Vaccines Get Past Taliban, Finally #goodnews #pakistan

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
After four years, tens of thousands of children in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are receiving the polio vaccination. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPSAfter four years, tens of thousands of children in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are receiving the polio vaccination. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Sep 26 2012 (IPS) – Over thirty thousand children in the remote Tirah area of the Khyber Agency, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Northern Pakistan, have waited four years for protection from polio, a viral disease that is sometimes referred to as ‘infantile paralysis’ due to its crippling effects on children.

A massive government and civil society effort through the month of September finally began to reverse the trend that had kept the children of Tirah, along with hundreds of thousands in the greater FATA area, under the shadow of polio.

Up until this year, children in all seven FATA agencies have been the worst victims of the Taliban’s ban on the oral polio vaccination (OPV), which the organisation claims was a ploy by the United States to render the recipients impotent and infertile, thus strangling the growth of the Muslim population.

On Jun. 20 the outlawed Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) banned vaccinations in North Waziristan, putting 161,000 at risk of contracting the preventable childhood disease.

A week later, the TTP in the adjacent South Waziristan province imposed a ban on numerous vaccinations that rendered 157,000 children vulnerable to eight preventable childhood ailments – polio, measles, diphtheria, hepatitis, meningitis, pertussis, influenza and pneumonia.

“Anyone found involved in vaccination-related activities was dealt with sternly,” TTP Spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said a statement, adding that the responsibility rested with those who advocated for any kind of vaccination.

Not even professional health workers were spared if they were found to be in violation of the ban.

“Due to the Taliban’s barbarism, such as beheading soldiers and local residents on charge of spying, stoning alleged ‘sinners’ (such as adulterers) to death and targeted assassinations, the Taliban have spread their message about the vaccinations loud and clear,” explained FATA Director of Health, Dr Fawad Khan.

Khan said that more than 6000 FATA health workers had been directed to stay away from vaccine-related work.

Earlier this month officials mounted an offensive against the ban. The government enlisted a local NGO, the National Research and Development Foundation, and religious scholars to hold talks with the outlawed jihadist outfit Ansar ul Islam (AI) to negotiate the terms of a vaccination programme.

The NGO began facilitating the vaccination on Sept. 4, an upbeat Dr. Aftab Akbar Durrani, social sector secretary of the FATA, told IPS.

He added that AI’s cooperation had enabled 95 percent of the children in the Tirah area to receive the vaccination.

“It is a major breakthrough, as many (previous) efforts to vaccinate children in the Taliban-controlled areas had failed,” officials told the English-language Dawn newspaper, crediting the organisation with protecting 32,641 children from polio.

Officials added that 11,626 children also received the vaccine against measles, while another 3,889 newborns and month-old infants were vaccinated against five other ailments between Sept. 4 and 6.

“Ansar ul Islam and religious leaders attached to the group understand that the poliovirus can cause lifelong disability so they are ready to support the initiative,” according to officials. Only four families refused to vaccinate their children, but efforts are currently underway to convince them otherwise.

“Ansar ul Islam played a vital role in countering community refusals,” officials told IPS

Fifty percent of children In Bara, a town in Khyber Agency, had not received the oral polio vaccine (OPV) since October 2009, owing to an ongoing operation against militants in the area.

Officials developed a new strategy to reach the inaccessible children in FATA, which included working in “collaboration with scouts (who) carried out door-to-door visit with the help of local vaccinators”.

Durrani told Dawn that aggressive efforts were underway to ensure immunisation of all 900,000 target children in FATA.

“We are administering OPV to the displaced children of Waziristan in the adjacent districts of Bannu, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan where they live in rented houses or with their relatives,” he said.

He said that more than 25,000 displaced children from Orakzai Agency had been vaccinated in the nearby Hangu district, while 50,000 children In Jalozai had also received the OPV.

“Displacement has been proving a blessing in disguise for the displaced children, who are getting protection against eight vaccine-preventable ailments through immunisation,” Durrani said.

