The Naked Truth

Stopping the world’s spin.

Uprising in Tibet

Jonathan Kay, of the National Post writes:

I see that Tibet is a flame, with at least 100 dead in street protests. (edit – The unrest in Tibet began on March 10, 2008, the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against China’s rule of the region.)

The broad narrative here is eerily similar to another, somewhat less obscure “conflict zone”: Local activists rise up against a power they regard as a brutal colonial occupier. The occupier fights back. Blood flows in the street. The Tibetans haven’t yet started blowing themselves up in restaurants or mowing down Chinese students with machine guns. When they do, the Palestinian precedent shows, the world will solemnly pronounce them to be locked “in a cycle of violence.”

Tibet protests

The Tibetans have a far better claim to the world’s sympathy than the Palestinians. After China’s 1950 invasion, Chinese troops killed a million Tibetans — that’s about two decimal orders of magnitude above the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel over the last six decades. (Which means that, if Islamist claims of a “Holocaust” in Gaza and the West Bank are to be believed, then Tibet has suffered at least 100 holocausts. Wow — that’s a lot of Holocausts.) On top of that, there’s the massive flood of ethnic Chinese migrants, who’ve made the Tibetans a minority population within their own territories (for some odd reason, the media never refers to these folks as “settlers”); not to mention the destruction of 6,000 Tibetan monasteries (a figure that is roughly 6,000 more than the number of mosques destroyed by Israel). And on and on it goes — though you never hear about any of this in the media most days.

This coming from a pro-Israel paper of course. Alright, we support both the Palestinians and the Tibetans. Happy now? After all, whether it’s “Liberation” or “Terrorism” depends on your perspective.

Please comment.

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March 17, 2008 Posted by | china | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US drops China from worst human rights list

The United States has dropped China from its list of the world’s worst human rights violators, offering the communist giant a propaganda coup ahead of the Beijing Olympics. The US State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2007 removed China from the same category as countries such as North Korea, Iran and Burma.

tibetprotest.jpg

No reason was given, but China has been a partner in talks with Washington to remove nuclear plant from North Korea. Beijing’s staging of this summer’s Games has raised hopes that it will improve its human rights record.

The government is concerned that the event will be used by activists, and athletes, to criticise China over its treatment of Tibet, its support for the Sudan regime and other areas of concern.

However, the report acknowledged that China’s “overall human rights record remained poor”. It described alleged torture, including the use of electric shocks and beatings. There is an account of a prisoner strapped to a “tiger bench”, which forces the legs to bend, sometimes until they break. It also notes claims that people were forced from their homes to make way for Olympic projects in Beijing.

Syria, Uzbekistan and Sudan have been added to the list, with Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus and Eritrea completing the top 10.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | china | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the U.S. is in Afghanistan, the Hidden Agenda

The media and the Bush administration states that this is a war on terror, to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime. Is this the complete truth?

Bin Laden opened the way for the military might of the U.S. to be committed to make the Caspian Sea and Central Asian region safe for the U.S. led oil and gas pipelines. There is a great battle between Russia, the United States, China, Iran and the European companies, for control of the vast oil and gas resources, estimated at $4 trillion by US News and World Report. Afghanistan’s significance stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed U.S. led multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan to Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea. The problem with existing and proposed routes, across northern Russia, or to ports on the Black Sea, or under the Caspian Sea and down to Turkey, is that they all lead to European markets. Further, the facilities are by and large under the control of Russia. Of course, the corporate-controlled U.S. media giants don’t ever report any of this.

Caspian Sea pipelines

The advantages of the Afghanistan route is that it would terminate in the Arabian Sea, which is much closer than the Persian Gulf or northern China to key Asian markets, where demand is high. The proposed pipeline would be beneficial to Central Asian countries because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding and highly prospective Asian markets. The pipeline would benefit Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport tariffs. On a regional level, the pipeline would promote stability and encourage trade and economic development between South Asia and Central Asia. Finally, because of the combination of short pipeline distance and the relatively low cost of tankerage, this southern route will result in the most competitive export route to the Asian market.

The construction of this route can only begin if and when an internationally recognized government is formed in Afghanistan. The U.S. is determined to make this happen. Some have even suggested that the entrance of the U.S. into Central Asia serves as a springboard from which to prevent China from expanding its influence in the region.

Central Asia map

March 16, 2008 Posted by | war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

China Supplying Arms in the Darfur Conflict

Chinese sales of assault rifles and other weapons to Sudan have grown rapidly during the conflict in the Darfur region despite a UN arms embargo, according to a US-based rights group.

