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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
100% Silk Stretch Knit Micro G-string thong panty with Y-Back. Elastic waistband for comfort. Narrow cotton lined crotch. One Size fits Small to size 12. Silk is a Magical natural fiber of unmatched beauty and comfort. Because no two pieces of silk are alike, each silk garment has its own subtly unique qualities. Machine washable.
Posted by peyank at 12:32 AM
These teeny, tiny thongs are made of 100% Silk Knit. Micro G-string panty with silver tone ring hardware in front and back. Elastic waistband for comfort. Narrow cotton lined crotch. Silk is a Magical natural fiber of unmatched beauty and comfort. Because no two pieces of silk are alike, each silk garment has its own subtly unique qualities. Machine washable. Small-Large
Posted by peyank at 12:26 AM
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Rabbis are an uncommon sight in Indonesia, much less at a performance by the country's top rock star. Yet there they were, tapping along as Ahmad Dhani (also known as Dhani Dewa) sang his Warriors of Love at a recent conference in Bali on religious tolerance. Afterward, the rabbis—along with Islamic, Hindu and Catholic clerics—jostled for photos with the rock star.
The 35-year-old Muslim may have a way to go before reaching the musician-statesman stature of Bono, but he is talking the talk. "Warriors of Love is a song about love and tolerance for people of different faiths," he explains. "We reject the teachings of hate and the extremists who preach it." Some of his backers hope to widen the song's appeal by assembling a multilingual Muslim star cast to render it as a kind of We Are the World anthem of global Islamic moderation.
Dhani first has to win over his homeland, however. He grew up in Surabaya, listening to Queen and Japanese jazz-fusion outfit Casiopea. After notching up seven platinum albums in Indonesia with his own band, Dewa 19, he announced his intention to wean millions of his countrymen away from extremist Islamic views. "What happens depends on how we deal with the radicals and teach people about Islam," explains Dhani, who says he quit a religious school as a child because he was put off by its conservative Wahhabi teachings. "It's time to come together, even if we have to do it one song at a time."
While international music fans have yet to take notice, the U.S. security establishment already has. Last October, Dhani spoke at a Defense Department-sponsored conference at NORAD in Colorado Springs, explaining to military and government officials why he rejected the path of his father, a former member of the hard-line body Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia, as well as that of his grandfather, a member of the outlawed Darul Islam, which once fought for an Islamic state in the archipelago. In so doing, the rock star "has chosen to help us annihilate the crisis of misunderstanding of the Muslim world," says C. Holland Taylor, an American who founded the LibForAll Foundation to promote moderate Islam, and who accompanied Dhani to NORAD. (It is Taylor's foundation that plans to gather other Muslim pop stars for the multilingual version of Warriors of Love.)
But promoting greater understanding of Islam may be a tall order for a star whose private life and secular peccadilloes, often fodder for sensational stories in Indonesian newspapers, seem at odds with his message of spirituality and tolerance. He is estranged from his wife and has told newspaper reporters that women should be free to do as they please "as long as they don't refuse," and that the place of a wife "is one level below the man." He has also been photographed posing in Jacuzzis with young starlets. Although these were publicity shots staged with performers that Dhani was trying to promote as a music producer, they made conservative Indonesians uncomfortable. "I doubt people will take him seriously as someone who can speak about religion given his personal problems," says Jakarta college student Mega Kharismawati, voicing a view common among her peers.
Then there is Dhani's self-professed interest in Sufism. The Sufis make up a mystical branch of Islam that conservative Muslims dismiss as unconventional at best, and deviant at worst. "The fact that he is a Sufi is already going to be controversial with most Indonesian Muslims," says Hamid Basyaib, director of the Liberal Islam Network, a Jakarta-based organization promoting a moderate version of Islam. So will Dhani's admission that he does not pray five times a day—one of the religion's cardinal commands. Says Shofwan Chairul of the University of Indonesia's Islamic Students Association: "People respect him for his music, not his religious views."
