Speculation in the wake of a dark day for India
WITH floods in the south east and a train crash killing over 200, the three bombs in Delhi this afternoon topped off a truly depressing day for India.
I have only ever called two cities home, Delhi and London. Only months apart, both have been hit by organised, synchronised bomb attacks. Both the London bombings and the Delhi bombings targetted innocents with cold precision. The London bombs took out commuters, today's three explosions killed unsuspecting shoppers, eagerly preparing for the festive season of Diwali and Eid in crowded shopping areas. The BBC and other agencies currently put the death toll at 50-55 and rising and Star News (an Indian channel) estimates over 200 are seriously injured.
It really is eerily similar to the events of 7/7 and indeed, had the Indian police not defused a fourth bomb, the two terrorist attacks would have been even more alike. The shell-shocked walking wounded roam the streets and the city's hospitals struggle to cope. Delhi, as so many times through its recent history (2001 parliament attack, the Red Fort attack and serial theatre blasts in May this year), once again feels fear return to its streets.
I hesitate to say too much at this juncture, as it is mere speculation. Manmohan Singh has confirmed that the government are investigating some clues, but would not comment further at this stage. Unconfirmed reports in The Hindu claim two Kashmiris have been detained, but other sources simply confirm that at least ten people have been detained by New Delhi police. However a few thoughts have come to mind with regard to the possible motives for this attack.
Of course the proximity to Eid and Diwali seems significant - most probably so that the group behind this could inflict the most amount of injuries and garner more publicity. They wished to strike whilst their target's guard was down.
The other seemingly obvious clue as to the timing of the bombs are the current unprecedented peace talks between India and Pakistan. We can only hope these aren't derailed by this unfortunate tragedy. One of the talks' main objectives was to discuss and agree upon a policy of opening up the Line of Control (LoC) to facilitate relief efforts in the aftermath of the Kashmir earthquake.
Yet another possible motive would be to coincide with the verdict of the Red Fort attack case, which was due on Saturday but has now been postponed to Monday. Two jawans and a civilian were killed by Lashkar militants on December 22nd, 2000. Mohammad Ashfaq, a Pakistani, along with his Indian conspirators Nazir Ahmed Qasid, Farooq Ahmad Qasid, Rehmana Yousuf Farooqi (Ashfaq's wife), Babar Mohsin Baghwala, Sadaqat Ali and Matloob Alam are standing trial, with some calling for Ashfaq to face the death sentence.
Chief suspects, at this stage, would seem to be the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiyaba group, responsible for not only the Red Fort attack, but also the 2001 Parliament attack and the Ram Temple assault in Ayodhya, when they used Delhi as a base. Indian officials are probing a Kashmir connection - yet another coincidence of note is the recent resignation of the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Large amounts of RDX have been found in Delhi in recent months, so it almost seems as though it was simply a matter of time before some was used - although the exact nature of the explosives has not been confirmed.
We should not lose sight of the fact that, at this stage, natural disasters have killed more than all three of these bombs, on both sides of the border. I not only hope this does not adversely affect the border discussions (I don't believe it will) and just as importantly, I hope that attention is not diverted from where it is needed most.
Update: A previously unknown group calling itself Islami Inquilabi Mahaz (revolution) has claimed responsibility in calls to reporters in Srinagar, Kashmir.
"Such attacks will continue until India pulls out all its troops from the state [of Kashmir]"
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An unholy trinity of segregation, suspicion and misplaced faith
TWO Independent columnists respectively made me smile and think today. Miles Kingston defined a selection of the latest buzzwords in his indefatigable style today (George Galloway has subliminally made me associate that word with ol' Saddam for ever more.) Some of particular note were:
Asian - A Person originating from India or Pakistan.
Blog - In the old days, when you kept a diary, the last thing you wanted was for anyone else to read it. A blog represents the complete reversal of the situation.
Feng Shui - The thing that came before Sudoku.
Karaoke - The thing that came before Feng Shui.
Multiculturalism - A refusal to integrate.
Multi-tasking - A refusal to delegate.
Sushi - The thing that came before Karaoke.
