blind_html [Fwd: New: From The Kwagga.com BLOG]

  • From: Nimer <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Brandon Shuttleworth <shuttleworthb01@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2009 07:44:29 -0600


"every time I say something they find hard to hear
they chalk it up to my anger
and never to their own fear"
Ani Difranco: I'm Not A Pretty Girl 1995

Nimer M. Jaber

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Website:
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-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        New: From The Kwagga.com BLOG
Date:   Wed, 25 Mar 2009 06:32:27 -0400
From:   Hanif Kruger <grr@xxxxxxxxxx>
To:     nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx



Greetifications nimer

Wellcome to this newsletter thing over here.
This is a newsletter that updates you on the newest additions to my personal Weblog.

My name is Hanif and I live and work in Pretoria, South-africa. When browsing the internet, reading newsletters or generally mucking about, I always find interesting things on the wild, wild web. Keeping these bits of info in my bookmarks is probably an option but, I love to share and besides, keeping a publically accessible record available, benefits many people.

Politics, computers, software, tips and lots of other stuff is covered on my blog.

Also, if you are visually impaired or would just like to get access to a new, small but, perssonal collection of useful software applications, mostly for windows, be sure to visit BlindFiles.net <http://blindfiles.net/>

If you have anything to contribute, in the form of articles, opinions, etc, please feel free to let me know by replying to this email or by clicking on the link below. Contact Me. <http://kwagga.com/contact.php>

Enjoy and Take care

Hanif Kruger

********


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:42 AM.:


     Dalai Lama's South Africa conference ban causes uproar
     <index.php?itemid=1241>

Category: South-Africa News <index.php?catid=15> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1241#c>

Nobel winners Desmond Tutu and FW de Clerk to boycott anti-racism conference in World Cup run-up after Chinese pressure forces ban on Tibetan spiritual leader

   * Chris McGreal <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/chrismcgreal> in
     Johannesburg
   * guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>, Monday 23 March 2009
     18.33 GMT

Two of South Africa <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/southafrica>'s Nobel peace prize winners, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk, have pulled out of a Johannesburg conference to fight racism after what they branded as Pretoria's "disgraceful" decision to ban the Dalai Lama <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/dalailama> from attending following Chinese pressure.

The Nobel peace prize committee also said it would boycott this Friday's conference, which is dedicated to tackling racism ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

The row threatens to draw in Nelson Mandela, who, with his fellow South African laureates, invited the Tibetan spiritual leader, and further embarrasses South Africa, which has been accused of squandering its moral authority since ending apartheid by blocking UN security council moves to pressure rogue governments in Burma and Zimbabwe.

Tutu, who won the prize for his resistance to white rule, told Johannesburg's Sunday Independent newspaper he will not attend the conference to discuss how to use the World Cup preparations to combat racism and xenophobia if the Tibetan spiritual leader is not present.

"If His Holiness's visa is refused, then I won't take part in the coming 2010 World Cup-related peace conference. I will condemn [the] government's behaviour as disgraceful, in line with our country's abysmal record at the United Nations security council, a total betrayal of our struggle's history," he said.

"We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure. I feel deeply distressed and ashamed."

The FW de Klerk Foundation, established by South Africa's last white president, said it would also pull out of the conference, albeit reluctantly.

"South Africa is a sovereign constitutional democracy and should not allow other countries to dictate to it regarding who it should and should not admit to its territory," the foundation said in a statement.

"Mr De Klerk has been in touch with Archbishop Tutu and identifies himself with the views that he has expressed with regard to the refusal of the South African government to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama."

The Norwegian Nobel peace prize committee also condemned the South African decision.

"It is impossible for us to be part of an event where one of the main participants is not able to enter the country," said Geir Lundestad, the committee's secretary.

The Tibetan government in exile in India today blamed "intense pressure" from China <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/china>, which has become one of South Africa's largest trading partners. The claim was apparently confirmed by the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, where the minister counsellor, Dai Bing, was quoted as telling the South African media that his government had warned that allowing the Tibetan spiritual leader to attend the conference would damage bilateral relations.

But the South African government denied its decision had anything to do with Beijing. It said the Dalai Lama had been refused a visa because his presence would draw attention away from the World Cup preparations.

Thabo Masebe, the spokesman for the president, Kgalema Motlanthe, said the conference organisers had not consulted the government before inviting the Tibetan leader.

"We in the South African government have not invited the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa, because it would not be in the interests of South Africa," he said. "The attention of the world is on South Africa because of it being the host country for the 2010 World Cup, and we wouldn't want anything to distract from that."

Pretoria has shied away from the Tibetan leader before. Ten years ago, South Africa's then president, Thabo Mbeki, said he was too busy for a one-to-one meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The actors Morgan Freeman, who is to play Mandela in a new film, and Charlize Theron, a South African, are also due to attend the conference.


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:36 AM.:


     The Guard Who Found Islam: - By Dan Ephron <index.php?itemid=1240>

Category: Islam <index.php?catid=3> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1240#c> Terry Holdbrooks stood watch over prisoners at Gitmo. What he saw made him adopt their faith.

*By Dan Ephron

Marfch 24, 2009 "**Newsweek* <http://www.newsweek.com/id/190357/output/print>*" -- -Army* specialist Terry Holdbrooks had been a guard at Guantánamo for about six months the night he had his life-altering conversation with detainee 590, a Moroccan also known as "the General." This was early 2004, about halfway through Holdbrooks's stint at Guantánamo with the 463rd Military Police Company. Until then, he'd spent most of his day shifts just doing his duty. He'd escort prisoners to interrogations or walk up and down the cellblock making sure they weren't passing notes. But the midnight shifts were slow. "The only thing you really had to do was mop the center floor," he says. So Holdbrooks began spending part of the night sitting cross-legged on the ground, talking to detainees through the metal mesh of their cell doors.

He developed a strong relationship with the General, whose real name is Ahmed Errachidi. Their late-night conversations led Holdbrooks to be more skeptical about the prison, he says, and made him think harder about his own life. Soon, Holdbrooks was ordering books on Arabic and Islam. During an evening talk with Errachidi in early 2004, the conversation turned to the shahada, the one-line statement of faith that marks the single requirement for converting to Islam ("There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet"). Holdbrooks pushed a pen and an index card through the mesh, and asked Errachidi to write out the shahada in English and transliterated Arabic. He then uttered the words aloud and, there on the floor of Guantánamo's Camp Delta, became a Muslim.

When historians look back on Guantánamo, the harsh treatment of detainees and the trampling of due process will likely dominate the narrative. Holdbrooks, who left the military in 2005, saw his share. In interviews over recent weeks, he and another former guard told NEWSWEEK about degrading and sometimes sadistic acts against prisoners committed by soldiers, medics and interrogators who wanted revenge for the 9/11 attacks on America. But as the fog of secrecy slowly lifts from Guantánamo, other scenes are starting to emerge as well, including surprising interactions between guards and detainees on subjects like politics, religion and even music. The exchanges reveal curiosity on both sides—sometimes even empathy. "The detainees used to have conversations with the guards who showed some common respect toward them," says Errachidi, who spent five years in Guantánamo and was released in 2007. "We talked about everything, normal things, and things [we had] in common," he wrote to NEWSWEEK in an e-mail from his home in Morocco.

