Monday, February 27, 2012

11 years on, Palestinian Dura case stirs emotions

Controversy continues to stalk the memory of Mohammed al-Dura more than 11 years after the Palestinian boy was shot dead in an exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

On Tuesday, France's highest appeals court is to rule on a dispute between France 2, the channel whose iconic images of the incident were beamed around the world, and a French activist who claims the footage was staged.

Since Dura's death on September 30, 2000, the second day of the second intifada or uprising, 1,141 unarmed Palestinian minors have been killed, according to Israel rights group B'Tselem.

More than a quarter of them died during Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.

But it is the death of 12-year-old Dura, who died in the arms of his father, that remains graven in the memories of most. The scene was captured on video by a France 2 cameraman, and quickly broadcast worldwide.

More than a decade later, with the intifada over, the report on Dura's death remains a major battlefield in the media war between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the Arab world, Dura quickly became a symbol with which to condemn the Israeli occupation. The image of the child keeled over was reproduced on posters, stamps and T-shirts. Streets were named in his memory.

On the other side, defenders of Israel contested the reporting of Charles Enderlin, France 2's Jerusalem correspondent, whose voice-over of the images in the report said Israeli bullets had killed the boy.

Some cast doubt of the provenance of those bullets, saying they were in fact Palestinian. But others claim the entire event was staged, that Dura did not in fact die in his father's arms.

"The issue could have quickly disappeared after the initial emotion stoked by the incredible violence of these images of a child in the process of dying," says Jerome Bourdon, a communications professor at Tel Aviv University.

"But these images became such a symbol -- for pro-Palestinians and pro-Israelis -- that no one could let go."

A key figure in the debate in France is Philippe Karsenty, director of the Media Ratings -- a media watchdog group -- who claims Enderlin's report on the Dura incident was doctored.

"Karsenty has expended tremendous energy to bring attention back to the matter. He seized the Dura affair with the idea that he would be the new (Emile) Zola of the (Alfred) Dreyfus affair," said Bourdon, author of "The Impossible Narrative: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Media."

Israeli authorities adopted the narrative of a staged incident late in 2007, after a period of relative silence on the issue.

Just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated French-Israeli doctor Yehuda David, after he was acquitted of defamation charges levelled by Dura's father Jamal.

David in 2008 wrote that scars on Jamal al-Dura, reportedly from injuries sustained during the shooting that killed his son, were in fact from previous injuries, supporting the theory that the incident had been staged.

In France, large parts of the Jewish community now subscribe to Karsenty's theory.

"It's not just a question of politicisation by extremists. Numerous French Jews felt during the second intifada that Israel was unjustly accused by the media," said Bourdon.

"They were shocked by the Dura affair. Karsenty's theory could not have had the same impact without this emotional dimension."

On the Palestinian side too, the images of Dura's death remain a potent symbol, according to Amal Jamal, a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University.

"These images contain all the history of the second intifada, the Palestinian tragedy, the inhumane conditions in which they live and the everyday nature of the force deployed against them by Israel," he said.

"It's of little importance whether the bullets that killed Mohammed were Palestinian or Israeli," he noted.

"The symbolic strength of the images of the death of Mohammed is so strong that they they will never completely disappear. They have only just started to face competition in the collective imagination of the Palestinians from the images of the Arab Spring."

Officers hurt in Occupy clash at Calif. Capitol

At least two law enforcement officers were injured Monday during a clash with members of the Occupy movement who were at the state Capitol to counter a rally by a group protesting violence by blacks against whites in South Africa.

The clash erupted in the afternoon as California Highway Patrol and Sacramento police officers were escorting about 35 members of the South Africa Project to a parking garage after their protest outside the Capitol building.

About 50 members of Occupy Oakland began throwing cans and bottles at the South Africa group and at the officers. The Occupy members then clashed with the officers as people with the pro-whites group hurried into the parking garage.

"It was the activists across the street engaging the officers," said CHP officer Sean Kennedy.

Two officers suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital. CHP Capt. Andy Menard said one officer who was struck in the face by an object was released from the hospital. The second officer was getting X-rays after apprehending a person suspected of throwing objects, Menard said.

Kennedy said the officer who was struck by an object was showing signs of possibly being affected by some type of chemical or pepper spray.

The CHP arrested three members of the Occupy group on suspicion of disobeying an officer.

The violence abated after a large contingent of law enforcement arrived at the scene, about a block from the Capitol.

The clash followed a tense afternoon during which peace officers kept the two groups separated outside the Capitol.

Members of the South Africa Project were trying to draw attention to what they said is black-on-white violence in that country. Organizers said similar demonstrations were planned in other states and elsewhere in California.

The group was mostly male and white, some with shaved heads and prominent tattoos.