Critics say Dhani's newfound spiritual interest masks the falling sales of Dewa 19's albums (the latest shifted 400,000 copies, in contrast to the two previous ones, which sold over a million each). But residual love for his music remains sky high. "Most Indonesians have had a Dewa 19 moment," says Rian Pelor, a music writer for Trax magazine. Certainly, there is no musician like Dhani in the country—he is Indonesia's Cobain or Lennon. And while his new musical tack has been greeted with suspicion in some quarters, what if it does articulate a concern of Indonesia's silent majority? Channeling their feelings is something that Dhani has never failed to do in the past. "Music can reach the masses in a way that Muslim teachers cannot," he declares. "We hope to touch the kids in a way that will make them think about their faith." For now though, whether or not Warriors of Love can drown out the warriors of militant Islam is anyone's guess.
Posted by peyank at 8:10 PM
I was very afraid when China took back Hong Kong in 1997. People told me that as soon as the People's Liberation Army entered the city, they would arrest all counter-revolutionaries. Someone predicted 3,000 arrests. Someone else said 400. I was thinking: even if only 20 or 30 people are arrested, I would be among them. So I tried to prepare myself psychologically. I pondered what books I would take to read in prison. I thought that I could accept the reality of the situation. But when I woke up in the middle of the night, I was covered in cold sweat. Then I realized how scared I was.
My fears turned out to be unfounded, of course. Since the handover 10 years ago, I've been able to pursue my reading list free from incarceration. People who know how aggressively my newspaper, Apple Daily, has criticized Hong Kong and mainland authorities might be surprised to hear me say this, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how the past decade has unfolded. Overall, China has tried to abide by the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, and despite a turbulent seven years under the inept leadership of former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, the territory is prospering. That is not to say there aren't concerns. Hong Kong suffers greatly from a lack of full democracy. The press censors itself to avoid angering the powers that be. (For refusing to pull its punches, Apple Daily publishes under a boycott by pro-Beijing businesses that costs us $25 million a year in advertising revenue.) Hong Kong's air quality is deteriorating, as is the standard of English. And landmarks that form a key part of Hong Kong's identity are being demolished to make way for development.
But the most important piece of our identity that is being destroyed is, unlike the Star Ferry terminal or Queen's Pier, something you can't see. That's Hong Kong's independent, entrepreneurial spirit. For years we have succeeded because of a low-tax, small-government system that fostered a dynamic economy. The free market provided opportunities for Hong Kong people to use their creativity to get ahead. Since 2003, when China allowed growing numbers of mainland tourists to visit here and goose us out of our post-SARS stagnation, we have grown increasingly dependent on handouts from the mainland. We are becoming more like China, and less like the cosmopolitan, international city we once were. The risk is that we lose our entrepreneurial zeal and become wholly dependent on the mainland's economy.
That would be dangerous. While China's growth over the past 20 years has been impressive, the country has not escaped the laws of economics. There is no such thing as a perpetual-motion machine. Eventually China, like every other country in the world, will hit an economic rough patch—and for China it will be exceptionally rough. Chinese society today is a moral and spiritual vacuum. People care only about making money, not for one another. If the economic pie grows smaller, people will fight one another ferociously for a piece of it. Things could get brutal, and we will feel the fallout in Hong Kong, too. Elsewhere, NGOs and religious organizations help out during hard times. But, in China, the Communist Party has gutted those civil institutions—the churches, temples, unions and cultural associations—that people depend on when times are tough.
Hong Kong can help with that. We were the mustard seed for the mainland economy, providing not just the investment but also the management concepts that allowed it to grow to where it is today. So too can Hong Kong provide the foundation for the civic institutions that the country will need to truly thrive. China should look to Hong Kong for help developing those institutions.
And, as difficult as it may seem, China should look for help from Taiwan. The island has institutions that protect and nurture ideas. It is a place where people don't have to be afraid of holding unpopular opinions. Most importantly, Taiwan has a fully functioning democracy.
