely reveal that it is a fake certificate obtained from a country in Southeast Asia. So even for children who do pass the admission test, the catch 22 is that the standard is far less than what the school administration purports.

For Shermyla Mohammad, a housewife and mother in Kuwait, her journey to enroll her son in school has been a twisted battle that has spanned more than five years. “My son studied the Holy Quran for several years and met with a tutor to teach him school subjects privately at home.” When her son was ten years old she began visiting various schools in order to enroll him. He is now fifteen years old and has never seen the inside of the classroom. “My son failed several admission tests because he could not prepare for the specific questions asked. One time he did pass but the school administration refused to accept him because the percentage was not high enough.” Her son is waiting to take yet another admissions test in the hopes that he can finally begin his education.

There are countless numbers of children all across the Gulf region who deserve an education but it remains out of reach. It is a basic human right to be able to attend school and not be barred from an education that will most certainly define every aspect of life and determine its quality.

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US Sends Gitmo Detainee Home to Kuwait

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say a Kuwaiti citizen held at Guantanamo Bay has been brought back to his home country.

Justice Department officials say Fouad Mahmoud al-Rabiah was handed over to Kuwaiti authorities.

A federal judge had ruled in September that al-Rabiah must be released. His departure leaves 210 detainees at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. President Barack Obama has pledged to close the detention center, but the administration is expected to miss a deadline next month to complete the task.

Separately, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the New York federal courthouse, where he plans to put five accused plotters in the Sept. 11 attacks on trial. All five are currently held at Guantanamo.

11-52

Obama’s Exit Strategy

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan

If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush’s wars and coming home.

For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller.

Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon.

Listing the stakes in Afghanistan, Obama might have been FDR in a fireside chat about America’s war against a Japanese empire that had just smashed the fleet at Pearl Harbor, seized the Philippines, Guam and Wake, and was moving on Midway.

Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric:

“As commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest …”

“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake …”

“For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility, what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.”

After that preamble, one might expect the announcement of massive U.S. air strikes on some rogue nation. Yet what was the action decided upon? “I … will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

To secure America and the world, not 5 percent of the Army and Marine Corps will be surged into Afghanistan for 18 months — then they will start home.
Let us put that in perspective.

During the Korean War, we had a third of a million men fighting. In 1969, we had half a million troops in Vietnam. But in Afghanistan, where the security of the world is at stake, Obama is topping out at 100,000 troops and will start drawing them down in July 2011.

“Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war,” said Obama. But if the burden is not ours alone to bear, where is everybody else?

Apparently, the Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Indians and Arabs do not believe their security is imperiled, because we are doing all the heavy lifting, economically and militarily.

The contradictions in Obama’s speech are jarring.

He says the new U.S. troops are to “train competent Afghan Security Forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”

Thus, we are going to train the Afghan army and police so that, in 18 months, they can take over the fighting in a war where the security of the United States and the whole world is in the balance?

Moreover, the commitment is not open-ended, but conditional. “It will be clear to the Afghan government — and … the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country. … The days of providing a blank check are over.”

Most Americans will agree the time is at hand for Afghans to take responsibility for their own country. But, if the stakes are what the president says, can we entrust a war to preserve our vital national interests and security to an Afghan army no one thinks will be able, in 18 months, to defeat a Taliban that has pushed a U.S.-NATO coalition to the brink of defeat?

At West Point, Obama did not hearken back to Gen. MacArthur’s dictum — “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war, there is no substitute for victory” — but to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s, that we must maintain a balance between defense and domestic programs.

Obama was not citing the Eisenhower of Normandy but President Eisenhower, who ended Korea by truce, refused to intervene in Indochina, did nothing to halt Nikita Khrushchev’s crushing of the Hungarian revolution, ordered the British, French and Israelis out of Suez, and presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, while building up America’s might and getting in lots of golf at Burning Tree.

Not a bad president. Not a bad model.

How can we reconcile Obama’s end-times rhetoric about the stakes imperiled with an 18-month surge of just 30,000 troops?

Stanley McChrystal won the argument over troops. But Obama, in his heart, does not want to fight Bush’s “Long War.” He wants to end it. Obama is not LBJ plunging into the big muddy. He is Nixon coming out, while giving an embattled ally a fighting chance to save itself.

