Thursday, November 30, 2006

Child Sex Abuse by UN Peacekeeping Missions

It is a paradoxical that a human worker allows himself to fall in inhuman act, especially child rape . Since sexual abuse of victims such as young girls and boys has reached a big magnitude, aid workers should be selected on the basis of their conduct, not just competence. They should take oath, for example, not to transgress human dignity. Such people should not be allowed to trade in human dignity.

Offering “help” to victims just to satisfy dirty desires is another form of human slavery or at least an encouragement to prostitution. Girls, In particular, will in the long term find it natural to offer their bodies for a loaf of bread or for a ride on a car. So these so called humanitarian workers are just perpetuating the suffering they’re supposed to alleviate, which will be aggravated by the psychological scars they can inflict on innocent girls unaware of the aftermath of their indulgence in return of a dismal gift.

A catastrophe can’t be alleviated by another one. The UN should be swift in taking actions and not to turn a blind eye on this simply such abuses are taking place in third world countries where such abuses are supposedly commonly practised by the locals and visitors. If such aid workers - some of whom are representing their countries - can’t be tried at home for their inhuman excesses they should be tried in an international court as war criminal or for crimes against humanity.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jordan's King Warns of Civil Wars

Jordan's King Abdullah has warned that three civil wars could break out in the Middle East unless the international community takes urgent action.

Lebanon, Palestinian Territories and Iraq have reached the climax of violence recently. All have been the scenes of open political differences among key leaders when blood is split among those supposed to have national affinities. They have got all the ingredients to fall in a civil war as they have reached the climax of violence recently. In each of these prominent politicians have sharp differences about government style and foreign alliances.

In Iraq there is sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni. In Palestinian territories there are violent clashes between mainly Fatah and Hamas armed groups, putting in jeopardy peaceful living among Palestinians themselves. Lebanon has become notorious for political killing; the latest is the death of industry minister Pierre Gemayel.

But as the USA is still holding the strings of politics in the region, it has the power to influence the events. It has the power to influence the events by opening channels of shuttle diplomacy with countries like Syria and Iran, one the most influential players in the region. The political time-bomb is around the corner in all three areas. Calm diplomacy is needed to diffuse it the soonest before nightmare becomes a reality.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Can Violence End in Iraq?

A wave of car bombs and mortars in Baghdad's Sadr City district has left at least 144 people dead and more than 200 injured, Iraq police have said.

Such a rate of death occurring daily is a loud call for internal, regional and international cooperation to restore peace in Iraq. Violent attacks have become a routine in a worrying way even for people living far from Iraq because of the human cost. It's high time key players in the region joined together to put an end to such atrocity out of human consideration.

Linking the human situation in Iraq to political differences will simply amplify the daily risks. It's better for all the politicians to see themselves as a part of UN Red Cross to have the feel of what must humanely be done regardless of political calculations.

The end of violence in Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqis themselves. The daily atrocities are committed mainly by Iraqis against Iraqis, leaving families after families in a state of mourning . Iraq should be a country where life is celebrated. It shouldn’t be a country where killed people are daily counted, with the subsequent silly figures and graphs calculating the ratio of deaths and comparing them to past periods.

Regional cooperation to end the violence in this country can succeed by disarming the militias and creating a national army that can secure peace in Iraq with or without foreign forces. These will sooner or later leave Iraq. Iraqis will be left to their fate, likely to continue living in a bloodbath if they can't reach a national consensus for durable peace.

The Soaring Olympic Games Cost

The Olympic Games have become costly because of the conditions attached to them. There is at first competitions between nations who bid for their organisations. So each must display the best it can offer. The fact that no more than ten cities are officially proposed for the event shows the great responsibility it entails.

Such games have also political considerations. The host country wants to show the whole world its savoir-faire from all angles. Currently, first of al,l to create secure conditions during the games period.

The soaring costs of the Olympic Games have to do with the luxury that must be provided for the participants and the visitors. Each Olympic Games organisation must prove better than the previous one and obviously it turns out to be more costly.

The slogan of the Olympic Games is that what counts is participation. But nowadays, in addition to this what counts is the gain companies and the host country can financially and politically gain.

Today there is also the security cost. In 2004, Athens had to substantially increase the budget for security more largely than had been expected because of the fear of international terrorism at a time when the USA particularly was waging a war against the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But putting the financial cost aside, the Olympic Games remain memorable moments for the participants, the spectators around the world and for the city itself. They are a sort of prestige for everyone involved in them. Although an organising city may be left to pay the debts, it keeps the interests of having an infrastructure that couldn’t have been laid down without the incentive of the Olympic Games.

If it is a national pride to hold a major sport event like the Olympic Games, the cost should not be as an excuse to curse the day when a country was chosen to hold them.

Each privileged and rare opportunity has a price. The price of such an event is the length of the efforts needed to get the games ready and the bills or debts to pay long after the games.

Olympic Games and World Cup are among the most expensive sports events. But there are fans ready for taking the trouble to travel from extreme points of the earth and to buy expensive tickets for the pleasure of having a seat in the stadium.

Olympic Games have become a part of collective memory for billions around the world. There can be criticism after criticism about their cost and organisation. What is sure there can never be a call for their indefinite suspension. Without games the world becomes a dull place.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gaddafi call for Free Migration

The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has told African and European government ministers that they must accept high levels of cross-border migration.

Before asking Europe to solve migration problems by opening its doors to migrants, Gaddafi should open his country to them and allow them to settle there without threatening them of repatriation. As a leader calling for African Unity, he should work out an economic strategy in line with his ideology to allow would-be migrants to stay in their countries and find jobs in them rather than risk their lives through drowning in the waters leading to Europe or famine, when walking in the harsh desert.