Many of the Occupy protesters, some wearing hoods or masks, said they came from the San Francisco Bay area to counter what they called a racist group affiliated with former Louisiana Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Morris Gulett, a spokeman for the South Africa Project, called the clash in Sacramento unfortunate.

"It's not surprising that the counter-protesters got in the way of the peaceful march we wanted it to be," Gulett said. "Our intention was to conduct a peaceful march."

Occupy protesters had been cursing at the South Africa Project rally and at officers keeping the two sides apart.

Ryan Stark, 26, who said he is part of Occupy Sacramento, said he joined the protesters challenging the South Africa Project protesters because there needed to be a showdown.

"I didn't throw anything ... but these sorts of demonstrations need to happen," he said, referring to the counter protest. "They do have the right to say what they want, but we're not going to let it fly."

The public was being kept away from the scene of the confrontation by police officers, who were not commenting to reporters. The city's light rail system was stopped through the section of downtown where the clash occurred, and commuters were not allowed to leave the area.

Earlier in the day, a 17-year-old girl with Occupy Oakland was taken to Juvenile Hall after she became combative and assaulted an officer who asked her to pick up litter, Kennedy said.

Heated debate over Jolie's weight

HLN's Dr. Drew and panel get into a heated discussion over Angelina Jolie's fragile appearance at the Oscars Sunday.

Angela Merkel showered in beer

Amateur video shows how the waiter, known only as Martin D, handed Angela Merkel a glass of beer as she took her seat only for the remaining drinks on his tray to slip down the back of the German leader.

Ms Merkel let out a little shreik as the beer splashed her and the glasses crashed to the floor, however she quickly gathered her composure and impressively shrugged off the incident.

The embarrassed waiter later spoke to Germany's Bild newspaper, saying: 'A colleague should have brought her the beer. But she was so nervous, she asked me to do it for her.

"I was shoved from behind, and tried to catch the beers, but it was too late. I shouted '****!' really loudly.

"But she turned around, grinned at me - and even though she was wet, went to the speaker’s stage shortly afterwards."

Obama hits back against Santorum ‘snob’ criticism by defending college education stance

The Washington Post

President Obama on Monday defended his stance that higher education is critical to preparing Americans to compete in the global workforce, offering a tacit rebuke to Republican rival Rick Santorum who called Obama a “snob” for wanting everyone to go to college.Speaking to the National Governors Association, Obama called on the group to protect public investment in education at a time of shrinking state budgets so that teachers remain in the classroom.

Obama did not mention GOP presidential candidate Santorum by name in his remarks. But the president paused to say he wanted to make a specific point when it came to higher education.

“When I talk of higher education, I’m not only talking about four-year degrees,” Obama said. “I’m also talking about going to community college to get a degree for a manufacturing job where you have to walk through the door to handle a million dollar piece of equipment.”

The president added: “We all want Americans to get those jobs of the future. We need to make sure they get the education they need.”

Obama’s remarks came just two days after Santorum told a tea party group in Michigan that Obama is a “snob” because he wants “everybody in America to go to college.”“Not all folks are gifted in the same way,” Santorum told a crowd of more than 1,000 activists at the Americans for Prosperity forum in Troy, Mich. “Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and ... want to work out there making things. President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”

Santorum is targeting working-class voters in his bid for the White House. Though he holds more college degrees than Obama, Santorum added: “There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

In addressing the governors, Obama touted his recent proposal to help college students consolidate loans, and he referred to his personal history to make his case that having government help to attend college is important.

He said his mother raised two children “by herself while still going to college because she was able to get grants.” The president added that he and first lady Michelle Obama, both highly educated lawyers, “are only here today because of school and student loans that gave us a shot at a great education.”

Obama said that more than 40 states have cut higher education funding over the past year, “part of a long-term trend of reduced state support for higher education.”

“Too many states are making cuts to education that I think are too big,” Obama said. “Today, I’m calling on all of you to invest more in education. Invest more in our children and our future.”

CEC directs action against Waheeda Shah for slapping

Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza on Monday directed to take action against Sindh Assembly candidate Waheeda Shah for slapping a polling official as well as the police personnel for negligence of duty.

He took serious notice of the incident of slapping a polling staff by Pakistan People’s Party’s candidate Syeda Waheeda Shah at Polling Station No 16 at Government Girls High School, Tando Muhammad Khan and directed the Provincial Election Commissioner, Sindh to take necessary action under the law.

He also directed to lodge an FIR against Syeda Waheeda Shah that was implemented by registering FIR No 33/2012 under Section 86 (3)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1976 at Police Station, Tando Muhammad Khan.

