Friday, April 30, 2010

Living With Ourselves

The former president of the American Psychological Association, a native of Edmonton, Dr. Frank Farley, considers the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which now lists 357 types of psychiatric afflictions to have outgrown itself: "I think it's just gotten out of hand ... How many vote for this, how many vote for that? It's a problem. The science of human behaviour has gone way beyond that."

Normal human behaviours in all their rich and varied manifestations have come under the close scrutiny of a microscopic classification. The better to assess and diagnose us with. We cannot enthusiastically, innocently, incorrectly, eccentrically, adversely behave any longer as we will, for fear of being identified with a troubling pathology.

One which, furthermore, must be attended to medically and chemically. For our own good. And the greater good of society. Oh, and by the way, the growing authority of the psychiatric community of medical professionals. And just incidentally, their partners in this crime of pathologizing human behaviour, the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Farley contends that the DSM seeks to conformalize and abnormalize human behaviour. Anything that remotely resembles non-conformance; extreme reactions are no longer in the realm of normal human behaviour, but instead constitute behaviours seen through the lens of pathology. "So we begin thinking of too many things in terms of sickness. We're going to treat you to make you normal."

Quirks and eccentricities are no longer admirable, nor are extreme reactions, nor insistence in individualism, thrill-seeking, adventure-clinging, discovery-prone attitudes to life. These must be muted, treated, pacified. To be dull, conformist, disinterested, removed, is to be normal. If that state of being cannot be reached by sheer will alone, the psychiatric profession stands ready to step in and rescue the situation.

They will prescribe the proper medication. And if that medication doesn't work, and instead creates troubling physical and mental conditions arising out of their use, why then, other pharmaceuticals can be tried until the correct combination is finally found that will deaden all human sensation and make one comatose to 'being'.

Labels: , , ,

"Let Everyone Know"

So much for Vladimir Putin's having recently made noises about rehabilitating Stalin's reputation in the greater interests of re-informing Russians about their glorious past in the context of the powerful outreach of the Soviet Union. All of a sudden things have changed. Events occurred that have done a turn toward finality. And in the process revealed that there does not, actually, appear to be that much 'synergy' between Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

They do not sing out of the same hymnal. Although nothing appears to have surfaced publicly that would have them at one another's eyeballs, Mr. Medvedev does, on occasion, take another direction than does Mr. Putin. Which is refreshing. Mr. Medvedev does not share Mr. Putin's KGB background. Mr. Putin does not have the Western-oriented perspective and sensibilities that Mr. Medvedev appears to share.

In many instances they do not seem that far apart, but in others they do. But then, isn't that really positive? Together they produce a nice balancing act. Mr. Medvedev seems content to do his job as resolutely and honestly as he can. Mr. Putin is, as always, busy being the strongman; governing in short, the way that Russians can understand and have always respected.

Mere weeks after the Polish president and 95 other Poles perished in a plane crash en route to a memorial ceremony at Katyn, files have been released to the public by President Medvedev that demonstrate positively the fact that Josef Stalin himself, the supreme dictator on whose head lies the death of millions of citizens of the former Soviet Union, signed the orders to conduct the massacres of Polish intelligentsia and military.

For a half-century the fiction that Nazi Germany was responsible for the slaughter of Poles at Katyn Forest, and other locations was staunchly upheld. Finally in 1990 the truth was revealed, but no criminal investigation ever undertaken. Until the posting of the Katyn files this month, which included the death warrant which Stalin signed.

"Let everyone know what was done, who made the decisions, who ordered the elimination of the Polish officers", said Mr. Medvedev, insisting that Russia was as open as it could be, now, on the matter. "Everything is written there, with all the signatures. there is some material that has not yet been handed over to our Polish partners. I have given the order to make that happen."

Not to be overlooked also, and to his credit, Prime Minister Putin expressed his sincere sorrow and solidarity with Poland. The breakthrough. The potential for establishing trust between neighbours with a long, unfortunate and tumultuous history between them.

A tradition of hegemonic hostilities that may finally be laid to rest.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Middle East Future

Downright puzzling when one reads continually the de rigueur reminder that Gaza is an "impoverished territory". Particularly so when one also reads of truckloads of provisions regularly passing through from Israel to Gaza. And all the more so when one reads of the many tunnels through which enterprising Palestinians ferry goods to Gaza through a well-run and -remunerated underground market provisioning the territory amazingly.

Think of tunnels so large and sophisticated that vehicles are brought in for sale, and warehouses full of refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, and electronic equipment.

That kind of thing. And the explanation that these products, given the dangers and labours inherent in smuggling them through the tunnels, sell for whopping huge sums of money. And the additional explanation that many Palestinians prefer to 'save' their money, rather than squander it unnecessarily on luxury goods. Save their money? People who are unemployed, who are suffering dire impoverishment?

Yes, well, all is not necessarily as it seems. One must perforce remember that the United Nations has for over 60 years ensured that cash transfers and goods and services have gone out to Palestinian 'refugees'. Who live in 'refugee camps', which somehow resemble towns and villages existing anywhere else, and thriving small cities equipped with all the modern conveniences seen elsewhere.

Yet these are 'occupied' territories and those who live within them are 'refugees'. They need not have been refugees, had the United Nations left them to fend for themselves, and realize that it was past time they matured into thinking of themselves as independent, capable and invested with the potential for self-enterprise, and drop their resistance to responsible management of their own resources and futures.

Instead of their aggrieved and ongoing entitlement to earning the sympathy of the world at large as poor refugees, living under inclement conditions, in the menacing shadow of a Jewish state. Needful of charity from abroad to maintain their preferred 'refugee' lifestyle. When the simple fact is that they choose to live this way, because they aspire to the destruction of the Jewish state and the establishment of a Palestinian state where Israel rests.

The UN-initiated Partition was never accepted by the Arab population, even while it was embraced by the Jewish population of 'Palestine'. The nascent state, then the declared, autonomous and independent State of Israel was forced to fight one defensive war after another brought to its new borders by a coalition of incendiary-driven, Jewish-destroying Arab armies.

Although Israel fought them all back and in the process gradually acquired its status as a power to be feared (which equates with loathing respect) it also acquired an extension of its territory. Some of which has been surrendered in exchange for (a sour) peace agreement, some of which it continues to retain. But which would be surrendered with alacrity if peace could be assured.

Alas, it cannot. For even while vanquished, the urgent and violent need to surmount the obstacle to ownership of the entire territory that Israel presents, will not so easily evaporate. Even while the Palestinians disincentivize themselves to become masters in their own house (territory and eventual independent state) with the maturation of their society into one accepting a neighbour unlike themselves, they insist on their victimhood.

Until such time as the realization finally impinges that it would be greatly to their advantage to accept the presence of a Jewish state in their Islamic midst, that huge benefits would accrue to the entire geography by so accepting the reality of the situation, there will be no peace, and there will be no economic, political and social advantages accruing to the entire area.

The inevitable surely cannot be forestalled forever...?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dignitas at Lake Zurich

Socially, politically, economically developed countries of the world - and religious institutions - are struggling with the concept of assisted suicide. People with end-of-life diseases who have a wish to end their struggle with suffering and who insist they have a moral and ethical right to decide for themselves when to end their lives.

Euthanasia is a troubling and troublesome concept for a lot of people, no less the governments that represent them. And no religious institution will agree that any agency other than God has the right to snuff out a human life.

There are a few countries in the world where euthanasia is legal; Belgium and the Netherlands. And assisted suicide is legal in Albania and Luxembourg. A number of States within the U.S.; Oregon, Washington, Montana, and soon New Hampshire recognize the legality of assisted suicide. Japan has no legal status for euthanasia, but does nothing to prevent it.

Switzerland has no law permitting euthanasia, but looks the other way and does not seek to punish doctors who perform euthanasia. Despite which the Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas, is known world-wide for the compassionate care they take with end-of-life sufferers, or those elderly who simply have no wish to continue living and insist they prefer death to life.

At the clinic, trained professionals ensure by careful interviews that people who wish to leave life are in full possession of their mental faculties and have considered all other options. The clinic has helped roughly a thousand people end their lives, and most of these have been terminally ill.
It exists by exploiting Swiss legislative loopholes, and those that exist throughout Europe.

Oddly enough, many families of those who end their lives there seem unwilling to bring back their loved ones bodies for burial, or their ashes. They are simply left there, at the clinic. And the clinic has never divulged what their disposal method has been.

Now, however, it would appear that one of their disposal methods for the remains of the deceased may be to dump cremation urns into a nearby lake.

It has been reported that divers discovered cremation urns on the bed of Lake Zurich. "After 50, we stopped counting" said a police diver. "They lay there in a big heap." Dignitas has not assumed responsibility for the presence of those urns. But they have been found nearby where the clinic is located, and the urns are inscribed with the logo of the clinic.

Not so very dignified, after all.

