These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 23, 2011.
Saturday, 23 April 2011
St George's Day
Visitors to Beverley in Yorkshire usually head first for Beverley Minster which is a fine mediaeval church built in the 13th century around the tomb of St John of Beverley who founded the original monastery in the 8th century. It was an important place of pilgrimage in the North of England.
But serendipity later took us into the church of St Mary in Beverley which is an older church with some wonderful carvings in wood and stone. And where I was allowed, indeed encouraged to lift up the misericords, as is my wont, and where I found an elephant, some green men and St George slaying the dragon.
DETROIT (WXYZ) - Controversial Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones was ordered taken to the Wayne County Jail after refusing to post a $1 peace bond. However, someone posted the bond on his behalf not long after he was taken into custody.
The development came after a jury found a proposed protest by Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp outside the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the United States, was likely to breach the peace and incite violence.
The jury began debating the case at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The main issue of the one day trial was whether or not Jones's main purpose was to say or do something that would incite violence. They came back with their verdict shortly after 6:30 p.m.
Based on the decision Jones was required to submit a peace bond. The judge set the bond at $1. He also ordered that neither Jones nor his associate could enter the property of the Islamic Center of America or the area surrounding it for 3 years.
The judge then asked both men if they were prepared to post their bonds. Both men refused and were taken into custody. They were due to be taken to the Wayne County Jail until their bond was posted. It is not known who posted the bonds.
At the start of Friday’s trial, prosecutors presented their arguments before the jury. They argued that a protest outside the mosque would pose a significant safety issue. They also argued that there is concern from authorities that someone may get hurt.
In addition to concerns of safety, prosecutors say the Florida pastor would not be following the law if he held a protest outside the mosque after he was denied a permit for that particular location. He was asked to hold his protest in a permit free zone, but insisted that they would still hold their protest outside of the mosque.
Jones spoke in court and argued that he has the First Amendment right to protest outside the mosque.
“I believe… they will try and show you many pictures of events trying to paint us into a [certain] light. There are possible things we did concerning Quran and the burning of the Quran which you possibly may not agree with. One thing I think we have to remember, this is to a certain extent a First Amendment issue,” said Jones.
During his opening statement before the jury, Jones talked about the charges they make against the Quran.
"“The burning of the Quran is obviously to some people offensive. We charge the Quran in three ways; the Quran is charged with the training and promoting of…activities around the world; the Quran is charged with the death, rape and torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being Muslim; the Quran is charged with crimes against women…against minorities, against Christians with the promoting of prejudice and racism against anyone who is not a Muslim," said Jones.
New Jersey Worker Fired For Burning Koran Wins in Court
This is good news. The American Civil Liberties Union did the right thing.
NEWARK, N.J. - The New Jersey Transit employee fired for publicly burning pages of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is getting his job back.
A settlement obtained by The Star-Ledger Newark shows Derek Fenton will receive $25,000 for pain and suffering when he resumes his $86,110-a-year job. He'll also receive back pay equal to $331.20 for every day since his firing on Sept. 13, 2010.
The state will also pay $25,000 in legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit claiming Fenton's right to free expression was violated.
The 40-year-old was not working when he set fire to three pages of the Quran in September in Lower Manhattan to protest a planned Islamic center near ground zero.
In Yemen, More Violence, More Disarray, Which Some Will Deplore And Some Will Welcome
Saleh says opposition dragging Yemen into war
By Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Mukhashaf
SANAA/ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Yemen's president on Saturday accused the opposition of dragging the country into civil war, as Yemenis boarded up their shops and businesses across the country in protest against his rule.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, in a speech in the capital Sanaa, called on Yemen's youth to form a political party according to the constitution and said the Arab state would not accept any tutelage "whatsoever."
"They (the opposition) want to drag the area to civil war and we refuse to be dragged to civil war," Saleh said.
"Security, safety and stability are in Yemen's interests and the interests of the region," he said.
Protests in Yemen, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, are now in their third month and bring tens of thousands of people onto the streets almost every day demanding an end to endemic poverty and corruption.
Scores of protesters have been killed.
Acknowledging that Yemeni students drew on the example of Egypt and Tunisia, Saleh said there was a "huge difference" in Yemen, but that his government would meet students' demands in the framework of the constitution and the law.
Up to 90 percent of shops, markets and schools were closed in the southern port city of Aden, a Reuters witness said. There were few pedestrians in the streets and almost no traffic.
Many businesses were also closed for the day in the cities of Taiz, Yemen's third city and a center of opposition to the 69-year-old-president, and Hodeidah on the Red Sea.
Yemenis flooded the streets of Sanaa and Taiz on Friday in rival demonstrations for and against Saleh, who gave a guarded welcome to a Gulf Arab plan for a three-month transition of power.
The proposal of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) calls for Saleh to hand power to his vice president one month after signing an agreement.
He would appoint an opposition leader to lead an interim cabinet charged with preparing presidential elections two months later, a Yemeni official said on Friday.
The plan, presented on Thursday, also gives immunity from prosecution to Saleh, his family and aides -- anathema to his foes, who would also have to end protests under the proposal.
Saleh's long-time Gulf and Western allies, concerned that the chaos in Yemen will open more opportunities for al Qaeda militants, are trying to broker an orderly transition after three months of protests against Saleh's 32-year rule.
That's what Lisa, the Texas oil heiress, with her dreams of a life in a starving garret, full of passion and art, says to Francis Francis (with his dreams of a life in a semi-detached, full of passion and sex with Sylvia), in Dennis Potter's "Lipstick On Your Collar."
Curious, isn't it, that two -- not one but two -- British diplomats who governed Aden in the waning days of British control, before the British finally pulled out -- Sir Charles Johnston (or Charles Hepburn Johnston), and Sir Humphrey Trevelyan -- had a Russian connection, and both were extremely interested in Pushkin. Charles Johnston, was married to Natalia Bagration-Mukhransky, member of a celebrated Georgian family (some will remember General Bagration from the history books, or from his appearance in War and Peace). Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, then Humphrey Trevelyan, had been the British Ambassador to the Soviet Union and, having acquired Russian, acquired as well a taste for, interest in, love of, the works of Pushkin.