A three-part campaign throughout September saw the immunisation of 600,000 children in FATA while 300,000 were still inaccessible.

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The Story of Rationalist Movement in India #bookreview

Review by Dilip Simeon


india calcutta bookstore

Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India-By Johannes Quack
Oxford University Press, New York, 2012
ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8; 978-0-19-981262-2 (pbk)

Review by Dilip Simeon, for H-Asia, a part of H-Net: asia/

On March 10, 2012, Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Indian
Rationalist Association inspected a crucifix in front of a suburban
church in Mumbai. The crucifix had attracted hundreds of devotees on
account of droplets of water trickling from Jesus’ feet. Edamaruku
identified the source of the water (a drainage near a washing room)
and the capillary action whereby it reached Jesus feet. Later, in a
live TV program he explained his findings and accused Church officials
of miracle mongering. A heated debate began, in which priests demanded
an apology. Upon his refusal, the police charged him under section 295
of the Indian Penal Code for hurting religious sentiments.

This book is an account of the broader rationalist movement in India
of which Sanal Edamaruku is a prominent member, and a vivid
description of its origins, practices and beliefs. A monograph on the
radical avowal of scientific reason, it fills a much needed lacuna in
the annals of modern India. The clubbing together of reason and
science, is of course, a problem in itself, one that the narrative
enables the reader to discern. Borrowing partly from Charles Taylor’s
book A Secular Age (2007), the author coins the term ‘modes of
unbelief’ to refer to the rationalists’ questioning of India’s endemic

The story of Indian rationalism has an illustrious cast in Quack’s
telling. It includes Jotiba Phule, G.G. Agarkar, Shahu Maharaj, Annie
Besant, Ramaswami Naicker, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar, M.N. Roy,
Goparaju Rao ‘Gora’, Annadurai and a host of others. Much of the
activism that the study focuses on derives inspiration from Phule’s
Satyashodhak Samaj. This is because an important dimension of
organized rationalism was and remains the challenge to sacralised
social injustice. The roots of this challenge lie in diverse
intellectual currents such as the Bengal Renaissance and the religious
and social reform movements of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and
Maharashtra. The rationalists trace their roots to ancient Indian
materialism and the medieval Bhakti movement – this claim is a counter
to the traditionalist charge that the reformers were westernisers and
intellectual slaves.

Many Indian rationalists were strongly influenced by Western
intellectuals such as the nineteenth century American thinkers Robert
Ingersoll and George Holyoake. They also had personal ties with such
figures as the MP Charles Bradlaugh and his ally Annie Besant (who
played a strong role in propagating rationalism in India before she
became a Theosophist). Organizational links were established early on
with the English Rationalist Press Association (RPA), whose
publications had great influence, and encouraged the advent of Indian
journals such as the Anglo-Tamil Philosophic Inquirer and Free
Thought. Organised rationalism dates from the founding of the
Rationalist Association of India in Bombay (1930) that merged with the
Indian Rationalist Association in 1950. The latter body was founded in
1949, with a leading role being played by R.P. Paranjpe, a former Vice
Chancellor of Bombay University. Among its members were C.N. Annadurai
(sixteenth Chief Minister of Tamilnadu) and the well-known maverick
communist M.N. Roy. Even though not all these personages remained
within the loosely-defined doctrinal fold of rationalism, all of them
contributed to the propagation of what came to be defined in the
Indian constitution as a scientific temper.

The core of the book is an ethnographic study of the Andhashraddha
Nirmulan Samiti, (Organization for the Eradication of Superstition,
ANiS, better known in the province of Maharashtra as MANS).
Established in the late 1980’s, Quack describes it as one of the most
active rationalist organisations in India. ANiS has branches in most
districts in Maharashtra, publishes monthly magazines and conducts
regular programmes in schools, colleges and villages to combat
superstition and educate people on matters pertaining to sex, the
environment, addiction and black magic. Led by ANiS, rationalists in
Maharashtra have also initiated an anti-superstition Bill, that has
been approved by the Cabinet five times but not yet (2012) passed into
law. (Quack errs in stating – p 13 – that it was passed in the
legislative assembly in 2005).