Labels: ,

PIGS Trough

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Chinese Proverb.
That hoary old adage of teaching a person to fend for themselves being far superior than supporting that person causing a lack of personal initiative and continued dependence is right. Folk wisdom knows whereof it speaks. Take away the burden of self-responsibility and you kill with kindness, setting the stage for continued lack of responsibility to self. There is a right time to help, and the right time to encourage someone to take the initiative to help himself.

Those whose existence is dependent on the goodwill and charity of others do not recognize the need to help themselves, they feel themselves to be in a comfortable place and simply do not aspire to become independent, even at the price of sacrificing pride in oneself. The cycle becomes one of illusion and delusion. Since help is so readily given, the receiver feels it becomes his due. Effectively, initiative is emasculated.

In Canada there was a seemingly far-sighted, noble experiment to ensure that the entire population of the country wherever they lived within confederation, would be assured a like level of public services and opportunities. A simple enough idea; the federal government would collect taxation from the provinces and re-distribute it through a scheme called provincial equalization. Wealthier provinces would support those less-well-endowed provinces.

The largest beneficiary of this system of generosity were the country's east coast provinces where employment tended to be seasonal. Additional assistance was given by way of unemployment benefits, assured at a higher level in the identified have-not provinces. And the Province of Quebec was singularly entitled to a stupendous share of the entire package. This seemed to work for a while and it made Canadians feel fairly smug about themselves.

Until the realization struck that the 'have' provinces somehow missed having services that the 'have not' provinces were able to mount for their citizens, thanks to the kindness of the self-sacrificing 'have' provinces. What's more, the 'have-not' provinces, having become accustomed to those no-strings-attached transfer payments saw no reason to make an effort to enrich themselves through their own resourcefulness.

Somewhat akin to the situation seen right now unfolding on the world stage where the European Union, patterning itself in a similar manner, to accord special treatment for its less-wealthy members finds itself in a financial and political bind with some of its members: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, heavily indebted, unable to pay back their loans. Loans granted them, enabling them to live beyond their means.

Except that, since the loans were granted to them by international bankers they had no reason to feel they were living beyond their means; they believed they were entitled to live just the way everyone else does in the states that were better managed and more productive and hadn't built up an impossible debt-load.

It's like the family on welfare looking at the lifestyles of the middle-class and believing they too were entitled to live that way, and in the process misusing their welfare payments then finding them inconveniently finite. Resentment ensues from this, the same kind of anger and bitterness seen in the placards held up by Greek citizens, refusing to face austerity measures.

Little wonder German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country's well-run economic engine has made it one of the more powerfully successful countries in the EU, expresses the anger of German citizens, incensed that they would have to prop up a failing economy in Greece, where people live beyond their means, while German citizens live far more prudently.

At the same time, Greek citizens are resentful that they are in this position, one that they and their government created by their wasteful habits and lack of spending restraints, and they are indulging in a nasty back-lash against Germany, resuscitating old enmities and war-time wounds, accusing Germany of having looted Greek wealth under the Nazi war machine.

The natural human impulse would be to let Greece and the other PIGS flounder. But since financial institutions are now globally intertwined that would result in huge bank collapses, which would benefit no one, bringing down financial ruin on banks having no connection to the ill-considered loans, but dependent on the health of the ruined banks to keep their own solvent.

And the same is true of countries innocent of the ruinous policies of the PIGS nations; well-run and mindful of careful government spending; they too would suffer. As it is, because of the disaster of downgrading government debt to junk status for Greece, and more on the horizon for other countries, world stock markets have been enfeebled and currencies downgraded.

The world cannot afford to bail out these reckless governments, and they cannot also afford to let them flounder into ruination because of the far-flung consequences. It's an instance where banks should have been far more abstemious in their generosity to clients who clearly were living above their means; a mirror image, in a sense, of the U.S. mortgage debacle that initiated the now-recovering global financial collapse.

Countries that have felt complacent in living beyond their means and encouraging their citizens to do the same, have infantalized themselves politically, socially and economically. Yet their feelings of entitlement still exist, and although they are themselves responsible for their financial plight, they blame outside sources.

How very human. How very adolescent. How very irresponsible.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Maternal Mortality Reduction

The Government of Canada has assumed its global responsibilities in leading the G-8 to a reflection of the needs of under-developed countries in ensuring the needs of its most vulnerable will be reckoned with. To aid development in those countries to further the health and longevity of children and their mothers. A concerted effort on the part of the advanced, wealthy countries of the world to put their aid dollars to good use by establishing facilities to offer potable water and sanitation, good nutrition and health care for women and their children.

Women offered the opportunity to educate themselves about family planning and conception, about the intelligent spacing of pregnancies and limiting of same through educational health clinics will be empowered to at least partially reserve for themselves the ability to choose when, whether and how to have children. Exposure to good family planning techniques, to decent hygiene, to healthy food choices for themselves and their children should translate to a healthier population.

That Canada has chosen officially to bypass funding abortion as one of many tools in the workbox of women's childbearing health is unfortunate. Of course, those countries that criticize Canada for that decision, like the United States, talk a good line but internally access to state-paid abortion procedures is politically resisted. Canada's firm decision on refusing to fund abortions abroad is not, however, helpful.

The total package of health-care opportunities offered to poor women in under-developed countries should include abortion. On the other hand, there will be other countries within the G-8 who will fund this option. Still, it's disappointing that the Conservative-led Canadian government, while seemingly complacent about not raising the divisive issue about abortion access within Canada, yet still chooses to resist offering to fund it abroad. Despite what the government asserts, this is not what most Canadians want.

But then, there's an interesting revelation, in connection with this needed assistance to help third-world women overcome maternal morbidity and mortality resulting from lack of proper obstetrics services, overall sanitary conditions, health-required nutrition, safe water and health care. And that is the unspoken-of agenda emanating from sources within the United Nations and NGOs toward population control.

It does make good sense to control the number of births per family to help ensure that mothers are not overburdened by children they cannot attend to adequately, nor afford to raise. That UN and NGO-affiliated programs are linking maternal health programs with safer childbearing, plus population control is interesting.

It can certainly be advantageous to the target community and also to the world at large, diminishing steadily rising population numbers while at the same time ensuring that those births that do occur, are well maintained and the resulting children given the opportunity to grow to maturity. But this exchange of help through availability of funding for maternal health programs, aligned with acceptance of contraception in societies unwilling to accept one for the other, is coercive.

Maternal- and child-health care programs should come without strings attached. If an additional feature of such programs is to convince the target society and the mothers within, that fewer children would make their lives easier, safer, healthier, then such an educational program should be launched, separate and apart from the health-provision aspect.

Fertility reduction and ensuring that maternal health is improved are both laudable goals. They are not mutually exclusive. But both require separate educational programs to succeed in each direction. One need not be tied to the other.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jerusalem: Offensive versus Atrocious

Atrocious as in committing atrocities. Offensive as in offering insults. Two separate cultural traditions facing off against one another. Two religions represented. Orthodox on the one hand, fundamentalist violence-prone on the other. Balanced? Somewhat not. One side wearing the traditional costume of European-influenced socially-righteous rigidity. The other that of a violently tribal belligerent; muscularly unclothed, personal identity masked.

"Ultra-right Israelis march through East Jerusalem!" read the headlines. Well, they insist that history and heritage are on their side. Jerusalem, after all, was founded by ancient Israelites, beloved of Yahweh, who promised that land to the oppressed tribes of Israel. The Old Testament is burdened with Jerusalem and its inimitable value as a touchstone of life to the Jewish people dispersed by violent forces; the Temple of Solomon twice destroyed.

Throughout the diaspora millennia the promise always was that the yearning for return would be fulfilled. And it was. Little wonder, then, that Jews cleave to the idea that Jerusalem is theirs and theirs alone. Muslim-come-latelies insisting that Jerusalem is not only 'also' theirs but primarily theirs, and in the not-so-distant past closed off to a Jewish presence, are equally insistent of ownership.

The righteous standoff that has ensued for the greater glory of statehood and glorious biblical Jerusalem the capital, has the world tuned in for more. But the biblical City of David was Jewish, is Jewish and will remain Jewish. There is no other alternative; what remains is a constant. The Temple Mount is that place where the Temple of Solomon was built, re-built and destroyed; a mosque built over it.

The Temple Mount is not a "site holy to both Muslims and Jews", but a site fundamentally, first-and-foremost holy and sacred to Jews. Presenting as an alternate holy site to Muslims, one of many, while Jews have but one singular site.

This case really is closed.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bleeding Nuclear Scientists

Well, how about that? A potential problem-solver! If enough Iranian nuclear scientists decide they would prefer to decamp rather than hang around to witness first-hand a showdown that no one in their right mind would care to be personally involved with, perhaps this might present as a solution to Iran's ongoing nose-thumbing at the rest of the world.

