Sunday, February 28, 2010

Benchmark Quality Control

Could there conceivably be a political agenda lurking in the background over Toyota's recent blame and shame?

There are those who find it peculiar that Toyota is being given such a hard time by the U.S. Congress, that the company's good name for producing a quality product is being smeared as a result of a routine issue such as a recall. The truth is, car manufacturers all experience recall embarrassments; none of them is immune from such events. And many of them, particularly the G3, have produced vehicles that proved be extremely dangerous in their performance.

A short list of major recalls would have to include the "exploding" Ford Pintos with their 1970s recalls after 27 deaths, the GM recall in 1981 as a result of loose bolts causing steering problems; GM in another 3.1-million vehicle recall with faulty axles and the potential for wheels falling off in 1984, and the 1995 recall of 3.7 million cars for faulty seat belts, and Ford's 8.6 million recall in 1996 as a result of faulty ignition switches.

No other car manufacturer has been as pilloried as the Toyota Motor Company has been of late. Toyota overtook General Motors as the world's top motor car manufacturer. It did so on the basis of its sales' events; the figures told the story. Because the company was able to manufacture vehicles that were superior in operation, mechanical quality, gas consumption, and reliability than those produced by Ford, Chrysler and GM.

They owned the podium because they strove to achieve it, and they achieved it by their superior production, by the level of their quality control, by their reputation. And now that reputation lies, if not quite in shreds, then close to it. through a clearly concerted U.S.-led effort to destroy it. And the grandson of the original manufactory, Akio Toyoda, Toyota's new CEO, has been humbled in a manner no Japanese of distinction has had to suffer before.

He agreed to travel to the United States to be questioned at the invitation of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He submitted to the procedure of aggressive questioning and he testified in as honourable a manner as possible, under the circumstances. He was set before the pitbulls of American-style industrial protectionism.

He and his company had the unmitigated gall to contest the supremacy of U.S. vehicle manufacturers. And he paid the price, although he maintained his dignity while his questioners had none to maintain. This political process was led by a government whose administration literally bought into the industry, owning a majority stake in GM and a nice chunk of Chrysler.

It's a bit of a toss-up; flagellate a highly successful foreign manufacturer which has invested heavily in North America and employs thousands of North Americans from its manufacturing plants to the vehicle sales outlets, to the mechanics employed, or diminish their stake in the United States (and likely within Canada as well) by decreasing their sales through implied lack of trust, and advantage U.S. manufacturers who will take up the employment slack.

The Big 3 U.S. manufacturers must be beside themselves with gleeful triumph. All they had to do was sit back - hope the public would not remember their own recalls in the past due to accidents and road deaths, more than equal, in fact outdistancing those claimed by Toyota owners complaining of runaway vehicles due to 'sticky pedals', or computer glitches - and roast their competitor beyond recuperation.

They only wish. If Toyota congratulated itself for advantaging itself, saving millions by not advancing a total recall and internal memos prove it, they have done what all other manufacturers engage in from the tobacco industry to the vehicle industry before them. It's U.S.-style, no-holds-barred free market capitalism. Some of the accidents being handily linked to Toyota's recall are interesting.

In that they may reflect not only on occasion that something mechanical may be awry, but also, in some instances, that drivers are not as well schooled in the art of competent and careful driving as they assume themselves to be. Those same drivers who, instead of concentrating on how they might discern the problem and cope with it, haul out cellphones and dial emergency or loved ones.

Isn't it odd that drivers imperil one another, and the public by speaking on cellphones (either in hand or remotely) while executing the niceties of mechanical driving positions. And that when they find themselves in potential danger because suddenly their vehicle appears to be out of control (their control of the vehicle somehow impaired) that same cell phone is involved.

Mr. Toyoda ate humble pie. He absorbed what could only be interpreted as bullying abuse from those questioning, or hurling accusations of deliberate wrong-doing at him, and he did it out of pride in the quality product his company produces. Even quality occasionally has problems that have to be solved; no process is immune from them.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Charged, But Guilty?

Israel's diplomats have been called on the rug to respond to allegations of murder without a shred of evidence that Israel was involved in the Dubai assassination of a Hamas terrorist with a record of inviting attention from a country whose people he has murdered and whom his terrorist group relied upon to further furnish them with destructive weapons of murder to be used against the Jewish nation.

It might seem obvious that Israel's Mossad would be involved in the assassination, following a tradition of such events. But it is also generally recognized that the Mossad organization is a highly skilled one, and its history of intelligence gathering and acting surreptitiously undercover on behalf of the state has been one of vaunted, highly admired delicate finesse, not blundering clumsiness.

Does it really seem reasonable then, that it would take a dozen to two dozen operatives to achieve the goal of a relatively simple mission? And that identifying clues might be left here and there to be discovered by any security agency halfway capable of interpreting them? Mossad's use of precise and cutting-edge technology, the skill of its operatives belie the accusations.

Moreover, Israel long ago, in the 1950s, recognized the imperative to act in a manner that would not imperil its people through the activities of Israeli agents. A vital statement of principle was agreed to between the nation's executive administration and its security and intelligence agencies, that those organizations would never make use of local Jews or local Jewish organizations lest they be placed in peril of revenge.

When the use of saboteurs or skilled intelligence agents, or commandos were required, they came from a discrete, well trained, intellectually capable cadre of whom very little trace would be left once an initiative was undertaken. In very few instances were these initiatives apprehended, and fewer yet when the operatives involved were discovered, but when they were, their lives were recognizably forfeit.

Now Dubai investigative authorities insist that a total of 26 operatives were involved in a fairly straightforward dispatch of a target. With individuals holding counterfeit passports reflecting British, Irish, German, Austrian, Australian, French and who knows, by the time they're finished with their theories, what other countries.

Israeli heads of mission have been called in to these nations' foreign affairs departments to be questioned, obviously held accountable for a breach of trust in carelessly making use of these countries' valuable passports for the purpose of carrying out an internationally scandalous act of elimination - a terrorist act, in fact.

Is it likely that a country like Israel, which dearly needs all the friends it can get, is about to deliberately imperil its relations with those countries which have been supportive of her? According to Dubai authorities, "The new list of suspects includes people who offered prior logistical support and preparations to facilitate the crime, and others who played a central role".

Really? The use of credit cards to book hotel rooms, pay for air travel and other incidentals, leaving a trail in other words as the 'team' purportedly flew in from Zurich,Rome, Paris and Frankfurt; then leaving the scene of the crime within minutes, according to Dubai police. Who claim that stolen identities resulted in the 'cloning' of passports.

The thing of it is, many of those 'stolen identities' belong to people living in Israel, and they are speechless with dismay: "I am shocked, it's identity theft - simply unbelievable". And they're right, it is simply unbelievable. Unbelievable that a sophisticated, highly successful, secretive and professional intelligence agency would resort to such schlock methods.

Unbelievable that a state which had recognized soon after its formation that it must never imperil the safety and security of others to achieve their goals, would now undertake to do just that. Unbelievable that a country under siege from its neighbours, suffering existential angst, and hoping to secure the support of Western countries, would deliberately throw all that overboard to achieve a single hit.

There is nothing particularly logical in all of this. Unless one imagines a not-too-clever but sufficiently resourceful group undertaking to emulate what they imagine Israel's Mossad might embark upon and how it might do so, to undermine the legitimacy of the state and cause it embarrassment on the world stage.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Islamist Proaction

Turkey has long enjoyed being a secular state, with a state religion, each separate from the other. It has long been so, thanks to a revolutionary thinker held as the modern state's visionary champion of a different kind of Islam-dominated culture and society. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern-day Republic of Turkey and became its first president.

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk fought in the Turkish war of independence. His campaign achieving liberation of the country, he brought a program of political, economic and cultural reforms into play. It was his intention, as an adherent of the age of enlightenment to transform what had formerly been an Islamic-style state into a modern, democratic, secular nation-state.

Turkey's military, in his memory, has traditionally defended his vision against any attempts, since his death before mid-20th Century, to turn the country back into an Islamic state.
A number of governments were overthrown since 1960 by the country's military which viewed itself as the keeper of the trust bestowed upon them by their former commander.

Turkey's military has a proud tradition of defending the democratic, secular ideal, fully supported by most ordinary Turks. Until, as though by stealth, the current government-led Islamist AK Party was able to have one of its own elected, purporting to be from the 'moderate' wing of the party.

In 2001 Tayyip Erdogan established the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), and was elected its founding chairman. First elected the country's prime minister in 2003, Instanbul's former mayor took over the government with a solid two-thirds of the seats in Turkey's parliament during the 2002 general elections. Finally a 2007 election saw 48-million Turks vote 41% in favour of the Justice & Development Party.

Under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country has turned its back on its traditional allies, no longer interested particularly in joining the EU. 9Which had its own issues of permitting an Islamic country into what is essentially a western-based European, democratic and largely Christian collective.) And has managed to turn Turkey slowly back into an Islamist state.

Instead Turkey has relentlessly moved closer to other Islamist states, Arab countries like Iran, Syria and Qatar, while its long-time ally in the Middle East, Israel, has been left behind like yesterday's spoiled meal. Turkey, through its current Islamist-led government has supported Iran against the accusations of the West, while still claiming a working relationship with Israel, a country Iran plans to eliminate.