The book undertakes an in-depth study of ANiS, its organisational
structure and practices. The relevant section begins with extensive
interviews with its president, Dr Narayan Dabholkar, who also edits
the respected Marathi weekly, Sadhana. ANiS’ approach – representative
of a broad range of Indian rationalists – amounts to an ideology of
humanism, and is exemplified in a statement made by one of its
activists: ‘The task is to link humanism, rationalism, atheism,
science, and the fruits of science – that is technology – the
scientific temper and the power of reason, in order to live a happy
and fulfilling life, both emotionally and physically.’(p 12) Chapter
13 contains an account of what rationalism means to its various
proponents. The account in this section evokes interesting tensions on
matters of accommodation to astrology and Ayurveda.

The author discerns that ANiS’s and Dabholkar’s ‘position with respect
to religion grew less confrontational over the years’ (187) and that
its main critical focus was on superstition and the misuse of religion
to exploit people. Thus, Dabholkar avers that ‘the caste system is the
oldest superstition of mankind’ (185) and Sanal Edamaruku describes
superstition as a kind of enforcement of ignorance (189). There are
small sketches of other agnostic intellectuals, such as Gogineni Babu,
former director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, who
in an interview with Quack, cited art and music as exemplars of a
spirituality without religion. We also come across philosophical
problems posed by the fact of scientists holding apparently irrational
beliefs and indulging in religious rituals and practices. He cites in
this regard the late Professor A.K. Ramanujan’s remembrance of his
father, the astronomer Srinivas Ramanujan, who along with his
scientific work, also practiced astrology, held on to caste rituals
and reminded his son that the brain has two lobes (194).

The author makes an effort to understand the personal motivations of
ANiS activists. An interesting observation is that their most
characteristic stance lies in seeing rationalism as ‘primarily a moral
category’ (215). Social justice is seen as accompanying rationality.
Thus, the activist Sushila Munde asks him: ‘can any rational person
say: I believe in injustice?’ In another interview, Vandana Shinde
stressed that non-violence was part of rationalism, which for her
meant ‘to avoid violence and to try to find the truth’ (215).

The rationalist movement and its efforts to dispel superstition have
been the source of controversy. Hindu nationalist groups have attacked
them (and this includes attempts at physical disruption of their
events) for undermining Hindu culture and hurting Hindu sentiments.
Others have criticized the anti-superstition Bill for attempting to
deprive ordinary people of a rich source of traditional healing

The book is a rich source of information about what may be called the
progressivist spectrum of Indian thought – along the way providing the
reader with references to theoretical studies of secular modernity and
enlightenment rationality. These include Max Weber’s concept of
disenchantment and more recent work by Charles Taylor, Ashis Nandy and
Gyan Prakash, among others. We gain access to material about and
web-links to rationalist groups across India, and not just in
Maharashtra. It provides the reader with food for thought on complex
questions such as the relation between the aspiration for social
justice on the one hand and the struggle for rational thought on the
other. In India it was never a straightforward battle between science
and organized religion. Rather, in the words of G. Vijayan, head of
the Atheist Centre: ‘In India we find that the conflict is between
religion and social reform. In India we find philosophical freedom on
the one side and social ostracism on the other’(53). The narrative is
engaging and full of ethnographic detail about personal dilemmas,
doctrinal conflicts and rationalist performances. Disenchanting India
is a major contribution to and entry-point for the study of complex
and long-standing problems of Indian society.