Johann Hari chose a rather more serious topic. I have, up till now, restricted my comments on the Birmingham 'race riots' to responses to Sunny's articles on Pickled Politics. But Hari happened upon a topic that I'm known to bleat on about, faith schools. I'm sure that everyone I've ever met has probably been bored by me at some stage, subjected to my usual diatribe, full of vitriol and venom targetted at what I believe to be one of Blair's worst mistakes. His time as PM has been characterised by an overwhelming desire to create a lasting legacy. Having realised that the War in Iraq turned out to be an almighty balls-up instead of the Falklands Part II, Blair's latest legacy-creating strategy is by removing Local Education Authority's power over schools. However I believe he will leave a very different footprint in the mud of British society. We saw the first signs on the 7th of July. Johann Hari has made the same link that I made - perhaps the Birmingham riots are part of the same problem.
Multiculturalism - A refusal to integrate.
The aforementioned plans for Britain's schools contain something that filled me with dread. A massive expansion plan for Britain's FAITH SCHOOLS. Britain now has 7000 faith schools, many of which are state-run and state-funded. Hari says:
"Segregating children according to their parents' superstitions is a great way to create a volatile, violent town where ethnic groups glare at each other across a chasm of mutual incomprehension."I'm pleased at his choice of words. Superstition. For the segregation is not caused by true religion, it's merely a strange tribalistic urge that lurks in several of the communities in the UK. The Catholics say "eugh, we don't want our kids getting corrupted by THEM", the Muslims say "eugh, we don't want our kids getting corrupted by THEM" and the sensible parent says "I'm sending my kid to the best school I can."
That's how I ended up at a Christian school. I had not been in the UK all that long, I had had an unhappy time at a primary school where religion was wholly absent, but when I arrived at Colet Court I started really enjoying school. I was cajoled into going to St. Paul's cathedral to listen to Latin, I sang Thine Be The Glory but as I looked around I was surrounded by Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and atheists like me all happily repeating the Lord's Prayer. I think they all felt the way I did - no big deal. We were there to learn history, English, physics, maths and so on. We weren't there to be indoctrinated - the religion just washed over us. By the time I graduated to St. Paul's aged 13, religious activities became optional and I used morning assembly time to do my homework whilst the pious prayed. What's the point in this ramble? That we were all happy because we knew why we were at school. We were united by our brains, corny though it may sound. We had all passed the entrance exam, which had no box asking religious affiliation.
The reason I expound on my own background is to counter the reason always cited by Muslims keen to establish new all-Muslim schools. They say that why should they be denied Islamic schools when Christians have theirs. I am sure that I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the same integration at an Islamic school. Great Britain, secular though it is (thank God!), remains a Christian country. Hence I believe that Christian schools have some sort of right to exist - many of them are hundreds of years old.
Christian zealots starting new Christian schools with the same blustering fervour as Islamic zealots provoke the same reaction in me - a strong reluctance for their schools to exist. There is just NO reason to Balkanise Britain like this.
The main reason that I am so, so against faith schools is obvious. Think back to when you were a kid. Did you give a toss your best friend was black, Chinese, brown or white? No, all you cared about was that they were not an icky girl (or vice versa). If races and religions mix from a young age, instead of growing up surrounded by people of the same hue and beliefs (often far removed from mainstream Britain). For otherwise we will never be able to foster a true sense of Britishness. Oh gosh, I came over all BNP then. What I mean is that everyone should be like me. Oh gosh I came over all arrogant then. If I can be a fiercely proud Brit and be brown, then so can other non-white, non-British-born people. It doesn't have to mean a resounding endorsement of what the British government does, simply a pride in where you live and the country that you call home.
"David Ward, the Bradford council member responsible for education, explained that the Government's obsessive humming - "You gotta have faith/ faith/ faith" - made it impossible to build mixed schools. "You feel as if you are fighting with two hands tied behind your back," he said. "We are trying to desegregate in Bradford but we are powerless when we have schools dictating their own admissions policies.""A report into the riots stated "There are signs that communities are fragmenting along racial, cultural and faith lines. Segregation in schools is one of the indicators of this trend. There is virtual apartheid in many secondary schools."
Hari highlights an interesting incident from one of Blair's wonderful faith schools:
"Of course, faith schools claim they promote "tolerance" - but the evidence hardly backs them up. For example, at a state-funded Muslim school on the outskirts of London, a student wrote in the school paper that "Jews and Christians" will "burn in furnaces", and another said non-Muslims are described as "doomed in this world".But what of the mantra the government trots out every time - that faith schools do better in league tables? Unfortunately for them, this can be easily explained away by the fact that these schools use poorly-defined and easily twisted selection criteria to siphen off the students they feel are most motivated and bright. In fact Hari claims faith schools underperform.