So, all right, not all of the rest of the world. Iran does have its defenders and its cronies, generally those rogue states which behave as Iran does, and which generally prefer their societies raw, starving, and under political oppression. There's always North Korea and its helpful attitudes, and of course Syria, yet another nuclear-ambitious threat.

And then, take Zimbabwe, for example, that now-indigent African state has found an ally in Iran. The new bedfellows are exchanging natural resources. For Zimbabwe, Iranian oil; for Iran, Zimbabwean uranium. One must perforce enquire: does Zimbabwe have the means by which that raw oil product can be made useful through the expedient of refining? Doubt it. And does Iran have the capability of speedily enriching the tonnes of uranium it anticipates?

As for defecting Iranian scientists, there have been a few, and perhaps this kind of hopeful opportunism will begin to bear fruit. Encouraging others to do likewise, to throw themselves into the welcoming arms of Iran's opponents, abandoning the country along with its nefarious nuclear plans. Last month a well-known Iranian nuclear physicist was re-settled in the U.S.

The CIA is delighted to be able to have friendly conversations with Shahram Amiri. And now, news of perhaps yet another Iranian scientist succumbing to doubts about his country. The Druze-community Member of the Knesset, Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara (of Israel's Apartheid state) has just released the information that "My office has received a request from an Iranian scientist who is currently staying in a friendly country ...

"I am making an effort to assist in this matter because I believe in helping anyone to remove the strategic and nuclear threat upon the enlightened and democratic world." Deputy Minister Kara added in his statement that it is his knowledge that surrounding Arab countries understand themselves to be in danger by Iranian nuclear ambitions, no less than the danger presented to Israel.

That Iran's appearing focus on Israel creates some slight comfort, readily shed with the understanding that the threat is more wide-spread than simply removing Israel. Tehran's growing confidence that it will face no greater threat than meaningless sanctions from a fearful world bodes ill for the near future. The cockiness of its counter-summit to the American disarmament summit speaks volumes about its self-assurance.

That both China and Russia attended Iran's counter-summit simply makes the entire situation more troubling, albeit hardly more surprising, given their recalcitrance to sign onto pressuring Iran to accede to world opinion and the United Nations and U.S.-led insistence that the Islamic Republic of Iran abstain from its illegal march toward nuclear armament.

Practically speaking, China and Russia are so invested in placating Iran because of the allure of its oil, that even if the impossible did happen, that Iran lost more of its senior nuclear scientists, both China and Russia would move with alacrity to make up the loss by sending over their own experts. That is one facet of the reality of the situation.

The other is how to gain some momentum toward forestalling Iran's end game.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fervently Fanatic

Imbue people with the belief that they are not individuals but rather part of a grand whole, a cog in an immense mechanism, and they become amenable to accepting that they must act on behalf of the greater good, not through a sense of altruistic morality, but through a sense of inevitable destiny. Fundamental ideologies are like fundamentalist religions; they are rigidly encased in a sense of their own mystery and righteous obligations to a higher order.

Self-abnegation in that sense is to a celestial spirit, a doctrinaire social-political belief, a religious leader whose agenda strays from the accepted norms, or a belief in catastrophic end-of-times brought to us courtesy of religious or environmental or ideological control-pathologies insistent that only by applying their version of strict and onerous ameliorative therapies is it possible to avert the hovering doomsday appearance.

Recruiting people into these byways of purpose and dedication to the construct of what represents right and what represents wrong and the necessity to battle for right against wrong, is not all that difficult in homogeneous societies where strict belief in subjugating oneself to the better interests of the entire group is prevalent. A common heritage, culture, ideological background is the stepping-stone to group-think and -acceptance.

In war-time Japan the actions of kamikaze pilots and the practise of hara-kiri in defeat were thought of as obscenely aberrant human behaviour. We've moved since then to movements where suicide-bombing has become common enough to threaten terror on a worldwide scale. And perhaps it should be no surprise that a totalitarian government like that of North Korea has been able to persuade its military that self-sacrifice is for the greater good.

There's nothing particularly new about self-sacrifice for a greater cause than one's own well-being. It was, in earlier times, equated with honour. And it still is. During conflict situations people are well enough prepared to sacrifice the lives of others to achieve their ultimate goal. It has been a select few that have exhibited courage and bravery in sacrificing their own lives to ensure the longevity of their brothers-at-arms.

And this is where things become murky indeed. Those whose valour during wartime have long been celebrated for their extraordinary devotion to duty, the bemedalled, the memory of whom societies hold sacrosanct for their ability to transcend self for the greater good, are those whom nations name their heroes. At the same time, during wartime, convention had it that the lives of non-combatants must be held in safety, apart from action taken toward combatants.

Honoured more in the breach than in occurrence. But honoured, nonetheless, and international conventions have been written and massively signed onto by virtually all countries of the world, to hold the lives of civilians safe during wartime operations. At least as much as could be managed, absent bombings. In Iraq and Afghanistan civilians are killed, when paramilitary targets are hit; regrettable infractions through the lens of necessity. But they are also killed deliberately, in mass vengeance sectarian slaughter.

There is something almost spontaneous in the manner in which otherwise-normal seeming people can be transformed into a mass, ravening beast intent on annihilating those they believe, and have been schooled to believe, are different than they are, and conspire to harm them. This is when evil raises its head, when political elites undertake a deliberate policy of sub-humanizing another, target group, encouraging their followers to engage in what Rwanda experienced.

In Sri Lanka, a violent separatist group saw fit to sacrifice the lives of their own civilian population, when Tamil Tigers were desperately attempting to safeguard the last remnants of their bastion against the determined onslaught of the national army to finally put the insurgency to rest. Sectarian-tribal violence in the Middle East between rival tribes and religious beliefs become blood baths and there is nothing honourable about that.

But then there is nothing honourable about the mass behaviour of human beings, who may aspire to become greater than they are, but fail abysmally, one test after another. The ongoing slaughters on the African Continent attests to that, in Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, DRCongo, fully as much as history has done. Just as fanatical Islamist jihadists strike terror into the minds of their Western targets through the very reality that they can, and have, on notable occasions, slaughtered relentlessly.

Israel discovered at close range just how vulnerable a sole country can be, surrounded by other nations which do not share its very particular religion, politics, and social contract, although they do indeed share some traditions and geographic heritage. In the Middle East, civilians are deliberately targeted if they are Israeli or if they are deemed to be Zionist, or simply Jews living in the diaspora, as symbols of Muslim defiance of a Judaic-(Zionist) presence.

A non-Arab, staunchly Islamist country like Iran could sustain a lengthy no-holds-barred war with its Arab Muslim neighbour Iraq, and in the process find its adolescent, impressionable young males handy cannon fodder on the battlefield, by the hundreds of thousands; convincing young men that they owe their lives to Allah and the Islamist Republic, and to aspire to martyrdom through sacrificing themselves for the greater good.

That remains unchanged, particularly in tribal societies and most particularly in Muslim societies where the call to arms through Koranic prescription to jihad and holy jihad and violent jihad, stimulates and inspires the restive young to prepare themselves for combat and for blessed martyrdom. How does a well-equipped, well-trained professional army battle an religion-obsessed quasi-military prepared to die and take with them as many other lives as possible?

Should we then be surprised to discover that "human torpedoes" are held to be responsible for the sinking of South Korea's naval corvette Cheonan, last month near a disputed sea border between the two Koreas, killing 46 of the 104-man crew? "North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200 kilogram warheads. It is the military intelligence assessment that the North attacked with a heavy torpedo."

North Korean defectors helpfully explained their intelligence that the attack involved a unit of 13 specifically trained commandos in semi-submersible 'midget' submarines. Human ingenuity knows no bounds, nor does human emotional unbalance leading to fundamentalist belief in the rightfulness of a vicious ideology, rejecting the moderation surrounding them elsewhere.

And it should be no surprise that rigidly hateful and hate-filled theocracies and ideocracies are those that threaten a much wider sphere than their surrounding neighbours, and bring to the debate the additional incendiary, intolerably intractable problem of nuclear aspirations.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Helping Africa

Everyone wants to help Africa. Every advanced country in the world thinks it's a duty, to help Africa. Africa was colonized by European countries, dividing it into little vassal-dependent states they could extract the natural resources from, spreading their hegemony and presumed international power and prestige. Hold on, it wasn't just Africa now, was it? India suffered under that fate, and Indochina, South and Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North America; the list goes on.

Portugal, Belgium, England, Spain, France, Germany and then later the United States all extended their territories by co-opting the geographies of others'. Most countries of the world, once colonial, colonized by imperialist design, have long since matured, become fully independent and more than capable of looking to their interests in good civilized form. It often seems that Africa alone, that great truly dark continent, struggles to find itself in the future.

Famine, and inter-tribal war, along with inter- and intra- country warfare, continue to extract misery from the huge populations in the countries of Africa. Foreign aid keeps pouring into one African country after another; along with a litany of foreign interventions to attempt to halt wars, and worse, genocidal wars where millions of Africans are slaughtered in country after country as wars drag on, all to little avail.

