“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

Snow and Rainfall.

with 4 comments

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….

with 3 comments

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?

with 3 comments

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.

with one comment

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.

with 3 comments

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.

with one comment

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.

leave a comment »

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.