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Saturday 10 December 2011

BURMA'S ROAD TO DEMOCRACY: China v West in Burma

BURMA'S ROAD TO DEMOCRACY: China v West in Burma

Immediately following the historic visit of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Burmese President Thein Sein signed a bill on December 2 that gives the Burmese the right to peaceful protest under specified circumstances.
Prior to the meeting with Mrs Clinton, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told the Associated Press on November 30 that she has not changed her position supporting sanctions against her country's military-backed government.

After the visit Mrs Clinton, however, stated that apart from exchanging ambassadors, the US would relax some restrictions on international financial assistance and development programmes in Burma. This would allow the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to assess the needs of Burma.

Whether the Western sanctions imposed on the junta in the 1990s had any significant impact on Burma's political process beyond symbolism, is debatable. At the time when Burma needed hard foreign currency, the Western sanctions were offset by business with China, Singapore, Thailand and India.

If the sanctions were not effective, it is equally pompous to claim that the so-called "constructive engagement" without naming and shaming the junta as practiced by India, had any impact on Burma's democratic political process. India has been desperately mimicking China - a fact abhorred by the pro-democracy activists - even when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations became increasingly vocal for the release of Mrs Suu Kyi and the need for national reconciliation.

If Mrs Suu Kyi were to be under house arrest today, India would still be, quite deplorably, doing business as usual with the junta.

The junta's change of heart for democracy has more to do with Burma being reduced to another Chinese province, than the junta reeling under sanctions or a strong pro-democracy movement inside ethnically divided Burma. The junta's choreographed democracy must be analysed from a historical perspective.

One of the despicable measures taken by Gen Ne Win following the coup of 1962 was to seize the properties of Indian-origin Burmese who had been living in Burma for generations, by nationalising private property in 1964. Over 300,000 ethnic Indians were also expelled. Gen Ne Win feared domination by the Indian-origin Burmese in the administration and major business enterprises.

About 50 years later, Burma finds itself in the same situation, but now with the Chinese. In the last 20 years, millions of Chinese have moved into Burma from neighbouring Yunnan and other provinces. From Burmese timber and gems to mines, oil and gas, the Chinese control everything. Mandalay today looks more a city of China than Burma, with Chinese-owned hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and small businesses. The Chinese festivals have become an integral part of the city's cultural calendar. The huge investments made by China mainly benefit itself. The Myitsone Dam being built at the cost of US$3.6 billion in the Kachin State and suspended since September 30, was supposed to provide electricity to China for 50 years despite severe power shortage in Burma.

As the Burmese have been pushed to the margins, resentment against the Chinese has become all pervasive.

However, the junta cannot afford to expel the Chinese the way it expelled the Indians. It desperately needs to counter-balance China. Not surprisingly, while Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin visited Beijing on October 10 to explain the cancellation of the Myitsone Dam at the cost of a hefty cancellation fee of US$42.5 million, President Thein Sein launched his three-day state visit to India from October 12.

India alone cannot be the counter-balancing alternative to the Chinese domination built over 20 years of almost monopolistic access, given that it was only China that could protect the junta from the United Nations Security Council's radar. China's direct investment had risen to $15.5 billion in March 2011 from $12.3 billion at the end of 2010. In comparison, India's investment in Burma amounted to $189 million as of June 2011 since the junta opened to foreign investment in 1988. While China invested in every sector, India, out of US$189 million, has invested $137 million in the oil and gas sector. India currently ranks 13th in Burma's foreign investors' line-up. Bilateral trade between China and Burma in 2010 was about $4.4 billion and during the first quarter of 2011 it was $1.6 billion. In comparison, Burmese-Indian bilateral trade reached $1.071 billion in 2010-11, way behind China, Singapore and Thailand. While China plans to build railway lines up to Kyauk-Phyu port in the Arakan province by 2017, India has no plans to connect even Aizawl in Mizoram with a railway.

Therefore, the junta had no other option but to open up Burma to the world which boycotts it. This called for meaningful democratic reform, including the immediate release of at least 2,000 detained political prisoners and the holding of free and fair by-elections for the 48 seats in the coming months, in which Mrs Suu Kyi herself will contest.

At the bilateral talks held in capital Naypyidaw on December 6, Japan stated that it intends to resume full-fledged Overseas Development Aid to Burma if the government improves its democratisation and human rights situation. If the military-backed government frees all the political prisoners and allows free and fair by-elections in the coming months, the US and the European Union must consider lifting the sanctions as the key to glasnost in Burma.

Burma needs aid but it equally needs foreign investment. Sanctions might not have had any impact to oust the junta but the sanctions were instrumental in preventing Western investment into Burma that could have only strengthened the junta. The sanctions have created a situation where Burma has been effectively reduced into a Chinese province; and this also triggered the democratic reforms by the recalcitrant junta. It is one thing to impose sanctions; it is another thing to counter the entrenched position of China, especially when the spotlight is on the same natural gas resources, including proven recoverable reserves of 18.012 trillion cubic feet estimated offshore and onshore gas and 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserve.

It is essential to ensure a clear roadmap to democracy before Japan and the West join the rat race for exploitation of the natural resources of Burma. 

World Human Rights Day

World Human Rights Day

10th DECEMBER, 2011
 “We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty. Some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors but they all have to learn to live in the same box.”

This year we celebrate the tremendous achievements of the 1948 UN adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was the declaring which established that respect for human rights and human modesty "is the pillar of freedom, peace and justice in the world." Since the call by UN to all governments, and organizations to accept the declaration there has been spontaneous progress and transformation in the way people view and behave towards one another worldwide.

Drastic changes globally are clearly notable and the UN Human Rights Council continuously revises the Universal Declaration to make amendments where appropriate to meet up with the demand of the changes. In their 17th session for example, they made several resolutions like the mandate of special Rapporteur for Syria and trafficking in persons especially in women and children; ending violence against women; follow up on the right to education; human rights; sexual orientation and gender identity; promotion of the right of people to peace, just to name a few. The UN is doing its best to reach a world of non discrimination.

The World Assembly of Youth (WAY) also recognizes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the basis of our actions and services. As an organization we promote democracy, freedom, human rights observance especially among the youth since our aims are set out to render services to the youth. As Youth Advocators, we also observe international dates that promote freedom, democracy and human rights. This year alone WAY issued a press release on the 8th of March, International Women's Day themed “Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to decent work for women”. This is an example of how we want to bring awareness on human rights especially to those marginalized.

Therefore in view of what we stand for, today we call all to say no to inequality, oppression, and inhumane activities on this day. Let us all promote love, and respect for human rights.People who maintain dignity know the dignity of others and respect it. May we be known for dignified acts towards one another. Let us be an extraordinary community that moves beyond the boundaries of culture, race, gender, political, religious and socio- economic backgrounds to respect and uphold each other’s rights. Everyone has to be educated on their rights, especially the young hence we call on organizations to co-organize meaningful events that bring awareness on this issue with WAY.

As we make wishes to mark the celebration on this day, let us remember to give liberty, tolerance, love and justice to all peoples and nations. Accountability to human rights observance starts with the discipline of oneself. Freedom begins with you and me today.
Our wish for today will be that all will have fairness and equality will prevail in our communities.

Happy Human Rights Day!