Europe can't absorb all the would-be immigrants. From Africa alone there can be millions heading for it if its doors happen to be open to all. Europe can accept only the types of immigrants it needs, especially qualified ones. If the freedom of movement is a human right, European countries, ethically, shouldn't "rob" poor countries from their best human resources. It should encourage them to stay in their countries to help their countrymen help themselves in their homeland for the good of all.

China-India Summit, What Prospects?

The latest India-China summit has an aim for creating a rapprochement between these two giant countries. But it is likely that they will remain rival powers. They have different political system. India is the biggest democracy in the world. In China is the biggest country in terms of human rights repressions. As an example, it is one of the few countries in the world that censor free accession to internet sites. But what they have in common is the largest population in the world. Both are struggling to cater for their large section of impoverished populations, especially in rural areas, which are striking examples of great disparities between the have and the have-not.

Economically, they need external markets. China has managed to have tight grip on many third world markets, especially in Africa. This must have left India with little opportunities to have access to them. India will need new market strategies to attract more customers and to compliment what China has brought to these markets.

The only good thing that can emerge from summit meetings between the leaders of the two countries is trust building, mainly on military issues. Both are nuclear powers. They should use this to create stability in Asia and not by having satellite states that can be used to impair their mutual relations. They can engage in solving political tensions as with North Korea.

India and China can have a great deal to offer to each other. But as giant countries, they shouldn’t use their pact to absorb small countries, making them helpless by exploiting their resources rather than helping them to stand on their feet.

Nigeria Oil Workers Hostage Taking & Political Points

Nigeria is one of the countries that are making a mess of their oil resources. There is lack of good management to make them a motor for progress benefiting all the Nigerians, especially those living in production areas. Its oil has had human disasters. Hundreds of people died in oil explosions from pipes as it has been the case this year. There are recurrent kidnapping of oil workers, which are in most cases freed unharmed.

But the latest kidnapping of oil workers turned out in disaster. It ended in the death of a British kidnapped oil worker during a rescue operation by the military. This shows that Nigerian military isn’t trained to deal with such a situation or the kidnappers have strong tactics, which has enabled them to resist the military raid, although they, too, suffered casualties.

Hostage taking shouldn’t be used as a tool for pressure, especially foreigners who have nothing to do with the political situation of the countries where they work. In Nigeria, hostage taking is a form blackmail to put pressure on the central government to comply with the kidnappers’ political demands.

Such kidnapping is a form of economic sanctions on the government as it is sure to scare existing oil workers into fleeing the country and it discourages new ones from coming as a replacement. This can affect production in the same way as a strike, the start of popular unrest or political crises threatening the stability of the country.

But Nigeria’s regional political problems can’t be solved by hostage taking. This can draw attention to the problem. But it is unlikely to bully the government to yield to kidnappers demands as in its views their actions will look as legitimate, encouraging them to carry out more kidnapping. Foreign workers just do the job for which they are paid. The government, whose some officials are accused of oil revenue embezzlement, should be transparent about its deals. It should work for equal wealthy distribution. Oil companies should step up security measures for its personnel.

Animal Rights or Human Rights?

People in Holland voted in two MPs representing the Party for Animals . This can be equated with people voting elsewhere for green parties to protect planet Earth as a whole from the mess of human mismanagement and greed.

But in countries where human rights are no longer burning issues, Animals rights can be an interesting issue. In Holland the issue of the burqa seems to have been eclipsed by the plight of animals, attracting a new type of voters. But voting for a Party of Animals sounds less strange than the likelihood of voting into power another newly formed Dutch political party calling for the reduction of the right of children aged 10 to have sex and defending the right of humans to have sex with animals.

As animals in Europe are mainly used as pets or considered as family members, they, too, should have the attention of politicians. Making animals happy means making their owners happy too. Which also means winning their votes in campaigns.

This can work in developed countries. But countries with poor human rights records need political parties for human rights per se, where priorities should be given to defend them at least theoretically. On the ground, decades are needed to make human rights a reality around the world. Many countries are using their “successes” in human rights to brag about their political achievements.

Maybe as in some literary works of science fiction or fairy tales, one day animals will be ruling the world. Humans will be their mouthpiece, clashing with one another about who is their representative and advocate.

Perhaps after this post I should be reading “Gulliver’s Travels” in which horses have their kingdom and where Gulliver becomes their subject. I should also be reading “Planet of the Apes” where humans are ruled by …… APES!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pierre Gemayal Assassination

Political assassinations are common in Lebanon, prior to its notorious civil war. It didn't spare anyone from all sections of the Lebanese society, Muslims or Christians. The most spectacular one was that of the former PM Rafik Al Hariri whose death shook up the political landscape in Lebanon. Among other things the military withdrawal of Syria, although its political presence behind the scene.

Lebanon as a democratic country has failed to be a model for the Arab world in particular. Democracy means protection from prosecution and jail.

What is queer about the political situation in Lebanon is that it is a rare democracy in the Arab world. But politicians aren’t immune from threats from inside and outside its borders. Lebanon has perhaps the biggest rate of prominent political assassinations.

Usually Lebanon doesn't have political opposition outside the country. It doesn't have political prisoners. The only reason behind this is that prominent politicians who have a political influence threatening those with interest in Lebanon- Lebanese or not- are simply killed or remain on the black list until the appropriate moment. Then the act is carried leaving behind it many questions hovering in the air. Secret services may be involved. The question remains whose service.

In Lebanon, prominent politicians have to be under big security from armed body guards.

