...Views from mid-Atlantic
16 July 2005

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who heads Iran's top legislative watchdog, the Guardian Council, is giving a spectacular display of what he brings to the job in al Jazeera this morning. He thinks the "the British regime" might have carried out the London bombings themselves, to justify their presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Check out the picture. He looks more like Woody Allen than Woody Allen does.

British author (Man, Beast and Zombie) Kenan Malik is making some interesting observations about the effect of multiculturalism on Britain's political and moral life. In a guest column in the Times, he writes: "Over the past week, much has been said about the strength of London as a multicultural city. What makes London great, Ken Livingstone pointed out, was what the bombers most fear - a city full of people from across the globe, free to pursue their own lives. I agree, and that's why I choose to live in this city. Multiculturalism as a lived experience enriches our lives. But multiculturalism as a political ideology has helped to create a tribal Britain with no political or moral centre.

"For an earlier generation of Muslims their religion was not so strong that it prevented them from identifying with Britain. Today many young British Muslims identify more with Islam than Britain primarily because there no longer seems much that is compelling about being British. Of course, there is little to romanticise about in old-style Britishness with its often racist vision of belonging. Back in the 1950s policy-makers feared that, in the words of a Colonial Office report, 'a large coloured community would weaken...the concept of England or Britain'.

"That old racist notion of identity has thankfully crumbled. But nothing new has come to replace it. The very notion of creating common values has been abandoned except at a most minimal level. Britishness has come to be defined simply as a toleration of difference. The politics of ideology has given way to the politics of identity, creating a more fragmented Britain, and one where many groups assert their identity through a sense of victimhood and grievance."

Detailed evidence has been sent to a French investigating magistrate, linking former interior minister Charles Pasqua and 11 other French nationals, including a maverick priest, to misuse of the UN's Oil-for-Food programme.

The Independent says "The magistrate, Philippe Courroye, is expected to visit the United States in the next few days - and wants to visit Baghdad - to verify the allegations made by US Senate and UN investigators. The broad allegations against M. Pasqua - a former supporter of President Jacques Chirac but estranged from him 10 years ago - have already been published by the Senate and the UN. The documents sent to M. Courroye are said by the French media to contain more details from Saddam-era Iraqi documents, suggesting that M. Pasqua and the 11 others were given vouchers to trade millions of barrels of oil which were supposed to generate funds for food and medicine to help the Iraqi people."

The Israeli Defence Force has begun a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip to follow up last night's air strikes, and wants the world to know that the Palestinians, with rocket attacks and a suicide bombing, have thrown chances of a lasting peace away. Haaretz comments: "It seems that this week the threshold has been crossed, and the militant group that tipped the balance was the Hamas more than the Islamic Jihad, which has already in the past shaken off any responsibility toward the cease fire agreement and launched the suicide bombing in Netanya last week.

"At this stage it still remains difficult to assess whether Hamas's decision to fire Qassam rockets into pre-1967 Israeli territory was a calculated one. But what was initially intended to be an act of provocation against PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on his monthly visit to the Gaza Strip turned out to have much greater fallout. The killing of a young woman in Nativ Ha'asara forced Israel's harsh retaliation, and although it is uncertain whether this move was worthwhile for Hamas, it is clear that for the PA it spelled out a real catastrophe."

Significant amounts of cocaine have been found in the European parliament by German undercover reporters, the Guardian claims.

"Armed with wet wipes, reporters from the television station, Sat 1, polished toilet roll dispensers, door handles and other areas in the Brussels building. Almost all the 46 swabs they took were contaminated with cocaine, with 10 samples containing 'significant amounts' of the class A drug. The European parliament has denied a problem of cocaine use among members and staff. But a scientist who analysed the swabs last night urged a thorough inquiry."

This story in Toronto's Globe and Mail is important, in that it has a connection to the bombings in London. It has been written so stupidly, though, that its meaning seeps away from it, like water out of a cracked glass. As nearly as I can pin it down, it is this: a Canadian man called Mohammad Momin Khawaja, age not given but probably young, works fixing computers for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. On a date not given, but after 9/11 and before 7/7, he goes to Pakistan. His reason is not stated. There, he becomes friendly with a 30-year old Pakistani-American man named Mohammed Junaid Babar. Babar has links to al-Qaeda. It isn't explained how or why he was arrested by American authorities, but Babar has now pleaded guilty in a New York court to running training camps and procuring ammonium nitrate, which is used in making bombs, for al-Qaeda.

