“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for December 2006

Keeping An Eye on Santa Claus

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The Patriot Act? bah!

According to some cranks those cunning “imperialistic yankees” are keeping an eye on everyone, including Santa.

NORAD have been tasked with tracking Santa Claus:

“NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa – radar, satellites, Santa Cams and jet fighter aircraft.

Detecting Santa all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we use our second mode of detection, the same satellites that we use in providing warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America. These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can detect heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to detect. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites can detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with practically no problem. With so many years of experience, NORAD has become good at tracking aircraft entering North America, detecting worldwide missile launches and tracking the progress of Santa, thanks to Rudolph. “

Keep an eye on him here

Enjoy, but don’t believe everything that those cranks say!

Written by modernityblog

23/12/2006 at 19:15

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Irving off to Iran

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David Irving’s release from Austria can only give hope to President Ahmadinejad, a week after the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran.

The clemency shown to Irving will only embolden Holocaust deniers and it wouldn’t surprise me if that conference in Tehran becomes an annual event, a regular neo-Nazi shindig.

Hopefully the conditions of Irving’s probation will limit his activities somewhat, but I imagine that Ahmadinejad’s invite is already in the post.

I think that opponents of Holocaust denial and neo-Nazis need to step up a gear.

Written by modernityblog

21/12/2006 at 00:21

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Abbas’s Gamble?

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Mahmoud Abbas’s tactic of calling early elections is a shrewd political move, for months Fatah and Abbas have been trying to outwit Hamas and now is their chance.

Abbas is presumably calculating that Hamas’ record of poor rule; inability to recognise Israel and receive international funding will dramatically affect Palestinian’s voting, so swinging people around to voting for Fatah/PLO.

Abbas probably thinks that the previous perception of Fatah/PLO as corrupt and ineffective will not worry Palestinians terribly, as long as they get sufficient international aid.

Fatah, etc would most likely argue that in government they alone can bring massive aid to Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinians in their current dire situation may consider that more important than any temporary bond that they might have had with Hamas.

Of course, Fatah and the PLO have a terrible record of corruption but there may be a small window for peace if Fatah/PLO beat Hamas, who knows?

Written by modernityblog

17/12/2006 at 01:20

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Newsnight On The Iranian Holocaust Deniers

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Written by modernityblog

14/12/2006 at 00:25

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What Ceasefire?

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The Jerusalem Post reports:

“Two Kassam rockets landed in open fields in the Sderot region Tuesday evening. A third rocket was also fired, but the place of its landing was undetermined.

No one was reported wounded and no damage to property was reported in the latest attack. Since the Israeli-Palestinian cease fire last month, 21 Kassam rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel.”

Written by modernityblog

12/12/2006 at 19:40

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Pinochet Escapes Justice

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According to the radio news, Augusto Pinochet’s plan to avoid justice, over his murderous regime in 1970s Chile, looks as if it may pay off, after receiving the last rites last week, he has finally died, thus escaping justice.

Written by modernityblog

10/12/2006 at 18:26

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Early Sunday for Darfur

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BBC’s Newsnight programme carried the appalling experiences of a Sudanese doctor, who for inexplicable reasons has been refused asylum in Britain.


Since 2003, some 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur.

Another 2m have been driven out of their homes. Yet the world’s attention is elsewhere.

Sunday is a Global Day for Darfur, focusing on the appalling incidence of rape and other sexual violence which is the hallmark of the rebel Janjaweed militias.

Kofi Annan today promised to make the crisis his top priority for the remainder of his time at the helm of the United Nations.

But in the meantime, a whole generation has been brutalised.

Tonight, we have moving testimony from a Darfuri woman who has horrific experiences of the very worst of the conflict.

Not only did she witness the violent gang rape of a group of girls – some as young as eight years old – by the Janjaweed, she also was repeatedly raped herself by Sudanese government security men.

She believes there is not one woman in Darfur who has not suffered a similar fate.

Eventually finding her way to the UK, she has now been told her application for asylum has been refused, and she must return to Khartoum.

She tells us she’d rather return to her village, and die with her people, than go there.”

Written by modernityblog

09/12/2006 at 00:35

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Shirer’s View of Events

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7th of December holds special resonance for many Americans, for on that day in 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, which eventually led to the United States of America joining Britain and the Soviet Union in the battle against Nazi Germany.

Roosevelt was able to convince the Congress to declare war on Japan, fortunately for FDR Hitler’s reckless nature got the better of him and Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, thus sealing their fate.