The assassination of Pierre Gemayal means life is never safe there. Ballots are not an assurance to have a comfortable seat in power. Politicians can't rely on the state to protect them because the state itself doesn't have a unified national security force. Hezbollah is an example of the armed forces that are independent of the "central" government.

This political assassination can throw Lebanon in further political instability especially if key sections turn their back to one another- deepening their historic mistrust - and seek political allies outside their country. This will make the country remain in the grip of foreign political influences.

This assassination can’t serve as a lesson to any. Such Assassinations are recurrent events. Perhaps, it’s brave to be a politician in Lebanon. Because the first thing it means is that one should be ready to die and have really trusted friends inside and outside the political circles.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Should a Priest Get Married?

The Vatican has re-affirmed celibacy among Catholic priests after the case of a married African archbishop, excommunicated last year for ordaining other married priests.

The question to ask is: if a Protestant priest can marry, does this make him less Christian than a catholic one? Both have come to the world through procreation. Catholic priests shouldn't be denied the pleasure of marriage as it seems they're the only ones obliged to celibacy in all revealed religions denominations.

If it's possible for ordinary people to achieve spirituality while keeping a family, it can be possible for a Catholic priest to be and remain a spiritual guide without being deprived of marriage.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Will Segolene Be the First Female French President?

It will be interesting for France to have a female president. This will reinforce its principles of equality. France’s defence minister is a woman. If Northern European countries have queens and female prime ministers why shouldn't be so for France? Even some third world countries have female presidents like Liberia.

The French voters must give Segolene Royal a chance if she comes up with convincing programmes. France is in need of change. Segolene Royal if elected president can face the challenge if she has a strong team behind her. The socialists can find in her a plus to attract the voters disenchanted with the performance of the current government. Presidential elections in France will probably be as exciting as the last ones which finally saw Le Pen competing against Chirac.

Segolene Royal should be given a chance to be a president at least to shake up the political landscape and tackle current issues like immigration with a new spasm to make the French feel a real change for better.

Failed Contraception Operation & Punishment

The case of doctor who carried out a failed contraceptive operation and has been ordered by a German court to pay financial support for the child seems rather strange. This maybe the first time a doctor being asked to “father” a child because of his professional mistake.

This is a reminder of a story in old Arabic literature which is as follows: a man and his wife on their way home were attacked by an Othman soldier (this when the Arab world was ruled by the Othman empire). He took their possessions and fell the wife to the ground. As a result she miscarried the six month foetus she was bearing. The aggrieved husband went to the judge Karrakash (known for his strange verdicts) to sue the soldier. He ruled that the soldier should return to the man his possessions. For the wife he should keep her and couldn’t return her to her husband until she is six months pregnant.

The case of the child shouldn’t be from the point of view of financial care. A child should first be loved before being provided with daily necessities like food, shelter and clothes.

But this doctor’s mistake seems minor. His was to give life. There are other doctors because of medical errors cause permanent handicaps and even death. In UK, a man lost his life because in hospital a surgentent removed from him the wrong kidney. Of course there are similar stories in thousands around the world.

For the mother she should consider the child as a blessing in disguise. Children are the joys of life. Her child is a fact. She should bear with it. If she can’t give it up, this means she should have motherly courage to nurture it and not to see it as intrusion in his life.

Our world is strange. Some are dying to have children, ready to adopt them even from foreign countries legally or illegally. Others are asking for justice because they got them.

Ban of the Burqa by the Dutch government

Islam has become a hot issue in Holland as in the rest of Europe because of the large Muslim communities whose young generation is disenchanted with its mode of life due to identity crisis and lost opportunities in education and jobs. (The highest unemployment rate is among Dutch citizens of Muslim origin, especially Morocco)

The ban of the burqa by the Dutch government shouldn’t come as a surprise. Morocco which is 99% a Muslim country has banned the hijab in school textbooks. The national airline company RAM has banned its staff from performing prayer during working time.

Such a ban may become a new symbol of the clash between Eastern and Western values in Western societies. Muslim women refusing to put off the burka should choose to remain in hiding if they don’t want to be seen or conform to the traditions of host countries. Burka is an invention in some Muslim circles. It is not a must in Islam. It’s evident from the Koran and Prophet Mohammed edits there is no obligation for women to hide themselves from head to toes.

But this ruling shouldn’t be seen as a campaign against Muslim values. In a separate incident the Dutch court ruled in favour of a Muslim Dutch female teacher of Moroccan origin who in place of work refused to shake hands with male colleagues.

It’s evident that there should be a separation between religious practice and the common law which aims at protecting citizens’ rights. If the burqa is a threat to public safety it should be banned.

Out of equality, if a man is banned from wearing a mask for security reasons, the same should be applied to women. It's possible that a man with criminal intentions disguised in a woman apparel can slip through to carry a criminal act.

Tolerance should be extended from both sides. It will be sad to see people of different faiths clashing over matters that could be dealt with flexibly.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Patriotism and Tolerance

Japan is one of the rarest countries which despite its huge technological advances managed to keep aspects of its traditions that are centuries old. The best symbol is the imperial traditions which coexist with the modern approach to economic and political issues. But among the youth, as in every part of the world, there are tendencies to adopt new values that go with their aspirations which may clash with the views of inherited values.

The Japanese themselves had a history of excessive nationalism in Asia, particularly in Korea and China. It was the Japanese version of their history during their occupation of these countries that led to a diplomatic row with them.

Japanese government call for the inculcation of patriotism in schools should not be a replica of the kind that made Japan a subjugating master making light of the other nations around it. Japanese youth should first be taught the shortcomings of Japan previous nationalism in the 20th century, which is still vivid in the mind of many.

