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Saturday, August 31, 2002 Let Them Eat Cake: The anti-GM debate is heating up in Africa, with members of Europe's Green parties denouncing America's efforts to feed Africa's starving populations with crops designed to contain added nutrients, to resist pests and to have a longer shelf-life (see also this site's archived posting from August 19, "Frankenstein Foods"). According to Terje Traavik, the director of a Norwegian research institute that focuses on genetics, "Food aid is one of the means that Americans use to dispose of their GM products. It's a diabolical plan to conquer Africa." (Note that the diabolical US is the leading food contributor to African countries and that the US is providing three-quarters of the food to the UN World Food Program's operations in Zambia.) Anti-GMO groups are calling for a 5-year moratorium on GM products.
The only problem with these arguments is reality. Around 13 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe face starvation. This article from the International Herald Tribune places the Green arguments in perspective:
"It has been days since she [Josephine Namangolwa] had a nourishing meal to feed her eight children, victims, like millions of other Zambians, of the deepening food shortage that is sweeping southern Africa...Yet before her eyes stand sacks and sacks of untouched - and for now untouchable - cornmeal, which has been the foundation of the Zambian diet for generations and is currently at the center a high-stakes scientific and diplomatic debate over genetically modified food.
'We are dying here,' she shouts as aid workers arrive in her village of Chipapa to check on their warehouse and the nearly 500 metric tons of cornmeal stored inside, all of it from the United States and some of it almost certainly from genetically engineered crops. 'We want to eat.'
For now, however, she and the rest of the hungry in Zambia will not be eating any of the food from Chipapa, or any of the thousands of tons of additional food being shipped to the region from the United States.'"
A scene sure to make Europe's Greens and Terje Traavik proud.
Friday, August 30, 2002 Romanian Immigrants & The Roma: French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, is in Romania, devising ways to make the lives of illegal Romanian immigrants in France less pleasant. His latest idea is an accord between France and Romania that enables the latter to seize the property of Romanians convicted of wrongdoing in France.
Sarkozy's crackdown also includes French-Romanian police exchanges which are likely designed to target the Roma (i.e. Gypsies) in France. There are an estimated 9 million Roma in Europe, with around 2.5 million concentrated in Romania. Often adopting the religion of their host country, the French Roma are primarily Catholic, with a smattering of Islamic devotees.
Often caricatured as bandits, the Roma have faced widespread discrimination in Europe. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Roma's "lack of settled legal status can have profoundly deleterious implications for virtually every aspect of life, ranging from children’s ability to attend school to adults’ ability to vote...In many European countries, entire communities have been vulnerable to eviction." In particular, the European Roma Rights center has documented "patterns of systematic racial discrimination against Roma in Hungary, as well as the failure of national and local authorities to protect Roma from violence and discrimination and to offer Romani victims of human rights abuse access to effective remedies. Discrimination pervades all aspects of life for Roma in Hungary, most egregiously in the fields of education, housing, and access to public services."
Elsewhere, a case involving alleged police brutality against Greek Roma is currently making its way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Thursday, August 29, 2002 EU Foods Cause Impotence: OK, maybe not. But Saudi Arabia seems to think so. The Saudi government has seized $26 million worth of carbonated drinks and chicken meat that originated in the EU on the grounds that they may cause cancer and/or impotence!
Irish Hate: Loyalist and republic paramilitaries are being blamed for street violence in East Belfast. The weapons of choice are stones and fireworks, in addition to the rumored use of pipe bombs.
The White Race: The chairman of the supervisory board of Axa--a company that primarily focuses on insurance and is based in France--has left no doubt about his views on the preferred ethnic composition of Western countries. Claude Bébéar stated, "...the number of people in Western countries--what I call the white race, beacuse they are, for the most part, white--are in the process of disappearing, of collapsing...It follows that, if we want our countries to survive, it is very important to develop a sustained and intelligent immigration policy. We must accept immigrants whom we need in order to continue to develop our countries, as well as those whom we can decently welcome...People who come here and only add to our unemployment figures should not be accepted."
Here's another viewpoint on immigration from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union):
"Most economic experts who have studied the relationship between immigration and U.S. employment report that immigrants create more jobs than they fill. They do this by forming new businesses, raising the productivity of already established businesses, investing capital and spending dollars on consumer goods. A 1994 study by Ohio University researchers, for example, found 'no statistically meaningful relationship between immigration and unemployment....[I]f there is any correlation, it would appear to be negative: higher immigration is associated with lower unemployment.' Studies by the Rand Corporation, the Council of Economic Advisors, the National Research Council and the Urban Institute all came to the conclusion that immigrants do not have a negative effect on the earnings and the employment opportunities of native-born Americans."
Immigrant Murder: A 28 year-old Iranian man in the UK was stabbed to death in what police suspect to be a racially motivated crime. The asylum seeker had been in the UK for two years after fleeing from Iran.
Immigrant Protests Continue at Saint-Denis: Immigrants without the proper identity or work papers (i.e. "sans-papiers") are continuing their demands for regularization...and their protest is growing increasingly popular. Immigrants have been using the Saint-Denis basilica to demonstrate against France's tortuous process of regularizing its immigrants (see archived posting of Tuesday, August 20, 2002). As many as 2,000 sans-papiers from around 25 counties and their supporters have congregated around Saint-Denis (with the support of the church authorities) and a massive demonstration is planned in Paris for September 7.
Although France's former Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, sought to ease the immigration process back in 1997, France's current immigration decisions are mired in bureaucratic red tape that leads to slow decisions that are applied arbitrarily, with different regions applying diverse interpretations to immigrant regulations.
Germany Forgets the Rest of the World: Germany's Christian Democratic candidate, Edmund Stoiber, is described here as protectionist when it comes to trade and, when it comes to Muslims and immigrants, well...
"Every exposure I have had to Herr Stoiber on the subject of the foreign (the dark skinned and particularly the Muslim) population has left a very sour taste. Here is a country in which the political caste - not least Herr Stoiber's Bavarian conservatives - consistently refused foreign residents the right to vote while complaining that they refused to integrate. Of course, it takes two to integrate if you're doing it properly. But Stoiber's definition of 'integration' is that foreign residents should lie low and be as unassertive as possible. He is also creating a climate of fear and distrust of the Muslim world which can only increase misunderstandings and suspicion, down to an idiotic fixation on whether Muslim girls should be allowed to cover their hair in schools."
According to an NPR broadcast, Stoiber has also decided to join Chancellor Schroeder's strident opposition to US military intervention in Iraq. During a recent televised debate, Chancellor Schroeder emphasized that Germany would not participate in a US-led invasion. Although Stoiber criticized Chancellor Schroeder's stance during the debate for easing international pressure on Iraq to admit weapons inspectors, NPR now reports that the anti-Iraq stance is too popular for Stoiber to ignore (with some polls indicating that close to 80% of Germans oppose military intervention in Iraq).
What is disturbing about this German politicking is its reactionary, insular nature. The German candidates are not offering a constructive policy on how to deal with Iraq: they are merely opposing the US policy. And issues such as international security have vanished from German voters' minds. While it is understandable that the recent floods and Germany's troubled economy and accompanying unemployment rate should take center stage during Germany's elections, the popularity of the candidates' opposition to military involvement in Iraq seems to be the result, not of principled diplomacy, but rather of Germany's indifference to the world beyond its borders.
Another French-EU Collision Course: This time, the dispute centers on perfume. To help allergy sufferers, Brussels is asking perfume manufacturers to list the ingredients of their perfumes and is, in particular, concerned about 26 substances that are particularly allergenic, such as lavender and rose extracts. French perfume makers are balking, concerned that ingredient lists will merely open the floodgates to more cheap, scent knock-offs.
Profits or human health? Profits or human health?
Wednesday, August 28, 2002 British Shoe Named After Concentration Camp Gas: The British company Umbro has decided to change the name of a running shoe marketed since 1999 as "Zyklon." Zyklon B was used during World War II to murder millions of Nazi victims. According to a representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the name of the shoe was "an encouragement to neo-Nazis and skinheads who terrorize the football terraces and a dishonour to sport itself."
