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Friday, April 29, 2011

Top 10 Best Universities and Colleges for Aspiring Writers

USA schools for journalism and creative writing

(Article from CollegeDegree.com, April 2011)

An aspiring writer choosing a college is a lot like a child trying to make a decision in a candy store. Cliched simile aside, the amount of colleges with utterly brilliant writing programs, both at the graduate and undergraduate level, is astounding. That being said, everyone has a different set of preferences for a writing class, and writing programs can vary quite significantly, making that meticulous search for the right school highly rewarding in the end. As with any college search, you should take into account school location, class size for your concentration, and faculty, among other factors, to ensure the right decision for your future. And, of course, always keep in mind what style or genre of writing you wish to pursue.

1. Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia): Ask anyone for the best schools for writers, and Emory will inevitably emerge. With a plethora of outstanding minds flocking to and from Emory every year (be it guest lecturers, students, or alumni), it is no wonder why Emory would be a prime place for a budding writer. Emory offers extraordinary flexibility to its students; the only required course of all English majors is Poetry. Emory also allows English majors to double major in creative writing through Emory's very own undergraduate Creative Writing program, which offers workshops spanning over several genres, including poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, playwriting, and screenwriting. Students looking for more personal settings with professors will be happy to find that most English classes cap at 15 students, while the largest cap at 25.

2. Hamilton College (Clinton, New York): Hamilton College is known not only for its high quality coursework or wide breadth of options for English majors but also for its nationally renowned writing center. Like Emory, Hamilton College allows English majors to concentrate in either English literature or creative writing. Hamilton's creative writing program offers courses and workshops in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and playwriting (in which students will write and stage a one-act play). Whether concentrating in English or creative writing, Hamilton strives to cultivate all its students into elegant writers and great thinkers. And with one of the greatest writing centers in the nation to boot, it is a challenge to find a better place to study the English language.

3. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland): There are few programs in Johns Hopkins that aren't among the best in the nation. Their English department boasts a long history of producing well-received and distinguished writers. While they do offer courses in creative writing, Johns Hopkins focuses much more on literary writing, critical analysis, and literature education to improve writing skills. Those seeking workshop settings should perhaps look elsewhere, but those wanting to master their control and understanding of the English language should look no further. With a published and highly regarded faculty in small, intimate classroom settings, great ideas and voices have nothing to do but flourish.

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts): Most people wouldn't immediately think of MIT as a great writing school given its enormous reputation for engineering, computer science, and technology. However, MIT offers an extensive and unique writing program that not only produces great writers but prepares them to be competitive in the harsh job market of English graduates. One thing that sets MIT apart from other universities is the fact that, rather than having one English department that covers both writing and literature, they split the traditional English department into two entirely separate programs. Their writing program not only instructs creative writing but also science writing and digital media. They boast a dynamic faculty of novelists, essayists, poets, translators, biographers, historians, engineers, and scientists. Students focusing in creative writing are encouraged to choose a sub discipline as well (humanities, arts, or social sciences) which creates for an extremely unique, well-rounded, and practical English language experience at the university level. Not to mention, Cambridge is just a stone's throw away from the lively cultural hub that is Boston.

5. New York University (New York, New York): Beyond the acclaimed faculty and progressive coursework, the location of NYU itself is reason enough to study there. Imagine living in the heart of New York City (what some call the greatest city in the world) for four years. Surrounded by museums, parks, and huge historical landmarks, there is no way not to be inspired. Combine this with the large variety of English concentrations offered, including a creative writing program, and an English education at NYU seems unbeatable. What's more, NYU creative writing graduate program has enormous amounts of prestige and is often ranked top five on most publications' top creative writing programs lists. Maybe this is due to the location; maybe it's the published and award-winning faculty; maybe it's the variety and quality of courses.

6. Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri): A haven for any growing writer, Wash U's creative writing program offers a variety of courses, taught by their talented MFA faculty as well as second-year MFA students. Beyond your traditional poetry and fiction classes, Wash U offers unique special topics such as The Short-Short, Sudden Fiction and Microfiction, Literary Journalism, and Stories From the Suburbs with plenty more in mind for increased expansion. The program places added emphasis on critical reading and workshopping to produce well-rounded writers with a deep grasp of their craft. Wash U's MFA program is often ranked in the top ten of MFA programs each year, and, with such a blossoming undergraduate program and dedicated faculty, this trend seems very likely to continue.

7. University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa): For at least the past decade, Iowa has dominated the ranks of creative writing MFA programs. Easily labeled the best program in which to study fiction writing (and their poetry program is nothing to sneeze at either), Iowa has recently taken their creative writing success at the graduate level and started applying it to an undergraduate creative writing track. Offering a variety of courses including writing for fiction, poetry, non-fiction, playwriting, translation, new media, and ecologically aware, this undergraduate track is great for young writers looking for a diverse writing experience. With an exception faculty, numerous unique courses, and plenty of opportunity for writing, editing, and workshop experience, this creative writing track is a recipe for success for any writer.

8. Columbia (New York, New York): Columbia may be the only school in New York that can stand head to toe with NYU's location. Just a few miles north on the Island, surrounded by parks and only a couple blocks away from Central Park, Columbia is the perfect environment to muse off your surroundings and become entranced in inspiration. With names like J.D. Salinger, Federico Garcia Lorca, Hunter S. Thompson, Eudora Welty, Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes, and Allen Ginsberg, Columbia boasts an enormous literary legacy of producing great writers. While Columbia is known for its preparation in journalism, they also offer a very nice creative writing program. Their undergraduate creative writing program combines intensive writing workshops with seminars that study literature from a writer's perspective, resulting in a vital and unique experience for writers that you can't receive from just any English program. Their graduate MFA program is ranked among the best in the nation every year and boasts a highly talented and respected faculty.

9. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan): Like most undergraduate schools these days, Michigan offers an undergraduate writing program in addition to their English major. Both English and non-majors are encouraged to take the program; in addition to teaching students to write effective analytic arguments, the undergraduate writing program also offers courses in creative writing for fiction and poetry. Michigan's notable creative writing MFA program remains top-ranking for the past few years, and that does not appear to change anytime soon.

10. Colorado College (Colorado Springs, Colorado): This private liberal arts college offers a great deal of variety through their English department. In addition to studying the English major, students can concentrate in creative writing or film studies. Both concentrations require additional courses and study than it would to simply complete a regular English major, but with great work comes great reward. In the creative writing concentration, students review each other's work, collaborate on projects, and present writing pieces near the end of their course of study at Colorado. In the film studies track, the department focuses on story development and film writing. While filmmaking is also an offered course, more emphasis seems to be placed on writing, understanding character development, and plot.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sarah Palin must be really pissed at Donald tRump

Possibility of wacko vote being split down middle

With tRump looking like he believes he may enter the race, the train wreck possibilities are everywhere, and for the sake of the Republican Party and the USA as a whole, it's probably better if someone emerges soon to crush The Don's fragile and unrealistic hopes.

I'm more of a Green punk and also Canadian myself, however the state of political discourse in America is so base, anachronistic and juvenile that one would hope for more intelligence and forthrightness from all corners.

Yet tRump rises in the polls...

That's not just the spring thaw you see starting up in Alaska, as some of the snow melt with panoramic views of the Russian coast is said to have been caused by excessive steam pouring forth from the ears of Sarah Palin. The Mistress of the North has to be dazed and confused by the rapid rise of egomeister Donald Trump, a candidate that can clearly cater to the fringes where Palin is most at ease. How many birthers have gone from the Gal to the Don?

Or is he only warming them up for the main act?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Libya, Yemen, Syria all ripe for revolution

Tunisia and Egypt set the table for Arab Spring

Yemen fits the mould of the earlier 2011 revolutions, in that the oppressive leadership was / is West-aligned, and we therefore need to be diligent in supporting open and fair elections in Yemen, and also continue with assistance for that nation to fight terrorist elements within. Although there is a firefight aspect to controlling Yemeni radicals, the bigger challenge is creating compelling ideology and education programs that encourage Yemen's youth to opt for freedom, equality, human rights / dignity and non-violence; assistance that helps all Yemeni citizens pursue the paths proven successful elsewhere, a "best practices" governance approach.

