Thursday, May 31, 2007

Meanwhile, In New York...

This is interesting. Hidden away on a back page highlighting world events, a small notice that the UN Security Council has issued a statement calling on Palestinians to stop firing rockets at Israel. That, evidently, was the bald statement - to cease and desist. About time, since those rockets have been lobbed into Israel relentlessly, despite the much-talked-about truce where Hamas had ensured its armed wing no longer attacked Israel, while the political wing was desperately attempting to persuade its international benefactors to continue funding the PA.

It was mostly Islamic Jihad and other psychopathological friends of jihad who had kept up the slow and relentless barrage that drove Israelis into a state of nervous exhaustion, never knowing when or where the next rocket would hit. Until Hamas happily joined them when it was considered by Ismail Haniyeh to be a useful gambit to step up the action in a ploy to re-unite Fatah and Hamas against their 'true' enemy, and stop assaulting one another. Israel responded to the provocations as it is always forced to do, by counter-attacks.

Now Hamas in the Palestinian Territories would like to halt attack and counter-attack, but appears to forget that it began the assaults. Insisting it will stop if and when Israel does. This kind of amnesia with respect to cause and effect reflects the mindset of recalcitrant fundamentalists who will have it their way or no way at all. The 270 rockets that have landed in Israel over the past two weeks are to be shrugged aside. Israel's air attacks should first cease.

Should it? When Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's number one instigator against Israel has called on Hamas members to continue the barrages. This, regardless of the fact that he fully realizes the terror campaign he has unleashed has availed Hamas no advantage whatever. Fundamentalism results in blind rage, in a dedication to bloodlust, in denial of responsibility, in deist-based righteousness.

Under these circumstances, solutions there are none.

Labels: ,

"Kandahar For Dummies"

It's an unfortunate descriptive but after all, what else term a set of conditions and realities that intelligent people should arm themselves with before setting out to a foreign destination? You venture off the beaten track, go beyond a society that reflects the mores and traditions of your own so it only makes good sense to avail yourself of information that alerts you to helpful data to ensure you don't step on toes by behaving in a manner certain to insult the locals.

Now, the head of an Afghan landowners group, Ayub Rafiqi, has taken it upon himself to put together some useful information to assist foreigners coming into the country have a basic understanding of the history, traditions, religion, social values of Afghanistan. Mr. Rafiqi has had social adjustments of his own to make in the past, so he is well placed to understand the need for people to orient themselves to their new, if temporary environment.

All the more so, when troops under the NATO umbrella are stationed in his country to aid in the reconstruction of that war-torn environment, and to assist in rousting the Taliban from its territory. He feels his organization will have served its purpose if it succeeds in acting as a bridge between foreign forces and the people of Kandahar province. Which is where Canadian troops are now located, bearing the brunt of the Taliban insurgency.

Some of his criticisms relate to the fact that compensation for landowners for property damage as a result of fighting and road construction has been late in coming, from foreign officials. He also is critical of the sense he has that foreign forces view area tribes as potential adversaries and treat them as such, instead of viewing them as the bedrock of their tribal groups.

There's certainly the proverbial "two sides" to every apprehension. Canadian troops have long been sensitized to the need to approach local tribal councils with respect and to deal directly with them in the interests of working together for the betterment of the Afghan people. On occasion, in all innocence and trust, Canadian troops have discovered that some of those individuals whom they have taken for allies have turned out instead to be anything but.

Since few foreign troops in the country have members who possess the linguistic skills to speak directly with village elders, Mr. Rafiqi recommends that instead of relying completely on translators, local radio stations could be used to play back messages of interest to the people. Alternately, approaches to local mullahs might result in a co-operative approach to ensuring that the local populations understand the role and the purpose of foreign troops.

Proper respect for local customs and areas that are held to be sacred to the locals should be encouraged, since innocently-ignorant trampling by foreign troops of either can lead to grievances and ultimately sufficient anger to ensure there will be no co-operation between the troops and the village inhabitants. Above all, the locals need to be convinced that foreign troops are there by invitation of their own government, to protect them from insurgents.

One issue that has truly embittered many people, including Mr. Rafiqi, is the district leaders and government officials whose backgrounds have been identified as former drug and war lords. Many of these were local thugs who were used by U.S. forces during the 2001 invasion to maintain order. Their special status with the U.S. authorities emboldened these men who took up positions as drug and war lords, then later joined the new government of Afghanistan.

These former social-rights abusers and murderers now in position of authority are known by reputation to members of the NATO alliance, who try to keep them at arms' length, while performing their duties of assistance to the legitimate government of Afghanistan some of whose members of parliament now include women who were themselves victims of these former war lords.

Members of the Canadian reconstruction team and the military staff, along with CIDA representatives admit that "Especially in the first year of our operations here, we were working without full preparation for all the intricacies of what this society is about," according to Adrian Walraven, a CIDA officer at the Kandahar camp.

Those Canadians now stationed in Kandahar have become familiar with the cultural and political background of southern Afghanistan, acquiring a working knowledge and understanding of the country and its people. Further collaboration with an Afghan insider can only serve to ensure that misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.

The people of Kandahar deserve due respect; Canadian troops deserve every opportunity possible to make their jobs a little less burdensome and dangerous.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Man For All Seasons

Who would've thought it? A grade B - er, make that a C - movie actor whose improbably ridiculous film roles played with a stiff demeanor, an absurd accent and a bulked-up physique has been transformed into the consummate politician. Oh, not just any politician, since most of them seem unfortunately to be self-serving and self-obsessed. This guy has set a new standard.

The charm of his self-deprecating humour as his state's emissary and number-one representative on the national and international scene have marked him as a likeable and approachable human being. The antithesis of the stiff and bumbling caricatures he portrayed on film. Behind his gently humorous facade he presents as a thoughtfully serious and ethically responsible representative as governor of his state.

By no means the first and only governor of California whose awareness of environmental degradation expressed the concerned mind-set of Californians, he is taken seriously on the national and international stage. He's earning his stripes, expressing surprising opinions often quite at odds with that of the Republican White House.

Certainly on environmental issues he's way ahead of official America, bringing in legislation guaranteed to ensure his huge and populous state is making the kind of impact that the federal body refuses to sign onto. He has car manufacturers in the U.S. angered at his insistence that they design more environmentally sensitive vehicles if they want to continue doing business in California.

It remains to be seen how responsible he can convince Californians they need to become with respect to their limited water resources. The vaunted life-style of enchanted excess in a country where expectations are high on maintaining a luxurious way of life in a world where resources are expected to become even tighter must give way to some amelioration of the waste in domestic irrigation, and the proliferation of swimming pools in a relatively dry landscape.

He's making alliances abroad with his message of responsibility and the latest appears to be right here in Canada, particularly in British Columbia and Ontario. Still a relative novice, he's in the position to encourage these provinces in their desire to become actively engaged in fighting environmental degradation. He's willing to share ideas and technologies, to make friends and put his influence to good use.

What, is there something about that Kennedy magic that has rubbed off on him? He most definitely is not what he appeared at first to be, a die-hard Republican. He's appreciative of the position of trust that he holds. His manner, his language and delivery have now taken on a certain depth, a gravitas, earning him respect from his listeners.

He's here on a double mission; to sell California's products to Canadians - as though we don't already feel saturated with California produce and wines. And to help the provinces assume the kind of responsibility they say they mean to achieve, through his own experience.

Good man.


Truly Exceptional

What else can you call a 17-year-old high school student recently given the title of the continent's top high school bio-scientist at the Sanofi-aventis International Bio-GENEius Challenge in Boston? He was selected first from among thirteen other aspirants to the crown, claiming $7,500 in prize money and becoming the first Canadian to ever win that competition.

But that's kind of small change for Ted Paranjothy who lives in Winnipeg and attends Fort Richmond Collegiate. This young man who holds a patent for an anti-cancer agent; who has co-written two articles appearing in scientific journals was also declared the top student bio-scientist in North America. And an award that gifted him with a TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership worth $60,000.

Mr. Paranjothy has been working with a mentor for the last two years, an associate professor in the department of biochemistry and medical genetics at the University of Manitoba, and CFI Canada Research Chair in New Cancer Therapies, Dr. Marek Los. "He's basically being treated as a PhD student already", according to Dr. Los.

After attending a full day of school at Fort Richmond Collegiate (he's student council president), he goes off to the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology to conduct research until two or three in the morning. At that dim morning hour he arrives home, showers, completes his school homework, before heading for bed and a scant two to three hours' sleep.

He gets a little additional sleep time on the week-ends, but that's also when he volunteers as a recreational assistant with developmentally disabled children. He even finds time to go bowling with friends, play basketball, football, go to movies. And he really is a normal teen, claiming to love watching some television, and not being utterly enchanted with assignments for school essays.

It mightn't be an overstatement to know his parents are proud of this son of theirs.


Oh. Sure, Why Not?

Ever hear about that hole going right through the centre of the earth? No! Well, you're obviously not very well read. There was, in fact, a North Pole Inner Earth Expedition slated for 2006, that fateful summer jaunt that never quite materialized. Because the brilliant man who had planned the expedition, an adventure guide from Utah, Steve Currey, died suddenly of brain cancer.

I know what you're thinking, but I wouldn't hesitate at all to venture the opinion that his illness had nothing whatever to do with his determination to find the location of the earth hole and access it, traverse it, make contact with a whole new civilization living at the centre of the earth, and write a book or produce a film about his truly remarkable discovery.