In four years, Nixon was out of Vietnam. In 18 months, Obama says we will be out of Iraq with a steadily diminishing presence in Afghanistan.

What we heard Tuesday night was the drum roll of an exit strategy.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, “The Death of the West,”, “The Great Betrayal,” “A Republic, Not an Empire” and “Where the Right Went Wrong.”

11-51

Mall Rats

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

wallgarden The Middle East is world-renowned for hosting some of the tallest buildings in the world. However, the region is also home to some of the largest and most luxurious shopping malls in the world. As a result of almost year-round scorching temperatures and excess oil wealth that flows out of banks just as quickly as the bubbling crude can be exhumed from the earth, shopping is the new national pastime for most Middle East nations.

It’s primarily the elite and wealthy denizens of the Gulf region, in countries like Kuwait, Dubai and Oman, that can afford to shop til they drop in the most prestigious designer boutiques and stores from the global arena. And since the wealthy clearly outnumber the less fortunate in the Gulf region, malls go up at a record pace, each bearing a signature style to lure customers and ring up sales.

Built across 12 million square feet, the largest mall in the Middle East can be found in the United Arab Emirates.  With more than 1,200 stores ready and open for business the Dubai Mall attracts approximately 750,000 visitors each week. The mall is part of the Burj Dubai Project, which is the tallest building in the world. Some of the features that make the mall unique include the biggest gold market in the world with more than 220 jewelry stores. It also has more than 70 stores that carry exclusive haute couture designer clothing. And as for entertainment, the mall is home to the first SEGA indoor theme park in the Middle East and a 22-screen movie theater.

However, the undisputed crown of the region’s largest mall is set to topple by next year’s end. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Dubai, the leading contender for the most lavish and gargantuan mall in the Middle East can be found in Kuwait. ‘The Avenues’ mall lives up to its name. This monster of capitalism and sheer consumerism is as big as it gets with several hundred stores and plans to house a European-styled ‘Grand Mall’. The mall has already opened despite the fact that only two out of the proposed three phases have been complete. Security is also very tight as the mall features its very own police department with a force of 350 ‘mall cops’ that work around the clock to ensure public safety. The command center of the police department receives live feed from over 350 security cameras situated all over the interior and exterior of the mall.

Size, however, does not always matter. There seems to be a mall on every corner in the biggest cities of the Gulf region with most of the smaller malls mimicking each other and offering little more than a rehashing of the one prior. However, there is one mall that while small is standing out as a veritable gem in the crown of all things commercial. The ‘360 Mall’ of Kuwait was built in a perfect circle and is an architectural feat of sheer minimalism and art. The most attractive features of this mall are not a giant store or an enormous entertainment center. What makes the 360 Mall unique is that it houses two very unique and permanent art installations. The first is the largest vertical garden in the world, which was grown by French botanist Patric Blanc and is the size of four tennis courts in length. The second are two glass sculptures, made to look like the moon and the sun, by renowned American glass artist Dale Chihuly.

11-47

Mich Woman Imprisoned by Israel following settler takeover of Palestinian home

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

alethonews.blogspot.com

Imprisoned American citizen and Michigan resident Ahlam Mohsen to be deported to the US after being arrested in a Palestinian home taken over by Israeli settlers in Occupied East Jerusalem.

Ahlam was a guest of the al-Kurd family when on the morning of 3 November 2009 Israeli settlers burst in and seized part of the building. Contrary to eyewitness accounts, the police claim the 21-year-old attacked them.

>From the Givon prison in Ramle where Ms. Mohsen is currently awaiting deportation she reported that: “The Israeli police were violently pushing an elderly Palestinian woman. So I stepped in front of them. They told me to move and when I refused they started forcefully pushing me. Then they grabbed me and carried me into a police van. While I was waiting at the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the police officers kept telling each other that I was a `dirty Arab’ and introducing me as ‘Osama Bin Laden’s sister’. One of them, threatened to `break my head’. None of the other non-violent demonstrators were targeted; the way they treated me, it’s obvious that I was arrested because I’m of Arab descent.”

The 40 settlers, accompanied by private armed security and Israeli police forces, entered a section of the home, threw out the family’s belongings and locked themselves in.