Earlier, the assistant presiding officer who was slapped by PPP candidate Waheeda Shah Bukhari during Saturday’s by-election had termed the incident a result of a misunderstanding.

The CEC made it clear that no one would be allowed to threaten or use force against the polling staff whose services are hired by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in connection with election duties. The Commission would take all possible steps to provide protection to the polling staff and take an exemplary action under the law against any one who indulges in any illegal activities to disrupt peaceful atmosphere at the polling stations.

The CEC also observed that slapping an Assistant Presiding Officer at Polling Station No 16 Tando Muhammad Khan by Syeda Waheeda Shah on Feb 25, had shocked the whole nation and was viewed very seriously by the Commission. Therefore, the Commission not only condemns this unruly behaviour of a personnel aspiring to represent the people in the Parliament, he added.

On receipt of report from the Provincial Election Commissioner Sindh, the Commission directed the Returning Officer for PS-53 Ali Asghar Sial to take immediate cognizance of the matter under Section 86A of the Representation of People Act, 1976 and all other enabling provisions, for alleged violation of the provision of Section 86 ibid, hold an inquiry (summary trial), hear the necessary parties and pass the orders.

He has been asked to hold inquiry at the office of Provincial Election Commissioner, Sindh, Karachi within minimum possible time, not exceeding seven days at the maximum.

On the complaint received from Mir Mushtaq Ali Talpur, another contesting candidate for by election of PS-53 in Tando Muhammad Khan, the Commission also issued notices to all the parties to appear before it on March 6.

Expressing concern and disappointment over the failure of the police personnel present on the occasion to perform their duties, the Commission directed the Inspector General Police, Sindh to proceed against them and submit a report to the Commission within a week.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission withheld the official result of the said constituency till the completion of the inquiry.

Syrians Approve Constitution in Popular Referendum

The Interior Ministry on Monday announced the results of the referendum on the new Constitution of Syria, with 89.4% of voters agreeing to it.

In a press conference, Minister of Interior Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar said that that 8,376,447 citizens voted in the referendum on the new draft constitution, which constitutes 57.4% of the 14,589,954 eligible voters, with 7,490,319 (89.4% of voters) agreeing to it while 753,208 (9% of voters) didn't agree.

He said that there were 132,920 invalid ballots, which makes up 1.6% of votes.

Al-Shaar said that there was a good turnout despite the threats and intimidation by armed terrorist groups in some areas and the accompanying distortion and instigation campaigns by media which attempted to prevent citizens from practicing their right to vote and harm the democratic process.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa CM escapes in bomb attack, seven killed

The Chief Minister of Pakistan’s restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province Ameer Haider Khan Hoti on Monday escaped an apparent assassination attempt when a powerful bomb went off near the venue of a political rally addressed by him, killing seven persons and injuring 24 others.

The bomb, planted in a motorcycle, was triggered by remote control after the Chief Minister had left the venue in a helicopter with senior leaders of the Awami National Party, which rules Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

No leaders of the ANP were among the casualties, police said.

The explosion occurred near a police check post, about 200 yards from Farooq Stadium in Nowshera city, where the ANP had organised the rally.

People were leaving the stadium at the time of the blast.

Police officials said seven persons were killed and 24 others, including seven policemen, were injured.

Those with serious injuries were taken to a hospital in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Officials said the motorcycle with the bomb was left in a parking lot.

Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who was part of the Chief Minister’s team, said the attackers had failed to target the rally because of tight security.

He reiterated the firm resolve of the provincial government and the ANP to wipe out terrorism and extremism in all its forms and manifestations.

Besides the Chief Minister and Information Minister, several other senior ANP leaders, including parliamentarian Afrasiab Khattak and provincial ministers, had attended the rally.

The blast, which was heard from several kilometres away, created panic among the thousands of people present at the stadium.

Fun Fair In Peshawar

Syria promises referendum results as EU plans new sanctions

PM Gilani announces high Civil Award for Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced conferring a high Civil Award on Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on winning an Oscar Award for her documentary film 'Saving Face'.

‘Saving Face’ chronicles the work of British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.
More than 100 people, mainly women and girls, are disfigured in acid attacks every year in Pakistan, although groups helping survivors say many more cases go unreported.

Motorcycle bomb kills 5, injures 23 in Nowshera
At least five people have been killed and eleven other injured in a blast outside the venue of rally of Awami National Party (ANP) in Nowshera.According to police, a remote-controlled bomb that was fixed in a motorcycle hit the ANP rally venue after the public address concluded. Approximately three kg of explosives were used in the blast, police said.
Police has cardonned off the area while dead bodies and injured were rushed to the hospital.
As a result of blast, five persons were killed while 15 others were injured including four policemen. The injured were shifted to District Headquarter Hospital where five are said to be in critical condition.

