Monday, February 28, 2011
Muammar Gaddafi is doing everything in his power to stop the Libyan revolution in its tracks. He has rejected dialogue in favour of brute force. The international community has condemned the violence in no uncertain terms. On Wednesday UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of serious violations of international law and human rights in Libya. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on Tuesday for an independent international investigation, condemning the "callousness with which Libyan authorities and their hired guns are reportedly shooting live rounds of ammunition at peaceful protesters".
Dr Pillay, a former judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, says such actions could constitute crimes against humanity. But the ICC’s current chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo says his hands are tied. This week he announced that the solution lies first and foremost in the hands of Libya; the ICC can only serve as a legal last resort.
The ICC can only intervene if Libya refuses or is unable to carry out its own investigation into the crimes. Until such times, Mr Ocampo can only wait on the sidelines. If Gaddafi is toppled, a new regime may want to bring him to justice before a Libyan court. Ocampo will only be able to act if Libya’s new leaders are unwilling or unable to take such steps.
But that scenario is still a long way off. This week Gaddafi declared that he would fight on until the last bullet. Mr Ocampo is bound by the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty that led to the founding of the ICC. Gaddafi’s regime is not a signatory to the treaty and has therefore banished the prosecutor to the sidelines for the time being.
Yet there is still a chance that the ICC may come into action. First of all, the UN Security Council might instruct Mr Ocampo to carry out investigations in Libya. However, the Security Council is very much divided on the ICC. So far the UN has only asked Mr Ocampo to conduct investigations in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.
The other option lies in Tripoli itself. It is extremely unlikely that Gaddafi would ever accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, but a new Libyan regime might. The ball remains in Libya’s court: Ocampo will have to wait and see whether a new Libyan leadership will invite him to investigate the current political violence.
If the ICC takes on the case, it will focus on investigating whether crimes against humanity have been committed. Any crimes committed by Gaddafi before July 2002 will be beyond the court’s jurisdiction.
The International Criminal Court
•The International Criminal Court has been based in the Dutch city of The Hague since July 2002.
•The prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, can only prosecute people suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after 1 July 2002.
•There are 114 signatories to the Rome Statute.
•Five suspects are currently being held at the UN detention facility in Scheveningen. Trials are ongoing against:
•Lubanga (DR Congo)
-Katanga & Ngudjolo Chui (DR Congo)
•Bemba (Central African Republic)
•The court' s most wanted suspects are:
•Omar al Bashir (Sudan) for war crimes and genocide
•Joseph Kony (Uganda) for war crimes committed by the LRA rebel group
Sunday, February 27, 2011
From Love Matters:
Living with your boyfriend or girlfriend without being married? It’s still a taboo for most Indians. But a growing number of couples are daring to make the move.
“It’s a constant battle”, says Amrita about her parents insistence that she get married. She and her boyfriend Avinash, both 27, want to wait. They live together in Delhi and have full-time jobs in the fashion industry.
“It came as a shock when I told them we live together,” she says. “I try to explain it with practical arguments. We save money and I tell them honestly we would spend most of our time together anyways. They are not completely okay with it, but I did not leave them much choice.”
It’s because both of their families live far from Delhi that the couple can share a house. “If my parents lived in Delhi, I wouldn’t have a choice but to stay with them,” says Amrita.
“My older brother has been a huge help. He’s met Avinash and convinced my parents that he’s a trustworthy guy, and that it’s safer for me to live with him now I’m in Delhi.”
Amrita told her parents about her relationship with Avinash a year before she moved in with him. At first they found even that hard to accept. Avinash’s family feels the same.
The couple has been together now for five years. As time passes, the pressure to get married builds. “Sure we want to marry eventually,” Amrita says. “But right now we want to focus on other things. We’ve both set certain personal targets, things we want to accomplish career-wise. Our parents don’t understand – they tell us we can do all of that after marriage.”
Disguise the truth
Because of the disagreements, Amrita and Avinash haven’t been able to visit each other’s parental homes. “My aunts and uncles all live there as well and they don’t know about our relationship yet. So my parents wouldn’t be comfortable with me bringing Avinash home,” Amrita explains.
Even in Delhi, the couple sometimes disguise the truth about their living situation. “Our maid, for example, probably assumes we’re married. So does our landlord. Just after we had agreed to take this place, an older lady in the family asked how long we’d been married. We told her we weren’t, and the expression on her face changed. But I think she liked us and luckily she didn’t make an issue out of it.”
Between the couple and their parents, one area remains in Amrita’s words, “grey”. “We don’t discuss sexuality with them. And when they come and stay with us in Delhi, Avinash and I sleep in separate rooms.” She smiles: “Whether, they are in a state of denial, or blissfully ignorant, I don’t know.”