Nationalism can have devastating effects. Not long ago, under Slobodan Milošević , Bosnia and Herzegovina was the scene of the genocide of the Muslim ethnicity never seen in Europe after the Second World War. The lesson to be drawn from such an incident is that excessive nationalism combined with the hatred for groups that differ in religion or ideology can lead to the rule of the jungle where the weak is exposed to all sorts of atrocities.

The key to international coexistence at state level is the fostering of tolerance and understanding through bilateral relations or the effective actuating of international organisations like the UN for world peace and cooperation.

People are now living in a world where globalisation is the order of the day. There should be a balance between national sovereignty and tolerance. Schools should instil the love of one’s country and respect for its specificity as well as the specifiities of other cultures. This is good for humanity as a whole. It will be dreary to be living in a world where there is only one living pattern making countries differ in names and not in culture.

People should be actively open to other cultures through tourism and cultural exchanges. If pride of one’s identity is reinforced by the respect for the culture of the others, nationalism will mean making one’s country an open door to other cultures and not a ground guarded by tight rejection of any new comer.

Nationalism is essential for the perpetuation of any country without losing its sovereignty or specificity. But it shouldn’t turn into a blind love leading to the rejection of all that is different. The most dangerous aspect of nationalism is the one mixed with religion leading to bigotry. The current clash of civilisation is the result of drawing a line between right and wrong based on personal perceptions making no room for tolerance.

Schools should be a window on the outside world and on one’s world and not a fortress breeding intellectual and armed militias permanently on the standby to ward off what seems to them as alien influence. They should be a place where common human values are taught and shared regardless of creed or race.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A New Al Jazeera English Launch

The launch of Al Jazeera English comes after the tenth anniversary of the launch of Al jazeera Arabic. Even in Arabic broadcasting Al Jazzeera depended on the management of experts from the existing broadcasting corporations, especially the BBC.

Al jazeera Arabic has reached great popularity in the Arab world because it was the only channel that presented the news in the western style, especially live debates where apparently opposite views on matters in a specific Arab country or on a general issue.

But despite its huge popularity, as a broadcasting station, it failed to produce 100% of its programmes. Many documentaries are acquired from other stations like the BBC.

The Al jazeera English is sure to be different from the Al Jazeera Arabic. This has a one-type audience which is in majority united by the same attitudes concerning Arab causes like conflict in the Middle East.

Al Jazeera English seeking audience around the world must have a different approach to the news presenting more balanced news, especially about the situation in Lebanon, Iraq and Israel.

But it will need a long time to reach English broadcasting qualities of prominent channels like the BBC with its 80 years long experiences in broadcasting to the world.

Al Jazeera Arabic had to use in its launch journalists from the BBC Arabic service like Faissal Al Kassim and from the Voice of America. Now the English Channel is using ex-journalists from the BBC and CNN.

Al Jazeera as a corporation still needs to make 100% of its programme. For the imported programmes it presented translated in Arabic, it should have respect for the viewers by telling them their sources and not the Arabic names of those who had translated the original version.

Al Jazeera English success will be measured by the responses it will have. Let’s hope it won’t depend on dramatic media by broadcasting tapes of “wanted” figures and focussing just on opposition leaders and thinkers to enlarge its audience. After all its Arabic programme “Opposite Direction” has gained popularity because it depends on shouting at and interrupting the addressee rather than listening and responding calmly.

On a final note:

Al Jazeera can have credibility as a neutral broadcasting corporation when it treats its patron Qatar in its report as it treats as countries when it comes to social and political problems. I have a tip for al Jazeera. It can make a report at least about the immigrants living in Qatar, especially the Asians. But it won’t. For it Qatar is a sacred cow. Of course it won’t bite the hand that feeds it. It can make stinging reports only about the rest of the world.

Posts and Reposts about India's Contrasts

What a contrast between Anu’s description of London beautiful morning on her departure for India when she talked about her nostalgia for India, where she has her roots and Delhi where there seems chaos and mismanagement at the urban level!

India with its huge population still has a long way to go for material progress. But it has democracy as its biggest asset which must have contributed to its stability despite its sharp contradiction and big ethnic variety.

India has been a country of wonders from its monuments and landscape to the dominance of supernatural beliefs and magic in some circles.

It has a huge population as well as a huge human potential. One day the streets in Delhi and in other parts of the country will be neat as an indication that its economy is roaring, whose products are in shops and not on the pavement.

Despite everything, India is great as Indians' love for peace makes them one of the great people on earth.

Anu Anand wrote at 07:10 AM on 14 Nov 2006,

Hi Steve, I can't access the link you posted, but what a weird coincidence... The story you're referring to is one I did last year for BBC TV- about how Indians buy huge amounts of gold (worth more than all the foreign investment combined) and keep it locked up in their safes at home, where it earns nothing & the government can't tax it. I got to see gold jewellery being made (every girl's dream!) and have some of my own locked up in London! (Though I do pay my taxes unfortunately!)

Abdelilah-- you're right! It's easy to wax lyrical about a place when you're away... and then see it for what it is- good and bad- when you return. As I wrote in that first post-- it's the contrast between success and failure that hits me hardest whenever I come here. I had the pleasure of visiting Morocco recently, and I didn't see the same kind of poverty I see here. In fact, I've never seen that level of poverty, except in Mexico City.

I'm curious what image you both have of India. Do you see cows and beggars? Or computer geeks? Would you ever visit? Thanks for posting!

And here is my response to her at 07:19 PM on 14 Nov 2006:

Hi Anu,
Good to hear from you in your homeland India. A country where East meets West – a reminder of Hector Hugh Munro, who made India his homeland.

