Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's a Start ... And Now?

Good news out of Egypt for those practising religions other than the state-recognized-and-sanctioned ones. Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice has granted Baha'is the right to obtain government identification documents. One little thing: they must, in the process of filling out the requisite forms, omit that portion which requires a faith designation. Don't fill it in, just scribble in a little dash mark; religion? doesn't exist.

And that's perfectly all right. Better than utter non-recognition and lack of required documents. "this is the first good news that Baha'i Egyptians and their defenders and supporters received in a very long time", according to Hossam Bahgat, a rights-activist whose Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights was right there in the political fray, representing the Baha'is in court.

"It is an end of a very long and unnecessary ordeal for citizens whose only fault is their refusal to be falsely identified or to lie in official documents." So, then, leaving the religion portion blank represents a little conspiratorial wink, a fib perhaps, not an outright, damnable lie. The estimated 500 to 2000 Baha'is in Egypt had formerly been refused official identity papers.

For Muslim deem Baha'i to be heretics, traditionally ostracized in Islamic society, and worse, although they only faced persecution in Egypt, which is considered to be a socially conservative Muslim country, elsewhere in the world of Islam Baha'i are on the receiving end of dramatic types of punishment; imprisonment, even death sentences.

By an odd quirk of Islamic justice, an Egyptian Muslim wishing to leave Islam in favour of Christianity - or even, heaven forfend, Judaism; as though - is not permitted to legally, although the state formally recognizes the three monotheistic or as some would have it, Abrahamic religions only: in order of their historic appearance. Judaism having given birth to Christianity; finally Islam, to complete the triad.

Under Egypt's Islam-based legal system people simply cannot convert "to an older religion". For as the court would have it: "Monotheistic religions were sent by God in chronological order.... As a result, it is unusual to go from the latest religion to the one that preceded it", the assumption being obvious, that each succeeding religion is superior to the one preceding it.

All of which is of no help to the person wishing to convert to Christianity. An abhorrent act in most Muslim societies, one for which Shariah law has a solution: death for apostasy. In Egypt, at least, a much condemned aberration: "The person who has such an attitude is straying from the right path and threatening the principles, values and precepts of Islam and of Egyptian traditions."

Of course in Egypt it's not a very good idea to criticize Islamic theology, in any event, much less to leave Islam in favour of another religion. One Egyptian Internet blogger who posted insulting personal views of Shariah law, the religious academic institute he had himself attended, and his contempt for his theological instructors is paying a dear price for his intellectual independence, in deep incarceration.

And one wonders, in one's idle moments, how Egypt's kindly offer to relent on its anti-Baha'i recognition will resonate with Iran, with whom it has re-kindled diplomatic relations, and in which country the Baha'i are truly embattled and in fear for their lives. For that matter, it will be more than a little interesting to see how Egypt will balance its peace agreement with Israel now that it's cuddling up to a radically Islamist state that calls for Israel's annihilation.

Just wondering, that's all....

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Demented Fanatics

England has its demented fanatics, doesn't it? But we do, too. Parviz Khan, unemployed, planned to kidnap a Muslim British soldier in Birmingham because he was enraged that some British Muslims would serve in the British Army, fighting alongside NATO partners in Afghanistan. By invitation of the Afghanistan government, in a combined NATO-UN effort to derail permanently Taliban efforts to return the governing of the country to feudal Islam.

His plan was to commit an atrocity and commit it to film. To be placed on the Internet for all to see. It's been done before, and he found it particularly inspiring. According to British prosecutor Nigel Rumfitt, "He [the kidnapped British-Muslim soldier] would be taken to a lock-up garage and there he would be murdered by having his head cut off like a pig. "This atrocity would be filmed ... and the film released to cause panic and fear within the British armed forces and the wider public."

Mr. Khan had also admitted to sending shipments of night-vision equipment and other gear to Pakistan for use in Islamist terror activities. Three other men have been implicated in these activities and have also leaded guilty.

As for us? We have our own fringe candidates for terror at a remove. In Toronto, a 20ish university student by the name of Salman Hossain of Bangladeshi extraction. Nothing like my own Bangladeshi-Muslim neighbours, I should add. For this unfortunate young man is a hate-monger extraordinaire. On Internet chatrooms and other venues he espouses the killing of Canadian troops, even in Canada, as "legitimate" and "well deserved".

He urged his online peers of the prime necessity to kill Canadian military personnel. "Kill as many western soldiers as well so that they think twice before entering foreign countries on behalf of their Jew masters", he wrote. This Mississauga resident boasts friendship with Canada's infamous Khadr family, as Islamist credit. What he writes is the reality-twisted outpourings of a diseased mind.

With a refulgent degree of pure bile he clarifies his position on what exactly it is that infuriates him: "Jews, terrorists, apes, pigs, Mossad, Zionists, bankers, moneylenders, anything Israeli in nature, black op mercenaries, mediamen, Jewish supremacists, anything Kosher, synagogues, rabbis and other holy crooks pretending to be saviours from God, and of course last but no least the f---ing Talmud."

Drearily sad that so much venomous hatred can pollute anyone's mind. But they're the infantile ravings of a pathetically diseased mind. He's an irrationally juvenile Islamist booster, looking for credibility and perhaps even admiration from among his Internet peers, vying with one another to commit to verbal barbarity, all wanting to be noticed and noted. Their own little heroic self-admiring clique of pseudo jihadists.

His rantings have come to the attention of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP, and he has been duly informed that he remains under investigation. He has the advice of a lawyer, who has advised that he insert certain qualifications in his writing, and he has continued his venal outpourings. Such as that it is his opinion that a "mass casualty" attack within Canada might be a "well considered option".

"I enjoy watching the blood flow from the western troops", he wrote. As well as, during defence minister Peter MacKay's Christmas trip to visit with the troops in Afghanistan: "I pray that the Taliban kill our Mackay motherf---er". Of course, as with all conspiracy theorists who find Jews a handy target, he claims "the filthy Jews carried out 9-11".

Compounding his illogicality by "wishing y'all many more merry 9-11s". He's not at all worried about Canadian law and judgement being brought to bear against him. It would, after all, simply be yet another symptom of Islamophobia. It is his right, as a Canadian, to exercise his options to air his beliefs. Something called freedom of speech.

That same freedom of speech that the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and the Canadian Islamic Congress are contesting, bringing aboard their grievances against Ezra Levant and Mark Stein, and having the Alberta, British Columbia and Canadian Human rights commissions deliberate upon, for simply stating the obvious, in rather kindly journalistic terms.

The ox that gores.

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Factory-Level Transplants

How edifying, an Indian doctor named "Dr. Horror", for practising factory-style human body-part transplants has an established presence in that great good country of Canada. What have we done to deserve this signal honour? Oh, I know; our easy acceptance of all those who seek succour and financial rewards accruing to hard labour, mental or physical. And just occasionally, it would seem, a safe harbour from the inconveniently long arm of justice.

Amit Kumar had his human-parts factory raided by Indian police in the suburb of Gurgaon. Where the discovery in his posh home in that upscale high-tech area on the periphery of New Delhi, was made of a basement room nicely equipped with surgical supplies. Present, and busy operating were a doctor and a few associates involved in managing the transplant business. They were duly arrested.

For it is highly illegal, not to mention immoral to force people to surrender a portion of their most prized possession; their mortal carapace and all it encompasses. Found too, at the time of the raid, were five labourers whose kidneys had been removed, and who claimed they were taken to the Gurgaon house under the pretense they would be offered jobs. And were then forced at gunpoint to "sell" their kidneys.

The Canadian connection? Well, Mr. Kumar's family, it appears, is rumoured to reside in Canada. And it was from Canada that prospective clients were recruited and whisked away to a secret operating theatre. And where they stayed in luxurious surroundings, their every wish carefully tended to, their dollars gracefully accepted, and their failing kidneys replaced with freshly viable organs.

Indian police announced their international manhunt for Dr. Kumar. His accomplices had revealed to them that he was in possession of forged Canadian and Nepalese passports. "We are not ruling out the possibility that he may have escaped abroad by using his contacts. However, he will not be able to escape the legal channels", vowed Gurgaon's police commissioner.

This incredible human specimen, this medical doctor, is accused of having extracted up to 500 kidneys from unwilling donors for illegal transplants. Interpol is busy at the moment, trying to track him down. Not too soon. Alas, too late for too many.

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The Unassailable Humanitarianism of Louise Arbour

There, she's at it again, the UN high commissioner for human rights demonstrating her impeccable qualifications as the arbiter of human rights' designations. Giving what appears to be unqualified support to a new charter born in the Islamic Middle East, which gives credit to gays, feminists and Zionists as representatives of the zenith of decadence; combined they represent a moral assault on the world of decency and human rights.

The righteously redoubtable high commissioner has thrown her support behind an Arab human rights charter which makes no secret of its commitment to the elimination of Zionism, the hunting down of homosexuals (a capital offence, disgusting to Allah under shariah law) and the unequivocal tamping down of Islam's female quotient's expectations of equal treatment in Islamic society under the law.

From Geneva, where she is headquartered, the high commissioner has given her royal assent to the Arab Charter on Human Rights. The universally-applicable Charter on Human Rights hammered out in the early days of the formation of the United Nations from the League of Nations, simply does not reflect the values, the culture and the traditions of the Muslim world.

It is no more than reasonable that pan-Arab and Muslim countries design and invoke a charter of rights that reflects their very particular values, inherent within and born of religious conviction, a religion that formally and rigorously sets out expectations of its followers from birth until death.

