Jul 12, 2008

World - Strange Country,Stranger People - Albania

KRUJE, Albania: Pashe Keqi recalls the day nearly sixty years ago when she decided to become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress for her father's baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex.
Had she been born in Albania today, says the 78-year-old sworn virgin, who made an oath of celibacy in return for the right to live and rule her family as a man, she would choose womanhood.
"Back then, it was better to be a man because, before, a woman and an animal were considered the same thing," says Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes downing shots of Raki and smoking cigarettes. "Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men and are even more powerful, and I think today it would be fun to be a woman."
Sworn virgins became the patriarchs of their families, with all the trappings of male authority, by swearing to remain virgins for the rest of their lives.
The ritual was a form of self-empowerment for rural women living in a desperately poor and macho country that was cut off from mainstream Europe for decades under a Stalinist dictatorship. But in Albania today, with Internet dating and MTV, the custom is all but disappearing. Girls no longer want to become boys.

The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries. Under the Kanun, the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman's life is worth half that of a man, a virgin's value is the same - 12 oxen.
The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the patriarch of the family died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.
They dress like men, adopt a male swagger and spend their lives in the company of other men.
Some also took the vow as a means to avoid an arranged marriage. Still others became sworn virgins to express their autonomy. Some who regretted the sacrifice transformed themselves back into women and married later in life.
"Stripping off their sexuality by pledging to remain virgins was a way for these women in a male-dominated, segregated society to engage in public life," says Linda Gusia, a professor of gender studies at the University of Pristina in Kosovo. "It was about surviving in a world where men rule."
Taking an oath to become a sworn virgin should not, sociologists say, be equated with homosexuality, which has long been taboo in rural Albania. Nor do the women have sex changes. In the northern Albanian countryside, about 40 sworn virgins remain, according to researchers studying the custom.
Known in her household as the "Pasha," Keqi says she decided to become the man of the house at age 20 when her father was murdered in a blood feud. Her remaining four brothers opposed the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania for 40 years until his death in 1985, and they were either imprisoned or killed. Becoming a man, she said, was the only way to support her mother, her four sisters-in-law and their five children.
Lording it over her large family in her modest house in Tirana, where her nieces served her brandy while she barked out orders, Keqi said living as a man had allowed her freedom denied other women. She could work construction jobs and pray at the mosque alongside other men. Even today, her nephews and nieces said, they would not dare marry without their "uncle's" permission.
"I was totally free as a man because no one knew I was a woman," Keqi said. "I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would dare swear at me because I could beat them up. I was only with men. I don't know how to do women's talk. I am never scared." When she was recently hospitalized for an operation, she recalled, the other woman in her room was horrified to find herself sharing close quarters with a man and requested a move.
Keqi said that being a woman made her a more compassionate man. "If the other men were disrespecting a woman, I would tell them to stop." She said being deprived of a life of sexual intimacy was a necessary sacrifice. She did not miss having children, she added, because she was surrounded by her nieces and nephews. "Once I made up my mind 100 percent, I had the strength to never turn back."

Being the man of the house also made her responsible for avenging her father's death, she said, including the Kanun's edict that spilled blood must be met with spilled blood. When her father's killer was released from prison five years ago, by then a man of 80, Keqi said she ordered her 15 year-old nephew to shoot him. Then the family of the man took revenge and killed her nephew.
"I always dreamed of avenging my father's death. My brothers tried to, but did not succeed. Of course, I have regrets my nephew was killed. But if you kill me, I have to kill you." In Albania, a majority Muslim country, the Kanun is adhered to by both Muslims and Christians, though the Ottoman Turks and successive governments have all tried to limit its influence.
Albanian cultural historians said the cleaving to medieval customs long discarded elsewhere was a byproduct of the country's previous isolation. But they stressed that today, the traditional role of the Albanian woman was changing.
"The Albanian woman today is a sort of minister of economics, a minister of affection and a minister of interior who controls who does what," said Ilir Yzeiri, a critic who writes about Albanian folklore. "Today women in Albania are behind everything."
Some sworn virgins bemoan this female liberation. Diana Rakipi, 54, a security guard in the seaside city of Durres, in west Albania, who became a sworn virgin to take care of her nine sisters, said she looked back with nostalgia to the Hoxha era. During communist times, she served as a senior army officer, training women soldiers in combat. Now, she lamented, women did not know their place.
"Today women go out half naked to the disco and do not know their limits," said Rakipi, who has cropped hair and wears a military beret. "I was always treated my whole life as a man, always with respect. I can't clean, I can't iron, I can't cook. That is a woman's work."
But even in the remote mountains of Kruje, about 50 kilometers, or 30 miles, north of Tirana, where long dirt roads snake through olive groves, locals say the Kanun's influence on gender roles is disappearing. They said erosion of the traditional family, in which everyone once lived under the same roof, had altered women's position in society.
"Women and men are now almost the same," says Caca Fiqiri, whose aunt Qamile Stema, age 88, is the last sworn virgin remaining in her village. "We respect sworn virgins very much and consider them as men because of their great sacrifice. But there is no longer a stigma not to have a man of the house."
Yet there is no doubt who wears the trousers in the family's one-room stone house in Barganesh, their ancestral village. There, on a recent day, "uncle" Qamile was surrounded by her clan, dressed in a qeleshe, the traditional white cap of an Albanian man. Her only concession to femininity were pink flip-flops.
Pointing to an old black and white photo hanging in the entrance - showing a handsome young man in his prime - Stema said she took an oath of virginity at age 20, after her father died, and she was left the eldest of nine sisters.
After becoming a man, Stema said she could leave the house and chop wood with the other men. She carried a gun. At wedding parties, she sat with the men. When she talked to women, she recalled, they recoiled in shyness.
Stema said becoming a sworn virgin was a necessity, and a sacrifice. "The truth is I feel lonely sometimes. All my sisters have died, and I live alone. But I never wanted to marry. Some in my family tried to get me to change my clothes and wear dresses, but when they saw I had become a man, they left me alone."
Stema said she would die a virgin. Had she married, she joked, it would have been to a traditional Albanian woman. "I guess you could say I was partly a woman and partly a man, but of course I never did everything a man does," she said. "I liked my life as a man. I have no regrets."

Health - Diabetes Underrated,insidious and deadly

In a set of recent focus groups, participants were asked to rank the severity of various health problems, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
On a scale of 1 to 10, cancer and heart disease consistently ranked as 9s and 10s. But diabetes scored only 4s and 5s.
"The general consensus seems to be, 'There's medication,' 'Look how good people look with diabetes' or 'I've never heard of anybody dying of diabetes,' " said Larry Hausner, chief executive of the American Diabetes Association, which held the focus groups. "There was so little understanding about everything that dealt with diabetes."
But diabetes is anything but minor. It wreaks havoc on the entire body, affecting everything from hearing and vision to sexual function, mental health and sleep. It is the leading cause of blindness, amputations and kidney failure, and it can triple the risk for heart attack and stroke.
"It is a disease that does have the ability to eat you alive," said John Buse, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who is the diabetes association's president for medicine and science. "It can be just awful — it's almost unimaginable how bad it can be."

Diabetes results when the body cannot use blood sugar as energy, either because it has too little insulin or because it cannot use insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 percent of cases, typically develops later in life and is associated with obesity and lack of exercise. Type 1 diabetes, which is often diagnosed in children, occurs when the immune system mistakenly destroys cells that make the insulin.
The disconnect between perception and reality is particularly worrisome at a time when national diabetes rates are surging. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of Americans with diabetes had grown to about 24 million, or 8 percent of the population. Almost 25 percent of those aged 60 and older had diabetes in 2007. And the CDC estimates that 57 million people have abnormal blood sugar levels that qualify as pre-diabetes.
To be sure, diabetes is treatable, and an array of new medications and monitoring tools have dramatically improved the quality of care. But keeping the illness in check requires constant vigilance and expensive care, along with lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising regularly and watching your carbohydrates.
Buse says patients who are focused on their disease and who have access to regular medical care have a good chance of living out a normal life span without developing a diabetes-related disability.
But some patients say they are too busy to take better care of themselves, and many low-income patients can't afford regular care. Even people with health insurance struggle to keep up with the co-payments for frequent doctor visits and multiple medications.
And to make matters worse, diabetes is associated with numerous other health problems. Last week, for example, The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that people with depression were at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, and vice versa.
That is not surprising: according to data published last year in the journal Diabetes Care, depression tends to interfere with a patient's self-care, which requires glucose monitoring, medications, dietary changes and exercise.
Ultimately, diabetes can take a toll from head to toe. In the brain, it raises the risk not only for depression but also for sleep problems and stroke. It endangers vision and dental health. This month, The Annals of Internal Medicine is reporting that the disease more than doubles the risk of hearing loss.
Moving down the body, diabetes can lead to liver and kidney disease, along with serious gastrointestinal complications like paralysis of the stomach and loss of bowel control. Last year the journal Diabetes Care reported that in a sample of nearly 3,000 patients with diabetes, 70 percent had nonalcohol fatty liver disease.
Poor circulation and a loss of feeling in the extremities, called neuropathy, can lead to severe ulcers and infections; each year in the United States, there are about 86,000 diabetes-related amputations.
Diabetes can also take a toll on relationships. By some estimates, 50 percent to 80 percent of men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction. Experts say women with diabetes often lose their libidos or suffer from vaginal dryness.
The challenge for doctors is to convince patients that diabetes is a major health threat. For years, the message from the American Diabetes Association has been one of reassurance that the disease is treatable. Now, beginning in 2009, the association plans to reframe its message to better communicate the seriousness of the disease.

