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Saturday, September 10, 2005

08 September 2005 г.
From Viasna

Joint Statement by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International and Global Call to Action Against Poverty

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam International call on a small number of “spoiler” countries to stop holding the UN World Summit hostage over crucial measures on human rights, security, genocide and poverty reduction. These governments have thrown negotiations on the final outcome text into crisis just days away from the biggest meeting of world leaders in history, September 14-16 in New York.

Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins
From Transitions on-line
by Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski
7 September 2005

For Belarus’ opposition youth movements, the countdown to revolution begins now, a year before presidential elections.

MINSK, Belarus | To one side, a clutch of listless 16-year-old girls hold sheets of A3 paper at waist height, uncomfortable, it seems, to be bit-part players in a scene played out in front of the Polish embassy in Minsk. Their posters, with slogans such as “Don’t break the tradition of Slav brotherhood” typed in identical typography, are dwarfed by the professionally printed banners (“Neighbors should be friends”) behind which most of the mass of the pro-government supporters stand. On the other side, penned against a fence and holding slogans such as “Poland Belarus = Solidarity,” are a score or more members of Malady Front, arguably the country’s largest opposition youth movement.

Book of Osama speeches published in Paris
09/08/2005 16:32

Publication of Al-Qaida in Texts has given rise to most heated discussions

Famous French orientalist Gilles Kepel, the author of Al-Qaida in Texts, the book published by Presses Universitaires de France, thinks the publication will help better understand the essence of present-day international terrorism and find more effective instruments to fight it.
Osama bin Laden usually makes scripts of every of his TV appearance connected with terrorist acts that occur in various parts of the planet. Gilles Kepel, the head of the Middle East department in the Paris Institute for Political Studies, has compiled these texts in his book.
Publication of Al-Qaida in Texts has given rise to most heated discussions immediately. Spokesperson for Presses Universitaires de France Dominique Reymond says the publication is not dangerous or provoking at all. On the contrary, the book informs us of what exactly al-Qaida people want. Gilles Kepel is also sure that the book will not provoke anyone to commit terrorist acts. He says these texts show the world where Americans, Jews and Europeans are equally abused, where each of us is infidel and thus must be liquidated. And this is a direct apologia explaining while terrorists kill those whom they believe to be infidel.
Full Text

Criminal investigation on producers of anti-Lukashenko's Internet cartoons gets under the wayFrom
Author: Mikhail Doroshevich

Minsk City Office of Public Prosecutor has instituted legal proceedings on the fact of Internet circulation of animated cartoons "insulting the president".
According to Sergei Ivanov, chief of the important investigations department of the Office, the legal proceedings are instituted under article 367 of the criminal code (besmirching the honour of President). Those found guilty could face up to five years in prison.
Satirical animated cartoons (in Flash format) for Internet distribution were created by Third Way civil initiative activists and placed at the website.

Also, see the opinion piece I have posted below by Ben Macintyre- Personally, though I find Mr. MMacintyre's rhetoric to be a bit extreme, nontheless, the point is there.

BELARUS: Police detain U.S. diplomat
Washington times.
World Scene
August 25, 2005

MINSK -- Police briefly detained a U.S. diplomat in Belarus, and activists said yesterday that the authorities wanted to prevent him from meeting them.
American diplomats expressed concern over the detention and were discussing the incident with Belarusian officials, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Alexei Solomakha.
The U.S. government has been a vocal critic of President Alexander Lukashenko, whose government fears opposition attempts to foment political change in this tightly controlled country.

Nuclear waste row leaves bad smell in Lithuania

Tom Parfitt in Moscow
Thursday August 25, 2005
The Guardian

A bizarre diplomatic skirmish has broken out after Belarus retaliated against Lithuania's decision to build a radioactive waste dump close to their shared border by announcing plans to put two giant pig farms in sniffing distance of its neighbour.
The spat on the fringe of the European Union started when officials in Vilnius confirmed it would build the storage facility about 700 metres from the Belarussian border.

Minsk complained that it had not been consulted and the facility would threaten its nearby Braslavsky lakes national park.

State Department Comment on Belarus Incident with U.S. Diplomat
By Alan Gray, NewsBlaze

Belarusian police detained a U.S. diplomat for forty minutes while in a meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations.

