Sunday, March 20, 2005

Traveling the globe (and we finally check in on Luke of wotisitgood4)

From the UK's The Herald, "Bishop wants to ban gay teachers" by Tom Gordon:

SENIOR Catholics yesterday set themselves on a collision course with council leaders by saying they wanted to discriminate against gay teachers.
Bishop Joseph Devine, president of the Catholic Education Commission, said he wanted local authorities to back a new code which would stop homosexuals being hired as teachers in denominational schools and limit the promotion prospects of those already in posts.
Such a code would violate 2003 employment law and leave councils open to legal challenges as the teachers' employers.
Bishop Devine made his remarks in the Sunday Herald, the Herald's sister paper, while discussing a Charter for Catholic Schools, which he launched last June with the Catholic Education Service.
A 10-point plan to uphold the church's "moral teaching and faith tradition", it said all staff were expected to "support and promote the aims, mission, values and ethos of the school".

From the Sunday Herald, Ed Moloney has "The Death of the IRA." We'll note this because it has to do with what you place priorities on, what happens when administrations change and, big surprise, a Hugo Chavez connection:

Things began to change when Bush succeeded Clinton in the White House. Clinton had an interest in Irish politics, was sympathetic to the nationalist side and knew that involvement in the peace process would be popular with Irish Democratic voters. Bush had no interest at all, was more likely to empathise with the unionists and if he ever tried to woo Irish Catholic voters, he would choose gay marriage or abortion before Northern Ireland as the issues.
Bush downgraded the Irish peace process when he took office. Responsibility for the issue was moved from the White House and the National Security Council to the State Department and now it is run by a former official who works part-time from a nearby university, liaising with the State Department when necessary. Bush continued Clinton’s practice of hosting the St Patrick’s Day party but he rarely showed much enthusiasm for it. Bush didn’t like Ireland and had no interest in it -- and it showed. Talking him out of hosting the annual festivities would not have been the most taxing of tasks.
But the Bush administration also had reason to be wary and suspicious of Sinn Fein. A few weeks before 9/11, in August 2001, three suspected IRA members were arrested in Colombia on suspicion of sharing weapons technology with the FARC guerrilla movement in return for cocaine-generated cash. The IRA operation is thought to have been run out of adjoining Venezuela whose leader, Hugo Chavez, clashes regularly with Bush. The three are now on the run, possibly hiding in Venezuela. The episode also brought to light the fact that Cuba accords Sinn Fein official diplomatic status in Havana.

Well the Bully Boy's administration has trashed the rest of world so there should be no surprise that they weren't interested in dealing with the peace in Ireland. (A shaky peace and one that may go up in flames. Maybe someday the New York Times will elect to do an editorial on that?)

From Haaretz, let's note Aluf Benn's "U.S. envoys to pave way for Sharon, Abbas visits:"

Two American officials will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday to prepare next month's Washington visits by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, who holds the "Israeli-Palestinian portfolio" in the White House, and David Welch, the head of the State Department's Middle East desk, will meet with Sharon, Abbas and other senior officials on both sides. Among other issues, they will be discussing the progress of the disengagement plan, which the White House views as "the only game in town," and therefore top priority. For this reason, the administration has quietly acquiesced to the Sharon government's foot-dragging on evacuating illegal outposts in the West Bank.

Australia's ABC has "Kenny demands US release Guantanamo videos:"

The former lawyer for Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks has called for the release of video tapes allegedly showing soldiers assaulting detainees.
Hicks's former lawyer, Stephen Kenny, says there is 500 hours of footage showing how the so-called Immediate Reaction Force subdued detainees.

And a heads up to any international community members who can get Australia's ABC (or any U.S. members who can), Monday Four Corners will address the following topic via a special report from the BBC's Horizon:

Noticed less sunshine lately? Scientists have discovered that the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface has been falling over recent decades.
If the climatologists are right, their discovery holds the potential for powerful disruption to life on our planet. Already it may have contributed to many thousands of deaths through drought and famine.
Essentially, the phenomenon called "global dimming" may mean that even the direst predictions about the rate of global warming have been seriously underestimated.

From the BBC's Horizon on global dimming:

We are all seeing rather less of the Sun. Scientists looking at five decades of sunlight measurements have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling. Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought.
The effect was first spotted by Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel. Comparing Israeli sunlight records from the 1950s with current ones, Stanhill was astonished to find a large fall in solar radiation. "There was a staggering 22% drop in the sunlight, and that really amazed me," he says.
Intrigued, he searched out records from all around the world, and found the same story almost everywhere he looked, with sunlight falling by 10% over the USA, nearly 30% in parts of the former Soviet Union, and even by 16% in parts of the British Isles. Although the effect varied greatly from place to place, overall the decline amounted to 1-2% globally per decade between the 1950s and the 1990s.
Gerry called the phenomenon global dimming, but his research, published in 2001, met with a sceptical response from other scientists. It was only recently, when his conclusions were confirmed by Australian scientists using a completely different method to estimate solar radiation, that climate scientists at last woke up to the reality of global dimming.
Dimming appears to be caused by air pollution. Burning coal, oil and wood, whether in cars, power stations or cooking fires, produces not only invisible carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming) but also tiny airborne particles of soot, ash, sulphur compounds and other pollutants.

While we're in Australia's let's finally note our friend Luke of wotisitgood4 from Thursday where he raised an interesting question (Luke's always catching things but this is the post I meant to do a heads up on but forgot to):

* "But later on, the White House denied any knowledgeof the UN's findings.
"I have no idea where that report came from," WhiteHouse spokesman Scott McClellan said. "It's important that the assassination of the former prime minister, Mr. Hariri, be fully investigated. But the United Nations is continuing in their investigation, and we have not seen any update on that and any final results of that investigation."
Also a spokeswoman for the White House asserted thatPresident Bush would not be making a statement on Lebanon Wednesday."
as u know, this issue has me intrigued. why are the ams so tight-lipped? any ideas? remember, the murder was a trigger to withdraw the ambassador immediately, without any evidence, and then we get the mostrespected journalist in the mideast indicating that the UN is blaming syria, and we cant get a peep out of the shitehouse. ari2 wont even take the opportunity to segue into a backhanded swipe at syria, or reiterate the 1559 demands. odd. in other news, ari2 apparently didnt have a press briefing today.
* why would fisk say that blinky would make a statement wed unless he had that confirmed to him? robert fisk isnt known for making sh*t up - so my guess is that they changed their mind for some reason.

[Note: The links in Luke's post aren't crossing over to this. So check out the entry and always try to make time for wotisitgood4 because Luke's catching a great deal that no one else -- myself included -- is.]

I'm going to again give the page for the BBC's Horizon story on global dimming because it has links to a transcript of the program and to a Q&A on the topic.

The BBC also has "Baghdad firefight leaves 24 dead:"

A gun battle between Iraqi insurgents and US troops near Baghdad has left 24 rebels dead, the US military says.
It says six soldiers and seven insurgents were also injured in the ambush, which took place about 20 miles (30 km) from the Iraqi capital.
Earlier on Sunday a suicide bomber killed the head of the police anti-corruption department in the northern city of Mosul.
Insurgents then attacked his funeral, killing at least two other people.

Pretty serious news, so why do I suspect tomorrow the New York Times will yet again announce how everything's just fine and dandy, downright groovy, in Iraq? Let's put it into Operation Happy Talk lingo: "Wow, peace is really in the march! Democracy too!" Freedom is the march, eh? Check out the last item (Patrick Cockburn's article from UK's The Independent) and just say no to Operation Happy Talk.

Also note this from the BBC, "Tories deny Gypsy race row claim:"

The Tories have denied trying to start a race row by revealing plans to tackle illegal traveller encampments.
In a several Sunday newspaper adverts, Michael Howard said there was "one rule for travellers and another for everyone else", thanks to the Human Rights Act.
Planning minister Keith Hill said the Tories were "tapping into the biggest vein of bigotry - prejudice against Gypsies and travellers".
Tory policy chief David Cameron said the issue was about "fair play".

The Economist is far thrilled with Bush's economic team (join the club) as is noted in
"Not exactly major league:"

In theory, Mr Bush's economic team is headed by John Snow. The president was on the point of sacking his treasury secretary at the end of last year; he then pulled back--but only apparently to keep Mr Snow as a travelling salesman for his pension-reform scheme. The former railroad boss has recently visited such well-known global financial centres as San Antonio, Albuquerque and New Orleans.
The Treasury itself seems short of both staff and clout with the administration. That might be excusable if economic policy were being steered by a professional team in the White House; but it too is short of economists, particularly ones that are close to Mr Bush.
[. . .]
There are two growing suspicions about Mr Bush's approach to economic policy. The first is that he sees it mainly as a question of salesmanship. Showing an admirable faith in markets, the president seems to think that economic policy will basically run itself; what you need is a bit of pizzazz to sell the president's reforms. Hence, the White House's enthusiasm for Carlos Gutierrez, the new commerce secretary, who made his fortune selling breakfast cereal at Kellogg.
The second suspicion is that loyalty is more important than knowledge. That was Mr O'Neill's problem: he said that more tax cuts were a bad idea. Larry Lindsey, Mr Bush's bumptious first chairman of the National Economic Council, was pushed out soon after he made the impolitic (but pretty accurate) point that the Iraq war could cost $200 billion.
Unfortunately, markets never work quite that sweetly.

The Economist also notes that Alan Greenspan plans to leave his post in 2006:

There are three front runners to replace him: Glenn Hubbard, who is well regarded but still seen as a fiscal rather than monetary expert; Ben Bernanke, a former economics professor from Princeton and now a Fed governor; and Martin Feldstein, a fiscal expert from Harvard and head of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan era.

The Financial Times has "Dutch hint at doubts on Wolfowitz" "By Reuters in Brussels and James Blitz in London." From that article:

The Netherlands hinted at reservations on Sunday about Washington's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank, saying it would be better to have a wider field of candidates.
[. . .]
The nomination of the US deputy secretary of defence shocked many Europeans who know him only as a leading campaigner for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and an advocate of using US military power unilaterally.

The Financial Times also has "Russia's human rights record under fire" by Daniel Dombey, Raphael Minder and Peggy Hollinger.

Russia's record in quelling the revolt in Chechnya is a crime against humanity, and the European Union's reluctance to criticise it is “unconscionable”, a human rights campaigning group has alleged.
Human Rights Watch says in a report issued on Monday that “enforced disappearances” in which people are taken into unofficial custody by state agents have “reached the level of a crime against humanity”.
The report describes 43 disappearances that occurred in 2004, mainly carried out by pro-Moscow Chechen forces, and cites claims that there have been between 3,000 and 5,000 disappearances in the conflict since 1999.
By contrast, the Russian prosecutor general's office said last December that just over 2,437 people had been “abducted” since the beginning of the counter-terrorist operation in the province in 1999.
[. . .]
“To look the other way while crimes against humanity are being committed is unconscionable,” said Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division.

The Times of London has "African heads 'must share blame for rigged Zimbabwe election'" by Fred Bridgland that's worth reading. From the article:

IT IS impossible for Zimbabwe's parliamentary election, due in ten days' time, to be free and fair, according to a powerful report to be released today.
The Human Rights Watch document, based on the work of an undercover team that has spent several weeks inside Zimbabwe, confirms widespread suspicions that opposition supporters face daily intimidation, The Times has learnt.
The report accuses the Government of President Mugabe of lacking respect for the basic freedoms of expression, association and assembly and says that the poll will be based on an electoral roll manipulated to favour Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party.
The Mugabe Government has faced such criticism many times in recent years, but this report is likely to have a greater impact among Zimbabwe's neighbours because it measures the conduct of the campaign against an agreement that was signed by 14 heads of state, including Mr Mugabe himself. It criticises the other heads of state for failing to press Mr Mugabe to fulfil his obligations under that agreement.

The International Federation of Journalists has "IFJ Condemns “Intimidation and Bullying” As Israeli Whistleblower Faces New Jail Threat:"

The International Federation of Journalists today accused Israel of bullying and intimidation in its continuing campaign against Mordechai Vanunu, the man who spent 18 years in jail for telling the world that Israel possesses nuclear weapons but who may be sent back to prison – for talking to reporters. "Israel is creating a new crime -- of talking to journalists," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is a shocking betrayal of democratic principle in what is a vindictive campaign of bullying and intimidation against a man who has served his time." Vanunu was served with official notice yesterday that he is to be brought to trial for breaking draconian restrictions imposed on him by the authorities following his release from prison in April last year. He has been barred from any contact with foreign nationals, from speaking to the media, from changing his address without official permission, and from leaving the country. Although there is no evidence in the charges that he has been charged with any security breaches or divulging secret information. "He is being persecuted simply for talking to journalists," said White. "These restrictions are shameful when imposed in a democratic country and they create a dangerous atmosphere in which the personal safety of Vanunu can be compromised."

For a brief background on this topic, we'll cite Democracy Now!'s Headlines from last Friday:

Israeli Nuclear Whistleblower Faces Jail Again
In Israel, nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu was indicted Thursday and could be sent back to jail. He was released last year after spending 18 years in prison. He was jailed for leaking secrets to the Sunday Times of London that proved Israel had a nuclear weapons program. Upon his release last year Israel barred Vanunu from speaking to the international press. He was accused Thursday of violating those restrictions. If convicted he faces two years in jail. Over the past year Vanunu has given a handful of interviews with the international press including Democracy Now. On Thursday he vowed to keep speaking out. "I think it's my right as a human being to speak to anyone in the world without asking him what is you ID card or what is your passport," said Vanunu. "What I can say to this arrest, I can say to everyone and all that I'm saying is just repeating my story, my political views and the nuclear secrets that had been published 18 years ago."

From the UK's The Independent, please note Eric Silver's "Israeli photographs show extensive new illegal settlements:"

At the same time, however, the liberal daily paper Ha'aretz reported that an aerial photography survey, commissioned by the Defence Ministry, revealed extensive building since last summer in existing settlements, thus violating Israel's commitments under the international road map for peace. A ministry spokeswoman would only confirm that they were trying to increase their knowledge of what was going on.
Officials maintain that the Bush administration, the road-map's principal sponsor, has agreed to continued construction within the built-up area of existing communities. An Israeli report, published this month, revealed widespread duplicity by successive governments, which condemned "illegal" settlement outposts while providing the necessary budgets and infrastructure for them.
Peace Now claimed to have obtained the same photographs as the Defence Ministry from the same private Israeli company, Nesher. It showed that 3,000 to 3,500 new homes were currently under construction, close to the pre-1967 "Green Line" that Mr Sharon hopes to keep when final borders are negotiated between the Palestinian and Jewish states.

Also from The Independent, note Patrick Cockburn's "US frees Iraqi kidnappers so they can spy on insurgents: Americans undermining local police attempts to crack down on wave of abductions." From the carticle:

US intelligence and military police officers in Iraq are routinely freeing dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
In one case where the IoS has seen documents, police rescued a doctor after a gun battle with his kidnappers and arrested two of the kidnap gang, who made full confessions. But US military police took over custody of the two men and let them go. The doctor had to flee to Egypt after being threatened by the gang.
The police station where the men were held recorded that they had been handed over to an American military police lieutenant for transfer to the US-run Camp Cuervo detention centre. But an American military spokesman told the IoS that there was no record of the two prisoners in their database.
"The Americans are allowing the breakdown of Iraqi society because they are only interested in fighting the insurgency," said a senior Iraqi police officer. "We are dealing with an epidemic of kidnapping, extortion and violent crime, but even though we know the Americans monitor calls on mobiles and satellite phones, which are often used in ransom negotiations, they will not pass on any criminal intelligence to us. They only want to use the information against insurgents."