This is their right, although any reasonable mind might feel that the issues relating to human rights protections truly are universal, cutting across and absorbing all religions, traditions and cultures. An unassailable standard.

However, this is a charter with a very special agenda, and its framers are fairly up-front about that agenda. Zionism, the longing and determination of Jews world wide to achieve and protect a homeland of their own, free from racial bias and mortal threats against Jews, is declared racism.

"Regional systems of promotion and protection can further help strengthen the enjoyment of human rights, and the ... charter is an important step forward in this direction", according to Ms. Arbour. So while the document declares respect for some internationally recognized tenets of human rights, Zionism is inconclusively racist, and to be strenuously fought.

Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and UN Watch beg to differ. They feel that the charter's preamble makes reference to "rejecting all forms of racism and Zionism" as they purportedly, to the Arab-Muslim mind represent the violation of human rights, threatening peace and security internationally.

Indeed, Article 2 of the 53-article charter goes further, to declare that "all forms of racism, Zionism and foreign occupation and domination" must be unequivocally "condemned and efforts must be deployed for their elimination". That's fairly straightforward. Nicely setting the stage for yet another, this time 'charter-authorized', pan-Arab existential march on Israel.

Viewed through the lens of Jewish history, the linking of Zionism with racism is an unfortunately blatant expression of anti-Semitism. This is a kind of double-speak for which the Levant and the greater Middle East has become famous. Carry that forward to "condemned" and "elimination" and the charter speaks of genocidal intent.

Throughout the document "Zionist entity" appears repeatedly, for to mention the name of the Jewish state is anathema to those countries which loath the very idea of its existence in their Islamic geography, an insult to Islam which does not permit Arab land to fall into the hands of any other than Muslims.

The Arab charter, obviously, gives validation to the Arab anti-Israel cause, and is far preferable in an expression of Islamic values than is the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Arab charter is loosely based on international standards, but with the major emphasis on Islamic ideology, and even those rights spelled out in their charter can be handily suspended in the instance of what they may deem an "emergency".

This is moral equivalency and moral inversion at its very best. It's also a prime display of hypocrisy and an obvious deep misunderstanding of exactly what constitutes human rights and the scourge of racism. The charter will recognize marriage only between genders. And it speaks of "positive discrimination" well established by Islamic Shariah with respect to the equality of women.

The United Arab Emirates has become the latest, and the seventh country to ratify this sterling piece of work. It joins the governments of Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Syria, the Palestinian Authority and Libya. All sturdily enthusiastic bastions of human-rights support. With the notable exception of Jordan, the signatories' assent was doubtless encouraged by the signal calls for the "elimination of Israel".

Long may truth, justice and the ongoing struggle for human rights reign.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Iran Speaks

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad simply cannot abandon his frenzied need to command the world stage. He requires far more than a mere fifteen minutes of fame. It's also infamy that has its fatal attraction for him, for mere fame without hoping to deliver a frisson of dread into the hearts of his detractors and supporters alike, holds no promise for his desired presence as a world figure of great command.

So he awards the world waiting with bated breath with the news that his Allah-led-and-guided country is fulfilling divine commands to become nuclear sufficient. It is no mere idle boast that Iran's nuclear scientists are working overtime to bring the Bushehr nuclear power plant on line; advance is steady and on target. In fact, another 20 such plants are planned for the near horizon.

And those governments which had promised to aid and assist in technically-advanced knowledge and practical support - unnamed, but they know who they are - have been delivered with an ultimatum. Come forward, cap in hand, to deliver what has been promised, however tentatively, or risk the future wrath of Iran's Ayatollah's, grand council, and above all, the majestic denunciation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Oh, and just incidentally, they're right on track to urging gentle 'suasion on other Middle East countries to finally rid themselves of the "filthy Zionist entity which has reached the end of the line". For Israel, he crows, "...has lost its reason to exist and will sooner or later fall. The ones who still support the criminal Zionists should know that the occupiers' days are numbered. Accept that the life of the Zionists will sooner or later come to an end."

With grand, sweeping eloquence, Ahmadinejad announced that the "final chapter" is in view.

The Arabs of Israel will finally reveal the true agenda of their willingness to remain within the country of Jews, with full rights of citizenship, a significant presence in its Knesset, the opportunity to garner all the freedoms that Israel offers to its citizens, the pleasure of life in a country that rewards initiative and the determination to prosper.

That "agenda" is to be the Trojan horse welcoming "regional nations" to militarily confront and conquer Israel.

However, several Islamic countries must first be excoriated for their disgraceful behaviour in adhering to the Camp David Accords. Egypt, for its role in closing the Rafah border to Gazans. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates for awarding a prize to the murderer Bush. The Saudis for being indifferent toward the crimes and violations of the infidel Zionists.

Ah, and the ultimate provocation to jihad: "But aren't most of the sensitive centers of the Zionists, of the Americans, and of some European states that support Israel already situated within arms' reach of the Muslims at the four corners of the earth? What human and legal basis can prevent an attack on these centers and people?

"Why must the savage, blood-letting Zionists and Americans be permitted to choose the field of battle as they wish? Why are they permitted to besiege the oppressed Palestinian brothers and sisters and their children, on the land that belongs to that helpless people, and to shoot at them night and day and to massacre them?"

Indeed, why, why, why. Ah, Mahmoud, dear Ahmadinejad, father of your country, inheritor of the mantle of Defender of the Faith, you must persevere in your duties to enthuse and encourage fellow Muslims to acknowledge the conspiracies of the Jews and the Crusaders. Their will to conquest must be broken, and none other than yourself holds the key.

Yes, the world awaits your conquering quest. But first things first.

To finally extinguish Israel's degraded presence in the land of pure Islam, and bring to reality the long-awaited Palestine. And then will the region live in peace and prosperity with one another, aiding and assisting the lesser-blessed among them to achieve material growth and satisfaction and happiness in life.

Just a short skip-and-a-hop to assembling the wrathful armies of Allah and marching determinedly on to recapture Islam's lost footholds in Europe. From Europe, to North America, and the worldwide Caliphate will finally triumph.

Coming soon to a staged theatre-of-war near you.


Deathly Errors

There is no way in which the dead can be revived, resuscitated to live another day. Unless they're not truly dead, but presumed to be, and hastily buried, as does on occasion happen. When a body on a mortuary slab suddenly quickens and becomes a living being again. Or a frightened "corpse" begins to frantically tap on his closed casket being lowered into the coldly receiving ground, alerting loved ones to the fact that supposed death had loosed its grip.

And when the state, using the instrument of the death penalty in its determination of justice for capital crimes errs, the misfortune of that error is ineradicable, representing yet another tragedy, a miscarriage of justice. Canada, like many other countries of conscience around the world, long ago abolished the death penalty. The European Union, led by a German initiative, has been strenuously attempting to persuade other countries of the world to refuse to sentence any of their citizens to death.

Still, there are many countries for whom the imposition of a sentence of death is seen as just desserts for murderers. There is always the option of another type of penalty, that which removes one's freedom on a permanent basis; life incarceration. Of course, there are countries, like Canada, whose deliverance of a life sentence is muted by degree. First- and second-degree merit their distinct levels of state punishment.

No European countries support the death penalty. It is harshly imposed in Asian, African and Middle-Eastern countries. Sixty-two countries of the world regularly impose the death penalty for major crimes. In some countries, like China, crimes of a financial, economic nature can be construed as a major crime. In some countries, like Iran, the death penalty can be imposed on homosexuals. In the past decade, an average of 3 countries a year relinquish state-imposed death.

And in Canada, criminal offenders serving life sentences of 25 years for first-degree murder may plead before a parole board for day parole three years before full parole eligibility. Which, if agreed to, can result in early release. That person must report to a parole officer for the rest of his/her life, and must adhere to certain conditions, which, if breached, can result in return to prison, and for life.

China, Russia and the U.S.A. among many other countries of the world still cling to the ultimate punishment that the death penalty represents. Capital punishment is legally practised in 36 states of the Union, but since the 1990s they've been in steady decline, with some U.S. states having entirely abolished the death penalty. One thousand and ninety-nine convicted criminals were executed in the United States since 1976.

And here's another statistic: since 1973, 126 death-row inmates were exonerated, found not guilty of the crimes they were accused, tried and sentenced for. This, while awaiting execution on death row. Currently, thousands of scheduled executions have been put on temporary hold in the U.S. as state legislatures await a ruling on capital punishment relating to lethal injection standards now before the Supreme Court.

Lawyers for a Kentucky man convicted of the killings of two police officers have initiated the case, insisting that drugs used in lethal injection executions represent "substantial risk of wanton and unnecessary pain". The 2006 execution of an Ohio man took over an hour, after a corrections official punctured his arm no fewer than 19 times in one botched attempt after another to secure a vein.

Death-row inmates are injected with the fast-acting barbiturate sodium thiopental to achieve unconsciousness, then comes pancuronium bromide to halt breathing, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart. The botched Ohio execution was not the only one to go horribly awry. And in the wake of these events, people throughout the United States are asking themselves whether they really want the state to execute the death penalty.

"If you take a poll and ask people about horrible crimes, you still see support for the death penalty in places like New Jersey" (as of December the first state since 1965 to completely abolish the death penalty), said Richard Dieter, executive director of Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. "But if you ask which is preferable - life without parole or the death penalty - more people support life without parole."

How could it be otherwise in a civil, civilized society? And this growing inclination toward re-thinking the imposition of the death penalty falls evenly across the political divide, from liberal Maryland to conservative Colorado and New Mexico.

It's past time.

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Triassic Haunting

The ancient geological and celestial past speaks to us in strange and unanticipated ways.

