Archive for the ‘International news’ Category

Fresh off the news from WikiLeaks that the Israelis have intentionally been keeping the Gazan economy at a near-starvation level out of some twisted, morally offensive notion of collective guilt, Israeli troops killed another innocent Palestinian. The 36-year-old woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, was the sister of another murdered Palestinian protester, Bassem Abu Rahmah. In this case, she was simply watching a protest when she was subject to the tear gas that would cause her death.

As the unfiltered news leaked out, the Israeli propaganda machine sprung into action:

But Israeli military officials, who insisted on anonymity while their investigation was continuing, told various journalists and bloggers that they had never heard of tear gas killing anyone in the open, and raised the possibility that she had some pre-existing ailment that, alone or compounded by the tear gas, caused her death.

This paragraph just baffles me. Show me anything here that makes this murder any better. Be the consequence of their actions intended or unintended, the fact is that Israeli troops killed an innocent woman. That they and their shills in the West think these lame hypotheses provide any sort of exculpatory evidence is deeply disturbing.

Deaths like this one are simply the sort of thing that happens when one country occupies another. If the Israelis weren’t in Palestine, they wouldn’t have needed to build a wall. If the Israelis hadn’t built a wall, there would be no protest in Bilin, where both Jawaher and Bassem Abu Rahmah were killed. But the Israelis are in Palestine, they have built a wall, and they are making no great effort at respecting Palestinian life.

This is not to say that everything the Palestinians do is worthy of praise. Far from it. Every time I read a story about children being taught to hate Jews and love martyrs, it makes me feel sick. Every time I am reminded that Arafat the terrorist-murderer won the Nobel Peace Prize, I am disgusted. But the difference is that we hear about these Palestinian crimes all of the time, and only rarely about the Israeli ones.

Intentioned act or accident, the fact is that Israeli troops murdered an innocent woman in Bilin. That is a shame. May her death plague them to the end of their days.

Note: If you are looking for an interesting activist opportunity to support, check out Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli anarchist group agitating on behalf of the Palestinians in places like Bilin.

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China never fails to appall. The spectacle of the Chinese bullying countries into skipping the Nobel ceremony, never mind allowing Liu Xiaobo to pick up his Peace Prize, seems so distant. I only bring it up again to remind you that the Chinese decided one of the best ways to fight the Liu Xiaobo controversy was by creating their own separate peace prize, the Confucius Peace Prize. They didn’t do a bang-up job of stage managing the whole thing, given that the first “recipient” wasn’t informed of his win and didn’t show up to get the prize. Here’s hoping it ages as well as the Stalin Peace Prize did.

In other news, the Mongolian cultural advocate and dissident Hada was released from prison and seemed to have disappeared. Hada had just completed his 15-year sentence for organizing a rally in Inner Mongolia. Luckily, he was later discovered held under house arrest at a hotel in Inner Mongolia. At least he is not dead or in a prison camp again, but the idea that house arrest is a sufficient amount of freedom after serving 15 years just for organizing some people is crazy.

More news came in from another one of the outlying, ethnically non-Han provinces, Xinjiang province, home to the Muslim Uyghurs. There, the Chinese still have not accounted for the whereabouts of 20 Uyghur refugee claimants who were deported to China from Cambodia last year. I do not mean to say that all of the Uyghurs are saints, because some of them are in fact nationalists, terrorists, and/or religious fanatics. But the reality is that the Beijing government has committed far more crimes against the people of Xinjiang than they could ever even dream of committing in response.

Enjoy abusing the dissidents for now, Chinese politicos. I don’t like violence, but I will not shed a tear some day when all of you end up blindfolded against a wall for the crimes you have committed in your country.

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It seems like China has an amazing ability to get its own post each time I do an update. With a country that large run by a dictatorial regime so inhumane and evil, I guess I should not be surprised. And rest assured, there are no human interest stories this time, either.

First let me tell you to never forget the words “My father is Li Gang!” This phrase has apparently become popular in China after the drunken son of a police bureaucrat killed a university student with his car and then threatened security guards on the scene with his father’s name. Her name was Chen Xiaofeng. His, Li Qiming. The state tried to ignore the case at first. Once public outcry got loud enough, they made a show of arresting Li. But the satires and subversive art continued unabated, so eventually they ratcheted up the Great Firewall and disappeared the story from the internet.

These Chinese fascists are foolish to think they can do this any longer. Just like with their attempted suppression of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel victory, they have failed to defeat the communicative power of the internet, as they necessarily must do. It is too big, too dynamic, and too popular for them to defeat it. So please, enjoy feeling like you still have power over the internet for a bit longer. Savor it. But people like you are becoming irrelevant–you can only stomp on the Chinese people for so much longer before they will stomp on you and grind your stupid, murderous regime into dust.

