Wednesday, December 28, 2005

George Clooney's movie, "Syriana" and the newspaper, "Muslims Weekly"

My column in the Pakistani newspaper, The Post, was just published online. Copied below is the article in its entirety:

For anyone who has been keeping up with Hollywood and the American film industry in general, it is plain to see a newfound fascination for the Middle East and the Islamic world. While pleasant inquiry and genuine interest is more than welcome, one can only hope the result of this allure manifests itself in more than the presentation of stereotypical images in the eyes of the “Western” masses.

I saw George Clooney’s Syriana a few nights ago. While I was pleasantly surprised to see the theme of CIA/US intervention in the Middle East shown so explicitly, I was not so pleasantly surprised to see the depiction of Muslims in the typical negative light we have become accustomed to. What pains me more is that such films do so well at the box office, subsequently solidifying an image that is already flawed. While tackling difficult issues using film as a medium, filmmakers tend to use their power to sway audiences and influence human psyche in whatever way they wish. Unfortunately, Syriana viewers will think of a Muslim as the terrorist who has to be purged from American soil, and not the person who believes in the American dream just like any other fellow citizen.

Trying to help in this struggle against a single-tracked media is a devoted newspaper based in New York City called Muslims Weekly. While its circulation might not be in the league of bigger religious/ethnic newspapers like the Jewish Week or India Abroad, Muslims Weekly strives to provide timely news, with integrity of purpose and accuracy. Unfortunately, it has become victim to the same financial problems that plague all enthusiastic projects that start out small and want to become bigger and better.

To remedy this situation, the newspaper had a Fundraising Dinner, which coincided with its 6th anniversary as well. The event was held at Maurya Restaurant, in Queens, New York, and was well attended by many community leaders. Attendance was mirrored by the number of diverse speakers who took to the podium and spoke about what a great service the newspaper was doing for the community. The newspaper was badly in debt and so it was only natural that the theme of the evening was to look back at what this media outlet had done for its target audience, and look to the future for what it could do for Muslims.

Khalid Lamada looked forward to the day when Muslims Weekly would actually become a Muslims Daily. Kashmiri activist Malik Nadeem Abid had recently lost his beloved mother and his sister was ill, but showed his support by being present at the event. Noted Pakistani community leader Dr Shafi Bezar assured Muslims Weekly of his full support. Renowned Muslim religious leader Imam Siraj Wahhaj personally pledged to raise $10,000 and urged several others in the audience to do the same as well, albeit for lesser amounts of money.

Jawed Anwar, Publisher of Muslims Weekly, urged readers and attendees of the programme to understand that good deeds could be recognised by contributing to the newspaper. Donations don’t always need to be made to masjids (mosques) and madrassas in order to gain sawwab. He gave examples of other publications and how they flourished. One Jewish newspaper had an editor, whose salary was paid entirely by a Jewish organization, thereby allowing him to devote his energies to the newspaper. One Haitian newspaper organizes an annual community event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, thereby letting its staff concentrate more fully on the actual news, as opposed to financial issues.

Several non-Muslim speakers also enlightened the audience with their views. Linda Kateura, author of Voices of American Muslims, stressed the need for an American Muslim voice and for the community to be active to express itself. Trish Schuh, a journalist and peace activist, mentioned how she goes through several different media outlets on a daily basis, but found in Muslims Weekly what she found nowhere else. Keynote speaker William Blum, who is a staunch anti-war activist and accomplished writer with several published books, spoke about the role the US has played, is playing and will play in the Islamic world.

The past few weeks have proved that Muslims – and Pakistanis – are in a lot of trouble. It’s not because of their activities, but their inactivity. If movies like Syriana continue to make millions of dollars and newspapers like Muslims Weekly continue to struggle for their very existence, we should understand that something is desperately wrong. I hope we realise this soon.

Request for Medical Professionals

The information below is posted on a website that is useful for anyone who wants to help in the Pakistani earthquake relief efforts: DCPak. Please spread the word...

There is a desperate need for doctors, nurses and medics in the quake affected areas including the camps.

United Pakistan
The Omar Asghar Ali Khan Foundation
National Rural Support Programs

These three organizations will provide lodging/transport/etc for any medical personnel that can spare time and provide their services.

The most specific and dire need is for Female Gynecologists and other female medical specialists.

Article: Student Finds a Stolen Thesis by Thinking Like a Thief

Wow, I would have a serious bout of depression if my MA thesis was ever stolen. I'm still taking courses towards my MA, so this technically isnt something I should worry about, but several months from now, it could be a reality I must face: the possibility of having my written and researched work stolen, as mentioned in this Washington Post article.

The first thought that came to my mind was, how could she have NOT backed up all the data? Even though she was a smart woman for thinking like a thief and eventually retrieving her stolen/lost belongings, I think it was more the desperation of the situation and the fright of having to do all that work over again that made her think like a thief. Why wouldnt anyone just be smart from the outset and make copies of the documents that are so important to you?