There's a generally-accepted theory that the age of dinosaurs became ancient history as a result of a giant meteorite shower, or one vast meteor hitting earth and whose impact on the surface of the earth threw up a dense curtain of debris into the atmosphere where the sun's rays were unable to penetrate and life on earth degraded, then disappeared, until the dense debris cloud finally dissipated.

Now comes a new study into the earth's geological past, led by Matt Leybourne, an New Zealand geoscientist and two colleagues at the Geological Survey of Canada, claiming that shocked, fractured and melted rocks around an ancient impact site in central Manitoba caused by the crash of another, much earlier meteororite, allowed the mineral fluoride to leach into the area's groundwater.

"It's a smoking gun that's been smoking for a long time", said Jan Peter, one of the study's co-authors. Elevated levels of fluoride represent a major health issue to humans, exposed to them, having the potential to cause damage to teeth, softening of bones, calcified tendons and ligaments, and neurological damage, according to the study.

The North American practise of adding fluoride in discrete amounts to municipal drinking water has long been hailed as an antidote to the prevalence of tooth decay particularly among vulnerable children whose diet is often compromised by the too-frequent consumption of sugary drinks and candies. With its introduction decades ago, the incidence of tooth decay in the general population fell substantially.

Most producers of toothpaste routinely add fluoride to their products to ensure additional tooth-enamel protection. Yet a space rock that hurtled through the upper atmosphere - to breach our earthly atmosphere and finally smash into our globe - landing in Canada over 200-million years ago, unleashed fluoride into groundwater now imperilling the health of several communities in Manitoba.

The research group studied the quality of the groundwater around the ancient Lake St.Martin meteorite crater, north of Winnipeg. Finding greatly elevated levels of fluoride and other chemicals in the area's groundwater, and linking that to the shattering of subsurface granite represented a first in associating a meteorite impact to the disturbing of the earth's crust, leading to groundwater contamination.

The wonder of it: An extraterrestrial object of gigantic dimensions upsetting the stability of earth's geology, a quarter of a billion years ago in time and space. Well before the tentative stirrings of primitive life-forms on this planet.

The resulting 24-kilometre-wide crater is evidence of that truly earth-shattering event. And there are other identified sites similar in creation and ancient lineage to this one. In fact possibly creations of a similar celestial body, fragmenting on entering earth's atmosphere. Craters in France, Quebec, North Dakota and Russia, created within hours of one another when huge fragments of a meteor struck earth.

All this came to light because Canadian scientists have been grappling for years with the issue of poor water quality in the town of Gypsumville (named after gypsum deposits found there). Along with two closely co-located First Nations communities around Lake St. Martin, where it was well known that inordinately elevated levels of fluoride existed, polluting the water table, and forcing residents to look for alternate, safe water sources.

Now, at last, and at the very least, the mystery has been solved.

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Squandering the Capital of Equality

Desperation, unfortunately, leads people to commit errors they would likely never contemplate in the pure light of reasonable self-evaluation. But when pushed against the hard wall of opposition threatening to upset a carefully-laid equilibrium, push really does lead to shove, and the result is a lamentable clarity too late to amend what cannot be taken back.

Words used in haste lay waste peoples' reputations and aspirations. Or they serve to uncloak a meticulously laid impression, a mantle of high respect that is, quite simply, an empty facade. Where lies the truth only the bearer of that mantle knows, and even then, perhaps not quite.

In the drama that represents the U.S. primaries for the upcoming presidential election, much hangs on nuance, on declarations that will be parsed and interpreted, occasionally to the great detriment of the declarer's ambitions. Since all candidates for the Democratic primaries espouse similar values for the promises they declare with only slight variations on a steadfast theme, character and orientation take on greater significance to a public already wearying of the process.

As the process wears on, it is Barack Obama whose smile beams triumphant, and Hillary Clinton's that betrays the dilemma she now finds herself wobbling toward. And it's strange too, in a way. Mr. Obama appealed directly to the colour of undecided voters, proclaiming his solidarity with his black brothers and sisters. Ms. Clinton's partner in marriage and politics seemed only to mouth the obvious, that in South Carolina many African Americans would vote for Mr. Obama - because he is black.

A true enough statement, but a back-handed slap at Mr. Obama's universal appeal across race lines. Mr. Obama's persona and style and apprehension of the world he inhabits transcends black and white, goes well beyond what his predecessors represented. With the exception perhaps of Colin Powell's presumed candidature which never did materialize.

Both Jesse Jackson, a good enough man to be sure with decent credentials, but focused on the tradition of colour, and Al Sharpton whose demagoguery and own racial discriminatory tactics represented the worst possible bitterness of racial divisiveness, represented a specific demographic. In contrast to the campaign reflecting the vision and the heart of Barack Obama.

His oblique 'blackness' garnered him scant enough initial support from the black community. His transparent inclusiveness, his equal representation beyond the colour divide has persuaded a significant proportion of white Americans that he represents a trustworthy, viable candidate for the presidency. This too, among the voting public who agonize internally between the possible choice of electing the first woman, as opposed to the first black for the highest office in the land.

In the end, the choice will transcend gender and colour for the Democratic-engaged electorate. Voters indicated the repugnance they felt with the blaming introduction of stark colour choices, which so many had congratulated themselves upon leaving behind. Black voters who supported Hillary Clinton in recognition of their feelings toward former president Bill Clinton, and young white Americans whose message by Barack Obama of forging a new message of change for the country resonated.

America's dynastic first family of politics is itself divided in its selection, reflecting in part reaction to a disappointed allusion disrupting the hoped-for atmosphere of inclusiveness to prevail. Endorsations aside, it is the electorate, in their great good wisdom, allied with their fallibility as human beings, cemented by their personal expectations and experiences that will crown the winner.

And perhaps then, at least on the Democrat side of the equation, people will relax once again into an atmosphere more given to trust and inclusion than bitter accusations in memory of the past.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

He Has His Admirers, Supporters

Isn't it always the way? People who commit the most unbelievably egregious crimes against humanity always seem to have the support of someone.

Criminals who have somehow escaped detection may settle down somewhere to begin a normal life, and their neighbours would never suspect from their kindly facades what they have been capable of. In the case of war criminals who have been found guilty in absentia, instances abound where their presence has been discovered, and their neighbours come forward to declare what model citizens they have been.

In Canada, in Ontario, we have another kind of deviant in society, a highly respected doctor who chose paediatric pathology as an esteemed career, despite having had no training, merely the opportunity. And his lack of expertise, bonded to his child-saviour complex gained him the opportunity to pose as someone he was not; credible among his medical peers, in the process destroying the lives of innocent people.

His expertise was sought as a witness in criminal trials, and the expert opinion he was never loathe to deliver often spelled the death knell for the accused's hopes of proving themselves innocent.

His expert examinations in the autopsies he vetted gained him invaluable insight into how he construed children met their untimely deaths. And his suspicions were always, it seemed, met by conclusive 'evidence' or problem-solving mechanisms his brain devised, in supporting his personal thesis that parents were their children's worst enemies.

His expertise enabled him to identify deadly dog bites and consequent mauling as a deranged attack with a knife by an unfit mother. His brilliant deductions led to the conviction of an uncle accused of raping and murdering his young niece. His unerring vision convicted a mother of strangling her little boy.

All these people, and more, mourning the dreadful loss of a child, found themselves prime suspects, experienced their lives taken from them, wrongly incarcerated.

Yet, says one of his friends, his former pastor, "He's an amazing man." He most certainly is that.

Dr. Smith, formerly head of Ontario's paediatric forensic pathology unit was and is an extraordinary man, with slovenly work habits, which also aided in the wrongful homicide prosecutions of parents and caregivers. However, says his former pastor, lamenting the 'ordeal' his former parishioner is undergoing, "There is an awful lot behind this that obviously is not coming out."

As in: He's being framed, he's being held responsible for others' shortcomings. Well, there is some truth in that.

In that his superiors insisted that he take on the job for which he was unfit due to lack of professional training, among other deficits. Dr. Smith's inexact science of forensic pathology was identified through the medium of an international expert review which reached the conclusion that he had committed serious errors in 20 of 45 suspicious deaths leading to criminal investigations, between 1991 and 2001.

A commission was set up, under Justice Stephen Goudge, whose mandate it is to identify systemic failures in the forensic paediatric pathology system. But the most fascinating, compelling testimony has focused on Dr. Smith's professional practise. International experts identified some fundamental errors in his investigations such as the concealing of a potentially key piece of evidence; his propensity toward offering speculation as fact.

Dr. Smith was, in fact, inordinately proud of his vital part in the justice system, in bringing to justice the murderers of children. He had been quoted in a 1994 interview as having boasted that he had been instrumental in bringing convictions to two dozen homicide prosecutions of deliberate head injuries.

Co-ordination between experts was key, he claimed. Yet three years earlier a judge had acquitted an alleged baby killer, blasting Dr. Smith and doctors who backed his testimony, claiming the team that "abdicated" its responsibilities.

But all is well. Dr. Charles Smith has taken it upon his conscience to apologize. His lawyer had earlier apologized to the wrongfully convicted on Dr. Smith's behalf. But now, appearing before the committee, Dr. Smith has apologized for his errors. Unequivocally, he says, he regrets his ignorance of the law in reaching the conclusions he had.

Might that possibly be a gambit to ensure that because he did nothing out of a sense of malevolence he could not be found criminally guilty of gross misconduct?

His direct superior still holds that "he was doing a very good job for years". And that what took him off track was his abhorrence for the brutal treatment resulting in death of innocent children. And his conviction, it would seem, that in most instances, their nearest and dearest were to blame.