Libya and Syria are a whole new ballgame

Unlike Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, the Libyan government was far from pro-West and though Gaddafi had moderated somewhat in recent decades, one was always aware that like Arafat, the Colonel had a different message in English than he did in Arabic.

An even better analogy is Mugabe, in that both he and Gaddafi emerged as revolutionary heroes, and each gained the respect of communists, socialists and social democrats worldwide. Decades in power created a sense of insularity, as ego and self-preservation policies reinforced each other, and the towering man became the brutal tyrant.

In Eastern Libya there is much talk about freedom, democracy and secular government, so let's hope this remains the focus in Tripoli, post-Gaddafi.

Syria is flash point for end game, serious trouble

Though Syrian authorities have cracked down as hard or harder than other Arab governments, there are no easy answers for the world community, other than to plead with the government to stop attacking peaceful protesters. The Syria situation is Libya again, times ten. Why times ten?

Bashar al-Assad is part of a tiny minority that rules Syria, taking the best jobs in government and business, and controlling all the levers of power. Democracy will crush this, as elements of a meritocracy begin to emerge and the majority population begins electing their own people of their own ethnicity as their political representatives. Some of Assad's closest allies have already moved their families to the UAE, and it would not be surprising to see al-Assad and his wider family join them, for unlike Gaddafi, Bashar is still a relatively young man, most likely unwilling to fight to the death over demonstrably unsustainable power.

When Gaddafi falls and open elections are held in Libya, it solidifies North Africa as a free, democratic zone. If and when the Syrian government topples and freedom emerges in Damascus, the bell tolls then for Tehran and Beijing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

ArabianBusiness.com honours female Arab leaders

100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2011

Rank Name Company Industry Country

1 HE Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade Government UAE/UAE

2 Lubna Olayan Olayan Financing Company Banking & Finance Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

3 Salma Hareb JAFZA and EZW Construction & Industry UAE/UAE

4 Leila El Solh Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation, Lebanon Culture & Society Lebanon/Lebanon

5 Lama Al Sulaiman Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry Government Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

6 Dalia Mogahed White House Office Culture & Society USA/Egypt

7 Fatima Al Jaber Al Jaber Group Construction & Industry UAE/UAE

8 Suad Al Humaidi Property Owners Union Construction & Industry Kuwait/Kuwait

9 Dr Amina Al Rostamani TECOM Business Parks Media UAE/UAE

10 Yasmina Azhari Maersk Line shipping services Logistics Syria/Syria

11 Thoraya Ahmed Obaid United Nations Population Fund Culture & Society USA/Saudi Arabia

12 Randa Ayoubi Rubicon Holdings Media Jordan/Jordan

13 Maha Al Ghunaim Global Investment House Banking & Finance Kuwait/Kuwait

14 Dr Hessa Al Jaber ICTQatar Telecoms Qatar/Qatar

15 Sheikha Al Bahar National Bank of Kuwait, Kuwait Banking & Finance Kuwait/Kuwait

16 Nayla Hayek Swatch Group Retail Switzerland/Lebanon

17 Dr Fawzieh Al Dorai Media Kuwait/Kuwait

18 Hynd Bouhia Casablanca Stock Exchange Banking & Finance Morocco/Morocco

19 Maria Maalouf Media Lebanon/Lebanon

20 Dr Nahed Taher Gulf One Investment Bank Banking & Finance Bahrain/Saudi Arabia

21 Muna Abu Sulayman Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation Culture & Society Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

