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

Archive for December 2009

New Year and Bits.

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Worst gadgets?

Beta 3 of Simply MEPIS.

10 Greatest Open Source Software Of 2009

Five games, for old kids.

A historical perspective on some IT news.

Fennec soon enough, but Opera Mini beta is pretty handy too.

Stuff on Planet Ubuntu.

XO-3? I doubt it.

Help Wikileaks, they are most worthy!

A Google netbook? Sounds good.

Those useless ID cards, don’t travel.

Written by modernityblog

29/12/2009 at 14:15

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The Cattle Prods Of Anti-imperialism?

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The proud anti-imperialist regime of Ahmadinejad and the theocratic ruling classes are bludgeoning Iranians again.

Their crime? Protesting against a brutal regime, their own.

BBC radio news suggested that they were even using cattle prods against the demonstrators. I’m not sure that is true, but it is certainly possible, we know how they act.

They will employ the militia on motorbikes with truncheons, they will run people down in the street. They will occasionally shoot them. All to keep themselves in power.

The current rulers in Iran do not look terribly different from any number of dictatorships, which have come and gone in the world.

Their modus operandi is similar. Ban anti-government protests, send in the security forces, shoot a few people, and batter many others into submission. Make some arrests. Torture people in jail. Murder a few dozen in jail. Tried to break the will of the protesters. Organise show trials. Lock people up on trumped up evidence, and keep the security apparatus on your side with plenty of bribery. Etc., etc.

That is what the anti-imperialist regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does.

Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad is really just a front man for rather unsavoury types within the Revolutionary guard, allied companies, the militia and part of the theocracy. Their role is to keep power, for themselves and they will happily bludgeon, rape, murder and exercise the full power of the State against the Iranian people, when it suits them.

The Observer has more:

”Iran today faces the prospect of a bloody Sunday after opposition supporters clashed violently with security forces yesterday at the start of a key religious ceremony that had been identified beforehand as a dangerous flashpoint.

Government forces were said to have smashed the windows of cars whose drivers honked their horns in support of the protest. Security forces chased protesters into the premises of the student news agency ISNA, off Enghelab Square, and beat them with chains and batons, Rah-e Sabz reported. The Iranian Human Rights Activists news agency said there had been at least 10 arrests.”

Read the account of a member of the Basij militia, horrific, as he discusses the rapes and murders carried out by State operatives in Iran.

More from CODIR, the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights.

Update 1: We shouldn’t forget that this is against the background of protests, last week, at the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri.

Update 2: The Guardian has whole section on Iran, which is rather good. The page on the detained and disappeared in Iran makes grim reading.

Update 3: AFP also reported clashes earlier on:

“TEHRAN — Iranian riot police fired teargas in clashes with thousands of opposition supporters who shouted anti-government slogans during a Shiite mourning event on Saturday, witnesses said.

The skirmishes broke out in north Tehran despite authorities having warned of a crackdown on attempts to use processions marking the solemn Ashura rituals to stage more protests against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

Update 4: has more up to date information, this is a Google English translation.

Update 5: Previously, I correlated together Links of Iranian Links, many of them, particularly the ones to news sites, may have more up to date information on unfolding events.

Update 6: The FT on these recent events:

“Central Tehran turned into a rare conflict zone on Sunday when security forces clashed with hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters.

The opposition used Ashura, the day that Hossein, the third Imam of Shias and the grandson of prophet Mohammad, was killed in the 7th century.

Demonstrators marched a 10km stretch from Imam Hossein Square in eastern Tehran toward Azadi Square in the western end. They held victory signs and wore green wristbands and scarves, the symbolic colour of the opposition. Streets leading to the main route were also packed, according to eyewitnesses.

Police used tear gas, batons and gun shots in the air to disperse the crowd. Jaras, a reformist news website, claimed three were killed. The report could not be independently confirmed and a senior Iranian police official denied the report.

”So far there have been no reports of killings and no one has been killed up to now,” Tehran police chief Azizollah Rajabzadeh told the news agency ISNA.

The Sunday rally was the biggest since June 20, the bloodiest day when at least 10 people were killed. After that incident protest numbers shrank from hundreds of thousands to thousands.”

Written by modernityblog

27/12/2009 at 02:30

Enemy Of The People: Liu Xiaobo

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No doubt, the apologists and intellectual lackeys of the Chinese ruling classes will argue that Liu Xiaobo was an agent of Western imperialism, or maybe even the Dalai Lama, etc., or some such nonsense, but the Guardian has more on him:

“One of China’s most prominent human rights activists was condemned today to 11 years in prison, prompting a furious backlash from domestic bloggers and international civil society groups.

