Ali Naderzad

SEIZE THE DAY

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Those lesser men at sea

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(AN) Sounds like Captain Schettino is in good company now. Lee Jun-Seok (pictured), the so-called captain who steered the Korean ship towards disaster, was one of the first people to get off the now-sinking ship. If we sometimes witness feats of extraordinary valor, such as that Korean student who gave his own life jacket to a fellow student and was confronted by his own demise, the infamous cowards are also there, the Schettinos and the Seoks, lesser men who are as incompetent (he told the family members to go back and hide in their living quarters, which all but guaranteed they would later become trapped) as they are spineless.

Filed under South Korea Ship disaster

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April is the cruellest month (Rwanda, remembering Mbaye Diagne)

(by Ali Naderzad) Twenty years ago on this day the Rwandan genocide began after that country’s president’s plane was shot down from the sky by a missile. The following morning, Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and her husband were killed, too. 

Weapon fire, mortar shells and and grenades could be heard daily in Kigali in the following days. By mid-April Hutu extremists had begun to fan across the country to deliver chaos and mayhem (pillage, arson, rape, and maiming, mutilation and murder) upon the Tutsis and anyone who stood in their way under the pretext that Tutsis were intent on dominating and enslaving their Hutu countrymen.

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The Rwandan genocide is one of the most heinous and macabre episode of large-scale slaying in recent history. And yet the governments of the U.S., U.K. and France, most notably, refused to become involved and involuntarily ensured, with Koffi Annan as their proxy, that the U.N. peacekeeping forces on the ground not only remained neutral but that they be gradually stripped down of any power they might have held on to in the hope of ending the carnage.

The beleaguered United Nations contingent, under the command of Romeo Dallaire, was eventually ordered to pull out, missing an opportunity to broker a peace agreement between Hutu and Tutsis.

Dallaire, now a member of Canada’s parliament, failed miserably at his task as the U.N.’s uppermost commanding officer on the ground, but not from lack of trying. His boss, Koffi Annan, gave ambiguous orders to Dallaire, ordering him to back off of a military operation Dallaire was staging against the rebels, Annan instead requesting that Dallaire divulge any information he received from his informant on to the Rwandan government. Dallaire’s rules of engagement were increasingly tightened by Annan, rendering him and his troops powerless.  

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How strangely the men in hallowed halls govern. Why did we not do more in Rwanda? The images of the horrific murders of American commandoes in Mogadishu a few months earlier were still vivid in everyone’s mind and the status quo in government was that, we weren’t going to have another Mogadishu on our hands. And yet, Ally inaction cost lives. By some estimates, 800,000 were killed during these three bloody months in Rwanda. 100,000 were killed in that April month alone. 

April is the cruellest month, indeed.

Each live lost ought to be remembered by us. By bearing witness and talking about this conflict, do we not honor their memory a little? We can do but little else, so let us at least never forget them.

One notable story from the Rwandan genocide is that of U.N. Observer Mbaye Diagne. Diagne worked for the U.N. command in Kigali and ended up saving lives and running multiple rescue missions that helped scores of people reach safe haven. After PM Uwilingiyimana was killed along with her husband Diagne heard that her four children were hiding at the PM’s compound and went, unarmed, to rescue them. The children were flown out of the country. But the U.N. observer’s days were numbered.

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Diagne, a Senegalese national, was driving to meet with Romeo Dallaire when shrapnel from a mortar shell hit near his jeep struck him in the back of his head and killed him instantly. It was May 31st, 1994.

Why did we let the killings go on? How could the genocidal rage of a peoples gone unchecked be allowed to cause the death of so many in so little time? Could we not have forced our way in and either helped broker a peace accord with the extremists or put them out of their misery? All these questions will never be answered, but we can be grateful that men like Mbaye Diagne not only showed up but actually got involved in the conflict to the point of risking his own life, in the process saving countless others. Mbaye Diagne’s extraordinary heroism stands in stark comparison to the spinelessness of our leaders of the time.

ADDITIONAL READING: 

Mark Doyle, “A good man in Rwanda” (BBC)

Diplomatic Fallout: Vieira de Mello and the Dark Side of U.N. Diplomacy

The Envoy (Samantha Power), New Yorker (2008)

Filed under Mbaye Diagne Rwanda Hutu Tutsi Genocide UNAMIR U.N. kofi annan Romeo Dalaire BBC Mark Doyle

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After Farmers Commit Suicide, Debts Fall on Families in India

(By Ali Naderzad) In spite (or because?) of the rise of the middle-class Dickensian India continues to be a reliable source of the world’s great human tragedies. Not just because of the stories of quiet, individual failure we read about, such as in this New York Times article by Ellen Barry, but also because of the consequences of that country’s social lesions, ruthless classism, and the disgraceful indifference with which India’s municipal and state governments treat its most vulnerable families. 

How to evaluate the successes of the middle class in the face of such tragedies? That they are too costly? That they exact their price in blood? That whatever social fractions India is infamous for will keep on getting worse because of them? The shift in voter influence seems to show this. 

Once India’s own humanitarian and social justice efforts have had an effect on its impoverished classes and stories such as these no longer emerge, is when India can be considered on the same level with the civilized nations it tries to emulate. For now, primitive, Third-World mentalities continue to steer a socially-dislocated nation that bears only the accoutrements of civilized society.