As unfortunate as it is, in a great many instances, parents do in fact destroy their children, take their lives in anger and unaccountable hatred. Dr. Smith used a wide paintbrush.

The people whose lives he was instrumental in irremediably blotching, those who have spent many years innocently incarcerated, incredulous that they could be held guilty for the murder of those they loved may find it difficult to accept Dr. Smith's apology.

It seems a slender thread to hang forgiveness on.

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Retiring Dreams ... Fading ... fading ...

You plan for it, longingly wait for it to transpire, then retirement becomes a reality, and your dream home abroad in the most salubrious geography you can imagine is yours. You live in your dream home, become part of a community of other expatriate retirees living their dream retirement. Within a larger community of native dwellers, citizens of your host country who approve of your presence and value it.

Now you see it ... now you don't.

You don't, because pouff! some evil sorcerer has insisted it vanish, as though it had never, in fact, existed. It should not, actually, have existed, according to the laws of the land to which you have removed in your retirement dotage. For the country in question, Spain, feels its environmental and building codes should logically merge, the latter having due respect for the former. Who could possibly find fault with that?

Well, citizens of the United Kingdom who have invested their meagre remaining years in their longed-for villas, their dream homes in southern Spain, that's who. Ingrates. The first elderly couple whose villa was torn down anguishes over their lost dream of retirement in the beauty and comfort of their now-destroyed home. Living instead now, in a trailer on the site that once held their three-bedroom villa.

Destroyed, under orders of the regional government of Andalusia, which took it authoritatively upon itself to revoke a building license which had been issued by the local mayor. Thing is, it is not only the unfortunate Leonard and Helen Prior whose home was deconstructed so rudely who are now bereft of their retirement dreams. There remain some 9,999 other properties whose villas have been similarly earmarked for demolition.

Coastal properties, resort areas; thousands of property owners who had been living contentedly in their version of heaven now face the very real possibility of forced divestment. "We did everything possible to ensure that the home we bought was legal," moaned another Brit, whose beachfront home is located in Vera. "We hope that we are safe but after what happened to the Priors we just don't know. It has caused a lot of people a great deal of worry."

Yes, it most certainly would. And so, the affected foreign population has assembled to voice their outrage and their concern. "The authorities just can't go round knocking down houses as part of a political point-scoring exercise" said AngelMedine, president of Ciudadanos Eropeos , a political party whose purpose is to support foreign residents in the region. And the head of the Vera town council announced they're doing everything they can to persuade the regional authorities to pursue no further demolition orders.

Good to have nice friends, to know that your worries are theirs.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Societal Collapse

The former acceptance, however grudging, however suspicious, of tribal groups living alongside one another in a prosperous, politically and economically forward-looking country has completely dissipated. The skillful political machinations of a determined opponent to the current president of Kenya, enlisting his tribe in 'protests' have succeeded in completely disrupting life in a country once admired for its progressive politics, economy, and handling of tribal disagreements.

Because Mwai Kibaki succeeded in outfoxing his presidential opponent Raila Odinga,
in adroit illegal ballot-stuffing in a presidential election, the country itself has been manoeuvred into a state of murderous violence, as one tribe expresses its anger and frustration over the unwillingness of a rival tribe to surrender its hold on power. This is two men, politically powerful in their country, willing to sacrifice the well-being of their country and its people to their personal political ambitions.

It's the poverty-stricken, the slum-dwellers, the rural farming communities, now viciously rebelling against civil order. They to whom scant few crumbs of their country's wealth had fallen, but whose loyalties can be so readily manipulated in the name of honour, solidarity, tribal adherence, support of the tribal leader's aspirations against those of another tribe's leader. Already-poor Kenyans find themselves on the brink of utter privation.

The shopkeepers upon whom they had depended, the farmers whose crops helped feed them are now bereft of shelving stocks, let alone shops, of the fruits of their labours - no longer now able to offer wares and basic survival foodstuffs. The angrily rioting mobs have damaged their own futures in destroying symbols of perceived oppression which had also been their means of subsistence.

Now, in rural areas, tribes which had been on the lower end of the subsistence scale, have suddenly acquired means heretofore eluding them, as they move into the homes of tribal members whom they have dislodged, taking for themselves all the possessions of their rivals. Fields which had been carefully tended, now ready for harvest, give up their mature crops to those now claiming ownership, while their true owners, those who sowed and tended the crops, watch bitterly from a distance.

Kikuyu families are still desperately fleeing their home villages, trucks groaning under the weight of possessions, children, livestock, even the tin of their abandoned homes' roofs in the hopes they can find land elsewhere where they can be safe. They may be placed in some burgeoning refugee camp, they may discover an oasis of safety; they become part of the quarter-million internally displaced through the censorship of tribal revenge.

Local religious leaders are left to bemoan the state of affairs, the cattle thefts, home invasions, looting, vandalism; above all, the unspeakable murders. But the rebels, those who have used machetes to drain the life-blood of their perceived enemies, claim in their defence that the Kikuyu have brought this upon themselves; originally, by taking their land; they are now simply reclaiming it.

"Now, because everything has been vandalized, they are looting what is remaining; maize and potatoes in the shambas", say local officials, predicting the obvious: dramatic food shortages - irony abounds - in an area of Kenya formerly spoken of as its 'breadbasket'. "The people who are coming to harvest and loot are from far away", claimed one tribal member, glowing with satisfaction, going about the business of doing just that.

A new area has been added to the murderous mayhem, as tribal vengeance rises, rather than subsiding, despite the intervention of leaders from other nearby countries, including Kofi Annan, formerly UN chief. The level of brutality now seen in Naivasha is frightening, as people are being hacked or clubbed to death by mobs with machetes. There have been reports of people being locked in their homes, the mobs setting them on fire. Isn't this a replay?

"We have moved out to revenge the deaths of our brothers and sisters who have been killed, and nothing will stop us", vowed a man. "For every one Kikuyu killed, we shall avenge their killing with three." Kenya is being left with many burned-out, looted ghost towns, those of their original inhabitants who survived the paroxysm of violence, vowing never to return.

How to mend this dreadful human malaise that we inflict on one another, brothers and sisters in humanity?

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Looking Back In Anger

Anger, hopelessness, despair in the recognition that humans were, are and remain capable of descending to the core of the bestial within, then plunging beyond even that depraved degree, in visiting upon one another the vilest treatment that human imagination is capable of devising. That history reminds us, time and again, of our depths of twisted hate for one another, and that in sober moments of regret we vow never to allow ourselves to degrade our shared humanity in failing others, serves to temporarily assuage consciences.

Yet humankind reverts to its primal, tribal exclusions at will, whenever events conspire to cause us unease, and we reform and regroup ourselves to return to the abyss of lost humanity. This day marks the United Nations "International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust", in reflection of the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwich death camp, by Allied and Russian forces, in 1945.

The Jewish mantra in remembrance of the partially successful resolve to annihilate world Jewry is "never to forget, never to forgive". As though Jews could forget, could ever forgive. The conscience-stricken world, with the knowledge that six million men, women and children were systematically and gruesomely murdered in an orgy of slaughter, agreed to the creation of a country of shelter for Jews. In tacit acknowledgement that shelter did not, does not exist elsewhere.

In Angola, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines, the veneer of civil behaviour surrenders occasionally to tribal suspicion, anger, revenge, murder, torture, mass displacement in a ritual of ethnic cleansings. These world-shattering events that torment the world represent incendiary, spontaneous events of outraged loss of perceived entitlements. Leading to the malaise of shed humanity.

It is well over 60 years since Nazi Germany's embarkation on its grand achievement toward the establishment of the Thousand-Year Reich. Where a superior breed of uber-menchen would dominate the world order after destroying political opposition and any countries that stood in the way of their purpose. Fascism did its best to turn the first half of the 20th Century on its back.

A side issue of great significance to fascistic overlords was the planned annihilation of what they deemed to be the epitome of an inferior race. A race of people so inferior as to be compared to loathsome insects, besmirching the face of the earth with their presence; Jews, the scum of the earth.

There is no logic to searing hatred; this inferior race was also accused of too much world influence. Their bankers, scientists, news-gatherers-and-disseminators, their politicians and health professionals, artists and social engineers were in league with Lucifer, themselves representing the anti-Christ anxious to take over the world.

Those nonsensical, vicious slanders fell on ready ears, only too eager to take up the cause, to save the world from the predations of evil Jewry. In a country with a long and socially-accepted culture celebrating racist screeds - as in most of eastern Europe and beyond, these demonizing clarifications of what most people accepted as fact took easy root.

Enabling a government, its lawmakers, judiciary, security agents, and military to embark upon an ambitious enterprise to extinguish the presence of Jewish life and Jewish lives from all the Nazi-occupied countries of Europe. The vanquished countries, with the sole heroic exception of Denmark, lent themselves to the cleansing of Jews from their territories.

Anti-Semitism was no stranger to the western, democratic world either and the horrible plight of the Jews never a secret in government circles and within the social hierarchy - although the extent and the existential severity was not fully known at first - was given scant sympathy. These were, after all, a people apart, their iniquitous presence scarcely tolerated in most countries.

The ideology of racist "discrimination" may have elicited some dismay at the scope and manner of prosecution of the Final Solution, but it did not result in rescue attempts by Allied countries, even when limited rescue of some disparate groups of desperate refugees was possible. Including the potential to rescue the lives of hundreds of orphaned children.