World Assembly of Youth (WAY) | World Youth Complex | Jalan Lebuh Ayer Keroh | 75450 Ayer Keroh|Melaka, MALAYSIA
Tel: +606-2321781/2322711 | Fax: +606-2327271 Email: |

Standing committee betrayed country, says Anna

Standing committee betrayed country, says Anna

2011-12-10 17:50:00
Last Updated: 2011-12-10 18:04:05

Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare became one of the five Indians who mad...
New Delhi: Accusing the parliamentary committee on the Lokpal bill of betraying the country, Team Anna termed its report as 'weak' and 'ineffective' to tackle corruption and will protest against it Sunday, Anna Hazare said on Saturday.
'The government is not serious about eradicating corruption. There is no will power, and to reject the standing committee report, we will be protesting at Jantar Mantar tomorrow (Sunday),' Hazare told reporters here.
'Standing committee has betrayed the whole country. The poor are suffering and will not get justice till lower level officers are brought under the Lokpal,' said Hazare.
The standing committee's report has recommended exclusion of class 3 and 4 government employees from the purview of the anti-graft ombudsman. It has instead tasked the Central Vigilance Commissioner and state Lokayuktas with looking into complaints against this class of employees of the central and state governments.
Hazare arrived in the capital Saturday for his daylong token fast Sunday at Jantar Mantar to protest the government's version of the Lokpal bill.

AMRI fire: lawyers protest against moving bail petition of accused

AMRI fire: lawyers protest against moving bail petition of accused

A day after the devastating fire at the AMRI Hospitals which claimed at least 90 lives, the lawyers representing six directors of the hospital could not move the bail petition for the accused because of the protests of the lawyers' association in Alipore on Saturday.
The representatives of the association protested in front of the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate and said that none of the lawyers from the court would represent the six accused who were arrested on Friday.
“Let that be recorded that we could not move the bail petition,” Amitava Ganguly, one of the lawyers representing the accused told the court and did not move the bail petition of the accused. Later Mr. Ganguly said that there has been no denial of “constitutional rights” for the accused by not allowing the bail petition to be moved.
Counsel for the State, Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee said that not only Kolkata but the entire country is in a state of shock because of the incident. “They have not discharged their duty and we need to investigate more on who else is involved,” Mr. Banerjee argued.
Meanwhile, the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate today sent the accused to police custody till December 20. In his order, the magistrate also noted the protest of the lawyers' association.
Six directors of the AMRI Hospitals, Dhakuria S.K. Todi, Ravi Todi, R.S. Goenka, Prasannta Goenka, Manish Goenka and Dayannand Agarwal, were arrested on Friday evening and were brought to the court of the CJM on Saturday afternoon.
Police personnel have been posted outside the nursing home of the seventh accused Radheshyam Agarwal who was hospitalised before the incident. The Counsel of the State government claimed that the seventh accused, although arrested, has not been put to any interrogation. 

Pak court rejects petition against Veena Malik

Pak court rejects petition against Veena Malik

8 December 2011
Press Trust of India
ISLAMABAD, 8 DEC: A Pakistani court today rejected a lawyer's petition asking it to direct authorities to file charges of obscenity and sedition against actress Veena Malik and confiscate her passport over a controversy around her nude pictures in an Indian magazine.
Mr Salimullah Khan had filed the petition against Malik in the Islamabad High Court yesterday. He contended that she should be tried under provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code for obscene acts, sedition, defamation and wearing clothes and using equipment used by Pakistani military personnel.
Rejecting his petition today, the court said it could not take any action as the photos had been published in another country. Mr Khan had earlier told the court that Malik did a naked photo shoot for FHM India magazine. The nude picture was printed on the cover of the magazine and other photos were featured on the e-edition of FHM India, he said. Malik has denied doing a nude photo shoot for the magazine, saying the pictures were “morphed”.
FHM India has said it has video and e-mails from Malik that prove the authenticity of the pictures. The actress and the magazine have threatened to take legal action against each other. The photos feature Malik with the letters ISI ~ the abbreviation for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency ~ painted on her arm. Mr Khan contended in his petition that Malik's conduct was “controversial and shameful for everybody in Pakistan” and that she had trampled “all standards of Islamic cultures and morality”.
“She is carrying an inscription on her arm, that is ISI in bold letters, and she is also proclaimed as a weapon of mass destruction by the magazine. Thus she has defamed the country and its institutions,” Mr Khan told The News daily. He asked the court to order Malik to come back to Pakistan, and to direct authorities to confiscate her passport. Malik's passport is “state property” and the government could confiscate it under the law, he claimed.

NTERNET FREEDOM The Dictator's Dilemma

The Dictator's Dilemma
'While we meet to talk about how to keep the internet open, unfortunately some countries are pulling very hard in the opposite direction, they are trying to erect walls between different activities online'
Remarks by the US Secretary of State at the Conference on Internet Freedom, Fokker Terminal, The Hague, Netherlands, December 8, 2011
Well, good evening, and it’s wonderful to be back in The Hague. I want to thank my colleague and friend, Foreign Minister Rosenthal, a longtime friend, and co-conspirator from time to time, Eric Schmidt. Also, thanks to Leon Willems, the director of the Free Press Unlimited, and to those of my colleagues whom I know are here, namely Carl Bildt, an incredibly connected foreign minister, along with other ministers, ambassadors, the diplomatic community, and ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a pleasure to join you here today to discuss this issue, because we think it is vitally important to every nation represented and every nation in the world; namely, internet freedom. And I want to thank Uri and the Netherlands for hosting this conference, which is a reflection of your long tradition of defending and advancing people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms everywhere, including online. And thanks as well to the representatives of nearly two dozen other governments here, all of whom I know will be working to get real solutions and recommendations agreed to tomorrow. I’m pleased we also have representatives from the private sector and civil society. So it all adds up to a multi-stakeholder event.

Now, in two days, on December 10th, we’ll celebrate Human Rights Day, which is the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And in the 63 years since that achievement, the world has been implementing a global commitment around the rights and freedoms of people everywhere, no matter where they live or who they are. And today, as people increasingly turn to the internet to conduct important aspects of their lives, we have to make sure that human rights are as respected online as offline. After all, the right to express one’s views, practice one’s faith, peacefully assemble with others to pursue political or social change – these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room. And just as we have worked together since the last century to secure these rights in the material world, we must work together in this century to secure them in cyberspace.

This is an urgent task. It is most urgent, of course, for those around the world whose words are now censored, who are imprisoned because of what they or others have written online, who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content, or who are being tracked by governments seeking to keep them from connecting with one another.

In Syria, a blogger named Anas Maarawi was arrested on July 1st after demanding that President Asad leave. He’s not been charged with anything, but he remains in detention. In both Syria and Iran, many other online activists – actually too many to name – have been detained, imprisoned, beaten, and even killed for expressing their views and organizing their fellow citizens. And perhaps the most well known blogger in Russia, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced on Tuesday to 15 days in jail after he took part in protests over the Russian elections.

In China, several dozen companies signed a pledge in October, committing to strengthen their – quote – “self-management, self-restraint, and strict self-discipline.” Now, if they were talking about fiscal responsibility, we might all agree. But they were talking about offering web-based services to the Chinese people, which is code for getting in line with the government’s tight control over the internet.

Now, these and many other incidents worldwide remind us of the stakes in this struggle. And the struggle does not belong only to those on the front lines and who are suffering. It belongs to all of us: first, because we all have a responsibility to support human rights and fundamental freedoms everywhere. Second, because the benefits of the network grow as the number of users grow. The internet is not exhaustible or competitive. My use of the internet doesn’t diminish yours. On the contrary, the more people that are online and contributing ideas, the more valuable the entire network becomes to all the other users. In this way, all users, through the billions of individual choices we make about what information to seek or share, fuel innovation, enliven public debates, quench a thirst for knowledge, and connect people in ways that distance and cost made impossible just a generation ago.