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Welcome to Cuba! Take a seat in the slightly rundown but astonishing theatre of optical illusions and be baffled by the Masters of Mirage, the Castro Brothers. You may think you see something but you can never be sure. The old illusionists are certainly not going to tell you what's really happening. The tricks are concocted behind closed doors by the inner circle and there's no press conference afterwards.
Here we go. The dissidents appear from the hat in rapid tempo one after another and flap around in the spotlights like a flock of doves. In jail since 2003, 75 of them in total, serving decade-long prison sentences for expressing their opinions. But now they're set free. And soon the last dove will rise into the air. Bravo! No democracy without freedom!
Thanks are due to the Catholic Church, which insisted on this performance. And to Orlando Zapata, who died in a hunger strike a year ago trying to get himself and his fellow prisoners released. And to the dissident Guillermo Fariñas who took over Zapata's hunger strike and to whom the Castros capitulated, rather than be internationally embarrassed once again.
Behind the scenes, out of sight of the audience, Fariñas was arrested and released, arrested and released. Zapata's mother was arrested because she wouldn't keep quiet about her dead son. "Orlando lives!" she shouted at a police officer. For a year now the police have been making her life a living hell. While ordinary Cubans neither know nor care about dissidents.
Even so, change does seem to be in the air: the bloggers trick! For years dissident bloggers and journalists like Yoani Sánchez were blocked by Cuba and could only be read abroad. Now, with the snap of a finger, they're back! Give Raúl Castro a hand! Say what you like, surf where you like. No freedom without information! We've seen it in Egypt - social media chase away dictators. Soon Cuba will be Twittering and Facebooking too. Just a pity there are no Cubans in the audience, they couldn't afford the tickets. No one has internet at home and in the hotels it costs six dollars an hour, a week's wages for a Cuban.
Never mind, time for the finale. The Castros are conjuring their last rabbit out of their top hat: the super information highway. Thanks to Venezuela, Cuba will be getting broadband internet. Say goodbye to delays, goodbye to the US embargo! Long live democracy? Read about it in Granma, the Castro Brothers daily magic programme, where it warns that the new cable service "will not result in an explosion of information". Broadband does not means "broader" communication. Still no internet for the ordinary Cuban.
The new capacity is intended for the Cuban government and state-owned companies, where one and a half million people will lose their jobs in the next few months. It's the main event in the Mirage Brothers new show: freedom to earn your own money. The former civil servants are expected to set up their own companies. So that is bound to result in more political leeway, isn't it?
Roll up, roll up, it's the Theatre of Illusions, take a seat and sit back and wait for the arrival of... democracy. Now you see it, now you don't!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Colonel Gaddafi is losing his grip on the country as the violent chaos in Libya continues. The Dutch government is doing its bit by freezing the regime’s assets in the Netherland. Not that Duthch news papers are under any illusion that the colonel will be losing any sleep over it. But the Dutch press has plenty of suggestions for more action. Enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, a no-fly zone, and a humanitarian air bridge, and a sea blockade. An oil boycott? Armed intervention is the only thing worth bothering with, says historian Gerbert van der Aa. Not feasible, says the other – stick to the no-fly zone.
Meanwhile, Colonel Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, has also been naughty. He’s in trouble with Dutch philosopher Alex Voorhoeve – his old teacher at the London School of Economics – for plagiarism. It’s emerged that he played fast and loose with the quotation marks in his thesis. The worthy thesis is apparently about “the role of civil society in democratisation” and attacks “authoritarian, corrupt regimes that don’t listen to the real needs of the people”. On Monday the author had a slightly different take on authoritarian regimes. He threatened his fellow Libyans they’d be mourning hundreds of thousands of deaths if they didn’t knuckle under and do as his dad told them.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The Hague has a large Hindustani population - immigrants from Suriname, the former Dutch colony in South America, whose forbears originally came from South Asia. With a population of 60,000, they form the city’s largest ethnic minority group. The three communities will foot the bill for the complex themselves. Two apartment blocks providing 45 homes will be built alongside the temple.
The local council has now given the project its final backing, and says the complex will become an icon for the city. Labour Party councillor Rajesh Ramnewash says he is “extremely proud” of the cooperation among the three different Hindu movements, who drew up the plan jointly.
Despite their differences, it proved remarkably simple for the three communities to work together, he says. They were brought together by the need for a “beautiful, serene space” to practice their faith, says Mr Ramnewash. “Until now we were obliged to use out-of-the-way offices or converted garages. Now we can make a start on a huge complex.” The councillor believes it will be the only temple complex in the world to be shared by three divisions of Hinduism.