Video Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy Won award For Best Short Documentary Saving Face

''Pukhtunkhwa Times is proud of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy,Congratulations and good luck.

ANP success in Mardan reflects people’s confidence

Frontier Post

The Khyber Pakthunkhwa Minister for Environment and Forests, Wajid Ali Khan said on Sunday that success of ANP candidate in the Mardan by-election has reflected the overwhelming trust and confidence of masses in the leadership and polices of the government and termed it a clear indication that ANP will form next government in the province.”The victory achieved by ANP candidate, Mamayatullah Khan Mayar in the Mardan-I by-election is in fact the success of democratic forces. I congratulate the people of Mardan for again reposing full confidence in ANP,” he told APP.The success and popularity of a political party could be judged from election results and development works, he said, adding the winning of ANP candidate with a big margin against his opponents was the clear manifestation of the rising popularity of Pakthoons nationalist party and expressed the hope that it will win next general election with overwhelming majority keeping in view its record development work, giving identity to Pakhtoons, provincial autonomy and establishment of peace in restive areas of Khyber Pakthunkhwa.This triumph has proved all speculations of political jugglers regarding drop off ANP vote bank in Mardan as wrong and baseless, he said, adding gone were the days when people would be befooled on catchy and hallow slogans. ”The masses are politically matured and understand what is good and wrong,” he remarked. The Minister said ANP has brought red revolution in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and there was no need for other revolutions. NFC award, addressal of hydle power profit, provincial autonomy and writ of Government in Malakand Division are one of the major achievements of KP Government, he added.The merits of development projects that were started and completed in nook and coroner of the province are yielding positive and goods results, he added.Wajid Khan said ANP was custodian of democracy and never become part of dictatorial rule, adding every sacrifices for strengthen of democracy would be given.”There would be no problem if all institutions work within its constitutional ambit,” he told APP and added that problems come when one institution deviate from its constitutional role.Wajid Khan said ANP was the only party that always raised voice in support of democracy and constitutional rule and never become part of dictatorial rule. He said civil society including media, political forces, lawyers, international community etc are supporting democracy in the country.He said that democracy was the only way forward to address masses’ problems and country’s challenges and we should all work together to strengthen this system.The Minister said all political forces are united on a single point agenda to carry forward and strengthen democracy as evident from passage of 20th amendment by National Assembly and Senate.The Minister said 20th amendment was the biggest achievement of the present government that would give major boost to the democratic system besides ensuring free, fair and transparent elections in the country.Terming 20th constitutional amendment as another milestone in the country’s history after the adoption of 18th and 19th amendments by the parliament, he said it would also ensure an independent and an impartial caretaker government to oversee the polls and no prime minister and chief ministers would be imported to oversee elections and will stop propaganda of horse trading and rigging in polls. He said political stability and national unity, keeping in view the current geo-political and security’s situation of the region are the need of the hour. Instead to indulge in blame games and throwing mud on each others, we as nation should show political maturity, respect each others’ views and political mandates to resolve problems of masses. The Minister congratulated all the winners of by election in Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab Province.

‘Patli Gali’: Song of the streets

With a Pakistan flag fixed on its bonnet, a Surf moves into the frame. A man, wearing a black waistcoat and a moustache, steps out of the car and, to his shock, gets beaten up by a bunch of angry musicians. As absurd as it might seem, that is rock band Azal’s way of standing up against the existing system as depicted in their new video “Patli Gali”.

The song, however, hits a chord with the listeners due to its witty yet ironic lyrics which are sung in the typical Karachi street lingo, using words such as ‘chal be nikal’, ‘tapori’ and ‘kanpatti’, etc. The video takes one into the long known but ‘hush hush’ underground subculture of Karachi: places where gambling is rampant or where a bet over a snooker match can cost lives.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary wins Oscar for ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’

The Express Tribune

Pakistani journalist and documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest venture Saving Face has won an Oscar award under the category ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’.

In her acceptance speech, Chinoy dedicated the award to “all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan” including British Pakistani plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad, main subjects of the documentary and the women of Pakistan.

“All the women in Pakistan working for change, don’t give up on your dreams, this is for you,” she said.

Dedicating the award to main subjects Rukhsana and Zakia, Obaid-Chinoy said that their “resilience and bravery in the face of such adversary is admirable”.

Co-director Daniel Junge said he had the idea for the film after hearing about Jawad, and asked Chinoy to work with him. He has been previously nominated for an both an Oscar and an Emmy.

“To win … and with such a subject – it’s such an honour,” he said.

The documentary Saving Face chronicles the work of Dr Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.

The documentary, which is filmed across Islamabad, Rawalpindi and the small towns of Punjab, was released in the US in November. It is due to release in the UK in March 2012, following which it will be released in Pakistan.