Liu Xiaobo, the founder of the Charter 08 campaign for constitutional reform, was given the unusually harsh jail term on Christmas Day in an apparent attempt to minimise international attention.

The case has raised fears that other drafters of Charter 08 could also face retribution from the authorities.

Following a year in detention and a two-hour trial, it took the No 1 intermediate people’s court in Beijing just 10 minutes to read out the 11-page sentence.

Liu was found guilty on Wednesday of subversion, the vaguely defined charge that Communist party leaders often use to imprison political opponents.

In a statement released by the state-controlled Xinhua news agency, the court said it had “strictly followed the legal procedures” and “fully protected Liu’s litigation rights”.

However, the author and academic had been detained without trial for a year. His wife, Liu Xia, was not allowed into an earlier hearing, nor were foreign diplomatic observers. Liu’s lawyers have been warned not to discuss the case.

But the defence team said they were prepared to appeal against the verdict.

“We cannot accept this sentence because we have argued in court that Liu is innocent,” said one of his lawyers, Mo Shaoping. His wife could not be reached as her mobile phone was suddenly out of order.

Amnesty International expressed outrage at the sentence, which it said was the harshest in 35 subversion cases since 2003.”

I wonder how that will be spun?

Update 1: The Age has more:

“IN AN unequivocal rebuke to those pursuing political reforms, a Chinese court has convicted Liu Xiaobo, one of the country’s best-known dissidents, of subversion and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

Liu, 53, a literature professor and a vocal critic of China’s single-party political system, was detained in December 2008 after he helped create a petition known as Charter 08 that demanded the right to free speech, open elections and many other liberties.

The 11-page verdict, largely a restatement of his indictment, was read yesterday morning at the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate Court by a court official, said Liu’s lawyer, Shang Baojun.

In addition to his prison term, Liu will be deprived of his political rights for an additional two years,which will prevent him from writing or speaking out on a wide range of issues.”

Update 2: I forgot I had covered some of these issues coming up on this topic before, under Sinophobia Or Legitimate Political Criticism?

Written by modernityblog

25/12/2009 at 14:53

Open Nook And Bits

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Rooting the Barnes and Nobles Nook.

Explained here, another way.

BusyBox law suits.

Busybox bloke not happy.

Best update your Firefox to 3.5.6.

Beta 2 of of SimplyMEPIS 8.5 is out.

Bags of Ebooks.

What NO ID card?

No more Mac OS X on non-Apple machines, Apple dictates.

Aussies filtering the Web and Google, China, you say?

$99 Cherry?

Changes at Ubuntu.

Keyboard as PC? Sounds good.

More Wine for the winter, at 1.1.35 dev.

Web winners or not in 2009.

Make a Wine launcher.

Using Office 2003? Don’t encrypt anything!

I always wondered how to do this,

Not a bad idea.

Written by modernityblog

24/12/2009 at 11:27

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Hamas’s Brass Neck.

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The story concerning the potential arrest of Tzipi Livni is unravelling. Unable to keep quiet Hamas brag of their involvement.

Diya al-Madhun, head of a Hamas committee, boasted:

“We provide documents, reports and evidence of crimes to all international bodies aiding the Palestinian people in bringing Israeli civilian and military leaders to trial and issuing warrants for their arrest,”

“We have provided a group of independent lawyers in Britain with documents, information and evidence concerning war crimes committed by Israeli political and military leaders, including (Tzipi) Livni.”

Now we should not imply that the British lawyers are colluding with Hamas, but it is a bit rich of Hamas to complain about human rights, lest we forget:

There’s that and a lot more. I would hope that the British lawyers would know about Hamas, but in case they don’t here’s a clip from the Hamas covenant:

”With their money they [Jews] stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.”


”The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

Yes, that’s right. Hamas believe that Jews are behind the French and Russian Revolutions.

Not only that, but Hamas are convinced that Jews started the First World War to break up the Ottoman Empire, and instigated WW2 to make money. Also, that Jews control the media and world finance. All basically antisemitic filth, that any neo-Nazi would feel happy with, that’s what Hamas believe.

I just wonder how these British lawyers reconciled themselves assisting to a genocidal antisemitic organisation, Hamas?

PS: Lest we are told that Hamas have changed and don’t really hate Jews, perhaps those British lawyers would like to explain away the Holocaust revisionism recently pushed by a Hamas leader?

