Archive for May, 2006|Monthly archive page

Canadian should stay on terror list

WASHINGTON – American officials said Monday that a Canadian should remain on a U.S. terrorist watch list despite the Canadian government’s conclusion otherwise and its apology after the designation led to his detention in Syria.In a joint letter, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff informed Stockwell Day, Canada’s minister of public safety, that they had again looked at intelligence in their possession concerning Maher Arar.“Based on this re-examination, we remain of the view that the continued watch listing of Mr. Arar is appropriate,” the U.S. officials said.

“Our conclusion in this regard is supported by information developed by U.S. law enforcement agencies that is independent of that provided to us by Canada regarding Mr. Arar.”

In 2002, U.S. officials detained Arar at a New York airport as he was trying to return home to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. Canada had placed Arar, a Syrian native, on a terrorism watch list. He said the United States arrested him and eventually sent him to Syria, where he allegedly was tortured and held for 10 months.

In September, a Canadian report concluded that Arar wasn’t a terrorism suspect. Gonzales has said the U.S. legally deported Arar and didn’t send him to Syria to be tortured. Syria defends its handling of the case, saying a Canadian diplomat visited Arar twice and found he was treated well. Human rights groups widely criticize the Damascus government for torturing prisoners

The Arar case has been politically charged. Last week, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sharply criticized Gonzales about the case during the attorney general’s appearance before the panel.

On Monday, Leahy complained the letter does not address what he called “the larger issues surrounding this case.”

“The reason the Arar case is such a sore point and such an offense to American values is that he was sent to Syria on the Bush administration’s orders, where he was tortured,” Leahy said in a written statement.

He said he was puzzled by the decision to keep Arar on the watch list, but said he would await a promised briefing by Gonzales.

Justice Department officials said Monday that the attorney general will inform the lawmaker why the Bush administration believes Arar should remain on the watch list.

In their letter to the Canadian minister, the U.S. officials said they would like to brief the Canadians “in a confidential meeting with appropriate Canadian officials at their earliest convenience.”


Little professors

There are two kinds of kids. The first kind, when they meet me for the first time, hide behind their moms and start crying. I don’t know why. But when the initial shock wears off, we become best buddies.

The other kind develops an instant desire to get on my nerves and drive me up the wall. They do this in various ways, using methods akin to medieval torture techniques. I met one such kid when I was visiting a colleague. The brat was about 4 years old, showed above average reading and torturing skills for his age.

When I entered the house, he looked innocuous enough, playing in the corner with his flash-cards. But as soon as he spotted me, he carefully approached his pray and camped near where his parents and I were trying to have a conversation. He started interrupting our conversation repeatedly by showing me the flash-cards of animals, which mostly looked Martian to me, and provided gratuitous information on their names and habitat.

After a while he figured the game was not interactive enough for him so he took the game up a notch. He started showing flash-cards and asking me to identify the animals. I identified them with ease. When I confidently announced “Ring-tailed lemur,” his father helpfully informed the brat, “Uncle is just reading off the flash-card.” The brat went, “Hey, you are not supposed to read off the card.” What? Are you expecting me to recognize a ring-tailed lemur? Do I look like an expert in… whatever subject that studies ungodly animals like ring-tailed lemurs?

Round three of the game constituted the brat covering the name of the animal and asking me to identify. At this point, I made my intentions not to be part of the fun clear by ignoring the brat. But it is hard to ignore him when he stood between me and his parents shoving a card in my face. I looked expectantly at his parents hoping they would say “Let uncle talk to us kanna.” But no. They were actually looked at me expectantly to answer the brat. After a brief to and fro exchange of expectant looks, they won.

Brat: OK, what is this?
Me: Deer

The brat smirked. I didn’t even know kids can smirk.

Brat: No, it’s an impala

I don’t know. They all look like frikking deer to me.

Brat: You don’t know the difference between deer and impala?

I wanted to tell the brat how much I care about the difference between impala and deer but I was afraid the brat may not understand the reference to rat’s ass. I looked at the parents hoping they would come to my rescue. They looked very amused, smiling proudly at the brat.

The pop-quiz continued.

Brat: What is this?
Me: Rhinoceros
Brat: No, rhinoceros

He corrected my pronunciation. Alarmed, I looked at the parents. Of course they are going to sternly admonish the brat not to be rude. Nope. They had their proud smile plastered on their faces.

Brat: What is this?
Me: Horse
Brat: What is it called in Telugu? (Telugu is my mother tongue)
Me: It’s called “gurram”
Brat: No it’s called “gurram” (Pronouncing it like an American)

The parents laughed out loud at the cuteness. I was not laughing. I was not mad at the brat. I was mad at the parents. I felt sad for the brat. He will grow up with the reinforcement that it is okay to be rude and it is okay to insist that he is right even when he is not.

Of course, a few minutes after that I suddenly remembered a very urgent matter I needed to tend to.