And, if we want to speculate on the Moor of Peter the Great, and how he ended up, from Abyssinia or possibly modern-day Eritrea) in Constantinople, where Slava Raguzinsky, the Serbian deputy to the Russian ambassador,ransomed him (age seven), as a present for Peter the Great, perhaps we can imagine him, ibrahim Gannibal, having been seized by Arab slavers inland and brought by slave cofflle to the Red Sea coast , and then taken by dhow, along with other blacks being sent to Muslim slave markets, to Yemen -- perhaps to the trade entrepot of Aden itself, and from there, by land or sea or by land and sea, sent to the Sultan -- the boy being a member of an important family -- northward, through Jeddah or Cairo, and eventually on to Constantinople, and from Constantinople, having been bought by Raguzinsky on behalf of Count Tolstoy, Russian ambassador and the great-grandfather of the writer of Anna Karenina. Tsar Peter took the boy, gave him the name Abram Petrovich Gannibal, and when the boy grew up, he married a Russian girl, became a general, and what with one thing and another, entered history not as a boy-toy fit for a Tsar's whim, but as the great-grandfather of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkiin. .
Let's allow ourselves to believe that Pushkin's great-grandfather did pass through Aden.
That thought would have pleased Charles Johnston and Humphrey Trevelyan, two lovers of Pushkin stuck for a time in dismal Aden, southwest of the hideous Hadramaut, now so much in the Jihad News. Why shouldn't it please us?
Ahmed Rashid On The American Mistrust -- So Long Justified, So Long Overdue -- Of Pakistan
From BBC Asia News:
Deepening military rift between the US and Pakistan
By Ahmed Rashid Lahore
Adm Mullen has accused Pakistan's spy agency of having links with militants
The deep public rift between the intelligence agencies of the US and Pakistan has now extended to the military.
The US officer who has done the most to build up ties with the Pakistan military has criticised it openly.
Adm Mike Mullen, the top US military official, has visited Pakistan more than 20 times, and invested an unusually large amount of time to build a relationship with Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani.
Gen Kayani has invested an equal amount of time and energy in maintaining a close relationship with the US military, despite differences ever since the Afghan Taliban were defeated in 2001.
From the start, the Pakistan army objected to the occupation of Kabul by the Afghan Northern Alliance, the initial domination of the government by non-Pashtuns, and the refusal of the Americans to involve Pakistan in helping rebuild the Afghan army.
More differences arose after Pakistan gave sanctuary and support to the leadership of the Afghan Taliban who relaunched their insurgency in Afghanistan in 2003.
Since then the Taliban insurgency has grown to cover all of Afghanistan.
The US-Nato alliance has had to deploy 150,000 troops and the war has spawned the Pakistani Taliban, which the Pakistani army did not initially see as a danger but now sees as a major threat.
Yet throughout this time, as the relationship has changed, shaped by events on the ground and in Washington, the two men have remained close friends and have tried to understand the reasons for the strategy adopted by the other.
Each one has had to defend their relationship among their colleagues.
Adm Mullen has been criticised by Congressmen, the CIA and even his military colleagues for being too soft on the Pakistan army.
Gen Kayani too has had to defend the army's relationship with the US as anger has grown about excessive US penetration of Pakistan's government and security establishment - even though some of the anti-Americanism has been whipped up by the military itself.
Yet the differences are real enough and seemingly unbridgeable.
The Pakistanis fear that US intelligence will use what it gathers to undermine Pakistan vis-a-vis India and penetrate its nuclear weapons system. [as well it should -- and that is the only thing it should be doing in Pakistan]
Islamist parties have staged numerous anti-US protests in Pakistan
The Americans fear that Pakistan's refusal to clamp down on certain extremist groups will lead to more terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, which would be followed by demands for swift military retribution against Pakistan.
There is ample evidence that many thwarted terrorist attacks in the West and India over the past few years have had a Pakistani Taliban or Lashkar-e-Taiba (Soldiers of the Pure) connection.
This strategic divergence has been there since the beginning of the US-Pakistan relationship despite the billions of dollars that the US has spent on the Pakistan military, and the services in the Middle East and Afghanistan that the Pakistan army has provided the US in the past.
The relationship broke down when Pakistan went to war with India using American weapons in 1965.
It broke down again when Pakistan went to war in East Pakistan in 1971 and it collapsed for the longest period in the 1990s when Pakistan went ahead with its nuclear weapons program.
The saddest man is Adm Mullen because he gives up his job in the summer and the legacy he has tried to forge of a good working relationship between the two armies has not panned out.
Gen Kayani has another three years in office.
Both men have tried in their own way to first understand the other, and then change the strategic direction of the other, but neither succeeded.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have upgraded a peace commission to end the Taliban insurgency
The US has failed to convince the Pakistani army that befriending some terrorist groups and fighting others is a policy that is detrimental to global and domestic security.
[Let's rephrase that: "and some commentatrors have similarly failed to convince the American and other Western governments that befriending some Islamic groups and fighting others is a policy that is detrimental to global and domestic security." ]
Nor has the US been able to convince the army to befriend India, even though the civilian government, the political parties, civil society and the business community are now very much in favour.
Pakistan has failed to convince the Americans that its strategy and tactics in Afghanistan have been wrong, whether it was expanding the war in the south, or building the Afghan army, or allowing India too much of a presence.
The Pakistan army believes that the Americans have only further destabilised the region by their actions.
Such strategic divergences cannot be papered over and they are now too far exposed to go back to what existed before.
So major corrections are needed in order to salvage the relationship, which is still possible.
The first correction needed is that many of the secret deals agreed upon by both sides in the aftermath of 9/11 need to be renegotiated.
This has to include issues such as the use of US drones, the deployment of the CIA and contractors inside Pakistan as well as the Pakistan army's attitude to extremist groups such as that of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Hundreds were injured in militant attacks - most victims were civilians
The second is that both sides need to find a common agenda to bring peace to Afghanistan and the region.