Why Umbro decided to call a shoe after a poisonous gas in the first place remains a mystery.
The Corrupt EU: Paul van Buitenen, who blew the whistle on the EU Commission's corruption back in 1999, has resigned from his EU post out of frustration at the organization's lack of reforms. After his original public disclosure of EU corruption, van Buitenen's honesty was rewarded with a demotion to a lower-paying post in the EU hierarchy. However, what drove van Buitenen to resign now was the firing of Marta Andreasen, a chief accountant who had criticized the EU's computerized budgetary tracking system as "incoherent, insecure and allow[ing] no audit trail." Andreasen had concluded that the lack of security "gives big room for fraud" that would be difficult to detect.
Racist Attack in Marseilles?: Dame Diouf, a 25-year old student in Marseilles of Senegalese descent, was first grabbed in a fish store by his aggressor, pursued throughout the shopping center as he tried to escape, thrown through a tobacco shop window, then kicked as he lay on the ground. According to a bystander, "If a shopkeeper hadn't intervened, I think that he would have been killed."
The motivation for the brutal beating? While the victim is reported to have insulted the wife of his aggressor, Diouf claims that the assault was racist in origin as manifested by the aggressor's racist insults during his assault--allegations which are currently being investigated by police.
All Americans Are _____________________: Sophie Body-Gendrot, a professor at Paris IV University and self-proclaimed "American specialist," writes the following:
"It is no less true that ignorance of other peoples, their cultures, their language, and their suffering remain a fundamental trait of American society that 9/11 has hardly changed."
The writer continues, "[C]onduct judged to be un-American has provoked--principally in the small towns of the West and the South that supported George W. Bush--intolerance towards those who have not hung a star-spangled banner in their windows."
You have to wonder how the US, a country with a rate of immigration so high that it would send shivers down the spines of French citizens could nonetheless remain so damn ignorant of other cultures. It's also interesting to compare Body-Gendrot's viewpoint with that of Thomas Friedman in this article, in support of an American university's requirement that in-coming students read a book about the Koran. After pointing out that the Koran became a "best-seller" after 9/11 as more Americans sought to understand Islam, Friedman writes, "The freedom of thought and the multiple cultural and political perspectives we offer in our [i.e. US] public schools are what nurture a critical mind. And it is a critical mind that is the root of innovation, scientific inquiry and entrepreneurship."
Incidentally, the university that is requiring study of the Koran is in North Carolina. That's right, that area of the US that, according to Body-Gendrot, is a bastion of star-spangled jingoism.
In the end, Sophie Body-Gendrot's observations are self-damning, suffering from the very vice that they condemn--namely, an ignorance of other cultures.
Pornography?: The Green Party in Germany has been using a slightly altered version of this 1595 painting on its campaign posters in order to convey the party's support for homosexual rights (in the Green Party's revised version, one of the women is smiling and, in the background, two men mirror the positions and attitudes of the two women).
Siegfried Fricke, Christian Democratic mayor of Königstein-sur-Taunus will have none of this. Citing public morality ordinances, the mayor has threatened to fine the Green Party 150 Euros for each poster if they are not removed.
Tuesday, August 27, 2002 France Welcomes Zimbabwe Official: France has allowed Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe's police commissioner, to attend an Interpol meeting in France despite EU regulations on Zimbabwe officials' travels within European borders. Euro MP, Glennys Kinnock, has pointed out the irony of welcoming Chihuri--an alleged confidante of Mugabe--to a summit on the international rule of law while his country's government engages in human rights abuses. Zimbabwe is currently pursuing a racist policy of land seizures, seemingly oblivious to that country's severe economic crisis and the fact that nearly half of the country's 12.5 million may face starvation in the near future.
In contrast, Zimbabwe has no compunctions about rejecting European diplomats, as evidenced by that country's recent refusal to admit three members of Norway's parliament seeking to enter Zimbabwe in order to examine a project of the Norwegian Red Cross.
French Government vs Political Plurality: As Spain moves to suppress the political voice of the Basque separatist movement (and, by limiting its legal means of expression, thereby pushing the movement towards further violence), the French government is proposing electoral reforms that would limit the influence of that nation's small, political parties. Under the proposal of Nicolas Sarkozy, France's interior minister, regional, legislative, and European run-offs would be limited to the two most popular candidates of an election's first rounds (under existing regulations, any candidate that receives, in the first round, more than 12.5% of the votes continues into the run-off). The result of the proposed reforms would be to consolidate power in the hands of the two major Right and Left parties and to avoid situations such as that in 1997 when the far Right drained votes away from the Right during run-offs in 76 constituencies, thereby handing several victories to the Left.
A wide range of French political parties have protested the measures, including the National Front, the Greens, Workers' Struggle, and the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions party (yes, it actually exists). According to Paul Lespagnol, the Communist Party director, "his is a cancer in our democracy. The government's objective is to crush political plurality."
Former Communist Agents Infest Hungary's Government: The government of one of NATO's newest member states has been embarrassed by revelations that 10 ministers who have served in the Hungarian government since 1990--in high-level posts ranging from governor of the national bank to finance minister--once worked for the former communist regime's secret services, often as informants.
This follows a story that broke back in June that Hungarian Prime Minister, Peter Medgyessy, was a former communist secret agent.
For a description of Hungary's 1956 revolution against the Communists and its bloody aftermath, check out this site.
Anti-Americanism: In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Professors Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth offer the following observation in an article entitled " American Primacy in Perspective:"
"[L]eaders face incentives to play on anti-American resentment for domestic audiences. And simple math dictates the need for more regional cooperation today than previously, much of which can take on an anti-American coloring. The nineteenth-century international system featured six to eight poles among roughly 30 states. In the early Cold War, there were two poles, but the number of states had doubled to just over 70. Today there is one pole in a system in which the population has trebled to nearly 200 [states]. Inevitably, therefore, much activity will take place at a regional level, and it can often be in the interests of the parties involved to use balancing rhetoric as a rallying point for stimulating cooperation, even if that is not the chief driver of their actions."
It's an interesting idea that anti-Americanism is a kind of rhetorical device through which countries otherwise at odds with another can speak the same language and reach agreement on at least one issue (i.e. hatred of the US). Brooks and Wohlforth's interpretation suggests that anti-American policies and remarks should not be given too much weight because the sentiments are merely a diplomatic sleight-of-hand used to bridge a gap between countries or people. They call this anti-American cheerleading "politics as usual in a unipolar world."
However Brooks and Wohlforth understimate the risks. If anti-Americanism is, in fact, becoming a kind of lingua franca in the diplomatic community used to break the ice and to create bonds between disparate peoples, then this might suggest that this prejudice is taking on a life of its own, only loosely related to US policy. Anti-Americanism becomes a default framework into which US actions, regardless of their merits, are forced.
While one can, of course, disagree with American policy, anti-Americanism--a kind of knee-jerk reaction against US policy based on inaccurate representations of American politics and culture--is detrimental not only to the US, but to global politics. Elsewhere in their article, Brooks and Wohlforth write, "Such [balancing, anti-American] maneuvering has the potential to backfire, however, by reinforcing the perception that the countries in question are too weak to act individually..."
Rather than being "politics as usual," anti-Americanism is a precarious phenomenon that not only impedes international dialogue by demonizing a key financial and military powerhouse, but also creates a cult of victimology whose adherents can abdicate responsibility for their moral decisions because they have convinced themselves that they are too weak to act. All that they can do is react in a thoughtless way to a country that can never be right. Political discourse, and its solutions to pressing problems, suffer as a result.