"Our communication strategy is going to be that diabetes has deadly consequences, and that the ADA is here to change the future of diabetes," said Hausner, a former executive with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society who came to the association 10 months ago. "It's the word 'deadly' that was the potentially controversial word for the organization. In the past, people said, 'We don't want to get anybody scared.' "
The new strategy is not a scare tactic, he added. Prevention and hope will still be part of the message.
"It's not that we don't want people to have hope," he said. "We want people to understand this is serious."

Fun - A private Dance ?

There are no weekend box office charts for online videos. But if there were, near or at the very top of the list right now might well be a four-and-a-half-minute video called "Dancing," which more than four million people have viewed on YouTube, and perhaps another million on other sites, in the just over two weeks since it appeared. It's the online equivalent of a platinum hit, seeping from one computer to the next like a virus.
The title is not misleading. "Dancing" shows a guy dancing: a big, doughy-looking fellow in shorts and hiking boots performing an arm-swinging, knee-pumping step that could charitably be called goofy. It's the kind of semi-ironic dance that boys do by themselves at junior high mixers when they're too embarrassed to partner with actual girls.
The dancer is Matt Harding, the 31-year-old creator of the video, and with some New Agey-sounding music playing in the background, he turns up, grinning and bouncing, in 69 different locations, including India, Kuwait, Bhutan, Tonga, Timbuktu and the Nellis Airspace in Nevada, where he performs the dance in zero gravity.
He started doing it at work, years ago, when he was living in Brisbane, Australia. "I'd dance at lunchtime or during an awkward pause or just to annoy people," Harding said. "It was sort of a nervous tic."
Now he's on the streets in Mumbai one minute, balanced on the Giant's Causeway rock formation in Northern Ireland the next, and then he's in a tulip field in the Netherlands or in front of a geyser in Iceland. Sometimes Harding dances alone. On a Christmas Island beach he has an audience of crabs, and on Madagascar he performs for lemurs.

But more often — and this accounts for much of the video's appeal — he's in the company of others: South African street children in Soweto, bushmen in New Guinea, Bollywood-style dancers in India, some oddly costumed waitresses in Tokyo, crowds of free spirits in Paris, Madrid and rainy Montreal, all copying, or trying to, his flailing chicken-step. Harding even dances for a lone military policeman (unmoved to join him) in the Korean demilitarized zone.
In many ways "Dancing" is an almost perfect piece of Internet art: it's short, pleasingly weird and so minimal in its content that it's open to a multitude of interpretations. It could be a little commercial for one-world feel-goodism. It could be an allegory of American foreign policy: a bumptious foreigner turning up all over the world and answering just to his own inner music. Or it could be about nothing at all — just a guy dancing.
However you interpret it, you can't watch "Dancing" for very long without feeling a little happier. The music (by Gary Schyman, a friend of Harding's, and set to a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, sung in Bengali by Palbasha Siddique, a 17-year-old native of Bangladesh now living in Minneapolis) is both catchy and haunting. The backgrounds are often quite beautiful. And there is something sweetly touching and uplifting about the spectacle of all these different nationalities, people of almost every age and color, dancing along with an uninhibited doofus.
Children, not surprisingly, turn out to be the best at picking up on Harding's infectious vibe. There's frequently a grown-up, on the other hand — especially one in the front row of a crowd — who tends to ham it up and make a fool of himself.
The other remarkable thing about the "Dancing" phenomenon is that it is, to a very considerable extent, a creation of the Internet. It doesn't just live, so to speak, on the Web; it was the Web that, more or less accidentally, brought it into being. The current video is actually the third iteration of a project that began in 2003, when a friend, using a Canon pocket camera with the capacity to record brief videos (when it was still something of a novelty), shot Harding doing his dance in Hanoi.
It was the equivalent of taking a photograph as a souvenir, Harding said in a phone conversation recently while driving with his girlfriend in Northern California. Harding, who grew up in Westport, Connecticut, skipped college at the suggestion of his father, who didn't see the point of paying tuition for someone he thought was unmotivated. He has been employed in a video game store and as a designer of video games, but prefers just to travel. "It's one thing I'm really good at," he said.
He collected all the dancing shots from that first trip in 2003, edited them into a little video with a soundtrack from an adaptation of a traditional song from the Solomon Islands, performed by the group Deep Forest, and, at his sister's suggestion, posted it on his Web site, wherethehellismatt.com. (No reference intended to the "Today" show feature "Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?" "I'm almost never up that early," Harding said.)

The video went up in the fall of 2004, before YouTube or the other big video upload sites, but even so it quickly became a hit among the people trolling the Internet back then.
"It got picked up by somethingawful.com and sites like that," Harding recalled. "Usually, what they showed was people getting hurt or doing something really stupid, so I was bracing myself for abuse, but everyone seemed to like it."
So did the newly formed Stride chewing gum company, which offered to underwrite Harding's subsequent travels, virtually no strings attached. (In the 2006 version the Stride name pops up in the corner of the screen every now and then, and, in the newest video, the company is acknowledged at the very end, but amazingly, in this era of shameless commercial tie-ins, Harding is not obliged to wear a Stride T-shirt or deliver a little pitch for the product. Exactly what connection the company sees between gum and a guy dancing, but not chewing, remains a bit of a mystery.)
In 2005 Harding released a second video much like the first — exotic locations, guy dancing, New Agey music — except with better sound and camera resolution, and in 2006 he went back to Stride and asked if he could repeat the venture, this time with other people dancing along with him.
The idea first came to him in 2006, he recalled, when he was dancing with some street kids in Rwanda. "If I had tried dancing with kids in a mall in San Francisco, say, I probably would have got arrested," he said. "But in Africa there aren't any barriers, and there's immediate access to this kind of joy and irreverence."
He added: "Those first videos were something I needed to do for me, but I realized then that watching me dance was getting a little old. The new video pushes a different button — you've got all these different people doing the same thing. I remember thinking, 'Wouldn't it be neat if you could capture that?' "
The new video has better photography still and a score, called "Praan," that Schyman orchestrated for a 25-piece band. For the lyrics, he and Harding decided to stick with a language other than English (because it's less of a cliché, Harding said) — but how do you find someone who can sing Bengali? On the Internet, of course. Harding's girlfriend, Melissa Nixon, who works for Google, discovered Siddique on YouTube.
Harding is aware that fame on the Internet is fleeting, and needs novelty for life support. On the one hand, data are never lost — it's floating out there in cyberspace forever — but, on the other, our memories (and those of our computers) are limited and subject to constant upgrades. A video is downloaded, sent to a friend or two and then quickly forgotten. Who anymore goes back to look at that animated dancing baby that was all the rage in the '90s? So Harding isn't certain yet whether he wants to make a sequel.
"I wouldn't want to make another video unless there was something to say that I hadn't said," he explained. "I'm going to see if there's something more to be done, but if not, I'm happy with what there is. I don't want to pop the bubble."

World - Bringing Bangladesh into the internet age

In Bangladesh, where less than 1 percent of the population has Internet access and where the rare broadband connection is prohibitively expensive, bridging the digital divide may require new approaches.
A group of Bangladeshi expatriates think they have found one that could work - a plan to bring affordable Internet access to their homeland through a blend of high-end wireless technology and social entrepreneurship.
The service, a joint venture between several Bangladeshi-born U.S. citizens and an Internet company based in Oregon, couples paid service for consumers and businesses with free access for schools, and employs a seldom-deployed wireless system.
"We are unique in terms of our vision," said Reaz Shaheed, chief executive of the venture, AlwaysOn Network Bangladesh. "We are not interested only in profit. We also have a social agenda."
Shaheed said providing free Internet access for schools was more than a gesture. By getting students online, and keeping them there, he hopes to build demand, which will pay off later. "We think it's a good investment," he said. "We don't see them as freeloaders."