The sale of the apartment blocks, to be built by a project developer, will generate funds to contribute to the cost of the temple complex. But the three communities can actually afford to pay for the complex themselves. “Otherwise the council wouldn’t have accepted the plan.”
Mr Ramnewash says a tight schedule has been set for the project. The plan is to be finalised within six months. “Construction will start at the end of 2012.” He doesn’t expect the new temple complex to meet with any resistance in the city.
Monday, February 21, 2011
There’s Amsterdam Idaho, Amsterdam Saskatchewan, Amsterdam Virginia, Amsterdam Georgia... you get the picture. In total, there are 16 towns named Amsterdam in North America. And they have become the subject of Amsterdam Stories USA, “an east-to-west road movie” by Dutch filmmakers Rob Rombout and Rogier van Eck.
Why Amsterdam? For both filmmakers, Amsterdam “connects to their Dutch origins and thus to emotions, images and stories.” And, while many European cities have clones in “the New World”, Amsterdam is the only one that has spread across the continent from East to West – perfect for a road movie.
Clogs and windmills
Mr Rombout says that their film about “unknown America” also shows quite a lot of Dutch heritage. “Not people wearing wooden shoes, but there are always windmills. Sometimes they are the biggest building in the whole village. You can even buy Dutch liquorice 'drop' here in the stores. There is always a Dutch element. They are proud of it.” But what do the residents of these small towns and villages think about their home’s namesake? Mr Rombout says they are interested. “Most of them have never been abroad. But I would say they are more interested in Dutch heritage than in Amsterdam heritage. Because Amsterdam unfortunately has this reputation of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and that’s not really the image they like in the countryside here in America.”
The film is actually the second part in a trilogy of Amsterdam-based feature-length documentaries. The first, Amsterdam via Amsterdam, told the story of a sea expedition between two islands named Amsterdam at the opposite ends of the earth.
The third film, yet to come, will be called Amsterdam Black & White. Mr Rombout describes it as “a double portrait of a small village in South Africa in Transvaal – of course black – and a small village in the North of Holland which is also named Amsterdam which is of course completely white.”
As the slogan goes, I ♥ Amsterdam, all of them. Amsterdam, the Netherlands is the best!
(There is also a small town in Texas called 'Nederland' and 'luling'..the latter, only the Dutch understand that word.))
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
What is the singularity?
The term singularity describes the moment when a civilization changes so much that its rules and technologies are incomprehensible to previous generations. Think of it as a point-of-no-return in history. Most thinkers believe the singularity will be jump-started by extremely rapid technological and scientific changes. These changes will be so fast, and so profound, that every aspect of our society will be transformed, from our bodies and families to our governments and economies.
A good way to understand the singularity is to imagine explaining the internet to somebody living in the year 1200. Your frames of reference would be so different that it would be almost impossible to convey how the internet works, let alone what it means to our society. You are on the other side of what seems like a singularity to our person from the Middle Ages. But from the perspective of a future singularity, we are the medieval ones. Advances in science and technology mean that singularities might happen over periods much shorter than 800 years. And nobody knows for sure what the hell they'll bring.
Talking about the singularity is a paradox, because it is an attempt to imagine something that is by definition unimaginable to people in the present day. But that hasn't stopped hundreds of science fiction writers and futurists from doing it.
Where does the term "singularity" come from?
Science fiction writer Vernor Vinge popularized the idea of the singularity in his 1993 essay "Technological Singularity." There he described the singularity this way:
It is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules. As we move closer to this point, it will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace. Yet when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown.
Specifically, Vinge pinned the Singularity to the emergence of artificial intelligence. "We are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth," he wrote. "The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence."
Author Ken MacLeod has a character describe the singularity as "the Rapture for nerds" in his novel The Cassini Division, and the turn of phrase stuck, becoming a popular way to describe the singularity. (Note: MacLeod didn't actually coin this phrase - he says he got the phrase from a satirical essay in an early-1990s issue of Extropy.) Catherynne Valente argued recently for an expansion of the term to include what she calls "personal singularities," moments where a person is altered so much that she becomes unrecognizable to her former self. This definition could include posthuman experiences.
What technologies are likely to cause the next singularity?
As mentioned earlier, artificial intelligence is the technology that most people believe will usher in the singularity. Authors like Vinge and singulatarian Ray Kurzweil think AI will usher in the singularity for a twofold reason. First, creating a new form of intelligent life will completely change our understanding of ourselves as humans. Second, AI will allow us to develop new technologies so much faster than we could before that our civilization will transform rapidly. A corollary to AI is the development of robots who can work alongside - and beyond - humans.