India has been introduced to people in Morocco through its cinema. Indian movie is still featuring in cinema rooms. Perhaps Indian movie is the main India’s cultural export to Morocco. One of its fascinations is the lyrics and the love stories it represents. Some Moroccans repeated these lyrics without understanding a word, but just for the beauty of their melody.

In Morocco, it’s easy to find someone familiar with the names of Indian actors. But apart from Mahatma Ghandi, it’s rare to find someone familiar with the name of an Indian politician. So as you can see, the image a large section of people have of India is that presented them in movies.

In Marrakesh, there is a yearly international film festival. Among the guests are Indian actors and directors like Amitabh Bachchan. In 2004, he got a very popular welcome because Indian movie for many people in Morocco is a means for escape and to celebrate the beauty of Indian music, songs and dances.

As a student of English literature, I had the chance to read some literary work like “Passage to India” by Forster, short stories by Hector Hugh Munro (Saki), and other work by Rudyard Kipling featuring India when it was still under British colonialism.

My view of India today remains in parallel with its social fabric. As long as there is the cast system embedded in Indian society despite democracy and nearly 60 years of independence, Indians will continue to live the sharp contrast as you have eloquently described in your posts. This can in part explain why some Indians resign to their fate and accept to live in an age similar to their distant ancestors because in their lifetime they almost have no chance to taste the fruit of India’s current economic boom.

Despite everything, Indian culture is full of wisdom that can enable one to reach reconciliation with oneself. This can benefit anyone in any corner of the world regardless of social status or material possessions. For that, India remains worth visiting at least for spiritual inspiration.

Have a nice time in India and welcome to Morocco, especially Marrakesh, if you happen to revisit it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Nigger", a Racial Offence?

Racial offences are common. Even if they are legally punishable if they are committed in public, they are still used in private circles. There is no law obliging a person to befriend another from a different race although the same law obliges him/her to show equal treatment.

It's unfortunate that black people still face prejudice because of their colour. But black people should be proud of what they are. In some parts of Africa, white people are pejoratively described as "pale".

One of the latest controversy about the word “nigger” is the ban of an advertising poster about a show called “Pride And Prejudice And Niggas”.

If "negro" is accepted as a term as there were American black activists in the 60s calling for "negro culture", the word "nigger" should be avoided as it has diminutive meaning.

What hurts is not the word but the notion that goes behind it.

After all "gay" used to be a term to express joy now it can be used derogatively or a way to express one's identity. For racial harmony, it's better to devise affectionate terms or refer to people as they look like and not how we perceive them.

Luring Paedophiles in Texas

Paedophilia is a problem facing a lot of societies around the globe regardless of their laws and traditions. The least it can be described is a mental illness. The worst aspect of it – in addition to the sexual abuse of children – is being linked to murder as it was the case in Belgium or to kidnapping as it was in Austria.

In UK, the police have succeeded in breaking up networks using child pornography on the net by setting them traps.

In Texas, using minors in a chat room to lure potential paedophiles can work if it is kept as a secret. As the strategy is publicised it can partly work but it won’t end this phenomena. It can either make paedophiles think twice before they’re caught and paraded before a judge.

Paedophiles can resort to other methods like bullying or winning the “affection” of their victims. The other aspect of paedophilia that can’t be easily combated is the one that happen within families, by relatives or a person seemingly above suspicion like a teacher or a priest.

Children should be made aware of the risk they can run with an adult and how to cope, including reporting what they may encounter to their parents and the authorities.

Children in all need a secure environment. But when the abuse happens in places like churches, schools and homes, chatting method will have a limited effect.

Monday, November 13, 2006

US & UK for Negotiations with Iran & Syria over the Situation in the Middle East

Iran and Syria will agree to cooperate about the situation in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestinian territories as key players if they have what to gain and not to be seen as yielding to UK and US pressure into negotiations under the threat of escalating international sanctions when both are accused by the US as harbouring international terrorism.

But it’s better to “jaw and jaw rather than war and war.” Maybe opening a diplomatic dialogue on the situation in Iraq can ease the tension on other issues like Iran nuclear program and Syria alleged involvement in Lebanon. It can be a way for trust building between these two countries and the West. It’s better for them to be seen as having rounds of talks on peace in Iraq than to be considered as the major supporters of armed groups and a safe haven for insurgents who make hit and run attacks inside Iraq.

For the success of any talks, Syria and Iran should succeed in persuading the elements they harbour as fighters to adapt political lines in accordance with the agreement they can reach with the US and the UK concerning the situation in Iraq in particular and in the Middle East in general.

Intransigence on all sides will keep the situation deteriorate in Iraq in particular, which can be used by the Syrian and Iranian regimes along with that in Lebanon and Israel as a pressure card to make themselves heard internationally after their relatively international isolation . This can also serve them to win the heart and mind of people around the Islamic and the Arab world as a force capable to stand to the US when other regimes in the region are accused of being servile to it.

It remains to see how flexible all parties will be once talks open between them.

The Bush Dynasty

The Bush family has grown into a dynasty. After Bush Sr came Bush Jr. The son hasn’t inherited from his father just the presidency after a lapse by Pt Clinton, but also key staff like vice president Dick Cheney and the former secretary of states Collin Powel who also served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Bush Sr declared war on Saddam after his invasion of Kuwait.

The Bush dynasty has ramified itself into US policy, not forgetting Jeb Bush, the other son of Bush Sr, who has been re-elected the governor of Florida.