As William Shirer sums it up:

“Adolf Hitler’s reckless promise to Japan had been made during a series of talks with Yosuke Matsuoka, the pro-axis Japanese Foreign Minister, in the spring of 1941 just before the German attack on Russia. The captured German minutes of the meeting enable us to trace the development of another one of Hitler’s monumental miscalculations. They and other Nazi documents of the period show the Fuehrer too ignorant, Goering too arrogant and Ribbentrop too stupid to comprehend the potential military strength of the United States – a blunder which had been made in Germany during the First World War by Wilhelm II, Hindenburg and Ludendorff”

[William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Mandarin Paperbacks, 1995, p. 870]

Written by modernityblog

07/12/2006 at 23:55

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Vatican and Holocaust, What Did They Know?

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There has always been controversy concerning the Catholic Church’s attitude toward the Nazis, from the signing of the Concordat in the 1930s to the assistance given to fleeing Nazis in the post-war period.

Pope Pius 12th often comes in for considerable criticism and his inability to speak out against the persecution of Jews and the Holocaust, only reinforces the view of a weak complicit Papacy.

More recently the subject was raised at Harry’s Place and an intense discussion followed.

Concrete evidence on the Catholic Church’s role is limited as the Vatican archives are closed, which has led to considerable suspicion and new evidence looks set to raise more questions, according to the BBC:

“The man who later became Pope John XXIII tried in vain to challenge the Vatican’s perceived indifference to the Nazi Holocaust, a new study has found.

Papers and diaries show then Archbishop Giuseppe Roncalli posted an urgent telegram in 1944 to Pope Pius XII on the atrocities at Auschwitz.

The telegram’s date contradicts the Vatican’s official version of when it received a report.

The new insight comes from the papers of a Jewish emissary, Haim Barlas.
He had befriended Archbishop Roncalli, then the papal nuncio to Istanbul, in the 1940s.

Scribbled synopsis

The exchange of letters between Barlas and Roncalli, mostly in French, was recently uncovered in a private collection in Israel.

The letters show that Roncalli was frustrated by the Vatican’s silence in the face of what was emerging in Europe.

They show that in 1943, the archbishop took it upon himself to write to the president of Slovakia asking him to stop the Nazi deportation of Jews.

On 23 June 1944, Barlas passed Roncalli a chilling 30-page report.

The document, now known as the Auschwitz protocols, had been compiled by two Jews who had escaped the camp that April.

The archbishop quickly scribbled a synopsis of the report and sent it by telegram.

His message made clear that the camp’s purpose was the mass killing of Jews.

The date the telegram was sent contradicts the Vatican’s official version that it only received details of the report in October 1944.

Vatican officials, when asked about the alleged discrepancy, suggested the question be directed to historians of the period.

But while all of the archbishop’s correspondence with his Church superiors has been preserved in the Vatican archives, the part that could clarify when he sent the details has not been made available to scholars.”

Written by modernityblog

06/12/2006 at 01:10

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Xmas. What To Do?

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I like Xmas, or more correctly the modern day Saturnalia.

I know I shouldn’t, I should as an atheist rant on about fake jollity, commercialisation and the non-existent birthday for Jesus, but I can’t.

I can’t because at heart I am an old sentimentalist, and the winters I remember a long ago were always a cold and miserable time.

Except that is, when Xmas came and for a few days before, we’d hunt around for presents, the anticipation was great.

Finally, the big day came, and we were up early, opened our presents and had a very nice meal later.

On Boxing Day and for a few days after, we had scraps from Christmas, a very nice bacon joint with bread.

Now I could rage about pagan festivals dressed up to suit prevailing sentiments, but I won’t, instead enjoy the event, chill out, don’t drink too much and send those cards early.

This video clip is my contribution to the holiday spirit strangely entitled “Xians against Xmas”, anyway I have a soft spot for pagan holidays.

Written by modernityblog

05/12/2006 at 19:07

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Honest Scholars!

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Bad book reviews are not unusual, but Shalom Lappin’s forensic dissection of Jacqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion is a pleasure to read, not only for the sharpness of wit and understated humour but for Shalom Lappin’s encyclopaedical grasp of the subject.

He points out numerous elementary errors that a scholar, such as Professor Rose, should have avoided. Professor Rose’s entry at Queen Mary suggests that she specialises in the area of “Zionism and the history and writing of Israel-Palestine”, but as the review and rejoiner indicate her knowledge, method and basic scholarly integrity in this book are to be questioned.

