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1st August, 2006

‘This madness must stop’

by Sunny at 4:45 pm    

Looks like the American administration is finally waking up. It isn’t the spineless Democrats but the Republicans who want a ceasefire.

Urging President Bush to turn all U.S. efforts toward “ending this madness,” a leading Republican senator Monday broke with the Bush administration and called for an immediate cease-fire in the Mideast.

“The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now,” Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel said. “President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop.”

“How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend — the country and people of Lebanon — is going to enhance America’s image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?” asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

From CNN , via Mash. He has the CNN news broadcast too.

BBC Panorama, Interpal and Hamas

by Sunny at 1:54 am    

Last night the BBC aired a Panorama documentary alleging that the British charity Interpal had tight links with Hamas. Actually it was more insinuation and smear than actual evidence since the BBC did not bring anything new and factual to the table. No investigation has been launched because, well, the Charity Commission has already investigated and given it a clean bill of health. Pickled Politics covered this before. You can watch the documentary online.

Given the charity has also successfully sued the Daily Telegraph, Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jerusalem Post, one wonders what the point of all this was?

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Filed under: Media, Middle East
29th July, 2006

It’s the weekend open thread!

by Katy at 12:03 pm    

But it is not a very openthready weekend for me, I am afraid, because I stupidly volunteered to interview new recruits for work and am stuck in an antiquated building with no air conditioning for the whole entire weekend whilst everyone else is out having fun in the lovely slightly less hot and sticky weather.

So as I have to work and you don’t you can all entertain yourselves. Go on, off you go. But you could start by sharing your weekend plans with us here. You know, if you really want to.

In the meantime I must go and interview sweaty palmed newbies. Their fate rests in my hands. The power! THE POWER!

Filed under: Current affairs
27th July, 2006

When two tribes go to war…

by Leon at 3:21 pm    

I was wondering why we hadn’t heard anything from the loony bunch from the caves. Almost on cue comes another al-Qaida message. And funnily enough it sounds very similar to one by an American politician.

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26th July, 2006

Making excuses for murder

by Sunny at 11:52 pm    

Unsurprisingly, Gene over at Harry’s Place is busy trying to make excuses for the deaths of four UN observers killed by Israeli bombing. He says there is “absolutely no evidence”. His defensive attitude is slightly bizarre given the Israeli army knew exactly where the Observers were and were warned several times of their actions. No wonder Garry Smith calls it a joke.

But, you know, shit happens in war. As we are constantly told. Sure, gang fights happen all the time too and sometimes shit happens then too. It doesn’t make it any more right. Rather than making excuses or try to fudge the issue, it’s much better to accept that it was wrong and should be condemned. You maintain much more credibility then.

And the latest is: Israeli warplanes bombed 100 targets in southern Lebanon yesterday and one family of seven civilians was killed. More than 400 Lebanese have been killed in total. Hizbullah yesterday fired some 70 rockets into northern Israel, killing a 15-year-old girl. More than 40 Israelis have died in the violence, including 18 who have been killed by rockets.

Update: Let me clarify a point I made earlier. The Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has expressed “deep regret” over the deaths. He has not admitted the bombings may have been deliberate. I mistakenly gave that impression earlier.

But Annan is right to have suspicions they were deliberate, given the warnings, Israel’s advanced precision technology, and the IDF’s lack of attention to civilian casualties in Lebanon. If Hizbullah said all Israeli casualties were mistakes since they were aiming at military structures - would you believe them? I suspect Gene would treat such claims with disdain. Why exactly should we take the IDF at face value, given they want to bomb Lebanon to kingdom come and believe this is a clash of civilisations?

Filed under: Middle East
25th July, 2006

Media stances over Israel and Lebanon

by Sunny at 5:25 pm    

There is, quite clearly, a war taking place on two fronts; the military and the media. I think it’s important to seperate the two. The internet has made it very easy to get both sides of the story, and it has exacerbated calls of bias on both sides.

Take the BBC. Conflict and war inflates their importance and viewership, yet they cannot enjoy the relentless accusations of pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian bias. How do we measure it? How do we make objective conclusions? Do images like this help the situation or do they simply widen the divide, making peace more difficult?

The Beeb haphazardly touches on the debate, like today, but I’m not sure they want to engage fully and constructively. Their recent report on the issue seemed more like a fudge. Though I find BBC News more palatable than say CNN or Al-Jazeera, CNN International and Channel 4 News seem to beat them on breadth of reporting and analysis respectively.

There was a brilliant essay in the New York Times last year that predicted a growing number of media outlets and fragmenting audiences would force them to focus on particular audiences to build a solid base. So for example as Fox News became more popular by pandering to the Republicans and the right, CNN was forced to follow suit in order to avoid losing that audience.

You can see that on blogs too. It has become harder to have a middle ground - people either want to post up pictures of dead Lebanese or Israelis being bombed. Or they avoid the issue. Some national newspapers have tried to maintain a balanced approach by publishing conflicting comment pieces that support both sides but I don’t think they help - people will simply take on board what fits into their prejudices. And the propaganda war carries on.

Filed under: Media, Middle East
24th July, 2006

My day with the RSS

by Vikrant at 3:54 pm    

As I step out of the shaka, I feel a warm sense of relief. Mr.Chiplunkar asks me how it was… I find my self mumbling: ’twas great… But my mind was already calculating what other Picklers would say. What a story it would be; me going into the very lairs of RSS while King Sunny goes on about mowing the lawn at his Middlesex Manor.

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Filed under: India, Organisations, Hindu
22nd July, 2006

It’s the weekend hot and sticky thread!

by Katy at 12:09 am    

It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s the weekend, it’s a thread. You know what to do.