Even within the Axis countries there were some people of determined humanity who stepped forward at peril of their own lives and those of their families, to do what they could to help and to save as many doomed Jews and their children as their efforts could manage. But those whose decisions determined the course of action to be taken through the Allied war effort made no response.

The world at large stood by. In their silent acceptance of a reality they well knew was destroying millions of innocent lives, they rendered the metaphorical shrug. In fascinated horror, but doing nothing. The Nazi interpretation was validation. Later to explain that credible information was inadequate; minds were on the prosecution of a war; hands were tied.

Today the world is asked to remember. To repent. To pledge themselves to attempting a better world. But the world can only reflect the values, interests and determinations of those who inhabit it. So tribal wars continue to wreak their horror on captured societies, incapable of coping with hatred of others. The incidence of anti-Semitic attacks are on the increase in the United States, Germany, Ukraine, Australia - and continue to be in stark, ubiquitous evidence elsewhere.

Within France and Great Britain anti-Semitic incidents have gained great ground, giving those countries the leading edge on prevalence. Twisted sociopaths will never be done with the issues of racial intolerance. Purveyors of the pathology of anti-Semitism, they exist to spread the pestilence of hatred against those 'others'; those outside the cultural, social, religious, traditional 'norms' of society.

Even when the targets of the hate they spew have taken pains to insert themselves into mainstream society through the acceptance and practise of cultural norms, while yet retaining those tenets of their faith, or traditions, or both. To no avail, in the diseased minds of their detractors. Little wonder that even young people in Israel fear the possibility of another Holocaust.

The Palestinian Authority's Fatah, ostensibly working toward a peace agreement with Israel daily airs a vicious anti-Jew campaign on their PA television station. A music video which exhorts Palestinians to fight to the death to rid the land of Jews with the assurance that they will prevail. Long-incubated hatred of Jews is regularly refreshed by the PA, to ensure the population does not lose sight of its goal; to eradicate the Jewish presence.

Entirely consistent with what is happening elsewhere within the Arab world. They are convinced their hatred has been well earned, by an occupier which arrived by stealth and managed to coerce Western powers through the auspices of the United Nations, post WWII, to advance the Jews into statehood, to the detriment of the Arab population. They re-write their own histories to suit their entitlements.

In so doing, pursuing a campaign for outside consumption, of co-operation and agreeableness to living in peace, two nations, side by side. While pursuing another agenda altogether within the confines of their own understanding of their firm intentions.

Looking forward in denial, anger, distrust, hatred and determination to succeed where others have failed.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

The Sins Of The Sons

"He has changed his ideology", Mansour Jabarah, a Kuwait city businessman, former vice-president of the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St.Catharines, Ontario, claimed in an interview after the sentencing to life in prison of his son. Mohammed Jabarah, 26, admitted his role in violet jihad during his imprisonment in a U.S. jail. Where he has been incarcerated since 2002, until his trial last week.

Accused, arrested, interrogated and tried for his part in the plotting of suicide attacks against U.S. embassies in Southeast Asia, he was handed down a life sentence. His father pronounced the sentencing unfair since the truck bombings which his son confessed to organizing did not in fact take place. "The situation of our son needs to be reconsidered", said the elder Jabarah.

The actual bombings were averted by chance, thanks to Singaporean security services discovery of the plot. Mohammed Jabarah escaped detention in Singapore, fleeing to Oman, and that's where he was arrested, then handed over to Canadian Security Intelligence Services who brought him back to Ontario.

After questioning the would-be terrorist and persuading him to agree to be taken into custody in the U.S., SCIS agents assisted him in surrendering to the FBI. Where he decided to co-operate with the joint terrorism task force, giving them the sought-for al-Qaeda information which led to his admission he had trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

Two other al-Qaeda terror-operatives dear to Mr. Jabarah, his brother and his best friend, were less fortunate than he. Both were killed while engaged in their terrorist pursuits. And that is when Mr. Jabarah decided he would no longer co-operate, but rather withdraw and immerse himself in delusions of revenge.

He re-dedicated himself to al-Qaeda and the Islamist terror cause, and determined, should he be released, to embark yet again, but successfully, on a track to fulfill his destiny: "And if Allah aids us we will kill their women as they killed your women and will orphan their children as they orphaned your children... And if they release me then I will kill them until I am killed," he wrote bitterly.

He planned to kill the FBI agents and attorneys who were at work on his case. Opportunity eluded him, but the thought obviously buoyed his spirits and gave him great satisfaction. He traded in his failure to perform to the promise to himself that his future performance would be successful.

Clearly, the young man - who said he had been attracted to violent jihad at the age of 14, and then post-graduation from a St.Catharines high school, traveled to Afghanistan where al-Qaeda recruited him as a lead agent for a plan to bomb a U.S. embassy - pledged at an early age. During his trial, however, he insisted he had reformed himself, and wished only to be released, to be returned to his family.

"He started a new discipline in his life by studying biology and medicine in prison. He made it clear to the judge in the court that he condemns terrorism and hates violence. And as a father and mother we seek the help of God to release our son from the prison." His parents are disconsolate, bereft with grief at the loss of two sons.

Fact is, anyone's heart would bleed in sympathy for these parents suffering the sins of a wayward child. Had the plan to bomb the targets succeeded, many lives might have been taken. Were they completely unaware of the trajectory their two sons' lives had taken? Had they been remiss in imparting the universal values of tolerance? Did they ever plead with their sons to eschew violence?

As it is, only the life of their son has now been taken from them.

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Tribal Brotherhood

Speak ill of your enemies, but have full regard for your company.

Terror militias comprised of Shia, alternately of Sunni Muslim agitator-jihadists have their very particular sectarian agendas, as proxies of various nations, each seeking hegemony over the larger Islamic community, but when outsiders, aliens, foreigners, infidels come on the scene, there can be a hudna-type reconciliation.

This phenomenon of human nature is seen at the micro- as well as the micro-level of human interactions.

And it's profoundly present in the conundrum the Islamic world presents to the greater world, and most particularly to that portion of the world at large that represents what Islam appears to have identified as Western, industrialized, democratic and free countries who have, they believe, set out to completely demonize Islam, deflate and humble its religious, social and political credentials.

Handily overlooking the demonstrated fact that it is from among their own disaffected fanatic Islamists that the first shots were fired across the bow of war disguised as religious competition. Correction: the kingdoms and sheikdoms, the tyrants and the theistic rulers, may very well understand what has occurred here, but they encourage the Arab street to identify their oppressors as the infidels, the Jews, lest they look crookedly at their rulers.

A kind of mob dementia of misidentification of the social morass in which they live, never quite able to lift themselves out of the constraints to comfortable living that poverty lays upon its masses. Feudalism has been a resounding success, so why look elsewhere for models certain to enrich the life experience of the many while impoverishing the entitlements of the few?

One sees how opportunity presents itself in a chaotic situation of invasion and war, resulting in an embattled population, desperate for surcease from destabilization, hoping for normalization, then coping with true desperation, against the tribal, sectarian hatreds unleashed. There is Iraq, and there is Lebanon, for example, and Egypt as well, where the founts of historical grievance spring anew at any opportune moment.

Away from the Arab world, we see the tribal bitterness and revenge-seeking in Africa, in India, in Sri Lanka, in Bosnia, playing out to deadly conclusions. But there are occasions when sworn enemies draw together in mutual support against the blight of the external enemy invading their territory. Hamas draws the support of Hezbollah; Sunni and Shia, both proxies of Iran and Syria. And in Jordan and Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood marches in support of both, Hamas's Big Brother after all.

Egypt has demonstrated great sympathy and forbearance in its compassion for the plight of Gaza's Palestinian population, hard-pressed by Israel to turn against their protectors who have placed them in their current plight by their unappeasable, unmitigated hatred of Israel. So the separating wall between Egypt and Gaza was breached by Hamas, and kindly Egypt permitted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to shop to their hearts' content.

How other to react in the face of a fait accompli?

And so they did, Egyptian shopkeepers emptying their store shelves and entrepreneurs herding cattle of all varieties to the border towns the better to conduct business, graciously accepting the windfall it offered them. Palestinians, claimed an advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, "were being squeezed to death", and the world "has got the message. This has been a great victory for Hamas."

The enemy, suffering countless attacks by Hamas terror-agents, sought the utility of declining to provide water, energy and medicines to those complicit in the ongoing attempts to destroy them. Where has there ever existed a state happy to provide the living wherewithal to an entity whose purpose was to destroy that state, claimed it openly, and enthusiastically went about its purpose? However, that is logic, and we speak of primal emotions and tribalism.

Now, Egypt is itself in a rather uncomfortable position. It appears helpless at the moment, to restrain the determined hordes of Palestinians from their continued determination to cross the border, enjoying freedom of movement, and the opportunities to shop. For goods available in Egypt are not as dear as they are in Gaza, and more plentiful in their variety understandably.

Israel offers Egypt the sole responsibility for the border, and recommends they also take responsibility for providing Gaza with water, fuel, food, medicines. Egypt demurs.

The United States urges Egypt to close the border once again, cognizant of Israel's fears that terror-agents and weaponry may now cross at leisure, importing their means of Israel's firm disposal from its current state of health and existence. Prodding Egypt with the promise that all the U.S. funding it so desperately depends upon may suddenly dry up.

Life is so unfair; President Hosni Mubarak's government is harried by its Islamist opposition, and the Egyptian man-on-the-street makes no secret of his antipathy toward Jews, his sympathy for fellow Arabs.

