Thursday, January 31, 2008
"With President Bush, you always have to read the footnotes.
Just before Monday night’s State of the Union speech, in which Mr. Bush extolled bipartisanship, railed against government excesses and promised to bring the troops home as soon as it’s safe to withdraw, the White House undermined all of those sentiments with the latest of the president’s infamous signing statements.
The signing statements are documents that earlier presidents generally used to trumpet their pleasure at signing a law, or to explain how it would be enforced. More than any of his predecessors, the current chief executive has used the pronouncements in a passive-aggressive way to undermine the power of Congress.
Over the last seven years, Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of these insidious documents declaring that he had no intention of obeying a law that he had just signed. This is not just constitutional theory. Remember the detainee treatment act, which Mr. Bush signed and then proceeded to ignore, as he told C.I.A. interrogators that they could go on mistreating detainees?
This week’s statement was attached to the military budget bill, which covers everything except the direct cost of the war. The bill included four important provisions that Mr. Bush decided he will enforce only if he wants to.
The president said they impinged on his constitutional powers. We asked the White House to explain that claim, but got no answer, so we’ll do our best to figure it out."
Continue to read the revelatory editorial here.
That is the banner headline to a piece in Comment is Free in The Guardian:
"Diplomatic pressure from the European Union has been credited as being partly responsible for how Israel allowed some deliveries of food, medicine and fuel to Gaza over the past few days.
But you would never guess that senior EU officials had been flexing their metaphorical muscles if you saw one particular document distributed to the Brussels press corps.
This was a transcript of a speech given by the European commission's vice-president, Franco Frattini, during a visit to Israel.
In a week when the UN berated Israel for violating international law by blockading Gaza, it seems extraordinary that Frattini should indulge in some flagrant fawning towards his hosts.
According to his prepared script for a conference entitled Israel at 60: test of endurance, Frattini did not allude once to the blockade imposed on Gaza, even though the UN considers it to be an illegal act of "collective punishment".
Instead, he insinuated that opponents of Israel in Europe were guilty of antisemitism. "This prejudice, this stance against Israel and Jews, has no place in today's Europe," he said."
Continue reading the piece here.
Germany is different. As it remembers the ascension of Hitler to power 75 years ago this week, the NY Times reports ["Germany Confronts Holocaust Legacy Anew"] that Germany is still erecting memorials to remember the country's dark Holocaust past - not only in relation to Jews [of whom some 6 million were murdered] but also gypsies and gays and lesbians:
"Most countries celebrate the best in their pasts. Germany unrelentingly promotes its worst.
The enormous Holocaust memorial that dominates a chunk of central Berlin was completed only after years of debate. But the building of monuments to the Nazi disgrace continues unabated.
On Monday, Germany’s minister of culture, Bernd Neumann, announced that construction could begin in Berlin on two monuments: one near the Reichstag, to the murdered Gypsies, known here as the Sinti and the Roma; and another not far from the Brandenburg Gate, to gays and lesbians killed in the Holocaust.
In November Germany broke ground on the long-delayed Topography of Terror center at the site of the former Gestapo and SS headquarters. And in October, a huge new exhibition opened at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. At the Dachau camp, outside Munich, a new visitor center is set to open this summer. The city of Erfurt is planning a museum dedicated to the crematoriums. There are currently two exhibitions about the role of the German railways in delivering millions to their deaths."
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Writing an op-ed piece in the IHT he explains his thinking and what has motivated and driven him:
"I have often made the statement that the destinies of the Israeli and Palestinian people are inextricably linked and that there is no military solution to the conflict. My recent acceptance of Palestinian nationality has given me the opportunity to demonstrate this more tangibly.
When my family moved to Israel from Argentina in the 1950s, one of my parents' intentions was to spare me the experience of growing up as part of a minority - a Jewish minority. They wanted to me to grow up as part of a majority - a Jewish majority.
The tragedy of this is that my generation, despite having been educated in a society whose positive aspects and human values have greatly enriched my thinking, ignored the existence of a minority within Israel - a non-Jewish minority - which had been the majority in the whole of Palestine until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Part of the non-Jewish population remained in Israel, and other parts left out of fear or were forcefully displaced.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there was and still is an inability to admit the interdependence of their two voices. The creation of the state of Israel was the result of a Jewish-European idea, which, if it is to extend its leitmotif into the future, must accept the Palestinian identity as an equally valid leitmotif."
"I cannot avoid the subject any longer. Almost every day I receive a clutch of emails about it, asking the same question. A frightening new report has just pushed it up the political agenda: for the first time the World Food Programme is struggling to find the supplies it needs for emergency famine relief. So why, like most environmentalists, won't I mention the p-word? According to its most vociferous proponents (Paul and Anne Ehrlich), population is "our number one environmental problem". But most greens will not discuss it.
Is this sensitivity or is it cowardice? Perhaps a bit of both. Population growth has always been politically charged, and always the fault of someone else. Seldom has the complaint been heard that "people like us are breeding too fast". For the prosperous clergyman Thomas Malthus, writing in 1798, the problem arose from the fecklessness of the labouring classes. Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, eugenicists warned that white people would be outbred. In rich nations in the 1970s the issue was over-emphasised, as it is the one environmental problem for which poor nations are largely to blame. But the question still needs to be answered. Is population really our number one environmental problem?
The Optimum Population Trust (OPT) cites some shocking figures, produced by the UN. They show that if the global population keeps growing at its current rate, it will reach 134 trillion by 2300. But this is plainly absurd: no one expects it to happen. In 2005, the UN estimated that the world's population will more or less stabilise in 2200 at 10 billion. But a paper published in Nature last week suggests that there is an 88% chance that global population growth will end during this century.
In other words, if we accept the UN's projection, the global population will grow by roughly 50% and then stop. This means it will become 50% harder to stop runaway climate change, 50% harder to feed the world, 50% harder to prevent the overuse of resources. But compare this rate of increase with the rate of economic growth."
Continue to read on here.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Nation has already delivered it's assessment of the speech:
"As predicted, the president's last State of the Union speech echoed the empty rhetoric of the speeches that came before it. There was an extended call on Congress to make permanent the tax cuts for the rich that have so skewed the nation's economic balance since Bush secured them. There were attacks on spending by a president who has presided over the dramatic bloating of deficits that are the spawn of unsustainable spending. There were more defenses of free-trade pacts that have harmed workers, the environment and communities in the United States and abroad. And there were more fantastical claims about the successes of the disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Check out the site here.
