Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I'm going off to the UK for a couple of days, primarily because a friend of mine is getting married Friday. It'll also be a good chance for me to catch up with (old) friends from uni, and do a little 'sightseeing'.
A lot has changed since I last set foot in London. Last time it was for my graduation in the summer of 2004. Since then, we've seen an attack and an almost-attack. It'll definitely be 'interesting' to see how the country I spent three years of my life in has changed. And of course, see how people I shared three years of my life with have changed.
The lady at the ticket counter said there shouldn't be any problems with the train, compared to the plane (that rhymes!), but suggested I be in Brussels (where I'll be transfering) earlier than the recommended 30min before departure of my Eurostar. As to restrictions of what you can and cannot bring aboard, there are none.
But just to be on the save side, I will publicly make known what I'm taking with me on my trip. For the record, I'm not a terrorist, and have absolutely no intention of being or becoming one.
A suit and tie: I will not dress to 'kill' on the train, and will promise to keep all this hidden beyond view. I will not try to strangle anyone with my (brother's) beautiful tie. At least not before I attend the wedding.
Clothes, socks, undergarments: no harm can be done there, unless maybe when they're not washed. My friend warmed me not to take thick clothes, for fear of arousing suspicion. I suggested maybe I should dress up tomorrow looking like I'm going to the beach. But the weather will not cooperate.
Cufflinks: nothing wrong with them...they do not have buttons and lasers like 007. I will not wear them on the train, and will promise not to strike anyone with them.
Supply of toiletries: now, I heard these are banned on flights because of 'liquid terror'. I will try not to brush my teeth, gel my hair, lotion my face and hands and use my fragrance on the train for fear of arousing suspicion. I will try to look as ugly and keep as low a profile as possible. If the customs officers do mind, they can keep these essential ingredients which make metrosexual who he is.
With the on-going AIDS conference in
Instead, the leader of the group, the
Again, the Christian right has hijacked a serious matter that threatens the lives of millions around the world in order to promote their own religious agendas which frankly do not reflect the reality of what is going on in many ‘developing’ countries. That condoms and other contraceptives are discouraged because it’s against the ‘natural’ and ‘divine’ motivation of sex (procreation) simply cannot be allowed in this day and age.
As Bill Gates put it:
“The so-called ABC programme - abstain, be faithful and use a condom - has saved many lives, Mr Gates told the conference of more than 20,000 delegates. But he said that for many at the highest risk of infection, ABC had its limits. "Abstinence is often not an option for poor women and girls who have no choice but to marry at an early age. Being faithful will not protect a woman whose partner is not faithful. And using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself; it depends on a man.
"We need to put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women. This is true whether the woman is a faithful married mother of small children or a sex worker trying to scrape out a living in a slum. No matter where she lives or what she does, a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life."
Here’s an in-depth (and deeply touching) report in the Guardian on why many countries lack the money and medicine to treat HIV/AIDS patients.
“Stealth bombers cost $7bn. The Global Fund [for HIV/Aids] only needs one of those.”
Focus on a lady called Grace, who is one of few privileged to receive anti-retroviral treatment, thanks to an initiative by a Dutch doctor and the Malawian government.
“Grace Matnanga has the HIV virus running like a slow and silent poison in her veins. You can't tell who most of them are. They teach children, they police the streets, they work in hotel receptions and bring up children. They laugh and smile like every other Malawian. For months or years, they appear well. Then the downward spiral begins. […] But she knows too well what is in store. Her freedom and independence were wished on her like a curse. Once she had a husband. Once she had a child. Both are dead.”
The tragedy does not only affect families, orphaned children, but also entire villages and the future of nations already impoverished, as more and more able men and women perish:
“Aids is taking not only the mothers and fathers, but the aunts and uncles as well. It is striking down those who should be working the fields. Aids has played a dire part in the food shortages caused by crop failure last year, so that no family has enough to eat. The villages do their best to absorb the bereaved children but they are at saturation”
Grace’s story is not an isolated one, but shared all over sub-Saharan
“Aids has brought average life expectancy down from 53 to just 39. The whole of sub-Saharan Africa shares
's tragedy. There are 29.4 million infected with HIV, 60% of whom are women. Last year  alone 2.4 million died. Four million are in urgent need of drugs, but less than 50,000 are getting them.” Malawi
The other side of the story, the bigger picture:
AIDS is not just a global pandemic, it is:
“[…] is a much bigger and more complex problem, with political, social and economic dimensions. The industry as a whole has shown few signs yet of leading the charge where governments hang back. Where is the transparent global policy, for instance, to ensure that all the badly-needed Aids drugs are sold at the lowest possible prices?