Such an agenda is now there for the asking because both governments and armies believe that talks with the Afghan Taliban are essential for peace.
But so far, instead of being transparent with one another on the need for a dialogue and working towards a common goal together, each has tried to out-trump the other.
The world needs peace in Afghanistan. Only Pakistan working in co-operation with the US, Nato and all other regional neighbours can bring that about.
That is a common agenda that can bring the US and Pakistan into a real partnership that is meaningful for the Pakistan army and the people of the region.
BAGHDAD - Hundreds of Iraqi Shi'ites rallied in Baghdad on Saturday to demand the immediate withdrawal of Saudi troops from Bahrain, which has sparked reminders of Iraq's own sectarian divide.
Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran have expressed anger over the movement of forces from Sunni Arab states into Bahrain to help its Sunni royal family squash pro-democracy rallies by majority Shi'ites.
Protesters in central Baghdad on Saturday chanted "no to al-Saud". Some carried banners which read "Saudi occupation should end" and "Why is there Arab silence towards the massacres committed in Bahrain?"
"We advise (our) brothers in Saudi Arabia to immediately withdraw from Bahrain," Hadi al-Amiri, Iraq's transportation minister and head of the Badr Organisation, which arranged the protest, said in an address to demonstrators.
Nothing will come of nothing, so why make much ado about it? Lloyd Evans writes in The Spectator on how plays and playwrights come to be overrated:
Let’s think about it. How did Harold Pinter write his masterpieces? And why are they praised so much more lavishly than the scribbles of his contemporaries? Moonlight, his 1993 play, has been slickly revived at the Donmar and it opens with a dying pensioner sprawling luxuriously in a double-bed and ranting at his wife. Across stage his sons engage in madcap vaudevillian banter. Other characters wander in and speak fluent nonsense. A girl, who is also a ghost, articulates charming drivel about moonshine and memory. The characters fail to communicate and the dramatist fails to communicate why they fail to communicate. Typical Pinter.
He adopted this uneasy, audience-intolerant method because he reached his creative maturity in the mid-20th century when literature had generated a shadow industry, academia, which was more powerful and prosperous than the art it elucidated. Shrewd writers like Pinter and Beckett copied the techniques of conceptual painters: withdraw detail, blur clarity, obfuscate meaning.
Literary critics and biographers responded by giving these mystifiers pride of place over the clarifiers. Why? Simplicity and definition are less amenable to academic study than allusiveness and obscurity. A boffin who lectures about a lucid, unequivocal play soon runs out of words. But one who expounds the meaning of a smudged hieroglyph can keep rabbiting on till pension day. So the exaltation of withholders like Pinter and Beckett over entertainers like Rattigan and Simon Gray has nothing to do with artistic merit. It’s about economics. Members of the lumpen commentariat can harvest a richer crop of tracts and monographs from an abstruse dramatist than from a plain-speaking one.
Pinter always dropped expositional detail from his plays — check the early drafts and you see key information being deleted with thick pen strokes — and these omissions guarantee that the profs on campus can keep their Biros busy searching for an answer that’s been cut out.
There is something in this, but far be it from me to say what.
I’ve often thought that Europe is an allegory for the ages of man. You’re born Italian: they’re relentlessly infantile and mother-obsessed. In childhood you’re English: chronically shy, tongue-tied, cliquey and only happy kicking balls, pulling the legs off things, or sending someone to Coventry. Teenagers are French: pretentiously philosophical, embarrassingly vain, ridiculously romantic and insincere. During middle age, we become either Swiss or Irish. Old age is German: ponderous, pompous and pedantic. And finally we regress into being Belgian, with no idea who we are at all.
Free Speech Denied for Mosque Protest in Dearborn; vindicated in NJ Qurâ€™an Burning case
Pastor Terry Jones NJTransit Conductor
At Dearborn Court hearing Derek Fenton at arrest
There were two free speech contests played out in courts this week in Dearborn and New Jersey involving criticism of Islamic doctrine and the burning of the Qur’an. They turned out differently.
Yesterday’s media fest in Wayne County. Michigan over a day-long court hearing on Pastor Terry Jones’ attempted protest outside the shia Islamic center of America Mosque ended with Jones and fellow Pastor Sapp refusing to pay the $1 peace bond ruling by Judge Mark Somers and were promptly sent off to jail. That latest briefly as someone posted the $1 ‘peace bond’ for each defendant vowing to come back next week and do this again. They had been offered a ‘free speech zone” for their protest outside the Dearborn City Hall, but had refused triggering the jury hearing. The jury that heard the matter originally ruled in favor of a ‘peace bond’ of $45,000, that presiding Judge Somers then reduced to $1.00. The ruling also stipulated that Jones and protesting colleagues were barred from protesting outside the Shia mosque for three years. The jury concluded its deliberations at 6:42 PM last night, well past, the originally scheduled 5:00PM protest time.
The Washington Times report, “Koran Burning Minister in Court in Michigan” covered some of the courtroom drama, while Fox2 Detroit news video reported on Thursday’s “Peace andPrayer interfaith gathering, protests against Jones after the hearing and outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn yesterday.
Watch the Fox2Detroit news report on what happened at yesterday’s hearing , the hectoring of witnesses by protesters shouting: “arabs, blacks, latinos united-we will fight.”
Watch the ‘Prayer and Peace’ interfaith gathering on Thursday in this Fox2 Detroit news report.>Hundreds Gather To Mount Opposition Against Florida Pastor Terry Jones: MyFoxDETROIT.com
Watch this Fox2News report of the vigil surrounding the Islamic Center of America on Friday, especially, the hustling into a Dearborn police car of a “free speech” advocate and comments of those in the vigil about what constitutes ‘limits’ to free speech. Clearly some in the vigil outside the Mosque don’t understand the law of the land about ‘protected speech’ under the First Amendment.
The Washington Times noted these excerpts from yesterday’s court proceeding amid comment about Free Speech by the Michigan ACLU:
“We are not criminals. We have respect for the law. We are coming there in peace,” Rev. Jones told the jurors, adding that it was his right to speak against “the radical element of Islam, which does exist, otherwise we could not have this problem.”