Currently, the civilian court in Istanbul has remanded four admirals, along with an army general and two staff colonels pending trial on accusations of planning to overthrow Turkey's government. More arrests are anticipated, including that of the former armed forces chief who had led a coup as recently as 1980. Over 50 former officers, including a deputy chief of the armed forces, the former heads of the air force and navy are being held in connection with an alleged plot.

That plot is said to represent a traditional-style Turkish-military coup to unseat the government of Prime Minister Erdogan. The military has never been comfortable with the election of an Islamist party, practising an Islamist agenda for the country. Even while the government encourages a tide of anti-Semitism in the country and has severed the close ties enjoyed for generations with Israel, the Turkish military retains its ties with the Jewish state.

There is a well-founded fear in the military that the AK party, while still portraying itself as a modernizing element in Turkish politics has its true, hidden agenda which will restore Islamist control to the country, transforming modern Turkey into yet another Islamic state, and by that process utterly defeating the vision of its founder to advance Turkey into the modern world of democratic states.

In the last presidential election that brought Prime Minister Erdogan and the AK to full power in 2007, the country's former chief of staff had undertaken to remind politicians of the military's commitment to a secular Turkey. A quiet, but meaningful message that the country's military would not stand idly by as Islamist forces transformed the country.

The government now claims that as far back as 2003 when the AK first ascended to power, a coup plot was drawn up. Involving plans to bomb mosques and to bring Greece into the picture to promote a sense of national tension, hoping to provoke Greece into a military action that would result in discrediting the Islamist government.

In fact the AK party was already discredited with allegations of ongoing, corrosive corruption. The retired general who stands accused of being the plot leader is in custody and has led with his own allegations, that the plot he and other military figures of high rank are accused of is an issue of the government's very own plan to apprehend a presumptive coup.

A plot that the Islamist government itself has diabolically designed for the purpose of arresting key figures in the Turkish military, to destabilize its chain of command, and to slander the military in a counter-coup of their own to ensure their longevity by removing their adversaries.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Empire, Begone!

What can any sane people do but wince when they read anything that issues from the mouth of Hugo Chavez. Now he has stood straight up on his raunchy hind legs to bray at Queen Elizabeth II that she must cease and desist in her determination to continue the legacy of the British Empire. "The time for empires is over, haven't you noticed? Return the Malvinas to the Argentine people."

As much as it sticks in the craw, reasonable people, and that obviously does not include anyone residing in Great Britain, can only agree. What the hell is England doing, continuing to insist that they 'own' the Falkland Islands, because several hundred years ago as they were expanding their empire, they settled some British residents there, in favour of the indigent population.

Rule Britannia is a shadow of the past. To the past it should be relegated. But Britain's militant spirit cannot be assuaged by reason, in this matter. Sovereignty has been royally advanced to all its former colonies, but because the current residents of the Falkland/Malvinas remain staunchly British, the country insists it must oblige itself by retaining possession.

Of a land mass clearly by geographic association, belonging to Argentina. Of course there is a newly-realized impetus for both Argentina and Britain to continue to claim ownership. And now a Scottish oil rig has begun drilling an exploratory well in the North Falkland Basin, where it is anticipated 3.5-billion barrels of oil can be exploited.

A powerful incentive in today's energy-hungry world for both countries to continue antagonizing one another through counter-claims of ownership. Setting aside history and the dreary tradition of empire building and colonial exploitation, it seems reasonable that Britain should acknowledge it is past time to pull up her stakes and graciously leave in Argentina's favour.

Enough blood was shed in 1982, when the two countries had their disastrous military clash.

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"Even Water, Under Pressure, Can Explode"

Well, talk of owning the podium, Hamid Karzai has managed to legitimize his flawed electoral success by changing his country's laws to remove foreign observers from the electoral watchdog task. In future elections no inconveniently probing foreign election watchdogs will be on the alert to detect election irregularities and outright fraudulent proceedings.

It is so foreign to the country to anticipate reliably uncorrupted protocols in electing their top politicians after all, and heritage should be seen to prevail. What a victory that represents.

Mr. Karzai's latest initiative results in the UN-backed watchdog which tossed roughly a third of the votes cast for him being effectively negated. His election 'win' was palpably absurd, since strictly speaking he received less than the 50% required to avoid a run-off vote.

His major opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, in all likelihood might have succeeded in overturning the questionable results had he not withdrawn before a second round became a possibility, since he was concerned that the same corruption that occurred the first time around would simply be repeated.

And look where Afghanistan's president is leading his country. UN-associated and NATO troops have been battling the Taliban in an attempt to give the country an opportunity to assert some democratic credentials and institute a reliable, responsible, self-confident government to serve its people.

And Mr. Karzai has his reconciliation scheme to buy off Taliban foot soldiers, and offer Taliban leaders a place in his government.

Effectively returning the country to its former status struggling to achieve some semblance of humanity under the thrall of a totalitarian theistic Islamist government. "With these latest talks about negotiating with the Taliban, ethnicity is now the most divisive issue in Afghanistan", according to Niamatullah Ibrahimi, with the Crisis States Research Center in Kabul.

Mr. Rabbini explains that a cabal of Pashtun nationalists enjoys status in Mr. Karzai's inner circle. A group including those who call for the ethnic cleansing of a large proportion of the country's population; Tajiks, Uzbeks, and the persecuted Hazaras. Somewhat troubling to Afghanistan's minorities with their still-vivid memories of Taliban massacres and pogroms.

"As I read history, when a nation's problems become this complex and they are not solved, that could result in violence and revolutions and other unwanted things. There is a limit to the patience of the people. Beyond that limit, no one can be patient anymore", said 70-year-old Bernahuddin Rabbani, a former president of the country.

Mr. Rabbani's stepping into the fray in support of the anti-appeasement opposition carries great weight. He was also responsible in assisting Hamid Karzai to ascend to the presidency in Afghanistan's interim 2002 government. Now, he fears fratricidal warfare, reflecting the state of affairs that existed prior to the removal of the Taliban.

An alliance of Afghan democrats, women's rights leaders, reformers and MPs has gathered in defiance of Hamid Karzai's "peace at any cost" initiative to solving the problems of defeating the Taliban. Appeasement, and welcoming the Taliban back into a position of power and entitlement to destroy all that has been achieved since their ouster reflects his vision.

Even former enemies like pro-democracy Pashtuns and former northern warlords have formed an alliance to defeat the potential of the government forming an alliance with the Taliban. While Western powers ponder the issues and hesitate to reject Mr. Karzai's plan for success, lest it delay their future plans for withdrawal.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Holy Sites in the Holy Land

Israel creating yet more grievances between itself and the Arab populations surrounding it, in particular the Palestinians for whom any Israeli-defined initiatives are anathema, as they struggle themselves to find their place called Palestine. In their angry numbers Palestinians are again clashing with Israeli troops, this time in the West Bank town of Hebron, outraged over Israel's plans to restore several Jewish holy sites.

Palestinian youths do as they do best and most enthusiastically given the opportunity and the opportunities can always be found, burning tires, hurling rocks at Israeli military and their checkpoints. While Israeli troops respond with tear gas and stun grenades, both adversaries anxious to consolidate their friendly relations with one another. For this is the Middle East and conciliation takes an entirely other course in this place.

Damning Israel has become the number one sport in the Palestinian Territories, and the PA's chief (peace) negotiator is happy to add to the general damnation of deserving Israel: "This Israeli decision is provocative for Muslims around the world and especially Palestinians", he gravely pronounced. There goes Israel again, with some dastardly plan of action to further diminish the rights and entitlements of Palestinians.

As for the Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip they too are anxious not to miss out on any opportunities to lash out against Israel with their Tourism Minister insisting that Palestinians must make their way to the sites where these insults to Islam and the Palestinians are set to take place, to "defend" them. Not just Palestinians who live in the territories, but Israeli Palestinians as well - to the ramparts!

Not to be outdone, Egypt and Jordan, Israel's great good peace-abiding friends have joined the melee of denunciation. "The decision is illegal"; thus spake Hossam Zaki, foreign ministry spokesman. "This new Israeli position will only feed extremism, confrontations and violence, and it does not serve U.S. efforts to revive peace." For Israel seeking to protect its own affronts the extremists, feeding confrontations and violence....

The issue at hand? Why, plans to restore several Jewish holy sites; the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron where Abraham is said to have been buried; a biblical figure of great historical moment whom Muslims as well as Jews recognize and consider the father of their nations. Mind, there are Jewish settlers near the site who have converted a portion of a mosque erected nearby into a synagogue.

Which is, in and of itself an outrageous provocation; a latter-day desecration, somewhat like the al-Aksa mosque's position over the Temple of Solomon, the ancient Beit HaMikdash. One desecration certainly not excusing the other. And the tomb of the Jewish matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem too located in an Israeli enclave nearby Bethlehem. Both sites establishing Israel's ancient heritage in the region.

