Sunday, November 9, 2014

Does the Obama Era Echo the Arab Spring?

An essay by Amro Ali written in May appeared in my Twitter feed this morning. The parallels between what happened in Egypt since 2011 and what has happened in America about the same time are striking. Here is my Facebook reflection...

Read and reflect on this Egyptian commentary written in May.

Idealistic, mostly young people, energized by the Arab Spring in 2011 soon saw their dreams torn to pieces. After dislodging Mubarak, a military dictator, they watched the Muslim Brotherhood bully its way to power, followed by another military takeover. As military heroes often do, the general in change slipped smoothly from a military uniform into civilian clothes as his title changed from general to president -- supported by a critical mass of the population.

As I read this essay an uneasy similarity with America's flirtation with Barack Obama played in the background. Is it my imagination or do the following parallels have no meaning?
...a medical professional, trained to save lives, tells me that a death sentence for 683 people should be carried out, though he will feebly concede that it may be a “bit harsh.”
How different is that casual indifference to the deaths of thousands elsewhere, whether they be Mexican students, Liberian villagers, thousands in Gaza or victims of gun violence in our own country?
[A ministry officer] tried to explain that torture was limited to specific cases, that it does not strike him as morally wrong, that it is not as a widespread as popularly thought, and that the global media exaggerates it—“We treat Brotherhood detainees with utmost respect.” <<
Does that not echo what has been widely reported about treatment of "detainees" in Guantanamo?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Read for yourself. Then tell me I am deluded. Reassure me, please, that it makes no difference that religious extremists, science deniers and xenophobic super-patriots now have a parliamentary majority in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court -- that the next presidential election won't complete a checkmate of the whole government. And persuade me, please, to quit imagining that all of these trends are orchestrated by wealthy power brokers who have fine-tuned their skills at manipulating a majority of an electorate eager to follow their guidance.
The Disorient Express: Egypt and the Language of Darkness
By: Amro Ali

“Inevitably, our opinions cover a bigger space, a longer reach of time, a greater number of things, than we can directly observe. They have, therefore, to be pieced together out of what others have reported and what we can imagine.” – Public intellectual Walter Lippman, 1922.

With emotions running high on the eve of the 1952 coup, one of Nasser’s colleagues panicked and was close to tears. Nasser said firmly: “Tonight there is no room for sentiment. We must be ready for the unexpected.” The colleague soon regained his composure and asked Nasser, “Why did you address me in English?” Nasser laughed and replied, “Because Arabic is hardly a suitable language in which to express the need for calm.”

Whether or not this is truly the case—and I am not convinced that it is—the Arabic language today is certainly living up to Nasser’s perceptions, as it is being used to intentionally bring about anything but calm. A schizophrenia increasingly pervades Egyptian colloquial speech, empowering people to express wildly irresponsible and impulsive views and actions and yet expect positive outcomes—sadly, one frequently encounters such behavior these days.

It is easy to see the extent to which media discourse has affected public conversation, even to the level of hearing a news anchor’s sentence be unconsciously mimicked word-for-word the next day by members of the public, such as, “Egypt is not ready for democracy and needs a strongman from the military to rule it” and “Why does Sisi even need a policy platform?” That is not to mention the media-inspired accusations and conspiracies that infiltrate next-day conversations. This might not be unusual in many parts of the world, but in Egypt, it can have severe or even fatal consequences—opinions are shaped and inflamed here by an inexhaustible imagination that can leap from suspecting every tourist of being a spy to nodding at (if not cheering for) a mass death sentence.

