31 Mar 2010

Lovelock: 'We can't save the planet'

Professor James Lovelock, the scientist who developed Gaia theory, has said it is too late to try and save the planet.

The man who achieved global fame for his theory that the whole earth is a single organism now believes that we can only hope that the earth will take care of itself in the face of completely unpredictable climate change.

Interviewed by Today presenter John Humphrys, videos of which you can see below, he said that while the earth's future was utterly uncertain, mankind was not aware it had "pulled the trigger" on global warming as it built its civilizations.

What is more, he predicts, the earth's climate will not conveniently comply with the models of modern climate scientists.

As the record winter cold testifies, he says, global temperatures move in "jerks and jumps", and we cannot confidently predict what the future holds.

Prof Lovelock does not pull his punches on the politicians and scientists who are set to gain from the idea that we can predict climate change and save the planet ourselves.

Scientists, he says, have moved from investigating nature as a vocation, to being caught in a career path where it makes sense to "fudge the data".

And while renewable energy technology may make good business sense, he says, it is not based on "good practical engineering".

At the age of 90, Prof Lovelock is resigned to his own fate and the fate of the planet. Whether the planet saves itself or not, he argues, all we can do is to "enjoy life while you can".

Serbian MPs offer apology for Srebrenica massacre

Serbia's parliament has passed a landmark resolution apologising for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre - Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

30 Mar 2010

Paris Capitalists dig their way into bank

Hear that!... I bet one of them was Madoff! Stealing people's pensions... What could they have got from those vaults? Bet it was some really nice memories!

Where Does God Fit into all this mumbo-jumbo? Bet He's pissed off!...

Hear that? The Large Hadron Collider is about to start the work that could lead to the discovery of fundamental new physics. New physics? What do we need that for? It's bad enough already. People should fast, abstain from having sex, go to Church instead (no pun intended!) and "praise the Lordy", rather than talk such nonsense... Nietzsche was right: You're killing Him, really!

28 Mar 2010

Fed's Exit Strategy Is Fraught With Danger: Monetary Experts

by Reuters

The Federal Reserve has not been clear enough about how it intends to unwind its unprecedented monetary easing campaign, and some of the tools it expects to use may not work, monetary experts will tell Congress on Thursday.

27 Mar 2010

Families fight 'racist' Israeli citizenship law

By Heather Sharp

BBC News, Jerusalem

"To leave my children, I would die. I couldn't do it," says Lana Khatib.

Five years ago, Israel's controversial citizenship law marred her first year of marriage and still looms large over everything from supermarket shopping to her fears the family might face the prospect of separation.

Adnan, who is three, and one-year-old Yosra squabble over their toys. Born and raised in Israel, they are too young to understand that their parents both consider themselves Palestinian, but their father Taiseer is an Israeli citizen while their mother is from the occupied West Bank.

And that means, under the current law, Mrs Khatib cannot apply for citizenship.

Life and death

The law is at the centre of a long legal battle in Israel's Supreme Court, with the latest hearing last week.

For the Israeli government, it's about life and death - the prevention of lethal attacks and the survival of the only majority Jewish state in a post-Holocaust world.

For the law's critics, who include Jewish Israelis as well as Israeli Arabs, it's a struggle to use Israel's self-proclaimed standards of democracy and equal rights to overturn what they see as racist legislation.

“ I don't think it's a racist law but we have to make sure Israel stays a Jewish democratic country ”

Danny Danon Knesset member for governing Likud party

Israeli Arabs - people of Arab descent who stayed in Israel after its creation in 1948 - make up about 20% of Israel's population.

They have long faced discrimination, and some Jewish Israelis fear them as a potential "fifth column".

The Citizenship and Entry Law was passed in 2003, during the second Palestinian uprising, as waves of suicide bombings targeted Israeli public places.

Many were launched from the West Bank, some with the help of Israeli Arabs.

Initially, the law - emergency legislation that has since been extended yearly - said that no-one with a West Bank or Gaza ID card would be given permission to move to Israel to be with a spouse there.

It was amended in 2005, allowing women over 25 and men over 35 to apply for temporary permits to live in Israel, but still ruling out citizenship for all but a handful of cases.

In 2007, it was expanded to apply to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

In contrast, other non-Jews who marry Jewish Israelis can apply for citizenship through a five-year process, subject to individual security checks.

Since the founding of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust, any Jew has been able to move to Israel and claim citizenship.

'Angry and crying'

Mr and Mrs Khatib met in Jenin in 2001. "She is independent, very social, very clever," he said.

When they married three years later, Mrs Khatib was given permission to enter Israel for a single day. The day after, she went back to Jenin, alone, "angry and crying so much".

The following year, they visited each other when they could. Sometimes Mrs Khatib stayed illegally.

"I was always afraid," she says. "It was hell," adds Mr Khatib. "One day you have your wife with you, the next you don't."

Things improved after the amendment. But still Mrs Khatib has no state health insurance.

She is not allowed to work or drive and has to renew her permit every six months.

"It's very insecure. Maybe one day they won't give her the permission and I'll be left alone with two kids," said Mr Khatib.

The law's critics argue that it contradicts Israel's self-declared commitment to equal rights for all its citizens.

Sowsan Zaher, a lawyer for the Israel-Arab rights organisation Adalah - one of several that have petitioned the Supreme Court against the law - says the principle behind it is "very, very dangerous".

"It stereotypes every person just because he belongs to a national and ethnic group and discriminates against him because of that," she says.

In the court, the state's representative defended the law on security grounds.

In the past two years, 27 people who had applied for permission to join their spouses in Israel were directly involved in attempted or actual attacks, she said.


•About 1.2m, a fifth of Israel's population, are Israeli Arabs

•They are citizens of Israel, but face widely documented discrimination

•Former PM Ehud Olmert said there was "no doubt" Israeli Arabs had faced discrimination for "many years"

•Israeli Arabs own 3.5% of Israel's land, get 3-5% of government spending and have higher poverty levels than Jewish Israelis*

•There are 13 Israeli Arabs in the 120-seat Knesset, 10 representing [primarily] Arab parties *Source: Mossawa Center

And without the law, the numbers would be much higher, she added.

Another defender of the law, Danny Danon, a member of the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, for the governing Likud party, says security trumps other concerns.

"The well-being of Israelis comes before any other rights," he says.

But for him there is another issue at stake too - the demographic make-up of the population of Israel.

"I don't think it's a racist law. But we have to make sure Israel stays a Jewish democratic country."

Ilan Tzion, a lawyer for Fence for Life, one of several right-wing organisations also backing the law, put it more strongly.

If the law is overturned, eventually Israel will become "a Muslim state", he says, "the Jewish people will become a minority in their own country", and thus be "exterminated".