Now, of course, considered to be Palestinian territory. And do the Palestinians take heed of the especial status of other religions' sacred places and hold them in respected trust thereby?
Not really, it's common enough that Palestinians in their rage against their unjust destiny seek to desecrate, destroy, and vandalize sacred Jewish objects, cemeteries, Psalm books, ancient revered sites such as the Tomb of Ruth and Jesse.

Whereas Jews are informed that any reciprocity; damaging mosques for example in retaliation, risks ostracism. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar said, "What right do Jews have to hurt the places of worship of other faiths? It is a good thing that the peoples of the world pray to God". Where is the counterpart occurrence, with Islamic clerics chastising Muslims for destroying Jewish sacred objects?

Muslim contempt for the holy sites and objects of veneration of other faiths are well enough known, the blasting of two world-heritage-designated giant Bamiyan Buddha figures by the Taliban in Afghanistan, 3rd and 5th Century AD statues reverenced by Buddhists is only the best-known of these events. Yet here is Jordan's King Abdullah convincing the Archbishop of Canterbury that Israel plans to evict Muslims and Christians from eastern Jerusalem.

The historical facts being that when Jordan had control of east Jerusalem Jews were forbidden access to their holy sites and Christians did not enjoy the free access they now have under Israeli stewardship. Jordan, vowed the king, is prepared to protect non-Jewish holy sites in the PA area; where it had closed them all before Israel's triumphal accession in 1967.
To sweeten the alliance, Jordan has offered the Anglican Church a plot of land in the Jordan Valley.

Where previously Christian sites were off limits under Jordan's rule. And in direct contravention to claims otherwise, Christians in Jerusalem during Jordanian rule dwindled in number until Israel re-opened Christianity's holy sites. Jordan denied access to the Mount of Olives cemetery, opening construction of a road to transverse the cemetery, destroying hundreds of Jewish graves.

Whose headstones were then used as paving stones.

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There's Another One...

Another al-Qaeda agent held to account, in the personage of an Afghan immigrant, a legal U.S. resident who planned to blow up the subway system in New York. As a most emphatic statement in protest against the war in Afghanistan. The accused, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to terrorists.

Mr. Zazi had formerly claimed innocence. Now, however, he was prepared to "sacrifice myself" in order to "draw the attention to what the United States is doing in Afghanistan". Odd, since the world over has that knowledge, it vibrates in the public sphere. But then, so too would have a violent attack on the New York subway system, a reprise of the horror visited on New York with 9/11.

Although the man faces a sentence of life in prison for the first two charges and 15 years for the third, he does not appear unduly concerned. Having been seen to be smiling occasionally during the 45-minute proceeding before the Brooklyn federal court regarding his planned "mortal operations" on the underground train system. This will most certainly serve as a heads-up to any other U.S.-based Muslims feeling very irritated with America.

Still, Mr. Zazi made it abundantly clear that American actions in Afghanistan had driven him to install himself within the global Islamist terror network. He was not born a jihadist, America transformed him into one. And the country had ample opportunity to do so, since he attended high school in Queens. And two of his classmates at Flushing High School have also been arrested; contaminated by association, one assumes.

But then his father, and his uncle too have been arrested, and Mr. Zazi, it seems, was concerned that an ongoing enquiry might flush out others of his family members for involvement, most notably his mother. A definite encouragement toward co-operation leading to a 10-page plea agreement. And labelling Mr. Zazi an invaluable future source of information.

Pity; now he'll never get to travel back to Afghanistan and Pakistan to join other al-Qaeda associates and the Taliban in rescuing both countries from the evil talons of the U.S. military machine.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Canada's Olympics Podium

Hey, what's all the fuss? Canadian athletes are doing really well. They're out there performing to the very best of their abilities. Making those who support them proud as all hell. The very fact that they've honed their skills to the degree they have, to enable them to perform to the extent they do is important in and of itself. So, congratulations to all of Canada's elite winter-sports athletes. We're bloody well proud of them.

Now, about that fairly costly $118-million "Own the Podium" gambit, what genius thought that one up? Don't our competing athletes with their superlative skills, determination and dedication feel under sufficient stress to score high, without that unneeded weight of public expectations? And isn't it just stupidly juvenile to think that these athletes can be psyched into gold, silver and bronze? With the emphasis on gold, needless to say.

Why was it seen as imperative that Canada build itself into a frenzy of podium ownership, as delusional an expectation as any ever heard of, given the competition. That being other countries investing in the athletic prowess of their young and gifted. The most successful scoring country is the United States. It has a population ten times that of Canada's. If Canada wins ten medals, then logically the U.S. should comparatively win 100. Has that happened? Will it?

As it is, Canada stands in fourth position in medals thus far, with only Norway, Germany and the United States scoring higher. Not a bad position to be in, with countries like South Korea, Austria, Russia, France, Switzerland Sweden behind, in that descending order. So where's China with it's 1.3-billion people and its government sponsored selection of promising athletic children forced to live their sports to achieve excellence?

And where is Great Britain, whose press has gone completely lunatic, reporting on their impression of the many and unforgivable failures of the 2012 Vancouver Winter Olympics to live up to expectations? Has Britain gone up to the podium even once during these games? Is England planning to 'own' the podium their turn around? The Canadian press, I'll warrant, will be far kinder in their compassionate understanding for another competing country's efforts.

And isn't it kind of nice to see Canadians invested in enthusiasm for their competing athletes, their scintillating enthusiasm shining the light of approval on all of them, irrespective of rankings? If we're going to blow the piggy bank and damn the consequences, when we should be spending a little more wisely, then we might as well enjoy it and admire and appreciate the talents Canadians have.

Not degrade them by higher expectations than are possible to achieve. Our gold medal winners, silver and bronze deserve their $20,000, $15,000 and $10,000 encouragements, and Canada deserves the immense satisfaction that these peerless athletes bring to the country.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Much Ado....

Question is, why? Yes, it is news, but this kind of hysteria? Obviously the answer is that it is because this involves the State of Israel.

Israel, in the opinion of a growing number of groups and states simply can do no right. Whatever it does is somehow wrong, an affront to humanity. The country has a formidable reputation for insisting it has a right and an obligation to exist and to protect itself from obliteration. That may seem a quaint notion, but within Israel it is an imperative simply because the alternative is so unacceptably final.

Israel's military prowess in the stratagems of warfare has become legendary. Despite a small population it has a dedicated military comprised of individuals vested in the belief their countrymen have human rights that are unassailable by any twisted logic. It has internal and external intelligence agencies whose superlative work in inveigling themselves into positions of trust, infiltrating networks whose purpose is to destroy the country, and engaging in the kind of espionage that gives them advantage to protect themselves has also become the stuff of legend.

That its secret intelligence agencies have been known to mount pre-emptive, defensive and offensive initiatives in their asymmetrical battle against terrorists is well enough known by their daring, enterprise and cunning. Not to mention often-sensational success. The country faces an ongoing battle against adversaries who play by no rules, who satisfy their lust for revenge against what they claim is a foreign interloper, by any means available to them.

And those means include attacking civilian populations with clear intent to cast as wide a murderous net as possible in one fell swoop whereby a suicide bomber will blast himself inside a crowded cafe, a peak-hour bus service, markets, night clubs and wherever people gather in great numbers. The key to these activities is to create shattered lives, fear and chaos and the indelible impression that there is no safety, anywhere.

The international community, those who never have to face these dread occurrences, sit in judgement of a country whose attempts to shield its people from attacks from expected and unexpected quarters alike, from every corner of its territorial borders, have a fixed idea of how a state should react to danger. Strictly within the law in response to lawless adversaries. It sounds very civil and very sedate, but appears highly impractical to achieve the end goal, which is useful defence.

If a murderer is left to continue his ravages whenever and wherever he is able to mount them, the state has lost its battle. If its only option is to extinguish by whatever means present themselves, the threat to its stability and its peoples' longevity, then it has that duty to fulfill. The world reads of U.S. drone strikes killing warlords associated with the Taliban on the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are targeted killings.

The presidents of Afghanistan and of Pakistan repeatedly 'warn' Washington of their concern that innocent civilians meet their deaths during these raids meant to target Taliban strongholds. In war situations people are vulnerable, it has always been so. When Israel mounted its attack against Hamas in Gaza, while Hamas militants hid behind Palestinian civilians, it was inevitable that innocent civilians might be killed.

Some group - and it might very well be Mossad - which has a long enough history of targeted assassinations - decided to rid the world of a murderer, a man whose primary interest lay in securing armaments for terror groups to permit them to continue their murderous assaults on Israel. Who, other than the man's beneficiaries, those who receive the arms, would mourn his death? Which, in a cynic's view, or that of a practical mind might be seen as justifiable homicide; self defence.

But the hue and cry that has been launched in European countries relating to the relatively minor issue of national passports being misused has put an entirely other stamp on the affair. They hold their noses from the stink of clandestine violence through what will be interpreted as state-sanctioned assassinations that implicates them by association. And the nation where the assassination took place is beside itself with fury.

