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Burma: A necessary revolution is gaining momentum (09/03)

Burmese human rights activist James Hla Saw sat across from me at a teahouse in New York City. I’d met the 29-year-old Columbia University graduate a week before, on July 15, when he and fellow Burmese human rights activists gathered near the UN to protest Special Envoy Razali Ismail’s recent trip to the Asian nation.

The protesters included Australians from the All Burma Student Democratic Organization (ABSDO) in Sydney, a Japanese Buddhist monk, and activists from across the US. It was the first time that various organizations, including the Free Burma Coalition and All Burma Students League (ABSL), had converged with leaders from Australia, Belgium, Canada, San Francisco, New York, Japan, and India. One concrete result was the formation of the Democratic Federation of Burma, a new network of pro-democracy groups. read more

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PAKISTAN: Identity Crisis (06/03)

Pakistan is one of the Bush administration’s close allies in the war against terrorism. Yet anti-American sentiment there has been growing with unprecedented force since the US conducted a war in Iraq, another Muslim country in the neighborhood.

In March, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to oppose the start of the war. While the coalition of Islamic parties in the United Council for Action (MMA) led the opposition marches in major cities, they won considerable support from secular forces. The anger has been growing since 2001, when hundreds of ordinary Pakistanis living in the North West Frontier Province lost their lives in the US-led military operation against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. read more

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Microedit: Small is Liberating (06/02)

International financial institutions like the World Bank, which erroneously assume that economic growth automatically benefits all members of society, tend to concentrate on increasing GDP. But the assistance they provide trickles down to the poor in slow, halting drops. In fact, according to one recent study, 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, yet the vast majority of international aid goes to developing mega-cities. Further, such aid often does little more than create bureaucracies and export markets. For example, 75 percent of the $30 billion in foreign aid sent to Bangladesh over the past 26 years ended up elsewhere, spent on equipment, luxuries, and consultants. read more

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Nepal’s Convenient Emergency (03/02)

How could remote Nepal – and the shocking murder of its king and members of the royal family last June – be connected with the global response to Sept. 11? One obvious link is the recent declaration by Nepal’s King Gyanendra, successor to his murdered elder brother Birendra, that the country’s six-year-old rebel movement is “a terrorist organization.” With this announcement, Nepal, like India, Israel, Pakistan, Colombia, and other regimes that may find the label useful in squashing public opposition to their policies, fell into line with the US-led strategy of routing out all resistance to its dictates. read more

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Nepal: Military may have role in the murder of Birendra (08/01)

The world abruptly woke up to revelations about Nepal’s internal problems on June 1, 2001, the day it was told that the kingdom’s crown prince had killed his parents and other royals, then turned the gun on himself. According to official reports, it was all the result of a dispute over the prince’s choice of a wife. The news sparked a nationwide trauma, and brought the world press to the streets of Kathmandu.

The massacre’s grisly details – though none of forensic significance – were dutifully reported to the world. The archaic funerary rites were also widely broadcast. But none of the bulletins offered real insights about the country: the poverty, the failing democracy, the army’s role in Nepal’s politics, or the insurgent Maoist movement that controls over a quarter of the countryside and has the support of as much as half the nation’s 23 million population, and possibly more. read more

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Banning Enlightenment (5/01)

On any warm day, visitors to public parks around the US may see people listening to Chinese music while making slow, graceful movements with their arms, executing slow-moving standing postures and stretching exercises, or even engaging in sitting meditation. Often, they aren’t practicing Yoga or Tai Chi, but rather an ancient Chinese system of mind/body cultivation known as Falun Gong.

“You can really feel it,” said Jayne Schmidt, after participating in a practice session at a local community park in Pennsylvania. “It’s like you’re holding electricity.” read more