Babar has informed on Khawaja, and told authorities that they both were involved in a plot to plant bombs in Britain. Canadian authorities have arrested Khawaja, and he is is now being held without bail in a Canadian prison. What's going to happen to him isn't explained. What's going to happen to Babar isn't explained. Is British intelligence interested in either one of them? Sorry, not explained.

The author of this piece, one Colin Freeze, really should have his right to own a pen revoked, for good.

Maureen Dowd is away somewhere writing a book, and her place on the Times has been taken, temporarily, by a young woman called Sarah Vowell. It's a little early to be able to declare any kind of a truce with the territory Vowell's occupying...Dowd so defiled it with her eye-gouging, crotch-kicking brand of political tee-heeing that it will take a while. But Vowell's thing seems to be taking the Michael out of religion, which I see as a constructive pursuit. She managed somehow to shoehorn Jim Jarmusch and Neil Young into this morning's piece, which deserves mention. And she has this mouth...if I said it looks naughty, that would lead you astray. The French would say it's méchant, which is better. It's a good mouth.

15 July 2005

Newspapers around the world are carrying versions of this story posted by Bermuda's daily newspaper on its website yesterday, saying that "A massive explosion in the early hours of Thursday morning at Bermuda's sole power plant caused an Island-wide blackout." There certainly was a blackout (the reason I didn't post yesterday), but the huge explosion he talks about is a figment of someone's overactive imagination. In its coverage this morning, the Royal Gazette mentions an explosion only in passing. Whether there was one or not I can't tell you, but what seems obvious is that no "massive" explosion worth the name leaves the building, the power plant and all the other structures in the neighbourhood in which it occurred, still standing, as they are this morning.

Here's an interesting development on the Oil-for-Food front. The South African Mail & Guardian says it has documents showing that officials of the African National Congress - the party that now forms the South African government - "hatched an ambitious project to raise millions of rands for the ANC by obtaining lucrative oil allocations from Saddam Hussein's regime under the United Nations Oil for Food programme. The ANC has been denying this for months, saying it had no way of knowing where money given to it by a company called Imvume Management had come from. But the Mail & Guardian says its documents show that Imvume Management was in fact an ANC front. In return for the money, the ANC officials agreed to extend political solidarity to the Iraqi dictator and campaign for the lifting of sanctions.

Gerard Baker, the Times's US editor, is a little short-tempered with the Terrorism is Our Fault brigade. "The common thought behind them is essentially this: our nation's military action in Afghanistan and Iraq is morally indistinguishable from the terrorists, so don't call one terrorism and not the other. Instead, say London and Baghdad have both been 'bombed'. Further, of course, since we have almost certainly killed more civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq than the Islamists have killed in the West, what happened to us last week is actually our own fault.

"I would try to explain why this is dangerously flawed thinking, Baker writes, "but it's been evident for some time now that any real effort to contradict this idea would be pointless. That is because this thirst for self-blame among this sizeable section of Britain's thought-leaders is literally unquenchable...

"This English self-loathing would be less objectionable if it had not been so prominent in its less virulent form, in so much British policy and public life, for the past 60 years. In its less virulent form, it was the driving force behind the misguided anything-goes multiculturalism of the 1960s and 1970s and the desire to shed vestiges of British or English nationalism within the European Union for 40 years now. Especially curious is that it is an oddly British, or perhaps Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. The French elites certainly don't succumb to it, or the Russian, or the Chinese, though all three of them have a fair bit to answer for in their own histories.

"...The most painful irony of all in this English self-loathing is this simple truth. The beauty of human freedom that so many in the world now enjoy, the wonder of so much prosperity, the legacy of the Enlightenment, the very principles of cultural and political tolerance and free inquiry, owe more to Britain, and latterly our Anglo-Saxon allies who have taken on the baton in the past century, than to any other country on Earth."

I came across this Atlantic piece about suicide bombers and the trade they ply a few days ago. It's taken largely from Israeli experience. But as countries in Europe begin to be exposed to the tactic, Bruce Hoffman's article may be of interest. He writes that "...contrary to popular belief, the bombers are not drawn exclusively from the ranks of the poor but have included two sons of millionaires. (Most of the September 11 terrorists came from comfortable middle- to upper-middle-class families and were well educated.) The Israeli journalist Ronni Shaked, an expert on the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, who writes for Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli daily, has debunked the myth that it is only people with no means of improving their lot in life who turn to suicide terrorism. "All leaders of Hamas," he told me, "are university graduates, some with master's degrees. This is a movement not of poor, miserable people but of highly educated people who are using [the image of] poverty to make the movement more powerful."

