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  • 17th July, 2006

    Indian ISPs ban blogspot, geocities, and typepad

    by Sunny at 12:40 pm    

    This is absurd. Several Indian bloggers including Neha, DesiPundit and Amit are reporting that an increasing number of Indian ISPs have suddenly started banning the above mentioned domains and websites.

    Remember, this is in addition to bans in place in Pakistan too. What the hell is wrong with the Indian government?

    Filed under: Civil liberties,Media
    16th July, 2006

    Samaira Nazir’s brutal murder

    by Sunny at 4:36 pm    

    Miss Nazir, a recruitment consultant from Southall, west London, was murdered in April last year. She was strangled with a silk scarf, stabbed 18 times and had her throat cut. She had argued with her Pakistani family after rejecting an arranged marriage and falling in love with an Afghan asylum seeker. Her two nieces, aged two and four, were made to watch the murder, and were found spattered with her blood.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Culture
    15th July, 2006

    It’s the weekend open thread!

    by Katy at 12:07 pm    

    Only a week since my first ever weekend open thread and already I have another weekend to contend with. And what a week it’s been. Mumbai. The Natwest Three. The Middle East.

    Well, we aren’t going to be talking about any of those here. Ha. If you want to be all scarily knowledgeable and political then you’ll have to go to elsewhere I am afraid. Posting about that sort of thing here would be like going into a shop which sells delicate tiny porcelain and crystal sculptures and perhaps some of those little ornate metal picture frames with flowers on them and slapping a huge raw bleeding side of meat down on the counter, and I think we can all agree that that would be inappropriate behaviour in that sort of venue.

    No, I want to hear about your non-political, preferably-but-not-compulsorily-non-footballing issues instead. Perhaps something amusing or interesting has happened to you this week. For example, I was followed down the road by an overenthusiastic would-be rapist suitor driving a VW Passat and sporting a Bluetooth headset, which was quite scary at the time as I was heading for an ill-lit, deserted underground car park. And I was also propositioned by my dustman, who is one of the best-looking men I have ever seen in real life outside of the cinema. So it was a week of highs and lows for me, thank you for asking.

    Or perhaps you might have something extra specially special planned for the weekend. I am going to a wedding today, which will only emphasise my tragic thirtysomething manlessness and the fact it is only a matter of time before I have to start buying lots of cats and sporting a wild unkempt hairstyle be a day of great happiness not only for the happy couple but for all of us who wish them well too.

    That sort of thing will do very nicely, thank you…

    Filed under: Current affairs

    The definitive Zinedine Zidane post

    by Sunny at 3:46 am    

    It would be stating the patently obvious when I say never has one incident in football been the subject of so much hilarity. Even my mother has been speculating on what happened and she didn’t even care for who Zidane was two weeks ago. The world has gone mad.

    Anyway, in order to celebrate the glorious head-butt (kids, I do not condone violence), I’ve culled together some animations from around the web and from emails.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Humour,Sports

    Impossible discussions

    by Sunny at 2:20 am    

    I’ve deleted the Israel / Lebanon thread after some thought. My reasons are:

    1) It’s impossible to comprehensively cover what is going on and analyse the motivations of all the players involved. Plus, events are constantly changing on the ground making it difficult to provide a clear picture.

    2) I wasn’t able to add anything new to an already quite vociferous debate. It would simply have become one humongous slagging match and soured the atmosphere. Maybe I’ll come back to it in a few days.

    Filed under: Uncategorized
    14th July, 2006

    The Foreign Office and radical Islam

    by Sunny at 4:31 am    

    Tonight Martin Bright’s much trailed documentary, Who Represents British Muslims? will be on Channel 4 at 7:30pm.

    Bright says that rather than tackling the ideology that breeds extremism, Whitehall has instead embraced it, promoting a narrow, austere version of Islam.

    He told AIM magazine that a series of leaks from the Foreign Office showed the government was very open in their strategy of reaching out to organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic radicals abroad. But that ignores the “huge diversity of people from the Muslim community” the government can deal with he adds, and instead focuses on representing a narrow ideology.

    Unsurprisingly the usual suspects are screaming about it. But the real question is, why are they helping the racists against the ordinary Muslims?

    Continue Reading...
    13th July, 2006

    As if nothing happened in Mumbai

    by Sunny at 12:05 am    

    Dear Terrorist,

    Even if you are not reading this we don’t care. Time and again you tried to disturb us and disrupt our life - killing innocent civilians by planting bombs in trains, buses and cars. You have tried hard to bring death and destruction, cause panic and fear and create communal disharmony but every time you were disgustingly unsuccessful.

