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Politics & Religion / It's all about back yards
« on: August 22, 2008, 06:12:23 AM »
iTunes blocked in China; Tibet album suspected
Friday August 22, 8:42 am ET
By Joe Mcdonald, AP Business Writer

iTunes blocked in China; group says government might be stopping access to Tibet album

BEIJING (AP) -- Customers in China of Apple Inc.'s iTunes online music store were unable to download songs this week, and an activist group said Beijing was trying to block access to a new Tibet-themed album.


Politics & Religion / South African reporter banned for being Jewish
« on: October 27, 2006, 03:48:26 AM »
Oct. 26, 2006 23:47 | Updated Oct. 27, 2006 11:46
SA reporter banned for being Jewish
Jerusalem Post
The head of news at the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has been accused of acting arbitrarily in unofficially blacklisting eight journalists and commentators. Among the banned journalists is Israel-based freelancer Paula Slier, a Jerusalem Post contributor, who has been barred from reporting because she is a Jew.

SABC management set up a commission under former SABC head Zwelakhe Sisulu and advocate Gilbert Marcus - after complaints about a ruling, allegedly by news head Snuki Zikalala, that certain commentators and analysts not be used because they were critical of South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The commission, which has now released its findings, said AM Live anchor John Perlman was right when he had said that blacklisting of commentators and analysts was happening "by instruction."

Zikalala ordered an outright ban on reports from Slier because, the commission found, he assumed that since Slier was Jewish she supported Israel.

Zikalala admits to supporting the PLO and justified his ban on Slier, who used to report regularly for the SABC until barred in 2004, by calling the conflict in the Middle East a "Jewish war" and saying the corporation needed someone who was "impartial."

But the commission ruled that Slier's reports were impartial and that the ban was in direct conflict with SABC's policies and bylaws.

Zikalala and Perlman have now been instructed to submit statements explaining their actions to a disciplinary hearing.

Here, in a very personal account of her journalistic motivations and experiences, including with the SABC, Slier laments the growing conformism and culture of censorship in South Africa today:

"I couldn't hear the presenter's question as Kassam rockets had started to explode around me. As she asked again what was happening, a rocket landed just 80 meters behind me. A column of dust filled the television frame and smoke choked my lungs. "I was reporting live from the Israel-Gaza border for Russia Today, a 24-hour English-language TV news channel for which I am the Middle East correspondent. Gilad Shalit had just been kidnapped.

"Two weeks later, Hizbullah had kidnapped two other soldiers and I reported under fire again, this time from the Israel-Lebanon border. In flak jacket and helmet, I went live in front of a closed military zone. It was unnerving during one television report when a dozen or so Katyushas flew over my head, slamming into Kiryat Shmona just in front of me. Then too, the anchor's question faded amid the whistle of missiles and the roar of artillery. Such is the job of the journalist - people were diving for safety while we headed the other way for the story.

"Edward R. Murrow, the legendary broadcaster, once said about television: 'This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.'

"These words are among the reasons I became a journalist and I feel the fight is as important now as it ever was. When I reflect on the kind of journalist I aspire to be, and the caliber of other journalists working here in the Middle East, I'm saddened that for my former bosses at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, hard work, dedication, a commitment to truth and a striving for objectivity are not among the criteria of good journalism.

"SABC is South Africa's national public service broadcaster. Its mandate is to provide free, fair and accurate programming. Through its radio and television channels it broadcasts in 11 languages to more than 30 million people. It's a sad day when the head of news and current affairs of the biggest broadcaster in a land with so many freedoms has become notorious for destroying them.

"Snuki Zikalala is quoted in the SABC inquiry report as saying, 'From the movement where I come from we support the PLO... You can't undermine the Palestinian struggle, you can't. For me it's a principle issue.'

"Zikalala describes the conflict in the Middle East as a 'Jewish war' and accuses me of taking sides. His argument, by inference, is that because I'm Jewish I automatically support the policies of the State of Israel without question, which is simply untrue.

"The situation came to a head in November 2004 when then-PLO chairman Yassir Arafat was dying. I was reporting for SABC as a freelancer in Ramallah - I had since left the corporation where I'd been a senior news reporter and anchor for several years. I was covering the story hourly when suddenly I was told my services would no longer be needed. No explanation was given.

"The inquiry found that Zikalala's direct instruction not to use my reports from the Middle East 'because of alleged bias' was 'improper and against SABC policy.'

"Furthermore, it found that his position was 'motivated by a political position... which has no place whatsoever in a public broadcaster.'
"Encouraging words, but it's alarming that they are said about the chief whip of SABC news.

"Like all professional journalists, my faith remains in the distant reaches of my mind and is nowhere to be found when I am reporting. Everybody carries personal baggage, but it is the job of the professional journalist to move beyond it.

"Over the years my reports have drawn equal criticism from both Jews and Muslims in South Africa - in that I am happy that like the great journalists who are accused by politicians of being right wing and left wing at the same time, I belong to no one. It's ludicrous to say that because a journalist has a certain background they cannot report on a particular subject. Eventually you reach the point where you say that only a particular race can cover a particular story, that a white person shouldn't write about Africa or an Arab about Israel.