“The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault,” Chinoy said in an interview conducted before she won the Oscar.

“The main reason that they are in Saving Face is to make their stories heard and have an impact.” Many victims are women attacked by their husbands, and others assaulted for turning down a proposal of marriage. One girl in the documentary describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. She was 13 at the time.

Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her and her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline before her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.

Chinoy said she hopes the cases in her film will resonate for others in Pakistan.

“It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience. I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems,” she said.

Chinoy’s films have won international acclaim. Her 2010 documentary, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation, won an International Emmy Award.

At the ceremony, Obaid-Chinoy chose to wear female designers, from her clothes and her jewellery.

“I am wearing Bunto Kazmi for the ceremony and will be wearing Sana Safinaz and Saniya Maskatiya for Oscar-related events. My jewellery will be done by Kiran Aman of Kiran Fine Jewellery and Sherezad Rahimtoola of Labels. I am really excited to showcase local Pakistani talent, and that too all women,” revealed Chinoy.

Pakistan:( Waheeda Shah) ''Uncouth behaviour in by-elections''

EDITORIAL:Daily times

By-elections were held on six National and four provincial seats. At the time of writing these lines, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was leading on four seats while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on three. The other three seats were won by the Awami National Party (ANP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and an independent candidate each. While the results of the by-elections were not surprising, the behaviour of some of the candidates and/or their supporters was something that left a bad taste in the mouth. PPP candidate Waheeda Shah beat up the female polling staff in her constituency, alleging that they were rigging the elections. The police remained a silent spectator. She later admitted that it was a mistake on her part that she hit the staff. In other constituencies, there were reports of firing and squabbles between the supporters of rival candidates. What this shows is a lack of democratic spirit in our politicians as well as their supporters.
Granted that ours is a nascent democracy and the democratic culture has been subverted due to regular military interventions, but that does not give the politicians and their supporters the right to indulge in hooliganism. In developed democracies, if a candidate loses, he/she accepts it in a mature and dignified manner. If there are reports of foul play and rigging, it is reported to the concerned authorities so that the law can take its course rather than people taking the law into their own hands. The way some electoral candidates and their supporters act in our part of the world leaves a great deal to be desired. Beating up the polling staff or using weapons to intimidate one’s rivals is certainly not the way to go about things in a proper democracy. Our politicians must learn the art of politics and adopt the spirit of democracy. The police is under pressure from the powerful political circles not to take action in these matters but if we want to improve the rule of law, we must give independence to our police force so that they can act in an unbiased manner without fear of a political backlash. Nobody can be allowed to treat this country as their personal fiefdom, be it politicians, bureaucrats, the military, the security forces or anyone else. Laws are not made to be trampled upon by the high and mighty. But that is exactly what happens in Pakistan. It has been observed that many Pakistanis who live abroad and follow the rules and regulations of the respective countries they reside in feel no shame in breaking the laws when they come back to this ‘land of the pure’. The fear of being penalised for breaking a law outside Pakistan compels them to act as law-abiding citizens abroad. That they can get away with anything and everything here makes them lose their respect for Pakistani laws. When potential law-makers, i.e. members of parliament/provincial assemblies, act as if there is only law of the jungle prevalent in the country, it is hard to stop others from emulating them. Such attitudes must be discouraged and the only way to do this would be to implement the existing laws without fear or favour. Pakistanis must start to respect the law of the land if they want our country to progress as a democracy.

Afghan actors gear up for Shakespeare at London Olympics

The odds were against them: Taliban suicide bombers laid siege to their rehearsal space and the search for actresses in ultra-conservative Afghanistan was long and arduous.

But come late May, a band of Afghan performers will be staging a play by William Shakespeare in their native Dari at London's Globe Theatre, part of a cultural festival designed to lead up to the Olympics.

"We took a comedy because the Afghans don't want to do tragedy, they have lived enough tragedy," German-Syrian director Corinne Jaber said of choosing "Comedy of Errors", Shakespeare's farcical, slapstick play of mistaken identity.

The project will allow Afghans to defend a culture severely ruptured by 30 years of war and conflict, said local celebrity Nabi Tanha, who plays a lead role of Antipholus of Ephesus and debuted to Western audiences in the Oscar-nominated Afghan film "The Kite Runner".

"Slowly and gradually, we are trying to rebuild our arts and theatre again after they were destroyed by fighting," he told Reuters before donning a grey silk turban for a scene.

Afghan-made costumes with traditional fabrics, Afghan music, Afghan place names as well as local renditions of the characters -- Antipholus of Ephesus is renamed Arsalan -- complement the original Shakespearean text in Dari.