This is an Egypt where an old lady feeds some birds, asks about my well-being, and in the same breath, tells me the massacre of over 600 people at Raba’a was necessary; an Egypt where a medical professional, trained to save lives, tells me that a death sentence for 683 people should be carried out, though he will feebly concede that it may be a “bit harsh.” My usual response to people with such opinions is for them to go personally tell the parents of the 683 (or other victims) why their children need to be executed. This usually causes something of a short-circuit in their imagination, but few actually change their minds on the matter.The road to the presidential election is now paved with fear and suspicion, harming society’s mental and economic well-being. The result is a climate that renders the vision for the country described in Sisi’s interviews, despite their melancholy and opaqueness, to appear as all that Egypt can hope for. The inevitable problem herein is that if it takes hysteria to bring a man to the presidency, it will take hysteria to continue to legitimize his presidency. A “platform” of security and stability cannot be maintained without consistently invoking the scarecrow of chaos.

At the core of such interactions lies an overlooked, foundational problem that can shed light on the nature of the public’s irrational and uncompromising stance towards anything that falls outside the state line. This problem involves the accumulation of individual anxieties stemming from experiences that are reported and imagined, rather than directly felt and observed. As a result, an uncontrollable, collective national resentment has evolved that extends, disturbingly, to the point of turning a blind eye towards, or actively whitewashing, unjustified deaths. This darkness spreads although—or perhaps because—few are actually encountering real life threats on any appreciable scale.

The train to Cairo

On trips to Cairo, I have come to find that interactions with the passengers I encounter on the Alexandria to Cairo train set the tone of my trip to the capital. Beside me most recently was an armed forces cadet and an Interior Ministry junior officer. As all the seats had already been sold, the three of us (and a few others) were forced to stand for the two-and-a-half hour trip.

The cadet abused his position to probe into my life, starting with the xenophobia-inspired question “Are you Syrian?” (I’m often mistaken for a Levantine because of my light complexion and altered Egyptian dialect from having lived abroad). He asked me why I was heading to Cairo, to which I replied that I was attending a funeral. He asked where in Cairo, and I replied Mohandessin. No answer could satisfy him. In fact, the stern way he first stated his occupation—“Armed Forces”—was a futile attempt to knock me off balance.

The Interior Ministry officer steered the conversation away from my destination, and we began talking about Australia. I was struck by the way that he casually spoke in a way that perfectly echoed statements mouthed off by state media. He asked me about my Ph.D. research and how Australia was different from Egypt. Then, he asked the predictable question:“What do they think of us?” I replied that they probably are not happy with Egypt at the moment, given that one of their citizens (journalist Peter Greste) is languishing in jail. I then turned the conversation to the use of torture by the Ministry. He tried to explain that torture was limited to specific cases, that it does not strike him as morally wrong, that it is not as a widespread as popularly thought, and that the global media exaggerates it—“We treat Brotherhood detainees with utmost respect.” On asking my religion (this questioning is second nature to Egypt), I was able to satisfy him that I am indeed a Muslim. Despite all the above, he then went onto explain how religion is not being applied correctly in the country.

Despite both of us being around the same age and engaging each other politely, the implicit feeling was that there was an invisible wall between us—a wall that was put there by historical and exclusionary hegemonic forces. In the end, we could only agree that Egypt is going through a generational struggle and that the young are disadvantaged throughout the county—I left with a feeling that I will cross paths with him again someday.

1984 in Tahrir Square

Standing outside the Hardees in Tahrir Square while waiting for a friend, I decided to take a number of photos to kill time. At a news stand, I saw George Orwell’s 1984 and snapped a photo of it, tweeting the words “a very timely piece of work.” In an ironic moment soon after, the police came by and, as a crowd of eight of them gathered, they pulled me in to their nearby, makeshift security office. They searched through the last photos on my phone and asked me countless questions. I explained the reasons behind each photo—that is a book cover I took an interest in; that was a road accident; that is graffiti; that is a panoramic shot of Tahrir. They grew alarmed at one photo of Muhammad Mahmoud Street where I had snapped a “creative” night shot through barbed wire. I somehow managed to reassure them that was just a harmless attempt at artistry.

