Monthly Archives: August 2008

Merry Olde England Not So For Foreign Students

In the old days of the British empire, people from England would wander the world while subject peoples paid hommage to their imperial masters. British citizens insisted it was their right to go where they wish and do what they wanted in foreign climes. However, these days, foreign students come to the British Isles seeking to gain an education and many of them are from oil rich socieities of the Middle East. However, the presence of wealthy “foreigners” in their midst is not always recognized by ordinary young British men who resent the wealth of the stranger. Mohammed al-Majed came to Hastings to study language and become versed in British culture. His stay was rather brief because a few days ago he was beaten to death by a gang of young British thugs who just didn’t like foreigners in their town.

During the past three years there are a reported 100 attacks on foreign students who come to study at the numerous foreign langauge training schools in Hastings. They continually are subjected to abuse and physical assault by young toughs. Panaris al-Ghandi says “every time we(brother) wouild walk they would shout things” and one time both boys were physically assaulted with his brother receiving a kick in the head.

The times they are a’changing in England, but some young boorish thugs can’t seem to get the message. They need those foreign students if their town is to prosper. Their choice is an open hand of friendship or a fist. Which one will they decide to extend?

Palestinian Refugee Issue Remains Key To Peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters during a trip to Lebanon that all Palestinian refugees should eventually be allowed to return to Palestine. The highly contentious issue of refugees remains one of the most difficult to revolve between the parties seeking to achieve a compromise. “The refugees should have a right to return to their homeland,” said Abbas. He indicated this has been a sticking point in negotiations with Israel leaders because “we are not with permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. We are against permanent resettlement.”

A sticky issue is the presence of Palestinians in Lebanon which has a tenuous balance of power between Muslims and Christians. The addition of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Palestinian refugees to the Lebanese population would benefit Muslim Lebanese political parties while hurting Christian ones. Thee are about 400,000 Palestinians and their descendants living in Lebanon.

The bottom line is no Arab nation wants Palestinians in “its territory” and just wants them sent back to Palestine. Palestinians are unwanted guests– no Arab nation is willing to grant them citizenship– living in a nation that simply wants them to leave.

Germany Moves Toward Russia Diplomatically

Germany’s increasingly close relations with Russia may well damage efforts by the Ukraine to enter the European Union. Ukrainian deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Yeliseyev warned that two or three members of the EU are not strong supporters for having the Ukraine enter the body, and he is particularly concerned about the attitude of Germany toward his nation’s quest for membership. Germany is interested in working with Russia to construct a new gap pipeline that will meet the needs of Germany for the coming years. Thus, it is in their self interest not to antagonize Russia at this critical juncture when many nations are furious at what happened in Georgia. The Ukraine is also seeking membership in NATO, an action that will antagonize Russia.

On one hand, Ukraine officials are arguing anything less than its membership in the EU or NATO will send a message to Russia that bullying behavior will be rewarded. However, there is a prior question– how best can the EU work with Russia to allay fears the outside world harbors aggressive actions against its territorial boundaries.? Perhaps, the dialogue with Russia should begin with assurances there will be no membership in NATO for any nation that formerly was a part of the old Soviet Union.

Or, NATO might formally request Russia to enter the body and thus end fears of aggressive actions by NATO against Russia.

Bush Pushes For Longer Iraq Military Mission

It has now become clear that President George Bush has been urging the Iraq government to allow the presence of US forces in their nation until at least 2015. Iraqi President Jalai Talabani told the press: “It was a US proposal for the date which is 2015 and an Iraq one which is 2010, then we agreed to make it 2011. Iraq had the right, if necessary to extend the presence of these troops.” Details are slowly emerging about US – Iraq negotiations on how long American troops will remain in that nation since the UN mandate expires at the end of this year. Bush is pushing for a longer departure date while the newly assertive Iraq government wants US troops to leave within eighteen months. There undoubtedly are pressures being exerted on the Maliki government by groups such as those supporting al-Sadr to get rid of US troops as soon as possible.

The effort by Bush to retain a troop presence for years may also have political connotations. Barack Obama has been pushing for a departure that fits closely with the Iraq government date while John McCain continues insisting troops are needed for a longer time period. If Bush agrees to the 2010 departure date, he confirms the validity of Obama that troops can leave without serious consequences.

Kurdish Journalists Threatened In Iraq

Iraq’s northern enclave of Kurdistan is a relative haven of peace and stability, but its independent journalists are being challenged by the political establishment who fear allowing the public to hear the truth as to what goes on in government. About 60 Kurdish journalists have been killed, threatened or physically attacked during the first half of 2008 for their outspoken advocacy for printing the truth. Last month Soran Mamahama, a writer for Livin magazine was gunned down for exposing corruption about prostitution rings. Hemen Mamand, a young radio reporter puts it bluntly when saying, “In Kurdistan there is no freedom for journalists,…we don’t know who killed him, but we do know that the government didn’t care.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) and Amnesty International have denounced these attacks on journalists and want the world to know what is going on in an Iraq that supposedly is a new democracy. Joel Campagna, of CPJ says “the recent incidents have really stripped off the veneer and reveal it’s not much different(in Kurdistan) than other parts of Iraq.”