The routine meeting took place in Gomel, Belarus on August 23, 2005. Police entered the meeting and refused to permit the diplomat to leave for forty minutes, without offering any clear explanation, except for an alleged need to check his identification.

The U.S. State Department made their concerns about this incident known to Belarusian officials both in Minsk and in Washington. Belarusian officials indicated they will look into the matter and provide more information, but a full explanation has not yet been received.

The U.S. continues to press the Government of Belarus to respect civil society and to uphold its international commitments to human rights.


Sep. 09, 2005

Mike Tyson: When You Win You Won’t Learn a Thing about Life
Professional Boxing

Mike Tyson, legendary heavy-weight who is now visiting Moscowtells Kommersant correspondent Alexey Dospekhov about his plans and his views on the modern boxing. ,

Why have you come to Russia? You are here for the second time, aren’t you?

Yes. When I was here for the first time I was so young, about 20 but this time… I’m traveling. I sailed on my yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. I’ve been to France and Italy. I went to Turkey, to Istanbul. Flavio Briatore invited me to see Formula 1. I went to Ukraine, to Kyiv. I met there Yakov Gribov, president of Nemiroff company. He is a great guy. He invited me to come to Moscow. My impression? A beautiful city. But it’s too big, to be honest. I already prefer small and not that noisy towns

Opinion - Ben Macintyre

August 26, 2005

The Times

Saddam has only got one ball
Ben Macintyre
The first sign that a tyrant's days are numbered comes with the mocking laughter of his people

A RARE BOOK of cartoons satirising Adolf Hitler, but officially sanctioned by the Führer himself, was sold at auction this week. On the same day, The Times reported that three internet cartoonists in Minsk who dared to ridicule Alexsandr Lukashenko, the autocratic president of Belarus, had been raided by the state security service; they were interrogated, their computers were confiscated and they now face up to five years in prison.
Here, separated by 80 years, are two dictators, each trying to control the mirth that is anathema to dictatorship. Hitler had a clunking, Austrian sense of humour, but was quite incapable of self-mockery. His decision, in 1933, to countenance this single book of mild cartoons was a subtle act of Nazi propaganda, an attempt to co-opt German humour by appearing to tolerate it. President Lukashenko has taken a blunter approach by seeking to repress political humour altogether, the surest sign of a doomed regime.

Tyrants have always feared jokes more than open protest, for the snigger is mightier than the sword. “No great movement designed to change the world can bear to be laughed at or belittled,” wrote Milan Kundera in his novel The Joke, “because laughter is the rust that corrodes everything.”

Even perfectly respectable politicians hate to be teased, as I discovered when I was parliamentary sketchwriter for this newspaper. One outraged woman MP tracked me down in the lobby to complain that what I had described as the “outfit of a 19th-century German fencing instructor” was “an Armani suit, actually”. A former fireman who became an MP was so enraged by some slight I have now forgotten that he cornered me on the stairs, shouted “Pillock” a number of times and then stormed off. Occasionally MPs would look up at the gallery and wink ingratiatingly at the sketchwriters: fish in a barrel.

Satire is the mark of a healthy democracy, the pricking of pomposity that reminds our leaders that they are not self-anointed. “Every joke is a tiny revolution,” thought George Orwell. “Whatever destroys dignity, and brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny.”

Every politician craves gravitas, but the more extreme the politics, the more crucial dignity becomes, for laughter leaves the emperor with no clothes. This is equally true for terrorists. Osama bin Laden has become a staple of playground humour. Within hours of 9/11 and 7/7, the jokes, tasteless and defiant, began to emerge, the natural response to the oppression of terror, a tiny revolution against fear.

Tyrants and terrorists try to elevate themselves above humour. In 1933, Hitler might tolerate some carefully orchestrated ribbing, but once war was under way Goebbels declared that “humour has its limits”: anti-Nazi jokes became punishable by death in Germany, just as they flourished outside it. Every British playground rang to the singing of “Hitler, has only got one ball, Goering has two, but very, very small . . .”

In North Korea, satire is banned for the simple reason that since the Communist state is officially perfect, there is officially nothing to satirise. Only the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, is permitted to make jokes. Here is an example: “To expect victory in the revolution without the leader is as good as to expect a flower to bloom without the sun.”

You may need a moment to recover from that, but wait, here comes another. When he goes jet-skiing with his officials, Kim arranges that one of the jetskis has insufficient petrol to get back, leaving its driver marooned at sea. Hilarious.