China would do well to allow Hong Kong that kind of freedom. It would be to Beijing's benefit. By allowing Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders, China would be praised by the global community of democracies. And that would give the mainland time to work out its own political reforms with less pressure from outside. Hong Kong could provide a model to show what sort of democracy can work best on Chinese soil. And the freedom to pick its own leaders would undoubtedly aid Hong Kong. Under the present system, loyalty to the central government is a more important criterion than loyalty to Hong Kong. That's how an incompetent leader like Tung managed to stay in office so long. Given the right to choose, Hong Kong people wouldn't make that mistake.
People sometimes say that a man whose publications are filled with swimsuit models and car crashes isn't the right messenger for the noble values of democracy and freedom. I reply that I'm not here to be a hero. I'm not here to be a saint. I'm here to fight for what I believe in. Yes, I am still afraid. But Hong Kong is my home. I am stuck in this fight.
Posted by peyank at 4:50 AM
To her classmates, the party is something to which you bring a karaoke machine. But to Michiko Suzuki, a 19-year-old Wako University student in Tokyo, the party is the revolutionary vanguard of class struggle. Suzuki, you see, is a teenage Japanese communist. Bolshevism runs in her family. The daughter and granddaughter of party members, she joined the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) as soon as she turned 18. "The purpose of the JCP is to change Japan," says Suzuki. "If the party becomes bigger, then Japan will be changed into a place where my dreams are realized."
The idea of communists soldiering on in the world's second-largest economy more than 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union may invite comparisons to Japanese soldiers stranded on remote Pacific islands who thought that World War II had never ended. But the JCP is far from extinct. It claims some 400,000 members, and garnered 7.3% of the vote—from 4.92 million voters—in the most recent legislative elections in 2005. "The JCP is probably the most successful non-ruling communist party in Asia, if not the world," says Lam Peng Er, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute.
That success has it roots in the JCP's long history. Born in 1922 as the Japanese branch of the Communist International, the global federation of Marxist-Leninist parties created by Moscow, the JCP quickly adapted itself to local conditions. It was one of the few Japanese groups to stand up to the rise of imperial militarists in the run-up to World War II, and suffered as a result. "The JCP was the only political party that struggled against the past war of aggression with the sacrifice of members' lives," says JCP chairman Kazuo Shii. That principled stance earned the respect of many Japanese after the war ended, and JCP members were allowed to run for office. Though the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would come to control Japanese politics, the JCP provided a reliable leftist opposition bloc with the larger and more mainstream Japan Socialist Party.
Today the JCP is still relevant at a time when communists in other countries have all but vanished. While the largest Japanese parties lack a clear and cohesive identity, the JCP may benefit by virtue of actually standing for something—even if what it stands for is "a socialist/communist society," as stated in its manifesto, in a decidedly capitalist country. "The JCP is a boutique party, but it's the only political party in Japan that has a strong grassroots organization," says Lam. "In a way, the communists are probably the most modern political party in Japan." Despite holding just 18 of the 722 seats in the Diet, the JCP often functions as the only genuine opposition to politics-as-usual in Tokyo. Communist politicians have repeatedly uncovered damaging financial scandals in government—they're too far removed from power to be enmeshed in Tokyo's endemic corruption. "We are the watchdog, but we go further than that," says Shii. "I think the advance of the JCP will be key to the advance of Japanese politics."
It's hard to believe that the most progressive political force in Japan still adheres to Marxism. (When I half-seriously asked one college-aged party member whether he reads the classics, he reached into his backpack and produced Volume II of the 13-volume Japanese translation of Das Kapital.) But the JCP will likely pick up protest votes in July's legislative elections, and the party is zealously recruiting new members. "I think my friends and those around me have a lot of difficulty and hardship finding themselves, having any confidence in themselves," says Suzuki, the Wako University student. "But as a member of the JCP, I have a wider perspective on my future. I know we have possibility." Who said the war was over, comrade?
Posted by peyank at 4:08 AM