He pledged that he would not burn a Koran or engage in other provocative acts. He said the plans now call for just four members of his group Stand Up for America Now to occupy a grassy public median area across from the mosque. He added that his concern about radical Islam was broader than simply any activities in Detroit, adding that he had no animosity for people there.
“Obviously we do have a problem — maybe not in Dearborn or this mosque. We are not accusing them. We are simply speaking out on the issue on jihad, Sharia,” said Rev. Jones, who urged jurors to be open-minded, even as much public sentiment was against him.
The case, overseen by Judge Mark Somers, the son of Christian missionaries to India, was watched by free-speech advocates nationwide and monitored by the Michigan ACLU along with other religious and legal group.
“We should combat hate speech with more speech,” said Rana Elmir, a spokeswoman for the Michigan ACLU. “I disagree vehemently with Rev. Jones’ message, but I believe wholeheartedly in his right to express himself.”
[. . .]
Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad told the court he denied four permits from other groups that eventually pulled out of Friday’s planned protest – not simply Rev. Jones’ group. He testified that he did so to maintain public safety in the heavily trafficked area, which includes several other churches conducting Good Friday services. He said local church leaders told him that they were considering cancelling their Holy Day events.
From intelligence gathered by his investigators, Chief Haddad said, “There is a strong likelihood that … violence would occur.”
Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran said the case was not simply about free speech rights but rather safety.
“We’re not here to suppress open speech or prevent someone for saying what they want to say, nor are we here because we don’t like the message that this defendant brings,” he told the jury. “We are here because the conduct of the respondents will likely respond in a breach of the peace. It will be a fracas, a riot. “
[. . .]
Prosecutors showed videotape of Rev. Jones condemning the Koran for crimes against humanity and Rev. Sapp lighting the Muslim holy text on fire at their church in Gainesville in a March ceremony called “International Judge the Koran Day.”
“I was the one with the lighter,” Rev. Sapp testified matter-of-factly as the female court reporter, wearing a Muslim headscarf, typed away.
[. . .}
Rev. Jones told the jury that that radical Islam promoted terrorist activities around the world, including “death, rape, and torture of people whose only crime is not being Islamic.”
Of his Koran burning: “What we did would indeed be insulting to some people, but only some people. To the hundreds of peoples around the world who have been burned, buried alive and stoned, they would consider that the burning of Koran would not be offensive.”
The Imam of the Islamic Center of America, Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini, an Iraqi Shia cleric whose family fled from KarbaIa, Iraq under threat from the late Saddam Hussein’s regime, for refuge in Kuwait and Iran is an alleged supporter of Hizbullah, which hasn't impeded private meetings with Pres.Obama. Pastor Jones appeared on a Fox2 Detroit “Let it Rip” program with Imam Al-Qazwini that appeared prior to the scheduled Mosque protest. You may watch the ‘discussion’ here.
L’affaire Pastor Jones in Dearborn may be over for the moment. His stifled protest may likely end up in a federal court, as the Wayne County court ruling may have violated the ‘protected speech’ doctrine.
This highly publicized media event for Pastor Terry Jones of the World Dove Church in Gainesville Florida nearly eclipsed an important court decision, yesterday, in a Qur’an burning case of Derek Fenton, a NJ Transit employee who was reinstated with back pay following his dismissal after burning three pages of the Qur’an, his own, on private property. The irony was that the ACLU defended his actions as protected free speech, and that CAIR, did not demur from the court’s decision. Republican Gov. Chris Christie had demanded Fenton’s firing after the September 10, 2010 the protest at the Park Place 51 lower Manhattan location.
A New Jersey Transit worker who was fired after burning pages of a Koran during a demonstration in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 last year has been reinstated, reimbursed for lost wages and benefits, and awarded $25,000 in compensation for the pain and suffering caused by his dismissal.
The reinstatement of the worker, Derek Fenton of Bloomingdale, N.J., was announced on Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which sued the transportation corporation on his behalf, arguing that his actions were protected by the First Amendment. The reinstatement was part of a settlement agreement, filed this week in Federal District Court in Newark, in which Mr. Fenton dropped his suit in exchange for getting his job back.
“In America, we have the right to burn all kinds of things — letters, flags, books, Bibles and Korans,” Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey group, said Friday.
Ms. Jacobs said the case should “serve as a reminder to our leaders that they can’t punish and censor political expression based on their own emotional reactions or sense of morality.”
Mr. Fenton, 40, was fired two days after the demonstration, accused of violating New Jersey Transit’s employee code of ethics by tearing pages from a copy of the Koran and igniting them with a cigarette lighter to protest plans for building a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero. He was participating in a protest staged by about 2,000 people near the proposed site of the center, 51 Park Place, during a day of memorial and prayer services marking the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
After the civil liberties union sued in February, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told reporters that he supported Mr. Fenton’s dismissal. “That kind of intolerance is something I think is unacceptable,” he said. “So I don’t have any problem with him being fired. You’ve got to make decisions in this job. I made one.”
[. . .]
Frank L. Corrado, a lawyer who represented Mr. Fenton with a co-counsel, Rubin Sinins, both working pro bono, said he did not know why Mr. Fenton felt so strongly about the proposed Muslim center, or whether his action was prompted by the last-minute decision of a pastor, Terry Jones, to scrap plans to burn a Koran that day outside his Florida church.
Ms. Jacobs said of Mr. Fenton, “He just seemed to be angry about the community center being too close to ground zero.” Opponents of the center described the proposed building as an assertion of Islamic “triumphalism.”
At Mr. Fenton’s request, his lawyers obtained an assurance in the settlement agreement that he would not have to attend extra sessions of cultural “sensitivity training” upon his return to work. “He did not want to have to do that,” Mr. Corrado said, “And we felt that thought control should not be the employer’s business here.”
The settlement was reported on Friday by The Star-Ledger of Newark.
Mr. Fenton, an 11-year veteran of New Jersey Transit who was a commuter train conductor before assuming duties as an $86,000-a-year supervisor several years ago, will still undergo “whatever diversity education is required from time to time of every employee,” Mr. Corrado said. “He just won’t get special treatment.”
