Pervez Says...

Pervez Says...

Pervez Says...

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Jan. 13 2002 7:37 AM

Pervez Says...

The New York Timesand the Los Angeles Timeslead with Gen. Pervez Musharraf's pledge to ban five militant organizations, including two operating in India and Kashmir. He also vowed that his country would not be "used as a base for terrorism of any kind" (NYT). Musharraf gets pushed aside for some local news in the Washington Post, which leads with the full-color swearing-in of Virginia's handsome new governor, Democrat Mark Warner.

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Musharraf's speech is not likely to satisfy India, according to the NYT. While he condemned violence in Kashmir, he stopped well short of ceding the territory. "Kashmir runs in our blood," he said. He also refused to hand over 20 men accused of committing terrorist attacks in India and Kashmir. "There is no question of handing over any Pakistani," he says in the NYT. "This will never be done." The Post cogently reminds that India considers its enemies in Kashmir terrorists, while Pakistan calls at least some of them freedom fighters. These divergent interpretations will not be helped along by yesterday's speech.

The NYT has run several articles describing Musharraf's tenuous hold on the presidency. Today's is "Pakistani Leader Stands at Dangerous Crossroad."  Again, the piece says, Musharraf must attempt to mollify a powerful nation—India, this time, rather than the United States, and under threat of war—while still convincing Pakistanis than he is in no way "capitulating to the nation's traditional enemy," in the words of the Times

The LAT stuffs a piece on religious minorities—mostly Christians and Hindus—in Pakistan, who constitute a "separate electorate," i.e., they may only vote for candidates of their own faith. 10 of Parliament's 217 seats go to non-Muslims, leaving the rest guaranteed to Muslims. (Pakistan is 97 percent Muslim.) "This is the problem in Pakistan—the state has legislated against minorities," says a Christian activist. "This has led to sectarianism and laws that are then grossly abused by the religious extremists." In his speech on Saturday, Musharraf said that sectarian violence claimed the lived of 400 Pakistanis last year.

The NYT off-leads another disheartening chapter in the Enron saga.  A lawsuit brought by Amalgamated Bank of New York, which turned its union members on to Enron stock, tells of execs who managed to sell their shares before the company went south. Enron President Kenneth Lay sold his stock almost daily, bit-by-bit, to the tune of over $100 million. (He got up to $86 per share; Enron is now down to under 70 cents.) The suit alleges that the higher-ups were privy to insider information that was kept from outside investors, who continued to buy while Enron execs were selling.

The NYT also fronts the ease with which instructions for making and storing biological weapons can be bought from the U.S. government, which is otherwise busy fighting a war on bioterrorism. The documents, written between 1943 and 1969, were gradually declassified and now, thanks to an executive order barring reclassification signed by Clinton in 1995, must remain public. George W. may soon sign an order of his own, declassifying reclassification.

The LAT goes inside with the Mormons, who are quietly gearing up for the Salt Lake City Olympics. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sing at the opening ceremonies, and the Mormon Temple will be ever-present behind the medal stand. The Games' organizer is a Mormon Bishop. "Even the local television station that will broadcast the Games is owned by the church," the LAT reports. "The church has never shown much of a gift for having a light touch with anything," says a non-believer. "Utah is a theocracy. The reason they don't go overboard in their excesses is that you have this complication called the U.S. Constitution." Mormonism is the world's fastest-growing religion.

The NYT's education supplement features Anna Deavere Smith, actress, performance artist, and now professor at NYU Law School. She's teaching "Listening and Lawyering," a course designed to help students focus on the client (i.e., the person), and not just the law. "For Ms. Smith," the Times writes, "the collaboration is not that far afield: she is a master of the interview, and the law is a theme that runs through much of her theatrical storytelling." "No one listens better, no one interprets stories better than Anna Deavere Smith," says a prof at Yale Medical, where Smith taught last year. "We realized that if we could interest her in coming, it would really put the patient-doctor relationship at center stage."

Finally, load up on your hemp-infused foods while you still can, a Post fronter advises, because they won't be around much longer. "Many Americans do not know that hemp and marijuana are both parts of the same plant and that hemp cannot be produced without producing marijuana," says a heavy at the DEA. Not so, counters the hemp camp. "The difference between the two plants is like the difference between field corn and sweet corn–it's the same species but different varieties," says a hempie in the Post. The battle will rage on, quietly, but for now Hempzel Pretzels, Hempseed Energy Bars, and Hemp Chips will be forced to go underground. Get ready to pass the pretzel bong.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.