Thursday, February 25, 2010

Photographers protest in Trafalgar Square



Thousands of photographers gathered in Trafalgar Square to protest against police stop-and-search tactics.


Musical Innerlube: Shadowfax - New Electric India

Harvard fellow calls for genocidal measure to curb Palestinian births

From Political Theatrics:

A fellow at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Martin Kramer, has called for “the West” to take measures to curb the births of Palestinians, a proposal that appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide.

Kramer, who is also a fellow at the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), made the call early this month in a speech at Israel's Herzliya conference, a video of which is posted on his blog (”Superfluous young men,7 February 2010).

In the speech Kramer rejected common views that Islamist “radicalization” is caused by US policies such as support for Israel, or propping up despotic dictatorships, and stated that it was inherent in the demography of Muslim societies such as Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip. Too many children, he argued, leads to too many “superfluous young men” who then become violent radicals.

Kramer proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed, and alleged that this would “happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status.”

Due to the Israeli blockade, the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza are now dependent on UN food aid. Neither the UN, nor any other agencies, provide Palestinians with specifically “pro-natal subsidies.” Kramer appeared to be equating any humanitarian assistance at all with inducement for Palestinians to reproduce.

He added, “Israel's present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim — undermine the Hamas regime — but if they also break Gaza's runaway population growth, and there is some evidence that they have, that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.” This, he claimed, would be treating the issue of Islamic radicalization “at its root.”

The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, created in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, defines genocide to include measures “intended to prevent births within” a specific “national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

The Weatherhead Center at Harvard describes itself as “the largest international research center within Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences.” In addition to his positions at Harvard and WINEP, Kramer is “president-designate” of Shalem College in Jerusalem, a far-right Zionist institution that aspires to be the “College of the Jewish People.”

Pro-Israel speakers from the United States often participate in the the Herzliya conference, an influential annual gathering of Israel's political and military establishment. This year's conference was also addressed by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and, in a first for a Palestinian official, by Salam Fayyad, appointed prime minister of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Kramer's call to prevent Palestinian births reflects a long-standing Israeli and Zionist concern about a so-called “demographic threat” to Israel, as Palestinians are on the verge of outnumbering Israeli Jews within Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories combined.

Such extreme racist views have been aired at the Herzliya conference in the past. In 2003, for example, Dr. Yitzhak Ravid, an Israeli government armaments expert, called on Israel to “implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation to its Muslim population,” a reference to the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Christians face sectarian violence in South Asia

Pakistani Christian Beaten for Refusing to Convert to Islam

Brothers converted by Muslim cleric who raised them leave him for dead.

KALLUR KOT, Pakistan, February 22 (CDN) — The four older Muslim brothers of a 26-year-old Christian beat him unconscious here earlier this month because he refused their enticements to convert to Islam, the victim told Compass.
 
Riaz Masih, whose Christian parents died when he was a boy, said his continual refusal to convert infuriated his siblings and the Muslim cleric who raised them, Moulvi Peer Akram-Ullah. On Feb. 8, he said, his brothers ransacked his house in this Punjab Province town 233 kilometers (145 miles) southwest of Islamabad.
 
“They threatened that it was the breaking point now, and that I must convert right now or face death,” Masih said. “They said killing an infidel is not a sin, instead it's righteousness in the sight of Allah almighty.”

Masih begged them to give him a few minutes to consider converting and then tried to escape, but they grabbed him and beat him with bamboo clubs, leaving him for dead, he said.

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Punjab: clashes between Christians and Hindu extremists, Protestant church burned


Authorities in Batala, a town of Punjab, have partially removed curfew after clashes broke out last February 20 between Hindu extremists and the Christian minority. To violence was sparked by the publication of a cartoon with a picture of Jesus raising a beer in one hand and holding a cigarette in the other. The chief minister of Punjab condemns the blasphemous image and promises an iron fist against anyone who "foments sectarian hatred." Bishop Anil Couto, Bishop of Jalandhar, invites the faithful "to peace and brotherhood." 

The cartoon, published by a publisher in Delhi, has sparked protests from the Christian community of Batala, a town in the district of Gurdaspur in Punjab. On 20 February the city streets were the scene of violent clashes between Hindus and Christians, who wanted the closure of shops and businesses. Activists of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena - Hindu extremist groups - waged a guerrilla war on the Christians, injuring to 10 people, damaging several shops and the burning of the Salvation Army Mukhi Fauj church, the city's oldest and best known.   

To stem the violence, local authorities have imposed a curfew, which has been partly removed today. A police official says that they want to give people the possibility to "to leave their homes for shopping or other necessities." He also adds that "the level of alert" remains high to prevent new clashes. 

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Bangladesh: War crimes trial process to begin in March-April

From Dhaka's New Age daily:

Law minister Shafique Ahmed said on Wednesday that the government would appoint an investigation agency and a panel of prosecutors by March-April for trial of war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence.

'I cannot give you any specific date for holding the trial. But there is no doubt that we will conduct the war crimes trial since it is our election pledge,' Shafique told reporters when he was asked to reply whether the appointments of the chairman, investigators and prosecutors would be made within March 26.

Shafique was speaking to newsmen after he visited the courtroom named international war crimes tribunal set up at the old High Court building for holding trial of the war crimes.