There is a new imperialism slowly leaking its way into Africa, where countries once themselves colonized, now "rent" African agricultural land in countries incapable of feeding their own indigenous population, allowing Chinese and Saudi Arabian, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Abu-Dhabian and Turkish farmers to work the land, export their produce to the renting countries for home consumption.

Chinese farm workers have been known to have torrid little 'love' affairs with trusting young African women, then leave them to care for the children that are produced while they return back to the home country. These women are then un-marriageable, left to the care of their families. And usually those families are poor ones, working a hardscrabble existence in marginal farming.

Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sierre Leone, Ghana and other African countries whose people have insufficient food themselves, are renting out arable land to foreign interests. Ethiopia, whose indigenous population struggle to find enough food, has approved no fewer than 815 foreign agricultural projects since 2007; leased for $1 annual, per hectare. Who profits from that? The ruling elite, not the people.

And the truly obscene spectacle here is that countries like Kenya, suffering from drought and food shortages, will not accept food shipped to it, tonnes of corn from a neighbour, South Africa, because it has been genetically-modified. The official reason is fear of contamination of Kenyan soil and crops - and for the 'greater good' of the country, people can starve, but land that is not currently productive will not be 'contaminated'.

Africa has a habit of doing this type of thing. Sudan's ruling elite, thunderously blamed by the international community of indulging in crimes against humanity in Darfur, shut out all international humanitarian aid groups as a kind of revenge against the world, while thousands of Darfurians starve. This is precisely what occurred in Somalia in the early 1990s when aid agencies tried to protect food shipments from armed warlords with the aid of western troops and then all hell broke loose.

And now, Canada is thinking of sending its Afghan-battle-hardened troops to Republic of Congo at the request of the United Nations to aid in peace-keeping there. How can this be possible, when there is no peace in Congo, when both radicalized African tribal militias and the government forces as well use mass rape as a tool of war, and slaughter thousands upon thousands of tribal people in the Congo?

If Canadians thought Afghanistan to be a medieval-era dysfunctional quagmire of brutally competing warlords, there will be no sigh of relief if, on withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan they are deployed in Congo. There appears to be no universal African will to help itself, one country after the other. Tribal antagonisms of the most virulent kind as witnessed in Rwanda resulting in mass slaughter is the African way.

And past time for Africa to turn itself around, to become a law-abiding, civil place of security, advantaging its people. Outside intervention cannot produce that. Only internal resolve to displace all the tyrants and the oppressors. But then that supposes that honest, dedicated national figures that could be trusted to act on behalf of the people will arise to deliver Africa from its bondage to chaos and mayhem.

Labels: , , , ,

The Slow Rot Within

Does the World Need Another 9/11 to Wake Up?
by Derek Cling Wake Up, World

David J. Rusin is a former astrophysicist who is now the director of the Islamist Watch of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based foreign affairs think tank. He recently spoke with Israel National Radio's Tovia Singer about educational work he is doing with Islamist Watch to raise awareness in the United States concerning the internal threat of Radical Islam.

Rusin explains that 9/11 was an eye-opener for him, motivating him to give up astrophysics and pursue a career in combating Islamic Fundamentalism.

He warns about the non-violent manifestations of Radical Islam as perhaps being one of the Western World's biggest threats. "Violent Islamism, terror attacks... are only part of the story," he says, "There's also what you might call a slow-motion, or stealth Jihad, which, rather than trying to blow up the foundations of our country and our civilization, seek to chip away at those foundations slowly from within."

Muslims take on US from inside

He also looks at Radical Islam in Europe and sees another warning sign that the United States and the rest of the world should take seriously. "Many of the problems with radical Islam are more advanced in Europe," Rusin admits. However, "we see radical Muslims working within the system in the United States using the media, the courts, and the government, trying to impose aspects of Islamic law into our system and into our lives. They try to win certain privileges for Muslims and try to shut down criticism of Islam."

Islamist Watch tries to rally the support of moderate Muslims, "who believe in their faith, but who also believe in tenets of freedom and liberty," in order to stand together against the threat of Radical Islam. "There is such an Islamist current in mainstream Muslim organizations in this country," Rusin explains, "that a lot of moderates are starting to step forward and say 'we need to be a little bit more proactive here.' At Islamist watch, one of our chief priorities is to promote these individuals and organizations, and promote their message."

Rusin and his organization are also concerned with governmental support going to the radical Muslim groups, rather than the moderate ones. "When you look at Muslim groups in the United States," he says, "it is the more radical Muslim groups that have risen to the surface. These are the groups, unfortunately, that both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration always seek out when they want to do their outreach to the Muslim community.

'A big negative change'

“There is a long track record, at this point, of the Obama Administration pursuing policies that have been detrimental to our conduct of the war on terror. We're [the U.S. -ed.] not even mentioning radical or extremist Islam in our national security documents. This is a big negative change from previous years where the Bush Administration's defense and national security strategies specifically talked about militant Islam as the number one threat facing this country."

When asked what non-violent threat concerns him most in America, he answers ‘free speech’, which he believes is "under threat like never before on a number of different levels." Some examples of ways in which free speech is under threat, says Rusin, "is the UN Human Rights Council passing resolutions urging member governments to restrict speech that might be deemed offensive to certain religious groups, and one facet of ‘law fare’, the use of predatory lawsuits to try to silence researchers and activists looking into or opposing radical Islam."

An even more ominous threat to free speech, according to Rusin, is something he terms "self censorship - the belief that tolerance and diversity trumps everything and we have to try and make sure that we do not offend anybody, and therefore, we do not say the things that need to be said."

The academic world also seems to be encouraging Radical Islam, he says. "There is a strong Anti-American, Anti-Israel, anti-Capitalist culture prevalent in academia," he explains, "There is also a very strong strain of multi-cultural fundamentalism, the belief that there truly is nothing that separates us from other cultures – no culture is better than any other culture. They are not comfortable speaking out against the atrocities that we see committed in the name of radical Islam and the lack of freedom that we see characterizing societies that are governed by radical Islam."

Campus Watch

Rusin explains that the Middle East Forum is trying to speak out against these concerns with a project called Campus Watch. "It looks at Middle East studies in the United Sates," he explains, "with an eye towards criticizing and improving them." He admits, however, that "the academic world is very, very difficult to combat.

Islamist Watch believes that the mainstream media need to be combated by alternative forms of media. As Rusin relates, "The major media not only distorts the news, but they give you some of it and hold some of it back. There are great innovations that the new media has presented, such as talk radio, cable television, and most importantly, the Internet and the blogosphere. These alternative sources fill in a lot of the cracks that the major media outlets would prefer to go unfilled."

"9/11 opened my eyes”, he concludes. “It made me question what's going on in the world. It made me see that the liberties that are so precious to us are under threat. 9/11 woke a lot of people up, and we remained awake for a year or two, but then we started bickering, and finally, we started forgetting. I hate to say it, but it may take something terrible to happen in order to open many of the eyes that have been closed."

published in Arutz Sheva, 23 April 2010

Labels: , ,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Baiting Muslim Wrath

"We're commanded to terrorize the disbelievers and this is a religion.... The Koran says very clearly, in the Arabic language ... terrorize them. It's a command from Allah."

And who would dare defy a Koranic-inscribed demand from Allah? Certainly not faithful followers. Whose obvious lack of devotion to normalized, civilized behaviour that might assume certain ancient dictums and faith-writings might well be further examined through the lens of modernity marks them as jihad-fodder, aspiring martyrs in the game of bloody murder.

"I define terrorism as making them fearful so that they think twice before they go rape your mother or kill your brother or go onto your land and try to steal your resources." Isn't that clearly typical of fanatics who convince themselves that foreigners and apostates and non-Muslims and Jews have nothing better to do than to aspire to rape, kill and loot? All such named activities heartily embraced by Islamofascists as necessarily pre-emptive conditions of existence.

"Harming Allah and his messenger is a reason to encourage Muslims to kill whoever does that." Odiously slurring the idea of a messenger of God whose honourable repute is beyond critique of slanderous presumptuousness - even if those so engaging seek merely to illustrate the absurd hypocrisy of the proclaimed religion of peace and its exemplar who lent himself to holy wars - is more than sufficient cause for heated denunciations, threats, riots and killings.

The above quotes courtesy of one Abu Talhah al Amrikeee whose website attacks the South Park creators who dare to depict the Prophet Muhammad with less than the respect due him as the most hallowed figure of Islam, ancient and current. On this web site the radicalized American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whom U.S. authorities now urgently seek, appears with a sermon.

That sermon encouraging Islamists to do their duty to their peaceful religion by bringing justice to those who have "defamed" the Prophet Muhammad for, in the words of another Islamic authority: "Harming Allah and his messenger is a reason to encourage Muslims to kill whoever does that". Clear enough, although Mr. Amrikee, during a CNN interview elaborates that those offended may write letters of protest.

