Concealed in that pitch-black night is an imploding state where the only things that work are the police and the armed forces. The situation is actually slightly worse than indentured servitude. The slave owner historically promises, in effect, at least to keep his slaves fed. In North Korea, this compact has been broken. It is a famine state as well as a slave state.
“A little eyeliner, a few light streaks in the hair and even up the eyebrows," doesn’t sound too unusual for a beauty parlor, but now some guys with gutras are getting gussied up, too.Or maybe it's a change in the air? Saudi Teens Go ‘West’
It’s not unusual these days to see men with makeup on their face. The number of Saudi men visiting barbershops for makeup and makeovers is on the rise. In the past, most barbershops had little equipment unrelated to haircuts. These days, they have equipment rivaling a women’s beauty salon.
This new fad is acceptable among many young Saudis who take it as a normal thing to do, but older people and most conservatives maintain it should be for women only.
“The number of strange, male ‘beauty barbershops’ has increased these days to a dangerous level," said Abu Murad, a 43-year-old Saudi. “It’s not strange anymore to see young Saudis with funny haircuts and makeup."
Murad thinks it’s a breakdown of society and culture. “I think barbershops that offer these services should be closed down," he said. “I blame it largely on a lack of parental supervision and the influence of television."
The second annual report from the League Against Anti-Semitism in Prague looks at both active and passive forms of anti-Semitism, from physical attacks on Jews to more subtle everyday slurs.Report: Anti-Semitic acts are on the rise in Czech Republic
The league recorded nine instances of desecration of Jewish monuments or cemeteries, more than double the previous year’s figures. Painting swastikas and knocking over Jewish headstones were the most common elements of such desecrations.
The report notes a dramatic rise in neo-Nazi concerts, where the use of swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs are common. In addition, soccer fans often insult one another by calling each other “Polish Jew."
Among the anti-Semitic literature cited in the report was an article seeking to connect Bolshevism and Judaism, a frequent accusation by the extreme right wing in Europe. The article appeared in Catholic Review, a fringe Internet magazine that Catholic authorities in Prague say has nothing to do with the church or with mainstream Catholicism.
Catholic Review also organized a lecture on Judaism by an American, E. Michael Jones, a purported historian who equated Jews to sons of Satan in his speech.
In other publications, anti-Israel commentaries are a staple of the Communist magazine Halo Noviny. Since nearly one fourth of the lower house of Parliament is Communist, the newspaper’s readership is relatively large.
Lomova pointed out several trends in Czech anti-Semitism that she found particularly alarming, such as the recent opening of a Czech branch of Blood and Honor, a global skinhead movement promoting anti-Semitism and racism.
“What I really find alarming is the relativization of the Holocaust," Lomova said. “Within the framework of anti-Americanism, the Holocaust is being interpreted as a way that the Israeli and American governments achieve their political goals."
One of the only university courses about the Holocaust taught in the Czech Republic is given by a professor who tells his students that the tragedy is used as a political weapon, Lomova said.
As in many European societies where few Jews survived the Holocaust, the perception of what is Jewish is based more on myth than reality, Lomova said.
“People feel Jews are strange and must have a black coat, black hat and big nose," she said.
A commercial earlier this year for a gardening company that portrayed an Orthodox Jew as a greedy bargain hunter was taken off the air only after the intervention of the Israeli ambassador. Even then, many commentators felt the Jewish community had overreacted, and claimed it likely would result in more anti-Semitism.
The report also offers many anecdotes about what it called latent anti-Semitism. The report notes that Leo Pavlat, who heads the Jewish Museum of Prague, told the BBC about a fashion magazine in which a man complained that gyms are run by “mean Jews."
A host on a Czech Television presentation informed viewers that Orthodox Jews bathe only once a week, after his guest complained about sitting next to a “smelly Orthodox Jew."
At a folklore carnival, one of the main costumes was presented as the outfit of a Jew.