The Guardian: ‘Brits harvest organs’.

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Yes, that is a sensationalist title and although the Guardian did not use it, it might have, had Brits been Israelis.

In another example of dodgy journalism coming out of the Guardian, they originally chose to run a by-line of “Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs.”.

It was subsequently changed, but the Guardian’s original headline was rather revealing of the prejudices found at that newspaper. In the article you will notice that the pathologists took organs from nearly everyone.

But that alone would not make a sufficiently dramatic headline, nor does it point out that the Israelis themselves brought up this issue and investigated it in a TV programme. The evidence is a bit obvious as the sources are written in Hebrew, and I am sure that even Guardian journalists realise which nation has that as its language?

The problem is, that the Guardian did not make any effort to give this story any context because that would require a degree of objectivity and journalistic competence from the Guardian, which it does not have around the subject of Israel or Israelis, so instead the article is used to slate Israelis.

It could have simply said, that there were insensitive and clumsy pathologists extracting organs from dead bodies that crossed their paths, including Israelis, IDF soldiers, etc.

However, that would not have been enough to make it into an issue for a national paper, so it was dressed up to have a quick swipe at Israelis along the way.

This is territory where we have been before.

Older readers will remember that British doctors did this very same thing, but with children.

Even though the activities at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool caused outrage, I doubt the Guardian would have run an article entitled “British harvest organs of young children”.

That is the type of headline more suitable for tabloids or other rags.

In fact, the Guardian has a section dealing with the Alder Hey issue, but contrast their carefully considered language there, as opposed to the startling by-line that sought to indict Israelis and only Israelis for this practice.

Rather than merely criticise pathologists involved the Guardian attempted to widen the accusation against all Israelis.

That is the problem, the Guardian can write considered and thoughtful articles on the Alder Hey scandal, but when a similar situation arises in Israel it is used as a political stick to beat Israelis with, and any notion of thoughtful journalism is thrown out of the window.

I do wish the Guardian would ditch these prejudices and go back to quality journalism.

Anyone interested in the history of Alder Hey children’s hospital and the organs removed from children, without permission, should read the Royal Liverpool Children’s Inquiry Report summary of key findings and the main recommendations, with the fuller findings here.

Update 1: Organ removal and the illegal storage of the body parts are still an issue in Britain, as the Torygraph reports:

“More than 200 hospitals have been instructed to account for all the organs and human tissue being held in mortuaries and pathology labs, because of concerns that body parts are being stored illegally, without the consent of bereaved relatives.

The HTA has ordered the probe after finding five cases in which bodies which had been examined for post-mortem were released for burial or cremation without their brains.”

Update 2: A section at the Scotsman newspaper shows how important this issue is as an on-going problem and the natural distress that it causes parents and families.

Update 3: The BBC news site has a piece from 1999 concerning Bristol hospital:

“The Bristol Childrens’ Heart Action Group, a parents’ campaign group, says the hospital removed and retained the hearts of at least 170 hearts from children who died in operations over a 12-year period.”

Also, Organ removal: the legal background from 1999 too.

Update 4: I came across a version of this story on msnbc, but it seems that the feed could have come directly from AP. It is possible that the Guardian “tidied” it up before publishing. Astute readers will notice the wording here, compared with the AP story:

“Israel has admitted pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others, without the consent of their families – a practice it said ended in the 1990s – it emerged at the weekend.”

The Guardian could have written “a practice that ended in the 1990s”, but rather they chose “…a practice it said ended in the 1990s…”. Insinuating that it is not a fact, just that it was “said”. Same old tricks.

Update 5: If you want to see how the racists come out and use this topic you need to look no further than this Anthony Lerman article.

Update 6: Yaacov Lozowick has more:

“Antisemitic allegations almost always start from some grain of fact. What makes them antisemitic (or even merely slander) isn’t the original grain of truth but the edifice built on it. In the Rostom blood libel earlier this year the slander was that IDF forces were regularly killing Palestinians so as to harvest their organs. The grain of truth uncovered here (which actually isn’t news at all, it has been known in Israel for years, which is one reason Hiss no longer heads the Abu Kabir institute) has nothing to do with those allegations, and doesn’t substantiate them in any way.

Actually, what we’ve got here is a fine litmus test to discover antisemites. Anyone who spins the true story in the direction Rostom took it are essentially setting themselves up. They need to be asked why they took that particular grain of truth in that particular direction.”

Sharp And To The Point.

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One of the side benefits to blogging is seeing someone take an idea or thought and doing it real justice, expressing it in a fashion that it deserves, with lucidity and a certain pointed edge, so I was very pleased to read IsraeliNurse’s recent post at CiF Watch pointing out the weaknesses in a Guardian editorial on arrest warrants and international law.

As an aside, I wonder how many Guardian editorials have been written criticising only Israelis, compared to the other 190+ nationalities in the world?

Written by modernityblog

21/12/2009 at 04:33

Snow and Rainfall.

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I suppose I should have written much more about the environment and climate change as these issues have concerned me for over 20 years, but now I hope to rectify that omission.

Global warming is not just about the temperature heating up, it’s also about changing patterns of expected seasons, and in some cases increased volatility in weather systems. Obviously this varies from place to place and depends on the time of the year.

Receding snowlines in Nepal are just one indicator, which mountaineers have noticed for years, another is the change in expected rainfall, as the BBC reports:

“Once the world’s wettest places, Cherrapunji is getting up to 20% less rain every year – and is suffering water shortages.

Cherrapunji’s weather office says the average annual rainfall in the town has dropped by about 20% in the last five years – though the trend started a decade ago.

“It is basically since 2005 that we are often getting 800cm-900cm of rain in Cherrapunji annually – against the normal average of 1100cm,” says one of the office’s staff, Amit Chaudhuri.

But the town has been getting drier due to erratic rain since the beginning of the decade, Mr Chaudhuri says.”

Written by modernityblog

20/12/2009 at 04:13

One Cherry Short Of A….

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I offer no comment, but I’ve covered it before, the Indy says it all:

Kaschke, complaints and kirschtorte

*Alex Hilton, star of the Labour blogosphere and Labour candidate for Kensington & Chelsea, won a minor victory in the High Court this week, in a case which illustrates how easy it is to get sued for libel in the UK. He owns the website Labourhome, on which another Labour blogger, John Gray, wrote about a political activist named Johanna Kaschke, who left the Labour Party in 2007, to join George Galloway’s Respect Party, then joined a communist party of some description, and since autumn 2007 has been an active Conservative. In 1975, Kaschke was falsely suspected by the German police of links to the Baader Meinhof terrorist gang. She was arrested, but eventually released and awarded compensation.
She objected to having this old story dug up on LabourHome. Hilton removed the post and offered right of reply, but she decided to go to court. She lodged five complaints, but this week, the court struck out four. One point m’learned friends may yet have to deliberate, seriously, is whether it is actionable to describe someone as “one cherry short of a Schwarzwalderkirschtorte”.

(Thanks to John Gray.)

Written by modernityblog

19/12/2009 at 23:10

Sinophobia Or Legitimate Political Criticism?

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Over the years we’ve heard of the l’exception française. More recently even l’exception American, but how about l’exception Sino?

Nor should we be too surprised when the supporters, excusers and apologists of Beijing regime bring out the accusation of “Sinophobia”?

Allegations of “Sinophobia” are used to close down criticism of those running the Chinese state.

It is beyond their ken, or understanding, that people might be concerned with the destructive activities of the dictators that run China, be it environmental, human rights or even trade union rights, in this instance all criticism can simply be dismissed as “Sinophobia”.

It is a perfect solution.

After all it doesn’t require engaging with the activities of the Chinese State, how they brutalised the population, enrich themselves or threaten others.

No. No criticism is acceptable, all of it is to be simply labelled as “Sinophobia”.

It is a marvellous tactic, as it requires no argumentation.

It doesn’t require any familiarity with China itself, how the ruling elites run the country, the barbarism inflicted on the population or the deaths caused by the headlong dash for industrialisation. [Warning, the pictures are rather distressing.]

It is a perfect ploy for the intellectually lazy or those incapable of substantiating their views with reason or evidence.

I wonder how the persecution of Liu Xiaobo will be explained away? The Guardian has more:

” One of China’s leading dissidents has been charged with “inciting subversion”, and faces a possible 15-year jail sentence, amid growing international outrage over his detention and forthcoming trial.

Liu Xiaobo was one of 300 democratic activists in China to author a bold call for constitutional reform last December. The manifesto was published under the name Charter 08, and called for greater freedom of expression, multi-party elections and independent courts. Seen as a figurehead for the movement, Liu was taken into detention shortly before the document was published online. Then, in June, he was formally arrested on suspicion of incitement to subvert state power.

In the latest development – which came on International Human Rights Day, a year and a day after the charter’s publication – officials told Liu’s lawyer they would charge him. He will almost certainly be convicted and sentenced to jail, say experts, probably within weeks”

Hunting Witches.

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Just heard about this on the radio and I thought that hunting Witches had stopped in the 16th century, but apparently Ali Sibat has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for sorcery, the Guardian explains:

“Once again, the spotlight is on Saudi Arabia for all the wrong reasons. This time, the kingdom is attracting criticism for condemning a self-styled psychic to death on the vague charge of “witchcraft”.

Ali Sibat, who is Lebanese, was arrested by Saudi Arabia’s notorious moral police at his hotel room in Medina on May 7 last year, while in town for a pilgrimage. After languishing in jail for a year and a half, he was sentenced to death in November for reportedly practising witchcraft. His lawyer has said Sibat was told that if he confessed to witchcraft, he would be released and allowed to return home.

Sibat was known for his appearances on a Lebanese satellite television station, where he offered callers advice and predictions about the future. Human rights organisations and media reports allege that these TV appearances were the only evidence used to condemn Sibat to death. This is a point worth emphasising: Sibat didn’t kill, torture, terrorise or kidnap anyone, or commit any crime that put anybody else’s life at risk. He told the superstitious whether they would find happiness or have children, and as a result, he has been condemned to death.”

Amnesty International’s take on it.

Written by modernityblog

19/12/2009 at 04:44

Anti-Muslim Bigotry in Europe.

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A new report out highlights the discrimination faced by many Muslims in Europe:

“The Open Society Institute Muslims in Europe report series constitutes the comparative analysis of data from 11 cities in seven European countries. It points out common trends and offers recommendations at the local, national, and international levels, including to the European Union and to international organizations. While not representative of the situation of all Muslims in these cities, this report does capture a snapshot of the experiences of Muslim communities in select neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester and Waltham Forest–London, Marseille and Paris, and Stockholm.

This body of work comes in response to major trends with regards to Muslims living in Europe: whether citizens or migrants, native born or newly-arrived, Muslims are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges, namely how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.”

The report summary is here, and the full 341 page report is here.

Written by modernityblog

18/12/2009 at 23:38

Update: Florence and Precious Mhango.

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Anne McLaughlin has sent out this update:


Yes they were released this afternoon and put on a train to Glasgow. It seems that their judicial review has been granted but it’s not clear yet if the Home Secretary intervened and dropped the objections or if the high court decided to throw those objections out.

Either way, I met two very happy people off the train just 45 minutes ago. Precious must be so confused by all of this but she was smiling and thrilled to be home, as was Florence who had been so scared earlier today.

I will update you when I know the details and then I’ll be looking at how we help them from here and also some of the broader issues this campaign has highlighted.

For now though I just want to say thank you very very much to every one of you for your support for Florence and Precious. As I’ve said before your support has made a huge difference and enabled them to cope with this awful situation.

But more than that, I have no doubt whatsoever that without your ongoing commitment to helping them, they would have been deported long ago.

I cannot say how much we appreciate each and every one of you.”

Written by modernityblog

18/12/2009 at 02:38

Carter-Ruck, Trafigura And Those Emails.

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These posts could get a bit big, so I will split them up, Richard Wilson’s comments are here.

The BBC will probably clear down any criticism, no matter how mild, of Trafigura, so I think it is best to keep a copy of those Trafigura emails which indicate they knew what they were doing and why.

A copy of those emails is at the BBC.

More on too.

Trafigura Intimidates The BBC.

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Trafigura are still at it.

Despite overwhelming and compelling evidence which demonstrate their culpability and negligence in polluting the Ivory Coast, Trafigura are using highly paid lawyers to bully people and silent the media.

In this instance, they’ve managed to intimidate the rather weak will BBC as Left Foot Forward reports:

“Libel reform campaigners have reacted with “dismay” at the BBC’s decision to concede to toxic waste shippers Trafigura in the High Court. In a statement, the BBC said it withdrew “the allegation that deaths, miscarriages or serious or long-term injuries were caused by the waste and apologises to Trafigura for having claimed otherwise.”

The case was brought by Carter Ruck on behalf after the BBC claimed in its Newsnight programme of 13 May 2009 titled ‘Dirty Tricks and Toxic waste‘ that Trafigura had caused deaths by being involved in the dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. A number of blogs carried the report even after it was removed by the BBC. In February 2007, Reuters reported that “Ivory Coast has confirmed the deaths of a five more people from exposure to toxic waste dumped in Abidjan last August, taking the death toll to 15.”

Readers will remember how Trafigura employed these tactics recently.