There are yet more pitfalls to allowing religion to be the main pillar of an educational establishment. Catholic or Islamic kids may receive no sex education. Children may not learn about other faiths, or what they do learn may be hidesouly biased. Are you really free to make up your own mind if surrounded by a mono-religious environment the whole time? I came to the conclusion that God doesn't exist based on my interaction with people from many religions. If I had grown up as a Hindu surrounded by Hindus who knows what I would believe. Certainly most religions all have something to say about issues like abortion or homosexuality. These should be issues upon which neutral debate takes place. History may even be twisted, with no regulation, the Holocaust may be down-played and evolution will become the myth, replaced by abominations like Intelligent Design.
Despite widespread opposition, faith schools are going ahead at full steam. What sort of Britain will we have in a few decades' time, when the current glut of toddlers are of killing age? More riots - definitely. More hatred - without doubt. More mutual distrust - surely. More bombings and murders - probably. All I can do is pray to God that British schools lose their faith.
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Grey's Anatomy is no House Party
"Dermatologists. If it's wet, keep it dry. If it's dry, keep it wet. If it's not supposed to be there, cut it off. Yeah I never could remember all that." - Dr Gregory House
I CONFESS. I’ve sold out. Years of fighting the good fight have amounted to nought, as I lay down my anti-Bush sentiments and shout U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! There is one overriding factor as to why I have been unable to cast America aside like the overgrown bastard son it is; television. No matter how much of a die-hard Blackadder and Red Dwarf fan I am, there is no doubt that in recent years American TV has pissed on the rest of the world from a great height. Kind of like everything else in life. However, amidst all the Yankee imports, there is one universal truth – the world loves doctors.
No doubt many of you have been glued to J.J. Abram’s latest offering, Lost. Who’s the main character? That’s right! It’s a doctor! Who da man? Hippocrates da man! Jack personifies a character who has cropped up in many a US show, the hunky doctor. I like to think I’m one of these in training. It’s something of a shame nobody else does. So seeing as we’ve established medicos are a special breed, we deserve our own programmes. With this is mind, The Daily Rhino performs unnecessary laparoscopic investigations on Uncle Sam’s latest medical offerings.
House (occasionally referred to as House, M.D. to shoo-away those strange people who like home makeover shows) and Grey’s Anatomy occupy opposite ends of televisual medicine. House markets itself as a “detective story, just set in a hospital. He solves medical conundrums in much the way a detective solves a crime.” ‘He’ refers to the fantastic character that Hugh Laurie has brought to life, the obnoxious, anti-social, irascible and brilliant Gregory House. In short, everything I want to be. Another detective story, which is “just set in a hospital” is of course the medical student favourite, Diagnosis Murder. So from the get-go, House seems to be headed in the right direction.
Grey’s Anatomy, on the other hand, is a different strain altogether. It is a sudsy, soppy, girlie soap of a drama (tagline: Operations. Relations. Complications.) The patients and stethoscopes are incidental props in between chats about dreamy surgeons and “oh-migod, being an intern is like, SO hard, you know?” But because I love you people, my reader(s), I put my Y-chromosome away, wondered which top I should wear to catch my consultant’s eye and watched it with some Haagen Dazs.
House really is a one-man show. That is not to belittle Hugh Laurie’s supporting cast (Dr House does enough of that himself), they’re easy on the eye but bland. Neighbours stalwarts (i.e. all British students) will recognise Jesse Spencer (Billy Kennedy) who insists he is Australian despite House telling him “you put the Queen on your money. You’re British.” He makes up the team with Omar Epps and Jennifer Morrison. But House is the star. He’s a git and you love him for it, because for every foot he steps on, he saves a patient’s life. The fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital seems to attract the most weird and wonderful medical conundrums, which can only be solved by the man who played Bertie Wooster. Naphthalene poisoning, acute intermittent porphyria, EBV-phenytoin-epilepsy or tic-tac induced stroke (only 2 calories). Now I don’t know about you, but these things come into my hospital all the time. The team toss up the possibilities, write some stuff on a see-through markerboard, run some tests and House eventually gets it right. What makes it so eminently watchable are House’s glib one-liners. A bright orange patient comes in, but only complains of back pain.