“Ranking Jews among curious characters shows that Jews continue to be strangers, weird creatures," the report said.
As soon as U.S. President George Bush ended his visit to Tbilisi and returned to Washington, a number of international media, citing sources in the American special services, circulated reports of a bomb allegedly thrown at Bush during his speech at a huge rally in Tbilisi. The bomb did not explode, and Georgian experts gave assurances that it could not have exploded. In Tbilisi, they believe the goal of the perpetrator was to discredit Georgia in the eyes of the international community.It's a plausible version of events, and may explain why Condi Rice downplayed the incident.
As Jonathon Cherry, an official spokesman for the American Secret Service, said on Tuesday, “after the president left Georgia, the Georgian authorities informed us that, according to intelligence available to them, during the president's speech in Tbilisi, a device resembling a hand grenade was thrown in the crowd no more than 100 feet [30 m] from the stage. They also informed us that this device hit someone in the crowd and then fell to the ground."
Until the information appeared on Internet sites, no one in Georgia knew anything about the incident. Neither millions of viewers watching the rally live on TV nor the people standing in the square, including those in Bush's immediate vicinity, noticed any kind of device that flew towards the American president and landed 30 m away from him. But if something like that had happened, it certainly wouldn't have passed unnoticed.
Yesterday morning, Guram Donadze, the head of the Georgian Interior Ministry's press service, categorically denied information about a grenade thrown at the U.S. president, calling it a total lie. And at noon, Gela Bezhuashvili, the secretary of the National Security Council, held a special press conference.
From his statements, as well as from information obtained from sources in the Georgian government, events unfolded as follows. Hundreds of masked Georgian special services personnel were in the thick of the crowd during Bush's speech in the square. One of them noticed a suspicious-looking bundle at his feet. After unobtrusively picking it up and carrying it out of the crowd, he examined his find carefully. The bundle turned out to be a newspaper with an RGD-5 hand grenade rolled up in it. The officer promptly reported his discovery to his immediate superior. All the sources especially emphasized that no one had thrown the grenade – it was simply lying on the ground.
An expert immediately arrived at the scene, glanced at the grenade, and said straight away that it posed no threat, because it was a training device. The grenade was then taken to a laboratory, where they confirmed that it was not live and could not have exploded.
By that time, President Bush had finished speaking and left for the airport. The Georgian special services informed their American counterparts of the find and offered their assistance in the investigation. However, from the comments being heard in Tbilisi today, it is clear that the Georgians did not expect the American special services to publicize this fact, especially before the special investigation is complete.
Bezhuashvili noted that, in his opinion, it all had to do with planned informational sabotage with the aim of discrediting Georgia internationally. According to this theory, some person (or group of people) took advantage of the fact that thousands of people were able to enter the square without being checked by metal detectors and left a harmless grenade there on the assumption that it would be discovered and the information would be leaked to the press. “If the goal of the perpetrators was to cause an uproar in the press, they succeeded," Bezhuashvili said.
Meanwhile, Georgian officials are trying not to exaggerate the incident and are not pointing to possible organizers of the provocation before the investigation is complete. But as Konstantin Gabashvili, the head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said half-jokingly, “as far as I know, the grenade was wrapped in a copy of Pravda, which hasn't been sold in Georgia for a long time." In the words of parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze, “There are a great many people who were against President Bush's visit to Georgia, and these forces tried to discredit Georgia and belittle the importance of the visit." Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said that the grenade was “specially left in the square to cause a stir." Without exception, all the sources in the power agencies repeated this version of events. According to the sources, rolling a dummy grenade in a newspaper, carrying it to the square at the risk of being discovered, throwing it on the ground without anyone noticing, and then disappearing had no other goal than pure provocation.
