Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Accused people smuggler 'pitied' AfghansAdam Gartrell
July 1, 2009 - 11:29AM
An alleged people smuggling kingpin in prison in Indonesia says he tried to help asylum seekers reach Australia because he felt sorry for them.

In an exclusive interview with AAP, Ali Cobra has sought to downplay his role in Indonesia's people smuggling racket, even though authorities believe he is one of country's "big fish".

Cobra, also known as Labasa Ali, Ali Basa and Sultan Ali, claims he has only been involved in two people smuggling operations.

He says he took part in them because he wanted to help mostly Afghan asylum seekers find a better life.

"I was moved to help them," he said from his prison cell in Kupang, West Timor.

"They said once they left their country, they could not go back.

"If they went back, they could have been killed.

"I pitied them. Their stories made me sad."

But Cobra, 30, also admits to profiting from people smuggling.

Cobra was seized in May in a joint operation between Indonesian and Australian police.

He was found in a house in the Indonesian port city of Makassar with 10 Afghan asylum seekers he admits he was trying to help smuggle to Australia.

At the time, Immigration Minister Chris Evans labelled Cobra a "serious and major player" in people smuggling.

But Cobra, who describes himself as a humble "man of the sea" from Sulawesi, says his only involvement with people smuggling has been sourcing boats for asylum seekers to use.

Other people smugglers promised him 50 million rupiah - about $A6,000 - to find a boat for the Afghans in Makassar, he said.

Authorities also believe Cobra helped organise a brazen breakout from an immigration detention centre in West Timor in January, then put 18 escaped asylum seekers on a fishing boat bound for Australia.

But at least nine people - including a nine-year-old boy - drowned when the boat capsized in rough seas just hours later.

Again, Cobra claims he was only responsible for buying the boat, and played no part in the breakout.

"They said they had someone who could get them out of immigration detention," he said.

"I said, 'if all I have to do is find them a boat, I can help'."

Reports have linked Cobra to some of Indonesia's most wanted people smugglers. Police believe he is also connected to smugglers based in Afghanistan, one of the major source countries for asylum seekers.

But Cobra, who refused to name names, said he knows only "three other people" involved in people smuggling.

"Maybe there are others, but I don't know about them. I've only heard of them," he said.

Prosecutors are completing an indictment for Cobra, and he is expected to face court in the coming weeks.

Although people smuggling is not a crime in Indonesia, it is understood Cobra could face up to 12 years' jail if he is convicted over his involvement in January's fatal voyage.

Cobra has not hired a lawyer to represent him, saying it would cost too much.

"I leave it in the hands of the almighty," he said.

Cobra said Afghans choose to seek asylum in Australia because they believe it will afford them the best protection.

"When I was talking with them, I asked why they chose Australia and they said 'Because it's safe there'," he said.

"They just want to be safe."

© 2009 AAP
Anthony Dowsley

July 01, 2009 12:00am
UPDATE 1.10pm: THE Maryborough woman killed by a falling tree yesterday has been named as Gail Coomber.

Ms Coomber, 48, was walking across a basketball court at a Maryborough school with a family member when tragedy struck.

She suffered head injuries, internal injuries and cardiac arrest. Paramedics rushed her from the Highview Christian Community College to Maryborough Hospital but she could not be revived.

Ms Coomber was one of three people hit by falling trees as galeforce wind up to 120km/h and thunderstorms swept across the state.

Emergency workers rescued a seriously injured man trapped in his car after a tree fell on it in St Arnaud East.

The SES has answered more than 620 calls for help as the wild weather that began yesterday continued to lash the state.

Fallen power lines and trees were behind the majority of the calls to the State Emergency Service, and the weather bureau warns the wind hasn't finished yet.

Senior Forecaster Richard Carlyon at the Bureau of Meteorology says wind gusts of around 90km/h will hit the state on Wednesday, with gusts of up to 100 km/h in the alps.

"We have a severe weather warning for damaging winds across the ranges and along the coast," Mr Carlyon said.

He said Mt Hotham can also expect gusts of around 100km/h.

The ski resorts are expecting snow today down to 1400 metres as cold, unstable air crosses the region.

Swells along the Bass Strait coastline from South Australia to Lakes Entrance are expected to peak at 7m as gale force winds gust through the area, according to the bureau.
Death toll rises to 16 in Italy's train explosion

www.chinaview.cn 2009-06-30 21:50:24 Print

ROME, June 30 (Xinhua) -- At least 16 people were killed and 36 others injured in northern Italy when a freight train carrying liquefied petroleum gas derailed and exploded just before midnight Monday, local health authorities said Tuesday.

Three children were among the dead and the death toll could rise further as rescuers searched through the rubble of nearby buildings badly destroyed by the blast, the ANSA news agency reported.

Health director Giancarlo Sassoli said 14 of the 36 injured were in serious condition.

Some 1,000 people were evacuated after the blast in the northern Italian town of Viareggio, about 350 km north of Rome.

The train traveling from the northern city of La Spezia to Pisa exploded as it jumped the rails near the station at Viareggio, sweeping the streets with fire and knocking down buildings as people slept.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has visited the scene and the government is set to report to parliament on Wednesday on the accident.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, speaking at the scene, said public prosecutors and the public works ministry had opened investigations.

Maroni said either European Union rules regarding the transport of dangerous substances "were inadequate" or that they "had not been respected."

The chief of state railway operator Ferrovie dello Stato, Mauro Moretti, said earlier that he ruled out human error at this stage of the investigation.

"From preliminary evidence the drivers did not make mistakes," he said, adding that the derailment could have been caused by the malfunction of an axle on the first train car.

Editor: Wang Guanqun
Can You Apologize to Victoria Stewart? Or to 50,000 other Dead Children?

An Open Letter to the People, the Churches, and the Government of Canada on the First Anniversary of Canada's "Apology" to Residential School Survivors, from indigenous elders. June 11, 2009

Despite the self-congratulatory message filling Canada today that the Indian residential school nightmare is being "healed and reconciled", the truth is very different:

- Not one person has been arrested or tried for the death of a child in a residential school

- The churches responsible for the deaths of more than 50,000 children in these "schools" have been exonerated for their crime

- There will be no criminal investigation, naming of names or accountability regarding the residential schools

- The remains of the children who died have not been returned for a proper burial

- Over half of the survivors of the residential schools genocide have been disqualified from any compensation or recognition

- All of the survivors continue to die at genocidal levels because of what they suffered in these "schools"

- Justice is obstructed, as the full truth of the residential schools genocide continues to be suppressed and denied by the government and churches responsible

No-one who caused the death of even a single child would claim to be "reconciled" with their victim's family, or freed from prosecution, simply by issuing a verbal "apology" and a bit of money. On the contrary, such behaviour would be considered an attempt to miscarriage justice.

Then why, and how, have the Catholic, Anglican and United churches been able to do so, over their killing of untold thousands of children, aided by the government of Canada?

We have spent years trying to hold these murderers accountable for their crimes against our people and our land. But since they are the law, and determine "justice" and "healing" on their own terms, we will never win justice from them.

A year ago, "Prime Minister" Steven Harper exonerated his government and these churches with a hollow "apology" that released them from any responsibility for their murder of our children. Today, we declare that these institutions are not absolved from their guilt, or their liability, for their murder of our people.

As elders from the Nishgaa, Coast Salish, Cree, Anishinabe and Metis Nations, in alliance with Euro-Canadians who have renounced their allegiance to the genocidal Canadian state and the so-called "crown", we declare our intent to put these criminal bodies of church and state on trial and bring the guilty to justice by the following measures:

1. We hereby and forever expel the Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada from our territories;

2. We declare a public banning and boycott of these churches and ask all people to avoid all contact with or funding of them;

3. We hereby and forever declare our sovereignty as indigenous nations under a federated Republic of Kanata, and sever all connection with the so-called "crown" and the government of Canada, and all its agents, including the fraudulent "Truth and Reconciliation Commission", native band council chiefs and the government-funded "Assembly of First Nations";

4. We hereby establish indigenous courts of law on our own territories, in which we will try and convict those responsible for residential school crimes, including the murder of children, and all other crimes against our lands and our people, and

5. We call for international and diplomatic recognition of these measures, and request international human rights monitors and peacekeeping teams to come to our territories as witnesses to our efforts and demands.

These are the steps by which justice will be won for our people, and for the murdered residential school children. We will issue a more formal Declaration of Independence this September.

We call upon all people of conscience to rally behind us and our five steps.


Chief Louis Daniels - Whispers Wind
Turtle Clan, Anishinabe Nation, Winnipeg

Chief Steve Sampson
Chemainus Tribe, Coast Salish Nation, Vancouver island

Elder Carol Martin - Spirit Tree Woman
Nishgaa Nation, Vancouver

Elder Lillian Shirt
Cree Nation, Edmonton

Elder Jeremiah Jourdain
Metis Nation, Winnipeg

Eagle Strong Voice - Kevin Annett
Adopted Member of the Anishinabe Nation, Winnipeg

This statement is endorsed by The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared, and The International Human Rights Tribunal into Genocide in Canada.

website: www.hiddenfromhistory.org
email: hiddenfromhistory@yahoo.caThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
pager:1-888-265-1007 (Canada)

11 June, 2009
Issued on unceded and occupied Coast Salish Territory
French warship saves stranded NZ familyJuly 1, 2009 - 11:54AM
A French warship has rescued a family of eight from their stricken yacht in the Pacific north of New Zealand, rescue officials said.

The French warship La Glorieuse picked up the Bradfield family after their boat was dismasted and the rigging became tangled around the keel and rudder, Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

RCCNZ search and rescue officer Christine Wilson said La Glorieuse was on its way to New Zealand when it diverted course late on Tuesday after the rescue centre picked up a distress signal.

It then found the yacht with the family of two adults and six children 375km north of the northern tip of New Zealand.

No one on the yacht, which was sailing from Tonga to New Zealand where the family live, was injured, Wilson said.

