ModernityBlog

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

Posts Tagged ‘UN

South Sudan.

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The creation of a new country is an immense undertaking. From the comparatively simple logistics of organising the demarcation of frontiers to establishing a governmental framework and all of the tens of thousands of tasks in between.

The difficulties of such an enterprise should not be underestimated or diminished, it is a mammoth accomplishment to even start the process.

So I think that whilst we should welcome the setting up of South Sudan we should not forget the background to its creation or the part play by Omar Al-Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup d’etat.

We should not forget the ICC’s warrent for his arrest.

I would heartily recommend Eric Reeves’s work on Darfur and beyond to understand what has happened and why.

Reeves’s past piece on China’s role in this conflict is illuminating:

“The weaponry and ammunition in this and many other subsequent attacks on the UN peacekeeping force were in all likelihood manufactured in China and imported into Darfur by Khartoum’s armed forces—in direct violation of a UN Security Council embargo on all such movement of arms or ammunition. This is confirmed in a new, unpublished report from the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, created by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005). According to the Washington Post, the UN panel reports “finding recently manufactured shell casings from Chinese ammunition at the site of numerous attacks launched by unidentified assailants against peacekeepers from the joint UN-Union Mission.” This finding clearly implicates Khartoum and its proxies in the attacks on peacekeepers. “

Written by modernityblog

09/07/2011 at 17:27

UN Hands Over Protesters To Bahrain.

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Officials at the UN offices in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, have handed over human rights protesters to the Bahraini security forces according to information coming out of Twitter and Demotix:

“Three Bahrain women, Asma Darwish,Sawsan Jawad and Zainab Alkhawaja have been arrested as they began a hunger strike calling for immediate action to be taken by the UN, on political prisoners in Bahrain. “

So instead of helping the women, the UN officials hand them over to the very people they should be protecting them from. Despicable.

Hassan Nasrallah Backs Murders in Syria.

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One time radical and firebrand, Hassan Nasrallah, has gone with the money.

He is backing the murderous President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Not too surprising, because if he didn’t, he would lose the support of the Iranian regime and their money.

Since the uprising against the Syrian dictators some 1100 people have been killed by the regime and their thugs, according to Sawasiah, ABC News reports:

“Human rights activists in Syria say the two-month crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters has cost the lives of at least 1,100 people.

The Syrian human rights organisation Sawasiah says it has the names of 1,100 people reportedly killed during the unrest that broke out in mid-March.

Most were from southern areas in Hauran Plain – including the city of Deraa where the protests first began two months ago.

The human rights group says it in fact has heard reports of another 200 civilian deaths but has no names to base the figures on.

The death toll in Syria rose sharply after the protests spread from Deraa to other parts of the country.”

Yahoo News has more on Nasrallah’s speech:

” “We call on all Syrians to preserve their country as well as the ruling regime, a regime of resistance, and to give their leaders a chance to cooperate with all Syria’s communities in order to implement the necessary reforms,” he said in the speech broadcast by his party’s Al-Manar television.

The speech, marking the 11th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after a 22-year occupation, was broadcast on a giant screen to thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the village of Nabi Sheet, a Shiite stronghold in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

It was the first time the reclusive Hezbollah chief commented on the protests in Syria, which along with Iran is a major backer of his Shiite militant party.

“The difference between the Arab uprisings and Syria… is that President Assad is convinced that reforms are necessary, unlike Bahrain and other Arab countries,” said Nasrallah, who has not appeared in public since 2008.

The Rich, The Powerful And Diplomatic Immunity.

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The Guardian has a good piece on the misuse of diplomatic immunity and the terrible treatment of domestic workers by diplomats and those in positions of power:

“Still, a recent case of domestic abuse in a diplomatic household set an encouraging precedent. Vishranthamma Swarna, a maid to former Kuwaiti UN diplomat Badar Al-Awadi, claimed to have suffered sustained mistreatment, including rape, when she was not cooking, cleaning and caring for the diplomat’s children in New York. Swarna was isolated: she spoke no English and was banned by her employer from leaving the house. She also inhabited a legal black hole: since her employer, who brought her in on a special visa, had diplomatic immunity, he could not be prosecuted in the United States for his actions.

With help from the ACLU, Swarna was able to take her case to the federal district court of New York, where the judge ruled that her work did not have a “direct … benefit to diplomatic functions” and that Al-Awadi could subsequently not be protected from prosecution under the Vienna conventions (pdf). The decision means that a diplomat can now be held liable for mistreating a domestic worker, but not for sexually abusing a secretary or intern, whose work is arguably vital to the embassy or consulate’s work. It remains to be seen whether victims like Swarna will begin speak up. But even then, their alleged abusers can conveniently relocate. Al-Awadi has since moved to Paris.

Women who work at international organisations also face sex discrimination and harassment, and the more highly ranked their harassers, the less likely they are to get justice.

In 2004, Ruud Lubbers, the high commissioner for human rights, reportedly grabbed Cynthia Brzak, an American employee, and pressed his groin against her buttocks in full view of other UNHCR staff. Brzak and many other female employees report that it is normal to be treated in such a way at the UN and other international organisations. But since filing a complaint is seen as a career-killer, most sexual harassment incidents go unreported. Victims have very little legal recourse, and must go through the UN’s complex internal justice system. Brzak pressed charges because she was tired of the permissive culture. “I just wanted a message sent that you cannot keep jumping on women at three in the afternoon,” she says today.” “

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Written by modernityblog

22/05/2011 at 14:44

The London School of Economics And The “Libya Gift”

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Below is the minutes of a meeting at the London School of Economics which discussed taking money from Gaddafi’s Libya. A copy of this is on the web, I put it here as a matter of public record.

“THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

COUNCIL

20 October 2009

MINUTES

A meeting of the Council was held on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 in BOX, 5th Floor, Tower 3

PRESENT: Sir Anthony Battishill (in the Chair), Ms Vivina Berla, Professor Chris Brown, Ms Angela Camber, Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Ms Bronwyn Curtis, Mr Alan Elias, Mr Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Mr Tim Frost, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Janet Hartley, Ms Kate Jenkins, Professor Paul Kelly, Dr David Lane, Ms Anne Lapping, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor David Marsden, Professor Eileen Munro, Professor George Philip, Mr Brian Smith, Professor Sarah Worthington.

BY INVITATION: Mr Mike Bragg (Staff Consultative Council), Mr Roger Mountford (Nominated Officer, LSE Enterprise).

IN ATTENDANCE: Ms Jenny Bone, Ms Barbara Bush, Mr Adrian Hall, Professor David Held (until Minute No. 21), Ms Fiona Kirk, Ms Jayne Rose, Ms Jean Sykes, Mr Wayne Tatlow.

APOLOGIES: Mr Stephen Barclay, Howard Davies, Mr Richard Goeltz (North American Advisory Board), Mr Mario Francescotti, Ms Sophie de la Hunt, Mr Wol Kolade, Professor Richard Sennett, Mr Peter Sutherland.

IN MEMORIAM

10. Council stood as a mark of respect for Professor Antoine Faure-Grimaud of the Department of Finance who died on 6 July 2009 at the age of 41.

WELCOME

11. The Chairman welcomed Ms Bronwyn Curtis to her first meeting of the Council.

THE CHAIRMAN

12. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that Mr Peter Sutherland was recovering from a period of ill health. Mr Sutherland had retained a keen interest in the School during his period of recuperation and had been kept abreast of School developments. He hoped to return to the School later in the Michaelmas Term.

13. RESOLVED: that the Secretary and Director of Administration would convey to the Chairman the best wishes of the Council.

MINUTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON 21 SEPTEMBER 2009

14. RECEIVED: the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 21 September 2009.

15. RESOLVED: that the minutes be approved as a correct record.

MATTERS ARISING

Donation for the Centre for Global Governance

16. RECEIVED: paper CL/2, “Libya Gift”, comprising introductory remarks from the Director, a letter from Professor Fred Halliday entitled “LSE and the Qaddafi Foundation: A Dissenting Note”, and a collection of media reports on links between the LSE and Libya.

17. REPORTED: that Council had decided on 23 June 2009 to accept a donation of £1.5m over 5 years from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation for the LSE Centre for the Study of Global Governance. Since that time, there had been widespread condemnation of Libya’s handling of the return of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and the Director had received a letter from Emeritus Professor Fred Halliday which counselled against acceptance of the donation. Accordingly, the Council had been given the opportunity to consider whether, in the light of events over the summer, LSE’s links with Libya had attracted negative publicity to the School, or might do so in future and, if so, whether that was sufficient to warrant reconsideration of the gift.

18. REPORTED, by Professor David Held (Co-Director, Centre for the Study of Global Governance): that the decision to accept the gift was a matter for the LSE/ Council; that the Foundation was a UN accredited NGO; that the gift was funded by private sector organisations (in construction and engineering); that the gift was unrestricted and had no conditions on use; that a public signing ceremony had been undertaken, and that a u-turn at this juncture might affect the School’s relations with Libya and cause personal embarrassment to the Chairman of the Foundation, Dr Saif al-Islam Gaddafi; that the views espoused by Professor Halliday were not necessarily shared by all in the academic community; that, having trawled traditional media and the blogosphere, no evidence had been found that LSE’s links with Libya had attracted criticism, despite the ‘storm’ created by the Al-Megrahi affair; and that it was important to engage with the Middle East and North Africa.

19. IN DISCUSSION the following points were made:

(a) that there were concerns about the reputational risk of rejecting the gift, having accepted it in the summer;
(b) that with the exception of Professor Halliday, no member of the School community had queried the decision to accept the Libyan donation, although this might reflect the timing of the original discussion near the end of the Summer Term and the publication of the relevant Council minutes in September;
(c) that in future more information should be provided to Council about controversial potential donations, more time allowed for consideration, and Council should benefit from a “devil’s advocate” approach when considering the arguments;
(d) that in future the totality of the School’s relationship with a country should be overseen to enable early identification of potential reputational risk;
(e) that LSE Enterprise had experience of working with the Libyan state, delivering executive education. They had operated with complete independence and their work had been positively received by others, including the School’s supporters in the United States;
(f) that some individual members of the North American Advisory Board had indicated that acceptance of the donation would not affect the extent to which US alumni would financially support the School;
(g) that although Professor Held had joined the Board of Trustees of the Foundation after acceptance by Council of the donation to the Centre for Global Governance in June 2009, concerns remained about the perceived conflict of interest.

20. REPORTED, by Professor David Held:

(a) that due diligence work and research had been undertaken to establish the credentials of the Foundation. The donation had been extensively debated within the Development Committee before it reached the Council for decision;
(b) that the Foundation was created in order to be to be an exemplary NGO within North Africa. Its support for democracy and human rights had at times placed it at odds with the Libyan State, but it had enjoyed some success in areas such as penal reform;
(c) that the Foundation raised funds on a project-by-project basis, with the money coming from private sector companies, rather than the Libyan government;
(d) that, following the Council meeting on 23 June 2009, Professor Held had been invited to join the Board of the Foundation in an individual capacity. Upon the advice of Council, Professor Held would be willing to resign that position;
(e) that the donation from the Foundation represented less than 20% of the operating costs of the Centre for Global Governance, with the remainder coming from a diverse range of other sources.

21. REPORTED, by the LSESU General Secretary: support for discussion of controversial major donations at Council.

Professor Held left the meeting.

22. RESOLVED:

(a) on balance, that the decision of 23 June 2009 to accept the gift would stand;
(b) that in order to avoid the potential for conflicts of interest and reputational risk, colleagues should not usually serve on the boards of organisations from which they or their units were receiving gifts. The Director would be asked to consider the implications of, and as appropriate promulgate, this policy decision. In this context, Council accepted Professor Held’s offer to stand down as a Board member of the Gaddafi Foundation;
(c) that the totality of the School’s relationship with, and work in Libya needed to be carefully monitored and handled to avoid misunderstanding of the School’s position;
(d) that when presenting to Council on controversial potential donations, the arguments should include a “devil’s advocate” element. Council should be given sufficient time to weigh all of the arguments, and to have the opportunity to reflect before reaching a decision;
(e) that the Secretary and Director of Administration would write to Professor Halliday to inform him of the outcome of discussions at Council.

REPORT ON BEHALF OF THE DIRECTOR

23. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Planning and Resources):

Student Recruitment
(a) that the School had “over-recruited” by 280 students, but remained within the HEFCE +/- 5% tolerance band. Departments which had over-recruited by more than 5% of their admission target would receive compensation. Consideration would be given as to how over-recruitment of Home/EU undergraduate students can be avoided in future years.

Points-Based Visa System
(b) that the School’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the introduction of the points-based visa system had proved effective, with relatively few students affected and no significant impact on conversion rates.

Pay Negotiations
(c) that the Universities and Colleges Employers Association’s latest offer of 0.5% had been accepted by Unison, but rejected by the UCU, Unite, EIS – ULA and the GMB. It was likely that all parties would enter into arbitration through ACAS.

Public Sector Finance
(d) that a briefing would be arranged for Heads of Academic Departments, Service Leaders, Departmental Managers, APRC and members of Council, to explain the deteriorating public spending environment and how this might affect the School in future years. The School would need to develop contingency plans to ensure that it would be able to continue to support teaching, research, service improvement and estate development, regardless of any decrease in public funding.

24. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations):

THE World Rankings
(a) that the LSE had been rated 67th in the THE World University Rankings and 5th in the world as a specialist social sciences institution. The School’s position in the global ranking had been adversely affected by a change in the weightings for international staff and students, resulting in a marked drop in ranking from 2007. The publishers had acknowledged weaknesses in league table methodology and had entered a dialogue with the School about more suitable measures.

Peking Summer School
(b) that the 6th LSE-Peking University Summer School in Beijing had attracted 240 students from 40 countries.

LSE Cities
(c) that Deutsche Bank had provided an endowment of £1million per year for the next five years to fund LSE Cities, an international centre for urban excellence.

Yrjo Jahnsson Award in Economics 2009
(d) that Professor John Van Reenen, Director of the LSE Centre for Economic Performance had been awarded Europe’s most prestigious prize for economic researchers. Professor Van Reenen shared the award with Fabrizio Zilibotti of the University of Zurich, an alumnus of the LSE.

Postgraduate Education
(e) that the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations) had been invited to contribute to the Government review of postgraduate education.

25. REPORTED, by the Chief Information Officer:

IBSS
(a) that arrangements were being made to secure the financial sustainability of the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, following the withdrawal of funding by the ESRC. Any future arrangement would provide for continued access for LSE users, free of charge, in perpetuity.

26. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration:

Human Resources Advisory Group
(a) that the Secretary and the Director of Human Resources would bring forward to Council a report about reviving the committee of Council responsible for advising on HR strategy.

27. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning):

Student Loans Company
(b) that relatively few students had been affected by late loan payments and that the School had been proactive in promoting services to assist any students still awaiting loans.

Black to the Future
(c) that the second LSE “Black to the Future” conference had attracted 380 participants. The aim of the event was to inspire young black Londoners to aim for the top in the world of education.

Orientation
(d) that the new student orientation arrangements appeared to have been successful and feedback was being sought from students.

SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN STUDENTS AND YOUNG ACADEMICS

28. REPORTED, by the Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning):

(a) that the School had for some time been considering ways in which it might assist in meeting the needs identified in a Universities UK report of March 2008 for staff development for young academics in Palestinian universities. The report recommended the development of “virtual” links between Palestinian universities and higher education institutions in the UK. In June, with the assistance of the British Council, Mr Steve Ryan of the LSE Centre for Learning Technology travelled to Al Quds Open University to deliver a seminar on the assistance that LSE might provide, such as online seminars on topics such as the use of IT in teaching and research methodology. The capacity-building programme would be rolled out during 2009/10 and a delegation from Al Quds would visit the UK later this year. It was hoped that Al Quds would disseminate the knowledge made available by the LSE to other Palestinian universities, in order to provide broader benefit.

(b) that the School was exploring the possibility of providing more formal staff development for young academics in Palestine (such as fee waivers). A number of discussions had taken place over the summer between the School, the Department of Business, Industry and Skills (BIS), the British Council and a number of other UK universities. The School had committed support in principle for a scheme of this nature, and an announcement was expected from the BIS early in the New Year. It was understood that any initiative would relate to the Palestinian territories broadly defined, including Gaza.

REPORT OF THE COUNCIL AWAYDAY 2009

29. RECEIVED: paper CL/3, report on the Council Awayday held on 21 September 2009.

30. REPORTED, by Professor David Marsden: that concerns had been raised by Academic Governors during the Awayday session on Research Performance and the Research Excellence Framework regarding: bibliometrics; research themes/ academic autonomy; and the danger of inhibiting truly ground-breaking research.

31. IN RESPONSE, the Pro-Director (Research and External Relations) reported that a paper had been circulated to all Heads of Department regarding preparations for the REF and that this would be debated in full at the Academic Board later in the term and would be the basis of further discussion within academic departments.

STRATEGIC PLAN

32. RECEIVED: paper CL/4, draft Strategic Plan Targets 2009-14.

33. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that the targets were a “work in progress” and currently contained a mixture of quantitative targets and processes.

34. REPORTED, by Mr Mike Bragg (representative of the Staff Consultative Committee): concerns regarding the achievability of some of the targets for the development of IT Services; and concern that valuable data might be lost if the proposed staff survey were to be made more concise.

35. IN RESPONSE: the Secretary and Director of Administration reported that the staff survey, in its original format, was extremely long and that the time required to complete it would deter staff from responding. He would be reviewing the shortened version of the staff survey and would ensure that all key elements were retained.

36. RESOLVED: that Mr Bragg would discuss his concerns regarding the proposed IT Services targets with the Chief Information Officer outside of the meeting.

37. IN DISCUSSION:

(a) it was suggested that the target for uptake of Houghton Street Online should be more ambitious;
(b) the alignment of activities with the Strategic Plan was welcomed;
(c) that it would be useful to specify the rationale for each of the selected targets.

38. RESOLVED:

(a) that the Director of Development and Alumni Relations would review the target relating to Houghton Street Online;
(b) that Council members would email comments on the proposed targets to the Secretary and Director of Administration within a fortnight of the meeting.

REMUNERATION COMMITTEE

39. RECEIVED: paper CL/5, a report on policy issues arising from the meeting of the Remuneration Committee held on 15 July 2009.

40. REPORTED: that the Remuneration Committee had established four sub-groups to consider individual cases and bring forth recommendations, which allowed the main Committee to focus on substantive policy issues and strategic decisions. The main Committee would set the parameters for decision-making by the sub-groups, in order to ensure consistency in application and appropriate controls on expenditure. In the current session, the Committee would be considering the issue of equal pay.

COURT OF GOVERNORS

41. RECEIVED: the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Court of Governors held on 2 July 2009.

42. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that at the suggestion of the Council, the Court would be briefed on issues relating to the promotion by Government of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at the expense of the social sciences, arts and humanities. It was hoped that members of the Court would be willing to lobby policy-makers on this key issue.

43. REPORTED, by the General Secretary of the LSE Students’ Union: that the restructuring of the Union had been successfully completed and that financial irregularities in previous years were being addressed by the Sabbatical Officers and the new management. Financial and back office services would be outsourced to Charity Business, a specialist provider, with the objective of improving management accounts and ensuring compliance with the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for accounting and reporting by charities.

ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE SECRETARY AND DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION AND THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCE AND FACILITIES

44. RECEIVED: papers CL/7 and CL/8, the annual reports of the Secretary and Director of Administration and Director of Finance and Facilities.

45. REPORTED: by the Secretary and Director of Administration: the role of the Triumvirate under the auspices of the Academic Planning and Resources Committee in approving and resourcing Service Development Plans for the support services and ensuring that these meet the needs of the academic community.

46. RESOLVED:

(a) to commend the outstanding achievements of the professional support services staff over the past year and the plans of the services for the coming year;
(b) to request a substantive discussion within Council about these reports on at least a biennial basis, commencing 2010/11.

HEFCE ASSURANCE REVIEW

47. RECEIVED: paper CL/9, a report on the 2009 HEFCE Assurance Visit.

48. RESOLVED: to note the content of the report.

LEGAL COMPLIANCE

49. RECEIVED: paper CL/10, a report on recent legislative and regulatory developments.

50. RESOLVED: to note the content of the report.

NOTICE OF THE COURT MEETING OF 10 DECEMBER 2009

51. RECEIVED: paper CL/11, the notice of the Court meeting of 10 December 2009.

52. RESOLVED: to approve the draft calling notice for the meeting of the Court of Governors to be held on 10 December 2009, subject to any amendments made by the Director.

RELEASE OF PAPERS

53. RESOLVED: that the agenda and papers of the meeting of Council held on 20 October 2009 be released to the intranet and made available to the public upon request, with the exception of the following items:

(a) Minute 5 of the minutes of the meeting of Council held on 21 September 2009 (estate strategy) on grounds of commercial sensitivity;
(b) Paper CL/2, donation to the Centre for Global Governance – publication to be delayed until follow up action has been completed;
(c) Paper CL/6, unconfirmed minutes of the meeting of the Court of Governors held on 2 July 2009 and CL/11, notice of the Court meeting to be held on 10 December 2009 – both intended for future publication;
(d) Paper CL/8, the annual report of the Director of Finance and Facilities, will be published save for extracts relating to potential property acquisitions (commercially sensitive) and identified or identifiable individuals (data protection).

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Vice Chairman of the Court and Council

54. REPORTED, by the Secretary and Director of Administration: that on 10 December 2009, the Court would be asked by the Chairmanship and Vice-Chairmanship Selection Committee to approve the election of Ms Kate Jenkins as a Vice-Chairman of the Court and Council, succeeding Sir Anthony Battishill.

55. RESOLVED: to concur with the recommendation of the Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship Selection Committee that Ms Jenkins be elected a Vice Chairman of the Court and Council.

There being no further business, the meeting of the Council concluded at 7.40pm.”

Remember, those present:

PRESENT: Sir Anthony Battishill (in the Chair), Ms Vivina Berla, Professor Chris Brown, Ms Angela Camber, Ms Shami Chakrabarti, Ms Bronwyn Curtis, Mr Alan Elias, Mr Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Mr Tim Frost, Professor George Gaskell, Professor Janet Hartley, Ms Kate Jenkins, Professor Paul Kelly, Dr David Lane, Ms Anne Lapping, Professor Robin Mansell, Professor David Marsden, Professor Eileen Munro, Professor George Philip, Mr Brian Smith, Professor Sarah Worthington.

Ship Sinks, Why No News?

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At the moment, events in Libya are followed with great scrutiny, yet scraps of information are coming in to suggest that a boat carrying 600 people may have sunk on Friday

Perplexingly, it is not too clear if that is the case. The ship left port on Friday and witnesses in another ship say they saw debris etc:

“A boat carrying more than 600 migrants capsized off the coast of Libya Friday and many of the passengers are believed to have drowned, the United Nations said Monday, marking what may be the deadliest chapter yet in an escalating immigration crisis unleashed by the conflict in the North African country.

Migrants arriving in Lampedusa over the weekend told staff of the United Nations’ refugee agency that they witnessed a boat brimming with hundreds of migrants—who were predominantly Congolese, Eritrean, Nigerian, Ivory Coast and Somali nationals—sink near the port of Tripoli, said Laura Boldrini, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A spokesman for the Libyan government in Tripoli declined to comment on the matter.

Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said it was unclear how many people survived the shipwreck, but that some of the people aboard the capsized boat managed to swim ashore. He added that migrants have often drowned in similar incidents, because they don’t know how to swim. One woman who swam ashore told IOM staff that her baby drowned in the shipwreck. Mr. Chauzy said that once ashore, she and other migrants were “herded” by armed men onto another boat that eventually reached the tiny island of Lampedusa. “

It is bewildering. How could you lose a ship full of 600 people between the Libyan coast and Italy, and not know?

How can 600 people be thrown in the sea and it doesn’t get reported (or hardly) in the Western media?

Or is it simply a case of “No WASPs, Europeans or Westerners involved, move along, no story”.

Surely, a record of the ship leaving must have been kept, its Captain, its destination and when it didn’t arrive, why weren’t questions asked promptly?

Update 1: There are a few stories coming out, now, on Twitter, 3 days later:

My Fox Houston has a piece.

NPR too, but overall too little and far too late.

Bin Laden, More, Odds And Sods.

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There is a good podcast from the New Yorker with Steve Coll, Dexter Filkins, and Ryan Lizza on Osama bin Laden and Pakistan as an MP3.

There were elections going on in Britain for some local councils, FT Westminster has a nice quick summary here. I suspect that the reason the Lib Dems lost was disenchantment from ex-Labour/floating voters. Years back, on paper, the Lib Dems looked more radical, more left than the Labour Party and so acquired those displeased with how right wing and distant the British Labour Party had become. The Tory vote held up because Tory voters have a more ingrained class consciousness than many would care to acknowledge. The Greens also benefited from ex-Lib Dem voters.

Labour’s mediocre performance seems in part due to the unappealing and decidedly uncharismatic Ed Miliband, who still hasn’t decided to throw the wreckage of new Labour overboard yet. He’s Labour’s equivalent of Iain Duncan Smith. If the Labour Party could renounce new Labour and its modern refried equivalent then they might have a chance of beating the Tories, the old-fashioned way, but as it is I can’t see the plethora of mediocrities in the shadow cabinet achieving much. They are useless and obviously so.

The Economist’s piece on robots and nuclear disasters makes a very salient point:

“Since March 11th when disaster struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, it has become clear that most of that effort has gone to waste. Japan’s much-vaunted robots may play violins and build cars, but the only ones now doing emergency work in its biggest-ever nuclear disaster are foreign, such as the PackBot, previously used in Afghanistan, which is made by Massachusetts-based iRobot.

The reasons for this oddity help explain why the nuclear accident, though caused by a tsunami, has been exacerbated by a string of public-policy failures. Despite several low-level nuclear accidents, Japan’s power generators such as Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima plant, have sworn blind that their safety records are exemplary and there is no danger of any meltdowns. This safety mythology has been used by utilities to bypass domestic opposition to nuclear energy and was tacitly endorsed by the government, media, and public at large.

But it meant the government failed to ensure proper disaster preparedness. And the utilities failed to build up expertise in certain areas, such as robotics. So TEPCO was allowed to spurn the rescue robots built with public money. Commercial robot makers such as Tmsuk, based in south-western Japan, say they were shut out too. “

Hundreds of Western “anti-imperialists” must be breathing a sigh of relief, no longer will they have to defend the rantings of the Iranian President. He’s on his way out after a political clash with the Supreme Leader in Iran. We can only hope that Ahmadinejad’s replacement is not such a racist or a fan of neo-Nazis. Not that many in the West would probably notice either way.

Adam Holland on the shenanigans going on at the City University of New York and the proposed honorary degree for Tony Kushner:

“A member of CUNY’s board of trustees, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, has blocked Tony Kushner from receiving that university’s honors. In what is usually a pro-forma vote, the rubber stamp was stolen by a trustee with an ideological agenda and an inflated sense of his own importance. That trustee clearly misunderstands both his own role and that of the university in such matters.

The trustee who blocked Kushner’s honorary degree did so because he disagrees with Kushner’s anti-Israel activism. While he may have an argument to make against Kushner’s views, that argument hardly negates Kushner’s considerable achievements. More importantly, as every other trustee in the history of CUNY has understood, this is not the appropriate forum to make such arguments. By making agreement about politics a litmus test for receiving the university’s honors, the trustee has created a terrible precedent for CUNY. If this is allowed to stand, the university’s trustees will not only be free to dictate that recipients of the university’s honors agree with each trustee’s political views, they can blackball any honoree who offends their sensibilities in any manner. ”

Completely agree, Kushner should be granted that degree.

According to the Beeb, documents covering Britain’s colonial past may be released.

Eamonn on Boron, Bin Laden and the Verkrappt Left.

HuffPost has a pertinent piece, What About The Syrians?

“Osama bin Laden’s death took center stage on global media and rightly so because it was an event of the decade. Five days have passed since that episode and it is about time to look at other, and more important issues. More than 600 people have been killed in just under five weeks in Syria and there has been little, if any, attention being paid to them. This has emboldened the repressive dictatorship in Syria to cement its oppressive hold. “No one is paying attention so why shouldn’t I use the most brutal force?” Bashar al-Assad thought before ordering a new wave of arrests and military crackdowns.

Assad is right in his thinking. American and European governments have paid lip service to the cause of Syrians. United States is even defending its policies regarding Syria, despite the growing concern over massive human rights violations. There have been a few lackluster sanctions from Europe but interestingly none of them has a mention of Bashar. Nothing can be more ridiculous than that. Here is a person who is supervising the massacre but is evading the mildest of censure by the international community.

Assad can’t be any happier. He also has full support of the Iranian regime. Iran’s foreign ministry, which was quick to support uprisings in other Arab states, also swiftly dismissed the Syrian struggle for democracy. “

And the Indy.