Oops, contradicting himself directly he also explained the purpose of the sermon was to bring to the attention of honour-bound Muslims the simple fact that Islam calls upon them to act in defence of the faith. Insulting the Prophet represents a severe offence whose response is the punishment of death. The call to arms and violent response seems to be impressively irresistible to many young radicalized Muslims.

Insulting the Prophet? Why, Muhammad was dressed - given that it is also considered an assault against Islam to portray the Prophet as he must have looked - in a cuddly brown bear suit, and in that costume, offering advice to public figures that instead of feeling insulted or offended by what others speak, consider it the permissible practise of free speech. Rather high-minded of Muhammad; who knew?

Mr. Amrikee concluded his interview by stating his opinion that those who bring shame upon themselves by making light of the Prophet's austere and sublime authority would "probably wind up like Theo van Gogh. It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome. They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."


Labels: , ,

Anti-Israel Israelis

Anti-Israel Academics, Beware!
by Hillel Fendel Anti-Israel Academics, Beware!

Dana Barnett of Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) says the number of Israeli university professors who write or speak against Israel has dropped to about 70 - partially thanks to her organization.

IAM was founded in 2004, Barnett told Arutz-7’s Benny Tucker, to fight the phenomenon of Israeli professors and academics who “receive their salaries from the Israeli taxpayer, yet who speak against Israel freely and call on other countries to boycott it. This is unacceptable.”

In 2001-2, Barnett said, “there were about 360 academics who signed anti-Israel petitions and the like. We started in 2004, and now there are about 70 people engaged in that type of activity. It’s of course hard to say exactly, because some people stop writing and then resume after a year or two…”

One of the reasons for the decline, she is convinced, is because of the work her group does: “Many of them don’t want people to know that they have taken these positions, and so our publicity deters them. But some, of course, want the opposite, such as those who make money from their writings.”

Barnett, currently working on her Kings College doctorate on the topic of post-Zionism, says her organization makes sure “to inform the universities’ boards of directors of their professors’ anti-Israel articles and activities." She said that the two universities with the most anti-Israel professors are Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva.

“Most of the articles are written in English,” Barnett said, “as they are directed to audiences abroad. The professors turn to European pro-Arab organizations who seek out Israelis who will say that Israel is an apartheid, conqueror country that must be boycotted.”

She said that many even make a living from speaking against their country: “Some of them have left Israel, they write books with all sorts of anti-Israel accusations, and they sell like hotcakes… Many people are thirsty for any dirt about Israel; even the most bizarre ideas can become big hits.”

From IAM's Website:

“IAM supports the universal tradition of academic freedom that is an indispensable characteristic of higher education in Israel. At the same time, it is concerned by the activities of a small group of academics - sometimes described as revisionist historians or post-Zionists, among other labels - -who go beyond the ‘free search for truth and its free exposition’ (to quote the American Association of University Professors) that is the hallmark of academic freedom. Exploiting the prestige (and security) of their positions, such individuals often propound unsubstantiated and, frequently, demonstrably false arguments that defame Israel and call into question its right to existence.”

published in Arutz Sheva, 22 April 2010

Labels: ,

Palestinian Zionists Arise!

Palestinian Zionist Organization is Founded
by Hillel Fendel Arab Founds Pro-Zionist Org.

For the first time since pre-State days when Zion and Palestine were synonymous terms, a “Palestinian Zionist Organization” has been established – by Arabs.

The latest Arab to show his public support for Israel is Elias Issa, who describes himself as a “European West-Bank Palestinian.” He writes that he chose a unique approach by which to celebrate Israel’s 62nd birthday – namely, by launching the Palestinian Zionist Organization. He says his goal is “to show the world why it must support the Jewish people and to [distance itself] from the terrorist Palestinian government.”

Statements on the new website include warnings that a new PA state, if it were to arise, would “become the most terrorist state in the world… The Palestinians don't believe in a two-state solution; they only believe in a one-state solution - a land called Palestine [which] does not involve any Jewishness."

Issa, who now lives in the United States, explains that the international community is blind “to what's truly going on in this Middle East conflict. [I hope] to make a difference by shining a different kind of light on the Palestinian-Israeli situation.”

The website notes that “more and more Palestinians” are going public in their support for Israel. Just last month, Mosab Hassan Yousef – the son of a Hamas founder and leader – published his autobiography, detailing how he spied for Israel for a decade, preventing dozens of suicide attacks and exposing numerous terrorist groups. He later converted to Christianity and moved to the U.S.

There is also Walid Shoebat, one of the more famous figures on this list. Shoebat was born in Bethlehem, the grandson of the Mukhtar of Beit Sahour. Shoebat joined the PLO in his youth, and was involved in attacks against Israel, and later moved to the U.S. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Shoebat became an active advocate against Islamism and a fervent supporter of the State of Israel, arguing that parallels exist between radical Islam and Nazism.

Speaking to Israel National Radio's Tovia Singer some years ago, Shoebat said, “I deeply wish to be granted forgiveness from the [IDF] soldier whom I almost killed… I would beg [him] to please understand that I underwent an educational occupation of hatred which brainwashed my mind to hate Jews. We were taught it since we were children and I did not know any better.”

Dr. Tawfik Hamid, once a member of an Islamic terror organization, took part in last year’s “Facing Tomorrow” conference in Jerusalem. He believes that the Jews have done their best, and that it’s now the Muslim world’s turn to make some changes and concessions… You [the Jewish People] are a great nation, and in the most difficult times, such as when the Nazis were putting you in ovens, you were able to get out of it and build a great country of human rights – and so, don’t let your country surrender to barbarism; fight for it and use every tactic you can use to stand against it… Never make concessions to radicals; the more concessions you make, the more they attack you.”

Another former terrorist, ex-Arafat aide and terrorist Taysir Saada, converted to Christianity and now heads Hope for Ishmael, an organization dedicated to reconciling Arabs and Jews.

published in Arutz Sheva, 21 April 2010

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fearsome Nature

Nature is not to be meddled with lightly. But we do so, regardless. Human beings seem to have a love-hate affair with nature. We respect, admire and love all things natural and then do our damnedest to tame the natural to come around to resembling what human beings feel more comfortable with.

Increasingly, the news is filled with accounts of tragedy when hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and monsoon rains disrupt lives and bring dreadfully unsettled conditions to large areas of the Globe. And, alas, much of what we humans do, going about our daily lives, happen to be responsible for nature gone awry. Or rebelling against us.

Who knew that Iran, a country with so much going against it - from nuclear proliferation denunciations, to civil unrest resulting in defiance of government and religious heads so long accustomed to inventing its own rules about what constitutes human entitlements, not confusing it with human rights abuses, and a lack of appreciation from some Liberal-Democratic countries - also struggles with the knowledge that it is earthquake-overdue?

Groaning under the weight of threats coming at the Islamic Republic of Iran, a peaceful, religious-minded and world-friendly theocracy, it is little wonder Iran's Supreme Leader and its president feel a trifle hard-pressed not to wiggle their admonitory fingers at the rest of the world. Talk about bad planning - and this cannot be blamed on any outside agency - Tehran sits directly over a 80 kilometre fault line.

You know, grinding tectonic plates? And the country's scientists just know that sooner or later and perhaps sooner than later, they're in for it again; another quake - a BIG ONE. So President Ahmadinejad is thinking hard about this one, and has decided well, they'll just pack up and leave. Establish another capital city. Go elsewhere; to Bam, perhaps or Zarand - no, perhaps not.

In any event, it's spring, and where spring brings the delightful advent of tulips and daffodils elsewhere in the world, in Iran it launches the yearly crackdown by morality police. Any females of the species caught wearing "unIslamic" dress, beware. You bring down upon yourself the wrath of Ayatollah Khamenei and of course, President Ahmadinejad, and oh yes, the Republican Guard too.

Worse: lewd behaviour too may be held responsible for natural disasters. For, proclaimed Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, if women do not dress modestly they lead naturally to adultery, and this in turn naturally leads to nature's catastrophic earthquakes. "Many women who dress inappropriately ... cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes."

So beware, kindly take note and by all means take appropriate steps to forestall disaster. A timely message to the faithful.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Country Divided

President-elect Barack Obama presented himself as a conciliator, a bridge in the divide between the two polarized factions in the United States; one who would bring his adversaries on board in the greater interests of securing a better future for America and for the world at large. He has done anything but. He did extend a hand of co-operation from the Democratic Party to the Republicans, but they refused to co-operate, in accepting his brand, his vision and his version of where, why and how the country should be headed.

This is not entirely his fault, since it just is not possible for one man, one administration, one political party to be all things to all people. Particularly a diverse population flung over a large part of the North American continent with too-often heterodox points of view of what the United States constitutes; for many a stable environment where a social-liberal population comprised of people from many backgrounds live in harmony; for others a rigidly self-interested, hard-right, arms-carrying nation.