Convention-National Crisis and Left and Demoractic Agenda-30th Sept #Delhi

Contact: U-90 Shakarpur, Delhi-92
phone: 011-22521067; fax: 011-22442790

C O N V E N T I O N 



Mavalankar Auditorium, Rafi Marg, New Delhi
30 September 2012   
12 Noon – 6 PM


Dipankar Bhattacharya, CPI (ML)
D Raja, CPI
Mangat Ram Pasla, CPM Punjab
K S Hariharan, LCC Kerala
Abani Roy, RSP
Debabrata Biswas, Forward Bloc
Bhimrao Bansod, LNP(L), Maharashtra
Arun Ghatani, CPRM, Darjeeling
Dr. Sunilam
Prasenjit Bose
Shamsher Singh Bisht, Uttarakhand Lok Vahini
Prof.Nawal Kishore Choudhury, Patna University
Prof. Manjit Singh, Punjab University, Chandigarh
Anand Swaroop Varma, senior journalist
& other leaders of Left-democratic movements and concerned citizens  

The UPA-II Government, mired in mega scams implicating its topmost leaders, and facing popular protests all around, is desperately clinging to power. In a brazenly autocratic way, it is hell bent on pushing through a host of drastic anti-people measures – including a steep hike in diesel prices, halving of subsidy on cooking gas, and FDI in multi-brand retail and civil aviation. It is imperative that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Government be punished and made to quit for their betrayal of the mandate which they secured in the name of benefiting the ‘aam aadmi’.
The BJP and NDA are seeking to capitalize on the issue of corruption – but their state governments and leaders are equally mired in corruption. And the BJP is trying desperately to whip up a communal agenda before the next polls, trying to stoke up a hate campaign in the wake of the Assam violence. The Naroda Patiya verdict has once again underlined how the BJP used power to perpetrate a communal pogrom.
There is a virtual consensus among the ruling parties on neoliberal policies that promote corporate plunder of the country’s precious resources, at the cost of land and livelihood of common people. All shades of dissent and protest are being suppressed by invoking draconian laws and unleashing repression. All across the country, there is an alarming rise in patriarchal and casteist violence and discrimination.
In this backdrop, there is an urgent need for a powerful Left-democratic political intervention, to shape a united struggle for the ouster of the corrupt and anti-people UPA-II Government; expose and resist the communal and divisive agenda of the BJP-NDA; demand a reversal of the policies that are fuelling corruption, joblessness, and price rise; defend democracy and resist state repression and violence on women and dalits.
Towards strengthening the united intervention of Left and democratic forces of struggle at this juncture, a National Convention is being organized by the All India Left Coordination (AILC) on the theme ‘National Crisis and the Left and Democratic Agenda,’ on 30 September 2012, at Mavalankar Hall, New Delhi, 11 am – 6 pm.
We very much hope you can participate in the Convention, which will be addressed by leaders of Left parties, democratic movements and political currents.

All India Left Coordination
[CPI(ML) Liberation, CPM Punjab, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), Left Coordination Committee (Kerala) and
Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM, Darjeeling)]    Contact:, Ph: 9560756628, 9868890346
About the AILC:
The All India Left Coordination (AILC) was formed in 2010 as a platform uniting struggling Left forces. Its current constituents are CPI(ML) Liberation, CPM Punjab, Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), Left Coordination Committee (Kerala) and Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM, Darjeeling). The AILC has conducted joint struggles on a range of issues, and has intervened together on many democratic questions. Some months ago, the AILC lost one of its prominent leaders, Comrade TP Chandrashekharan, who was brutally murdered in Kerala.
The AILC is committed to building a strong, united Left movement with people’s resistance and robust defence of democracy at its core.

No, Banning “Innocence of Muslims” Is Not the Solution #mustread #mustshare


Posted: 09/17/2012 , Huffingtonpost
  Chair, Muslims for Progressive Values Canada

Once again we Muslims take centre stage in the arena of world politics, our “anger” dominating the headlines over a poorly made YouTube video, called “Innocence of Muslims.” And though the video is poor, both in content and production quality, the title alone is excellent.

As a Muslim, resident of North America my entire life, I have never heard the word “innocence” placed next to “Muslims” so many times by the media. So to the “Innocence of Muslims” creators, on this point alone — thank you.

