Monthly Archives: March 2009

HEADLINES FROM THE WORLD PRESS

Each week we offer a review of the world press with our own comments.

Kuwait, Kuwait Times: “Volcano Erupts Twice”
Once for Wall Street, and once for Bernie Madoff.

Ukraine, Kyiv Post: “Kyiv Mayor Takes Vacation”
We know of some political leaders he can take with him.

Indonesia, Jakarta Post: “President Apologizes For Traffic Congestion”
I wish the American president only had such problems to confront.

Czech Republic, Prague Post: “Crisis Cuts Prices of Chateaus”
Whew, that makes me feel better.

Romania, Seven Times r.o. “Dracula Promotes Tourism”
He is offering a special for one pint of blood and the train leaves at midnight.

Australia, Brisbane Times: “I Was Wrong”
This is one headline not said from the man now in Texas.

China, China Daily: “Tibet Is A Story Of Progress”
This information is a public service announcement from the Chinese government.

Qatar, Arab Times: “Nude Man On Kuwait TV”
He wanted to present the bare truth.

Saudi Arabia, Saudi Gazette: “Child Walks Away From Five Story Fall”
Little Clark Kent wrapped his cape around himself and walked away.

Canada, Toronto Star: “Toronto Councillors Tour Strip Club”
When these councillors say they will get at the bare facts, they are not kidding.

Australia, The Age: “Plane’s Engine Falls From Sky”
Fortunately, the plane landed safely.

New Zealand, New Zealand Herald: “I Turned Down J FK But Had His Son”
I assume it was by Immaculate Conception.

UK, The Independent: “Elephant In Belfast Backyard”
I will forget about this story within a moment.

Sweden, The Local: “Police Caught By Speed Cameras”
I assume they were arrested by pedestrians.

China, Shanghai Daily: “Scientists Need Volunteers For Vaccines”
No scientists need apply.

Czech Republic, Prague Post: “Some Facts About Slovakia”
One, it exists.

Yemen, Yemen Times: “Yemen Origin Of Humankind”
Is this a boast or complaint?

Death And Destruction In Pakistan

It was Friday evening prayers in the mosque in Jamrud which is located near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The imam said in a loud voice, “God is Great” and within seconds the sounds of an explosion echoed through the building and within moments, at least 40 were dead(estimates are this figure will rise to 70) and dozens more were wounded. No group took credit–or blame– for the suicide bombing and it is still a mystery as to why anyone would want to blow up the mosque as people were engaged in praying. No one knows who did the deed. The area is a stronghold of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The explosion came just as President Obama was sending more troops to Afghanistan and pledging to wipe out the Taliban and al-Qaeda from both that nation and in Pakistan. It is a noble hope, but is it realistic? The Pakistan military and its infamous intelligence service, the ISI, is actively engaged in working with the Taliban and other militant groups. So far, there is absolutely no evidence, despite years of warnings and threats, that the ISI will cooperate in destroying what it created. Exactly how will “more” American troops result in a different outcome?

By the way, what exactly is the “Obama plan” to deal with Pakistan’s military? Does anyone know? Unless the Pakistan military ceases assisting the Taliban, any military effort is doomed to failure.

Is Barack Obama Another Lyndon Johnson?

President Barack Obama is dispatching another 4,000 troops in addition to the 17,000 that have been sent as reinforcements to Afghanistan. He insisted the new forces would “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” the Taliban” and he warned “if the Afghanistan government falls to the Taliban or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged, that country will again be a base for terrorists.” Hopeful words and threats to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda play well on the six o’clock news but there is scant evidence they play as well in Afghanistan. The ironic aspect of Obama rhetoric is that he now mouths the words that George Bush has been saying for over seven years, but, of course, if they are said by Barack Obama the result will be different.

Shortly before his death, President John Kennedy refused to accede to requests by his closest staff to send more troops to Vietnam. He increasingly was becoming concerned the war in Vietnam could not be won unless there was an honest, effective South Vietnam government that was committed to social justice for its own people. After Kennedy got killed, Lyndon Johnson listened to the same Kennedy advisors but this time, he accepted their pleas and the result was the fiasco known as the Vietnam War.

Obama does emphasize the need to develop the civilian infrastructure, but this can not be accomplished if there is a corrupt government in power. Unfortunately, America has little leverage on the Afghanistan political scene. Send more troops, send more military equipment but nothing will replace a government run be efficient and effective leaders whose goals are social justice and economic development.