So the order went through and Egyptian border guards have done their best to try to prevent the further entry of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt. While Gazans continue to pour their huge numbers over the breached border. Ultimatums? what are they, after all? There is still a lot of consumer items awaiting purchase by acquisitive-desperate Palestinians, unwilling to be restrained within their tight little border community.

Besides which, their protectors, garbed in their conventional black uniform, and well masked, those heroes, those partners of the Angel of Death, have continued demolishing the border wall. No wall, no constraints. Egyptian border guards unleash warning shots into the air, fruitlessly.

Shoppers will not be deterred from their mission. And the Palestinians, enraged at these feeble attempts to keep them from their goal, do to the Egyptians what they have so often done to Israeli police - toss stones with aimed accuracy.

The Egyptian border guards retreat. For now. Tomorrow is another day.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spewing The Rage of Tribal Hatred

Roughly 17,000 UN peacekeepers are installed in one of the world's currently largest UN peacekeeping operations. The government in Kinshasa has agreed, through the intervention and negotiations sponsored by the United States, the European Union and the African union, to sign an agreement ending one of the world's most deadly war and humanitarian catastrophes.

During which 13 rebel and militia groups, viciously warring against the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and between themselves, managed to accomplish the deaths of 5.4-million people throughout the decade of warfare. In northeastern DRC genocidal tribal wars have seen almost a million people displaced.

This has been a war quite unlike those most historians write of. In this series of raids, counter-raids and battles reports of ritualistic cannibalism, mutilation and torture in a geography swollen with the pus of tribal and ethnic hatreds, history will write its detached account of inhuman vitriolic death-dealing on another scale entirely.

Where rape remains yet the order of the day and children who managed to survive malnutrition, starvation and health supports to reach the age of seven have been commandeered to serve in combat situations. In the wake of the devastating Rwandan genocide, an invasion of up to a million Hutus, post-Tutsis butchery, sought to repeat history in the Democratic Republic.

Every month roughly 45,000 people still die in the DRP, fifty percent of them under age five. Most die not as a direct result of violence now, but from its offshoots; starvation and endemic diseases, preventable under normal, stable conditions, but exacerbated exponentially by conditions of war. Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition slice through the population.

The country's shattered health system and the disruption of normal lines of food supplies during a six-month period alone - January 2006 to April 2007, saw 727,000 people die as a result, according to research results released by the New York-based International Rescue Committee.

The peace deal signed on January 23 in Goma will result in the integration of the various armed militias into the country's national army. Areas occupied by the militias will require the immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers. And then there's the problem of how to deal with the ethnic Hutu militia out of Rwanda.

Where there's life and determination, hope remains. Any hope of excising from inherited memory tribal hatreds?

Good luck.

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"They Were Like Locusts"

Those were the words of an Egyptian man who turned against the human tide, himself bicycling into Gaza while Gazans in the hundreds of thousands, descended upon his town to buy up anything and everything resembling food, electronics, fuel, motorbikes, cigarettes, livestock. "I need to buy bread for my children", said Ashraf el-Sayyid. "The Palestinians left us with nothing. It's true, they are dear to us, but today they were like locusts."

Living in the west, in an industrialized advanced and wealthy country like Canada, one can accept and recognize the allusion. It's exactly the impression we get when watching news coverage of people in our cities and towns exercising their rights as rigorous consumers of unneeded products, post-Christmas, when all manner of "Boxing Day" sales are advertised ad nauseum, enticing exhausted shoppers to indulge in yet more hysteria, to "save money".

The all-too-human trait of acquisitiveness readily tips over into an ungovernable state of pure, unadulterated greed evinced throughout human history. When enough is never seen to suffice. Particularly when people panic, seeing themselves cut off from opportunities to acquire, their situations setting them apart from conceived normalcy, and they are deprived of their natural inclination to shop.

This is, of course, different to some degree from those whose circumstances have afforded them great wealth, whose instincts yet continue to propel them toward greater sums of worldly riches. They derive no comfort from what has been attained, and strive mightily through whatever means possible, to expand their material holdings. The basic human instinct is the same.

For those deprived by circumstances of endemic poverty a hapless rage surmounts acceptance of deprivation. And when they see themselves even further removed from the availability of the little they have, a panic of desperation descends. They will attempt anything to deliver themselves from want, in demonstration of obeying the most basic and emotional instincts for survival.

In the instance of the Palestinians from Gaza, so long sequestered - albeit somewhat complicit in the conditions which led to their isolation - they flowed in uncountable numbers through the destroyed barrier between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, to descend "like locusts" on the shops and stores and stalls to scoop up whatever they could, to forestall the spectre of deprivation.

And having assured themselves of acquiring basic needs, attention inevitably turned to satisfying the craving for non-essentials. Surrendering common sense and logic to the emotional need to acquire goods and objects of irrational desire. Freedom to roam, to surge past boundaries, to unite with others across the barrier.

From an emotionally needful perspective to be re-united, however briefly, with relatives and friends with whom contact has of necessity of vile and clumsy politics been impossible. The longing to see familiar and dear faces, to clasp hands and embrace momentarily fulfilled, before lapsing again into the condition of enforced separation.

The mixed spectacle of the poor seeking basic sustenance while those for whom basic necessities is no issue, join the hordes to secure motorcycles, televisions, electronic gadgetry. This is Hamas buying credit with their charges. Having imposed upon them a prison of their devising, they deliver a shopping spree to relax tensions and highlight their power.

While celebrating temporary release, already contemplating the reality of returning to the dreadful burden of living apart, surrounded, tentative. But devoted to the promises given them by those who claim to support their battle against the 'oppressors'. From whom the provision of water and energy is sourced, while their protectors seek to bomb the very sources of those given necessities.

We in North America also know how soul-debilitating it is to be deprived of energy sources to power our way of life; our cars, our homes and appliances. What misery it is to live without light in the evening, without heat or air conditioning, without fuel for our vehicles, worrying that the foodstuffs in refrigerators and freezers will spoil. We have lived through these blighted incidents, and we know.

Illogic? That is the response of the desperate, and the demagogic.

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And Why Is That?

The two front-runners in the U.S. Democratic race for the presidency accuse one another of dirty campaign tactics. Pity, that. Their mission is to achieve success, each of them, in guiding their country through difficult times. But then, in a no-holds-barred race to achieve their party's nomination to bring them into the final race, anything goes. And the desperation to achieve their end drives them to divisive tactics.

But spare me: for Barack Obama to cast aspersions on former president Bill Clinton's campaigning on behalf of Hillary Clinton, as being unfair, intrusive, unsettling, upsetting...? Why is the celebrated social-political clout of Oprah Winfrey permissible, but not Bill Clinton's? He's a popular fellow, just as Ms. Winfrey is, and as that tired old saying goes, all's fair in love and war...

Mr. Clinton, it would appear, despite his all-too-human fallibility as a womanizer, and whose presidency was, to some degree, a disappointment, still has the public in the palm of his hand. His right hand. And, it would appear further, he is particularly loved in the African-American community. Just as he enjoys wide respect and popularity anywhere he goes. And there lies the rub.

He demonstrated his commitment to the cause of equality; it is as a second skin to the man. And in all likelihood, no less so for Hillary Clinton. A woman of great, overwhelming ambition. But what is it exactly that drives a man - any man - into the political arena at the highest echelons of power and achievement if it is not great, overwhelming ambition?

Oh yes, the wish to do well by one's nation, as a patriot and a scholar of insights into human nature. Why should that be detrimental to her reputation, when a woman displays those same passions? And why is it seen as untoward, somehow unfair, if her husband, a profoundly popular individual, displays himself and dispatches himself to campaign to her advantage?

Fears that he will place himself front and centre were she to be successful in achieving that high office? Well, as he says, it will be she, not he, who holds the office. He is not in contention. It is not his intent to challenge the authority of his wife, her vice-presidential choice, or any members of her potential cabinet. His word, in all circumstances, to be trusted.

He will be there, if, as and when needed, an elder statesman. Someone should sew his zipper tight, but unzip his bright intellect to the light of day, as required. On the other hand, all of this will become a hazy memory should the United States realize the good fortune of electing, let's see...Republican John McCain?

Who knows, after all, what the future may bring? A victory in the election of the first black American president, or the first woman president? Polling statistics seem to indicate that most Americans would prefer and vote for a black male rather than a white female as president. Only time will tell.

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The Trapper Trapped

He was down but most certainly not yet out. Trapped, yes, and there's the thing of it, for he'd gone out to check on his trap lines.

This 56-year-old outdoorsman, well experienced and with a store of recognition of the wilderness area around where he lived well outside of Calgary, Alberta, was also a volunteer paramedic, often called upon in his community to assist in search and rescue operations. So he knew his way around, and he was most certainly in his element, and confident of his ability to face the elements.

It gets awfully cold in that part of Canada, throughout the winter months. Before leaving, he'd informed a friend he was on his way to check his traps. Good thing, as it happens. No one felt uneasy when he hadn't shown up the next day or so, because it was his habit to occasionally stay over in the places he was so familiar with.

Friends ventured out to look for him after a number of days had passed, but weren't too worried, knowing how well equipped he was to look after himself. It was his failure to show up for a work shift a day later that alerted a wider group to his absence, and a search was initiated. Before they could set out, however, a 911 call was received from a brace of hikers.

Who had serendipitously (for him) come across the man, Ken Hildebrand, as he had reached the decision to amputate his right leg which had been pinned under his ATV when it rolled over on him. His good leg; his left had been compromised by polio in an earlier lifetime. He had been out there, trapped in the wilderness for 96 hours.