Holdbrooks's level of identification with the other side was exceptional. No other guard has volunteered that he embraced Islam at the prison (though Errachidi says others expressed interest). His experience runs counter to academic studies, which show that guards and inmates at ordinary prisons tend to develop mutual hostility. But then, Holdbrooks is a contrarian by nature. He can also be conspiratorial. When his company visited the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Holdbrooks remembers thinking there had to be a broader explanation, and that the Bush administration must have colluded somehow in the plot.

But his misgivings about Guantánamo—including doubts that the detainees were the "worst of the worst"—were shared by other guards as early as 2002. A few such guards are coming forward for the first time. Specialist Brandon Neely, who was at Guantánamo when the first detainees arrived that year, says his enthusiasm for the mission soured quickly. "There were a couple of us guards who asked ourselves why these guys are being treated so badly and if they're actually terrorists at all," he told NEWSWEEK. Neely remembers having long conversations with detainee Ruhal Ahmed, who loved Eminem and James Bond and would often rap or sing to the other prisoners. Another former guard, Christopher Arendt, went on a speaking tour with former detainees in Europe earlier this year to talk critically about the prison.

Holdbrooks says growing up hard in Phoenix—his parents were junkies and he himself was a heavy drinker before joining the military in 2002—helps explain what he calls his "anti-everything views." He has holes the size of quarters in both earlobes, stretched-out piercings that he plugs with wooden discs. At his Phoenix apartment, bedecked with horror-film memorabilia, he rolls up both sleeves to reveal wrist-to-shoulder tattoos. He describes the ink work as a narrative of his mistakes and addictions. They include religious symbols and Nazi SS bolts, track marks and, in large letters, the words BY DEMONS BE DRIVEN. He says the line, from a heavy-metal song, reminds him to be a better person.

Holdbrooks—TJ to his friends—says he joined the military to avoid winding up like his parents. He was an impulsive young man searching for stability. On his first home leave, he got engaged to a woman he'd known for just eight days and married her three months later. With little prior exposure to religion, Holdbrooks was struck at Gitmo by the devotion detainees showed to their faith. "A lot of Americans have abandoned God, but even in this place, [the detainees] were determined to pray," he says.

Holdbrooks was also taken by the prisoners' resourcefulness. He says detainees would pluck individual threads from their jumpsuits or prayer mats and spin them into long stretches of twine, which they would use to pass notes from cell to cell. He noticed that one detainee with a bad skin rash would smear peanut butter on his windowsill until the oil separated from the paste, then would use the oil on his rash.

Errachidi's detention seemed particularly suspect to Holdbrooks. The Moroccan detainee had worked as a chef in Britain for almost 18 years and spoke fluent English. He told Holdbrooks he had traveled to Pakistan on a business venture in late September 2001 to help pay for his son's surgery. When he crossed into Afghanistan, he said, he was picked up by the Northern Alliance and sold to American troops for $5,000. At Guantánamo, Errachidi was accused of attending a Qaeda training camp. But a 2007 investigation by the London Times newspaper appears to have corroborated his story; it eventually helped lead to his release.

In prison, Errachidi was an agitator. "Because I spoke English, I was always in the face of the soldiers," he wrote NEWSWEEK in an e-mail. Errachidi said an American colonel at Guantánamo gave him his nickname, and warned him that generals "get hurt" if they don't cooperate. He said his defiance cost him 23 days of abuse, including sleep deprivation, exposure to very cold temperatures and being shackled in stress positions. "I always believed the soldiers were doing illegal stuff and I was not ready to keep quiet." (Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said in response: "Detainees have often made claims of abuse that are simply not supported by the facts.") The Moroccan spent four of his five years at Gitmo in the punishment block, where detainees were denied "comfort items" like paper and prayer beads along with access to the recreation yard and the library.

Errachidi says he does not remember details of the night Holdbrooks converted. Over the years, he says, he discussed a range of religious topics with guards: "I spoke to them about subjects like Father Christmas and Ishac and Ibrahim [Isaac and Abraham] and the sacrifice. About Jesus." Holdbrooks recalls that when he announced he wanted to embrace Islam, Errachidi warned him that converting would be a serious undertaking and, at Guantánamo, a messy affair. "He wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into." Holdbrooks later told his two roommates about the conversion, and no one else.

But other guards noticed changes in him. They heard detainees calling him Mustapha, and saw that Holdbrooks was studying Arabic openly. (At his Phoenix apartment, he displays the books he had amassed. They include a leather-bound, six-volume set of Muslim sacred texts and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam.") One night his squad leader took him to a yard behind his living quarters, where five guards were waiting to stage a kind of intervention. "They started yelling at me," he recalls, "asking if I was a traitor, if I was switching sides." At one point a squad leader pulled back his fist and the two men traded blows, Holdbrooks says.

Holdbrooks spent the rest of his time at Guantánamo mainly keeping to himself, and nobody bothered him further. Another Muslim who served there around the same time had a different experience. Capt. James Yee, a Gitmo chaplain for much of 2003, was arrested in September of that year on suspicion of aiding the enemy and other crimes—charges that were eventually dropped. Yee had become a Muslim years earlier. He says the Muslims on staff at Gitmo—mainly translators—often felt beleaguered. "There was an overall atmosphere by the command to vilify Islam." (Commander Gordon's response: "We strongly disagree with the assertions made by Chaplain Yee").

At Holdbrooks's next station, in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he says things began to unravel. The only place to kill time within miles of the base was a Wal-Mart and two strip clubs—Big Daddy's and Big Louie's. "I've never been a fan of strip clubs, so I hung out at Wal-Mart," he says. Within months, Holdbrooks was released from the military—two years before the end of his commitment. The Army gave him an honorable discharge with no explanation, but the events at Gitmo seemed to loom over the decision. The Army said it would not comment on the matter.

Back in Phoenix, Holdbrooks returned to drinking, in part to suppress what he describes as the anger that consumed him. (Neely, the other ex-guard who spoke to NEWSWEEK, said Guantánamo had made him so depressed he spent up to $60 a day on alcohol during a monthlong leave from the detention center in 2002.) Holdbrooks divorced his wife and spiraled further. Eventually his addictions landed him in the hospital. He suffered a series of seizures, as well as a fall that resulted in a bad skull fracture and the insertion of a titanium plate in his head.

Recently, Holdbrooks has been back in touch with Errachidi, who has suffered his own ordeal since leaving the detention center. Errachidi told NEWSWEEK he had trouble adjusting to his freedom, "trying to learn how to walk without shackles and trying to sleep at night with the lights off." He signed each of the dozen e-mails he sent to NEWSWEEK with the impersonal ID that his captors had given him: Ahmed 590.

Holdbrooks, now 25, says he quit drinking three months ago and began attending regular prayers at the Tempe Islamic Center, a mosque near the University of Phoenix, where he works as an enrollment counselor. The long scar on his head is now mostly hidden under the lace of his Muslim kufi cap. When the imam at Tempe introduced Holdbrooks to the congregation and explained he'd converted at Guantánamo, a few dozen worshipers rushed over to shake his hand. "I would have thought they had the most savage soldiers serving there," says the imam, Amr Elsamny, an Egyptian. "I never thought it would be someone like TJ."