Charles and Joy Bradfield - and their six children - had to watch their vessel scuttled by the French navy.

The family will arrive in Auckland on Thursday on La Glorieuse, in an inglorious end to their sailing holiday, a trip to Tonga which began in May.

The children - Josh, 18, Matt, 16, Emma, 14, Tom, 13, Abby, 10, and Rebekah, 6, - have kept an internet blog on their voyage, which they called the Bradfields Adventure to Tonga.
Fifteen killed in car bomb in Iraq's KirkukJuly 1, 2009 - 1:59AM
At least 15 people were killed and around 20 wounded in a car bomb attack on a market area in Kirkuk on Tuesday, an interior ministry official told AFP.

The blast occurred around 6 pm (1500 GMT) in the central Shurga district, he said.

The blast devastated the area, an AFP reporter at the scene added.

© 2009 AFP
New Delhi: Following the sudden death of pop legend Michael Jackson, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked for the rights of the singer's solo hit "Ben" to raise awareness about rats and other rodents used in laboratory experiments.

Written in 1972 for a film with the same name, "Ben" is about the friendship between a lonely boy and a rat named Ben.

"Michael Jackson's hit has always been a moving testament to the power of empathy for animals," Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of PETA, said in a statement released here on Tuesday.

"If more people could be inspired by his song to stop supporting the cruel and ineffective animal-testing industry, it would be a fitting and enduring tribute to this talented performer," she added.

Rodents comprise vast majority of animals used in laboratories, but because of their exclusion from the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), they are denied the minimal protections provided under the law to other animals.

The song would also be used to spread the message that rats are frequently misunderstood. In the song, Jackson sings, "Ben, most people would turn you away. I don't listen to a word they say. They don't see you as I do. I wish they would try to."
It strange, but I actually cannot believe that Michael Jackson is dead. To me, it hasn't really happened.

Tears and tributes for the flawed 'genius' of pop
Shaun Tandon
June 26, 2009

The world's most powerful figures from politics to entertainment joined Friday in mourning Michael Jackson, hailing him as a musical genius but also grieving over a life filled with tragedy.

The death of the "King of Pop" reverberated throughout the world, with heads of state, entertainment heavyweights and ordinary fans offering condolences for one of the most influential artists in pop history.

Fans from Los Angeles to Sydney held candlelit vigils for the 50-year-old superstar who died on Thursday from a cardiac arrest. At the Glastonbury pop festival in Britain, thousands danced to Jackson's best-known songs such as "Thriller" and "Billie Jean."

US President Barack Obama thought the singer was a "spectacular performer, a musical icon" and offered condolences to family and fans of Jackson -- who like Obama is credited with helping bridge racial divides.

"The president also said that he had aspects of his life that were sad and tragic," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy voiced admiration for Jackson's ability to stir "emotion from different kinds of people all over the world" and said he would always remember the singer's "Moonwalk" dance.

"I felt great emotion firstly because a page has turned and I found it quite distressing to see these images of a young Jackson with his childish face and hair and colour that had not changed," Sarkozy said.

In one of the most moving statements, Hollywood screen legend Elizabeth Taylor said her "heart and mind" were broken by her close friend's demise.

"I loved Michael with all my soul and I can't imagine life without him. We had so much in common and we had such loving fun together," said the 77-year-old two-time Oscar-winning actress.

The top names in pop music described Jackson as a legend.

"I can't stop crying over the sad news," pop diva Madonna told celebrity website People.com. "The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever."

Beatle Paul McCartney, who collaborated with Jackson in the 1980s before an apparent falling-out, hailed him as "massively talented" and said he had "a gentle soul."

Singer Liza Minnelli called Jackson "a genius talent, who revolutionized show business."

The star's first wife Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, said: "I am so very sad and confused with every emotion possible. I am heartbroken for his children, who I know were everything to him, and for his family."

Jackson's influence was also highlighted by the new generation of pop stars.

Justin Timberlake -- who like Jackson is known for both his singing and dancing -- said in a statement that the world had "lost a genius and a true ambassador of not only pop music, but of all music."

Singer Beyonce said: "The incomparable Michael Jackson has made a bigger impact on music than any other artist in the history of music."

"Just as there will never be another Fred Astaire or Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, there will never be anyone comparable to Michael Jackson," film director Steven Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly.

Jackson's career hit a pinnacle after 1982's "Thriller," the top-selling album ever. But his behavior later became increasingly eccentric. In 2005, he was acquitted after a sensational trial on allegations of child molestation.

But the Vatican's newspaper Osservatore Romano said that "no accusation, however serious or shameful, is enough to tarnish his myth among his millions of fans throughout the entire world."

Jackson was remembered particularly fondly in Africa. The pop star in 1985 co-wrote the song "We Are The World" with Lionel Richie to raise aid for victims of Ethiopia's famine.

"In big Ethiopian cities, many people will have a special feeling towards his death," said Mahmoud Dirrir, the country's tourism and culture minister.

"Apart from his personal behaviour, he will be remembered as an icon, especially for his song calling for us to leave this world a better place for future generations," Dirrir said.

Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of London department store Harrods, said he would erect a statue in honor of Jackson, as he did for the late Princess Diana.

At Wimbledon, two-time champion Serena Williams said that Jackson remained a "complete icon."

"Everyone listens to his music. You think of the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. They are lifetime icons that are never forgotten. Everyone of every colour and race is a huge Michael Jackson fan," she said.

Roger Federer, the five-time Wimbledon champion, said he first heard Jackson's music in the late 1980s when he came to Basel and the future tennis star and his sister listened from outside the stadium.

"I love his music. It's a very sad moment I think in the music world. He touched many people. Same for me," Federer said.

© 2009 AFP
Outpouring over Michael Jackson unlike anything since Princess Di

About 15% of all Twitter posts mentioned Jackson when the news of his death broke Thursday evening. (©Motown)

The psychology of celebrity worship
Remembering Ed McMahon: The perfect second banana
Michael Jackson's death boosts music vendor sales

By Daniel B. Wood

Los Angeles -- Since news of Michael Jackson's passing, there has been an emotional outpouring not seen perhaps since Princess Diana's death in 1997.

The 24-hour news cycle and social media are probably amplifying the reaction. But the response seems genuinely broad and intense -- which may be surprising given the pop star's transformation into something of a bizarre and controversial recluse in his last 20 years.

If the death of a pop star was to be measured by tweets alone, Michael Jackson's would seem to be of monumental importance. About 15 percent of Twitter posts mentioned Jackson when the news broke Thursday evening, noted Harvard researcher Ethan Zuckerman in one tweet, comparing that with hot topics such as Iran and swine flu that never crossed 5 percent.

By Friday afternoon, 9 of the top 10 albums selling on iTunes were Michael Jackson's, Amazon.com had sold out all his CDs, and major retailers coast to coast were running out of his music. Online, Facebook and news websites were swamped with tributes. And Fans gathered across the world, from a mass moonwalk in London to tributes on the Walk of Fame in Los Angeles to vigils in Paris and Tokyo.

The overriding reason is his extraordinary musical influence.

"The reason you are seeing this global outpouring of interest is that Michael Jackson is singular in the history of pop culture. No one even comes close," says Professor James Peterson at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., who teaches hip-hop culture, African-American literature, and sociolinguistics. Mr. Peterson points out that Jackson's achievement of 750 million in global album sales will never again be equaled because of the absolute change in the music business caused by the Internet.

Besides having had a dramatic influence on such artists as Usher, Chris Brown, and Justin Timberlake, Jackson "at once captures and encapsulates the history of blacks in dance. Any number of popular artists could not exist at the level they have without Michael Jackson," says Mr. Peterson.

For some, Jackson's body of work may trump all the other questionable aspects of his lifestyle -- the child molestation charges, facial alteration, and reclusiveness.

"There have been at least three generations of listeners -- one for each of his musical incarnations," Peterson notes, adding that he has a 10-year-old son who is now getting immersed in Jackson watching Peterson and his wife in mourning. "A fourth generation of followers is going to emerge because of this," he says.

Jackson was also one of the few musicians to transcend narrow ideas about how a black man should look and act and reach a global audience, says Professor Jeff Melnick, who teaches African American studies and popular culture at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass.

But the intense response to Jackson's death also reveals society's deep investment in celebrity culture worldwide, he says, adding that there is an acknowledgement that the demands of celebrity culture wounded Jackson from the moment he hit the scene as a boy in the late 1960s.

"The outpouring is partly guilt, then -- it is a confession of sorts," says Mr. Melnick, "of the culpability of the fan in the premature death of the artist."

With virtually no offstage in his life, "Jackson became a canvas on which fans projected all kinds of fantasies -- about proper gender behavior, about racial norms and what we should do with our bodies."

Jackson also gave more than $300 million over the course of his life to charities all over the world, which may have something to do with tributes coming from several world leaders, from Britain's Gordon Brown to former president of South Korea Kim Dae-jung and South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

Other cultural anthropologists and researchers suggest the current economic downturn has accelerated global notions of nostalgia.

"We mourn the loss of ourselves through this pop icon," says Tracy Johnson, Research Director of Context-Based Research Group which studies consumer behavior.

"We recognize that we, particularly in America, have lost a little bit of what we were all about," she says. "Someone like Michael Jackson who so embodied the American Dream just makes that loss all that much more palpable."

Above all, it was his music and unique, energetic performance style that attracted fans around the world.

"One reason Michael Jackson's death is having such a wide impact is because his music had such a wide, and even sustained impact," says John Covach, a music historian at the University of Rochester. "Few artists have so completely saturated the market as Jackson did during the 1980s. It's comparable to the Beatles in the 60s or Elvis in the 50s. When an artist or performer is so well known and loved, the reaction to his or her passing is bound to be strong and widespread."