Big fat cats in pharmaceutical companys like GlaxoSmithKline who are being paid millions and still obsessed with profits.
“[…] at the end of the day, he [. Jean Pierre Garnier, head of GSK] says, he runs a for-profit company. And if people are still dying of Aids in
Africa, it is because their governments are ineffective or do not care. It is not to do with the greed or indifference of the pharmaceutical companies.”
And patents stand in the way of patients opting for the cheaper versions of GSK’s Combivir:
“But the reality in distant
Millions of people on a potential path to death, or millions of profits? I’ll take the former, any day:
“[…] there are 29.4 million mostly very poor people set to die of Aids in sub-Saharan
What should be done: a ten step plan.
Link to “Saving Grace” initiative.
BACKGROUND: What are the consequences of AIDS?
It’s not just the symptoms of the disease itself that could kill, but also the fact that HIV weakens the immune system, thus patients even more susceptible to other disease like tuberculosis and malaria (see “Opportunistic Infections” in factsheet):
Here’s a factsheet.
“Pneumonia, a skin cancer called Karposi's sarcoma and shingles are among the HIV-related common killers. Death rates from malaria and in childbirth have gone up because of HIV.”
“One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
A powerful plea by conscientious objector Lieutenant Ehren Watada on why he refuses to fight this war and all that it stands for.
“No one knows the devastation and suffering of war more than veterans - which is why we should always be the first to prevent it.” A radical, but not new, idea
“[…]I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.”
Why is the war illegal and immoral?
“The American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without question. Rank should be respected but never blindly followed. Awareness of the history of atrocities and destruction committed in the name of
Actions reminiscent of Nuremburg
“The Nuremburg Trials showed
Duty of a soldier
“Aside from the reality of indentured servitude, the American soldier in theory is much nobler. Soldier or officer, when we swear our oath it is first and foremost to the Constitution and its protectorate, the people. If soldiers realized this war is contrary to what the Constitution extols - if they stood up and threw their weapons down - no President could ever initiate a war of choice again. When we say, "… Against all enemies foreign and domestic," what if elected leaders became the enemy? Whose orders do we follow? The answer is the conscience that lies in each soldier, each American, and each human being. Our duty to the Constitution is an obligation, not a choice.
What the public can and should do
“[…] for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. I have seen this support with my own eyes. For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education. [… Why must Canadians feed and house our fellow Americans who have chosen to do the right thing? We should be the ones taking care of our own. Are we that powerless - are we that unwilling to risk something for those who can truly end this war? How do you support the troops but not the war? By supporting those who can truly stop it; let them know that resistance to participate in an illegal war is not futile and not without a future.”
Brave words, shouting against the wind, it seems, at a leviathan regime and its military arms of control and war. We should support this cause however we can. We can write, we can demonstrate, we can inform others, we can help with whatever resources and means we can muster. Even if it’s just making others aware that there are those within the US, within the US armed forces that are not as blind and deaf to the lies and immoral justifications for the continuing chaos and wanton destructions in the world for the personal gain and pride of the few.
There’s no need for more blood shed, and resistance need not result in blood shed. With our silent defiance, with peaceful protests, swith our awareness of unjust causes bargained for in the name of our fundamental freedoms and principles, we can take a stand and say: “Enough is enough”.
And that is enough.
According to his mother, Lt Watada has since been charged by the military:
“In response, the military charged him with missing movement, contemptuous remarks against the president and behavior unbecoming to an officer. Taken together, these charges amount to 7 years in a military prison." The war and other madness brought on by the current
OK, they've just lowered the threats to "Severe" (second down), which is a little better than just before and after the foiled bomb plots. But it's still....severe.
Told me all these things I should be careful with, things not to carry, and he even wrote me an 'invitation' letter too, in case customs gets picky. I really did not think so far. Had a look around at the Home and Foreign Office websites, and there's really nothing much there. Even the Dutch foreign ministry hasn't issues a travel warning either; just mentioned that there might be delays, and that there's a possibility of bird flu (which also didn't cross my mind).
