Chinese security forces took up position in Beijing by the tens of thousands on Friday as delegates gathered for the annual session of parliament, ready to crush any display of dissent.650,000 jackbooted thugs to protect 3,000 Communist apparatchiks. That's about a 217:1 thug-in-jackboots:thug-in-a-suit ratio.
Cars entering the capital on a sunny but cold and blustery morning were being searched, with new security measures including a ban on hot air balloons and parachutes over the city.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have focused on narrowing the gap between rich and poor since they came to power two years ago, but police have already removed at least one group of disgruntled farmers from the capital for protesting.
"More than 650,000 people will stand guard and go on patrol on the city's streets and lanes every day to guarantee security," the Legal Evening Post quoted a Public Security Bureau official as saying.
China's leaders also fear public grieving for ousted Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, who opposed the use of force to suppress student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, could spiral into protest and Sunday marks the end of the traditional mourning period. He died on Jan. 17.
The National People's Congress opens on Saturday with an anti-secession bill that could give China a legal basis to attack rival Taiwan high on the agenda, and questions still hanging over Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa who sources say has quit.
Officials were taking every measure to ensure the 10-day session of meetings is carried off without disruption.
State television showed bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling Tiananmen Square and around the adjacent Great Hall of the People. It showed kitchen staff washing vegetables to make sure the 3,000-odd delegates eat only the cleanest food.
Cars were being stopped at toll gates at the city limits, the identity of passengers checked and boots searched.
Beijing has even gone so far as to ban hot air balloons and parachutes over the city "to prevent Falun Gong members and violent terrorists from using flying objects to make trouble," the China News reported, referring to the spiritual movement that surprised leaders with a 1999 protest at their tightly guarded compound.
Samia is a very frustrated girl. Her father is old and retired and her only brother lives in another town with too many responsibilities to spare much of help. Her mother is sick and needs medical attention while her younger sisters are still in school and need daily transportation, as she does. All her problems begin and end with money. She can’t have enough of her teaching salary to satisfy all these needs. Her pay of around four thousand riyals is hardly enough to cover food, medicine and accommodation expenses. Much could have been saved if she could drive to take her sisters to school and on to hers. Later, she could take them back home and run other errands. Besides grocery, she has to take her father to the three-days-a-week physical therapy, her mother to hospital or her grandmother’s home. Every now and then the family needs to go to social events and join family gatherings.
Despite the broad new authorities to use lethal force it was granted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, critics say the CIA continues to be too cautious in employing the ultimate sanction against the terrorist enemies of the United States.Of course Scheuer is a notable lunatic as this Commentary piece makes clear.
One former intelligence official told United Press International that even the agency's most touted new weapon -- the Hellfire missile, which can be launched from the remotely piloted Predator aerial platform -- is hamstrung by the excessively legalistic attitude of the agency's senior management.
"From personal experience, I can tell you, you have to build a brief of almost court-level evidence before you can even contemplate shooting a hellfire missile at one of these guys," said former CIA bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer.
"I can't give you the exact figures," Scheuer went on, explaining that they are classified, "but since May of 2002 the Predator has shot far less than ten missiles. Not because there were no targets, but because the legal requirements necessary before you pull the trigger are so onerous."
In recently declassified testimony to the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, Richard Clarke, who led the White House's counter-terrorism efforts under President Clinton and in the early part of President Bush's first term, said that this process resulted in "a very Talmudic and somewhat bizarre series of documents" that gave extremely specific authorities for particular operations.
According to Clarke's testimony there were policy reasons -- over and above any legal considerations -- for limiting the authorities that the Clinton memos gave the CIA.
"The administration, and particularly the Justice Department, did not want to throw out the ban on assassination," he told the inquiry.
"There was concern ... that we not create an American hit list that would become an ongoing institution that we could just keep adding names to and have hit teams go out and assassinate people."
But according to Scheuer the concern meant that operations ended up being micro-managed by administration lawyers.