Today’s blog post is dedicated to my fellow Muslims, with one exception.

The exception consists of the less than one per cent of Muslims who are engaging in violent anti-American demonstrations in a number of countries.

Why? Because that part of the community, that less than one percent of Muslims, does not have the time nor the heart for this message.

No, that less than one percent of the community, is working hard to destroy whatever efforts their fellow (mostly Muslim) citizens have made towards democracy in the Muslim world in an effort to replace it with another dictatorship, made up of salafi extremists. (Please note it appears there are no violent demonstrations taking place in the Gulf States likely because the would-be demonstrators there already compose the governments.)

To my fellow Muslims — the 99 per cent who are peaceful — here is my message. Online articles, information and resources, including amateur video productions, are everywhere.

On the topic of Islam, extreme interpretations of our scriptures backed up by sources many of us regard as inauthentic or out of date, receive millions of hits. Some of the information is posted by non-Muslims, but much is posted by those who call themselves Muslim, as well.

And amateur video productions on sites like YouTube and others are a thriving industry all over the world. From the diversity of amateur video production we see that people all over the world have a range of opinions on what is right and wrong, indecent and acceptable, not only in relation to religion, but regarding other matters as well.

And we cannot always “police” all of what is “out there” online. We cannot “police” it in North America. We cannot “police” it abroad. In fact, law enforcement all over the world seems to have difficulty literally policing truly offensive, criminal material, such as child pornography.

“Policing” opinions on religious matters is unrealistic in most instances. But some of you say “Innocence of Muslims” is a special case and should be banned. Personally, I disagree. “Innocence of Muslims” should not be banned, nor should any video that one finds disturbing because of its anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-religious content.

Why? For a number of reasons.

First of all, in relation to “Innocence of Muslims” we must take into account the following factors:

1. Merely because the depiction is suggested doesn’t make it true;
2. Because there is no coercion allowed in Islam according to the Holy Quran, human beings are free to believe as they choose; and
3. Our Prophet Muhammad practiced a virtually super-human degree of patience, which we are supposed to emulate.

Second, in respect to anti-religious material in general, history and current policies show that when governments police the opinions of citizens the result is a dictatorship or at the very least a country that upholds injustice by censoring the criticism against it.

And when people are prohibited from making poor quality amateur YouTube videos, also at stake is the freedom of expression to speak out against the injustice of governments and others in a peaceful, constructive manner.

It means religious minority rights, women’s rights, queer rights — human rights — become endangered further. It means any opposition to those rights may more easily result in violence against minorities. It means that violence against minority groups may be then condoned by governments who do not have the constitution, the resources, and/or the expertise to enforce protections for their minority inhabitants.

It means humanity suffers more not less. What else can be done?

My fellow Muslims — our community has been under a magnifying glass for some time now. But in the past decade, great changes have taken place.

Though there remain many issues we must resolve among ourselves we are no longer afraid to discuss them today in the open.

Our Muslim community leaders — who now hail from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, young, old, queer, straight, male, female, single, and married, are more confident now to express a variety of views, than previous generations, despite opposition and conflict, which at times originates from both inside and outside the mosque.

And unlike the previous generation, our reaction to the insanity of salafist and wahabi extremists, is swift and just — as shown by the statements issued last week by a host of Muslim organizations in North America, condemning the violence at the American embassies and conveying condolences upon the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and members of his staff.

It is in stark contrast to what we watched, particularly, those of us growing up in North America, decades ago, when the reaction to the fatwa pronounced against British Muslim author Salman Rushdie, endangering his life and stifling free expression among Muslims, was relatively muted, or worse. (And we must speak out now to ensure Rushdie is safe, considering the fatwa’s recent renewal).

We know now, as Muslims, we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice, particularly when the perpetrator claims to be Muslim and acts out in the name of our faith. But though we, as a community, may have matured, the media and public perception has not necessarily caught up with us at every turn.

Though there are plenty of pundits acknowledging we differ from the violent extremists who are taking advantage of the Arab Spring, there are others who continue to paint us all with the same monolithic, bigoted brush.

