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  • 19th January, 2008

    You’ve got to be kidneying me

    by Rohin at 3:17 am    

    A straw poll on your views about this tricky ethical issue please.

    Gordon Brown recently brought the subject of transplants back into the news by supporting a similar system to the Spanish, who have the highest organ transplant rate in the world. The system is effectively an ‘opt-out’ arrangement and deceased patients with no specific instructions are ‘presumed’ to have given consent for their organs to be used.

    The argument for:

    More and more patients are dying on transplant waiting lists. Many of these people are young, with congenital conditions like cystic fibrosis, primary liver cancer or autoimmune kidney disease meaning they need new hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys. Less people are dying in road traffic accidents due to improved road safety, but this results in a decreasing source of healthy organs.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Culture,Science
    18th January, 2008

    Where are our foreign-policy hawks?

    by Sunny at 8:46 am    

    People on the right of the political spectrum usually constitute of a group called ‘foreign policy hawks‘. These people like to see a strong defence force and are quite hawk-ish (as opposed to being dove-ish) on foreign affairs. In America they’re all foreign policy hawks - Republicans and Democrats.

    Here, the traditional position to take on the left is to be somewhat dove-ish and try and understand the concerns of other countries when they do things we don’t like. In other words: let’s negotiate and talk rather than start waving around guns and warships. I say traditionally because 9/11 turned a whole bunch of lefties into foreign policy hawks and they start bandying about stupid phrases like “moonbats” etc.

    Anyway, this post is about foreign policy hawks in general, especially on the right. Where the hell are they? This was yesterday:

    The diplomatic standoff with Russia entered a dangerous new phase yesterday as British officials denounced “a pattern of intimidation” by Russia’s security services against British Council staff.

    The Foreign Office complained of unacceptable behaviour, after Russians working at British Council offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg were called in for questioning by the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and visited at home by interior ministry officials.

    There is a pattern here of the Russian government flexing its diplomatic and military muscles since the murder of Alexander Litvenko in London. My point is, if this was a country like Iran, we would hear shreiking all over the place. And yet, there is complete silence on this issue from the right.

    At the Spectator, apparently the home of the right, there is nothing on their main blog. Melanie Phillips is still harping on about ‘Slouching towards Dhimmocracy‘ (she just changes the words around slightly every day)… and Stephen Pollard is as boring as ever. Nothing on at Iain Dale or EU Referendum. On ConservativeHome CentreRight they’re actually thanking the Russians for saving them money!

    Bloody hell, our right-wing foreign policy hawks really are lame and useless. Where’s our Ann Coulter? Do they only get worked up when those damn muzzies are involved? Or maybe they get easily scared of the Russians? Either way, a very poor show.

    17th January, 2008

    Who Can Implement Change? Obama v Hillary

    by Shariq at 10:33 pm    

    Since Barack Obama’s victory in Iowa, the buzzword in the Democratic Primaries has been change. Obama says it needs a young, fresh, person like himself to accomplish it, while Hillary Clinton has argued that her experience of bringing change makes her the best candidate to implement change in the future.

    Continue Reading...

    Fabian Society: an idea to change the world

    by Sunny at 11:07 am    

    Let’s say you work at the Foreign Office. The minister for Foreign Affairs comes in and tells you they need a fresh new idea to revolutionise British relations with South Asian countries. What can we do about our relations with India, Pakistan and the rest? Hit me! After you mistakenly punch the minister in the face, he/she informs you that they were talking about hitting them with ideas, not fists. This one idea better be good or your ass is grass. What do you say?

    So anyway, it’s the annual Fabian Society conference this Saturday - a must for political junkies and schmoozers. The topic is foreign policy this year because exactly one year from this weekend, the new president of the United States gets sworn in (hallelujah!). They asked me to come to one of the sessions, set up like Dragon’s Den, and pitch one idea on our foreign policy regarding South Asia. I already know what I’m going to say but I’m not allowed to reveal it before this Saturday.