"It got so ridiculous," he told UPI. "When we were training for an operation to capture bin Laden, the lawyers made us build an ergonomic chair in which he would be comfortable. ... At one point we took three rolls of tape to the lawyers (at the National Security Council) -- duct tape ... masking tape and white adhesive tape -- so they could decide which we could use to put over his mouth that would be least uncomfortable."
He angrily contrasted the lawyers' attitude to the risks they were prepared to order CIA operatives to undertake.
"They were more than willing to send my officers out into the Western part of the United States to practice landing a C-130 without lights at night and risk their lives doing that," he said, "but they were worried about this damn Saudi's beard being irritated by tape."
Scheuer ridiculed the situation U.S. officials were placed in by the assassination ban.
"When we first went after bin Laden I had very senior members of several Arab (intelligence) services say, 'Mr. Mike, why don't you just let us kill him for you?' And I would have to say, 'No, no. Executive Order 12333 says we can't kill anybody.'"
All of which leaves only two questions. How did a person of such demonstrable mediocrity of mind and unhinged views achieve the rank he did in the CIA, and how could so manifestly wayward and damaging a work have been published by someone in the agency’s employ? To the second question, at least, an answer of a sort is ready to hand, if one that raises disturbing questions of its own.But that's just a sideline in the Commentary piece, which also points out how bureaucratic, and PC the CIA has become. Excerpts after the jump:
Mukhtaran Bibi thought her nightmare was over when the men who gang-raped her - on orders from village elders - were sentenced to death more than two years ago. But yesterday the nightmare began again.What, not even the innocent victim? Why do moron reporters insist on energetically soliciting and eagerly printing the most fatuous, imbecilic quotes to be "evenhanded" when anyone with a room-temperature IQ knows Nazar Hussain is full of shit?
The victim of Pakistan's most notorious rape case wept bitterly after a court in the southern city of Multan overturned the verdict against three of the four alleged rapists and two tribal elders, and quashed the death sentence against the sixth.
"I am in pain. I will ask my lawyer to challenge this decision," said the 30-year-old woman, who has received several awards for her bravery in testifying against her attackers at a trial in 2002. As five of the men prepared to walk free, dismayed human rights activists said the decision was a blow to the struggle for women's rights in a notoriously male-dominated society.
"Mukhtaran is traumatised, but so are many other people," said IA Rehman of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission. Ms Bibi was catapulted to world attention after a panchayat , or tribal council, at the remote Punjabi village of Meerwala in June 2002.
Her 12-year-old brother was accused of having an affair with a woman from the higher-caste Mastoi tribe. In punishment, the elders ordered that Mukhtaran be raped. As several hundred people watched, four men dragged her screaming through a cotton field. Pushing her into a mud-walled house, they assaulted her for more than an hour.
She emerged afterwards with her clothes torn. Her father and brother, who had been forced to wait outside during the ordeal, draped her with a shawl and helped her home.
In the days that followed her first impulse was to commit suicide, she recently told the Guardian. "In this area, there is no law and no justice. A woman is left with one option, and that is to die," she said.
But Ms Bibi took the case to court and, after a tear-filled testimony, six Mastoi men were sentenced to death by hanging in August 2002.
Her plight won international press coverage and promises from government officials for an end to brutal "honour killings" and punishments. It also earned the sympathy of President Pervez Musharraf, who offered her �4,500, 24-hour police protection and a house in the capital, Islamabad.
Government investigators found the accusation against her brother, Shakoor, was false. Instead they found evidence to support his claim that two Mastoi men had sodomised him.
Yesterday a high court judge in Multan overturned the decision against the Mastoi rapists, citing flaws in the prosecution case. Faiz Ahmad, the Mastoi elder who allegedly ordered the rape punishment, and four other men were freed. A sixth man had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
A defence lawyer, Mohammad Salim, told the BBC that justice had been done. "The verdict of the anti-terrorism court in August 2002 was largely influenced by media hype and government pressure," he said.
But Hina Jilani, a supreme court lawyer and women's rights activist, blamed the state for failing to ensure a watertight prosecution.