"One important difference between Jackson's career and those of many others is that he was a child star who became an adult star -- a very difficult transition to pull off," says Professor Covach. "Even those who were too young to be fans of Jackson when he was a child have seen the clips of him performing with a mastery far beyond his years. The adult Michael Jackson that fans loved in the 1980s thus already had a bit of history -- people felt like they knew him already."

And so, people from around the world continue to talk with friends and strangers about this musical legend, their voices spread more widely by new means of communication.

In the hours after Jackson's passing, AOL's instant messaging service was down for 40 minutes due to an increase in traffic. In a statement, AOL also noted that, "Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We've never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth."

As if to connect the two major icons of celebrity lost in recent years, the Telegraph in London reports that Harrods owner Mohamed Fayed has announced that he will erect a Michael Jackson Memorial at the store to join the one of his late son, Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales.
I would respectfully suggest to Mr. Hannaford that many of these men likely do feel like they have nothing to lose. They deserve our empathy, compassion, and support- so that conflict resolution can help them to see that they, too have a stake in what is a marvellous and beautifully structured society. Western societies really do have it all: they have law and order, a tradition of literacy, numerous outlets for fun and recreation, arts and rich culture. They have an amazing code of fashion, with a wonderful industry that centres on this tradition. They have people speaking out on all fronts and all issues. They have cooperation between myriad groups. They have theatre and the opera and cleverly scripted acts on television. They have some of the world's greatest novels.

What they don't have, and critically need, is a way to work with certain people. A way to say, hey, you're like me, and I'm like you, and fundamentally, even though you're a bit of a square peg, I'm going to teach you to find a round hole and fulfill some critical need of mine. I'm going to milk your knowledge, and let you give me the full benefit of your knowledge and enthusiasm. What they are currently failing in is the win-win approach.

There are other ways to do things, that would lead to radically different results. It is no good vitally crippling people, then having bitter reactions to what transpires. Wouldn't it be better to enable people to be our close friends? To motivate them to love us, to inspire each other, to make things work at long last?

There have been some awful failures in human history. Its your choice to see the reason in this, and the sense behind it. There is an awful lot.

Roots that grow gangs and terrorists are similar

By Nigel Hannaford, Calgary HeraldJune 30, 2009Be the first to post a comment

It was three years ago that a group of young Muslim men, mostly born in this country, hatched a plot to--among other things --attack the Parliament building and behead the prime minister. It had not been that long since London had suffered a series of bomb attacks on public transport, perpetrated by young Muslim men, born in Great Britain. Meanwhile, NATO troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were routinely picking up prisoners who were fighting for the Taliban, or for al-Qaeda, but who had been born and raised in a liberal democracy. Canada has its own case in the person of Omar Khadr, born in Toronto in 1986 to immigrant parents.

Naturally, the question asked was "Why?"

That is, one could understand how a person raised in squalor and perceiving themselves as having nothing to lose, might sign up for a radical cause.

But, why would anybody raised in the liberty and comfort of a country such as Canada, or Great Britain decide to give it all up and either fight for their country's enemies in a foreign field, or detonate themselves at home in an attempt to kill as many of their fellow countrymen as they could?

No doubt there is more than one reason. Young Khadr seems to have been pointed in that direction by his family at an early age, and is thus something of a special case.

Still, almost by definition these young men are alienated from society. A frequent contributor to these pages, Pakistan-born college professor Mahfooz Kanwar, told me a few years ago the problem actually began when a young man felt he didn't belong to the old country culture, but felt he couldn't fully embrace the new culture chosen by his immigrant parents. It was a recipe for confusion, and the urgent desire for simple clarity opened the way to radical voices prepared to offer it.

Right now, one could hardly say it was a problem out of control.

However, at last week's Alberta Gang Crime Summit, Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson made the disturbing observation that there are similarities between what makes young men join criminal gangs, and the attractions of radical politics. It's a serious matter: Criminal gangs are a problem we have already and if not quite out of control, it is certainly eating up a lot of law-enforcement resources. Now terrorists?

One commonality is that both criminal gangs and terrorist radicals offer certainty. They also offer --crucially--identity, and the satisfaction of being chosen to belong to a small in group. For young men, these are keys to personal significance. "Greed," observed Hanson in an interview later, "is usually the last reason somebody gets involved in a gang."

It would also be the last reason somebody signed up to be a terrorist, an occupation in which life expectancy is too short to lend much point to accumulation.

Hanson presented a strong case that Canadian law-enforcement officials should be studying trends in Great Britain, Europe and the U. S., usually reliable predictors of what is coming next in Canada.

Specialists in the field welcome Hanson's frank warning, but offer cautions.

"It is a vast problem, and it is a relief to see the police addressing themselves to it," comments David Harris, president of Democracy House, a former chief of strategic planning for CSIS, and a longtime commentator on national security issues. "They need to be realistic, though. They're not theologians and if they're going to do outreach to religious groups, they need to make sure they pick the right ones." Harris says there are serious questions to be asked, for instance, about RCMP patronage of the Muslims of Tomorrow 2009 conference in Surrey, B. C. earlier this month. "There are serious doubts about the RCMP's own outreach approaches, that suggest some of those people who in the past have been in charge of such initiatives have had the full capacity for distinguishing between those sympathetic to radical ideology and those who genuinely reject radicalism."

For now, Hanson's approach to early detection of terrorist tendencies mirrors that of police strategy to spot criminals early on. "It's all about watching for signs. Too much money, too young, secretive behaviour, the kind of things parents once put down to a kid going through a phase. And we have to start early, even in elementary school."

He adds that ethnic communities seem genuinely anxious to get help, to keep their kids from heading down the wrong path, and to use the help the police can offer.

The bad news is that it is a formidable task. It will not be easy, and all the programs in the world don't help when a young man is searching for some reason to believe that he, like a hero in a book, is endowed with some special significance beyond his peers.

The good news however is that city police are at least prepared to admit they have a job to do. A few years ago, we couldn't even get them to admit there was a gang problem or to name criminal associations.

Now, Hanson has named the issue. It is the important first step, and he deserves kudos for doing so.

nhannaford@theherald. canwest.coM

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
$1m allocated for Afghan vote observers
July 1, 2009 - 10:14AM

Australia will provide $1 million for Asian observers to watch over the upcoming Afghan elections.

It is very important the international community sees a transparent and fairly conducted election, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.

Another 120 Australian soldiers are being dispatched specifically to enhance election security.

Australia has already committed $8 million for the Afghan independent election commission.

The Asia Foundation, an American-based non-government organisation, is working with a range of Asian nations to have observers at the presidential and local council elections.

"And we are supporting that," Mr Smith told Sky News, adding Australia would also be providing a small team of monitors for the August 20 elections.

Australia is deploying additional trainers to Afghanistan, with total troop strength expected to reach about 1,550.

Insurgent forces are expected to increase attacks on the Afghan government and coalition forces in the lead-up to the polls.

Mr Smith also announced Australia would provide $5 million for displaced people in Pakistan.

The bulk of that funding would be used to provide food through a UN program, taking Australia's humanitarian assistance to Pakistan to more than $20 million.

© 2009 AAP
I was inspired to make banana pudding from the menu at Kangaroo Island eco-resort.

Here is the resort's URL: http://www.kiwr.com/

Don't forget to check out the images at the image gallery; they're absolutely phenomenal.
Three dozen Taliban said killed in Afghanistan
17 hours ago

KABUL (AFP) — Air strikes and ground battles killed three dozen Taliban and two civilians while an insurgent suicide bombing on the border claimed two more lives in Afghanistan, authorities said Tuesday.

The US military said it had called in air strikes in remote mountains in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan overnight and killed more than a dozen Islamist militants in bunkers.

A local official said 22 men were killed, many of them foreign nationals.

The strikes in the eastern province of Khost were called in against senior commanders of the Haqqani network, a Taliban outfit that is linked to Al-Qaeda and accused of some of the most sophisticated attacks in Afghanistan.

"Coalition force aircraft were called in and destroyed a pair of command bunkers, killing more than a dozen militants," a US statement said.

The statement described the network as one of the "most lethal Taliban organisations" and said it operated out of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area just across the border.

The network is said to be behind several attacks in Kabul, including one on a five-star hotel in 2008 and the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai in April last year.

The strikes were in a border district called Waza Khwar and 22 Taliban were killed, said district governor Abdul Wali Zadran.

Zadran claimed the dead were all foreign nationals but there was no way to confirm this. An Afghan media report said some were Arabs.

Also on the border with Pakistan, a suicide attacker blew himself up at a checkpoint, killing a policeman and a 12-year-old child, a provincial government spokesman said.

The attacker struck near a room at the Torkham border post used for searching women travellers, Nangarhar province spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai told AFP.

Three policemen, a policewoman and six civilians were injured, he said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack but most similar bombings have been claimed by insurgents from the Taliban militia that was ousted from power in late 2001 by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

In the northern province of Baghlan, a clash erupted Monday after Taliban had demanded a "tax" from farmers, which the locals refused, police said.

The locals called the police and fighting lasted into the night, provincial police spokesman Jawaid Basharat said.

"In the clashes 15 Taliban were killed and another 13 Taliban were wounded. Two locals who also took part and were fighting the Taliban with policemen were killed," he said.

The Taliban-led insurgency has intensified this year as Afghan and international troops launch operations to clear them out of hotspots ahead of the August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.

There are concerns the violence may derail the elections and Afghanistan's partners are sending in thousands of military reinforcements.

This year has seen a 43 percent increase in the monthly average number of security incidents compared to last year, according to the United Nations.

The UN mission in Afghanistan recorded 800 civilian casualties to the end of May, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2008, it said in a report delivered to the UN Security Council last week.

Most of the deaths were caused by anti-government elements and 33 percent by international and Afghan forces, while the remainder could not be attributed to any party, it said.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
This is really interesting. I totally think that he is right. I also feel a bit strange about the fact that with the current burnout of the military, that anybody would really care about this issue. Its a little weird. I do hope that progressives are going to be more concerned about the war, with a capital W, than gay rights in the military, but hey- whatever floats people's boats.