Seems back in the 17th century Sir Edmond Halley was an advocate of hollow-earth theories. See, a brilliant mind is no guarantee of high logic, and some intellects are simply drawn to out-there possibilities. They're thrilling to contemplate. They're the stuff of legend, like the existence of strange beasts living amongst us in shrouded-in-mystery inaccessible places, occasionally glimpsed, but whose presence remain unverifiable.

You see, along with the hollow planet theory is the complementary one that informs us that in the interior of Planet Earth there is an entirely different civilization. Quite different than ours. In that these people, somewhat resembling those who live on the surface of this planet, get along very well together. They know what's going on up on the surface. They're an inordinately clever race, making the most of their unique living arrangements.

When Mr. Curry, before his untimely demise was still planning his 2006 expedition to discover that fog-shrouded hole in the Arctic Ocean leading to the centre of the Earth he identified beforehand the very location of the portal: 84.4 degrees north and 41 degrees east, roughly 400 kilometres northwest of Ellesmere Island.

Now his successor, Kentucky-based physicist and futurist Brooks Agnew is set to launch his own expedition to sail the Polar Sea just beyond Canada's Arctic islands. In the best tradition of scientific enquiry - this is a scientific expedition after all, led by a scientist, a physicist, no less - Mr. Agnew states the expedition will be accompanied by several experts in meditation, mythology and UFOs. And just incidentally a team of documentary filmmakers.

They won't succeed, however. Reason? Well, those contented and somewhat snotty interior dwellers have no intention whatever of sharing their good life with the rest of us quarrelsome, dissatisfied, umbrage-burdened and war-prone inhabitants of the surface.

Would you if you were they?


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Treasure Into Trash

Imagine you're intent on climbing the highest mountain in the world, a truly formidable quest. Made all the more so by the fact that, but for a brief window of opportunity in the spring, to hazard the attempt at any other time is to draw the wrath of the mountain and its accompanying weather systems down upon one. Even at the most propitious time of year to attempt these awesome climbs up the long slopes of these mountains, the weather is never to be taken for granted. Nor is the terrain, where at any time a questing climber can slide straight off an innocent-appearing ledge.

Where, during the course of a climb when the sun is shining and the winds are light, clothing is shed in the afternoon, and by evening a sudden storm of immense, howling proportions is sighted in the distance and too soon envelopes the slopes and the climbers. There is no visibility through the ice fog and the snow. The banshee winds threaten to tear one's tent from its tender moorings, and hurl its occupants into oblivion. The unremitting cold shrivels one's soul and fear grips the imagination of the courageous.

And even though most climbers use the services of Sherpas and guides, they must also carry some of their own equipment, not the least of which would be canisters of oxygen at the higher levels. This enterprise is one that takes immense planning skills, and it also takes a considerable amount of energy and time. Three months is a likely average to acclimate to the various height levels and base camps. Apart from the horrendous amounts of human waste left on the mountain from so many would-be climbers and their entourage, there is other trash.

Mountains of discarded tins, useless tents, foodstuffs and medicines. And, of course, the corpses of those unfortunate enough not to have made the return journey in complete safety. Of the nearly two thousand people who have climbed Mount Everest, slightly over ten percent - 202 individuals - have died in the attempt. People never, ever, seem to feel that the tragedies that befall others may also be visited upon them personally. One simply does not. The mind doesn't allow it - all the more so when one is young, confident, fit and determined.

So there are years upon years of accumulated detritus, tonnes of discarded supplies left on the slopes of 8,850-metre Everest - more added every year. Odd, when you think of it, since the people who ascend this giant claim to have the utmost respect for its presence and what it represents on this earth. Good thing that others, other climbers take the insult to the mountain seriously. Seriously enough to mount their own, purposeful expeditions.

Their personal awe of fearsome nature impels them to collect these offerings of propitiation. Japan's Ken Noguchi has led the latest in a series of clean-up enterprises on the mountain. "We have brought some of the garbage with us, which will be displayed in Tokyo and Seoul to raise public awareness to keep the mountain clean," Mr. Noguchi told Reuters news agency after returning from his latest trash-gathering campaign.

Mr. Noguchi has the distinction of having led several of these clean-up campaigns. He has been responsible for collecting 8.8 tonnes of rubbish from the Nepali as well as the Tibetan side of Everest. Good on him.

Labels: ,

A Society of Repressed Emotions

The Japanese value courtesy as a social norm. They have evolved a remarkable litany of formalities for public encounters and social interaction, all of which are based on respect for the other. Individuals do not like to bring attention to themselves. They present pleasantly and humbly. As individuals they tend to be extremely kind to strangers, and when faced with foreigners they repress their curiosity. To a point.

Many simply cannot help themselves and will approach a foreigner tentatively speaking a polyglot English in the hopes of briefly engaging the stranger, for the purpose of polishing up their own slender grasp of the language. But for the most part, the delicacy of public demeanor is likely a result of the Buddhist tradition. And in a practical sense, an unspoken societal more which ensures that these three small crowded mountainous isles hosting a multitude of people are sufficient unto the task.

When we lived in Tokyo it was rare to hear car horns blaring in heavy traffic as is done elsewhere when impatient drivers let those ahead of them know they're driving too slowly. Mind, in the press of vehicular traffic in Tokyo it's not all that possible to drive too quickly, despite which many Japanese practise pretty tricky and pretty irritating bypasses to get ahead. Irritating as this may be, no one raises their voice in protest, no car horns shred the air. One does not make a public show of oneself.

There is a distinct distaste for public shame. Which is odd, given the proclivity for many salarymen to put off facing rush-hour traffic from the business areas of Tokyo to the outlying residential areas, and instead visit bars with their colleagues until they're stinking drunk and help one another manoeuvre carefully along the street, throwing up on street corners, under the kindly cover of darkness. And of course, there is the famous karaoke bars where would-be crooners try out their talents to the applause of all. Bringing a different kind of attention to oneself.

But loss of face, shame, public censure for deeds ill done has a truly devastating effect on the Japanese psyche. The shame is not to be lived down. Mea culpas accompanied by dignified and codified apologies, followed by burning shame the order of the day. Sufficient to encourage the ultimate atonement for ill-doing: seppuku. Which has a long and honoured tradition in the country, as a manner of apology and also of protest.

In the case of Toshikatsu Matsuoka, the agriculture minister under the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was public anger and the shame of being accused of mishandling public funds that led him to commit himself to eternity. That is so like the Japanese, and that is so dreadfully sad. Indeed, Japan has the dubious reputation of being a relatively high-suicide country. A Japanese publication,
The Complete Suicide Manual, published in 1993 is a runaway best seller in the country.

It does seem such a terrible waste.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hoped-For Alternatives

At the present time, and for the foreseeable future, fossil fuels provide up to 80% of the world's primary supply of energy. Coal, at 25% is right behind oil at 35%, while natural gas represents 20% of the energy supply-usage. The remaining 20% is made up of nuclear (6.5%), hydro (2.2%), biomass (11.1%), solar, wind and geothermal (0.4%).

A new type of coal-burning technology has appeared on the horizon of potentialties. The coal is burned under extremely high pressure (1,250 psi) with the resulting steam also kept under high pressure inside tubes, between 2,500 and 3,700 psi. In the process, nothing is left in the furnace but ash (with commercial applications). The pollutants; sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury, particulate matter - have been captured in the furnace exhaust, passed through a condensing heat exchanger resulting in very hot water, itself a source of energy.

When the exhaust fumes release the water, the remaining pollutants are released with it; directing some of the C02 back to the furnace, cooled, then cleansed. The extreme atmospheric pressures used in the process means the generating plant can be relatively smaller than conventional clean-coal furnaces, while producing a far greater benefit in pollution control and greater, more reliable energy production.

As yet another alternative for energy-producing needs in a world hard-pressed to find sufficient energy sources, yet having to worry about the deleterious effect all of this is having on our environment, plentiful coal utilized with newly-discovered efficiencies can present a partial answer to some of our needs. Canada and the U.S. have great coal reserves, as have China and India.

CanMet scientists, particularly Bruce Clements of Natural Resources Canada, are working to perfect this new generation of coal-energy fusion, along with its inventor, Alex Fassbender whose ThermoEnergy Corporation based in Hudson, Massachusetts is spearheading this new initiative. This radically new clean-coal technology with its carbon dioxide capture and cheap power values may give North America and other interested users of energy a leg up in the future in our ongoing energy needs.

Now, all we need to do in addition, is to convince ourselves that wasteful use of energy on the lifestyles we have become so wonderfully accustomed to, require an ameliorating process as well, to ensure that the marriage of more careful energy usage and new technologies make us all more responsive to nature's needs as well as ours.

Labels: ,

Butling - Butlering

When you think of the consummate professional, what might it possibly be other than the very correct, utterly competent and supremely reliable figure of the traditional English Butler. Remember P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves? And who can forget Anthony Hopkins's superb portrayal of the traditional and oh so very loyal butler in The Remains of the Day? But they're remnants of a by-gone era.

Or so you might think. By 1970 butlering skills were an antiquated residual of the past. Oops. Truth is, however, that the need for someone with those professional organizational skills appears to be growing among a certain element of society. Unbridled capitalism has done its best to fill the gap that once was the precinct of the nobility, the upper class, those with inherited wealth, society's aristocratic strata.

The world is now stuffed with multi-millionaires and billionaires, it would appear. Not only in North America, throughout Europe, but also in Asia and Russia. Forbes magazine identified about 140 billionaires worldwide in 1987, when it first began tracking the mega-wealthy. The current year's census identifies close to one thousand billionaires. With great wealth comes a concomitant desire to live like - well, billionaires.