Ultimately, the decision to let me go was not based on my words alone. After showing my Egyptian ID card and my University of Sydney card, the senior officer smiled and decided to let me go. The officer who pulled me, though, chose to take one last shot: “Are both of your parents Egyptian?” I answered: “Yes, my mother and father, may he rest in peace, are both Egyptian.” He looked at me sternly, handed back my cards, and responded, “May he rest in peace.” What most frightened me in this case was that somehow my heritage presumed my innocence, and doing a doctorate reassured them that I was “respectable.” What about others who are detained and who do not fit into this culture- and class-based security framework? The language of darkness has its subtexts.

The funeral of Bassem Sabry

The funeral I was attending in Mohandessin was that of Bassem Sabry. Having communicated with Bassem online but never having been able to meet him only further fuelled my anguish. The feeling was not unlike what I feel when thinking of the goals of the revolution that were always talked about and yet have remained elusive.

Beyond serving to mark the tragedy of losing a great human being, Bassem Sabry’s funeral was a surreal showcase of myriad key players involved in the darkness enveloping Egyptian politics now, fighting either for or against it or simply riding its wave—weary human rights workers, life-endangered journalists, veteran activists, opportunistic political figures, brown-nosing media personalities, despondent intellectuals. People who would normally be at each others’ throats were calmly gathered, though avoiding eye contact. It was like Sabry’s funeral invoked an uneasy truce for that one night as the Quranic recitations played on. At one stage, while seated next to TV comedian Bassem Youssef (who spoke in an ominous tone), I told him that he had little to worry about, as his fame gave him some sort of immunity. He replied: “You think two million Twitter followers can save me against a regime? A regime that arises to defend special interests will be more deadly than one that defends political interests.” He should know—he has been pushed onto the front lines against the insanity that has gripped the nation.

Sabry’s funeral was the funeral of part of the inheritance of the January 25 revolution as well—the language of hope. That night, the Cairo air was filled with the vibes of December 2010, yet unlike then, the political language of darkness has exposed a serious absence of empathy and forgiveness in the public discourse that endangers any aspirate for a positive outcome. It was as if empathy and forgiveness, Sabry’s defining characteristics, were two inheritances that had been lost.

Followers of the hyper-nationalist trend are just like those advancing religious fundamentalism, minus the beard. Both are showing themselves to be destructively intolerant—the former more so these days—and incapable of accommodating the rich and diverse tapestry of Egypt.

But is all hope lost?

As I came back to Alexandria, I decided to take a boat ride in the Mediterranean with friends to get away from all the madness—no Sisi posters out there on the water, thankfully—and to reflect on the past few weeks. The sailors who I encountered had this remarkable demeanor that made them seem detached from the political upheavals, and a glow of hope radiated from their faces. The simplicity and fortitude of the sailors made a mark on me. An explanation was soon coming.

I came back home to a friend who had shared a story of a distressed man who, in 1973, had sent a letter to author E.B. White saying that he had lost faith in humanity. The man received this response:

“As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock as a contribution to order and steadfastness. Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But, as a people, we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time, waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.”

I can think of many remarkable human beings who fight tirelessly for social justice, some of whom I met for the first time at the funeral. They, like many others, are battling to establish the right conditions to affect, positively, the volatility of human nature. It is not that Arabic is hardly a suitable language in which to express the need for calm. It is that the true definitions of freedom, social justice, and democracy have yet to triumph over the state’s definitions of these terms. This state of affairs, however, cannot endure for long.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Who Defeats ISIS? -- A Twitter Exchange

Ekrem ‏  Can you kindly explain who is going to stop the barbaric regime and Shia militants if al Qaida/ISIS is destroyed?

Awdnews ‏ The Saudi prince warns Americans from looming ISIS terror attacks on U.S. soil

Peter Pyke   Quite frankly, both #alqaeda & #Daesh are CIA creations. Intended to allow #UKUSA to annihilate all opposition for #Israel.

