Friday, October 26, 2001, Chandigarh, India





National Capital Region--Delhi

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

No-win Chadha
W
IN (Wiseshwar Nath) Chadha was the perfect liaison man. And he knew the weak points of the government and media and bent them to his advantage with great skill. He became famous because of this and also stinkingly rich, acting as the middleman for at least three foreign firms, including Bofors of the howitzer infamy.

Pak terrorist face
T
HE more Pakistan tries to hide its terrorist past and the present, the more it exposes the reality. The latest is the drama enacted on its border with Afghanistan on Wednesday when Islamabad initially refused to accept the bodies of its nationals and members of the Harkatul Mujahideen, a banned terrorist outfit, killed in Kabul in American air raids. 

FRANKLY SPEAKING

Hari Jaisingh
Fallout of Afghan confrontation
How India can manage new regional dynamics
T
HE USA's battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan has reached a critical stage. It will be difficult to draw a balancesheet of success and failure because of the nature of the conflict and the complexities arising out of Taliban- propelled international terrorism. 



EARLIER ARTICLES
Between reality and rhetoric
October 25
, 2001
Success in space
October 24
, 2001
Build on the triumph!
October 23
, 2001
Missing: an Afghan policy
October 22
, 2001
Future of world order hinges on war against terror
October 21
, 2001
West Asia on boil
October 20
, 2001
Powell’s visit and after
October 19
, 2001
TADA in new garb
October 18
, 2001
A “viable” card
October 17
, 2001
George wins his own war
October 16
, 2001
A tainted Pak trust
October 15
, 2001
Combating proxy war: India can do it
October 14
, 2001
 

MIDDLE

A study in white
M. K. Agarwal

T
HE heading of this piece, but not the body, has been fashioned after the mystery thriller “The Woman in White”, written by Wilkie Collins, My several readings of the book have so “coloured” my vision that wherever my eyes are cast, I tend to see “white”, either in plain form or dressed as a metaphor. Let me elaborate.

COMMENTARY

Terror has triumphed in the USA
M. S. N. Menon
L
ET there be no mistake about it (to echo President George Bush), terror has triumphed in the USA. It has so frightened the country, for long a safe fortress, that there is no gumption left in it to fight terror. The Americans are ready to even change their ways.

Bin Laden mask is not fun
T
HE Osama bin Laden Halloween masks have arrived, but a New York shop owner says he is not selling them to just anyone. "Not everyone can buy this mask," said Paul Blum, owner of Abracadabra, the mask and costume shop in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, of the bin Laden mask that he had made up and which arrived on Tuesday.

Japanese babies smaller, lighter
T
HE Japanese are giving birth to smaller and lighter babies compared to a decade ago, a government survey released on Wednesday showed. The falling weight of newborns was partly put down to that more pregnant women smoke than they did 10 years ago, plus more premature babies are surviving, Masahiro Takaishi, an adviser to the National Institute of Public Health who conducted the survey, was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying.

TRENDS & POINTERS

Silver lining amid recession clouds
A
S the gathering world recession, given impetus by the September 11 atrocities, scythes down established companies, there are those managing to reap a sometimes grisly benefit. With clouds gathering over the commercial airline sector, private jet firms are enjoying their day in the sun. 

  • 'N Sync singer makes a Hollywood splash

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

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No-win Chadha

WIN (Wiseshwar Nath) Chadha was the perfect liaison man. And he knew the weak points of the government and media and bent them to his advantage with great skill. He became famous because of this and also stinkingly rich, acting as the middleman for at least three foreign firms, including Bofors of the howitzer infamy. He is dead now, alone in his farmhouse and away from his family of his only son and grandchildren in Dubai. His rise to riches and his tragic end accurately reflect the nature of the Indian polity and in a garish light. He has been the agent and later the administrative consultant on a regular salary of the gun manufacturer years before the Bofors story broke out. His annual income tax returns proclaim it. And anyone who is anyone in New Delhi knew his lavish parties and his invitation to lunches and dinners in exclusive (read very costly) restaurants. He was generous with his whiskey and gifts but only to the right persons. That was his road to success and that road was no secret.