In other Chinese news, the regime pushed forward with the trial of dissident artist Wu Yuren, who they claim beat up some cops. Given that his friend was in the next room and heard Wu screaming, given that Wu had recently engaged in two embarrassing public protests, and given that he had signed Liu Xiaobo’s Charter 08, I’m inclined to believe his story. Oh, and there’s also the fact that the people on the other side are a bunch of bloodthirsty thugs who would kill a peasant for a dollar. Nonetheless, Wu remains on trial, facing up to three years in jail. Not content with that case, the Chinese state also decided to ban human rights advocates Mo Shaoping and He Weifang from traveling. Stated reason: “endangering national security.” Likely reason: they had been invited to pick up Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel.

So let’s close things out with a trip to every modern authoritarian regime’s favorite place for dealing with dissidents, punitive psychiatric hospitals! Once deployed to deadly effect in the Soviet psikhushki, punitive psychiatry lives on in China. The NYT illustrated the system powerfully by focusing on the story of Xu Lindong, a perfectly sane farmer who spent six years in punitive psychiatric care just because he was persistent in helping an illiterate neighbor petition for a strip of land she believed was hers. Xu was inconvenient to the state agenda, so they locked him up for six years and electroshocked him 54 times. He has now emerged from the hospital, mentally and physically shattered. The people who did this to him–from the authorities who recommended he be arrested to the doctors who “diagnosed” him to the guards who kept him locked in to the technicians who shocked him–all deserve to burn in the hottest fires of hell. How many men like Xu never made it out of the hospitals after killing themselves or dying? How many emerged too insane to say anything?

But what the NYT has in illustrative power, it lacks in balls. They never really call the Chinese authorities out for being the bunch of inhumane scumbags that they are. So this is where the South China Morning Post comes to the rescue, calling Chinese psychiatry a “weapon” and directly making the Soviet comparison, along with providing other examples, like the mother Wang Jingmei who was locked up in psychiatric care lest she testify that her murderer son was insane. Or the engineer Ran Guizhen, who would not retire as scheduled and was forcibly retired to a psychiatric hospital where he eventually died.

So what can you do to fight the Chinese dictatorship? For one thing, don’t be a useful idiot. Never say something like “If only we could be more like China.” Never talk about how impressive their economy is. Never even visit there unless you have to. And when you hear a useful idiot spouting lies, shout them down. The revolution that will some day come in China is not the fight of the West, but that doesn’t mean we should not add our voices to the cries of the repressed people there, agitating against their awful government. Add our voices to the cacophony, yes, and hope for the day in which today’s butchers will be tomorrow’s ground beef.

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It’s been a few months now since Yuri Luzhkov, the gay-bashing, Ukraine-baiting, environment-hating corrupt loser who had been Moscow’s mayor since 1992, was sacked. He was quickly replaced by an undistinguished Kremlin apparatchik called Sergei Sobyanin. Sobyanin took one of his first independent strides last week when he decided to close down and cart off a huge number of Moscow’s small galaxy of street kiosks. Apparently, he visited a metro station and decided that kiosks were blocking his view of a monument. So with the stroke of a pen, this functionary of the supposedly democratic Russian state took the sort of anti-human authoritarian destructive action his forebears have been taking for centuries, just that they were more open in their intentions as they styled themselves monarchists and communists.

It was a happy day for me when I read just a few days later that some of the kiosk owners had protested and upon further examination, it turned out that Sobyanin’s suggested interpretation of the law was far too broad, so the kiosks will be allowed to return.

This happiness was short-lived, though. What of the vendors who had their kiosks torn down and carted off? What of the vendors who lost a few days of prime business as the holidays approach? And what of the reality that it will be incredibly easy for the apparatchiki running Moscow to draft a new, properly extensive version of this law and ban the kiosks again in a matter of days or months?

These kiosks were causing no one any harm. They were on public property. As our reader Joe pointed out in response to the Fred Phelps controversy, this is one of the reasons why it would be nice to get rid of public property–so that private property owners would have full control over what and who to allow to use their land. But in the conditions  in which we live, these people were just trying to eke out a living and the state came in and crushed them just so they could have a better view of a monument.

And if you think this is a Russian phenomenon, I would just like to ask you to explain eminent domain to me.

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I have a morbid fascination with China. The sheer scale of the place alone can make an ordinary story fantastic. The inhumane nature of its suddenly respectable dictatorship is always worth examining. As is the resiliency of the brave souls who fight against it.