With Dina Fine Maron in Washington


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:32 AM.:


     Database state <index.php?itemid=1239>

Category: Analysis <index.php?catid=26> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1239#c>
Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust </user/522545>, 23 - 03 - 2009
delicious <http://del.icio.us/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&title=Database+State> | digg <http://digg.com/submit?phase=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&title=Database+State> | reddit <http://reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&title=Database+State> | newsvine <http://www.newsvine.com/_tools/seed&save?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&h=Database+State> | furl <http://www.furl.net/storeIt.jsp?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&t=Database+State> | google <http://www.google.com/bookmarks/mark?op=add&bkmk=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&title=Database+State> | yahoo <http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com/myresults/bookmarklet?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&t=Database+State> | technorati <http://technorati.com/cosmos/search.html?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state> | diigolet <http://www.diigo.com/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.opendemocracy.net%2Fourkingdom%2Frowntree%2Fdatabase_state&title=Database+State>
</forward/47579> </node/47579/print>

/*Database State* was written by Ross Anderson, Ian Brown, Terri Dowty, Philip Inglesant, William Heath and Angela Sasse from the Foundation for Information Policy Research that included some of Britain's foremost experts in information systems and human rights. The full report, Database State, is published by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. </www.jrrt.org.uk> It is available as a free download from www.jrrt.org.uk </www.jrrt.org.uk>. We reproduce the executive summary of that report below./

In recent years, the Government has built or extended many central databases that hold information on every aspect of our lives, from health and education to welfare, law–enforcement and tax. This ‘Transformational Government’ programme was supposed to make public services better or cheaper, but it has been repeatedly challenged by controversies over effectiveness, privacy, legality and cost. Many question the consequences of giving increasing numbers of civil servants daily access to our personal information. Objections range from cost through efficiency to privacy. The emphasis on data capture, form-filling, mechanical assessment and profiling damages professional responsibility and alienates the citizen from the state. Over two-thirds of the population no longer trust the government with their personal data.

This report charts these databases, creating the most comprehensive map so far of what has become Britain’s Database State.

All of these systems had a rationale and purpose. But this report shows how, in too many cases, the public are neither served nor protected by the increasingly complex and intrusive holdings of personal information invading every aspect of our lives.

The report assesses 46 databases across the major government departments, and finds that: A quarter of the public-sector databases reviewed are almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law; they should be scrapped or substantially redesigned. More than half have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness and could fall foul of a legal challenge. Fewer than 15% of the public databases assessed in this report are effective, proportionate and necessary, with a proper legal basis for any privacy intrusions. Even so, some of them still have operational problems.

Britain is out of line with other developed countries, where records on sensitive matters like healthcare and social services are held locally. In Britain, data is increasingly centralised, and shared between health and social services, the police, schools, local government and the taxman. The benefits claimed for data sharing are often illusory. Sharing can harm the vulnerable, not least by leading to discrimination and stigmatisation.

The UK public sector spends over £16 billion a year on IT. Over £100 billion in spending is planned for the next five years, and even the Government cannot provide an accurate figure for cost of its ‘Transformational Government’ programme. Yet only about 30% of government IT projects succeed.

Database State. Executive Summary and Recommendations <http://www.jrrt.org.uk>


     The Database State – scrap it, fix it or keep it?

This report surveys the main government databases that keep information on all of us, or at least on a very substantial minority of us, and assesses them using a simple traffic-light system. Red means that a database is almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law and should be scrapped or substantially redesigned. The collection and sharing of sensitive personal data may be disproportionate, or done without our consent, or without a proper legal basis; or there may be other major privacy or operational problems. Most of these systems already have a high public profile. One of them (the National DNA Database) has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, and both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats have promised to scrap many of the others.

The red systems are:

   * the National DNA Database, which holds DNA profiles for
     approximately 4 million individuals, over half a million of whom
     are innocent (they have not been convicted, reprimanded, given a
     final warning or cautioned, and have no proceedings pending
     against them) – including more than 39,000 children;
   * the National Identity Register, which will store biographical
     information, biometric data and administrative data linked to the
     use of an ID card;
   * ContactPoint, which is a national index of all children in
     England. It will hold biographical and contact information for
     each child and record their relationship with public services,
     including a note on whether any ‘sensitive service’ is working
     with the child;
   * the NHS Detailed Care Record, which will hold GP and hospital
     records in remote servers controlled by the government, but to
     which many care providers can add their own comments,
     wikipedia-style, without proper control or accountability; and the
     Secondary Uses Service, which holds summaries of hospital and
     other treatment in a central system to support NHS administration
     and research;
   * the electronicCommon Assessment Framework, which holds an
     assessment of a child’s welfare needs. It can include sensitive
     and subjective information, and is too widely disseminated; ONSET,
     which is a Home Office system that gathers information from many
     sources and seeks to predict which children will offend in the
     future;
   * the DWP’s cross-departmental data sharingprogramme, which involves
     sharing large amounts of personal information with other
     government departments and the private sector;
   * the Audit Commission’s National Fraud Initiative, which collects
     sensitive information from many different sources and under the
     Serious and Organised Crime Act 2007 is absolved from any breaches
     of confidentiality;
   * the communications databaseand other aspects of the Interception
     Modernisation Programme, which will hold everyone’s communication
     traffic data such as itemised phone bills, email headers and
     mobile phone location history; and
   * the Prüm Framework, which allows law enforcement information to be
     shared between EU Member States without proper data protection.

Amber means that a database has significant problems, and may be unlawful. Depending on the circumstances, it may need to be shrunk, or split, or individuals may have to be given a right to opt out. An incoming government should order an independent assessment of each system to identify and prioritise necessary changes.

There are 29 amber databases including:

   * the NHS Summary Care Record, which will ‘initially’ hold
     information such as allergies and current prescriptions, although
     some in the Department of Health appear to want to develop it into
     a full electronic health record that will be available nationally.
     In Scotland, where the SCR project has been completed, there has
     already been an abuse case in which celebrities had their records
     accessed by a doctor who is now facing charges. The Prime
     Minister’s own medical records were reported compromised. There is
     some doubt about whether patients will be able to opt out
     effectively from this system, and if they cannot, it will be
     downgraded to red;
   * the National Childhood Obesity Database, which is the largest of
     its kind in the world, containing the results of height and weight
     measurements taken from school pupils in Year 1 (age 5–6) and
     Year 6 (10–11) since 2005. This database is simply unnecessary;
   * the National Pupil Database, which holds data on every pupil in a
     state-maintained school and on younger children in nurseries or
     childcare if their places are funded by the local authority,
     including: name; age; address; ethnicity; special educational
     needs information; ‘gifted and talented’ indicators; free school
     meal entitlement; whether the child is in care; mode of travel to
     school; behaviour and attendance data. It is planned to share this
     data with social workers, police and others;
   * Automatic Number Plate Recognitionsystems, which are operated by
     multiple agencies - the Highways Agency, local authorities, police
     forces and private firms – and will read 50m plates covering 10m
     drivers each day;
   * the Schengen Information System, a European police database that
     lists suspects, people to be denied entry to Europe, and people to
     be kept under surveillance. It is due to be replaced with an
     updated SIS-II which will also store biometric data such as
     fingerprints; and
   * the Customer Information Systemof the Department for Work and
     Pensions which describes it as “one of the largest databases in
     Europe”. It makes 85 million records available to 80,000 DWP
     staff, 60,000 staff from other government departments, and 445
     local authorities – whose staff are already abusing their access
     to it.

Green means that a database is broadly in line with the law. Its privacy intrusions (if any) have a proper legal basis and are proportionate and necessary in a democratic society. Some of these databases have operational problems, not least due to the recent cavalier attitude toward both privacy and operational security, but these could be fixed once transparency, accountability and proper risk management are restored.