Home minister Sahara Khatun, Planning minister AK Khandker, state minister for law Quamrul Islam, housing and public works minister Abdul Mannan Khan, liberation war state minister ABM Tazul Islam, and leaders of the sector commanders' forum and Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee accompanied Shafique Ahmed.

'We will appoint the investigation agency as soon as possible,' Sahara said while she was asked when the home ministry will appoint investigation officers to probe the offences of the war crimes.

The court-room, in which the then former chief justice of the then East Pakistan used to sit, has been refurbished with sitting arrangements for prosecutors, investigation officers, media and observers from home and abroad, among others, for conducting the war crimes trial.

Asked whether the government had prepared any list of suspected criminals in connection with war crimes, the minister said the investigation agency would identify the persons who were involved in war crimes during the country's war of independence.

Replying to a query whether the suspects of the war crimes will be arrested soon, Shafique said, 'They (suspects) will be arrested when the investigation into the crimes will start.'
 
Expressing the need for holding trial of the war crimes, Sector commanders' Forum secretary general Harun-or Rashid said, 'We have lost at least 3,000 freedom fighters who witnessed the crimes during the war of independence since the present government had decided to hold the trial.'

Harun also urged the government to select one particular ministry which could coordinate matters related to holding of the war crime trials.

Citigroup warns customers it may refuse to allow withdrawals

John Carney reports for Business Insider:

The image of banks locking their doors to keep customers from making withdrawals during a bank run is what immediately came to mind when we heard that Citigroup was telling customers it has the right to prevent any withdrawals from checking accounts for seven days.

"Effective April 1, 2010, we reserve the right to require (7) days advance notice before permitting a withdrawal from all checking accounts. While we do not currently exercise this right and have not exercised it in the past, we are required by law to notify you of this change," Citigroup said on statements received by customers all over the country.

What's going on? It seems that this is something of an error. The seven day notice policy only applies to customers in Texas, Ira Stoll reports at The Future of Capitalism. It was accidentally included on customer statements nationwide.

"Whatever the explanation, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in Citi," Stoll writes.  "But it's hard to believe a bank would be sending out a notice like that on its statements."

UPDATE: According to Stoll, Citi issued a statement saying that it has been required to make this change by Federal regulations--and it no longer sounds like it's limited to Texas:

Update: Citibank has now released the following statement by way of explanation: "When Citibank moved to unlimited FDIC coverage in 2009, we had to reclassify many checking accounts to allow for immediate withdrawals in order to ensure all customers qualified for the additional coverage. When we moved back to standard FDIC coverage with most major banks in 2010, Citibank decided to reclassify those accounts back to make them eligible again for promotional incentives. To do so, Federal Reserve Reg D requires these accounts, called NOW accounts, to reserve the right to require a 7-day notice of withdrawal. We recently communicated this technical requirement to our customers. However, we have never exercised this right and have no plans to do so in the future."

Taking Liberties

The trailer:



Freedom of Speech. Right to Privacy. Innocent Until Proven Guilty. Prohibition from Torture. TAKING LIBERTIES will reveal how these liberties have been systematically destroyed by New Labour, and the freedoms of the British people stolen from under their noses amidst a climate of fear created by the media and government itself.

Full video may be viewed here.

Ayn Rand: engineer of souls

Excerpt from the article by Anthony Daniels:

Rand's virtues were as follows: she was highly intelligent; she was brave and uncompromising in defense of her ideas; she had a kind of iron integrity; and, though a fierce defender of capitalism, she was by no means avid for money herself. The propagation of truth as she saw it was far more important to her than her own material ease. Her vices, of course, were the mirror-image of her virtues, but, in my opinion, the mirror was a magnifying one. Her intelligence was narrow rather than broad. Though in theory a defender of freedom of thought and action, she was dogmatic, inflexible, and intolerant, not only in opinion but in behavior, and it led her to personal cruelty. In the name of her ideas, she was prepared to be deeply unpleasant. She hardened her ideas into ideology. Her integrity led to a lack of self-criticism; she frequently wrote twenty thousand words where one would do.

Rand believed all people to be possessed of equal rights, but she found relations of equality with others insupportable. Though she could be charming, it was not something she could keep up for long. She was deeply ungrateful to those who had helped her and many of her friendships ended in acrimony. Her biographer tells us that she sometimes told jokes, but, in the absence of any supportive evidence, I treat reports of her sense of humor much as I treat reports of sightings of the Loch Ness monster: apocryphal at best.

A passionate hater of religion, Rand founded a cult around her own person, complete with rituals of excommunication; a passionate believer in rationality and logic, she was incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work. She was a rationalist who was not entirely rational; she could not distinguish between rationalism and rationality. Of narrow aesthetic sympathies, she laid down the law in matters of artistic judgment like a panjandrum; a believer in honesty, she was adept at self-deception and special pleading. I have rarely read a biography of a writer I should have cared so little to meet.

The Russian tradition to which Rand belongs is not that of Gogol, Turgenev, and Chekhov but that of Dobrolyubov, Pisarev, and Chernyshevsky: that is to say, of angry literary and social critics, pamphleteers and ideologues. She was neither fully a philosopher, nor fully a novelist, but something in between the two—the characters in her novels are not creatures of flesh and blood but opinions on legs, and her expository prose has the quality of speechifying. This is not to say that a woman of her intelligence and life experience had nothing interesting to say or no insights to convey. She did, on occasion, put things very well. She was often shrewd, seeing the dangers of statism very clearly, when few others did.

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