For most people in Bangladesh, Internet access is anything but free. A slow 10 to 15 kbps, or kilobits per second, connection costs about $15 a month. Faster services command a hefty premium. A 64 kbps connection is about $65 a month, and a one megabit per second, or mbps, broadband connection is about $600.
Shaheed says that his rates will vary, but he says that he will be able to offer a 64 kbps connection for as little as $15.
While Shaheed talks gladly of a social purpose, he said the offer of free access for schools was not the reason why AlwaysOn won its license to provide the service. "What motivated the government," he said, was that "we were willing to cover the whole country and provide Internet to the rural areas."
To do that, Shaheed turned to a technology developed by SOMA Networks, based in San Francisco. It has been adopted by AlwaysOn Network, based in Portland, Oregon, which delivers high-speed wireless Internet access to rural areas of Oregon. AlwaysOn Network owns about 25 percent of the Bangladeshi venture, with 10 Bangladeshi nationals owning the rest.
Shaheed, a Bangladeshi-born engineer who worked for 23 years at Intel, says that the SOMA technology was particularly suited to Bangladesh's conditions: heavy monsoon rains, winter fog and densely packed urban areas. It is also easy to set up: Subscribers either install a unit in their home or on an outside wall for those buildings far from a base station, said Frank Petkovich, senior director of corporate strategy at SOMA.
The Bangladeshi service is based on a cellular phone technology called W-CDMA, or Wideband Code Division Multiple Access. The technology allows a broadband link to be achieved up to 15 kilometers, or about 9 miles, from a base station, Shaheed said.
Shaheed said a test run among about 100 subscribers in parts of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was successful enough to convince him to quit his job at Intel, which he did recently. By the end of this year he hopes to cover metropolitan Dhaka as well as surrounding schools. Within a few years, he said, he hopes to have the whole country covered.
Most of the existing Internet connections for Bangladeshis are via GPRS, or General Packet Radio Service, a wireless standard for mobile data transmission that is being replaced elsewhere by faster technologies.
SOMA Networks says that business models blending technological and commercial arguments with a social purpose will proliferate as policy makers around the world aim to connect more people to modern communications networks.
"What we see globally is governments putting together significant funds to bring Internet access to places that don't have it," said Tom Flak, senior vice president of operations at SOMA. "It's becoming more of a social mandate now, and broadband is considered less of a luxury today than a necessity."

World - In U.S,high cost of driving ignites online classes boom

NEWTOWN, Pennsylvania: First, Ryan Gibbons bought a Hyundai so he would not have to drive his gas-guzzling Chevy Blazer to college classes here. When fuel prices kept rising, he cut expenses again, eliminating two campus visits a week by enrolling in an online version of one of his courses.
Like Gibbons, thousands of students nationwide, including many who were previously reluctant to study online, have suddenly decided to take one or more college classes over the Internet.
"Gas prices have pushed people over the edge," said Georglyn Davidson, director of online learning at Bucks County Community College, where Gibbons studies, and where online enrollments are up 35 percent this summer over last year.
The vast majority of the nation's 15 million college students — at least 79 percent — live off campus, and with gas prices above $4 a gallon, many are seeking to cut commuting costs by studying online. Colleges from Massachusetts and Florida to Texas to Oregon have reported significant online enrollment increases for summer sessions, with student numbers in some cases 50 percent or 100 percent higher than last year. Although some four-year institutions with large online programs — like the University of Massachusetts and Villanova — have experienced these increases, the greatest surges have been registered at two-year community colleges, where most students are commuters, many support families and few can absorb large new expenditures for fuel.
At Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts, for instance, online enrollments were up 114 percent this summer over last, and half the students queried cited gas costs or some other transportation obstacle as a reason for signing up to study over the Internet, said April Bellafiore, an assistant dean there.

"Online classes filled up immediately," Bellafiore said. "It blew my mind."
Enrollments in online classes expanded rapidly early in this decade, but growth slowed in 2006 to less than 10 percent, according to statistics compiled last year by researchers at Babson College in Massachusetts. Some recent increases reported by college officials in interviews were much larger, which they attributed to the rising cost of gasoline. Pricing policies for online courses vary by campus, but most classes cost as much as, or more than, traditional ones.
At Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, online enrollment rose to 2,726 this summer from 2,190 last year, a 24.5 percent increase. "That is a dramatic increase we can only attribute to gas prices," said Jim Drake, Brevard's president.
Drake and officials at several other colleges expressed concern that mounting fuel costs could force some students to drop out of college altogether, especially since only a fraction of courses at most colleges are offered online. Drake has put Brevard on a four-day week to help employees and students save gas.
David Gray, chief executive of UMass Online, the distance education program at the University of Massachusetts, said that at an educators' conference this week in San Francisco, officials from scores of universities discussed how the energy crisis could affect higher education. "There was broad agreement that gas price increases will be a source of continued growth in online enrollments," Gray said.
Once an incidental expense, fuel for commuting to campus now costs some students half of what they pay for tuition, in some cases more. Sergey Sosnovsky, who is pursuing pre-engineering studies at Bucks County Community College, paid $240 a month for gas during the spring semester, while his full-time tuition cost about $500 a month, he said. Other students here and in half a dozen other states told similar stories.
Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Missouri, which enrolls residents on both sides of the Arkansas-Missouri border, had 52 percent more students sign up for Internet-based courses this summer than last, said Witt Salley, the college's director of online teaching and learning.
One student taking online coursework for the first time is Kameron Miller, a 30-year-old working mother who lives in Buffalo, Missouri, 40 miles north of Springfield. Her commute to classes in her 1998 Chevy Venture during the spring semester cost her at least $200 a month for gas, Miller said. This summer, she is taking courses in health, humanities and world music — all online.
"I don't feel I get as much out of an online class as a campus course," Miller said. "But I couldn't afford any other decision."
Among the four-year institutions reporting increased online enrollment, UMass Online, which enrolls students at its five Massachusetts campuses and worldwide, experienced 46 percent growth this summer over last among students at the university's Dartmouth, Massachusetts, campus. At Villanova University in Pennsylvania, enrollment in online, graduate, engineering, nursing and business courses has increased more than 40 percent this summer, said Robert Stokes, an assistant vice president there.

Waiting lists for Web-based courses have lengthened at some institutions. At the University of Colorado, Denver, for instance, 361 students are on the waiting list for online courses for the fall term, compared to 233 last year on the same date, said Bob Tolsma, an assistant vice chancellor.
In Tennessee, the six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents enrolled 9,000 students for online courses this summer, compared with about 7,000 last summer, a 29 percent increase, said Robbie Melton, an associate vice chancellor.
"We had to train more faculty and provide more online courses because students just couldn't afford to drive to our campuses," Melton said.
Sandra Jobe, a 46-year-old bookkeeper who is studying for a master's degree in education at Tennessee State University, said she reduced the number of trips she had to make each week to the university's Nashville campus to two from four by enrolling in an online course.
"The campus experience is good; I wouldn't diminish that," Jobe said. "But when you're penny-pinching, online is a good alternative."
South Texas College, which has five campuses in Hidalgo and Starr Counties in the Rio Grande Valley, saw a 35 percent increase in online enrollments this summer over last, said William Serrata, a vice president. Other years have seen summer increases of 10 percent to 15 percent, he said. "This really speaks to students' not wanting to travel due to the gas prices," Serrata said.
Elvira Ozuna, who is 37 and studying for an associate's degree in occupational therapy, was driving four times a week, 50 miles round trip from her home to South Texas College's campus in McAllen. But this summer she enrolled in two online courses, eliminating that commute.
Ozuna said she found online work more difficult than classroom study. "But I saved on the gasoline," she said.
Distance education is no silver bullet that can alone solve the challenges posed for higher education by rising gasoline prices, officials warned.
For one thing, many students, especially in rural areas, lack the high-speed Internet connections on which online courses depend.
"The infrastructure doesn't exist to give all rural students clear online access," said Stephen Katsinas, a professor at the University of Alabama. "Rural America is where the digital divide is most dramatic."
Furthermore, most colleges still offer only a fraction of their courses over the Internet. Bucks County Community College, for instance, will offer 414 credit courses during the fall term. Only 103 of those will be offered online, and another 48 as hybrid courses, that is, partly online but with some campus visits required. So most students will still need to come to campus.
Gibbons, who is 20, works days and aspires to be a writer. He said his online course, "Introduction to the Novel," had been a good experience, especially the Web-based discussions of Jane Austen's novels. (He likes posting comments by e-mail better than speaking in class.) He said he still preferred on-campus study, "but with the price of gas jumping up, I'll probably be taking more courses online now."

World - Confident Iraq becomes a tougher negotiating partner

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration's quest for a deal with Iraq that would formally authorize an unlimited American troop presence there well beyond President George W. Bush's tenure appears to be unraveling. The irony is that it may be a victim of the administration's successes in the war.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq and his senior aides are now openly demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops, at least on paper. That is partly a nod to Iraqi political realities, since Iraqi politicians must call for the end of American occupation. No one in Iraq realistically expects to throw out the Americans anytime soon — and few in Iraq believe that it would be safe to do so immediately.
But Maliki's once enfeebled government, emboldened by several recent military successes, is eager to assert its sovereignty.
The Iraqi demands have put Bush in a politically awkward spot.
The president has explicitly opposed any binding timetables — either from the Iraqis or from the war's critics here at home — but he also pledged less than a month ago to abide by the will of Iraq's leaders.

