Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Turks haven't learned the British way of denying past atrocities

Turkish Government seems to be quite ridiculous in its handling of its past atrocity. They are prosecuting a world famous writer for telling the truth. Orhan Pamuk is on trial. This fearless writer talked about past Turkish government's direct involvement in "the Armenian genocide in the first world war and the killing of the Kurds in the past decade."

How dare he "denigrate Turkishness"? The Turkish "democratic" government wanted Mr. Pamuk to remaim quiet regarding its painful past. However, the "ridiculous" Turkish government's inept handling of this increasingly murky situation of their atrocious past is being more fomented by their sheer stupidity, for their arranging this trial against free speech. They should have taken heed from the British or the American Government. Perhaps the Chinese, Russian, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Israel, myriads of European and Middle-East nations along with other boastful governments around the world could have shown them the light in the tunnel, the magical tricks of erasing or suppressing past atrocities, genocides. How to sing the triumphant and benevolent songs of patriotism without ever washing old dried blood from one's wrinkled palms can be learnt from ample examples throughout our "civilized" history. Talk about sheer stupidity of Armenian genocide deniers!

George Monbiot's attached article tries to illuminate a few atrocities that occured in grandeur scale in the past, but with dilligent ploys and clever arrangements of collective erasure, implantation of false memories through fictional history among the "entertained" mass, the majority of world citizens remain completely unaware of their "civilization's" glorious "progressive" history.

Monbiot's one example is morbid to the core. Between 12 and 19 million innocent people died in India due to the murderous British colonial policies exclusively set aside for those "savages" and "peasants" in Indian sub-continent. When the peasants were starving and dying from that manufactured famine, "officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices"".

That was not end of this horrifying past episode. The survivors of that famine was put under the sharp edge of British colonial swords once again, "As millions died, the imperial government launched "a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought". The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan."

What happened to those who protested against the brutal British imperialism? In Kenya, the Kikuyu started their campaign against rooted colonial injustices. "The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder - more than a million - were held in "enclosed villages". Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". British soldiers used a "metal castrating instrument" to cut off testicles and fingers. "By the time I cut his balls off," one settler boasted, "he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket." The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked "provided they were black". Elkins's evidence suggests that more than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and starvation in the camps."

One cannot just blames Europeans, or the slave owners in America or American current imperially ambitious government for all the atrocities of our world. Chinese Government kills and maims and imprison dissenters as it pleases while keeping world completely ignorant from their past and present atrocities. Indian Government's suppression of the poor, its displacement of hundreds of thousands of peasants, farmers, villagers from its "super dam" is being played down as well. Even Norendra Modi, the infamous Gujarat chief still vehemently denies any involvements of its Hindu extremists killing thousands and thousands of innocent Muslims from that bloody riots only few years past. Pakistan is in perpetual denial of its slaughters and genocide of innocent Bangladeshis from its 1971 war. For Russia, any dissenters to its Russian supremacist policy, against the Chechens and other minorities are either thrown at prison for infinity, or being simply eliminated after being termed as "terrorist" for advanced damage control. And Hindu or Ahmadiya minorities never get oppressed in green Bangladesh. Hyperboles in action!

Orhan Pamuk is on trial.

Saddam is on trial.

What about us? Shouldn't we be put on trial, as one big and happy human family, for our utter shamelessness in forgetting or ignoring historical truths?


The Turks haven't learned the British way of denying past atrocities

It is not illegal to discuss the millions who were killed under our empire. So why do so few people know about them?

George Monbiot
Tuesday December 27, 2005
The Guardian

In reading reports of the trial of the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, you are struck by two things. The first, of course, is the anachronistic brutality of the country's laws. Mr Pamuk, like scores of other writers and journalists, is being prosecuted for "denigrating Turkishness", which means that he dared to mention the Armenian genocide in the first world war and the killing of the Kurds in the past decade. The second is its staggering, blithering stupidity. If there is one course of action that could be calculated to turn these massacres into live issues, it is the trial of the country's foremost novelist for mentioning them.

As it prepares for accession, the Turkish government will discover that the other members of the EU have found a more effective means of suppression. Without legal coercion, without the use of baying mobs to drive writers from their homes, we have developed an almost infinite capacity to forget our own atrocities.

Atrocities? Which atrocities? When a Turkish writer uses that word, everyone in Turkey knows what he is talking about, even if they deny it vehemently. But most British people will stare at you blankly. So let me give you two examples, both of which are as well documented as the Armenian genocide.

In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

As millions died, the imperial government launched "a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought". The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government's export policies, like Stalin's in Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceeding three years, at least 1.25m died.

Three recent books - Britain's Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson, and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis - show how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise - some of them violently - against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder - more than a million - were held in "enclosed villages". Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". British soldiers used a "metal castrating instrument" to cut off testicles and fingers. "By the time I cut his balls off," one settler boasted, "he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket." The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked "provided they were black". Elkins's evidence suggests that more than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and starvation in the camps. David Anderson documents the hanging of 1,090 suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria. Thousands more were summarily executed by soldiers, who claimed they had "failed to halt" when challenged.

These are just two examples of at least 20 such atrocities overseen and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers; they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia. Some of them might trigger a vague, brainstem memory in a few thousand readers, but most people would have no idea what I'm talking about. Max Hastings, on the opposite page, laments our "relative lack of interest" in Stalin and Mao's crimes. But at least we are aware that they happened.