    Do you know how we pass our life in Mumbai? How much it takes for us to earn that single rupee? If you wanted to give us a shock then we are sorry to say that you failed miserably in your ulterior motives. Better look elsewhere, not here.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: India,South Asia
    12th July, 2006

    £25 for 4x4s in London: fantastic!

    by Leon at 3:33 pm    

    The Guardian reports:

    “London mayor Ken Livingstone today announced plans to raise the congestion charge to £25 for so-called “Chelsea tractors”.

    Following a consultation, congestion charge rates in the capital will vary based on road tax bands from A (100g CO2 per KM) to G (over 225g CO2 per KM). Drivers of the least polluting cars will receive a reduction on the current £8 daily charge, while those which emit the most C02, such as many Jeeps and SUVs, will pay a much higher price, up to £25.”

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Environmentalism

    Prescott affair coverage

    by Sunny at 11:21 am    

    Just been told that Iain Dale has done a report for Channel 4′s Morning Report Podcast on the Prescott Affair and how bloggers played a role. Find out more from here. Apparently Pickled Politics is mentioned. I haven’t listened to it yet. Cheers for the namecheck Mr Dale!

    Filed under: Media,Party politics

    Blasts in Mumbai

    by Sunny at 12:03 am    

    Terror struck Mumbai’s lifeline seven times in 11 minutes when the first-class compartments of local trains to the city’s western suburbs were ripped apart by powerful blasts. At least 150 people were killed and over 600 injured.

    The blasts came just hours after suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba militants killed eight people, six of them tourists, in a series of grenade attacks in Srinagar.
    [Indian Express]

    Channel 4 and BBC have video and pictures. DesiPundit has lots of links, as does Neha at GlobalVoices. The Indian PM has called for calm; Mumbai’s minorities fear reprisals; Pakistan’s Musharraf and Aziz have condemned blasts. Even LeT have denied a hand.

    If anyone needs a BBC trained journalist from Mumbai, get in touch with her. I also have her mobile number. Anyone know if PP commenter Vikrant is ok? I was out most of the day so couldn’t post earlier.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: India
    11th July, 2006

    Connecting British Hindus… to?

    by Sunny at 1:21 pm    

    Hindus living in Britain do not want to be described as “Asian”, according to a big study of the community. Instead, they want to be known as British Indian, Hindu — or even Desi, a Hindi word growing in popularity with the young that means being rooted in one’s home country. At the time of the 2001 Census the Hindu population in Britain had reached nearly 550,000.

    The report, Connecting British Hindus, to be published in the Commons today, was funded by the Government and carried out by the Runnymede Trust and the Hindu Forum. It found concern about a ‘general assumption’ that any brown-skinned Asian person was Muslim and shows that Hindus feel neglected, marginalised and misunderstood. [The Times]

    This was out today. But I think there is more to this than meets the eye.

    Continue Reading...

    British blogging’s Dan Rather moment

    by Sunny at 12:54 am    

    They may be Tories but I think respect is due to Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale for helping shine a big light on British political blogging through their constant hounding of John Prescott.

    In case you are not fully familiar with the story, Guido had mentioned John Prescott’s alleged third mistress for quite a while. From what I can gather, Iain, Unity and others recently started turning up the heat on Prescott’s meetings with the American billionaire Phillip Anschutz. As that story gained traction on political blogs and in the media, so did rumours of Prescott’s alleged affair.

    Bloggers say (Westminster) lobby journalists don’t really want to investigate rumours that are quite widespread among political circles. Journalists such as Nick Robinson hit back saying blogs were simply publishing unsubstantiated rumours that cannot be printed in newspapers.

    I suspect both accusations apply to some extent. Though it’s interesting that most of the media coverage around Prescott and blogging rumours (today’s Media Guardian had lots) has been very defensive over bloggers - as if newspapers never print rumours or try and get away by publishing allegations in diary columns by not naming names. In fact Observer magazine carried a feature this weekend on the gossip columnists of fleet street and the extent they go to for tidbits. How are some political bloggers any different?

    Nevertheless, if John Prescott is forced to resign (and I really hope he does), then British blogging will have arrived in the way American blogs are constantly referred to for taking Dan Rather’s scalp.

    Update: Unity elaborates in the comments, saying: “What’s largely happening now is that the MSM are playing up Guido and Ian because it suits them to label bloggers as purveyors of tittle tattle on this one while trying to claim the real story - which is the casino, for themselves.”