The most important story to report is an old one–putting a number on Mao’s butchery. Mao was the greatest butcher of the 20th century and almost certainly human history. Hitler and Stalin fall by the wayside. Genghis Khan butchered a lot of people per capita, but there weren’t that many people back then. So I’m going to give the world’s worst butcher award to Mao. And respected historian Frank Dikotter has put a new number on Mao’s “body of work”–at least 45 million people killed just in the rough period of the Great Leap Forward from 1958-1962. Put 45 million people together and you get, by the latest census figures, the 30th largest country on earth. It would be like wiping out every person in Canada, plus another 11 million. This new figure will probably have an effect on his total tally, which was thought to have been pegged too high at 65 million in the 1997 classic The Black Book of Communism. This man was evil personified, yet somehow his regime leaves on and useful idiots in the West idolize him even now.

In contemporary China, the butchers of Beijing are again pissing in the eye of Tibet. This time, it’s new rules to require Mandarin in their schools. It is not like Tibetan is taking off anywhere outside of Tibet.  It is not like kids in Beijing are forgetting Mandarin as they listen to Tibetan pop songs. This is just about crushing Tibetan culture and assimilating them.

In other news about people fighting back against the butchers of Beijing, the example of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo seems to be inspiring other dissidents. Let it inspire a whole generation of dissidents. Let the boatloads of Chinese students coming to the West to study go home with a critical eye to the evil of their regime. Let this nationalist bargain of crushed freedom in exchange for “national greatness” be put to rest.

Unfortunately, some of the useful idiots in the West look at this development and condemn it. You’ll remember that Norwegian fool Morits Skaugen we condemned to hell a few weeks back. Now we have a new person to hate, American journalist F. William Engdahl. He has written a charming little piece claiming that Liu Xiaobo is basically an American agent for his association with groups like PEN, the international writer’s NGO. Engdahl says America got him the Nobel. Why? “The reason China is being targeted? Simply because China today exists, and exists as a dynamically emerging world factor in economics and politics.” Yes, it has nothing to do with the fact that they execute people by the boatload, censor the internet, and crush their own people on a daily basis. Go back to the sewer you crawled out of, you death-worshiping hack.

And then let’s cap the blood sundae off with a realistic and awful cherry. Meet Ordos, just one of the fully-constructed ghost suburbs the Chinese are putting up. These ghost suburbs are so awful because they lay bare that China is sitting on a tremendous property bubble that must be fed. They are just building for the sake of building. And once it pops, the second-largest economy in the world will be left reeling and the recession will just get worse. Knowing that we need the butchers is one of the saddest things of all.

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Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan, known as the “Blogfather” for his immensely influential role in helping kick off the Persian blogosphere, has been sentenced to 19.5 years in jail. Derakhshan was first jailed in 2008 just two weeks after returning to Iran. He made his name as an opposition blogger, but things got weird with him doing some pro-regime apologism from 2006 forward. I don’t care what he believed or with whom he associated, no one deserves to be locked in a cage for writing or saying anything. Not even for a day, let alone nearly two decades.

Don’t forget this man’s name. The Iranian regime is capable of being embarrassed and shamed into doing the right thing. Macleans runs down some good CBC coverage of the case here.

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Last week’s ruling in the prop 8 case was a decided high for the American LGBT community, but today saw bad developments in the legal cases of two LGBT individuals that speak to the enduring struggle of the community worldwide. (more…)

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The National Post did a nice two-parter on stadium construction in Canada this weekend. Much as it’s a problem north of the border, I think we have it just as bad if not worse down here–Nick Gillespie at Reason did a great blog post on my hometown of Cincinnati and the struggles it is facing to come up with the money for the $1 billion it spent on new football and baseball stadiums last decade. $1 billion in a mid-size Midwestern city redistributed from taxpayers to team owners after the team owners threatened to pull up stakes…and we wonder why Cincinnati is in trouble.

The first National Post article is mainly a rundown of new stadium construction in Canada. Just about every major city is either building a new stadium or upgrading an old one. I can’t believe that my beloved Vancouver is spending $465 million to install a retractable roof on an already-existing stadium. You could build a whole new stadium for that much money! On the bright side, at least Montreal isn’t throwing any more money at maybe the greatest stadium boondoggle ever, the $1.6 billion, 30-years-to-pay-off Olympic Stadium.

The second article is an analytical piece headlined “Our new cathedrals: But are arenas and stadiums a boon to cities?” Money quote, from a sports economist:

“There’s no doubt that when you walk around [Toronto’s] Rogers Centre, you see a lot of economic activity,” he said. “But it’s not new economic activity. People have an entertainment budget, and all this does is concentrate that activity at one place at one time.”