Human Rights First said on Thursday that a study of Sudanese and UN trade data showed that China was virtually the only supplier of small arms to Sudan.

Khartoum pays for the weapons it buys from Beijing with its growing oil revenues, the rights group said.

“The people of Sudan’s Darfur region will endure more death, disease and dislocation, and this will be due in no small part to China’s callousness,” the report said.

The group called on Beijing to stop all arms sales to Sudan and urged the world to link that campaign to the Beijing Olympics.

“We believe that China is particularly vulnerable in the lead up to the Olympics, Betsy Apple, a spokeswoman for Human Rights First, said.

“We want to see China’s concrete action that matches its rhetoric.”

The report came as Britain’s Channel 4 television’s Unreported World programme interviewed Mohammed Hamdan, a commander of the Arab Janjiwid militia accused of carrying out attacks on Darfur’s black African population.

Hamdan said that his men had received orders and weapons from the Khartoum government, including heavy artillery which appeared to have Chinese markings.

The Human Rights First report said that Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition for rifles and heavy machine guns have all flowed into Darfur.

China sold Sudan $55 million worth of small arms from 2003-2006 and has provided 90 per cent of Sudan’s small arms since 2004 when a UN arms embargo took effect, according to the report.

China’s embassy in Washington said, in a response to the Channel 4 programme, that China, “in line with relevant UN resolutions and China’s own policies regarding arms sales, requires normal defensive usage by the buyer country”.

Khartoum has previously denied any connection to the Janjiwid groups who are accused of abuses and crimes across the region.

Peacekeeping mission

Meanwhile, the commander of the international peacekeeping force in Darfur has admitted they may have to stay in the region for up to 10 years before they will see a resolution to the conflict.

“There are so many factors that have to come into play. We have to have a peace deal. We have to go through a period of disarmament,” General Martin Luther Agwai, a Nigerian army officer, said.

“If all these things happen quickly and everyone is committed to it, it could be a matter of two or three years. But if people don’t want a peace deal and people are not committed, we could be here for many years.”

Officials with the joint United Nations-African Union mission on Thursday said that there had been two confrontations with Darfur’s warring parties in the past week.

On Saturday, Sudanese soldiers opened fire for more than 15 minutes when a Unamid vehicle approached a government checkpoint close to South Darfur’s capital Nyala, Adrian Edwards, a Unamid official, told the Reuters news agency in Khartoum.

“It was dark so it was unclear whether they were firing into the air or targeting anyone,” he added.

“No one was injured and we received an apology from the local authorities.”

A day later, Unamid officers had to cut short a meeting with rebels in the Jabel Moun area of west Darfur, when they received reports of nearby fighting.

March 16, 2008 Posted by | Africa, china | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US: Muslim states, UN fuel anti-Semitism

There has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism over the past decade, much of it a new form whose “distinguishing feature” is criticism of Israel, according to a State Department report released over the weekend.

The 94-page report on 2007 criticizes many Muslim and Arab countries for encouraging anti-Semitism, and an entire chapter is devoted to anti-Semitism at the United Nations.

“Motives for criticizing Israel in the UN may stem from legitimate concerns over policy or from illegitimate prejudices,” the report reads. “However, regardless of the intent, disproportionate criticism of Israel as barbaric and unprincipled, and corresponding discriminatory measures adopted in the UN against Israel, have the effect of causing audiences to associate negative attributes with Jews in general, thus fueling anti-Semitism.”

The report lists forms of anti-Semitic crimes including terrorist attacks against Jews, desecration of synagogues and destruction of cemeteries. In addition, it cites anti-Semitic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and other propaganda.

While the report notes that traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to be found across the globe, “anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon.”

The new forms often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism, but “the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that – whether intentionally or unintentionally – has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.”

While this new anti-Semitism is “common throughout the Middle East and in Muslim communities in Europe,” it is not confined to these populations, the report finds.

The document’s introduction singles out Iran and Syria for their demonization of Jews, and adds, “Venezuela’s government-sponsored mass media have become vehicles for anti-Semitic discourse, as have government news media in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

It names Britain, France and Germany as European countries where “anti-Semitic violence remains a significant concern,” but also lists other Western nations as experiencing recent increases, including Argentina, Australia and Canada.

The report, a follow-up on one issued in 2005, compiled data from government and NGO sources around the world.