That translates to estate living, inhabiting splendidly huge and well appointed piles. And with those humongous homes comes a need to keep tally of what is required to ensure they operate smoothly. These immense real estate gems require cleaning staff, maid service, nannies, social secretaries, housekeepers, and of course, the crowning glory, the supreme overseer upon whom all responsibilities devolve - the butler.

Where are all these butlers to come from? That, it would seem, appears to be the problem, and butlering schools of expertise are cropping up here and there to fill the gap. And there is much to learn, to become a reputable, reliable, knowledgeable, trustworthy manager of someone else's grand estate. The butler intervenes when services such as gardening, plumbing, electrical work, construction, must be undertaken. The butler handles the household finances.

The butler plans, co-ordinates and arranges social events on a grand scale, or modest family get-togethers, not to mention everyday dinner arrangements to reflect and suite the taste, the finances and the expectations of the family he represents. The successful butler should be comfortable in several languages; mainstream and often particular other languages. In the present era this personage should also have computer and Internet skills. This must, of necessity, be an intelligent person with good interpersonal skills, unflappability and a strong work ethic.

The butler oversees the duties of all the other household employees, from the housekeeper - next on the list of importance - to the maids, the nannies, the groundskeepers. The butler must be prepared to mediate, using well-honed personal skills to defuse situations where employees come in conflict with one another. Alternately, to approach the employer on behalf of employees' requests. The butler must be discreet and reliably mature, capable of submerging his own needs and individuality into those of the employer's.

For these inestimable skills and more the successful candidate can claim a salary beginning at $60,000 to $200,000 annually, along with additional perquisites, including personal car, and generous vacation allowances. That person may also be required to manage and keep accurate tabs on the wealthy employer's other properties; two, three, four - located in geographies around the world. That's a lot of responsibility for a relatively modest salary.

Yet there are those sweet and kindly souls capable of this kind of service, to give security and pleasure and relaxation and complete dedication to the needs of those who require their unusual and professional services. Takes a kind of selflessness. A keen interest in other people. Sounds like the ultimate in self sacrifice to me. Seems as though one's life, as a highly mature, inordinately intelligent being could be put to better use. But that's just my opinion.

More power to them.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Abounding Misery

The psychopaths are at it again. Not that we've had much of a reprieve. If things quieten down in some areas of the geography, they have the habit of popping up with ferocious invigoration elsewhere. What it is about the region that produces crop after crop of dedicated Islamist terrorists isn't that much of a mystery one supposes. The culture of grievance, revenge, victimization, and dedicated psychopathy are relics of another time; part and parcel of a hard-bitten and often hard-done-by tribal mentality, leavened with religious righteousness.

Little time is expended on searching for logical solutions to often intractable-seeming problems. As though the cerebral cortex was genetically impaired from away back in the mists of time. Palaver is trumped by violence each and every time a catastrophe strikes. And if it doesn't present as a catastrophe initially, then it can be transformed into one quite handily. In the Middle East, if a country isn't ruled by an iron-fisted despot it's ripe pickings for an avaricious and more powerful neighbour.

Here's cultured, cultivated Lebanon, with its easy-going way of life, its oasis of a geography, its creatively artistic, entrepreneurial spirit and multifaceted population. They've made a feature of getting along, but events overtake them and they succumb to the same violent anger brought upon them by the same malignant forces who would, if they could, visit destruction in other, more guarded countries. The Islamist paramilitaries encouraged and armed by sources unfriendly to the country have free rein to inject as much uncertainty and confusion as they will.

Now, Fatah al-Islam, using a Palestinian refugee camp as civilian cover for their vicious lawlessness promises to fight to the death. Fearing the new munitions provided to the Lebanese army by the United States in this most recent, unbalanced conflict, they promise "If they use unconventional weapons against us, we will respond with unconventional attacks everywhere," according to their spokesman. What, is Syria/Iran ready to supply them with nuclear weapons, already?

They ensconce themselves in the midst of a densely-populated people somehow eking out a living, awaiting the impossible return to a land they fled. The Islamists, burning with the overwhelming need to fight "the Jews, the Americans and their loyalists". Yet, disconcertingly, it is the Jews, the Americans and their other loyalists - all of Western society - that has ensured their existence, by deferring to an enlightened frame of reference that confers equality upon all of nature's creatures and demurs against destroying those of her creatures that have succumbed to the fatal disease of incurable misanthropy that will be satisfied only by dealing in death.

The cycle repeats itself, time and again. The hostility, the rhetorical defiance, the deadly attacks, the incorrigibly determined insistence on serving death notices on any and all who defy the authority of this version of Islamic theocratic deterministic conquest. Where there is no solution, there is no end. While one side dehumanizes itself consummately, the other remains too humane to resort to the only solution that appears available in extinguishing this deadly disease of inspirational hatred.

This is not a game of chess. It is, however, yet another catastrophic event in a series of such seemingly unavoidable events.

Labels: ,

Cheap Equals Risk - Caveat Emptor

Perhaps not always does inexpensive result in shoddy merchandise or, on occasion goods that can result in danger. Too often, though, that's just the case. Particularly with goods manufactured in China. Take, for example, knock-offs of reliable products, parading themselves as the real goods but in reality cheap imitations. If you rely on a product for safety in its use and it's been built merely for facade, to imitate the real thing, but without the mishap-preventive interior, then you're in for trouble. And this can be something as inexpensive to begin with as electrical parts, or extension plugs or power bars, to name but a few.

When they're put to the test of actual experience they can cause fires, and at the very least equipment failure. These are the cheap, imitative items that we can pick up at ubiquitous Dollar Stores or our local supermarkets. Emulators of the real thing are so adept at their trade that they even copy symbols indicating that the product has been approved by a country's health and safety oversight authorities. Throw in human nature, where we're always looking for a 'good deal' or alternatives that will cost us less while promising us the same goods, and we're suckers for adventures in risk management.

We do the same thing with name brand goods, falling victim to the allure of knock-offs of designer items whose regular price is beyond our means. Otherwise-reputable, and often not-so-reputable purveyors of socially-cool goods advertise and hawk these product look-alikes and eager consumers fall prey to their purchase, be they handbags, DVDs or children's toys. The toys may contain constituents that are banned in North America, like lead, but consumers purchase them in all innocence unless and until a warning is announced.

China, that emerging economic giant, sees nothing amiss in taking short-cuts to achieve market dominance. Its oversight of the quality of products sent abroad is as lax as it is for similar items meant for domestic consumption. There have been instances where pharmaceuticals sold over the Internet as replacements for name-brand products are so inefficient or even dangerous because they don't contain the elements of the brands they emulate that they constitute a danger for the unwary.

Latterly, pet owners, veterinarians, pet-food producers and governments in North America were alarmed over reports of unauthorized ingredients imported from China as protein-fillers in pet-food having severely deleterious effects on peoples' pets. China steadfastly denies knowledge of forbidden ingredients incorporated into otherwise-innocent products destined for export, and blames 'rogue' manufacturers, promising to crack down on such producers. But China acts with casual indifference for the most part because they understand that public health and security systems in some importing countries are simply disinterested in adequately performing their public functions.

They become galvanized into action when they feel the outcry is sufficiently outraged and strident as to present an imminent danger to their producers' ability to export and bring profit to the country. Toothpaste imported to North America from the Chinese market has been implicated in yet another illicit-ingredient scandal. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is quick to take action when these issues surface, and they warned recently that frozen fish from China marketed as 'monkfish' could contain elements of the deadly puffer fish, in the wake of several people found to have ingested morbidly dangerous levels of tetrodotoxin, poison found in puffer fish.

Honey imported into North America from Chinese sources has been discovered to contain pesticide residues in amounts unacceptable for human consumption. Despite the cautions issued from government sources from time to time with respect to foodstuffs derived from China, imports to Canada and the United States, as elsewhere in the world, are steadily rising. For as with any other consumer items emanating from China, the costs are far less, despite additional costs associated with shipping far distances.

Preserved food, edible fruits and nuts, prepared meat and fish, and vegetables from China are all reaching markets abroad as trade booms. The Chinese domestic market is no better served by its short-cut manufacturers than is the foreign market. They too demand quality, but often find themselves with goods that express anything but. The most egregious examples being baby formula which contained inadequate nutrition so babies died of malnutrition. Reminiscent of African mothers watering down expensive formula to make it last longer, and in the process killing their babies.

One supposes that China doesn't deliberately set out to ship shoddy and contaminated goods abroad, much less provide them for home consumption. It is just so eager to expand its market potential as swiftly as possible that it gives short shrift to the obligation to ensure what leaves its shores is reliably safe and expresses quality. If they can get away with sending harmful ingredients contained in their foodstuffs abroad, then they will, blissfully ignoring the fall-out - until they're brought up short by the threat of potential export cut-offs.

It is quantity, not quality that consumes China's exporting interests. It is cheap and plentiful goods that attract importing agents and the consuming public abroad. Until things go awry and cheap translates as dangerous to one's health.

Buyer beware.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Studying the Proposal

Mahmoud Abbas is desperately trying to arrange a truce between his armed Fatah militia and that of Islamist Hamas. Hamas, still enjoying its election upper-hand concedes "This mutual truce would be observed at first for one month in the Gaza Strip, then afterwards in the West Bank". If that isn't magnanimous, then what, as Hamas prepares to "study the proposal". They will continue to detest one another, but with gentlemanly restraint, setting aside their propensity to send one another off to martyrdom in the cause of "resistance".