Chadha became a criminal because of an illogical order of the government in 1986. It forbade any middlemen in defence deals while the Bofors issue was in an advantaged stage. Now it is clear that this was done to cut off Chadha and bring in Italian business executive Ottavio Quattrocchi into the deal (he is believed to have received $ 7 million (now about Rs 33 crore) as the deposit in his AE Services bank account in Isle of Man shows. Taking a commission in business deals is nothing uncommon. The present government has realised this after the Tehelka expose. Last month it revoked the 14-year-old order banning middlemen in defence deals. Win Chadha was however guilty of violating another law. He accepted Swedish payments, estimated to be about 188 kroners in his Svenska secret bank account in Geneva. It is public knowledge that most business companies stash their illegal income in numbered Swiss bank accounts both to escape law and income tax laws.

Three of the five named in the original CBI chargesheet are dead. They are Rajiv Gandhi, retired Defence Secretary S.K.Bhatnagar and now Chadha. The other two are Quattrocchi and Martin Ardbo of Bofors. The CBI has only a slender chance of getting them extradited. That leaves the Hinduja brothers as the remaining accused. The case against them is very weak although their treatment has been harsh. They were promised that they would not be arrested but the CBI objected to their returning to London at the end of their interrogation. The CBI is slack in its inquiry and building a strong case but is unusually tough in seeking legal restrictions on suspects. Win Chadha was a primary victim of this. He did not have an aristrocratic background but lived like one and had to pay the price. 
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Pak terrorist face

THE more Pakistan tries to hide its terrorist past and the present, the more it exposes the reality. The latest is the drama enacted on its border with Afghanistan on Wednesday when Islamabad initially refused to accept the bodies of its nationals and members of the Harkatul Mujahideen, a banned terrorist outfit, killed in Kabul in American air raids. The Pakistani authorities agreed to take possession of the bodies when forced to do so by thousands of the outfit's supporters, who held demonstrations in Karachi and elsewhere. The angry Harkat men, who were joined by Jaish-e-Mohammad and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam activists, demonstrated that they were capable of not allowing the Musharraf regime to function in accordance with its designs. The Harkat network remains as strong as it ever was. And this is not the first time Harkat men have died in American retaliatory action. Nine members of the terrorist movement had lost their lives in the 1998 US missile attack when America retaliated against Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network after discovering proof of its involvement in the bomb blasts at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Recently when the USA released a list of banned terrorist outfits and froze their bank accounts, Pakistan had falsely declared that the dreaded organisation did not exist there and ordered seizure of its accounts. The lie has been nailed once again.

Over the years Pakistan has consciously nurtured a jihadi culture, misinterpreting one of the precepts of Islam, which got transformed into a terrorist culture. While terrorist outfits were provided all kinds of support by the ISI, they increased their presence in large sections of the population in the name of the religion. The dangerous culture traces its roots to Pakistan's involvement in the Afghan resistance movement against the installation of the Soviet-backed regimes after the overthrow of the Daud administration in the early eighties. The success in Afghanistan encouraged the jihadis and the notorious ISI to concentrate on Kashmir. This suited the successive Pakistani rulers who used Kashmir to hide their failures in the area of governance. The proxy war that they launched on this side of the Line of Control is now causing uneasiness on the other side. The situation is so complicated that even if Pakistan quietly dismantles all terrorist training camps in POK and other areas, and then denies that these ever existed as claimed by India, it cannot easily get out of the mess it has created for itself. Islamabad has launched a drive to regulate the functioning of religious schools — popularly known as madarsas —, the primary source of supply of jihadis, but this is unlikely to serve the purpose. The entire Pakistani society has to be cured to free it from the jihadi virus. Otherwise that country will continue to remain knee-deep in terrorism. 
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FRANKLY SPEAKING

Fallout of Afghan confrontation
How India can manage new regional dynamics

Hari Jaisingh

THE USA's battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan has reached a critical stage. It will be difficult to draw a balancesheet of success and failure because of the nature of the conflict and the complexities arising out of Taliban- propelled international terrorism.

President George W. Bush's target is Osama bin Laden and the Taliban militia. The US President wants him dead or alive. However, he seems to overlook the fact that air strikes and selective commando operations may not be good enough to flush out the exiled Saudi millionaire. The limitations to America's military might are written in the very nature of the Afghan terrain and in its blood-soaked history.

As it is, Washington is paying a heavy price for its past blunders. It often works for short-term objectives and strategies which boomerang on it later.

I am not sure whether policy-makers in Washington will be wiser after the current phase of fighting is over. America's follies are clear in several developments of the past few weeks. The USA is heavily depending on Pakistan which is emotionally and politically divided between pro-and-anti-Taliban camps. And it so happens that General Pervez Musharraf is riding two horses — one provided by the Pentagon and the other by the Taliban militia. He has nothing of his own except the General's uniform his office provides.