In the US the Kennedy dynasty seems to have gone under shadow. Maybe the same fate is awaiting the Bush dynasty unless Jeb Bush creates the surprise by becoming a presidential candidate in 2008, which will make presidency in the US a near monarchy with power passing from father to son and from son to another son.

If Roosevelt stayed in power for four terms as an exception to the constitution as drafted by the Founding Father not to allow power to be perpetuated in the hands of the few, it won’t be surprising if the succession to the presidency by another Bush will make him the third Bush president of the US – provided the Republicans make convincing campaigns to make him ascend the presidential throne.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bush Lame Duck after Mid-term Elections

After the results of the 2006 mid-term elections Pt Bush looks a lame duck .
The remaining years in the White House will be a challenge for him to exercise his authority to have bills passed especially on issues about which he may differ with the Democrats. But as crucial bills need two third majority he will still have space to exercise his authority without being obliged to sign bills he doesn’t accept along with his Republican party. This means he won’t be easily overridden by the Congress.

The Republicans can sense loss of hope to maintain the presidency if the Democrats –now a majority in both houses - prove effective in drafting legislations they can use as winning cards in the coming presidential elections.

George Bush still has wide powers as invested in him by the constitution. But bills needing approval by the Congress will surely leave him no choice but to compromise with the Democrats. Constitutionally, he’s serving his last term. He can’t return to presidency. His concern must be to leave it with little damage for the political future of his party.

But in politics, every president wants to leave a legacy by which he can have a place in national history. George Bush presidency is marked up to now by the return of the US to open armed invasion after the Vietnam War and the continuous efforts to face the rise of terrorism. Pt Bush may be racing against time at least to help Iraq return to stability and return US troops. If he succeeds in doing so, he can give the Republicans a new hope to have convincing arguments in 2008, the year when presidential and congressional elections will be held.

After all, as Bush admitted, Iraq was the major cause of the Republicans losing control of the Congress. Iraq can once again lead the Republicans to stay in the White House if Bush through the new Defence Secretary succeeds in putting a plan for a phase withdrawals from Iraq or at least minimising the US casualties there which has reached an alarming rate, only preceded by the wars in Korea and Vietnam, which both claimed more than 90,000 soldiers.

Both Democrats now in a honeymoon about their victories and the Republicans made minor by the policies of their president have other issues other than Iraq not to disappoint those who voted for them. As for Bush, he can make thing return to normal after the exciting moments of result declarations. This can be done through bipartisan decision for the good of the nation and not just for the good of a party or a particular politician.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Michigan University Votes No Affirmative Action

Michigan University has voted no affirmative action.

Affirmative action was adopted for political reasons when black people in particular were heavily disadvantaged educationally, economically and politically. Now blacks are no longer in the same situation. There are success stories. Blacks have got a place in key and sensitive posts. Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are examples of black success stories. They reached their positions through hard work and not through favouritism although they may have benefited from affirmative action in the first place.

Minorities- black, Hispanic or Red Indians etc - will have to consider that achievements should be based on merits and not on political favouritism. As education at school prior to university isn't based on selection, it is through it that all students can compete for higher education.

Filling universities through affirmative action can lead to mediocrity in academic achievement and responsibility after getting a job as some of those who graduate may be just fairly good but not good enough to assume jobs needing creativity and bold initiative.

This problem has been an issue not in the USA, but also in countries whose population is divided on tribal and sect lines. In India, the government has introduced a bill in parliament to force private universities admit fixed numbers of students from traditionally disadvantaged low castes and tribes. The government wants to amend the constitution which already obliges state-supported colleges reserve places for the country's poorest communities. The introduction of this bill didn’t go without controversy. But among those opposed to this move are some private colleges saying they fear a drop in standards if the law is changed.

One last point, affirmative action still leaves students on the margin from all races because it is based on racial selection and it can drop a person from the majority racial community because a person from the minority took his place despite his being better academically.

What After Rumsfeld Departure?

The replacement of Rumsfeld shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was under fire for almost a year, especially from veteran generals in the US about the military situation in Iraq and the running of the defence department. It is significant that he was replaced. This means he didn’t offer his resignation. He stuck to his position to the last moment when the Bush administration was faced with the reality through mid-term election results and not from polls or editorials in military press or in influential press like the Washington post which was among the first to publish the shortcomings of the US military in Iraq and armed forces who were critical of his management of the war in Iraq.

The resignation of Rumsfeld is likely to create a shake-up in the defence department. But his departure is unlikely to create a major new approach to the situation in Iraq. His shadow will stay in the defence department as a new defence secretary doesn't mean the early return of US forces from Iraq. The situation in Iraq for Bush is equated with the US interests in the Middle East as the Bush administration is set to stay there until its job is finished. Rumsfeld should be seen just as minus one from the group of hawks of war such as Bush, Cheney and Rice who are still running the war in Iraq.

The Republicans are facing double challenge. First, how to succeed in keeping the government going smoothly without severe confrontation with the Democrats at the Congress. Second how to ensure staying in power after 2008 presidential elections.

The remaining years for Bush in office can bring surprises, now that the Republicans lost control of the Congress. The US policy may undergo a new drama. As Bush came to office in a dramatic way through the Supreme Court decision, he may end his presidency in a dramatic way. In what way? Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

US Mid-term Elections as a Lesson for all

The US has been and still is a good model for democracy and power sharing for people aspiring for democracy despite the criticism it has been getting around the world because of, in principle, its dominance rightly or wrongly on the world stage.

The results of mid-term elections for a person living outside the USA is the logical outcome of regular polls prior to mid-term elections showing the downfall of Pt Bush popularity compared to his first years in office because among other things the situation in Iraq where the US troops started to be dealt blows by rising casualties for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War. Not to mention the moral scandals just before the elections concerning Foley and Ted Haggard sexual misconduct- although this may have a minor effect on the voters.