Not, however, that it admitted to a high-class hotel in its jurisdiction, a murderer and a terrorist, but that that murderer-terrorist was dispatched there. When Dubai's General Tamim claimed that should Mossad, as they 99.9% anticipate, was involved, they would like Israel's prime minister held personally responsible. To which Britain's The Daily Telegraph warns that relations between Dubai and Israel would see a setback. Really?

Handily overlooking the unfortunate fact that Great Britain has allowed from time to time, warrants to be set out for the immediate arrest of Israeli generals should they set foot in England, on the basis that a Palestinian entity has accused them of war crimes. Much as has been done with Tsipi Livni, who latterly suffered a like accusation and accompanying warrant, embarrassing the British government which hardly knows which way to turn.

Assassination truly is a dreadful solution, but sometimes it presents as the only solution to an intolerable situation. Would newspapers have a field day in accusations and counter-accusations over the assassination of Hitler? Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? Are there times when extinguishing a threat to world peace and humanity's existence would have the unofficial blessing of the world? But not other times, depending on who is being targeted?

There are as yet little-understood nuances, complexities in this Dubai-assassination, apart from the fact of the clumsiness of its execution, the absurd numbers of people involved and the semi-opaque trail left behind. Dubai's police chief claims an internal Hamas source was responsible for leaking information leading to the dispatch of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh; a source moreover that appeared to be the sole individual who knew of Mabhouh's Emirate visit.

And what of Hamas now officially taking steps to exonerate the two PA former officers of the security services for Fatah, employed by a company operated by a senior Fatah member, Mohammed Dahlan, formerly of the Gaza Strip before the Hamas rout of Fatah there? And that Mabhouh had booked his trip through the Internet, a clear breach of his own security, compounded by telephoning his family to advise which hotel he would be staying at?

Has there been any credible explanation why Mabhouh's bodyguards were unable to book a flight at the same time as the man they were to protect? As insane as it might seem, might there be some connections that seem to make no logical sense at all? Except that this is the Middle East and anything can and does happen there to confound reason.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Moscow, Surprised, Disappointed...Oh!

Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, says Moscow has 'lost patience' with Iran. How truly interesting. Seems the International Atomic Energy Agency has reached its sad conclusion that Iran is up to no good. Which is preposterous, since the Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Leader has reasonably, rationally, and with rare good humour assured the world at large that the country has no intention whatever, of destabilizing either its neighbourhood or the world at large.

Yet the United Nations proceeded in producing a report unequivocally accusing Iran of building a nuclear weapon. Life can be so unfair when other countries are jealous of a Muslim country's attainments. Iran has had to struggle against unfair adversity to reach its current status of nuclear advancement. And, of course, without the considerable expert assistance of Russian nuclear scientists and aid in building the technically demanding nuclear installments that success would have remained elusive.

Now, however, there is some discomfort within Russia: "Some questions remain on the table and Iran has so far not reacted to them. But they are rather serious and we need to understand how several documents concerning military nuclear technology found their way to Iran. Clear explanations are needed."

Wait for it, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is just champing at the bit to beg forgiveness, and President Ahmadinejad is more than prepared to admit personal chagrin for unseemly, uncivilized and regretfully belligerent threats.

Of course it was only a week ago that Vladimir Nazarof, deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council informed Interfax news that it intended to provide Iran with advanced S-300 missiles, despite the pleas by Israel that it suspend those plans. But, said Mr.Nazarof, the S-300 is an "exclusively defensive weapon" and as such not included within the international sanctions. For Iran needs the system to defend against an aerial strike.

Aerial strike? Now why would Iran anticipate that some rogue country might wish to strike the Islamic Republic? Might it be a country that Iran has time and again threatened to annihilate?
Just kidding, folks. Can't take a little bit of humour? Truth is, as has just been emphasized in the most emphatically honest manner, Iran would never dream of nuclear weaponization - because it is religiously forbidden.

"Recently", announced Iran's Supreme Leader, gravely, "some western and U.S. officials have been repeating some outdated and nonsensical comments that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Our religious beliefs are against the use of such weapons. We in no way believe in an atomic weapon and do not seek one." Still, it's a whole lot of fun enriching uranium to 20% and watching the world squirm.

Also interesting that religion forbids the use of 'such weapons', but not the encouragement and financing of terrorism, nor the proliferation of weapons, the incitement to hatred, and the violation of peoples' human rights inclusive of torture and beheadings. But such are the ways of religious interpretation of the rights and obligations of Ayatollahs and their creatures like the Republican Guard and the Basij to ensure enlightened order in their restive population.

Interesting too that as a result of a G20 report on money laundering and the funding of terrorism levelled against Iran and its enablers, Syria and Turkey, two of Germany's largest insurance companies are pulling out of Iran. All a dreadful misunderstanding, however, since the documents cited in the UN report were obviously "fabricated and thus do not have any validity", and we have this information on the good word of Iran's envoy to the IAEA.

For that dastardly report claimed, ever so erroneously, "Iran has not provided the necessary co-operation to permit the agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities". Why would they, after all, given the Supreme Leader's promise a mere few days earlier to deliver a "stunning punch" to its detractors?

"The Iranian nation, with its unity and the grace of Allah, will punch the arrogance [Western powers] on the 22nd of Bahman [February 11) in a way that will leave them stunned." Right on, that's stunning news, 20% uranium enrichment to produce local power and medical isotopes.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Bad Seed

Social deviants come from every strata of society, from every society in the world. They are not, as many would prefer to believe, the result of poverty and privation, of parental neglect and a miserable inheritance of physical and psychological need. Sociopaths and psychopaths, while not exactly prevalent in any given society, do have their presence.

There are various gradations of social dysfunction, and they manifest themselves in children's behaviour as schoolyard bullies, then later as vituperative, maladjusted adults who somehow manage to learn how to manipulate people to their advantage. Many appear on the surface to be decent and kind and they influence those around them to believe they are normal, well-adjusted people like themselves.

But many sociopaths live double lives. They learn at a very early age that the social compact while anathema to themselves since they feel little regard for others, has great meaning to their society, and they become capable of miming good behaviour, permitting their deviant side to erupt from time to time, but covertly.

Examples abound, from a Canadian Commander of the country's chief military base who has been revealed as a sexual predator and a murderer, while enjoying a sterling reputation as a brilliant man with great potential to become one of the elite leaders of his country's military. He sits now in prison, awaiting a future trial date, but the evidence that has been amassed leaves little question as to his guilt.

In California there is a man who describes his childhood as memorable in that his mother and stepfather were loving and strict. Which did nothing to halt his speedy trajectory into petty crime. Car theft, receiving stolen property, drug possession, robbery, attempted robbery and parole violation left him, still a teen, with a computer printout of his criminal history that was truly memorable. He was one of those 'three strikes' felons.

In Alabama, a highly educated woman who achieved academic status as a biochemistry professor murdered three of her colleagues, wounded three others in a display of pique that she had not been given tenure. Her psychosis did not suddenly occur; she was the child of a high-achiever who happened to sit on the police board of their city, and when she murdered her brother it was passed off as an unfortunate accident.

In London, England, yet again one of the over 6,000 members of the House of Saud, a Saudi Arabian princeling, has been arrested for the strangulation death of his servant whom he had a week earlier brutally beaten where they were staying at a five-star hotel. A distant relative of King Abdullah, he has no diplomatic immunity.

Although the post-mortem clearly indicates that the victim died of neck and head injuries, Saudi security stated unequivocally that the death was caused by something entirely other; an injury sustained as a result of a street mugging. "In fact the injury was very serious and he died later of an internal head injury."

Clearly his defenders have no need of a post mortem.

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All Right! Party's Over ...

The singularly truculent nation of North Korea enjoyed a splendidly choreographed spectacular to celebrate their reverence for their Glorious Leader. They truly are fortunate, and they know it, for it is not most countries who have the great good fortune to enjoy the leadership of a Glorious Leader. Some do, however, and they're notable indeed.

The former dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein also had a splendid title. The Grand Ayatollah of Iran too is known as an outstandingly brilliant leader for he is Supreme as a leader. Doubtless there are many more such instances, such as the redoubtable Robert Mugabe, the Father of his Zimbabwean people, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Saviour of his nation.

They have much in common, those extraordinary leaders of the ... what shall we say, compromised societies ... of the world. But perhaps it is the devotion and esteem in which North Korea's starving population regards their Dear Leader that is the most moving in their fervour and ardent adoration for their very own Kim Jong Il.

The media, just incidentally operated by the state for the state in Pyongyang had words of sky-high praise for this irreplaceable humanitarian mentioning that he is "praised by mankind as the most outstanding political elder and the peerlessly brilliant commander of the present era".

And why he does not offer free lessons to the world leaders who are clearly failing in their obligations to those they serve, is quite beyond understanding.

It is widely rumoured that Dear Leader's health is in a very delicate, precarious state. One can only imagine in the most minute way how tragic it will be when the people of North Korea are forced to bury one so dear to them.

Their pride in his achievements, his astonishing creation of his country as a nuclear - as in wow, look at that mushroom cloud - country while the granaries of the country are depleted is beyond compare.