"Israel is not like any other country; it was founded on the idea that it will be place for all the Jews in the world as a refuge place," he says.

Case by case

The Khatib family live in the mixed city of Acre in northern Israel. Mr Khatib teaches both Jewish and Arab students at a local college. "I recognise the state of Israel, but does the state of Israel recognise me?" asks Mr Khatib. The family could leave Israel, but are strongly opposed to doing so.

"I'm not waking up every day thinking about how to destroy this state, but they are waking up every day thinking about how to kick me out of my place, of the place of my great, great, great, grandfather - before they came here to this land," he says.

Mr Khatib says he understands Israel's security fears. He wants couples to be screened on a case-by-case basis - but Israel says there have been past attackers who would have passed security checks.

The Supreme Court is likely to rule within the next few months.

Campaign groups estimate at least 15,000 couples are affected by the law. Like Mr and Mrs Khatib, they will be watching and waiting.

25 Mar 2010

They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this

In fact, it's a two-stroke signing off by the Beeb.
The Boom-Bustic utterance goes like this:

"Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem."

Then comes the flatulent political correctness bit:

"They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this."

My word, who cares whether Israel disputes it or not? They are ILLEGAL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW - FULL STOP!

And forget all this beating around the Bush (House) "consideration" stuff...

For some time now, I've grown irritated by this particular voice-over. So, I gave it a Google search to see whether I was the only person who felt this way.

It turned out that I wasn't. While this answering-machine type of signing-off phrase leaves quite a lot to be desired, there are certain individuals like the top of the Google charts (on this particular topic!), Keith, who uses his licensing fee rights to try and mimic Bibi (Netanyahu)'s hubris while posing as the concerned public opinion voice...

Notwithstanding the fact that Israel is the only country in the world who can do or say or dispute anything it pleases since it can instantly brandish the infamous anti-Semitic accusations to its critics, turning these occupied lands into an animal pen, a gulag for the 21st century, is something which no dogma, religion or political correctness gone mad can ever justify.

24 Mar 2010

Netanyahu holds talks with Obama amid settlement row

One has to respect the gall this man, Bibi Netanyahu, has for taking the mickey at the alleged most powerful man on the face of the Earth... Impressive indeed!

23 Mar 2010

The Cleavage within Europe

One of the striking characteristics of the Good Society Debate was an often fundamentally different assessment between contributors from North, West, and Southern Europe and those coming from Central and Eastern Europe. To be very clear, we do not want to blame anybody for their views or analyses, but it is important to stress that closing the sometimes wide political cleavage running through Europe is one of the most important tasks for social democrats if a real European social democracy is the aim. What Carl Rowland, who himself lives in Hungary, referred to as a “core versus periphery” situation became also clear in some of the articles.

First, it was often stressed that different historic backgrounds mean that social democratic traditions are very different. Leszek Lachowiecki (Director of the Index Academic Centre) for instance strongly criticised social democracy in his native Poland when he wrote that “it is strange but true that Polish Post-Communists – having converted themselves into social democrats – have been in power for about half of the period since the downfall of their dictatorship. But in fact this group, which is led by people like Aleksander Kwasniewski and Leszek Miller, has hardly any genuine Communist roots either. The label of social democracy was acquired by these politicians for purely tactical reasons. In reality, they were leaders of a narrow group of technocratic businessmen (former apparatchiks of the ruling party), who sought to enrich themselves in the process of selling off state-owned industry. Having no ideological background and aiming exclusively at their own individual success, they have eagerly participated in the building of our current social and economical system, which could not be regarded as acceptable in any imaginable system of left values.”

A similar criticism was voiced about social democracy in Ukraine by Oleksandr Svyetlov, an adviser to NGOs and the Ukrainian League of Poilitical Scientists: “The SDPU(u) has been pithily described as being social-democratic to about the same extent as a guinea pig is a pig (M. Tomenko). It has also been described as a ‘bandit party’ (V. Malynkovich) and ‘oligarch’s club’ that has privatised the state (Y. Durkot). The party has made use of its staffing of public offices and state functions for the self-enrichment of its members; and it has promoted their business interests though the ‘privatisation’ of most of the lucrative state-owned enterprises, and the preferential allocation of the land in national parks for building private real estate.”

Mart Valjatage (Editor of the Magazine Vikerkaar) argued in his contribution that the Cruddas-Nahles paper and the Good Society Debate in general “does not pay sufficient attention to two issues that – unhappily – are influencing the political atmosphere in Europe today, especially in the post-communist countries. These are the issues of fear and security, and of memory and history. These two factors give sustenance to an angry political outlook that is heavily orientated towards the past and fearful of the future.” Valjatage further referred to history as a burden in the former communist countries when he wrote that “though the memories of Soviet communism have discredited some social democratic ideas in these [Eastern European] countries, the confusion of social democracy with communism is relatively easy to disentangle. But there has been a strong tendency towards becoming over-entangled in historical issues, particularly in poring over the lessons of the Second World War, and the relative evils of Stalinism and Nazism, and this feature of recent political discourse needs to be firmly resisted. History should be left to historians.”

But apart from important differences in social democratic traditions and national histories, there were also some deep-seated philosophical discrepancies presented by some contributors. Florin Abraham of the Ovidiu Sincai Institute in Romania for instance presented a viewpoint referring to the Cruddas-Nahles paper that few other commentators would share: “Another contentious thesis promoted by Jon Cruddas and Andrea Nahles is the need for the restoration of the primacy of politics, and rejection of the subordination of political interests to the economic. If we considered this idea in the arena of pure ethics it could be accepted as a desirable objective. But if we try to apply it concretely there are three possible options:
(a) politics would turn into ideology, more specifically into communism; [err... would it be fair to call this guy an obsessed imbecile?]
(b) since it is implicit in the drastic separation of economic interests from politics that the financial support of companies during electoral campaigns would not be permitted, parties could expect certain failure, as in the current conditions no single party can fund its electoral campaign solely through the contribution of its members;
(c) we risk becoming hypocrites, in tacitly accepting the influence of economic interest groups over parties but publicly denying it. All three options are unacceptable.”

Christian Ghinea, Director of the Romanian Centre for European Policies (CRPE), put an equally controversial claim forward when he stated that “social dumping[http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/industrialrelations/dictionary/definitions/SOCIALDUMPING.htm] is the best thing that has happened to Romanian workers in recent years, as Western companies have relocated jobs here. Of course, we would prefer to have Western levels of income here, but the real choice is between the jobs we currently have and no jobs. (Although these salaries may appear derisory to people in the West, the wages paid by companies that have relocated to Romania pushed nominal income up by 75 per cent between 2005 and 2008). So, what is the best option for a Romanian willing to build the Good Society? – to prevent social dumping to protect Western jobs? I don’t think so.”