Pamela Geller, a blogger who was instrumental in organizing the Sept. 11 demonstration, said she did not know Mr. Fenton or condone his actions. “I wouldn’t do what he did, myself; it’s disrespectful,” she said. “But it’s free speech.”
Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights advocacy group, said his organization had not sought Mr. Fenton’s firing. “We have always believed,” he said, “that somebody should not be punished in their employment for actions taken — no matter how reprehensible — in their private lives.”
Sic transit the vicissitudes of protected free speech in America under our precious First Amendment.
Lester Brown In The Guardian: This will be the Arab world's next battle
Population growth and water supply are on a collision course. Hunger is set to become the main issue
Long after the political uprisings in the Middle East have subsided, many underlying challenges that are not now in the news will remain. Prominent among these are rapid population growth, spreading water shortages, and growing food insecurity.
In some countries grain production is now falling as aquifers – underground water-bearing rocks – are depleted. After the Arab oil-export embargo of the 1970s, the Saudis realised that since they were heavily dependent on imported grain, they were vulnerable to a grain counter-embargo. Using oil-drilling technology, they tapped into an aquifer far below the desert to produce irrigated wheat. In a matter of years, Saudi Arabia was self-sufficient in its principal food staple.
But after more than 20 years of wheat self-sufficiency, the Saudis announced in January 2008 that this aquifer was largely depleted and they would be phasing out wheat production. Between 2007 and 2010, the harvest of nearly 3m tonnes dropped by more than two-thirds. At this rate the Saudis could harvest their last wheat crop in 2012 and then be totally dependent on imported grain to feed their population of nearly 30 million.
The unusually rapid phaseout of wheat farming in Saudi Arabia is due to two factors. First, in this arid country there is little farming without irrigation. Second, irrigation depends almost entirely on a fossil aquifer – which, unlike most aquifers, does not recharge naturally from rainfall. And the desalted sea water the country uses to supply its cities is far too costly for irrigation use – even for the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia's growing food insecurity has led it to buy or lease land in several other countries, including two of the world's hungriest, Ethiopia and Sudan. In effect, the Saudis are planning to produce food for themselves with the land and water resources of other countries to augment their fast-growing imports.
In neighbouring Yemen, replenishable aquifers are being pumped well beyond the rate of recharge, and the deeper fossil aquifers are also being rapidly depleted. Water tables are falling throughout Yemen by about two metres per year. In the capital, Sana'a – home to 2 million people – tap water is available only once every four days. In Taiz, a smaller city to the south, it is once every 20 days.
Yemen, with one of the world's fastest-growing populations, is becoming a hydrological basket case. With water tables falling, the grain harvest has shrunk by one-third over the last 40 years, while demand has continued its steady rise. As a result the Yemenis import more than 80% of their grain. With its meagre oil exports falling, with no industry to speak of, and with nearly 60% of its children physically stunted and chronically undernourished, this poorest of the Arab countries is facing a bleak and potentially turbulent future.
The likely result of the depletion of Yemen's aquifers – which will lead to further shrinkage of its harvest and spreading hunger and thirst – is social collapse. Already a failing state, it may well devolve into a group of tribal fiefdoms, warring over whatever meagre water resources remain. Yemen's internal conflicts could spill over its long, unguarded border with Saudi Arabia.
Syria and Iraq – the other two populous countries in the region – have water troubles, too. Some of these arise from the reduced flows of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which they depend on for irrigation water. Turkey, which controls the headwaters of these rivers, is in the midst of a massive dam building programme that is reducing downstream flows. Although all three countries are party to water-sharing arrangements, Turkey's plans to expand hydropower generation and its area of irrigation are being fulfilled partly at the expense of its two downstream neighbours.
Given the future uncertainty of river water supplies, farmers in Syria and Iraq are drilling more wells for irrigation. This is leading to overpumping in both countries. Syria's grain harvest has fallen by one-fifth since peaking at roughly 7m tonnes in 2001. In Iraq, the grain harvest has fallen by a quarter since peaking at 4.5m tonnes in 2002.
Jordan, with 6 million people, is also on the ropes agriculturally. Forty or so years ago, it was producing more than 300,000 tonnes of grain per year. Today it produces only 60,000 tonnes and thus must import over 90% of its grain. In this region, only Lebanon has avoided a decline in grain production. [isn't there one country in the area -- admittedly a very tiny country -- that has managed to work miracles with desalination plants and, especially, new and ingenious methods of irrigation? And isn't that country an exporter of food, especially citrus?]
Thus in the Arab Middle East, where populations are growing fast, the world is seeing the first collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline. Because of the failure of governments to mesh population and water policies, each day now brings 10,000 more people to feed, and less irrigation water with which to feed them.
Here's a perfectly ordinary story about the pros and cons, from an Israeli point of view, to the unrest and possible end of Assad, in Syria:
Israel in a quandary over turmoil in Syria
By Joel Greenberg, Friday, April 22, 9:01 PM
JERUSALEM — In a recent interview, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was asked bluntly whether it was in his country’s interest to see the downfall of the government of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, now rocked by protests.
“Any answer I’ll give you wouldn’t be a good one,” Netanyahu replied cautiously, in remarks broadcast exclusively on YouTube by Israel’s Channel 2 television. “We’d like to see everywhere, including in Syria, genuine reforms for democracy, genuine emergence of democracy. That’s no threat to any of us.”
The vague response belied the close attention Israel is paying to the unrest across Syria and the concerns raised by officials and experts here about what the possible outcomes could mean for relations between the two countries.
Syria has long been a bitter enemy of Israel’s, a key player in a regional alliance with Iran, a backer of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon and host to the political leadership of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Yet it has also been a reliable foe, keeping its cease-fire lines with Israel quiet for decades through periods of war and confrontation in Lebanon and Gaza, and it has participated in U.S.-mediated peace talks.