"You know, of course, we're there at their invitation," Bush said in Paris during his recent European tour. "This is a sovereign nation."
This new Iraqi confidence is easy to overstate, and many of the statements simply prove that Iraq's democracy has matured to the point that elected leaders there must pander to important constituencies, even if they quietly acknowledge the need for American military support for the foreseeable future.
Still, even senior American commanders now say that Iraq is taking on more responsibility for security after years of halting and uncertain progress. Lieutenant General James Dubik, who until recently oversaw the training of Iraqi forces, told Congress on Wednesday that Iraq's ground forces could be fully functional as soon as the middle of next year.
That, along with Iraqi military successes in Basra, Sadr City in Baghdad and Mosul, has made Maliki's government seem far less vulnerable than it once did.
As a result, officials and analysts say, Iraq is far less willing than it once might have been to accept every American demand in negotiations now under way to establish the legal status of foreign troops in Iraq after the end of this year.
Iraq's negotiators have already rebuffed the administration's initial demand that all American contractors in Iraq, including the security guards of companies like Blackwater, receive blanket immunity from prosecution, one administration official familiar with the talks said.
On Monday, Maliki also suggested that Iraq might prefer a less sweeping, shorter-term agreement than the long-term one he and Bush signed off on last November, when his government was nowhere near as stable or assertive as it is today.
The failure to reach a robust agreement would be a rebuke to Bush in his waning months in office just as his strategy to send thousands of extra troops to Iraq beginning last year — the "surge," as it became known — is bearing fruit. That could force the administration to compromise even more.
While the administration almost certainly will not accept a rigid, written timetable for withdrawal, one American official said on Wednesday that the White House might have to accept some language in any agreement that reflected Iraqi desires for an end of the American military presence.
Another American official in Baghdad said an accord could even include a statement like Senator John McCain's campaign proposal envisioning an end of the war in 2013, without setting a meaningful timetable. Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, on Wednesday clarified his remarks about a timetable for ending combat operations and withdrawing foreign troops to say that Iraq was seeking "planning time horizons."
The White House sought to play down the significance of the differences.
"I know people are looking at this as a sign of a split between the United States and Iraq," a spokesman, Tony Fratto, said Wednesday. "I think these are signs of encouraging developments in Iraq. They want to and are becoming much more adept at providing their own security."
Beneath the public statements of officials on both sides lies a more complicated reality, involving difficult diplomatic and legal questions.
Once the current United Nations mandate for the American-led military operation in Iraq expires at the end of the year, for example, something has to replace it. That is largely why administration officials remain confident that they will ultimately be able to reach an agreement, though the shape of it appears increasingly uncertain.

So, too, does the deadline. The White House initially hoped to reach an agreement by the end of July. Some officials in Washington now acknowledge that an accord is increasingly likely to slip to later in the year.
At a minimum, the White House has lost control of the stagecraft of the pending agreement — if not yet a deal itself — as the question of the future American role in Iraq becomes a fixture of election campaigns in both countries.
Democrats in Congress have intensified their objections to the negotiations because they would prefer to see a President Obama complete them. Maliki's government has to sell any agreement to a fractured and restive alliance of political parties with varying degrees of patience for any American military presence.
"Even the technical and mundane becomes a potential political issue," the administration official familiar with the talks said.
The official noted that the discussions involved everything from the broadest question of authorizing combat operations to the minutia of whether American soldiers will need to have Iraqi driver's licenses.
All of the main Iraqi parties, the officials and analysts said, share the goal of at least minimizing the American footprint, reflecting Iraq's desire to be sovereign and free. Although much remains uncertain, and the improvements potentially fragile, the drop in violence in Iraq — to the lowest levels since February 2004, according to the latest report by the American command in Baghdad — has made it possible to consider Iraq free and sovereign sooner than most anyone expected.
"In one sense," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution in Washington, "the best thing will be the United States getting booted out of Iraq once the Iraqis can provide their own security."

World - Australian sex-abuse case shadows pope's coming visit

SYDNEY: Less than a week before Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive in Sydney for what the Roman Catholic Church has billed as "the largest youth event in the world," the most senior Australian bishop has become embroiled in a new scandal involving alleged sexual abuse by a priest.
Pope Benedict won praise for tackling the issue of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church during his recent visit to the United States, and he is expected to address the issue when he begins his formal celebration of World Youth Day next week.
Now the most senior Catholic prelate in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, is fighting allegations that he lied to a man who says he was abused by a priest.
The allegations center around a letter sent to the alleged victim of abuse, Anthony Jones. In 1982, when Jones was 29 years old and a teacher at a Catholic school, he says a priest, Father Terence Goodall, fondled his genitals and forced him into sexual acts.
Although he complained to the church authorities immediately after the incident, it was not until 2002, when he sent another letter, that they began an investigation into his allegations.

In February 2003, an independent investigator appointed by the church, a former police officer, Howard Murray, concluded that Jones had been abused, but Pell rejected the findings.
In a February 2003 letter to Jones, although Pell admitted that some homosexual activity had taken place and that an investigator assigned by the church to look into the case had found the claims to be substantiated, he questioned Jones's assertion that the sex was nonconsensual.
"What cannot be determined by me, however, is whether it was a matter of sexual assault as you state or homosexual behavior between two consenting adults," Pell wrote to the complainant.
However, the most damaging allegation is that Pell deliberately lied later in the letter, when he backed up his decision to dismiss the man's accusation with the statement that "No other complaint of attempted sexual assault has been received against Father Goodall and he categorically denies the accusation."
But an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. has shown that on the same day, Feb. 14, 2003, Pell wrote to another alleged victim of Goodall's abuse, who was an 11-year-old altar boy at the time he was attacked, upholding his claims of sexual abuse against the priest.
Pell has said there was no attempt at a cover-up.
"I apologize for the confusion caused to Mr. Jones," he said. "The letter to Mr. Jones was badly worded and a mistake - an attempt to inform him there was no other allegation of rape."
And the cardinal has defended the church's procedures to cope with claims of sexual abuse. "There were mistakes made in the letter, but otherwise the procedures were good," he said.
The picture has been further muddied by a telephone transcript obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Lateline program and broadcast in a series of shows this week.
ABC says the transcript is from a telephone tap obtained by the police and it records Goodall not only apologizing to Jones for what he admits was a nonconsensual sexual act but also saying that he had never told church investigators that the act was consensual.
Following the ABC broadcasts, Pell said Thursday that he was ready to reopen the investigations into the allegations by Jones.
Australia seems to be divided over the controversy. There is pride that the country has been chosen to play host to World Youth Day, and some have questions about Jones's story.
"What is curious about the 1982 incident is that Mr. Jones was no vulnerable minor, but a 29-year-old teacher at the time. However unwelcome he says Goodall's advances were, it seems extraordinary that an unwilling adult male did not rebuff them," The Australian newspaper said in an editorial Thursday.
"It is not unreasonable that while accepting the investigation's findings, 'including homosexual misbehavior,' that Pell 'found evidence for rape insufficient,"' it concluded.

World - Tradition of blood feuds isolates Albanian men

SHKODER, Albania: Christian Luli, a soft-spoken 17-year-old, has spent the past 10 years imprisoned inside his family's small, spartan house, fearing he will be killed if he walks outside the front door.
To pass the time, he plays video games and sketches houses. Unable to attend high school, he reads at the level of a 12-year-old. A girlfriend is out of the question. He would like to become an architect, but he despairs of a future locked inside, staring at the same four walls.
"This is the situation of my life," Christian said, looking plaintively through a window at the forbidden world outside. "I have known nothing else since I was a boy. I dream of freedom and of going to school. If I was not so afraid, I would walk out the door. Living like this is worse than a prison sentence."
Christian's misfortune is to have been born the son of a father who killed a man in this poor northern region of Albania, where the ancient ritual of the blood feud still holds sway.
Under the Kanun, an Albanian code that has been passed on for more than 500 years, "blood must be paid with blood." A victim's family is authorized to avenge a slaying by killing any of the killer's male relatives.The National Reconciliation Committee, an Albanian nonprofit organization that works to eliminate the practice of blood feuds, estimates that 20,000 people have been ensnared by blood feuds since they resurfaced after the collapse of Communism in the country in 1991.
Since that time, 9,500 people have been killed and nearly 1,000 children deprived of schooling because they have been locked indoors.
By tradition, any man old enough to wield a hunting rifle is considered a fair target for vengeance, making 17 male members of Christian's family vulnerable. They, too, are stuck in their homes.
The sole restriction is that the boundaries of the family home must not be breached. Women and children also have immunity, though some, like Christian, who matured early, begin their confinement as boys.
Members of victims' families are usually the avengers, though some families outsource the revenge to contract killers.
Blood feuds have been common in other societies, like southern Italy with its Mafia vendettas; Iraq with its retaliatory violence between Shiite and Sunni families; and parts of the Appalachian Mountains in the United States.
But they have been particularly prevalent in Albania, a desperately poor country struggling to uphold the rule of law after decades of a brutal Stalinist regime.
Blood feuds all but disappeared in Albania during the 40-year rule of Enver Hoxha, the Communist dictator who outlawed the practice, sometimes burying those who disobeyed alive in the coffins of their victims. But legal experts in Albania say the feuds erupted again after the fall of Communism ushered in a new period of lawlessness.
Nearly a thousand men involved in feuds have escaped abroad, some of them applying for asylum. But dozens of people have been hunted down outside Albania and killed by avenging families.
Ismet Elezi, a professor of criminal law at the University of Tirana, who advises the government and the police on how to tackle the problem, said recent changes in the Albanian penal code, including sentences of 25 years to life in prison for those who kill in a blood feud and stiff penalties for individuals who threaten to retaliate, had helped diminish the practice.
Yet he noted that some still gave greater credence to the Kanun than to the criminal justice system, often with devastating social consequences.
"The younger generation is no longer looking to the older generation's codes of behavior," he said. "But blood feuds are still causing misery because the men stuck inside their homes can't work, the children can't go to school and entire families are cut off from the outside world."
Alexander Kola, a mediator who works to resolve blood feuds, said the most common causes of feuds were disputes over property or land. But he said feuds could also erupt over seemingly minor affronts. He recalled a recent case in which a dozen men had been forced indoors after a male family member killed a shopkeeper who refused to sell his child an ice cream cone. In another case, a feud exploded when a sheep grazed on a neighbor's land, precipitating a deadly fight.
Sociologists in Albania said the feuds had inverted traditional gender roles in rural Albania, with women becoming the breadwinners of the family while the men were forced to stay home and do housework.