The take-over came after an appeal submitted by the family’s lawyer was rejected by the District Court. In their appeal, the Palestinian family was challenging an earlier court decision that deemed a section of the house illegal and ordered that the keys be given to settlers. The settlers proceeded to enter the house, while the court did not grant them the right to enter the property.

The al-Kurd home was built in 1956. An addition to the house was built 10 years ago, but the family was not allowed to inhabit the section because the municipality refused to grant them a building permit. Visibly unequal laws are used to make it possible for settlers to move into a home where it was declared illegal for Palestinian residents to inhabit. The Israeli authorities exercise their abilities to demolish and evict Palestinian residents, while ignoring building violations from the Israeli population in East Jerusalem.

The al-Kurds have become the fourth Sheikh Jarrah family whose house has been occupied by settlers in the last year. So far, 60 people have been left homeless. In total, 28 families living in the Karm Al- Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, located directly north of the Old City, face imminent eviction from their homes.

Ahlam is imprisoned in the Givon prison in Ramle.

She is available for interviews.

Video: edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/11/03/hancocks.fight.for.jerusalem.cnn

11-47

House of Mirrors

October 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

plant For many people a broken mirror is steeped in the superstitious belief that the injurious deed will be followed by seven years of bad luck. However, for Lidia Al-Qattan, a renowned Italian artist in Kuwait, a broken mirror would be the inspiration to set her upon the journey of a lifetime. As the wife of the famous Kuwaiti artist Khalifa Al-Qatten, Lidia was often inspired to create her own works of art to impress her husband after he returned from trips exhibiting his artwork in various locations around on the world.

On one such occasion back in the Sixties, Lidia’s husband was away in the USA as part of a collective art exhibition in Washington, D.C. Prior to his departure her husband had completed a wooden cabinet that he created with his own hands. All that was left to be done was a couple of coats of paint. However, after Lidia was unable to procure some paint she came up with a brilliant idea to really make the cabinet shine. “I then remembered I had some pieces of a large mirror somewhere in the house where my three year old daughter, Jalila, had broken sometime ago which I decided to keep.” Lidia set to work affixing the broken shards of mirror to the cabinet with some heated wood glue. However, the edges of the glass were still very sharp and dangerous with a child in the home. After completing her design, Lidia mixed together some plaster cement and water to fill in the gaps and make the edges of the jagged mirror smooth. Once dry, Lidia further filed down any remaining rough edges. The result was very pleasing to her eyes. However, the real judge would be her husband as he was set to return home.

house Fortunately, Lidia’s husband was very impressed with her work. And so began her transformation as she evolved into an artist into her own right and used her very own home as her canvas. Over the course of several years Lidia has painstakingly ‘bedazzled’ every inch of her home with broken mirror pieces in every shade of the rainbow. Today it is a popular tourist destination and museum with visitors taking guided tours every day.

The tour begins in the kitchen, which is called ‘My World Hall’ and features designs relevant to the mystery of science followed by a walk through ‘Planet Earth Hall’, or the living room, which is designed along the lines of our Earth and nature. Next, visitors are led to ‘Zodiac Hall’, which is Lidia’s now grown daughter Jalila’s bedroom, and it is covered with sparkling galaxies, planets and all the signs of the Zodiac. Visitors walk through a hallway with a dual theme. Known as both ‘Shark Hall’ and ‘Corridor of Nations’, the journey of shimmering reflected light goes on to enthrall guests with sharks and other wonders of our world. The tour climaxes with breathtaking designs featured in ‘Sea World Hall’, ‘Universe Hall’ and ‘Knowledge Hall’, which also serve as a bathroom, bedroom and library.

The tour begins to wind down once guests reach the ‘Stairs to Inspiration’. The staircase, which features gilded birds in flight, leads to the first floor that houses separate art galleries for both Lidia’s and her late husband Khalifa’s work. Many people in Kuwait call her home the ‘House of Mirrors’ But for Lidia her home holds greater meaning, “I call it the fulfillment of a dream.”

11-41

BJP’s Political Strategy: Singh’s Expulsion

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: It is still too early and too simplistic to view the internal crisis faced by the BJP as a sign of the party heading towards a collapse. In the last week the BJP has been hitting headlines over expelling senior party leader Jaswant Singh and the resignation of party activist Sudhendra Kulkarni. The party expelled Singh for his book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence in which Singh claims Mohammed Ali Jinnah was not solely responsible for partition and the formation of Pakistan. In Singh’s opinion, Jinnah has been unnecessarily blamed for this, as India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel were also responsible. Taking strong exception to the stand taken by Singh, at its brain storming session in Shimla, the BJP decided to expel him August 19. And before the dust over the issue had settled, Kulkarni announced his decision to break his ties with BJP.