    Filed under: Media,Party politics
    10th July, 2006

    Can humans survive the next century?

    by Leon at 3:19 pm    

    Stephen Hawking has a question for us all:

    In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years? [Via Yahoo! Answers]

    Not for the faint-hearted

    by Sunny at 4:49 am    

    I should probably start off by saying that Pickled Politics is not really for insecure and defensive people.

    Admittedly the anniversary of 7/7 and Britain’s general media / political climate has put Muslim issues to the forefront and we end up discussing them a lot when maybe people want some lighter or non-religious topics. But then it is difficult to ignore current affairs when you’re a current affairs magazine/blog.

    This space was set up from day one to challenge the legitimacy and power afforded to “community leaders”, and I make no excuse for that. It is worthwhile re-iterating that occasionally for our new readers. And there are various reasons we take this stance - if you read what we write I’m sure it will become abundantly clear soon enough.

    This post is partly inspired by Abhi at Sepia Mutiny’s post on Saturday on ‘Jingoism in the blogosphere’. You may notice we get lots of that too. Insecure people become extremely defensive when you point out the short-comings in their government / religious organisation / football team - whatever.

    We don’t work like that. Self-criticism is fundamental to making sense of the world and making progress and we should not, and do not, shy away from it. In fact we positively encourage you to come here and take apart our articles in a constructive manner. Without debate we become stale. And smelly. And green.

    People who don’t like debate try and shut it down by calling names such as racist, Islamophobic, traitor, uncle tom, punkahwallah and whatever else. That just makes us all the more powerful. It also makes us laugh.

    Filed under: Uncategorized
    9th July, 2006

    Inayat gets defensive

    by Sunny at 7:22 pm    

    Radio 4 this weekend had a debate on how representative the MCB is. Have a listen from here. It’s an excellent piece, with various organisations and people saying how the MCB focuses on foreign policy issues rather than what British Muslims are really worried about. The Sufis in particular seemed quite pissed off, and a new organisation called British Sufi Forum is being launched later this month. Bunglawala turns up at the end with his typical line: “yeah, and what have they done for Muslims lately?” Heh. I don’t feel sorry for him yet.

    But we can apply this across the board. The Sikh organisations are more worried about Khalistan and 1984 etc than issues at home like crime, deprivation and depression within the older generation… the Hindu Forum is more focused on Hindus in Bangladesh than here. I wonder if they all plan their strategies together?

    Filed under: Muslim,Organisations
    8th July, 2006

    More government censorship

    by Sunny at 7:11 pm    

    Craig Murray has published documents supporting his book, a damning indictment of how Labour tried to shut him up about about human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, on his website.

    The Foreign Office initially tried to censor the book. Failing that they now want him to withdraw the documents, obtained through FOIAs. Naturally, bloggers are having none of it. We’ve mirrored the documents too. [via Garry Smith and Lenin]

    Meanwhile: “We’ve got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad. That’s a problem.”

    Update: Justin, Unity, Robert, Dawg and LFCM friends have also mirrored.

    Filed under: Civil liberties

    It’s the weekend open thread!

    by Katy at 12:48 pm    

    Ah, the weekend open thread. Exactly the sort of place to kick your shoes off, flop back in your chair and relax after a hard week of passionate debate on the political issues of the day. Very much the blogging equivalent of a trendy-but-not-too-trendy bar with gentle lighting, big squashy sofas, soft music and tall, cool, delicious waiters cocktails.

    Actually the weekend open thread is considerably better than a trendy-but-not-too-trendy bar because here there are more than enough big squashy sofas to go round, whereas unless you get to the trendy-but-not-too-trendy bar at about 4pm you have no chance of bagging a sofa, so you end up spending the entire evening standing very close to the squashy sofa area, glowering at the people who have been lying all over them snogging ostentatiously but ineptly since you arrived and showing no signs of leaving whatsoever, and going, “Huh? Oh, yeah” every time one of your friends says something to you because you are too consumed with fury at your sofalessness to even pretend that you are interested in what they are talking about.

    And then there is that thing where you have, say, three sofas arranged in an open square round a table, and although there are a couple of bags and coats on them there are only two people, huddled in the far corner of one of them. So you snap out of your apathy and shout to your friends, “Look! Look! There’s a sofa free!” and you hurl yourself wildly through the bar flinging people out of your way willy-nilly. But when you try to sit down, the aforementioned two people give you one of those little half-smiles with no teeth and say, “Sorry, these are taken”. And then you have to spend the entire night staring fixedly at that group of sofas, which remain tantalisingly unoccupied until the end of the night when six people suddenly appear and start putting their coats on, and your friends have to firmly remove you because they can see that you are about to grab them by the throat and scream “THERE IS A CLOAKROOM YOU KNOW” very loudly indeed.