22 Hafia Al Kaylani Arab International Women’s Forum Culture & Society UK/Palestine

23 Soha Nashaat Barclays Wealth Middle East Banking & Finance UAE/Egypt

24 Maryam Sharaf Dubai World Group Construction & Industry UAE/UAE

25 Raja Essa Saleh Al Gurg Essa Saleh Al Gurg Group Retail UAE/UAE

26 Rajaa Al Sanea Culture & Society USA/Saudi Arabia

27 Aminal Dasmal Alcove Entertainment Media UAE/UAE

28 Noura Al Kaabi twofour54 Media UAE/UAE

29 Rola Dashti Government Government Kuwait/Kuwait

30 Liana Badr Culture & Society Palestine/Palestine

31 Fatema Mernissi Media Morocco/Morocco

32 Hala El Saiud Egyptian Banking Institute Banking & Finance Egypt/Egypt

33 Wedad Lootah Culture & Society UAE/UAE

34 Mona Al Marri Brand Dubai Culture & Society UAE/UAE

35 Afnan Al Zayani Al Zayani Commercial Services Media Bahrain/Bahrain

36 Professor Rafia Obaid Ghubash Arab Network for Women in Science Science & IT Bahrain/Bahrain

37 Zaha Hadid Construction & Industry UK/Iraq

38 Nashaw Al Ruwani Middle East Film Festival Culture & Society UAE/Egypt

39 Tamara Abdel Jaber Palma Science & IT Jordan/Jordan

40 Hiba Jamal MBC Media UAE/Saudi Arabia

41 Nezha Hayat Société Générale Marocaine de Banques Banking & Finance Morocco/Morocco

42 Raghida Dergham Al Hayat Media UK/Lebanon

43 Leila Abouzeid Media Morocco/Morocco

44 HH Sheikha Hessa Bint Saad Al Sabah Arab Business Women's Council Culture & Society Kuwait/Kuwait

45 Sonia Ziamni Algiers Medina Project Construction & Industry Algeria/Algeria

46 Wajeha Al Huweider Media Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

47 Dr Basmah Mosleh Omair Al Sayedah Khadijah Businesswomen Centre Culture & Society Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