Monday, August 26, 2002 Your Money or Your Life: That's the precarious position in which the EU has placed Zambia. As that nation and others in Southern Africa struggle to feed their starving populations, the UN food agency has declared that the World Food Agency (WFA) cannot provide enough food unless it avails itself of genetically modified crops (although note that the WFA currently provides GM-based foods to Angolans and Congolese in Zambian refugee camps). The Zambian government's concerns are 2-fold: (1) Are the GM-based crops safe? (2) Will the EU punish our country? The latter concern is the result of the EU's strict regulations on bio-engineered foods. Thus even if Zambia accepts the GM-based food for wide-spread consumption (which seems reasonable, considering that the risks of GM crops are far from certain, while the consequences of famine are well-known), its farmers and economy may suffer.
Glasgow's Immigrants' Fears: Seven months after the murder of Firsat Dag, a 22-year-old Turkish immigrant, in Glasgow, children of that city's asylum seekers continue to live in fear of violence and racism. This according to a joint report issued by Save the Children and Glasgow's city council in which over 700 children of asylum seekers were surveyed.
Francis Fukuyama offers an interesting take on US-European political differences, claiming that Americans focus on a nation-state framework and are hesitant, if not hostile, towards international organizations that usurp the powers of the "constitutional democratic nation-state...Europeans, by contrast, tend to believe that democratic legitimacy flows from the will of an international community much larger than any individual nation-state. This international community is not embodied concretely in a single, global democratic constitutional order. Yet it hands down legitimacy to existing international institutions, which are seen as partially embodying it."
Fukuyama's conclusion: "The U.S.-European rift that has emerged in 2002 is not just a transitory problem reflecting the style of the Bush administration or the world situation in the wake of Sept. 11. It is a reflection of differing views of the locus of democratic legitimacy within a broader Western civilization."
All Americans Are _______________________ : The latest obnoxious generalization about the US is made by André Fontaine in this article:
"...far from condemning the pursuit of wealth--as the Catholic Church has done for years--the Protestant ethic that is woven into American society...proudly celebrates the effects of predestination and divine rewards for hard work. The result is [America's'] clear conscience, which is abundantly evident at Florida's Disney World during a 17-minute film that summarizes the history of the US and that plays throughout the day on a gigantic screen to the sounds of the audience's applause. In the foreground, Jefferson, Mark Twain and other national stars, in flesh and blood, provide the appropriate commentary. What can be more striking for a European, obsessed with the need to remember, than to witness the total absence of any regret [on the part of Americans], if only for the way in which Indians and Blacks were treated for too long [in their country]." (bold-faced font added)
So Disney's capsule of American history is rose-tinged. Imagine that! What's harder to imagine is someone taking the Disney flick seriously and using it to draw conclusions about the historical consciousness of 280 million Americans. Race relations may still have a long way to go in the US, but the phrase, "total absence of any regret," and the writer's efforts to portray all Americans as if they were in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's suggests that, the next time the writer visits the US, he should try venturing outside of Orlando.
France Delivers Criminal to Italy (Finally): Back in 1991, Paolo Persichetti was sentenced to over 22 years in prison by an Italian court for complicity in the murder of an Italian general. Persichetti was a member of the Union of Communist Combatants, the predecessor of the Red Brigades that recently claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Italian economist. In order to escape the court judgment, Persichetti fled to France, where he began teaching courses in social politics at a university in Paris. Despite a French appeals court decision and an extradition decree signed by the prime minister in 1994 in favor of Persichetti's extradition, Persichetti continued to enjoy a free life in France up until recently. Ceding to Italian pressure, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has, at last, agreed to show a modicum of respect for Italian justice and to extradite Persichetti.
According to Roberto Castelli, the Italian Minister of Justice, "Paris is a refuge for many criminals on the run who have committed serious crimes back in Italy."
Sunday, August 25, 2002 Not So Green Ireland: Earth Summit Ireland, an umbrella group of several Irish environmental bodies, has drawn up a damning report of Ireland's environmental policy during its "Celtic Tiger" years of economic boom. Some of the report's highlights include:
--Ireland relies on landfills to dispose of 95% of its waste, and ranks towards the bottom of the EU in terms of waste recycling. "Large-scale and widespread illegal dumping has continued across Ireland, ranging from large-scale illegal dumping of medical wastes to the casual dumping of rubbish in Ireland’s bogs."
--There is significant contamination of drinking water from farming as well as growing environmental damage from one-off houses with septic tanks in the countryside,
--House and infrastructure development have devastated wildlife.
--"Irish taxation structures, incentives, grants and subsidy systems send counter-sustainability signals to both business and citizens. Telling them to minimise job creation and maximise capital investment. Telling them that non-renewable resources like oil are abundant, that water is worthless and that the environment has a limitless capacity to absorb pollutants. This impels them to invest in land and property rather than productive enterprises. Finally, this discounts the future by placing no present value on long term effects of our actions."
In sum, "[d]espite Rio commitments, the Irish public sector has instead increasingly applied the flawed single bottom line of private businesses. Businesses in Ireland do not include the external costs when they do their sums."
UK Government Apologizes to Its Country's Muslims: Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has issued an apology to British Muslims for MI5 information sweeps that targeted several members of Britain's Muslim community. Some of those interrogated complained of seemingly pointless, early-morning police questioning.
--(Thanks to Abid for this story) 8/25/2002
Norwegians with Their Heads in the Snow: Here's a sign that some Norwegians just can't comprehend the concept of terrorism: Neighbors around the Israeli embassy in Oslo are protesting additional security measures at the embassy, including a new security gate and protected entranceway. These neighbors have gained the support of the august City Antiquarian (a kind of guardian of architectural culture). The objection seems to be that the Israeli embassy security measures are not appealing to the eye.
??!!!??! Is there really a debate going on between aesthetics and human life? How many Israeli embassies and Jewish centers have to be attacked (here's a nice, long list) before these residents of Oslo realize that an embassy belonging to Israel is an appealing target to some?
Yet there is, perhaps, a lesson in this Nordic cluelessness. Perhaps the way to propel Europe into facing the atrocities around the world--whether in Russia or the Middle East--is to appeal to its inhabitants' aesthetic sensibilities. Incidents such as this one--in which over 200 Iraqi Kurds risked their lives and meager incomes to escape into Italy--may prompt Europe to abandon it's "Hear No Evil, See No Evil" approach to diplomacy. Forget arguments about human rights and deterrence. The image of 200 miserable, suffering Kurds--while perhaps not provoking any moral pangs or recognition of common humanity--may prompt Europeans to take action against the obnoxious eyesores blighting their beautiful landscapes.
(1) On August 24, 1992, (East) Germans in Rostock firebombed an immigrant shelter housing around 100 Vietnamese. The immigrants fortunately escaped and, this past June (better late than never), three individuals were convicted of attempted murder for the attacks and sentenced to a slight 12-18 months in prison. Nguyen do Thinh, who was in the building back in 1992, recently told Reuters, ""what has changed has been the sensitivity of the [German] authorities and politicians towards right-wing attacks and the integration work that didn’t exist ten years ago. But what has hardly improved at all is the atmosphere in the population. The acceptance of foreigners is still low."
(2) Internal UK police files released this month confirm old press reports that the Notting Hill riots during August of 1958 were driven by racial hatred--contradicting official statements at the time that attempted to portray the riots as random looting. According to The Guardian, "the disturbances were overwhelmingly triggered by 300-to 400-strong 'Keep Britain White' mobs, many of them Teddy boys armed with iron bars, butcher's knives and weighted leather belts, who went 'nigger-hunting' among the West Indian residents of Notting Hill and Notting Dale. "
US Unilateralism: While European governments continue to turn a blind eye to atrocities perpetrated by Russia in its war against Chechnyan militants (see the archived "The Double Standard" posting on 7/25/02), the US has taken the lead in condemning an alleged Russian incursion into Georgia that resulted in the bombing of civilian villages. Although Russia denies that the bombings took place, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has confirmed this Russian violation of Georgian sovereignty, and the Georgian government has reported that a 65 year-old man was murdered and 7 other people were injured. The target of the disputed Russian aerial attack may have been Chechnyan rebels based in Georgia.