Part of the problem is the lack of a strong opposition party in Kurdistan which leaves journalists in the role of being “the opposition.” Naturally, the Kurdish government relies on old and true ways of thinking by arguing journalists are simply smearing officials. Of course, what is one to do about reporting on the lives of corrupt government officials when the penalty is an $8,400 fine for “insulting” a government official?

Russia Remains Diplomatically Isolated On Georgia

The Russian government reached out for support from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO) in an effort to drum up nations which would sanction the Russian response to the Georgia invasion of South Ossetia. The SCO offered a modicum of support for Russian actions to promote “peace,” but their overall declaration was rather silent on completely backing the Russian action. China and former parts of the Soviet Union merely said: “The participants .. underscore the need for respect of the historical and cultural traditions of each country and each people,and for efforts aimed tat preserving the unity of the state and its territorial integrity.” The SCO urged avoiding only relying on violence as a means of resolving disputes. It urged Georgia and Russia to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve their conflict.

Russia hardly obtained a ringing statement of support. China does not wish to offer support to breakaway areas like South Ossetia because it sets a dangerous precedent for dissident minorities in China seeking to obtain autonomy. The Chinese government would no doubt wish to support Russia, but to do so would send a message of people in Tibet and other areas of discontent that breaking away is a valid goal of those seeking autonomy.

Japanese Aid Groups Leaving Afghanistan

The continuing deterioration in being able to provide individuals protection in war-torn Afghanistan has resulted in some Japanese organizations suspending their relief activities in order to protect personnel. The Basic Human Needs Association which has been active in developing telecommunications systems in that nation have pulled out its personnel after the death of a Japanese man. Kazuya Ito was first kidnapped and then killed by Taliban militants. The Basic Human Needs Association has already told its employees not to go out to eat and has imposed travel restrictions. “If the situation(in Afghanistan) becomes more dangerous, we will have to stop all dispatches of our members” said Masaharu Nonaka.

Many Japanese organizations are now re-evaluating whether they actually can remain involved in aid efforts in Afghanistan. Until, there is a new program in place which deals with issues diplomatically and economically as well as militarily, the situation will continue getting worse in terms of safety.

Egypt Urges Israel To Cease Threatening Lebanon

Egypt has urged Israeli leaders to cease making provocative statements to Lebanon and using the threat of war in order to bring about changes in Lebanese policies. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit,on a visit to Beirut, said: “we spoke with the Israelis during Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit to Egypt, and asked them to stop thinking about threatening this friendly Arab country.” His comments came in response to a recent statement by Environment Minister Gideon Ezra who said on Wednesday, “the moment the Lebanese government confers legitimacy on Hezbollah, it must understand that the entire Lebanese state will be a target in the same way that all of Israel is a target for Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah continues making threats about destroying Israel which only serve to aid war hawks in the Israel government. Unfortunately, the Egyptian government does not have sufficient leverage over Hezbollah to persuade its leaders to tone down the rhetoric of war. This leaves Israel in the position of being calm and now allowing threats to result in counter threats.

Russia–America, A Failure To Communicate!

Vladmir Frolov, writing in the Moscow Times, task to task both the United States and Russia for failing to communicate with one another about Georgia which has resulted in worsening of relations between the two nations. “the failure of Moscow and Washington to communicate over the conflict in Georgia has led to a rhetorical race that now threatens to shatter the U.S. Russia relationship. Personal pique and spite have begun to cloud the leaders’ judgment.” Frolov says Moscow initially failed to convey to America its resolve not to allow Georgia to take over South Ossetia and President Medvedev should personally have called Bush to let him know in no uncertain terms that Georgia’s invasion would be repulsed. He also blames the US State Department for not making clear to Saakhasvili it was a mistake to launch an invasion of South Ossetia.

He blasts the stupid remark of Secretary of State Condi Rice comparing as equal the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 with Russia’s response to an invasion by Georgia in 2008. Forlov praises Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, for acting calmly in the crisis and to point out that Saakhasvili was exaggerating the situation. Gates is most probably the only sane and rational person in the Bush administration.

Forlov says he has been told that President Medvedev sent a personal aide, Igor Yurgens to Washington last week in order to begin the process of restoring sanity to relations between the USA and Russia.

The situation could be different if Bush had called Medvedev to let him know the United States did no approve of Saakhasvili’s action.

Social Injustice Is The Murderer Not Murderers

A new report for the World Health Organization(WHO) which was put together through the combined efforts of hundreds of researchers and university experts reveals the “toxic” combination of bad policies, economics and politics is killing people on a large scale. Health inequalities are widespread and could be avoided if governments were cognizant of the needs of poor people. For example, in the United Kingdom, a boy born in the Caiton suburb of Glasgow was likely to live, on the average, 28 years less than one born a few miles away in Lenzie. Life expectancy at birth of men in Hampstead, in north of west London was on the average 11 yeas longer than it was for men born in the vicinity of nearby St. Pancras railway station.

The report’s conclusion included providing “universal health care,” and social security protection from the cradle to the grave as well as a “living wage,” affordable housing and investing in early childhood care. Now, the task is making people understand the meaning of the report so they will elect officials committed to ending toxic conditions of life.