Scott Horton, writing on Harper's Magazine takes up the topic of what has, or has not been reported during this month:
"I used to try to keep track of the significant national security questions which appear to have been spiked by some sort of editorial consensus in the mainstream media, on the theory that what they choose not to report tells us at least as much about the editorial state-of-mind as what they report. So here’s my missing news items report for the month of January".
Read Horton's list, here, as an insight into the "standard" of reporting in the USA.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Read a piece on the subject from the Daily Mail [reproduced on truthdig.com].
"Brattleboro residents will vote at town meeting on whether President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be indicted and arrested for war crimes, perjury or obstruction of justice if they ever step foot in Vermont.
The Brattleboro Select Board voted 3-2 Friday to put the controversial item on the Town Meeting Day warning.
According to Town Clerk Annette Cappy, organizers of the Bush-Cheney issue gathered enough signatures, and it was up to the Select Board whether Brattleboro voters would consider the issue in March.
Cappy said residents will get to vote on the matter by paper balloting March 4."
So, what is the state of play in Fallujah now? Not good, says Patrick Coburn as he returns to the city - in a report in The Independent:
"Fallujah is more difficult to enter than any city in the world. On the road from Baghdad I counted 27 checkpoints, all manned by well-armed soldiers and police. "The siege is total," says Dr Kamal in Fallujah Hospital as he grimly lists his needs, which include everything from drugs and oxygen to electricity and clean water.
The last time I tried to drive to Fallujah, several years ago, I was caught in the ambush of an American fuel convoy and had to crawl out of the car and lie beside the road with the driver while US soldiers and guerrillas exchanged gunfire. The road is now much safer but nobody is allowed to enter Fallujah who does not come from there and can prove it through elaborate identity documents. The city has been sealed off since November 2004 when United States Marines stormed it in an attack that left much of the city in ruins.
Its streets, with walls pock-marked with bullets and buildings reduced to a heap of concrete slabs, still look as if the fighting had finished only a few weeks ago".
Sunday, January 27, 2008
It therefore "interesting" to read an endorsement for Obama - coincidentally published in the NY Times - by a real blast from the past, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK, President of the USA from 196o until his assassination.
In her op-ed piece "A President like my Father" she writes:
"Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.
My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals."
Read the complete piece here.
"It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate.
It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet - to feel so even when it is your own government that erected the wall in the first place.
The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair.
That is the lesson of Gaza, January, 2008."
"Months ago, the two Ehuds - Barak and Olmert - imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, and boasted about it. Lately they have tightened the deadly noose even more, so that hardly anything at all could be brought into the Strip. Last week they made the blockade absolute - no food, no medicines. Things reached a climax when they stopped the fuel, too. Large areas of Gaza remained without electricity - incubators for premature babies, dialysis machines, pumps for water and sewage. Hundreds of thousands remained without heating in the severe cold, unable to cook, running out of food.
Again and again, Aljazeera broadcast the pictures into millions of homes in the Arab world. TV stations all over the world showed them, too. From Casablanca to Amman angry mass protest broke out and frightened the authoritarian Arab regimes. Hosny Mubarak called Ehud Barak in panic. That evening Barak was compelled to cancel, at least temporarily, the fuel-blockade he had imposed in the morning. Apart from that, the blockade remained total.
It is hard to imagine a more stupid act."
Cohen is therefore well-qualified to write on the subject of eavesdropping - in which the Bush Administration has already been widely engaged. According to Cohen., writing in truthdig.com, it's going to get worse:
"Amid the controversy brewing in the Senate over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform, the Bush administration appears to have changed its strategy and is devising a bold new plan that would strip away FISA protections in favor of a system of wholesale government monitoring of every American’s Internet activities. Now the national director of intelligence is predicting a disastrous cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. if this scheme isn’t instituted.
It is no secret that the Bush administration has already been spying on the e-mail, voice-over-IP, and other Internet exchanges between American citizens since as early as and possibly earlier than Sept. 11, 2001. The National Security Agency has set up shop in the hubs of major telecom corporations, notably AT&T, installing equipment that makes copies of the contents of all Internet traffic, routing it to a government database and then using natural language parsing technology to sift through and analyze the data using undisclosed search criteria. It has done this without judicial oversight and obviously without the consent of the millions of Americans under surveillance. Given any rational interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, its mass spying operation is illegal and unconstitutional.
But now the administration wants to make these illegal activities legal. And why is that? According to National Director of Intelligence Mike McConnell, who is now drafting the proposal, an attack on a single U.S. bank by the 9/11 terrorists would have had a far more serious impact on the U.S. economy than the destruction of the Twin Towers. “My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens,” said McConnell. So the way to prevent this from happening, he claims, is to give the government the power to spy at will on the content of all e-mails, file transfers and Web searches."
Read the full piece here. Very, very troubling. And George W criticises the Chinese , and others, for their infringement of privacy and personal liberties?
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The Guardian reflects on how the events of the last days impact on Egypt:
"It has been an uncomfortable few days for President Husni Mubarak, watching anxiously as the crisis in Gaza spilled over onto his territory, focusing intense and unwelcome attention - both at home and abroad - on Egypt's role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Scenes depicting tens of thousands of people streaming across the breached border fence at Rafah, driven by desperation with the tightening Israeli blockade, graphically underlined the danger of instability and violence exploding from Gaza's pressure cooker into Egypt proper.
Yet even with troops and riot police rolling out barbed wire and water cannon, restoring the status quo - the border sealed and the Palestinians shut in behind it - will not be easy, especially after Mubarak vowed that he would not stand by while 1.5 million people "starved under Israeli's siege".
Egyptians are extremely conscious of their leadership role in the Arab world - in politics as in films and literature - and are proud of their support for the Palestinians down the decades, from the disastrous war of 1948 through to Nasser's 1967 defeat and Anwar Sadat's triumphant Yom Kippur crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973."
Friday, January 25, 2008
"With its international mandate in Iraq set to expire in 11 months, the Bush administration will insist that the government in Baghdad give the United States broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors specific legal protections from Iraqi law, according to administration and military officials.
This emerging American negotiating position faces a potential buzz saw of opposition from Iraq, with its fragmented Parliament, weak central government and deep sensitivities about being seen as a dependent state, according to these officials."
