ModernityBlog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Western compliance

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.

Bahrain: Medical Professionals On Trial.

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The Bahraini government has broken so many international conventions in terms of attacking civilians, putting down legitimate protests and quashing freedom of speech, now they are putting doctors and other medical professionals on trial, CNN reports:

“The justice ministry in Bahrain said 47 medical professionals will be tried for crimes that include incitement to overthrow the regime, deadly assault and refusal to help persons in need.

Twenty-four doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics have been charged.

During the protests in the Gulf kingdom, witnesses say security forces in Bahrain stormed the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama beating doctors and demonstrators. Bahraini officials deny those accounts.

Activists and human rights groups have alleged that medical personnel have been targeted by Bahraini officials for treating protestors. “

The Physicians for Human Rights report on Bahrain goes into greater detail:

“Thousands of protesters in the small island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf took to the streets calling for government reform in February and March 2011. The Government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, detain and torture them, and erase all evidence. On the frontline, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had first-hand knowledge of government atrocities.

This report details systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel, as a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protestors. The assault on healthcare workers and their patients constitutes extreme violations of the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law. Medical neutrality ensures

1. the protection of medical personnel, patients, facilities, and transport from attack or interference;
2. unhindered access to medical care and treatment;
3. the humane treatment of all civilians; and
4. nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick.

While in Bahrain, PHR investigators spoke with several eyewitnesses of abducted physicians, some of whom were ripped from their homes in the middle of the night by masked security forces. For each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated.

Armed security forces abducted Dr. Ali El-Ekri from the operating room while he was performing surgery at Salmaniya Hospital on 17 March. Another doctor was abducted in the middle of the night from his home in front of his wife and three children. Police and masked men in civilian clothes stormed the home of Dr. Abdul Khaliq al-Oraibi on 1 April. The security forces dragged him out of bed, handcuffed, and then blindfolded him. They did not say where or why they were taking him. His family has not heard from him since.

Physicians for Human Rights uncovered egregious abuses against patients and detainees including torture, beating, verbal abuse, humiliation, and threats of rape and killing. For example, security forces shot Ali in the face and head at close range with birdshot. He woke up later in Salmaniya Hospital where he was held for five days. On his second day, three armed security forces handcuffed Ali and a dozen other wounded men behind their backs with plastic wrist ties and began to beat them. Then the security forces threw Ali and the other patients face first onto the floor and dragged them out into the hallway, leaving trails of blood on the floor. Interrogation, torture, and forced confessions followed. “

[My emphasis.]

Gaddafi’s Crimes Against Humanity.

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Reuters on Gaddafi and the ICC:

“(Reuters) – International Criminal Court investigators have proof that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s forces committed crimes against humanity, and the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said on Monday he would soon ask for up to five arrest warrants
.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously in February to refer Gaddafi’s violent crackdown against anti-government demonstrators to The Hague-based ICC and Moreno-Ocampo said his first recommendations for indictments should reach ICC judges within weeks.

“We have strong evidence on the beginning of the conflict, the shooting of civilians,” he told Reuters in an interview, noting that killing unarmed civilians would qualify as a crime against humanity.

“Also, we have strong evidence of the crime of persecution,” he said. This includes “massive arrests and torture of people, and some forced disappearances … (for) talking to journalists or going to demonstrations.”

Without giving precise details of his proof, Moreno-Ocampo said “for these two crimes we have a lot of evidence.” He plans to brief the Security Council on his probe on Wednesday.

Once Moreno-Ocampo makes his recommendations to the ICC’s pretrial chamber, the judges must decide whether there are sufficient grounds to issue arrest warrants.

Moreno-Ocampo said he would initially ask for up to five arrest warrants, but disclosed no names. “

Leading “Anti-Imperialist” Hugo Chavez And The Syrian Murderer.

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You can always trust on the inflated ego of dictators to get the better of them. In this case, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez expresses his support for the Syrian dictatorship, AFP reports:

“”From here we greet president Bashar al-Assad,” Chavez said, after witnesses reported that Syrian troops backed by tanks had rolled into the town of Daraa, the epicenter of recent anti-regime protests, killing at least 25 people.

“Terrorists are being infiltrated into Syria and producing violence and death — and once again, the guilty one is the (Syrian) president, without anyone investigating anything,” said Chavez.

He gave no further details to support his claims.

Chavez, a close Assad ally in Latin America, criticized the “imperial madness” of the international community which, according to him, seeks to attack Syria under the pretext of defending its people.

“They’re starting to say: ‘Let’s see if we sanction the government, we’re going to freeze their assets, we’ll blockade them, throw bombs on them, in order to defend the people.’

“Wow, what cynicism. But that’s the empire, it’s imperial madness,” he said.

When Chavez talks about “the empire,” he is usually referring to the United States.

While critics say Damascus is using its troops to crush dissent, the Syrian army said that citizens invited the soldiers into Daraa to hunt “extremist terrorist groups.”

Some 390 people have been killed in security crackdowns since the protests erupted in Syria, rights activists and witnesses say. “

This is despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has killed about 400 civilians since the start of the revolts in Syria, according to Reuters:

“Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.”

This is Amnesty International’s page on Syria:

“In 2008, Syria ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights. However, laws continue to restrict freedom of expression and give the police powers to arrest and detain without trial due to an official state of emergency that was introduced in 1963 after the Ba’th party took power. In 2005, permission was given for the formation of new political parties, but human rights defenders, women and ethnic Kurds face discrimination in law and daily life.

The country retains the death penalty, torture is carried out with impunity and 17,000 disappeared people are unaccounted for. Syria currently hosts around 1.4 million Iraqi refugees and has a 500,000-strong longstanding Palestinian refugee population. “

Dictators’ Malware.

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Whilst protesters across the Middle East and elsewhere are using social media and the Internet to coordinate actions against dictators and other despots, they are not alone.

Eli Lake in the Washington Times has news of how a British company offered software to spy on protesters, or more accurately their PC activities:

“Egyptian anti-regime activists found a startling document last month during a raid inside the headquarters of the country’s state security service: A British company offered to sell a program that security experts say could infect dissidents’ computers and gain access to their email and other communications.

The discovery highlights the emerging market of Western companies that sell software to security services from the Middle East to China to spy on the kinds of social media activists who recently toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.

Amid the scattered papers, interrogation devices and random furniture found during the raid, the activists uncovered a proposed contract dated June 29 from the British company Gamma International that promised to provide access to Gmail, Skype, Hotmail and Yahoo conversations and exchanges on computers targeted by the Interior Ministry of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The proposal from Gamma International was posted online by Cairo physician Mostafa Hussein, a blogger who was among the activists who seized the ministry’s documents. “

Middle East Roll Up.

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There’s a lot of things going on, and normally I would like to do separate posts, but following Bob’s shining example, here is a slew of Middle East and related issues:

The Syrian President (and presumably many of his entourage) might end up at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, according to the Torygraph, for their murderous behaviour. Chance would be a fine thing. At latest count 350+ killed by the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Daily News relates that in Saudi Arabia preparations are underway for a Royal visit to Bahrain and then presumably on to the Royal wedding in London, with blood still dripping from their fingers.

In Royal matters, numerous bloodsoaked dictators are coming over to meet the newly weds, share canopies and chat about how best to shoot the plebs, or whatever counts for small talk in royal circles nowadays. The Bahraini Crown Prince said, regrettably he couldn’t come as killing protesters was a more pressing matter at the moment, or something like that.

We shouldn’t forget that the Bahraini rulers are very close to the Royal family, particularly Charles.

They are very chummy with David Cameron too.

Elsewhere, forget Gaddafi’s “ceasefire” his forces are lobbing rockets into Misratah, killing civilians all over the place.

As Syrian Army tanks move in to slaughter the people of Daraa youths show their contempt by throwing rocks at the tanks.

Modern slavery exists, as Burmese workers are enslaved in the Thai fishing fleet.

Fawaz Turki on the intolerant streak continues to afflict Palestinian society.

We should not forget the revolts have spread from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran and to Mauritania.

Reuters has more on events in Nouakchott:

“NOUAKCHOTT, April 25 (Reuters) – Security forces using teargas and batons dispersed several hundred anti-government protesters in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Monday, the most serious clash in the West African state for nearly two months.

Inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, critics of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz began street protests in late February in the poverty-stricken desert country, although their number has rarely risen above one thousand.

“Mauritanians are fed up with this regime, and it is time that we said it loud and clear,” Cheikh Ould Jiddou, a leader of the protest, told Reuters.”

Jeff Goldberg is good on the Mysteries of Richard Goldstone.

Oh, just in case anyone asked, the US already has sanctions on Syria,

Gaddafi Using Children As Cannon Fodder.

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Channel 4 reports that Gaddafi is now using children as cannon fodder:

“Sixteen-year-old Murad, banters with his doctors from his oversized wheelchair.

Smooth faced and wide eyed, with a big innocent smile, he talks about football, computers, and blushes at the mention of girls.

Murad is still too young to shave, but until last week he was handling weapons on the deadliest front of Libya’s brutal civil war. Until he was injured, and captured by the opposition, Murad was an unwilling soldier in Colonel Muammer Gaddafi’s conscript army.

Now his arm is in plaster, and the white bed sheet draped over his thin frame covers the bloody, bandaged stump where his leg has been amputated.

Murad is one of an ‘army’ of child soldiers being used by Colonel Muammer Gaddafi in the battle to regain the besieged Libyan town of Misrata. School boys as young as 15 are being conscripted to the front line say government troops captured by the rebels.

Dozens of school boys who have been taken from Tripoli, and forced to fight for Gaddafi say eyewitnesses. “