48 Nadine Labaki Media Lebanon/Lebanon

49 Ingie Chalhoub Etoile Group/INGIE Paris Retail UAE/UAE

50 Noor Sweid Depa United Group Construction & Industry UAE/UAE

51 Mona Eltahawy Media USA/Egypt

52 Donna Sultan KEO International Consultants Construction & Industry Kuwait/UAE

53 Riham Fouad Al-Ghanim Kuwait Finance and Investment Co Banking & Finance Kuwait/Kuwait

54 Manar Al-Hashash Science & IT Kuwait/Kuwait

55 Hind Sediqqi Ahmed Sediqqi and Sons Retail UAE/UAE

56 Soraya Narfeldt RA International Construction & Industry UAE/Lebanon

57 Raja Makhlouf Culture & Society Syria/Syria

58 Mona Al-Munajjed Booz & Company Society/Media Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

59 Nashwa Taher Al Taher Group Retail Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

61 Randa Al Akkad Al Fahim Holdings Retail Syria/Syria

62 Mona Almoayyed YK Almoayyed & Sons Retail Bahrain/Bahrain

63 Nathalie Handal Culture & Society New York/Paris/Palestine

64 Najwa Al Qassim Al Arabiya Media UAE/Lebanon

65 Dr Maha ElShinnawy The American University in Cairo Culture &
Society Egypt/Egypt

66 Lamiaa Fakhry YouGov Siraj Culture & Society Saudi Arabia /Egypt

67 Buthainia Al Ansari Qatariat Media Qatar/Qatar

68 Nancy Ajram Culture & Society Lebanon/Lebanon

69 Sahar Sallab HitekNOFAL Science & IT Egypt/Egypt

70 Nujood Ali Culture & Society Yemen/Yemen

71 Areej Mohsin Darwish MHD LLC Construction & Industry Oman/Oman

72 Lujiana Moshin Darwish MHD LLC Construction & Industry Oman/Oman

73 Israa Abdel Fattah Culture & Society Egypt/Egypt

74 Hend Al Mansour Culture & Society USA/Saudi Arabia

75 Sabah Khalil Al Moayyed Eskan Bank Banking & Finance Bahrain/Bahrain

76 Farida Mohammed Farid Khamis Oriental Carpet Weavers Construction & Industry Egypt/Egypt

77 Elissar Zakaria Khoury Culture & Society Lebanon/Lebanon

78 Lubna Azabal Culture & Society Belguim/Morocco

79 Soha Aboul Farag Banking & Finance Saudi Arabia

80 Cherifa Khaddar Culture & Society Algeria/Algeria

81 Dr Mayada Baydas Development Innovations Group Banking & Finance USA/Lebanon

82 Sulaf Fawakherji Culture & Society Syria/Syria

83 Noura Al Nowais Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development Government UAE/UAE

84 Lilia Labidi Minister of Women, Family, Children and Senior Citizens, Tunisia Government Tunisia/Tunisia

85 Maha Hussain Kuwait’s Petrochemicals Industries Company Construction & Industry Kuwait/Kuwait

86 Hala Gorani CNN Media USA/Syria

87 Leila Al Sheikhali Al Jazeera Media Qatar/Iraq

88 Laila Abid Media Holland /Morocco

89 Sara Ismail Mohammed Al Bashayer Investment Company Banking & Finance UAE/UAE

90 Khadija Ben Ghanna Al Jazeera Media Algeria (Qatar)

91 Samra Al Kuwais Osool Brokerage Company (Women’s Division) Banking & Finance Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

92 Salma Hayek Culture & Society Mexico/Lebanon

93 Reem Acra Culture & Society USA/Lebanon

94 Sheikha Munira Qubeysi Al Qubaysiat Culture & Society Syria/Syria

95 Fatima Shawqi Al Tajdeed Cultural and Social Society Culture & Society Bahrain/Bahrain

96 Heba Raouf Ezzat Culture & Society Egypt/Egypt

97 Sabrina Jawhar Culture & Society Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia

98 Alaa Kutkut Sport Jordan/Jordan

99 Noora Hamid Arabian International Financial Services & GM of International Financial Services Banking & Finance UAE/UAE

100 Rima Fakih Culture & Society USA/Lebanon

Is it just Western bias that makes me think Queen Noor of Jordan should be on this list somewhere, or do genetics disqualify her? I'm not sure why there's no #60 as this is how the list is presented on the official Arabian Business magazine article about the most powerful Arab women in the world.

Thankfully I came across the Arabian Business magazine rankings via a post by vividly beautiful and ultra-inspiring journalist Mona Eltahawy, herself ranked #51 on the Most Powerful Arab Women list.

I was very pleased to note brilliant architect Zaha Hadid landed at #37 in the powerful Arab women rankings, as she is a pioneering spirit of 21st Century architecture.

Toronto Mayor Ford's personal war on graffiti

Misplaced priorities damage City Hall

Toronto architect Phillip Carter says he's been ordered to remove the giant tagging on his Queen West office - not an easy task given the location and delicate state of the aged brick.

Businesses, Non-profits paying for Ford's dull vision

Over the years Rob Ford has been involved in his share of bluster and buffoonery, however now that he's Mayor of Toronto, I had hoped the Office itself would help to dignify the man. It was disappointing to read this morning in the Toronto Star that ten municipal officers are dispatched daily to look for unauthorized murals and graffiti, whereas under previous administrations the City only responded when there was a complaint. The result of this "hunt them down" approach has seen the number of removal orders jump to 3,381 so far this year, compared with about 2,400 in all of 2010."

Victimizing the victims is Ford's answer to modern urban artistry

This insanity is hurting Toronto homeowners, small businesses and charities, and benefiting nobody. This time and money waster is also about to tie up a LOT more of Toronto City Hall's staff and legal resources, as the article by Urban Affairs Bureau Chief David Rider clearly illustrates:

“You’re victimizing the victim,” says Robert Sysak, administrator of the West Queen West Business Improvement Area. More than 100 orders have been issued in his funky, scrawl-filled district.

“We don’t like graffiti either, but we want to work with the city to get a solution. It’s a complicated problem and we need a comprehensive and integrated plan.”

One of his group’s proposals would be to train “at risk” youth to make digital artwork that could, temporarily, be projected onto buildings.