"The government made tall claims that justice would be done, but the reality has been exposed. Our institutions have allowed impunity to prevail."
Since 2002 Ms Bibi has remained in Meerwala, where she has used President Musharraf's donation to build the village's first primary schools, where about 270 boys and girls are being educated.
She has also become a symbol for women's rights. Foreign groups flew her to Spain, India and Saudi Arabia. An article in the New York Times raised $130,000 (£68,000) in donations, which she intends to spend on health and education services.
But she has maintained the 24-hour police guard at the gate of her remote farmhouse after several death threats. She believed the threats stemmed from her refusal to entertain repeated clemency pleas from the Mastoi, who still live just 100 metres away. The Mastoi said they were the victims of a great injustice. "Nobody is innocent in this affair," said Nazar Hussain, uncle of one of the convicted men.
"Honour" killings and punishments are usually sanctioned through the panchayat system, which has no legal standing but is still prevalent in many rural towns. Last week elders in another Punjabi village ordered that a two-year-old girl be married to a man 33 years her senior. The betrothal was in compensation for an adulterous affair committed by her uncle.And speaking of pointless moronic bullshit...
Yesterday the actor Meryl Streep listed Pakistan and Britain among dozens of countries that have reneged on promises to revoke laws discriminating against women, which were made at a UN conference in Beijing 10 years ago.Who gives a fuck what Meryl Streep thinks? Just because she's a famous actress doesn't mean she's an authority of any sort. Here, I'll prove it with her own words:
"A woman cannot vote in Kuwait. She cannot drive in Saudi Arabia. She is barred from working on military submarines in Britain. In Pakistan, if a woman is raped she must have four Muslim adult male witnesses to secure justice, failing which she may herself be considered guilty of fornication," Streep said.Maybe Sesame Street can get through to truly childish and inane mentalities like Meryl Streep's, and this reporter's, and his editor's, and probably most of the Guardian's readership:
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you're absolutely...right!
Question: How many blondes in Moscow’s Sephora store does it take to sell one mascara? Answer: Five. I kid you not, five girls could barely figure out how to find, ring up, and wrap one tiny box of mascara, and to give me change they had to go break my 500 rouble bill in a nearby kebob stand. That’s what the arrival of market economics often looks like in Moscow. It’s all about efficiency and good customer service.
About ten years ago I was on board of an Aeroflot flight headed to Moscow. Aeroflot stewardesses in impeccable uniforms strolled past with dinner trays, a sense of purpose, and — surprise — a resemblance of a smile! What a change from the old Soviet days, I thought, as I handed my cup to one of the crew members for some hot tea. Priceless, her look of disdain caught me off-guard. “What, you want me to pour you tea right into the butter?" she asked with loud contempt, showing me that I forgot to take a wrapped piece of butter out from the cup. Ah, home sweet home, I thought. No need to kiss Russian soil, since the atmosphere of Soviet-style service can also be experienced 5,000 feet off the ground. Some things have changed since then, but the transition has been slow and painful.
Yes, Soviet-style customer service is not just an oxymoron; it’s a living legend, of encyclopedic proportions. “Sovkovy servis" (Soviet service) is the expression people use to describe a cafe or store where the rule of thumb is not “the client is always right," but “the only good client is a dead client."
Outraged by scenes of young boys and girls using Shi'ite Islam's most sacred mourning day as an opportunity to flirt in public, Iran's religious hard-liners are calling on authorities to stamp out such "vulgar displays." Failure to do so, some newspaper commentators said, would force pious citizens to take matters into their own hands.
The main focus of hardline anger was a gathering of several hundred youngsters at Mohseni square in affluent northern Tehran earlier this month on the night of Ashura.
Ashura is the day Shi'ites commemorate the death of Imam Hossein in a 680 AD battle which cemented the schism between Sunni and Shi'ite Islam. In Iran, where Shi'ite Islam is the official religion, it is supposed to be marked by mourning.
"In the sunset of Ashura, women and girls in tight clothes and transparent scarves and guys dressed in Western fashion lit candles while laughing their hearts out," said the Ya Lesarat weekly, mouthpiece of the feared Ansar-e Hizbollah hardline vigilante group, members of whom later dispersed the crowds.