Daniel Nasaw in Washington
July 1, 2009
On paper, Dan Choi is everything the US military could hope for: a graduate of West Point academy, he has served in Iraq and is fluent in Arabic and Korean.

Despite his talents and experience, the army is seeking to get rid of Lieutenant Choi because of a personal quality it considers incompatible with military life: he is openly gay.

In one of the last instances of government-sanctioned discrimination, the military allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military only if they keep quiet about their sexuality. For more than a year after meeting his boyfriend and falling in love, Lieutenant Choi was forced to lie or risk joining a list of almost 13,000 gay and lesbian personnel discharged in the past 16 years under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"What if I deploy and he can't come to the tarmac to wish me goodbye," he asked himself, "or kiss me when I come back?" If he were to fall in combat, to whom would the army present the flag that draped his coffin?

"I started my first relationship ever in life at age 27," Lieutenant Choi said. "I'm understanding finally what love is. I have to make the decision: am I going to continue lying?"

He decided the answer was no. In March he announced on television he was a gay soldier. The military responded with a letter saying he would be charged with violating army regulations. Lieutenant Choi faces a disciplinary panel.

"You admitted publicly that you are a homosexual," the letter read. "Your actions negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard."

"It's an insult to their professionalism," Lieutenant Choi said of the insinuation that fellow soldiers cannot abide a gay comrade. "They care about what a person can do for the team. We're in a time of war. We have bigger things to worry about than people being gay."

A military administrative board on Tuesday recommended Lieutenant Choi be discharged for violating the military's policy against openly homosexual service members.

The recommendation must be approved by the chief of the National Guard Bureau.

The discharge of thousands of people because of their sexuality over the past 16 years has generated strong criticism that the military is diminishing its strength when the country cannot afford it.

The Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns make onerous demands on manpower and relations remain tense with Iran and North Korea. But lawyers say the army has discharged 59 gay Arabic linguists and nine gay Farsi linguists in the past five years.

Lieutenant Choi may be offered an honourable discharge. But he intends to fight. If he loses, he risks forfeiting his military pension and health benefits.

Guardian News & Media, with AP
Agence France-Presse
Los Angeles, June 26, 2009
First Published: 08:16 IST(26/6/2009)
Last Updated: 14:33 IST(26/6/2009)

Pop diva Madonna revealed she was left in tears over the death of Michael Jackson on Thursday, saying the music world had lost "one of the greats.

In a statement to a celebrity website, the veteran singing star said: "I can't stop crying over the sad news.

"I have always admired Michael Jackson. The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever! My heart goes out to his three children and other members of his family. God bless."

Jackson died Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles, sending shockwaves rippling around the entertainment world.
I have been quite curious about Seoul, and haven't really had time to check in with what was happening there. I'm really glad that they're managing to weather the storm.

June 30, 2009
CROWDED, dynamic, bewildering Seoul — the thrusting capital of Australia's third-largest trading partner; the world's most technologically wired nation-city, boasting the world's fastest broadband; home to the world's best airport; and, thanks to its kimchi-loving commuters, the only mass transit system that permanently reeks of garlic.

After a week of interviews here, it's clear that South Koreans are feeling pretty pleased with themselves and not just because, like Australia and their northern neighbour with the twitchy nuclear finger, they've qualified for next year's World Cup.

No, remarkably for such an export-dependent economy — think Kias, LGs, Samsungs and Hyundais — South Korea has so far managed to dodge the recession from the now two-year-old global economic crisis that spread toxically from the West.

Despite exports slumping 18 per cent, South Korea posted economic growth of 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year. That's a close shave, it's true. But at least the economy grew and such are the tough times the world is enduring, it's almost akin to a boom. Gross domestic product growth, even marginally measured, is something Korea's fellow Asian export economies like Taiwan, Japan and Singapore can't boast.

The Government and the central Bank of Korea have warned that the economy will contract this year for the first time since 1998, but six months in, Koreans are holding on valiantly. Bars and restaurants seem full, outwardly and anecdotally. Seoul seems lively.

Indeed, there's very little of the concern among Koreans about the economy that one divines in stricken economies elsewhere. More concerning to 50 million South Koreans are the ICBMs lurking among the 24 million of their brainwashed cousins just 45 kilometres to Seoul's north. They point across the troubled peninsula towards Japan and Alaska and as far east as Hawaii in the mid-Pacific (which also means a North Korean nuke launched southward could lob somewhere around Brisbane).

South Koreans are sanguine about their economy because, compared with the catastrophe that engulfed them during the "Asian contagion" of the late 1990s, this crisis is a relative ripple. Much of South Korea was bankrupted in 1997-98.

By comparison with the present flat GDP figures, in each quarter of 1998 South Korea's economy contracted by an average of 6.65 per cent. The Korean won weakened 25 per cent against the US dollar last year; during 1997-98 it fell 60 per cent.

This crisis around, the "Land of Morning Calm" is reacting with, well, morning calm.

"We wake up and get the bad news from New York and London, but it's OK, we had our big crisis in 1998," explains HSBC bank's Changsoo Lee, "so we've been well prepared for this one."

So against this relatively buoyant backdrop, South Korean bankers still have their reputations intact and have begun launching financial products that remain years away from re-appearing in the West, if they ever surface again.

Among Western investors, mortgage-backed securities are now about as popular as Fred Nile chaperoning a Cronulla Sharks footy trip. It was the confidence collapse in these poisonous derivatives in the US in mid-2007 that sent the world careering into its financial pickle.

But in the first such bond launched in the region since the financial crisis, HSBC and Citibank have helped South Korea's biggest private bank, Kookmin, arrange a $US1 billion ($A1.2 billion) bond covered by its mortgage and credit card portfolio. That's a structure that would send chills through places like Parkes and Wingecarribee, among the scores of Australian municipalities that bought $2 billion of dodgy Lehman Brothers paper secured by dodgier American subprime mortgages.

But the Korean version is comprised of anything but the overleveraged "Deadbeat Dad" or "ghetto loans" packaged into the US nightmare. Kookmin's mortgages are solid Korean middle class; few Koreans owe their bank more than 50 per cent of the conservative value of their homes, a regulation instituted after the 1998 crisis.

More to the point, the five-year Kookmin facility was six times oversubscribed. About 55 per cent of it was taken up by Asian investors — further evidence, if any were needed besides China's huge continued flotation of the US economy, that the future indeed tilts eastwards.

Eric Ellis writes for Forbes from Asia
Australian TV journalist freed from Singapore jail
Jun 22, 2009

SINGAPORE (AFP) — An Australian television journalist has been freed from a Singapore jail after serving nearly seven months of his 10-month sentence for drug offences, a prison spokeswoman said.

Peter Lloyd, the former New Delhi-based correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, was jailed on December 2 after pleading guilty to three drug charges.

"It is confirmed that he was released today," a spokeswoman for Singapore's Changi Prison told AFP without giving details.

A legal source said prisoners who behave well usually have their sentences cut by one third.

Judge Hamidah Ibrahim sentenced Lloyd to eight months for possessing 0.41 grams (0.014 ounces) of the stimulant methamphetamine and another eight months for consuming it. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

Lloyd received an additional two months in jail for possessing drug paraphernalia stained with ketamine, an anaesthetic commonly used at dance parties.

Singapore's attorney general earlier withdrew a charge of trafficking 0.15 grams of methamphetamine, an offence that carries a prison term of between five and 20 years as well as five to 15 strokes of the cane.

It was unclear whether Lloyd would return to Australia.

Lloyd was arrested while on holiday in Singapore on July 16 last year.

His lawyer had argued that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress because of his work as a journalist covering wars and disasters in Asia, including the 2002 bomb attacks on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Lloyd took methamphetamine as a way of dealing with nightmares caused by the tragedies he had covered, his lawyer had said.

Singapore, one of Asia's safest cities, follows an uncompromising line against drugs and other crimes. Trafficking certain amounts of drugs is punishable by death, a sentence carried out by hanging.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved
By Dave Durbach
Contributing Writer

In an event that reiterates Korea's historical contribution to the world while showcasing its contemporary cultural flair, a group of artists from Seoul are currently exhibiting at the Frauenmusuem (Women´s Museum), in the former West German capital of Bonn.

``Hanji: Paper Road'' is an exhibition of both young and established Korean female artists who are using Korean hanji not only in the time-honored way, but are also reinterpreting the medium for contemporary audiences.

The exhibition is divided into four themes, the first tracing the history of hanji from China in 105 AD, its introduction to Korea in the next century, and its subsequent spread to the rest of Asia, to North Africa and finally to Europe in the 12th century. A display of small hanji dolls help show the step-by-step fabrication process. Also on show are some pieces on loan form the Hanji Development Institute. One can find traditional jeonji, jiseung and jiho papercraft in the form of furniture, bags, hanbok, hats, lanterns, pillows and sculptures.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the exhibition is the contemporary hanji oeuvre, featuring sculptures, lamps, dolls and wall-mounted hanji canvases by young Korean artists such as Cho Jung-eun. Kim Young-sung, Jun Chang-ho, Jung-soon Kim, Park Wol-ran, Bean So, as well as Young-ja Bang-Cho, who has been living in Germany for 30 years, and who helped initiate the exchange program between German and Korean female artists.

Bang-Cho makes it clear that hanji is a ``treasure'' that has played an important role in historical rituals, but that is just as useful today as it was a thousand years ago. It has a huge variety of uses; it grows fast, meaning that other forests are protected; and unlike other kinds of paper, it lasts for hundreds of years.

The exhibition in Bonn comes at an important time for Korean art. According to one of the organizers, Young-Soon Cha from the College of Art and Craft at Ewha Womans University, ``Korean Modern Arts suffered hardship throughout history: Japanese occupation, the Korean War, social turmoil, and dictatorships from the early 60s to the late 80s. From the 90s, Korean artists tried to find their own identities and represent them in their works. A major contemporary trend found in Korea is the quest for Korean-ness, sometimes criticised strongly in Korea itself and abroad. In my personal opinion, this is a step we should go through with.''