Iranian students some carrying placards bearing the slogan "do not kill liberty and justice" have staged sit-in protests at university campuses in Tehran against a government order excluding from university assemblies student groups and other organisations who want a boycott of the country's presidential elections. The protests were organised by the country's main student organisation, Daftar Tahkim Vahdat and included the participation of several reformist MPs who have been excluded from standing in the elections, scheduled for 17 July.Iran: Protest sit-in at university
Last week the Ministry of Intelligence issued a circular addressed to all the universities in the country, in which the chancellors were requested not to authorise any assembly or meeting with the participation of student leaders or personalities from the cultural world who have spoken out against the presidential vote.
Student leaders, many belonging to Daftar Tahkim Vahdat, were among the signatories of an appeal for a United Nations monitored referendum, allowing people in Iran to express their opinion on the nature of the Iranian political system and the separation of the state from religion.
China has begun to tip its hand as to how it plans to unravel a Gordian knot of social, financial and political problems -- any one of which could be life-threatening to the communist government in Beijing. The revelation came April 27, when a China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) official said leaders are examining ways to protect the country's banking sector against foreign competition, while -- at least for now -- still honoring its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO).China may have dipped a toe in the water on the 29th of April in terms of allowing the yuan to appreciate a little, but the experiment quickly ended.
Though Shi Jiliang, the vice chairman of the CBRC, was careful to emphasize that China's WTO commitments are not in doubt, his discussion of achieving "an appropriate level of protection for Chinese banks" and taking efforts to "reduce excessive competition between foreign and Chinese banks" could hardly be lost on Beijing-watchers waiting for the government -- which faces a crisis of legitimacy on multiple levels -- to signal its next move. As the situation stands now, any credibility the government gleaned from Marxism, Maoism or Communism has long since faded, and the Communist Party remains in power only by dint of its ability to deliver economic well-being to the masses.
Its chosen delivery mechanisms are state-owned enterprises (SOEs) -- government-run companies that directly employ more than half the nation's urban dwellers. These vastly bloated and unprofitable companies are kept "viable" through subsidies and cheap loans, regularly injected by China's state-owned banks.
And therein lies the rub -- for China, its banks and the WTO as well. By any unbiased definition -- and as recently as two years ago, even in the opinion of the government -- the state banks are all moribund. Their total portfolio of (intentionally given) bad loans amount to somewhere between one- and two-thirds of China's gross domestic product, the highest ratio of any major economy in human history. Should that flow of loans be interrupted, the banks would crumble, the SOEs would crash and China would burn in flames of economic catastrophe and social unrest.
The end of China's five year phase-in to full WTO membership -- scheduled to arrive in December 2006 -- is the very thing that could interrupt that life-giving flow of deadly loans. At that point, all restrictions on foreign participation in the Chinese banking sector will fall away. And if Beijing allows this to occur as envisioned by the WTO, foreign banks would quickly attract the bulk of China's private savings, which now are forcibly funneled into the state banks and thence to the SOEs.
Currently, foreign access to China's financial world is thin, restricted as it is to local currency transactions in 18 cities. But even this limited access has led to the formation of some 220 foreign bank offices in China and totaled business worth 108.3 billion yuan ($13 billion) at the end of 2004. These foreign banks already hold 12 percent of all lending business in Shanghai, a rate of increase that Shi calls "unexpectedly [read: disturbingly] fast." Full competition would send Chinese money to the foreign banks in droves, and once foreign currency [read: U.S. dollar] operations are allowed, capital flight will reach mountainous proportions.
Hence, Shi has signaled that China will abrogate its commitments to permit banking competition, in order to assure the continued existence of the government. A choice between China's WTO commitments and the continued survival of the government is no choice at all.
There is certainly something to be said for preparation. Foreign bankers -- who have been singing China's praises for years -- have a vested interest in maintaining the Chinese hype, since they turn profits as money moves into or out of China. But for these bankers, access to China's hundreds of millions of savers is the Holy Grail. A sudden split between Beijing and those who thus far have been singing in the choir would signal not the beginning of the end, but the end itself -- for once the choir realizes it has been had, it is only a matter of moments before the entire congregation of investors speeds for the door.