The words “Muslim Fury,” “Rage in the Muslim World,” are used without regard to the scant number of the demonstrators in relation to the entire global Muslim population.

And there are others hoping to screen “Innocence of Muslims” to a theatre audience — perhaps to bring some of the extremists in our midst, out into the open and create a perception that their numbers are greater.

My fellow Muslims, we live in difficult times. My fellow Muslims what is the solution? Must the problems of the entire Muslim world be a burden that constantly rests upon our shoulders?

Perhaps the answer is yes. Perhaps our generation must rise to the challenge of our era, remembering the words of the great late Martin Luther King Jr who said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And perhaps we must examine our community at home and abroad, with extreme Islamic love. Perhaps we must react not only to deflect the negative light others throw on our faith but consistently, together shine one on those injustices regularly taking place in the Muslim world.

Perhaps we must ask ourselves, not only why American (and other western) embassies are being attacked but why there are places in the Muslim world where there is poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation, honour killings, gender apartheid, persecution of religious minorities, homophobia, torture and murder of citizens by governments and war.

And perhaps we must ask ourselves what we must do, from where we stand, to peacefully, create a world of difference. And again remind ourselves of the words of the Holy Quran that now resonate so forcefully in the collective soul of our generation that — “Allah will not change a nation unless it changes what is in their hearts.”


Revolutionary newspapers, websites bloom underground #fiightcensorship

Fri, 28 September 2012, The observer

BEIRUT — In a country suffocated for decades by state censorship and media control, dozens of independent grassroots newspapers and websites have emerged since the outbreak of the revolt last year.

Most of these pro-revolution outlets operate in a shroud of secrecy, their contributors using pseudonyms for fear of persecution.
But their content is widely read by Syrians hungry for local censorship-free coverage, both inside and outside the country.
Suryitna (Our Syria), Oxygen, Hurriyat (Freedoms) and Enab Baladi (Local Grapes) are just a few newspapers set up by opponents of President Bashar al Assad’s government, which met the uprising that began in March 2011 with brutal repression.
“When we set up Suryitna in September last year, I felt that many peaceful, civil society initiatives were not getting proper coverage,” the independent publication’s chief editor Jawad Abul Muna said.
Most of the “papers” are online, but some activists also print and distribute hard copies in their areas.
“We were so surprised when we found out that hundreds of copies of our paper are being printed in the (central) city of Homs,” some 40 per cent of which is in opposition hands, he added.
“As young Syrians, we wanted to participate and support the revolution in any way we could,” said Abul Muna. “The newspaper is a result of our joint effort.”
Like most Syria-based dissidents, Abul Muna uses a pseudonym.
In a state with an Orwellian track record of censorship and persecuting journalists who dare break the rules, dissidents who have spoken out and been caught have paid a high price, said Abul Muna.
“Anyone suspected of contributing to publications like ours gets jailed,” he said. “Many people have sought refuge outside Syria to avoid that fate.”
Last week, international media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned of the perils facing media workers in the “Bermuda Triangle” of the Syrian conflict.
“We also want to document the history of the past 40 years, which has been blacked out throughout its entirety under (Assad’s) Baath party,” said Abul Muna.
While most readers access Syria’s new publications online, some are printed and handed out. Distribution is carried out secretly and openly in what the opposition refers to as “liberated” zones.
The citizen journalists also face a more mundane obstacle, and that is the lack of funding, said Abul Muna.
“What really worries me is the extent to which our outlets will manage to keep participating in the process of change as time goes on, especially after the fall of the government,” he added.
The citizen journalists behind some of the most popular grassroots projects make no bones about their lack of experience, but take pride in their exercise of free expression.
According to Enab Baladi’s “About Us” section, the online paper is “a space to allow for totally free thought.”
It is published weekly from Daraya, a town southwest of Damascus where more than 500 people were massacred in August, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The government and the fighters of the Free Syrian Army exchanged blame for the killings, though Daraya has been a hotbed of sympathy for the revolt from early on in the uprising.
Four weeks after the horrific massacre became “old news” for much of the rest of the world, the paper’s editorial focused on the need to start rebuilding, and on helping the families of victims to overcome their loss.
“We are witnesses to our history, and we are part of the society that is going through this revolution,” said Enab Baladi’s volunteer chief editor, who identified himself as “Natur.”
“We feel we have a responsibility to speak out and document what is happening around us,” he said via the Internet.
Asked why he thought so many free media initiatives have sprouted in such a short space of time, Natur said: “Free expression is a form of self-defence, a way to resist violence. And after so much violence, we are not afraid any more.”
Natur is open to criticism of Enab Baladi and looks forward to the day that peace will return to Syria, so he and his team of 25 volunteers can move on to running a professional paper.
“Our goal is to run an objective paper that is open to every Syrian’s views,” he said. “Right now, while we’re being shelled, it’s a little hard not to take sides.” — AFP