Gus Michaels, head of the graffiti enforcement team, said a comprehensive plan is being developed and will go to city council for approval in June.

Between 1,400 and 1,500 building owners have voluntarily complied with notices this year, and 10 city-conducted cleanups are in the works, “so from our perspective, working with the property owners is going well,” he said. The remainder have either not responded or filed appeals.

Phillip Carter, a heritage architect with a three-storey building near Queen St. W. and Bathurst W., begs to differ. He has been ordered to remove 5-metre-high letters spelling “SPUD” from a top-floor brick wall.

“I just think this crackdown needs to be thought out more,” said Carter, adding he will have to get access to a neighbour’s roof, and is worried about his building’s delicate brick. “Mr. Ford shot from the lip.”

St. Christopher House, a non-profit neighbourhood support centre, has received two cleanup orders, one for graffiti in a high, hard-to-reach spot.

“If we have to continually pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to get rid of it, we’ll have to close a program or lay people off,” said interim executive director Lidia Monaco. “We don’t have disposable cash.”

Ford's retro-suburban politics may play well in certain cookie cutter neighbourhoods, yet methinks he may soon find that declaring war on urban culture and hurting innocent people are intertwined, indicating a retreat of sorts may be coming. If not, the summer of 2011 may be hotter for Ford than he is used to, further deflecting his attention from real issues, and that would be just sad.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Syria; Transitioning to multi-party elections

After decades of Baath Party rule, Syrians hungry for choice in politics

Amidst the excruciating noise emanating from Syria and other uprising hotspots, it was refreshing to read this well-researched and wonderfully presented article about Syrians yearning for a chance at multi-party politics after decades under one-party rule.

Syrian authorities have promised a political party law

The following excerpt is from the GulfNews.com website:

Putting an end to one-party rule in Syria

Without modernisation, political groups of the past will find it difficult to cope with these times

By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News

Syrian society has for 48 years been ruled by the Baath Party, preaching ‘unity, freedom and socialism'. The Baathists, however, who make up approximately 1.2 million, are a minority among Syria's 22 million people. For years, joining the party was a condition for any career mobility in government.

In addition to the presidency, the Baath controlled strategic posts like that of Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, besides the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Interior and Information.

The Regional Command of the Baath Party is the highest political body in Syria, responsible for strategic decision-making when it comes to education, economy, religion and politics. For years, outspoken voices have been heard calling for political pluralism and doing away with one-party rule.

Lobby groups demanded that the National Progressive Front (NPF), a parliamentary coalition of socialist parties that is headed by the Baath, be either revamped or dissolved altogether. The NPF, created in the early 1970s, includes an assortment of Nasserist parties that have a very limited power base in Syria and yet get a certain quota of seats in Parliament and any Syrian cabinet. Its leaders are old and ailing — and so are their ideologies, certainly unfit for a rising generation of Syrians with ambition. The only parties in the NPF that have any popularity are the Syrian Communist Party (SCP) and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), both of which, along with the Baath, date back to the 1930s and 1940s.

Recent events in Syria have created a new mood, where authorities have promised that a political party law will go into effect. After a meeting with President Bashar Al Assad, Syria's top cleric Mohammad Saeed Ramadan Al Butti said that the era of one-party rule will come to an end once the new law comes into effect.

Once it does, the pre-set quota of the Baath in both government and parliament will automatically come to an end. And so will Article 8 of the Constitution, which designates the Baath as the "ruling party of state and society".

The idea, of course, is not new, having surfaced at different junctures over the past four decades, most recently in the summer of 2005 when the Baath Party promised to pass a law allowing for political pluralism.

Although a draft was indeed prepared, that law never saw the light of day because of the many challenges Syria faced as a result of a stand-off with the Bush administration, which forced Damascus to put political reforms on the backburner.

According to the draft law, which is being re-visited today, a party founder needs to be a Syrian citizen aged 35 and above, who has no criminal record. It doesn't specify a certain level of education that he/she should have in order to establish a political party.