Mr. Abbas laments that Israel is striking back at the Hamas rocket launchers from the Gaza border. The continued attacks and their resulting counter-attacks have been stepped up considerably, with Qassam rockets claiming one death and many injuries among Israelis, along with yet another removal of vulnerable Sderot residents from the area. All while the Palestinian president pleads with Islamists to hold their fire so a truce with Israel can be resumed.

"We don't need these futile firings of rockets and they have to cease so that we can reach a reciprocal truce with the Israelis in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," Mr. Abbas repeated. The trouble is he is speaking a language unknown to Hamas. These are words and sentences forming a message and a hope for the future that are completely foreign to Hamas, and in fact, inimical to their own presence, let alone their future plans.

This asymmetrical position between the two isn't amenable to dialogue, to persuasion, to reasonable debate, or rational conclusions. Hamas remains staunch in its denial of Israel's legal presence as a nation, determined to remove the "Zionist entity" and in the process extinguish as many Jewish lives as Allah grants them opportunity to accomplish, in His blessed name.

Fault lies everywhere. It hasn't only been the Palestinians who have missed opportunities to solve the seemingly insolvable problems festering between Israel and the Palestinians, no thanks to the greater presence of mischief-making Arab countries surrounding them. Israel too has missed her opportunities. And now the downward spiral of Palestinians complicit in the murder of innocent Israelis, and the Israeli response of tightening the noose around civilian Palestinians has reached the abyss in human nature and response.

But while there is life, there is hope, as the optimists always chirp. So, by all means study the proposal. And after that, study another proposal. Perhaps, eventually, the deep well of hatred might be dispelled with the mutual death-dealing, devolving to an opportunity for open-minded, open-ended talks and agreements, through sheer exhaustion of the current situation.

Labels: ,

Man, The Hunter

What do we do with our children, the values we gift them with, the exposures we grant them, the opportunities we hope to place in their paths of discovery of the world at large and their place in it. And in the process finally producing a finished product, one we offer to the world with overweening pride and a sense of final accomplishment. In the process honouring our forbears and at the same time presenting the face of the future. Perhaps that lead-in should have read "what do we do to our children".

Some parents believe themselves to be the primary custodians of sentient beings who will develop into fully-conscious, priority-driven and well balanced members of society and govern themselves accordingly, to set the example they pattern their child after. Others believe themselves to be chosen to lead malleable children into circumscribed and well-trodden paths; to praise the Lord and all His creatures in their own inimitable way.

And, in today's news, a truly sterling example of parents earning their parental stripes by enrolling their child in a private school, the Christian Heritage Academy. Oops, the warning feelers are out; the word heritage, once denoting something to be proud of in honouring the past, now accords with something entirely other, and when one links "Christian" and "heritage" we know we're in for a tough ride.

This little eleven year-old boy, his parents' delight - and why not, after all he has just completed sixth grade on his school's honour role, in Pickensville on the Mississippi border, Alabama - has already accomplished an outstanding feat. He has become the Good Lord's instrument in removing the dignity and beauty inherent in life from one of that Great Spirit's very creatures, well-coached by his proud father.

We once had the pleasure of hiking some back-country trails in Alabama through forests of oak and discovered what we knew to be evidence of wild pigs having scavenged at the foot of tree trunks, looking perhaps for mushrooms. And we learned several things: that the area is known for the presence of wild pigs, escaped many decades ago from an imported- boar raising experiment by someone who hoped to raise them for whatever reason, perhaps even for the purpose of rooting out the presence of those treasured fungi.

The resulting feral pigs likely interbred with local stock and the result was a proliferation of wild pigs. We never did have the opportunity to see any of the beasts for ourselves but we did learn that it was considered high sport to hunt them. Needless to say in the American South-East hunting wild animals is sport of the highest calibre.

Back to our little 11-year-old, the budding scholar who earned a place on his school's honour roll. The child's name is Jamison Stone, and his father Mike Stone took him hunting on a 2,500-acre commercial hunting preserve in Delta, where they proceeded to hunt, accompanied by two guides. Jamison, we are informed, was not new to the hunting experience. This precocious boy killed his first deer at age five.

On May 3 Jamison used a .50-caliber revolver to shoot a very large animal. He shot it no fewer than eight times and chased it for three hours through hilly terrain before he finally was able to kill it at point-blank range. His father and the guides had high-powered rifles aimed to fire should the beast, armed with its own 5-inch tusks, have decided to "charge the boy". While the beast chose only to flee in terror, one wonders why Mr. Stone wouldn't be charged for child abuse.

"It feels really good" Jamison said in an interview by telephone with The Associated Press. "It's a good accomplishment. I probably won't ever kill anything else that big." He may be right. The wild hog weighed in at 477 kilograms, measuring 2.8 metres from the snout to its tail. And Jamison feels really good. Jamison is proud as punch.

The head of the beast is to be mounted, the better to admire it in, presumably, the Stone living room, and so that as Jamison grows older he can point with pride forever and ever, at his "accomplishment". The meat-starved family plans to have the rest of the animal made into sausage, figuring they should get at least 500 to 700 pounds out of it.

We pass our values, our conscience, our priorities in life and our consciousness of the world around us to our offspring. God being the enabler.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 25, 2007

Guerillas Slaughtering Gorillas

No, really. There are roughly 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and nearly half of them live on the volcanic slopes of Virunga National Park in the Congo, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. Yet this site has been recognized as being severely endangered since 1994. Famously, Dian Fossey, the acclaimed animal behaviourist, studied these gorillas, and an American film, Gorillas in the Mist, brought her work in protecting these animals to the public eye. Her 1985 murder was never solved, but thought to be the work of poachers.

But the gorilla preserve in Virunga has been infiltrated by rebel and guerrilla bands who consider the refuge their personal property, their hide-out. They have hunted the endangered animals for years, for meat. Additionally, after Congo's 1998-2003 civil war refugees camped in areas near the park additional threatening the gorillas' refuge. The refugees stripped the hillsides for firewood, and also hunted the gorillas for food.

It is, however, the Mayi-Mayi warriors who practise black magic and cannibalism who are now threatening the hitherto-protected gorillas. They've waged their own war on government rangers and wardens, and ransacked tourism camps in Africa's oldest park. These guerrillas warn wildlife officers that if they face retaliation for their escapades they will kill all the gorillas in the area.

This is a primitive social order, this warlike tribe. During the civil war, the fighters sang and danced into battle, dressed in vine garlands, believing themselves to be invisible. They also used shower hoses, and drain plugs of faucets to embellish themselves with, convinced these 'amulets' would deflect enemy bullets, turning them into water. They've been known to eat the hearts of their enemies.

They're a daunting lot. And they present a very real threat. A year ago these warriors machine-gunned hundreds of hippopotami along the shores of Congo's Lake Edward. Congolese army units are trying to track them down. A peculiar type of menace to be sure.

That's Africa for you. Never a dull moment.

Labels: ,

There are Terrorists - And Then There Are Terrorists

A covert group of activists, known as terrorists in some lexicons that identify illegal and threatening behaviours as terrorist in nature, has issued an ultimatum to the new President of France. This dark group is otherwise known as the Regional Committee for Viticultural Action, and they've gone so far as to spirit away tankers carrying wine from foreign ports. Not so amusing is their additional penchant for indulging in more violent activities, such as the dynamiting of government buildings and supermarkets.

In emulation of their better-known contemporaries whose terrorist activities compel world-wide attention, five balaclava-clad men issued a statement addressing the new president. These wine terrorists promised that if the price they received for their wine did not garner greater recompense for their noble efforts in raising the spirits of their countrymen they would be prepared to take further serious action.

Taking a page out of Islamic literature on personal sacrifice to attain a divine end, they called upon fellow winemakers to unite, calling into reference a 1907 winemakers' uprising in Montpellier when thousands marched in street protests, frightening troops into opening fire, with the result that six protesters were killed. They're a rum lot, these winemakers.

They've a problem, however; fewer people than ever before are drinking wine daily in France. And in the highest-producing wine region in the world, Languedoc-Roussillon, production exceeds demand. And since France is a member of the European Union which plans to destroy 100,000 hectares of grape vines to stabilize the market, they're rather annoyed about this turn of events, demanding that Europe maintain a subsidy for distilling surplus wine into alcohol spirit.

Like terrorists everywhere and for any reason, this group refuses to acknowledge the reality of a diminishing market for their wares. Would that terrorists whose function is to destroy certain segments of humanity for the noble purpose of spreading their virulent strain of religious ideology, might one day soon realize, as this group will have to, that the market for their searing hatred is also drying up.

Labels: ,

Demonstration of Character

The good-news stories are not all that frequent. So it's truly heartening to read of the strength of character and moral determination that would impel two men under trying circumstances to risk their own lives trying to save that of another human being whose condition was so severely compromised she might not even survive their herculean attempts at rescue. That there was a slim chance this woman in dire straits might be saved was sufficient to ensure that two men, an American guide and a Sherpa, would extend every effort on her behalf.

A Nepalese woman, identified in the news only by her first name of Usha, was a member of climbing expedition of the type of bare-bones enterprise that charges its clients roughly ten thousand dollars, providing them with the most basic of equipment and guiding them up Mount Everest. The woman had collapsed with severe altitude sickness only 550 metres under the summit of the mountain. She had been left behind to die, by the group she was with.

An echo of a similar event a year ago when a British climber, David Sharp, collapsed and was left to die by his group. What made this event more horrible was that a succession of some 40-odd summiteers passed the cave where Mr. Sharp's life was dwindling but none would sacrifice their own summit attempt to help this man descend to base camp for needed medical treatment, and his life just ebbed away as seemingly disinterested climbers passed by.