Of course it is also about bridging Korea and Europe. In Korea, Cha explains, ``we have relatively lots of information about Germany. From the opening of our country to abroad in late 19th century, the Germany was always a model for the study of science, engineering, medicine, law and most of all philosophy.''

In Germany, however, the Korean community, though well-established, remain relative outsiders. Bang-Cho explains that there are Koreans ``in every large city in Germany. Most came here around 1965 as guest workers in nursing, mining and shipyards. I myself came to Germany as a nurse's assistant.'' There are numerous Korean cultural, sports and church societies in Germany, many of which have existed for over 30 years."

This exhibition is about redefining that link between Germany and Korea, particularly from a feminist perspective. Cha explains, ``For us, it's very meaningful to make an exhibition in Frauen Museum, which is the world's first museum for women-artists. We can make contacts and share Asian or Korean cultures with Europeans, and we can shed light on marginalized people, for example women in a foreign society.''

``The German Women´s movement has been active for a long time, since the 60s,'' says Bang-Cho. ``But in Korea it started later. Through mutual symposia like this, a lot is exchanged - what problems we have at work, cultural differences, and how jobs and activities are differentiated. Through sharing, the young generation have taken the task, the challenge of women´s rights. Even art must still serve this.''

The exhibition in Bonn runs until the 12th of July. In Korea there is a Hanji exhibition at the Paper Museum in Seoul (Jongi Nara), moving to Wonju in September, and Chungju in October 2009. In September 2010, the Wonju International Paper Congress willl take place, with smaller exhibitions in Chungju, Jeonju, Seoul and Busan.


The writer is a South African freelance journalist who lived in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, until February 2009, and is currently based in Berlin as part of the International Journalists Program (IJP).
It is always interesting to see what is happening in Japan.

Is a national 'Manga Museum' at last set to get off the ground?
There's long been talk of creating a Japan mecca devoted to anime, cartoons, video games and digital art — but an election looms and the latest plan is fast becoming a political football

Staff writer
When it was announced in April that ¥11.7 billion had been set aside in 2009's supplementary budget to create a new National Center for Media Arts (NCMA) — a museum for manga, anime, video games and technology art — the news was greeted in the same way that most cultural-policy issues are in Japan.

Future visions: An initial plan for the National Center for Media Arts (above). This "Power of Expression, Japan" exhibition at the National Art Center in Tokyo in 2007 (below) suggests how the new facility may look inside. AGENCY FOR CULTURAL AFFAIRS

In other words, except for a few short, businesslike reports, it was ignored.

By the end of May, however, the plan had rocketed to center stage. In his first debate with Prime Minister Taro Aso, new Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama devoted one of just seven questions to the supplementary budget and what he derisively referred to as the "State-run Manga Cafe."

The need for a central facility to research, archive and exhibit the country's popular culture — and to act as a kind of international clearinghouse for these art forms — has been debated in think tanks hosted by the government's Agency for Cultural Affairs for around a decade. So long had deliberations dragged on that in an interview with The Japan Times this time last year, Tamotsu Aoki, the agency's head, said he didn't think the plan would get off the ground any time soon.

But what a difference 12 months can make.

Not only is the plan off the ground, but with the supplementary budget now enacted by the Diet, it is hurtling toward fruition at a very unbureaucratic speed. "Our job is to proceed with preparations as quickly as possible," Aoki told this newspaper last week.

Yet while most commentators on cultural policy are cautiously applauding the development, important questions remain. Why, for instance, has the plan developed so swiftly over the last year? Why is the DPJ so hostile to it? And will the facility meet the expectations of those who have called for its creation for so long?

The answers to the first two questions are related. Put simply, the DPJ thinks the plan was fast-tracked either on the orders of, or to curry favor with, Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is a fan of anime and manga.

"It's Taro Aso who likes anime. Now the bureaucracy has decided to build (a museum) for him. . . . It's a nonsense and a terrible waste of money," Hatoyama told an audience in Aomori on May 9. (For most media outlets, it was this speech that made the NCMA newsworthy.)

Yoshiyuki Oshita, a cultural policy specialist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting, said that Hatoyama's and the DPJ's attacks could be explained in one of two ways. "Either they are being made without proper understanding of the Agency for Cultural Affairs' proposed plan," said Oshita, noting that the NCMA is not just for manga and anime, but also for technology and digital arts. Or the criticisms "represent a purely politically motivated intervention into the cultural sphere," he said.

There's probably some truth in both analyses. But the degree to which Aso was really involved in the plan's genesis is debatable.

The first official mention of a national facility for media arts was made in February 2007, in the Second Basic Policy on the Promotion of Culture and the Arts. "There is a need to consider the establishment of an international facility for new cultural art forms such as media art," noted that document — approved by then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet.

Even that was hardly out of the blue. The original Basic Policy, from 2002, had declared that "young media artists should be nurtured . . . and facilities related to these art forms" should be bolstered. And since 1997, the Agency for Cultural Affairs has been hosting an annual two-week Japan Media Arts Festival celebrating these arts.

Last year, just a year into his tenure as head of the agency, Aoki, an academic by training, created an advisory panel to examine ways in which Japan could improve the promotion of its culture abroad. In its final report, the panel urged that the issue of the establishment of a museum for media arts be "addressed quickly."

Heeding that advice, in July 2008 Aoki set up a second committee to consider preparations for such a facility. Chaired by University of Tokyo Professor Yasuki Hamano, the body published a report this April that has become a rough blueprint for the new facility.

While the NCMA plan's decade-long gestation period precludes it from having been initiated entirely at the behest of Aso, the timing of the Hamano committee's report has raised eyebrows.

The results of a JT poll of foreign tourists asked if they would visit the proposed new facility. MATTHEW KAUNDART / JT GRAPHIC

An Agency for Cultural Affairs spokesperson confirmed that "there had been talk within the committee that their report would be published in the summer." For some reason, however, that date was advanced to April — in time to be included in the supplementary budget. The DPJ thinks this speed-up followed pressure from Aso, and that — in the words of DPJ Diet member, Seiji Ohsaka — "they've rushed it into the budget before anything is decided."

Agency for Cultural Affairs head Aoki explained what happened as follows: "In March, we were told it would be possible to apply for funding for this kind of facility within the supplementary budget. We were very appreciative of this opportunity."

In other words, the "pressure" — if it can be called that — was interpreted less as a stick than as a carrot, and a particularly attractive one at that.

"The Agency's annual budget is very small in comparison with other countries," Aoki added, noting its ¥102 billion allocation for 2009 is about a third less than South Korea's and seven times less than France's. "This opportunity was much appreciated," he repeated.

Of course, the official line on the NCMA plan's inclusion in the supplementary budget is that it will serve as a fiscal stimulus in the current economic downturn — which is why the supplementary budget was created in the first place.

Mitsubishi UFJ's Oshita added his analytic weight to this argument, explaining that in terms of immediate economic stimulus, ¥11.7 billion spent on a museum is no worse, and no better, than spending it on a new road or bridge or, for that matter, "digging a hole and filling it again." The important question, he said, is whether or not it can stimulate industry in the future.

Promotion of Japan's so-called media-contents industries (including manga, anime, TV and film) has recently become a high priority within several government ministries — including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. Hence it was probably this prioritization, Oshita suggested, that convinced Cabinet members that the NCMA-as-fiscal-stimulus idea was worth a try.

The DPJ's objections to the NCMA have subsided slightly since the ruling Liberal Democratic Party used their coalition majority in the Lower House to enact the supplementary budget — effectively overruling the objections of the Upper House's DPJ majority. However, argument about the NCMA will likely flare again during the upcoming election. Importantly, the DPJ is refusing to say whether or not it will terminate the plan if it wins power. "We're still considering how to approach that issue," a party spokesperson said by phone last week.

For his part, Aoki would not be drawn on the consequences of a change of government. "We will respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves," he said.

So, as things stand — and with ¥11.7 billion now in the coffers for buying land and constructing the building — it is full speed ahead as far as the Agency for Cultural Affairs is concerned.

Fast forward: Exhibits at the new "Manga Museum" are likely to resemble those at 2007's "Power of Expression, Japan," an exhibition held to document the first 10 years of the Agency for Cultural Affairs' Media Arts Festival. AGENCY FOR CULTURAL AFFAIRS

The April report tentatively names the new facility the Kokuritsu Media Geijutsu Sogo Senta (which, for lack of an official version, this writer translates as "National Center for Media Arts"). It also recommends that the center should be four or five stories high and around 10,000 sq. meters in total area — and that it should be built within the next two or three years in Tokyo's waterfront Odaiba district.

As for its activities, the plan says the NCMA should research, collect, nurture and exhibit the work of young creators in the fields of manga, anime, video games and art forms using computers or electronic media.

It is envisaged that such a center would attract 600,000 visitors a year, including researchers and tourists from around the world, and generate ¥150 million in ticket sales annually.

However, nothing is set in stone, and deliberations on all of these details are set to continue within the NCMA "planning office" recently established within the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and also within a new committee of specialists that will be convened in the near future. An Agency spokesperson revealed to The Japan Times on Friday that the new committee will publish a revised "basic plan" for the NCMA in July and that an architectural competition will be held soon after that. In September the architect, location and a detailed NCMA "project plan" will be announced.

In terms of attracting researchers from abroad, most commentators agree that the potential is great. "Still," explained Jaqueline Berndt, deputy director of Kyoto International Manga Museum's research center, "I worry whether this will be a scholarly institution. At the moment we get many many e-mails from foreign scholars, especially graduate students, who want to research or want information or resources." The new NCMA, she said, will need the resources and staff to foster such exchanges.