Another singularity technology is the self-replicating molecular machine, also called autonomous nanobots, "gray goo," and a host of other things. Basically the idea is that if we can build machines that manipulate matter at the atomic level, we can control our world in the most granular way imaginable. And if these machines can work on their own? Who knows what will happen. For a dark vision of this singularity, see Greg Bear's novel Blood Music or Bill Joy's essay "The Future Doesn't Need Us"; for a more optimistic vision, Rudy Rucker's Postsingular.
And finally, a lot of singulatarian thought is devoted to the idea that synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and other life sciences will eventually give us control of the human genome. Two world-altering events would come out of that. One, we could engineer new forms of life and change the course of human evolution in one generation. Two, it's likely that control over our genomes will allow us to tinker with the mechanisms that make us age, thus dramatically increasing our lifespans. Many futurists, from Kurzweil and Steward Brand, to scientists like Aubrey De Gray, have suggested that extreme human longevity (in the hundreds of years) is a crucial part of the singularity.
Have we had a singularity before?
The singularity is usually anticipated as a future transformation, but it can also be used to describe past transformations like the one in our example earlier with the person from 1200. The industrial revolution could be said to represent a singularity, as could the information age.
In 1992, Vinge predicted that "in 30 years" we would have artificial intelligence. We've still got 12 years to go - it could happen! In his groundbreaking 2000 essay for Wired, "The Future Doesn't Need Us," technologist Joy opined:
The enabling breakthrough to assemblers seems quite likely within the next 20 years. Molecular electronics - the new subfield of nanotechnology where individual molecules are circuit elements - should mature quickly and become enormously lucrative within this decade, causing a large incremental investment in all nanotechnologies.
And in the 2005 book The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil says the singularity will come "within several decades."
Longevity scientist De Gray says that our biotech is advanced enough that a child born in 2010 might live to be 150, or 500 years old. MIT AI researcher Rodney Brooks writes in his excellent book Flesh and Machines that it's "unlikely that we will be able to simply download our brains into a computer anytime soon." Though Brooks does add:
The lives of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be as unrecognizable to us as our use of information technology in all its forms would be incomprehensible to someone form the dawn of the twentieth century.
So when will the singularity really happen? It depends on your perspective. But it always seem like it's just a few decades off.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Australia's assimilation of different cultures was "genius" because it encourages immigrants to integrate as citizens rather than behave simply as "guest workers".
"To me, multiculturalism is a bit like a marriage. It has its stresses and strains," Bowen told the conservative Sydney Institute think-tank late on Wednesday.
"We have to remind each other occasionally that we are better off with each other. It takes nurturing; it takes care. "It is in that spirit tonight that I quite proudly proclaim that Australian multiculturalism has worked.
"That not only has Australia benefited from the immigration of those who come from diverse backgrounds, but we have also benefited from the cultures they have brought and sustained in this, their new homeland."
Bowen's strident defence comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a "muscular liberalism" to force the country's diverse population to coexist more closely as a society.
Chancellor Angela Merkel last year declared that German multiculturalism has "utterly failed", while French President Nicolas Sarkozy also called his country's policies a "failure".
The debate in Europe has heated up in recent years with the onset of homegrown Islamic extremism, but Bowen said some countries had deeper-rooted problems.
"Germany has regarded immigration as an economic necessity. A requirement for guest workers has driven an economic immigration policy," he said. "Never has a German government proposed a policy of respect for existing cultures where they do not clash with basic German values.'' He added: "France's resistance to a formal policy of multiculturalism has not encouraged greater integration of immigrant societies but, on the contrary, it has bred resentment, separatism and violence."
Australia has absorbed generational waves of immigrants, from Chinese during the 1800s Gold Rush to Vietnamese, Italians, Greeks, Eastern Europeans and finally large numbers of Indian students in the past few years. But immigration remains a political flashpoint with intense debate over the steady arrival of rickety boats carrying asylum-seekers from poor countries. Last Thursday, conservative opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison faced calls to resign after he reportedly urged the shadow cabinet to play on fears over Muslim migrants in its attacks on the government.
Australia has an uneasy relationship with its Islamic community. Sydney's Cronulla Beach saw riots in 2005 when mobs of whites attacked Lebanese Australians in a bid to "reclaim the beach".
Dozens of Muslim men have been jailed in Australia under strict anti-terrorism laws which also saw the wrongful imprisonment of an Indian-born doctor following failed attacks in London and Glasgow in 2007.