When this woman, suffering severe cerebral edema, was found by David Hahn, an American guide, and his partner, Phinjo Dorje, on their way down from the summit, she was too weak to move on her own. They agreed between them to risk their lives, to manoeuvre her down the mountain in her semi-conscious state. The woman was unresponsive, she had no more oxygen left, and the descent was steeply precarious. Mr. Hahn gave up his own oxygen for her during the rescue.

The place where she was discovered is termed the "death zone" by knowledgeable climbers in acknowledgement of the supreme difficulty of the terrain, the unexpectedness of severe weather conditions, and the numbers of climbers whose lives it has claimed. The two courageous men pushed and pulled the woman down the harshly treacherous mountainside until they reached Camp IV where they were met by some British doctors who helped to stabilize her condition.

They then wrapped the woman in a sleeping bag, strapped her to a sled and re-commenced the dangerous descent, dragging and lowering her gradually toward Camp III at 7,300 metres. At one point pulling the woman across the steep Lhotse Face, they watched in helpless dread as another woman climber in the distance fell a thousand metres to her death. Twelve hours after first discovering their charge they reached Camp III.

Mr. Hahn had previously rescued two climbers in 2001 on Everest. He said that it never entered their minds that they might overlook this woman's plight. He believes that he and Mr. Dorje did nothing that any other experienced climbers wouldn't also have done. And while there certainly have been occasions when professional guides have risked their lives to save others less experienced and capable, the record demonstrates that summiteers are capable of handily overlooking the desperate plight of others in their zeal to accomplish their difficult personal mission.

A veteran Irish climber, Terence Bannon, wrote in a recent open letter: "I have been climbing for 25 years, and I've seen people risking their lives to save others. Those who say there was nothing they could do are lying." What this conundrum about human nature illustrates most aptly is that people are capable of sublime acts of mercy, just as others are capable of selfish decision-making that sacrifices their opportunities to be better persons.

Thank heavens for people like Phinjo Dorje, David Hahn, Terence Bannon and others of their noble ilk.

Addendum, 29 May 07

Add to that illustrious list of individuals who celebrate humanitarian impulses on behalf of all of us the name of Meagan McGrath of Sudbury, Ontario. Ms. McGrath is an aerospace engineer with the Canadian Forces. She is 29 years of age, and she was honoured in Kathmandu by Nepal's mountaineering community. It was she who had discovered the dreadful plight of Usha Bista of Nepal, on her triumphant return down from Mount Everest. And it was she who alerted the two others, asking for their assistance. Together, the three hardy souls managed between them to save the life of this unfortunate climber. Meagan McGrath was honoured by the mountaineering community in Nepal for saving Ms. Bista's life. It's anyone's guess why her stalwart efforts on Ms. Bista's behalf were not mentioned in the original news report on the incident.

And just incidentally, Meagan McGrath is the first Canadian woman and the youngest person to have summitted the world's seven tallest mountains, including Everest.

What's that saying? You go girl!

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Repeat, and Repeat Again

The very distinct and very large presence of Palestinians in Lebanon are deliberately kept 'distinct' and distant from the rest of the legitimate, as in citizenship, population of the country. The Palestinians are held in distaste, in contempt, and were never welcomed, nor made to feel secure in the country, home to Lebanese Arabs of a secular bent, Christians, Druze, and Muslims. They have never been permitted to own land, practise professions, or live freely in the country that gave them temporary refuge in the wake of the routing by Israel of the assembled armies of the Middle East.

They are viewed as a despised minority, a canker, in the greater Lebanon. An Arab League treaty agreement ensures that the 'refugee camps' housing millions of displaced Palestinians are to be autonomous, that they were not to be interfered with, entered by the Lebanese military, seen as a political entity in and of itself, a revenge-crucible to be stoked for the purpose of annihilating an upstart nation in the geography. Mass unemployment, dire living conditions, an atmosphere of unsettled and increasingly dim hope for the future has produced a population with a huge grievance.

Now, thousands of desperate Palestinians, fearful for their safety, their very lives, have fled the refugee camp, where the Islamist Fatah al-Islam located itself among the civil population, and where it fomented its violent intent in the region; its criminal pursuits to fund its activities and adherents brought it into the sight lines of the Lebanese Army and the result has been utter chaos, as Lebanese forces have been indiscriminately shelling Nahr el-Bared in an attempt to roust the terrorists.

It's a familiar story, a cadre of bitterly disaffected and violence-prone young men create their jihad-seeking guerrilla force, perhaps to the dismay of the local residents who feel incapable of criticizing their presence for fear of violent recriminatory acts against them. Likely some of the population felt supportive of the presence of the group, much as they do of Hezbollah. Now there is growing anger among the Palestinians toward the Lebanese forces for bombing the homes of the defenceless refugees.

The pattern is clear; committed jihadists establish themselves in the midst of a burgeoning civilian population, and launch their attacks from within the neighbourhoods of crowded housing. And when counter-attacks occur, they victimize the innocent civilians, men, women and children and the elderly. Now bombed-out rubble, bullet holes and shrapnel gouges, along with bodies of the dead lying sprawled in the public arena greet the eye. The desperate inhabitants of Nahr el-Bared are without food, water or power.

There is not yet an official death toll; estimates from international organizations confirm the dead between 50 and 100, with more victims buried under the rubble that is all that is now left of some neighbourhoods. Although an estimated eleven to 14 thousand managed to flee the camp, many more have been left there, the opportunity to flee diminished. Fatah al-Islam men warn that if they attempt to flee they would be shot and killed.

One Fatah al-Islam member was heard to shout at the fleeing Palestinians "Don't leave the camp, go back home, die in your homes, this is what Islam requires you to do!". A growing sense of unease and tension is gripping all of Lebanon now, with fears of a real backlash should the collective Palestinian population take up a position that might lead to a wider conflict. There are only an estimated two to three hundred insurgents after all, and their aspiration to accomplish true chaos is limited by their numbers.

Another bomb has exploded, this time in a Druze mountain resort overlooking Beirut, the third such unexplained blast in four days near the capital. The other bomb blasts occurred in Christian and Sunni areas, so all bases appear to be covered. The mystery is what is propelling these additional attacks, is there any relation to these and the upheaval taking place in Nahr el-Bared?

And how is it that some of the members of Fatah al-Islam were wearing the same uniforms as the Lebanese army? This group became visible only last year, after breaking ranks with a previous insurgent group. They've taken on some of the precepts expressed by al-Qaeda, although they deny any affiliation with that master-group of terrorists. "We started to see them last year," said one camp resident whose home was in the middle of the worst of the carnage. "They were always training and praying."

How is it that the most committed terrorists, the most pathological murderers offer a religious dimension to their delusionary hatred for others? They assume the sacred mantle of 'messengers of God', while serving the angel of death. This is the consummate school of religiously-inspired determination to serve the higher purpose of the deity they cling to.

This is the ultimate human delusion, that a Supreme Being would demand of his followers that they serve up the souls of countless innocents in service to that divine entity.

Labels: , ,

From a News Source Near You...

Here it is again, folks, the news of this very day, presented to us in live action. Ignore it at your peril. No one can escape its reality. What a phantasmagorical imagination that Great Visionary up in the heavens is possessed of. You want theatre? Here it is, right on this stage called Earth.

Life is anything but boring for the greater preponderance of humankind. The unspeakable excesses we are capable of when dealing with our fellowman mark us as separate and apart from most other living creatures. We’re the animal that doesn’t appear to have been able to learn from experience, doomed to repeat our stupidity over and over again. The harm we do to one another, is, often, beyond the belief of those among us who might consider to be rational, caring human beings.

Pity it’s the actions, the emotions, the intent of that smaller but still-yet significant group among us characterized by their pathological need to reject co-existence, who rail against the perceived injustices that society offers to their spectacular vision of self-empowerment through the vulnerability of others, who abhor and reject the rule of law.

They govern their needs and decision-making and actions through a rule of law of their own devising, often aided and abetted by helpful readings and interpretations of a holy script in honour of the religion they cling to, a God they worship who demands of them obeisance, and whose purpose they purport to serve.