In the Express we can read the historian Andrew Roberts arguing that for "the vast majority of its half-millennium-long history, the British empire was an exemplary force for good ... the British gave up their empire largely without bloodshed, after having tried to educate their successor governments in the ways of democracy and representative institutions" (presumably by locking up their future leaders). In the Sunday Telegraph, he insists that "the British empire delivered astonishing growth rates, at least in those places fortunate enough to be coloured pink on the globe". (Compare this to Mike Davis's central finding, that "there was no increase in India's per capita income from 1757 to 1947", or to Prasannan Parthasarathi's demonstration that "South Indian labourers had higher earnings than their British counterparts in the 18th century and lived lives of greater financial security.") In the Daily Telegraph, John Keegan asserts that "the empire became in its last years highly benevolent and moralistic". The Victorians "set out to bring civilisation and good government to their colonies and to leave when they were no longer welcome. In almost every country, once coloured red on the map, they stuck to their resolve".

There is one, rightly sacred Holocaust in European history. All the others can be denied, ignored, or belittled. As Mark Curtis points out, the dominant system of thought in Britain "promotes one key concept that underpins everything else - the idea of Britain's basic benevolence ... Criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible, and normal, but within narrow limits which show 'exceptions' to, or 'mistakes' in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence". This idea, I fear, is the true "sense of British cultural identity" whose alleged loss Max laments today. No judge or censor is required to enforce it. The men who own the papers simply commission the stories they want to read.

Turkey's accession to the European Union, now jeopardised by the trial of Orhan Pamuk, requires not that it comes to terms with its atrocities; only that it permits its writers to rage impotently against them. If the government wants the genocide of the Armenians to be forgotten, it should drop its censorship laws and let people say what they want. It needs only allow Richard Desmond and the Barclay brothers to buy up the country's newspapers, and the past will never trouble it again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Aspartame and Runaway Mockeries

A colleague of my will be flying back to Prince Edward Island tomorrow. His father-in-law just passed away early this morning. A forty six year old man, six feet three inches tall, apparently healthy, and just got remarried and had a new born baby. Only three months ago cancerous tumors were found in his kidney. And in the last ninety days, tumors had spread to his entire stomach, lungs and other parts of his body. Strong morphine drips struggled to keep unbearable pain at bay. Gathering family surrounded him. They laughed amidst pain. Even the dying man himself wanted to taste his favorite drink, beer, so the wife bought a six pack for him. The man drank half a can and said, "Uh....I love this taste"! When her husband died later that day, she gave away the remaining five cans of beer to his friends and family, and asked them to celebrate the deceased's life rather than pouring tears in grief.

My father died of cancer too. His was in his gall-bladder that had spread to his entire stomach. Doctors gave him six months to live, a direct death pronouncement at the shocked face of my father, and he died in six months. Last month was his death anniversary. Years have passed. So many changes and turns have appeared, disappeared in our life. But the pain is still raw underneath all these visible greetings and amusements. A poet he was. A small framed man. While drifting in and out of his consciousness, dripping morphine tube in his left arm. His eyes became dreamy as more painful days gone by. As if, he was very much content on that single hospital bed. He liked those colorful buttons on the rails of his bed, that shifted bed's position, upright to flat and back. Various angles. Even the television could be controlled from that cozy bed of his in that gloomy hospital room. He died in a morning.

Death cannot be stopped. Mortals die. There is no surprise in it. But there are indeed shocks and surprises when it becomes clear, that for greed and power, powerful men and women ignore scientific evidences and use their immense influence and directives releasing harmful food elements to billions of unsuspecting civilians throughout the world.

People die from bombs and cancers. People die from diseases and starvations. People die from natural disasters that may have direct or indirect link to disastrous energy policies of rich and poor nations. We all shall die from one cause or another. It would be less gloomy death if these thugs, the double breasted suite wearing high and low profile criminals could be exposed and tried at the highest court of our law. They say justice is blind. But the criminals have ways evading justice. Ignoring International Court is one of their ways. Billions of dollars are spent for fight against "terror", war is raged over spreading "freedom" (or controlling dwindling natural resources). Silent murderers laugh at our face, at our absolute surrender to runaway mockeries.


Safety of artificial sweetener called into question by MP

Examples cited in the Commons of the 6,000 products with aspartame

Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent
Thursday December 15, 2005
The Guardian

In 1977 Donald Rumsfeld, now George Bush's defence secretary but then chief executive of the pharmaceutical company GD Searle, publicly stated that he would "call in his markers" to win a licence for aspartame, the sweetener that had been discovered by chance in Searle's laboratories, according to Roger Williams in the Commons yesterday.

Mr Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said in an adjournment debate that there was much controversy about aspartame's safety at the time but "Rumsfeld appears to have honoured his pledge". In fact, "the history of the approval of aspartame puts public health regulators and politicians to shame".

The sweetener is now used in 6,000 products, from crisps such as Walkers prawn cocktail, to soft drinks including Diet Coke and Robinson's fruit squash, chewing gums such as Orbit, and vitamins pills and medicines. Yet the science on which it was given approval was "biased, inconclusive, and incompetent". "There is compelling and reliable evidence for this carcinogenic substance to be banned from the UK food and drinks market."