Bowen said it was "inevitable" that Muslim migration would be questioned "in the age of concern about terrorism inspired by extremist Islam" and condemned "values such as Sharia law or religious intolerance or violence". It is right for Australians to be concerned about extremism, whether Islamic or otherwise," he said.
But Australia was also engulfed in controversy in 2009, when a spate of attacks and robberies targeting Indian students drew street protests in Sydney and Melbourne and accusations of racism in Indian media.
But its patchwork society remains generally harmonious, despite occasional flare-ups. Last week, TV personality Eddie McGuire was condemned for calling diverse western Sydney the "land of the falafel".
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Muhsin Hendricks is visiting the Netherlands for a week in which he will give a workshop for Muslim gays, attend a congress for migrant organisations and speak with Christian organisations about the acceptance of homosexuality.
The South African understands that people are surprised by a Muslim imam who is openly gay and about to marry another man. Especially as homosexuality in Africa is still a taboo. The paper compares the scenario to “a poor-quality B film”. Mr Hendricks admits that the fact that his boyfriend belongs to another religion does make things difficult, not least because his boyfriend has not come out yet. That is why for now they will only have a “Muslim” wedding and not an official one.
Muhsin Hendricks studied the ultra-orthodox denomination Salafism. He explains the sins in Bible and Qur’an stories, like Sodom and Gomorrah, refer to the sexual abuse of men who rape other men and not to homosexuality as such. He says there are Qur’an verses which describe “men who are not attracted to women”. His message is simple he wants to persuade Muslim homosexuals that there is nothing wrong with them.
Muhsin Hendricks is also known for Jihad for Love
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Wednesday's call for the mass rally came as clashes erupted between regime backers and "apparent" supporters of the opposition at a funeral attended by thousands in Tehran of a student killed in anti-government protests of Monday.
"The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence," the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organises regime-backed programmes, said Wednesday.
It said those joining the rally will "scream out their hatred, wrath and disgust against the savage crimes and evil movements of sedition leaders, their Monafeghin (hypocrites) and their monarchist allies."
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been in the firing line since they called a rally on Monday in support of Arab uprisings but which quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations and ended in clashes that left two people dead and several wounded.
Both are under de facto house arrest and Karoubi's son, Hossein, said Wednesday, in a statement on his father's Sahamnews.org website, that "security forces are currently occupying my house... after breaking into the building...they are searching my and my family's personal belongings."
Iranian officials accuse arch-foes the United States, Britain and Israel of influencing the opposition chiefs, but supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday their efforts will fail.
"When people are in the arena, it (US) cannot do anything against the determined will (of the people)", he said, referring to the United States and indicating that Iran's Islamic regime had strong support of masses.
Iran's prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie warned that action would be taken against Mousavi and Karroubi, a day after lawmakers demanded they be executed.
"The heads of seditions are the people who should be punished for their criminal acts and God willing actions in this regard are being taken," Mohseni Ejeie said, according to Fars news agency.
"People have given them their punishment, but people also have a legitimate right to demand (punishment) from the judiciary which we hope we would be able to fulfill."
The authorities were infuriated when thousands of anti-government protesters took to streets of Tehran Monday, leading to clashes with riot-police.
Aside from the two deaths, officials reported several people injured, including nine members of the security forces.
The protests, the first anti-government demonstration since February 11 last year, took place despite Mousavi and Karroubi not being able to join them in the streets after their houses were blockaded by the security forces.
The two came out fighting on Wednesday, issuing statements slamming the authorities and praising demonstrators.
Karroubi said in a statement posted on his website, he was ready to "pay any price."
"I declare that I am not afraid of any kind of threat and as a soldier of this great nation for the past almost 50 years, I am ready to pay any price," he said.
"I am warning that before it is too late, take out the buds from your ears and listen to the voice of the people. Forcing violence and opposing peoples' wishes will last only for a certain time," the cleric said.
Mousavi praised on his own website Kaleme.com the protesters for Monday's rally which he said was "great achievement for the great people of a great nation and for the Green Movement."
Tension sparked by Monday's protests continued to ripple on Wednesday when reports said regime backers clashed with opposition supporters the Tehran funeral.
"Students and people participating in the funeral of martyr Sane'e Zhale in Tehran Fine Arts University are clashing with a few apparently from the sedition movement," the state television website said.
Zhale, a Sunni Kurd, became the centre of a dispute in his death with regime-backers insisting he was member of the volunteer Islamist Basij militia, while the opposition said he came from their ranks.