And for the big party celebrating yet another year under his fabulous leadership, there were wonderful events that "depicted beautiful frost flowers carrying boundless reverence" for Dear Leader as synchronized female swimmers performed to nationalistic tunes such as "Let's Meet Each Other on the Front".

In fact it was not just in Pyongyang, but all over the country in various cities and provinces where athletic games, performances, gun salutes and contests helped starving North Koreans to realize just how fortunate they are.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Well, Do Something!

What on Earth does the United Nations accomplish, other than wringing its hands with "profound regret" over the world's trouble spots; the outcomes of natural disasters, internecine warfare and other urgent events reflecting their insipid inability to project themselves authoritatively as the world's premier partner for peace and security in the world?

Admittedly, it is difficult to persuade enough member-countries to lend enough of their military to the world body to enable it to enter conflict zones with the intention to provide a buffer between warring factions. And since its charter appears to insist that they will enter troubled zones only by invitation of the very totalitarian miscreants who cause all the misery, they're rather hamstrung.

Burma is one of those truculently dangerous hermit states that oppress their people through their churlishly-vicious military-style governance. It wants the outside world to believe it doesn't exist. It cares little how many of its people perish whether as a result of a natural disaster, or through starvation. It simply insists it must go its own way, and brooks no interference. Its great good friend China, respects that.

The Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Burma exist on the knife-edge of brutal repression and institutionalized privation. Forbidden to own land, requiring permission to marry or to travel, they are prohibited from practising their faith, denied access to public education and to even basic health services.

They are tormented, driven out of their homes, forced to become slave labourers for the Burmese military machine. Their citizenship rights were revoked in 1982, and they are recognized by the United Nations as representing the world's most destitute and persecuted refugees. Perhaps they and the Sudanese Darfurians could take comparative notes in suffering.

They have fled in their hundreds of thousands, hoping for refuge from their living hell, over the border into impoverished Bangladesh. Where they have set up makeshift camps wherever possible, and live there in vastly overcrowded and destitute conditions.

Their squatters' camps earn them the anger of poor Bangladeshis who view the refugees as a challenge to their own miserable hopes for advancement. Roughly a half-million Rohingya have become illegal migrants in Bangladesh.

"They remain trapped in a desperate situation with no future, vulnerable to neglect, abuse and manipulation, and to the kind of intense violent crackdowns they are suffering right now", explained Medecins Sans Frontieres in a news release.

Xenophobic attacks by Bangladeshis - reminiscent of what is occurring in South Africa against desperate refugee Zimbabweans seeking refuge there - has resulted in a surge of beatings, machete wounds and rape. "Malnutrition and mortality rates were past emergency thresholds and people had little access to safe drinking water, sanitation or medical care", reported MSF.

Yet a camp along the Burmese border continues to swell with additional desperate refugees, and there is no hope in sight for these men, women and children. Yet another horrific instance of inhumanity the world looks away from.

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Unworthy, Clumsy, Unbelievable

If there is one thing Mossad has never particularly been in its covert activities noted for their precise accuracy and speedy closure, that would be clumsy. These operatives in the rarified field of state-sanctioned espionage, rescue missions and often targeted assassinations have been deftly intelligent in the manner in which they carried out their delicate operations.

The murder of a Hamas militant in Dubai by what is turning out to be a platoon of conspirators does not appear to reflect the Mossad of memory.

Initially there was held to have been 11 individuals involved, all holding fake passports. That number has been tentatively increased to 18 malefactors involved in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a man whose activities in killing two Israeli soldiers decades ago and currently masterminding the passage of weapons from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip most definitely marked him as a target.

Eighteen people spirited into Dubai for the singular purpose of eliminating one individual? Come now. The plot, as it is being unveiled, seems amateurish at best, ridiculously awkward in its architecture which had it supplying false passports purportedly from Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, and implicating Austria (command central, credit cards), as well.

It quite simply defies logic that a carefully worked out plan would be so absurdly third-rate in its execution. And that it would require a cast of so many "extras". And that flight reservations and other expenses would be handled so amateurishly.

Israel, should it be proven that Mossad was involved in this little enterprise, stands to lose much. Its intelligence services will be cut off from intelligence-sharing between its former international friends and associates. The country risks pariah status should it be proven that it was involved - as seems at this juncture - in this imbroglio reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.

Mossad and Israel are well advanced in the latest technical and technological devices that enable them to proceed with many secretive initiatives. They must be aware that money buys what they have, and that the Gulf States have been able to acquire innovative technologies such as high resolution CCTV coverage, and eye-scanning technologies to help identify suspects.

Would they place themselves at such high risks to take out one single threat to their security? Would they determine that the need to remove this operative from further advancing their enemies' cause is worth risking the lives of innocent people whose passports were used in this comedy of errors? This is the work of beginners, not of professionals.

Foreign and diplomatic relations between Israel and her supporters, and with those conflicted with their support of Israel by their recognition of the needs of Palestinians to own their own destiny, is in jeopardy because of some truly unprofessional, let alone ethically questionable tactics that reflect incredibly badly on Israel.

The thing of it is, Israel is not helping matters along by obliquely acknowledging nothing in particular, not defending itself, nor insisting its hands are clean of this affair. And to compound matters still further, Dubai now has in custody two ranking Palestinians associated with Fatah, along with a ranking Hamas-associated Palestinian from Gaza, all of whom are suspects as well.

The additional six suspects that Dubai detectives have their sights on have not been identified as yet; who might they be, members of Hezbollah, Syrians, and Israelis, all together, unified for the purpose of destroying one man's life? If that sounds ridiculous, it's little more so than what is slowly being unfurled here as the investigation proceeds.

Fatah and Hamas are blaming one another, and both are sneering at Israel, with Khaled Meshal whose own assassination attempt by Israel failed and has led him to a very sealed existence now calls upon European countries to punish Israel by placing it on "the terror list". And a memorial rally for Mabhouh in Gaze lent Hamas the opportunity to boast they "will never rest until they reach his killers".

And what's this? Interpol has now added the names and visages of the 11 identified suspects. Moreover, Dubai is pressing Interpol - should it be proved that Israel and Mossad were involved in this tragi-comedy - to add the chief of Mossad to its most-wanted list, red-flagging him along with the 11 suspects. It is most definitely headache-inducing.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old King Tut

No, he wasn't old, at all, since he was a boy king, thought to have been 19 in 1324, B.C. when he died, having reigned for nine years. That was 3350 years ago, if one can fathom that time-frame, and in that sense it makes him old. But although chronologically he was not old when alive, physically his condition was that of an old man, having to get about with the use of a cane, and suffering severe degenerative conditions, along with a club foot.

He cannot have been too sprightly in the prime of his life, poor Tutankhamen. When his royal tomb was exhumed by Howard Carter in 1922, it was a sensation, because of the condition of the site, the splendour of the items found with him, and the exceedingly beautiful gold-worked death mask that topped his sarcophagus. The find was a sensational one awing the world, mesmerized by the legend of the boy king.

And the mystery of a curse said to have afflicted many in attendance at the excavation made everything surrounding the legend and the reality of King Tutankhamen a thrillingly fascinating discovery. Now, a team of scientists from Egypt, Italy and Germany making use of the most advanced DNA techniques has reached the conclusion that the king's physical disorders weakened his immune system making the health-vulnerable man susceptible to malarial-caused death.

His genetic endowments were grimly inappropriate for a long and healthy life. He is thought, through the tests, to have been the son of Akhenaten, the pharaoh whose paeons to the sun-god made him known to have been the first monotheist, and whose legacy of sacred buildings dedicated to Aten, the disc of the sun, were destroyed by those who followed him. The boy king's parents and grand-parents too have been identified.

Akhenaten was known to suffer from severe genetic problems caused by a disease that damages the body's connective tissues whose symptoms include a short torso, long head, neck, arms, hands and feet; pronounced collarbones, pot belly, heavy thighs and poor muscle tone. The six daughters he had with his wife Nefertiti all exhibited the same physical characteristics as their father. Unusually tall, likely to have weakened aortas easily ruptured leading to death.

Akhenaten never had artists copying his image for posterity alter his physique, and he was proud of the outstanding beauty of his wife Nefertiti. Nefertiti is thought also to have been a very close relative of her husband, further reasons why genetic problems surfaced in their offspring. Brother-sister marriages were common enough in early societies, particularly among royalty. Cleopatra was said to have married her brother.