@EN_AWDNEWS What about continuous American/Saudi terror attacks on Syrian soil? 

Edward Dark ‏  @ekremuk that's a very silly question. the #Syria regime & Shias are not a serious danger to global security, the ISIS & Al Qaeda are

Ekrem ‏  I asked you to kindly explain, not to insult. I obviously know that. But helps me to understand where you stand. Unfollowed

Hubert ‏ 
Not agree. Enough boots, weapons and airborne strikes to degrade ISIS and al Nusra. But: rebels also must disappear!

Edward Dark ‏  its those forces you don't like, the regime & Shia militias, who are the only ones capable of stopping ISIS/Al Qaeda in #Syria now --  perhaps this might change your mind: … 
In a major setback to President Assad, the second city – Idlib – narrowly
escapes falling to jihadists as rebels storm provincial governor’s
office and set about executing senior regime officers.

Robert Fisk reports from Damascus

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Comment by Todd Shea

It's possible to embed a Facebook status post but I found out when I do that nothing else can be added. So the following is a comment by Todd Shea left at a status post by Chris Thompson posing a question -- a short version of "where is the outrage of Muslims at the horrors of extremists?"
Israel and ISIS ~ Not comparing Apples to Oranges, but curiously Outrage to Crickets ~ where are my Sunni friends (and Shiite) in Pakistan, USA, Europe et al condemning the acts of these miscreants with the same outrage/fervor in social media shown to the Palestinian innocents in the early days of the Gaza invasion? If it is fear, I understand. And let's just skip the "Mossad created ISIS" nonsense ~ shukriya very much.
It's a question that has been repeated by those who don't seem to realize that we all live in the same glass house, and throwing stones is not all that smart.  Todd Shea left this telling response. I have taken the liberty of breaking it into paragraphs. Todd is sometimes like a charismatic Christian speaking in tongues -- when he gets going it just comes pouring out until he's done. JB
Hi Chris, Maybe because it really is Apples and Oranges, and maybe it's also because the corrupt bought-and-paid-for U.S. Congress and leaders of the United States of America have enabled BOTH the pure evil of ISIS with an illegal and woefully mishandled war in Iraq that never should have happened which has totally destabilized the entire region AND the pure evil of Israel's disgusting murder and oppression of Palestinians for 68 years. I don't see many Americans on my Newsfeed expressing outrage for what their government has done. I hear crickets about THAT. 

If Americans had half the sense of passion and outrage against their government's unjust behavior as they do a bad call in a football game, the World's problems would likely be solved in a few years. 
  • Where is American outrage over Kashmir and Tibet and the People of Saudi Arabia? Deafening silence because of money and power. 
  • Why do we stand on top of our ivory tower and criticize Human Rights abuses when our own wussy mental midget brownshirt wannabe police kill unarmed black men, murder homeless people, sexually abuse defenseless women, beat the crap out of any citizen who dares to assert their Constitutional rights and then get in their armored vehicles and menace our already oppressed communities in full military gear as if they are our occupiers? More crickets.
Maybe it's also because the American media plays up one thing and ignores or distorts the other because it's a hungry and greedy monster that knows exactly where its feeding trough is. 

All that being said, I don't know about your FB newsfeed but mine is full of condemnations of ISIS from my many Pakistani, Pakistani British and Pakistani American Friends. There's a dozen other reasons I could offer, but one thing should be obvious to anyone who is willing to be fair: America's leader's have done a piss poor job of being the "Lone Superpower" and Leaders of The World since Pakistan helped them bring down the Berlin Wall, only to be left holding the bag with 4 million Afghan refugees who still live in Pakistan. 

If you are a true leader, you take responsibility for the bed you have made and you clean up your messes and atone for your sins, not create more of them for Humanity to suffer. Most of The World and many Americans are past tired of American and Israeli arrogance. 