In the meantime, the Turkish President Gül was in Iran with a huge business delegation the last three days, busy securing some projects.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Hena Begum (pictured left) was accused of having an affair with a married cousin and was punished by a sharia court set up in her village of Chamta. A local Islamic cleric ordered the public lashing which took place last week. During the lashing, Hena collapsed and died in hospital.
An initial post-mortem found no injury marks on her body, but after human rights groups in Bangladesh had asked the case to be taken to the High Court, a second post-mortem was carried out. This found Hena had died of internal bleeding, which prompted a fresh police inquiry.
Although the case has led to an international outcry against this kind of violence against young women and girls under sharia law, Hena’s case is not an isolated one. Bangladesh is known as a moderate Islamic country where sharia rule is illegal, but in some parts of the country small hardline Islamic groups persist in using the strict laws.
Human rights groups say it’s mostly women and girls who suffer from the local sharia courts. It is rather common for women and girls to be publicly whipped for ‘crimes’ such as adultery, despite a Bangladesh High Court ruling last July which outlawed punishments issued under religious edict.
Some rape victims have even been lashed for being a ‘participant’ in their assault.
Human rights ambassador
The poor human rights record for women in Bangladesh was highlighted last year when Dutch human rights ambassador Arjan Hamburger visited the country as part of a UN fact-finding mission. In his report, Mr Hamburger noted that violence against women and girls is a major problem in Bangladesh and he urged the government to take the problem very seriously.
Mr Hamburger also said that a general change of attitude towards women in Bangladeshi society is vital to address this problem.
In Hena Begum’s case, several men who carried out the punishment have now been arrested, including the cousin with whom she had the alleged affair. The Islamic elder who presided over the sharia court is also in custody.
Human rights groups say the government is apprehensive of prosecuting fundamentalist Islamic elders, as they do not wish to fall out of favour with their electorate in rural areas where these elders are generally accepted.
Dil se ruksat hui koi khwahish,
Giriya ye besabab nahin aata.
Door baitha gubar-e-Meer us se,
Ishq bin ye adab nahin aata.
Meer taki Meer
I have let go of some desires,
My tears are not without reason.
I am keeping my distance,
Without love where would this discipline come from?
Monday, February 14, 2011
“Increasing loutishness, criminality and the social problems surrounding the Dutch multicultural society: more and more Dutch people have had enough of our damp and overfull country and are deciding to leave. And this year’s Emigration Fair at the weekend in Amsterdam was busier than ever as a result, the paper concludes. More than 11,000 visitors turned up to browse the world looking for a new home.
Some figures. Most Dutch emigrants head for neighbouring countries Germany, Belgium and the UK. The US is fourth on the list, followed by the Netherlands Antilles. France comes in just seventh, after Poland.
Fresh air, plenty of space, and a similar culture are the appeals of Sweden, at 16th on the list, says one emigrant at the fair. But she doesn’t have much good to say about her fellow Dutch emigrants in the country. “These people don't integrate into Swedish society. They live off their Dutch social security benefit, and after six years they don’t speak a word of Swedish,” aDutch woman in Sweden tells: “And supposedly they all left because they were fed up with Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands.”
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
“I've come to the frightening conclusion that
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It's my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power
to make a child's life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides
whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and
a child humanized or de-humanized."
~ Dr. Haim Ginott
This quote was sent to me in email by my teacher. Read about him here.
Friday, February 11, 2011
"We will soon see a new Middle East materialising without America and the 'Zionist' regime and there will be no room for world arrogance (the West) in it," Ahmadinejad told the cheering crowds, who gathered despite the cold and cloudy weather.
In a speech directed in good part at the Arab uprisings, Ahmadinejad said Egyptians needed to be careful of the United States.
"They (the United States) have adopted a friendly face and say 'we are friends of the people of North Africa and Arab countries', but be watchful and united. You will be victorious... but your path of resistance is a lengthy one," he said.
"The Iranian nation is your friend and it is your right to freely choose your path. The Iranian nation backs this right of yours."
Iran, which has no diplomatic ties with Egypt, has backed mass protests there, now in their 18th straight day, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urging the people to establish an Islamic regime in the Arab world's most populous nation.
The expressions of support came despite the deadly crackdown launched by the Iranian authorities when hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Tehran and other cities to protest against official results giving Ahmadinejad a second term in a June 2009 presidential election.
Dozens of Iranians were killed, hundreds wounded and scores arrested by security forces during the protests which shook the pillars of the Islamic regime.
The Iranian authorities have also been jamming the BBC's Persian-language television channel, the broadcaster said on Friday, linking the move to its coverage of the protests in Egypt.