Christian's mother, Vitoria, 37, said she had ordered him to remain indoors from the age of 7 after her husband and his brother killed a man in their village following a drunken argument. She said her other son, Klingsman, 7, was attending school but would soon be forced to join his brother's life of confinement. Her husband and brother-in-law are serving 20-year prison sentences for murder.
"I live in constant fear and anxiety that Christian will be killed, that they are hunting my children," said the mother, who relies on charity to support her, the two boys and their two sisters. "I just wish the other family would kill someone in our family so that this nightmare would finally be over."
She said she had sent a mediator to the other family in an effort to seek forgiveness, but to no avail.
The family of the victim, Simon Vuka, declined to comment. But Kola, who is mediating the case, said that the family was not prepared to forgive because the victim had two young sons who had been left fatherless. "Many victims' families feel that imprisoning all the men in the killer's family inside their homes is a better revenge than killing them."
Kola, a former gym instructor who studied conflict resolution in Norway, said he tried to reconcile feuding families by identifying influential friends or relatives of the victim who could implore the family to forgive and forget. He said the plea for forgiveness was often accompanied with an offering of gold coins or other gifts from the killer's family. "I tell the families of the victims that forgiveness is more important than revenge," he said.
Christian, lanky and stoic with a maturity beyond his years, said he blamed his father, his uncle and an outmoded code for destroying his life. He said it was unfair that he was being punished for the sins of his relatives.
His only contact with the outside world comes once a month, when a group of nuns who do charity work in the community form a protective circle around him and whisk him into a car for a 30-minute trip to a nearby community center. He said he had fantasized about escaping from Albania, but his family was too poor to send him abroad. He could arm himself and flee, but he fears that the risks could be deadly.
"The Kanun is full of idiot rules for another age," he said. "It is totally unfair and senseless."
In addition to affecting the young, blood feuds have meant that some aging members of the Albanian population go without adequate health care because they cannot leave their homes.
Sherif Kurtaj, 62, has been forced to live with an untreated back tumor and rotten teeth. He has been trapped inside his house for eight years, ever since his two sons killed a neighbor who he said had ridiculed the boys because they were planning to emigrate to Germany. He said he needed life-saving surgery, but feared that if he went to the hospital, he would die from an avenger's bullet.
Kurtaj said his two sons, both of whom face 16-year prison sentences, had been on the run since the killing.
Even if they turned themselves in, he lamented, he would still have to remain indoors.
He said his friends were afraid to visit for fear of being shot accidentally.
Kurtaj could file a complaint under Albanian law against the family of the victim for threatening to kill him; such an offense carries a prison sentence of as much as three years. But he said he was afraid that would only bring reprisals.
"The Kanun must be obeyed," he said. "The blood needs to be avenged."

World - A former guerrilla who wants to lead his country again

PRISTINA, Kosovo: In 2005, just after arriving in The Hague to face charges for alleged war crimes, Ramush Haradinaj found himself face to face with Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian strongman, who was being held in a nearby cell.
For Haradinaj, a former commander of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army and a squat hulk of a man who had fought a guerrilla war against Milosevic's forces, the encounter was a shock.
"Milosevic asked if I was Haradinaj in English and said, 'How are you? How do you like it here? How is it going there in Kosovo?"' recalled Haradinaj, who was acquitted on 37 counts of crimes against humanity and released from The Hague in April after the court found that evidence was too weak to tie him directly to the killings of which he had been accused.
"I replied that Europe was going to help build a state in Kosovo, with America taking care of our security," he continued. "He was very polite. But he didn't like my answer and he left. I didn't feel like a loser in this story, because I was a member of the winning team."
But when Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders finally declared independence last February, Haradinaj's sense of triumph was tempered by his being forced to watch from prison.

Now, Haradinaj, 40, who was prime minister of UN-administered Kosovo for 100 days before surrendering to The Hague in March 2005, is vowing to lead the newborn country once again.
"We have a huge mess," he said at his sprawling mansion on a hill overlooking Pristina, Kosovo's capital. "There are people with no water for their toilets. There is no electricity. I am the one who can deliver. I want to be the next prime minister of this country. There is no doubt about that."
Celebrated as a freedom fighter among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and reviled by Serbs, who nicknamed him "Rambo" for his indestructibility, Haradinaj received a hero's welcome when he returned home. In northern Kosovo, Serbs burned judges' robes to show their contempt.
"Haradinaj's release is a gross injustice and undermines the whole Hague process," said Vuk Jeremic, Serbia's young and pro-European foreign minister.
At the outset of Haradinaj's trial, Carla Del Ponte, The Hague's former chief prosecutor, who indicted Haradinaj on charges including the murder, torture, rape and expulsion of Serbs, Albanians and gypsies, called him a "gangster in uniform" with blood on his hands. Lawyers and judges on the court complained that witness intimidation had been widespread. Prosecutors have indicated that they plan to appeal.
Haradinaj made little effort to conceal his contempt for Del Ponte, who in a recent book linked the Kosovo Liberation Army to an alleged organ-trafficking scheme in which Serbian and Albanian civilians were abducted in Kosovo and taken to Albania, where their organs were extracted before they were killed.
"Del Ponte spent eight years as the chief prosecutor, and her duty was to bring the truth," Haradinaj said. "Instead, she was self-preoccupied with how she looks and how she is perceived by the public." Asked about the organ allegations, he declined to reply.
Haradinaj said that going overnight from the post of prime minister to detention had been difficult. To pass the time, former warriors convened a cooking club. Milosevic cooked cevapi, little Balkan meatballs.
The onetime guerrilla, more at home with an AK-47, said he did not know how to cook. "I was scared to have so much time just sitting, sitting," he recalled.
"But the battlefield was worse than The Hague. There, you saw your brothers killed every day."
Haradinaj has had a life marked by struggle, loss, violence and bloodshed. Two of his brothers were killed during fighting with Serbian soldiers. A third was killed in his car in 2005.
Haradinaj said he became convinced that armed struggle was the only way to overcome Serbian domination as early as age 14, when he saw the Serbian police beating young Albanian demonstrators. "I saw that they were beating them because they had the guns and were the strong ones," he said. "I realized then that we needed to be even stronger."
In 1989, the year Milosevic stripped away Kosovo's autonomy, Haradinaj emigrated to Switzerland, where he spent nine years working as a nightclub bouncer and in construction. He said he began to prepare for the physical exertion of the battlefield by studying kung fu, reading books on guerrilla tactics and doing 100-kilometer, or 60-mile, runs in the Alps. He returned to Kosovo in early 1998, as Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces began to clash, and established himself as commander of his home Dukagjini region.

During his first days of battle, he saw his younger brother Luan killed while the two were crossing from Albania to Kosovo. He said he carried his brother's body for four hours on his back until he could bury him.
In March 1998, Milosevic's forces tried to kill Haradinaj and his family at their compound in Gllogjan, in west Kosovo. He was shot seven times, he recalled, but survived, thanks to a set of keys in his breast pocket, which deflected a potentially lethal bullet.
Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers who had fought alongside Haradinaj said he inspired deep loyalty through charisma, supreme self-confidence and fearlessness. Ramush Ahmeti, a fighter in his unit, recalled that when some soldiers sang patriotic anthems to prepare for battle, Haradinaj would silence them and encourage them to run laps instead.
Yet when another of Haradinaj's brothers, Shkelzen, was killed in 1999 and his fighters were broken and demoralized, Ahmeti said, Haradinaj suddenly broke into a partisan song. "He was singing to try to prevent us from breaking down," Ahmeti said. "We would die for him because he was willing to die for us."
After NATO intervened in the war in 1999 and Serbian forces withdrew, Haradinaj - by then legendary in Kosovo - earned a law degree from Pristina University. Fellow students said they had been shocked to find the former warrior with them in the classroom. Haradinaj, who did not go to college, also taught himself English, French and German and became a wine connoisseur.
Yet violence dogged him. On July 7, 2000, he led some men to a rival family's house in western Kosovo. A battle broke out, according to the police, and Haradinaj was wounded with a grenade. He was never prosecuted.
After helping to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army and establish it as a civilian force, which Western diplomats say helped bring stability to the province, he set up a political party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo. In elections in October 2004, his party finished third and Haradinaj became prime minister of a coalition government.
Western diplomats say he was an intelligent and energetic leader. In March 2004, when ethnic Albanians rioted across Kosovo, he was credited with preventing hundreds from attacking Kosovo's best-known Serbian Orthodox monastery.
While he was in prison last year, Haradinaj had to watch as his archrival, Hashim Thaci, a former political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, emerged as prime minister. A few weeks ago, an armed assailant tried to shoot his way into Thaci's residence and two of his brothers were attacked, according to the police. Some in Thaci's camp blamed Haradinaj, who denied involvement.
Vlora Qitaku, a spokeswoman for Thaci's party, said Haradinaj was a political has-been whose party had lost the past five elections. "We are trying to build a new democracy, and we will not allow Ramush to turn Kosovo into a jungle."
Haradinaj lashed out at the government and the West for allowing Belgrade to control the Serb-dominated north, and warned that Albanians would grow impatient.
"We have to be able to deliver on Feb. 17," he said, referring to the date of independence. "I know what patience means, but if you sleep, it's not good. It can be too late."

