Miles on Jazeera, AJI

Hugh Miles, who wrote a book on Al Jazeera, has a "Think Again" piece in Foreign Policy debunking various myths about the channel. Nothing much new in it, but it's a good overview of the facts many get wrong. One interesting issue is about Al Jazeera International, the English-language channel that should launch later this year. Hugh says:
The network’s coverage will “follow the sun” throughout the day, airing from Kuala Lumpur for 4 hours, Doha for 11 hours, London for 5, and Washington for the remaining 4.
I believe that's a different schedule than originally intended, since AJI wanted to split its airtime evenly between its various headquarters. I've been hearing through the grapevine that there's trouble brewing at AJI's top management, with the Emir of Qatar intervening personally to make sure Doha has more airtime. Apparently it hadn't been made clear to him that the idea was to split airtime between each region, and now, a few months before they're supposed to launch, AJI has to look for extra staff in Doha to be able to handle a 12-hour or longer shift. He is reportedly very intent on boosting Qatar's image through AJI and wants Doha to dominate. Well, it's his money... On the upside, if you're looking for a job in the Gulf, AJI is still hiring! The entire episode does make you wonder about Nigel Parsons' management of the whole thing, though. Incidentally, I had a piece about AJI in the recent issue of TBS, looking at how it's perceived in the States and the still unsolved mystery of what it's "soul" will be like -- CNN or the original Arabic channel.
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Dubai's "imagineered urbanism"

It's become rather fashionable to write about Dubai. This piece from Mother Jones at least does not indulge in contemplative wonder of "Sheikh Mo's Vision":
Under the enlightened despotism of its Crown Prince and CEO, 56-year-old Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Rhode-Island-sized Emirate of Dubai has become the new global icon of imagineered urbanism. Although often compared to Las Vegas, Orlando, Hong Kong or Singapore, the sheikhdom is more like their collective summation: a pastiche of the big, the bad, and the ugly. It is not just a hybrid but a chimera: the offspring of the lascivious coupling of the cyclopean fantasies of Barnum, Eiffel, Disney, Spielberg, Jerde, Wynn, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Multibillionaire Sheik Mo -- as he's affectionately known to Dubai's expats -- not only collects thoroughbreds (the world's largest stable) and super-yachts (the 525-foot-long Project Platinum which has its own submarine and flight deck), but also seems to have imprinted Robert Venturi's cult Learning from Las Vegas in the same way that more pious Moslems have memorized The Quran. (One of the Sheik's proudest achievements, by the way, is to have introduced gated communities to Arabia.) Under his leadership, the coastal desert has become a huge circuit board into which the elite of transnational engineering firms and retail developers are invited to plug in high-tech clusters, entertainment zones, artificial islands, "cities within cities" -- whatever is the latest fad in urban capitalism. The same phantasmagoric but generic Lego blocks, of course, can be found in dozens of aspiring cities these days, but Sheik Mo has a distinctive and inviolable criterion: Everything must be "world class," by which he means number one in The Guinness Book of Records. Thus Dubai is building the world's largest theme park, the biggest mall, the highest building, and the first sunken hotel among other firsts.
Here's an idea for a site for anyone who lives in Dubai: how about collecting pictures of the Dubai of South Asian workers, crass commercialism, backwards and lazy part of the local population, etc... and publishing them as a pastiche of the "cutting edge of the world" PR seen everywhere?
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