    So what would you say if you were asked to pitch? Don’t worry, they already know my idea so I can’t nick a new one. But I’d be interested to see what readers come up with. I’ll be at the conference for the whole day so if you’re going to be there, get in touch. You can also buy a ticket and register from the Fabian Society website.

    Forced Marriages consultation

    by Sunny at 1:23 am    

    I’m not sure what the point of this is to be honest. (hat tip: Matt W)

    A public consultation into domestic abuse, forced marriage and “honour crimes” is to be launched by MPs. The six-week online inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee hopes to gain testimony from survivors of all forms of physical and psychological abuse.

    Responses will help the committee formulate recommendations to ministers on how to tackle the issues.

    The consultation will run from 21 January to 29 February and all responses will be confidential and anonymous.

    It will take place in the form of an online messageboard. But will it feed into any legislation? That’s unclear. It almost looks like a pet project by Keith Vaz MP. I say this because the government has already passed legislation on forced marriages. Behind the scenes there has been lobbying by Asian women groups to make it tighter, and I’m told that the Home Office may go further.

    The first issue was to make it easier for third parties (like refuge groups) to report a forced marriage if they find a victim. I believe this has been pushed through. The second issue was to make the guidelines published by the Forced Marriages Unit mandatory for other government agencies like the police and social services. I’m not sure what the status of that is yet.

    Which is why I’m a bit sceptical about this specific consultation - what will it achieve? And why the focus on Asian men?

    Filed under: Culture

    We’re back!

    by Sunny at 1:14 am    

    Yes, we’re back to normal again, and you can now comment on all the posts. If you find any problems, please leave a message below.

    Filed under: Blog
    16th January, 2008

    Stoning women in Iran

    by Sunny at 4:08 pm    

    Amnesty International published this yesterday:

    As nine women and two men in Iran wait to be stoned to death, Amnesty International today called on the Iranian authorities to abolish death by stoning and impose an immediate moratorium on this horrific practice, specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victims. Serious failings in the Iranian justice system commonly result in unfair trials, including in capital cases.

    Iran’s Penal Code prescribes execution by stoning. It even dictates that the stones are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately. Article 102 of the Penal Code states that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”.

    Campaigners in Iran [against stoning] continue to face harassment and intimidation from the authorities. Asieh Amini, Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, another leading member of “Stop Stoning Forever”, were among 33 women arrested while protesting in March 2007 about the trial of five women’s rights activists in Tehran. Thirty-one of the detainees were released by 9 March. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr were released on bail of 200 million toumans (over US$215,000) on 19 March. They are likely to face trial, possibly on charges including “disturbing public order” and “acting against state security”.

    I’m not sure whether the Iranian government will respond to international pressure over its human rights abuses, but this is still worth highlighting. And for the braindead readers among us - no, this does not mean I advocate a war with Iran.

    Bus bomb in Sri Lanka

    by Sunny at 3:44 pm    

    From the Guardian today:

    More than 28 civilians were killed and dozens wounded when a roadside bomb blew up a crowded bus in southern Sri Lanka, as a six-year ceasefire between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels ran out.

    “Despite major donors and other countries asking for restraint, I don’t see this government backing down. Neither will the LTTE,” said an official from a western embassy. “Instead civilians are being targeted in the south, which is the Sinhalese heartland. This is the Tigers’ way of pressurising the government and pinning down troops away from the LTTE bases in the north.”

    Last week the American FBI highlighted the threat of the LTTE, which it said had inspired al-Qaida to adopt ever more ruthless tactics.

    Princess Diana and the Muslim man

    by Sunny at 9:00 am    

    Like, frankly, I couldn’t give a crap about the coverage of Princess Diana and her death yada yada. She died ten years ago, move on people! BUT, I was amused to read yesterday that she was kind of in love with a Muslim heart surgeon from Pakistan. Brilliant, I thought. I wonder what the Daily Express would make of it since the newspaper has essentially become one long obituary of Di over the last ten years.

    How surprising that I find this on their website: “Princess Diana was branded a ‘whore’ by her mother for dating Muslim men, her inquest heard yesterday.”

    Uh oh. Has the Daily Express suddenly lost interest in their beloved?