It is also expected that the facility will be popular with tourists. "This could be a really vital tourist resource," said Takeshi Komiya, senior director of HIS Experience Japan, a leading inbound travel agency. But he warned: "You can't just say, 'OK, we built a center.' You need to explain to visitors, 'Yes, we have Kyoto and Nara, but this is also an important part of Japanese culture.' "

Top 'crat: Tamotsu Aoki, head of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, discusses plans for the new National Center for Media Arts in a JT interview this month. EDAN CORKILL

In a quick survey of foreign tourists in Tokyo's upmarket Ginza shopping district and in the "subculture Mecca" of Akihabara last week, The Japan Times found that in each location 60 percent of 20 tourists polled said they would visit such a facility.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the April report is that it says management of the facility will be outsourced to private enterprise, with the intention of it being entirely self-financing.

The closest thing to a precedent for such a business model would be Japan's regional museums, management of which can now be outsourced to "appointed administrators." The key difference, however, is that in the case of the regional museums, the appointed administrators are paid a set fee to run the facilities. The NCMA administrator would have to operate the entire institution solely on whatever income they manage to wring from it.

Even stranger is the suggestion that the NCMA's collection would be bankrolled by its own income. It is hard to imagine that a private management firm appointed on a three- or perhaps five-year contract would bother expending precious operating funds on a cost-heavy, largely unprofitable collection.

"There has been talk of there being some manga artists willing to donate works to the NCMA," one Agency for Cultural Affairs spokesperson said sheepishly, before Aoki added that this, too, is an area awaiting further consideration.

The planned NCMA has also been criticized from within the manga and anime fraternities.

Manga artist Kei Ishizaka declared at a DPJ hearing on the plan that, "manga fans would not come and look at original drawings hung in frames using government money."

But, for every skeptic, there appears to be a supporter.

For instance, manga artist Machiko Satonaka was so "fearful that the plan would be swept aside" that she gathered like-minded colleagues and set up her own press conference on June 4 to register their support.

"The preservation and restoration of precious original manga drawings, which are deteriorating rapidly, is urgently required," she told the assembled reporters.

Others still have voiced concerns that the NCMA plan might be a cynical attempt by the government to enlist manga and anime for the enhancement of Japan's geopolitical influence. If so, that's news to Berndt, of the Kyoto International Manga Museum. She recalled a recent foreign graduate student hellbent on uncovering just such a motivation. "Maybe from a European perspective, it looks like that, but in Japan . . . there really isn't one," she said, almost with a hint of disappointment.

Still, perhaps the most important point is one that Aoki, from his position as head of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, is at pains to make.

"People keep referring to this as a museum of manga and anime, but it is not," he said. "It also includes all the technology and digital forms of expression."

Mitsubishi UFJ's Oshita went even further. "The definition of media art is very difficult. Although it does include manga and printed matter, I think at its core will be the idea of eizo (video content)," he said. "As can be seen from the popularity of (video-sharing Web site) YouTube, videos are now the central parlance of the Internet. They will change the way we communicate."

Oshita sees the new facility as a potential clearinghouse to filter out and preserve the best of the myriad, but ephemeral, video content that now floods the Internet — from television programs to advertising to amateur-produced parodies and video diaries.

While not quite as revolutionary in his thinking, Aoki also has his sights set on distinguishing Japan from the rest of the world. "Japan has been a global leader not just in anime and manga, but in digital art," he said. "Making a facility like this is a way to maintain that leadership."

Perhaps. But while Aoki and others are keeping one eye on the world and the other on the task of quickly planning for their new facility, there's a lingering threat that in the next few months their feet could be pulled from under them, and the museum could be demolished before it is ever built.
The wild heat.

Severe Heat Wave Grips Many Parts Of India
Friday, 26 June 2009

Dogs join daily wage laborers and rickshaw pullers as they take rest seated over wet sand to keep off the heat in New Delhi, 26 Jun 2009A severe heat wave sweeping across the plains of India has claimed at least 100 lives. It has also led to power and water shortages in many parts of the country, including the capital, New Delhi.

As temperatures hovered around 44 degrees Celsius across northern, eastern and central India, officials in several states reported scores of heat-related deaths. Many of the victims belong to India's poorest states such as Orissa and Jharkhand.

In Orissa, hospitals opened special wards for heat stroke victims.

High temperatures are common starting May, but seasonal monsoon rains usually bring some cooling showers in June. However there has been no respite from the scorching weather due to poor rains in recent weeks.

The impact of the prolonged heat spell has been aggravated by acute power and water shortages in many parts of the country.

In New Delhi, angry residents in parts of the city have held street protests to draw attention to the dry taps and lengthy power outages.

Purnima Mehta, who lives in Delhi's posh south, reports power outages for up to six hours a day.

"Lack of power leads to immense discomfort for everyone, and of course water is a basic necessity, and without that how can any household function?" Mehta asked.

Officials say there is little they can do to ease the situation. Levels in water reservoirs are dire, and power stations are unable to cope with the massive surge in demand as air conditioners work overtime.

New Delhi's chief minister, Shiela Dikshit, has warned of tough days ahead if monsoon rains do not arrive soon, and is asking people to conserve both water and power.

The warning came after officials forecast that monsoons are likely to be "below normal", and the maximum shortfall will be in northwestern India.

Minister of Earth Sciences Prithviraj Chavan said this week that government officials are monitoring the situation that may arise due to the deficit in rains.

"There are many implications about irrigation, about electricity generation, about drinking water and steps to mitigate that would be taken," Chavan said.

Officials have resorted to a variety of measures to cope with the situation. In New Delhi, summer vacations in schools have been extended by one week to protect school children from the blazing sun. In Punjab - a relatively rich, agricultural state - the state government has ordered that air conditioners in government offices should be turned off so that power can be conserved to pump water to farms. In Andhra Pradesh, the government has drawn up plans for cloud seeding operations if rains are delayed further.
This charity's webpage absolutely made my day. The fact that people would devote their lives to a cause this wonderful was so heartening to know. After so much experience of evil, when you see the good, it makes you gasp with wonder.

A CHILD was pulled alive from rough seas after a Yemeni Airbus A310 jet carrying 153 people crashed as it came in to land in the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros yesterday.


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It was the second time in less than a month that an Airbus had crashed into the ocean, and immediately there were calls by the EU for a worldwide blacklist of unsafe airlines.

French authorities said the Yemeni carrier had been under surveillance and that problems had been reported with the jet.

Bodies and wreckage from the Yemenia Airways flight were spotted in the sea near the archipelago's capital, Moroni.

Hopes there would be survivors among the 142 passengers and 11 crew on Flight IY 626 were realised when a five-year-old child was plucked from the sea and taken to hospital, officials said. In Yemen's capital, Sanaa, Yemenia's deputy managing director for operations, Mohammed al-Sumairi, said three bodies had been recovered. But there was no word on other survivors.

Fishermen had also found wreckage, passengers' handbags and other effects, said rescuers in Comoros.

Yemeni aviation official Mohammad Abdel Kader said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash."The weather was very bad ... the wind was very strong," he said.

Witnesses said they saw the jet trying to land at Moroni airport, but then disappear.

"It looked to me as though the plane was having difficulties landing," said former civil aviation chief Mohamed Yahya, adding that its engines were making a noise as though it was in trouble.

Flight IY626 had started in Paris early on Monday, with passengers boarding a more modern Airbus A330-200 for the flight via Marseille to Sanaa, where passengers switched to the Airbus A310 for the journey to Djibouti and Moroni.

Moroni international airport lost contact with the jet just before it was due to land in bad weather, said airport director Hadji Mmadi Ali.

French civil aviation officials said 66 passengers were French. Three small babies were also among the passengers. France sent two navy ships and a plane from its nearby Indian Ocean territories to help the rescue.

Airbus, which is still reeling from the crash of an Air France A330-200 into the Atlantic on June 1 with 228 people on board, set up a crisis cell and sent investigators to the Comoros.

The European plane-maker said the jet that crashed off Moroni was made in 1990 and had been operated by Yemenia since 1999.

EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani called for a worldwide blacklist of unsafe airlines like that in the EU.

"If we want to achieve better safety I'm convinced that we need to have a worldwide blacklist; the European blacklist works pretty well in Europe," he said.

France's Transport Minister, Dominique Bussereau, said inspectors had noted numerous faults on the Airbus and Yemenia was being closely monitored by EU authorities, although it was not on the blacklist.

He also said the crashed aircraft had been banned from French airspace several years ago because of "irregularities".

Yemen's transport minister, Khaled al-Wazir, said the Airbus was checked in May and had no technical faults.

Airbus said the jet had accumulated about 51,900 hours in the air from 17,300 flights.

Yemenia, created in 1978, is 51 per cent owned by the Yemeni government and 49 per cent by Saudi Arabia.

1 July 2009

Refugees, asylum seekers and Australia: some cold hard facts
by Andrew Bartlett

The website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) contains all the statistical data anyone could want on refugees, asylum seekers, returned refugees, internally displaced and stateless people around the world.

There are many different ways to analyse this data, but a few clear-cut aspects are worth emphasising. First, Australia consistently ranks near the top of industrialised nations in receiving refugees who waiting resettlement  — often, but not always, in refugee camps.

Second, the reason Australia can appear so generous with offshore resettlement is because Australia consistently ranks near the bottom of industrialised nations when in comes to people arriving and seeking asylum. The controversies that erupt when a few hundred refugees arrive in boats can be seen as all the more irrational when contrasted to the tens of thousands who arrive year after year seeking asylum in some European countries which are far smaller in population and size.

A report in October 2008 showed that Iraqis were still by far the top nationality arriving in developed countries seeking asylum. Third on that list is China, which most Australians do not realise is our top source country for asylum seekers, because almost none of them arrive by boat. Instead, they arrive by plane on various temporary visas and apply for asylum later.