This, in a background of religious devotion heavy on the fundamental right of the spectrum itself. So it can hardly be surprising, in a country where the latest Pew Research Center survey found that a mere 22% of the population trust their government to do the right thing for the nation, where 1 of three Americans view their government as a "major threat" to their freedoms, where 4 out of 5 feel Washington cannot solve their problems.

A dangerous right-wing nutbar current runs through American society, where proponents of "freedom" want government to opt out of their lives and leave them to pursue their goals, most often running counter to those of good civil government. Where covert militias arm themselves and once in a while assemble a faithful following who agree to violently confront their government. Where right-wing talk radio and television personalities speak sedition.

And where now, the nation's first biracial president is held to be a "socialist", a "Marxist", a "Muslim", an artificial American, and a "Nazi", for forcing his vision of a fair and just society on a huge whack of Americans who like their society just like it is. President Barack Obama signed off on legislation legalizing the right of Americans to carry loaded guns in national parks. Peculiarly enough: What could he have been thinking?

The result is that gun-lovers and weapons-activists now proudly carry revolvers on their hips when entering family fast-food outlets and restaurants, sling rifles over their shoulders and gather to protest their defiance of this new president whose agenda, they are firmly convinced, will ultimately succeed in denying them their freedoms, vastly inclusive of carrying loaded firearms in public in the near future.

This is their greatest fear, that their new President Obama and the Democratic Congress will conspire to deny them their Second Amendment rights enshrined in the American Constitution, enabling Americans their 'right' to bear arms. First health care legislation was shoved down their unwilling throats, proving how relentlessly socialist the president is, then he bailed out Big Business.

Now the U.S. is on the cusp of totalitarianism. Truth and reality are often confusing to those who recognize other truths, and often enough delusions of perception reflect the only truth that will be recognized.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 19, 2010


As Israel prepares to celebrate its 62nd year of independence festivities, its neighbour Iran boasts that it is prepared to see that the Jewish nation whose presence is such a dire irritant in the neighbourhood of Islamic theocracies, tyrannies, oil-kingdoms and monarchies will not celebrate another year of straddling Muslim land.

For the diaspora, those Jews who live in other lands to which they were born and are citizens of, the presence of Israel on the world stage as a welcoming home for world Jewry is a comfort and a blessing.

There are few Jews, wherever they happen to live, who haven't been aware of, or haven't suffered from some level of anti-Semitism. Knowing their history as a people, the presence of Israel as the sole country in the world where Jews are valued for being Jews, and where the government's sole real purpose is to defend the rights of Jews to live as normal, productive members of the world community remains a hope for the future of all Jews.

Israel is the one country where Jews are welcomed, not threatened, celebrated, not reviled, absorbed not persecuted, accepted not oppressed. How could it be any other way, since the state was conceived and planned and legalized as a sovereign country with that sole purpose in mind; becoming a homeland for all Jews who wished to settle there, absorbing those Jews whose home countries had dispossessed them, encouraging Jews everywhere to return home.

Independence was hard won. And once it became fact it was even harder to sustain. With one collective neighbourly attack after another, the nascent army of defence successfully fought off its neighbours' intention to grind it into the soil and then establish its own upon that blood-soaked geography. Just as the al-Aqsa mosque sits proudly in all its glory upon the Judaic-sacred site of the two Temples of Solomon, on the Temple Mount.

Jewish determination to survive yet another attempt at annihilation from yet another source prevailed. From the 1948 war that took six thousand Jewish lives, after the loss a few mere years earlier of six million Jewish lives, to the succeeding wars of 1967 and 1973. And the tiny country whose citizens demonstrate that they are prepared to live in peace with their neighbours yet continue to be rebuffed, will remain steadfast in its determination to survive.

Decades of suicidal terrorist attacks resulting in the deaths of yet more Jews, military and civilian alike, have not resulted in a population that is demoralized but one that retains its will to reside there, where their ancestors settled and where ancient law and history made the Land of Israel their own.

The country has prospered, with its scientists and its business people, its educators and its agricultural component having made it a country to be reckoned with. Its human capital has resulted in a thriving modern culture, cutting edge technology, and enterprising companies making wealth for the country.

And Israel keeps on absorbing Jews coming from every corner of the world. There to stay.

Labels: , ,

Just The Beginning?

Well, that's a little unsettling. The revealed potential for another, likely more urgently ferocious volcanic eruption from Iceland's fields of ice and snow, glaciers and snow-topped volcanoes. Worse yet to come? People are only now beginning to find their way home through alternate, inadequate and costly travel means. Now that is quite troubling, the contemplation that more of the same, but much more, may be on the horizon.

Apart from the fact that as it is, thousands of people have been left stranded, unable to complete their plans to return home after journeys abroad, others unable to travel to planned destinations, and the international travel industry along with the airline industry in an uproar of dislocation. And lost profits. No industry can survive very long without profits to enable it to continue offering services to a paying public. Apart from the severe inconvenience of the situation, the loss to countries' economies is enormous.

And this, the fallout from a middling-sized volcanic eruption. Which is finally on its way to being history as the mountain crater is slowly settling down, eruptions becoming less frequent and expected to still very soon. How soon? Soon. Who knows, actually, but soon. Just think of what all that molten rock resulted in; the melting of vast sheets of ice with blazing lava flow. The stoppage of global air traffic resulting from its towering wall of ash, dust and steam.

The Sunday Telegraph was informed by Icelandic volcanologists that it was not quite possible to predict how long the eruptions would be expected to continue from Eyjafjallajokull (how's that for a mouthful?) Warning, at the same time that a companion volcano which in the past has sympathized with Eyjafjallajokull to the extent that it too, would erupt later, in another gorgeous-sunset-inspiring fireworks display of melted-rock-into-glass.

Yes, there is another, more powerful volcano sitting right there in that untamed landscape of glacial valleys, volcanoes with their incendiary propensities to blast, and bubbling geysers, all sitting atop a fault line between two huge shifting tectonic plates. Iceland, in fact, is home to 22 active volcanoes, and the one that erupted is a middling-sized one. If its neighbour, Katla, decides to blow too, the chaos that would result would represent a far greater disruption than the current one.

Because when it last erupted in 1918, before air flight became an international sky-traffic phenomenon, it produced roughly ten times the molten rock as its now-erupting neighbour, with concomitantly more ash and steam - an estimated 60,000 feet into the bowl of the welcoming sky.

"...we do know from past ash layers that are embedded together that the two volcanoes seem to be inter-connected in the timings of previous explosions", according to British glacier expert Matthew Jones, who monitors volcanic activity at the Icelandic meteorological office.

Oh dear.

Labels: , ,

Violating Quotas

No gentle admonishment, this forced sterilization. The state does its mental shoulder-shrug; it had, after all, proclaimed to its population what it was prepared to expect from its general edict; one child per family; in the rural areas if a girl child was first born, another child - hoping for a male - would be acceptable. Of course that one-child-per-family order does mean that a lot of fetuses are aborted, and some baby girls set aside for Heaven while their parents try again, for a boy.

It's a cultural thing. People value boy children, male babies far more than they do girls. Pity that, since China now has an over-abundance of males seeking - desperately seeking - mates, and since there is an under-supply of females, they will be destined to live out their lives mate less. On the other hand, that means a lessening of the population. No wife, no children. Something to become accustomed to, even if it does gainsay human nature.

The need to procreate is inbred in all animals, no less humans. It forms part of humankind's pact with nature; the ultimate need to survive through the transmission of one's genes. Beijing is serious, quite serious about this. A country, even one as geographically vast as China, must control the size of its population, for it becomes increasingly more difficult to govern a population rising steadily above its current 1.3-billion.

All those people needing housing, food, education, and above all, employment. When employment is scarce, the other necessities become even scarcer. The population becomes restive, resentful, poses a threat to order and security and this cannot be tolerated. Therefore, those too-fertile, too-obstinate men and women who have deliberately violated China's birth control policies must be punished.

And their punishment become a signal to all that Beijing is not amused and its policies may not be ignored. This is no trifling matter. Human rights and entitlements? Well, some sacrifices are required for the greater good. Which is why a team of doctors has been dispatched to Puning county in Guangdong Province for the purpose of sterilizing those couples who have defied government edict.

This 20-day campaign at rectification of illegal over-population purposes to complete 9,559 sterilizations. Puning, with its population of 2.24 million people, represents the most populous county in the province. Those who have refused to submit to sterilization will be coerced; their relatives, including elderly parents, will be detained until the malefactors present themselves.

Those being detained are nicely entertained by lectures on the required limits of family sizes and the necessity thereof. One child? Stop. Just stop. Halt all further aspirations toward increased parenthood. Family planning is an imperative. People are so bloody-mindedly obstinate.

And it's all for their own good.

Labels: , ,

Adventure. Writ Large.

