I have a problem with nationalism

A note of caution – this is a very personal (and slightly incoherent) rant.

It was caused by a casual dinner I had last night with an acquaintance. There I was, absolutely knackered after a week of crazy work, and the last thing I wanted to do was talk about Burma, because well, almost everybody I meet wants to talk about Burma with me.

At the best of times, the discussions end in us agreeing to disagree on certain things (because everyone thinks they know what the hell is going on) and the worst? Well, friendships and meals ruined.

What I read last week:- the dangers of calling it ‘bullying’, what phosphate ban says about tea-party politics and others

It’s not because I’m too arrogant to think people might be interested in what I’m reading, but there are some great reporters/ writers out there and just wanted to share some of their thoughts and stories that have enriched me…

America’s Dish Detergent Wars

The author uses the response of some citizens to the government’s attempt to ban phosphate in dish detergent to talk about Tea Party paranoia

Pakistan Flood Victims Tell Their Story

An AP multimedia piece by a friend of mine who covered the devastating Pakistan floods. Hear the impact from the victims first hand. Caution – pretty heart-wrenching stuff

Worth a read: Washington, We Have A Problem

A bit long but a great read – Todd S. Purdum’s piece about a day in the life of the President, complete with insider quotes, the worrying impact and influence of lobbyists and the intense partisanship (especially from the G.O.P) that has continued to define this presidency.

Gives a lot of good food for thought, but also scares the heck out of me… considering all the rhetoric and hate speech going on right now by some of the Republican senators and politicians-waiting-to-be-elected.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/09/broken-washington-201009

A bit long but a great read – Todd S. Purdum’s piece about a day in the life of the President, complete with insider quotes, the worrying impact and influence of lobbyists and the intense partisanship (especially from the G.O.P) that has continued to define this presidency.

Gives a lot of good food for thought, but also scares the heck out of me… considering all the rhetoric and hate speech going on right now by some of the Republican senators and politicians-waiting-to-be-elected.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/09/broken-washington-201009

Identity politics and the idea of peace

As a young boy, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen witnessed how identity politics can change human beings and lead to terrible violence when Hindu-Muslim sectarian riots erupted in the mid-1940s in pre-independent India.

Sen, an economist and considered one of the great modern thinkers, said “the broad human beings of summer were suddenly transformed through ruthless cultivation of segregation into brutal Hindus and fierce Muslims of the winter bent on killing each other.”

“Hundreds of thousands perished.”

Just a couple of years before, he had experienced a very different scenario. The Bengal famine of 1943 killed between two and three million people and yet there was little violence, “a situation of artificial quietness and peaceful resignation.”

Survivors and activists hail cluster bomb ban

(This is a story I did for Reuters AlertNet and re-posting it here as the Convention comes into force today.)

By Thin Lei Win and Maria Caspani

BANGKOK/LONDON, July 30 (AlertNet) – Thoummy Silamphan was only eight when he lost his left hand to a cluster bomb in 1996. He was digging for bamboo shoots when his spade hit a metal object in a remote village in northern Laos.

“Before I knew what it was, I was already blown away,” Silamphan, now 22, told journalists in Bangkok, ahead of a landmark international ban on cluster bombs, which comes into force on Aug 1.