    And the drinks are free on the weekend open thread.

    Perhaps the weekend open thread really isn’t very much like a trendy-but-not-too-trendy bar after all.

    Anyway, what’s everyone up to this weekend? Anyone want to talk about something non-political? Who’s got a really stinking hangover? I am all ears*.

    *not literally

    Filed under: Uncategorized
    7th July, 2006

    7/7 a year on - why I’m optimistic

    by Sunny at 6:58 pm    

    Though people have a natural habit of being fixated with the negative, a year after the July 7th bombings I think there are plenty of causes for optimism…

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs

    Isn’t it time for a siesta already?

    by Sunny at 4:25 pm    

    During the sweltering weather last week, I was finding it really difficult to work. I’m sure I was not the only one. Does heat make you lazy? Extend that over the entire country and you could ask - does having continually hot weather make the entire country less capable of economic success? This is the question Chris Dillow asks:

    The fact is that almost all cool countries are rich. And most poor countries are hot. This alone suggests a link between climate and wealth.

    For sure, there are exceptions - most obviously, some east Asian countries are hot and rich. But their economic development came after the introduction of air conditioning - which can’t be a coincidence.
    What’s more, even within countries there’s a link between climate and prosperity. In Italy and the US, the hotter south is generally poorer than the cooler north.

    Maybe, then, a hot climate contributes to poverty by reducing incentives to work. This is not the only way in which it can retard growth. Hot climates also cause machinery to break down, which deters investment. And disease thrives in hot climates, which deters investment in human capital (pdf).

    Now, the conventional view in economics downplays this. It prefers to emphasize institutions as the cause of wealth - things like good government and property rights.
    But are these really truly exogenous? Is it really a coincidence that hotter climates tend to have less secure property rights?

    There is another point too. Warm countries have more potential for surviving on agriculture because of favourable weather conditions. That could mean a slower transition to industrialisation and thus remaining poorer for longer. I’m sure there are exceptions but it’s worth thinking about. No?

    Filed under: Economics

    The American right has become insane

    by Sunny at 3:34 am    

    This weekend, prominent neoconservative David Horowitz proclaimed that the United States is fighting a war and “the aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists.” In particular, he cited the now infamous NYT Travel section article on Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld’s vacation homes as evidence that the employees of the NYT are among the enemies in this war, and he then linked to and recommended as a “proposal for action” this post from his associate, Front Page contributor Rocco DiPippo. The post which Horowitz recommended was entitled “Where Does Punch Sulzberger Live?” and this is what it said:

    I issue a call to the blogosphere to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors. Posting pictures of their residences, along with details of any security measures in place to protect the properties and their owners (such as location of security cameras and on-site security details) should also be published.

    American blogger Glenn Greenwald shows how the American right is employing thug tactics to get their way. It’s comedy isn’t it? That a standard New York Times article on Dick Cheney’s pad is seen as helping Al-Qaeda shows the insanity of modern political conversation.

    6th July, 2006

    Shehzad Tanweer on TV

    by Sunny at 4:13 pm    

    A video showing London tube bomber Shehzad Tanweer has been aired on al-Jazeera television. Tanweer, from Leeds, killed seven people on a train at Aldgate during the attacks on 7 July 2005.

    He says on the video: “What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger.” [BBC News, hat tip: Cisoux]

    This is what will happen now. The likes of the MCB and MPAC will claim this is another example of government foreign policy driving young men into the open arms of suicide bombers. Pro-war types will say this shows govt. foreign policy has no impact and they are just cold blooded killers. Islamophobes will say this is another example to show Muslims can never be part of British society. Male rabbits will say they continue to run out of female rabbits to hump. Dr Naseem Mohammed from Birmingham Mosque will say the video is fake because even cows can be made to dance. Cows will continue to complain silently about being used as political footballs when all they yearn to do is wander around a field and chew on some grass. Mooo! It is all a pre-prepared script.

    Filed under: Media

    Channel 4′s limp discussions

    by Sunny at 11:03 am    

    The BBC’s cluelessness when dealing with Muslim organisations is well known. Diversity of opinion? Perish the thought. Usually they get away with simply calling up the MCB, MAB or MPAC since, apparently, no one else exists to “represent the Muslim community”. As I’ve said before, in the world of the BBC if you’re not a suicide bomber then you’re a “moderate Muslim”. And if you’re constantly angry, even better.