At dusk we made fast to a heavy floe, each boat having its painter fastened to a separate hummock in order to avoid collisions in the swell. We landed the blubber-stove, boiled some water in order to provide hot milk, and served cold rations. I also landed the dome tents and stripped the coverings from the hoops. Our experience of the previous day in the open sea had shown us that the tents must be packed tightly. The spray had dashed over the bows and turned to ice on the cloth, which had soon grown dangerously heavy. Other articles of our scanty equipment had to go that night. We were carrying only the things that had seemed essential, but we stripped now to the barest limit of safety. We had hoped for a quiet night, but presently we were forced to cast off, since pieces of loose ice began to work round the floe. Drift-ice is always attracted to the lee side of a heavy floe, where it bumps and presses under the influence of the current. I had determined not to risk a repetition of the last night's experience and so had not pulled the boats up. We spent the hours of darkness keeping an offing from the main line of pack under the lee of the smaller pieces. Constant rain and snow-squalls blotted out the stars and soaked us through, and at times it was only by shouting to each other that we managed to keep the boats together. There was no sleep for anybody owing to the severe cold, and we dare not pull fast enough to keep ourselves warm since we were unable to see more than a few yards ahead. Occasionally the ghostly shadows of silver, snow, and fulmar petrels flashed close to us, and all around we could hear the killers blowing their short, sharp hisses sounding like sudden escapes of steam. The killers were a source of anxiety for a boat could easily have been capsized by one of them coming up to blow. They would throw aside in a nonchalant fashion pieces of ice much bigger than our boats when they rose to the surface,and we had an uneasy feeling that the white bottoms of the boats would look like ice from below. Shipwrecked mariners drifting in the Antarctic seas would be things not dreamed of in the killers' philosophy, and might appear on closer examination to be tasty substitutes for seal and pengiun. We certainly regarded the killers with misgivings. Sir Ernest Shackleton, 1912
What, again? Right now? What possesses people? Ah, they are simply possessed. Of a fever that will not be extinguished until they are. "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages and bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful." Yes, and who would respond to such an advertisement for hands on board to set out on a modern-day row-boat expedition through Canada's Arctic Islands to the North Magnetic Pole?

Demented souls, that's who. Obviously. Obviously people with a thirst for danger and adventure of a kind that cannot be imagined, that must be experienced first-hand to fully understand. And, having experienced that first-hand kind of adventure, if one survives, one may exult, and then plan the next improbable, life-enhancing/endangering adventure, and then another. To silence that desperate inner urge to a quiescent murmur of satisfaction.
I'm just going outside', I said, 'and may be some time'.
There was a blizzard blowing. I was in my stocking feet, yet I didn't feel the cold. I had only struggled a few yards, the snow driving against me, when I heard voices. I waved my hand in front of me, as though I was wiping a mirror, and then I saw Boy Charger, skittering backwards and forwards in the drift.
'Be so good as to restrain him, Mr. Brown', a voice said.
'I'm holding back the dawn', said Mr. Brown. "Captain Oates approaches'.
I only had to crawl a few yards; the pelting snow rained down like music.
'Happy Birthday' sang the man holding the bridle. And oh, how warm it was.
Titus Oates' departure: Beryl Bainbridge: the doomed Scott Terra Nova expedition.
A modern-day adventure, a proposed voyage described as "one of the world's last great firsts" in polar exploration, to be embarked upon with Scottish sailor Jock Wishart who intends to captain a six-person rowing crew on a 2011 journey through ice-choked waters. In a search for the ever-moving magnetic pole, currently north of Ellef Ringnes Island, off Nunavut. Does that not sound romantic, alluring, irresistible?

It will be, presumably, for five hardy individuals aside from leader Jock Wishart. Adventurous individuals will respond to the advertisement, perhaps with some trepidation, but also with a huge amount of enthusiasm, no doubt. This "Row to the Pole" will be quite the adventure. Its website explains that the sailors "will face dramatic, icebound coastlines and shifting sea ice barriers on their voyage and their haul of the boat over land, which is necessary to complete the voyage."

Who could resist such an invitation to glorious adventure, seeing nature at her rawest, most inconveniently but dreadfully exciting, exhilarating fiercest; snow, sleet, ice, cold, inclement weather. Will any of the five souls who apply for the adventure have read about previous such adventures? There will be daily Web updates for the hordes of armchair adventurers who prefer to pursue their risk-taking at a distinct remove.

Mr. Wishart is proud of the fact that his will be the first polar voyage to row boats, emulating the adventure experienced by British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew who desperately manned lifeboats in an attempt to reach safety after the loss of the flagship Endurance, leaving them stranded in the ill-fated Antarctic expedition they had embarked upon a century earlier. Sir Ernest had no computer, no GPS, no modern high-tech gear and clothing and food.

The climate-change-blamed break-up of the sea ice making navigating more potentially easier is a boost. Reaching the magnetic pole may be problematical, it is said to be moving easterly at about 64 km a year, away from Canada toward the central Arctic Ocean. Closer to Russia. Mr. Wishart is preparing to embark on the greatest adventure of his life. And he has experienced some fairly remarkable adventuring.

Good luck.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Their Opinion

The conclusions reached by the two enquiries out of the University of East Anglia appear to have been reached before the selected materials were even researched; that the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) research and documented conclusions were beyond reproach. Oh, a slight nod at the kind of human fallibility that were are all inclined toward; ordinary person on the street and scientist alike.

Errors were made but they were slight, and as such all the climate change findings in support of their Global Warming theories were sound. A "...small group of dedicated if slightly disorganized researchers" was basically responsible for giving the illusion of casting unwarranted doubt on the conclusions reached that resulted in the report that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate accepted.

Well, hardly anyone wants to seriously argue that climate change isn't occurring. Whether it constitutes global warming or a little bit of an ice-up on a scale that occurs regularly within the Earth's cyclical atmospheric conditions is hardly a settled science. Perhaps there is little doubt that industrialization has aided and abetted the change, but by how much? And does anyone really know through searching the fossil record how much change is natural and cyclical?

This is mostly theory based on observation and on mathematical computer modelling whose results are often confusing and also not quite completely reflective of what is actually happening, when the right data isn't inputted, as does happen. We're not yet certain whether we're copying the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age. We are certain that we have been experiencing some extraordinarily inclement, tempestuous, catastrophic weather conditions.

But we're certainly experiencing a change of some kind, puzzling and unheralded in recent memory, and have been for a little while. Still, some of the statistics just don't reflect reality, and they're the numbers that were fed into the computer system. It doesn't much help that a cloud of suspicion hangs over some of the movers and shakers in the Global Warming club with respect to net material gain.

Al Gore certainly presents as one. He has profited handsomely from both his climate film and his alternate energy investments. As has Lord Oxburgh, considered another anti-carbon profiteer raking in the bucks from carbon trading schemes, to carbon capture and storage; from businesses set up for huge wind farms and lobby groups all of which represent industries setting themselves up for huge future profits.

As chair of the university's enquiry, and a leading green-energy entrepreneur who stands to gain much by the world coming around to alternate energy sources and carbon dioxide clean-up strategies, there is ample reason for a whiff of suspicion to be raised about the trustworthiness of someone like Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool.

Still, it's nice to know that the results of the enquiry were that the scientists involved at the CRU at East Anglia University were, to a man, honourable. They were simply poor keepers-of-records, and in the end, nothing was proven to have gone amiss. Glad that's all cleared up.

Labels: , ,

Haaretz: Message from Muammar al-Gaddafi

Gaddafi: Obama from Arab Descent, a 'Blessing' to Muslim World
by Hana Levi Julian Libyan Leader: Obama a Blessing

Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi blessed U.S. President Barack Obama as a “friend” over the weekend in a speech published by the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, labeling him “an African from Arab descent, from Muslim descent.”

Gaddafi's speech was delivered in the city of Sirt at an event marking the 24th anniversary of a U.S. attack on Libya.

Gaddafi was quoted by the Arabic-language newspaper as saying that any dispute between Libya and the United States had since vanished. “Now, ruling America is a black man from our continent,” he explained, “an African from Arab descent, from Muslim descent, and this is something we never imagined – that from Reagan we would get to Barakeh (Arabic for Barack) Obama.” He called Obama's presence in the White House “a major historical gain.”

The Libyan leader went on to say that he personally considered the American president “a friend,” explaining, "He knows he is a son of Africa. Regardless of his African belonging, he is of Arab Sudanese descent, of Muslim descent. He is a man whose policy should be supported, and he should be assisted in implementing it in any way possible, since he is now leaning towards peace.”

Gaddafi also pointed out that regardless of what Arab leaders might say in public for English-language consumption, the truth comes out in private conversation, and in Arabic-language speeches at home.

“The Arabs hate America, there is no doubt. There is not an Arab that loves America,” he admitted, “and even the leaders who the United States considers allies or friends, hate it. The external love is merely hypocrisy or pragmatism.”