A power shift in Damascus could alter those dynamics. But there is no clear sense in Israel of where that might lead, and there are a range of views here on the most preferable scenario. Experts speculate that Syria could dissolve into anarchy and civil war, Libya-style, or that a new authoritarian leadership could emerge, backed by the army and security forces, or a government dominated by the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
“There is a genuine absence of any official comment as to what Israel’s position or desires are, because nobody can really make such a statement or has the data required to make a considered judgement,” said Efraim Halevy, a former chief of the Mossad, Israel’s overseas intelligence service, and currently head of the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Yet some emphatic voices are being heard.
“We prefer the devil we know,” said Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, referring to Assad. “Although the Islamist forces are not the majority in the opposition, they are better organized and politically competent. And if we fantasize today that one day we’ll be able to take the secular regime in Syria outside the Iranian orbit, it may be more difficult, if not impossible, if the regime is an Islamist one.”
Dore Gold, a former foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, also emphasized the importance to Israel of monitoring “who the opposition is” in Syria to see whether “what looks like a sincere desire for freedom ends up being hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“Israel views a lot of the current developments through the prism of the Iranian threat,” Gold added. “It would be unfortunate if Iran becomes the beneficiary of the developments across the Middle East. Iran could face a tremendous strategic loss if the Syrian regime falls and is replaced by a more Western-oriented leadership.”
Shlomo Brom of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said Israel’s calculations were more complex than that.
“On the one hand,” he said, “Assad has maintained stability. He has kept the border with Israel quiet, and though he has harassed Israel by assisting Hezbollah and Hamas, he reacted cautiously to events such as the bombing of a Syrian nuclear facility that was attributed to Israel. For Israel, he is a known quantity. On the other hand, there is no sympathy for Assad and his links with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and any regime change in Syria will hurt this axis.”
A separate issue is the impasse between Israel and Syria over the occupied Golan Heights, a strategic plateau seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Attempts to restart peace talks have foundered over Syria’s insistence that Israel commit in advance to withdrawing from the territory, a move Israel has rejected.
“On the bilateral front, it makes no difference who will be in power in Syria,” said Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry who heads a group advocating Israeli-Syrian peace. “No possible successor to Assad will give the Golan to Israel as a gift.”
[this is a bizarre way of describing the situation. How can Syria "make a gift' of territory it no longer possesses?]
Gold, the former Netanyahu adviser, said that given the current turmoil, “you don’t know if you have a partner willing to come to terms,” ["a partner"? when could any Arab state be a "partner" to Israel? Such words are to be avoided, for they mislead, dangerously]and that in considering its moves, Israel “will have to err on the side of caution given the total uncertainty it faces, from the Turkish border down to the Suez Canal.”
Still, a change of leadership in Syria or a weakened Assad regime could present opportunities that the United States and Israel should explore when the dust settles, according to Uri Sagi, a former chief of military intelligence who headed the Israeli negotiating team in talks with the Syrians from 1999 to 2000.
“I would suggest that the Americans take advantage of this crisis in order to change the balance here, namely to get the Syrians out of their intimate relationship with Hezbollah on the one hand and the Iranians on the other,” Sagi said.
That could be done, Sagi said, by “making the Syrians an offer they can’t refuse” of economic and political support that would shore up the stability of the regime in return for realigning its policies.
What’s more, he added, it does not appear that the Muslim Brotherhood is driving the current protests or that it would emerge as a dominant force among a population that on the whole is not religiously radicalized.
So “if I were a decision-maker here, I would look to take advantage of the opportunity,” Sagi said of the current unrest. “It is not necessarily bad for Israel.” [a statement of what should years ago have been obvious: that not Assad, but Alawite generals, should be offered a deal: they get to continue to control the armed forces, and the Alawites, including the families of those generals, get to stay alive, but Syria must stop doing the bidding of Iran, stop supporting Hezbollah, and what's more, stop thinking it as some kind of right to the Golan, which under the customary law of nations that has redrawn maps ever since time began, it does not]]
at Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. A traditional Punch and Judy show which was a nice politically incorrect contrast to some of the 'diversity' plugged in the exhibits, the Becontree Brass Band (yes, that Becontree, the place that the council says needs the Muslim community centre to bring some culture), the East End Women's Institute (the WI is a venerable rural institution and I am glad to see it moving into cities now; their brand of tradition and common sense is much needed) and morris dancing from the Belles of London City.
Very Nice-- But Now Make A Wish, And Then Blow Out The Candles
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?
'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
As technical problems interrupted computer services provided by Amazon for a second day on Friday, industry analysts said the troubles would prompt many companies to reconsider relying on remote computers beyond their control.
“This is a wake-up call for cloud computing,” said Matthew Eastwood, an analyst for the research firm IDC, using the term for accessing services and information in big data centers remotely over the Internet from anywhere, as if the services were in a cloud. “It will force a conversation in the industry.”
That discussion, he said, will most likely center on what data and computer operations to send off to the cloud and what to keep inside the corporate walls.
But another issue, Mr. Eastwood said, will be a re-examination of the contracts that cover cloud services — how much to pay for backup and recovery services, including paying extra for data centers in different locations. That is because the companies that were apparently hit hardest by the Amazon interruption were start-ups that, analysts said, are focused on moving fast in pursuit of growth, and less apt to pay for extensive backup and recovery services.
Amazon set up a side business five years ago offering computing resources to businesses from its network of sophisticated data centers. Today, the company is the early leader in the fast-growing business of cloud computing.
In business, the cloud model is rapidly gaining popularity as a way for companies to outsource computing chores to avoid the costs and headaches of running their own data centers — simply tap in, over the Web, to computer processing and storage without owning the machines or operating software.
Amazon has thousands of corporate customers, from Pfizer and Netflix to legions of start-ups, whose businesses often live on Amazon Web Services. Those reporting service troubles included Foursquare, a location-based social networking site; Quora, a question-and-answer service; Reddit, a news-sharing site; and BigDoor, which makes game tools for Web publishers.
The problems companies reported varied, but included being unable to access data, service interruptions and sites being shut down.
Amazon has data centers around the world, but the current problems have come from its big center in Northern Virginia, near Dulles airport. Amazon’s Web page on the status of its cloud services said on Friday that matters were improving but were still not resolved. A company spokeswoman said the updates would be Amazon’s only comment for now.