Green databases include the police National Fingerprint Databaseand the TV Licensing database.

Six years into the Transformational Government programme, the number of green databases is now shockingly low. Of the 46 databases assessed in this report, only six are given a green light.


     So what do we do?

Based on a comprehensive analysis of Britain’s database state, the report makes the following recommendations for how data should be collected, held and managed by government.

The databases that this report has rated as ‘Red’ should be scrapped or redesigned immediately. ‘Amber’ databases should be subject to an independent review to assess their privacy impact and any benefit to society they may have.

Sensitive personal information should normally only be collected and shared with the subject’s consent – and where practical people should opt in rather than opting out.

Government should compel the provision or sharing of sensitive personal data only for strictly defined purposes, and in almost all cases, sensitive data should be kept on local rather than national systems.

Individuals should be able to enforce their privacy in court on human-rights grounds without being liable for costs – the state has massive resources to contest cases while the individual does not. Citizens should have the right to access most public services anonymously. We have been moving from a world in which departments had to take a positive decision to collect data, to one where they have to take a positive decision not to. This needs to be challenged.

The report also makes a further set of recommendations on how government should go about developing and building IT systems more effectively in the future.

The procurement and development of new database systems should be subject to much greater public scrutiny and openness.

Civil servant recruitment and training should aim at selecting and developing those with the ability to manage complex systems.

The threshold for referring IT projects to complex OJEU procurement procedures should be raised to £10m from the current limit of only £130,000 – this will favour medium-sized systems rather than unmanageable large projects.

The government should make its Chief Information Officer a Permanent Secretary reporting to a senior cabinet minister.

There should never again be a government IT project – merely projects for business change that may be supported by IT. Computer companies must never again drive policy.

*Database State* was written by a team from the Foundation for Information Policy Research that included some of Britain's foremost experts in information systems and human rights. The full report, Database State, is published by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. </www.jrrt.org.uk> It is available as a free download from www.jrrt.org.uk <http://www.jrrt.org.uk>


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:23 AM.:


     America Is in Need of a Moral Bailout - By Chris Hedges
     <index.php?itemid=1238>

Category: United States <index.php?catid=34> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1238#c>

*March 23, 2009 "TruthDig <http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090323_america_is_in_need_of_a_moral_bailout/>" -- -In* decaying societies, politics become theater. The elite, who have hollowed out the democratic system to serve the corporate state, rule through image and presentation. They express indignation at AIG bonuses and empathy with a working class they have spent the last few decades disenfranchising, and make promises to desperate families that they know will never be fulfilled. Once the spotlights go on they read their lines with appropriate emotion. Once the lights go off, they make sure Goldman Sachs and a host of other large corporations have the hundreds of billions of dollars in losses they incurred playing casino capitalism repaid with taxpayer money.

We live in an age of moral nihilism. We have trashed our universities, turning them into vocational factories that produce corporate drones and chase after defense-related grants and funding. The humanities, the discipline that forces us to stand back and ask the broad moral questions of meaning and purpose, that challenges the validity of structures, that trains us to be self-reflective and critical of all cultural assumptions, have withered. Our press, which should promote such intellectual and moral questioning, confuses bread and circus with news and refuses to give a voice to critics who challenge not this bonus payment or that bailout but the pernicious superstructure of the corporate state itself. We kneel before a cult of the self, elaborately constructed by the architects of our consumer society, which dismisses compassion, sacrifice for the less fortunate, and honesty. The methods used to attain what we want, we are told by reality television programs, business schools and self-help gurus, are irrelevant. Success, always defined in terms of money and power, is its own justification. The capacity for manipulation is what is most highly prized. And our moral collapse is as terrifying, and as dangerous, as our economic collapse.

Theodor Adorno <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/adorno/>in 1967 wrote an essay called "Education After Auschwitz." <http://grace.evergreen.edu/%7Earunc/texts/frankfurt/auschwitz/AdornoEducation.pdf> He argued that the moral corruption that made the Holocaust possible remained "largely unchanged." He wrote that "the mechanisms that render people capable of such deeds" must be made visible. Schools had to teach more than skills. They had to teach values. If they did not, another Auschwitz was always possible.

"All political instruction finally should be centered upon the idea that Auschwitz should never happen again," he wrote. "This would be possible only when it devotes itself openly, without fear of offending any authorities, to this most important of problems. To do this, education must transform itself into sociology, that is, it must teach about the societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms."

Our elites are imploding. Their fraud and corruption are slowly being exposed as the disparity between their words and our reality becomes wider and more apparent. The rage that is bubbling up across the country will have to be countered by the elite with less subtle forms of control. But unless we grasp the "societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms" we will be cursed with a more ruthless form of corporate power, one that does away with artifice and the seduction of a consumer society and instead wields power through naked repression.

I had lunch a few days ago in Toronto with Henry Giroux <http://mingo.info-science.uiowa.edu/%7Estevens/critped/giroux.htm>, professor of English and cultural studies at McMaster University in Canada and who for many years was the Waterbury Chair Professor at Penn State. Giroux, who has been one of the most prescient and vocal critics of the corporate state and the systematic destruction of American education, was driven to the margins of academia because he kept asking the uncomfortable questions Adorno knew should be asked by university professors. He left the United States in 2004 for Canada.

"The emergence of what Eisenhower had called the military-industrial-academic complex had secured a grip on higher education that may have exceeded even what he had anticipated and most feared," Giroux, who wrote "The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex <https://www.amazon.com/dp/1594514232?tag=commondreams-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1594514232&adid=1M1V9CJJ39PWZ2ANSYPM&;>," told me. "Universities, in general, especially following the events of 9/11, were under assault by Christian nationalists, reactionary neoconservatives and market fundamentalists for allegedly representing the weak link in the war on terrorism. Right-wing students were encouraged to spy on the classes of progressive professors, the corporate grip on the university was tightening as made clear not only in the emergence of business models of governance, but also in the money being pumped into research and programs that blatantly favored corporate interests. And at Penn State, where I was located at the time, the university had joined itself at the hip with corporate and military power. Put differently, corporate and Pentagon money was now funding research projects and increasingly knowledge was being militarized in the service of developing weapons of destruction, surveillance and death. Couple this assault with the fact that faculty were becoming irrelevant as an oppositional force. Many disappeared into discourses that threatened no one, some simply were too scared to raise critical issues in their classrooms for fear of being fired, and many simply no longer had the conviction to uphold the university as a democratic public sphere."

Frank Donoghue, the author of "The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities <https://www.amazon.com/dp/0823228606?tag=commondreams-20&camp=0&creative=0&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0823228606&adid=0CYZ0AT22SF2HANDVKZB&;>," details how liberal arts education has been dismantled. Any form of learning that is not strictly vocational has at best been marginalized and in many schools has been abolished. Students are steered away from asking the broad, disturbing questions that challenge the assumptions of the power elite or an economic system that serves the corporate state. This has led many bright graduates into the arms of corporate entities they do not examine morally or ethically. They accept the assumptions of corporate culture because they have never been taught to think.