  • China - A woman who was mauled by a rare Siberian tiger in north-east China last week could become the country’s first person to receive state compensation for injuries from a wild animal. “I was concentrating on my work and didn’t see it approach,” said Che Jinxia, 25, who suffered six bone fractures in her hands and arms after being attacked while picking herbs. “It pounced on me and bit me on the arms, but my screams must have scared the tiger and it ran away.” Ms. Che will receive government compensation, thanks to a regulation that took effect on the very day she was attacked. The regulation resulted from complaints farmers brought to bear as a result of wild animals preying on their cattle. Siberian tigers mainly live in north-east China and Siberia.
  • Moscow - Deputies in Russia’s State Duma (lower-house of parliament) voted almost unanimously to pass a new law banning alcohol consumption in any public location. “Drinking beer and low-alcohol drinks on the street is harming the morals and behaviour of our youth", said Gennady Gudkov, a deputy from the pro-government A Just Russia party. The law targets youngsters gathering for a beer or, increasingly, a canned cocktail on their way to or from work and school. Experts worry the phenomenon is the tip of a deeper problem of alcoholism, a big factor in Russia’s drastically low life-expectancy. Men here die on average at the age of 58, fully 16 years earlier than in Europe.
  • London - Fears stoked by the post-9/11 “war on terror” are increasingly dividing the world, Amnesty International declared yesterday, while rapping rights abusers from China to Darfur; Russia to the Middle East. The gap between Muslims and non-Muslims notably deepened, fuelled by discriminatory counter-terrorism strategies in Western countries, the international human rights group warned in its annual report. Human rights are also routinely flouted in Iraq and Afghanistan, the front line of the U.S.-led crackdown on extremism since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered a profound geopolitical shift.
  • Israel - Israeli aircraft yesterday demolished two money exchange shops used to channel funds to Hamas militants, the military said, hours after Palestinian leaders made a new push to restore a truce with Israel that collapsed under heavy Hamas rocket fire. President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas met for the first time since fierce Hamas-Fatah fighting broke out two weeks earlier. The two sides reached a truce over the week-end. In a challenge to that shaky internal truce, gunmen opened fire from a passing car late yesterday on the Gaza City home of a prominent Fatah official, injuring at least two of his bodyguards.
  • Iraq - The body of a U.S. soldier found in the Euphrates River in Iraq was identified yesterday as a California man who was abducted with two comrades a week and a half ago, a relative said. Pte. Anzack, 20, was one of three soldiers who vanished after their combat team was ambushed May 12. There are reports that another body was found near where Pte. Anzack’s body was found, but it is not known if it is one of the other two missing soldiers.
  • Serbia - Slobodan Milosevic’s paramilitary commander and eleven other men were convicted and sentenced yesterday in the assassination of Serbia's first democratically elected prime minister, Zoran Djindjic. The Special Court said Milorad Ulemek, former head of Mr. Milosevic’s elite Red Berets paramilitary unit, organized the March 12, 2003 sniper attach. Red Berets’ deputy commander Zvezdan Jovanovic was convicted of pulling the trigger. Both men were sentenced to 40 years in prison, while the other ten men received sentences of between 8 and 35 years.
  • Vatican City - The Pope, under fire in Latin American for claiming the Catholic Church had purified Indians, acknowledged yesterday that “unjustifiable crimes” were committed during the colonization of the Americas. “It is, in fact, not possible to forget the suffering, injustices inflicted by the colonizers against the indigenous population, whose human and fundamental rights have often been trampled”, said the pontiff.
  • Iran - The United Nations nuclear monitor reported notable advances in Iran’s uranium enrichment program yesterday while warning for the first time that its knowledge of the country’s nuclear activities was shrinking. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s findings, while not surprising, set the stage for possible new UN sanctions - the third set of penalties since December, 2006.
  • United Nations - A new scandal rocked the biggest United Nations peacekeeping force in the world yesterday as allegations surfaced that Pakistani “blue helmet” peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo had traded weapons for gold with rebel groups they were supposed to be disarming. Human rights groups in the sprawling central African nation say Pakistani officers serving in the 17,600-strong force were involved in the illegal smuggling of up to $5 million U.S. in gold from the northeastern Ituri region.
  • Lebanon - Aid agencies estimate that around eleven thousand people were able to flee the besieged refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared when a ceasefire was called on Tuesday. Another 29,000 remain in the camp, now unable to leave. “The smell of corpses was everywhere. There was no food, water or electricity and they were shooting at us,” a 21-year-old university student said of the past three days in the camp. “The army will not negotiate with Fatah al-Islam, which has two choices: either surrender or the army will take the military option,” Elias Murr, Lebanon’s Defence Minister said in an interview on Arabic satellite channel al-Arabiya.

Good thing there are a few bemusing, even amusing news items to lighten up the day from time to time. Good thing reading the news doesn't send us into a permanent downward spiral of depression. Good thing we don't give up hoping that we can manage to beat this rap and eventually turn out a performance to add lustre instead of shame to our pathetic record. We're still hoping to be able to rein in our baser impulses; does this make us naive beyond redemption?


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This is Reassuring?

A study newly released by the Pew Research Center has some interesting statistics to ponder with respect to the Muslim population in the United States. Newly-released figures indicate that nearly 80% of all Muslim Americans feel suicide bombings in defense of Islam is unacceptable. Eighty percent sounds pretty good, but then when you're dealing with a large population, say in the several millions, that would mean there's a substantial number of respondents to a poll who indicated that they feel such bombings can be justified.

The study assures its readers that most Muslim Americans represent just another facet of normalcy; moderate in outlook, mainstream in thought and action, largely assimilated into the American way of life. American values are primarily their values. They feel, by and large, content with the lives they lead in the United States. They work hard and realize economic stability for themselves and their families.

The income and education levels approximate those of most other Americans. In short, in most respects, Muslim Americans are no different than any other group of American citizens. What does set a significant proportion aside in the 'difference' category is the (admittedly limited!) support for suicide bombings. Suffice to say that twenty-percent of several million represents a significant demographic, a worrying reality. We're talking, after all, of thousands of suicide-bomber supporters.

How many dedicated, determined people would it take, in reality, to wreak very real havoc in the larger society by a disillusioned, defensive and pathological counter-culture? Twenty percent is no trifling figure, it's a quite astonishing percentage of American citizens who feel justified in their support of terrorism, the murder of others in defense of a religion, an ideology, a way of life. Doesn't sound very reassuring to me that such a significant number of individuals feel a communion with fanatical Islamists.

The view that suicide bombings can be supported in principle is represented most highly among those younger than 30. But isn't it that age group that is most susceptible to enticement to join with the cause for jihad to begin with? Isn't it that age group that represents most eager 'martyrs' to the cause? The estimate is that there are approximately 2.35 million Muslim Americans.

The results of this poll are troubling.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Fear of It All

The viper's nest has been breached. Accordingly, out come the vipers. Deadly serpents. Best to leave distance. Caused by a search in a Palestinian refugee camp for suspected bank robbers? A somewhat incautious move, and a surprising one, given the tacit agreement that Lebanon will not 'interfere' with matters in the refugee camps.

Mightn't it have been better, far better, for the refugees, wherever they fled to, to have been absorbed, rather than left festering? Mightn't they then have found new homes for themselves, got on with their lives, become citizens of the countries they fled to, contributed to the economic future of the countries and themselves as well? Not, into the future, metamorphize as a truly destabilizing influence on the country's future?

Instead, they were left, deliberately, to fester, to sit broodingly on their memories, to soil any opportunities for leading normal lives with normal expectations of advancement in their economic and social condition. A conspiracy to have frustrated and aggrieved people stew in their misery. For the larger purpose of engaging their anger, their hatred, aiming it toward the interloper state that the assembled armies of the neighbouring countries were incapable of dislodging. They would become a deadly missile in their search to avenge their tribal honour, assuaging their enmity against Israel by the assault of the righteously murderous.

Times change, and those very neighbours who once sought to expunge Israel are now prepared to accommodate its presence - with reservations. But the deadly anger, the determined resistance to the 'occupiers' remains, more steadfast, more incorrigible, more death-determined than ever. Forced by determinate circumstance to live in squalor, scorned by their host country, they represent an ongoing livid reminder of a people engineered by their neighbours to remain a canker in the region. One that threatens their hosts' stability as much as it does that of the original target.

Now it is the Lebanese troops bombarding the al-Qaeda-linked Palestinian Islamist militias which have taken root in the Palestinian refugee camps. The death toll rises gradually but steadily, and there are many civilian casualties since of its very nature a terror group, a guerrilla army, fights among civilians for cover. It stalks the streets and neighbourhoods of the city called a refugee camp, establishing its headquarters in comfortable and costly high-rise apartments, a law unto themselves, feared by Palestinian civilians and Lebanese law-makers alike.

The breakdown of the day's deaths is revealing: 30 Lebanese soldiers, 17 Islamist fighters, 10 Palestinian civilians and one Lebanese civilian. Thirty soldiers as opposed to seventeen terrorists. The regular army doesn't acquit itself very persuasively as a fighting unit against the death-defying but martyrdom-loving Islamists, does it? As for the civilians; they have an unfortunate tendency to get in the way of the important business of warfare, from time to time.

And just to show the government of Lebanon and its timorous armed forces who they're really up against, threats to take the conflict a little closer to 'home', around the port city of Tripoli, make a convincing argument for a truce, if not a permanent stand-off. And there's the additional confusion, in Beirut itself with bombs going off alternately in a Muslim, then a Christian neighbourhood. A promising conflagration, an all-encompassing possibility of extended reach.

Fatah al-Islam stares down the Lebanese army. Why not, when Hezbollah has proven itself successful in doing the very same thing. Will Fatah al-Islam and Hezbollah come to loggerheads, and eventually war on one another, much like Fatah and Hamas? The Sunni against the Shia, as the secular faction detests and wars with the Sunni Islamists. It is too much to hope.

On another day 27 soldiers and 17 gunmen are killed in this conflict taking place in Nahr al-Bared, home to about thirty thousand of Lebanon's estimated four hundred thousand Palestinian refugees. These are not neighbours to be proud of. These are the neighbours from hell. Well, ignore peoples' plight for long enough, confer unter-mensch status on them for a sufficient period of time, and people take umbrage, don't they? They become what you make of them.

Take heart, however; Prime Minister Fouad Siniora insists his government is determined to enforce law and order. And good luck.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Response

The deliberate provocation by the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to lure Israel into responding to its upscaled rocket attacks on Sderot has had the hoped-for result. This may have started out as a method by which Hamas could contrive to control the mutual deadly aggression both the Hamas and Fatah irregular armed forces were visiting one upon the other. To appeal to their shared murderous enmity against Israel and bring the deadly free-for-all back to a PA-tenable situation where the combined forces could stifle their enmity for the time being and focus on their goal to eradicate the State of Israel.