But the burden on all industrialised countries is insignificant when placed against poorer countries. 80 percent of the world’s refugees are in developing nations  — most of them in insecure, unsafe or tenuous situations. The host countries obviously have far fewer resources to handle these numbers.

The single fact that sticks out most obviously of all is that the numbers of people in these desperate situations is huge and is likely to stay that way. The UNHCR’s global trends report for 2008 estimated “the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stood at 42 million at the end of last year.”

And things have got worse in the first part of 2009 with “substantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.”

People on the move from Pakistan include many originally from Afghanistan who have already been waiting for years in insecure situations for it to be safe to return. Australia tends to be a destination country for some who originate in Pakistan/Afghanistan or Sri Lanka.

This graph from the Possie in Aussie blog shows clearly that “the main reason why flows of asylum seekers decreased under the Howard government — they decreased around the world.”

Let’s not forget all these stats and trends are before the full effects of climate change start to be felt. A recent story in The Economist quoted the view of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that there will be 200 million “climate-change induced migrants” by 2050. At the moment, the global community can’t even agree on how best to label such people  — with many rejecting the refugee terminology  — let alone how to handle them.

The policy dilemmas thrown up by this situation are huge. In one sense, there is no full solution, short of world peace and an end to poverty globally. But the least we could do is stop pretending we can just block them all out.

Policies which try to put up a wall or restrict the ability to seek asylum can work for a while  — unlike those who seek to make life unpleasant for people after they arrive, which have no effect other to inflict injustice on the innocent (often at public expense) and impede their long-term ability to integrate. But this quickly becomes a race to the bottom. The worst excesses of the Howard era are now being surpassed by countries like Italy, intercepting and returning refugees to Libya  — whose human rights record  — including returning refugees to danger  — is dismal at best.

Eventually Australia is going to have to engage more directly with the large numbers of displaced people in our region. Spending money in an effort to use Indonesia as a holding pen so refugees don’t risk their lives on boats coming to Australia may work for a while, but it is untenable in the long term if refugees waiting in Indonesia are not able to find safe resettlement within a reasonable period.

An even bigger concern is the horrendous treatment many asylum seekers and displaced people are subjected to in Malaysia. These appalling and systematic human rights abuses have received little attention in Australia until recently, but we can’t continue to turn a blind eye. This post from a Malaysian blog documents some of that terrible treatment. It also notes “There are 171,000 refugees in Malaysia, fleeing persecution in their home countries.”

Australia has recently started taking in some refugees from Burma, including most recently Rohinya people from western Burma. This is very welcome, but it also means public awareness of how many of these refugees are treated by surrounding countries in our region will grow. It will present a diplomatic and human rights challenge for Australia.

A report just released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute  — called The Human Tide — reinforces the need for us to stop denying the obvious in the hope we can somehow make it all go away.

The report’s author, Dr Mark Thomson, says:

“The principal cause of people seeking refuge is events which cause them to seek refuge; unrest in one part of the world or another.”

“Will this stop in the future? No. There will always be parts of the world where there are problems and where people will try and seek safety offshore.”

It’s time we ditched the fear and loathing approach that has lain beneath so much of Australia’s political psyche over so many years, and gave a rational approach a go. It wouldn’t hurt us  — and it very probably would reduce the hurt suffered by people who are already suffered more than enough. We did it in the Fraser era in respect of refugees from Vietnam and that worked out well.

Andrew Bartlett is a blogger for Crikey and is also a Research Fellow in the Migration Law Practice Program at ANU.
India opposed to 'reinventing' Doha negotiations talk

My understanding of this is that a lot of smallfarmers in India are going to starve if this deal goes down the way that some member nations appear to be pushing for.

D RAVI KANTH / Paris June 29, 2009, 0:47 IST

India is committed to an “early” deal in the stalled Doha trade negotiations if it addresses the “legitimate developmental concerns” of developing countries in a balanced way, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma told Business Standard in a wide-ranging conversation.

“Our government is fully committed to an early breakthrough in the Doha agreement based on December 2008 draft texts in agriculture and industrial goods. It must be a balanced agreement that addresses the legitimate concerns of developing countries,” he said.

“India is opposed to ‘reinventing’ the Doha negotiating process at this late hour,” Sharma said, arguing that Doha talks were based on a multilateral framework.

The US has now demanded what are called bilateral negotiations to provide clarity on what it is getting from key emerging countries. Many developing countries have opposed this demand on the ground that it would undermine multilateral solutions to global trade problems.

“Further I have made it clear that Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) is not for negotiation as it concerns the livelihood of poor farmers,” Sharma maintained, squashing rumours that India is prepared to give up on this vital developmental flexibility for which it waged a major negotiating battle all these years.

The US and leading farm exporting countries like Australia, Uruguay, Thailand and Malaysia are opposed to having a flexible SSM that would enable developing countries, like India and China to impose safeguard duties for countering unforeseen surges in imports of major food products.

“Further, the developed countries,” said Sharma, “will have to revisit the subsidy dossier in the Doha agriculture package, as several outstanding issues remain unaddressed.” The US has repeatedly claimed that the subsidy dossier is almost completed as there are no substantive issues to address, a claim that Argentina recently challenged.

After participating in a series of ministerial meetings on the margins of the annual Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual session in Paris on Thursday and Friday, commerce minister spoke to Business Standard about his assessment on the state of play in the Doha trade talks and his bilateral meetings.

“I have introduced specific language that global trading system must be fair, equitable and addresses the legitimate aspirations of the developing countries in the India, Brazil and South Africa declaration,” Sharma stated, arguing that any outcome in the Doha talks must satisfy these three requirements.

“India is all for re-energisng the Doha talks but not re-inventing them all over again,” he repeatedly said, suggesting that there should be no confusion on where India stands on this issue.

“There is no question that we will accept a new negotiating arrangement at this point and I have insisted that multilateral negotiations must resume on the basis of the draft texts issued in December 2009,” Sharma clarified, adding that his suggestion was accepted.

But much would depend on what happens at the G-8 plus five leaders meeting in Italy next week when the US will push hard for a specific bilateral route in addition to the ongoing multilateral talks to conclude the Doha talks. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the G-8 meeting in which China, Brazil, and South Africa have decided to oppose any change in the Doha negotiating process.

India and its key allies — Brazil, China, South Africa, and Argentina — have also opposed the US’ demand to start what are called focused bilateral negotiations to extract more concessions from developing countries.

“It would be unreasonable and unrealistic to assume that further unilateral concessions from developing countries will be forthcoming, especially in the context of the current economic crisis,” India, Brazil and South Africa said in their joint statement.

At the Paris meeting, Argentina, China, Brazil and South Africa also took a strong stand on sectoral tariff elimination for industrial goods as pushed by the US, which wants key emerging countries to join the sectoral talks on chemicals, electrical and electronics, and industrial engineering goods.

All these four countries vehemently opposed demands on sectoral tariff elimination maintaining that the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration clearly stipulated that participation in these talks is “voluntary” and not mandatory.
"Method" acting in India! :) I remember reading a lot about this style of acting, popularized by Strasberg at the Actor's Studio in New York City decades ago, back when I was in my early twenties. Its very famous and India, with its fabulous Bollywood industry, is the perfect place for a school devoted to this technique. Many noted faces in the west have been "method" trained-some have even won Oscars.

In an exciting new venture into the development of international acting talent, the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, home of Strasberg's trademarked 'Method' acting training process, has announced a partnership with Optimus Management Group, of Hartford, Connecticut, to open the first Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute India, home of the burgeoning Bollywood film industry. The partners plan to open Strasberg Institute India in two locations, Mumbai and Hyderabad, by early 2010.

Founder and CEO of Optimus Management Group, Ahmed A Ahsan, and esteemed Bollywood director Rahuul Rawail have formed an exclusive partnership to operate the Lee Strasberg Institute in India. In a contract signed today with co-founder Anna Strasberg and CEO David Lee Strasberg, they have entered into an agreement to develop the first Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute India which will offer students the only sanctioned 'Method' training facility outside of the US. Currently, there are two Strasberg Theater and Film Institutes operating in this country; at their headquarters in New York City and in Los Angeles.

The Strasberg Institute India will be run by veteran Bollywood director Rahuul Rawail who has more than 30 films to his credit including some of the biggest blockbusters of the Indian cinema. Rawail is also keenly interested in the development of young talent. As CEO of the Institute in India, Rawail hopes to offer the next generation of talented Indian actors the chance to compete globally as the country continues to export more of its films and its stars to the international market.

Strasberg Institute India's co-founder, Ahmed A Ahsan, has grown the Optimus Management Group in Hartford, Connecticut into an award-winning company which provides management consulting and human resource solutions throughout the country. Ahsan was inspired by recent growth in the Bollywood film industry and decided to apply his business acumen to the development of a top-notch Acting School in India so that interested and talented young actors who couldn't afford the expense of studying abroad could take advantage of the best actors' training available. He also envisions the long-term potential for attracting a stream of production opportunities to Connecticut and North America. The development of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute India is the first step in that direction.

ALSO READ: Now, a film on Shiney controversy!
I was surprised by this particular article after a string of really negative reportage from the same author, but India can really captivate people :)


Delhi, India — From Saturday's Globe and Mail
05:16PM EDT

.Four hundred years ago, Emperor Shah Jahan rode his elephant from his sprawling marble palace of an afternoon, out along Chandni Chowk, the street named for the moonlight that reflected in its tree-lined canal. Both sides of the road were lined with restaurants and stands selling chaat, small savouries. Shah Jahan, in addition to being a conqueror of peoples, a builder of cities and a patron of the arts, really liked a good snack.

Under his royal patronage, this jewel of a street became the snack capital of the world, a title it arguably continues to hold today.