But when ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled, and people constrained in their choices, the internet is diminished for all of us. What we do today to preserve fundamental freedoms online will have a profound effect on the next generation of users. More than two billion people are now connected to the internet, but in the next 20 years, that number will more than double. And we are quickly approaching the day when more than a billion people are using the internet in repressive countries. The pledges we make and the actions we take today can help us determine whether that number grows or shrinks, or whether the meaning of being on the internet is totally distorted.

Delivering on internet freedom requires cooperative actions, and we have to foster a global conversation based on shared principles and with the right partners to navigate the practical challenges of maintaining an internet that is open and free while also interoperable, secure, and reliable. Now, this enterprise isn’t a matter of negotiating a single document and calling the job done. It requires an ongoing effort to reckon with the new reality that we live in, in a digital world, and doing so in a way that maximizes its promise.

Because the advent of cyberspace creates new challenges and opportunities in terms of security, the digital economy, and human rights, we have to be constantly evolving in our responses. And though they are distinct, they are practically inseparable, because there isn’t an economic internet, a social internet, and a political internet. There is just the internet, and we’re here to protect what makes it great.

Tomorrow’s sessions provide the opportunity for us to make concrete progress. At this kickoff event, I’d like to briefly discuss three specific challenges that defenders of the internet must confront.

The first challenge is for the private sector to embrace its role in protecting internet freedom. Because whether you like it or not, the choices that private companies make have an impact on how information flows or doesn’t flow on the internet and mobile networks. They also have an impact on what governments can and can’t do, and they have an impact on people on the ground.

In recent months, we’ve seen cases where companies, products, and services were used as tools of oppression. Now, in some instances, this cannot be foreseen, but in others, yes, it can. A few years ago, the headlines were about companies turning over sensitive information about political dissidents. Earlier this year, they were about a company shutting down the social networking accounts of activists in the midst of a political debate. Today’s news stories are about companies selling the hardware and software of repression to authoritarian governments. When companies sell surveillance equipment to the security agency of Syria or Iran or, in past times, Qadhafi, there can be no doubt it will be used to violate rights.

Now, there are some who would say that in order to compel good behaviour by businesses, responsible governments should simply impose broad sanctions, and that will take care of the problem. Well, it’s true that sanctions and export controls are useful tools, and the United States makes vigorous use of them when appropriate; and if they are broken, we investigate and pursue violators. And we’re always seeking to work with our partners, such as the European Union, to make them as smart and effective as possible. Just last week, for example, we were glad to see our EU partners impose new sanctions on technology going to Syria.

So sanctions are part of the solution, but they are not the entire solution. Dual-use technologies and third-party sales make it impossible to have a sanctions regime that perfectly prevents bad actors from using technologies in bad ways. Now, sometimes companies say to us at the State Department, “Just tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.” But the fact is, you can’t wait for instructions. In the 21st century, smart companies have to act before they find themselves in the crosshairs of controversy.

I wish there were, but there isn’t, an easy formula for this. Making good decisions about how and whether to do business in various parts of the world, particularly where the laws are applied haphazardly or they are opaque, takes critical thinking and deliberation and asking hard questions. So what kind of business should you do in a country where it has a history of violating internet freedom? Is there something you can do to prevent governments from using your products to spy on their own citizens? Should you include warnings to consumers? How will you handle requests for information from security authorities when those requests come without a warrant? Are you working to prevent post-purchase modifications of your products or resale through middlemen to authoritarian regimes?

Now, these and others are difficult questions, but companies must ask them. And the rest of us stand ready to work with you to find answers and to hold those who ignore or dismiss or deny the importance of this issue accountable. A range of resources emerged in recent years to help companies work through these issues. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were adopted in June, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises both advise companies on how to meet responsibilities and carry out due diligence. And the Global Network Initiative, which is represented here tonight, is a growing forum where companies can work through challenges with other industry partners, as well as academics, investors, and activists.

And of course, companies can always learn from users. The Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference in October brought together companies, activists, and experts to discuss real life problems and identify solutions. And some participants issued what they called the Silicon Valley Standard for stakeholders to aspire to.

Working through these difficult questions by corporate executives and board members should help shape your practices. Part of the job of responsible corporate management in the 21st century is doing human rights due diligence on new markets, instituting internal review procedures, identifying principles by which decisions are to be made in tough situations, because we cannot let the short-term gains that all of us think are legitimate and worth seeking jeopardize the openness of the internet and human rights of individuals who use it without it coming back to haunt us all in the future. Because a free and open internet is important not just to technology companies but to all companies. Whether it’s run with a single mobile phone or an extensive corporate network, it’s hard to find any business today that doesn’t depend in some way on the internet and doesn’t suffer when networks are constrained.

And also I would add that, in this day, brand and reputation are precious corporate assets. Companies that put them at risk when they are careless about freedom of the internet can often pay a price.

So I think it’s particularly appropriate and important that the private sector is strongly represented at this meeting and that Google is co-hosting tonight’s event. In both securing the promise of a free and open internet and managing the risks that new technologies raise, the private sector is a crucial partner.

But even as companies must step up, governments must resist the urge to clamp down, and that is the second challenge we face. If we’re not careful, governments could upend the current internet governance framework in a quest to increase their own control. Some governments use internet governance issues as a cover for pushing an agenda that would justify restricting human rights online. We must be wary of such agendas and united in our shared conviction that human rights apply online.

So right now, in various international forums, some countries are working to change how the internet is governed. They want to replace the current multi-stakeholder approach, which includes governments, the private sector, and citizens, and supports the free flow of information, in a single global network. In its place, they aim to impose a system cemented in a global code that expands control over internet resources, institutions, and content, and centralizes that control in the hands of governments.

Now, in a way, that isn’t surprising, because governments have never met a voice or public sphere they didn’t want to control at some point or another. They want to control what gets printed in newspapers, who gets into universities, what companies get oil contracts, what churches and NGOs get registered, where citizens can gather, so why not the internet? But it’s actually worse than that. It’s not just that they want governments to have all the control by cutting out civil society and the private sector; they also want to empower each individual government to make their own rules for the internet that not only undermine human rights and the free flow of information but also the interoperability of the network.

In effect, the governments pushing this agenda want to create national barriers in cyberspace. This approach would be disastrous for internet freedom. More government control will further constrict what people in repressive environments can do online. It would also be disastrous for the internet as a whole, because it would reduce the dynamism of the internet for everyone. Fragmenting the global internet by erecting barriers around national internets would change the landscape of cyberspace. In this scenario, the internet would contain people in a series of digital bubbles, rather than connecting them in a global network. Breaking the internet into pieces would give you echo chambers rather than an innovative global marketplace of ideas.

The United States wants the internet to remain a space where economic, political, and social exchanges flourish. To do that, we need to protect people who exercise their rights online, and we also need to protect the internet itself from plans that would undermine its fundamental characteristics.

Now, those who push these plans often do so in the name of security. And let me be clear: The challenge of maintaining security and of combating cyber crime, such as the theft of intellectual property, are real – a point I underscore whenever I discuss these issues. There are predators, terrorists, traffickers on the internet, malign-actors plotting cyber attacks, and they all need to be stopped. We can do that by working together without compromising the global network, its dynamism, or our principles.