Reacting to the BJP’s decision on expelling him, Singh said: “I didn’t think that the party is so narrow-minded, so nervous about Jinnah and Patel to get so riled at what I have written. I have a feeling, which I voiced also, that perhaps my former colleagues had not really read the book when they passed the sentence.”  On Kulkarni’s resignation, Singh said: “He (Kulkarni) has been persuaded to resign.”

Claiming that his resignation from BJP had nothing to do with Singh’s expulsion, Kulkarni said that he had decided to resign earlier. “I have, after 13 years of being a full-time activist of BJP, decided to end my active association with the party. I continue, however, to be its well-wisher,” he said. “I have concluded that I cannot make any meaningful contribution to the party anymore, as I have ideological differences with it as it stands today. I want to have the freedom to express my views and be sincere to my convictions. At the same time, I respect the discipline of the party and, therefore, I have stepped out,” Kulkarni said.

The ironical similarity between what led to Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation cannot be de-linked. If Singh faced the ire of hardcore party members because of his book, Kulkarni also faced their wrath on account of several points he made in recent articles. Kulkarni, a journalist, strongly criticized the manner in which former cabinet minister Singh was expelled from the BJP at its Shimla conclave. Earlier, following the BJP’s defeat in Lok Sabha polls, Kulkarni was highly critical of the party’s election campaign strategy, hate speeches of Varun Gandhi–and he also blamed Sangh Parivar for its interfering in BJP functions.

Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation are also suggestive of both being made to walk out of the party because the hardcore party members, strongly associated with the saffron brigade, felt uncomfortable with their writings, which went against the code the BJP is expected to adhere to. There is also the possibility of the entire political drama having been deliberately staged to judge the reaction that it would have on the people, political circles and in the media. There is no denying BJP leaders having acknowledged that its negative image has contributed to its defeat in Lok Sabha polls. The internal report deliberated on at the Shimla conclave listed projection of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as future PM, and Varun’s hate speeches as responsible for the BJP’s poll debacle. Ironically, neither Singh nor Kulkarni have been accused by the party or its allies as responsible for their poor performance in the parliamentary elections. Amid this backdrop, Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation may well be a short-term political strategy being worked upon to study whether the BJP would gain from distance from the views in their writings. Or whether it is time that the party stepped out of its dependence on extremist views entertained by Sangh Parivar and gave greater importance to views such as those projected by Singh and Kulkarni.

Now, Singh’s expulsion is being linked primarily only with his views favoring Jinnah. What has been sidelined is that Singh has also pointed fingers at Nehru, holding him more responsible than Jinnah for the country’s partition. This amounts to Singh painting a negative image of the Congress party, regarding the partition.

Singh’s expulsion from the party has attracted more attention to his book. It is to be watched as to for how long does this political drama last and whether it has been deliberately staged as an attempt to project a dark side of the Congress’ past to the country. If this is the real political plan, than Singh and to a lesser degree Kulkarni are being used as pawns by the BJP against its rival- the Congress. Only time will tell as to what strategy is BJP trying its hand at to gain a political edge over the Congress in the near future!

11-36

US Consumers Fall Behind on Loans

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Soaring U.S. unemployment and a shrinking economy drove delinquencies on credit card debt and home equity loans to all-time highs in the first quarter as a record number of cash-strapped consumers fell behind on their bills.

Delinquencies on the value of all card debt soared to a record 6.60 percent from 5.52 percent in the fourth quarter as more cardholders relied on plastic to meet day-to-day expenses, the American Bankers Association said.

Late payments on home equity loans rose to 3.52 percent from 3.03 percent, and on home equity lines of credit climbed to 1.89 percent from 1.46 percent.

A broader gauge showing late payments on eight categories of loans rose for a fourth straight quarter to a new record, edging up to 3.23 percent from 3.22 percent. That rate actually understates consumer pain because it excludes credit cards. The ABA tracks loan payments that are at least 30 days late.