Professor Lappin’s original review is here, Professor Rose’s reply here and finally, a rejoinder from Professor Lappin, which contains many informative passages. Some that caught my eye are :

Rose is careful to avoid mentioning the role that Palestinian violence has played in defeating moderate governments and keeping right wing parties in power. The reason is not hard to find. As indicated by the elision in her description of the grenade assault on Yehud in 1953, she does not take this violence seriously. She quotes Max Rodenbeck’s description of the Palestinian cross border attacks of the 1950s as ‘pinprick raids’. Would she also apply this description to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s attack on a group of school children in Maalot on May 15, 1974? 26 civilians, 21 of them high-school students, died in the raid. Does it also cover the PLO’s hijacking of a bus on the coastal road on March 11, 1978 in which 35 civilians were killed? Israel responded to this assault, which originated from a base in Lebanon, with the invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani River. This operation set in motion the sequence of events that produced Sharon’s disastrous Lebanon adventure in 1981 and the subsequent occupation in the south. Would Rose use Rodenbeck’s ‘pin prick raids’ terminology to characterize the Hamas suicide bombings in February and March of 1996? They killed 59 Israelis and helped to elect Benjamin Netanyahu in the June elections of that year. His victory over Shimon Peres derailed the Oslo peace process. Was the Hamas suicide bombing of a Passover Seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002 (which followed a string of deadly terrorist attacks throughout 2001 and 2002) also a pinprick raid? It killed 29 people and provoked Sharon into re-occupying the major cities of the West Bank, with widespread popular support. There is no question that Israel frequently responds to attacks with brutally excessive force, causing heavy civilian casualties. We have seen gruesome examples of this pattern in Gaza recently. But to simply ignore the violence to which these reprisals are a response is dishonest. Moreover, to refuse to acknowledge its corrosive influence on the political process in Israel is to indulge a thoroughly inaccurate view of this process.

One of the most serious failings of much Israeli strategic thinking is its chronically unimaginative resort to crude military reactions to complex problems that require nuanced political responses. Rose, and many of the commentators whom she admires, are invariably quick to point this out. By contrast, they resist any recognition of the extent to which this self-destructive pattern is, in no small part, itself conditioned by the longstanding enthusiasm for uncompromising violence and terrorism that Palestinians have frequently adopted as their preferred method for dealing with Israel.”

The whole of Democratiya is well worth a read just for Professor Lappin’s scholarly review of Rose’s shoddy politicised propaganda.

Written by modernityblog

04/12/2006 at 00:52

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Just Swords??

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As if the poor people of Gaza didn’t have enough to content with, apart from the incompetence of Hamas, the corruption of Fatah, factional gun battles, booby traps in the street and the unnecessary incursions by the IDF, they now face another threat: acid in the face.

According to the Jerusalem Post:

“A hitherto unknown group calling itself the Just Swords of Islam issued a warning to Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip over the weekend that they must wear the hijab or face being targeted by the group’s members.

In pamphlets distributed in various parts of the Gaza Strip, the group also claimed responsibility for attacks on 12 Internet cafes over the past few days.

The warning was directed primarily against female students in a number of universities and colleges who do not cover their heads in line with Islamic tradition.

The group said its followers last week threw acid at the face of a young woman who was dressed “immodestly” in the center of Gaza City. They also destroyed a car belonging to a young man who was playing his radio tape too loudly.

Addressing female students, the group said: “We will have no mercy on any woman who violates the traditions of Islam and who also hang out in Internet cafes.”

According to the group, its members used rocket-propelled grenades to attack 12 Internet cafes and a number of music shops in different parts of the Gaza Strip.

It said the places were targeted because they were “distracting an entire generation of Palestinians from their duty to worship [Alla] and jihad so that they could serve their Zionist masters and the Crusaders.”

Hamas officials denied any connection to the group, noting that their movement does not resort to methods of “intimidation and terror” against the people.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reacted with mixed feelings to the group’s threats. While many seemed to support the demand that all women wear the hijab, others expressed fear that the group was trying to create a Taliban-style regime.”

Written by modernityblog

03/12/2006 at 00:10

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The Perils of "Technological Dependency"

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Technology is a wonderful thing, it has freed humanity from so many tedious and repetitive tasks, however, it is not without its own perils.

Technological dependency is one of those perils, and we all know the symptoms: from phoning up the utility company to be told that “the computer says that you’re dead” to relying too heavily on M$ Word’s spell checker, which makes a hash of so many basic English words.

The Times reported another example of technological dependency (or stupidity, if you like):

“An ambulance crew’s blind faith in a satellite navigation system turned the routine 20-minute transfer of a patient between hospitals into a 400-mile odyssey.

They drove for eight hours before finally delivering the patient. After the equipment sent them north, they covered 215 miles in about four hours. The way back was only slightly shorter and took more than 3½ hours.

The paramedics are far from unusual in being deceived by their sat-nav systems.

Last month a woman dodged oncoming traffic for 14 miles after misreading her sat-nav system and driving the wrong way up a dual carriageway.Police said it was a miracle that no one was injured after the young woman joined the A3M, which links Portsmouth to London, on the southbound side — only to head north.

In September a taxi driver took two teenage girls 85 miles in the opposite direction after keying the wrong place name into his sat-nav. The girls asked to go to Lymington in the New Forest, Hampshire, but the driver tapped in Limington, Somerset.”

Written by modernityblog

02/12/2006 at 13:39

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