Sunday, May 29, 2005

"We're also very worried about the possibility of raids on homes" -- Riverbend of Baghdad Burning

In Baghdad there's talk of the latest "Operation Lightning".
It hasn't yet been implemented in our area but we've been hearing about it. So far all we've seen are a few additional checkpoints and a disappearing mobile network. Baghdad is actually split into two large regions- Karkh (west Baghdad) and Rasafa (east Baghdad) with the Tigris River separating them. Karkh, according to this plan, is going to be split into 15 smaller areas or sub-districts and Rasafa into 7 sub-districts.
There are also going to be 675 checkpoints and all of the entrances to Baghdad are going to be guarded. We are a little puzzled why Karkh should be split into 15 sub-districts and Rasafa only seven. Karkh is actually smaller in area than Rasafa and less populated.
On the other hand, Karkh contains the Green Zone- so that could be a reason.
People are also anxious about the 675 check points. It's difficult enough right now getting around Baghdad, more check points are going to make things trickier. The plan includes 40,000 Iraqi security forces and that is making people a little bit uneasy.
Iraqi National Guard are not pleasant or upstanding citizens- to have thousands of them scattered about Baghdad stopping cars and possibly harassing civilians is worrying.
We're also very worried about the possibility of raids on homes.

The above is from Riverbend's blog Baghdad Burning. Note, she goes on to critique Thomas Friedman's recent column and community members won't want to miss that.

From Haaretz, Brad e-mails Roni Singer's "Top Israeli execs held in industrial espionage case:"

Dozens of leading commercial companies and leading private investigators were named Sunday as suspects in a massive industrial espionage investigation that local police have been conducting for the past six months.
The companies suspected of commissioning the espionage, which was carried out by planting Trojan horse software in their competitors' computers, include the satellite television company Yes, which is suspected of spying on cable television company HOT; cell-phone companies Pelephone and Cellcom, suspected of spying on their mutual rival Partner; and Mayer, which imports Volvos and Hondas to Israel and is suspected of spying on Champion Motors, importer of Audis and Volkswagens.
Spy programs were also located in the computers of major companies such as Strauss-Elite, Shekem Electric and the business daily Globes. Police are currently investigating several other companies that may have been involved in the affair, which was under a court gag order until Sunday.

From Scotland's The Herald, we'll note Vicky Collins' "Wind of change sweeps Scotland:"

A QUIET revolution is sweeping the country.
It has involved hundreds of schools, community groups and small businesses turning to wind turbines and solar panels to provide their power.
According to new figures, there has been an upsurge in small-scale renewable energy projects, with a 14-fold increase over the past five years.
They are supported by the results of a new survey showing that about 70% of Scots would consider installing a renewable energy device in their home.
The survey and figures were released after Friday's announcement that Windsave, the Glasgow-based firm, has signed an exclusive agreement with British Gas to install wind turbines on private and local authority-owned properties.

From Australia's ABC, we'll note "QCs believe Corby's innocent:"

Lawyers recruited by the Federal Government to help represent Schapelle Corby say they have a growing feeling that the woman convicted of smuggling drugs into Bali is probably not guilty.
One of the QCs appointed by the Federal Government, Tom Percy, says he has met Corby's legal team in Bali.
Western Australia lawyer John Davies is a junior barrister to WA QCs Tom Percy and Mark Trowell, who accepted a request from the Federal Government to assist in Corby's appeal against a 20-year jail term for smuggling marijuana.
The WA lawyers were originally approached to assist in the Corby defence in March.
Speaking on ABC Radio, Mr Davies said the lawyers were concentrating on how they could assist Corby's appeal.

"From what I've seen of the way the case has gone and from what I know of the evidence at this stage, which is by no means comprehensive, I have a growing sick feeling in my stomach that we have somebody who's very probably not guilty sitting in Kerobokan Prison," he said.

Also from ABC, we'll note "Abu Ghraib protest interrupts Rice speech" because we love CodePink (this was reported Saturday by Australia's ABC):

Amid tight security at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall, three women and one man pulled on black hoods and cloaks and stood on their seats.
Ms Rice initially continued her speech on American foreign policy under President George W Bush.
However, she paused when the protesters shouted "Stop the torture. Stop the killing. US out of Iraq," as police led them out of the auditorium.
[. . .]

"We feel we made our point," said Ms [Medea] Benjamin, a founding director of the human rights group Global Exchange.