The fundamentals of US foreign policy are unlikely to change with a new majority in Congress as with the situation in the Middle East. The Americans had the chance through their voting power to forge a new landscape for the US where movers and shakers in fundamental policy will have to reshuffle their cards like the appointment of a new secretary of defence in replacement of Ronald Rumsfeld.

One conclusion, free vote is meant for the reinforcement the principle of check and balance. Maybe the Bush administration will be more tied in implementing its decisions because the Republicans lost their majority in the Congress. The question remains what fundamental changes are capable of bringing to satisfy those who helped them get their decisive victory?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

US mid-term Elections & the Outside World

The world news is daily dominated by US politics directly or indirectly. Elections around the world are watched or monitored by the US state department. The US opinion of elections around the world is usually a kind of seal on their fairness or lack of it. The US in a way tries to influence elections, especially in third world countries by expressing its attitudes towards key candidates. The presidential elections in Nicaragua is an example where the US is openly opposed to the victory of Sandonist Daniel Ortega, the revolutionary Marxist who fought off a US-backed insurgency in the 1980s and who appears to have won Nicaragua's presidency.

Reciprocally, mid-term elections in the US raise interest in all circles. It’s no wonder American presidents are the most famous in the world and they remain so even after leaving office. On the other hand, there is a common belief that US policy doesn’t change with a change of president or the partisan majority in the US Congress. There are cases that remain unresolved like the situation in the Middle East despite the different approaches by successive administrations. There are policies shared by them as it is the case with Cuba which has been under US economic and political embargo for more than forty years.

Elections in the US can bring changes for the Americans in their daily lives. For the outside world, the US remain the same trying to keep itself as a superpower, protecting its allies economically and militarily as well as sanctioning those who stand in its way by at least imposing sanctions on them as for North Korea or toppling regimes as it is the case in Iraq.

What can some countries aspiring for democracy do is to learn from the American democratic model like limiting the terms a president can have. This is being adopted by a number of countries like Iran- the sworn enemy of the USA and by Mexico its trading partner.

But the voters in the US still have what to learn from the outside world. They live in a huge country where they need a lifetime to explore it. But at the same time they should be curious to know about the outside world as the world keeps an eye on the US. It is not enough to vote on domestic issues. They should use their voting power to influence the decision of their leaders on world affairs, not just those in the news like Iraq but about forgotten corners in the world which they surely can’t spot on the world map because they are so immersed about their state internal affairs which must preoccupy them before their country general affairs and the rest of the world.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sentencing Saddam to Death

Saddam is an example of the dictators who so blinded by power and illusions that they consider it's only them that matter. His death should be seen as justice rendered to his victims. Staying alive will make mockery of those who were hoping for justice after his oppressive rule which claimed so many lives through his armed incursions against his countrymen, especially the Kurds. He had no mercy for anyone opposed to him. His style of revenge was that of the Middle Ages. He can now come to realise that he who kills by the sword will be killed by the sword. That's what he deserves for his inhuman acts.

Saddam’s death sentence put an end to the suspense about his final verdict. His case should be set an example to those leaders who make light of the life of anyone opposed to them and asking for democracy. The act must be courageous in that the court didn't yield to the threats of his supporters which must have made Iraq look as if it is still indirectly ruled by him. This must come as a relief to his victims, to the families and friends of those who died because of his atrocities. After all it's only his life that will be lost compared to the thousands murdered to keep himself in power

The death sentence for Saddam is likely to sparkle more violence in Iraq as his capture just fuelled more attacks by his supporters. In other words Saddam is likely to continue to influence events even from his grave - in case he is hanged - for sometime. But he will become a matter of the past like other dictators whose effect dwindles as time passes by.

But preparation for further violence should be seen as a price to carry out full justice for those who were victimised by him throughout his rule. The 148 Shiaas whose death he was accused of ordering are only a very small proportion of those who inhumanely died at the hand of his forces. He made of Iraq his own empire where he was seeking personal prestige at the expense of the welfare and the human rights of the majority of the Iraqis.

The Sunnis who support him are a minority in Iraq. By having their problems solved politically and economically they can adjust to the new reality of power in Iraq where during Saddam era they used to be favoured by him while the Shiaas and the Kurds were almost second-class citizens.

Ted Haggard Alleged Sex Scandal

The church has got its share of sexual scandals among religious figures supposed to set an example for the people they preach; especially in the Catholic Church where priests are to abstain from sex the rest of their life. There were scandalous cases of paedophilia.

What has emerged as significant is that the church is no longer an ivory tower where immorality is kept as a secret not to shock the believers. There are instances of priests that were jailed for sexual offences. The BBC in its programme Panorama has recently presented revealing facts about sexual misconducts carried by prominent priests, especially in the USA.

Ted Haggard should have kept his post to fight for his honour if he has nothing to do with gay sex. But as we say there are no smokes without fire. The incidence can be in favour of gay activists to show the double standards of a presumably anti-gay marriage evangelist. Whether the allegation is fabricated for political end, it may stir debates about the sexual conduct of others which is still in the dark. Morality and responsibility are what makes the essence of leadership. Evangelical Ted Haggard will have to prove that he has always conducted himself to the spirit of his responsibility and that his accuser lacks moral sense if he wants to redeem himself among his followers before his resignation at least to keep his self-esteem and not to go down the path of the doomed who rise to only fall despicably.

Friday, November 03, 2006

China-Africa Summit, Who Will Benefit?