Big companies, that have decided to put crucial operations on Amazon computers are apt to pay up for the equivalent of computing insurance, analysts say. Netflix, the movie rental site, has become a large customer of the Amazon cloud. Most of its Web technology — customer movie queues, search tools and the like — runs in Amazon data centers.
Netflix said it had sailed through the last couple of days unscathed. “That’s because Netflix has taken full advantage of Amazon Web Services’ redundant cloud architecture,” which insures against technical malfunctions in any one location, said Steve Swasey, a Netflix spokesman.
BigDoor, a 20-employee start-up in Seattle, was knocked down by Amazon’s travails. It had backup and recovery services with Amazon, said Keith Smith, the chief executive, but only at Amazon’s data center in Virginia. “There’s always a trade-off,” Mr. Smith said, noting the expenses and developer time that would have been required to do more.
By Friday evening, most services at BigDoor, which makes game and rewards features for online publishers, were back up, but its Web site was still down.
The long-term toll to cloud computing, if any, is uncertain. Corporate cloud computing is expected to grow rapidly, by more than 25 percent a year, to $55.5 billion by 2014, IDC estimates.
Major technology suppliers are aggressively promoting different cloud offerings — some emphasizing a utility-style service, like Amazon, and others focusing more on selling big companies the hardware and software to more efficiently juggle computing workloads. The latter use the cloud technology, but companies own and control them — so-called private clouds.
The Amazon interruption, said Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer of Rackspace, a specialist in data center services, was the computing equivalent of an airplane crash. It is a major episode with widespread damage. But airline travel, he noted, is still safer than traveling in a car — analogous to cloud computing being safer than data centers run by individual companies.
“Every day, inside companies all over the world, there are technology outages,” Mr. Moorman said. “Each episode is smaller, but they add up to far more lost time, money and business.”
The Amazon setback, he said, should prove to be a learning experience. “We all have an interest in Amazon handling this well,” said Mr. Moorman, whose company is a competitor in the cloud business.
I have posted below a story about Israelis wondering what the current and future unrest in Syria will mean for them.
Here is a bit that amazed and enraged me:
“On the bilateral front, it makes no difference who will be in power in Syria,” said Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry who heads a group advocating Israeli-Syrian peace. “No possible successor to Assad will give the Golan to Israel as a gift.”
Here is my comment on the comment by Alon Liel, "who heads a group advocating Israeli-Syrian peace" [which ought to be described as not "peace" but a "peace treaty" which, in turn, is not a true "peace treaty" between parties both of which respect the notion of Pacta Sunt Servanda, but in the case of overwhelmingly Muslim Syria can ony be regarded as a "hudna" or truce treaty]:
This is a bizarre way of describing the situation. How can Syria "make a gift' of territory it no longer possesses? And what is the true history of the Golan? When the Mandate for Palestine was being created, it was the original intention of its creators, the League of Nations and, especially, the Mandates Commission under Professor Rappard, to assign the Golan Heights to the Mandate for Palestine. The Six Day-War began, actually, in mid-May, when Gamal Abdel Nasser demanded that the U.N. peacekeeping troops in the Sinai be removed by U Thant, so that the Egyptians could move their troops up to the border with Israel, and invade. Nasser also said he would be blocking the Straits of Tiran, thus throttling Israel's trade lifeline to Asia. He told hysterical Cairene crowds that soon Israel would be destroyed, and they could all look forward to that day. Syria, instead of standing back, decided to join Egypt in its planned aggression. When Israel won, by force of arms, the Golan Heights, it was winning territory to which it had not only a claim based on the original Mandate plans, but much more importantly, it had a claim based on customary international law to retain territory from which another party had made constant war upon it. And the constant shelling, or threat of shelling, by the Syrians, on the Jewish villages lying far below the Golan Heights, over many years, certainly met the criteria for such long aggression. But here is an Israeli talking about how no regime in Syria is going to "make a gift" of the Golan. Does that phrase come near to adequately stating the case? Or does it show a strange inability to make the case for Israel, and a willingness, perhaps prompted by a defeatism born of mental laziness, to make the case for a country that, as long as it remains overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim, will be a permanent enemy, rude, savage, not to trust, no matter what smiles and wiles and guiles are temporarily employed to inveigle Israel into giving up the Golan.
For Syrian Christians, protests are cause for fear
April 23, 2011
DAMASCUS, Syria — In the days leading up to Easter Sunday, Syria’s Christian community should have been busy preparing. This year, however, signs of festivities were hardly visible.
Following anti-government protests that have been violently suppressed, leaving nearly 300 people dead, street parades and other forms of public celebration have been declared illegal by the authorities.
Meanwhile, fear is mounting among the nation’s Christians that the uprising that has rocked this tightly controlled country over the past month will bring them only misery.
For decades the government of President Bashar al-Assad has protected Christian interests by enforcing its strictly secular program and by curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent years, Assad has visited the Christian town of Maaloula and other Christian areas to pray and pass on messages of goodwill. At Christmas, he addresses the country’s Christian community, carrying similar tidings. Assad is himself from the minority Alawite sect, a branch of Shia Islam, and many Christians feel they can relate to him.
Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, have largely stayed out of the anti-government protests, fearing what change could bring. Many are wealthy and could have much to lose if the uprising succeeds. Christians also occupy a disproportionately high percentage of senior positions within the government and tend to work in the educated professions as doctors, dentists and engineers.
As protests have spread by demonstrators demanding Assad’s ouster and a chance for Syrians to choose their leader after decades of autocratic rule by Assad and his father, the government has claimed that it is being challenged by Islamic radicals. The demonstrators deny that, but many Christians appear to believe it.
Dozens of planned weddings in Christian villages across Damascus have been canceled for fear of attack by extremists. Christians are withdrawing funds from banks, keeping their children home from school and not venturing out to socialize.
According to a person from the Christian neighborhood of Qassaa, letters were sent to three local churches last week with the message “you’re next.” The person, who like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, reported that on Friday pro- and anti-regime demonstrators clashed in the neighborhood and shots were fired near a church.