Let's face it Chris, too many Americans are a bunch of cowardly racist bullies who have terrorized non-white people for centuries (with the Holocaust against The Native American Indigenous Peoples, stealing their land and resources and their very spirit away from them, and stolen the labor that built this country's riches with the Holocaust of slavery, continued institutional racism against our African American Brothers for more than a century, having a bunch of coward pussies for police officers whose departments nationwide allow brutality with no accountability and who hold open disdain for true hero cops starting with Frank Serpico, the installation and empowerment of tyrants and dictators in the post-colonial world (who we know damn well have raped, murdered and oppressed their own people for generations when we are supposed to stand for Liberty and Justice for ALL) selling our very souls just for the pursuit of the Almighty dollar and control of resources and allow our corporations to go into developing nations and do things that they would go to prison for in America, and so much more. [Whew! See what I mean?]

Yes, we saved the World from The Nazis, but that doesn't absolve America from its many sins and evils. Yes, we saved the World from Communism (again, with the help of Pakistan), only to find out that Capitalism hasn't worked out too well for anyone in the long term except the military-Industrial Complex and the top 1% elite of this pathetic and dangerously imbalanced World. Considering myself to be a Human Being FIRST, The Just God that I believe in doesn't let that bullshit go on forever...
Thank you, Todd for what you do and all your good work. Keep it up and be encouraged to continue to speak out for what is right. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

14 Facts About The Obama Presidency

This post is copied with no editing -- easy to read. 
The link is at the end. 

People have many perceptions of how the US economy or the country as a whole is doing in recent years. Depending on your political views, you may think the country is doing exceptionally well or on the verge of collapse.

Listed below are 14 objective facts, without interjecting any opinion, about the state of America under the leadership of President Obama. Every statement is followed up with a link to a source where you can verify these facts for yourself.

1. We've now had 63 straight months of economic expansion.
That’s right, for 63 consecutive months the US economy has gotten progressively better. That includes 54 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Forbes magazine, no fan of President Obama, crunched the numbers and demonstrated how the economic recovery under President Obama has been better in just about every measurable way than the recovery under President Reagan.

2. We are currently enjoying the longest period of private sector job creation in American history.
Again, this statistic comes from the Forbes Magazine article listed above. In fact, we have now had 54 straight months of private sector job creation. That is the longest period of job creation since the Department of Labor has been keeping statistics. See the link below.

3. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 6.1% and projected to reach 5.4% by summer of 2015.
Not only has the unemployment rate dropped significantly, but since the recession ended, our economy as added over ten million new jobs. You can refer to the Forbes article above or check this article on PoliticsUSA.

4. The stock market continues to set new records since President Obama has been in office.
Since early 2009 there has been a steady trend in stock market growth. The Dow Jones Industrial averages reached an all-time high of 17,098 in August, 2014. Since most Americans have 401K retirement investments in the stock market, this stock market growth benefits millions of middle class Americans.

5. The Federal budget deficit is shrinking. It’s been reduced by two-thirds since 2009.
The $1.4 trillion federal budget deficit that Obama inherited in 2009 was in a large part due to the high rate of unemployment. When millions of people were put out of work in 2008 and 2009, it resulted in far less income taxes and less economic activity to generate federal revenue. As ten million people have been put back to work, there have been billions more tax dollars generated. As a result, the deficit has been shrinking each year. The 2014 deficit is projected to be around $500 billion, the smallest deficit since 2007 and roughly 1/3 of what it was in 2009.

6. Under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually, the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president.
You may have heard critics say that President Obama is spending money wildly and running up our debt. According to this article from Forbes, Obama has increased spending by 1.4% annually, far less than President Reagan (8.7%) or George W. Bush (8.1%). In fact, Obama has increased spending less than any president since Eisenhower.

7. For 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are lower now than just about any time in the previous 50 years.
After President Obama took office, thousands of Tea Party members all over the country held rallies protesting Obama’s tax increases. At that time, President Obama had actually passed several tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Most of the Tea Partiers who were protesting had only seen their taxes decrease under Obama. Yet polls indicated that most Tea Party members wrongly believed their taxes had gone up.