On the day of his inauguration as president in 1981, with Mr Rumsfeld on his transition team, Ronald Reagan personally wrote an executive order suspending the head of the US Food and Drug Administration's powers on aspartame, Mr Williams further claimed. One month later Mr Reagan appointed a new head of the regulatory authority, Arthur Hayes, who granted a licence for the sweetener.

"The history of aspartame's approval is littered with examples showing that if key decision makers found against aspartame's safety, they were discredited or replaced by industry sympathisers, who were recompensed with lucrative jobs."

The MP said he was using his parliamentary privilege to highlight "the strong scientific evidence" that the components of aspartame and their metabolites can cause very serious toxic effects on humans, and that long-term aspartame use can cause cancer.

Searle had originally submitted a host of studies to the FDA in 1970s in the hope of getting aspartame approved. But when flaws were revealed in the science behind another Searle product, Flagyl, the FDA set up a taskforce to investigate 15 of the key studies submitted by Searle on aspartame. Dr Jerome Bressler was commissioned by the FDA to investigate three of these studies. He had found 52 major discrepancies in Searle's clinical conduct of the studies, Mr Williams told the Commons. Tumours contracted by rats were removed before dissection but not reported; one record shows an animal in the experiment was alive, then dead, then alive again, then dead again.

MPs were told that because it lacked funds, the FDA submitted 12 other studies to be analysed by a research body that was under contract to Searle at the time. It declared all 12 studies authentic.

Doubts about aspartame among FDA scientists were overruled by the FDA's administration and it was given approval. Many other countries soon followed suit and approved aspartame on the basis of the same flawed studies, Mr Williams said. In 1996 a review of aspartame research found that every single industry-funded study found aspartame safe. But 92% of independent studies identified one or more problems with its safety.

Mr Williams outlined to MPs the evidence that the breakdown products of aspartame include suspected carcinogens and toxic molecules that damage nerve cells. But the final nail in the coffin for the sweetener, he said, was a new, "monumental" peer-reviewed study, that should have "set alarm bells ringing in health departments around the world".

This vast study, conducted by the Italian-based European Ramazzini Foundation, demonstrated that aspartame caused a significant increase in lymphomas and leukaemias, malignant tumours of the kidneys in female rats and malignant tumours of peripheral and cranial nerves in male rats. These tumours occurred at doses that were well below the acceptable daily intake recommended by the regulatory authorities in the EU and US.

The public health minister, Caroline Flint, responding for the government, said it took the issue very seriously and would look at any new evidence. But she added that the use of food additives was very strictly controlled at EU level. The safety of aspartame had been very extensively reviewed many times and the current advice remained that it does not cause cancer and is safe.

Artificial sweeteners help in the control of obesity, she said. Acceptable daily intakes were set at a very conservative level. Moreover, the UK's expert committee on toxicity had reviewed the initial data from the Ramazzini Foundation and had not been convinced by its interpretations, but the European Food Safety Authority would conduct a review when it had the full data.

The trade associations for confectionery, snack, soft drink and pill manufacturers and the sweetener industry's Aspartame Information Service said aspartame had been used safely for many years and evidence for its safety had been reviewed and approved many times by regulators around the world, including by the WHO, the FDA, the UN expert committee on food additives and the EU scientific committee for food.

They pointed out that the European Food Safety Authority has said that "based on current evidence, it does not recommend that consumers who wish to choose foods containing aspartame make any changes to their dietary habits".

The compounds

Aspartame breaks down into three components - a methyl ester and two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid, according to Roger Williams during the parliamentary debate.

The sweetener industry repeatedly pointed out that these compounds occur naturally in food and drink, yet that statement hid the complex science that makes each one harmful to humans when found in aspartame, he added. In food, phenylalanine and aspartic acid are bound to other amino acids in long, complex chains of proteins so that they are not absorbed in a way that could cause damage. But in aspartame they are not, and enzymes in the gut can easily split them apart.

Once phenylalanine is released in its free form, it is metabolised into diketopiperazine, a suspected carcinogen. Aspartic acid in its free form becomes an excitotoxin, a toxic molecule that stimulates nerve cells to the point of damage or death.

The third component of aspartame, methyl ester, was the most harmful, Mr Williams said. It is metabolised by the body into methanol, a well-known poison. In the US, the environmental protection agency defines safe consumption of methanol as no more than 7.8mg a day. Anyone drinking three cans of a drink sweetened with aspartame a day was consuming about 56mg of methanol, the MP said.

The public health minister, Caroline Flint, responded by saying that studies had shown methanol levels were not increased by the ingestion of aspartame.


Another Article on this subject can be found from the following link:
ASPARTAME - The Shocking Story of the World's Bestselling Sweetener

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture -- Art, Truth and Politics

Our muffed ego, inflated arrogance spiced by willful ignorance. Can they be shattered? Can the subdued conscience be invigorated once more from the last throe of dignity that left for the humanity? Our oblivious bias, shutting the eyes and ears from seeing and hearing "blood in the streets", shrieks from an orphan or bombed apart child, widow, men, women; can eyes be plied open, and dirts in ears be cleared away?

Read Pablo Neruda's following lines from a poem:

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!