Gulf News article on Syria's multi-party democracy law

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Canada must speak out on rights and freedoms in China

Chinese leaders must recognize new global responsibilities

Over the coming decades, much of the global power and diplomacy that in recent decades has emanated from the USA will be increasingly coming from China, India and other regional powers. This is why it is so crucial that China improve human rights and democratic freedoms within.

The recent detention of Christians for praying in public is just another example of a worrying trend in recent weeks, as Chinese authorities crack down on local activists as they fear a Mideast-style uprising.

According to an aljazeera.net article on Christian worshippers being detained in Beijing China:

The United States and the United Nations have expressed serious concerns in the past week at a growing crackdown across China in which artists, lawyers, writers, activists and intellectuals have been detained.

The church incident comes a week after Ai Weiwei, an outspoken artist who helped design the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games, was detained for unspecified "economic crimes."

On Friday, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US secretary of state, called for Ai's release and criticised China for what she said was a deteriorating human rights situation in the first part of 2011.

Harper and Ignatieff both need to comment on the situation, and urge the Government of The People's Republic of China to be true to their ideals and genuinely guarantee freedom of religion, and freedom of expression.

Friday, April 8, 2011

FREE Al Weiwei; Chinese architect and artist detained by authorities

Designer of Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium held for promoting justice and democracy

We urge the Chinese government to respect Wei Wei’s health and to insure his safety, and to release him immediately. His detainment and disappearance is a great tragedy and devastating blow to the international community. Wei Wei is an artist that feels a great love and compassion for China and her people, and we urge the Chinese government to recognize this fact and allow him and his family the freedom if not to speak freely, then to at least leave.

Wei Wei, the son of revered Chinese poet Ai Qing (regarded as one of the finest modern Chinese poets and himself imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party), is internationally recognized for his cultural and architectural practice as well as his tireless activism on behalf of social justice and political reform in China.

His many projects include the Bird’s Nest (2008), a landmark design for the Beijing Olympic National Stadium (together with Herzog and De Meuron); Fairytale (2007), in which he sent 1001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany as a cross-cultural exchange; and the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project, which sought to uncover the names of the thousands of schoolchildren who died in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008, many as a result of poor maintenance of school buildings.

His 2010 “Sunflower Seeds” exhibition, currently on display at Tate Modern, features 100 million porcelain seeds made in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen and forms a seemingly infinite landscape in the museum’s Turbine Hall. As a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses, the project explores the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange and, as curator Juliet Bingham has remarked, invites us to consider such questions as “What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society?”

We strongly encourage you to raise your voice and to contact your elected representatives, government contacts, and civic institutions, to advocate for official statements and positions on his behalf as well as all of those that have been detained these last weeks in response to the Jasmine Revolution.

CBC News article on detention of Al Weiewei

New York Times article on China's holding of architect Al Weiwei

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Syrians refusing to pay electricity bills, protests swelling

Armed resistance in Damascus suburbs

According to Israeli intelligence website Debka.com:

Protest movement unites under The Syrian Revolution 2011 banner

Syria's banned opposition groups and Muslim Brotherhood, under the combined new banner of "The Syrian Revolution 2011," had earlier announed a fresh round of demonstrations against President Bashar Assad starting Tuesday, April 5, and lasting until next week.

The Syrian uprising took a new turn Tuesday, April 5, when armed protesters opened fire for the first time on security forces from a well-laid ambush in a Damascus suburb. Two policemen were killed according to first reports. The fact that armed elements have taken over and are willing to use violence against Assad regime – and in the capital yet - marks a new and dangerous stage in the two-week long protest.

Both sides of the conflict realize that the Assad regime is not yet at the tipping-point for its survival after street protest rallies and bloody crackdowns centering on Daraa in the south and Latakia on the Mediterranean coast, in which 110 demonstrators died. However, a mass, nationwide uprising could badly shake its stability because it would seriously overtax Assad's loyal military and security troops.

The opposition and the regime are meanwhile playing cat and mouse to see which holds the balance. The protest movement has already made an important gain: Even if Assad weathers the storm, his regime will never recover its old stability, arrogance and confidence. After 11 years in power, the Syrian president's authority will be on the wane.