Filed under India indian farming usurier Interest-rate microlending Bill Gates yunes NYT new york times Ellen Barry Hadlamani

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Man who killed 2 infants gets death penalty

Reza Gostar and Brett Kelman, USA TODAY, usatoday.com

Jason Michael Hann has been convicted of killing his 2-month-old son and 10-month old daughter and hiding their bodies in storage units.

INDIO, Calif. — A man who has been con­vict­ed of killing two of …

Imagine having to be that guy’s attorney. On a different note, can proponents of the death penalty explain this to me: since you’re apparently so taken by the “an eye for an eye” approach, how is it that this twisted fuck’s life is regarded by the state as being worth his two children’s lives? Your calculations are off, methinks. The day when proponents of the death penalty can rationally explain this to me is the day I will consider giving up my anti-death penalty ways (Ali Naderzad)

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THE eLEARNING SURGE | Deep in the trenches

SOON it’ll have been a year since I started on my current eLearning project with a small, Paris-based graduate university. It’s been fun, to say the least. I’m working with a small group of motivated people and helped to launch the university’s first-ever MOOC-styled program using a MOODLE platform. Working on a project on which everything must be thought-through and built from scratch is incredibly motivating—to say the least. 

There’s eLearning and there’s eLearning. The first type opens wide the doors of the classroom. Taking the Coursera model in consideration, hundreds of thousands of students can attend a course, chart their own progress and, in some cases, get personalized attention from the instructor. The second eLearning model has a socio-political component to it. An eLearning platform can be a great tool in helping you resolve the following problem: how do you deliver an education to those people who cannot otherwise have access to it? Surely, there are immediate practical considerations to take into account here. Does a student in second-tier cities in Uzbekistan have enough internet speed to be able to download your video lectures in a timely manner? It’s something to take into account when preparing your course content.

The timing of lectures and examinations is just as crucial in an online environment as it is in a physical situation. At the same time, the online model of learning is better adaptable to rolling-type admissions. Since the content remains online even after it’s been presented to the class, students who are joining the fray late can consult all previous lectures.

In my capacity as consultant I managed recording sessions with the instructors. Our ten one-month courses comprise the curriculum for the school’s one-year master, a program that is accredited with an American-based sister university. This meant recording one hundred hours of course lectures. After various discussions we decided on using Techmith’s CAMTASIA software and also acquired the French-made Sankore tablet, which replicates almost exactly the blackboard experience (using the stylus that comes with the tablet instructors can write calculations on the tablet, insert images, videos and do powerpoint presentations while CAMTASIA screen-records everything. The decision to combine CAMTASIA with a Sankore tablet was the result of great teamwork within our organization. 

As the distance learning guru for the organization I wore several hats: producer, editor and engineer.

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Jessica Mathews on Iran (New York Review of Books)

In recent weeks, Iran and the United States, for the first time, have broken through more than a decade of impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. Significant differences remain, but at long last, both governments appear ready to work their way toward a resolution. Yet the US Congress, acting reflexively against Iran, and under intense pressure from Israel, seems ready to shatter the agreement with a bill that takes no account of Iranian political developments, misunderstands proliferation realities, and ignores the dire national security consequences for the United States.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/feb/20/iran-good-deal-now-danger/?insrc=hpma

Filed under Iran Jessica Mathews New York Review of Books ayatollah khomeini president rouhani rouhani nuclear talks geneva NPT AIPAC IAEC non-proliferation Middle East arak

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Figaro Voyageur PragueMagnifiquement illustré, Le Figaro Voyageur vous emporte dans une promenade étourdissante au cœur de la ville qui adopta Mozart, inspira Kafka et accueillit la renommée de Mucha. Des rois de Bohème à Rodolphe II de Habsbourg, de Jean Hus à Vaclav Havel, retrouvez les figures de l’histoire mouvementée de la Bohème, contemplez les richesses insoupçonnées de ses collections d’art et la symphonie architecturale qui fait de Prague la reine de l’éclectisme.

Figaro Voyageur Prague
Magnifiquement illustré, Le Figaro Voyageur vous emporte dans une promenade étourdissante au cœur de la ville qui adopta Mozart, inspira Kafka et accueillit la renommée de Mucha. Des rois de Bohème à Rodolphe II de Habsbourg, de Jean Hus à Vaclav Havel, retrouvez les figures de l’histoire mouvementée de la Bohème, contemplez les richesses insoupçonnées de ses collections d’art et la symphonie architecturale qui fait de Prague la reine de l’éclectisme.

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Middle class in the mansion

(A.N.) I’ll guess that students of Quentin Kidd have much to learn about American politics from their eminent instructor. His is an impressive background. But two days ago, in publishing of an opinion in the Post Kidd did not distinguish himself. He seemingly tried to defend the indefensible in his op-ed about the McDonnells. Because if you don’t outright condemn corruption, then you’re offering your tacit approval. What are we to do, Quentin, shed a tear for these people because of their mounting credit-card debt? McDonnell is the new poster-child for government corruption. And you’re going to lament their miseries?  

Beside, there’s nothing as galling as when members of the lower-classes fancying themselves something better through trick and treachery. Anyone remember the Salahis?

The McDonnells, and Rod Blagojevich before them, and the countless other fools who ever reached the governor’s mansion only to turn it into a free-for-fall, are not only to be appropriately condemned, they are to be made examples of in terms of what not to do with your life. Kidd did himself a disfavor with his thinly-veiled apology of the McDonnells. 

Filed under Quentin Kidd Washington Post