Ahmadinejad appealed to the messianic beliefs of Iran's majority Shiite faith, saying the world was witnessing a revolution overseen by Imam Mehdi -- its 12th imam who disappeared as a five-year-old in the 10th century and who the faithful believe will return before judgement day. (a cult sect!!!)
"The final move has begun. We are in the middle of a world revolution managed by this dear (12th Imam). A great awakening is unfolding. One can witness the hand of the Imam in managing it," said Ahmadinejad, wearing his trademark jacket.
He hit out at the United States, calling it an "accomplice to the oppression of the Zionist regime."
"If you want people to trust you, first of all do not interfere in affairs of the region, including in Tunisia and Egypt. Let them be by themselves," he said.
"Come and take away the Zionist regime which is the source of all crimes... take it away and liberate the region. Free the region and give it to the people and take this regime, which is the child of Satan (the United States), out."
Chants of "Egyptians, Tunisians, your uprisings are just and we are with you," and "Hosni Mubarak 'mubarak' (congratulations) on the uprising of your people!" rang through the streets as the crowds marked the anniversary of the 1979 revolution which toppled shah Mohammad Reza, a key US ally.
Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington were broken off soon after and remain so to this day.
During last year's anniversary rally, Iran's opposition attempted to stage anti-government demonstrations which were crushed by the authorities.
Since then opposition supporters have stayed off Tehran streets but their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have sought permission to hold a rally on Monday in support of the Arab uprisings.
Its time the world understand what a lunatic (but dangerous one) Ahmadinejad is with his apocylips view of the world. He for certain wants to help to make his 'prophecy' come true...
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Why is the tribunal important?
It is the first ever fully international terrorism tribunal. The reason the case is not being brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague is because this court only deals with cases involving genocide and crimes against humanity, and not terrorism. The Hariri tribunal is jointly financed by the United Nations and the state of Lebanon.
Who is on trial?
The people or persons behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri will be tried. The perpetrators are almost certainly members of the extremist Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The formal charge is secret. As is the identity of those to be tried. A so-called 'pre-trial' judge will decide whether or not there is sufficient evidence to start the trial. Only then will the suspects be arrested and the charges made public. This information is being withheld because if it were made public it could hamper the investigation and arrest of the suspects. Proceedings in the Yugoslavia tribunal was made more difficult by this kind of information coming out before the trial.
Hezbollah has asked the new Lebanese government to withdraw its support for the tribunal.
Is the trial still in with a chance of success?
Hezbollah regards the tribunal to be a political trial, set up by the United States and Israel to put the organisation in a bad light. Last month, the organisation withdrew from government, forcing new elections. As a result, Rafik Hariri’s son, Saad al-Hariri, who was prime minister has been succeeded by Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati. Hezbollah has asked the new prime minister to withdraw his support from the tribunal.
However, I do not think it is likely that this will happen.
The Lebanese government will not actually withdraw its support from the tribunal, because the government is cooperating with the UN Security Council. The tribunal was set up on the basis of an agreement between the Security Council and the Lebanese government in 2006. It already exists and will certainly continue. However, there are fears that naming possible Hezbollah members could lead to increased tension and fighting could break out in Lebanon.”
What is the objective of the tribunal?
As a result of its turbulent political history, Lebanon has a long list of political assassinations, for which in almost every case no-one has been prosecuted. The Hariri tribunal has to break this pattern. The prosecution of the people behind the assassination is meant to act as a deterrent.
Why is the term terrorism only being defined now?
The international tribunal is a unique project. It will partly be based on Lebanese law and partly on international law. This is why all kinds of terms have to be redefined..
Terms like conspiracy, terrorism and assassination have not been adequately defined in international law. So the terms have to be clearly defined first in consultation with the judges, the defence, and the prosecution. Only once this has been done, can the charges be formulated and made public.”
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
In order to reverse female circumcision, the surgeon first has to see whether there is still healthy tissue under the scars.
The reconstruction of the clitoris involves drawing the internal part outward and covering it with mucous membrane from the inside of the vagina. The injuries to the labia are covered with skin from the buttocks.
Isaad underwent a far-reaching form of genital mutilation, sometimes called pharaonic circumcision or infibulation, in which the clitoris and the labia are removed. In Sudan having your daughter circumcised is almost compulsory, she explains. “If you don’t, the girl will be bullied at school and her parents will become social outcasts.”
The ritual is barely a matter for discussion in Sudan despite the risks involved and a legal ban on infibulations, in force since 1946.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 90 percent of Sudanese women have been circumcised. If a girl survives the mutilation, it affects her entire life, both psychologically and physically. The procedure leaves her with such a narrow opening that urinating and menstruating become difficult.