"In this disgraceful event which was like a large street party, women and girls ... as well as boys ... mocked Muslims' beliefs and sanctities in the most shameless manner," Jomhuri-ye Eslami said.
"Some long-haired guys would openly cuddle girls creating awful and immoral scenes. Fast, provoking music ... nearby gave the street party more steam," it added.
"In general, religious events like Ashura have become a way for young people to interact freely in public," said one analyst who follows religious affairs closely.
"The religious side of it is much less important to them than the social aspect," the analyst, who declined to be named, added.
For several months now, Orissa has seen violent attacks against Christians. In the last two weeks two Protestant clergymen have been murdered. On February 17 Gilbert Raj, a pastor with Missions India, died after being beaten and tortured. Ten days later, Dilip Dalai, a member of the Orissa Follow-Up community, was stabbed to death at his home in Begunia, 60 km from the state capital of Bhubaneswar. Christians attacked, BJP administration backs fundamentalists, Bishop of Orissa saysAnd in Rajasthan, Hindu militants attacked young Christians traveling to a convention.
The 250 Christians had arrived in Kota’s railway station at about 4:30 am when they were met by some 200 slogan-shouting members of Hindu organizations who reportedly surrounded them and roughed them up before taking them to a local police station.To get a full sense of what this Indian nationalism involves, read The Gujarat Massacre.
"Hindu fundamentalists are always very vigilant of any Christian activities [. . .] They are always coming up with new ways to prevent and block any Christian congregational assemblies," he added.
In light of the situation, local Muslims have expressed their solidarity with the persecuted Christians of Rajasthan. Mohammed Seleem, a local Mulsim community leader, said that the state government, which is run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), backs Hindu "fascist" organisations; "instead of punishing the persecutors, it takes aim at the their victims".
Bishop Menezes also pointed the finger at Rajasthan's state authorities which have already been taken to task for their controversial social and religious policies.
Rajasthan's Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has for instance lifted the ban on trishuls (tridents) and dropped charges against Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal workers.
"Christians are helpless," Bishop Menezes said. "With a BJP administration running the state we hardly have a voice".
Hindu fundamentalists attack Christian meeting in Rajasthan
A language in use for just 70 years has evolved quickly and with unexpected structure, researchers said Monday.
The Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) is as an alternative language for a community of about 3,500 people, several of whose members are deaf. It has been in use for three generations, arising naturally with no outside influence. Other relatively new languages are outgrowths of related tongues or are heavily influenced by existing languages. So ABSL offered an unprecedented opportunity to study the early development of language rules.
Scientists expected to find a rudimentary set of gestures for ABSL.
"But I was impressed immediately by how sophisticated the language was," said Carol Padden, professor of communication at the University of California, San Diego. "This is not an ad hoc, spur of the moment communication. It is a complex language capable of relating information beyond the here and now."
The language has given scientists their first opportunity to witness the laying of a grammatical foundation.
The research team was surprised to find ABSL sentence structure opposite to other languages in the region. ABSL sentences follow this order: subject-object-verb, as in "woman apple give." In other languages in the area, as well as in English, the order is subject-verb-object.
"The grammatical structure of the Bedouin sign language shows no influence from either the dialect of Arabic spoken by hearing members of the community or the predominant sign language in the surrounding area, Israeli Sign Language," Padden said. "Our findings support the idea that word order is one of the first features of a language, and that it appears very early."
Bedouin's are nomadic tribes. But they do settle. Al-Sayyid is a village of 3,500 Bedouins in Israel's Negev Desert. Two sons of the founder were deaf. The trait surfaces whenever two carriers have a child, so the deaf people -- numbering about 150 now -- are distributed throughout the village.
"It is a language of the entire community, both hearing and deaf," Padden said. "ABSL is transmitted within families across generations, and children learn it without explicit instruction. It is the best analogue we have for studying how any new language is born and grows."
Initial results of the ongoing study will be published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.