“The biggest driver is job losses,” ABA Chief Economist James Chessen said in an interview. “When people lose their jobs or work fewer hours, it makes it that much harder to meet their obligations. Unfortunately, we’re going to see higher job losses in the next year, and I expect elevated delinquencies.”

The ABA represents most large U.S. banks and credit card companies. Tuesday’s data are a bad sign for them as they prepare to report second-quarter results starting next week.

While improved capital markets may boost the bottom lines of some, analysts expect lenders such as Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Capital One Financial Corp and American Express Co to suffer higher credit losses, especially in cards.

Borrowers are struggling as the nation’s jobless rate sits at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, with 6.5 million jobs having disappeared since the recession began in December 2007. The Obama administration expects the unemployment rate to hit double digits before declining.

U.S. consumers ended March with $939.6 billion of revolving credit outstanding, a rough approximation of credit card debt, according to Federal Reserve data.

“Consumers tend to rely on credit cards as a bridge to cover their daily needs until they find new jobs,” Chessen said. “It’s taking longer to find those jobs.”

Meanwhile, home prices are down 32.6 percent from their peak in 2006, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices of 20 large metropolitan areas.

The ABA in June said it expects the recession to end this quarter, despite rising unemployment.

The overall ABA delinquency rate includes direct auto, indirect auto, closed-end home equity, home improvement, marine, mobile home, personal, and recreational vehicle loans.

Delinquencies rose to 3.01 percent from 2.03 percent on direct auto loans, to 3.70 percent from 2.96 percent on mobile home loans, to 3.47 percent from 2.88 percent on personal loans, and to 1.52 percent from 1.38 percent on recreational vehicle loans.

They fell to 3.42 percent from 3.53 percent on auto loans made through dealers, to 2.04 percent from 2.35 percent on marine loans, and to 1.46 percent from 1.75 percent on property improvement loans.

11-29

Somali Woman’s Illness and A Family’s Quest for Healing

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Joel Grostephan, New America Media

NAM Editor’s Note: A 31-year-old Somali woman goes missing after she’s diagnosed with psychosis, and her family is baffled when the county won’t tell them where she is so they could begin the spiritual healing treatment they believe will help her, writes NAM contributor, Joel Grostephan.

ST.CLOUD, Minn. — Samira Iman was missing for nearly two years. The 31-year-old Somali didn’t run away. She wasn’t kidnapped. She didn’t go to Africa to fight in Somalia’s decades-old civil war. She was living in St. Cloud, Minn., in a group home for the mentally ill. But Samira’s family lost track of her, and mental health officials did not help them locate her.

One day in the fall of 2007, Samira fainted at the poultry processing plant where she had begun working. She was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with mental illness, according to her family. After she was discharged, she was either sent to a group home or released on to the street, but not to her family. When her younger brother, Yahya Iman, tried to find out where she was, Stearns County Human Services cited government privacy laws and would give no information.

Then, earlier this month, Samira reappeared as mysteriously as she disappeared. Now she’s living with her family. But in the two years she was away, she got herself into trouble. Samira faces felony assault charges for allegedly hitting staff members at the group home last fall. Given her mental state and the nature of the crime, she is likely to be convicted of a less serious offense. She missed her court hearing scheduled for February 2009, so Judge Paul Midwick issued a warrant for her arrest. Yahya doesn’t understand that.

“It don’t make sense how they would charge someone who is mentally ill with something,” he said.

Since the family arrived in the United States in 2001, many things haven’t made sense to them. They still are trying to figure out why the county didn’t allow the family to care for Samira for two years. Why would they not let them know where she was so she could be taken to an Islamic priest to treat her mental illness? Why would the county let Samira make decisions for herself when she wasn’t well?

The Imans are among 30,000 refugees from the civil war who have settled down in Minnesota. It wasn’t long after they came here that they realized that freedom from persecution comes with a price. Many have found that their culture and values don’t have a place in the United States. In Somalia, family takes care of family. Not being able to take care of them is considered shameful. Samira’s family is upset that for the past two years, they could not use traditional Islamic healing practices to help her.

“It’s a huge stigma when a family is unable to take care of one’s own,” said Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali community activist and former interpreter at Hennepin County Medical Center. “People in the community will feel that the family abandoned its own, and the family will feel it’s been robbed,” he said.