“Unfortunately, you have a deeper problem. Your wife is having an affair.” “What?” replies the patient. “You're orange, you moron. It's one thing for you not to notice, but if your wife hasn't picked up on the fact that her husband has changed colours, she's just not paying attention.”
A pretty medical student is trying to present a history to House, who seems less than interested. “You’re reading a comic book.” House: “And you’re drawing attention to your bosom by wearing a low-cut top…oh I’m sorry, I thought we were having a state-the-obvious contest. I’m competitive by nature.”
House’s first season stayed fresh by introducing new cast members and not falling into the trend of diagnosis-of-the-month, but thankfully the total absence of House’s personal life has meant the relationship-tripe that mars many a British show is avoided, similar to the way Grissom’s geek has made CSI so fascinating.
Grey’s Anatomy has, like House, been doing extremely well across the Pond, consistently getting higher ratings than Lost. Much of its success can be attributed to savvy producers who recognised a gap in the market, women. Grey’s Anatomy revolves around Meredith Grey, a first year surgical intern played by Ellen Pompeo. In the opening episode, Meredith shags some sexy dude and like, he totally turns out to be her boss. I like horny hospitals and ridiculous romances but it is the dialogue that makes Grey’s Anatomy unbearable. The plotlines are mindless fun, interns are humiliated by tyrannical attendings, syphilis epidemics are caused by surgical interns, doctors do nurses, surgeons shag physicians and interns enjoy residents. Hell Meredith even snogs a patient. All this makes Grey’s Anatomy sound like the grown-up O.C., but try sitting through dialogue like this:
“8 of you will switch to an easier specialty. 5 of you will crack. 2 of you will be asked to leave. This is your arena. How well you play - that's up to you.”
“Your first shift starts now and lasts 48 hours. You're interns, grunts, nobodies, bottom of the surgical food chain. Run labs, write orders, work every second of your life until you drop and don't complain.”
“If I hadn't taken the Hippocratic Oath I'd Kevorkian her with my bare hands” (talking about a patient)
“I can’t think of any one reason why I want to be a surgeon. But I can think of a thousand reasons why I should quit. There are lives in our hands. I could quit. But here’s the thing. I love the playing field.” (so you just thought of one reason then, you silly moo)
“Did you let me scrub in for this operation because I slept with you?” (well all right, I did say the same thing to my consultant the other day)
“This is a good day to save lives.”
“We're women! We have vaginas! Get used to it!”
“You try eating after performing 17 rectal exams”
“The bad news is that we gave your penis to the cops.” (okay, that one’s funny)
But what medics really want to know is the answer to the ultimate question – can they be justified as studying? Strangely enough, I just sat written finals after having watched a helluva lotta medical TV and can honestly say one show has helped me more than any other. I ought to add that I’m probably not the best person to ask as in my head I justified watching the entire Ashes series before finals by the fact that they talked about Simon Jones’ injury. For about a minute.
Both shows have their howlers. A common theme in medical dramas is that one doctor does EVERYTHING. House’s team even visit dying patient’s houses to look for clues. Grey’s Anatomy spends so much time throwing clichés and romance around, there is little medicine to speak of. But House has some interesting, if very rare, medicine. One sometimes wonders how non-medics can fully enjoy the show, as it has long exchanges about therapy, investigations and diagnoses, with little explanation. The science is generally sound, but occasionally they stray from the bizarre to the inane, like tattoos erupting in MRI machines due to metal in the ink.
Both shows seem set to return for at least a few more seasons and whatever one’s thoughts about them, they are good stuff for one important reason – programmes about doctors make doctors look cool. We all want to look cool, right?
So what was that show I mentioned that helped me through finals more than any other? It’s not ER and not House. To dismiss it is as simply a comedy is to sell it short. As long as the writers don’t get too saccharine, it is an inspiring, thought-provoking, funny and thoroughly realistically-observed series. It is one of the best American TV shows to invade our fair shores and one you all know about already, the sublime Scrubs.
This was published as my column the October issue of the greatest medical newspaper in the world, Medical Student.
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Why Bali will continue to be a target
TODAY the small Indonesian island of Bali was rocked by bomb attacks on two popular tourist areas, killing at least 22. BBC Coverage.
