Faisal al-Qassem has been annoying Arab governments for eight years and loving every minute of it. \nAt the forefront of groundbreaking Arabic satellite station al Jazeera since its inception in 1996, the presenter and his weekly political theater have been hard for them to ignore. \n"Why is it that...?" his voice always blares in the trailers for the show, The Opposite Direction, as his arms gesticulate wildly. \n"Why is it that Arab regimes failed to condemn the pictures of abuse of Iraqi prisoners?" he began on a recent episode about the US prisoner abuse scandal. "Is the torture in Arab prisons not a hundred times worse than Abu Ghraib?" \nSpeaking to Reuters from his home in Qatar where al Jazeera is located, al-Qassem -- a Syrian who previously presented a similar radio show on the BBC World Service -- says he was particularly proud of his show addressing prison abuse. \ndiplomatic rifts \n"I'm sure over 50 million people watched it. We're talking about torture in Arab prisons. Don't you think the Sudanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Mauritanians will watch -- everyone will." \nThe program, which goes out live every week, now offers viewers the chance to vote online to answer such questions. In this case, 86 percent said yes -- Arab torture is worse. \nAl Jazeera has brought about a revolution in Arab media with its remit to take on the taboos of Arab politics, religion and society in a region dominated by the Arab-Israeli conflict. \nThe channel, left with a largely free hand by its Qatari financers, has caused the oil-rich Gulf state diplomatic rifts with Arab governments as well as Washington over its coverage of the war on Iraq, Afghanistan and Islamic militancy. \nAl-Qassem's format -- two guests representing two opposite sides of an argument -- is novel in the Arab media although the formula has been used on Western airwaves for years. \nAnd an argument it often is, with guests and callers hurling abuse at each other as tempers fray. \nAl-Qassem admits he does his best to stir the debate, despite feigned attempts to stop the insults with his stock phrase "People. People." The show has often been cut short as guests more used to public niceties and private intrigue of Arab politics storm off in fury from the public forum. \negyptian feminists \nViewers have been treated to such delights as Egyptian feminists out-shouting radical preachers and exiled Lebanese warlords incandescent over criticism of one-time Israeli ties. \n"I could do a calm, sober program, but I know the viewers wouldn't watch. No one would watch a dead program," al-Qassem says with a certain pride. \n"Five countries cut diplomatic links with Qatar because of the program. Kuwait closed our office more than once and Egypt once evicted my brother," he brims, as if presenting a resume. \nState media around the region have accused al-Qassem of everything in the Arab political lexicon. "There's no intelligence agency I haven't apparently worked for. One day I'm with Mossad, the next day I'm a CIA agent," he says. \n"I go to Tunisia and they say `why are you against Tunisia?' I go to Syria and hear the same, I go to Saudi Arabia and they say it too. I hear the same thing from everybody, which is good: It means we are not against anybody." \nMost commentators agree the show was a long overdue forum to vent frustrations in a region of repressed societies smothered by authoritarian regimes. But now, many say it has had its day. \nAl-Qassem begs to differ, saying he has had no indication that Qatar will take him off the air. \nThe Arab world is hardly any more democratic now than it was when al Jazeera began airing the program eight years ago. But al-Qassem argues it has at least helped break the fear barrier. \nfear and suppression \n"Eight years ago when I began the program I was looking around left and right for intelligence people coming after me. I felt someone was monitoring how I thought, I was frightened to even think about some sensitive political issues," he says. "We were born and bred in an environment of fear and suppression. Our children won't be terrorized by governments as easily as they terrorized us." \nListing numerous threats on his family's life, al-Qassem says it is not just Qatar that has suffered for his insolence. "It was painful sometimes. The program has caused a hell of a lot of problems."
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
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Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around