When Samira was in a county hospital in Willmar last fall, she was diagnosed with psychosis, and her doctor noted she was delusional. Psychosis is a broad diagnosis that could include anything from post-traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia. In discharge papers obtained by New America Media, Dr. Richard Kokkila wrote about Samira’s violent outbursts at the facility, including throwing hot coffee at staff.

“She has been mocking staff, staring at staff, laughing hysterically at times,” his report stated. He also noted that “she doesn’t want anyone involved in her life,” including her social worker, group home providers or her family, who she believed tried to poison her food.

The emphasis on individual rights, including privacy, is a foreign concept for Somalis, said Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed, a Somali-born family doctor in Minneapolis, who treats mental illness. Somali culture is still communal, he said, and no one would decline help from family. “Her interest to be left alone doesn’t supersede the interest of the family’s need to help,” Mohamed said.

Health officials do not have statistics on the rate of mental illness in Minnesota’s Somali community, but a 2004 study of 1,134 Eritreans and Somalis in the state found that as many as 47 percent of Somali women and 25 percent of men had been tortured before they arrived in the United States. Many Somalis could therefore be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Few Somalis want to follow up with treatment because they are wary of authorities.

“You don’t share your problems with professionals,” said Dr. James Jaranson, a psychiatrist and author of the study. “You talk to family or religious leaders or traditional healers.”

Jaranson said if problems are severe enough, Somalis utilize both western and traditional medicine.

Since the 1990s, when Somalis started to arrive in Minneapolis, some mental health professionals have tailored treatment to fit with Somali culture, said therapist David McGraw Schuchman.

“What family means in the Somali community is different,” Schuchman said. “It is a source of identity, strength, comfort, and protection.”

Doctors and therapists describe patients are routinely accompanied by their family members — sometimes four or five of them.

Then there are other cultural beliefs in the community. About 90 percent of them believe spirit possession, or jinn, causes mental illness, according to Mohamed.
Mary Bradmiller, a psychologist who works with refugees at Hennepin County Medical Center, said being comfortable talking about religion is critical for health providers. She frequently hears about jinn possession, which her Somali patients insist can be treated by a priest.

“Reading the Koran might bring symptom reduction for a period of months,” Bradmiller said.

Samira’s family believes she is suffering from jinn possession. In the past, the family used a number of different priests to read the Koran over her. Samira would be fine for about six months after that, Yahya maintained.

Hassan Mohamud, head priest of the Dawa Center in St. Paul said jinn are invisible to humans. Some of them are neutral – they don’t mean any harm — but some of them are evil. Mohamud acknowledges that western medicine can help treat mental illness, but he believes Islamic traditional medicine should be tried first.

A priest’s exorcism of jinn involves reading certain prayers and verses from the Koran. “We ask the jinn: ‘Who are you? What’s your name? Where are you from? And, why are you harming this person?’” Mohamud said. That generally sends the jinn away.

The religious support may also encourage patients to take their medication.

When Samira joined her family in the United States in 2005, she refused to eat for nearly a month, her brother, Yahya, said. Sometimes Samira would get angry and have fainting spells, but her condition was remedied through prayer, her brother recalled.

When she was gone, contact with her was sporadic. In the fall of 2008 her younger sister, Bisharo Iman, said she met with Samira at a motel where she was staying temporarily. At that time, her sister didn’t want to come home to the family and declined their offer to rent an apartment for her.

For the Iman family, language and cultural barriers made it even more difficult in dealing with the bureaucratic challenges many families face in caring for a loved one with mental illness.

About a month before Samira returned home, Yahya spent the day trying to find his sister at her last known address: a church-run shelter. A worker there told him Samira’s social worker placed her in a group home for the mentally ill. He went downtown to find her. But like other trips to Stearns County Human Services, he came up empty. He said that he was told by Stearns County Human Services officials that privacy laws prevented them from discussing her case with the family. His mother had been there the day before and was told the same thing.

Sue Abderholden, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, said releasing some information against the client’s wishes is not against the law. She said many counties believe it is, but even so, they could still help the family. But on the other hand, if someone has dementia, the hospital will make efforts to contact the family.

