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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Security American Style!

US officials have become incessantly batty over security in their country post 9/11, sometimes it takes the level of almost paranoia. Today, airport security seems to be one of the many forms of state sponsored torture, which includes the likes of CIA and FBI. The only difference being that airport security is meant to torture/molest regular (non-terrorist) foreigners, as if to discourage them from coming to the United States. Here are some of the recently reported examples of airport security checks which speak volumes on how the airport security officials in USA are just too wary of foreigners, especially if you are non-white, more particularly a Muslim:

A rude shock angered millions of Indians on Independence Day as Shah Rukh Khan was detained at the Newark airport by a quite obviously racist official. “ I never experienced this kind of treatment anywhere in the world. It was embarrassing... I've never been asked such questions... The security of any country is important but caste, religion or race shouldn't come in the way of security measures. You may call me a mega star, a celebrity, but basically I'm just a normal guy. But I'm lucky that I have access to friends in the (Indian) consulate whom I could call up. But there are hundreds of others who don't have this facility," Shah Rukh Khan pointed out.

Britain's first Muslim minister, Shahid Malik, says he is "deeply disappointed" that he was detained by airport security officials in America. The international development minister was stopped and searched at Washington DC's Dulles airport. He said the same thing happened to him at JFK airport in New York last year. On that occasion he had been a keynote speaker at an event organized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), alongside the FBI and Muslim organizations, to talk about tackling extremism and defeating terrorism. Mr Malik said he had received numerous apologies and assurances from the US authorities after that incident. But he was again searched and detained by DHS officials on Sunday. Mr Malik said two other Muslims were also detained. "I am deeply disappointed," he said.

Nine Muslims, eight of them US-born citizens, were ordered off a US flight on New Year's Day after two passengers overheard what airline officials described as suspicious remarks. The group, including three children, were removed as they boarded an AirTran flight from Washington to Florida, where they planned to attend a religious retreat. One of the nine, Kashif Irfan, an anaesthetist, said his brother and his wife were discussing the safest place to sit in an airplane. After other passengers informed the crew of the remarks, the pilot decided to abort the flight. All 104 passengers were cleared by the FBI, but AirTran refused to take the Muslims, who were forced to pay for a ticket with another carrier. A spokesman for the airline defended the decision. "People made comments they shouldn't have made on the airplane," Tad Hutcheson said. "Other people heard them, misconstrued them. It just so happened these people were of Muslim faith and appearance. It escalated, it got out of hand and everyone took precautions."

Experience of an American journalist in Washington DC: “ I was literally pushed in a paranoia way by a female guard into a 3 sided GLASS BOX in front of all passengers passing, standing there like a lame duck for 5 min. Then finally someone special came with a VOICE and TONE that was so INTIMIDATING right away. NO hello, please would you, SIMPLY with PRISON WARD tone made me step forward and raise my arms horizontally. I was holding my ticket and passport, he insisted on me holding my hand OPEN, but rebuffed when I wanted to lay them down etc ..so how to hold them open. This went on for another 5min in front of every one who passed. I was wearing very classic black slacks and one long sleeve T shirt, so anything would show. He went on and on insisting me to keep my arms horizontally out. Meanwhile he took my passport away and had it checked again somewhere else. Finally he made me open my front of pants ( all in front of passengers passing by) and insisted in seeing something inside. Now it was OK, it was the safety hook in my pants and he simply walked away saying HAVE A NICE FLIGHT. I felt so violated like a mugging.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it will begin using body scanners in place of metal detectors for airport screening. Within a few months, the airport security screeners at San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will use body scanners. The new scanners require passengers to stand in the machine and raise their arms. The scanners use micro short-wave radio signals to penetrate clothing and reveal both metallic and non-metallic objects. Privacy advocates fear that the images are too revealing of personal body parts. The "whole-body imaging”, the airport security technology that performs "a virtual strip search" produces "naked" pictures of passengers, CNN has learned. "People shouldn't be humiliated by their government in the name of security, nor should they trust that the images will always be kept private. Screeners could make a fortune off naked virtual images of celebrities, the Privacy advocates speculated.

Airport security never ceases to amaze, every time you think things are getting a little wacky, you are shown something new that makes everything you saw in the past suddenly seem logical. Urinals at the Southwest airlines terminal at Houston's Hobby airport have a sign warning peeing passengers that: "Automatic infrared flush sensors also provide video monitoring for security purposes".

You can’t expect Indian politeness, patience and courage everywhere. Where else would you find people living under a constant threat of terrorist bombings and yet going out of the way to make air travel most scare-free of security checks, certainly nowhere near the security American style.


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