Only 8 percent of U.S. college graduates now receive degrees in the humanities <http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/02/25/books/20090225_HUMAN_GRFK.html>, about 110,000 students. Between 1970 and 2001, bachelor's degrees in English declined from 7.6 percent to 4 percent, as did degrees in foreign languages (2.4 percent to 1 percent), mathematics (3 percent to 1 percent), social science and history (18.4 percent to 10 percent). Bachelor's degrees in business, which promise the accumulation of wealth, have skyrocketed. Business majors since 1970-1971 have risen from 13.6 percent of the graduation population to 21.7 percent. Business has now replaced education, which has fallen from 21 percent to 8.2 percent, as the most popular major.

The values that sustain an open society have been crushed. A university, as John Ralston Saul <http://www.johnralstonsaul.com/menu_en.html> writes, now "actively seeks students who suffer from the appropriate imbalance and then sets out to exaggerate it. Imagination, creativity, moral balance, knowledge, common sense, a social view-all these things wither. Competitiveness, having an ever-ready answer, a talent for manipulating situations-all these things are encouraged to grow. As a result amorality also grows; as does extreme aggressivity when they are questioned by outsiders; as does a confusion between the nature of good versus having a ready answer to all questions. Above all, what is encouraged is the growth of an undisciplined form of self-interest, in which winning is what counts."

This moral nihilism would have terrified Adorno. He knew that radical evil was possible only with the collaboration of a timid, cowed and confused population, a system of propaganda and a press that offered little more than spectacle and entertainment and an educational system that did not transmit transcendent values or nurture the capacity for individual conscience. He feared a culture that banished the anxieties and complexities of moral choice and embraced a childish hyper-masculinity, one championed by ruthless capitalists (think of the brutal backstabbing and deception cheered by TV shows like "Survivor") and Hollywood action heroes like the governor of California.

"This educational ideal of hardness, in which many may believe without reflecting about it, is utterly wrong," Adorno wrote. "The idea that virility consists in the maximum degree of endurance long ago became a screen-image for masochism that, as psychology has demonstrated, aligns itself all too easily with sadism."

Sadism is as much a part of popular culture as it is of corporate culture. It dominates pornography, runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs and is at the core of the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice. And it has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our lack of compassion for the homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed and the sick.

"The political and economic forces fuelling such crimes against humanity-whether they are unlawful wars, systemic torture, practiced indifference to chronic starvation and disease or genocidal acts-are always mediated by educational forces," Giroux said. "Resistance to such acts cannot take place without a degree of knowledge and self-reflection. We have to name these acts and transform moral outrage into concrete attempts to prevent such human violations from taking place in the first place."

The single most important quality needed to resist evil is moral autonomy. Moral autonomy, as Immanuel Kant wrote, is possible only through reflection, self-determination and the courage not to cooperate.

Moral autonomy is what the corporate state, with all its attacks on liberal institutions and "leftist" professors, has really set out to destroy. The corporate state holds up as our ideal what Adorno called "the manipulative character." The manipulative character has superb organizational skills and the inability to have authentic human experiences. He or she is an emotional cripple and driven by an overvalued realism. The manipulative character is a systems manager. He or she exclusively trained to sustain the corporate structure, which is why our elites are wasting mind-blowing amounts of our money on corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG. "He makes a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency as such which reappears in the advertising image of the active person," Adorno wrote of this personality type. These manipulative characters, people like Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, AIG's Edward Liddy and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, along with most of our ruling class, have used corporate money and power to determine the narrow parameters of the debate in our classrooms, on the airwaves and in the halls of Congress while they looted the country.

"It is especially difficult to fight against it," warned Adorno, "because those manipulative people, who actually are incapable of true experience, for that very reason manifest an unresponsiveness that associates them with certain mentally ill or psychotic characters, namely schizoids."

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

© 2009 TruthDig.com


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:18 AM.:


     China Tibet: the Sacramento dimension <index.php?itemid=1237>

Category: Tibet <index.php?catid=67> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1237#c>
Giovanni Vassallo </user/522449>
Dechen Tsering </user/522448>
John Isom </user/522447>

On Monday China invaded California, landing in Sacramento like a precision SWAT team. Their mission? To influence enough of our elected officials to kill a resolution in the California State Assembly. They are getting close to accomplishing that mission.

20 - 03 - 2009

The issue is "The Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day", or Assembly Concurrent Resolution 6, (ACR 6) a resolution sponsored by Assembly Member Sam Blakeslee. The resolution would recognize March 10 as "Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day." It is non-binding, and would simply "educate Californians about the teachings of the Dalai Lama and his efforts to preserve the Tibetan culture." It would honor the Dalai Lama "for his contributions to world peace and leadership in seeking nonviolent solutions to international problems," and re-affirm that "freedom of expression, assembly, and religious beliefs are fundamental human rights that belong to all people," including of course, Tibetans. John Isom is executive director of Tibet Justice Center in Berkeley, Dechen Tsering is president of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, and Giovanni Vassallo is president of Committee of 100 for Tibet.

World peace? Non-violence? Freedom of expression, assembly, and religion? What's not to like about Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day?

If you read *X**inhua, China's state-run news agency*, you learn that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the diabolical mastermind of something called the "Dalai Clique," a splittist group that seeks to wrest Tibet from the Chinese "Motherland." Indeed, the Dalai Lama apparently wants to undermine China's "liberation" of Tibet (that is, its invasion of Tibet in 1950 and occupation to date). According to China's appointed leader in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, the Dalai Lama is "a wolf in monk's clothes, a devil with a human face."

China's leaders decided to invite our legislators to a private party at the Chinese Consulate. Who is on China's A-List legislative team in California? Assembly members willing to kill this resolution include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. They come from the north and south, the coast and mountains, our cities and rural communities. Often, these same lawmakers are, in other situations, supporters of human rights. (You can see the whole list of Assembly members and how they voted here: www.tibetjustice.org/acr6-vote. <http://www.tibetjustice.org/acr6-vote.>)

Do we really want the Communist Party of China dictating the content of our resolutions?

It doesn't have to be this way. Last week the U.S. House of Representatives, led by California's Nancy Pelosi, passed a resolution commemorating^ the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan people's uprising against China's occupation on March 10th. Despite the Chinese government's attempts to quash that resolution, it passed by 422 to 1.

So what next? At this point, it's unclear. The Assembly sent ACR 6 back to the Rules Committee, where it may die a slow death. But the Assembly now has to hold public hearings on the merits of the resolution, allowing /our/ citizens to contribute.

Let's be clear: these /are/ our public hearings, not China's. China can't have it both ways. When citizens around the world raise their voices against China's police-state crackdowns in Tibet, against imprisonment and torture of innocent bystanders, or the crushing of freedom to practice religion in Tibet, China tells the world that we should mind our own business: Tibet is an internal matter.

So how come China's dictatorship is free to meddle in California's internal affairs?


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 11:03 AM.:


     Gazan family cut to pieces: Report: <index.php?itemid=1236>

Category: palestine <index.php?catid=30> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1236#c>
Tue, 24 Mar 2009 08:29:12 GMT
A Palestinian boy stands next to his family's house in Gaza, destroyed during Israel's offensive.

*A new report details the gory killing of a family by Israeli unmanned drones, which can allegedly differentiate civilians from combatants. *

While Tel Aviv claims that its unmanned aerial vehicles are able to clearly distinguish fighters from women and children and other civilians, more than 48 Palestinian civilians were killed in Israeli drone attacks in Gaza, a new report by the Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/23/gaza-war-crimes-drones> reveals.

In one of the most heartbreaking cases, a Palestinian family of six was killed in Gaza City while sitting around and having tea in their courtyard.

Mounir al-Jarah, whose sister along with her husband and their four children were killed in the attack, says he will never forget the horrifying scene he witnessed on the 16th of January.

"We found Mohammed lying there, cut in half. Ahmed was in three pieces; Wahid was totally burnt - his eyes were gone. Wahid's father was dead. Nour had been decapitated. We couldn't see her head anywhere," explained Mounir.

"You cannot imagine the scene: a family all sitting around together and then, in a matter of seconds, they were cut to pieces. Even the next day we found limbs and body parts on the roof, feet and hands," he added.

Fatheya, one of the few surviving members of the family who has slipped into grief-stricken madness following the tragic event, says she does not know what they had done to deserve such a plight.

A Gazan girl stands on the rubble of her destroyed house in Gaza after an Israeli bomb destroyed her home and killed her father, mother, two brothers and a sister.

"There were rocks and dust and fire … It's very difficult … I can't, no matter how I try to explain my situation to you, picking up the pieces of my dead family … I couldn't handle it, limbs and flesh all around me. What have we done to deserve this?" said the 17-year-old Fatheya.

While Israeli officials have refused to confirm whether it uses armed drones over Gaza, the deputy commander of the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) squadron, Major Gil, has told an Israeli army magazine that Tel Aviv used the drones to carry out attacks in Gaza only to protect the Israeli soldiers.

The drones -- fitted with pinpoint accurate missiles -- are operated from a remote position with optics that can interpret even the details of a man's clothing.

"When there were innocent people around, we would wait for the terrorist to leave the child and then hit him," he said.

Contrary to the Israeli claim, Amnesty International has confirmed that a group of girls and women in an empty street, two small children in a field and many others were also killed in Israeli drone attacks during the three-week-long Gaza war.

The report of Palestinians casualties in drone attacks comes only days after Israeli soldiers confessed to the wanton killing of civilians as well as intentionally destroying civilian property during their Gaza operations.

The shocking accounts are seen as evidence to war crimes and the massive violations of human rights by the Israeli army during the military campaign.

International organizations and UN human rights investigations assert that the Israeli army deliberately used forbidden ammunition, such as depleted uranium and deadly white phosphorus shells, in densely populated civilian areas.

UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay said most Israeli actions against the Gazan population "appear to have all the elements of war crimes".

Other charges against Tel Aviv include the "reckless and indiscriminate" shelling of residential areas, the use of Palestinian families as human shields and the unrelenting attacks on several medical facilities and UN compounds in the area.

UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay has said that most Israeli actions against the population of Gaza "appear to have all the elements of war crimes".

Despite countless allegations, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has yet to take action against Israel over its military conduct in Gaza.

HE/AA


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 10:58 AM.:


     UN: Israel broke six-month truce in Gaza <index.php?itemid=1235>

Category: palestine <index.php?catid=30> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1235#c>
Tue, 24 Mar 2009 07:46:57 GMT
The UN report confirms Israel was the party that broke the truce.

*A new UN report exposes a bit of misinformation peddled by the US and Israel and shatters the Zionist illusion that the Gaza war was legal. *

The report <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/10session/A.HRC.10.20.pdf>, prepared by human rights investigator Richard Falk, confirms that Tel Aviv was indeed the party that violated the Egyptian-brokered six-month truce in Gaza.

Israel and the democratically elected Palestinian government confined to the Gaza Strip agreed in mid June 2008 to a six-month truce.

While reports indicated that Tel Aviv had initially broken the truce with its tanks and bulldozers crossing the southern border of the Gaza Strip on November 4 and 5, echelons in the United States and Israel insisted otherwise.

A widespread campaign in support of the alleged Israeli right to enter the Palestinian territory was then launched by US and Israeli media outlets.

"Records show that, during the ceasefire, it was predominantly Israel that resorted to conduct inconsistent with the undertaking, and Hamas that retaliated," Falk responded in a report presented Monday at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.

The report outlined the incidents leading up to the three-week Israeli offensive on the tiny coastal strip. The carnage caused by the Israeli operations killed nearly 1,350 Palestinians and wounded around 5,450 others -- most of them civilians.

"On 4 November … Israel killed a Palestinian in Gaza, mortars were fired from Gaza in retaliation, and then an Israeli air strike was launched that killed an additional six Palestinians in Gaza," Falk said, adding that the "the breakdown of the ceasefire seems to have been mainly a result of Israeli violations."

Falk, who based his findings on Israeli sources, said the number of Palestinian rockets and mortar shells fired into Israel after the ceasefire came into effect in June had considerably declined.

"The ceasefire was remarkably effective; after it began in June 2008, the rate of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza dropped to almost zero, and stayed there for almost four months," the report continued.

The report went on to conclude that "the experience of the temporary ceasefire demonstrates both the willingness and the capacity of those exerting control in Gaza to eliminate rocket and mortar attacks."

Since Israel denied Falk entry into Gaza during the war, his report focused on the legality of the military operations and whether Israel even had a right to enter the Palestinian sliver in the first place.

Tel Aviv in late December had claimed that it launched Operation Cast Lead on the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians in "retaliation for Palestine rocket attacks on Israel".

The UN report confirms that Tel Aviv began the bloodshed by breaking the truce and is thus unable to use claims of self-defense.

After the carnage some Israeli soldiers have worn T-shirts promoting violence against the Palestinians.

In addition to the lost lives, the onslaught cost the Palestinian economy at least $1.6 billion, destroying some 4,000 residential buildings and damaging 16,000 other houses.

Israel's staunch ally, the United States, on Monday commented on the report, which calls for an investigation into Israel's war crimes in Gaza, as "biased".

"We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told a press briefing.

The US has so far vetoed at least 45 anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and has blocked official condemnation of crimes committed against the native Palestinian population.

At the height of the war on Gaza, the US abstained from voting on the resolution which called for an 'immediate and durable' ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the region.

MT/AA


   Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 10:41 AM.:


     Urgent Appeal for the Obama Administration to fully support and
     fully participate in the U.N. Durban Review Conference Against
     Racism <index.php?itemid=1234>

Category: Activism <index.php?catid=27> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1234#c> SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION AT http://www.iacenter.org/racism/durbanreviewpetition


Send a message to President President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Congressional leaders, Durban Review Conference Preparations Committee Chair Ms. Janat Al-Hajjaji, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navanethem Pillay, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, U.N. Secretary General Ban, members of the U.N. Security Council and U.N. member states including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Syria Venezuela, Sudan, Nepal, Pakistan, Oman, Mozambique, Libya, Miyanmar, Lebanon and others, and Major media representatives including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, the North Africa Journal, Egypt Today, the Beirut Times, the Jakarta Post, and the Sudan Mail. Let them know that you support this urgent appeal for the Obama Administration to fully support and participate in the U.N. Durban Review Conference Against Racism in Geneva in April, and for the Preparatory Committee to take all necessary steps for full governmental and Non Governmental Organization (NGO) participation in the conference.
Text of the Appeal:


Urgent Appeal for the Obama Administration to Fully Support and Participate in the U.N. Durban Review Conference Against Racism in April in Geneva

To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Congressional leaders, Durban Review Conference Preparations Committee Chair Ms. Janat Al-Hajjaji, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navanethem Pillay, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, U.N. Secretary General Ban, members of the U.N. Security Council and U.N. member states including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Syria Venezuela, Sudan, Nepal, Pakistan, Oman, Mozambique, Libya, Miyanmar, Lebanon and others, and Major media representatives including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, the North Africa Journal, Egypt Today, the Beirut Times, the Jakarta Post, and the Sudan Mail.

I strongly support the participation of the United States in the Global UN Conference Against Racism scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 20 - 24 April of this year.

It is an embarrassment for the Obama Administration to continue the Bush Administration's practice of refusing dialogue with others. Moreover, given the painful history of racism in the U.S. it is shameful for America to refuse to participate in a conference against racism.

All those who oppose racism and other similar forms of discrimination had hoped and expected that the Obama Administration, a source of great hope for change with a new agenda, would embrace the historic significance of this international gathering against racism.

The 2001 UN Conference on Racism held eight years ago in Durban, South Africa had the overwhelming support of people of the world - both through their governments and through thousands of delegates representing many hundreds of NGOs and organs of civil society.

Midway through that historic gathering the U.S. and Israel walked out because the latter was criticized for its apartheid practices against Palestinians. The Bush Administration also opposed concrete action to redress the history of hundreds of years of slavery and racism. How can we ever resolve these issues without participative dialogue?

In preparing for the April Conference against Racism the majority of countries from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, have shown an extraordinary willingness to operate on principles of open-minded compromise and dialogue with the United States. Rejection of this offer by refusing to even come to the table will be seen as an arrogant assault on the processes of diplomacy and will encourage the international community to brand the United States administration as one obstructing the struggle against racism.

I am shocked that the U.S. has also supported the marginalization of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Durban Review Conference, seeking to ensure that they are not able to participate or that their freedom of speech is strictly limited, for example, by failing to support an NGO Forum.

NGO participation, often through NGO Forums, has been an indispensable part of every major UN human rights conference. It is therefore essential that the Preparatory Committee and the High Commissioner for Human Rights make every effort possible to provide the resources and logistics for a vigorous public mobilization for the UN Durban Review Conference.

I urge the Preparatory Committee to take immediate steps to carry out their responsibility to facilitate NGO participation, especially the participation of NGOs from developing countries who have suffered the most from racism and other similar forms of discrimination.

I urge the Obama Administration to participate in this international gathering without threats or preconditions and in a spirit of mutual respect for all other nations, especially those whose people have suffered so grievously from racism.

Sincerely,
(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the online form at the link below:)

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION AT http://www.iacenter.org/racism/durbanreviewpetition

Initiated and signed by
Ramsey Clark, Winner of United Nations Human Rights Award 2008
Conference of Non-GovernmentalOrganizationss in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations,
CONGO - Kayla Mahoffey
Curtis Doebbler Nord-Sud XXI
Robert Micallef, President International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN)
Naji Haraj, Union of Arab Jurists
General Federation of Iraqi Women
Vanessa Ramos, Asociación Americana de Juristas/American Association of Jurists
The Becket Fund, Sadani Maoluaiiuro
International Action Center
Fight Imperialism Stand Together
Aloomi Zambia
M. Hamed Cheidh
Mohamed Aledellabe


Sponsored by:
Nord Sud XXI and International Action Center
nordsud21.ch
www.iacenter.org <http://www.iacenter.org>
c/o Solidarity Center
55 West 17th St 5C
New York, NY 10011
For further information call: (212) 633-6646


   Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 10:19 AM.:


     Galloway plans to meet the heroes of Palestine's resistance
     <index.php?itemid=1232>

Category: palestine <index.php?catid=30> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1232#c>
First Published 2009-03-09

RAFAH - British MP George Galloway arrived in Gaza Monday at the head of an aid convoy to protest Israel's "genocidal aggression" against Gaza and support the Palestinian "resistance."

The staunchly pro-Palestinian parliamentarian said he was "overwhelmed with happiness" to arrive in Gaza on the birthday of the Muslim prophet Mohammed and in the wake of Israel's massive offensive at the turn of the year.

"I have entered Palestine many times but the most emotional of these is after the 22-day genocidal aggression against the Palestinian people," he told reporters, referring to the war that came to a halt on January 18.

He added that he planned to meet "the heroes of Palestine's resistance, the government of Palestine, the people of Palestine."

The convoy set out from London last month but was temporarily halted in Egypt when Cairo authorities learned that it was also bearing non medical aid destined for the impoverished coastal territory's 1.5 million residents.

While waiting to cross in the Egyptian town of El-Arish near the border the convoy was vandalised and pelted with stones, according to organisers.

Galloway said Egyptian authorities had forced the group to send some of the aid into Gaza via Israel but that it was carried by the Egyptian Red Crescent and not accompanied by any of the convoy participants.

"I have never discussed anything with Israel in my life and I will not start now," Galloway said.

The convoy included 12 ambulances and a fire engine and carried aid worth more than one million pounds (1.4 million dollars/1.1 million euros).

Israel's war on Gaza killed 1,330 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and wounded 5,450 others.

Among the dead were 437 children, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics and four journalists.

The wounded include 1,890 children and 200 people in serious condition.

The war also left tens of thousands of houses destroyed, while their residents remained homeless in the winter cold.

Israel, which wants to crush any Palestinian liberation movement, responded to Hamas's win in the elections with sanctions, and almost completely blockaded the impoverished coastal strip after Hamas seized power in 2007, although a ‘lighter’ siege had already existed before.

Human rights groups, both international and Israeli, slammed Israel’s siege of Gaza, branding it “collective punishment.”

A group of international lawyers and human rights activists had also accused Israel of committing “genocide” through its crippling blockade of the Strip.

Gaza is still considered under Israeli occupation as Israel controls air, sea and land access to the Strip.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt, Gaza's sole border crossing that bypasses Israel, rarely opens as Egypt is under immense US and Israeli pressure to keep the crossing shut.

Fatah has little administrative say in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and has no power in Arab east Jerusalem, both of which were illegally occupied by Israel in 1967.

Israel also currently occupies the Lebanese Shabaa Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights.
Source URL = http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=30856


   Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 10:04 AM.:


     Sanctimonious Hypocrisy - By Uri Avnery <index.php?itemid=1230>

Category: General <index.php?catid=1> | Posted by: babagrr <index.php?memberid=1> | Add comment <index.php?itemid=1230#c>
Source URL = http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22175.htm
Originally published on March 09, 2009 "

" -- -THIS WEEK I had a nostalgic experience. I met a parliamentary delegation from one of the European countries. What turned this meeting into a special
occasion for me was its location.

The “Pasha Room” of the “American Colony” Hotel in East Jerusalem is a beautiful square hall, decorated in traditional Arab style. I was in this hall at the moment Yitzhak Rabin held out his hand to Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn at the Oslo agreement signing ceremony.

We gathered there spontaneously, Israeli peace activists and Fatah leaders, to celebrate the event together. We watched the proceedings on TV and cracked bottles of champagne. I still have one of the corks.

Just an hour before, I had witnessed a no less exciting meeting. A group of young Palestinians, delirious with joy, marched through the streets, olive branches in their hands and a large Palestinian flag fluttering over their heads. At the street corner, a unit of the Border Police – the most aggressive anti-Arab force in Israel – was waiting. At the time, even the simple possession of a Palestinian flag was a crime.

For a moment, we held our breath. What is going to happen? The Palestinians ran towards the policemen and thrust olive branches into their hands. The policemen did not know what to do. They were obviously in a state of total disorientation and did not react at all. The enthusiastic youngsters continued on their way through the streets of East Jerusalem, singing and rejoicing.

Today, 15 and a half years later, one can only look back with longing at the passion for peace that possessed all of us then. Nothing has remained of that fervor, that hope, that zeal for reconciliation.

All these have now been replaced by a poisonous mix of hopelessness and dejection.

IF YOU stop any ten random passers-by in a Tel Aviv street and ask them what they think about the chances of peace, nine of them will shrug their shoulders and answer: It won’t happen. No chance. The conflict will just go on forever.

They will not say: We don’t want peace, the price of peace is too high. On the contrary, many will declare that for peace they are ready to give back the occupied territories, even East Jerusalem, and let the Palestinians have a state of their own. Sure. Why not? But, they will add: No chance. There will be no peace.

Some will say: The Arabs don’t want it. Others will say: Our leaders can’t do it. But the conclusion is the same: It just won’t happen.

A similar poll of Palestinians would probably yield the same results: We want peace. Peace would be wonderful. But there’s no chance. It won’t happen.

This mood has produced the same political situation on both sides. In the Palestinian elections, Hamas won, not because of its ideology but because it expresses the despair of peace with Israel. In the Israeli elections, there was a general move to the Right: Leftists voted for Kadima, Kadima people voted for Likud, Likud people voted for the fascist factions.

Without hope there is no Left. The Left is by nature optimistic, it believes in a better future, in the chance of changing everything for the better. The Right is by nature pessimistic. It does not believe in the possibility of changing human nature and society for the better, it is convinced that war is a law of nature.

But among the despairing there are still those who hope that an intervention by foreigners – Americans, Europeans, even Arabs – will impose peace on us.

This week, that hope was severely shaken.

ON TV we were shown a uniquely impressive conference, a huge assembly of world leaders, who all came to Sharm-el-Sheikh. (Remember that during our occupation of Sinai it was called Ophira? Remember Moshe Dayan saying that he preferred Sharm-el-Sheikh without peace to peace without Sharm-el-Sheikh?)

Who was not there? Chinese and Japanese rubbed shoulders with Saudis and Qataris. Nicholas Sarkozy was everywhere (Indeed, it was well-nigh impossible to take a photo without the hyper-active French president appearing in it somewhere.) Hillary Clinton was the star. Hosni Mubarak celebrated his achievement in getting them all together on Egyptian soil..

And for what? For little, poor Gaza. It has to be rebuilt.

It was a celebration of sanctimonious hypocrisy, in the very best tradition of international diplomacy.

First of all, nobody from Gaza was there. As in the heyday of European imperialism, 150 years ago, the fate of the Natives was decided without the Natives themselves being present. Who needs them? After all, they are Primitives. Better without them.

Not only Hamas was absent. A delegation of Gaza businessmen and civil society activists could not come either. Mubarak just did not allow them to pass the Rafah crossing. The gate of the prison called Gaza was barred by the Egyptian jailers.

The absence of delegates from Gaza, and especially from Hamas, turned the conference into a farce. Hamas rules Gaza. It won the elections there, as in all the Palestinian territories, and continues to govern it even after one of the mightiest armies in the world spent 22 days trying to dislodge it. Nothing will happen in the Gaza Strip without the consent of Hamas. The world-wide decision to rebuild Gaza without the participation of Hamas is sheer foolishness.

The war ended with a fragile cease-fire that is collapsing before our very eyes. In his opening speech to the conference, Mubarak hinted that it is Ehud Olmert who is now preventing an armistice (called Tadyah or calm in Arabic). Nobody at the conference reacted. But when there is no cease-fire, another even more destructive war is looming. It’s just a matter of time – months, weeks, perhaps days. What has not yet been destroyed, will be destroyed then. So what is the good in investing billions to rebuild schools, hospitals, government buildings and ordinary homes, all of which will be demolished again anyhow?

Mubarak spoke about the exchange of prisoners. Sarkozy spoke with much pathos about the soldier “Jilad Shalit”, a French citizen who all French people want to be freed. Interesting. There are 11 thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. How many of them also hold French citizenship? Sarkozy did not say. It doesn’t interest him. Even in this bunch of hypocrites, he strives for championship.

The participants of the conference promised Mahmoud Abbas fabulous sums of money. Nearly five billion dollars. How much will actually be paid? How much of this will actually pass through the sieve of the high-flying set in Ramallah and reach Gaza? According to a Gaza woman who appeared on television, a homeless mother who lives in a small tent in the middle of a huge mud puddle: Not a cent.

Was the political part of the performance more serious? Hillary spoke about “Two States for Two Peoples”. Others talked about “the Political Process” and “Peace Negotiations”. And all, all of them knew that these are nothing but hollow words.

IN HIS poem “If”, Rudyard Kipling asked whether “you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.” This is now a test for all those who stood at the cradle of the “Two State” idea some 60 years ago.

This vision was – and remains – the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The sole realistic alternative is the continuation of the present situation – occupation, oppression, Apartheid, war. But the enemies of this vision have smartened up and pretend to support it on every occasion.

Avigdor Liberman is in favor of “Two States”. Absolutely. He spells it out: several Palestinian enclaves, each of them surrounded by the Israeli military and by settlers like himself. These Bantustans will be called “a Palestinian state”. An ideal solution, indeed: the State of Israel will be cleansed of Arabs, but will continue to rule over all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Binyamin Netanyahu has a similar vision, but differently worded: the Arabs will “govern themselves”. They will govern their towns and villages, but not the territory, neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip. They will have no army, of course, and no control of the airspace over their heads, neither will they have any physical contact with neighboring countries. Menachem Begin used to call this “autonomy”.

But there will be “economic peace”. The Palestinian economy will “flourish”. Even Hillary Clinton ridiculed this idea publicly before meeting with Netanyahu.

Tzipi Livni wants “Two Nation-States”. Yes’ Ma’m. When? Well… First of all there have to be negotiations, unlimited in time. They did not come to fruition during the years she has been conducting them, nor have they got anywhere at all. Ehud Olmert speaks about the “Political Process” – why did he not bring it to a successful conclusion during the years of his stewardship? How long must the “Process” go on? Five years? Fifty? Five hundred?

So Hillary speaks about “Two States”. Speaks with great vigor. Is ready to speak about it with any Israeli government that will be set up, even if inspired by the ideas of Meir Kahane. The main thing is that they talk with Mahmoud Abbas, and that Abbas in the meantime receives money, a lot of money.

An EXTREME right-wing government is about to be set up. Kadima has laudably decided not to join. On the other hand, Ehud Barak, the father of “We Have No Partner For Peace”, is looking desperately for a way in.

And why not? He won’t be the first political prostitute from his party.

In 1977, Moshe Dayan deserted the Labor Party in order to serve as Foreign Minister and fig-leaf for Menachem Begin, who forcibly prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 2001, Shimon Peres got the Labor Party to join the government of Ariel Sharon, in order to serve as Foreign Minister and fig-leaf to the man whose very name made all the world shudder after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. So why should Ehud Barak not become a fig-leaf for a government that includes outright fascists?

Who knows, perhaps he will even represent us at the next conference in Ophira - sorry, Sharm-el-Sheikh – the one that will be convened after the next war, in which Gaza will be razed to the ground. After all, a lot of money will be needed to build it up again.
****

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