Harold Pinter's health will not allow him to attend Nobel prize ceremony in Stockholm this year, but his pen did not stay silent. At this advanced age of his life while achieving the most coveted literary award from our contemporary world, he has nothing to lose. His following Nobel lecture that's been delivered by video remains as the testament of this fearless writer's pure conscience, proudly and defiantly atop the devious mercantile and ruthless hawks' disgraced distortions.


This is the text of the lecture to be given by Harold Pinter when he receives the 2005 Nobel prize for literature on Saturday. Forbidden by doctors from going to Stockholm to receive the £720,000 prize, the ailing playwright and poet has delivered his speech by video

Wednesday December 7, 2005

Harold Pinter
Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Photograph: Max Nash/AP
In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: 'But in this case "innocent people" were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days - conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally - a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets! *

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity - the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons - is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force - yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection - unless you lie - in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror - for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man.

* Extract from "I'm Explaining a Few Things" translated by Nathaniel Tarn, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, published by Jonathan Cape, London 1970. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.

Source Link:

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Feast - a Poem


By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
November 12, 2005

Sea of glowing beads
round and plump
rising over twilight plateau
where growling bear
twitches its sunken eyes and hairy paws
seeing a skirring pheasant
trailing a fleeing rabbit

Such the nature of violence
in dead leaves of ancient trees
where battles raging on
between opposing groups of ants and fleas

In the troposphere
the rumbling wind
hot and cold in grumbling confusion
flipping up, twisting down
debris, molecules enlivened
tearing apart superheated turbulence
pockets of air bursting out
in frenzied gist

Down there where bear roams
and lion brawls with shrieking hyenas
pitch dark crows circle above
a big feast

Sunday, November 06, 2005

France - Explosion in the Suburbs

France - Explosion in the Suburbs

Cars are burning in Paris, suburbs and many other places in France are in chaos. Riots raging, the boiling point of anger have reached for many disheartened youths, mostly the second generation young immigrants from France's colonial past, who had had enough of their being discriminated, subjected to bold faced lies, distortions and many other shrewed political maneuvering made to keep them under perpetual poverty and distress, couldn't take insults any longer. Burning cars, destructions of properties, harming innocent people can no way to be supported, however steadfast and fare their urging may seem, but the inept French politicians like Sarkozy whose naked desires to capture the political right by using derogatory terms describing the French immigrant societies is one of the factors out of many for that the current situation has reached so much in its violent zenith.

A prominent anti-racist French activist describes it quite succinctly, "When large sections of the population are denied any kind of respect, the right to work, the right to decent accommodation, what is surprising is not that the cars are burning but that there are so few uprisings," and comparing his pointed comments with French Interior Minister Sarkozy's virulent usages of "vermin", "scum" describing the rioters, and his unapologetic remarks in suburbs "to be cleaned out with Karsher", where Karsher means "a brand of industrial cleaner used to clean the mud off tractors", is there any wonder why there are so much agonies and flames in Paris and its suburbs today?

France! O' France! Why is your "enlightening" is in flame?


Explosion in the suburbs

The riots now sweeping France are the product of years of racism, poverty and police brutality

Naima Bouteldja

In late 1991, after violent riots between youths and police scarred the suburbs of Lyon, Alain Touraine, the French sociologist, predicted: "It will only be a few years before we face the kind of massive urban explosion the Americans have experienced." The 11 nights of consecutive violence following the deaths of two young Muslim men of African descent in a Paris suburb show that Touraine's dark vision of a ghettoised, post-colonial France is now upon us.

Clichy-sous-Bois, the impoverished and segregated north-eastern suburb of Paris where the two men lived and where the violent reaction to their deaths began, was a ticking bomb for the kind of dramatic social upheaval we are currently witnessing. Half its inhabitants are under 20, unemployment is above 40% and identity checks and police harassment are a daily experience.

In this sense, the riots are merely a fresh wave of the violence that has become common in suburban France over the past two decades. Led mainly by young French citizens born into first and second generation immigrant communities from France's former colonies in north Africa, these cycles of violence are almost always sparked by the deaths of young black men at the hands of the police, and then inflamed by a contemptuous government response.

Four days after the deaths in Clichy-sous-Bois, just as community leaders were beginning to calm the situation, the security forces reignited the fire by emptying teargas canisters inside a mosque. The official reason for the police action: a badly parked car in front of it. The government refuses to offer any apology to the Muslim community.

But the spread of civil unrest to other poor suburbs across France is unprecedented. For Laurent Levy, an anti-racist campaigner, the explosion is no surprise. "When large sections of the population are denied any kind of respect, the right to work, the right to decent accommodation, what is surprising is not that the cars are burning but that there are so few uprisings," he argues.

Police violence and racism are major factors. In April, an Amnesty International report criticised the "generalised impunity" with which the French police operated when it came to violent treatment of young men from African backgrounds during identity checks.

But the reason for the extent and intensity of the current riots is the provocative behaviour of the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy. He called rioters "vermin", blamed "agents provocateurs" for manipulating "scum" and said the suburbs needed "to be cleaned out with Karsher" (a brand of industrial cleaner used to clean the mud off tractors). Sarkozy's grandstanding on law and order is a deliberate strategy designed to flatter the French far right electorate in the context of his rivalry with the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, for the 2007 presidency.

How can France get out of this political race to the bottom? It would obviously help for ministers to stop talking about the suburbs as dens of "scum" and for Sarkozy to be removed: the falsehoods he spread about the events surrounding the two deaths and his deployment of a massively disproportionate police presence in the first days of the riots have again shown his unfitness for office.