This text is part of a more comprehensive summary paper of the Good Society Debate. Click here to download the full paper. http://www.social-europe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/GSDsummary-final.pdf

22 Mar 2010

US Department of Justice Asked to Regulate AIPAC as a Foreign Agent of the Israeli Government

WASHINGTON, March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The US Department of Justice has been formally asked to begin regulating the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as the foreign agent of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A 392 page legal filing presented by a four person IRmep delegation in a two hour meeting with top officials of the Internal Security Section substantiated the following case for AIPAC's immediate registration:

1.AIPAC is a spinoff of an organization already ordered by the DOJ to register as an Israeli foreign agent. In November of 1962 the American Zionist Council was ordered by the Attorney General to begin filing disclosures as an Israeli foreign agent under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. http://www.IRmep.org/1962Order.pdf Six weeks later, former AZC employees incorporated the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, DC, taking over the AZC's lobbying activities. http://www.IRmep.org/AIPAC.pdf AIPAC did not register as a foreign agent.

2.AIPAC's founder Isaiah L. Kenen was the chief information officer for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York and for a time duly registered in that role. http://www.IRmep.org/Kenen.pdf The Justice Department ordered Kenen to personally re-register after he formally left the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to head up private lobbying and publicity for the Israeli government at the nonprofit American Zionist Council. Kenen never complied with the order. http://www.IRmep.org/order.pdf

3.Espionage related FBI investigations in 1984 and 2005 reveal AIPAC's ongoing stealth foreign agency activities. Declassified FBI files released on the Internet last week reveal that in 1984 AIPAC and the Israeli Ministry of Economics were investigated for jointly obtaining and circulating classified US economic data to obtain favorable trade benefits for Israel. http://www.irmep.org/ila/economy In 2005 Pentagon Colonel Lawrence Franklin pled guilty and two AIPAC employees were indicted for obtaining and circulating classified US national defense information to Israeli government officials allegedly in the interest of fomenting US action against Iran.

4.AIPAC's executive committee consists of the original member organizations of the AZC in addition to newer members. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the umbrella group of AIPAC's executive committee, is housed in the same New York office as the World Zionist Organization – American Section, a registered foreign agent that is heavily involved in illegal settlement expansion according to Israeli prosecutor Thalia Sasson.

According to Grant F. Smith, director of IRmep, the case for reregulating AIPAC as a foreign agent immediately is compelling. "AIPAC was designed to supplant the American Zionist Council as the arm of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the United States after the DOJ ordered the AZC to register as a foreign agent. As such, Americans should have full public access to biannual FARA registrations detailing AIPAC's publicity campaigns, lobbying expenditures, funding flows, activities of its offices in Israel and internal consultations with its foreign principals - particularly over such controversial issues as illegal settlements and US foreign aid."

Concerned organizations and individuals who wish to supplement the Department of Justice filing or participate in future negotiations with law enforcement officials should contact the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, Inc. at info@IRmep.org or 202-342-7325. IRmep is a private nonprofit that studies how warranted law enforcement and civil action can improve U.S. Middle East policy.

SOURCE Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy

For Peace in the Middle East, STOP AIPAC!

By clicking on the title you can access the site itself where there are several interesting articles, amongst which two stand out: The Israel Lobby, by Noam Chomsky http://www.zcommunications.org/the-israel-lobby-by-noam-chomsky and a series of three articles by Edward Said on the often misunderstood role played by American Zionism in the question of Palestine: American Zionism - The Real Problem  http://www.mediamonitors.net/edward12.html.

Aipac's hidden persuaders

The Israel lobby is aiming to soften up US public opinion for an attack on Iran. Americans should resist its propaganda.

Israel is in the midst of a massive diplomatic, political and intelligence campaign, both public and covert, that could lead – if those officials behind it have their way – towards a military strike on Iran. It is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans. Or you might call it the war before the war. In intelligence circles, this Israeli project is known as perception management and defined by the department of defence as:

Actions to convey and/or deny information … to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders … ultimately resulting in foreign behaviours and official actions favourable to [US] objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception and psychological operations.

21 Mar 2010

The UN Chief says Israel's Blockade of Gaza is Causing "Unacceptable Suffering"

The UN chief has said Israel's blockade of Gaza is causing "unacceptable suffering," during a Middle East visit to reinvigorate the peace process.

Ban Ki-moon told Gazans that "we stand with you" as he visited an area damaged by Israel's offensive 14 months ago.


Last week, the international community strongly condemned Israel's announcement of planning permission for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Laughing in the face of such pathetic posturing, Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, showed his incredible hubris when saying that settlement building work is set to continue regardless:

"We will continue to build in Jerusalem as we have done for 42 years," he said, according to AFP news agency.

South Africa's Sharpeville recalls 1960 massacre

"We were shot at in cold blood - there was no warning," recounts Ike Makiti, a survivor of the Sharpeville massacre, as he stands by the graves of the township cemetery.

It's being hurriedly spruced up in time for Sunday's 50th anniversary and the arrival of VIPs.

Mr Makiti, was just 17 at the time of the shooting, a schoolboy and an active member of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

He was heading back to school just after lunch on Monday, 21 March 1960, when he heard the sound of gunfire.

"We thought it was just firecrackers at first, then it became clear when we saw the blood that they were shooting at the people. Most of them were shot in the back, as they were trying to run away. It was clear that this was something serious."

Fifteen minutes of shooting transformed the massacre into one of the most iconic moments of the liberation struggle.

It marked the start of armed resistance and the banning of both the PAC and the African National Congress (ANC).

EU president Herman Van Rompuy and his love of haiku

If you're ever passing through the leafy town of Sint-Genesius-Rode near Brussels, and you see a thoughtful man walking a dog, you could be witnessing the birth of a poem.

The man could be the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the dog Louis, a 10-year-old mongrel from a rescue centre.

And the poem? One of the 17-syllable haiku that have earned Mr Van Rompuy the nickname Haiku Herman.

The Persian Nowruz

Happy Nowruz to you all!

20 Mar 2010

Coordinated EU and US action on derivatives markets

After the US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, had warned Brussels that its plans to regulate hedge funds and private equity groups may spark a transatlantic row, the EU and US officials have agreed on Monday to cooperate towards making the speculators' favourite playground, the derivatives market, more transparent.

The Financial Times had earlier reported on a draft EU directive imposing tighter restrictions on US investment funds. The proposed new rules aim to regulate US hedge funds, private equity groups and banking activities with and within Europe.

They restrict the access of EU investors to funds based outside the 27-nation bloc, while non-EU funds would also be forced to comply with the new regulations in order to be able to engage in EU trading.

Last October, the European Commission announced plans to introduce, by the end of 2010, a central clearing agency to regulate the over-the-counter derivatives'. Much of this trading is done privately, outside the trading floor. The collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers, in 2008, has already highlighted the risks involved in such shoddy practices.