God help me if anything remotely similar happens to me. I don't know what i'd do...

Event: Careers at the United Nations

United Nations Association of New York’s
Young Professionals for International Cooperation


Careers at the United Nations

Date: Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reception: 6:00 – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion: 6:30 – 7:30 pm

Q & A Session: 7:30 – 8:00 pm

The Polish Consulate General

233 Madison Avenue (corner of 37th street)


Gillian Sorensen

(Senior Advisor to the UN Foundation and former Assistant Secretary General at the UN)

Sandra Haji-Ahmed

(Director, Operational Services Division, Human Resources Management, UN)

UNA Members: $5 Non-Members: $20.00*

*Non-members can join UNA-USA at just for $25 and attend the event FREE plus enjoy all other membership benefits, including discounted price at future career events, throughout the year.

Your new membership confirmation page will provide you a link with a discount code to register for this event FREE.

Admission only through online Registration

Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis

Register now at

If you are not sure of your UNA-USA membership’s current status or need any further information,

please contact or call (212) 907-1333

Next event will be “Careers in NGOs” in March 2006

Business attire please…

Article: Bono berates NATO over aid delay in Pakistan

I wish this was the Bono of U2 we are all too familiar with now, but the Bono this International Herald Tribune article refers to is the Spanish Defense Minister. I had read earlier accounts of slow aid distribution and mis-coordination, mostly because of these organizations who were sending manpower to the country, and later not doing much because they didnt know what to do.

After reading the article, it's a confirmation of the problems of bureacracy. NATO has agreed not to continue humanitarian relief operations in Pakistan, but will continue to stay on in regions like the former Yugoslavia where they should have withdrawn long ago.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Article: Pentagon rolls out stealth PR

These people will stop at nothing for PR. Notice how I didnt write "good PR". The fact is, no matter how much money one spends on PR, it will never make a difference if the heart and soul of incorrect policies arent changed. Can one's negative viewpoints of a country really change when the policies of that country help another stay in miserable shape?

This article from USA Today tells us that the Bush administration is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on yet another PR campsign, this time again using the very company (among others) that was involved in paying off local Iraqis to publish positive material about the Americans and their intervention in Iraq. How foolish can one be? This firm is still under investigation for that fiasco, but its services are being used again? Wow...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Article: Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants

Wow, you can really expect anything from Bush and his comrades. I would never have known about this US News and World Report article, if it werent for my friends over at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR is pretty good with their lobbying tactics and activism efforts, but it's gonna take a lot more than just emails to get the word out about how demeaning these searches for "nuclear radiation" are. And as usual, it's always the Muslims. The article even mentions some high level spokesman who says they do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity. But then why are mosques being screened?

This is beyond my intelligence. Im interested in knowing what becomes of this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Article: UN Foundation establishes Earthquake Response Fund

This is really phenomenal news. There are very few organizations out there that are actually keeping the momentum strong and striving to accomplish something in the still devastated region. I'm glad the United Nations Foundation has taken the lead.

While many are still reeling from the aftermath of the Southeast Asian tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake is too recent for anyone to forget. The media is doing a great disservice by not covering any aspect of it: the celebrities making visits, the heroic stories of survivors and the progress being made in relief efforts. None of it seems worthy of news coverage...

Free Carnegie Council Dove Poster

The Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs (CCEIA) based in New York City is offering a beautiful 18" x 24" poster of a dove - for free!

Click here for more information...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Article: Morris-area Muslims say trust still remains elusive

I found this article on a yahoo group messageboard titled "NYC Muslim Dialogue". It's been eye-opening for me, because I could relate to the man who is mentioned in the first few paragraphs. I am Muslim, slightly observant, own a copy of the Quran, have several books on Islam, and am in my mid-twenties. For those of you have been keeping up with post 9/11 US foreign policy, you may have realized I am a prime target from the FBI and/or CIA for pretty much anything from discrimination to detention to torture.

The young man who is mentioned in the article, is also very much like me for another reason: we both have facial hair. Well, I used to have it. I shaved it off this past weekend. Dont get me wrong; it's not because of all this horrible stuff going on including hate crimes or discrimination or anything. I wasnt scared at all. Purely preferential, just the way I intended on keeping it. But I did begin to notice people around me very carefully. Some were visibly disturbed and really didnt treat me like they would any other person on the street. Others thought I resembled Ashton Kutcher and thought I was jumping on the Hollywood facial hair bandwagon. In reality, all I needed was a change and for a few weeks, I loved it!

I might try it again after a few months, but articles like these will remind me that when I try "experimenting" in the future, I have to be careful; there are people watching me who once may have been friends, but have quickly turned into foes...

New York City has a transit strike - now what?

It's been a nice day. After several weeks, i've finally gotten some exercise. Since there was no subway or bus service, I walked from 59th and 2nd to 34th and 5th to drop off a final paper due for a class. It's not the walk that was so bad - it's the fact that New York will have to get used to this until the strike is over; God knows when that happens.