The first sign that a tyrant’s days are numbered comes not with the sound of gunfire, but the gentle ripple of disrespectful laughter. Before the French Revolution, the monarchy was comprehensively undermined by satire, ribald and unrelenting. Recall Nicolae Ceausescu’s furious disbelief when he finally realised the crowds of Romanians below the presidential balcony were laughing at him.

Jokes evolve spontaneously in the wake of despotism: when Mobutu Sésé Seko, former President of Zaire and arch kleptocrat, finally died of prostate cancer (in an expensive French hospital), his people began referring to their highest denomination banknote as “a prostate”. Within hours of the unsuccessful attempt to bomb Saddam Hussein during Operation Shock and Awe, this joke was already doing the rounds of the Baghdad cafés: Following the attack, the Iraqi Information Minister has summoned all Saddam’s body-doubles to a meeting to tell them: “The good news is that our beloved leader has survived, so you all still have jobs. The bad news is that he has lost an arm.”

Saddam watched his own downfall on television from his bunker: the end came not with the footage of US air strikes, but the sight of his oppressed people, ridiculing him in the street.

A rich vein of anti-authoritarian humour secretly flourished under communism, mocking the great chasm between between promised liberty and the reality of repression. There is really only one, infinitely adaptable joke in anti-tyrant humour, illustrating the distance between the leader’s grandiose pretensions and public perception, the joke-teller and his listeners conspiring in disdain for the absurdity of the system. The cartoons banned by President Lukashenko precisely fit this pattern: the President looking formal and powerful, but with floppy ears, a fox’s snout or a prison uniform.

A man goes into the post office and complains: “These new Lenin stamps don’t stick properly.”

“That, comrade, is because you are spitting on the wrong side.”

At any point in modern history, “Lenin” might be replaced with Stalin, Khrushchev, Castro, Saddam, Ceausescu, and any number of South American and African despots. Doubtless a version of this joke is now doing the rounds in Minsk. Perhaps even in North Korea, if we could only hear it, the Dear Leader is the butt of the stamp joke, the whispered harbinger of democracy.

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Washington's evil and sinister foreign policy
09/05/2005 17:31

The depths to which Washington will sink are apparently unfathomable

George Bush's Washington does not fail to surprise, negatively, in its foreign policy. As the world comes together and the international community reaches a consensus about reforming the UNO, shaping it to reflect the world as it is today and not as it was six decades ago, Washington presents no less than 700 proposals for amendment to the draft reform document, effectively halting the process and sticking the middle finger up at the developing countries.
Just as Africa was getting ready to propose two nations to join the UN Security Council as permanent members to sit alongside China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA, just as Brazil and India were getting their hopes up, just as the international community was working through the documents to present on 14th September to the General Assembly and just when momentum was carrying the process forward and progress was being made, Washington slams down on the table seven hundred different proposals to be discussed to change the document.
This sinister and callous disregard for the rest of the international community is nothing new, and anyway everyone knows that Washington's foreign policy is intrusive, criminal at times, murderous and self-serving, even to the extent at which acts of mass murder are committed.
What is so shocking is the cold-blooded arrogance, which once again proves that George Bush's United States of America has a total disregard for the rest of the international community and is not committed to any real changes in the UNO.
This stance is neo-colonialist and neo-imperialist, which goes hand in hand with the desire to control the world's resources, which do not belong to the USA, but rather to mankind and the citizens of the countries in which they are located.
Gone are the days when one could tame the wilderness with the gun and the bullet, civilizing savages and teaching them the power of the cross through acts of torture, rape and murder. In a civilized international community, there has to be a greater degree of balance in decision-making processes. To exclude a Latin American nation and to exclude Africa from the process is the same as telling the countries of these continents that they do not have the same rights as those who had the power to impose their will by force six decades ago.
It is not fair and therefore unjust to delay such a process and it is even more shocking to use the underhanded tool of filibustering to do so. Zero marks for Washington's foreign policy, yet again, for failing to match the feeling in the hearts and minds of the international community and for refusing to accept more democratic processes in decision-making.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

This has been my first posting here. I am not really sure what I am going to do about the formatting or how often I am going to post. But I think I will go with it for a while and see how it works out. But nevertheless, thanks for reading.

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BEING HAD- The Story