A simple gesture of regret could go a long way towards defusing the tensions for now. The morning after the gassing of the mosque, a young Muslim woman summed up a widespread feeling: "We just want them to stop lying, to admit they've done it and to apologise." It might not seem much, but in today's France it would require a deep political transformation and the recognition of these eternal "immigrants" as full and equal citizens of the republic.

· Naima Bouteldja is a French journalist and researcher for the Transnational Institute.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Conveyor Belt -- a Poem

Conveyor Belt

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
October 30, 2005

Is there nothing
to write about
to muse
at the expense
of voluble time?

What is it to write?
Has the world sucked in
all the remaining desire
for a story to be renewed?
Or foretold in vigorous charm?

All one can see
is oceanic depression
in mid level ridge
as the sea spreading
and washed out sediments
gorged inside earth
like a large conveyor belt
carrying all the filths,
impurities, human destructions
into the warmth of deepening earth

See these gift baskets, immaculate
ribbons from haven, merrily glistening
And look at these crispy notes
dollars, yens, euros, takas, rupees,
silver coins, loonies, toonies,
discolored paishas, chiming dimes
smart cards, credit cards
roars of laughter, moans of agonies
overspilled hatred corner to corner
hand in hand with Halloween costumes
Goblins and make believe ghosts
nudging the would be assassins,
the human bombs, mechanized torpedoes
blowing up everything you love, live for

Brewed gourmet coffee, caramel tea
wafting smoke from posh restaurant
you see protective bankers wobble
in his drunken strides,
serene engineers, smiling doctors
and of course, confident politicians
in polished shoes and emblazoned attire
elevating the meaning of chatter
to a dimension invisible to non-experts
various color, height, weight
wearing slick to unappealing dresses

Food aplenty to dire famine
all are there in this world of ours
We fight, love, cuddle, nudge
destroy and renew each others
with affixed destiny
Our creations, artistry, fortress, mansions
calcerous remains dissipate
in sedimentary or carbonate rocks
hopping on that behemoth
conveyor belt nature built
for nourishing cosmos

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mud -- a Poem


By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
Summer 2005

Mix of Sun and cloud
today's weather
So defiant, so proud
thunder chatter

You walk under hot sun
cloudless sky raging blue
not a bird in sight
boorish road splashing hue

Here, the world is quiet
a lazy day of summer
wind blows now and then
one or two Ford or Hummer
rushes by green traffic light
and empty parking lot
while homeless and hermits
gawk at colorful plot

Thank God or Devil we are not there
where flesh ripped off bones
innocence vaporized in fiery flare
and dreads for more blood hones
under yearning retribution
eye for an eye, blood for blood
no end in sight for this illusion
world is covered with irresolute mud!

Sound of Suave Lore -- a Poem

Sound of Suave Lore

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
October 27, 2005

Rush, rush, rush the way
and bring me slush of clay
Silly rhyme, meaningless rhythm
on a day of rain and chasm

Suave gentlemen walking by
hand in hand with gorgeous sly
lady and children carrying bags
clapping, laughing amidst bickering nags

You stand there like an wavering tree
staring at the empty lobby
spotless floor, uniformed bellmen
chattering away a day of brewed zen

Sound of guitar, piano muffled
washing lonesome spirit and baffled
heart in a sweeping flush
as if clay of slush
or slush of clay
rush the way
to a rhythmic lore

Don't you dare to snore
on an empty floor!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Europeans declare bird flu 'a global threat'

I don't have to be a scaremonger, the progression of bird flu from Asian nations to Europe and its eventual future migration to every corner of our world is beginning to rattle nerve of many, including mine. No real antidote, anti-virus medicine exists, only "Tamiflu" that according to World Health Organization "could minimize the potency of the illness but was not an effective vaccine against it" Europe started to move in stockpiling Tamiflu, but what about the poor Asian nations? What is the plan in saving millions and millions of citizens of Asian, African and South American nations? Is there really a viable plan to combat a potentially man annihilating virus in place? Would we be caught, again, in our pants down to our ankle, bare naked, like the Katrina romped Louisiana's backyard, front yard, or the devastating earthquake leveling Balakot in Pakistan, destroying all those poorly made homes, buildings that were no match for a 7.6 earthquake? Or would it be like last year's Tsunami when lack of early warning coordination among nations contributed to majority of deaths in South East Asia that could have been avoided if only we had a reliable warning mechanism in place?

We spend billions, trillions in making futuristic weaponry to kill fellow human beings, whereas our total failure in confronting nature, like earthquake, hurricane or now the bird flu, perhaps point to an unstoppable demise of our infantile civilization.

I just hope that I am wrong. Wrong. I am wrong!


Europeans declare bird flu 'a global threat'
By Dan Bilefsky and Tom Wright International Herald Tribune

BRUSSELS European foreign ministers on Tuesday declared the bird flu outbreak a "global threat" and warned that the European Union was not sufficiently prepared for a pandemic if the virus changed in a way that would allow it to spread readily among humans.

Even though EU officials tried to allay growing public alarm that the disease could jump from birds to humans, the EU health and safety commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, expressed concern that most European countries lacked sufficient stockpiles of anti-viral drugs.