Bingo! It’s just taking money from some restaurant and bar owners to subsidize business for restaurant and bar owners in another part of the city. They didn’t even cite one of the most damning stats of all, quoted in Gillespie’s blog post–that having a pro sports team in your area costs each person about $40 in yearly GDP.

I love sports. They’re the only thing I watch on tv. I’ve been to tons of games over the years, mainly because I was lucky enough to grow up around two pro sports teams in Cincinnati. But the sports fans of the world need to get together and say “no more.” Building new stadiums with more luxury boxes might lead to more revenue for our favorite teams and higher payrolls as a result, but these new stadiums are sucking our communities dry and pricing many fans out of attending at all. They also become big concrete monstrosities that spend the vast majority of their time unoccupied and take up valuable real estate in our downtowns. So enough is enough–read my lips, no new stadiums!

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This summer is the hottest since Russia began keeping records in the 19th century. It’s already come with disastrous consequences, such as the thousands of people who have drowned whilst trying to keep out of the heat and the super drought ravaging Russian agricultural production, both of which were discussed already by The Country Estate here. Things have continued to deteriorate this week–at least 48 people have died in forest fires, not to mention the untold damage to property.

The Russian leadership hasn’t responded too well to the crisis. NYT covers Putin’s knee-jerk decision to ban grain exports today. This silly little bit of nationalist economics pushed world grain prices higher. Hooray for world hunger! Der Spiegel did a much wider-ranging piece with real feedback from Russians on the crisis, too. The best analytical bit of Der Spiegel’s article:

However, the Russian government shares at least some of the blame for allowing the fires to spread so quickly. During Vladmir Putin’s presidency, the forestry service was practically dismantled. The 70,000 forest rangers who might have registered the fires and even been able to put them out had all been let go.

And the fire-fighting infrastructure has also been scandalously neglected. There are only 22,000 professional fire fighters in the whole of Russia, compared to more than 27,000 in Germany, a far smaller country. And there is nothing like the system of volunteer fire fighters, such as the one in Germany that encompasses 1 million people. In addition, Russia’s fire-fighting vehicles and equipment are often outmoded. Many people in Russia’s provinces have had to defend their villages and homes against the flames on their own, at times using their bare hands.

There’s money enough to wage wars in Georgia and support stupidly inefficient spy rings in America, but not enough to keep up to snuff a fire-fighting force charged with protecting the biggest and (occasionally) most beautiful country in the world. Fantastic work, Putin.

More than anything, I’m just hoping the temperature returns to normal and the rain clouds roll in ASAP. Russians have suffered far too much in their history. This sort of natural disaster is the last thing they need.

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The Globe & Mail:

The Harper government is painting U.S. military deserters as criminals in a new directive to immigration officials that is coming under fire as too tough on conscientious objectors and war dissenters.


The new directive, issued in a July 22 operational bulletin, emphasizes the criminal nature of desertion in Canada and the United States, which stands to make it harder for American deserters to gain permanent residency in Canada.

“Consequently, persons who have deserted the military in their country of origin may be inadmissible to Canada under … the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” the bulletin says.

The good news is that even though there’s no poll data provided in the article, I have a suspicion that this policy is more reflective of the opinions of the Harper government than it is of the Canadian population at large.

Even though he plans to get Canada out of Afghanistan, Harper has been a bit too chummy with the U.S. for my liking. That’s not what America needs from a Canadian prime minister. With our country as hopped up on imperialism and paranoia as it is, we need our allies and especially our neighbors to hold us to account. By deciding that converted, unwilling members of the U.S. war machine don’t qualify as refugees, the Harper government is taking what amounts to a “your country–right or wrong” stance. The situation isn’t the same today as it was for Vietnam because American soldiers are volunteers, but soldiers may have volunteered at a different moment politically, emotionally or morally. Heck, I was offered ROTC scholarships at two universities when I was a high school senior and look at me now: a long-haired, thick-bearded, vegetarian, wannabe-dissident uber pacifist. This is why you shouldn’t take an oath of obedience unless you really have to, but we have to remember that most American soldiers entered the service at a time when they were very young adults.

Hopefully Canada comes around on this issue, if not under Harper then as soon as he’s gone. America would never admit it, but we need our neighbor to keep an eye on our moral compass. It’s imperative that in our unfree moments, the discontented among us can know that we have “The True North strong and free” sitting just over the border. Canada has been harboring at-risk Americans since the very birth of our nation, from Revolutionary War loyalists to escaped slaves to Vietnam-era draft dodgers. It would be a shame for both countries if that proud history were to end today.

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