Now, there’s a lot to be said about cyber security. I won’t go into that tonight. I’ll be talking about it more, but my basic point is that the United States supports the public-private collaboration that now exists to manage the technical evolution of the internet in real time. We support the principles of multi-stakeholder internet governance developed by more than 30 nations in the OECD earlier this year. A multi-stakeholder system brings together the best of government, the private sector and civil society and most importantly it works -- it has kept the internet up and running all over the world. So to use an American phrase, our position is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And there’s no good reason to replace an effective system with an oppressive one.

The third and final challenge is that all of us – governments, private sector, civil society must do more to build a truly global coalition to preserve an open internet and that's where all of you here today come in because internet freedom cannot be defended by on one country or one region alone– building this global coalition is hard, partly because, for people in many countries, the potential of the internet is still unrealised. While it’s easy for us in the United States or in the Netherlands to imagine what we would lose if the internet became less free, it is harder for those who are yet to see the benefits of internet in their day to day lives, so we have to work harder to make the case that an open internet is and will be in everyone’s best interests. And we have to keep that in mind as we work to build this global coalition and make the case to leaders of those countries where the next generation of internet users live. These leaders have an opportunity today to help ensure that the full benefits are available to their people tomorrow, and in so doing, they will help us ensure an open internet for everyone.

So the United States will be making the case for an open internet in our work worldwide and we welcome other countries to join us. As our coalition expands, countries like Ghana and Kenya represented here tonight, Mongolia, Chile, also represented, I saw, Indonesia and others, are sure to be effective at bringing other potential partners on board who have perspectives that can help us confront and answer difficult questions. And new players from governments, the private sector, and civil society will be participating in managing the internet in coming decades, as billions more people from all different regions go online. So let's lay the groundwork for these partnerships that will support an open internet in future. And in that spirit, I want to call attention to two important items on your agenda for tomorrow.

The first will be to build support for a new cross-regional group that will work together in exactly the way that I’ve just discussed -- based on shared principles, providing a platform for governments to engage creatively and energetically with the private sector, the civil society, and other governments. Several countries have signalled their intention to join and I hope others here will do the same, and going forward, others will endorse the declaration that our Dutch hosts have prepared. It’s excellent work, Uri, and we thank you for your leadership.

The second effort I want to highlight is to do those to support cyber activists and bloggers who are threatened by their repressive governments. The Committee to Protect Journalists recently reported that of all the writers, editors, and photojournalists now imprisoned around the world, nearly half are online journalists. The threat is very real. Now, several of us already provide support, including financial support, to activists and bloggers and I was pleased that the EU recently announced new funding for that purpose. And I know that other governments, including the Netherlands, are also looking for ways to help out.

By coordinating our efforts, we can make them go further and help more people. Earlier, I heard what the foreign minister here is proposing. And we have talked about creating a digital defenders partnership to be part of this global effort. We hope tomorrow’s meetings will give us a chance to discuss with other potential partners how such a partnership could work.

So while we meet here in the Netherlands in this beautiful city to talk about how to keep the internet open, unfortunately some countries are pulling very hard in the opposite direction, they are trying to erect walls between different activities online, economic exchanges, political discussions, religious expression, social interaction, and so on. They want to keep what they like and which doesn’t threaten them and suppress what they don’t. But there are opportunity costs for trying to be open for business but closed for free expression, costs to a nation’s education system, political stability, social mobility, and economic potential. And walls that divide the internet are easier to erect than to maintain.

Our government will continue to work very hard to get around every barrier that repressive governments put up. Because governments that have erected barriers will eventually find themselves boxed in, and they will face the dictator's dilemma -- they will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price for keeping them standing by resorting to greater oppression, and escalating the opportunity cost of missing out on the ideas that have been blocked and the people who have been disappeared.

I urge countries everywhere instead of that alternative, dark vision, join us here today in the bet that we are making. A bet that open internet will lead to a stronger, prosperous country. This is not a bet on computers or mobile phones. It’s a bet on the human spirit. It’s a bet on people. And we’re confident that together, with our partners and government, the private sector, and civil society around the world, who have made this same bet like all of you here tonight, we will preserve the internet as open and secure for all.

On the eve of Human Rights Day, this meeting reminds us of the timeless principles that should be our north star. And a look at the world around us and the way it is changing reminds us there is no auto-pilot steering us forward. We have to work in good faith and engage in honest debate, and we have to join together to solve the challenges and seize the opportunities of this exciting digital age. Thank you all for being committed to that goal and that vision. United States pledges our support and our partnership going forward. Thank you all very much.

'India no longer a preferred destination for IT companies'

'India no longer a preferred destination for IT companies'

Kolkata: Global software major Microsoft on Thursday said that for MNCs, India is no longer a preferred destination.

"It doesn't make sense any more. For MNCs India is no longer a preferred destination. We have lots of issues concerning our operation here," Microsoft India chairman Bhaskar Pramanik said when asked if the company is considering any R&D centre for West Bengal as it seeks to work closely with the state government.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Infocom 2011 conference.

Pramanik later clarified that he was speaking about technology and IT companies.

"I think a lot of that need to be resolved. We have to be cautious about any new investment in the state," he said.

Asked what the issues were, he declined to list the challenges or issues the technology MNCs were facing.

"I think you had better talk to Nasscom. It is the voice of the industry," he said. Nasscom regional (east) head Suparno Moitra declined to comment.

Asked to throw more light on "preferred destination", Pramanik said, "I think we look at everywhere in the world. I think the choices are many," he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the Centre's decision to suspend FDI in multi-brand retail till a consensus is evolved, Pramanik said he felt disappointed with the government's decision. "FDI in all form is good - be it in retail or aviation," he said.

"We have a strong corporate sector, central and state governments. Checks and controls could be put in place to ensure net gain for the country in terms of employment, growth and earning rather than being negative," he said.

Standing committee points out multiple faults in UID 'Aadhar', asks government for fresh legislation

10 Dec, 2011, 01.21AM IST, ET Bureau
Standing committee points out multiple faults in UID 'Aadhar', asks
government for fresh legislation

NEW DELHI: The former finance minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant
Sinha-headed standing committee on finance has picked multiple holes
in the much-hyped Unique Identification 'Aadhar' Scheme and asked the
government to bring forth a fresh legislation before Parliament. The
key objections of the committee on the National Identification
Authority of India Bill, 2010 include:

NO FEASIBILITY STUDY: No comprehensive feasibility study -- including
cost-benefit analysis, comparative costs of aadhar number before
approving such an expensive scheme vis-avis various forms of existing
identity such as hologram-enabled ration card to eliminate fake and
duplicate beneficiaries -- carried out.

APPROVED IN HASTE: Absence of data protection law would make it
difficult to deal with issues such as access and misuse of personal
information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of data
bases and securing confidentiality information.

SECURITY GAPS: Entrusting the responsibility of verification of
information of individuals to the registrars to ensure that only
genuine residents get enrolled into the system may have far-reaching
consequences for national security. The panel not sure as to whether
complete verification of information of all aadhaar number holders is
practically feasible and whether it would deliver the intended results
without compromising national security.

DIRECTIONLESS: The UID scheme has been conceptualised with no clarity
of purpose and is being implemented in a directionless way and may end
up being dependent on private agencies.