"We have not yet reached the level of preparedness that we should have," he told reporters at an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. "This is a global threat and there is need for international action."
On Tuesday, the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, whose country holds the EU's rotating six-month presidency, appealed for vigilance and calm, but warned that Europe must prepare for the worst.

"Above all that, there are the most adequate contingency plans across Europe to deal with any transfer of the avian virus to human beings," he told reporters. "So far within wider Europe that has not happened but we have to be prepared."
Straw added that EU health ministers meeting near London on Thursday and Friday would discuss coordinating their efforts to ensure that the disease did not spread across the Continent. He said the EU would shortly stage a simulated pandemic response to test the bloc's preparedness.

The deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, which has infiltrated poultry populations in Asia and killed 60 farmers since 2003, has been detected in Romania and Turkey, where thousands of birds have been slaughtered. Meanwhile, the Greek authorities are awaiting test results for a strain of the disease discovered Monday that could show the most virulent form of the virus had migrated across the EU's borders for the first time.

Across Europe on Tuesday, countries stepped up their efforts to defend against the virus. In France, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said 50 million masks to protect against bird flu were being delivered to French hospitals.
The Spanish government said it planned to order 6 million to 11 million doses of anti-viral medicines to prepare for the possibility of a flu epidemic. Meanwhile, British customs agents intensified searches for birds, feathers and eggs on flights from Turkey and Romania in hopes of keeping the disease out of the country.

The EU has already intensified its measures against the disease by quarantining poultry populations and setting up early detection systems along the paths of migratory birds, which are carrying the disease from Asia. It also has called on Europeans to avoid recreational activities like hunting that risk bringing humans into contact with contaminated birds.
There is no human vaccine for the virulent strain of bird flu. But Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, said Tuesday that it had received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to open a new American manufacturing site for the production of its anti-viral drug Tamiflu, which health experts say may help defend humans against contracting the disease. Roche said it was willing to issue licenses to other companies and governments to develop the drug.

It also said it would donate packs of the anti-influenza medicine to Turkey and Romania.
But drug companies warned that their production capacity was not sufficiently developed to handle a widespread bird flu outbreak.

Tamiflu, for instance, takes 12 to 18 months to produce and supply after an initial order.
Reports that consumers across Europe were stocking up on Tamiflu prompted the World Health Organization to warn against scare-mongering and the panicked stock-piling of vaccines. The WHO stressed that Tamiflu could minimize the potency of the illness but was not an effective vaccine against it.

The potential continentwide outbreak of avian flu has fanned fears that the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted to humans. If that were to happen, health experts fear a global pandemic could result in millions of deaths.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Harold Pinter Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

I have not read any of Harold Pinter's writings, and heard his name just for the first time early this morning when the Nobel prize committee announced his name as this year's award winner in literature. A few strokes on my keyboard brought me the following acceptance speech by this British author, it was given at Wilfred Owen Award ceremony earlier this year. Read this speech and you will see how courageous this writer is whose honesty reveals itself in every paragraph. If you are like me so much in dark in world literature, perhaps it is a good time picking up one or two of Harold Pinter's published books.


Wilfred Owen Award Speech - 18 th March 2005

This is a true honour. Wilfred Owen was a great poet. He articulated the tragedy, the horror and indeed the pity – of war – in a way no other poet has. Yet we have learnt nothing. Nearly 100 years after his death the world has become more savage, more brutal, more pitiless.

But the “free world” we are told (as embodied in the United States and Great Britain) is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy.

What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. An arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.

An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks (US Central Command) memorably said: “We don't do body counts”.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it “bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East”. But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.

You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well President Bush himself answered this question only the other day when he said “We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation”.

I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria.

What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at themselves in the mirror?

I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments.

Harold Pinter

Source: http://www.haroldpinter.org/home/index.shtml#

Monday, October 10, 2005

Angela Merkel: Politician Who Can Show a Flash of Steel

Ms. Merkel's assend to the top in German political scene is quite interesting.
As a student of physics she must have keen eyes and ears for natural laws of our world, and perhaps could bring Germany a long sought equilibriam between two bitterly divided factions, the right and left into a common ground. Is it too much to ask for? Her pro-war stance certainly is disturbing, but perhaps that can prove to be usual misstep of many politicians in their journey toward maturity.


Angela Merkel: Politician Who Can Show a Flash of Steel

FRANKFURT, Oct. 10 - On Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, Angela Merkel made her weekly visit to a sauna. Hours later, she caught up with thousands of East Germans, who were streaming jubilantly into the West. It was not the last time her rendezvous with German history was delayed.

On Monday, three weeks after a deadlocked election that she had once been expected to win handily, Mrs. Merkel finally emerged as the designated leader of Germany's next government.

To get the job, she had to make major concessions to the departing chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, and his party. And her ascension must still be ratified in a vote in Parliament, to be held next month.

Still, those provisos should not obscure Mrs. Merkel's achievement: at 51, she is poised to become the first woman to serve as chancellor of Germany and the first eastern German to lead the reunified country.

Mrs. Merkel's journey from Protestant minister's daughter in East Germany to the pinnacle of German politics - as the boss of a male-dominated, Catholic-leaning conservative party - is so improbable that it has left political analysts here grasping for what she might do as chancellor.

"With that kind of background, she obviously has extraordinary gifts," said Ulrich von Alemann, a professor of politics at the University of Düsseldorf. "But her career has also been marked by chance and good fortune. It's very difficult to predict what kind of role she will play."