In fact, the only people whose income taxes have gone up during Obama’s presidency are those making $400,000 per year or more. That's less than 2% of the population. Today, for the vast majority of people, tax rates are exactly where they were when Obama first took office or lower. The article below from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains this in greater detail.

8. Our dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production and improved fuel efficiency standards.
While some people claim that oil production has declined under President Obama, the truth is just the opposite. Oil production has reached record highs. The United States now produces so much oil that we export more oil and gasoline than we import.

9. At least 7 million more Americans now have health insurance than before.
Depending on whose numbers you use, between 7 and 10 million Americans acquired health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Now that those 7 to 10 million Americans have insurance, the rest of us are no longer on the hook to pay for their health care when they get sick. This saves the American people billions of dollars in the long run.

10. The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare.
The Medicare trust fund had been on course to run out of money by the end of 2016. But due to cost savings from the Affordable Care Act and lower healthcare expenses, Medicare’s trust fund is now stable until the year 2030 without cutting benefits.

11. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing the slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960.
Contrary to the predictions from Republicans, health care costs have increased at a much slower pace since the passage of the ACA.

12. We currently have fewer soldiers, sailors and airmen in war zones than any time in over 10 years.
With the end of the Iraq war and the steady withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, we have fewer people in war zones now than any time since 2002.

13. There have been zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on US soil since Obama became president.
Despite Dick Cheney’s claim that if voters elect a Democrat as president, we’ll be “hit again and hit hard” by al Qaeda, we have actually been far safer from terrorist attacks on US soil in recent years than we were under the previous president. There have been several unsuccessful attacks against the US under both presidents, but under Obama, al Qaeda has been largely unsuccessful in striking the US on our home soil.

14. We now successfully catch and deport more illegal immigrants than ever before.
Despite the publicity from busloads of children who illegally entered the country, the numbers prove that President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.

All of the facts stated above can be confirmed through multiple sources, yet most Americans are not aware of all of this positive news. I invite you to do your own research and check these facts for yourself.

- See more at:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Prize Winner, 2014

Image by Red Hill Productions from the
Oregon Public Radio link below. 
This year's Nobel Peace Prize is shared between Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi.  She is world famous but he is less well-known, despite having spent most of his life dedicated to his work against child labor and slavery.  I didn't know the name Kailash Satyarthi until this morning, but I'm pleased to learn why he is being honored. Child exploitation is a global issue that needs more public awareness.

Part of my informal education was learning about hand-made carpets in 1965. Even now I recall an exhibition of imported rugs at an excellent local museum where I hung out a lot. The Dildarian Rug Company from New York shipped in an impressive collection of rugs displayed in the largest gallery. A lecture and slide presentation explained the techniques used to make these incredible rugs -- how the frames were strung and each knot tied individually with one of two or three forms, then the most delicate part, the sheering of the knots to set the final depth. The number of knots per square inch is the metric of fineness, starting at forty to sixty (the most coarse) to sometimes hundreds per square inch! There was a Chinese silk rug on display that had over four hundred knots per inch. It shimmered in the light like pearls or finished wood.

But I'm getting carried away with the memory. I became enamored with hand-made carpets (and still am) and can't resist examining the corners every time I see one to count the number of knots. But some years later I learned that many, perhaps most of these rugs were produced by women and children. Because they are small and have little fingers, they are perfectly equipped to sit side by side in front of the loom, each working on a section of each row as the design slowly emerges. The pattern is sometimes from memory but often on a template behind the frame where the design and color scheme can be used to keep track of progress. I cannot imagine, but it must be the most tedious and boring work imaginable, taking days or weeks to produce a single rug.