"Buses remain among the bombers' preferred targets. Winter and summer are the better seasons for bombing buses in Jerusalem, because the closed windows (for heat or air-conditioning) intensify the force of the blast, maximizing the bombs' killing potential. As a hail of shrapnel pierces flesh and breaks bones, the shock wave tears lungs and crushes other internal organs. When the bus's fuel tank explodes, a fireball causes burns, and smoke inhalation causes respiratory damage. All this is a significant return on a relatively modest investment. Two or three kilograms of explosive on a bus can kill as many people as twenty to thirty kilograms left on a street or in a mall or a restaurant. But as security on buses has improved, and passengers have become more alert, the bombers have been forced to seek other targets.

"Suicide bombing initially seemed the desperate act of lone individuals, but it is not undertaken alone. Invariably, a terrorist organization such as Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has recruited the bomber, conducted reconnaissance, prepared the explosive device, and identified a target—explaining that if it turns out to be guarded or protected, any crowded place nearby will do. 'We hardly ever find that the suicide bomber came by himself,' a police officer explained to me. 'There is always a handler.' In fact, in some cases a handler has used a cell phone or other device to trigger the blast from a distance. A policeman told me, 'There was one event where a suicide bomber had been told all he had to do was to carry the bomb and plant explosives in a certain place. But the bomb was remote-control detonated.'"

13 July 2005

Lovers of language will appreciate this LA Times feature, taken from its food section. "Spend some time speaking French with French people, and you'll hear things like 'Regardez ce quart de Brie' - meaning 'look at that quarter-wheel of Brie.' That's a favorite phrase of my husband, and it refers not to cheese but to someone with a huge nose. (And in southwest France, where my in-laws live, there's no shortage of those.)

"If my mother-in-law remarks that her niece is pedaling in the sauerkraut (elle pedale dans la choucroute), that means she doesn't understand diddly squat. And if your rear end is surrounded by noodles (le cul borde de nouilles), that means you're extremely lucky."

Haaretz is asking a question lots of people don't want to ask. In the light of yesterday's suicide bombing, is it fair to say that the Palestinians have reached the stage of ignoring Abu Mazen's leadership? "The signs of Abbas's weakness are growing. The Prisons Service has recently received an increased number of requests to visit popular jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. The visitors are headed by 'troika' members: PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Sufyan Abu Zaydeh; Hisham Abd al-Raziq, who filled the same post under late PA chairman Yasser Arafat; and PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad. The Prisons Service has been approving their visits, which are meant to confer legitimacy on the current and former ministers."

I said lots of people. The Washington Times, which points out that Abbas's failure to lead has left the Israelis without a peace partner, is not of that number. "Instead of using force against those organizations that remained committed to terror, Palestinian leaders embarked on what amounted to a plan to beg the terrorists to behave themselves.

"Less than seven months after Mr. Arafat signed the Oslo I accord with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Hamas carried out the first suicide bombing of the Oslo era - a powerful demonstration of its contempt for the Palestinian chairman's purported commitment to make peace with Israel. Yesterday, Mr. Abbas received a similar message from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, one of the terrorist groups he attempted to cajole into moderation when he visited Syria last week. The jihadists claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing of a mall in Netanya, a city on Israel's Meditteranean coast."

Jonathan Freedland is the yoyo who said before the last US presidential election that he and everyone else in the world should be allowed to vote, because US policies affected everyone. But this morning, he's a kind of spokesman for the British left, expressing utter bewilderment that the 7/7 bombers were homegrown. In his Guardian column, he says "The realisation that Britons are ready to bomb their fellow citizens is a challenge to the whole of our society." But true to his nature, almost the first thing he does is look for an excuse not to blame anyone. He quotes an unnamed security source as having told him they would come from "the pool of young Muslims so disconnected and disenfranchised that they are easy prey to the extremist sermons heard in some mosques, to the wild, conspiracy-theory packed tapes sold outside and to the most fire-breathing websites. The proliferation of that material represents a deep challenge to British Islam; that disconnection and disenfranchisement is a challenge to Britain itself..."