The ground realities in Pakistan are harsh and depressing. The Islamisation of the polity and the encouragement given to the forces of terrorism for their freewheeling operation in Kashmir have made Pakistan a virtual volcano. We can never be sure when this volcano will erupt and with what disastrous effects.

Even otherwise, Islam as is being projected and practised by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as in parts of Pakistan is a highly explosive proposition. It divides people and creates an atmosphere of confrontation at all levels.

Of course, Pakistan's military dictator is riding high for the present. But we know for certain that he is fighting for survival. Between the Taliban-supported Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda and the Bush Administration, he probably thinks the latter to be the lesser evil and a safer bet for his survival. It is a gamble all the same.

Who will be the winner is difficult to say at this juncture. But some points are worth examining.

One, the USA will continue to face a strong wave of anti-American feelings all over. Already there are signs of anger both in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. This is bound to complicate America's global objectives. I doubt whether Washington has accounted for this in its policies and postures.

Two, the installation of a new government in Kabul — howsoever composite it might be — is going to be a very tricky business. The Afghans never accept an imposed government. In tune with their tribal characteristics, they zealously pursue their goals for independence even while fighting among themselves. In any case, the inclusion of the Taliban in a composite government, including moderate Taliban elements as desired by Islamabad and Washington, will not ensure stability in Kabul. It will rather complicate matters and create a messier situation than we are faced with today. In any case, the Taliban and moderates are contradictory terms!

Three, Pakistan's dubious role in Afghanistan has to be understood properly. It has been the biggest destabilising factor in the region. It will be suicidal if Islamabad is allowed to be the sole arbitrator of changes in Kabul. Washington must not forget that the Taliban has been the ISI's creation in active collaboration with the CIA. It is for American policy-makers to apply correctives and not repeat the mistakes.

Four, the USA has invariably overlooked India's interests and sensitivities. It continues to do so in the changed setting as well. Of course, Washington can justify its moves on the ground of geopolitical compulsions. One can appreciate this point. Still, the USA ought to appreciate India's interests. In fact, New Delhi can become a stabilising factor in this turbulent region.

The time has come to look at the region in a new perspective. At one end, there are Central Asian republics which are equally concerned about Talibanised Afghanistan. Then there is Iran at the other end with common borders with Afghanistan. The majority of Iranians are Shias. They have their own ideas and concepts of stability. Then comes Pakistan, the most unreliable entity in the region. It decides its strategic moves with the sole purpose of harming Indian interests and grabbing Kashmir by any means.

India has to act independently to defeat Pakistan's designs. Of course, this will not be easy because of direct American involvement in the region. Terrorism, however, cannot be wiped out by bomb power; nor can it be ensured with the exit of Osama bin Laden. For over 10 years it has spread far and wide and has acquired sinister overtones.

Indeed, Pakistan-Afghanistan developments pose a big challenge to India's strategic and security concerns. Things are in disarray and India's role is near zero in Afghanistan. This situation has arisen because of our indifference to the neighbours, including Myanmar.

There is lack of seriousness in New Delhi in identifying and pursuing larger national goals. For that matter, even the top brass has hardly any idea as to where India's interests lie.

India's policy-makers often grope in the dark. No serious thinking goes into reshaping of foreign policy with changing realities and geopolitical compulsions not only in the neighbourhood but also globally.

South Block continues to see everything in terms of Pakistan. It judges every event from a fixed angle of Islamabad. We seem to pursue a policy of reaction rather than try to set the pace for events in the pursuit of enlightened national interests and common regional goals. What we see is adhocism at its worst.

There is no cohesive thinking. Nor do we see a coordinated attempt to evolve policy options. There is no think-tank. Each leader within the NDA government assumes himself to be a one-man think-tank. What we find on close scrutiny is that official think-tanks are either empty or half full. No wonder, the priorities get jumbled up.

Who calls the shot is difficult to say. Sometimes it is the Prime Minister. Sometimes it is the Prime Minister's Office. Sometimes it could be the Home Minister. Sometimes it is the suave and sophisticated External Affairs Minister. Sometimes it is the reinducted Defence Minister. Or, the Sangh Parivar.

Of course, everything is supposed to be done by one Cabinet committee or the other. Or, the whole Cabinet itself. But what is galling is the absence of a serious exercise for policy options.