Consanguinity in marriage does not produce healthy specimens; genetic vigour is irremediably impaired. Even much later, among European royalty throughout the later centuries up until the 18th Century, intermarriage in families was common. Charles Darwin, the great expositor of natural selection might have been thought to know better, but he married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

King Tutankhamun's need of assistance in perambulation was verified by the discovery of over 130 walking sticks found in his tomb. The genetic tests recently completed, headed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, concluded that his and perhaps four other mummies from his family were infected by a parasite causing an often-deadly form of malaria.Gallery Image
(From front to back) The mummies of King Tut’s mother, King Tut’s grandmother, Queen Tiye, and King Tut’s father, Pharaoh Akhenaten, are displayed during a news conference by the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to announce DNA results meant to reveal the parentage of Egypt’s famed King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian museum in Cairo on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)
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The mummy of King Tut’s mother is displayed during a news conference by the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to announce DNA results meant to reveal the parentage of Egypt’s famed King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian museum in Cairo on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)
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King Tut’s grandmother Queen Tiye is displayed during a news conference by the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to announce DNA results meant to reveal the parentage of Egypt’s famed King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian museum in Cairo on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)
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The mummy of the mother of Egypt’s famed King Tutankhamun is displayed during a press conference by the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to announce DNA results meant to reveal the parentage of King Tut at the Egyptian museum in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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The two mummies of King Tut’s grandmother Queen Tiye, front, and mother, background, seen through a glass case, are displayed for the media during a press conference with Egypt’s top archaeologist Zahi Hawass, unseen, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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The mummy of King Tut’s mother, seen through a glass case, is displayed for the media during a press conference with Egypt’s top archaeologist Zahi Hawass at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)
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The mummy of King Tut’s mother, seen through a glass case, is displayed for the media during a press conference with Egypt’s top archaeologist Zahi Hawass at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)
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Tourists look at the displayed mummy of King Tut’s grandmother Queen Tiye, seen through a glass case at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)
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General view showing three mummies from left to right, King Tut’s mother, grandmother, and Akhenaten “Tut’s father”, are displayed during a press conference by the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to announce DNA results meant to reveal the parentage of Egypt’s famed King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian museum in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Gallery Image
The mummy of King Tut’s father Pharaoh Akhenaten, seen through a glass case, is displayed for the media during a press conference with Egypt’s top archaeologist Zahi Hawass at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2010. Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others have provided the cause of death and the firmest family tree yet. (REUTERS)

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The Methodist Church in Johannesburg

South African Bishop Paul Verryn is one very special human being with an irritated conscience that simply will not let him rest. Yet his devotion to humanity has caused him to be suspended by the Methodist Church which he serves in a downtown neighbourhood of Johannesburg. True, his neighbours are not fond him. Because of what this man engages in, local companies in the area and shopkeepers hold an incendiary grudge against him.

For creating, in their already-rundown neighbourhood a chaos of conflicting emotions. In fact, Bishop Paul Verryn is so detested by some that when police arrested two men who had threatened to kill Mr. Verryn they discovered that it was local businessmen who paid $4,000 for the thugs to kill him, and thus conveniently solve their problem. Their problem being that the Central Methodist Church under Mr. Verryn has become a haven for tormented and fearful Zimbabweans.

Their lives threatened at home in the misery of hugely dysfunctional Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe's thuggish regime, thousands of Zimbabweans have fled into neighbouring South Africa for another chance at life. But unemployed and xenophobic South Africans have no love for their neighbours and resent their presence, seeing their search for employment and stability directly impacting on their own similar searches.

At times up to three thousand Zimbabwean refugees take refuge in the church, thanks to the generous compassion of Bishop Verryn. The church property itself has been violently attacked by South Africans incensed at the refuge it offers to foreigners. Lawmakers in the province threatened to close the church, characterizing it as a "ticking time bomb."

Several months earlier exasperated Church authorities had refused to extend Bishop Verryn's ten-year term at the Methodist Church of Central Johannesburg. They are angered and embarrassed by his 'unauthorized' statements and by his initiation of court action to appoint an independent curator to protect children at the church, without their specific 'permission' to do so.

Bishop Verryn was an anti-apartheid activist who moved to Soweto in 1988, and at that time was supportive of and helpful to black activists, hiding them in his home. One of those he sheltered was Stompie Seipei, whom Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and her Mandela United Football Club had abducted from his home and had in beaten and murdered him in 1989.

After Nelson Mandela's release from prison and the dissolution of the apartheid government, Bishop Desmund Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission ruled that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela "deliberately and maliciously slandered" Bishop Verryn, claiming that he was a sex pervert, preying on young boys.

Bishop Verryn not only fills every nook, cranny and corner in the church with desperate refugees, anxious to find night shelter to avoid beatings and worse by those who prey on their presence in South Africa, he also opens his home to their presence, earning him very little peace or privacy.

He personally interviews each and every new Zimbabwean refugee, making note of their stories of escape, rape, torture. One man singly doing his utmost to help where he can to preserve the lives of desperate refugees. One can only wonder where the Government of South Africa is in all this turmoil, the same government that has continued to defend Robert Mugabe's continued misrule in Zimbabwe.

Despite all the promises, all the initiatives taken by the Government of South Africa, its own citizens' poverty, the huge issue of joblessness, the dreadful statistics revolving around rampant crime, and the urgent need to decently house its poor appears to be festering. One wonders whether it could be otherwise given the gross ignorance of basic truths about AIDS/HIV exhibited by the country's president and its health sector.

If there is promise yet that South Africa will eventually emerge as a developed society, a fully capable government proudly leading its people to future prosperity, the world has yet to see that revealed in some persuasive measures, rather than the existing misery of abandoned hope.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Military Dictatorships

"We are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard", explained Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, addressing a meeting on the Doha campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

Hasn't she heard? Iran has responded by identifying the United States of America as a militant and military-led state. There are many other countries around the world who would hail that statement as quite correct. Starting with perhaps, Venezuela, and going on to include North Korea, Russia, China, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq ... oh, the list goes on. Of course a powerful country requires a mighty army ...

Washington's international spokesperson was anxious to have Saudi Arabia promise China, that in exchange for its veto being withheld with new more intrusive sanctions, it would guarantee no loss of anticipated oil shipments, since any sanctions would be likely to impact deleteriously on China's purchases of Iranian oil.

The extent, and the depth of Middle East concern could be amply concluded by Saudi Arabia's clear, concise and concerned response. "They need no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do according to their responsibility", soberly commented Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia made it abundantly clear that unsurprisingly they share Israel's concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions, by stating that the Republic of Iran, now obviously a "military dictatorship" of a variety other than the U.S., cannot now be hampered aspirationally by additional sanctions alone; that time is long past.

"Sanctions are a long-term solution" Prince al-Faisal commented. "They may work, we can't judge, but we see the issue in the shorter term, maybe because we are closer to the threat. We need immediate resolution rather than gradual resolution." A clarification of that message might be the unthinkable, for one Middle East Muslim country to advance the potential for bombing another.

Well, there was consensus in the Arab world when Saddam Hussein's Iraq felt confident enough to invade Kuwait, leading to the first UN-approved invasion of Iraq through "Desert Storm". And at that time it was most Arab states supporting the ouster of Iraqi troops from a fellow state. This time, most Arab states with the exception of Syria and Qatar feel threatened by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.

With good reason, since Iran has made it abundantly clear that it feels itself to be in the best position to become once again the leading light of Islam in the Middle East, and in the Islamic world at large, exporting its brand of Islamist (Shi'a-led) ideology in a hegemonic triumph of ascendancy.

Given Qatar's latter-day support of Iran, it is bold of Ms. Clinton to speak there in particular of Iran's militaristic aspirations, and the fearsome increase in power of the Revolutionary Guard and their black-clad, motorcycle-driving Basij fellow-thugs.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Superpowering China

China is without any shadow of a doubt, a world power. It has no need to prove itself by military exertions; it does so effortlessly through the strength of its powerful export superpower status, eclipsing all other countries through its world-wide web of exports. A member of the G20, it has catapulted that group into prominent status through its very inclusion, while the G8, still the 'elite', must take full stock of China's potential and current status.

Although Japan remains the world's second-largest economy after the United States, China is breathing hot and heavy behind Japan; it has unquestionably attained superpower status. It is the world's largest exporter, and it continues to gather steam to proceed to bigger and better export status, given its human resources, determination and side-stepping of inconvenient nuisances, like the valuation of its undervalued currency.

"There is a new paradigm for how you define what is a superpower. Superpower has nothing to do with per capita income, it's about how much influence you have on the global stage. China is a superpower, and if it wants to project its influence it can do that through bilateral and multilateral trade.

"They don't have to send missiles everywhere and they don't have to have Chinese bases all over the world, in essentially enemy territory, in the same way as the United States has done", according to the founder and managing director of China Market Research Group located in Shanghai. The global recession has only consolidated its strength.

China has cornered the market on essential chemicals and metals. It has launched a remarkable and some might hazard, alarming network of investment in energy markets around the world. China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasuries, with $776.4-billion since last June; a 41% increase from the year before. The U.S. is dependent on China to finance its budget deficit, set to hit $1.6-trillion this year, reflecting last year's deficit.

The most powerful nation in the world, with the world's largest GDP, is heavily indebted to the world's ascending national power. How ironic is that? But China denies its status, claiming its GDP still lags behind that of 100 other countries of the developed world. "We have a large population, a weak economic foundation, relatively fewer resources and many poor people. These are still the basic national conditions of China."

For how much longer? Two decades? PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts China will replace the United States as the world's largest economy by 2020. And right now, as it happens, China holds another balance of power, veto power in the United Nations with its permanent seat on the Security Council.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

India-Pakistan Peace Accord

India, in its disagreement with Pakistan over ownership of Kashmir, has launched no terrorist raids against Pakistan. Pakistan, however, has undertaken a good number of violent covert operations against India in its zeal to displace India and claim Kashmir as its territory. The two nuclear countries came perilously close to war not long ago, and one can only hope that had it occurred it would have been a war with conventional weapons, although both own nuclear warheads.