Forget about Iraq being a sovereign State or that democracy is said to have been restored to the now war-torn country post the downfall of Saddam. The Americans are clearly bent on staying in Iraq for the very long term. Read the full IHT piece here.
Writing in Counterpunch "One and Two State Solutions - The Myth of International Consensus" [reproduced on Information Clearing House] she says:
"Among the panoply of reasons put forth against advocates of a one-state solution for Palestine-Israel, perhaps the most disingenuous is the injunction, repeated by well meaning commentators who believe they speak in the Palestinians' best interests, that Palestinians would simply be irritating the international community by pressing for such a solution, because the so-called international consensus supports, and indeed is based upon, a two-state solution. At a time when the "international consensus" could not be less interested in securing any Palestinian rights, particularly in forcing Israel to withdraw from enough territory to provide for real Palestinian statehood and genuine freedom from Israeli domination, this call for compliance with the wishes of an uncaring international community is at best an empty argument, at worst a hypocritical dodge that undermines the Palestinians' right to struggle for equality and self-determination. By telling the Palestinians that they cannot even speak out for one state without antagonizing some mythical consensus around the world, this line of argument undermines their right simply to think about an alternative solution.
The one-state solution is envisioned as an arrangement that would see Palestinians and Jews living together as citizens of a single, truly democratic state, with guaranteed rights to equality and guaranteed equal access to the instruments of governance. Such a solution would mean the end of Zionism as currently conceived and the end of Israel as an exclusivist Jewish state, but it would guarantee equal civil and political rights for Israeli Jews and the right to encourage further Jewish immigration, just as it would guarantee -- for the first time -- equal civil and political rights for Palestinians and the right of Palestinian refugees exiled over the last 60 years to return to their homeland.
The notion of establishing a single state for Palestinians and Jews, although historically not a new idea, has regained currency in recent years as it has become increasingly obvious that Israel's absorption of more and more Palestinian land in the occupied territories -- land stolen from Palestinians for constantly expanding settlements, a vast network of roads for the exclusive use of Israelis, the monstrously destructive separation wall, and Israeli military bases and closed security zones -- has made the vision of "two states living side by side in peace" a cruel joke."
Complete reading the piece here.
"Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not subject to the rules of human behaviour, because it is "a city upon a hill", regardless that most of humanity sees it as a monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations, destroying millions of lives."
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The facts on the ground, as it were, don't put the US in such a great light so far as political action towards Afro-Americans goes.
Scott Horton, writing on Harper's Magazine puts it bluntly:
"The Bush Administration has been notoriously awkward around the Black community and civil rights leaders, and time has gradually explained why. In seven years, the Bushies have struggled continuously to undo the nation’s civil rights infrastructure, attacking the legacy of Martin Luther King. Bush himself has shied away from speaking to Black audiences, and so have his senior officials.
On Saturday, Attorney General Mukasey delivered some significant remarks in an appearance at Washington’s historic Shiloh Baptist Church. They got little attention in the media. That’s unfortunate, because they speak directly to Bush’s awful legacy in the civil rights field, and they need to be read."
Read on here.
Yes, the stats show improvement over the years, but with so much wealth in the world and excessive sums being spent on wars and arms, surely decency and humanity dictates that this scourge of innocent young lives being snuffed out be eradicated. And that doesn't take into account the trauma of mothers and fathers of the children. The indifference of the world as it averts its gaze from this blight needs to be condemned.
"Nearly 9.7 million children die each year before their fifth birthday from diseases from pneumonia to malaria, but simple affordable measures could save more lives, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
While the annual toll is below 10 million for the first time, it still means that more than 26,000 young children die each day, most from preventable causes.
UNICEF warned that despite recent advances, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East are not on track to meet a United Nations goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, to fewer than 5 million deaths per year.
"The enormity of the challenge should not be under-estimated," the agency said in its annual report, The State of the World's Children."
The solution isn't a costly one either:
"Children in the developing world frequently succumb to respiratory or diarrhoeal infections that no longer threaten lives in rich countries. Many also die from measles and other diseases that can be prevented through vaccines.
Unsafe water and poor sanitation also cause extensive disease and death, especially among malnourished children.
Yet simple, affordable measures such as breast-feeding, vaccinations and insecticide-treated bed nets can dramatically reduce child deaths, according to UNICEF."
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Former NY Times Jerusalem Bureau, Chris Hedges, writing in truthdig.com says:
"This is not another typical spat between Israelis and Palestinians. This is the final, collective strangulation of the Palestinians in Gaza. The decision to block shipments of food by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency means that two-thirds of the Palestinians who rely on relief aid will no longer be able to eat when U.N. stockpiles in Gaza run out. Reports from inside Gaza speak of gasoline stations out of fuel, hospitals that lack basic medicine and a shortage of clean water. Whole neighborhoods were plunged into darkness when Israel cut off its supply of fuel to Gaza’s only power plant. The level of malnutrition in Gaza is now equal to that in the poorest sub-Saharan nations.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert uses words like war to describe the fight to subdue and control Gaza. But it is not war. The Palestinians have little more than old pipes fashioned into primitive rocket launchers, AK-47s and human bombs with which to counter the assault by one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. Palestinian resistance is largely symbolic. The rocket attacks are paltry, especially when pitted against Israeli jet fighters, attack helicopters, unmanned drones and the mechanized units that make regular incursions into Gaza. A total of 12 Israelis have been killed over the past six years in rocket attacks. Suicide bombings, which once rocked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have diminished, and the last one inside Israel that was claimed by Hamas took place in 2005. Since the current uprising began in September 2000, 1,033 Israelis and 4,437 Palestinians have died in the violence, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. B’Tselem noted in a December 2007 report that the dead included 119 Israeli children and 971 Palestinian children."
Meanwhile, on The Electronic Intifada, Omar Barghouti, writes compellingly of the situation confronting the people of Gaza, of Israel's genocidal conduct, and wonders why it is that the Europeans, the UN, the USA and others stay silent in the face of the untold hardship and life-threatening actions of Israel being inflicted on the Gazans:
"The European Union, Israel's largest trade partner in the world, is watching by as Israel tightens its barbaric siege on Gaza, collectively punishing 1.5 million Palestinian civilians, condemning them to devastation, and visiting imminent death upon hundreds of kidney dialysis and heart patients, prematurely born babies, and all others dependent on electric power for their very survival.