Just remember, President Obama, “Afghanistan is not ours to lose.” We don’t own it, and only Afghans can win or lose.

Sweden Works At Integration Of Immigrants

Among the remarkable aspects of world wide immigration since the end of World War II has been the influx of thousands of people from African and Middle Eastern nations into Nordic societies. in the Swedish city of Malmo about 86% of those living in a suburb are first or second generation immigrants. As Americans quite understand the arrival of strangers from far off nations whose skin is darker than typical Swedes has resulted in a white flight. Anis, an immigrant from Bosnia, comments: “when I first got here fifteen years ago, I had Swedish neighbors. Today, there isn’t a single one left. Several who were interviewed in The Local argued the departure of native born Swedes has opened the door for a small but active group of fundamentalist Muslims to exert power in the area.

Maxine Camara, who heads Rosengard’s refugee welcome committe, laments that Islamic militants are able to obtain support since so many people are under-employed and have tales of prejudice. “A lot of young people here are out of work. Their parents don’t work, and they get their only social interaction in the Islamic millieu, which complicates integration.” Integration requires opportunity to work, to interact with people of diverse backgrounds and to become an active member of the community.

Both sides claim the other is at fault which is the norm when dealing with issues of integration of immigrants. Step one, as always, is securing meaningful work for those seeking employment and for schools that are successful with all students.

Should West Aid A Mugabe Led Zimbabwe?

Jacob Zuma, head of the African National Congress (ANC) which is the leading political party of South Africa, denounced western nations for refusing to provide aid to the government of Zimbabwe. Zuma argued that President Robert Mugabe is the head of the government and has the support of many people in the nation. “This is very unfair to the Zimbabwean people. Because here is Mugabe, he is a factor. He is there. He heads a party that has been in government for over 20 years.” But, the facts he presented are exactly the problem. The Mugabe government has ruined the nation by allowing its cronies and henchmen to rob people of their property and become wealthy. It was Mugabe who drove three million from the country, it is Mugabe who created a nation with an 80% unemployment and it is Mugabe who created an inflation rate that is the highest in the world. What exactly does Zuma believe such an incompetent government can do to make the nation become prosperous again?

Part of the problem is that former President Mbeki of South Africa had the power to force Mugabe to abide by the Zimbabwean Constitution, but he did nothing because Robert was his old friend. South Africa has to share responsibility for what has transpired in Zimbabwe because it refused to support the people of that nation. Western donors are correct to hold back on giving aid until it can be proven the aid will go to the people of Zimbabwe, not to the crowd around President Robert Mugabe.

Israel Gaza Plan- Protect Soldiers-Civilians??

Amos Harel, writing in Haaretz, reveals the Israel General Staff was quite aware there would be extensive civilian casualties and planned that soldiers would advance behind a “rolling curtain” of aerial and artillery fire with first consideration in the operation the safety of Israeli soldiers. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkennazi made clear, “unlike in Lebanon, the civilians in Gaza won’t have many places to escape to. When an armored force enters the city, shells will fly because we have to protect our people.” Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Secretary Tzipi Livni promised to support the plan since they feared heavy casualties would impact the upcoming election.

Israel intelligence Shin Beit defined the “enemy” as anyone connected to Hamas regardless if they worked in a welfare agency or were a member of an armed force. The person who made the final decision to fire at a target was not the commander on site but someone in the command center miles away. Testimonies of members of the IDF reveal forcing civilians to enter homes and get people to come out or firing at medical personnel and killing of innocent civilians.

The only way Israel can fulfill its destiny as a center of moral behavior is to conduct a thorough investigation and punish all those who were responsible for violating international law. Unfortunately, those on top such as senior military commanders will escape unpunished.

Holocaust Denial Takes New Twist

The history of the Holocaust has been detailed in thousands of books, memoirs and films that make clear to any normal human that Nazi Germany was guilty of an unspeakable horror in its murderous campaign against innocent people. As one who helped found a Holocaust Museum, there was ongoing discussion concerning the need to make part of its content, the story of what happened to gays, Romas and millions of others who were murdered by German forces. No Holocaust Center ever attempts to present a version of the Holocaust in which only Jews are victims. Archbishop Dadeus Grings from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil only added to the problems of Pope Benedict by becoming the second Catholic bishop to create a Holocaust issue for the Church where none should exist. The bishop said: “The Jews talk about six million people killed. But, how many Catholics were victims of the Holocaust?” He went on to add: “Jews say they were the main victims of the Holocaust, the biggest victims were the gypsies, because they were exterminated.”