The British left's philosophy on terror stems from its inability to get beyond the belief that 'if we treat chaps fairly, chaps will treat us fairly.' They just aren't able to draw into their comprehension the attitude revealed by terrorist Mohammed Bouyeri in Holland yesterday. He's on trial for killing Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a crime he readily admits. Bouyeri turned to van Gogh's mother in court yesterday and said: "I don't feel your pain. I don't have any sympathy for you. I can't feel for you because I think you're a non-believer." Prosecutors say that Bouyeri is dedicated to conducting a holy war against the enemies of Islam and had murdered Mr van Gogh to spread terror in the Netherlands. They say he believes that anyone who thinks differently than he does can be killed. Indeed, Bouyeri told the court that if he ever managed to get free, he'd do it again.

Sadly, the British left has had a huge influence on the British government's policies on terror. Daniel Pipes published an essay in the New York Sun and in FrontPage Magazine yesterday, in which he said, among other things, that "Counterterrorism specialists disdain the British. Roger Cressey calls London 'easily the most important jihadist hub in Western Europe.' Steven Simon dismisses the British capital as 'the Star Wars bar scene' of Islamic radicals. More brutally, an intelligence official said of last week's attacks: 'The terrorists have come home. It is payback time for...an irresponsible policy.' It's a shame the population of Britain can't be made to read the Pipes article once a day for the next week, to help them decide who to blame and who not to blame for allowing the first suicide bombers in western Europe to be grown in their soil.

Columnist Cal Thomas doesn't mince his words in the Washington Times this morning. "As much as Western politicians may wish to avoid the true root cause of this war, they do so at their citizens' peril. This is a religious war. The terrorists understand it as such. Too many in the secular and wimpishly religious West do not....No amount of aid from the G-8 industrial nations to the 'Palestinians', nor resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, will pacify these current and potential killers. Even if Israel was obliterated (the goal of much of the Muslim world), the terror would continue until the entire non-Islamic world is under their control.

"This is not the belief of an 'Islamophobic' bigot. This is what they say in their sermons and media, teach in their schools, and believe in their hearts. It matters little that 'the overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists,' to quote a familiar Western mantra. It matters a great deal that most terrorists are Muslims. The sooner Western leaders and Western media begin stating what is obvious to most people, the quicker the real root cause can be dealt with."

Simon Hoggart, who writes parliamentary sketches for the Guardian, has pretty well-developed powers of observation. He says he's noticed "yet another example of a new Labour trend word. This is 'robust'. I have spotted ministers using it more and more often, sometimes twice in a few sentences. Because it is a New Labour usage, it means slightly less than it appears. And like other New Labour usages, its meaning tends to ooze out, like pus from an open wound. For example, earlier this year Hazel Blears, a Home Office minister, was insisting there would be 'a robust system for control orders' (don't ask which control orders; there are so many these days)...Or Bill Rammell, also an education minister, on the whopping new charges for overseas students: 'By 2006 we will have a robust system in place to recover the money.' And Hazel Blears again - she loves the word: 'We want to have robust community sentences.' I take that to mean 'long community sentences'."

Here in Bermuda, our Parliamentarians haven't got to 'robust' yet, they're still stuck on 'clearly', which is showing every sign of robustness. One of our most prominent politicians seems unable to complete a sentence without using it at least once. After a while, it makes you wonder whether he might have locked himself off from any kind of change, which is not helpful in a politician.

Here's a story that you can't help but read - it's Col Tim Collins talking about what it was about Marie Fatayi-Williams's remarks (the text is part of the story) to the press of the day before yesterday that made them so effective. If the names aren't familiar to you, she is the mother of one of the people thought to be a victim of the London bombers. He is a soldier who made a famously eloquent speech to his soldiers just before they went to Iraq.

I remember Robert Bly saying, I think on one of Bill Moyers' PBS television programmes, that poetry's defining characteristic was that it entered human consciousness through the gut, not the head...which fits.

The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame controversy, and gets it spot on. "If there's any scandal at all here, it is that this entire episode has been allowed to waste so much government time and media attention, not to mention inspire a 'special counsel' probe. The Bush Administration is also guilty on this count, since it went along with the appointment of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in an election year in order to punt the issue down the road. But now Mr. Fitzgerald has become an unguided missile, holding reporters in contempt for not disclosing their sources even as it becomes clearer all the time that no underlying crime was at issue.

"As for the press corps, rather than calling for Mr. Rove to be fired, they ought to be grateful to him for telling the truth."