By freezing fuel and electric power supplies to Gaza, Israel, the occupying power, is essentially guaranteeing that "clean" water -- only by name, as Gaza's water is perhaps the most polluted in the whole region, after decades of Israeli theft and abuse -- will not be pumped out and properly distributed to homes and institutions; hospitals will not be able to function adequately, leading to the eventual death of many, particularly the most vulnerable; whatever factories that are still working despite the siege will now be forced to close, pushing the already extremely high unemployment rate even higher; sewage treatment will come to a halt, further polluting Gaza's precious little water supply; academic institutions and schools will not be able to provide their usual services; and the lives of all civilians will be severely disrupted, if not irreversibly damaged. And Europe is apathetically watching.
Princeton academic Richard Falk considered Israel's siege a "prelude to genocide," even before this latest crime of altogether cutting off energy supplies. Now, Israel's crimes in Gaza can accurately be categorized as acts of genocide, albeit slow."
Greed has obviously played its part - as financiers have dangled ever-more cash in front of people unable to afford the loans being offered. A mirage of ever-increasing property values has been another issue. And then there has been spiralling household debt. The credit-card "charge" has gone on unabated and unchecked. Until now!
Roger Cohen, columnist in the IHT and NY Times, puts the whole mess into some context in a well-put together and well-worth reading piece "U.S. Soldiers and Shoppers Hit the Wall":
"Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have pushed the U.S. armed forces to the limit. Many soldiers have scarcely seen their families in recent years. But a much larger American army, the one that's spent this century shopping, is even more overextended and its pain is now coming home to roost.
Nobody ever made money exhorting people to save. But U.S. banks and financial institutions have spent huge amounts in recent years telling people debt is good and savings are dumb.
Their ads - to the effect that "good daughters go into debt to take their mothers on vacation," as Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, put it - paid off handsomely as consumers went on a debt-financed shopping spree. Consumption has driven the U.S. economy; the only problem is consumers ran out of money years ago even as they did not run out of credit cards.
And here we are, with the rainy day our grandparents always droned on about appearing in the form of a deluge, and no savings stashed for it, and President George W. Bush, the debt-spender par excellence, conjuring up a $150-billion stimulus package that evokes the injection of steroids into a prone athlete wrecked by a marathon."
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
"Nearly 70 years ago, in a small eastern European city, an oppressed and occupied people were under siege, living under atrocious and brutal conditions, lacking food, medicine, electricity, water, and slowly being strangled in the hope they would just disappear. Warsaw Ghetto 1941 - Gaza 2008. Israel, you are a disgrace."
Zaid Khan Blakehurst
"For the second time in two weeks, the entire U.S. press has let itself be scooped by Rupert Murdoch’s London Sunday Times on a dynamite story of criminal activities by corrupt U.S. officials promoting nuclear proliferation. But there is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped, and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the U.S. Congress and the courts.For the last two weeks — one could say, for years — the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.
Just as important, there must be pressure by the public on Congressional committee chairpersons, in particular Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Patrick Leahy. Both have been sitting for years on classified, sworn testimony by Edmonds — as she revealed in the Times’ new story on Sunday — along with documentation, in their possession, confirming parts of her account. Pressure must be brought for them to hold public hearings to investigate her accusations of widespread criminal activities, over several administrations, that endanger national security. They should call for open testimony under oath by Edmonds — as she has urged for five years — and by other FBI officials she has named to them, as cited anonymously in the first Times’ story.
And this is the time for those who have so far creditably leaked to the Times of London to come forward, accepting personal risks, to offer their testimony — and new documents — both to the Congress and to the American press. I would say to them: Don’t do what I did and waste months of precious time trying to get Congressional committees to act as they should in the absence of journalistic pressure. Do your best to inform the American public directly, first, through the major American media."
Information Clearing House reports "People are dying, Help us!":
"A humanitarian crisis is underway as the Gaza Strip's only power plant began to shut down on Sunday, and the tiny coastal territory entered its third full day without shipments of vital food and fuel supplies due to Israel's punitive sanctions.
The Gaza Strip's power plant has completely shut down on Sunday because it no longer has the fuel needed to keep running. One of the plant's two electricity-generating turbines had already shut down by noon.
This will drastically reduce output to 25 or 30 megawatts, down from the 65 megawatts the plant produces under normal conditions. By Sunday evening the plant will shut down completely, leaving large swaths of the Gaza Strip in darkness.
Omar Kittaneh, the head of the Palestine Energy Authority in Ramallah, confirmed that by tonight, the one remaining operating turbine will be powered down, and the Gaza power plant will no longer be generating any electricity at all."
A piece in The Guardian "West Bank bantustan" doesn't make for much more happy reading:
"Since the only Palestinian 'state' the current peace process can deliver is another Gaza-style enclave, this upsurge of violence is hardly encouraging."
Over at Haaretz Gideon Levy rightly questions what Israel thinks it is achieving with its present policies and actions:
"Has the daily mass killing in Gaza improved the security situation? No, it has only made it worse. Has it reduced the number of Qassams? No, it has led to their proliferation. So why are we killing? We need "to do something" and there needs to be "a price tag." These are hollow cliches. A review of recent newspapers presents a clear picture: As long as the U.S. president was still in the country, Israel refrained from liquidations, and the number of Qassams decreased. When George Bush left, we resumed killing and, as a result, Sderot has faced the most difficult days it has ever known. The burning question that arises is: What are we killing for? Someone must answer this."
Monday, January 21, 2008
Watch a rather amazing video about George W. What a sorry state of affairs to have this man in charge of anything let alone the presidency of the US.
The case of the cameraman again highlights the scandal of the way the Americans have simply detained people without any charges, trial or even an opportunity to confront their accusers of whatever it is said they are alleged to have done.
"Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on a letter from Guantánamo written by Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj. The letter was dated December 27, 2007, and had just been declassified by the Pentagon's censors. It was translated from the Arabic by his lawyers at the London-based legal charity Reprieve, which represents dozens of the Guantánamo detainees.
Mr. al-Haj was captured by Pakistani forces, acting on behalf of the United States, in December 2001, as he prepared to resume the Arabic TV station's coverage of Afghanistan with the rest of his team. As Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's legal director, explained after visiting him at Guantánamo last September, he was seized "because the US thought he had filmed Al-Jazeera's famous [Osama] bin Laden interview. As has so often been the case of late, the US was wrong (though name me a journalist who would turn down a bin Laden scoop)."
In Guantánamo, Mr. al-Haj has been subjected to an extraordinary array of vague allegations for which the administration has failed to provide any evidence. At his administrative review in September 2006, it was alleged that he had transported $220,000 to Azerbaijan "for what he was told was told was a humanitarian mission which instead was destined for Chechen rebels," and that, when he worked for a company called the Union Beverage Company, he "interacted with the individual in charge of distribution of juice in Azerbaijan," who "was under investigation for possible ties to terrorism."
Go on to read the complete piece here.
It is topic which occupies well-known journalist Greg Palast:
"Let’s begin by stating why Bush is not in Saudi Arabia. Bush ain’t there to promote ‘Democracy’ nor peace in Palestine, nor even war in Iran. And, despite what some pinhead from CNN stated, he sure as hell didn’t go to Riyadh to tell the Saudis to cut the price of oil.
What’s really behind Bush’s hajj to Riyadh is that America is in hock up to our knickers. The sub-prime mortgage market implosion, hitting a dozen banks with over $100 billion in losses, is just the tip of the debt-berg.
Since taking office, Bush has doubled the federal debt to more than $5 trillion. And, according to US Treasury figures, on net, foreign investors have purchased close to 100% of that debt. That’s $3 trillion borrowed from the Saudis, the Chinese, the Japanese and others.
Now, Bush, our Debt Junkie-in-Chief, needs another fix. The US Treasury, Citibank, Merrill-Lynch and other financial desperados need another hand-out from Abdullah’s stash. Abdullah, in turn, gets this financial juice by pumping it out of our pockets at nearly $100 a barrel for his crude.
Bush needs the Saudis to charge us big bucks for oil. The Saudis can’t lend the US Treasury and Citibank hundreds of billions of US dollars unless they first get these US dollars from the US. The high price of oil is, in effect, a tax levied by Bush but collected by the oil industry and the Gulf kingdoms to fund our multi-trillion dollar governmental and private debt-load."
Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd, back in the US after her "trip" to the Middle East with George W, voices a similar concern to that of Palast in her op-ed piece in the NY Times "Red, White and Blue Tag Sale" - only with an acerbic and very pointed pen:
"When President Bush finished doing his sword dances and Arabian stallion inspections, when he finished making a speech in Abu Dhabi on the importance of freedom that fell flat, when he finished lounging in his fur-lined George of Arabia robe in the Saudi king’s tent, he came home.
Or he came to what was left of home.
A Washington Post cartoon by Tom Toles summed it up best: “Great to be home,” W. enthuses on Air Force One, heading toward the East Coast. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?” Hanging on the skyline of New York is a sign reading: “U.S.A. Now a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Foreign Investors.”
Sunday, January 20, 2008
It is therefore more than gratifying, and satisfying, to see the Weekend Australian award Australians of the Year to 2 lawyers who took on the Federal Government - and saw a just outcome for their endeavours.
The Australian reports "Haneef team defied injustice":
"The complicated professional relationship that can meld a solicitor and a barrister into a formidable legal team has rarely been better displayed than in the case of the two men who are The Weekend Australian's Australians of the Year.
Brisbane solicitor Peter Russo and barrister Stephen Keim SC have become national figures in their long, difficult fight to defend Indian-born doctor Mohamed Haneef, who was detained on terror charges last July.
They have displayed the determination and professional skill that makes exceptional men stand out from the crowd. Unbowed by political and social pressures, they took on the might of the federal government, the Australian Federal Police and, initially, public opinion to prove the charges against Dr Haneef were unfounded and that the decision to withdraw his Australian visa was flawed.
Should Dr Haneef return to Australia, as seems likely, and continue to provide medical care for the citizens of the Gold Coast, Mr Russo and Mr Keim will have cemented themselves among the leading human rights advocates this country has produced."
That is exactly what Richard Ackland has done in an op-ed piece "Hopefully, this celebrity is as quick as it is instant" in the SMH as he reflects on what has now become news-worthy:
"Don't put your son on the stage, Mrs Worthington. Unfortunately, it's too late - the little prat is already centre stage, soaking up our oxygen and even getting titters of applause for his gormless moment of show and tell.
Narcissistic, monosyllabic, barely literate 16-year olds have always been around. What's new is that now they are celebrities.
Apparently we cannot get enough of those who are famous for being infamous.
Corey Worthington is today's hero. He holds Marshall McLuhan's flickering flame of fame. Maybe his entire life has been compressed into two days of instant notoriety. And for what? "Hosting" an out-of-control party on the outskirts of Melbourne in which a mess was made, property was damaged and the good burghers of Narre Warren sent scurrying into their locked fortresses.
The drama of police dogs and helicopters is part of the overwrought theatrical backdrop. After all, a police force that douses people with capsicum spray at the Australian Open tennis tournament is a police force with a finely honed sense of the dramatic.
Corey Worthington and his pimples, his rotten cap and sunnies was spun around the world. CNN says that the story was the most read item on its website. Bigger even than news about a man called Mitt."
"The Cairo woman stared in disbelief at the text message in her cellphone inbox.
She and her husband, an Egyptian army officer away on duty, had just hung up after quarreling on the phone. She ignored his return call, not wanting to continue the argument, the woman recounted in an interview this week.
The electronic chirrup of an incoming message signaled his response. "I divorce you," her husband had written. "That will teach you not to answer my calls."
Reconciliation followed, only to be broken by another quarrel, this one over the woman asking her family to mediate the couple's problems. "I divorce you," her husband wrote in another message. "Don't ask other people to interfere in our business."
Another reconciliation. Another argument. And another declaration of divorce from her husband, this time face to face, late last year.
Islamic law can make the act of divorce stunningly simple for men, even if the ensuing financial settlements often are not. A husband has only to declare to his wife, "Inti talaq" -- "You are divorced" -- three times, and mean it, to end their marriage.
But technology has introduced a complication that Egyptian religious authorities are now debating in the case of the 25-year-old Cairene, an engineer and an observant Muslim: How should Islamic laws that began to take shape in the 6th century apply to 21st-century text messages?"
Nicholas Kristof, op-ed columnist for the NY Times explains in a piece "Win a Trip You Won’t Forget" how one man, he himself, has been able to change things for the better with a win-win outcome:
"A few years ago, soon after I returned disconsolate and shellshocked from a trip to Darfur, I found New Yorkers burning with moral outrage.
The spark wasn’t genocide, war or poverty, but rather homelessness — of a red-tailed hawk nicknamed Pale Male. Managers of a Fifth Avenue apartment building had dismantled his nest.
Fury! Television cameras! And public pressure that led to a solution for rebuilding the nest.
I wondered how some of that compassion for a hawk could be rechanneled to help human beings like those I had just seen dying in Darfur. The potential is vast: just imagine if we felt the same sympathy for the 25,000 children who will die today of poverty as we do for, say, a lost and terrified puppy on the street. But it’s very difficult to generate activism for distant people whom we can’t visualize.
So I concocted a contest to take a university student with me on a reporting trip to Africa. I figured that the student’s journey might help connect American students to truly desperate needs abroad.
We’ve held two of these student trips so far, and today I’m delighted to announce the third."
Continue reading here.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The SMH has a fascinating article "Life in two parts" on the first biography of Hephzibah, due to be published, almost 30 years after her death in 1981:
"She was just eight years old when she first heard the enchanting name: Hephzibah. With its exotic overtones and lingering lyrical vowels, it appealed to Jacqueline Kent so much the primary-school girl would try it on for size.
"I thought it was such a fabulous name. I used to say it over. Hephzibaaaaaah," Kent says.
She had heard her father talk about the musical Menuhin family, of violinist Yehudi, who he had seen perform in Australia, and his pianist sister Hephzibah. But it was the latter's name that resonated with her long before she began working on An Exacting Heart: The Story of Hephzibah Menuhin.
The surprise is that a biography of Hephzibah has taken so long to appear. For the backbone of the story is enticing enough. On the cusp of a stellar musical career, the prodigiously talented US pianist swaps the concert hall stage for the paddocks of rural Victoria and marriage to a wealthy grazier. Years later she ups stumps for Britain with a quixotic, penniless social activist. And there's no shortage of cosmopolitan glamour, drama or passion in a life in which there are walk-on roles from everyone from conductor-composer Bruno Walter, Laurence Olivier and even one of the Kray twins.
But Hephzibah's life is not a black and white tale with a clear trajectory - neither unsung heroine nor dazzling musician who sacrificed all for love. Which is why, Kent suspects, that nearly 30 years after she died in 1981 no biography has appeared."
"Ehud Olmert, Israel’s perpetually embattled prime minister, probably thought he was performing a daring display of political balancing this week. First he saw off the visiting President Bush with grand words of peace. Then he announced that he opposed any major ground incursion into lawless Gaza. The next day, his troops opened up the bloodiest day of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in more than a year.
It was a classic Olmert juggling act: playing to every side in turn, hoping to give all involved just enough to keep them on board, but managing instead to leave everyone fuming. His advocacy of a negotiated deal with the Palestinians, blunter than any Israeli prime minister before him, has thoroughly alienated his traditional allies on the right. But his clumsy military forays, ostensibly meant to quell rocket fire from Gaza, probably sabotaged the very negotiations on which he has spent so much political capital.
As for the rocket fire, it only grew in intensity."
"In the past two years, Israeli forces killed 810 Palestinians in Gaza, as the director of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, told a Cabinet meeting last week. Of the total, about 200 were not clearly linked to terrorist organizations — that is, bystanders. A separate study by the Ha’aretz newspaper found that the civilian toll was actually higher, totaling about 360, of whom 152 were under age 18, including 48 children under age 14.
Israel’s death toll from terrorism in 2007, reported this month by the human rights group B’Tselem and confirmed by the military, totaled 13, including seven civilians. That was the lowest toll since 1999. The toll that year, the last full year that the Oslo accords were in effect, was zero."
Friday, January 18, 2008
And the Americans wonder why they have lost almost all credibility?
"Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the Jan. 6 U.S.-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran's military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.
The initial press stories on the incident, all of which can be traced to a briefing by deputy assistant secretary of defence for public affairs in charge of media operations Bryan Whitman, contained similar information that has since been repudiated by the Navy itself.
Then the Navy disseminated a short video into which was spliced the audio of a phone call warning that U.S. warships would "explode" in "a few seconds". Although it was ostensibly a Navy production, IPS has learned that the ultimate decision on its content was made by top officials of the Defence Department."
If the following piece from The Independent is supposed to reflect one of the positive outcomes of the invasion of Iraq, one has to wonder!
"The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops.
Afghan with experience in planting poppies have been helping farmers switch to producing opium in fertile parts of Diyala province, once famous for its oranges and pomegranates, north- east of Baghdad."
"Al-Qa'ida is in control of many of the newly established opium farms and has sometimes taken the land of farmers it has killed, said a local source. At Buhriz, American military forces destroyed the opium farm and drove off al-Qa'ida last year but it later returned. "No one can get inside the farm because it is heavily guarded," said the source, adding that the area devoted to opium in Diyala is still smaller than that in southern Iraq around Amara and Majar al-Kabir."
"The growing and smuggling of opium will be difficult to stop in Iraq because much of the country is controlled by criminalised militias. American successes in Iraq over the past year have been largely through encouraging the development of a 70,000-strong Sunni Arab militia, many of whose members are former insurgents linked to protection rackets, kidnapping and crime. Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the powerful Shia militia, the Mehdi Army, says that criminals have infiltrated its ranks."
The Guardian reports on an even more distressing and troubling outcome of the invasion of Iraq:
"The full extent of the destruction of Iraq's healthcare system and the devastating impact it has had on its people is documented today in a new report which indicts the allied invasion force for failing in its duty to protect medical institutions and staff.
The report, by an independent team of researchers and advisers from Iraq, the UK, the US and elsewhere, says the provision of healthcare "has become increasingly difficult" since the invasion. "Doctors and nurses have emigrated en masse, exacerbating existing staff shortages.
"The health system is in disarray owing to the lack of an institutional framework, intermittent electricity, unsafe water, and frequent violations of medical neutrality. The ministry of health and local health authorities are mostly unable to meet these huge challenges, while the activities of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations are severely limited."
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Unusual for her, she has been part of the media with George W as he has swung through the Middle East. No one could accuse Dowd of being an expert in politics, let alone in relation to the Middle East - unlike, say, a Robert Fisk - but her "take" on the Bush visit makes for interesting reading in her latest piece "Faith, Freedom and Bling in the Middle East".
Reflecting on the George W swing through the Middle East in a piece " Bloody reality bears no relation to the delusions of this President", Fisk writes:
"Is this how lame-duck American presidents are supposed to behave? Certainly, the denizens of the Middle East, watching this outrageous performance will all be asking this question. Ever since the 1979 Iranian revolution, a Muslim Cold War has been raging within the Middle East – but is this how Mr Bush thinks one should fight for the soul of Islam?
Already by dusk last night, the US President's world was exploding in Beirut when a massive car bomb blew up next to a 4x4 vehicle carrying American embassy employees, killing four Lebanese and apparently badly wounding a US embassy driver. And while Mr Bush was relaxing in the Saudi royal ranch at Al Janadriyah, Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, most of them members of Hamas, one of them the son of Mahmoud Zahar, a leader of the movement. He later claimed that Israel would not have staged the attack – on the day an Israeli was also killed by a Palestinian rocket – if it had not been encouraged to do so by George Bush.
The difference between reality and the dream-world of the US government could hardly have been more savagely illustrated. After promising the Palestinians a "sovereign and contiguous state" before the end of the year, and pledging "security" to Israel – though not, Arabs noted, security for "Palestine" – Mr Bush had arrived in the Gulf to terrify the kings and oligarchs of the oil-soaked kingdoms of the danger of Iranian aggression. As usual, he came armed with the usual American offers of vast weapons sales to protect these largely undemocratic and police state regimes from potentially the most powerful nation in the " axis of evil"."
Read the complete piece here.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Doubtlessly his pieces have often attracted adverse reaction, but Levy has been one of the few who has fearlessly put a position about Israel's actions and conduct - including severely criticising it - which others have simply failed to do.
It is therefore gratifying to read [see here] that Levy has been duly awarded for his work:
"Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy has won this year's Euro-Med Journalist Prize for Cultural Dialogue.
Levy was awarded the prize for an article published on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, entitled "The children of 5767" (5767 is the Jewish calendar year that ended on September 12, 2007). The article told the stories of all the Palestinian children killed by Israel Defense Forces fire over the previous year.
According to the prize committee, the piece not only dealt with a sensitive issue "in a very courageous manner," but also focused attention on an issue the Israeli media rarely covers.
The prize, now in its second year, is awarded jointly by the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures and the International Federation of Journalists.
Levy shared this year's prize with three other journalists from Slovenia, Turkey and Belgium. They were chosen out of 76 contenders from 37 countries."
French women remain chic and the food is without equal. The buildings are magnificent and the wide boulevards wonderful. The love of food and wine isn't matched in any other country. Interestingly, contrary to all expectations, the French are adhering to the ban on smoking in restaurants which came into force on 2 January. Why 2 January? So that the locals could still have a puff after midnight on new year's eve.
Berlin is vibrant and an edgy city. The differences between the old East and the West of the city are certainly diminishing, but considerable money will still need to be spent to make the 2 halves, as it were, reasonably equal. Some of the housing in the old East, as things like certain underground railways stations, are in dire of need of "upgrading". For opera, concerts and all sorts of entertainment [mainstream and otherwise] the choice is overwhelming.
Dresden, fire-bombed by the Allies just before the end WW2, has been largely rebuilt - to the original plans. Things are looking good in this city with a thriving economy. So, whilst there is an element of awe in seeing the old buildings [like the Zwinger and the Semper Opera House] they are, in reality, not the "real" original thing. It's all rather surreal and odd, for instance, sitting in the Opera House where Richard Wagner first mounted some of his operas, but then again it not being the actual building he was in - even if the building is to the self-same plans as the original.
The fact that the Palestinians have granted Barenboim Palestinian citizenship will doubtlessly draw further criticism of the musician. Haaretz reports:
"Daniel Barenboim, the world renowned Israeli pianist and conductor, has taken Palestinian citizenship and said he believed his rare new status could serve a model for peace between the two peoples.
"It is a great honor to be offered a passport," he said late on Saturday after a Beethoven piano recital in Ramallah, the West Bank city where he has been active for some years in promoting contact between young Arab and Israeli musicians.
"I have also accepted it because I believe that the destinies of ... the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are inextricably linked," Barenboim said. "We are blessed - or cursed - to live with each other. And I prefer the first."
"The fact that an Israeli citizen can be awarded a Palestinian passport, can be a sign that it is actually possible," he continued."
Read the full piece here.
The economy - some would ask, what economy? - is in total ruin and chaos.
The world sits idly by as Zimbabwe falls apart. Can it be said that Mugabe is any different to what Saddam was? Whatever, the plight of the population is almost universally ignored in the media perhaps because foreign journalists are essentially restricted from getting into the country. It is therefore more than timely, and troubling, to read the BBC's John Simpson's report [undercover] on Zimbabwe "The abject poverty in a country where everyone is a millionaire" in The Independent:
"In Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, everyone is a millionaire. You have to be: a loaf of bread costs a million Zimbabwe dollars, a newspaper costs two million, and a decent joint of beef costs a hundred million. The only problem is that the average wage is 20 million dollars a month. They're called Mugabe dollars and it isn't a term of affection.
Everyone queues here: in the supermarkets, at the petrol stations and in the banks, in order to draw out the money to buy anything. Inflation is so high that items which cost a mere20 million dollars yesterday are likely to cost double that by tomorrow. For some reason, the government refuses to print million-dollar notes; perhaps it thinks it would look bad. The highest note is for 750,000 dollars, and doing the maths is horrendous.
It's extraordinarily difficult to find anyone here who supports President Mugabe. He is loathed in the Harare slums. In Mbare, where two years ago his thugs bulldozed the shanties housing thousands of opposition supporters, small children shouted anti-Mugabe slogans as we drove past.
Shopkeepers, domestic workers, hospital staff, Aids patients, people selling handicrafts in the street – they all hate him. A very senior Zanu-PF figure, a man who sees himself as a king-maker, met me clandestinely in Harare. He hated Mugabe more than any of the others.
I am in Zimbabwe undercover, together with two colleagues. The BBC is banned, so it felt particularly good to broadcast live from here for last night's Ten O'Clock News. It's the first time any British television news organisation has broadcast from Zimbabwe since Mugabe refused to let foreign journalists come here."
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It is therefore interesting to read of an American woman's description of life in Saudi Arabia, where she is married to a Saudi man. The LA Times reports in "Pursuing happiness behind the veil":
"Teresa Malof knew she wasn't in Kentucky anymore when a cleric issued a fatwa against her secret Santa gift exchange.
Malof proposed the idea at the King Fahad National Guard Hospital, where she has worked for more than a decade. It was supposed to be discreet, but rumors were whispered amid veils and hijabs that the lithe, blond nurse, raised on farmland at the edge of Appalachia, was planning to celebrate a Christian tradition in an Islamic kingdom that forbids the practicing of other religions.
"Even though I'm a Muslim too, I like to celebrate the holidays and have gift exchanges," said Malof, a convert to Islam who is married to the son of a former Saudi ambassador. "But word got out and the religious people came with a fatwa [or edict] against the Santa party. My husband was having a heart attack. He was worried I'd be in a lot of trouble."
For American women married to Saudi men, such is life in this exotic, repressive and often beguiling society where tribal customs and religious fervor rub against oil wealth and the tinted-glass skyscrapers that rise Oz-like in the blurry desert heat. This is not a land of the 1st Amendment and voting rights; it is a kingdom run by the strict interpretation of Wahhabi Islam, where abayas hang in foyers, servants linger like ghosts, minarets glow in green neon and, as a recent court case showed, a woman who is raped can also be sentenced to 200 lashes for un-Islamic behavior."
The Bush rhetoric is hard to take from a man, and his administration, who has done more during his presidency than any other, to bring the US into disrepute and attack the rule of law, decency and justice. And Bush & Co have been repeated offenders shown to have lied.
It is therefore perhaps not surprising to read this editorial - almost a plaintiff cry! - in the IHT:
"There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Like when we read about how men in some of the most trusted positions plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by CIA interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.
It was not the first time in recent years we've felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement. Not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.
The country and much of the world were rightly and profoundly frightened by the hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President George W. Bush and his advisers panicked - how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.
Out of panic and ideology, Bush squandered America's position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America's global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world's anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer."
It is hard to gauge to what extent the editorial reflects general public opinion - but read on, here, to read the entire piece.
Monday, January 14, 2008
"With a new round of peace talks underway, the Israeli government is under intense pressure to hand back parts of the occupied West Bank, starting with the outposts, according to the terms of the Bush administration's 2003 "road map," the basis for the current dialogue. First steps required of Palestinians include a halt to violent attacks on Israel.
On the eve of his visit to the region last week, President Bush called on Israeli leaders to "honor their commitments" and "get rid of unauthorized settlements." Palestinians say Israel's efforts thus far to remove outposts have been scattershot and insincere.
Settlers have responded to Bush's comments not by curtailing construction, but by expanding it."
And no less importantly:
"Dror Etkes, who spent five years monitoring outposts for the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now, said the government is reluctant to take action because, while it officially describes the outposts as unauthorized, it has played a major role in planning, funding and encouraging some of them. Many draw power from the main Israeli grid and receive other public services, including water supply. A reporter attempting to enter Migron to speak with residents was turned away by an Israeli soldier posted outside the gate.
"It is a way of manipulating the situation," Etkes said. "They will say, 'This is not an outpost. It's just a new neighborhood for the outpost right over there.' Then all of a sudden, the neighborhood is bigger than the whole outpost was before."
So George W can exhort the Israelis as much as he wants about removing settlements or not to build any more, and PM Olmert can make pious statements about the status of the settlements, but as the above shows, on the ground at least action speaks louder than words.
"China has moved more people out of poverty than any other country in recent decades, but the persistence of destitution in places like southern Henan Province fits with the findings of a recent World Bank study that suggests that there are still 300 million poor in China — three times as many as the bank previously estimated.
Poverty is most severe in China’s geographic and social margins, whether the mountainous areas or deserts that ring the country, or areas dominated by ethnic minorities, who for cultural and historic reasons have benefited far less than others from the country’s long economic rise.
But it also persists in places like Henan, where population densities are among the greatest in China, and the new wealth of the booming coast beckons, almost mockingly, a mere province away.
“Henan has the largest population of any province, approaching 100 million people, and the land there just cannot support those kinds of numbers,” said Albert Keidel, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an expert on Chinese poverty. “It is supposed to be a breadbasket, but there has always been major discrimination against grain-based areas in China. The profit you can get from a hectare of land from vegetables, or a fish farm or oils, is so much more.”
Other experts say Henan and other heavily populated parts of the Chinese heartland are often excluded from the financial support that goes to the coastal areas, and what antipoverty measures there are have little effect. Typically, residents of those areas say, money intended for them is appropriated by corrupt local officials, who pocket it or divert it to business investments.
Paradoxically, they say, they are overlooked precisely because of their proximity to the major economic centers of the east, forced to fend for themselves on the theory that they can make do with income sent home by migrant laborers and other forms of trickle-down wealth."So reports the NY Times in a piece providing a rare insight into China - a country so vast that a few million here or there might be easily overlooked. It's a different face to the China portrayed to the West in this year of the Beijing Olympics with the hoopla and PR that will entail.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Over the years the Germans have not only solidly and materially supported the State of Israel, but it has paid reparations to victims of the Holocaust and openly made efforts not to hide from the populace the horrendous actions of the Nazis.
It is therefore more than troubling to read this report in Haaretz:
"German schools are failing in educating students about the Holocaust, a new study by a political education center has found, as German youth, who one historian said use the word "Jew" as a common curse in daily discourse, are increasingly distant from the suffering of the victims of Nazism.
According to a study commissioned by the Federal Agency for Civic Education, a political education center known by its German acronym BPB, history courses no longer manage to teach Germany's younger generation of the horrors of the Nazis.
In the report, which appeared in the German educational magazine Focus-Shula, teachers are quoted as saying that they are having trouble impressing upon school children the horrors of the Holocaust, and have stated that their tools for teaching about the Shoah are not effective.
"The entire time we stood before the crematoriums of Auschwitz, the students took more interest in the types of pipes used to pump in the lethal Zyklon B gas, and not the fate of the Nazis victims," a teacher was quoted as saying.
In their words, this generation's students are less sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust than any before."
Time for action is obviously called for.