Thursday, August 22, 2002 The Belgian Pygmy Zoo: Although Belgium's Oasis Nature park normally houses animals, insects, and fish, for the past two months tourists have been able to gawk at the latest exhibit: 10 Pygmies from Cameroon. In return for a share of the profits, the Pygmies dance, play music, and walk around a traditional village that they have built. Although the Pygmies agreed to the exhibition, hoping to raise money for their village, others have not been so happy with Belgium's latest theme park. According to a member of a Belgian support group for indigenous people, "Belgium, like other former colonial countries, has a history of exhibiting people...We only have to look back at the colonial expositions of King Leopold II, during 1894 and 1897, where `real Congolese' were brought over and looked at by some one million people, who threw peanuts at them."
France's Nuclear Fallout: French Polynesians who worked at nuclear testing sites are calling on the French government to recognize that the 131 nuclear bombs dropped within the vicinity of the islands over the past 21 years have increased their chances of getting cancer. In particular, the Polynesians are asking for further research into radiation exposure and compensation for medical visits related to such exposure.
In response, a spokesman for the French Defense Ministry has stated, "Rates of cancer in the military personnel who served there haven't been any higher than in the general population." A 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency has also suggested that radiation levels resulting from France's nuclear tests around the Polynesian islands were modest.
President of Montenegro Accuses EU of Undermining Democracy : Milo Djukanovic writes that "some political circles in Brussels and in some Western European countries" have allied themselves with loyalists of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic in order to try to undermine a pro-Western Montenegro with its Euro currency and liberal market, pushing Montenegro economically and politically closer to Serbia. The Montenegrin president cites Brussels' efforts to alter the Belgrade agreement on Serb-Montenegrin union, specifically mentioning recent changes to media and election laws that limit freedom of expression and minority (viz. Muslim and Albanian) representation in the legislature.
The President concludes, "Without Washington's direct and impartial involvement, the EU's attempts at state-building could provoke a serious new crisis in the Balkans in coming months."
Does the EU Sponsor Suicide Bombings? Does the EU Really Care?The Heritage Foundation has called for an independent investigation into EU funding of the Palestinian authority. Citing a report from London's Financial Times, Heritage notes that the EU has given $3.36 billion to the PA between 1994 and 2000 and continues to give the PA 10 million Euros per month. According to the Financial Times, Europeans have "turned a blind eye to corruption, misrule, torture and numerous human rights violations by Mr. Arafat's security forces...The gullibility, naiveté and forbearance of the Europeans seems unending."
Although the EU has claimed that the International Monetary Fund has ensured the proper use of its aid, the IMF has denied any such monitoring role over the Palestinians and an investigation by Germany's Die Zeit newspaper has already suggested links between EU money and PA attacks.
Nile Gardiner, the author of the report, writes, ""The Europeans apparently want to project power in a region where they believe their diplomatic and economic influences rival that of the United States...This stems from a desire on their part to challenge U.S. military, economic and diplomatic hegemony."
Neo-Nazi Magazines and a Large Supply of Weapons Discovered in Saverne, France: 20,000 bullets, 8 kilograms of gunpowder, 10 carbines, and other guns. The couple, now in custody, is suspected of arms trafficking.
Oxfam to EU: Tear Down These Trade Walls!: Here's an excerpt from Oxfam's trade report:
"Who are the worst offenders in damaging the interests of developing countries through trade barriers? Oxfam has attempted to answer this question through its Double Standards Index (DSI). This measures ten important dimensions of rich-country trade policies, including average tariffs, the sizes of tariffs in textiles and agriculture, and restrictions on imports from the Least Developed Countries. We call it the Double Standards Index, because it measures the gap between the free-trade principles espoused by rich countries and their actual protectionist practices.
No industrialised country emerges with credit, but the European Union (EU) emerges as the worst offender...." (bold-faced font was added)
And it gets worse. In a reported entitled, "The Great EU Sugar Scam," Oxfam reports: "European consumers and taxpayers are paying [estimated by Oxfam at around 1.6 billion euros) to destroy livelihoods in developing countries. Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU has emerged as the world's largest exporter of white sugar. Subsidies and tariffs generate vast profits for big sugar producers and large farmers--and vast surpluses that are dumped on world markets. Smallholder farmers and agricultural labourers in poor countries suffer the consequences." (bold-faced font was added) Producers from outside the EU, some of them from very poor countries, face a tariff of 140% on exports destined for Europe.
Poor French Communists: They just aren't welcome anywhere. First, they place somewhere near dirt during the recent French elections. Then, 12 members of the Communist Youth Movement, in addition to several other French men and women, were detained by Israeli authorities, who are seeking to deport them. The self-declared pacifists were greeted by Israeli authorities upon arriving in Israel. Maybe the Israeli authorities are over-reacting. Or maybe the Israelis have bad memories of the last wave of French pacifists who defied Israeli army orders and marched into Arafat's compound and were subsequently deported. Or maybe they're thinking about the "tourists" who stayed at the Church of the Nativity square during the IDF's Defensive Shield operation. What's clear is that this is a sign of a further deterioration in French-Israeli relations.
Coincidentally or not, Le Monde published, today, two articles--one on its Internet front page ("The Racist Methods of a Zionist Website" with the subtitle "An Internet Site Makes the Link between Radical Zionists and the Extreme Right"), and one in its editorial section ("Racist Propaganda")--on an internet site that advocates violence against French Jews who do not support Israel and presents offensive caricatures of Arabs. While the Internet site is despicable, one has to wonder why Le Monde devotes so much coverage to it (Le Monde devotes more coverage to the offensive Internet site than to China's silencing of political dissenters using Soviet-style mental asylums).
I get the impression that this obscure website is given so much ink because it is a kind of missing link that, in Le Monde's opinion, confirms that Zionism is inherently racist and as offensive as France's own extreme right.
Yet More Irish Hate: Northern Irish football (i.e. soccer) captain, Neil Lennon, withdrew from a game against Cyprus after receiving a death threat from loyalist paramilitaries. Meanwhile, the Real IRA admits to executing David Cauldwell, a Protestant construction worker, on August 1 by rigging his lunchbox with explosives.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002 French 9/11 Film Montage Spits on Stars & Stripes: The late Jean-Marie Messier's Vivendi Universal commissioned 11 short movies in commemoration of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. To be released in France on (when else?) September 11, some of the tasteful segments include:
--Egyptian Youssef Chahine's piece in which he laments "the civilizations destroyed by the U.S." and "the millions of victims" of American policy from Vietnam to Somalia.
--Iranian Samira Makhmalbaf's piece on Iranian schoolchildren describing the shelters that must be built in order to protect them from US nuclear weapons.
--British Ken Loach's piece on US involvement in the September 11, 1973 coup d'etat against Chile's Marxist president, Salvador Allende, and Augusto Pinochet's subsequent military dictatorship.
--Indian Mira Nair's segment on a Pakistani-American who died at the Word Trade Center, and was suspected of being involved in the attacks--"something that wouldn't have happened if he had been named Jesus or David, his mother says in the segment."
The film is entitled simply "11.09.01" (perhaps "They deserved it" was deemed to be too blunt). Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein's recent claims that the US was behind the German embassy siege were too recent to make the film's final cut. Such a spin would have fit right in with this nursery school version of international events, according to which "All for the want of..." better American diplomacy, the world has been lost.
Surprisingly, this provocative piece of trash "in honor" of the thousands murdered almost one year ago has yet to find a US distributor. Here's to hoping that it remains that way.