In the town of Qatana, 20 miles southwest of Damascus, helicopters circle overhead and army trucks drive the streets. Several men from the town said terrorists from Saudi Arabia and Iraq were caught trying to detonate a bomb at a local church two weeks ago, but that claim could not be verified.
Many Christians interviewed said their biggest fear was the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Syria. About half as many worshippers attended Good Friday church services this year because people are afraid to leave their homes.
There are numerous Christian denominations in Syria, including Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Greek Catholic. They share a history in these lands that dates back nearly 2,000 years.
In Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city and home to a large Christian population, churchgoers are exercising caution this Easter.
Like Damascus, Aleppo has largely been bypassed by the anti-regime protests that have swept across Syria in recent weeks. But here, too, people are anxious. And online, in social networking forums such as Facebook and Twitter, they are becoming increasingly nationalistic. [this "nationalism" is a vehicle for self-defense -- akin to the Ba'athism that Michel Aflag, a Syrian Christian, came up with as an alternative to Islamic politics, that is a way for threatened and besieged Christians to participate in political life and possibly, as Christians, survive].
“That sometimes reaches the level of attacking and insulting anyone who posts something that contains criticism of the state of affairs in Syria,” said one Armenian Christian man from the Villat area of Aleppo, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Despite the escalating violence — more people were killed Friday than any previous day during Syria’s uprising — few Christians are talking of leaving Syria should the security situation deteriorate.
“I came back from America after 14 years to build this house and to be with my parents again,” said a Christian woman from Aleppo. “I will not leave my house, no matter what happens.”
Saleh, America's "Staunch Ally In The War On Etc." Will Step Down If He Gets A Get-Out-Of-Jail Card
From The Washington Post:
Yemen’s President Saleh agrees to step down in return for immunity
By Jeb Boone, April 23
SANAA, Yemen — President Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to relinquish his 32-year hold on power in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution after months of pro-democracy protests across the country, a Yemeni official said Saturday.
The political opposition said it had “officially accepted” the deal but was still negotiating conditions that could derail a final agreement.
According to a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, Saleh had accepted a plan as put forth by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“The General People’s Congress and its coalition partners have officially accepted the plan without condition,” said Muhammad al-Basha, the spokesman.
The state news agency Saba News reported Saleh as saying he had accepted the proposal only to prevent the opposition from forcing the country into a bloody and protracted civil war.
According to the proposal, Saleh will hand over power to his vice president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, in 30 days. After seven days, a transitional government will be formed to oversee election preparations, which are to be held 60 days after Saleh’s resignation.
Once a new president is elected, he will oversee the drafting of a new constitution.
Yemen’s opposition, the Joint Meeting Parties, a fractured coalition of six parties, did not say whether it would later reject the agreement if its conditions are not met.
“We have officially accepted the plan. However, we take some issue with the interim government being sworn in before Saleh himself. Ideally, we would like the interim government to be formed after Saleh leaves power,” opposition spokesman Mohammad Qahtan said.
One point of the proposal grants immunity to Saleh and his family from any criminal prosecution. For hundreds of thousands of protesters across Yemen, that is something that cannot be accepted.
“The GCC plan is a joke,” said Adel al-Sarabi, a seminal youth organizer for the protest movement in the capital, Sanaa.
“Not one person will accept that Saleh will be granted immunity. He’s killed us. He’s killed hundreds of us. He must pay for his crimes,” al-Sarabi said.
Shatha al-Harazi, one of five protesters who have spoken with Saleh on behalf of the youth movement, said demonstrations will only escalate.
“Of course we don’t accept this. There will be escalations, there will be more marches. Expect to see something big,” he said.
Theresa May told EU counterparts the UK was not prepared to take on any “burden sharing”
BRITAIN will not open its borders to migrants fleeing the turmoil in North Africa, the Home Secretary has insisted.
Theresa May told her EU counterparts that the UK was not prepared to take on any “burden sharing”.
Ms May issued her warning at a meeting of Europe’s Home Affairs ministers in response to calls for help from Italy.
She did however offer “practical assistance” to Italy on its own shores.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We were quite robust in stating that we are not planning to open our borders to those coming to Europe from North Africa. We do not agree with ‘burden sharing’ which is what Italy wants.”
More than 25,000, mainly Tunisians, have arrived in Italy since the unrest there and thousands of Libyans, Egyptians and other Africans are expected to make the crossing as border controls in war-torn Libya fail.
The tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa is swamped by thousands of migrants arriving by the boatload every day. Read More »
Around this time last year, I applied to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program(me?). One of the questions was: "Are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?". To this the only possible reply was, "That's for me to know and you to find out."
I understand that if you apply for an Australian visa, they ask you if you have a criminal record. I didn't know you still needed one.
My local baker's shop, which sells delicious hot cross buns - despite scare stories in the tabloids, these abound - generally adheres religiously to protocol in displaying its opening hours for the Easter holidays:
Good Friday: Closed
Holy Saturday: Open 10am to 5.30pm
Easter Sunday: Closed
Easter Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Open 9.30am to 6pm
I've recently taken comfort in the correctness, by a small local shop, of the designation "Holy Saturday", rather than "Easter Saturday", which is the Saturday following Easter.
Today, however, the sign read:
Easter Eve and St George's Day: open 10am to 5.30pm
I'm not sure I like the "Easter Eve" business. And it is St George's Day, and that should be celebrated. But perhaps it is unfortunate that the two coincide, because the one detracts from the other.
Strictly speaking, the Saturday following Good Friday is as un-holy as you get. It is not a day for celebration or even for mourning. It is a very Godless day. Not to put too fine a point on it, Jesus is dead. He's in the tomb. If Christ be not risen, your faith is in vain. But if Christ be not dead, He can't be risen. Yes, He's going to rise tomorrow, but today, Saturday, He's as dead as a doornail, Nietzsche is, temporarily, right and the day is as secular as it comes.
Let's re-name it in a way that chimes with the new age: Holistic Saturday. Tomorrow is another day.