It didnt hit home until I read this article from the Washington Post and it's true - people have found ways of surviving. Though things were different at school, where almost everyone tele-commuted, New Yorkers are riding bikes, taking cabs, some are even walking great distances to do whatever it is they have to. Traffic is a mess, but isn't New York traffic always a mess? Well, now it's just a tad bit worse. And it's cold outside.

I, for one, needed the exercise, but did the rest of the city need it too? Perhaps, to keep warm.

But it makes me think: where do we - or I - go from here? I am done with this semester of school, so i'd really like to have some fun. Hang out with friends, catch a movie, eat out - anything! But alas, I can do almost nothing.

Except blogging, that is...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Stress during the Holidays - paradoxical, right?

The Holiday season should be totally relaxing and stress free, because it's one of the few times we get a chance to spend time with loved ones, be they family or friends.

It came as a surprise to me, then, when I saw Google Blog's latest entry being related to stress in the holiday season. How odd is that! Why would anyone possibly stress when there's so much to be happy about? But alas, the complexities of human relationships...

After going through the blog, I even began to think whether some of the authors of the blog may have been long lost relatives of mine. That's how closely our thinking matches.

The author of the stress entry, Dr. Razavi mentions some great ways to reduce stress, including the following:
  • Make a list and priotitize. It's OK if the holiday cards don't go out until 1/2...07.
  • Exercise. No, it's not the answer to everything, but it has been shown to decrease the stress hormones.
  • Take a vacation (break with tradition! A year-end getaway might help limit stress). If not a vacation, at least take a stroll, or take deep breaths while counting to 10.
  • Hugging for 20 seconds has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
I havent been exercising at all lately, which is a big reason why I am getting so lethargic. And havent really been hugging so enthusiastically either. Maybe should try that too. :)
And God knows how badly I need a vacation! Maybe that's why He answered my prayers and is "hopefully" sending me to Pakistan for my cousin's wedding.

Anyway, it is suffice to say that stress should not be an issue for any holiday. Let's take things slow and let loose - for a bit...Life's too short to let stress become a permanent grinch...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Google Earth and Pakistani earthquake relief efforts

I am amazed at how great an invention Google Earth is. In the comfort of my own home, I can travel the world, see places i've never seen before and possibly even be spied on by the FBI or CIA - how amazing!

I check the Google Blog occasionally and found a recent posting titled "In the material world" to be quite interesting. I will not pass any judgments about this new Google endeavor, but what Andy Ku mentions in the body of the posting is quite interesting. To quote:

One sales guy, David MacDonald, emailed this to the entire UK office:

“Yesterday whilst on the Google Space stand at Heathrow T1 I was approached by somebody who asked me if I worked for Google, as soon as I confirmed he smiled. He went on to explain that he had been in Pakistan as part of an International Disaster Response Team to help in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. They had been desperate to use what resources / maps they could find and that Google had been invaluable in helping. It turned out they had used Google Earth to trace the geography of the landscape, locate villages and roads.

He was so happy to see me and to show his appreciation, I really felt humbled and proud.”
How awesome is that! I'm wondering why anyone hasnt mentioned Google Earth in their writings about relief efforts. Just goes to show that Google really doesnt sleep...always on to something bigger and better...

"Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005

It's amazing to see what a lot of power and a little bit of globalization can do for multi-national companies (MNCs). Brought to my attention via my friends at the Global Policy Forum but the material is actually from Global Exchange.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A timeline of US Military Interventions

My friends over at the Global Policy Forum produce some comprehensive and highly useful information, and this is no different. The entire title of the work is "US Military and Clandestine Operations in Foreign Countries - 1890-Present"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Article: Georgetown Sells out to the Saudis

As expected, there is a lot of negative feedback to the recent "significant" donation made by a Saudi Prince to Georgetown and Harvard Universities. It should come as no surprise then that some of the criticism is coming from a place known for criticizing anything that happens to even shed a bit of good light on Islam. The organization is Campus Watch, and is a watchdog that monitors Middle Eastern Studies on campuses across the United States.

Campus Watch is greatly influenced by Daniel Pipes, a man who has no qualms when talking about his extreme dislike for Islam. This piece though, is written by Alexander Joffe, Campus Watch's Director. The organization is itself anything but noble. To put it in layman's terms, it pretty much spies on anything remotely related to the Middle East and rouses enough protest against a cause it deems "inappropriate" that eventually, that program, event or person is ostracized. It's really a testimony to how propaganda works in the field of Middle Eastern Studies.

The article makes for a good "opiniated" piece to what I posted recently about the donation.
Please do leave comments. Im interested in knowing your views.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My article - hot off the presses!

This week's column for The Post is not about my usual complaints regarding lack of media attention for Pakistani earthquake relief, but on something a bit lighter: South Asian music in New York.

This week, New York City was host to not only the greatest Sufi music, but also the greatest South Asian rock band, Junoon. Their concert was great, but lacked the real spirit behind Junoon, Ali Azmat. All good things must come to an end, right?

At the same time, New York also routinely plays host to some other performers who are greatly influenced by South Asian music but their names arent mentioned in the mainstream media. They include Brook's Qawwali Party, a group who sings Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's qawwalis with a jazzy, western touch, and Paula Jeanine, who sings ghazals and thumris by taking tunes from songs sung by the maestros, but writes her own lyrics, thereby giving it her own interpretation.

All in all, a great week - musically speaking.

Article: Saudi Gives $20 Million each to Georgetown and Harvard

This is an interesting development. I dont know where this article was placed in the Washington Post hard copy, but when I read it on the internet, I could envision it being buried somehwere in the paper so difficult to access, it wasnt even worth reading anymore.

What I'm more interested in, is seeing how the funding is used over several years. The original plan is to continue expansion on currently exisitng programs, but to embark on new endeavors as well. The real problem starts when the media attention goes away and the budget starts taking shape for future years. I recall reading accounts of think tank staff who were informed by the "higher-ups" that funding from certain individuals or organizations was being returned to their sources and no apprent reason was given for the decision. This happened to none other than Georgetown University, albeit several years ago.

Is this deja vu? Will the money be returned to the Saudi prince? But playing devil's advocate, do we even know the Saudi prince's intentions? Why this donation now, and why this amount? So many questions, but will we ever find answers?

Maybe if a person like seasoned politician Paul Findley comes along, perhaps. He was the one who wrote about these donations to think tanks and how the money was returned when the sources were questioned. Incidentally, this same Saudi Prince donated to a 9/11 fund and his donation was turned down by Mayor Guiliani, because the royal was critical of the US and its foreign policy.

One can only hope that the money will be used for a worthy cause. Islam and Muslims are greatly misunderstood and if think tanks and academicians at Harvard and Georgetown cant help in this noble cause, who else do we turn to?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Danish Official: Islam is a 'Terrorist Movement'

Wow...Politicians never cease to amaze me. How can one even harbor such feelings and get so far in politics?
It also reminds me of a comment one of the Scandinavian royals made several months ago, where Islam was described as a "threat" to them or something along those lines.


Copenhagen Post, 12/12/05

A few days after the Danish People's Party (DF) punished its Copenhagen mayoral candidate for publishing racist remarks on her website, removing her from the post as the party spokesman on educational affairs, her successor went ahead and described the Muslim religion as a terrorist movement.

Defeated mayoral candidate Louise Frevert's website compared Muslims with tumours, causing a public outrage. Though she blamed the statement on her website editor, DF punished her by removing her from a number of spokesman posts in parliament, including the one on educational policies.

Her replacement, Martin Henriksen, however, has also been criticised for having a website that is equally anti-Muslim.

'From its beginning, Islam has been a terrorist movement,' Henriksen stated on his website, warning against letting Muslims run for office in parliament and municipal councils.

'It's well known that Islam is lying low, well-knowing that no Islamic group or state has the military power it takes to conquer us. The goal we know, the method is to quietly take over and infiltrate our democratic institutions,' Henriksen said on his website.

Danish converts to Islam get their share of the blame as 'moral criminals'.

'These young Danes, who turn their backs on their heritage and thereby all of us, are committing an indescribable moral crime,' the website stated.

The website was discussed in a DF parliamentary group meeting last Thursday, where Henriksen said he had received full backing from his fellow party members.

'It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that an MP from the Danish People's Party is critical of Islam. It's a part of the party's policy, so I'm not removing anything from my website,' Henriksen told national broadcaster DR.

Job with United Nations Develop Programme (UNDP)

This job opportunity with the UNDP is courtesy of my friends at the Foreign Policy Association.


The Research Assistant will be appointed for an initial period of three months (renewable once) and will work on three areas:

1 Fiscal space: literature review, synthesis on pro-poor domestic resource mobilization.

2. Global Public Finance Management (PFM)Programs: collect and collate material on existing PFM programs across the world.

3. Direct Budget Support (DBS) and Poverty reduction Strategies: collect and collate material on the topic. The research Assistant will synthesize materials and propose a framework for understanding the implications of DBS for the design and implementation of poverty reduction strategies.


- Strong background in economics (preferably Masters' degree in Economics or related discipline), specifically in public finance and preferably within a focus on development issues.

- Interest in applied policy and good understanding of political economy

- Superior writing skills and ability to work with limited supervision

Contact Information: Antoine Heuty
Apply by: December 31, 2005

Panel Discussion: "Pakistan Earthquake 2005: Rebuilding, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation" - 12/15/05

The Asia Society has turned out to be one of the few organizations based here in the US that is taking a proactive role in putting the word out about anything related to the recent Pakistani earthquake. Here's another event that looks quite interesting and worth attending...

Panel Discussion:
Pakistan Earthquake 2005: Rebuilding, Reconstruction, Rehabilitation
December 15th
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: New York
Asia Society and Museum, 725 Park Avenue, New York
Cost: $10 members; $15 nonmembers
Phone: 212-517-ASIA

The powerful earthquake that devastated the Pakistan-India border region on Oct. 8 has already claimed close to 80,000 victims, but millions more remain homeless and vulnerable. With winter approaching, conditions in many areas remain dire and are likely to worsen in spite of national and international relief efforts. The panel discussion will explore the current conditions on the border, analyze how India and Pakistan’s governments are responding to the devastation; examine domestic and international aid agencies’ rehabilitation and reconstruction work; and provide first hand account of how ordinary Pakistanis and civil society organizations are contributing in relief efforts.


Rashida Dohad, Program Advisor, Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation, Pakistan (invited)
Muhammad Haroon Shaukat, Consul General, Consulate General of Pakistan in New York
Najam Sethi, Editor, Daily Times (via teleconference from Pakistan)
Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Angelina Jolie - a "Humanilebrity"?

Pity me (or envy me) for the time I have on my hands, but I was watching "Best year ever" on VH1 a few nights ago and one of the top five people to be nominated for having a best year ever was none other than Angelina Jolie.

One of the people commenting on her success as both a great actress and humanitarian then went ahead and termed her the best "humanilebrity" out there. I cant recall who it was, but I did a google search on the term and found nothing.

The concept, though, is novel. It really does speak to the fact that Angelina has come out to be one of the most talented (and beautiful!) actresses Hollywood has produced, as well as a powerful voice for the under-priviliged all over the world.

Now, if only we could do something to further help the Pakistani earthquake survivors...

Friday, December 09, 2005

NY event: The Aftermath of Katrina - Where do we go from here?

This looks like it's going to be an interesting event. The speakers have impressive credentials and the discussion on the issue of human rights and social justice in light of Hurricane Katrina is timely.
Please spread the word!

Lectures on Human Rights & Social Justice
Thursday, December 15, 2005
A Special
Human Rights Forum
The Aftermath of Katrina:
Where Do We Go From Here?
Hurricane Katrina reawakened the American public to the existence of race and class subjugation in the United States through the shocking realization that there was simply no evacuation plan for poor Black residents of New Orleans.
Representative, State of Louisiana
New York State Senator, 36th District

President, Borough of Manhattan
Executive Director, Westchester County Human Rights Commission

Reception: 6-7 pm

Interchurch Center

475 Riverside Drive at 120th Street

(Entrance on Claremont Avenue)


Suggested Donation: $15
Co-Sponsor: Council on American Islamic Relations - New York (CAIR-NY)
For more information call 212.576.8875 / E-Mail: / WOMENINISLAM.ORG

Thursday, December 08, 2005

This week's column and thoughts on the Pakistani earthquake...

I've been laying low for the past few days, and will continue to do so for the next few days as well. This has primarily to do with final papers that im in the process of completing. I've apparently been so out of the loop, that I totally forgot to post my recent column from The Post. That's really quite odd, and it goes to show how pre-occupied I am with other things.

This week's column is about a high profile fundraiser I attended at the Asia Society, where scores of people came together to help Pakistani earthquake survivors. The cause was great, the ambience was wonderful and the organizers went away satisfied with the thousands of dollars that were raised. Kudos to Shaan Kandawalla and her comrades for a job well done!

On a more personal level, I am also finally content that people so high up in government who hold positions of power, authority and influence are actually doing something to assist the victims of this tragedy. I've been complaining lately about the lack of mention in the international media about relief efforts, or for the fact that winter has now set in and survivors are battling two dilemmas - the lack of shelter and the onset of cold weather. Tsunami victims were lucky to find generous benefactors in the form of former Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton, who have donated millions of dollars from their own funds and foundations, but as of yet, no one has come to the rescue of the Pakistanis.

Except, of course, Angelina Jolie. But dont get me started on that topic. Her visit could've made headlines the world over, especially in tabloids, because of her accompanying traveller - Brad Pitt. But I only saw one photo in a free New York daily, and a few mentions in smaller publications all over the world. Other than that, no luck.

Will the victims and survivors of this natural disaster ever forgive us if we dont use our resoures to help them? I think not...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pictures of Queen Rania of Jordan

I cant help but be captivated by the beauty of the young Queen of Jordan, Rania. She comes from a humble background and can be considered a "commoner", but fit right into her role as a royal upon marriage with King Abdullah.

She has supported honorable causes the world over and has been a better Ambassador than many the Middle East has produced. Some of these pictures make us think twice about women of the Middle East.

Im just surprised why she hasnt been nominated by People Magazine as one of the most beautiful people...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Travel Deals

I got this information from the Debt Relief Law Center of New York and Debt Podcast. It seems quite useful, because im sure all of us are not just looking to save money, but also have last minute plans/changes.
Safe travels and spread the word!

Priceline ( and Orbitz ( are my top picks for traveling on a budget, and has been for some time. I routinely shop for hotel rooms and car rentals using these sites, but only after checking out This site is a forum that is filled with news and information on what people are getting for winning bids, hotels offered in various areas, and more. I don’t typically use Priceline or Orbitz for airfare because I prefer to fly non-stop whenever possible, but I’ve used them for destinations that don’t have non-stop flights out of my nearest airport.

Air Gorilla ( combines discounted fares from multiple participating air consolidators with the published fares of hundreds of airlines to provide the an excellent selection of low fares. AirGorilla also has discount hotel, cruise, vacation, and car rental rates. I’m a huge fan of Air Gorilla, and have found rates at 40% below “retail” for international flights to many popular destinations.

Site59 ( lists unsold airline seats, hotel rooms, rental cars and other inventory and assemble them into dynamic, real-time packages available for online purchase up to hours before departure.

Smarter Travel ( is a free online consumer community that sends weekly e-mail newsletters detailing last-minute Internet deals and the latest travel promotions to subscribers. The site also posts the latest fare sales, travel deals, and special promotions daily on our site.

Last Minute Travel ( offers tips and deals for people who don’t like to plan in advance.

Airtkt ( offers cheap air fare for all coach flights, business class airline tickets and first class cheap tickets to destinations in the U.S., Europe, South America, Central America, Mexico, South Pacific and Africa.

OneTravel ( offers vacation packages, air travel, hotel stays, cars and even condo rentals. Each option is available in its unique tab at the top of the site. Simply click on any one of them and it will instantly prompt you with basic questions. In the case of the vacation packages, you can input your departure city and the site will begin formulating your trip. OneTravel has a weekly deal alert, so subscribe to receive bargains in your e-mail box.

11th Hour ( is also very helpful for last-minute travelers. Travel companies supply a revolving inventory of over four million vacation and cruise deals, so customers need to act fast and check back often. People can also book in advance, though the deals are better for the last-minute travelers.

Booking Buddy ( helps travelers search multiple travel websites at once to find the best far deals.

SideStep ( searches more than 100 sites to find great travel bargains. The service checks online agencies, consolidators, and the sites of the airlines, hotels, vacation package providers and rental car companies, and has forged alliances with leading travel marketers including companies like JetBlue Airways, Continental Airlines, Hyatt Corporation, Orbitz, Best Western and Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.

FareChase (, like Booking Buddy and SideStep, scours multiple sites to find the best fare deals. It’s extremely easy to use, and I often run the search along with my SideStep and Booking Buddy ones.

Finally, there’s TripAdvisor ( Of every travel site, this is the one I come back to every time I’m even thinking about a trip. TripAdvisor offers user opinions of just about every destination you can think of. Hotels, places to eat, hot spots, landmarks and tours, it’s all here without any punches pulled.

Happy traveling, and stay safe this holiday season.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

NY event: Lecture and slide show on Islamic Art - 12/15/05

It's always good to know when your alma mater is doing some nice things when you have officially become an alum.
So, it came as a pleasant surprise when a campus as diverse as Queens College-CUNY was hosting this great event. QC has gotten some good press because of a series of Middle East courses that have sought to bridge gaps that the media and/or popular culture have created. It would be great to have people all over the world engage in such projects and start such endeavors of their own. God only knows how many troubled spots there are in the world today.
Spread the word!



FLUSHING, December 1, 2005 – Professor Nasser David Khalili is a renowned scholar most famous for having amassed the largest private collection – nearly 20,000 objects – of Islamic art, positioning him alongside Paul Getty as one of the world’s leading art collectors. At 3:30 pm on Thursday, December 15, in LeFrak Concert Hall, Queens College Music Building, this Iranian-born London resident of Jewish ancestry returns to his alma mater, Queens College, to present a free lecture and slide show, “The Art of Islam – A Glorious Tradition.” The public is invited to attend and learn about the magnificent Khalili Collections that have revolutionized the art world. For further information, call: 718-997-5597/5593.
For directions to Queens College, visit

Queens College is hosting this event in collaboration with Professor Mark Rosenblum’s Middle East project on Israeli-Palestinian understanding and the current Godwin-Ternbach Museum exhibit, This Land to Me: Some Call It Palestine, Others Israel.

Article about Powernapping

I didnt realize the power of power napping until I took a few power naps several months ago when I was under some terrible stress in my last semester of college. It wasnt until I read this article in Men's Journal, that I was reminded how great a thing this really is, and how less of a time commitment it required. It's actually quite healthy and highly recommended, so much so that there are now places in Midtown Manhattan where people can go and nap for 20 minutes, get all rejuvenated and head back to work - all while on your lunch break!
Read on!

Some comments left by a reader...

I dont usually receive comments by readers, even though ive got some pretty loyal blog readers, but earlier today, I received comments to something I posted in early November and thought those who pass by should read them, as well as my response. Scroll to the bottom and read the entire posting: "Does Winter always bring political instability?"
Let me know your views. Please do comment!


Found this hilarious picture at some other blog and couldnt help but post it.
Quite a baffoon, isnt he?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

NYT Editorial: "Imported Brains"

This editorial piece is quite interesting, because I believe it's the first time the NYT has written something substantial on the Op-Ed pages about international student issues. The write-up sums up important points that must be taken into consideration when we look at this population of students. Stiff competition from the EU and Australia dont help us either.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Angeline Jolie pictures from trip to Pakistan

I havent seen any of these in the international media, so I guess these are pretty rare.
Courtesy of my friends at Tomb Raider Chronicles.
One of the pictures is of Jolie with Brad Pitt, who both made a courtesy call on President Pervez Musharraf last week.

United for Peace: Junoon concert - 12/12/05

My friend Shah Kibria is organizing this whole endeavor and hopefully, a decent amount of amoney can be raised for both natural disasters - Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistani earthquake.

On a side note: though this is taking place on a Monday night right in the middle of December (finals time for students), I will not be the least bit surprised to see the place PACKED to capacity. And with tickets going for $20 or $30, I wont even be surprised if there's a stampede!

UNA-NYC event on Volunteerism

The United Nations Association of New York's
Young Professionals for International Cooperation

The U.N. Volunteers Programme Sponsors A Panel Discussion on
Volunteerism: How you can make a difference!

Ann Curry
Co-Anchor, Dateline, NBC News Anchor, Today

-Iain Logan
International Federation of the Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies
-Della Sar
Private Citizen Volunteer for Sri Lanka Tsunami Recovery
-Ken Grouf
Co-Executive Director, NY City Year
-Isela Chavarria
Former UN Volunteer with UNHCR

Location, Date, and Time:

United Nations Headquarters
Conference Room 5
Monday, December 5, 2005
1:00 – 2:30pm
RSVP: Ms. Penina Adongo: or (212) 906-3639.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jobs for people in Entertainment/showbiz

Forwarding on from my film-maker friend, Manan Katohora:

[MENTION for quick response]

Trinity International Entertainment is looking for an Indian American male for a major supporting role in its upcoming production, which is set for production in both USA and India during Feb/Mar/Apr 2006. This film will be shot in two languages (English and Telugu) in parallel. Details of the role are given below. Age: 23 - 28; Type: Fun loving, Energitic and Attractive; Experience: Prior acting experience is preferred but not required. Language: Engish (If they can speak Telugu it is Plus but not required)
Applicants must be willing to travel to India and stay with us for 6 to 8 weeks during the above said period. Travel, lodging and boarding will be provided.
send head shot and resume to
non-union actors who speak fluent but accented English; Raj Gupta, age 30, business professional with accent; Anita Patel, age 34, business professional with accent

- Call for Choreographer, Dancers, Actors for a Music Video.
MDR Productions is seeking talented choreographers and Dancers for a
(Bollywood) Music Video to be shot in NY/NJ. Interested persons please e-mail your resume and pictures to . Also casting: Male Actor – 25-30 – Tall, Handsome. Should be able to pick up on dance moves. Female Actress – 18-25 – Desi Looks, Cute, should be able to pick up on dance moves. for more info -
- Seeking Cast, Crew, Equipment and Location - 15 minute short film - NYC
POST-COLONIALISM: A film written and directed by: Suzanne Harvin and Shetal Shah - 1)Seeking Non-Union Actresses - FOUR women of color (African American, Latina, Asian, Indian) : Age ranges-25-30 years old, and (7-11) - 2) Seeking CREW as follows: Grip, Gaffer, Sound (can provide boom mic), Line Producer, Script Supervisor, Make-up Artist (needs to be able to recreate scars), Hair Stylist, Production Assistants, 3) Seeking Grip/Gaffing Equipment – especially lights 4) Seeking LOCATION as follows: RESTROOM that is spacious enough to fit 8 people comfortably. With mirrors and, ideally, an open area that could fit three people comfortably. Could be in a club, lounge, restaurant, church, etc. Should look fairly clean and well kept – we can fix it up with art direction. If you are interested in assisting in the production of this film please email:
--Aiming to shoot late November – early December - for more info - cc

Rand Corporation research: Moderate and Radical Islam

Washington, D.C. based Rand Corporation presents some useful insight into issues related to defense and military, among other things.

This is a Testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee Defense Review Terrorism and Radical Islam Gap Panel on November 3, 2005.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New York Diary article - just went online!

My article was published just minutes ago, and here it is, for my loyal blog readers!

I dont know how long it's going to stay at that link, after which one will have to go through back issues and search under Thursday, December 1st for it. Comments and feedback are always welcome.

Some highlights:

I’ve been closely tracking coverage of this seeming newsworthy story for the past few days, and am astonished at the coverage of earthquake related stories slipping into the inner pages of the American media. Considering that Jolie and Pitt rank high as American celebrities, one would have expected at least some of the media to cover it as front-page news.

While I theorise and hypothesise as to the reasons why the international media is not interested in two of Hollywood’s leading actors helping people in the developing world, I must applaud Jolie’s and Pitt’s efforts. Jolie, as usual, has gone above and beyond the call of duty in her capacity as UN Goodwill Ambassador. But Pitt has also reached out and shown noteworthy compassion by donating 40 orthopaedic beds to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) at Islamabad.

The beds are worth $100,000 and the donation was made on seeing the devastation in the affected areas of northern Pakistan, and finalised in a meeting with the head of PIMS, Dr Syed Fazle Hadi. While an entire population of people is giving thanks for whatever is left of their lives back in the area, an entire country is grateful for the enormously gratifying response of the world in the face of the calamity.

Article: The Mother of All Coalitions

I cant believe this! A World Government? No sirree! I kinda like the lack of central authority, i.e. Anarchy, in the world :)
Honestly though, doesnt the US act like the World Government?
Anyway, read on and feel free to comment...

A dramatic new world coalition sought: A group of scientists and scholars has asked the UN General Assembly to discuss the possibility of creating a World Coalition Government that would have full political and military power to intervene around the globe.

The idea of a "World Coalition Government" has often been portrayed as sinister and authoritarian, but a group of scientists and scholars are trying to revive the concept as a dramatic alternative to the movement to "reform" the United Nations.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Foreign Policy Association event: Anwar Ibrahim speaks on "The Future of Muslim Democracy" - 12/01/05

The Foreign Policy Association has proven that it is a standard-setter when it comes to events. This next event features Anwar Ibrahim (former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia).
Register quickly and spread the word!

Anwar Ibrahim - "The Future of Muslim Democracy"
December 1, 2005
McGraw-Hill Auditorium, New York City

Anwar Ibrahim - The Foreign Policy Association and The National Endowment for Democracy invite you to attend the third fall lecture of The New York Democracy Forum featuring Anwar Ibrahim, formerly the deputy prime minister of Malaysia and vice president of the United Malays National Organization, Ibrahim started in 1971 the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (ABIM), the first mass-based NGO in the country to raise social and political awareness and emphasize social justice and human rights. Together with the late Prof. Ismail al-Faruqi and Dr. Taha Jabir al-Awani, Ibrahim founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in 1981 and later set up the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Ashburn, Virginia. His criticism of corruption and abuse of power within the Malaysian government and his vocal demand for reform resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in September 1998. Ibrahim, who led a new democratic movement in Malaysia from his prison cell, was released in September 2004.

Anwar Ibrahim
Visiting Professor at Georgetown University.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

McGraw-Hill Auditorium
1221 Avenue of the Americas (entrance on 49th Street)

Registration/5:30 pm
Lecture/6:00 pm
Reception 7:00pm

FPA/NED member: Free
Guest of FPA/NED member/OTR Member $15.00
Non-member: $25.00
Student with ID: $5.00

Advanced registration is required. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Registration will open 8am 11/11/2005


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Brook's Qawwali Party's last performance - 12/02/05

My friend Brook and his band (who are all extremely talented!), will be performing for the last time this year, this coming Friday...details below:

After an unparalleled year of unparalleled events, BROOK'S QAWWALI PARTY is welcoming December and saying goodbye to 2005...AT THE SAME TIME!

Why not come experience this unique passing of time with us at Brooklyn's finest...

The Tea Lounge on Union
837 Union btw 6th & 7th Ave, Park Slope.


Nine 'til Midnight. Free.

2 sets. 2 new songs.

1 new harmonium player (she's grrrrreat).

I'm cold too. We'll warm you up, from the inside out!


Article: Pilgrims Mistook Natives for Israelites

Just happened to come across this article on

The European settlers who were present at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 thought the Native Americans were wild Israelites who had lost their "civilized" ways after living in the New World wilderness, according to a U.S. historian.

The theory, which is outlined in a recent press release and is supported by several other American colonial history scholars, suggests one reason why tensions often mounted between the Native Americans and the Europeans.

It also foreshadows the later missionary work by other Europeans, many of whom felt they were turning the Native Americans back to their former beliefs.

Friday, November 25, 2005

NY event: Race at Work - Realities of Race & Criminal Record in the NYC Job Market - 12/09/05

This was posted on the CUNY Unity yahoo group messageboard, and looks interesting...

The NYC Commission on Human Rights will be hosting a discussion entitled:
Race at Work - Realities of Race & Criminal Record in the NYC Job Market.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (former NYC Commission/Chair for NYC Commission on Human Rights (1970-1977), will be their featured guest speaker. Along with Ellis Cose (author, columnist, and contributing editor for Newsweek), Professors Bruce Western & Devah Pager from Princeton University, Glenn Martin (co-director of National HIRE Network, Legal Action Center), Rev. C. Vernon Mason (CEO for Uth Turn, New York Theological Seminary) and Host Dr. Edison O. Jackson (President of Medgar Evers College).
Date: Friday, December 9th, 2005
Time: 9:00am -11:30am
Place: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Langston Hughes Auditorium 515 Malcolm X Boulevard
Entrance - 103 W 135th Street
Disabled Access - 136th Street
Nearest Subway 2 or 3 to 135th Street and Bus M7 or M102.
For more information and to RSVP: 212-306-7427