    (You still can’t comment unfortunately)

    Filed under: Humour,Media
    15th January, 2008

    Son of a…

    by Sunny at 4:13 am    

    Unfortunately, it looks like our problems willl continue for another day. You can read the front page but its not possible to click through anywhere else yet or leave comments. Am trying to resolve it… will probably get to it end of today (Tuesday) now. I am very frustrated… but I can’t do much about Russian hackers unfortunately.

    Filed under: Blog
    14th January, 2008

    Damn these Filipino Monkeys

    by Sunny at 8:06 pm    

    I always wanted to write an absurd headline like that. Now I have an excuse. It turns out that ‘Filipino Monkey’, a heckling radio ham who harasses patrols boats in the Persian Gulf, may be responsible for the recent stand-off between the USA and Iran.

    The US navy came within seconds of firing at the Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz on January 6 after hearing threats that the boats were attacking and were about to explode. Senior navy officials have admitted that the source of the threats, picked up in international waters, was a mystery.

    And now the US navy’s journal, Navy Times, has claimed that the threats, which were broadcast last week by the Pentagon, are thought to have come from an infamous radio prankster. It said the Filipino Monkey, who could be more than one person, listens to ship-to-ship radio traffic and then interrupts, usually with abusive insults. Rick Hoffman, a retired captain, told the paper: “For 25 years, there’s been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats. He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy.

    “Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely.”

    This is rather worrying… the US Navy could have started a local war that could have escalated into something bigger on the back of some unknown broadcast. And then we had President Buch calling it “highly provocative” without any actual evidence that it was.

    (you still can’t comment on stories unfortunately)

    WordPress upgrade

    by Sunny at 8:27 am    

    I’ve done a big upgrade of WordPress and have had to wipe all the previous files for various reasons. So if something doesn’t work properly, please list it below… thanks!

    Rumbold adds: At 11:16am 12:47pm today there are still problems opening posts and/or comments.

    3:02pm update: Sunny is working on this, should be fixed later today.

    Filed under: Blog
    13th January, 2008

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on ‘honour’ killings

    by Rumbold at 9:53 pm    

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown calls for more public displays of anger by British Asian women against those who murder in the name of ‘honour’ (via Joanne Payton at the International Campaign Against Honour Killings):

    “I have written about these crimes for more than two decades and have known victims of the cruel oppression within a minority of British Asian and Arab families. Things can only get better, promised New Labour in 1997. Yet violence against women has got shockingly worse, partly because each new generation of girls gets more removed from Eastern values and more fiercely independent. More depressingly, younger women do not, any more, come out collectively against the outrage.

    Continue Reading...
    11th January, 2008

    Welcome to the weekend!

    by Leon at 4:03 pm    

    Wow, I survived my first working week of 2008, amazing! It’s been a long week after such an excellent break but it’s good to be back. Stealing Clairwil’s thunder this is the weekend thread; all manner of fun, idiotic, silly and distracting things can be talked about here but NO POLITICS!.

    What are you up to, still counting the cost of the Xmas spending spree or are you detoxing all the munching and drinking you did?

    As is tradition [and being a gamer] here’s a YouTube that just blows me away:

    Filed under: Humour

    Farce around the world

    by Rumbold at 4:01 pm    

    The Indo-Australian cricket row rumbles on. Harbhajan (Indian) allegedly called Andrew (black, Australian) a monkey. Ricky (captain, Australia), went and told on Harbhajan. Result? Pure hilarity. Indians take to the street burning effergies, NDTV carries the story incessantly, while the Indian Cricket board (BCCI) gets in a strop over the idea that an Indian could be called racist, and threatens to go home.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Humour,Sports
    10th January, 2008

    What the young Bhutto needs to do now

    by Fe'reeha at 9:32 pm    

    Earlier this week, Bilawal Bhutto held a press conference in London before embarking on his education at Oxford. Sitting astute, he tried tacking ruthless questions about his leadership by the media.