It is not official India that conspires against the security of Pakistan, but official Pakistan that has encouraged and supported and armed unofficial violent militants to continually attack India.

There have been many small-scale attacks against Indian possessions and Hindus, by Islamist terror groups with links to Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Agency and its military. The dreadful Mumbai attack of 26/11/08 was only the latest of the Pakistan-government-inspired attacks against India. Then came a broad-daylight ambush attack by Pakistani Islamists against visiting Sri Lankan cricket players on their way to Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium.

Cementing India's decision to postpone further peace talks with their neighbour.

The countries who have to date fought three major wars live uneasily as neighbours. The Pakistan military finally was forced to admit that it was involved with the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks that held India to ransom for 60 hours. Indian security forces were sadly remiss in their response, agonizingly tardy and neglectful of properly protecting one of their economically most vital cities.

If India is a stable democracy, doing its utmost with the infrastructure and manpower at its disposal to protect its citizens from attack by its neighbour, Pakistan can be characterized as unstable, unreliable and incendiary. The confidence building measures that the two countries had attempted to arrive at on their way to building a consensus toward a tentative peace accord was demolished by the Mumbai attack two years ago.

It is interesting to note how the two countries interact with another of their neighbours; Afghanistan. India is doing all in its power to aid and assist Afghanistan in establishing the required infrastructure to administer its vast territories, under difficult conditions.

Whereas Pakistan is known as the instigator and supporter of Taliban that have wrought chaos in Afghanistan, bringing al-Qaeda under the umbrella of protection of the Afghan-established Taliban. After their rousting by U.S. and NATO forces, along the isolated tribal border areas between the two countries.

Pakistan finds itself in a perilous state of being now that their own Taliban have risen to challenge the government for Islamist supremacy. Pakistan has been incapable of pacifying, let alone controlling its own Islamist monster.

Whether purposely and by design, or through sheer incapability aided by unwillingness, Pakistan has been unable to restrain its Frankenstein from further terrorist launches against India, and a new one has left the recently re-initiated attempts to forge an eventual peace agreement between India and Pakistan in shreds.

A popular restaurant in India's technology, educational and real estate city of Pune, was the scene of an explosion when a bomb hidden in a bag was dropped off at the German Bakery restaurant, a site obviously carefully chosen as one popular with foreign tourists and particularly Jewish and European visitors.

The restaurant was chock-full of tourists when the bomb went off, leaving nine people dead and 32 wounded. Among the dead were Sudanese, Iranian and German tourists. This was no Mumbai attack which killed 173 people, but it is a significant one.

India's Home (Interior) Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram informed reporters that the Beit Chabad house in Pune "has been on the radar [of terrorists] for quite some time", believing that it, like the Beit Chabad house in Mumbai was slated for attack. In fact, the Indian government has installed a permanent security station at the Beit Chabad houses, indicating its clear awareness of these places as targets for attack by Islamists.

There has as yet been no statement claiming responsibility for the attack, and an investigation which will be launched will certainly have the purpose of clarifying - if no celebratory declarations of success by the group responsible occurs - precisely who was involved. Including an enquiry whether linkage still remains between the the ISI and terrorist Islamist groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

And if so, further talks leading to an eventual peace agreement between the two countries will inevitably be put off yet again. Likely, even without a lead between the government agencies and the terrorists Indian authorities will be loathe, given the ongoing attacks, to grant leniency of forgiveness to a country that continues to conspire against it.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Trusting: Deceiving

People will believe what they must. People must have something to believe in, after all. And even while those in whom they believe and trust and rely upon are discovered to have deceived them by using their trust to camouflage corruption and self-entitlement, those very same people dependent on the reliability and dedication of their leaders simply refuse to see, to believe and to hold their deceivers to account.

And sometimes those who take affront at the deception and understand that it does occur and that it is withheld from the gullible and the innocent - and threaten to alert the world at large and sink the reputations of those held in high regard despite their moral failures - they become the target of death threats. Occasionally those threats prove sufficient deterrent for the one with knowledge of wrong-doing to fail to pursue his intent to unmask the deceivers; not always.

But it also happens that when a great popular swell of belief and dependence occurs, nothing can shake the trust of those who have been deceived. People in power whose declared duty is to dedicate themselves to the better futures that can be attained for a population, covertly line their own pockets with funds meant to alleviate the dire living conditions of those in their care. And those who trust them refuse to believe they need not.

We saw this happening with the late celebrated Palestinian leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, held in such preposterously high esteem internationally that he was able to stand at the podium of the UN General Assembly, with a pistol at his side, as a valued guest within that august international assembly. Inveighing against a state which his militant factions incessantly violently attacked.

Just as we later saw Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the very same place openly declare his country's intent to annihilate another country, without demurral from the UN hierarchy or the general assembly. These two outstanding figures of domination in their particular spheres were permitted to sully the atmosphere of an institution sworn to world peace.

Fatah, which inherited the mantle of leadership of the Palestinian Authority from Yasser Arafat, proclaimed themselves to be the protectors of the Palestinian people. Palestinians have been aware of the state of corruption that exists among the executive of Fatah, and deploring it, voted into political power a clearly violently militant Hamas whose purpose is to dislodge Israel.

Yasser Arafat, despite public knowledge of his betrayals to his people, his corrupt self-endowment of international funding meant to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians, to this day enjoys a high level of respect even adoration, such as that given to heroes. Fatah continues to insist they have the interests of all Palestinians in mind as they endeavour to position themselves in a treaty with Israel.

A former Palestinian Authority official, tasked with rooting out corruption where it exists within Fatah now finds himself a political pariah whose life is threatened by the very entity that placed him in his position of authority to battle corruption. He has been dismissed from the Anti-Corruption Department in the PA's General Intelligence Service for the sin of disclosing existing corruption.

"It's hard to find people in the West Bank who support the Palestinian Authority. People are fed up with the financial corruption and mismanagement of the Palestinian Authority", Mr. Shabaneh testified during an interview. "Had it not been for the presence of the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, Hamas would have done what they did in the Gaza Strip."

Mr. Shabaneh is defiant, having delivered an ultimatum to the PA's President Mahmoud Abbas; that he is required to undertake the removal of corrupt officials, to prevent the issue from being aired as a public revelation. He has promised to expose sleaze and corruption at the elite level of Fatah, and for his pains a warrant has been issued for his arrest; he is charged with corruption.

He will reveal matters that "would seriously embarrass the PA and even harm its relations with Arab and Muslim countries, as well as donors", Mr. Shabaneh informed the Jerusalem Post. "Everyone should know that many of the senior officials who came from Tunis after the Oslo Accords now have millions of dollars, and palaces."

He describes Palestinian Authority officials enriching themselves by stealthily whisking away hundreds of thousands of dollars, including a large proportion of the $4.2-million received from the U.S. before the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election. He warns that what occurred in Gaza is entirely likely to re-occur in the West Bank.

This information is undoubtedly not new to many outside the PA, but when it is revealed by one of the inner circle who was particularly tasked to unveil corruption where it occurs, it has an added measure of reality, one no amount of political pressure and threats is able to subdue. The veracity of his statements is downplayed by the PA.

And Mr. Shabaneh has reconciled himself to the potential of an early death. At age 40 he has prepared himself: "I gathered my wife and five children and told them to expect the worst. I told them that I have chosen this path and I have no regrets."

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Met With Full Force?

Whatever could that mean? Um, perhaps that Israel should stand down, not threaten other innocent nations who mean it no harm ... perhaps? Aggressive nations' reputations go before them. And courageous nations stand up to aggressors. In this Ahmadinejad-through-the-looking-glass scenario, Persians are stout, good-hearted citizens of the world, and Israelis are ... well, you know, untrustworthy filthy pigs. Iran's Koran says so.

And in a spirit of celebratory triumph, two events of world-shattering moment are announced. The anniversary of the removal of the Shah of Iran and the ascension to the Peacock Throne of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Where once the Shah sat now sits the availing triumvirate of The Revolutionary Guard Corps, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in that very particular order. This is a very crowded throne.

But the big news, the big 'punch in the mouth' for the rest of the world is finally, firmly, proudly announced: nuclear-tipped warheads coming your way. Don't like it? Well, too bad, because the Republic of Iran takes its orders from no world body. It takes its orders from the Supreme Being, He who sits in judgement upon all humankind because it has not submitted to His irresistible Will.

This will all change with the appearance of the Hidden Mahdi. Who will guide the world to Armageddon, bringing Paradise to Earth so that noble, faithful Shi'a may live in peace and harmony in a world which has been rid of Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews and all those other pestilential peoples worshipping false gods. Since this blessed event will shortly occur, what does it matter, unleashing nuclear winter on Earth?

Some of this can be accelerated for greater, more imminent gratification, President Ahmadinejad confided to Syria's President Bashir Assad, an intimate in the struggle for ascendancy over the evil powers of the world headed by senior and junior Satans, for "If the Zionist regime initiates a military operation, then it must be resisted with full force to put an end to it once and for all".

