Archive for January, 2009

dove4In the news show 60 Minutes last Sunday, correspondent Bob Simon presented a thought provoking piece “Is Peace Out of Reach?” on the future of the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. It is definitely worth watching. Here’s the link to the report: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/23/60minutes/main4749723.shtml

The two-state solution envisages the coexistence of Israel and an independent Palestinian state. As Bob Simon reports, an increasing number of Israelis and Palestinians feel that a two-state solution is no longer possible.

“For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state,” Simon reports.

“It’s known as the “two-state” solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can’t have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.”

He shows the various aspects of life in the West Bank that hinder the implementation of the two-state solution, and conducts interviews with settlers and Palestinians. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a former candidate for Palestinian president, says to Simon: “While my heart still wants to believe that the two-state solution is possible, my brain keeps telling me the opposite because of what I see in terms of the building of settlements. “

One can’t help but feel pessimistic on viewing this report. I feel even sadder when I think of the photos and faces of the Palestinian children and wonder if they will ever have the chance to grow up, aspire and become leaders of their nation, and their own destiny.

This week, there have been developments surrounding the Middle East issues. President Obama gave an interview to Arab satellite station Al Arabiya. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has a new book “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work” which maps out a blueprint for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Glimmer of hope? Those of us who wish for for freedom, fairness and autonomy for all peoples can only hope so.

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(Photo from Huffington Post)

I’m not exactly a Bush fan , but I have to say that the Bush family have been gracious in helping The Obamas in their transition to their life in the White House.

The Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna, wrote a letter to Malia and Sasha Obama, advising them how to handle their new life in the White House. The letter was published in the Wall Street Journal.

They advise Malia and Sasha to :“Surround yourself with loyal friends… Cherish your animals because sometimes you’ll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide… enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play.”

The Bush girls wrote about their Dad: We still see him now as we did when we were seven: as our loving daddy. ..So here is our most important piece of advice: remember who your dad really is.”

One can sense their deep love for their father. Many of us go through the childhood phrases of first thinking that your parents are perfect, and then dealing with the complex emotions when you find out that they have faults, that they are human after all. Imagine how much harder it must have been when your father is scrutinized and criticized in the public view.

The “Today” show requested the Bush girls to read the letter to the viewers, accompanied by images of their life in the White House. I think the result is a moving piece. The video is shared below.

It is said that Malia and Sasha are just as popular as their parents. Thus, the important issue is how will we balance our fascination with them, while giving them space and privacy to grow up as normally as possible. Good luck, sugar and spice, and everything nice…to the Obama girls.

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Tiny Treats

petit1Today is my birthday. I’m not doing anything special, just enjoying the day with quiet joys.

Every year, I do try to treat myself to one of my favorite things. This year, I take the time out to enjoy petit fours and tea in my “January” china teacup and plate that I bring out in the first month of the year.

Petit four is a small layered cake, usually iced in a pretty, decorative manner. It is said that the name “petit fours” originated in France around the 18th century. The cakes were cooked in a tiny oven, and hence the name petit fours which means small ovens.

Every year, I order them from a catalogue to celebrate festive occasions. Why do I like them? I think it’s because they are very refined and dainty in both workmanship and taste. They harken back to a time or to a way of thinking that values good craftsmanship and skills. The colors are festive , and they make you kind of slow down and smell the roses.

Apart from that, they taste so good that I find it difficult to stop at one!

And so I enjoy my day, counting my blessings and looking forward to plans and projects for this year.

Happy birthday, too, to all you January-born folks out there!

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obama2The day is here. We all have our own reasons for supporting Barack Obama.

It’s true that Obama’s message of “hope and change” has an emotive appeal for many.

But I think the most important thing for me was that I could identify with his narrative, although I grew up and spent much of my adult life in Asia.

The first thing is that I grew up as a minority in an Asian country. I think you have to live life as a member of a minority ethnic group to understand what is required of you to deal with inbuilt perceptions and racism .

We know how much it takes to be successful. I want to go back to history, as I was reminded by presidential historian Douglas Brinkley on the Larry King show that the world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali played a role in opening the door for global recognition for an African American.

I’m old enough to remember what Muhammad Ali meant to the world in the 1970s and 80s. At that time, there was no non-white role model for such huge success. He represented this shining, brave example all over the world. People everywhere would cut work and skipped school whenever his matches were televised. From the metropolis to the smallest village in Africa, for a long time, Muhammad Ali was the most recognized name in the world.

Today, we jumped to Obama. Whether one admires the United States or not, almost everybody agrees that to be the president of the US is to reach the pinnacle of success, and to helm the most powerful position in the world.

And we want to claim Obama as a part of our identity or as part of our dream, as we did with Muhammad Ali.

Obama also seems to embody or symbolize many of qualities that I identify with or admire. He is biracial, and having lived in different countries, is comfortable with many cultures. He is certainly not xenophobic, and we see in him in him someone who will not see any one people or race as being “lesser” than the other.

He is inclusive; always classy in his bearing and refused to play dirty politics or say nasty things about his opponents in the presidential race, though they threw all kinds of stones at him.

At the same time, in the back of our minds, we also know that to get this far in American politics, you have to have a measure of “killer instincts”. But for a while, it is good to know that a nice guy can still win.

We want to believe that the Obama administration heralds a post-racial era, a new foreign policy that will be fairer to countries and people that the Bush administration have labeled as “evil” and “rogue”.

But we know that there are tough task ahead for the new president. Criticism of his policies and management style is already forming a line in some people’s heads. And we know that oftentimes the position can change the man.

But for now, we bask in the glow of this historic inauguration. It’s incredible when you think that three years ago, nobody thought that a biracial, African-American man would be the President of the United States. Obama’s election says a lot not only about him, but also about all the people who voted for him.

Thank you, Obama, for giving us the belief that despite all the ugliness in the world, there is still enough idealism to try to change the status quo for the better. The world wants you to succeed.

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