Was my friend just being (overly) cautious, or is it that bad??
Hm, I'll be travelling by train (Eurostar) into London... I guess that should be less problematic then flying. But still...
We'll see. This trip just got a more little interesting.
Monday, August 14, 2006
A fascinating account of life and culture in “Formosa the Beautiful” by National Geographic from March 1920.
The reason behind the beauty:
“[…] sometimes five and sometimes even six parallel ranges are visible at once, each a separate ribbon of colour, shading from the deepest sapphire to the palest azure and extending in an unbroken chain of beauty from north to south.”
A peek into life under the Japanese era, and how a hybrid of colonial and indigeonous cultures and customs make Formosa and its people different from the ‘Chinese’. This was a time when Kelung (Keelung) was the principal harbour, when Tamshui River was known as the Bund, when Taihoku (Taipei) was a still sleepy town, when wild camphor forests were still abundant, and when the Aborigines (“Savages”) reigned the land (but were slowly being driven into the mountains already).About
“[…] the Chinese […] possession of
[was] a period of gross misrule, from all accounts” Formosa
“The bulk of the population of
is, of course, Chinese. Several centuries ago the island used to be the stronghold of both Chinese and Japanese pirates, who found it very a very convenient base from which to intercept vessels following the trade routes between Formosa and the rest of the Orient. Japan
It was not until the fourteenth century that the first industrial class of Chinese, the agriculturist Hakkas, who were outcasts in their own country, came to settle in
. After that, at the time of the Tatar invasion, several thousand Ming loyalists sought refuge on the island. Formosa
Then there has always been more or less an influx of immigration from the overpopulated
, just across the Formosa Straits. These Chinese from Fu-kien far outnumber the others, and their speech, known as the “ provinceof Fu-kien Amoydialect”, is the vernacular of the island.
When the Japanese came into control of the island after the Chino-Japanese War, in 1895, a third element was added to the population. […]
The Japanese have instituted great material improvements in
. The most important, of course, are modern courts of justice in lieu of the old mandarin courts, where the man with the greatest “pull”, which needless to say, spelled money, invariably won out. There is also greater security to life and limb now, for not only is the Japanese police system a most thorough and efficient organization, but the sanitary measures that they have adopted have practically eradicated such diseases as malaria and bubonic plague. Formosa
The future of
under its present benevolent paternal government looks bright, indeed. Never before has the island, so beautiful to the eye, enjoyed such a degree of prosperity. […]” Formosa
The astonishing pictures and vivid description really brings back that sense of nostalgia, back in the days when
I got this link from “A view from Taiwan”, a wonderfully written and maintained blog by an American professor living in
· Mixed Parentage
And because of
“Much else has changed since Wu [Zhuoliu]wrote ‘Orphan of
Asia’. today governs itself, and its population is well-educated and forward-thinking. […] Although Taiwan Taiwanhas embraced modernity as presented by the Western world, however, the Western world has not yet embraced , and so it lingers unrecognized even by many countries sympathetic to its government system and appreciative of its role in global trade. Taiwan
today the orphan described by Wu Zhuoliu or simply the child of diverse parents? It is a question of perspective, and though the problem of Taiwan 's international status might seem insoluble at present, the Taiwanese are freer than ever before to shape a national identity of their choosing. Taiwan
, of all ‘developed’ countries, “does more for the poor”. Netherlands
- Two economic and political giants, India and China, compared.
“China is not a free society, and it has immense problems. But its successes should not be underestimated. They are ones that
- Men in the feminist movement: is it possible?
“But can a man ever really be a feminist? Some say it is inappropriate for men to call themselves feminists, arguing that feminism is a movement developed by and for women, and that men can never really understand what it is like to be a woman.”
- Time’s 50 coolest internet sites of the year!
This has to be my favourite: creative ‘human clocks’.
- And as I upgraded my computer yesterday, the PC celebrated 25 years of
enslavinghelping mankind on Saturday. As did Castro, who turned eighty.