Saadeddin Ibrahim, a sociology professor at the American University of Cairo, worked for democratic change in Egypt, supporting voter education and registration campaigns as well as the monitoring of the fairness of national elections. In May of 2001, Egypt's Supreme State Security Court sentenced Ibrahim to seven years in prison and six co-defendants to prison terms ranging from two to five years with labor. In addition, the Egyptian government shut down Ibrahim's Ibn Khaldun Center and an affiliated organization promoting women's voting rights, the Hoda Association. The reasons for Ibrahim and his associates' punishments? Alleged fraud and seeking to defame Egypt. According to Human Rights Watch, under emergency rules (which have been in effect in Egypt practically non-stop since 1967), "security officials are empowered to arrest at will persons they suspect of being 'a threat to national security and public order,' and to refer defendants, including civilians, to military courts and exceptional state security courts. The Supreme State Security Court amounts to a parallel court system, one that it susceptible to government influence."
The ramifications of Ibrahim's trial extended beyond his lone situation. In an editorial in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper, Mohamed Sid-Ahmed writes, "No less important than the issue of the elections, this issue is part and parcel of the ongoing phenomenon of globalisation, which gives legitimacy, and hence authority, to non-governmental organisations -- particularly those that stand up to state repression, whatever the state, and to violations of international agreements concerning human rights."
It is, therefore, surprising that Le Monde would condemn the US decision to withhold supplementary aid to Egypt out of protest for the suppression of Ibrahim's voice. The US move is part of a wider effort to encourage democratic and political reforms in the Middle East, and a sign that Washington is growing uneasy with Middle East allies that provide petroleum resources and military alliances to the US while crushing political dissent and violating human rights in their own backyards.
In order to criticize US policy, Le Monde takes the side of Egyptian businessmen who may be adversely affected by the US decision. It offers the following quote from an Egyptian member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo: "The American reaction is completely out of proportion and risks provoking a chain reaction that will be difficult to contain." Common enemies make strange bedfellows. Rarely would one see Le Monde championing the viewpoint of the business community against the interests of democratic and human rights reform.
Le Monde even goes so far as to offer the following quote from Egypt's Akhbar Al-Yom newspaper, highlighting, "the contradictions in the policy of America, that wants to be the world's champion of democracy while meddling in foreign government's judicial decisions."
In reality, the US position is refreshingly consistent--for once, not Dr. Jekyll at home and Mr. Hyde abroad. However, what is contradictory and revolting is Le Monde's viewpoint--the willingness of a newspaper to align itself with a government that harshly punishes a man for voicing a political opinion. This is a viewpoint that boomerangs against the freedom of opinion from which newspapers such as Le Monde benefit. And while I recognize that one can be against the US's economic slap on the wrist without supporting the Egyptian government's action, my question then becomes what reaction is appropriate to protest Egypt's repression? Diplomatic whispers uttered behind the backs of your country's businessmen and politicians who are growing fat off of a politically repressive regime?
This is not a question of the US trying to isolate Egypt. Bush's decision to withhold between $120 and $150 million will not affect the $2 billion worth of military and economic aid that the US pours annually into Egypt's coffers. While efforts to rope harsh regimes into the international community through economic and political ties may have their merits, what is at issue here is the willingness to move beyond the sanctimoniousness of governments that are content to utter hollow words of protest to deaf ears.
In typical fashion, a French newspaper has taken the US position, turned it on its head, and adopted this viewpoint as novel. However, this French message against political freedom is, on the contrary, pathetically and disconcertingly all too common.
To sign an on-line petition in support of Saadeddin Ibrahim, click here. 8/21/2002
Blood Money: Some people try to make money in the stock market. Others play the lottery. Some people even work. And yet others take advantage of war-ravaged wastelands and suffering masses in order to line their pockets.
Pasqua's actions completely contradicted then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur's ban on arm sales to the Angolan military regime. In return for facilitating the arms deal, Pasqua and Marchiani received free vacations to hotspots such as Mauritius in addition to millions of francs that financed both men's personal lives as well as Pasqua's political career. The investigation is ongoing.
Immigrant Anger: Immigrants who have waited years for French residency permits have been holed up in the Saint-Denis basilica for the past few nights. The demonstration, organized by the immigrant's support group, Coordination 93, is designed to highlight the hurdles facing those seeking legal immigration status in France. These obstacles include 10-years worth of proof of residency on French soil, with an exception made for Algerians, who must wait 15 years. Of particular concern to Coordination 93 is the limited range of documents that can be used to indicate residency, with immigrants arguing that bank statements and medical records should be valid pieces of evidence.
According to Ali Mansouri, a Coordination 93 spokesman, "There are 19 nationalities present here, but the majority of those immigrants without the proper identity or work papers (i.e. "sans-papiers") are Algerian. In Saint-Denis, there are an estimated 25,000 sans-papiers..."
The EU is Watching You: Under a recent EU proposal, e-mails and telephone calls will be held in central computer systems available to European governments for as long as a year after being collected. The information would include personal details on the device's subscriber, as well as the object and time of communication. Despite the potential for this information to be used in a wide range of criminal proceedings (from drug trafficking to racism to money-laundering), individuals will have no right to confirm that information held about their personal communications is correct, nor will they be allowed to challenge EU decisions about this information's use. One small limitation on this vast power is that judicial approval would be required prior to handing over this data to law enforcement authorities.
Jeffrey Goldfarb in the NY Times: "Before Sept. 11, anti-Americanism in Europe was a mild affair and a key part of the love-hate relationship between the French and the Americans. In the aftermath of the September attacks and with the war on terrorism in full swing, it could not be more serious." In describing a seminar held in South Africa, Goldfarb writes, "Whereas I understood the American operation in Afghanistan as fundamentally a liberation, my South African co-teacher and our students understood it as superpower bullying. Whereas I wanted to understand the mind-set of those who would kill thousands of innocents, including one of my dearest friends, in a suicide bombing, they could only see the horrors of collateral damage of the war on terrorism."
Monday, August 19, 2002 American War Crimes in Afghanistan?: Or so Le Monde would have its readers believe. This article, entitled "War Crimes in Afghanistan," describes the deaths of around 1,000 Taliban soldiers asphyxiated in trucks while being transferred by Northern Alliance forces. According to the article, "American troops were aware of the transportation of these hundreds of men via trucks, of which the majority died from asphyxiation." Le Monde's source for this information is a recent Newsweek article. However, Le Monde has done a fine cut-and-paste job, leaving in only those details that suit its anti-American bias. The Newsweek article clearly states, "Nothing that Newsweek learned suggests that American forces had advance knowledge of the killings, witnessed the prisoners being stuffed into the unventilated trucks or were in a position to prevent that." While the Newsweek article states that "Pentagon spokesmen have obfuscated when faced with questions on the subject," Le Monde's insinuation that American troops were in the know is currently baseless.
Frankenstein Foods?: Is European opposition to genetically modified crops simply a way of venting anti-globalization sentiments? Last month, the European Parliament voted for a bill that would require genetically modified foods to be labeled, while, more recently, an English farm was vandalized by allegedly anti-GM crop protesters. While electromagnetic radiation-emitting cell phones are ubiquitous throughout Europe even though there have been some medical reservations expressed (albeit very qualified ones), genetically modified crops are damned even though the scientific evidence often points in their favor and the benefits for third world countries and poor farmers may be substantial. While both cell phones and GM crops warrant further scientific study, why is one a lightening rod for European paranoia, and the other's dangers, largely ignored?
French Conspiracy Theories: Charles Saint-Prot, a Middle East specialist at l'Académie internationale de Géopolitique, has uncovered the true reasons for the US-Iraq conflict. According to Saint-Prot, the Gulf War was a US "trap set for Iraq" designed to tame the only Middle East country that posed a threat to US hegemony. ???!!! What "trap?" Did the US prompt Hussein to invade Kuwait? And why, if the US was simply power-hungry, did it leave Hussein in power?
Now--according to Saint-Prot--once again, the US is seeking a confrontation with Iraq in order to control valuable oil resources and to limit that country's "national political independence" (is that a euphemism for chemical and biological weapons programs and the defiance of human rights norms?). Furthermore, the US military complex, which is in cahoots with the oil barons, is driving the US to war.
The former UN weapons inspection team? US spies, and "their mission had absolutely no connection with the UN mandate." For a more truthful version of the facts--including a candid description of CIA infiltration of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq--check out this interview with Scott Ritter, the former lead inspector for UNSCOM.