UNRELIABLE TECHNOLOGY : The scheme is full of uncertainty in
technology as the complex scheme is built on untested, unreliable
technology and several assumptions. Despite adverse observations by
the UIDAI's biometrics standards committee on error rates of
biometrics, the UIDAI is collecting biometrics information.

LIMITED COVERAGE: It is not clear that the UID Scheme would continue
beyond the coverage of 200 million of the total population. The
exercise could become futile in case the government does not give
further mandate.

LACK OF COORDINATION: Serious differences of opinion within the
government on the UID Scheme. The Department of Expenditure, ministry
of finance, has expressed concern that lack of coordination among at
least six agencies collecting information --National Population
Registry, MNREGS, BPL Census, UIDAI, RSBY - is leading to duplication
of efforts and expenditure.

The Home Ministry has raised serious security concern over involvement
of private agencies in large scale scheme. The Ministry of Planning
has expressed reservation over the merits and functioning of the UIDAI
and the necessity of collection of iris image.

The National Informatics Centre has pointed out that issues relating
to privacy and security of UID data could be better handled by storing
in a government data centre.

Fr. Jim Borst summoned before Sharia Court? J&K pastor leaves valley

Fr. Jim Borst summoned before Sharia Court? J&K pastor leaves valley

December 9, 2011

All Saints ChurchJammu & Kashmir, December 9, 2011:

The CSF has learnt from our own activists and friends in the media that noted educationist Fr. Jim Borst, who has been in the state for the last 50 years has also been summoned by the Sharia court on proselytising charges. You will recollect that The CSF has in the past twice campaigned against the 79 year old Dutch missionary being asked to leave J & K, along with a number of activists and the Catholic Church and both times the order was rescinded.
Sharia courts have no jurisdiction on non-Muslims, but many fear a repeat of what happened to Rev K. M. Khanna, an Anglican clergyman who was summoned by a Sharia court, then arrested on allegations of forced conversions. The CSF learns that The Mufti-Azam of Kashmir, Mufti-Azam Bashiruddin has summoned  the Catholic priest who is normally at Shivpora to explain his stand today (10, December) and explain the allegations. Fr. Jim Borst is reportedly not in the state and had earlier pleaded ill-health for not visiting the Sharia court. “In case they do not respond to the summons, we will pronounce Islamic judgement, in their absence”, the Mufti-Azam is reported to have said.
For years, the Mill Hill missionary, Fr. Jim Borst, who has been the principal of the prestigious St Joseph’s School, has been the target of Muslim scholars. “The Sharia court has no jurisdiction over non-Muslims,” said Mgr Peter Celestine Elampassery, bishop of Jammu and Kashmir. “It cannot interrogate Fr Jim Borst, nor is he is under any obligation to appear.” the Catholic bishop said. As with the Church and Governement, authorities, The CSF is pursuing both these cases and will keep you updated on the same.
For some, envy and jealousy of Muslim scholars are behind the charges of proselytising against Fr Borst. The schools the Dutch missionary set up, including St Joseph’s in Baramulla and Burn Hall in Srinagar, are known for the quality of the education they dispense. What is more, their staff is 99 per cent Muslim.
Many Muslim leaders have attended these schools, including the current chief minister of the state, Omar Abdullah, one of his predecessors, Farooq Abdullah, and the founder of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq.
However, local Catholics are concerned by the summons. In early November, the same court had summoned Rev Chander Mani Khanna to answer for baptising seven Muslims. Although the latter had freely chosen to convert, both they and the clergyman were arrested.
Mgr Celestine spoke to Rev Khanna before he went to the Sharia court. “Such things should not happen,” he said. Muslims “should not manipulate the law. The Anglican and Catholic Churches work together for the good of society. Through our social and educational apostolate, we serve the entire population in a state where we are a tiny minority. We work for the common good and the development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Meanwhile, new elements are emerging about Rev Khanna’s case. “All seven converts have explicitly declared that they had asked to be baptised,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).  All the converts are prepared to say on camera that Rev Khanna is innocent and that they did not receive any money in order to be baptised”, George added.
After their arrest, the seven  converts were reportedly beaten and tortured by police, their beard ripped out and their feet beaten. One of them, a 25-year-old, said that he was arrested three days after the birth of his two twin daughters. Sadly, one of them died on Wednesday, less than 30 days after her birth. The wife of another convert is suffering from a heart condition.
No Pastor to lead Christmas prayers at All Saints Church.
There is no priest to lead Christmas prayers in the All-Saints church in Srinagar as pastor C. M. Khanna, who was arrested on charges of conversion and later released, has left the valley and there has been no replacement.
A source close to the priest said he was depressed after his arrest and was in any case retiring from the Church of North India early next year. Khanna was released on bail on December 1 on a personal bond of Rs. 20,000 and directions not to leave the state.
He was charged with forcibly converting 10 Muslim youth the Christianity on November 19. The lawyers in Kashmir valley were allegedly debarred by the bar association from representing his case.
Meanwhile, a four-member team headed by vice-chairman of National Commission for Minority (NCM) D. Sangliana, who visited the valley to take stock of the situation, said Christians there are living in fear after their pastor was arrested.

U.S.-NATO ABM Missile System “Covers” a Large Part of Russian Territory

It is inadmissible for Russia NATO’s missile defence to cover the part of its territory, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after a session of the Russia-NATO Council on Thursday.
At the same time, Lavrov said that a new radar, which would be deployed in Turkey within missile defence, would control the most part of the Russian territory.
“If this radar was necessary to monitor the south and an area to the south of the territory of NATO members, such radar exists – it functions and watches the area from where the threat comes from, according to American and NATO colleagues,” the minister noted.
He stressed, “When a radar is deployed in Turkey, it will double the existing radar and watch a considerable part of Russian territory.”

Turkey and the United States signed a memorandum on the deployment of a radar in Turkey within missile defence in September. The radar will be deployed in Kurecik, south-east of Turkey. Kurecik in Malatya province lies 435 miles west of the Iranian border.
In September, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the U.S. hoped to have the radar deployed there by the end of the year.
NATO members agreed to an anti-missile system over Europe…at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal last year…
Under the NATO plans, a limited system of US anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe – to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey – would be linked to an expanded European-owned missile defences. That would create a broad system that protected every NATO country against medium-range missile attack.

FDI in retail: Who won, who lost?

FDI in retail: Who won, who lost?
December 07, 2011 05:57 PM |
Moneylife Digital Team
The face saving act by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government and the show of strength by the opposition seems to have defeated and denied consumers a chance to buy good quality items at reasonable rates

The deadlock in Parliament created on the issue of allowing 51% foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi- brand retail and 100% FDI in single-brand retail was finally broken when the Union government led by Dr Manmohan Singh decided to put on hold its decision on FDI in retail.

While the political parties may have their reasons for opposing the decision by putting it on back-burner the government has denied a fair chance to consumers to buy at reasonable price. The sad part is that the proposal comes after nearly 14 years when the government first liberalised FDI in the trade sector by permitting 100% FDI in ‘cash-and-carry wholesale trade and nine years later, 51% FDI in ‘single brand retail’ segment.

“We don’t expect the government to revive this (FDI in retail) legislation anytime soon given the lack of numbers and impending state government elections in the next 12 months. We expect the proposal to remain in cold storage and meet the same fate, which several other government proposals like the urea policy, goods and services tax (GST), direct taxes code (DTC) and land acquisition have met. We will be positively surprised if it goes through during the tenure of the current government,” said Prabhudas Lilladher Pvt Ltd in a research note.