Mrs. Merkel, he said, is a genuinely new figure in politics, someone who could potentially bridge the two halves of Germany, which have drifted apart in recent years, as the financial burden of reunification and a stagnant eastern economy has bred mutual resentment.

And yet the attenuated circumstances of her victory underscore the reservations Germans have about her. She was chosen not with a rousing popular mandate, but after protracted backroom negotiations between her party, the Christian Democratic Union, and the Social Democrats of Mr. Schröder.

Despite her political odyssey, much remains of the regimented young woman who kept her date at the sauna that day. Dogged, earnest, almost willfully bland, Mrs. Merkel is an unlikely historic figure.

"She has a cool personality," said Gerd Langguth, who has written a biography of Mrs. Merkel. "She does not easily express her emotions. That may explain why people have difficulty identifying with her."

Even her politics defy easy categorization. Mrs. Merkel's firsthand experience of Communism has left her with a fervent conviction about the power of free markets, according to analysts. But she is unlikely to become a German Margaret Thatcher - Maggie Merkel, as some here hopefully put it - especially now that she must share power with the Social Democrats.

Others see in her background a champion of democracy, a leader more naturally inclined to support the policies of President Bush, as she did on Iraq, than was Mr. Schröder. Yet her most notable foreign-policy position has been to oppose Turkey's entry into the European Union.

Until recently, when she spruced up her wardrobe and began wearing her hair in a stylish layered cut, Mrs. Merkel looked as if she would still be at home in the drab confines of East Germany. While campaigning, she projected a stern image, offering few glimpses of her personal side.

Mrs. Merkel, who has no children, is married to a chemistry professor, Joachim Sauer. He steers clear of her political career. She is said to like cooking for friends, and has a soft spot for the actor Dustin Hoffman.

Even in victory, though, she remains less popular personally than the avuncular Mr. Schröder. In part, that has to do with her stubborn refusal to turn herself into a symbol - either of East Germany and its reunification with the West, or of women and their changing role in German society.

Eastern Germans yearning for an advocate have been disappointed by how little she focuses on their plight. Women did not turn out to vote in droves to show solidarity with her precedent-setting career.

"She is a stranger to most Germans," Mr. Langguth said, explaining why she faded in the election. "Many East Germans think of her as a West German, while West Germans think she is an East German."

In truth, she is both.

Born in Hamburg on July 17, 1954, to a Protestant minister, Horst Kasner, and his wife, Herlind, Angela Dorothea Kasner was three months old when her father was asked to take over a country church in Brandenburg.

Growing up in an intellectual household, Angela excelled in school and hoped to become a teacher and translator. But because of her father's pastoral work, she found those careers closed to her. So in 1973, she opted to study physics at Leipzig University.

As an 8-year-old, Angela could rattle off the names of the ministers in the West German government. Yet as a young adult, she showed little interest in politics. Instead, she worked toward a Ph.D. in physics and married a fellow student, Ulrich Merkel; they divorced in 1982.

Mrs. Merkel was settling in to a career at the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin in 1989, when the wall fell. A month later, she joined a coalition of pro-democracy parties. "It was clear they were going to need people," she said in a typically circumspect interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

That coalition was absorbed into the Christian Democrats, and Mrs. Merkel found her party. Mr. Langguth suggested that she was reacting in part to her father, with whom she has had a fraught relationship.

Mrs. Merkel became the spokeswoman for Lothar de Maizière , a lawyer chosen to wind down the affairs of the East German state. In the first post-reunification election, she won a seat in Parliament, and later a cabinet post in the government of Helmut Kohl.

He famously referred to Mrs. Merkel as "the girl," but rewarded her with a series of powerful posts. She proved herself to be a skillful political player, unafraid to eviscerate rivals. In 1999, after Mr. Kohl had been implicated in a financial scandal, Mrs. Merkel cut loose her old mentor.

"The party must learn to walk," she said at the time. "It must trust itself to fight its political opponents without its old battle horses."

It was a brazen act of rebellion. But within months, Mrs. Merkel was elected party leader. "The episode symbolized that she is capable of making unexpected decisions in difficult situations," Mr. Langguth said.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Timeless Truth .........

Authoritarian way of silencing opposing views cannot be part of modernity, it is like the old days of powerful creationists thumping their voluminous religious texts decidedly, squishing lights out of any vigorous debate requested by the then tormented Darwinists. It seems, at least on the surface, that today's "Intelligent Design" proponents are quite different from their scraggy fundamentalist predecessors, they make "use of generally accepted scientific data and agrees that falsification, not revelation, is the acid test of scientific validity."

"Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom, because that would be at odds with a strictly materialist view of the world. Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin. In both cases, the dominant attitude is authoritarian and closed-minded -- the opposite of the liberal spirit of inquiry on which good science depends."

Mr. Richard Dawkins renowned for his memorable writings on various enlightening issues that science can explain in such a grandeur beauty, written, "''It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane."

With all due respect bestowed to Mr. Dawkins for his enormous contributions in contemporary intelleginsia, it is bothersome noting his and many others' "absolute beliefs" on various dogmatic scientific issues, where absolutism of any form can pretty safely be put into the same disposal bin set aside for now thoroughly discredited creationists.