The play is part of "Globe to Globe", a celebration of the Bard where all his 38 plays will be performed in 38 languages by 38 companies in a six-week festival that kicks off on his birthday on April 23, and includes troupes from South Sudan and ex-Soviet Georgia.

It is part of the London 2012 Festival, itself the climax of the Cultural Olympiad, a four-year celebration of arts and culture in Britain leading up to the London summer Olympics.

"It is a huge honour for me to act in a Shakespeare play and in a country where he has a dedicated theatre," said Farzana Sultani, one of three actresses in the play.

Soft spoken and clad in trainers and a flowing blue hijab, the 21-year-old lamented the hurdles faced by women who want to work and act. "We have to satisfy our families and justify why we want to work as they don't have a very open view of society."

Producer Roger Granville pointed to the irony in finding Afghan actresses, saying it would have been simpler to live up to Shakespearean traditions by having an all-male cast. In the time of the Bard, actors crossdressed as women.

"In Afghanistan that would have been all too easy... (but) let's not beat around the bush, it's been really really tough to find actresses."

Underlining the challenge, one of the three actresses -- an Afghan refugee -- comes from as far away as Canada.


Though Afghans are devotees of Bollywood films and boast a rich musical legacy, the livelihood of its film industry is threatened by violence and lack of quality equipment and theatre was never given a proper chance to evolve and flourish.

The bulk of the funding for Jaber's theatre company Roy-e-Sabs, roughly meaning "Path of Hope", to rehearse and travel to London comes from the British Council, Granville said.

The austere rule of the Islamist Taliban banned theatre outright and though they were toppled a decade ago, performers today, especially women, complain of threats from the group and pressure from disapproving relatives who deem acting un-Islamic and too Western-leaning.

This, coupled with the uncertainty of everyday life in Afghanistan, were main drivers behind Jaber's decision to have the troupe do most of its rehearsing for six weeks in India, beginning in April.

They briefly used the British Council for early rehearsals, but stopped after it was attacked by a band of suicide bombers in August in an hours-long assault that killed nine people.

"After (that) bombing it was clear that we could not rehearse here peacefully," said Jaber.

Pakistan school strives to beat the Taliban trap

By KATHY GANNON Associated Press

The boy was 2 when his mother dumped him on the streets, 4 when he spent his first night in a tiny prison cell, being sexually assaulted by an older inmate. Prostitution for money and shelter followed, then hashish, and glue-sniffing.

Now 10 and gangly, he fidgets and stares at the ground, speaking in a near-whisper. "I'm ashamed," he says.

Yet in this rugged frontier city in northwest Pakistan, where people carry guns as casually as they would a daily newspaper, this boy has hope. He has found refuge in what for Pakistan is relatively rare: a charity-run boarding school for homeless, drug-addicted children.

Around Peshawar, heroin sells for less than $0.20 a high. "It's the cheapest place in the world to get heroin," says Mazahar Ali, the school's manager. He gestures beyond the school's high walls. Heroin and just about every other vice are just a short walk away, he says.

The drugs all come from nearby Afghanistan which, according to a 2011 U.N. report, provides 90 percent of the world's opium, from which heroin is made.

For Pakistan, the result is more than 4 million addicts. Some of the youngest end up in mud-walled rooms being drilled in extreme Muslim doctrine by the Taliban who roam relatively freely in Peshawar.

"Sometimes the militants take these children to North Waziristan and teach them to be suicide bombers and sometimes they give the children drugs and the child might not even know that he is going to be blown up," says Ali. At the school, a boy named Osama told of memorizing the Quran, Islam's holy book, while the Taliban hovered over him. He said he was tortured. He escaped, and a month ago was found sleeping on the floor of a ramshackle hotel, said Umaima Zia, the school psychologist.

On the lawn in front of the four-story school, Osama sat cross-legged on a chair in the afternoon sun, his small body swaying as he recited Quranic verses to his fellow students in a lilting voice.A single working woman aged 25, Zia is unusual in this conservative region where girls are often married off soon after puberty.

Quick to smile, she gently draws out the kids' accounts of what they have endured. She brings stuffed animals to the school, and even the older boys cling to them. She gave the sexually assaulted boy a furry lion-shaped hat which he rarely takes off except for prayers.

A while ago that child's mother was found, but she would not take him back. "She didn't want me," he muttered, almost inaudibly "She said I was garbage."

The Associated Press does not identify, in text or through images, persons who say they have been sexually assaulted.

Children generally stay three months at the boarding school, long enough to detox. Run by the Dost Foundation, a family-owned charity, it has 32 boarders, all boys. A separate facility for girls is planned, because mixing of the sexes in Pakistan is shunned. Zia told of finding one little girl knocking on car windows asking 50 rupees ($0.60) to bare her chest to the occupants. She was 6.