- On a lighter note: “Signs” of Mel Gibson’s recent outburst of anti-Semitism. Wonderful spoof! (From the Andrew Sullivan’s blog)
You would think Churchill was alive today and talking about the current situation in
“There is something very sinister to my mind in this Mesopotamian entanglement […] Week after week and month after month for a long time we shall have a continuance of this miserable, wasteful, sporadic warfare marked from time to time certainly by minor disasters and cuttings off of troops and agents, and very possibly attended by some very grave occurrence."
Winston Churchill, August 1920.[1
Some weeks ago, Condoleezza Rice greeted the conflict between
“War has always generated unintended consequences and high levels of social and political chaos. But in the post-Cold War era, new ways of conceiving of the usefulness of violence fused war and chaos in what turned out to be a particularly grim fashion. First, in the mid-1990s, policy-makers began to think of chaos as having an important role in the functioning of the emerging "dominate or die" global economic system that went under the rubric of "neoliberal globalization" (or as it was euphemistically known, "free market democracy"). "Creative destruction," an old term that gained a new life in these years, also came to be seen as an apt way of understanding and justifying the violence and chaos that planners believed would be necessary to transition from the old Cold War world of superpowers, dictatorship, and poverty to a new globalized order of progress and democracy. Second, neoconservative strategists in the U.S. began to imagine that wielding the dazzling military power of the world's sole remaining superpower would be the easiest path to creating a global Pax Americana - or is it Bellum Americanum?”
Mark LeVine, ‘101 Uses of Chaos’
“The one, at least partial, exception has been Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice whose State Department, a bastion of realism, has been under almost constant attack since the outset of the Lebanon crisis by the same coalition of neo-conservatives, assertive nationalists, and Christian rightists led by Vice President Dick Cheney that led the drive to war in Iraq.”
Jim Lobe, New Middle East" Out of Control
“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks of building a "new Middle East," but the Bush administration construction plan seems to begin with setting the old
Eugene Robinson, The War Bush isn’t fighting
“"To talk about the 'new
Middle East' or, before that, the 'Greater Middle East', ignores the real problem in the region, which is the suspension of the peace process. […] That leads to a rise in feelings of despair, frustration and extremism”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Terrorists: all the same!?
Just as the west does not act and speak as one, there are fundamental differences with ‘terrorists’ (a terrorist to one is a freedom fighter to another). And the Bush government does no one justice by lumping all terrorists together under the overall ‘global war on terrorism’.
“Bush two weeks ago likened Hizballah militants to the terrorists who last summer bombed
Such black and white, with-or-against us, friend-or-foe perception of world affairs and the current crisis underlines the short sightedness (and self-interestedness) of the
How misguided, just as I was writing about this, Bush links the London plane bomb plot to Hezbollah! And then there are suggestions this bears “the hallmarks of Al Qaeda” too. Which one is it?
“[…]counterterrorism experts said Saturday that the focus of government officials and the public on Al Qaeda, a term today with deep connotations but elusive meaning, may be misplaced.”
And inflammatory remarks calling for “war with Islamic fascists” do not help, Mr Bush.
“What would the people of
say about fascism if asked? But then they haven't been asked, have they - they've been liberated, of course. What would our founding fathers say about detention without due process, without end? Electronic surveillance of all Americans, without regard for the law? What is democracy if the citizens have no confidence in the integrity of their elections? Our military hurls five-hundred pound bombs all day and all night. They land on whom they land on. It is not an isolated act of madness, it is a coordinated act of state. All the while private corporations profit wildly. Iraq
Fascism, Mr. Bush, is not your strongest card. You should change the subject again.”
Marc Ash, Fascists of All Varieties
It only underlines how fundamentalist his administration is, and how in spite of their attempts to differentiate themselves in action and words from the ‘fascists’, both sides of the ‘war on terror’ are all too similar.
If anything, name-calling and lumping terrorists as one encourages ‘terrorists’ to band together, under the banner of pan-anti-Americanism and pan-anti-Semitism, now that the behaviour of the
“By failing to make distinctions between groups--differentiations that are clear to people who actually live with these various conflicts--Bush feeds Muslim paranoia that his war on terrorism is just a cover for a war on Islam.”