Modestly, however; for its hundreds and thousands of rallying supporters, the regime insists it has use for nuclear energy for simple purposes; energy and the production of medical nuclear isotopes. Were they to wish to produce nuclear warheads they could, but they choose in the greatness of their hearts, not to. And the people cheer and roar their approval.

And since contact with the outside world has been handily cut off for the nonce, that population knows little of the contradiction between what they hear: "The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs, we would announce it", and what is nuanced to the international community as a sly suggestion of further attainment of the government's key goal.

Persuading Iranians that the international community stands ready to invade and assault them creates a nice little diversion from the inconvenient reality that internal dissent is getting really, truly to be a huge headache and a nuisance to the administration. All the more so that the violent crackdown, the imprisonments-in-the-night, the swift executions, the protester-bashing is aired abroad.

And may eventually impinge more deeply on the greater consciousness of the population. Who may yet have reason to grieve the passing of the era that gave them freedoms they no longer possess. For the time being, however, the old familiar refrains orchestrated by that triumvirate will continue to rent the air with "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".

Allah forgive them, for they know not what they do.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

"A Better Life for All"?

So what happened to South Africa's dream of realizing itself as a beacon to the rest of that continent? The African National Congress is not very popular with the South African public, that huge demographic that has seen no rise in their miserable standard of living, no new employment opportunities, nothing of the 'inclusion' they were promised when Nelson Mandela left Victor Verster prison after 27 years of defiance against Apartheid.

The face of apartheid has changed, that's all; no longer a white-led aristocracy and a black-majority-marginalized community. Now there's a new reality, the connected black majority and particularly ANC functionaries and their hangers-on with their expensive cars and munificent salaries while the plight of the poor festers. Nelson Mandela's dream has faded and with it the hopes of millions.

South Africa suffers rampant crime, vicious xenophobic violence against other Africans migrating there in search of opportunities from places like Zimbabwe whose tyrannical ruler has ruined the country and starved its people, and who has continued to enjoy the support of South Africa. Oh, it's true that Thabo Mbeki supported Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma denounced Mugabe, but he's still there, ruining Zimbabwe.

"A Better Life for All" just isn't materializing in South Africa. Endemic poverty stifles the country and so does HIV/AIDS, in a country whose former prime minister and health minister thought voodoo medicine would save the day, and whose current prime minister feels bathing after sex is adequate protection against acquiring HIV while raping an HIV-infected friend who considered him a father-protector figure.

In South Africa a country with a population of 50-million, 50 people a day are murdered. People are actually poorer in 2010 than they were in 1996, according to a report by the South African Institute on Race Relations. There is an endemic 30% unemployment. Voters in the country increasingly view the ANC which still dominates the country's political landscape, as arrogant, complacent, corrupt.

The divide between rich and poor, entitled and disentitled, has replaced that which existed between white and black, so apartheid is still alive and thriving; its components have been slightly altered to reflect the tenor of its times. One in six adults is affected with HIV/AIDS, and finally the government has begun distribution of anti-retroviral drugs, even though the prime minister subscribes to his own theories.

While people are restive, disillusioned and hungry, unemployed and shiftless, South Africa has spent billions on building new sport stadiums and will proudly host the World Cup soccer tournament in June. Even there, scandals have erupted with allegations of tender-rigging and corruption. Yet in vast areas outside Cape Town, corrugated metal shacks house a huge demographic of the poor, with no running water and no employment prospects.

The government has built three million low-cost houses, but they are inadequate to the demand. Sanitation, electricity and clean-water access has improved measurably in some locations, but millions remain bereft of these classic civil, civic benefits. Nelson Mandela's dream of the future seems to be fast fading into a future of despair for too many South Africans.

Yet there are still visionaries who believe that South Africa can do better and that a good measure of determination on the part of some heroic figures will prevail. There is a theoretical physicist, a cosmologist born in South Africa who, lecturing that a modern economy cannot exist without a mathematical base; a prerequisite for finance, industry, computing, high-tech, plans to help South Africa.

He began his vision of a new future for the country by establishing a post-graduate school of advanced math in South Africa. Now there are plans to create 15 such campuses across Africa, to augment the existing two in South Africa and Nigeria, with another three planned for Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia. Mathematics, he points out, is a basic skill in science and engineering.

Graduating classes of young Africans will fan out with their knowledge and their expertise and their determination to begin building their countries' futures. "We're all familiar with the Africa of disaster, poverty, corruption, war, disease", lectured at University of Ottawa, Neil Turok, himself director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.

He sees a different continent, one that has an as-yet untapped pool of promising human talent and resourcefulness; out of 900-million people enough will emerge with mathematical and technical skills to lead the continent into the future. Dreams do persevere and possibly may emerge into a different reality.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Afghanistan's Solution

Finally, the U.S., NATO and the United Nations feel they've got their collective finger on the pulse of what drives Afghanistan. They have begun to believe that it is folly to continue flailing against an elusive enemy, one whose non-conventional style of guerrilla warfare has been resistant to military defeat by conventional, organized military confrontation. However, the cupidity of humankind can always be relied upon to turn the tide to advantage.

Buy the loyalty, the fealty, national fervour of Afghans serving as foot soldiers to the Taliban. Reduce the ranks of the Taliban. Place the leadership in a position of desperation. So that the leading figures who drive the insurgency will see reason. And having done so, will agree to come to the bargaining table. They will assent in the laying down of their arms, and surrender to Western desires to cease and desist in their violent labours toward religious totalitarianism - and murder.

From dedicated jihadists they will become obsequious and biddable citizens of the world, with a quaint and exotic near-eastern flavour. They will abstain from vile conduct which has so confounded civilized countries. They will obligingly turn away from their ideology in support of the visionary view of Islamist triumphalism that sees a future of Islamist world domination.

Why might they do that? Good of you to ask. Because they are awed by the authority and the rigorous decorum of the Western world, by the power of Western technology as opposed, say to the supreme power of their omniscient, omnipresent, surrender-demanding deity who thunders at them so continually that they have developed a collectively-mass headache of enormous proportions.

Because they tire of the cat-and-mouse game of gotcha! and would far rather prefer peace and harmony. Al-Qaeda wasn't serious, after all. Just a little game that got out of hand. It was just three thousand people, after all. Is that so large a loss, considering all the pious Muslims whose disagreements with one another result in tens of thousands of dead on a constant basis?

That's just life. And death, of course. Take it or leave it. That's the trouble with those foreign imperialists; they have no sense of humour. They just take everything so seriously. So, all right, in a spirit of compromise and good fellowship, the Taliban, and their great good friends, al-Qaeda will call a hudna. Hudna, HUDNA! Can't you hear? It means ... um ... peace. Promise.

That's all right, you do not have to pay us anything. We don't really need your money, Gus.
You've got our promise. We are honourable people. You must believe that. We are not obligated to take your filthy lucre; that's just an old Pashtun term of endearment; we love money too. But no, take yours with you. This misunderstanding of a conflict is just that; an unfortunate misunderstanding that has cost your treasuries much.

Now is that what the UN, the US and NATO are waiting to hear?

They have the advice of a brilliant tactician, none other than General Sir Graeme Lamb, past commander of Britain's SAS special forces, which makes him rather elite, militarily. Served as an advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, which explains the success there in persuading Sunni and Shia that the path to victory is through brotherly love. Brilliantly served, wonderful success story.

And now he has brought his expertise to the situation in Afghanistan, advising General Stanley McChrystal, as one of the world's leading authorities in counter-insurgency warfare (having been an officer battling the IRA aeons earlier). General Lamb understands that the 'tipping point' has been reached in the Afghan-Taliban contest.

It is his considered opinion that "moderate" Taliban must be turned from their current path.
And that can be achieved by offering funding, and above all, jobs. Canada alone appears to be somewhat unimpressed by the argument, and has, thus far, deigned to hold its own counsel on the matter.

But Pakistan has offered to exert its influence over its own Taliban, the most lethally-productive mujaheddin engaged in battle against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. They have influence, they claim over these forces who operate from their stronghold in North Waziristan.

Influence? Why, of course; these tribal Taliban have enjoyed support from within Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies. Which has gained them protection within Pakistan. Remember those memoranda of understanding between former Pakistani President General Musharraf that if he overlooked their activities in Afghanistan they would behave in an exemplary manner in Pakistan?

That was the extent of Pakistan's support of the U.S. in Afghanistan. Did it work?

There was a catalyst for disagreement in the siege of the Red Mosque that brought the government's action militant ire from its Taliban and tribal leaders. And whatever displeases the Taliban pleases al-Qaeda, for they remain firm allies. What has Pakistan to gain from its offer for cooperation? Why, ensuring that in future, when foreign forces depart, their Afghan neighbours will look upon Pakistan as their friends.

How better to prove their friendly detente, than to have Afghanistan turn against its real friend, sturdily attempting to assist it out of the stone age and into some semblance of institutional and social modernity; the 'largest democracy in the world', India. Has anyone asked India its opinion on buying peace, loyalty and comradeship?

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