Throughout the nights he tried to keep awake so he could whistle to alert hungry coyotes and wolves to the fact that he was capable of forestalling their instincts to make a meal of helpless prey. He survived the cold, deprived of food, shelter and sleep. By the time he was discovered by the hikers he was suffering from dehydration, frostbite, starvation; hypothermic.

He'd attempted to still the pangs of hunger by 'eating' snow. Even tried to eat some of the bait he'd left in the beaver trap he was checking on. Then vomited the rotten flesh.

Don't suppose it'll be too much longer, after a bit of a refreshing rest, that he'll be back in business.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Report: Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan

There, it's been unveiled. Perhaps having reached conclusions not entirely hoped-for by the Government of Canada. But former Liberal cabinet minister and deputy prime minister, John Manley, was the best possible person to have been engaged to chair that panel, along with Derek Burney, Jake Epp, Paul Tellier, and Pamela Wallin.

A lot of brain-power assembled there, representing much experience, and collectively a desire to represent Canada's best interests.

Unsurprisingly, the panel has unequivocally supported Canada's armed presence in Afghanistan. If not to support the fractured country and its impoverished, war-torn population, then the potential it represents as an ongoing breeding-ground and assault-central for Islamist-driven fundamentalists intent on installing their order of Sharia law on the country, then expanding it relentlessly elsewhere in the geography.

Why should we care? Because those very same intransigently-determined and violently West-detesting Islamists don't plan to make themselves comfortable only in that part of the world. The future is fraught with the very real danger of their determination to unsettle and replace the current world order as we know it in developed, democratic countries. How do we know that? Because we've experienced the dread terror of the first assaults.

So we're there, along with our NATO and UN allies because of a moral duty to support a decent future for the women and children of Afghanistan, and because of an existential duty to the world as we know it; to protect our right to exist as a sovereign nation without fear of attack from sources committed to bringing chaos and a loss of liberty to our part of the world.
But because Canada has invested so little in its armed forces, we haven't all that many boots on the ground in Kandahar, and they're poorly equipped. Our soldiers are too hard-pressed, too vulnerable and too stressed to complete the job we've started without assistance from allies, themselves vested in maintaining their troops in a more northerly, safer location, leaving ours to fend for themselves.

It seems fairly certain by now that our pleas and those of NATO will not move Germany, Italy and Spain among others, to re-locate to the south. Help will come, but it will be American troops and American helicopters and perhaps too those of Britain, that will work alongside Canada's to push back against the insurgent Taliban forces.

The panel is adamant; without assistance Canada's mission can fail, and if failure occurs, there will be no need for the mission to continue; troops will return home. And the resulting cost to Canada will be tremendously deleterious to our national interests.

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Anti-Racism At The United Nations

Say what you will about Canada's New Government, it puts its money where its mouth is. No unctuous statements about how it upholds the universal brotherhood of humankind to be manifest in all it demonstrates in its pronouncements, while shying away from an unequivocal rejection of demonstrated racism. As was unfortunately demonstrated by the previous government.

But adamant that it will not be a party to a shameful re-demonstration of boldly racist hypocrisy masquerading as genuine concern for racial discrimination.

The United Nations, in its great good wisdom has announced a follow-up to its 2001 Durban-located World Conference Against Racism. At which venue the world watched as vicious verbal attacks against Israel spewed forth from predominantly Muslim and Arab countries whose presence dominated the conference.

Canadian delegates chose to remain at the conference, while American and Israeli delegates left, rather than lend the conference the dignity of their presence which could very well be construed as meekly supporting undisguised hate-mongering.

The senior Canadian delegate took steps to inform the assembly that it chose to remain "only ... to decry the attempts ... to de-legitimize the Sate of Israel and to dishonour the history and suffering of the Jewish people." An honourable statement, not to be niggled with.

Upon which announcement the Canadian delegation should have taken it upon themselves to leave the assemblage to their further machinations.

Canada's Maxime Bernier, minister of foreign affairs, has announced that Canada has no plans to attend the UN's Durban II Conference. Understanding beforehand that the same shameless libelous travesty will once again be hoisted upon the world stage, isolating and denouncing the State of Israel as a racist Zionist entity, a pariah.

Unsurprisingly, and more than adequately lending itself to the general apprehension is the appointment by the United Nations of planning oversight to its Human Rights Council. Which has distinguished itself in the last two years by targeting Israel solely in 14 of its thus-far 15 resolutions charging human rights violations.

Those states of sterling reputation with respect to the upholding of human rights have placed Iran - which has made no secret of its call for the destruction of the Jewish State, and which has time and again voiced the most egregious accusations against that geographic-co-located country - on an executive planning committee for the conference.

Equally lunatic, if not downright risible, is the chairmanship, held by Libya.

Canada was only one of 41 advanced democracies opposing the funding of $6.8-million in UN support payment for preparatory meetings in advance of Durban II. The measure was handily carried forward, however, by the balance of the 193-member General Assembly.

Canada's Conservative government is prepared for any criticism that may come its way. Affirming that Canada is committed to anti-racism principles; the Canadian Constitution is itself an affirmation of that commitment. The laws of the land affirm that commitment. The commitment within the country and the population to egalitarianism, equality, freedom of speech and from oppression stand as a guarantor of that commitment.

"At the moment, much of the planning for the conference suggests it will focus little on denouncing racism wherever it occurs, and a lot on advancing some countries' agendas against Israel and the West. The government feels that taking a stand against the gathering will do more in the long run for combatting racism than joining in."

Joining that is, a twisted caricature of human rights concerns. With the clearly malevolent intent of once again unleashing its anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic pathology.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Worrying . . . Needlessly?

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf is on the campaign trail. Not inside Pakistan, campaigning internally in preparation for a victory in the upcoming elections, wrought as they have been with seemingly insurmountable obstacles to re-election. Rather, through a European tour, designed to elicit support from the international community for himself and his rule of his country.

He's started out right: by urging the West to forget its unrealistic standards upon his politically fractured country. As though he's not facing more than enough difficulties, with the deadly turmoil in his country. He won no plaudits from abroad when he dismissed the country's judges and packed the high court with his personal selections. But that's the way things are done in an autocracy.

He did cock an ear to the international community when he attempted to forge an alliance with Benazir Bhutto, and it isn't quite his fault that the deadly insurgency against a moderate, secular-minded Pakistan bought her death. She was warned by him, by those whose advice she sought from security sources within the international community, and she chose of her own free will, to disregard their advice.

Which should not have cost her her life, but that is the reality of the situation in Pakistan. For she herself permitted the existence of fiercely fundamentalist Islamists in the country's mountainous border regions, as well as her predecessors - and her notable successor. It was her revered father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who forgot his promise to alleviate the poverty of Pakistan's masses and opted instead to "honour" his country by encouraging the development of atomic technology.

Realizing a jubilant success, and through his elevation of his chief nuclear scientist, releasing nuclear technology to fearsomely irrational sources like North Korea, Iran, Libya (which has latterly redeemed itself in the opinion of some).

"We are determined to hold free, fair and transparent elections, and peaceful elections. There is no possibility of it being rigged" he informed news media in Brussels, post-meetings with European Union and NATO representatives. "Whoever wins, obviously power will be handed over. There is no question at all that we will deny forming a government to whichever party forms a majority."

Can't be much clearer than that, much more devoted to the country's version of democracy. "Pakistan", he reminded his interlocutors, "is at the forefront of fighting terrorism and extremism. Please understand us, please support us, please encourage us instead of the insinuation" - referring to accusations of collusion in Ms. Bhutto's assassination.

And while agreeing that concerns over human rights and democracy are valid, Mr. Musharraf spoke of western concerns over both issues as "obsessive". And so they most certainly must seen through the prism of a secular Muslim country, ever conflicted within itself, and facing ongoing opposition by ironclad fundamentalist Islamists through suicide attacks, bombing, invasions of villages and police detachments, as well as deadly assaults upon Pakistan's armed forces personnel.

"You have taken centuries in reaching wherever you have come. Allow us time for going for the values that you have established for yourselves", he recommended sensibly. Not readily attained to while combating al-Qaeda-aligned forces and Pakistani Taliban, themselves violently intent on altering the political and religious focus of the country and establishing Sharia law.

Reminding, lest it be forgotten, that Pakistan is on the front line attempting to hold back Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, through the vital border link between the two countries. Its efforts in support of NATO forces in their struggle to combat and subdue the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan may not represent exactly what the U.S. demands, but the issue is complex and what other choice of assistance is there in the geography?

There is no need to worry, he claims of potential vulnerability with respect to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands, since all such installations and related armaments are in the protective hands of the military. "That could only be possible if these terrorists can defeat the Pakistan army - or if they were to win in the elections - there is no chance whatsoever of that."

Let's hope he knows his country well. And in the face of his declarations and their undeniable sincerity, here's hoping he receives the support he needs and likely deserves.

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Diversification In The Oil-Rich Desert

Who ever might have imagined that the most modern city in the world would be designed for placement in the desert of the Middle East, paid for with oil money, envisioned by an emirate in the full knowledge that its oil-derived riches could be put to useful purpose, quite understanding that the source of its riches are finite.

The United Arab Emirates has unveiled a plan to invest US$15-billion in the development of alternative energy sources, fully committed to reduce its dependence on revenue from fossil fuels. Surprisingly, the UAE emits more pollution than any other country, as a report dated October 2006 by the World Wildlife Fund would have it. Using a far greater proportion of the planet's resources per person annually than comparable numbers for the United States.

The demand for energy is expected to double the current rate, and the rich sheikdom is committed to the development of enterprising new industries and infrastructures. The plan is to build the world's largest hydrogen-generated power plant. Makes sense; hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, why not harness it? Some 500 mega-watts of energy capacity is being planned for.