“"Peace will come only by defeating the terrorist ideology of hatred and fear," the President said recently about the
crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But there is no one ideology among terrorists. And terrorism isn't even an ideology. It's a tactic. The President would be better off leveling with the American people. The Lebanon U.S.has interests in the Middle East, such as protecting . Some of them are subtle and require explaining, like resisting Israel 's efforts to expand its influence. And many of them have nothing to do with global terrorism.” Iran
Israel was already planning attack on Hezbollah, well before the kidnappings
“According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the
“The Israeli plan, according to the former senior intelligence official, was "the mirror image of what the
They say the path to peace between
The way things are going for the Israelis and Americans indirectly, does not bode well for plans to take out Iran.
"The actual experience on the ground makes clear that the original expectation in Washington has backfired in a remarkable way. If Israel had succeeded in its aerial "shock and awe" campaign against Hizbollah, this would in principle have undercut Iran's ability and opportunity to respond to an attack on its nuclear facilities by encouraging action by its Hizbollah surrogate against Israel. The Bush administration would therefore have solved one of its key problems, thus diminishing too Iran's wider prestige across the region.
Instead, the opposite has happened and Israel's failure to disarm Hizbollah is in consequence also a failure of United States policy towards Iran [...]"
Disproportionate! “Israel Asks US to Ship Rockets With Wide Blast”
“ Last month, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said its researchers had uncovered evidence that Israel had fired cluster munitions on July 19 at the Lebanese village of Bilda, which the group said had killed one civilian and wounded at least 12 others, including 7 children. The group said it had interviewed survivors of the attack, who described incoming artillery shells dispensing hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village.”
“Additional Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions has some internationally accepted legal standards to assess the problems caused by those weapons. Although that protocol recognizes the inevitability of some civilian deaths, it also says states cannot legally target civilians or engage in indiscriminate attacks.
Cluster munitions have the potential to be indiscriminate because they cannot be precisely targeted. In that regard, Article 51 (4) (b) specifically prohibits attacks "which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective."
“Figures compiled by the city morgue indicated Wednesday that the number of killings in the Iraqi capital reached a new high last month […]”
This is real progress.
- If you’re unsatisfied with the west’s response to the current crisis, perhaps you should write to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his new blog.
- And peace at last
Finally! A resolution…after 4 weeks of fighting, hundreds of casualties, and immeasurable suffering on all sides of the conflict. Enough of the words, now for the action. How crazy: peace tomorrow, at a set time, while today, the fighting and killing continues.
“'We will continue to operate until we achieve our aims. We are fighting Hizbollah and will continue to fight it until a ceasefire is decided, but more than that, until it is decided what the mechanism for implementing [that ceasefire] is,' [Dan Halutz, Israeli officer commanding the campaign]”
“We must not make a mistake - not in the resistance, the government or the people - and believe that the war has ended,' added [Hezbollah leader, Hassan] Nasrallah in a television interview. 'The war has not ended. There have been continued strikes and continued casualties. 'Today nothing has changed and it appears tomorrow nothing will change.' ”
And a resolution may not mean the end-all solution. Who is going to implement it? Who will send the troops?
"The Security Council will take very seriously any action in defiance of it," [Alvaro]
de Soto[U.N. special envoy for the Middle Eastpeace process] said. "We fully expect full compliance." said the United Nations has already lined up several governments to send troops to join the expanded U.N. force. The Security Council empowered the force, known as UNIFIL, to "take all necessary action" needed to perform its duties. De Soto is expected to lead the force. Western diplomats said France Italy, Spainand were expected to send contingents. Although the resolution authorizes 15,000 international troops, a senior diplomat said: "It may be difficult to get them. Forces for this kind of operation aren't easy to come by." Turkey
If anything, the resolution:
“[…] buys a period of calm, at best, and sets the region up for the next war with Hezbollah, critics said. The truce will be "a time-out until the next confrontation, and maybe not even this […]”
Sunday, August 13, 2006
My computer, my friend on- and off-line.
Amazing...all those circuits, hardware, connections, processors, batteries...simply fascinating!
- Appalling account of victims being subject to more humiliation and chastised, instead of being believed and protected.
“Women and men have been sending us their stories of sexual abuse and harassment. Jessica was raped multiple times in
It's bad enough we are sending our young people to an illegal occupation. But we must draw the line at our military having to defend themselves from sexual predators. […]”
There’s an online petition for Suzanne, an MP who served in
THERE! The burn mark where the motherboard short-circuited and went up in smoke sometime ago, taking my documents with it!