It needs to be borne in mind that regional and global ties are undergoing radical changes — in their framework, in the interplay of forces and even in the sources of power and influence. So, in the months ahead we will have to deal with the neighbourhood and the world which will be vastly different from the one we have known all these years. The Afghan development should provide fresh food for thought in evolving policy strategies.

India is certainly in a decisive stage of transformation. It can no longer afford to remain insulated from the regional dynamics as it often does. The new realities ought to prod us to think on new lines in the pursuit of our foreign policy and security objectives.

The principal tasks ahead demand a thorough re-examination of the old tenets of foreign policy and security concerns, and recasting of our regional role keeping in view regional fears, sentiments, demands and needs as well as new factors of terrorism, trade in narcotics, nuclear weapons technology and socio-economic realities.

The history of world affairs teaches us that things do not change as sharply or fundamentally as newspaper headlines and political rhetoric claim they do. The problem of our times is how to manage the emergence of Talibanised Afghanistan and Pakistan and the horrifying face of terrorism that goes with them.

India has been trying to cope with the problem in its own way all these years. It has been drawing global attention to terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir. But there has not been much appreciation in the West, particularly the USA, of the way India has tried to "manage" coolly Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. As it is, Washington has relegated New Delhi to playing a second fiddle. This in itself poses a big challenge to Indian diplomacy.

Be that as it may. The Prime Minister's forthcoming visit to Russia and the USA will be significant in the evolution of India's foreign policy options. Perhaps, we will know where the country stands after Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President George Bush. Much will depend on India's preparations, clarity of thoughts and the ability to put its views across effectively and candidly.

What is needed is new dynamism and total clarity of goals and targets. Otherwise, we will continue to suffer as we did for the past few years.

We expect Mr Vajpayee to check the drift and address himself to the basic issues and lead the nation on the right course as a power that matters. India must not be taken for granted by Islamabad or Washington.
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A study in white
M. K. Agarwal

THE heading of this piece, but not the body, has been fashioned after the mystery thriller “The Woman in White”, written by Wilkie Collins, My several readings of the book have so “coloured” my vision that wherever my eyes are cast, I tend to see “white”, either in plain form or dressed as a metaphor. Let me elaborate.

The universally acknowledged symbol of purity, beauty and chastity is “white”. Similies like “white as snow”, or “white as milk”, or “white as lily” are often used to emphasise the essential sublimity of a person or an object. For this reason, nurses in service of the sick and the infirm, and nuns, Jain monks and Brahma Kumaris spreading the message of their Lord, are all dressed in white. Sportsmen invariably don white, to convey that they are gentlemen who are there to win a fair and honourable game, but who also know how to lose graciously. Indian leaders, too, who once stood for sacrifice and probity, chose a white attire. It is another matter, and certainly a piteous one that, over the years, the white has acquired streaks of grey and other hues.

“White” is also regarded as the emblem of peace, amity and goodwill. The middle white band in the Indian National Flag betokens the country’s love for and commitment to peace. If a party, on the battlefield, accepts defeat or wishes to surrender and sue truce, it raises a white banner. A ship in distress, or a person anxious for help, also does likewise.

In foods and beverages, “white” has a supremacy. Nature’s wholesomest of foods like eggs, milk and milk products such as, cheese, butter, yogurt are all white. Two principal flavours - the saline or the tangy and the sweet - come from common salt and sugar, both of which are white. We take these lowly two so much for granted, but can we imagine a kitchen, a meal, in fact, life, without them? To many, white sauce — a thick savoury paste of flour, butter and milk — is a great appetiser. Then those who want to have their wine but escape detection by the watchful eye of an austere wife and the consequence of a snub in public, or dressing down in private, choose the white variety in place of the red.

And imagine “white” as a beautifier, saviour, or rescuer in several different forms. Take first whitewash. In the ordinary sense, whitewash is used to add neatness and elegance to a dwelling. In the figurative sense, it comes handy in diverse situations. So many people, in day-to-day life, are ever so keen to whitewash the hideous veracity of their existence with a little bit of form and ceremony. Public organisations are often engaged in whitewashing their acts of omission and commission to escape censure and denunciation. White lines on the road, to demarcate lanes, help the smooth and safe flow of traffic; there would be fewer accidents if every road user were to follow them. White goods like refrigerators, washing machines and cooking ranges reduce drastically the grind and sweat of the housewife, and bring some cheer to her life. This makes her more tolerant of a lousy husband, thus paving the way for better domestic peace.

White has more of these manifestations in other walks. The youth of today shun manual work and prefer white-collar jobs in offices, even on paltry remuneration. In the process, rues Wrist Mills, they not only sell their time and energy, but their smiles and kindly gestures as well. White-collar crime, which is stealing by fraud and manipulation rather than directly, is on the increase, and is a big challenge to the investigating agencies. Then we discern so many white elephants in our midst e.g. a steel plant being run at only one-third of its rated capacity, or a large bureaucracy in place but having not much to do, etc. Telling white lies i.e. uttering minor falsehoods, for reasons of tact and politeness, comes so naturally to us - the trait is ingrained in the psyche. If, for example, you are caught holding a fair lady’s hand with more than usual warmth, you blurt out that you were only reading her fortune. Young lovers, smitten by Cupid’s shafts, we are told, spend restless days and white nights, in soulful sighs. Then we have the peculiar spectacle of white money being given a short shrift and black money being wooed and embraced. And so on!

In a manner of speaking, white symbolises the march of life. Man enters the world as an infant, wrapped up in white nappies. As he grows up, he becomes the great white hope of his family and the organisation he works in. When old, nature rewards his long years with white hair; this is a certification of his authority to chide and advise. As we look at the snow of time on his head and also remember the snow-clad mountain peaks, we devoutly realise, says E.H. Chapin, that those points of earth are whitest which are nearest to heaven. And when finally man quits the world, his body is covered with white coffin, as a mark of respect and solemnity.

Let me conclude by giving an exquisite usage of “white” to describe the character of man. There is a profound Biblical saying: “What if thy skin be white, but the soul be black!” The stress on innate goodness, rather than external glitter, couldn’t be better put. Top

 

Terror has triumphed in the USA
M. S. N. Menon

LET there be no mistake about it (to echo President George Bush), terror has triumphed in the USA. It has so frightened the country, for long a safe fortress, that there is no gumption left in it to fight terror. The Americans are ready to even change their ways.

The Americans have been living a cocooned life, free from want, free from fear. They are now face-to-face with an invisible enemy: Anthrax! A biological weapon. It enters their life in stealth and destroys them. More such weapons may follow.

The USA suspects Osama bin Laden. He and his Al-Qaeda terrorists, backed by the Afghan Taliban, have already done enough harm to America. Hundreds were killed in the attack on various US embassies and thousands perished in the attack on the World Trade Center. And Anthrax might kill many more thousands.

But a new enemy has emerged — the world of Islam. At least, a good part of it. It hates America bitterly. They say that America has made them a target of attack ever since the end of the Cold War. This notion is not without some truth.

The bombing of Afghanistan is what has stirred the ire of the Muslim world against America. For over two decades, Afghans have been victims, first of the Cold War, and then of what America has done to them. Again, the Americans are back with their bombs and missiles, killing and maiming thousands of innocent people. Nothing can justify this — not even the Bin Laden atrocities. It seems the Muslim world has lost its patience.

This is what has frightened America more than anything else. Fourteen hundred million Muslims in a rage against it! Is this the beginning of the civilisational war that Prof. Huntington predicted? Could well be. And Bin Laden and his men have shown how this war will be fought — not with nuclear bombs and missiles, but with unconventional weapons and methods. That is precisely what has unnerved Washington. America knows that it is unequal in such a deadly combat. All its weapons and supertechnologies cannot meet the fury of men ready to die for their cause.

If there is one thing which Americans fear today most, it is a pitched battle and bodybags. But the terrorists will not even engage them in battle. They will stalk them like a revengeful spirit.

So September 11 was a watershed in American history. America is now forced to re-assess everything above all, its entire foreign policy.

The USA does not know why it is hated all over the world not by black and yellow persons alone, but by even the Whites. On September 13, Senmas Milne wrote in The Guardian that the Americans must make the connection between “what has been visited upon them and what their government has visited upon large parts of the world.” But make that connection they must, if such tragedies are not to be repeated.”

Yet another writer, Martin Amis, warned, again in The Guardian: “America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated.” The New Statesman calls US values “shallow” and “hypocritical”. And the conservative journal The Economist has this to say of President Bush: “Clumsy tongued neophyte” and “downright” idiotic”.

But Americans do not know how ugly they are, because their media will not tell them. Veteran CBS news anchor Dan Rather says that the US media should have done more to explain the world to the US citizens.

What can be the contours of the new foreign policy of America? Above all, it will be designed to placate the Muslim world, to douse their anger.

To believe that the US will take up a crusade against terrorists all over the world is nothing but crass credulity. America cannot do it; it will not do it.

America is now ready to admit that terrorism is the direct result of the Arab-Jewish conflict. It got aggravated by the Indo-Pak conflict over Kashmir. So, the argument goes, if terrorism has to be tackled, these two issues must be resolved. Sorting out the Arab-Jewish problem is the way to winning the Muslim world away from extremism, and its support to Bin Laden. And America is going to insist on it. This is now clear.

Two other foreign policy objectives are important: 1) the US wants to retain its leadership of the world and 2) its control over the energy supplies. Without a measure of support from the Islamic world, these goals cannot be attained. Hence the new realism.

Today, Pakistan is the most important country for the USA. Without the assistance of Pakistan, it cannot bring its enterprise in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion. Nor can America pacify the Muslim world without Pakistan’s assistance.

Is Pakistan that important? It is Bin Laden thinks so. He said that Pakistan is the most important Muslim country.

The Western world sees Gen Musharraf as the man who can pacify the Muslim world. What is more, he had the courage to sacrifice his own creation — the Taliban as also his friend Bin Laden.

But Musharraf has a price. He wants a pro-Pak moderate Taliban regime in Kabul (or at least not a hostile one) and he wants the Kashmir valley. Will the first meet with the approval of the concerned parties? And will India accept the second?

If they accept, peace will be restored in the area. If not, the USA and Pakistan will use the Taliban and the Bin Laden terrorists against the opposition. That is why President Bush will do nothing against either the Taliban or the Laden terrorists. They can be useful in Central Asia, too, to keep the countries of the region under duress.

Has India then no clout at all? That is not true. India is still the largest potential user of oil and gas. Unless it cooperates, it will be no easy matter for the US oil cartels. But this depends on Russian assurance of supplies to India.

In the final analysis, India is going to get nothing from the present American enterprise. India will have to fight its own battles. But if Russia and China are going to seek international tolerance for a crackdown in Chechnya and Xinjiang, India must seek a similar concession.
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Bin Laden mask is not fun

THE Osama bin Laden Halloween masks have arrived, but a New York shop owner says he is not selling them to just anyone.

"Not everyone can buy this mask," said Paul Blum, owner of Abracadabra, the mask and costume shop in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, of the bin Laden mask that he had made up and which arrived on Tuesday.

And he wasn't just talking about the $95 price tag.

"If they're going to use it to hang him, or put him in an electric chair, fine," Blum said.

"But to wear, to run around to have fun being bin Laden, I don't think so. I'm not going to sell them to people like that at all," he said.

Accordingly, a dummy in the store wearing the rubber mask was strapped into an electric chair, with the headpiece strapped around the faux-bin Laden's turban.

"All right sucker, we're going to fry. Any last words?" cracked Omar, a store employee.

Blum said he planned to interview potential buyers "and see what they had in mind to do with it. And I'll be the judge whether to sell it to them or not."

Customers at the shop, which also features masks of recent U.S. presidents, O.J. Simpson and Austin Powers as well as a host of ghouls and even the Mrs. Bates cadaver from the Alfred Hitchcock film "Psycho", lined up for a chance to slap the bin Laden figure.

And they were nearly universal in saying that they didn't find the mask offensive, but thought any one who wore it on the streets of New York City was taking his life in his hands.

"Any way we can keep the Halloween spirit alive," said Danielle Ahrens when asked what she thought about the mask, which depicts America's most wanted man as wild eyed, complete with turban and long, gray-streaked beard.

"Any humor we can find in life is a good thing right now," said Ahrens, who found the mask inoffensive as long as it made bin Laden an object of ridicule or scorn.

"But it's probably not a smart move" to wear it in public, she added. ReutersTop

 

 

Japanese babies smaller, lighter

THE Japanese are giving birth to smaller and lighter babies compared to a decade ago, a government survey released on Wednesday showed.

The falling weight of newborns was partly put down to that more pregnant women smoke than they did 10 years ago, plus more premature babies are surviving, Masahiro Takaishi, an adviser to the National Institute of Public Health who conducted the survey, was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying.

The Health Ministry said the survey, conducted in September 2000, showed that newborn baby boys weigh 3.04 kilograms (6.702 lb) on average, down 0.11 kg (0.2425 lb) from 1990.

Newborn girls weigh 2.96 kg (6.526 lb), down 0.10 kg (0.2205 lb).

Newborn boys are an average 49 centimetres (19 ¼ inches) long and girls 48.4 cm (19 inches), 0.6-cm and 0.5-cm shorter than in 1990.

The survey showed that 10 percent of pregnant women smoked compared with 5.6 percent in 1990. The survey is conducted every 10 years. The latest was based on 4,094 babies under one-month old at 146 hospitals. Top

 
TRENDS & POINTERS

Silver lining amid recession clouds

AS the gathering world recession, given impetus by the September 11 atrocities, scythes down established companies, there are those managing to reap a sometimes grisly benefit. With clouds gathering over the commercial airline sector, private jet firms are enjoying their day in the sun. Warren Buffett’s NetJets, which sells timeshares in a 400-strong fleet of Citations, Hawkers and Gulfstreams, has reported a sharp increase in inquiries from executives suddenly nervous of travelling with the general public. ‘Business goes on and businessmen can’t stop flying,’ said a spokesman. Nick Probett, founder of Chauffair, a UK-based broker of charter aircraft, has also registered a ‘very significant upturn in demand’.

While airlines are shedding 200,000 jobs, in Europe alone the private jet industry has seen a 10-15 per cent increase in business since last month. ‘What a lot of us are looking at, though, is what the crisis is doing to the underlying economy. It’s not much good picking up an extra client if you’re losing another who is cutting back,’ says Probett. Like commercial airlines, private jets face extra insurance costs following the terrorist attacks. ‘On the other hand, I’m paying in interest charges half what I would have expected to pay a year ago,’ says Probett. The industry has benefited from commercial airline crises before. Sales of the Boeing Business Jet and other models capable of transatlantic travel enjoyed a massive boost when Concorde was grounded in the wake of last year’s Paris air crash. Today’s buoyant trade is expected to lead to orders for manufacturers such as Cessna and Falcon, although they are understandably reluctant to sound upbeat in the present climate. Guardian

'N Sync singer makes a Hollywood splash

Cue ear-splitting shrieks from millions of preteen girls. For Bass, as most adults don't know, is one-fifth of 'N Sync, the mega-selling boy-band that has helped keep the music industry afloat in recent years. It's hard to imagine 'N Sync winning a Grammy Award for its lightweight pop. So — strange but true —Bass is setting his sights on winning a coveted Academy Award from stuffy Hollywood for his role as a moonlighting movie producer.

The 22-year-old Mississippi native set up a movie production company earlier this year, naming it A Happy Place, and is holding meetings like everyone else in Hollywood. The difference is that while most budding producers have only hefty lunch tabs to show for years of pitching projects, Bass has unapologetically used his fame to get on the fast track.

"Because of my name, because of what I'm doing now I can get into a lot of doors that I definitely couldn't get into if I wasn't doing what I do," he told Reuters in a recent interview at a Beverly Hills hotel. Reuters
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He who keeps alight the unquenchable torch of Truth

And never swerves from the thought of One God;

he who has love for and confidence in God

and does not put his faith, even by mistake in fasting

or in the graves of Muslim saints, Hindu crematoriums or yogic places of sepulcher;

he who recognises one God but no place of pilgrimage

and the mere rituals of almsgiving, non-destruction of life, penances or austerities;

and in whose heart the light of the Perfect One shines,

he is to be recognised as a pure member of the Khalsa.

— Guru Gobind Singh Ji, 33 Swaiyye

***

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary;

the evil it does is permanent.

***

I do not believe in armed risings.

They are a remedy worse than disease sought to be cured. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. The method of violence cannot do good in the long run.

***

I do not deny the revolutionary is heroism and sacrifice. But heroism and sacrifice in bad cause are so much waste of splendid energy and hurt the good cause by drawing away attention from it by the glamour of the misused heroism and sacrifice in a bad cause.

— The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi

***

Enemy

The truculence of fevered foes

By gentle measures is abetted;

What wise physician tries a douche?

He knows that fever should be sweated.

— The Panchatantra, Book III

***

Yoga that puts to end all the woes can be successfully accomplished only by him who takes salutary diet, is careful and regulated in his behviour and actions, and is regulated in sleeping and waking.

— The Bhagavadgita, 6.17
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