    “I have stood up when I was called”, he tried making the journalists understand. But they would not understand why a nineteen year old has been given the leadership of the biggest and most influential political party of an Islamic nuclear state. A young boy, who has barely stepped into adolescence and his only rub with politics is that he shares the bloodline of a political dynasty.

    To the international media, Benazir Bhutto is the very epitome of democracy and her nomination of her 19 year old son as the party heir is still something of an enigma to many of her admirers. “You have been handed out party leadership as if its part of an old family furniture”, one journalists said.

    “I do not agree that I have been handed out party leadership as old piece of family furniture,” Bilawal absently repeated the question. At times it seemed he was questioning his own position.

    Continue Reading...
    9th January, 2008

    6 years of Guantánamo Bay

    by Sunny at 8:22 pm    

    Friday 11th January marks 6 years since Guantánamo Bay was opened for “enemy combatants”. And despite the legal setbacks and the international criticisms, the current US administration is making little effort to shut it down.

    Amnesty International is holding a demonstration in central London to mark it.

    To mark the 6th anniversary we want as many people as possible dressed in Guantánamo-style orange boiler suits (provided by Amnesty), kneeling outside the US Embassy in London. Anyone can attend - please wear warm clothes but avoid bringing a bag with you.

    We will assemble in the South East corner of Grosvenor Square promptly at 9:30am for dressing. The demonstration will take place inside the square from 10:30. The nearest tube station is Bond Street.

    If you would like to wear an orange boiler suit, or just want to let us know you are attending, please contact us at guantanamoanniversary6@amnesty.org.uk.

    Most likely I’ll be there. If you can come down, do it!

    Filed under: Current affairs

    Abominable practices in Britain

    by Rumbold at 11:45 am    

    A horrific ritual usually associated with Africa is taking place frequently in this country:

    “It is known by a variety of names, the most common of which are female genital mutilation (FGM), female circumcision, or simply “cutting” - a word which somehow conveys the raw pain its prepubescent victims suffer.

    Most people will be unfamiliar with this practice, which involves removing part or all of the clitoris, the surrounding labia (the outer part of the vagina) and sometimes the sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood.

    An investigation by the Daily Mail reinforced research by the Department of Health (among others), who have found that girls who have been genitally mutiliated number in the tens of thousands:

    Continue Reading...
    8th January, 2008

    Hilary Clinton starts crying

    by Sunny at 2:03 am    

    Is this her latest attempt to show she’s deserving of sympathy?

    In perhaps her most public display of emotion of the presidential campaign, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s eyes welled with tears, and her voice cracked dramatically today, as she talked about holding up under the rigors of the race and her belief that she is the best candidate for the Democratic nomination.

    Clinton did not cry (or look like she was crying), she certainly seemed on the verge of tears after a woman asked her, at a round table discussion at a coffee shop here, how she managed to get out of bed and soldier through each day.

    You can watch the video from here. The reaction from rival John Edwards? “I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.” Ouch!

    Sorry, not buying it Ms Clinton. Find a different script.

    7th January, 2008

    Clarkson stung after bank prank

    by Leon at 5:11 pm    

    This is just brilliant, damn shame the direct debit wasn’t for some green organisation, now that would’ve been really funny…

    Clarkson published details of his Barclays account in the Sun newspaper, including his account number and sort code. He even told people how to find out his address.

    “All you’ll be able to do with them is put money into my account. Not take it out. Honestly, I’ve never known such a palaver about nothing,” he told readers.

    But he was proved wrong, as the 47-year-old wrote in his Sunday Times column.

    “I opened my bank statement this morning to find out that someone has set up a direct debit which automatically takes £500 from my account,” he said.

    “The bank cannot find out who did this because of the Data Protection Act and they cannot stop it from happening again.

    “I was wrong and I have been punished for my mistake.” [Via BBC News]

    It couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow!

    His ungraceful Grace

    by Rumbold at 12:18 pm    

    The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, bishop of Rochester, has claimed that Islamists have made some parts of Britain ‘no-go’ areas for non-Muslims:

    “On the one hand, the British were losing confidence in the Christian vision which underlay most of the achievements and values of the culture and, on the other, they sought to accommodate the newer arrivals on the basis of a novel philosophy of “multiculturalism”.