Oh, all right, all right, I know that doesn’t really cut it. It is just that the heat is so hot today and I feel rather listless and floppy and really only in the mood for lying around whilst tall, handsome, muscle-bound men (who, for the record, can be fair, dark, black African or navy blue, I am not picky) bring me delicious iced drinks and peel grapes for me and feed me icecream and so on.

Normally I ban anything topical, serious or political from the weekend hot and sticky thread. However, I am going to break my own rule and, following on from Rohin’s post, add that being fair really is not all it’s cracked up to be. Being a redhead, and therefore about as fair as it gets, I am not really equipped to cope with heat. Whilst other girls happily peel off their clothes and frolic in the noon sun, slowly turning a smooth caramel brown, I can be spotted skulking pinkly in the background shade shrouded in a floppy hat and big baggy shirt, unless I coat myself in Factor 50 sunblock, which is thick and white like gloss paint and makes me look as if I have coated myself from top to toe in full-fat Philadelphia, which is not really the look to which I aspire. And I daren’t forget to apply it. Last Saturday I forgot to put any sunblock on and was trapped in traffic in an open-top car for almost an hour. At first it was all fine. Then the redness began. By the time the wedding had finished I was quite warm. By the time the dancing began I was bright red and sore across my chest, arms and shoulders, except for a diagonal stripe across my chest where my seatbelt was. I was referred to as the Human Stop Sign all evening on the Saturday. Oh how they we laughed. And all because of an hour in the sun.

Still, this weekend will be better. The terrible burns have faded, I have a blind date tomorrow afternoon and I intend to spend the rest of the weekend doing some serious lolling. What is everyone else doing?

Filed under: Current affairs
21st July, 2006

Lighten up

by Rohin at 11:21 am    

I would hazard a guess that the whiter a country, the more a tan is valued. I’m sure some smart Alec will name an exception, but in a country like Estonia, despite only seeing one other non-white person, everyone was my colour.

Yet far from nordic blondes, in the Middle East, Africa and across Asia, women have a very different ideal of beauty. It’s something we’ve discussed a few times before on PP, but skin lightening continues to be huge business, which shows no signs of flagging - indeed, quite the opposite.

Due to the immense scale of the international demand for skin lightening products, it’s a difficult topic to approach in a humble blog post. One could examine the phenomenon area by area.

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Filed under: Culture, The World
20th July, 2006

Children and ritualistic terror

by SajiniW at 9:57 pm    

Ritualistic killings are a not-uncommon problem for the Metropolitan police. The tragic circumstances of ‘torso on the Thames’, Child B and Victoria Climbie have resulted in repeated enquiries and investigations, without broader understanding. Now, Operation Violet, a taskforce has released a long-delayed report into factors involved in these killings.

Whilst the common perception of ritual killings is that it’s something for the Afro-Caribbean population to sort out, it’s interesting to note that five cases out of the thirty-eight investigated, were of South Asian origin, with four of these being Muslim and just the one Hindu. Such superstitions are often popular throughout Asian cultures, making the fact that comparatively few Asian children have been involved in such incidents, a very encouraging one. The five children investigated may represent the tip of an iceberg; medical models, such as the South East London Screening Study have long demonstrated that each case presenting to authorities has more often than not, got a comparable counterpart within the community.

Comparatively little investigation has been made into the fate of adults who die from similar means. The barbaric killing of Subramaniam Sivakumar bears shades of resemblance to a ritual killing. What is more interesting is the similarity of the gang responsible to LTTE front-organisations operating over the last few years. Extortion and threats are commonplace amongst the Tamil business community. Dissent has been more pronounced during recent years. Those who committed this brutal killing & attempted to prevent its investigation (the chief witness has been intimidated into hiding) should not be allowed to intimidate others in their community.

This incident should serve as a reminder to bolster, not silence the protest against terrorism.

Filed under: Current affairs
19th July, 2006

Big Bhaiya

by Rohin at 8:57 pm    

I’ve just returned from the joint hottest place in the UK on the hottest ever July day (Teddington - 39.3), so please forgive any speling and gramer errers. Hence, something light whilst we all swelter.

The Beeb today announces that Dutch behemoth’s subcontinental arm, Endemol India, are planning a celeb Big Brother Bharat, although - no sex please, we’re Indian. A spokesperson for the production company said “India is a conservative society and is not ready for the raunchy scenes that so characterise the programmes in the West.”

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Filed under: Media, Culture, India
17th July, 2006

Insufficient evidence, but only if it’s the police

by Kulvinder at 12:51 pm    

The CPS has decided not to charge any officers in relation to the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting. They have instead decided to pursue the Met Police. I’m ambivalent about the situation. The general public and media seem to be ‘forgiving’ of the police and individual officers when they make mistakes. Even if those mistakes end in the death of innocent civilians. I hold no grudge against the officers concerned but I can’t help but compare this situation to that of a doctor, nurse or teacher in charge when tragedy occurs.

The notion of ‘killer medics’ or ‘incompetent teachers’ is, to my mind anyway, far more widespread than similar feelings about the police. I’m sure the press will write righteous editorials on how the police are protecting us from harm and that accidents occur. I broadly support the decision of the CPS, charge the organisation not the individuals.

Retire or transfer those involved if need be but don’t find scapegoats for the failings of an entire system. I just wish the CPS, the law, the police and society would think likewise when dealing with other professionals in a similar situation.

Filed under: Current affairs
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
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.

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Filed under: South Asia, India
12th July, 2006

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.

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Filed under: India
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]

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…

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Filed under: Current affairs

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

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]

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