"It's sad, so sad that there is nothing for girls here," she said. "Most of the girls are homeless. Not so many are drug users. Many are scavengers but they are very vulnerable to abuse."

Eleven of the boys in the school are intravenous drug users and two have AIDS.

Dr. Sikander Khan, whose family started the charity 20 years ago, says the AIDS problem is getting worse. Pakistan is a poor country, and 70 percent of its 180 million people are under 30 years old, with more children using drugs intravenously and AIDS rates rising, Khan said.

Khan, a physician who interned in New York, estimated roughly 7,000 children were living homeless on the streets of Peshawar.

He said roughly half of Pakistan's heroin addicts are believed to be intravenous users, a dramatic change. Discussion of sex is taboo, and although the U.N. estimates there are 97,400 HIV patients, only 4,112 are registered.

Khan's charity also supports community-based schools and provides rehabilitation facilities for adult addicts as well as vocational training for young boys and girls. It gets money from the European Union, U.S. and U.N., but Khan says it is short of funds and has had to close some of the schools.

"There is a lot of (international) funding for infrastructure like roads, but when it comes to drugs, when it comes to street children and shelter homes, the funding is not there or it is very small," said Khan.

But he said the trend might be changing, if only because of the fear that the neglected children will become Taliban fodder.

He said there is evidence this recruiting is happening. There's no certainty the children are being turned into terrorists, but he sees a growing recognition that they are exploitable and need help.

Inam, 15, has been through detox at the boarding school several times. Short and squat, he is notorious as Peshawar's most accomplished pickpocket—so notorious that he was the subject of a documentary. He has his own gang, has been in prison on attempted-murder charges, keeps police officers on his payroll and has scars on his leg from acid thrown by rivals who tried to steal his gun.

A month ago he discovered he has HIV, and his tough-guy image crumbled. He believes he got the virus from sharing needles with other drug users. As he spoke his eyes grew wet, but he quickly wiped them with his sleeve and composed himself.

On the wall of the children's dormitory, a poster tries to offer hope with words in English written against a backdrop of hellish red flames: "I am in hell but that doesn't mean I will stay forever."

Dengue fever 'hits' Lahore again; 59 cases reported

After unleashing a killing spree last year, dengue has reappeared in the city with 59 fresh cases reported at different hospitals of the provincial capital during the last two months.

As many as 59 fresh cases of dengue fever were reported during the first two months of 2012 in different hospitals across the provincial metropolis.

According to details, 41 new dengue patients were admitted to Mayo Hospital, 13 to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, three to Services Hospital and one each to the Lahore General Hospital (LGH) and Jinnah Hospital.

Experts say that dengue fever cases usually appear in September. They say dengue virus appears twice a year – first from February to April, and again from September to November. This year, fresh cases have started appearing from the very start of the year, which indicated that the virus was becoming a greater threat, and also that the anti-dengue campaign needed to be conducted more vigorously. Last year, more than 378 people died of the fever across the province, and another 0.5 million were affected by the virus.

In 2010, the first dengue case was reported in the mid of September, and the number of patients continued to increase during the next three months. Punjab Health Department confirmed 5,693 cases during September to November 2010. However, according to unconfirmed statistics, at least 20,000 patients tested positive at the public and privat-sector health facilities across the province.

Pakistan Medical Society Chairman Dr Masood Sheikh, along with Dr Shahid Malik and Dr Salman Kazmi, told our sources that according to some unconfirmed reports, more than 40 patients had tested positive for the virus across the city. They said there existed simple methods to prevent breeding of the dengue mosquito, like changing the water in flowerpots daily. Water left in tyres, bottles and bathtubs also needed to be removed, they said. They advised citizens to fumigate their surroundings and install blue lights in their houses to repel mosquitoes.

Punjab Health Department spokesman said that on recommendations of the Dengue Experts Advisory Group headed by Prof Faisal Masood, the department had already issued instructions to all public-sector hospitals to carry out NS-I test for confirmation dengue fever.

The spokesman said that the dengue cases reported in media were the patients who had visited different hospitals during the last two months and had not been confirmed by the test facilities set up by the Punjab government.

He further said that NS-I test for dengue suspected patients admitted at the Mayo Hospital had been conducted by the expert doctors and proved negative. The spokesman said that the guidelines prepared by the Dengue Experts Advisory Group for diagnosis and treatment of the fever during the season when majority of the cases appear, had already been issued to the administration of all public-sector hospitals in Punjab.

Plot to assassinate Putin foiled
Russian and Ukrainian security groups have foiled a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after Russia's March 4 presidential election, Russia's pro-government Channel One television said on Monday.