Gaddafi blamed “Palestine” for the hatred, saying “The Palestinians today are like the Jews of the past – dispersed in exile and persecuted. Now the Palestinians are at a point where they deserve to have the United States on their side and not on the side of the Israelis.”

The Libyan leader has been campaigning for a one-state solution – to be called “Isratine” – in which the so-called “Right of Return” would be implemented for millions of foreign-born Arabs, descendants of those who fled the area during the 1948 War for Independence. The bi-national state that would be created in Gaddafi's vision would be a democratic, nuclear-free country populated equally by Arabs and Jews, and would not be a Jewish nation. Israel, in its current form, would cease to exist.

Labels: , , ,

Jerusalem - Message from Elie Wiesel

Elie Weisel: Jerusalem is Above Politics
by Arutz Sheva staff Elie Weisel on Jerusalem

World renowned author and activist Elie Weisel, a Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, took out full page ads in major American newspapers to express his views on the city of Jerusalem. Here are his words as published in The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on April 16, 2010 and in The New York Times on April 18, 2010:

It was inevitable: Jerusalem once again is at the center of political debates and international storms. New and old tensions surface at a disturbing pace. Seventeen times destroyed and seventeen times rebuilt, it is still in the middle of diplomatic confrontations that could lead to armed conflict. Neither Athens nor Rome has aroused that many passions.

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture -- and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, it IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother's lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and its joy are part of our collective memory.

Since King David took Jerusalem as his capital, Jews have dwelled inside its walls with only two interruptions; when Roman invaders forbade them access to the city and again, when under Jordanian occupation, Jews, regardless of nationality, were refused entry into the old Jewish quarter to meditate and pray at the Wall, the last vestige of Solomon's temple. It is important to remember: had Jordan not joined Egypt and Syria in the war against Israel, the old city of Jerusalem would still be Arab. Clearly, while Jews were ready to die for Jerusalem they would not kill for Jerusalem.

Today, for the first time in history, Jews, Christians and Muslims all may freely worship at their shrines. And, contrary to certain media reports, Jews, Christians and Muslims ARE allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city. The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory.

What is the solution? Pressure will not produce a solution. Is there a solution? There must be, there will be. Why tackle the most complex and sensitive problem prematurely? Why not first take steps which will allow the Israeli and Palestinian communities to find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security. Why not leave the most difficult, the most sensitive issue, for such a time?

Jerusalem must remain the world's Jewish spiritual capital, not a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but a symbol of trust and hope. As the Hasidic master Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav said, "Everything in this world has a heart; the heart itself has its own heart."

Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.

- Elie Wiesel

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chaos Under The Bowl Of The Sky

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress." Speedbird 9: Eric Moody, captain of BA Flight 9 over Indonesia, 1982
"If you find yourself flying into a cloud of ash, turn away and get out of there as soon as you can."
"And a lot depends on the wind. I would expect this shutdown to last a couple of days. But if the eruption continues - and continues to produce ash - we could see repeated disruption over six months or so."
Minuscule, volcanic-blasted particles of rock, glass and sand, suspended high above the blast site of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southeast Iceland, placing international air traffic in its own state of suspended animation, awaiting the eventual settling of the cloud of particles threatening to shut down the engines of any plane sufficiently incautious as to stray into its path. Directly at the height of air traffic, precisely in the most-used traffic arteries of international flight. These particles are capable of sandblasting cockpit windows, as evidenced by the singular previous experience in 1982, and of effectively shutting down jet engines sucking the molten, diffused mass of particulate matter into their interiors.

And what about what is occurring on the ground, with a massive glacier - in Iceland's peculiar geological heritage where fire and ice reside in uneasy and occasionally-punctuated companionship - melting, sending meltwater dashing down the mountainous hillsides, into valleys, and flooding villages in the valleys below...?
"We have been planning this trip for 16 months and now a volcano in a place I have never heard of has erupted and spoiled my dream."
"Basically, we're stranded here and a lot of people are angry. I realize it's an act of God. However, it would be nice to have another exit strategy."
Ireland, Lithuania and Norway have opened their airspace, while Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland have seen most of their airspace shut down. The cost of these shutdowns are measured at $200-million a day to grounded airlines.

Particulate-laden, volcanic-ash clouds are stretching from the Atlantic to Moscow and from the Arctic Circle to Bulgaria, as smoke and ash continue to spew out of the volcano. Thousands of air passengers across the world are stranded, and air traffic disruption is slated to continue for the present.

Nature can be so inconveniently presumptive.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 16, 2010

War Watch

King Abdullah of Jordan has brought sobering news to the United States where he is on a visit concurrent with his attendance at President Obama's nuclear summit. War, he warns, is imminent, and it is Israel which is responsible for the current crisis. Although having signed a peace treaty with Israel, relations between Israel and Jordan are not quite what they were under the current King's father, King Hussein of Jordan.

When King Hussein signed the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel in Wadi Araba, he spoke of the event as leading to: "Mutual respect between us all, tolerance, and the coming together of people, of generations to come beyond this time, to build and achieve what is worthy of them..." Warm relations were established between King Hussein and many Israeli politicians, among them Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, at whose funeral he delivered a speech of solidarity:
"I never thought that the moment would come like this when I would grieve the loss of a brother, a colleague and a friend - a man, a soldier who met us on the opposite side of a divide whom we respected as he respected us. ... I realized, as he did, that we have to cross over the divide, establish a dialogue, get to know each other and strive to leave for those who follow us a legacy that is worthy of them ... And so we became brethren and friends..."
That was then, and this is now, with King Abdullah now claiming "The political trust is gone. There is no real economic relationship between Jordan and Israel. So economically we were better off in trade and in movement before my father signed the peace treaty." This statement has signalled a switch in relations, where Jordan has moved now to warmer relations with Syria:
"Jordan's relationship with Syria is better than it has been in a long time; probably the best it's ever been. so the engagement now between the Syrian and Jordanian government on economic cooperation are at an all-time high."
This is the King of Jordan who now informs President Obama that Israel is paving the way for an attack - claiming that Syria had generously gifted Scud missiles to Hezbollah - warning that a conflagration is imminent in the Middle East. "Israel aims from this to raise tension further in the region and to create an atmosphere for probable Israeli aggression. The Syrian Arab Republic denies these fabrications."

King Abdullah relishes the prospect of demographics, looking to the future when Israel's Arab population will represent 50% of the country's citizens "in eight to 10 years". "I think the long-term future of Israel is in jeopardy unless we solve our problems. Fifty-seven countries in the world, a third of the United Nations, do not recognize Israel. In a way, I think North Korea has better international relations than Israel."
President Obama could prove credibility with the Arab world by resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. The simple fact being, he claims, that solving that problem would simultaneously solve the Iranian nuclear threat. "If there are those that are saying that Iran is playing mischief, then I say it is being allowed to play mischief. The platform they use is the injustice of the Palestinians and Jerusalem. So if you start taking those cards off the table, then Iranian influence on the Mediterranean through Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza diminishes or becomes non-existent ... By dealing with the core issue, that's when you start taking cards away from the Iranian regime."

He claims that his brilliant theory is one fully accepted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Middle East envoy George Mitchell and General James Jones. And, from all indications, that appears to be proving correct. Given the idle threats of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran that are merely surface in character, blundering about on the public stage while accomplishing nothing whatever of a practical nature. And all the while Iran's Ahmadinejad sneers at American impotence and announces new nuclear advances.

Arming their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran and Syria are dominating the Middle East security portfolio. And the U.S. responds through its White House spokesman by claiming "We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred". So too, most likely, is the United Nations, whose UNIFIL presence with its blue berets are there for the purpose of ensuring that no massive arms build-up takes place; problem is they are all eyesight- and hearing-impaired.

"We have expressed our concerns to those governments and believe that steps should be taken to reduce any risk and danger", went on Mr. Gibbs. Well, that's all right then, problem solved, right? The government of Lebanon is mum on the allegations. Tellingly, a Hezbollah lawmaker complained about White House "interference". "This American interference that has completely adopted the Israeli position is condemned and rejected by Lebanon. This U.S. position presents a threat to Lebanon."

Fancy that. It is not a Hezbollah arms build-up with rockets powerful enough to hit Israel that is a problem that could escalate tensions and incur a regional war, but the poking about in the embers of the Americans. "These American pressures and Israeli intimidation will not affect our choices and our commitment to defend our country by all means." By all means, defend Lebanon, but not by mounting an offensive against a neighbour; this goes beyond provocation.

It was, in fact, a Kuwaiti newspaper that first raised the allegations of a build-up of increasingly sophisticated arms provided to Hezbollah by Syria and its partner-in-provocation, Iran. Given, they claimed by a Hezbollah source. Syria, while continuing to make purring overtures to Washington, has made it abundantly clear that its alliance with Iran and with Hezbollah remains paramount.

Labels: , , , ,

Follow @rheytah Tweet