World is less democratic than people think
According to the UNDP,
the development program of the United Nations, the spread of democracy
in the world has come to a standstill. The Human Development
Report 2002 shows that only 57 per cent of the world population
lives in a constitutional state; 38 per cent does not have a free
press. In many countries, dictatorial regimes have won over democratic
governments. This is occurring in spite of the fact that democracy
offers a bigger opportunity for economic, physical and cultural
prosperity than authoritarian governments.
The Arab Development Report 2002 of the UNDP, published earlier
this month, shows this as well. The 22 Arab countries investigated
are developing at a much slower rate than the rest of the world.
Half of all Arab women are still illiterate. The researchers, themselves
Arab in origin, blame this lagging behind not only on squandering
oil revenues, but also on the lack of democratic freedoms. Repression
of women, indifference to education and a lack of political participation
in Arab countries are reported to contribute strongly to the underdeveloped
The chief editor of the Human Development Report emphasised though
that democracy should not be seen as a means for developing a country,
but as a goal in itself. "Democracy is development", according
to Sakiko Fukuda Parr.
More information: Human
'Neger' and 'creool' remain in dictionary
The 'Dikke Van Dale' (Van Dale Unabridged Dutch Dictionary) does
not need to remove the words 'neger' (black) and 'creool' (creole)
from the Dutch Language dictionary. The dictionary does not discriminate
by including these words, according to a decision by the Committee
for Equal Treatment. "After all, the function of a dictionary
is simply to record the meaning of words in accordance with their
actual usage", according to the Committee's statement. The
Foundation for the Honour and Restoration Payments for Victims of
Slavery in Surinam started the legal proceedings, claiming such
words would be hurtful and insulting to Afro-Surinam Dutch citizens
(see Actueel, juni 2002).
The complete text of the verdict can be found at the site of the
Gelijke Behandeling (Equal Treatment Commission) verdict 2002-87
War as an educational computer game
There are computer games full of senseless violence and there
are games that carry a message in addition to the violence. The
American army recently became the producer of the latter version,
an educational war game. In America's Army, American youth
is taken along online on a military operation and, on the way, is
trained in the values of the American army. The objective of the
game is peculiar for a shooting game: to accomplish the mission
with the fewest possible victims. Since it was launched at the beginning
of July, more than a million players have downloaded the game.
Under Ash, the first Arab 3D war game became popular among
Arab youth during the past year. The hero of the game is the Palestinian
Ahmad. Producer Dar Al-Fikr describes Ahmad as a peace-loving young
man, who is forced by circumstances to pick up arms. Ahmad starts
by throwing stones at Israeli colonists, at higher levels he uses
heavier ordnance. When Ahmad dies, the game is over. The game also
ends if Ahmad shoots and kills a civilian.
War games in which international or interracial conflicts are fought
out virtually have been on the market for some time already. A peace
loving gamer ("kill pixels not people!") remarks that
luckily the games do not amount to much as computer games.
Army and Under
HIV doll on Sesame Street
Takalani Sesame, the South African version of the children's program
Sesame Street, receives a doll with HIV. The female doll must teach
the little viewers how to interact with children and adults with
HIV. Ten per cent of the entire South African population is infected
with the disease, including 2.4 million children under fifteen.
Young people seem to be an easy prey for the disease. During the
fourteenth international AIDS conference in Barcelona it was revealed
that half of all new infections occur among young people between
the ages of 15 and 24. The international music statio MTV
organised a discussion about this subject between adolescents and
former President Bill Clinton during the conference. Movie star
Rupert Everett took part in the debate as well.
The forum marked the beginning of the Staying
Alive-campaign, a world-wide multimedia action that wants to
inform young people about Aids.
More information: UNAIDS
Iranian forbidden to dance
The Iranian court passed sentence on dancer Mohammed Khordadian
for his so-called evil influence on the young. The very popular
Khordadian, Iranian by birth, has lived and worked for years in
the United States. His dance classes are broadcast via television
and are very much loved in his native country as well. Khordadian
was arrested when he visited Iran again after 23 years. He is not
being allowed to leave his homeland for ten years.
Copyright on silence
Who owns silence? According to music publisher Peters, John Cage.
Cage is the composer of the famous 4'.33'',
that consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Producer
Mike Batt has now recorded a minute of silence on a CD by The
Planets. According to Peters, Batt is violating copyright law
by doing so.
The controversy evokes bizarre questions. For instance: is the silence
by Batt original, or is it a quotation? Is there a difference between
a performance of the silence by Cage and of that by Batt? And exactly
what part of that silence did Batt steal?
European academics boycott Israel
A professor in Translation Sciences at the University of Manchester
fired two Israeli employees for political reasons. Professor Mona
Baker, originally from Egypt, threw her Israeli colleagues off the
editorial staff of two scientific magazines. In so doing, she is
responding to the call from British academics to boycott Israeli
scientific and cultural bodies in protest against Israel's actions
against the Palestinians. According to a statement by the teachers
it is about time that Israel abides by UN resolutions.
The call dates back to the beginning of April and has meanwhile
been signed by over seven hundred European academics. Large British
Unions for scientific staff joined the effort to isolate Israel
The boycott is facing strong international criticism. The primary
complaint is that academic life should not be tainted by political
motives. But Professor Mona Baker compares the sanctions to those
against the former Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The call: University
Professors call for European boycott of research and cultural links
The protest: Academics
No cricket between India and Pakistan
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has requested Nelson Mandela
to help get India and Pakistan back to the cricket field. India
suspects Pakistan of supporting the rebels in the Indian federal
state of Kashmir, and thus refuses to play against the country.
It is the first time that the political conflict has influenced
cricket matches between the two countries.
American Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional
A California judge has declared the pledge of allegiance to the
American constitution illegal. It all revolves around the excerpt
'one nation under God'. According to judge Alfred Goodwin, this
phrase violates the separation of church and state mandated by the
constitution. According to him 'one nation under God' carries no
less of a religious connotation than 'one nation under Vishnu' or
'one nation under Zeus'.
The case was initiated by a father from California who did not want
his daughter to be confronted with religion on a daily basis. Every
American public school starts the day with the students saying the
pledge of allegiance.
President George W. Bush was highly indignant about the verdict,
as was the entire Senate. He warned that he would not appoint judges
with these kinds of ideas in the future. Because of all the commotion,
Goodwin decided to suspend the judgement till further notice.
Nine new world heritage monuments
UN's cultural organisation has proclaimed nine new monuments to
be world heritage on its annual meeting. These include the ruins
of Jam in Afghanistan, the Mexican Maya city Calakmul, the Indian
Mahabodhi temple complex, the Egyptian Santa Catherina monastery
and the Tokaji region in Hungary. The historical inner cities of
the Surinamese city of Paramaribo and the German cities of Stralsund
and Wismor were declared to be 'valuable for humankind' as well.
Currently there are 730 cultural monuments and natural areas on
the UNESCO list.
Sources: NRC Handelsblad,
Gazet van Antwerpen, The
Gelijke Behandeling, Unesco,
United Nations Development
Jewish Community Online, Palestine