The report, which did not quote any named security officials, said Ukrainian special services had detained two people in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa after an explosion at a rented apartment in which one person was killed.

The report said the plotters had been working for a group that wants to create an Islamic state in Russia's North Caucasus and had planned to travel to Moscow to assassinate Putin, who is expected to win the presidential election.

Channel One said the Ukrainian special services had alerted the Russian FSB security agency and the men had been detained early this year.

"Our final goal was to go to Moscow and attempt to assassinate Putin," a man described as one of the plotters was shown as saying on Channel One. "Our deadline was after the election of the president of Russia."

Russia's Interfax news agency said Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declined to comment on the incident. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Pakistani documentary Saving Face wins Oscar

Pakistani film Saving Face by Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won the Documentary (Short Subject) Academy Award this year.

The film follows British plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad, who returns to his homeland to help the victims of acid burns. It is the story of one woman as she fights to see that the perpetrators of the crime are imprisoned for life.

This is the first time ever that a Pakistani film has been nominated and has won.

The documentary was pitted against God Is the Bigger Elvis, a Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson film about a mid-century starlet who chose the church over Hollywood; The Barber of Birmingham, a Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday film that follows the life of 85-year-old barber James Armstrong and the legacy of the civil rights movement; James Spione’s war film Incident in New Baghdad; and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, a film that follows the survivors of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and their struggle to recover from the wave that crushed their homes and lives.

Oscars 2012: The Artist and Hugo tie with five wins each


Oscars 2012 winners: the full list

Best cinematography
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player
Robert Richardson, Hugo
Best art direction

Best costume design

The Artist
Best make up
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The Iron Lady
Best foreign language film

A Separation
Best actress in a supporting role

Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best film editing

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best sound editing

Best sound mixing

Best documentary feature

Best animated film

Best visual effects

Best actor in a supporting role

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best original score

Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Best song

Man or Muppet, The Muppets
Best adapted screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best original screenplay

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Best live action short

The Shore
Best documentary short

Saving Face
Best animated short

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
Best director

Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist
Best actor in a leading role

Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best actress in a leading role

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best picture

The Artist

The Artist takes best picture, best director and best actor at the 84th Oscars, while Martin Scorsese's Hugo cleans up in the technical categories

The 84th Academy Awards wrapped up tonight at the Hollywood and Highland Center, with the Martin Scorsese 3D kids fantasy Hugo and French black-and-white silent The Artist finishing the evening with five Oscars each.

The evening kicked off with Hugo actor Sacha Baron Cohen having to be escorted from the red carpet as he carried out his threat to turn up in costume as the lead character in his forthcoming film. The Dictator.

Hosting duties were back in the safe hands of Billy Crystal, after last year's embarrassing experiment with James Franco and Anne Hathaway, and he duly gave his audience what they wanted: having himself edited into a series of clips and ribbing his audience.

As the first awards were given out, Hugo shot into an early lead as it picked up most of the technical awards, winning for best art direction, best sound editing and best visual effects among others.

Asghar Farhadi, winner of the best foreign language film with A Separation, became the first Iranian director honoured by the Academy. Farhadi used his podium appearance to plead for tolerance between the Iran and the US, telling his audience that his country was "spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics."

The evening's first major acting award went to Octavia Spencer, for best supporting actress for The Help. Spencer cut an excitable figure as she accepted her award, exclaiming "I'm freaking out!" Christopher Plummer, in contrast, accepted his best supporting actor award for Beginners with the gravity befitting his 82 years – becoming, in the process, the oldest ever winner of an Academy award – telling his statuette: "You're only two years older than me,"

It became clear early on that this was not going to be a good night for the British – Northern Irish director Terry George was probably the most high-profile UK recipient of an Oscar, for his short film The Shore.

As the evening reached its second half, where the more significant awards were clustered, the game turned more serious. The fashion highlight of the evening, arguably, was Angelina Jolie's slashed-to-the-hip dress as she presented the two screenplay awards.

Woody Allen won the best original screenplay award for the third time for Midnight in Paris – but did not, as is his habit, turn up to accept it.

Another notable absentee was the director Terrence Malick, who was nominated for best director – but no excuses were needed for him as The Artist's Michel Hazavanicius walked off with the best director

At the business end of the evening, the two major acting prizes followed the form book. Both Jean Dujardin and Meryl Streep, for The Artist and The Iron Lady respectively, were Bafta winners for best actor and best actress, and so it proved at the Oscars.

As the final award, best picture, approached, The Artist was trailing Hugo 4 to 5. As the two leading contenders, a win for either would result either in a tie or a comfortable win for Martin Scorsese's film. As presenter Tom Cruise read out the winner, The Artist took the nod, meaning that the result was 5-all – a dead heat.