12 July 2005

Mark Steyn is out of his corner jabbing fiercely this morning in the Telegraph, railing against British society's fondness for political uber-correctness: "Most of us instinctively understand that when a senior Metropolitan Police figure says bullishly that 'Islam and terrorism don't go together', he's talking drivel.

"Terrorism ends when the broader culture refuses to tolerate it. There would be few if any suicide bombers in the Middle East if 'martyrdom' were not glorified by imams and politicians, if pictures of local 'martyrs' were not proudly displayed in West Bank grocery stores, if Muslim banks did not offer special 'martyrdom' accounts to the relicts thereof, if schools did not run essay competitions on 'Why I want to grow up to be a martyr'.

"At this point, many readers will be indignantly protesting that this is all the fault of Israeli 'occupation', but how does that explain suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where there's not a Zionist oppressor for hundreds of miles? Islam has become the world's pre-eminent incubator of terrorism at its most depraved. Indeed, so far London has experienced only the lighter items on the bill of fare - random bombing of public transport rather than decapitation, child sacrifice and schoolhouse massacres...Shame on us for championing Islamic thought-police over Western liberty."

Interesting that in the same newspaper, though not on the same page, this little piece also appeared, confirming that the BBC has re-edited some of its coverage of the London Underground and bus bombings to avoid labelling the perpetrators as terrorists.

David Aaronovitch of the London Times has feelings similar to Steyn's about those who think terrorists wouldn't have targeted Britain if only Britain hadn't interfered...in more or less anything. Aaronovitch calls them conservative pessimists, and observes that "Conservative pessimism was the phrase...invented to describe the policies of men like Douglas Hurd, who was then Foreign Secretary, towards Bosnia...Any time there was a likelihood of effective action, (Douglas Hurd) intervened to prevent it...It would make things worse; it was a complex conflict in which all sides were suspect; we should try to ease things through diplomacy. In December 1992 Britain abstained on a UN resolution comparing ethnic cleansing to genocide."

There's an echo in Washington this morning. The Washington Times says, in an editorial, that while people like George Galloway and the author of a nay-saying column in yesterday's New York Times, Bob Herbert, "glory in their 'enlightened' views, al Qaeda and its affiliates understand us better than we sometimes understand ourselves. They advise their followers to charge torture when captured - and Congress goes into a tizzy. They feign outrage at the alleged destruction of a Koran - and then send a suicide bomber to blow up Muslims in Baghdad. They petition Western governments against 'hate crimes' - such as a bill in Britain that would criminalize 'religious hatred' aimed primarily at Islam - and then murder Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh for making a critical movie of Islam. And now, tragically, they slaughter Britons and say it was because of Iraq and Afghanistan. So Mr. Herbert blames Messrs. Bush and Blair...

"Lenin had a name for his Western sympathizers. He called them 'useful idiots', because they were too busy running public relations for Soviet Russia to realize that they also were in Communism's crosshairs."

In the same newspaper it's reported that "The European Union's interior ministers will meet in Brussels tomorrow to coordinate security and intelligence. The agenda consists of plans to exchange electronic information and establish permanent contacts among the interior ministers of the 25 member nations. The current system has been described as 'embryonic and inadequate.'

"'Today we are paying for misjudging the nature of the conflict,' a French security official said. 'This is not merely a challenge to police and law-and-order forces but a strategic challenge from an invisible enemy.'"

Despite their propensity for political correctness...or perhaps because of it...this is a story that was unlikely to be broken by the British media. It's about an Israeli doctor, on holiday in London, who spent 7/7 helping the victims of the bomb on the train between King's Cross and Russell Square. "As paramedics brought victims out on to the station platform," the Jerusalem Post reports, "he set to work stabilizing them, sifting those who could be helped and those who were clearly beyond his expertise.

"'The injuries were severe. I must have treated around 20 people. I was just running from person to person, doing all I could. Many were not in good shape at all,' (Dr Benny) Meilik said. 'I have worked on many, many victims of bomb attacks, and I can say: this is as bad as any I have seen. I have a lot of experience in treating blast victims and this bomb was powerful.'

"He set about working out who needed urgent care there on the platform and who could be moved to hospital. One victim, who had two broken arms, emerged to tell reporters he had been helped by an 'Israeli hero'. The man, who would not give his name, said: 'There was pandemonium. But the man who helped me was calm - and I can't thank him enough. He told me he was on holiday and had come to see if he could help. If you see him, thank him.'"