Sexy letters and Men’s Health? — banned by new #prison #censorship rule

By Alan Prendergast Thu., Sep. 27 2012
Thumbnail image for prison clip art 5 long shot of corridor with cells on either side.JPG

A recent push by state prison officials to crack down on the sexual content of inmates’ mail has greatly expanded the range of books and magazines intercepted by prison censors, including such staid fare as Rolling Stone and Men’s Health. The move has also prompted complaints from inmates’ loved ones that even the most innocuous references to sex in personal letters are being censored.The Colorado Department of Corrections has had a ban on hardcore porn — anything visually more explicit than Playboy or Penthouse — in place for years. But concerns about female staff being exposed to a hostile work environment or sexual harassment evidently prompted a major revision of administrative regulation 300-26, which dictates what publications inmates can receive.

Venus de Milo.jpg

The new policy goes much further, prohibiting not only sexually explicit photographs but any nudity or descriptions of intercourse, oral sex, masturbation, bestiality, necrophilia, S&M or “discharge of bodily fluids” — a ban that would seem to encompass everything from soft-core “laddie” mags like Maxim to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to a drawing of the Venus de Milo to James Joyce’s Ulyssesto a Depends ad. Since the new rule went into effect in June, publication review committees at various prisons have rejected a staggering array of incoming materials. Laurell K. Hamilton‘s bestselling novels about vampire hunter Anita Blake have run afoul of the censors. So has a not-so-sexy article in Men’s Health about skin. Muscle and Fitness turned out to be unfit, or maybe too fit. Even an issue of Reason was found to be unreasonable because the cover illustrated an article about entitlement programs with a cartoon of an elderly woman in a wheelchair pointing a gun at a young worker. (This last one wasn’t too sexy, though; it was just politically incorrect enough to be labeled as “promotes violence, generational.”)

Inmate families and supporters say the worst part, though, is that the ban also applies to any references to sex in personal letters, whether incoming or outgoing. Diane Martin of Golden says she’s had letters to her inmate boyfriend rejected for sexual content for statements no more explicit than “I want to kiss you.”

“Our letters are the only form of intimate contact that we have,” Martin says. “He can’t write anything personal to me any more, and I think that’s going a bit far.”

Since the new rule doesn’t allow for “grandfathered” porn, prisoners are expected to surrender any ragged issues of Playboy or Maxim they may have squirreled away under the old policy. Although the regulation spells out a laborious appeal process, the decision to ban a publication can also be designated as unappealable.

Complaints have piled up at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which has successfully sued the DOC before over its publication policies (including its frequent censorship of Westword). “We have spoken to DOC officials,” says ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein, “and they acknowledge that the new regulation has problems. We have urged them to make substantial changes.”

As of this writing, DOC officials have not responded to a query about the new policy.

Sanjiv Bhatt moves Guj HC to summon #NarendraModi before Godhra Panel

Ahmedabad, Sept 27 : Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt thursday moved Gujarat High Court with the prayer to direct Justice G T Nanavati Commission of Enquiry looking into the riots cases to summon Chief Minister Narendra Modi before it.