It is unclear what steps the county took over the past two years to put Samira in touch with her family. When asked about this, Stearns County Human Services Community Support Division Director Janet Reigstad said she was “unable to give any information on this case due to restrictions of government data privacy act.”

After Samira returned home, her mother, Mano Dhuhul, began the process of getting legal guardianship of her. That would give her a say in her daughter’s life when dealing with social workers and health providers. Dhuhul speaks a little English, but relies on her kids to interpret for her. She sometimes regrets coming to the United States. “Back home, we had the power to do something,” Dhuhul said.

Dhuhul knows her daughter is not well. She paces around and around and laughs inappropriately. She doesn’t eat “normally,” the family says. In some ways, her condition seems worse than before she went missing, Dhuhul said. Despite all this, Dhuhul is hopeful that she will recover and be able to work again.

Yahya visits his sister regularly. The family hasn’t taken her to a priest yet, but everyday Samira listens to a CD of an priest reading the Koran.

“I feel good now, she’s safe in our hands,” he said.

11-27

Is the U.S. Experiencing its First Brain Drain?

April 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy New America Media, Vivek Wadhwa

brain_drain Editor’s Note: When high-skilled immigrants and foreign students completing their degrees in the United States both consider returning to their home countries, it might be a sign that the United States is experiencing its first brain drain in history. NAM contributing writer Vivek Wadhwa has been tracking the effects of globalization on labor markets as a professor at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering and Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. Immigration Matters regularly features the views of immigration experts and advocates.

The USA has long served as a magnet for the world’s talented scientists, engineers and mathematicians. But, this trend may now be reversing and the United States may be experiencing the first brain drain in its history.

Between 1990 and 2007, the proportion of immigrants in the US labor force increased from 9.3 percent to 15.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 45 percent of the growth of the workforce over this period consisted of immigrants.

They came for the traditional reasons – education, professional opportunities, a chance at a better life. With them, many of these immigrants brought high levels of education and advanced skills. As a result, immigrants have contributed disproportionately to the most dynamic part of the U.S. economy — the high-tech sector. In Silicon Valley, over 50 percent of the startups over the last decade have had an immigrant as a chief executive or lead technologist. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, eBay, Intel and Yahoo, to name a few.

Now many are going back. While the economic downturn has caused a rise in xenophobia and the enactment of populist legislation to restrict the hiring of foreign nationals by some financial institutions, the economies of India and China have been rising. Some of the most highly skilled workers in American corporations are returning to the lands where they were born and foreign students who would normally be the next generation of U.S. science and engineering workers are buying one-way tickets home.

There are no hard numbers available, but anecdotal evidence suggests a sizeable reverse migration of skilled talent is in progress. Our team of academics at Duke, UC Berkeley and Harvard interviewed hundreds of company executives, surveyed more than 1,000 foreign students and more than 1,000 returnees, and made multiple trips to India and China to understand the trend.

What we learned should alarm policy-makers who are concerned about long-term U.S. competitiveness.

The average age of the skilled workers we located was in the low 30s, and more than 85 percent had advanced degrees — precisely the type of people that the United States needs to fuel economic recovery. Among the strongest factors cited by these ex-immigrants as a reason for coming to the United States were professional and educational development opportunities. Ironically, this was the same reason they returned home. And, they had advanced their careers in the process.

Respondents reported that they have moved up the organizational chart by returning home. Only 10 percent of the Indian returnees held senior management positions in the United States, but 44 percent found jobs at this level in India. Chinese returnees went from 9 percent in senior management in the United States to 36 percent in China. Opportunities for professional advancement were considered to be better at home than in the United States by 61 percent of Indians and 70 percent of Chinese. These groups also felt that opportunities to start a business were significantly better in their home countries.

Surprisingly, visa status was not the most important factor determining their decision to return home — even U.S. citizens and permanent residents were returning home. Three out of four indicated that considerations regarding their visa or residency permit status did not contribute to their decision to return to their home country. In fact, 27 percent of Indian respondents and 34 percent of Chinese held permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. In addition to job opportunities, the returnees we surveyed were lured by social factors such as closeness to friends and ability to care for aging parents.

The rationale for returnees moving home was echoed by responses of surveyed foreign nationals currently enrolled in U.S. universities. These groups have traditionally represented a disproportionate percentage per capita of advanced degree students. During the 2004–2005 academic year, roughly 60 percent of engineering doctoral students and 40 percent of master’s degree students were foreign nationals, and foreign nationals made up a significant share of the U.S. graduate student population in all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) disciplines.