Isaad lost her first baby during childbirth because she did not receive the special help she needed.
She speaks candidly about her physical mutilation and its effects on her sex life. “I’m often reluctant to have sex,” she confides. “Sometimes I manage to reach a climax, but only because my husband helps me. We try hard to create the right mood.”
But she is not content with only having occasional orgasms. “I would like to feel complete, both physically and emotionally. I want to overcome my inferiority complex.” She is considering having an operation to reverse her circumcision.
Since 2010, an Amsterdam hospital has specialised in reconstructive surgery for circumcised women. The operations are a relatively new development in plastic surgery. The hospital team therefore works closely with Pharos, a Dutch knowledge centre specialising in refugee and migrant healthcare, and the Dutch gynaecology association (NVOG).
Dr Refaat Karim, the man behind the surgical team, has now carried out two of the operations, the first of their kind in the Netherlands. There is little medical literature on the subject and the long-term effects on the patient are unknown.
Quality of life is expected to improve, but this will probably vary according to the individual. And not every woman is a suitable candidate for surgery. In some cases it’s considered irresponsible to operate for medical or psychological reasons.
Deciding whether or not to have the operation is a tough call for Isaad. Despite the problems she encounters due to her mutilation, reconstruction is still very much taboo, even among well-educated women from Darfur. She cannot even contemplate getting any support from her family in Sudan. “They would never approve. I wouldn’t even tell them.”
One of the women operated on in Amsterdam is a friend of Isaad. She says she feels better and is now able to enjoy her sex life. But Isaad continues to have her doubts.
“I’m afraid to lose what it’s taken me so much trouble to achieve, especially in my sex life. A doctor in Belgium is already performing these operations, but they’re not always a success. It’s a 50-50 chance. What if the operation goes wrong, or if I end up not feeling anything anymore?”
I a curious what the PM of Turkey his opinion about this since he's a good friend with the Sudanese President (and war criminal)
Saturday, February 5, 2011
It seems a bit strange that a Dutch bank should be concerned about honey bees. Director of the Rabobank Dirk Duijzer explains that his company always takes a keen interest in issues concerning food production. The bank, which started off as a bank for farmers, is seriously worried about the shortage of bees and the consequences for the agricultural and food sectors. The bank has joined forces with scientists, businesses and the government in an attempt to change the tide. Dirk Duijzer:
“This means that we always investigate important matters which occur. This may be a shortage of water, or the increase of the world population from six to nine billion. We have also examined a new issue: the numbers of bee populations worldwide. This is connected with problems large almond growers we met in California were experiencing. For years, they had been facing low pollination results.”
Bee populations are in decline because they are affected by a varroa mite. This mite weakens a bee colony, which eventually dies. The insects that do survive have to work extra hard because people want to eat more and more luxury products, not only in the West, but also in developing economies.
As the demand for coffee, nuts and fruit grows, so does the size of the plantations. According to honey bee expert Tjeerd Blacquiere from the University of Wageningen, that’s the problem. The plantations are becoming so large that the bees can’t reach all the flowers in the area. Take large-scale coffee plantations.
“For the pollination of coffee there need to be different kind of pollinators. So it's not only whether there are enough of them to visit the flowers that matters. The result is better when one type of bee visits the crop first and then another type. This improves pollination. This can only happen if there are enough little corners of forest left around the plantation where the insects can hide and find enough additional flowers. They need this to live.”
Mr Blacquiere thinks in the future agriculture should be organised on a smaller scale. Things went completely wrong in Brazil:
“Lots of melons are grown in Brazil, watermelons too. Pollination used to take place all by itself, but plantations have become so large that it’s become a problem. Pollination along the edges of the fields is fine, but in the middle of the fields in particular, it just doesn’t take place. Pollinators do not usually fly very far. The creatures just don’t have a large range, so large-scale pollination is not possible.”
And there is another problem with large plantations. Relatively more plant protection products (PPPs) are used. Sometimes they are harmful to bees. Take the cultivation of green beans in Kenya, where beans are grown for the European market.
“Well, in the cultivation of beans, they have to look good, that's what we are used to, and that means plant protection products are used. Plant protection products are tested worldwide with European honey bees in mind. We do not even know whether the tests mean PPPs are safe for the bees in Kenya. They may be much more sensitive, but they could be less sensitive, we just don’t know."
According to Tjeerd Blacquiere, too little attention is being paid to the problem. He thinks much more research is needed to find the cause and possible solutions to secure food production in the future.
.Meanwhile the Rabobank wants to continue to play a role. Especially, now that food shortages are leading to riots, as we have seen recently in the Middle East