Down in Brazil, Lula's in trouble. The Independent says "...A serious and spiralling bribes-for-votes scandal that has wreaked chaos within Brazil's ruling Workers Party (PT) and has threatened the future of the country's left-leaning President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Now there are even suggestions that the inspirational Lula, who won the 2002 election by a landslide of more than 60 per cent, will no longer seek reelection next year."

Full marks to the Guardian for conceiving this thoroughly interesting story about the Spanish perception of British reaction to the bombings there last week. El Correo's London correspondent told his/her readers: "The feeling that people had reacted in an orderly manner was a point of pride in people's conversations in a country where the word 'emotional' is used to indicate a personality defect."

"'In continental Europe, and especially in the south,'" the Guardian continued, "'cathartic ceremonies are needed to stave off panic: demonstrations, shows of unity and collective hugs of consolation,' said Enric González in El País. 'London buries its dead as it has always done: simulating relative indifference and displaying normality.'

"Most of all, however, there has been admiration. 'In the midst of commotion and anguish for the cruel blow received, the response has been of civic maturity and democratic responsibility,' said El Mundo's editor, Pedro Ramírez. 'This particular British style of understanding collective life, full of common sense and pragmatism, is why Britain has known neither fascism nor communism,' columnist Javier Otaola wrote in El Correo."

This is Christopher Hitchens writing in the Wall Street Journal about the export of democracy: "The most successful 'export' was Jefferson's determined use of naval and military force to reduce the Barbary States of the Ottoman Empire, which had set up a slave-taking system of piracy and blackmail along the western coast of North Africa."

Hitchens has just published a book about Jefferson, called Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, so this is familiar territory for him. "Our third president was not in a position to enforce regime change in Algiers or Tripoli, but he was able to insist on regime behavior-modification (and thus to put an end to at least one slave system). Ever since then, every major system of tyranny in the world has had to run at least the risk of a confrontation with the United States, and one hopes that the Jeffersonians among us will continue to ensure that this remains true."

Bonus quote: "I cannot find any non-pejorative use in English of the Greek word 'democracy' until Thomas Paine took it up in the first volume of The Rights of Man and employed it as an affirmative term of pride."

11 July 2005

Claudia Rosett reveals in the New York Sun this morning that the Manhattan District Attorney's office has opened a criminal investigation into the activities of the former head of the UN oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan. "The probe, apparently well advanced, involves allegations of commercial bribery related to Mr. Sevan's role as executive director from 1997-2003 of the oil-for-food relief program for Iraq, then under UN sanctions against the former regime of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Sevan was picked for the job by Secretary-General Annan.

"News of the criminal probe raises prospects that at least one UN official may yet face criminal prosecution over activities related to the more than $110 billion worth of Saddam's oil sales and relief purchases that the United Nations oversaw in Iraq from 1996-2003. The probe into Mr. Sevan comes on top of oil-for-food-related indictments of a number of private businessmen issued April 14 by federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, along with a federal complaint alleging bribery involving unnamed 'high-ranking United Nations officials' - described in circumstances that suggest these are individuals other than Mr. Sevan."

A radical Islamist accused of the grisly murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the London Times says, is not going to defend himself against the charges. "Mohammed Bouyeri, a Moroccan Dutch national, was forced to attend at the high-security court but Peter Plasman, his lawyer, said he would offer no evidence throughout the proceedings, expected to last for two days. Born and raised in Amsterdam, the 27-year-old Mr Bouyeri is a radical Islamist who had hoped to die a martyr after killing the controversial filmmaker, distant relative of 19th century painter Vincent van Gogh, police said."

Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff has published another round-up of good news from Afghanistan in the Wall Street Journal. "In women's affairs," he says, "President Karzai has creation of a new Inter-Ministerial Task Force to eliminate violence against women...On the non-government level, CARE USA is helping to provide education for girls and women who missed out in the past:

"Meet Farzana. She's the principal of Sha Shaheed School, a school for girls who missed years of their education during the five years of the Taliban's rule. The school is one of nine supported by CARE's Out of School Girls Project that provides fast-track education for girls by teaching two years in one. During the Taliban years, Farzana and her family fled to Pakistan, and she was able to work. However, after September 11th, her family moved back to Kabul and Farzana was able to keep working. She's 28 years old and single, which is unusual for a woman her age in Afghanistan, and lives with her father. While her brothers and sisters are all married, she tells us that her father is open minded and encourages her to pursue her career.