Rabid Dutch Football Fans: What exactly is happening to Dutch football (i.e. soccer) fans? Bert van Marwijk, the coach of Feyenoord's team, and Rijkaard, the manager of Rotterdam's team, have recently received bullets in the mail and death threats after poor team performances. Furthermore, anti-Semitic chants at football games are becoming increasingly popular. Thousands of fans at Feyenoord matches have been heard chanting: "“Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas chamber” and “If you don’t jump [presumably from the stands into the stadium and thereby show your support for the team], you’re a Jew.” Dutch public condemnation has been, at best, anemic.
--(Thanks to Martin for this story) 8/19/2002
Victor Davis Hanson on Iraq: "[N]early a generation of American pilots have risked their lives to ensure that under so-called "no-fly zones" he [Hussein] would not murder still more innocents. Within a space of twelve years he invaded two of his neighbors, killing hundreds of thousands, and sent missiles into two others. His gassing of the Kurds and the attempt to cause ecological disaster in the Kuwait countryside were gratuitously evil efforts to ensure that the ruin of others might last generations after his own demise...Contrary to what the European...nations profess, the United States has no innate desire to fight Iraqis — and especially no wish to lose a single one of its precious youth in Saddam's godforsaken regime 8,000 miles away...Rather than caricaturing our president, our purported treaty allies and friends should first ponder the behavior of Iraq over the last few months."
Sunday, August 18, 2002
A mass grave with 100 bodies was found in Bosnia and is believed to date from the Srebenica massacre of 1995. Meanwhile, British peacekeepers in Kosovo have increased security after receiving threats following confrontations with supporters of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and NATO ended its hunt for the support network which has helped Radovan Karadzic to evade international law.
Austria Rumbles (or Another Argument against Believing in Europe's Post-Historical, Post-War Period): Although a self-declared "neutral" state since 1955, Austria has recently taken a belligerent stride forward with an intent to purchase several Eurofighter jets at a cost of over a billion euros--Austria's largest defense order since World War II. In addition, the country recently participated with France, Italy, Sweden in Operation Amadeus (no, I'm not making up the name), a simulated air force exercise.
Public opposition is mounting against the intended purchases, with over 620,000 signatures already collected and with the majority of Austrians supporting a referendum on the proposed acquisitions. One controversial point: the exorbitant price tag and the existence of less expensive alternatives. According to a global aerospace analyst at Banc of America, "We all thought possibly the [Swedish] Saab and maybe the [American] F-16 were more appropriate for the budget that Austria probably has. But instead Austria has gone down a path that is political 75% and price 25%."
Yet, with opposition mounting, the price tag of the devastating floods in Europe escalating, and the Austrian government's promises to cut corporate and income taxes now in question, the fate of the Eurofighter purchase is not yet certain.
Saturday, August 17, 2002
"We're white, we're proud and we're British"..."Immigration is rising and rising and rising like the rising tide and we are going to drown"..."Do like the Muslims do and the other races that are taking over our country. Carry out your duty for your race and for your country"
--Comments from the British National Party's recent "family festival" in Sawley, England. Around 1,000 people are expected to be in attendance.
Friday, August 16, 2002 Czech Journalistic Freedom?: A senior Czech government official's plot to murder a leading investigative journalist was foiled when the would-be assassin turned himself into police. (You know a country is in trouble when the criminals have more respect for the law than the politicians). The target of the government minister's attempted assassination was Sabina Slonkova, a reporter for the Czech daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes, who has a track record of uncovering government corruption.
Efforts by the Czech Republic government to muzzle dissenting journalistic voices are nothing new. Czech public television is dominated by a board poxed with government officials, and it almost suffered a takeover back in 2000 by cronies of the speaker of the Czech parliament.
Lest one think that Spain's problems with its North African neighbors is anything new, it's useful to take a look at The Image of the Maghreb in Spain (La imagen del magrebí en España). The book's author, Eloy Martin Corrales, uses historical engravings, sketches, and other images to detail Spain's centuries-old, difficult relationship with the people just across the Strait of Gibraltar. Some of the more troubling caricatures include those of Moroccans as monkeys or dogs, and post cards that appeared around the time of the Rif War (a Berber quest for independence from Spain's colonization and Morocco's monarchy) showing Spanish troops posing with the decapitated heads of Moroccans, as if after a successful safari hunt for savage animals.
On a related note: Earlier this year, the Moroccan government blocked a conference organized to discuss the alleged use of chemical weapons by Spain and its French allies during the Rif War of the 1920's. According to the Association for the Defense of Victims of the Rif War, many inhabitants of the gassed areas suffer from cancer and account for 60% of the cancer deaths in Morocco.
Thursday, August 15, 2002 Australian Tourists Beaten in Ireland: The 3 tourists were attacked in Belfast, and one tourist's ear was partially ripped off. It seems that the Australians had been mistaken for Protestants.
All Americans Are _________ (Or "Hollywood=America"): The movie, K-19, is about a disaster on a Soviet nuclear submarine, and the film's less than flattering portayal of the Soviet sailors has upset several real-life veterans of that disaster. But isn't this article on the movie going a little bit too far?
"Americans seem to have become adept at caricatures of Russians, reviving, every now and then, a hate that's been buried for the past few years."
All the News That's Fit to Print (But Only If It Supports our Prejudices): In Le Monde's article on proposed reforms to the Palestinian Authority's financial system, no mention is made of Yasser Arafat's reported $1.3 billion personal slush fund. That amount would be sufficient to fund ten hospitals for a decade AND to feed three million Palestinians for a year AND to buy 1,000 mobile intensive-care units, with $585 million left to spare. Nor is there any mention of a recent interview with Muawiya Al-Masri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who stated, "No minister can appoint a driver or a delivery boy in his ministry without the president's consent...There is no institutional process. There is only one institution — the presidency, which has no law and order and is based on bribing top officials." (Note that, back in 1999, Al-Masri was attacked by 3 assailants and shot in the leg outside of his Nablus home the day after signing a protest statement against PA corruption).
While Le Monde mentions corruption in the PA, Arafat is mainly described as the one who "has given the green light" to the institution of financial accountability. The need for reform never seems to be any wrong-doings on the part of the PA. Instead, the impetus for reform is that Bully Bush and his "demand" for some form of institutional transparency.
Wednesday, August 14, 2002 No Muslims Allowed: Abid Raja, the former head of the World Islamic Mission in Oslo, is raising hell in Norway's Christian Democratic Party. Although non-Christians are allowed to become members of the Christian Democratic Party, they are not allowed to hold leadership posts. Says Raja, "[I]t is not enough to be a member of a political party. There is no point in being on a list if I am not allowed to take part actively."
France Gets Tough on Its Prostitutes: A recently enacted municipal law in Lyons forbids prostitutes from working on the city's main thoroughfares.
Well, if you want to outlaw prostitution, go ahead. But to try to push it into the shadows for a superficial moral pleasure is a dubious civic improvement at best. Points out one prostitute: "Where am I supposed to go? I don't want to sell myself on the other side of the city...where any old wacko can throw me into the Rhone if it suits his fancy. Where I am now, there are a lot of people around in case I have any problems. Concealing us only puts us in danger."
Says a prostitute from Sierra Leone: "I'm not happy with prostituting myself, but this lets me work on my own and pay, each day, the 40 euros for a hotel room....We don't create problems for the neighbors. We dress decently, and we don't take drugs...If I return to Sierra Leone, I'm dead. Mr. Chirac knows what's happening over there. He can see on television the infants starving to death, the young girls who are raped, and the innocent people who are murdered. He wouldn't want to send us back there."