In a Public Interest Litigation filed along with People’s Union of Civil Liberty, Bhatt has also demanded that the probe panel should be directed to submit its final report, not to the Chief Minister of the State but to the office of state Governor.

The hearing on the PIL commenced thursday before the division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala.

Advocate Yusuf Muchhala who made submissions on behalf of the petitioners today will continue his submission on the next date of hearing scheduled for October 5.

The Nanavati Commission was formed by the state government following the Godhra riots in February 2002. The state government, in 2004, had expanded the terms of reference of the probe panel which included the role and conduct of the then Chief Minister and other ministers.

Citing this expanded terms of reference, petitioners have claimed that, “….Commission has to enquire into the role and function of the Chief Minister in view of the terms of reference constituting the Commission.”

“The role of the Chief Minister, both personal and constitutional, could only be properly and with any sort of veracity come on the record of the Commission and hence his presence is a must,” petition reads.


In 24 hours, 5 rape cases including 2 involving minors registered, #rapecapital #delhi #indiashame


In the last 24 hours, five rape cases have been registered, including two involving children.
The rapid rise in the incidents of rape in the last few days has tarnished the image of the capital. Every day, Delhi police is lodging complaints regarding rape with all women in all age groups. In the last 24 hours only, five rape cases have been registered in different areas.

Three  incidents of gang-rape, including one in which the accused had prepared a video clip showing the victim in a compromising position, have been reported in different parts of the Capital during the past few days. In both cases, the victims alleged that they were made to consume soft drinks laced with some sedatives. While two cases of seual assault on minors has been reported

The first case was reported to the police on Wednesday by a Class X student alleging that she was raped by a friend’s brother and his friend on August 14. The girl was in Mayur Vihar when her friend’s brother Vivek met her. Claiming that his sister was looking for her, he convinced her to accompany him in a car. However, instead of taking her to his residence, the accused took her to a house in Trilokpuri and on the way he allegedly made her consume cold drinks laced with sedative.

While the accused was joined by another friend, a woman who was already present there, latched the door from outside. The two accused then took turns to rape the girl and also made a video clip with a mobile phone camera.

The accused then set the victim free threatening to make the video clip public if she revealed about the incident to anyone. However, when she told the accused that she would tell everything to her parents, it is alleged that they forwarded the video clip to their friends.

When the victim learnt that the video clip had been made public, she narrated the entire incident to her parents. Subsequently they contacted the police and got a case registered against the duo. The police have launched a hunt for them.

In another incident, a 34-year-old woman has alleged that she was raped by her live-in partner and his three friends in New Friends Colony a few days ago. According to the victim, her partner invited his friends to their house and allegedly offered her cold drinks laced with some sedative. After she passed out, the four allegedly raped her. When the victim regained her conscious- ness, she allegedly found that Rs.5 lakh was also missing from the house. Based on her complaint, they registered a case two days ago and arrested the accused on Thursday.

In yet another incident  in Bhajanpura of north-east district, a three-year-old was raped by her neighbour. Police officials refused to share any details about the case. The fourth case took place in Dwarka, where a 16-year-old girl was raped by three boys a couple of weeks ago. The victim told police that she was waiting for a bus when one Suraj, her friend,  approached her and offered her a lift in his car.

On way to her home, Suraj called his two friends, Irfan and Taarhi. Suraj then took the car to an isolated place, where the trio raped her one by one. Taahir then forcibly got married to her and they started living in Dabri area without informing anyone.

The victim’s family then lodged a missing complaint. After a few days, the girl managed to escape and reached her residence in Dwarka. She narrated the incident to her family and lodged a complaint.

In another case, a 35-year -old repeatedly raped his eight-year-old sister-in-law for over a month in Sehani Gate in Ghaziabad.

source, Hindu, Indian express, Millenium Post


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September 2012
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