World - An Interpreter speaking up for immigrants

WATERLOO, Iowa: In 23 years as a certified Spanish interpreter for U.S. courts, Erik Camayd-Freixas has spoken up in criminal trials many times, but the words he uttered were rarely his own.
Then he was summoned here by court officials to translate in the hearings for nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers arrested in a raid on May 12 at a meatpacking plant. Since then, Camayd-Freixas, a professor of Spanish at Florida International University, has taken the unusual step of breaking the code of confidentiality among legal interpreters about their work.
In a 14-page essay he circulated among two dozen other interpreters who worked here, Professor Camayd-Freixas wrote that the immigrant defendants whose words he translated, most of them villagers from Guatemala, did not fully understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived.
In the essay and an interview, Professor Camayd-Freixas said he was taken aback by the rapid pace of the proceedings and the pressure prosecutors brought to bear on the defendants and their lawyers by pressing criminal charges instead of deporting the workers immediately for immigration violations.
He said defense lawyers had little time or privacy to meet with their court-assigned clients in the first hectic days after the raid. Most of the Guatemalans could not read or write, he said. Most did not understand that they were in criminal court.

"The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on," Professor Camayd-Freixas said in the interview. "The great majority were under the impression they were there because of being illegal in the country, not because of Social Security fraud."
During fast-paced hearings in May, 262 of the illegal immigrants pleaded guilty in one week and were sentenced to prison — most for five months — for knowingly using false Social Security cards or legal residence documents to gain jobs at the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in nearby Postville. It was the largest criminal enforcement operation ever carried out by immigration authorities at a workplace.
The essay has provoked new questions about the Agriprocessors proceedings, which had been criticized by criminal defense and immigration lawyers as failing to uphold the immigrants' right to due process. Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee, said she would hold a hearing on the prosecutions and call Professor Camayd-Freixas as a witness.
"The essay raises questions about whether the charges brought were supported by the facts," Lofgren said.
Bob Teig, a spokesman for Matt Dummermuth, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, said the immigrants' constitutional rights were not compromised.
"All defendants were provided with experienced criminal attorneys and interpreters before they made any decisions in their criminal cases," Teig said. "Once they made their choices, two independent judicial officers determined the defendants were making their choices freely and voluntarily, were satisfied with their attorney, and were, in fact, guilty."
Teig said the judges in the cases were satisfied with the guilty pleas.
"The judges had the right and duty to reject any guilty plea where a defendant was not guilty," Teig said. "No plea was rejected."
The essay by Professor Camayd-Freixas, who is the director of a program to train language interpreters at the university, has also caused a stir among legal interpreters. In telephone calls and debates through e-mail, they have discussed whether it was appropriate for a translator to speak publicly about conversations with criminal defendants who were covered by legal confidentiality.
"It is quite unusual that a legal interpreter would go to this length of writing up an essay and taking a strong stance," said Nataly Kelly, an analyst with Common Sense Advisory, a marketing research company focused on language services. Kelly is a certified legal interpreter who is the author of a manual about interpreting.
The Agriprocessors hearings were held in temporary courtrooms in mobile trailers and a ballroom at the National Cattle Congress, a fairgrounds here in Waterloo. Professor Camayd-Freixas worked with one defense lawyer, Sara Smith, translating her discussions with nine clients she represented. He also worked in courtrooms during plea and sentencing hearings.
Smith praised Professor Camayd-Freixas's essay, saying it captured the immigrants' distress during "the surreal two weeks" of the proceedings. She said he had not revealed information that was detrimental to her cases.
But she cautioned that interpreters should not commonly speak publicly about conversations between lawyers and clients. "It is not a practice that I would generally advocate as I could envision circumstances under which such revelations could be damaging to a client's case," Smith said.

Professor Camayd-Freixas said he had considered withdrawing from the assignment, but decided instead that he could play a valuable role by witnessing the proceedings and making them known.
He suggested many of the immigrants could not have knowingly committed the crimes in their pleas. "Most of the clients we interviewed did not even know what a Social Security card was or what purpose it served," he wrote.
He said many immigrants could not distinguish between a Social Security card and a residence visa, known as a green card. They said they had purchased fake documents from smugglers in Postville, or obtained them directly from supervisors at the Agriprocessors plant. Most did not know that the original cards could belong to Americans and legal immigrants, Camayd-Freixas said.
Smith went repeatedly over the charges and the options available to her clients, Professor Camayd-Freixas said. He cited the reaction of one Guatemalan, Isaías Pérez Martínez: "No matter how many times his attorney explained it, he kept saying, 'I'm illegal, I have no rights. I'm nobody in this country. Just do whatever you want with me.' "
Professor Camayd-Freixas said Pérez Martínez wept during much of his meeting with Smith.
Smith, like more than a dozen other court-appointed defense lawyers, concluded that none of the immigrants' legal options were good. Prosecutors had evidence showing they had presented fraudulent documents when they were hired at Agriprocessors.
In plea agreements offered by Dummermuth, the immigrants could plead guilty to a document fraud charge and serve five months in prison. Otherwise, prosecutors would try them on more serious identity theft charges carrying a mandatory sentence of two years. In any scenario, even if they were acquitted, the immigrants would eventually be deported.
Worried about families they had been supporting with their wages, the immigrants readily chose to plead guilty because they did understand that was the fastest way to return home, Professor Camayd-Freixas said.
"They were hoping and they were begging everybody to deport them," he said.
Smith said she was convinced after examining the prosecutors' evidence that it was not in her clients' interests to go to trial.
"I think they understood what their options were," she said. "I tried to make it very clear."
Legal interpreters familiar with the profession said that Professor Camayd-Freixas' essay, while a notable departure from the norm, did not violate professional standards.
Isabel Framer, a certified legal interpreter from Ohio who is chairwoman of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, said Professor Camayd-Freixas did not go public while the cases were still in court or reveal information that could not be discerned from the record. Framer said she was speaking for herself because her organization had not taken an official position on the essay.
"Interpreters, just like judges and attorneys, have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the process," she said. "But they don't check their ethical standards at the door."

Mktg - Beijing equipped to prevent ambush marketing

BEGINNING on Friday, the Chinese government will begin restricting advertising space in Beijing, giving preference to the official sponsors of the Olympic Games.
The restrictions are meant to clamp down on so-called ambush marketers, which are companies that are not official sponsors but hope to gain some halo effect from the Games. One advertiser that is likely to suffer the most is Nike, which has broad marketing ambitions in China but no qualifying sponsorship deal.
Ambush marketing has long been a flashpoint at the Olympics. Sponsors pay upward of $65 million for the right to affiliate their brand with the Olympics, and they do not want their advertisements eclipsed by nonpaying competitors. The job of policing the marketing landscape is generally left to the host country, the International Olympic Committee and national organizing committees.
The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, which is known as Bocog, has asked advertising agencies to avoid using Olympic symbols without authorization and is asking media companies to carry ads of Olympic sponsors on their channels featuring Olympic content.
From the perspective of the sponsors, this is a good thing indeed.
"We really rely on them to monitor and correct those problems," said Petro Kacur, a spokesman for Coca-Cola, an official sponsor. "It's not a role that we play."
China has signaled that it takes this responsibility seriously. Starting on Friday, "all prominent advertising space in Beijing, including at the airport and on subway lines, will be controlled, giving official sponsors priority," said Chen Feng, deputy director of marketing for Bocog, according to a report in Xinhua, the Chinese state-run news agency.
Given that China does not generally use a light touch in carrying out rules of this sort, it is possible that unauthorized ads will be removed forcefully and immediately. According to a report in Advertising Age, the government has removed more than 30,000 outdoor ads in Beijing in the last year.
Although the government has been keeping a tight leash on Olympics-related matters, it did give some ground to foreign broadcasters this week. On Wednesday, Beijing eased restrictions on television reporting during the Games, saying that it would allow live news coverage in Beijing and would permit satellite trucks to be stationed in Beijing and other cities with Olympic events. That cleared up two big points of contention.
A third one was settled as well: the government said it would permit limited live coverage from Tiananmen Square for networks like NBC, which has the official broadcasting rights in the United States. NBC confirmed on Thursday that it now planned to broadcast live from there.
"The fact that live coverage will eventually be allowed is a positive development," said Lucie Morillon, a spokeswoman for Reporters Without Borders, in an e-mail message on Thursday. "But this should have been allowed from the start, since the Chinese authorities promised 'complete freedom of the press' in 2001," when Beijing won the bid to host the Games.
On the advertising front, the government's goal has been to make Beijing look spic and span. In part to eliminate clutter, advertisements on the front, back and doors of buses in Beijing were banned beginning this month. However, many of the moves are to protect sponsors.
"The volume of advertising, mostly billboard advertising, has been cut down considerably," said Dan Mintz, chief creative officer of Dynamic Marketing Group, a Chinese advertising firm that works with Volkswagen, which is an official Olympic sponsor, and Nike. Nike has traditionally been one of the biggest ambush marketers at the Olympics.
In Barcelona in 1992, Michael Jordan and some other American basketball team members covered the Reebok logos on their uniforms because they were individually sponsored by Nike. And at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when Nike was not the official sponsor, it took over a parking garage near the center of the Games and turned it into a hospitality center and retail store.
In China, Adidas and Nike will face off. Last week, Adidas opened its largest retail store in Beijing, 10,000 square feet; it is opening about 1,000 retail stores in China this year.
Nike is sponsoring some individual athletes and groups as well as the United States Olympic Committee, but it is not considered an official sponsor because it has not signed on with Bocog or the IOC
Nike "is committed to full compliance around Olympics branding" in Beijing, a spokesman, Derek Kent, wrote in an e-mail message.
It is standard for cities that hold the Olympics to try to control ambush marketing, said Patrick Sandusky, vice president for sports marketing at Hill & Knowlton and the spokesman for Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid.
"When cities bid for the Games, they usually get into some sort of agreement with the advertisers in their city and the billboards in their city to ensure they're only used for sponsors," Sandusky said.
Jim Scherr, chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, said his organization had "a group of people who spend their time making sure our brand is not traded on by those who do not have a proper association with it."
For sponsors like Visa, which has been making preparations in Beijing for more than two years, the protections are welcome. Visa had a logistical challenge as well as a marketing one: it had to get merchants equipped to accept Visa cards, strike partnerships with Chinese banks and have ATM's installed.
At the beginning, "we were building up brand awareness in China from almost a zero base," said Rajiv Kapoor, executive vice president for marketing at Visa Asia/Pacific. "We wanted to go in strategically before there would be more sponsor clutter."