Bali is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Nowadays, post-Jason Donovan and Ricky Martin, it’s known for its tourist trade as much as it is for its natural wonders. One can only hope that it doesn’t develop a new, darker claim to fame. However I fear that Bali may become one of the most popular targets for Islamist terrorists.
For those who believe in the supremacy of their warped Islamic beliefs, Bali represents a triple-whammy. Three reasons to target the jewel in Indonesia’s crown.
Indonesia is frequently referred to as the world’s most populous Islamic nation, people forget that it is just a truly immense country. Over 13,000 islands make up the vast archipelago, stretching more than 5000km across. The country has a tumultuous recent past and I honestly think that no country has seen quite so much change in the last 50 years. It lives in the shadow of its more successful neighbours, the Asian Tigers of Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, which sometimes overshadows the strides forward that Indonesia has taken, like free elections being introduced seven years ago.
However, Indonesia is afflicted by several serious diseases. A nasty Asian strain of corruption, armed separatists in Aceh and Irian Jaya and a chronic case of terrorism.
V.S. Naipaul’s excellent book, Beyond Belief, examines how Indonesia has been affected by the recent and widespread embrace of Islam. With this, unfortunately came a firebrand fundamentalist streak, such that Indonesia has been described as ‘Al Qaeda’s next natural home.’
So why has Bali been hit by a series of attacks?
Indonesia’s census states almost 90% of Indonesia is Muslim. However in a few areas, namely Bali, Papua, East Nusa Tenggara and some areas hit by the tsunami in northern Sumatra, Muslims form a minority. You may not have heard of any on that list – with the exception of Bali. Militant Muslims bent upon increasing that 90% up to 100 do not like any of those areas, but Bali stands out. Papua and Aceh have violent armed militia patrolling their territories and Eastern Nusa Tenggara is a massively under-developed backwater. Bali, in contrast, produces vast sums of money and is a peaceful place, with no armed guerrillas to offer resistance to terrorists. It’s an easy target.
India and Indonesia have intertwined histories. Before Islam came to Indonesia via India, the country was Hindu and Buddhist, two Indian religions. The Arab-centric ideologies supported by Islamist terrorists despise India and it despise Hinduism. Osama bin Laden himself has identified India as an enemy of the caliphate and Al Qaeda. With the Arabisation of Indonesia, Indian influences have been purged from the vast majority of the country. The largest Buddhist monument in the world and a contender for 8th wonder of the world, Borobodur, is left woefully under-maintained and under-advertised, as it is a Buddhist stupa in the heart of an Islamic Java.
Despite all attempts to erase India from Indonesia, Bali remained unchanged. Over 90% of the 1.81% of Indonesians who are Hindu reside in Bali. The very culture that attracts tourists in droves is the culture that the rest of the country has rejected – such as traditional Balinese dancing, which is rooted in Hindu mythology. Bali is a slice of ancient Indonesia. Bali is a Hindu infidel of an island. Worse still, Balinese Hindus are leading what is called the Hindu Revival. Read more about Hinduism in Bali and Indonesia.
The last reason Indonesian terrorists hate Bali is that it is a resounding success story. Jealousy is central to much of the moaning done by radical clerics and they hate the fact that Bali is thriving whilst much of Indonesia has criminal levels of poverty. And perhaps the main reason Bali is targeted at all is the cause of Bali’s wealth – Western tourists.
I say Western, but what I really mean is Australian. Australians have been enjoying the food, drink, sun and sand of Bali for decades. Now if you live on Bondi beach and still travel 1000s of miles for a holiday, it must be something special. Brits are also quite keen on Bali’s resorts. Australia and Britain – more enemies of fundamentalist Islam. Two coalition members, two aggressors against Islam, two friends of Zionist America and one more reason why a bomb in Bali makes headlines around the world, not just in the Indonesian press.
My heart is filled with sorrow when I think about the inevitable evil that will be unleashed on little Bali. Tourism is how it earns its keep and 3 years on from the 2002 attacks, the trade had just returned to normal, until today. It hasn’t invaded Iraq or given aid to Israel, yet as long as Bali is a peaceful island, populated by Hindus and enjoyed by white tourists, the diamond on Indonesia’s necklace is under constant threat from the new Islamist fascists.
This was first a post on Pickled Politics, take a look at the comments here.
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