This year’s report was dedicated to the late Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman who passed away last month. A Holocaust survivor, he co-sponsored the legislation creating the Office of the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, which issued the report.

“Today’s report provides evidence of a disturbing resurgence in anti-Semitism around the globe,” the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Rep. Howard Berman, also of California, said in a statement issued Thursday.

“All too often, legitimate criticism of the State of Israel can veer into naked anti-Semitism characterized by vile hate speech,” Berman said. “And all too often, it goes unchallenged. When hate speech arises, we should call it what it is – and do what can be done to stop it.”

The report was welcomed by the Anti-Defamation League, whose national director, Abraham Foxman, said, “The report not only focuses attention on the problem, but sets important benchmarks and criteria for foreign governments as well as for US monitoring and diplomacy.”

“We hope that this call to action by the United States government will encourage countries to do more to monitor and combat anti-Semitism,” he said.

source: The Jerusalem Post

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Human Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Google myself, therefore I am.

I have a confession to make: I Google myself. A lot. I’m not proud of it, but I do. Like a nervous tic. Not quite as much as I check my e-mail, but uncomfortably close to it. Almost every time I go on the Internet. It has become part of my online routine: Check e-mail, read news, Google self. See what comes up. After all, who knows who could have mentioned me or my writing in the last half hour?

Why do I do it? I ask myself that even before I’m finished typing my name. Why do I want to see the same results (or more or less the same) time after time after time? I tell myself it’s so I can see what’s happening with my work — who’s publishing it, who’s quoting it, who’s commenting on it, who’s linking to it (usually no one). But I know this isn’t the real reason. Deep down, I know that Googling myself is a pointless, vain, embarrassing and existentially bankrupt exercise. Yet I can’t help it. Am I just profoundly insecure? Am I just a hopeless egomaniac? I’m a writer, so I guess I’m both. And, in the Internet age, those are horrible — and horribly common– things to be.

According to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, I’m not alone. Almost half (47%) of people who responded to the survey have Googled themselves at some point, a 22% jump from just five years ago. Apparently, however, I’m in the minority: Only 3% admit to Googling themselves regularly. This could be because I’m among the 11% of people who have a job — freelance writing — that requires them to promote themselves online. It could also be because I have a unique name that lends itself to Googling. (I assume the Joe Smiths out there don’t bother Googling themselves often.) But it could be for other reasons, too.

I started Googling myself years ago, back when search engines were like giant combines lumbering down some Midwestern road, compared to the Ferraris that cruise today’s Internet autobahn. Yet even then, with the few meagre results that came up, it was exhilarating to see my name out there in the world, to imagine my few small stories appearing on the computer screens of strangers across the globe.

At the time, it was fresh and wonderful. I got such a kick from seeing the things I had created out there, living their own lives and, of course, dying their own deaths. But as time marched on, the thrill wore off, and still I Googled. Once in a great while there was some payoff, like when I found out that I’d been runner-up in a contest I’d entered years before, or when I located an old family cemetery in Iowa, or when I came across a scathing review of L. Ron Hub-bard’s Dianetics that my great-uncle wrote in 1950.

But these discoveries are so rare that I don’t think they can explain why I keep on Googling. They can’t explain the hollow feeling it gives me now. They give no clue about what I’m really looking for. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that Googling myself must meet some profound need, some deep-seated desire. Sometimes it almost feels like I’m checking to make sure I’m still out there.

When I was a boy, I loved throwing rocks into calm water and watching the waves flow out toward the edge– the bigger the rock the better. This eventually led me to take giant boulders up on a bridge and drop them into the river below. When that wasn’t enough, I just threw myself off the bridge. And while times have changed, I think that urge remains very much the same, only today the Internet is the water, the waves are electronic and the stones are the things I write. I Google myself to see what kinds of waves my life is making in the world. Isn’t that why writers, artists and other insecure egomaniacs obsess over the Amazon rankings of their books, the comments on their blogs, the hits on their Web sites?

As society becomes more isolating and we have less contact with the lives of the people around us, the more we need the Internet to tell us what our communities used to: that our existence means something to someone else on this planet. What we used to see reflected back in the eyes of the people around us, we now look for on the computer screen. That’s why the number of self-Googlers will continue to rise. The Internet, fickle and shallow as it is, has become a giant Narcissus’s mirror. Does the world love us? That is the question at the heart of Google’s mysterious algorithm, and the search result we most crave: that we are out there somewhere and that, somehow, it matters.

source: National Post via Frank Bures, Featurewell.com

March 15, 2008 Posted by | technology | , , | Leave a comment

Dueling Human Rights Reports

Every year, the U.S.-China exchange of human rights reports is one of my favorite events to observe. Not only does it invariably produce some amusing bureaucratic sniping, but of late, it’s also become one of the best front seats from which to witness the increasingly awkward dance that ensues when the U.S. tries to take on the role of human rights cop abroad.

This week, the countries traded their usual flurry of barbs: the United States censured at China for being repressive, while China, indignant, hammered back against the U.S.’s own record with gusto. While the exchanges are always testy, in recent years, with the persistence of secret prisons and Guantanamo, as well as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, China’s had an especially rich vein of cases to mine. (It didn’t help that the White House formally endorsed torture as a form of official U.S. policy just days before releasing its China report.)

I’m no apologist for the Chinese regime, but whatever moral currency the U.S. could once claim on human rights has long since been squandered. (Or as the French foreign minister put it yesterday: “The magic is over.”) When a PRC bureaucrat looks at America and sees a country that incarcerates 1 out of 100 people and accounts for two-thirds of child executions worldwide, it’s no wonder the force of U.S. scrutiny seems somewhat misplaced.

source:  thenation.com

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Human Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Clout of the Media Giants

Our media landscape is very, very heavily dominated by just a handful of gigantic media corporations, transnational corporations. The most important ones are Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, the News Corporation and Universal-Vivendi.

We now have all of our culture industries, from movies and TV and radio to music and book publishing and the web, dominated by corporations that are all-powerful in all of those fields. They are all-purpose media corporations.

One often hears that we all enjoy many more choices as viewers and listeners and readers than any generation of human beings ever enjoyed before. Well, that’s actually not the case. There’s a seeming multiplicity, a great ostensible diversity out there; but behind the surface of that apparent vast range of choices, there’s really not all that much in the way of true difference or true diversity. There’s a handful of owners behind most of those products that you see at the newsstand or on cable or on the web, you know? A handful of owners and the same commercial imperative at work, no matter where you turn. You talk about newspapers, magazines, movies, TV shows, radio. It’s all alike, calculated to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.

Now, most of the media industries have always been commercial above all. There’s no question about that, although some were more commercial than others were. Book publishing, for example, was historically not driven, above all, by a concern about profits, but it was actually run by men and women who loved books. It sounds quaint today. Nevertheless, by now all the media industries are alike, driven by commercial concerns. And this has been intensified by the fact that the huge few that wield all the power are heavily indebted. They have to make a lot of money. Their shareholders are always at the door. They are very anxious enterprises. They are forced to go wherever they think the money is right now. They are forced to try to grab the biggest demographic bloc they can. They aren’t inclined to take any real risks at all.

And this has tended to make the quality of most media product highly dubious. Whether we talk about the TV news, which is in this country more idiotic and lurid than ever before; or whether we talk about the content of most magazines, which is increasingly soft porn; or whether we’re talking about newspapers, which are more and more like television; or movies or music; we’re talking about a decline in quality that most of the people who work in these industries have recognized.

Please don't sell to me

When you’ve got a few gigantic transnational corporations, each one loaded down with debt, competing madly for as much shelf space and brain space as they can take, they are going to do whatever they think works the fastest and with the most people, which means that they will drag standards down. They’re not going to be too nice about what they choose to do. They’ll go directly for the please center. They’re going to try to get you watching and buying right away, and what this means is that they are going to do as much trash as they can, because that will grab people.

The word “trash” is old-fashioned, because this is a state-of-the-art, highly sophisticated venture that we’re talking about. They’re using all the most brilliant means of measurement and surveillance to figure out what we’re all about. They focus group everything in a million ways. So we have a highly sophisticated enterprise that’s engaged in a kind of regressive project. They’re trying to sell as much junk as they can by appealing to the worst in all of us, but they do it some extremely civilized means.

Advertising today has to do with the fact that we’re all far more jaded than we used to be–more cynical about certain kinds of utopian claims. It also has to do with an increasing desperation on the part of the advertisers to break through the “clutter,” as they put it. So they tend to do things that are more outrageous than anything they would have tried 30 years ago. There are other factors at work here, but what it all comes down to is that this all-pervasive commercial propaganda, which sells not only countless products but a whole view of life, has itself become much nastier since, I’d say, the mid-1970s. The utopian element has gone out of advertising, and now it tends to be a celebration of the worst kinds of values. 

Let’s remember that advertising is, above all, a form of propaganda. It’s changed in a very significant way over the last couple of decades. If you go back to the TV shows of the 1950s that were pitched at kids, you’re struck by the fact that the ads, the commercials in those shows stood out as interruptions. I can certainly recall a certain impatience when those commercials would suddenly appear. You run to the bathroom, you get something to eat, or you just wait until they’re over. This was in the days before people had remotes, so you just sort of had to suffer through them. Sometimes they were amusing, but for the most part they were not the point.

Now that interruptiveness in advertising has disappeared. Advertising has now moved center stage. Consider rock videos, for example. MTV was the first 24-hour, seven-day-a-week commercial channel, because rock videos are ads. Rock videos are highly sophisticated, irresistibly seductive commercials for songs and also for clothes.  The fact is that that development has brought us to a world in which the ad is not something you have to suffer through. The ad is not the price you have to pay in order to get to watch the show. The ad is the show. The ad is the point. 

(edit – The important lesson here is don’t be all consuming…try creating.)

Full report: Interview with Mark Crispin Miller.  Also recommended is Frontline’s The Merchants of Cool, a compelling look at the purveyors behind pop culture. It’s a little dated but no less relevant.

March 15, 2008 Posted by | advertising | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq’s Christians are being martyred

The blood of the martyrs is being poured out in Iraq, an ancient land of Christian witness. The Archbishop of Mosul is dead, and the Church in Iraq is dying. It may well be that Islamist elements will entirely drive from Iraq a Christian community that has been present since the early first millennium.

Most Iraqi Catholics are of the Chaldean Church, and the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Paulus Faraj Rahho was discovered dead yesterday. He had been kidnapped on Feb. 29 in an ambush in which his driver and two other men were killed. At 67 and not in robust health, Archbishop Rahho needed daily medicine for his heart condition. His abductors revealed his death yesterday and the place where they had buried his body. A preliminary investigation concluded that he had been dead at least five days, but the cause of death was not clear.

In any case, the abductors are guilty of another round of Christian killings. The Iraqi government, and several Iraqi Muslim leaders, had called for the Archbishop’s release, but to no avail. I made phone contact yesterday with Catholic officials in Baghdad, and they were shaken by the audacity of the killing. After this, can there be a single Christian in Iraq who is safe?

The most recent wave of anti-Christian violence in Iraq took place in January. Three Chaldean churches were bombed in Mosul, two in Kirkuk and four in Baghdad. Explosions also hit the orphanage run by the Chaldean nuns in al-Nour, as well as a convent of Dominican sisters in Mosul Jadida. Several priests have been abducted. In October, 2006, an Orthodox priest was kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered.

Last June, Father Ragheed Ganni, along with three deacons, was killed in a hail of gunfire upon getting into a car after celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit. The assassins then placed explosives around the car so that the bodies could not be soon recovered — remaining as a warning to the Christians of Mosul. Father Ganni was Archbishop Rahho’s secretary. When he buried his priest last June, did Archbishop Rahho know that his time would soon come?

“Strike the shepherd that the sheep might be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). The flock was already dispersing, and no doubt the exodus of Christians will increase now that it is clear that those who harbour murderous hate for them will respect neither the archbishop’s office nor appeals made even by the Pope — as he did three times publicly in the last fortnight. Before the war began in 2003, there were estimates that Iraq’s Christian population was 500,000 — 800,000 strong. It is almost impossible to get accurate numbers, but some estimate that more than half have already fled. Archbishop Rahho said last fall that only one-third of the Christians in Mosul remained. Though less than 5% of the population, Christians constitute as much as one-third of the refugees leaving Iraq.

Protected neither by Sunni nor Shia militias, Christians are vulnerable to jihadi violence, motivated by both religious and mercenary reasons. More…

March 14, 2008 Posted by | religion | , , , | Leave a comment

Where Does the Truth Lie?

Effective campaigns or insensitive crap?

Worldwide anti-smoking ads:

antismoking 1

The cigarette kills a hundred times more than terrorism.

Published 2005 in the O Dia, a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil newspaper.

anti smoking 2

Published 2007 in the Khaleej Times, a Dubai, UAE, newspaper.

anti smoking 3

Terrorism-related deaths since 2001: 11,377. Tobacco-related deaths since 2001: 30,000,000.

Published 2008 by New Zealand’s ASH (Action on Smoking and Health).

March 14, 2008 Posted by | advertising | , , , | Leave a comment