In the past, the overwhelming majority of these students worked in the United States after graduation. The five-year stay rate for Chinese holding Ph.D.s has been 92 percent and for Indians 85 percent. Most end up staying permanently. Yet, the overall consensus among students we surveyed was that the United States was no longer the destination of choice for their professional careers.

Most students in our sample wanted to stay in the United States, but only for short periods. Among respondents, 58 percent of Indian, 54 percent of Chinese, and 40 percent of European students said that they would stay in the United States for at least a few years after graduation, if given the chance. However, only 6 percent of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese, and 15 percent of European students said they wanted to stay permanently. The largest group of respondents— 55 percent of Indian, 40 percent of Chinese, and 30 percent of European students— wants to return home within five years.

Visa concerns were more evident among students. More than three-fourths of these students expressed concern about obtaining work visas, and close to that number worry that they will not be able to find U.S. jobs in their field. Few said they found anything but a warm reception here from the American people. But their concern over work visas could only have been exacerbated by the ongoing attempts to curtail work possibilities for foreign nationals in the United States.

Further, the students’ assessment of their individual opportunities mirrored their view for the future of the U.S. economy. The survey found that only 7 percent of Chinese students, 9 percent of European students, and 25 percent of Indian students believe that the best days of the U.S. economy lie ahead. Conversely, 74 percent of Chinese students and 86 percent of Indian students believe that the best days for their home countries’ economies lie ahead.

The anti-immigrant groups will no doubt celebrate the departure of foreigners. But the impact of a reverse brain drain could potentially be profound and long lasting for the United States. The country is effectively exporting its economic stimulus.

Vivek Wadhwa co-authored his survey of returnees (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/united-states-losing-immigrants-who-spur-innovation-and-economic-growth.aspx) and foreign students (http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/foreign-national-students-in-united-states-plan-to-return-to-native-countries.aspx) with the Kauffman Foundation.

11-15

Pretty in Pink

March 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

pink

The delicate color pink graces everything from haute couture to the latest techno gadgets geared towards females in the global market, however one of the last places anyone would expect to find the color is on taxicabs. Sure enough, a savvy businesswoman in Lebanon has painted the traditional yellow taxicab a cuter shade of pink. Nawal Yaghi Fakhri is the owner of ‘Taxi Banat’, which means ‘Taxi for Women’. Female drivers decked out in, what else, pink drive a fleet of blush colored Peugeot taxis throughout the capital of Beirut. The uniform they wear is comprised of a pink shirt, pink tie and a complimentary bubble gum shade of lipstick. The customers they cater to are women only, as men are not allowed to ride in the gender specific cabs.

09_ae_pink_taxi01_4 The pink taxicabs are meant to serve as a safe option for women out on the town in Lebanon who want a safe ride home. Crimes against woman traveling in taxis, often by the male driver, is not unheard of in the region as well as in most cities of the world.  The taxis are also popular with Muslim woman who adhere with the Islamic specification of not mixing with non-related men. The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has backed the initiative whole-heartedly as the country has launched a campaign to draw millions of tourists in 2009. The minister is banking on an influx of rich Muslim ladies from the Gulf descending upon the capital this year and taking advantage of the female-fueled taxicabs.

Female geared taxicabs are nothing new in the Middle East. Both Iran and Dubai have launched similar services. However, Dubai has found the most success with the cabs, in large part due to the sprawling commercial complexes chock full of female clientele looking for a way home with their shopping loot.

The pink taxicabs in Dubai have recently metamorphosed to allow families to use the service even when male family members are included. However, bachelors will still either have to use the ‘shoe leather express’ or hail a different shade of cab.

Like most things in the Middle East, the idea for the pink taxicabs was copied from the west.

In 2006, the British Pink Ladies Club first came up with the idea for the gender biased pink cabs to help inebriated female party goers find their way home safely in the wee hours of the morning after bars and nightclubs have closed.

While the pink cabs have largely been embraced in the west, they have come under harsh criticism from many in the Middle East. Numerous Gulf women have publicly spoken out against the cabs citing that they will just give husbands another excuse to shirk their duties.

11-13

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