The European Commission's chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, told the EU parliament in Strasbourg, last week, that the commission regulators "will examine closely the relevance of banning purely speculative naked sales on Credit Default Swaps (CDS) of sovereign debt."

Much like with the "naked Emperor", such "naked selling" practices mean taking out insurance on bonds or other types of debt without actually owning them, which is nothing but a purely speculative gamble accounting for the majority of CDS trading.

"Credit default swaps is one (area) where we're exploring together how to best protect the public and the markets," said Gary Gensler, chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Credit default swaps are derivative products, aimed at covering the risk of a debtor defaulting. This derivatives' gambling market has recently been thrown into the spotlight by reports of coordinated market action by multi-billion-dollar hedge funds to bring down the value of the euro in the wake of the Greek crisis.

"We are talking about standardisation and registration for considerable sums, 600 trillion dollars in derivatives products, 80 percent of which escape any transparency," said EU Financial Services Commissioner, Michel Barnier.

19 Mar 2010

Pope writes letter on Irish paedophile priests

Pope Benedict has written a pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland with guidelines on preventing and punishing sexual abuse of children by priests.

It follows revelations last year of paedophilia within the Irish Catholic Church, which rocked the institution.

Scandals involving Roman Catholic priests have also been reported from a number of other countries, including the Pope's native Germany.

It is unknown if the letter, to be read at Sunday Mass, includes an apology.

He did...http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8577740.stm

Yet, it's been branded as weak: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20100321/tuk-pope-s-letter-on-abuse-branded-weak-dba1618.html

18 Mar 2010

Support the Robin Hood Tax

Today the Campaign for a 0.05% Tobin tax was launched by a series of NGOs under the label “Robin Hood Tax”. Here is what they are about:

The Robin Hood Tax campaign is a movement bringing together dozens of organisations that work to reduce poverty in the UK and overseas, and campaign to tackle climate change. They have come together during the economic crisis to campaign for a new deal between banks and society.

Spread the word and sign up! Turn the crisis for the banks into an opportunity for the world!

Thank you Bogdan Lepadatu. You have just become the 37418th person to join our band of merry men and women.

17 Mar 2010

‘Don’t punish wife-beaters, it’s against Islam’ says mad Muslim cleric

A PROPOSAL to introduce prison terms for men who beat their wives goes against the Koran and the teachings of the “prophet” Mohammed, according to the head of Algeria’s Superior Islamic Council.

read the rest of Barry Duke's article in the Freethinker by clicking on the title, as oft' advised...

Activists turn 'hacktivists' on the web

Among activists who hack to make a point, some stay firmly on the right side of the law but others push the idea of civil disobedience to the limits.

Whatever the Chaos Computer Club's name suggests, Europe's largest hacker group is not intent on bedlam.

For CCC member Frank Rieger, the word hacking - the process of reconfiguring or reprogramming a system to do things that its inventor never intended - needs to be reclaimed, and stripped of negative connotations.

One of his club's main purposes is teaching gifted young people how to use hacking skills to bring about political change.

"We are trying to show people the beauty of technology, and how exciting it can be to find out new stuff and then do good things with that," he says.

This so-called "hacktivism" has been at the core of the German hacker community for more than 25 years.

For example, in 2008 the club obtained the then German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble's fingerprints from a glass, and published them in a format designed to fool fingerprint readers. The aim was to point out the vulnerability of proposals for biometric identity systems.

But while the Chaos Computer Club's principles rule out attacks against websites, some other groups regard politically motivated attacks on computer systems as a legitimate form of online civil disobedience.

read the rest of BBC's Chris Vallance by clicking on the title...

16 Mar 2010

History in pictures

Photo journalist, Charles Moore, placed himself in harm's way many times, but in doing so he captured some of the most striking pictures of the civil rights movement in the US, during the '50s and '60s. Moore died last week aged 79.

US envoy George Mitchell postpones (indefinitely?) Israel visit

At long last, Israel's butt of jokes is showing signs of annoyance...

Despite the latest batch of denials coming from the former First lady (no, I'm not referring to the much publicised incident of her husband's misdemeanours!), the strain of the two most trusted allies remains as the... US envoy, George Mitchell, postpones a visit to Israel amid a continuing row over Israel's decision to build more Jewish homes in Arab East Jerusalem. Mr Mitchell had been due to meet President Shimon Peres on Tuesday but the trip has now been put off.

The building announcement - made as US Vice-President Joe Biden visited last week to try to kick-start stalled peace talks - angered Washington. Tension remains high in Jerusalem, with a number of clashes on Tuesday.

'No curbs'

Mr Mitchell had been due in Israel to try to set up the resumption of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The renewal of talks had been agreed before Mr Biden's visit, but Israel's announcement that it planned to build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem left it in tatters.

The office of the Israeli president confirmed that it had been notified that Mr Mitchell would not arrive in Israel on Tuesday and "thus the planned meeting today at 5.30 pm between President Peres and Special Envoy Mitchell will not occur".

Mr Mitchell's visit will be rescheduled for an as yet undetermined time, US and Israeli officials indicated.

The US says it is still awaiting a "formal" response from Israel to the settlement row and has urged Israel to show it is committed to Middle East peace efforts.

Although he has apologised for the timing of the settlement announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stood by Israel's policy, telling parliament on Monday there can be "no curbs" on Jewish building in Jerusalem.

"The building of those Jewish neighbourhoods in no way hurt the Arabs of East Jerusalem and did not come at their expense," he said.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that calls to halt Israeli settlement building were "unreasonable".

The BBC's Paul Wood in Jerusalem says there seems to be an impasse - if Mr Netanyahu caves in and cancels the new settlements, the stability of his government may be in doubt; if he does not, it is hard to see how the peace talks can take place.

On Monday, Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was quoted by Israeli media as saying that ties between the US and Israel were at their lowest point since 1975.

'Day of rage'

Tensions in East Jerusalem have risen in recent days with the settlements issue and the rededication of a synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City, which Palestinians have condemned as provocative.

“ This synagogue will be a prelude to violence and religious fanaticism and extremism ”
Hatem Abdel Qader, Fatah Jerusalem spokesman

Palestinian protesters burned tyres and threw rocks, while police fired stun grenades and tear gas, as rioting broke out in a number of areas, including the Shu'fat refugee camp, al-Eisaweyah and the Qalandia checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.

Israeli police said they had deployed 3,000 officers across the city and about 15 Palestinians had been arrested. A number of protesters were injured, Palestinian medical sources said.

The reopening of the twice-destroyed Hurva synagogue, in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, which Palestinians seek as part of a future capital, triggered a backlash.