It insults those who died in the Holocaust or anyone who died as a result of German action to get into the “numbers game” as to who “suffered the most.” How does one measure “suffering?” This is a ridiculous discussion. Over thirty million Russians died, Jews as well as Christians. Millions of Catholics died as did Protestants and atheists. The only way to respond to the ignorance of this Catholic bishop is –silence. Pope Benedict has spoken eloquently about the Holocaust and it insults the Catholic Church and those who have worked for reconciliation to allow this ignorant man from Brazil to assume his comments have any worth or any standing in his church.

India, Pakistan And Afghanistan

Patrick Cockburn, in a fascinating analysis as to what really is happening in Afghanistan connects several dots which explain why the new American “surge” will have limited impact, but, in the end, leave things very much as they are. Cockburn argues the surge will stabilize the erosion of Afghan government power and restore a bit more ability of ordinary citizens to go on with their lives, but, the “Taliban is never going to be defeated so long as it has its bases in the Pushtun swat inside north-western Pakistan.” American troops can attack, they can wipe out Taliban bases, they can harass and impede supplies, but this will not prevent the Taliban from hopping across the border to sanctuary inside Pakistan.

Cockburn argues the issues central to the problem of the Taliban have nothing to do with Afghanistan and much more to do with Pakistan military needs for allies in its confrontation with India. The Pakistan military regards India and the unresolved problem of Kashmir as the most important problem they must always consider in terms of their own survival. As long as there is fighting in Afghanistan, then America must pay attention to the needs of Pakistan. “This, in turn, gives Pakistan leverage over the US to prevent the Americans going too far in supporting India.”

The Cockburn thesis raises some interesting questions concerning priorities. The current American surge is designed to prop up the crumbling regime of President Karzai of Afghanistan, but the more support he receives from America, the less he is regarded as a force inside his own nation. If Cockburn is correct, the focus of American effort should be on assisting Pakistan and India from resolving their problems. If the threat of India is resolved, then Pakistan military leaders would be more inclined to focus on destroying the Taliban.

Anyone in the Obama administration reading about this thesis?

Canadian Soldier Gives Afghanistan The Finger

An American helicopter touched down at a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan where Canadian soldiers had been fighting for six months. As the plane went skyward, a fatigued soldier looked down at the mud walled houses and raised his finger in disgust. It was a spontaneous gesture of frustration, anger, and disgust toward those whom he felt did not appreciate the work of these foreigners who theoretically had come to protect the people of Afghanistan against Taliban insurgents. The Canadian soldiers are exhausted, heartsick, and fed up with what they regard as a wasteland whose inhabitants really don’t care if these men have risked lives in defense of something–people, democracy, peace? Lt. Jeff Lloyd, mumbled to a reporter about his service in the area: “But, sometimes you ask yourself. For what?” did he serve and risk his life.

In the rural villages of Afghanistan which have witnessed countless armies and thousands of soldiers who come to fight and eventually depart, there is still a lack of enthusiasm for coalition forces. Foreign soldiers arrive filled with enthusiasm, risk their lives, but village life goes on, as before, and when they depart, village life goes on, as before. The Canadian soldiers never fully grasped anything about Afghan culture except what appeared to be indifference. Is this Afghanistan as it really is?

Saudi Great Lingerie Boycott

A group of Saudi women are organizing a campaign to boycott lingerie stores on grounds they refuse to hire women as salesclerks and this compels females to feel embarrassed. The goal is to push for implementation of a 2006 law which says only female staff can be employed in women’s apparel stores. Boycotters want women to only purchase lingerie at the few women-only lingerie stores as a mark of solidarity with their fellow women. The female only stores do not have windows which prevents men from peering in to see women touching or doing something with lingerie.

There are times when to the outside world one wonders exactly how the government and culture of Saudi Arabia prioritizes its issues of concern. War, famine, the fight for a Palestinian state and a few other minor issues might be lingering around, but to some Saudis the topic of today is lingerie and who sells it. Pull down the shades.