French authorities fear that the city of Cherbourg is becoming a magnet for illegal immigration. 15 Iraqi Kurds were recently charged 1,000 Euros each for procedural immigration infractions (where these Kurds, found by police in an abandoned house, are supposed to get the money is anyone's guess). Quoth one immigrant: "We're fleeing Saddam Hussein. We're afraid, and we don't want to return there...England is, for us, the land of freedom. It's not work or family that we're looking for there....It's, above all, liberty. We're escaping from Saddam Hussein's oppression." Uh-oh: Better ship these immigrants back as quickly as possible or make their lives in France as unpleasant as possible before they grow accustomed to freedom.
Friday, August 09, 2002 Question: What's the best way to incite a group of people to violence?
Answer: Take away their voice.
Using recently instituted anti-terrorism legislation, the Spanish government is trying to outlaw a political party sympathetic to Basque independence. The group, Batasuna, garnered 140,000 votes in the last elections and holds 7 seats in the Basque regional parliament.
Thursday, August 08, 2002 "The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son..." except in France: As part of the French government's crackdown on crime, recently passed legislation suspends family subsidies to those parents whose children have been sent, for misconduct, to juvenile detention centers. Critics have noted that the subsidies, as part of France's social security system, should be available to those who need them most and that a cutting of funds might only make a bad family situation worse.
"the exact and tribal, intimate revenge" --Seamus Heaney
One of the leading commanders of Ireland's biggest loyalist organization, the Ulster Defense Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters, is alleged to have consented to the shooting of his own son in both calves. This is reported to have been a punishment for "anti-social behavior." (Anti-social? So what the hell do you call it when you shoot someone in both legs?)
According to the article: "[F]or decades working class loyalists and republicans, wary and distrustful of the police, and not persuaded that the courts will deter young hotheads from fighting, stealing cars, taking drugs or robbing pensioners, have taken matters into their own hands and dispensed summary justice."
Tony Blair, the Lap Dog: Here's another stereotype of Blair: "In spite of the hostility against a war in Iraq that has been expressed by clergymen, public opinion, and even among the members of the Labor party, Tony Blair seems determined, despite all opposition, to follow in the steps of the US." The journalist would have us believe that Blair is betraying his church, party, and people in an act of political suicide arising from a passion to become a US shadow. It's not until the middle of the article that the journalist reveals that there are, in fact, differences between the US and UK's official positions. And there is never any consideration that there might be a reason to favor aggressive action against Iraq other than currying the American president's favor. Maybe this worries Blair. Or how about the following rationale given in the International Herald Tribune back in April:
"The bottom line is this: If Saddam really believes that a U.S.-led coalition is poised to unseat him, he will probably give up his weapons of mass destruction rather than lose his hold on power—or his life.
If the major Western allies can make their military threats credible, and stick together, they will therefore probably not have to carry them out. But if they waffle or disagree, we will get one of two bad outcomes: a dangerously armed Saddam or war against Iraq."
Spain's Immigrants: Spanish police evicted 270 North African immigrants who had been engaged in a 2-month protest for work and residency permits. Yesterday, police intercepted a boat with 20 immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa aboard.
A sociology professor at the University of Coruña offers the following take on the problem: The irregular and often illegal situation of Spain's immigrants does not rest "in the attitude of the immigrant, who wants a contract, but in the black market and culture of illegality on the part of the native employer...[W]e can rightly demand of the immigrants that they comply with their obligations under the constitution of the country that they have moved to. And we can demand too of the countries of origin that they cease to play the role of victim, with tiresome double-talk...[T]he gap between the migratory phenomenon and immigration policy is the space where traffickers thrive." Amen 8/08/2002
For What It's Worth: A survey of 2,500 people in France, the US, Great Britain, Spain and Greece has concluded that Italian children on vacation are the worst behaved--making unbearable noises, playing with elevators, and breaking electrical appliances. The runner-ups for most ill-behaved child tourist were France (26% of respondents), Spain (19%), and the US (14%).
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
The Russian government will begin monitoring all television channels because...of potentially dangerous subliminal messages. Uh, sure.
French wine doesn't kill people; people kill people. Or something like that.
All American Police Are ___________: Le Monde writes of the emerging and troubling American phenomenon of "victim-precipitated suicide" in which someone seeking to commit suicide (but unable to do the act himself) provokes or threatens a policeman, and thereby initiates his own death. Here's the generalization of the day: "The policeman finds himself face to face with a person as dangerous as an unpinned grenade. He has little chance of persuading this person to lay down his arms. As American police tend to be trigger-happy, a slight movement on the part of the other person and it's all over."
Not our Problem: 36 Iraqi refugees, ages 15-30, were discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Cherbourg. The reaction of the city's authorities? Outrage. The mayor is currently arranging for the immigrants' expulsion.
Meanwhile, an article in Le Monde highlights the possible surge and volatility in oil prices that may result from a war with Iraq, while another article argues that the US can continue to contain any Iraqi threat. Hey, as long as you can keep their refugees out of your country, your oil prices stable, and as long as the US is stuck with the role of policeman, who really cares what's going on in Iraq?
More Reasons why the PAC needs to be Reformed: Jean Glavany, France's former Minister of Agriculture, attacks France's current opposition to PAC reform (i.e. European farm subsidies--see 7/26 posting for more info.) with the following argument:
Contrary to French arguments made against PAC reform, such reform would not threaten thousands of farmers--large and small. Because PAC subsidies are linked to production, the more hectares a farmer has, the more subsidies he receives. This has created a situation where 80% of the PAC subsidies in France go to only 20% of the farms--the largest ones. While small farms are becoming extinct for diverse reasons, the PAC has only assisted in their disappearance by financially supporting the largest farms and ignoring those farmers that are in need of the greatest assistance.
The reforms proposed by the European Commission would cut the link between the amount that farmers produce and the subsidies that they receive. Subsidies would depend on, among other things, compliance with environmental and animal welfare standards, while payments to the biggest farms would be capped at 300,000 Euros a year. Savings could be redirected to the benefit of underdeveloped rural areas.
While the French opposition to PAC reform masks itself as protection of the poor, rural worker, this opposition is, in reality, a gift to the country's wealthy businesses.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002 Men in Black II's Secret Meaning: A recent reviewer in Le Monde writes: "Men in Black II presents, as perfectly natural, the idea that America is the universe's policeman and has the right to decide the criteria to which all visitors to Earth should conform...The machine used by the film's heroes to black out the memories of anyone who has seen an extraterrestrial appears, moreover, to present as completely normal the wish to control even the thoughts and memories of citizens in exchange for society's peace and quiet."
More Irish Hate: The Catholic Reaction Force threatened to kill hospital workers at Royal Victoria and Mater Hospitals. In response, the loyalist Red Hand Defenders threatened to murder Catholic hospital staff at Mater and Ulster Hospitals.
On an unrelated note, the Irish Small Firms Association (SFA) has accused the Irish government's unclear immigration policy of encouraging xenophobia in the workplace. The assistant director of SFA stated that, given the substantial labor market shortage, "it is unacceptable that we are still working under a piece of legislation called the 'Aliens Act' which dates from 1935." Under current policy, an Irish employer seeking to fill a position must advertise all vacancies on the systems of the Irish Training and Employment Authority and of the European Employment Service for a minimum of four weeks and then receive a letter stating it was not possible to recruit an Irish or EU national for the vacancy.
Monday, August 05, 2002 France's War on its Young Continues: A recently passed law makes extremely insulting behavior against a teacher punishable by 6 months in prison and a 7,500 Euro fine. Some of France's teachers unions have denounced the law, criticizing "this tendency to punish when we should be educating."
Justice?: The New York Times reports, "It was Mr. Yiotopoulos [of Greek's November 17 terrorist organization] who reportedly pulled the trigger on Dec. 23, 1975, killing the Athens station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, Richard Welch...[But] any crimes committed before 1982 will go unpunished in Greece because of a 20-year statute of limitations...As for extradition requests...European Union countries, including Greece, will not extradite anyone to any country where they will face the death penalty."