For her part, despite her disinclination to become overtly involved in the factional infighting, Israel had no option but to respond, however reluctantly. No country can sit back, teeth gritted in irresolution, while its territory and people are being daily bombarded with murderous intent. The stepped-up rocket activity over the border, recognized for what it is as a transparent tactic whose higher purpose would be served by the anticipated IDF response, engaging Fatah and Hamas toward their larger purpose, realized its desired purpose.

Irreconcilable differences, undying enmity between the two camps, political and military, will come to a head time and again, but the unifying principle of a shared purpose, to obliterate the State of Israel from the region will also bring them together time and again as well. What remains to be seen is which of the two will ultimately succeed; the former or the latter. Whether the visceral tribal hatred will wreak its damage on the death-dealers, or their carefully cultured hatred of the interloper, the detested occupier of uncontestably Arab land.

This land which Palestinians aver was stolen from them by an unscrupulous United Nations decision to grant nationhood to a foreign element on sacred Islamic territory, is to be restored, in whole, to the needful and worthy Palestinian people. The well-aired public fiction of a potential peace treaty resulting in the creation of a Palestinian state to exist side by side with its non-Islamic neighbour dissipates upon closer examination. Despite which, the international community remains wedded to their idea fixe of Israel's domination of the territory, over the poor Palestinian people.

Yes, that the Palestinians have descended to a state of permanent refugees on their own land is undeniable. That they suffer privation as a result of economic privation and existential stagnation and an utter lack of civil infrastructure and business opportunities, along with the kind of trade required by any group that wishes to prosper, is also undeniable. Is it perhaps a result of their unwillingness to accept half a loaf when they believe they deserve the entire loaf? That they see the alternative to what they now have, which is a perennial state of indecisive beggary, insufficient to salve their legendary pride?

Is the destruction of a nation and the population that it serves a more palatable solution to the problem than a civil agreement to live side by side, each autonomous, with the potential for the advanced nation to lend support to the emerging one? Israel has made countless attempts to resolve the situation, now truly intractable, thanks to the continued assaults in place of political diplomatic discussions to achieve an end to the impasse. There exists no such thing as a unilateral peace. Disparate entities must resolve to reach a co-operative and working agreement to end the political, social, cultural and military war.

A Hamas leader stationed in Gaza, Nizar Riyan, leaves no doubt whatever that political Hamas is military Hamas, in stating outright that his organization remains determined to wipe Israel off the map, so that Palestinians can finally have their state, one that encompasses the entire region. He echoes his political masters in urging all the PA Arab factions to continue fighting "the Jews", even if they have their own ideological/cultural/religious/tribal differences. They have an obligation to join forces "until the last Jew leaves Palestine". Pretty unequivocal.

The continual bombardment of Sderot to be widened now, to include Ashkelon "until its Jews run away just like those of Sderot". The evacuation of Sderot continues as Qassam rockets continue to rain down on its people. These are the negotiating partners that Israel has to deal with, in an ongoing effort at conciliation and peace. The city of Sderot, besieged for over five years by Qassam rockets, has many non-reinforced homes and schools; Ashkelon's population, close to 110,000, is more than five times that of Sderot. Moreover, Ashkelon is the site of the Rotenberg Power Plant, Israel's second-largest, supplying a quarter of the country's electrical power.

Israel has finally taken the position, through a conclusion reached by its Cabinet that Hamas leaders are now fair game for liquidation themselves. Is there, after all, a difference in kind between the political and military side of Hamas? Does not the political side empower the military? There have been many casualties of the rocket attacks, mostly infrastructure. Unless one adds the living terror of the residents having to face the reality of being under constant attack, in fear of their lives. One woman has indeed been killed thus far; others wounded, thousands evacuated from their homes yet again.

The IDF is hitting back, firing missiles at known terrorist cells in Gaza City, at gunmen controlling neighbourhoods. Gaza terrorist fired 15 rockets at the western Negev, causing damage to homes, to shops, to fields and kibbutzes. Roughly 140 rockets and 33 mortar shells have been fired by terrorists at Jewish towns in the western Negev in the past week.

What are the future prospects of a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority? Where at one time it seemed reasonable to assume that success would ultimately be realized through rational discussions leading to a difficult but necessary accommodation with both sides giving up precious needs to accomplish peace, now that possibility seems beyond remote. When Arab governments had full sway over the territory now governed by the State of Israel, Jews were never permitted access to their most holy sites. Those sites considered sacred by Christians and Jews were ignored, neglected and off limits while holy Islamic sites were protected, exalted and open to Muslims.

During the Arab terror offensive beginning in 2000 and the Oslo Accord that followed, one part of the agreement was that a Jewish shrine, the Tomb of Joseph, was to remain accessible to Jews. Instead the PLO-co-ordinated offensive targeted the Tomb. Islamic terrorists in full view of television cameras recording the atrocity, took sledgehammers in hand and smashed the tomb, then painted it Islamic green, declaring it now to be a mosque, then smashed it once again. Is this the Islam of renown, respectful of other religions? The same Islam that saw the Taliban smash Buddhist world-heritage statues?

But these are, relatively speaking, irritants. Unspeakably wrong, but not yet of the degree of the stated intent of Islamists to destroy a country and to salivate over the blood yet to drain out of that country as they begin the process of murdering as many human beings as possible. This, as a tribute to Allah. If, in accomplishing that purpose, one's own life is forfeit in the process, all the better. For one then becomes a martyr, assured of life ever-lasting in Paradise, with all the attendant blessings granted one as a martyr to the faith.

Tsipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, has put the watching world on notice; the Israeli government will take all steps required to ensure security for citizens of Israel. With the expectation that the international community will demand that the PA halt the violence against innocent Israeli civilians. "We view the Palestinian government itself as responsible. We will act in order to provide the residents of Sderot with better security. That is our responsibility as a government.

"We also want to clarify that, from our standpoint, this is a situation that cannot continue. We are making it clear to the international community that, until now, Israel has shown restraint, but for no reason and because of some internal disagreements in the Palestinian Authority, someone has decided to strike the residents of Sderot in such a massive and severe manner. This is something we cannot accept."

Nor should they. Is anyone listening?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Redressing the Blight of Black Subjugation

How can you? How can you give a people back their pride? How can you address the fact that an entire people were thought of as lesser in value than their white counterparts to excuse the dreadful act of depriving them of their homelands, their history, their culture and language, their very identity? How to make amends for enslaving hundreds of thousands of people and in the process of transporting them to foreign locations sacrificing so many to ignominious death as worthless, uncared-for cargo? How to redress the balance sheet, to argue for forgiveness for the arrogance of one people against the other?

Apologies can only go so far; they are mere words. They cannot correct or turn around what was done; the enslavement, the tearing apart of families, the forced concubinage, the enforced labour, the lack of humane protection under the law, the total consignment of a people to a secondary life of existence without dignity and honour, without hope, without a future. People of good will have, over the space of hundreds of years, attempted to assuage the fate of the enslaved, to rescue them when and where possible. Racial discrimination is a dreadful human construct, but only one of many, since humans have proven themselves capable of horribly egregious behaviour one against the other.

In primordial times there was a more direct response available to those victimized by others; physical revenge, resulting in ongoing group or tribal warfare. One's territory was always under siege as others sought to improve their survival rates by pirating the geographies, hunting grounds and primally-useful tools used by others. Mankind, we always like to believe, is still evolving socially, culturally; our values coalescing and informing us that we have a dutiable need as human beings to view one another as equally deserving of like opportunities for advancement. But we're notoriously slow learners, and many of us will never accept that others whose features and colour mark them as being unlike ourselves have equal value in the world, deserving of equal treatment.

Where once one group was in the ascendancy, another group prevails and becomes ascendant upon the other. Historical conquests and the absorption of conquered peoples into the mainstream of the conquerors over time; integration of myths, traditions, cultures and economies have served to dilute differences, none of which makes much difference to those who will recognize 'different' when they see it and reject it as inferior to their own brand of exceptionality in every human sphere. It seems that mankind is doomed forever more to repeat its errors; we're hard-wired by nature to resist the change that would have us accept one another. We're functionally incapable of moving beyond the imperative of survival where we resist the stranger and embrace the opportunity to take that which is his.

But the underdog has his day and his alienation from the larger society that still oppresses and discriminates has earned that society the underdog's undying resentment. While we have enacted laws to protect all members of society, regardless of ethnicity, ideology, gender, sexual orientation, historical nationality, religious affiliation, we are incapable of flushing the virus of hostility toward others out of our collective systems. It is as though people have an innate need to curry the emotions that make us inferior as beings by encouraging our feelings of superiority against that timeless 'other'.

So here we have the long-simmering and well-earned resentment of black populations within the larger white, Eurocentric populations that hold them and often hold them back, erupting into a triumphant reversal of racism. Where once the spectre of segregation that ensured blacks could not mingle as equals with whites, since struck down by a universal revulsion of ignorant racism, it is now being resurrected as a potential resource for people of colour, a self-declared and yearned-for positive step resulting in untrammelled Africentrism, a victory of black identity held apart from the larger white community.

In a country that celebrates itself as an outstanding success in social integration and acceptance of differences, the better to mingle cultures and instill understanding in one another, Canada now faces a growing call among the black community to equalize opportunities for blacks by social separation whereby privilege can be bestowed upon a sheltered community through the teaching of its own history, real or imagined, gravitating toward its own dignity, even if it demeans that of others, realizing its own values and historical triumphs, even if these are largely in the realm of fantasy. Like the child whose feelings have been injured, nursing a grievance, certain he doesn't belong in the family he lives with, that his true and loving parents are elsewhere and they would value his attributes.