The government’s decision not only brought forward the differences between political parties, but also showed different tones of industry bodies. Initially, the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) took a cautious approach by calling for a calibrated approach for introducing FDI in the retail sector in terms of the percentage and minimum capitalisation requirements. On the other hand, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) welcomed the decision and said that it would create big employment opportunity in the country.

Within a day CII came out strongly in support of FDI in retail. In a release, it said, “FDI in multi-brand retail will give a boost to the organised retail sector, which positively impacts several stakeholders including farmers, consumers, MSMEs and hence, the overall economy.”

FDI in retail would not only have brought more investment in the sector but would also have brought higher efficiency and more jobs. The Indian retail sector requires a new level of efficiency in the chain that will bring higher value to farmers, create millions of new jobs in the organized sector, and lower prices for the final consumer.
From the farmers perspective, organized retail has the potential to drive efficiencies in this chain by increasing price realization for farmers by 10%-30% through sourcing directly or closer to the farm, by reducing handling and wastage by 25%-50% through consolidation as well as investments in technology, either directly or through aggregators and by upgrading the farmer’s capabilities by providing know-how and capital. However, this would be distant dream now.

While there is a remote possibility that this decision would become reality through some give and take or appeasement of allies, watering down of the proposal, evolving a consensus amongst all stakeholders is a cumbersome process and will take its own time. Going by the fate of several other policy proposals, it would be a big surprise if the proposal goes through during the remaining term of the Manmohan Singh government.

According to a CII study, opening up of FDI in retail can increase organized retail market size to $260 billion by 2020. This would result in an aggregate increase in income of $35–$45 billion per year for all producers combined; 3-4 million new direct jobs and around 4-6 million new indirect jobs in the logistics sector, contract labour in the distribution and repackaging centres, housekeeping and security staff in the stores. The government also stands to gain by this move and can be expected to receive an additional income of $25-$30 billion by way of increased tax collection and reduction of tax slippages, the study said.

Organized retail share in countries of comparative development such as China and Malaysia is much higher. For instance, in China, the organized retail is estimated at 20% of the total retail sales, whereas in India, it stands at a miniscule 4%. Other South East Asian countries, too, have much larger shares with Indonesia at 30%, Thailand at around 40% and in Malaysia as high as 55%.

A doctor, an engineer, and a politician were arguing as to which profession was older. The doctor said, “Well, without a physician mankind could not have survived, so I am sure that mine is the oldest profession.” “No,” said the engineer, “before life began, there was complete chaos and it took an engineer to create some semblance of order from this chaos. So engineering is older.” “But, who created the chaos?” the triumphant politician calmly said. Chaos appears to be indeed ‘made by politicians’, as one can see.

MINUSTAH by the Numbers

MINUSTAH by the Numbers

Thursday, 08 December 2011 14:19
The United Nations Peacekeeping operation in Haiti, MINUSTAH by its French acronym, has been the target of recent popular protests and a source of controversy because of its role in re-introducing cholera to Haiti, the sexual assault of a young Haitian man and other past abuses. On November 3, 2011 the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed a legal complaint on behalf of over 5,000 cholera victims seeking damages from the United Nations. The UN has so far not responded or given a timetable for a response.
Here is MINUSTAH, by the numbers:
Percent of worldwide UN peacekeepers that are in Haiti, despite it not being a war zone: 12.5

Number of MINUSTAH troops (military and police) currently in Haiti: 12,552

Rank in size among the 16 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide: 3

Rank in size of Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively: 1, 2

Percent of Haiti’s annual government expenditures to which MINUSTAH’s budget is equivalent: 50

Percent of Haiti’s GDP to which MINUSTAH’s budget is equivalent: 10.7

Total estimated cost of MINUSTAH since the earthquake: $1,556,461,550

Percent of UN peacekeeping operations worldwide funded by the United States: 27

Percent the U.S. has disbursed out of its $1.15 billion pledge at the March 2010 donor conference: 18.8

Percent of the U.S.’ contributions to MINUSTAH since the earthquake that this represents: 41

Factor by which MINUSTAH’s budget exceeds the amount of funds the UN’s cholera appeal has raised: 8

Percent of MINUSTAH’s budget it would take to fully fund the UN’s cholera appeal: 1.7

Number of days operating expenses it would take to fund a cholera vaccination campaign that would cover the entire country: 18

Percent of a single day’s MINUSTAH budget that the cholera vaccination pilot program will use over its multiple-week lifespan: 40

Minimum number of people killed from cholera in Haiti since October 2010: 6,908

Number of people killed by homicide in Haiti in 2010: 689

Number of people, per 10 million (roughly the population of Haiti), killed by homicide in Brazil, the largest troop contributor to MINUSTAH: 2,270

Number of cholera victims who filed a claim with the UN seeking damages: 5,000

Number of cholera victims: 513,997

Rate per minute that Haitians were falling ill with cholera in July 2011: 1

Amount by which MINUSTAH’s budget exceeds the UN’s 2012 humanitarian appeal for Haiti: $562,517,100

Number of MINUSTAH personnel who were repatriated this year after a cell phone video emerged showing troops sexually assaulting a young Haitian man: 5

Number of successful prosecutions against over 100 MINUSTAH troops repatriated to Sri Lanka after allegations of involvement in child prostitution surfaced in 2007: 0

Number of standing claims commissions set up by the UN under Status of Forces Agreements so that local population may have means of redress from peacekeepers, historically: 0

Years MINUSTAH has been in Haiti: 7

Shortfall in trained national police officers that are supposed to take over for MINUSTAH: 10,000

Rank among Haiti’s top donors, including governments, that MINUSTAH would be if its budget went towards relief and reconstruction efforts: 3

Date on which cholera was discovered: October 21, 2010

Date the head of MINUSTAH was reported saying it was “really unfair” to accuse the UN of bringing cholera to Haiti: November 22, 2010

Distance, in miles, from the Nepalese MINUSTAH base to the location of the first reported case of cholera: .1

Date on which scientific paper confirmed that Haitian and Nepalese samples of cholera were "almost identical": August 23, 2011

Days since the cholera outbreak it has taken for the UN to accept responsibility: 413 (and counting)

Date on which MINUSTAH’s mandate was extended through 2012: October 14, 2011

Percent of Haitians in a recent survey who said they wanted MINUSTAH gone within a year: 65

Life Without Water a Growing Threat

Life Without Water a Growing Threat
By Eva Bartlett

GAZA CITY, Dec 9, 2011 (IPS) - "Taking our water is not like taking a toy. Water is life, they cannot play with our lives like this," says Maher Najjar, deputy general director of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) of the recent Israeli threat to cut electricity, water and infrastructure services to the occupied Gaza Strip.

"Everything will be affected: drinking and washing water, sewage and sanitation, hospitals, schools and children," says Ahmed al-Amrain, head of power information at the Palestinian Energy and National Resources Authority (PENRA).

The Israeli Electric Company provides 60 percent of the Strip's needs, paid by Palestinian customs taxes collected by the Israeli authorities.

Gaza buys 5 percent from Egypt and tries to generate the remaining 35 percent at Gaza's sole power plant, maimed by the 2006 Israeli bombing and destruction of its six transformers.

On Nov. 26, Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, threatened to cut Israeli electricity, water and ties to Gaza's infrastructure serving the 1.6 million residents of the Gaza Strip.