Hatem Abdel Qader, Jerusalem affairs spokesman for the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "This synagogue will be a prelude to violence and religious fanaticism and extremism."

Militant group Hamas had declared Tuesday a "day of rage" against the move.

Thousands of people turned out in Gaza on Tuesday to protest against the rededication of the synagogue, not far from the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site, AFP news agency reports.

The BBC's Middle East correspondent, Paul Wood, says the call by some Palestinian officials for people to defend the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, site of the al-Aqsa mosque, comes amid rumours of plans by Jewish extremists to take control of the area.

He says that although the clashes so far are small-scale, no-one has forgotten how the last Palestinian intifada - or uprising - began over the holy sites in Jerusalem.

India's Maoists: A doomed revolution?

It is India's most bloody, intractable and shadowy war in recent history.

Today 223 districts - India has 636 districts - in 20 states are "Maoist affected", up from 55 districts in nine states six years ago. Ninety of the affected districts, according to the government, are experiencing "consistent violence". PM Manmohan Singh calls it the country's "greatest internal security challenge".

As Maoist activity has expanded over a vast swathe of mineral-rich jungles and countryside where most of India's tribespeople - its poorest of the poor - live, the cost of the conflict has been huge.

The government says 3,457 civilians were killed in 11,642 incidents of rebel-related violence between 2003 and 2009. Nearly 1,300 security forces and 1,350 rebels have died in the war, it says.

As the toll rises, the conflict provokes a sharply polarised debate.

On the one side are the city-bred romantic revolutionaries. One perceptive analyst calls them a "Maoist-aligned intelligentsia vicariously playing out their revolutionary fantasies through the lives of the adivasis [tribespeople], while the people dying in battle are almost all adivasis". They protest against the government's plans to smoke out the rebels.

On the other, are supporters of strong state action who believe the security forces should annihilate the rebels and wrest back areas under their control. Collateral damage, they believe, is par for the course.

So India's Maoist rebels, in the words of another commentator, are either "romanticised, eulogised [or] demonised". It depends on which side you are on. It is time to ask some basic questions.

What do the Maoists want?

They want to establish a "communist society" by overthrowing the country's "semi-colonial, semi-feudal" form of rule through an armed struggle. The say they are fighting for the rights of the neglected tribespeople, an unquestionably laudable goal in a vastly iniquitous land.

So are they revolutionary Marxists? Are they anarchists? Or are they India's equivalent of historian Eric Hobsbawm's "social bandits", peasant Robin Hood outlaws? It is difficult to say.

15 Mar 2010

The China - Google spat

Much like several other political conundrums, such as with terrorism vs. freedom fighting, for instance - which seems to have become solely dependent on who's side you're doing the killing for - there's also a fine line dividing censorship from the ability to defend your country's national interest in the face of a barrage of indiscriminate Western propaganda flak causing harm to the stability of any society that wants to have its cake and eat it - by both staying within the fast capitalist, globalized "international community" system for trading purposes while, at the same time, being able to preserve its thousands' year old culture and values.

Luckily for China, it is far too big and powerful to care about any of this readers' digest type of criticism...

9 Mar 2010

Hear that, Mr. Soros?

Georgios Papandreou said he wanted to see the US impose stricter regulations on hedge funds and currency traders... Mind you, eventhough you're one of the more principled speculators, I wonder whether you'd go along with that "principled" ideea that Greece should sell its islands to fund their greed...

8 Mar 2010

The Latest American Psy-Op

The US treasury department has started its latest psy-op by actively furthering the use of web services to support opposition groups in Iran, Cuba and Sudan. US technology firms may now export their online propaganda services while the rest of the sanctions remain in place.

Such services helped organise opposition supporters in Iran, triggering major unrest following the country's disputed presidential poll last year. "The US Treasury said exports would be allowed of services related to web browsing, blogging, e-mail, instant messaging, chat, social networking and photo- and movie-sharing" says the BBC

"As recent events in Iran have shown, personal internet-based communications like e-mail, instant messaging and social networking are powerful tools," Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said.

Earlier this year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would be supporting the development of new [propaganda] tools to enable citizens to circumvent "politically-motivated censorship".

Ensuring what Allan Young calls as a "harmony of illusions" via this type of gunboat diplomacy mixed with cultural penetration goes to show why her boss and former rival candidate has been rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize...

You may find the politically biased version of the story at the BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/8556341.stm

Onomatopoiezind in asteptarea lui Godot...

un mic cadou pentru doamne, domniţe şi domnişoare...


a fost un an fără anotimpuri;
zăpada a fost artificială, iar
soarele a avut dinţi de fier,
printre care răzbăteau

cântece patriotice ruginite,
sloganuri cenuşii de marketing
şi războaie reci...
ca gheaţa!

La puţin timp după aceea,
Războaiele s-au încins,
Sloganurile s-au colorat,
Corul s-a globalizat, iar

Soarele „portocaliu” a răsărit
ca să topească totul...
Chiar şi zăpada artificială!

Singurul lucru care nu s-a schimbat
rămâne lipsa anotimpurilor;

acest lucru nu trebuie să ne mire însă,
deoarece se datorează, în exclusivitate,
faptului că... s-a sfârşit istoria!

Negru imaculat: Amprentele Destinului

o mare netedă ca
o palmă de mort –

lipsit de perspective
şi cu viitorul opac…

pe mal, lângă colacul
de salvare, o ţiganca

îşi bea cafeaua instant
şi nu descifrează

Casanova din Casablanca

Tot pe loc, pe loc, pe loc
să răsară busuioc
pe-aerodromul din Maroc…

Palidă, fără culoare şi cu
elicele mâinilor făcute morişti –
Ilse spunându-i lui Rick:

Pa, dragă!

Plăceri solitare

Plictorisul unei zile ploioase:
Cerul încărcat de norii caniculei
Senzoriale aţâţă marginile pielii
Reflectată-n curcubeul de ojă…

Stăpână pe plăcerea ei –
Un grănicer stăruitor la
Frontiera foilor de ceapă dulce –

Adoarme-ntre suspine şi cearceafuri ude…

Harta căilor Domnului-Zeu

Fluturi dactilografi bat
Puncte de suspensie
Pe lampă…

Pudra de talc corectează
Faldurile nopţii pătate de
Zbârnâiturile de suferinţă

Mută, scursă pe plăselele
Fierbinţi ale tubului de neon…

Praful umezit de
Respiraţia nopţii

Mânjeşte zidul cu
Durere de rimel…


Un liliac lila
Printre peruci zburătăcea
În fard de seară

Un stol de chicoteli istericoase
I-au prins ecoul când aterizase
Şi au fugit cu el, la potârnici în casă

Immaculate black & tabula rasa

the dawn of the blue moon eclipsed its proverbially rare deliverance… instant dashes of colour kept turning the time’s creaking dials into a painfully bright red letter day: the infinite sequence of noughts and zeros unfolding into a gray rainbow of yawning – eternity really is numbingly boring!... the time machinae rusting away in the parking lot… waiting for the anonymous deus to get behind the wheel and start shifting to its twelfth gear… it’s just like the blind man had imagined the WHOLE regaining its baleful posse of unwrought dimensions…

O piuliţă-n Univers bând apă plată... cu lămâie

eternitatea e-ternă,
Alienantă linie dreaptă către...