India - Medical Madness

Every now and then, I read something in the news that makes me mad. Then I stew over it, getting madder and madder. And when this happens, sometimes I connect two otherwise unconnected bits of information to make one unified sore point. Here is a prime example.

A couple of days ago, there was a little snippet of news about medical graduates in Maharashtra — apparently, only three out of 109 students that passed out of a reputed medical college in Mumbai opted for the mandatory one year's practice in rural Maharashtra. The rest paid Rs 1,00,000 to break this bond. The NGO that disclosed this news said that the story was being played out in the 13 other medical colleges in the state as well. It is obvious that new medical graduates prefer the advantages of a city practice to the discomforts of village life. I guess one can't force someone to go practise in a village if he doesn't want to — but since I've lived in a rural area where medical facilities continue to be non-existent, this news item really got my goat.
Just as I was stewing over this, I had a call from Naval, a Bihari migrant in Delhi whom I've known for many years. He sounded very agitated. "My younger brother, who's always dreamt of being a doctor," he told me, "is having a hard time." The boy had appeared for pre-medical tests in many states this year for the third time, after having spent what must have been quite a fortune on preparing for them. "My brother is very bright," said Naval, "and of course a doctor in the family would raise our status tremendously in our village — so we all supported him as best as we could." The entire process of applying for a seat in a medical college, said he, was so expensive that most village students just could not afford it. "Every exam you take, every college you apply to, charges a hefty fee. To even stand a chance, especially if you have been to school in a village or small town, you need extra coaching. I'd say that just the process of appearing for medical entrance tests, you need at least Rs 50,000 ," said he.
Anyway, Naval's brother was eventually offered a seat in a medical college, and the family was ecstatic. The boy was keen to return to his village home after graduating, and wanted to set up practice there.
Not surprisingly, this made the family happier.
However, when Naval and his brother reached the college, they were in for a rude shock. They'd come a day late, they were told, and the college had given his seat to someone else. "But we weren't told that attending the orientation was mandatory!" Naval protested. Apparently, said the college authorities, it was, and they were just following the rules. The distraught pair asked around, and discovered that medical seats were still available, but at a price of about Rs 12 lakh , while dentistry seats were available at half the price. The only other option, they were told, was to get someone influential to plead their case. Which is why Naval was calling up everyone he knew, including me.
I've no idea what will happen to Naval's brother. But when I think of how difficult it is for villagers like him to even dream of becoming doctors and then read about those Mumbai medics who are too squeamish to practise in the villages, it seems to me that our medical system is diseased …and the entire medical community will need to come up with a cu

India - Politics of the possible

Few have the ability to network and manipulate the levers of power as Singh does.

I was born and grew up in a three-room flat on 202 Chittaranjan Avenue. There were five of us and only one bathroom. I still remember the torture in the mornings when all of us used to queue outside the toilet. Since then I have an obsession with big bathrooms. Every room in my Greater Kailash House has a bathroom. I've seen those days; I left home because I didn't want to continue with my father's trading business. I had nothing. Proud fathers get suits stitched for their sons. I paid for my first suit myself, when I was 28. Those 10 years were a period of great struggle. I'm afraid of nothing. What's the worst that can happen? That I have to return to those days? So what? I've survived them once already."Who said this ?
The man whose picture is on the right. The king of the politics of possibilities — Amar Singh is back in action. Expect turbulence ahead.
Singh began the Samajwadi Party's (SP) reincarnation in national politics in the first week of July — as a friend and supporter of the Congress — with the statement: "We're not wheelers and dealers. We don't want anything from the relationship". Till then he had just been a friend and well-wisher of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Now he has the onerous responsibility of keeping the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) afloat. So who is this man ?
In small towns, there is a class of traders and businessmen that rushed to open demat accounts last year. For them, Amar Singh is the symbol of what they can achieve. He's known as the man who can make things work. He is unashamedly feudal in the way he does business, but he can leverage and network to get doors opened. Singh has never been less-than-frank about his abilities. His first memorable business deal was for Vam Organics, where he worked. "Alcohol-based chemical industries were booming as long as I was there," he said. The industrial alcohol market was tightly-regimented and controlled by the UP government. How did he manage to make a success of business in that environment? "By networking — through bureaucratic and political networking" he said.
From then to now, it has been a long journey. Having traded the black safari suit for the kurta pyjama, in the 1980s Singh faced betrayal from the Congress Party, that promised him a seat from Madhya Pradesh. He joined the Samajwadi Party because he had something he could offer to the SP and the SP had something it could give him. Mulayam Singh Yadav recognised the merit of a man who was content being the bridesmaid, never the bride. He never interfered in Amar Singh's business plans for the SP.
And Singh had many. As a politician, he was born at the cusp of the birth of India's second generation economic reforms programme. Successive unstable governments in the late 1990s, in an environment of half-done reforms, afforded unique opportunities to gain considerable leverage — Singh taught Mulayam Singh Yadav how to utilise it. From someone who was adept at getting his work done by babus, Singh graduated to someone who could now order babus to work.
But his field of political operation continued to be Uttar Pradesh. When the Samajwadi Party came to power in UP, Singh launched, with great enthusiasm and fanfare, administrative structures that he said would change the face of the state. To his credit, he tried to modernise a moribund system by making it more corporate, more responsive. A UP Development Council, a system that was corporate-compatible, single-window systems, revamping, privatisation…
Despite Singh's best efforts, it didn't work. Too much else intervened: demands of day-to-day politics, UP's existential contradictions and the standard UP politician's inability to see beyond his nose. Again, there were many to take advantage of a measure only half done. It was Mulayam Singh Yadav who privatised 24 state-owned sugar mills in UP in 2003 as chief minister, but the issue was mired in controversy as all the mills were to be handed over to one particular industrial house, that has now emerged as the largest sugar producer in the country.
Singh does not agree, but UP was in a shambles because Mulayam Singh's Yadav's tenure started out as modern and visionary — with considerable credit due to Amar Singh — but got bogged down in Yadav's family politics, mismanagement and his disproportionate assets cases (one is being reviewed by the Supreme Court). Singh will also dispute this vigorously, but somewhere along the line, he also lost interest in modernising UP, content with just going with the flow.
But today, the man has something to prove once again. With his uncanny ability to bring people representing disparate interests together on one platform, he can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. The Congress has to decide which it wants him to be.

World - Sir Salman's Second Coming

The going had not been good for Salman Rushdie for most of 2008. Critics everywhere tore into his latest novel The Enchantress of Florence. "Static and enervated…as though it has been mechanically assembled from a recipe," said the New York Times. "Salman Rushdie's inkwell has dried up; it is time he bought a new ball point pen," remarked Khushwant Singh witheringly. His personal life too was on the brink, after his "emotionally violent" divorce from his fourth wife Padma Lakshmi, 23 years his junior, that he admitted "provoked a crippling bout of writer's block which threatened to end my writing career".