    They cannot possibly fathom that there is a huge diversity of opinion within the “non-suicide bomber” category too. Sometimes they get caught with their pants down, but that is unfortunately rare. Now it seems Channel 4 has caught that bug too. It’s called “We-want-a-debate-but-don’t-know-who-to-call”. Having learnt nothing from the BBC debacle earlier, they call Azzam Tamimi, Asghar Bukhari (both of whom are near mirror images of each other), Khalid Mahmoud MP (who is vociferously hated by the earlier two) and Charles Moore from the Daily Telegraph.

    Watch the apparently “extreme” debate in action here (via DSTPFW)

    The most instructive line comes near the end when Charles Moore says the government should stop listening to people who justify suicide bombers and don’t even represent a community that overwhelmingly rejects that ideology. “Your own programme too puts too many of these people on,” he adds before Krishnan Guru-Murthy cuts him off. Will Channel 4 learn from the BBC’s mistakes? Don’t bet on it.

    [cross-posted on CiF]

    “We don’t like these brown people…”

    by Sunny at 1:54 am    

    An economically booming city; lots of immigrants workers who do the crap jobs and get paid a pittance; the residents don’t really want to hang around them and start re-locating to the suburbs. Sound familiar? We’ve been here before of course. But this is not a western city - this is Dubai:

    Suhail al-Awadhi, 37, a senior municipal official, says he “was living three years ago in Hamria, but it was invaded by Indians, Pakistanis and bachelors, so I moved out”.

    Dubai, the commercial centre and fastest growing member of the seven-member United Arab Emirates (UAE), has a population of 1.4 million with locals accounting for only about 10%, according to semi-official estimates.

    The entire UAE has a population of more than four million, with locals making up less than 20%, according to the last official estimate in 2004. Indians and Pakistanis account for nearly half of the population.

    Al-Awadhi, who is married with four children, said he felt more comfortable and secure living among Emiratis. “I like the fact that my children play with other Emirati children,” he said.

    In his new book My Vision, Sheikh Mohammed explains his aim to develop Dubai as a fusion of Middle Eastern and Western values and a melting pot of creeds and nationalities, comparing the city to Cordoba, the seat of the Islamic caliphate in Spain in the 10th century. But areas like Mizher are proof the fusion is not there yet. Plus, some Emiratis do not share the vision.

    Other ways in which the government preserves national identity include a marriage fund with an annual budget of almost $70 million that offers UAE men financial incentives to wed local women.

    Arab racism against South Asians. Where have we heard that before? [via PasstheRoti]

    5th July, 2006

    What do you think?

    by Sunny at 2:02 pm    

    Muslim soldier

    Filed under: Current affairs
    4th July, 2006

    Who was al-Zarqawi?

    by Leon at 5:42 pm    

    Two news items have caught my eye today about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former Al Qaeda ‘leader’ in Iraq.

    In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC on US Independence Day, Mr Khalilzad said the death of Zarqawi - the then leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq - had encouraged “other insurgent groups to reach out, because some were intimidated by Zarqawi. We want to know the [insurgent] groups that are reaching out - who they are, what capabilities they have, what areas they control.

    But on the other hand, in terms of the level of violence, it has not had any impact at this point. As you know, the level of violence is still quite high,” he said. [BBC News]

    So, the killing of al-Zarqawi has made little difference on ground in Iraq. Big surprise. But his life and death get more mysterious when you add the following to the puzzle:

    Al-Qaida leaders sold out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the United States in exchange for a promise to let up in the search for Osama bin Laden, the slain militant’s wife claimed in an interview with an Italian newspaper.

    The woman, identified by La Repubblica as al-Zarqawi’s first wife, said al-Qaida’s top leadership reached a deal with U.S. intelligence because al-Zarqawi had become too powerful. She claimed Sunni tribes and Jordanian secret services mediated the deal.

    “My husband has been sold to the Americans,” the woman said in an interview published Sunday. “He had become too powerful, too troublesome.” [Yahoo News]

    Further down the pieces comes another twist to the tale:

    On Monday, an Iraqi legislator said authorities found telephone numbers of senior officials in al-Zarqawi’s cell phone after his death. Waiel Abdul-Latif, a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s party, did not give names of the officials. But he said they included ministry employees and members of parliament.

    Just who was al-Zarqawi? Who was he really working for? And why was he really killed? Inquiring minds want to know…

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