To knock it over completely, the Sunnis, who are 76 percent of the Syria's population of 26 million, must join the protest movement en masse. This they have so far avoided doing for fear of the bullets which Assad's loyalist forces do not hesitate to shoot.

Quiet civil disobediences provides steady grind to wear down al-Assad

Because it is hard to get ordinary Sunni Muslims out on the streets, the heads of Syrian Revolution 2011 have instigated a campaign of passive resistance. This week, for example, opposition leaders told the population to stop paying their electricity bills, an act of protest that has caught on in Syria's big cities. The Assad regime is therefore confronted both by the "Days of Rage" and quiet civil resistance.

Latakia now a city divided into Sunni and Allawite sectors

Furthermore, the important port-town of Latakia has split down the middle between two opposing camps – the 300,000 members of the ruling Allawite sect fear to venture into the districts populated by the town's 400,000 Sunnis – and vice versa. Army control is reduced to keeping open the road linking the Syria's main import and export port facilities to the highway out of the city.

Syrian Government pouring in troops, arresting thousands

In the next 48 hours, the opposition is hoping to whip up mass demonstrations in Aleppo and Damascus, the capital. Aleppo, a city of 2.8 million inhabitants is the political and economic hub of the Syrian Sunni community. Therefore, major outbreaks there would produce a big crack in Assad's authority.

The Syrian ruler has tried to pre-empt the Aleppo demonstration by pouring substantial armed strength into the city, cutting its Internet links and arresting thousands of people suspected of opposition ties.

But he faces a huge problem. He can't trust the Sunni rank and file to obey orders to suppress a large-scale Sunni insurrection in Aleppo - only the Allawite units which owe loyalty to the president and the Assad clan. He must therefore rely on the support of the 4th Army Division and the security and intelligence services and they may be too thin on the ground to shoulder the task. He dare not try and loose Sunni troops on the protesters of Aleppo for fear they join the protesters.

Source: Israel intelligence website Debka.com

Friday, April 1, 2011

Leafs' Hockey posts moved to HarnessHorses.info

Toronto Maple Leafs building momentum for 2011-2012 NHL regular season schedule

If any readers have wondered what happened to most of my Toronto Maple Leafs' coverage, so sorry! About a month ago I started posting hockey stories on my horse racing blog Harness Horses Info, as that one normally tends to be busier in the summer, and Leafs Nation hockey is a great way to keep Ontario (and PEI) sports fans tuned-in during winter months.

Here are 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs stories from both the O Joe College Blog and the HarnessHorses.info website:

Maple Leafs drive alive; NHL East race tightens

New blogger Dynamic Views, Leafs hockey and Harness racing

PEI Power: Leafs should go for Prince Edward Island Trifecta

Toronto Maple Leafs' strong roster for 2011-2012 NHL season

3 Top 2011 NHL Free Agents that can help Toronto Maple Leafs win a Cup

Five on the Farm – Best Toronto Maple Leafs prospects

Maple Leafs GM likes to get something for nothing

Maple Leafs benefit big from selling at trade deadline

Maple Leafs Blog posts from earlier in 2010-2011 NHL season

Italian pressure is key to successful revolution in Libya

Limiting bloodshed will require leadership from Italy

4-step process for peaceful, democratic revolution

As Italy is Libya's biggest trading partner, and Destination One for Libyans if the local economy collapses, it is both self-serving and responsible for Italy to begin taking a bigger role in solving the Libyan crisis. The best path for a relatively bloodless revolution (from here...) in Libya would involve several stages:

A) The military deposes Gaddafi, and takes power in Western Libya
B) Military forms transitional co-government with rebels from Eastern Libya
C) A new constitution will be agreed upon, and a date for free and fair elections
D) Elections take place and Libya then will have a democratic government in place

For this to happen, Italy needs to get on the phone to certain key generals, offering major financial aid to Libya's military and future government, and longterm assistance with the transition to an open, democratic society.

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