But there is afterlife after double disaster. The New York-based author was knighted last month and has now won the Best of the Booker, the English-speaking world's prestigious fiction prize for the third time on its fortieth anniversary. His 1981 classic Midnight's Children — that jostling melee of characters, images and pidgin English whose drippy-nosed protagonist Saleem Sinai is a metaphor for the partitioned sub-continent — was voted online by readers, and endorsed by judges, as the best novel in the history of the Booker Prize. That Rushdie's competition included Nobel prize winners like J M Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer means that the book stands out; that its exciting imaginative and linguistic stretch still resonates with younger audiences 27 years after its first appearance.
It is possibly true that his best work is behind him and that he has entered a phase of literary decline — for how will he match the pyrotechnical wizardry of the early novels? All he has produced since the 1990s is turkey after turkey, the last widely applauded work being The Moor's Last Sigh (1995). After that: a case of mixed reviews and a mixed up life. Too many medals can weigh decoratively heavy on an old general's chest; so too can a heap of honours emphasise a writer's sterility.
A writer's life is often supposed to be a life of detachment, distance, solitude, even isolation. From their ivory towers they emerge from time to time to strew a few pearls before an avid and hungry public. Salman Rushdie's life is the opposite: of active interlocution, controversy and courting celebritydom. There has always been a touch of the showman about him and he now makes the cut as the paparazzi's next best party guest. By his own admission if he hadn't been a writer he would have been an actor; he enjoys cameo appearances in films like Bridget Jones's Diary. (J M Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer would probably find such an idea abhorrent.)
The analogy with an old soldier isn't inexact, either, for Sir Salman proudly carries scars from a famous, long drawn-out war. For years after the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988 and the uproar that followed — book burnings, bannings and other violence — he was on the run, a heavily guarded fugitive moving from one safe house to another. The British broke off diplomatic relations with Iran over the cause celebre (they weren't restored till 1998). Despite mutterings in some quarters, British taxpayers bore the massive costs of protecting him unlike cowardly governments in India, reduced to hand-wringing appeasement, when called to stand up for Taslima Nasrin and M F Husain.
Rushdie emerged as the champion of freedom of expression and the creative imagination, a role he plays to the hilt, pugnaciously guarding the legacy as a famous liberal of the late 20th century. Feisty, articulate, erudite, prolific and coruscating in conversation — he is all that. But how will Sir Salman restore his creativity?

World - Descent into Chaos ( Book)

'All they (the US) are interested in is Osama bin Laden'

Pakistani historian and political commentator Ahmed Rashid, who masterfully explained The Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia (2000), and followed it up with Jihad: The Rise of Islam in Central Asia (2002), has now provided an update with Descent into Chaos: How the War Against Islamic Extremism is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia (Allen Lane/Penguin, special Indian price, Rs 495). Rashid, who has been in and out of Central Asia and Afghanistan for over 25 years, knows the ground beneath his feet like no one else does. For most of his working life as a journalist he has not been able to stay away from Afghanistan and the central Asian republics. In a sense, he knows too much: of its divisive history; its impossible politics; its feuding clans; its talent for making enemies; its criminal economy based on opium and heroin, of which it is the world's main supplier. And all this personal experience has been backed by deep research and interviews with the leading "players": he is a personal friend of Hamid Karzai, and has intimate details of the role of the United States and the failure of nation-building in this region, which are fully authenticated with details of sources. But Rashid's greatest credit lies in his ability to see through the clutter of detail and tell the common reader what the new Great Game is all about and why terrorism and Islamic extremism are growing stronger.
In his Introduction, Rashid tells us that "the book is about American failure to secure the region after 9/11, to carry out nation building on a scale that could have reversed the appeal of terrorism and Islamic extremism and averted state collapse on a more calamitous scale than could ever have happened before 9/11." The answer to ‘What Went Wrong' lies in a close study of history, the nature of Afghan society and Islamic extremism, the ham-handedness of American responses, the role of the military in Pakistani politics, repressive central Asian despots who have used religion to underpin their governments.
A capsule history to begin with. In the 1980s, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, America helped the Afghans to get rid of them (using Pakistan's military and the ISI as the cat's paw), and assumed, foolishly, that in gratitude Afghanistan would join the American camp. But the Afghans, at least the Taliban, is not grateful. They took the understandable view that they fought a proxy war for the United States against the Russians, and now that the Russians are no longer a threat, Afghanistan is discarded. Quite besides this, what the US didn't realise and still doesn't, is that Afghans are a fiercely independent people: they had never been colonised, either by a European country or by American culture. Besides, it was a tribal society where government authority did not extend beyond Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.
But this is a book not merely about Afghanistan; it is equally about central Asian republics, mainly Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. Rashid elaborates what he had said in Jihad that this region was governed by brutally autocratic regimes that repressed all dissent, including the traditional heterodox Islam of the region. Out of this brew came extremist Islam, which became affiliates of al-Qaeda with its nihilistic agenda and a hateful social programme. As Rashid puts it: "There was no economic manifesto, no plan for better governance and the building of political institutions, and no blueprint for creating democratic participation in the decision-making process of their future Islamic state." That's not all. Basically, the United States wasn't interested in rebuilding the infrastructure that requires long-term investment and long-term thinking is alien to the American mind. All they are interested in is Osama bin Laden.
Rashid is at his best on Pakistan, which he knows like the back of his hand. Trapped in a feudal set-up, between a few powerful families and an over-weaning military that has a finger in every pie, it is lost between two worlds — "one dead, the other powerless to born". Rashid has seen the future of this part of the world and it doesn't work. Here is an important book by an insider of our region.

India - P.Karat and M.Singh

The nuclear deal: better late than never and a poetic outcome for India, the PM Manmohan Singh and Communist leader Prakash Karat.

Only in India was the 90th anniversary of the Russian October revolution celebrated. In Russia, they were busy drilling oil and rounding up the usual political suspects; in China, the Communists were busy planning and implementing their economic, political and nuclear strategies for the next 50 years. In India, left leader Prakash Karat was busy planning and celebrating the onset and survival of Communism. That was in November 2007. Just seven months later, Mr Karat may have just managed to sign the death warrant of the last Lenin-Stalin-Mao style communist party standing in the world. Better late than never. What caused Mr Karat to sign traditional communism's death warrant? Arrogance and ideology or is it vice-versa? Most likely both; in that communist history repeats itself; which is why deeply ideological communism is an extinct species.
Let us examine what has happened. There is a historic agreement with the US ostensibly regarding the use of nuclear technology, energy, etc. The deal is BIG because for the first time in post-independence India, a major agreement is being signed with the US; India had signed several major partnerships with the now defunct communist Soviet Union. Think about it. For 60 years, supported, influenced and instigated by the Indian Communists, India signed treaties, made agreements, abandoned principles in order to fawn at the feet of foreign hand communists. Lest people forget, we even changed the name of the film From Russia with Love to From 007 with Love. That is the extent of decision making we had signed over to the foreign Communists.
Make no mistake about it. The nuclear deal is a mega turning point and the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, deserves a lot of credit for it. For four and a half years, he and the Congress party have been justifiably criticised for really doing nothing. Actually, that is wrong — there were several negative policies, some in the economic arena (fringe benefits tax, wasteful expenditure on populist programs, lack of co-ordination with the RBI, messing up of foreign exchange policy — the list is long) and others in the social arena (corruption via licensing, education policy, reintroduction of reservation raj, etc.). Positives: hard to count on even one finger. Yes, the economy had grown at a fast pace, but that had precious little to do with the largely misguided polices at the centre.
Then along came the nuclear Indo-US agreement. Actually, the deal was initiated by the BJP and the UPA has taken it forward. Which is why it is both pathetic, and surprising, for the BJP to now oppose its own proposal. Obviously, political considerations are relevant; obviously the BJP has to play the role of an honourable opposition. But political wisdom would suggest that the BJP vote with the government. If it does, by the time elections roll around, the nuclear deal will be forgotten and new considerations, and most importantly political sleeping partnerships, will take over. But if the BJP votes against the deal, then all will not be forgiven.
The political opposition will come from the middle class, now some 40 per cent of the Indian population. The middle class beats its own drum, unmoved by the pyrotechnics of the Communists, the BJP, or the Congress. The next election will most likely be won by the coalition that appeals most to the middle class; this should not be forgotten. And the middle class, for self-interest reasons, does not believe in ideologies except the ideology of economic opportunities, a level playing field, and fairness in politics and enterprise. [This is not to say that there aren't people in the middle class who are corrupt, believe in licensing, believe in reservations, etc; it is just to say that the class interests are opposite to the beliefs of the communists and rent-seeking members of the rich class.]
For India the nuclear deal is a trend-setting one. The full impact of Manmohan Singh's role in the Indian economy, affairs, and politics, can be assessed with the following fact: he was present at, and leader, of the two most important decisions in post-independent Indian history. The economic reforms initiated by him and PM Rao changed the course of modern India, and helped accelerate the development of the middle class. The nuclear agreement will have a similar effect on the economy, and on India's role in the world. What Nehru could not obtain with his non-alignment movement, Manmohan Singh would have achieved for India and its political leaders for decades to come.
If the deal is so historic, why did the Congress party wait until literally the last hour? It did not make sense to do so, and many commentators said so when the Congress caved in to the unreasonable and traitorous demands of the Communists last year. In 2007, the Congress itself was on an arrogant high — the economy was booming, inflation was low, and major leaders of the party actually thought that their (lack of) policies had initiated the economic boom. Globalisation has dashed that wishful thinking; and democracy did the rest. Indian voters thrashed the Congress in every election over the last year. Nothing succeeds like failure in setting the mind straight. The fear of being loathed and vanquished must have weighed on the Congress leaders. What they should have done last year they did this week. A historic week. Better late than never.
The author is Chairman, Oxus Investments, a New Delhi based asset management company. The views expressed are personal.