Young people allied with Black Youth Taking Action convince themselves that they represent a maligned and sacrificed people whose true antecedents as the origins of civilization have never been recognized. "We are the original people", according to one spokesperson. And if she refers to the skull of Lucy thought to be one of the earliest discovered remnants of early man in Kenya, then she's certainly correct. But what she really meant is that she and all those others like her, so long suffering as symbols of white oppression, represent a historical group who invented every known philosophical, medical, scientific, agricultural advance known to mankind. A political project to give pride back to black youth resulting in a new fabled antiquity of original resources.

The fiery indignation against the insults of the past, the incendiary resentment against the de-humanizing of a people resulting in a debate low on the scale of rationality, high on the human emotions relating to sweet revenge, turning the tables on Euro-based centrality and superiority. Offering instead African firstness, mostness, the triumphalism of imagined exceptionality. So that, instead of a cohesive societal wholeness expressed in regret and acceptance, we have the resurgent appeal of separateness, the willing ghettoization of an understandably alienated community.

Cooler heads in that same community want nothing of the sort. While understanding the depths of the anger of the hot-headed youth in their community in rejecting new and more open attitudes in the larger society, they opt for a more inclusive and socially-conscious intermingling of resources and possibilities. The co-chair of Toronto District School Board's Africentric Advisory Committee, Vernon Farrell, characterized the Youth group's anger as misguided, along with their commitment to a vision of the historical superiority of blacks. "We have no interest whatsoever in replacing Eurocentrism with Africentrism, because that is to repeat the same malaise, only in a different colour and different ethos", he said.

"Pride is a construct of alienation. You can see where those kinds of reaches for validation push people into many corners, some of which are healthy and some of which are not, and that kind of reaching out, or searching or digging, has a lot to do with the feeling of alienation. If people are excluded, their selves are deconstructed. It's worse than marginalization. It is a destruction of the self, and we can't have that if we say we are educators." What a marvellous deconstruction of the impulse to avenge past atrocities, the need to raise oneself to heights through the benighted impulse to place the former oppressor in the position of their former victims.

While pride may well be a construct of alienation, alienation in its turn may result from overweening pride. The result will be no prospect of conciliation, just more apartness. Whose interest does that represent?

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 18, 2007

It's Israel's Fault. It's Always Israel's Fault.

Palestinians voted in a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Because they were fed up with the corruption of the formerly Fatah-led Palestinian Authority which, under its indefatigably-vicious Chairman, Yasser Arafat, while assuring the Palestinians that their plight was uppermost in his mind, enabled his colleagues to do exactly as he was doing, taking charge of funds allocated by international donors to benefit the Palestinians, to the security of personal Swiss bank accounts.

Secular Palestinians saw what good work that the Islamist Hamas performed on their behalf. Dedicated to their needs by the actual example they set by establishing badly needed civic infrastructure and medical-health clinics, so they picked up the political option tendered them. Now terrified Gaza residents hide indoors as masked gunmen ply their game of hunting and murdering their ideological and religious antagonists.

"Do not leave us to die here", came the panicked and heartfelt plea of one beleaguered resident of Gaza, placing a call to a local radio station, begging Palestinian leaders to end the internecine conflict. But the masked terrorists had the neighbourhood in terrified thrall, plying their infantile game of picking one another off. Just incidentally shortening civilian life-spans, endangering the lives of schoolchildren and severely wounding other unfortunates.

Journalists are always getting it in the neck, of late. Be it in Iraq, Russia or Gaza. Fifty journalists were trapped in Gaza's main media centre, the building surrounded by gunmen, with some of those trapped in the building on the injury list. Better off, however, than the kidnapped and still missing BBC reporter, Alan Johnston.

Now, we're at another operational stage: "All options are open, including martyrdom operations", according to Abu Obeida, spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, in his reference to further suicide attacks against the State of Israel. For Hamas deliberately and with full intent to engage Israel in this sham conflict between 'brothers' barraged the town of Sderot with a hail of rockets.

And Israel responded, at the demand of its citizens, enraged at the casual targeting yet again of innocent Israeli civilians. Fairly transparent and easily recognized by any reporter covering the scene that the Hamas barrage was a ploy to provoke Israel into response for the Qassam rockets' success in injuring Israelis, in flattening a school.

Clumsy as a manoeuvre, but conceivably potentially encouraging in pulling Fatah and Hamas away from brotherly conflict to face the 'real enemy', the State of Israel.

Labels: , ,

The Politics of Expendibility in China

This most populous country in the world, with its ancient, advanced and highly respected history and culture has much to teach the West. Obviously, however, in modern China some matters of principle and morals and ethical teaching were somehow lost in the long transition from a society of honoured ancestors to the modern era; the change from Imperial China to Communist China and beyond to the present time has wrought some regretful political, social and cultural anomalies.

Most well evolved countries, particularly those which, like China, can boast of an enlightened and cultured past, do have some respect for human rights. With China and its immense geography and broad demographics encompassing a multitude of ethnically diverse communities, languages, tribal cultures and traditions compressed into one large political system, the more worldly and enlightened respect for individual rights has been overlooked in favour of state needs.

Imperial China gave the world its first working bureaucracy, one based on personal meritorious service and knowledge. Modern China has long abandoned that high-minded and immensely workable system in favour of expediency which rewards personal corruption. A known human-rights abuser itself, China does not hesitate to align itself with other like states.
It curries favour with states such as Sudan and Iran, both of whose agendas are causing great anguish in the international community through their brutal human rights excesses.

This powerful giant engages in industrial espionage, pirating of intellectual and copyright property rights with impunity. International standards of governance and recognition of international copyright standards are not placed high on the Chinese agenda. These globally-recognized niceties are incidental to its needs to produce, to sell, to dominate markets.

From the harvesting of rare and exotic animal species whose parts are required in the ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia, to the harvesting of human organs required to expand the Chinese market in saleable medicinal goods and through surgical procedures in sparkling new, well-equipped hospitals, China stands out in the world. Unfortunately the hospitals which treat their own populations are plagued by inefficient, unhygienic, corrupted services.

China sees no need to reform its peoples' ancient cultural beliefs and predilections revolving around miracle cures for impotence or hair loss for example, formulating folkloric medicines guaranteed to cure all human ills. On the other hand, legitimate scientific enquiry into many of ancient China's formularies in their pharmacopoeia has revealed efficacious or promising results in some areas of medical chemistry and practise, mostly with the use of native flora.

Unfortunately the Chinese enthusiasm for medicaments whose constituents require rhinoceros horn or tiger spleen or any other parts of rare and exotic and threatened species from increasingly non-renewable sources represent a blight on the society. Much as over-fishing does, and whaling, bringing them in conflict with the expectations of the modern world and its commitment to the protection of other species on this planet.

The cultural, folkloric element encourages the Chinese diet to include wild birds and domestic cats and dogs. Chows, a breed not unknown to the Western world are favoured delicacies at the table, bred and sold just as domesticated fowl are elsewhere in the world. The demand both within and without China for animal parts to be used in traditional medicines and for the dinner table is not diminishing, and presents an alarming pressure on various species.

While the world's tiger population has decreased to a truly vulnerable state, it faces a new threat as China appears determined to legitimize farming the animals for body parts. Chinese tiger farm owners who account for roughly 4,000 tigers are lobbying for the creation of a legal market in farmed parts. By so doing, these farmers can demand huge profits in the sales, but at the same time because the organs are so costly, this would have the effect of encouraging poaching animals in the wild.

The worldwide population of wild tigers has been reduced to 5,000 animals, making their ultimate survival tenuous to say the least, particularly in the event that China succeeds in bringing India around to agreement for China's motion to be presented at an international wildlife convention to take place in the Netherlands, to lift the 14-year ban on trading in tiger parts. We can only anticipate with hope that more rational and compassionate perceptions will prevail.

But as seriously disturbing as that is, what can we possibly say about China's emerging and very popular market in human organ harvesting? China has engaged in marketing its expert surgical services in modern, well-equipped hospitals open to foreigners awaiting transplants. Go to China, and for a relatively modest fee by Western standards, the long wait for a transplant is but a memory as miraculously, the required organ can be produced on demand.

For years China has depended upon 'living donors' from whom organs can be extracted to provide for its international transplant programme. Now a newly-formed medical group, Doctors Against Organ Harvesting is warning Westerners who face an increasingly long wait-time for transplant organs at home, that by travelling to China to solve their problem, they condemn prisoners or Falun Gong practitioners to death.

Where once China harvested needed organs from convicted and executed criminals, profit and expedience has turned them to the culling of organs from political prisoners such as practitioners of Falun Gong, an outlawed life-practise in China; the organs are harvested, the prisoners left to die, according to Doctors Against Organ Harvesting's latest report.

The conclusions in the report were taken from interviews with medical eyewitnesses as well as organ recipients, along with official government announcements, statistics indicating a sudden proliferation in transplants performed, marketing websites and covert enquiries to various hospitals.

China has made great advances in its economy since it relaxed its rigidly authoritarian strain of communist ideology, after the upheaval and mass killings of the Cultural Revolution. It has entered into fruitful dialogue with the international community, it has expanded its trade exponentially, making it a true world powerhouse. China has made great strides in its determination to grow its international exchanges and prestige as a powerful country and in the process bringing its own population into a wealthier lifestyle.

Clearly, respect of human rights, along with a healthy respect for the international environment and the plight of other creatures who share our globe do not top its learning curve.

Labels: ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet