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Current Topic: International Relations

The US is concerned about detention of Chinese human rights activists
Topic: International Relations 4:03 am EST, Mar  4, 2006

The following is from a State Department press release, which I don't have a direct link for. I'm on several mailing lists that pump this stuff at me...

The United States is concerned deeply by reports of China's alleged detention of human rights activists participating in hunger strikes over the recent beating of a Chinese human rights lawyer, says State Department spokesman Adam Ereli.

"Individuals should not be detained for the peaceful expression of political views, "Ereli said during a February 27 press briefing.

According to media reports, Chinese authorities detained several human rights protesters, including Beijing AIDS activist Hu Jia, over hunger strikes in support of a protest launched on February 6 by Beijing-based lawyer Gao Zhisheng in response to the beating of a human-rights activist outside a police station in Guangzhou.

"The mistreatment of lawyers seeking to represent their clients undermines China's efforts to promote the rule of law," Ereli said.

The UK Guardian has some coverage:

A Chinese lawyer whose hunger strike in protest of violence against dissidents galvanized other activists into a rare nationwide show of support was detained by authorities on Saturday, the lawyer and a friend said.

There is also coverage in the Washington Post:

The Communist Party routinely tightens security before the annual meeting of the rubber-stamp National People's Congress, but it appears to be taking special precautions ahead of this year's session, which begins Sunday, in response to rising social unrest in the countryside and an increasingly assertive campaign by civil rights activists in several cities.

The crackdown began in mid-February after a prominent Beijing lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, staged a two-day hunger strike to draw attention to the beating of a fellow human rights activist, Yang Maodong, by thugs who appeared to have been hired by police. Gao said he stopped eating to protest the government's growing use of "Mafia tactics" to suppress efforts by citizens to protect their legal rights.

Legal rights are a hard thing for a people to keep nailed down. We have been having poor results with doing it here too. Cisco, take note of this:

News of Gao's hunger strike spread quickly on the Internet, and supporters in as many as 15 provinces soon agreed to take turns fasting in solidarity... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

After Neoconservatism
Topic: International Relations 8:04 pm EST, Feb 19, 2006

Fukuyama has a new book. It goes on sale in March.

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly.

What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world — ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

I'll be looking forward to this...

After Neoconservatism - Berlusconi: I'm Christ of politics - Feb 12, 2006
Topic: International Relations 12:46 pm EST, Feb 12, 2006

First it was Napoleon. Now it is Jesus Christ. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has compared himself to both, prompting the open scorn of his political opponents and even the quietly raised eyebrows of his coalition partners.

"I am the Jesus Christ of politics," Italian media quoted him as saying at a dinner with supporters on Saturday night. "I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."

Berlusconi is quite a character...

He is not only the current Prime Minister, he is Italy's richest man, and he owns most of Italy's media. His political party, which he founded, is named "Forza Italia" (translation: Go Italy), after the chant used to support a local footbal team, which he owns. When not running the government or making billions in advertising, insurance, food and construction, he deals with the fallout from getting caught bribing judges. - Berlusconi: I'm Christ of politics - Feb 12, 2006

Daily Kos: Muslim Cartoon Controversy: What the Media Isn't Telling You
Topic: International Relations 6:21 pm EST, Feb  9, 2006

The most recent Hajj occurred during the first half of January 2006.

There were a number of stampedes, called "tragedies" in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims.

These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media's radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons.

There rarely is a clearer case of "Death to the West" being used to divert attention away from local problems.

Daily Kos: Muslim Cartoon Controversy: What the Media Isn't Telling You

Mohammed Dance
Topic: International Relations 1:56 am EST, Feb  9, 2006

Follow this link.

For great justice!

Update: The original Hamster Dance, and its eventual mutation to the Jesus Dance. Celebrate the evolution, growth, and diversity of mutually supporting memes. Free your expression.

Mohammed Dance

We are all Danes now - The Boston Globe
Topic: International Relations 8:59 am EST, Feb  6, 2006

Hindus consider it sacrilegious to eat meat from cows, so when a Danish supermarket ran a sale on beef and veal last fall, Hindus everywhere reacted with outrage. India recalled its ambassador to Copenhagen, and Danish flags were burned in Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi. A Hindu mob in Sri Lanka severely beat two employees of a Danish-owned firm, and demonstrators in Nepal chanted: ''War on Denmark! Death to Denmark!" In many places, shops selling Dansk china or Lego toys were attacked by rioters, and two Danish embassies were firebombed.

It didn't happen, of course. Hindus may consider it odious to use cows as food, but they do not resort to boycotts, threats, and violence when non-Hindus eat hamburger or steak. They do not demand that everyone abide by the strictures of Hinduism and avoid words and deeds that Hindus might find upsetting. The same is true of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons: They don't lash out in violence when their religious sensibilities are offended. They certainly don't expect their beliefs to be immune from criticism, mockery, or dissent.

That anything so mild could trigger a reaction so crazed -- riots, death threats, kidnappings, flag-burnings -- speaks volumes about the chasm that separates the values of the civilized world from those in too much of the Islamic world. Freedom of the press, the marketplace of ideas, the right to skewer sacred cows: Militant Islam knows none of this. And if the jihadis get their way, it will be swept aside everywhere by the censorship and intolerance of sharia.

This situation has completely gotten out of control. Several embassies and consulates have been burned down. There have been riots in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iran. Could someone please tell me how the word "reasonable" translates into Arabic? It it a commonly used word? What's the connotation associated with it? Is it a sign of weakness or something?

This is not how to get taken seriously. This is how to get regarded as impossible to deal with.

We are all Danes now - The Boston Globe - Muslim protesters target embassies over cartoons - Feb 4, 2006
Topic: International Relations 7:08 pm EST, Feb  4, 2006

Muslim demonstrators in Damascus, Syria, torched the Norwegian Embassy and the building housing Denmark's embassy, because newspapers in those countries had published what they consider blasphemous depictions of Islam's Prophet Mohammed.

Norwegian ambassador to Syria, Svein Sevj, confirmed the fire but said the embassy staff was safe. He said the embassy had asked Syria for more security but did not receive it. - Muslim protesters target embassies over cartoons - Feb 4, 2006

RE: What Hamas Is Seeking
Topic: International Relations 1:53 pm EST, Jan 31, 2006

There's historic precedence for this. Everyone knows SinnFein is the political wing of the IRA, and this has been a bone of contention for some for decades. As Winston Churchill once said "To jaw-jaw is always better than war-war," and the political solution in Ireland has been better than the continued bombings and riots that characterized Ulster for years.

I fully agree with this assertion. Having Hamas join the political process is way better than remaining a terror group. However, I have serious doubts that they can follow-through like the IRA/SinnFein did.

This article in Foreign Affairs tackles the issue. Its written by a Brigadier General in the Israel Defense Forces, so take that into account, but it makes some valid points about how its not likely to happen like it did in Ireland, and is likely representative of the Israeli and US State Department perspective.

The statement from Mousa Abu Marzook sounds good, but it also has that "telling you want you want to hear" propaganda vibe dripping from it. I'm not sure if it can even remotely be taken seriously, by anyone other than a Palestinian public at large, which may be in the process of being further marginalized, pushed into the dark, and manipulated for all we can tell right now.

I don't feel I have enough information to form a good opinion about if Hamas will de-radicalize. Since there is nothing I can do about the situation personally, I'm actually thankful to be only watching it play out, being able to keep a (somewhat) open mind, and not having to form a firm opinion. Being in the role of making decisions regarding these issues is impossibly tough if honestly holding to a pragmatic perspective.

There is a seious problem in policy here. There is the statement that "we do not negotiate with terrorists," which conventionally meant, you take hostages, we aren't going to negotiate for their release. The current batch of asshats running Washington have extended this to mean we don't talk to them period. This is not an approach that has been taken before and one that ensures the "War or Terror" NEVER ends. At that level it is neither something that will reach a state of "peace" nor is it winnable.

This situation, and other similar ones, will likely present a resolution to that policy problem. We may not negotiate with terrorists, but we do with controlling political parties. Since Hamas now has control of the PA, we will certainly negotiate with them. This can be used to provide incentive for extremist groups to get involved in the political process. The local political process can regulate to what degree disarming is necessary. The internal dynamics of a given nation-state can figu... [ Read More (0.4k in body) ]

RE: What Hamas Is Seeking

What Hamas Is Seeking
Topic: International Relations 11:26 am EST, Jan 31, 2006

In an op-ed in today's Washington Post, Mousa Abu Marzook, a political spokesman for Hamas, explains their victory in the recent elections. Can we take this seriously?

Alleviating the debilitative conditions of occupation, and not an Islamic state, is at the heart of our mandate (with reform and change as its lifeblood).

A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity.

We do desire dialogue.

The Post describes the author thusly:

The writer is deputy political bureau chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). He has a U.S. doctorate in engineering and was indicted in the United States in 2004 as a co-conspirator on racketeering and money-laundering charges in connection with activities on behalf of Hamas dating to the early 1990s, before the organization was placed on the list of terrorist groups. He was deported to Jordan in 1997.

Note, as well, that "Paradise Now" has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

What Hamas Is Seeking

US Internet companies snub Congressional hearing - Yahoo! News
Topic: International Relations 11:14 pm EST, Jan 28, 2006

The leading US-based Internet companies are showing little interest in attending a Congressional briefing on worries that the firms are bending to the wishes of China's censors.

We have heard from Microsoft that no representative from the company will attend the briefing. So, with Cisco Systems, this makes two companies that have confirmed they're opting out," Lynne Weil, spokeswoman for caucus co-chairman Democratic Representative Tom Lantos told AFP.

As the briefing date gets closer, "others are still unfortunately keeping us in suspense," she said. "It is mystifying why these companies would not want to take part after all this is an opportunity to clear their names," Weil said.

"It is a sham that the American Internet firms are refusing to be accountable to US Congress and at the same time working hand in glove with the Chinese authorities," said T. Kumar, Amnesty's advocacy director for Asia.

"It is also a paradox that while US multinational companies are for example prohibited from doing any business or trade with Myanmar following human rights sanctions there, Google and others are colluding with the Chinese government in human rights abuses," he charged.

The reasoning behind this paradox is simple, Myanmar doesn't have China's economic growth. These companies know damn well that a large portion of their future growth is dependent on being involved with China's "economic miracle".

This unwillingness by major Internet companies to be involved in Congressional activities pertaining to human rights issues should result in less government sales, contracts, or something that hurts them in the pocket. This would not provide much leverage with Google or Yahoo, but it certainly would with Cisco and Microsoft. However, I doubt the legislature has the balls to do it.

US Internet companies snub Congressional hearing - Yahoo! News

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