China is starting to strengthen its grip on the international stage after it entered the phase of its economic reforms. It now ends new markets to boost its economic policy ad to maintain its economic growth. It has taken the step of other economically powerful countries which have regular meetings with groups of state. There is the annual African-French summit and the Commonwealth conference.

For the China-Africa summit this represents a good opportunity for China to have new outlets for its products. Africa for China is a new goldmine. It has all the potentials where it can expand its economy. The majority of African countries are economically disadvantaged. They can’t produce the things they daily need. They are sure to buy Chinese products which are cheap compared with Western products – although they lack quality they are affordable for African pockets.
For some African countries, this can be an opportunity to lessen their dependence on their former colonial masters, especially France and Great Britain.

What China and many African states have in common is that they are still developing countries. What they most need is economic opportunities. Unlike Western countries, China will not interfere with their political system, linking cooperation with them with political reforms and human rights. Africa and China don’t yet have elaborated labour laws like standard minimum wage. They still have cheap labour.

Although Europe can face fierce competition from China in Africa, China can help it reduce the influx of illegal immigrants to it by creating job opportunities for them through its economic projects. But this can come about if the African leaders put such cooperation to good effect and if Africa is dealt with as a partner and not just a consuming element. Opening African markets to China shouldn’t lead to the bankruptcy of local industries like textile or small enterprises whose products can be made look expensive compared with Chinese ones.

If the Africans take the advantage of cooperation with China just to have cheap products offering it their natural resources like oil and minerals, they will change their dependence on the West with a new master that can turn into a monster taking everything in its way without yielding any fruits to the African hosts who have offered it its land to use it as its second home.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Black Culture & Hope for a Better Tomorrow

Black culture has been the centre of debates because of its specificities. Black people through their history were subjected to slavery in different parts of the world, especially in the USA, the Middle East and Europe.

Although black slavery is a matter of the past as it officially ended more than a century ago, some black people still feel bitter about their past which left ,in many circles, negative legacies about them. In old literature and even sermons, they were portrayed in a negative way. Although officially it is prohibited to hold racist views about tem, socially there are still disparities between black people and white people in countries like the USA. This can in part have to do with prejudices and the unequal opportunities offered to each.

In South Africa, black people got free from apartheid only in the 90s. But the conditions in which they find themselves now must have disappointed them as the end of apartheid didn’t bring the general prosperity they were hoping for. It’s no wonder if social problems still persist in this country.

But black people have many role models if they want to move ahead. There are notable politicians like Nelson Mandela, notable musicians, sportsmen, especially in the world of football. They have all the assets to be the happiest in the world and to make the world happy. After all, the Nigerians are estimated to be the happiest in the world. They shrug at anything. Perhaps black people should shrug at what make them unhappy and move forward to have the place they deserve in their societies- be it that of their ancestors like Africa or in the USA where they constitute a substantial section.

PW Botha Dies After the Death of Aprtheid

The death of PW Botha will raise bitter memory among the black majority which was subjected to his repressive and racist rule. He will be remembered as having been intransigent about power sharing with black people whose prominent leaders like Nelson Mandela were kept in jail in defiance of public protests in SA and around the world.

He did little to foster racial co-existence in South Africa. It was after his demise of power in 1989 that internal and international pressure succeeded in making the white rulers practically face reality and allow black people to raise to powers after decades of subjugations.

With PW Botha’s death apartheid memories can be buried forever or his grave will be a permanent reminder of what black people went through. The same Robin Cook Island is a reminder of the place that bred the sparkles of résistance rather than muting it through the imprisonment of ANC leaders.

The whites and blacks can now join in holding hands together for a better future for their country. The whites in other words shouldn't exploit his death to make of him a national hero so as not to open old wounds and worsen the current racial harmony.

Internet & Ideological Wars

The internet has become accessible for everyone to have a site or a blog from which they can share their thoughts – deep or shallow- with the rest of the world. So the net has created a world community that don’t to know each other personally but they have a link through which they make their news –fabricated or genuine- travel fast as long as their site is well known and regularly checked.

Politically, the internet has become a weapon in ideological wars . It is used by all sides to make their points by persuading or frightening. It has offered freedom of speech to a larger extent despite its control in countries like China where net users can’t get access to all sites as it is risky for dissident to publish anti-government propaganda.

For the US, the problem is its use by terrorists, like Al Qaeda, for whom the net has become the best tool to show their success in fighting the US might because of - among other things- its invasion of Iraq. It was used by them as a platform to carry the execution of hostages and showing its steps to the rest of the world, sending threatening messages to their government and affecting public opinion.

For the US attempt to counter-attack propaganda used against it, it seems that it is not by the web that it can improve its image which is damaged in many countries of the world, especially in the Islamic world where the death of American soldiers is celebrated and the death of fellow Muslims is mourned.

In the Arab world, the US created a TV channel AL Hurra. But this channel failed to sway the negative impressions the majority of people in the Arab world have of the US government – although the US as a country is the dream of many.

The net for the US can be effective if it has the power to destroy all sites that are dangerously anti-American and to pursue those who feed them. It also should succeed in attracting the net users who have a negative view of the US and to create an interaction with them with the aim of persuading them of its good intentions.

But at present, it seems that the negative attitude towards the US will disappear with a change in its foreign policy and the dwindling effects of its opponents. Otherwise, they will use any diplomatic error by the US for their account. And so the net which is an American invention, in the first place, has in a way grown into an uncontrollable monster that needs new technological ingenuity to make the pages containing hostile or fabricated news, which can reach all corners of the world in matters of seconds, easy to intercept and destroy in matters of seconds as well.