My appreciation of these rugs was mixed with guilt when I learned some time later about child slavery and exploitation. In my mind those little fingers were like the farm hands that supported the hard but honorable life of American farmers. The reason we still don't have year-round schooling is part of our agricultural heritage. Children were needed during the growing season to work on farms, so in an agricultural economy going to school was secondary to earning a living. In my mind those children were like those who even today help their parents harvesting crops (which they still do among migrant workers in the US, though no one talks about it much).

But where there is a market there will often be unprincipled people making whatever that market is buying -- even if it means exploiting children. So these carpets, romantic as they seem, are too often the products of child labor -- not all that different from sex trafficking. It's part of the backstory of Slumdog Millionaire. So I'm pleased to know that this man, Kailash Satyarthi, is being recognized. Hopefully this will increase awareness of a global issue that receives too little attention.

Something tells me that the Nobel committee made a deliberate gesture dividing this prize between honorees from both India and Pakistan. That significance will not be lost on anyone familiar with that long-standing conflict. That conflict has been in the news lately with latest outbreak of the perennial issue of Kashmir's governance. A more civil reference even appeared in a Facebook comments thread with remarks from both countries. 

Mr. Google found a good link from 2005, Oregon Public Radio, about Kailish Satyarthi...

The New Heroes -- Kailash Satyarthi

Projects: Global March Against Child Labor, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS), Rugmark
[This acronym gets lost in a search. Following this morning's announcement I expect it will be easier to find, as well as better links for Mr. Satyarthi. This new link is a good place to start.]

Locations: New Delhi, India (headquarters), partners in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

Kailash Satyarthi has saved tens of thousands of lives. At the age of 26 he gave up a promising career as an electrical engineer and dedicated his life to helping the millions of children in India who are forced into slavery by powerful and corrupt business- and land-owners. His original idea was daring and dangerous. He decided to mount raids on factories — factories frequently manned by armed guards — where children and often entire families were held captive as bonded workers.

After successfully freeing and rehabilitating thousands of children, he went on to build up a global movement against child labor. Today Kailash heads up the Global March Against Child Labor, a conglomeration of 2000 social-purpose organizations and trade unions in 140 countries.

Yet even as he has become a globally recognized figure, Kailash continues the gritty work of leading raids to free slaves. Kailash believes that he must focus on a range of activities -- from the most grassroots to the most visionary -- in order to win the fight.

What Does SACCS Do? 
Since its inception in 1989, SACCS and its partners have liberated nearly 40,000 bonded laborers, many of them bonded, working in various industries, including rug manufacturing. But to free such children without offering new opportunities would, in Kailash's view, be meaningless.

Bal Ashram in Rajasthan, India is a transition center where newly-freed slaves are taught basic skills. Kailash describes the arrival of a girl recently freed from a stone quarry: "It's a joyous experience to watch the changing emotions flit across this beautiful girl's face. She's like an open book, and her varying expressions tell us a story: the story of transition from slavery to a new life of freedom. When her face lights up, it is clear she is taking her first steps toward freedom and belief in others."

Since the Ashram can only serve 100 children at a time, Kailash has begun a program called "Bal Mitra Gram" to encourage Indian villages to abolish child labor. In order to be a part of the program, an entire community must agree that no child will be put to work and every child will be sent to school.

While changing India village by village is a worthwhile pursuit, such a strategy could take centuries to achieve Kailash's goal, and he is not prepared to wait that long. So he has begun attacking the problem by harnessing the immense power of market forces.

Many rugs from South Asia are manufactured using child labor. Kailash believes that if consumers around the world knew how their expensive and colorful Indian rugs were made, they would no longer think they were so beautiful. He started "Rugmark," a program in which rugs are labeled and certified to be child-labor-free by factories who that agree to be regularly inspected. Kailash plans to extend the labeling program to other products such as soccer balls, another popular product that is commonly made by children.

Kailash says "If not now, then when? If not you, then who? If we are able to answer these fundamental questions, then perhaps we can wipe away the blot of human slavery."