At the spice market, mix essential seasonings – such as turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, aniseed and cloves – used in favourite dishes in Old Delhi’s truly local food destinations.
However, much else has changed from the emperor's era. The canal is paved over. The trees are a distant memory. The palaces and mansions of courtiers are tumbledown and ransacked. The royal elephant has been replaced by a honking, filth-spewing snarl of cars and trucks and buses and rickshaws and bicycles and bullock carts. Stinking drains drip into the streets, and while the moon still rises over Chandni Chowk, one is hard-pressed to spot it beneath the explosion of pirated electric wires and clouds of smog that blot out the sky.

But don't let any of that put you off. The snacks have endured gloriously well.

If you should find yourself with just one afternoon in Delhi – on your way to the beaches of Goa, a trek in the Himalayas, or meetings in one of the new high-tech centres – you can plunge into India's history by eating your way across the Old City, the first city, at the heart of the modern capital.

Delhi, it is often said, is in fact seven cities, one built on top of the next – from the first built by Hindu kings of the 10th century through to the tidy capital of the British raj. Each epoch left its architectural imprint here – and Salma Husain, the city's foremost food historian, explains that the successive empires left their mark on the food as well.

Once a researcher in India's national archives, Ms. Husain – a self-described foodie who hails from Mumbai – began hunting in manuscripts she translated from Persian for references to food. She quickly became fondest of Moghul-era documents, because the Moghuls brought the same more-is-more sensibility to cuisine that led to other of their creations, such as the Taj Mahal.

Ms. Husain's initial curiosity became a hungry obsession, and she travelled across India and then internationally, hunting for more manuscripts that made mention of food. She learned how the Moghuls brought Central Asian favourites with them as they conquered the area, but welcomed contributions from Persia and Afghanistan – early fusion, as it were.

Then she started eating in Old Delhi – and learned that, happily for today's visitor, it is still possible to sample much of what the emperors loved to eat, as long as you are prepared to make the trek into the heart of their city, or what is left of it.

Ms. Husain suggests you start out in late afternoon; you want to avoid the worst of the heat, and most of the street food vendors don't set up until 4 p.m. Take a taxi or an auto-rickshaw to the centre of Old Delhi, get out near Town Hall and, with the looming bulk of the Lal Qila, the Red Fort, behind you, head down the street in the other direction. To get in the mood for this adventure, begin where Chandni Chowk ends, at the spice market. Here, rows of stalls sell the essentials of Indian cookery: turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, aniseed, cloves, red chili and black pepper. The discriminating Delhi shopper selects some of each and has them ground together into a masala, rather than buying one of the pre-mixed packets – there is, sniffs Ms. Husain, “a lot of adulteration” by unscrupulous spice merchants who slip some flavourless pepper in place of a pricier key ingredient.

From the spice market, walk back west toward the Red Fort, along the congested sidewalks of Chandni Chowk. Begin your snacking on the sidewalk: Near Town Hall sit vendors with chaat – the name comes from the Hindi verb for “to taste” – such as kachori, small pastry shells holding masala potatoes. You can have a small plate for eight rupees, or two cents. There is, of course, the risk of belly troubles that always comes with street food, and this venture is not for the faint of stomach, but if you stick to the items that are solid and scraped into your pressed-leaf plate from a sizzling grill (rather than something such as gol gappa, pastry balls filled with watery coriander sauce), you should be fine.

For something a little more solid, head toward the fort, keeping an eye out for an alleyway that turns off from the right-hand side of the street – the landmark is a shop advertising “pure desi ghee.” Follow the alley through two twists and turns (or just ask anyone) to Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan. This hole-in-the-wall, established in 1872, was a favourite haunt of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and it remains a beacon for lovers of parantha – stuffed flatbread. That may sound like something of an oxymoron, but parantha are an elaborate treat: Wheat dough is kneaded together with a filling – anything from finely chopped eggplant to peas and cauliflower to shredded chilies and fennel seeds – and rolled flat, then fried. This shop offers a whopping 23 varieties of parantha, and each is served on a metal tray with coriander chutney, mint chutney, mixed vegetable pickle, paneer and potato curry, potato and fenugreek curry, and sitaphal – mashed, sautéed sweet pumpkin. Rip up your parantha (no one seems to manage to wait until it cools from the griddle, so there's some tossing it back and forth from hand to hand for the first few bites) to scoop up a mix of everything. Your bill here, for one tray of goodies and three parantha: about $1.

Leaving the paranthawallah, you can take a quick diversion to the right to visit one of Old Delhi's most magical streets – the gaudy and glittering market of wedding accessories. Tiny shops sell gold organza gift bags, gilt-dusted grooms' turbans, flower garlands, gem-encrusted saris and handy pop-up statues of the elephant god Ganesh. But soon head back to Chandni Chowk and proceed right, further toward the Fort – it's time for some sweets.

Just a minute or two along the right-hand side of the street is a shop called Ganthewala, founded in 1790 and run today by descendants of that first family. The original shop sold sweets, and in a bit of good public relations used to present them to Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar when he processed by on his elephant – or so the story goes. The emperor may or may not have enjoyed the sohan halva, for which the shop remains famous (a mix of wheat sprouts, sugar and ghee – clarified butter – with almonds, pistachios and cashews pressed on top as it hardens). But the elephant loved it and would stop outside, refusing to go further until she got her share. She would toss her head impatiently, and the jingling from her decorative harness gave the shop its name – ganthe is Hindi for bell. Her favourite sweet is sold today at $9 per kilogram.

But you may want to tuck your halva in your pocket and keep walking, for the treats at your next destination must be eaten fresh and hot to be experienced in their true, insulin-coma-inducing glory. Keep walking in the same westward direction, past the Sikh gurdwara (where, as with any Sikh temple, they will take you in and give you a hot meal and place to sleep, regardless of your faith, should you require). About 10 paces later, on the corner, is a tiny stand where the sole sign exhorts you to pay first before you collect your sweets. It's shop #130, the self-described Old Famous Jelabi Weallah. At the back of the closet-sized shop, the jelabi maker sits cross-legged on a stool, above a vast vat of sizzling ghee atop a propane burner. He holds a muslin sack with a hole cut in the corner, full of batter made of flour, sugar and egg. With a swirling motion of his wrist, he spins coils of batter into the oil where they form tight rounds. He flips them, flips them again, and a minute later lifts them golden from the ghee and plunges them into the adjoining vat of sugar syrup. Then just as quickly he flips them out again and – if your timing is right – onto a small foil plate. Mostly Delhiwallahs buy them by the kilogram ($7). They are crisp and airy and shockingly sweet.

“I'm the third generation,” owner Kailash Jain boasts. “The recipe is a secret, and I don't tell anyone.” Ms. Husain, who has made careful study of the issue, believes that his jelabi are the best in the city. Possibly anywhere.

To walk off the jelabi, hang a right at the shop off Chandni Chowk and plunge into the markets. The streets will twist and turn a bit, but keep to your general southerly direction and just ask anyone for directions to the Jama Masjid. This is the largest mosque in Asia; completed in 1656, it holds 10,000 people for Friday prayers. If you're not hungry again just yet, then check your shoes at the door and have a wander around inside.

Leave the mosque through the opposite side – you will find yourself on a wider street beneath a gate labelled “No. 1.” A small street will stretch north in front of you. Go about four metres and look for a tiny alleyway on your left. Can't spot it? Don't panic – just say the word Karim's. In fact, you probably won't get past the first syllable, and everyone on the street will point you through the crevice in the wall that leads to one of Delhi's most famous restaurants.

The founder of Karim's was a chef in the Moghul court who lost his job and fled for his life in 1857, the year of the Indian Rebellion, when the last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was dethroned. Haji Karimuddin moved to a small town in Uttar Pradesh in disguise, and scrambled for a way to make a living, but secretly passed the secrets of imperial cuisine on to his son. By 1911, a new generation thought it was safe to go back to Delhi, where a festival was being held to celebrate the coronation of King George V. He began with a roadside stand selling just two items, but within a couple of years had established a restaurant with the family name outside the gates of the great mosque, with the slogan “Serving royal food to the common man.”

Karim's has a gritty, honest charm. On one side of the Ping-Pong-table-size courtyard is a small, raised room where bakers sit cross-legged rolling out and baking naan flatbread. Across from them is the charcoal grill where a cook uses a sheet of cardboard to flame coals beneath a dozen kinds of grilling kebabs. Customers are ushered to Formica tables in one of four rabbit-warren dining rooms, lit by fluorescent strips. Food comes quickly, served up by a battalion of worse-for-wear waiters: the spicy kebabs that the emperor loved best. Tender lamb ishtu, made with whole spices in thick gravy. And butter chicken – marinated in yogurt, cooked, then coated in butter and served in thick tomato sauce that a succession of diners exclaims is the best they have ever had anywhere. The naan is puffy, hot and buttery. Follow it with a small clay dish of firni (rice pudding) and a cup of chai. Dinner for two costs only about $8.

“Here, food became aromatic and wonderful, because it had the patronage of royalty,” says Ms. Husain, ordering up just one more kind of kebab for visitors, and then holding forth on which of its spices came from which part of the empire.

Four doors from Karim's, back toward the mosque, stands a rival restaurant, Al-Jawahar. It does not have Karim's royal past, nor the venerable reputation – but in Ms. Husain's carefully considered opinion its kebab and its parantha are in fact more authentic and even better. While Karim's sometimes draws in the odd tourist, at Al-Jawahar you will dine surrounded by sprawling Delhi families and tables full of bickering Koranic scholars.

If you can possibly bear the idea of eating any more, head back toward the street that runs along the mosque. In either direction, come nightfall, dozens of tiny dhaba fire up their grills: There is spicy chicken, roasted or fried, a particular favourite of Delhiwallahs; a variety of stuffed and fried breads; sugar cane juice, and dhuwan wali kheer, a smoked rice pudding.

Ms. Husain shakes her head at the jostling crowds and the dirt in the streets, the decrepit buildings and shrilling car horns. But when she samples from the roadside stands, she gives a brisk nod of approval. “It's authentic here,” she says. “It tastes like it used to.”