There are a number of great articles at Open Democracy. We'll highlight three that Gina noted but there's a great deal up at that site.

First, Chandra D. Bhatta's "Nepal’s civil war: from security to politics:"

The politics of Nepal in the first five months of 2005 have been dominated by a spiralling series of events: King Gyanendra's coup in February, the state of emergency and the imprisonment of political leaders and activists. The international community (led by India, the United States and Britain, Nepal's chief backers), responded by suspending development and military aid to Nepal, though in India’s case the ban on military supplies proved short-lived.
After nearly three months, Gyanendra in theory lifted the state of emergency and released key political leaders. It appears that the royal government may regain some sort of working "legitimacy" with the international community who have been backing the Nepali war for nearly a decade.
[. . .]
Any solution now rests entirely on the maturity of the actors involved: the traditionalists headed by the king (who wants to keep patrimony as the source of power) parliamentary political parties (who in theory believe in representative democracy, but have neglected to assimilate social movements into the system), and the Maoists (who have not yet been able to convince the majority of their strategy of state transformation and have largely discredited themselves by their terrorist approach). In these conditions, and with a Nepali population and diaspora hungry for democracy, the only chance for peace in Nepal lies not in "stability" but in a genuine democratic politics.

Second, Manjushree Thapa's "Democracy in Nepal and the 'international community:'"

The international reaction following King Gyanendra's military coup on 1 February 2005 has been mostly heartening for Nepalis. Until that date, we felt doomed to be characterised as simple, happy mountain folks inhabiting a Shangri-la, who deserved to be ruled by a deity-king, no matter how unjust. Maoist insurgency tended to be viewed as an anachronism, even fey: trouble in paradise. Meanwhile, Nepal's real story – the decades-long (and continuing) struggle to establish and retain democracy – seemed destined to be overlooked. It was just not picturesque.
But the world's condemnation of
King Gyanendra's military coup has made Nepalis feel that we are not being abandoned at this, the most traumatic and transformational era in our history. Still, Nepalis are wary about the international community's trustworthiness, for any vestigial commitment to democracy in Nepal it has shown in the past has proved fickle.
In part this unreliability is because the outside world simply could not understand Nepal after democracy was won in 1990. It has been difficult enough for Nepalis to clarify this chaotic period even to ourselves. We were not prepared for the challenges of democracy. There were no democratic institutions, and very little democratic practice in either public or private spheres in 1990. The caste structure – with the Chettri, Bahun and "high-caste" Newar groups at the top – remained rigidly in place. It was widely felt that any move in the direction of equal rights for women would destroy Nepali culture. Any mention of ethnic rights could be met with accusations of harbouring separatist, anti-national, even treasonous sentiments.

Third, we'll note Brian Cathcart's "Polio: a war not yet won:"

One day it could rank among the greatest collaborative achievements of humankind, the fruit of decades of work by millions of people across the globe, at a cost of billions of dollars – but today, with triumph almost in sight, it may be in jeopardy. The campaign to rid the world of polio is suddenly on the defensive, with the virus popping up in countries previously thought clean and the flow of money to fund immunisations running dry.
Only a few years ago there were hopes that this year, 2005, would see the final case, the very last of all the many millions of children to be crippled or killed by this virus down the centuries. But instead the number of countries where people are catching polio has doubled to twelve and just this month a fresh pocket of infection turned up in
Indonesia, where no one had caught the disease for a decade.
Proving that sickness, too, is globalised in the modern world, a strain of the virus from northern Nigeria travelled first to Sudan, on to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and then across the ocean to Java – perhaps carried by migrant workers, perhaps by Muslim pilgrims going to and from Mecca; no one knows.
And just as it becomes clear that the huge effort to immunise millions of young children must be redoubled, the coalition of organisations leading the drive – the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef, Rotary International and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States – announce that they are $50 million short of the funding they need to carry on the effort past July.

This is an issue that Rebecca's noted and noted at her site Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude.

From the Irish Examiner, we'll note Amy Teibel's "Israel releases prisoners in overdue gesture:"

ISRAEL'S Cabinet yesterday approved the release of 400 Palestinian prisoners, a long-overdue gesture Israel had agreed to as part of a Mideast truce package. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Cabinet that the prisoner release would strengthen Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and "the moderate forces in the Palestinian Authority."
Sharon's appeal meshed with recent US efforts to shore up Abbas in the face of severe challenges from Palestinian militants. The ministers voted 18-3 to approve the release. A ministerial panel will now meet to compile a list of those eligible to be freed.
No one directly involved in deadly attacks on Israelis would be released, but Israel might be more flexible than in the past and free prisoners who haven't completed two-thirds of their terms, a government official said.