Our knowledge of the "reality", the surrounding mysterious universe, its time old question of cosmic expansion, collapse, singularity and many other issues where there are plenty of disputes still reside among the leading physicists of our time, is still growing from its prolonged infancy. When there are plenty of unresolved scientific mysteries remain in our backyard, like the vast ocean, various geological earthly puzzles, and also our own solar system, that still feels like too colossal for human to explore with deterministic certainty less alone getting a solid grasp on our expanding universe, quantum misery, even our helpless stature in the face of demolishing hurricanes, earthquakes and many other natural disasters unfolding right here on earth, the acerbic absolutism sputtered like religious dicta by the leading scientists and thinkers seem like quite preposterous, at best.

Let's have a good laugh about the flying spaghetti "God", but let's not silence the liberty of its proponents to present their ideas to the mass, however ludicrous it sounds to many. Indeed, the inquisitive minds throughout history, from Newton to Einstein and beyond, blasting the traditional "scientific" absolutism of their days have propelled the entire humanity to progress so much that now we can at least do not take supernova as the appearance and disappearance of deities, but what it really is, elegantly explained in scientific quest, we can all marvel at the pictures from distant planets sent by human's own ingenuity led technologies, and we all can be proudly resist the onslaught of microbial aggressions on our fragile human bodies, composed of millions and millions of mindless atoms.

Science has shown us the way and glimpse of reality, but it is an on going story, not even close to the end of the first miniscule passage of a seemingly long, quite possibly a colluded tale of trillions of words, like the countless stars and dark matters.


The Timeless Truth of Creation

HAVE YOU heard about Flying Spaghetti Monsterism? FSM is a four-month-old ''religion" founded on the belief that the universe was created by an invisible flying clump of spaghetti and meatballs. This blob of pasta, FSM's ''followers" say, uses its ''noodly appendage" to play an ongoing role in human affairs. For example, it tampers with carbon-dating tests to make the planet seem older than it is, so that any evidence of evolution is actually the work of the spaghetti monster.

FSM was concocted in June by Bobby Henderson, a recent college graduate with a degree in physics. When the Kansas Board of Education took up the question of teaching intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, Henderson wrote an open letter (posted at www.venganza.org) demanding equal classroom time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism as well.

As religious spoofs go, it wasn't exactly Monty Python's ''Life of Brian," but it was good for a chuckle or two. No doubt that was all the reaction that Henderson was expecting. If so, he underestimated the eagerness of many Darwinists to paint supporters of intelligent design as either moronic Bible Belters or conniving religious fanatics. Henderson's ''religion" became a cult hit, promoted on other websites and covered with relish in the press. The Washington Post reprinted Henderson's letter verbatim. A New York Times story was headlined, ''But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?"

At least Henderson couched his disdain for intelligent design in humor. Other Darwinists, many steeped in ideological antipathy to religion, resort to insult and invective.

''It is absolutely safe to say," the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, a leading Darwinist, has written, ''that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane." Liz Craig, a member of the board of Kansas Citizens for Science, summarized her public-relations strategy in February: ''Portray them" -- intelligent design advocates -- ''in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc."

Ironically, Charles Darwin himself acknowledged that there could be reasonable challenges to his theory of natural selection -- including challenges from religious quarters. According to the sociologist and historian Rodney Stark, when ''The Origin of Species" first appeared in 1859, the Bishop of Oxford published a review in which he acknowledged that natural selection was the source of variations within species, but rejected Darwin's claim that evolution could account for the appearance of different species in the first place. Darwin read the review with interest, acknowledging in a letter that ''the bishop makes a very telling case against me."

How things have changed. When John Scopes went on trial in Tennessee in 1925, religious fundamentalists fought to keep evolution out of the classroom because it was at odds with a literal reading of the Biblical creation story. Today, Darwinian fundamentalists fight to keep the evidence of intelligent design in the diversity of life on earth out of the classroom, because that would be at odds with a strictly materialist view of the world. Eighty years ago, the thought controllers wanted no Darwin; today's thought controllers want only Darwin. In both cases, the dominant attitude is authoritarian and closed-minded -- the opposite of the liberal spirit of inquiry on which good science depends.

As always, those who challenge the reigning orthodoxy face repercussions. In April, the science journal Nature interviewed Caroline Crocker, a molecular microbiologist at George Mason University. Because ''she mentioned intelligent design while teaching her second-year cell-biology course . . . she has been barred by her department from teaching both evolution and intelligent design." Other skeptics of Darwinism choose to keep silent. When Nature approached another researcher, he refused to speak for fear of hurting his chance to get tenure.

If intelligent design proponents were peddling Biblical creationism, the hostility aimed at them would make sense. But they aren't. Unlike creationism, which denied the earth's ancient age or that biological forms could evolve over time, intelligent design makes use of generally accepted scientific data and agrees that falsification, not revelation, is the acid test of scientific validity.

In truth, intelligent design isn't a scientific theory but a restatement of a timeless argument: that the regularity and laws of the natural world imply a higher intelligence -- God, most people would say -- responsible for its design. Intelligent design doesn't argue that evidence of design ends all questions or disproves Darwin. It doesn't make a religious claim. It does say that when such evidence appears, researchers should take it into account, and that the weaknesses in Darwinian theory should be acknowledged as forthrightly as the strengths. That isn't primitivism or Bible-thumping or flying spaghetti. It's science.