And it's also actively exploring the feasibility of harnessing nuclear energy, starting off with a newly-signed agreement with France for co-operation in the development of nuclear power.
How's that for irony, at a time when the Western world; scrub that, the world at large, is clamouring for more access to fossil fuels.

The developed countries of the world are vexed with their dependence on traditional fuel sources that have become ever more problematical from the viewpoint of political and economic complexities and world-view challenges - along with the inflexible dilemma of tossing ever more pollutants into the atmosphere through the profligate use of conventional hydrocarbons.

And here is Abu Dhabi, stealing their thunder. It does take a massive capital investment, though, and where better to find all that loose change than inside the UAE, wallowing in oil-derived capital. Standing ready, willing and able to invest a good chunk of it in an experiment in creating a truly viable world-class city meant to be self-sustaining, in the most unlikeliest geography for that purpose, in the world.

"This is a place that has no carbon footprint and will not hurt the planet in any way" promises Khaled Awad, director of the proposed new city's development unit. This is to be a zero-waste, non-carbon-dioxide-emitting, car-absent city - located in the desert. Its design was accomplished by a British architect, and the plans for Masdar - Arabic for "the source", encompasses everything a space-age, 21st-Century city should embrace.

Low-rise buildings with roof-top solar panels. Where? - on a six-kilometre-square site with no fresh water and where temperatures soar to 50C. And, its inspiration derives in part from methods utilized by ancient desert settlements to defy the harsh climate. Masdar's site has been selected to take advantage of cooling sea breezes, while a surrounding wall will shield its interior from the hot desert air.

Buildings are designed for cooling by wind towers - who knew this represents a traditional Gulf architectural feature by which natural circulation of air can be harnessed to cool interiors? Solar power will generate most of the required electricity, with a state-of-the-art desalination plant producing fresh water. Isn't that brilliant? The use of solar power in a part of the world where the presence of the sun is guaranteed.

Within the city and without, landscaping and crops will be irrigated with brown, recycled-and-treated wastewater. And now here's where science fiction comes on strong; since no cars will be permitted within the city, people will have to depend upon other modes of transport. Accordingly, it's planned that the city be designed in such a way that pedestrians will never be further than 200 metres from a mode of public transit.

Which will include light rail, to from move Masdar to Abu Dhabi, the capital city. And, ta-da! personalized rapid transport pods will run on tracks to be used within the city itself. Mr. Awad's promise that "...the city will offer the highest quality of life possible for its residents", appears no idle boast.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The Ordination of Women

Still a bugbear in the Roman Catholic Church, which will not hear of women taking any official part in the hierarchical priesthood and rituals of their male-centric organization.

Because it would defy historical tradition, and deny the ancient biblical precepts of women's place in the scheme of the Christian religion. Good thing that women, eager to serve their needy flock and to become a respected part of the church and the religion they are devoted to, have been accepted in other places, think Anglican and Episcopalian.

The last two popes and their established cardinals and bishops remain steadfast to the vision of their church and the place of women within it; as orderly congregants and supplicants, a meek flock of accepting femininity . Yet a newly published book, a scholarly enterprise looking into the early years of Christianity has come to the conclusion: in its first thousand years of existence the church appears to have ordained women.

Women were ordained - the author, Gary Macy, professor at California's Santa Clara University, in this book
The Hidden History of Women's Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West, published by Oxford University Press - as deaconesses (equivalent to deacons) episcopae (bishops), and presbyterae (priests). In which positions they performed baptisms, communion, preached and heard confessionals.

After the first millennium a new ethos began to make itself felt, where bishops began to agitate for monasticism, a need to keep themselves separated from the world, to cleanse themselves, the better to be seen as a moral guide. They opted to sacrifice themselves (the word 'sacred' means set apart), selflessly eschewing the bonds of marriage, effectively ensuring they would not procreate, not produce genetic heirs.

Then swept in a period of misogynistic ideology, when women were seen at fateful monsters preying on the virtuous good-nature of men. An 11th-Century reformer, Peter Damien, wrote the viciously damning portrait of women that the author reproduces in his book, worth a second glance:
"I speak to you, o charmers of the clergy, appetizing flesh of the devil, that castaway from paradise, you, poison of the minds, death of souls, venom of wine and of eating, companions of the very stuff of sin, the cause of our ruin ... you bitches, sows, screech-owls, night owls, she-wolves, blood suckers ... harlots, prostitutes, with your lascivious kisses, you wallowing places for fat pigs, couches for unclean spirits - from you the devil is fattened by the abundance of your lust, is fed by your alluring feats.
Impressive in its denunciatory viciousness, wouldn't you say? Little wonder such exemplars of monstrous demoralization were shunned as leaders of Christian flocks. A hermaphrodite could be countenanced for ordainment, if he could prove to be more male than female. But then there was still a hesitancy to do so, the argument being that this man even so "ought not to be ordained on account of deformity and monstrosity".

Prayers and rituals expressly performed by ordained women were laid away and forgotten, no longer copied, nor used, nor given second or third thought to. They never existed. If the place of women in church affairs was referred to in ancient texts they were given little notice, thought to be errors never corrected in the scriptorium that produced them. "Theologians came to assume that not only could women not be ordained, but they had never been ordained."

The author, himself a practising Catholic and a medievalist historian, personally believes that women should be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. Long may he write.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Truth, Lies And Consequences

There goes the outraged humanity of the international community. Holding Israel's feet to the moral fires of righteous denunciation. One-sidedly as always, believing the very worst, steadfast to their obligation to the perceived underdog, and unwilling as always to demand mutual accountability.

Ever so willing to sacrifice Israel to the slanders of her detractors. Upon that nation alone is placed a mantle of expectations demanded of no others.

Those dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish state have become skilled in their manipulation of the international community, pleading for their humanitarian assistance on behalf of the beleaguered Palestinian population, while they, as acknowledged terrorists, go blithely about their business of violent attacks against Israel.

While a popular uprising of Palestinians determined to seek peace with Israel could have the effect of unseating Hamas and through that process see a peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel result in a state of their own and finally normalization, that route is never taken. The population of Gaza has itself fallen victim to Hamas's propaganda.

And the same members of the international community and humanitarian organizations who take Israel to task, have no expectations of those whom they represent as the suffering Palestinians. To attempt to persuade them to act reasonably, in their own best interests. As though their obligations toward their own destiny cannot be realized by finally understanding their responsibilities toward seeking out and accepting peace.

Hamas well understands its Western audience and how best to enlist their support. To encourage their vehement denunciations of any self-defence Israel may seek to undertake in its efforts to pressure Palestinians to take charge of their futures by denying Hamas its purpose.

Hamas can detract attention from its murderous purpose by presenting its Gazan charges as victims evermore by a heartless occupier. Readily accomplished by promulgating lies, making Palestinians complicit in those lies, and effectively persuading the international community that they are the defenders of the undefended, and their methods are not to be questioned.

Hamas made the decision to shut down Gaza's major power plant, claiming it had no choice because Israel cut off power and gas supplies. "At least 800,000 people are now in darkness," claimed the director of the power plant. "The catastrophe will affect hospitals, medical clinics, water wells, houses, factories, all aspects of life."

This, in the background reality of over 200 rockets and mortars fired off into Israel by Hamas and Fatah forces. Yet Gaza's power plant supplies a mere one-quarter of the territory's electricity. The balance is provided from the Israeli hydro grid, with a small portion coming from Egypt.

These are supplies whose cut-off have not been implemented as a result of the Israel defence ministry border closures and fuel pipeline closures. The supplies are still coming through, despite Hamas insisting they had no intention of stopping attacks on Israel. Which led to an Israeli Foreign Ministry query as to how power might be still flowing to Gaza's rocket-making installations.

Drawing the inevitable conclusion that Hamas was deliberately, provocatively, and effectively exaggerating an humanitarian crisis. "While the fuel supply from Israel into Gaza has indeed been reduced due to the Hamas rocket attacks, the diversion of this fuel from domestic power generators to other uses is wholly a Hamas decision - apparently taken due to media and propaganda considerations."

And so we have the UN Relief Works Agency joining human rights organizations to condemn Israel for "collective punishment". What other country is under any obligation to provide support to a nascent country energetically terrorizing its citizens? One, and one only.

It matters little that these bodies are informed that Israel is still supplying 70% of the power needed to Gaza, that any counter-claims are completely unfounded. Yet the complaints persist, that the main power plant shutdown was caused by Israel's blockage of fuel deliveries. "There is no fuel coming in and we have no reserves", according to the PA Energy Authority.

Israel, seeking to calm the situation, will allow "humanitarian cases" to cross checkpoints, while the standard foreign humanitarian aid will remain blocked. Humanitarian aid which just recently included bags marked as sugar donated by the European Union and which were discovered to have included weapons-production materials.

United Nations officials complain the closures would exacerbate the difficult conditions in which Gazan Palestinians live. How then would these same officials respond in their countries of origin if they were consistently under siege, their populations terrorized, their major cities continually threatened by increasingly sophisticated barrages of rockets that keep their border towns paralyzed?

Do these UN officials even hear what Israeli sources say in explanation of their moves? That the Palestinians deliberately closed power for hours a day for the purpose of creating a crisis. That the fuel received to ensure their supply does not run out has not been adequately accounted for by Hamas?

That a recent shipment of ten thousand heads of cattle into Gaza, along with existing stocks of poultry, fruits and vegetables, along with the food smuggled from Egypt should sustain the population for weeks to come?

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