Also from the Irish Examiner, we'll note Ann Cahill's "FRANCE SAYS NON:"

FRANCE overwhelmingly rejected the European Union's constitution in yesterday's referendum, plunging the EU into crisis. The heavy defeat dreaded by EU leaders could weaken France in the 25-member bloc, stall European integration and unsettle some financial markets. French President Jacques Chirac, who urged voters to approve the charter, announced the result in a short televised address. He said the process of ratifying the treaty would continue in other EU countries."France has expressed itself democratically," Chirac said. "It is your sovereign decision, and I take note." Earlier, the Interior Ministry said that with about 83% of the votes counted, the constitution was rejected by 57.26% of voters. It was backed by 42.74%.

Lynda e-mails, from Germany's Der Spiegel, "Francois Mitterrand's Widow Says, 'I Will Vote No:'"

SPIEGEL: Madame, how are you going to vote at the EU constitution referendum on May 29?
Mitterrand: I continue to adhere to the logic of my commitment over the years for human rights, the Third World, and the fight against poverty. When I travel around the world, I always try to act as advocate for the victims of the economic system. I denounce the power of the economy over people, a system that turns individuals into elements in an economic equation, does not respect the poor and excludes everyone that does not live up to the principle of profitability.
SPIEGEL: Hasn't the globalization you are still fighting against long since become a reality in Europe?
Mitterrand: I can only reject a European constitution that emphasizes competition and profit as primary values. I am therefore going to vote No, but without taking part in any political campaign. Party politics hasn't interested me for a long time now.
SPIEGEL: Apparently, you are much further to the left than the majority of the Socialist Party...
Mitterrand: ...I often stood even farther to the left than my husband, because I was free of the restraints that come with being in government. He never resented that in me -- nor, by the way, did (former German Chancellor) Helmut Kohl despite my having reproached him for Germany's supplying of weapons to Turkey -- arms which were, in turn, then used against the Kurds. He didn't want to hear anything about it, but we remained on friendly terms.

Lynda also notes (from Der Spiegel) Ralf Beste and Alexander Szandar's "Europe's Atomic Anachronism:"

In early May, Germany's government said it was high time the US got its last remaining nuclear weapons out of Germany. Now -- out of fear of more trans-Atlantic strife -- the Germans are hesitating and hoping the situation will quietly solve itself.
The attractions of the small German town of Buechel, population 1,200, are neatly listed on the town's home page: an ancient beech tree called the Schmitzbuche ("a gem for hikers"), the Easter bazaar, Buechel's carnival celebrations and, last but not least, St. Josef's Chapel, built by "Gretchen Thome, a former knitting teacher and Buechel's postmaster for many years." But the Web site conveniently ignores another salient feature of this small community, located not far from the city of Cochem on the Mosel River: Buechel has the potential of transforming the world into a nuclear inferno.
Beneath the local military airfield, about 20 American B-61 nuclear bombs are stored in underground bunkers, heavily guarded by the 702nd Munitions Special Support Squadron, a special unit of the US Army.
At the command of the president of the United States, these weapons of mass destruction can be attached to German Tornado fighter jets within a very short period of time. The aircraft, flying low to avoid enemy radar, are capable of carrying their deadly payloads to targets deep within Russia, essentially spiriting them into the country "beneath the fence," to quote the manufacturer's enthusiastic marketing prose.
With 17,000 tons of explosive force, each weapon is at least ten times as destructive as the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
The Cold War ended more than 15 years ago, and yet the bombs of Buechel still have the potential to turn vast portions of Eastern and Central Europe into a nuclear wasteland. A total of about 480 nuclear weapons are currently being stored in Europe, with experts estimating that about 150 of these bombs are on German soil.
Seemingly unfazed by the fact that the Warsaw Pact countries have long since ceased to be enemies of the West, the United States, the supreme power within NATO, continues to support and practice the doctrine of "nuclear participation." What this means is that non-nuclear states like Germany are at least permitted to play a supporting role in handling the US' destructive arsenals. But these weapons, once intended to strengthen the bonds among NATO members in the face of the threat from the East, have since become an absurd relic of days gone by.

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