în timpul acesta,
consumi compulsiv,
te umfli pe dinafară,
te dezumfli pe dinăuntru,

te-nvârţi în cerc,
rămânând în urma celor
care merg zâmbitori
mai departe, pe
drumuri paralele:

Salut, vecine! Salut, vecine?
E bine? E bine!

Vezi? poate că ştie
ceva ce nu ştiu eu

sau poate chiar poate
să vadă nimicul,

sau doar se preface
mai bine ca mine

sau poate că poate
să nu-şi pună atâtea
întrebări nepotrivite

unei minuscule piuliţe,
dintr-o foarte mare şi goală
maşinărie Universală

5 Mar 2010

An Open Letter to a Hollow List of Addresses

You can call me whatever names you like: “communist nostalgic”, old (-fashioned?), stubborn, difficult… I’ll leave the rest blank so you may fill-in the dots… with your false American accents: Get a life, maaeen! You can pretend you've never seen this post either, but then, hey, it doesn't really matter after all...

I’ve been meaning to say this for a very-very long time: I’ve had enough of all the cool & trendy fashion victims, the readers’ digest “educated” generations, the marketing or management newspeakers (sic!) the new-age play-station dimwit geeks, applauding the killing, done for real by their NATO bros – those brave peeping tom "fighters", sending the “drones of peace” to nuke the neoliberal corporatist globalization's collateral victims!...

I’m sick to my teeth pretending that I enjoy answering that utterly stupid Egg-on-Your-Face Book question: “What’s on your mind?” just to amuse a non-discerning, autistic and virtual community… I’m equally sick and tired of all the trainers’ reinvention of the wheel! I’m also sick of the religious zealots everywhere!

I can’t stand your serial soap-operas and this corporate entertainment where only the rich guys are winning – from football to Formula 1 and from Hollywood to the chorus of the media corporations – 'tis but the same old shit, repeating over and over again!

I’m fed up pretending that I’m like you, that I believe my own lies and that I’m no threat to anyone… that I admire your Machiavellianism, your chameleonic stances, your double standards, your cakes – both in your hang-ten hands and deep inside your bloated bellies… that I revere your guts for owning the printing presses of endless credit, for having so-so much “new money” and little else in terms of sense or decency…

I’m sick of the euphemisms describing the “upper-middle class”… my arse! Mere parvenus, dressed as transition winners, driving their 4X4 tractors with impunity – unable to pretend the slightest care, at least for the environment if not its traffic partners – showing off their newly acquired bimbos – one size fits all dyed blonde, short skirt and strident make-up – while flaunting their ill-acquired riches…

Just like the ever-growing gap separating this selfish, tiny minority from the rest of the world, isn’t it time to make it feel uncomfortable outside their bodyguard-protected green zones? Scared of not getting their flashy cars keyed? Scared of the wheel of history being turned back eventually? Scared of not being role-models any more? Scared that someone somewhere will tell the world:

This Emperor is naked!

Alas, Russia and Ukraine pledge to mend relations

Mirroring Moscow's delight that the pro-Western leaders of the Orange Revolution have finally been defeated, Ukraine's new President, Viktor Yanukovych, and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, have pledged to end tensions between their two countries.

In his first visit to Moscow, following his election last month, Mr Yanukovych said he would open a "new page" in ties with Russia. At a joint new conference, Mr Medvedev said he hoped the "black streak" in relations would be over.

Tensions rose under Ukraine's previous Pro-Western administration. Mr Yanukovych defeated (the sorest loser!) Yulia Tymoshenko, in the election run-off, in February. He now says that he wants good relations with both Russia and the West, and has already visited the EU headquarters, in Brussels.

Climate change human link evidence 'stronger'

'Case stronger' on climate change
by Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News

A review from the UK Met Office says it is becoming clearer that human activities are causing climate change. It says the evidence is stronger now than when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change carried out its last assessment in 2007.

The analysis, published in the Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change Journal, has assessed 110 research papers on the subject. It says the earth is changing rapidly, probably because of greenhouse gases.

In 2007 the IPCC's report concluded that there was "unequivocal" evidence that the Earth was warming and it was likely that it was due to burning of fossil fuels. Since then the evidence that human activities are responsible for a rise in temperatures has increased, according to this new assessment by Dr Peter Stott and colleagues at the UK Met Office.

The Met Office study comes at a time when some have questioned the entire basis of climate science following recent controversies over the handling of research findings by the IPCC and the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

Dr Stott denies that the study has been published as part of a fight back by the climate research community.

"We started writing this paper a year ago. I think it's important to communicate to people what the science is showing and that's why I'm talking about this paper."

'Consistent picture'

The study, which looks at research published since the IPCC's report, has found that changes in Arctic sea ice, atmospheric moisture, saltiness of parts of the Atlantic Ocean and temperature changes in the Antarctic are consistent with human influence on our climate.

"What this study shows is that the evidence has strengthened for human influence on climate and we know that because we've looked at evidence across the climate system and what this shows very clearly is a consistent picture of a warming world," said Dr Stott.

The study brings together other research from a range of disciplines. “ It's important to communicate to people what the science is showing ”

Dr Peter Stott

"We hadn't [until now] looked in detail at how the climate system was changing," says Dr Stott. "[Our paper looks at] not just the temperatures but also the reducing Arctic sea ice and it includes changing rainfall patterns and it includes the fact that the atmosphere is getting more humid. "And all these different aspects of the climate system are adding up to a picture of the effects of a human influence on our climate."

The Met Office study said that it was harder to find a firm link between climate change and individual extreme weather conditions - even though models predicted that extreme events were more likely. According to the report: "Extremes pose a particular challenge, since rare events are by definition, poorly sampled in the historical record and many challenges remain for robustly attributing regional changes in extreme events such as droughts, floods and hurricanes."

4 Mar 2010

Greece should sell islands to cut debt say Merkel's allies

Greece should consider selling some of its uninhabited islands to cut its debt, according to political allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Josef Schlarmann and Frank Schaeffler told Germany's Bild daily that the Greek state should sell stakes in all its assets to raise more cash.

Greek PM George Papandreou is due to meet Mrs Merkel in Berlin later this week for talks about the crisis. Mr. Papandreou has already announced a strict austerity programme.

'Affordable' islands

"Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks - and the Acropolis too!" says the headline in the Bild newspaper. It sounds like the sort of daydream induced by too much ouzo, but the idea comes from two senior politicians in Europe's biggest economy.

Mr Schlarmann is a senior member of Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats and Mr Schaeffler is an MP for the Free Democrats - the junior partner in the centre-right coalition.

Both confirmed to the BBC that they wanted to start a debate about what Greece could do to help itself and bolster the battered euro. Those who face insolvency, Mr Schlarmann said, must sell everything they have to pay their creditors. He advised Mrs Merkel not to promise any financial aid when she met Mr Papandreou in Berlin.

According to a poll published on Thursday, 84% of Germans think that the EU should not help Greece out of its debt crisis. It is true that dotted in the blue waters of the Aegean are some of the country's most valuable assets - about 6,000 islands, of which only 227 are inhabited. Many of them are privately owned by the world's super-rich.

According to a specialised real-estate website, Greek islands evoke images of sunglass-sporting shipping magnates sipping champagne on enormous yachts, but cost as little as $2m (£1.3m). Relatively affordable, the website says - unless, of course, you're a Greek.

US committee to vote on Armenian 'genocide' measure

A US Congressional committee is debating a resolution to label as genocide the killing of Armenians by Turkish forces during World War I.

The non-binding resolution is fiercely opposed by Turkey, a key US ally.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advised the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs to hold off the vote, a White House spokesman said. She said the resolution would harm reconciliation talks between Turkey and Armenia, the spokesman added.

In 2007, a similar resolution passed the committee stage, but was shelved before a House vote after pressure from the George W Bush administration.

Turkey has warned of consequences for US-Turkey ties if it is passed. During the campaign President Barack Obama promised to brand the mass killings genocide.


In October last year, Turkey and Armenia signed a historic accord normalising relations between them after a century of hostility. Armenia wants Turkey to recognise the killings as an act of genocide, but successive Turkish governments have refused to do so.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in 1915, when they were deported en masse from eastern Anatolia by the Ottoman Empire. They were killed by troops or died from starvation and disease. Armenians have campaigned for the killings to be recognised internationally as genocide - and more than 20 countries have done so.

Turkish officials accept that atrocities were committed but argue they were part of the war and that there was no systematic attempt to destroy the Christian Armenian people.

Disturbing story of Falluja's birth defects

Six years after the intense fighting began in the Iraqi town of Falluja between US forces and Sunni insurgents, there is a disturbingly large number of cases of birth defects in the town.

Falluja is less than 40 miles (65km) from Baghdad, but it can still be dangerous to get to.

As a result, there has been no authoritative medical investigation, certainly by any Western team, into the allegations that the weapons used by the Americans are still causing serious problems.

The Iraqi government line is that there are only one or two extra cases of birth defects per year in Falluja, compared with the national average.


The true causes of the problem, and the question of the effects of the weapons the Americans used, can be resolved only by a proper independent inquiry by medical experts.

And until the security situation in and around Falluja improves, it will be difficult to carry that out.

3 Mar 2010

Good Riddance to the Sorest Loser and her Orange "Refolution"!

Ukraine PM Tymoshenko forced out

Ukraine's parliament has passed a motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's government.

She and her cabinet will now have to resign, while the new president, Viktor Yanukovych, will try to assemble a new coalition in parliament. If he fails, the country will face snap parliamentary elections.

Despite defeat in recent presidential elections, Mrs Tymoshenko resisted pressure to quit, saying she would only go into opposition as a last resort.

But before the vote on Wednesday she indicated her cabinet would not stay on as a caretaker government. "If the dismissal of the government is passed today, at that very same moment our government will leave the cabinet. Our political force will cross into the opposition," she said.

Her new goal would be to hold Mr Yanukovych to account, she said. "We will protect Ukraine from this new calamity that has befallen her," she said.

The motion did pass, gaining the backing of 243 out of the chamber's 450 MPs. It was reported that seven members of Mrs Tymoshenko's bloc voted against her.

Coalition talks

On Tuesday the speaker of parliament said Mrs Tymoshenko's coalition had officially collapsed, as it had failed to prove it had a majority.

As well as Mrs Tymoshenko's own bloc, the coalition also included a bloc linked to former President Viktor Yushchenko, and a third led by the speaker of parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn.

Mr Yanukovych's Party of the Regions has been in opposition, but he wants to bring it into government.

He now has 30 days to form a new coalition, and 60 days to form a government. If he is unable to do so, he will have to call fresh parliamentary elections.

The Party of Regions has named its deputy leader, Mykola Azarov, as its candidate for prime minister. He said he expected coalition talks to be "finalised in the coming days".

The three-way rivalry between Mrs Tymoshenko, Mr Yanukovych and former President Yushchenko has left Ukraine in political deadlock for several years, undermining its ability to deal with a severe economic crisis.

Analysts said as long as Mrs Tymoshenko remained at the head of the government, the stalemate was likely to continue.

2 Mar 2010

Capitalistul egoist: Originile Virusului Afluentei

Traducand cartea lui Oliver James cu acelasi titlu, am dat peste un paragraf in care este citata teoria lui Erich Fromm privitoare la consumerismul american:

El descria societatea americană a anilor ’50 în felul următor: „Avem o rată de alfabetizare a populaţiei de peste 90%. Avem radio, televiziune, filme, un ziar cotidian pentru fiecare. Numai că, în loc să ne ofere cele mai bune mostre ale producţiei literare şi muzicale, trecute sau contemporane, aceste mijloace de comunicare în masă, secondate de reclame, umplu mintea tinerilor cu cel mai ieftin gunoi, lipsit de orice sens de realitate şi plin de fantezii sadice, la care orice om pe jumătate cult ar fi ruşinat să se uite, chiar şi foarte rar. Dar, în vreme ce mintea fiecăruia dintre noi, tînăr sau bătrân, este otrăvită în acest fel, continuăm să veghem împăcaţi la umplerea ecranelor cu producţii care nu depăşesc graniţele „imoralităţii“. Orice sugestie că guvernul ar trebui să finanţeze producţia de filme sau programe radio având drept scop luminarea minţilor populaţiei ar fi întâmpinată cu indignare şi acuzaţii făcute în numele libertăţii şi idealismului.“

Mai ieri, o tanara emigrata de mult din societatea civila in cea virtuala, a lui Egg-on-Your-Face Book, imi facea teoria chibritului ars exact despre acest lucru. De aceea, chiar daca acest paragraf, aparut in cartea sa, The Sane Society, a fost scris acum o jumatate de veac (... de singuratate!), el pare sa aiba o ciudata aplicabilitate lumii in care traim azi.

Egypt blogger military trial criticised

Egypt has been strongly criticised by Human Rights Watch for trying a blogger, Ahmed Mustafa, before a military court.

The 20-year-old is accused of publishing false information in a blog a year ago, alleging a case of nepotism at Egypt's premier military academy.

Egypt's emergency law, in place since 1981, allows indefinite detention and trials of civilians in military courts.

Egyptian officials have denied that the power is much used.

Mr Mustafa, an engineering student, is charged with releasing information considered secret to the armed forces, and of spreading false information insulting officials responsible for admissions to the military academy.

The only evidence presented at his trial this week is the post on his blog.


There has been no investigation into his claim of corruption, namely that a teacher's son was pushed out of the academy, to make way for the son of a more influential individual who could make financial contributions, Christian Fraser, the BBC correspondent in Cairo says.

Under two international human rights accords, both ratified by Egypt, the government is required to protect freedom of expression. Yet Human Rights Watch draws attention to a growing list of bloggers who remain in detention.

Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006, for writing about sectarian tensions in Alexandria and criticising President Mubarak. Another blogger, Hany Nazeer, was detained in October 2008 under the country's emergency law that was designed to fight terrorism for expressing forthright views on Christianity and Islam.

Last year after a visit to Egypt, the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on human rights reiterated that the trial of civilian suspects in military courts raised concerns about the independent administration of justice.

"The Egyptian government says one thing in Geneva and then immediately makes a mockery of the Human Rights Council's review process," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"No civilian should be tried before a military court, and no government that claims to respect human rights should be prosecuting someone solely for writing about corruption," he added.

1 Mar 2010

Karadzic defends Bosnian Serb 'holy' cause at trial

Former leader Radovan Karadzic has said the Serb cause in the Bosnian war was "just and holy" as he began his defence at his genocide trial at The Hague.

Mr Karadzic, who led the Bosnian Serbs during the war in the 1990s, said there was a core group of Muslims in Bosnia - then and now - who wanted 100% power.

Speaking in The Hague, he insisted the Serbs were only acting in self-defence.

He insists he is innocent of all 11 charges from the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including genocide and war crimes.

The trial had been adjourned since November and the judge rejected a new request for a further postponement.

'Mere mortal'

Mr Karadzic, 64, suspended his boycott and appeared in court along with his lawyer on Monday as the trial resumed.


Matt Cole, BBC News, The Hague

When he stepped into court one, Radovan Karadzic appeared relaxed and controlled. He smiled and joked with his legal team, throwing back his head, with its silver mane of hair, as he laughed.

Looking out over the top of his glasses, the former Bosnian Serb leader began his defence in typically flamboyant style, welcoming "active and passive" participants to his trial.

The 64-year-old remained seated as he began to outline his case at pace. He spoke so fast at times the red-robed lead judge, O-Gon Kwon, had to ask him to slow down for the interpreters translating his words to the watching world.

Mr Karadzic appeared to slow a fraction before continuing with a confident zeal, outlining a defence that claimed his people were under attack from Bosnian Muslims. He told the tribunal "their conduct gave rise to our conduct, and that is 100% true".

"I will defend that nation of ours and their cause that is just and holy," Mr Karadzic said in translated comments at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"I stand here before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am, but to defend the greatness of a small nation in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which for 500 years has had to suffer and has demonstrated a great deal of modesty and perseverance to survive in freedom," he told the court.

"We have a good case. We have good evidence and proof."

After his initial remarks, Mr Karadzic began laying out a detailed account of the events that led up to the outbreak of the war.

The wartime leader is trying to show that there was no joint criminal enterprise - no plan or plot - to carry out the genocide or "ethnic cleansing", but that Serbs were only defending themselves from Muslim aggression, says the BBC's Dominic Hughes at the trial.

'War trick'

Mr Karadzic pointed to one defining event of the 44-month siege of Sarajevo - the 1994 attack on a market in which nearly 70 people died - saying it was a stage-managed "trick" for which Serbian forces were falsely blamed.


• Eleven counts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities

• Charged over shelling of Sarajevo during the city's siege, in which some 12,000 civilians died

• Allegedly organised the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosniak men and youths in Srebrenica

• Targeted Bosniak and Croat political leaders, intellectuals and professionals

• Unlawfully deported and transferred civilians because of national or religious identity

• Destroyed homes, businesses and sacred sites

Mr Karadzic showed the court pictures of an empty marketplace, claiming it was the scene shortly before, as he put it, hundreds appeared and the attack was reported.

He is expected to present a two-day opening statement before prosecutors present their first witness on Wednesday.

Mr Karadzic faces two charges of genocide - including the killing in Srebrenica of more than 7,000 men and boys - as well as nine other counts including murder, extermination, persecution and forced deportation.

Prosecutors say he orchestrated a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Muslims and Croats in eastern Bosnia to create an ethnically pure Serbian state.

In his opening statement last October, prosecutor Alan Tieger said Mr Karadzic "harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to pursue his vision of an ethnically segregated Bosnia".

Mr Karadzic had boycotted the proceedings, insisting on more time to prepare his case.

In November, the court appointed British lawyer Richard Harvey to take over the defence if he continued his boycott.

Mr Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after nearly 13 years on the run.

During his time in power, he was president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic and commander of its army during the Bosnian conflict which left more than 100,000 people dead.

He is the most significant figure to face justice at this tribunal since the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, who died of a heart attack in 2006 before his own trial was concluded.

And a "Happy New Spring" to all you snow drops out there!

Hamas man 'drugged and suffocated' in Dubai

A Hamas commander who was killed in his Dubai hotel room was drugged and then suffocated, according to results of forensic tests released by police.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's killers used a quick-acting muscle relaxant to help make the death seem "natural", a senior Dubai police officer said.

Israel's secret service has been widely blamed for the killing.

However Israel has said there is no evidence it was behind the death on 20 January. It has accused Mabhouh of smuggling arms into Gaza and killing two Israeli soldiers.

'Rapid onset'

"The killers used the drug succinylcholine to sedate Mabhouh before they suffocated him," Maj Gen Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina, deputy commander of Dubai's police, said.

"The assassins used this method so that it would seem that his death was natural," AFP news agency quoted him as saying. The agency said succinylcholine is favoured by anaesthetists and emergency doctors because of its rapid onset.

Some previous reports on Mabhouh's death have suggested he was electrocuted and suffocated.

Passport row

Dubai has identified 26 suspects in the murder and said they used British, Irish, French and Australian passports.

The use of the European and Australian passports in the assassination has sparked a diplomatic row between those countries and Israel.

The countries say the passports used by the murder suspects were forged. British police officers are in Israel to investigate the use of fake British passports by some of the suspects.

Israeli officials have refused to either confirm or deny their country's involvement in the killing but have hailed it.

Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on Sunday he did not know who had carried it out, but it showed Hamas that "none of their people are untouchable".