    This required that people should be facilitated in living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages and having minimum need for building healthy relationships with the majority.

    Alongside these developments, there has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism. One of the results of this has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into “no-go” areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.

    Continue Reading...

    What the Huck?

    by Shariq at 12:37 am    

    Amongst all the Obama hype, its easy to forget that Mike Huckabee winning the Republican caucuses in Iowa is almost as important a story. The reason why Huckabee is important is that for the first time in many years there is a serious Republican Candidate who hasn’t signed up to a laissez-faire economic agenda. Instead he has spoken out against corporate greed and connected with people over their anxieties on things such as outsourcing and inadequate health care.

    Continue Reading...
    6th January, 2008

    More on Huckabee

    by Sunny at 10:44 pm    

    Heh, watch this right until the end.

    via Daily Kos

    Filed under: Humour,United States

    My early predictions for the US elections

    by Sunny at 1:13 am    

    I’m not predicting right now who will become President or even be the nominee for each of the parties: Democrat or Republican. But I think this is what will happen over the next few weeks.

    [For the uninitiated: Right now each party is picking its nominee, with elections in each state (to attract a number of delegates). The party nominee who attracts the magic number of delegates becomes their presidential nominee... and then the fight for that begins]

    On the Democrat side:
    I think Obama may come second in New Hampshire but will win in South Carolina. After these three elections comes Super-Duper-Tuesday, when 27 states will hold elections. During that, I think Obama will attract slightly more delegates than Hilary Clinton but not be able to knock her out. To really do that, he will have to enlist John edwards as his running Vice-President mate (not sure if he can do that though yet).

    Edwards will be pretty much out of steam after South Carolina, where he will come third…. unless he comes first or second in New Hampshire.

    Clinton is probably plotting some serious mud she can sling at Obama in time for Super-Duper-Tuesday.

    Republicans
    Fred Thompson will be out before SDT. After that big 27-state election in early Feb, I suspect John McCain and Rudy Giuliani will show poor ratings but Giuliani will probably refuse to drop out then, believing he can still milk the terrorism angle to make a comeback. Eventually he will have to drop out. This will leave Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul as still the candidates with the strongest bases or momentum or cash to carry on.

    5th January, 2008

    US news vs British 24 news

    by Sunny at 7:34 am    

    So I spent most of today, the day after the Iowa elections where Barack Obama stormed to the front, watching the 24 hour news channels. CNN, MSNBC etc, occasionally even Fox to see what they were up to.

    What strikes me about American broadcast news media is how great they are at repackaging the same stories over the course of the day in different ways to keep you hooked.

    You see, BBC News 24 or Sky News make this assumption that we watch them only for 15 min - 30 min bursts. Watch either for an hour and you can see the headlines, stories and transcripts repeat themselves. To avoid an overwhelming feeling of deja vu, you have to switch off after that.

    Over here they might have the same stories… actually, they had only one story - the elections, and yet each station has like 15 different presenters (per hour) and 200 commentators over the day to discuss the elections. You may get the niggly feeling by the end of the day that the news agenda hasn’t actually moved since the past 5 hours, but it’s a lot more fun watching it.

    Of course, American news channels don’t really bother with international stories, or even a broad range of domestic stories, but somehow they are a lot more gripping than British news channels. And their presenters have more flair. Why can’t we have more of that in the UK (without losing that broad news coverage)?

    Update Desi Italiana takes issue with me in the comments, saying: “We have ‘flair;’ and that’s because what we do is not ‘news’ but infotainment. We need more hard hitting reporting.”

    I don’t disagree with her, but if I wanted hard-hitting investigative or in-depth reporting, I’d head to Borders and grab one of the many excellent political magazines they have here: The New Yorker, NY Mag, Mother Jones, Harpers, The Atlantic, New Republic, American Prospect etc etc. I can’t remember half the names, all I remember is spending inordinate amounts of time at Borders.

    Filed under: Media
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