France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the following statements regarding the recent terrorist attacks in Spain and Israel:
(1) Spain: "France vigorously condemns the despicable attack that, this Sunday in Santa Pola, claimed the lives of two people--including a six-year old girl--and resulted in numerous injuries. We present our condolences to the victim's families and extend our sympathies in these difficult times. We confirm our strong commitment to the continued battle against terrorism...and provide assurances of our unwavering support."
(2) Israel: "France vigorously condemns the attack perpetrated, yesterday, in northern Israel which, once again, was directed at civilians. The cycle of violence continues, and it will only lead to more suffering. To avoid this fatal sequence of events, the parties must resume their dialogues. The urgent action of the international community is necessary."
Note a couple of differences: (1) In addition to the less extreme denunciation of the attacks (when you kill a Spanish civilian, it's "terror." When you call an Israeli civilian, it's a "fatal sequence of events" [i.e. too bad]), the passage relating to Israel differs from the statement regarding Spain by distinguishing between civilians and soldiers. The implicit message seems to be that some level of violence--namely attacks on soldiers--is acceptable in the Middle East conflict. This runs contrary to the latter part of the statement which suggests that dialogue, not violence, is the solution to peace. (2) Those who perpetrated the attacks in Spain are agents of "terrorism" and France will aid Spain in pursuing them. In contrast, those who perpetrated the attacks in Israel are merely part of a "cycle of violence" and the blame for the attacks is therefore pointed also at the Israeli government's actions. In Spain, where both sides have engaged in brutal tactics (viz. from 1983 to 1987, the Antiterrorist Liberation Groups, which enjoyed covert government support, killed 27 alleged Basque separatists), the moral judgment of the French government is...more diplomatic. There is no critique of the fact that President Aznar has refused to negotiate with ETA until it forsakes violence (sound familiar?), recently called the leaders of the Basque movement "human trash" (constructive dialogue?) or that a Spanish judge outlawed Gestoras pro Amnistia, an organization that provided support to families of jailed ETA members.
Sunday, August 04, 2002 ETA (probably) Strikes Again: To the more than 800 people that ETA has killed in the past 34 years in its efforts to create an indepedendent Basque state, add two more: a 6 year-old girl and a 57 year-old man murdered in the explosion of a car bomb.
The Greek terrorist group, November 17, may have been responsible for explosives recently uncovered near an Athens landmark that is scheduled to be used in the next Olympic Games. The Marxist group murdered a CIA station chief back in 1975 and a British defense attache in 2000. It has been suggested that the group's future targets may include NATO peacekeepers and US consulates.
Back in 1952, the author, Gilbert Cesbron, published a book entitled Les Saints Vont en Enfer (The Saints Go to Hell) in which he described the plight of North African immigrants in a French town: They are “drawn by lies into miserable towns, then abandoned by everyone except the police…And judged, each and every one of them, to be pimps, sadists, or thieves ready to slice you with a knife.” (p.46)
The following article suggests that not much has changed for France’s immigrants. Twelve immigrants—including a Chechnyan mother and her daughter—who have sought asylum in France have been denied temporary residence permits. This means that the asylum-seekers will receive neither financial aid nor assistance with housing while they wait for a decision to be made on their refugee status. In addition, they have lost any right to appeal in the event of a negative decision on their refugee status. Fortunately, the immigrants have been temporarily taken in by various parishes and are receiving aid from Amnesty International. Their lawyer, Mathieu Oudin, attributes the judge’s failure to grant the temporary residency permits to the “political climate restricting the right to asylum. It’s the direct result of the policy of Sarkozy-Chirac.”
Saturday, August 03, 2002 Glasgow Gloom: In the neighborhood of Glasgow where many of the city's 6,000 asylum-seekers live, police have noted that 1 to 2 racially motivated crimes are reported every week. At least this is an improvement over the 4 to 5 incidents a week that was common as of last summer. Incidentally, this Monday marks the 1-year anniversary of the murder of Kurdish asylum-seeker, Firsat Dag, in the Sighthill area of Glasgow.
France Cracks Down on its Young: Legislation recently passed by the French Assembly creates sanctions for children as young as 10 years old, "closed educational centers" for juvenile delinquents between the ages of 13 and 18 with the possibility of a transfer to prison, and financial sanctions against the families of juvenile delinquents. In criticizing the draconian measures, Robert Badinter, the former French attorney general, noted that juvenile prisons "produce only the worst types of recidivism...Prisons are schools in crime, particularly for minors."
Friday, August 02, 2002 13 African immigrants, including 2 pregnant women, were found dead in the Strait of Gibraltar after unsuccessfully trying to enter Spain. How desparate do you have to be not only to risk your own life, but that of your child? Spain's Interior Minister stated, "The mafia networks that take advantage of human lives for their own profits are responsible for these deaths." Really? Perhaps Europe's harsh efforts to crack down on these immigrants might also be part of the problem.
"After September 11...it was the [US] government, more than public opinion, which chose to give priority to weapons over strategy and the economy."
"An unarmed Europe has assumed the size of Switzerland, Latin American doesn't matter, Africa is a remote hospital...France continues to show little interest in Europe."
These, and other bizarre generalizations, in this (or this) editorial in Spain's El Pais.
Thursday, August 01, 2002 The Anti-Immigrant Effects of France's 35-Hour Work-Week Law: The pros and cons of the French law capping the work-week at 35-hours are much debated; however one item that is seldom mentioned is the law's effect on immigrants. It seems to me that this law has negative consequences either for poor immigrants in France or for those men and women without significant financial resources who seek to immigrate to that country:
(1) By making the over-time rate prohibitively expensive, the law provides a cap on an individual's salary. Even though someone may want or need to work more than 35 hours a week in order to support a family and/or relatives back home, this becomes extremely difficult. This constraint is not limited to immigrants and effectively stalls upward economic mobility for the French poor. However, this salary cap may be particularly disadvantageous to immigrants in the lower economic classes. For example, assume that there are two families of equal size in France--one of French descent and the other having recently immigrated from northern Africa--who both receive the exact same, low salary. The immigrant family may nonetheless be relatively poorer than the family of French descent because there are increased costs associated with being an immigrant. These may include an unfamiliarity with the market that prevents one from taking advantage of the best deals, discrimination in finding jobs and housing, and costs of integration (viz. language and cultural classes). The 35-hour cap prevents the immigrant family from compensating for these economic disadvantages.
(2) As for those foreigners who are seeking to immigrate for economic reasons, the 35-hour law may push these immigrants to other countries with less heavily regulated job markets. While other factors--such as the receptivess of the legal framework and political climate--are likely to be more important in the immigrant's decision-making process, the 35-hour work week is an indirect way of rendering France less hospitable to immigrants.
If the 35-hour law had positive effects, overall, on the French economy, one could argue that more jobs create increased opportunities for immigrants. However, the economics results of the law seem, at best, mixed.
I am not suggesting that anti-immigrant sentiment motivated the French government's 35-hour work-week law. What is more likely is that the government simply did not consider the impact on immigrants. However, is a willful blindness to the existence of immigrants much better than outright antipathy towards them?
The Lies of the French and British Left: Back in April, the Guardian published the following observations regarding Israel’s operations in Jenin: “Israel may find it impossible to stop the full enormity of what happened from leaking out. Israel's hapless foreign minister, Shimon Peres, let slip the word 'massacre' only a few days ago (but hastily retracted it). There are also plenty of Israeli soldiers who know what happened and may in time be tugged by their consciences to speak out.”
Also back in April, La Gauche, a French socialist magazine, published an “urgent appeal” claiming that, in Jenin, "The occupying [Israeli] army, in violation of all Geneva conventions and morality, is perpetuating a systematic massacre."
The Truth: The UN will soon release a report concluding that, in fact, no massacre took place at Jenin. According to the report, the figure of 500 Palestinian casualties has "not been substantiated in the light of evidence that has emerged.” In stark contrast to the French and British left's one-sided condemnations, the UN report spreads the blame between the warring parties, claiming that Israel’s curfews and closures increased civilian suffering, while Palestinians deliberately placed their militants in civilian areas in violation of international law.