"This is the true meaning of collective punishment," says Jaber Wishah, deputy director for branches affairs at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). "Children, women, elderly, patients, students, all are subject to this threat."

Following the 2006 democratic elections which brought Hamas to power, Israel has imposed an increasingly severe siege on the Strip, depriving Palestinians of most essential and basic goods, including livestock, medicines, machinery and replacement parts, and the industrial diesel needed to run the power plant.

"Israel has been steadily cutting electricity and destroying infrastructure over the years, but this is the first time they have explicitly threatened to fully cut everything," says Wishah. "It is absurd to blackmail the population with their lives because of political issues."

It is also illegal.

Wishah and Israeli rights group Gisha note that Israel continues to militarily occupy and control the Gaza Strip, despite the 2005 pullout of Israeli colonists and military bases from the Strip.

According to international law, Gisha says, Israel is responsible for the well-being of the Strip's population, including ensuring electricity, water and a functioning infrastructure.

Under its siege, Israeli has since 2007 limited the amount of fuel and industrial diesel allowed to enter Gaza, resulting in daily power outages throughout the Strip, ranging from 8 to 12 hours, and interrupting water, sanitation, health and education services.

"Palestinian electricity technicians have asked Israeli government to repair a main line recently damaged, as has the Israeli Electric company. But the Israeli government refuses to do so," says Ahmed al-Amrain.

"The lack of electricity, he says, "will oblige families to buy diesel for small generators indoors, which can lead to serious accidents and burns."

More than 100 Palestinians died in 2009 and the first quarter of 2010, Oxfam reports, from generator- caused fires and carbon monoxide inhalation.

While generators allow some vital machinery to run during power outages, other services, like laundry, are not run on generators. "There is not enough electricity," says Amrain. "They are for emergencies only and are made to run for short periods, not continuously. They are absolutely not an alternative solution for electricity in the Gaza Strip."

"It will be a complete catastrophe if Israel cuts the electricity. Half of the population would not have access to water," says Maher Najjar.

Currently 95 percent of the ground water is undrinkable according to WHO standards which reports that nitrates, believed to be carcinogenic, are over 330 mg/litre, far exceeding the 50 mg/l accepted levels.

"Since 2000 we have had plans to repair and expand water projects in Gaza, but until now only about seven of 100 projects have been completed," says Najjar.

According to Najjar, just 10 percent of Gaza's 1.6 million residents get water every day. Another 40 percent get water every two days, 40 percent get water every three days, and 10 percent get water once every four days.

"Israel has drilled over 1,000 wells around the Gaza Strip for their own use. They cut the water flow before it even reaches Gaza," says Najjar.

While the amount of water supplied by Mekorot, Israel's national water company, is just 5 percent, it is the threat of Israel cutting electricity and infrastructural needs that most haunts Gaza residents. "Chlorine is vital for our water treatment. Without it, we cannot pump a drop off water," says Najjar.

Already, for want of adequate electricity and treatment facilities, up to 80 million litres of partially and non-treated sewage is pumped into Gaza's sea daily.

In 2008, the WHO reported dangerous levels of faecal bacteria along a third of Gaza's coast. By 2010, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency reported that acute bloody diarrhoea and viral hepatitis remained the major causes of morbidity among refugees in the Strip.

"We need continuous electricity to pump waste-water from homes to sewage treatment plants," says Najjar. "Generators substitute during power cuts, but without the regular supply of electricity, waste will flood the streets."

In August 2007, a sewage holding pool in Beit Lahiya overflowed, drowning five residents of the village nearby.

Hamas maintains that it would accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. These are borders which Israel has yet to define and continues to blur with expanding illegal Jewish settlements and occupation of Palestinian land.

"I think the Israelis are serious with their threat," says Wishah, "because they don't pay any attention to the international opinion, nor to international laws and conventions, like the Geneva Conventions, that they've signed, which forbid collective punishment. They feel they are above the law and beyond any legal pursuit." (END)

Pearl Harbor: 70 Years on, Is Iran the New Japan?

 Pearl Harbor: 70 Years on, Is Iran the New Japan?
by Finian Cunningham
Is Iran the new Japan – 70 years after the Pearl Harbour incident that led to a US declaration of war and an unspeakable nuclear nightmare? Two concurrent articles on Global Research deserve close reading because taken together they suggest that history is in danger of repeating itself, with even greater catastrophic consequences.
Firstly, Patrick Buchanan’s historical review of the run-up to the “surprise” attack by Japan on the US Navy at Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 indicates that it was in fact no surprise to Washington planners [1]. Indeed, the evidence presented by Buchanan shows (not for the first time) that the attack by the Japanese air force was a carefully laid trap engineered at the highest level in Washington with the coldly premeditated aim of precipitating US entry to World War II.
As Buchanan notes the Japanese “provocation” at Pearl Harbour was preceded by of a series of US provocations against imperial Japan, including severing Tokyo’s oil economy and isolating the country into a diplomatic corner.
“The question was how we should maneuver them [Japan] into firing the first shot…” then US secretary of war Henry Stimson is quoted in records from November 1941.
Such contrivance of casus belli by the US is not without historical parallel, before or after: the sinking of USS Maine in Havana Harbour in 1898, triggering the American-Spanish War; the torpedoing of the Lusitania in 1915, prompting US entry into World War I; the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, escalating America’s genocidal war on Vietnam; and the 9/11 “terror attacks” in 2001, presaging Washington’s ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In this historical context of Washington’s contrived wars, the present day provocations against Iran take on a much more urgent significance.
In a separate Global Research article, Tom Burghardt makes a convincing case that the US (and Israel) are conducting a covert war inside Iran, including deadly explosive attacks on Iranian military sites – two in the past month alone which claimed the lives of more than 30 Iranian personnel. As the headline of Burghardt’s article puts it: War with Iran – a Provocation Away?
The author quotes an Iranian military official saying that Iran’s armed response to suspected US/Israeli sabotages “would not be limited to our borders”.
The latest US provocation-for-a-provocation is the intrusion of a CIA stealth drone some 140 miles inside Iran’s eastern territory [3].
It is now clear that the sophisticated RQ-170 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – which can fly at 50,000 feet undetected by radar – was on a deliberate spying mission over Iranian territory, most probably with a view to target Iranian installations for the preemptive air strikes – the very kind of air strikes that Washington and its allies have for months been threatening the Islamic Republic with.
The Washington Post described the revelation of the latest CIA drone intrusion of Iranian territory as marking the Obama administration’s “shift toward a more confrontational approach – one that includes increased arms sales to Iran’s potential rivals in the Middle East as well as bellicose statements by US officials and key allies”.
Included in the category of “bellicose” statements is that from US defence secretary Leon Panetta who last week cited contingency plans for “a wide range of military options” against Iran.
Bear in mind that the decade-long confrontation with Iran is premised on the wholly unproven assertion that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons – a claim that Iran has repeatedly denied and which years of intrusive inspections of its legitimate civilian nuclear energy facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to verify, even in spite of Western intelligence and mainstream media manipulation.
The Washington Post again tells us: “The sharpened [US] tone [against Iran] comes against a backdrop of increased diplomatic efforts in ratcheting up the economic pain for the Iranian regime, as Washington enlists European and Asian allies in coordinated efforts to choke Iran’s economy.”
Reading that last paragraph again and we could easily, and frighteningly, substitute Japan in 1941 for Iran in 2011.
Then the words of secretary of war Henry Stimson echo with sinister contemporary meaning: “The question is how we maneuver them into firing the first shot.”
And recall too that Washington’s war machinations with Japan led to a conflagration that engulfed the Asia-Pacific hemisphere and the unleashing of perhaps history’s single worst barbarity – a nuclear holocaust.
Only this time around, the much more advanced technological means to utterly destroy would make that nuclear barbarity appear as a mere shadow of what could be unleashed in the present day.

What Is The Best Country In The World For Americans To Relocate To In Order To Avoid The Coming Economic Collapse?

What Is The Best Country In The World For Americans To Relocate To In Order To Avoid The Coming Economic Collapse?

Posted on truther on December 9, 2011

Millions of American citizens have already left the United States in search of a better life.  As the economy continues to crumble and as our society slowly falls apart, millions of others are thinking about it.  But moving to another country is not something to be done lightly.  The reality is that there are a vast array of social, cultural, economic and safety issues to be considered.  If you have never traveled outside of North America, then you have no idea how incredibly different life in other parts of the world can be.  For those that are unfamiliar with international travel, it can be quite a shock to suddenly be immersed in a foreign culture.  In fact, no matter how experienced you are, choosing to relocate to a new country is never easy.  But things have gone downhill so dramatically in the United States that picking up and moving to a foreign nation is being increasingly viewed as a viable alternative by millions of Americans.  A lot of people have decided that they simply do not want to be in the United States when the excrement hits the fan.  So what is the best country in the world for Americans to relocate to in order to avoid the coming economic collapse?
For each person, that answer may be different.  A lot depends on how much money you have and what your career situation is.  A lot depends on what stage of life you are at and what your family situation is.  Moving to another country can be very complicated and it can be a lot of work, but there are millions of people that have found it to be very rewarding.
When it comes to leaving America, a lot of people out there have some really strong opinions.
Many people believe that leaving the United States at this time would be abandoning our country in its hour of greatest need.  They are convinced that virtually everyone should stay and fight to turn this country around.
Others believe that there is no hope for the United States at all and that leaving this country is the only rational thing to do.  A lot of Americans have decided that the best future for their children and their grandchildren is going to be found in another part of the globe.
Still others are waiting to see what is going to happen during this next election.  Most people would agree that 2012 is going to represent a huge turning point for the United States, and if the election goes the wrong way it could move America down a road from which it will never recover.
But whatever you believe, the reality is that more Americans than ever seem to be interested in relocating overseas.  This appears to be particularly true of younger Americans.
A recent CNBC article contained the following amazing statistics….
*According to the U.S. State Department, 6.3 million Americans are either working or studying overseas.  That is the highest number that has ever been recorded.
*According to one recent survey, “the percentage of Americans aged 25 to 34 actively planning to relocate outside the U.S. has quintupled in just two years, from less than 1 percent to 5.1 percent.”
*That same survey found that 40 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 24 age group are expressing interest in relocation outside of the United States.  Two years ago that figure was only at 15 percent.
So why are so many Americans looking to relocate?
Well, our economy continues to get worse and worse.  If you have not heard yet, it has been announced that an all-time record 46 million Americans are now on food stamps.
How much worse can it get?
We just keep setting new record after new record.  Shouldn’t the government just put us all on food stamps and get it over with?
A lot of Americans want to escape this country before they get sucked into the vortex of poverty that has trapped so many other American families.  2.6 million more Americans fell into poverty last year.  In addition, according to the U.S. Census Bureau the percentage of Americans living in extreme poverty today is higher than has ever been measured before.
As poverty and despair spread across the United States, the fabric of our society is breaking down.  As I have written about so many times, the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is starting to disappear.
Mob violence is becoming increasingly common in America.  The following example from earlier this week comes from a story in the Blaze….
New York City firefighters came to the rescue of two NYPD cops who were outnumbered and getting pummeled by 50 angry female teenagers on Tuesday.
The Firefighters  from the FDNY opened up on the violent crowd with a “deluge gun”– which is a high-powered, truck-mounted water cannon–finally causing the mob to disperse.
As society breaks down, the government is becoming even more repressive in an attempt to maintain control.  Paranoia has become standard operating procedure and we are all considered to be potential terrorists.  Sadly, the United States is rapidly being turned into a totalitarian “Big Brother” police state.  Millions of Americans are not excited about living in a giant prison and they are starting to look for alternatives.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to pile up the biggest debt in the history of the world and spend money on some of the most ridiculous things imaginable.  If you can believe it, over the past 10 years the U.S. government has actually spent almost a quarter of a billion dollars on genital pumps for old men.
Our government is drowning in debt, our businesses are drowning in debt and American consumers are drowning in debt.  At some point this entire house of cards is going to come crashing down.
Are you sure that you want to be living in the United States when that happens?
If you do plan to move outside of the United States, there are a lot of things that you need to consider….
It is a lot easier to move to another country if you are independently wealthy.  Since most of us are not, you will likely have to consider how you will pay for the lifestyle that you plan to have once you move.
There are some countries (like many of the nations of northern Europe) where the cost of living is extremely high.  If you plan to move to Europe that is something that you will need to plan for.
There are other nations where the strength of the U.S. dollar is a huge benefit (at least for now).  If you have a sufficient bankroll saved up there are some areas of the world where you can literally live like a king.
Unless you are retired, you will need to consider what kind of job you are going to work once you move.  If you do not speak the language of the country that you are moving to that is going to really limit your career options.
Also, you will need to keep in mind that wages in many areas of the world (especially in the third world) are much lower than in the United States.
Americans are often shocked to learn that the rights that we enjoy in the United States do not apply in the rest of the world.
You need to evaluate whether or not you can live with the laws that will be imposed upon you in the country that you choose to relocate to.
For example, I would not have the same freedom of speech to write the things that I do in a lot of other countries.  There are many countries that actually hunt down and arrest bloggers like me.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that huge taxes or huge fees are often imposed on those moving to a new country.  You may actually have to pay a tax on whatever possessions you bring with you.
In many areas of the world you will not be able to count on the police coming to help you if a crime is committed.
Even if police are available where you choose to live, that does not mean that they will not be corrupt.
So it is imperative that you come up with a security plan.  Keep in mind that in many countries the ownership of guns is either banned or is severely limited.
If you choose to relocate overseas without the rest of your family, you probably will not get to see them very often at all anymore.
It will be important for you to evaluate whether you will be able to take long-term separation from your family or not.
Also, it can be very lonely living overseas in a foreign nation where you do not know the language.  In many countries Americans are deeply hated so you may find it difficult to make friends.
Culture Shock
This is something that should not be underestimated.  Moving into the middle of a foreign culture can be absolutely shattering for many people.  A lot of Americans have absolutely no idea what life is like on the other side of the globe.
If you are thinking of moving to another country, it might be a really good idea to visit it first so that you can get a feel for what you are getting into.
So what is the best country in the world for Americans to relocate to?
I am not going to answer that question myself.  Instead, I want to ask my readers to help me answer that question.
Over the next couple of days, I am going to take comments that readers on my site leave and I am going to post them at the end of this article.  Many of them are extremely knowledgeable, and hopefully they can help all of us learn more about what life is like on the other side of the world.
So if you would like to participate in this debate, please post a comment at the end of this article on The Economic Collapse Blog with your opinion.  Please tell us what country you think is best for Americans to move to and the reasons why you think that it is the best.
This should be a fun debate, and I am looking forward to hearing what you all have to say.