"The Sha Shaheed School teaches 360 girls who come in six days a week, either for the morning or afternoon, for their classes. Most of the girls are between 10-14 years old and were in school before Taliban, but had to stop going to school for five years when the Taliban didn't allow girls to be educated. These girls are now much older that the kids in their grade and CARE aims to provide a fast-track education so they can rejoin the school system at the appropriate age."

For Victor Davis Hanson fans, this profile of what it calls The Sage of Fresno appears in the Digest of the Hoover Institution. It was written by Jonathan Kay, who is a Hoover fellow and the managing editor of Canada's National Post. He sets the scene this way: "Farmer and classicist in equal measure, Hanson has led something of a double life. But read his work and it becomes clear that the two identities are intimately joined. From his early books on the Peloponnesian campaigns to his widely read post-9/11 essays on Afghanistan and Iraq, the connection between agriculture and war emerges as a constant theme."

Mohammed al Gerbouzi (the Guardian is now using the spelling el Guerbozi), the Moroccan national who was named by the British Police as a man they wanted to talk to in connection with the 7/7 bombings, has surfaced, saying he had nothing to do with it. Gerbouzi/Guerbozi told the newspaper he had no idea what all the fuss was about. He had never been involved in terrorism and condemned the attacks. He said that far from being on the run from the British authorities over the past year, he was treated in March by the NHS for a leg complaint at St Mary's hospital, in London.

Meantime, the Independent says it has learned that "About 30 al-Qa'ida fighters and sympathisers have been identified by counter-terrorism officers as the most likely suspects behind the London bombings. The mixture of foreign and British-born suspects are being investigated as part of a massive inquiry to track down those responsible for last Thursday's attacks. The cell responsible is believed to number from four to 12 people, anti-terrorist sources have revealed."

It all seems still a little vague. The police have apparently developed four theories about who might have been behind the bombings.

10 July 2005

In Washington, according to the Washington Post, "the National Zoo's panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth yesterday to a squealing, squirming cub the size of a stick of butter, and elated zookeepers said she is giving it the tender care that befits its status as one of the world's most endangered animals.

"Even as they rejoiced in their first panda birth after years of effort, zoo officials cautioned that the coming days would be critical to the cub's survival. They praised the mothering skills of Mei Xiang, who was holding a rubber toy at the moment of birth and at first seemed surprised by her squawking cub. But she quickly gave it her full attention."

Another name has surfaced in connection with the London bombings - Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri. He is a Syrian suspected of being al Qaeda's operations officer in Europe, and the man who is believed to have masterminded last year's Madrid train bombings, according to the New York Daily News.

Meantime DEBKAfile, which has insisted from the beginning that suicide bombers detonated all of the London bombs, reckons there were two of them aboard the bus that was blown up. Their theories can be read here.

The British Social Attitudes Survey suggests that the older you are, the fewer qualifications you hold and the lower your household income, the less likely you are to be interested in technology like the Internet. The Sunday Times says that "although it has never been cheaper or simpler to go online, more than a third of the UK population cannot, or will not, get connected. Take-up has run into the buffers, levelling off at 60% of the population, just one percentage point past the tide mark reached two years ago. What’s more, new research by the Oxford Internet Institute reveals that it is not only money, age or education that is stopping people going online. Many people remain unconnected by choice — they are digital refuseniks.

"Internet refuseniks follow a clear and predictable pattern. Yet lifestyle is not the whole story: about half think the web is too complicated for them to use fully. The trouble for those who have fallen on the wrong side of these various digital divides is that new technology is an unstoppable force."


Art in Bermuda
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Joe Wilson and Michael Moore
Linton Kwesi Johnson's Dub Poetry
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Miss Lou and Jamaican Patois
More Doomsday Nonsense
Mullah Nasrudin's Lessons
New York Dogs
OECD's Unfair to Competition
On Catullus
On Charles Ives
On Colin MacInnes
On Collecting Books
On Collecting Books - Part Two
On Gambling in Bermuda
On Napoleon
On Patrick Leigh Fermor
Race and Bermuda's Election
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Gift of Slang
The Limits of Knowledge
The Nature of Intelligence
The Shared European Dream
The US Supreme Court's First Terrorism Decisions
Useful Yiddish
Yukio Mishima's Death

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