"Perhaps the biggest irony of all is that I am now working for Russia - once one of the world's greatest censors - and yet I am free to report on whatever I see fit without fear or favor.

"Russia Today is a state-controlled channel, but it is freer than the SABC. The major difference between pre-1990 Moscow and the Johannesburg of 2006 is that back in the USSR the censorship and the muzzling was backed up by a secret police who had labor camps instead of a public service mandate. At least in communist Russia, the lack of political freedom could be blamed on torture, intimidation and the boot.

"Today, in a South Africa that basks in freedom, employees are scared to speak the truth for fear of becoming sidelined, and so-called journalists take hollow pride in groveling in the footsteps of politicians. There's no excuse for that."

I'm starting a new thread instead of adding this post to the WWIII thread because I think the Middle East is complex enough to warrant it without including worries about North Korean nukes and South American devils.

As I was reading the news I was thinking that war in the Middle East was just a question of time. What I find troubling is that many European countries are aiding and abetting the Islamist: France threatened to fire on the IAF, Italy wants to sell anti aircraft batteries to Lebanon to shoot down IAF planes, Russia (Putin) continues to help Iran. It would seem that Israel can only count on the US and Britain as allies and I have my doubts about Britain at times.

Right On: The coming Middle East war
The Jerusalem Post

The warning signs are everywhere, yet no one wishes to see them. Israel's foes are gearing up for war, and it's time that we opened our eyes to the danger that confronts us.

The conflict may be just weeks or even months away, or perhaps a bit longer. How it will start is anyone's guess, but make no mistake, a major outbreak of hostilities is almost certainly around the corner.

If this sounds like scare-mongering or even an advanced case of paranoia to you, just take a glance at the newspapers from the past few weeks. If you read them with a discerning eye, you will see exactly what I mean.

For whichever direction one chooses to look, be it north, south or east of us, trouble - major trouble - is brewing.

In Lebanon, Hizbullah is busy rebuilding its expansive terrorist infrastructure after this summer's fighting with Israel. Under the protective shield of UN troops, the group has been welcoming large shipments of weapons from Iran and Syria, and fortifying its bunkers in advance of the next round of conflict.

In a speech delivered last month in Beirut, on September 22, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah asserted that his organization still has "more than 20,000 rockets" and that it had "recovered all its organizational and military capabilities."

Even if we allow for an element of boasting and exaggeration, there are clear signs that Nasrallah is steadily engaged in rebuilding his forces.

Indeed, this past Sunday, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of the IDF intelligence directorate's research department, told the weekly Cabinet meeting that, "There is conclusive and decisive evidence" that Syria is rearming Hizbullah.

"The weapons smuggling from Syria into Lebanon," Baidatz said, "is continuing with official Syrian involvement." He added that Damascus has kept its forces on a war footing, with their artillery and missiles deployed in forward battle positions.

Along these lines, Syrian President Bashar Assad has made a series of public statements in recent weeks, speaking openly about the possibility of military conflict with Israel and his desire to retake the Golan Heights by force.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba on October 6, Assad said that Damascus was ready for war with the Jewish state. Previously, he insisted that the Golan would be "liberated by Syrian arms," and warned Israel to "seek peace or face the threat of defeat."

TURNING SOUTH toward Gaza, the situation is likewise disturbing. Palestinian terrorists continue to fire Kassam rockets into the Negev on a daily basis, hitting Israeli towns and communities such as Sderot and Nir Am.

Since the start of the year, Hamas is said to have smuggled into Gaza over 20 tons of explosives, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. According to media reports, Hamas has also assembled an armed military force consisting of 7,500 fighters, which is said to include specialized units such as snipers, missile batteries and anti-tank troops.

As Yediot Aharonot military correspondent Alex Fishman recently put it, "The Palestinians are arming themselves to the teeth, building a military force, defensive systems and preparing Hizbullah-style surprises."

Nor is Hamas hiding its intentions. In a statement issued on Monday, the group's Izzadin al-Kassam brigades declared that it has the "means and arms necessary to confront the Zionist enemy with all our force."

Saying they are "totally ready to resist," Hamas added somewhat ominously that, "We have finished preparations to teach the Zionist enemy a lesson it will not forget."

And then, of course, there is the threat from Teheran to our east, where the Iranian president speaks of wiping Israel off the map even as he continues to pursue his nuclear ambitions.

If anyone thinks that Mr. Ahmadinejad is open to compromise, they should take a look at his latest ramblings. Speaking at a mosque in Teheran on Monday, the Iranian leader insisted that he had received a Divine message indicating that his country would prevail. "One day," he said, "I will be asked whether I have been in touch with someone who told me we would win, and I will respond: 'Yes, I have been in touch with God'."

As if all this were not enough, there have been persistent reports in recent months about a growing al-Qaida presence in the territories, as the international terrorist group seeks to position itself for launching strikes against the Jewish state.

And so, Israel now finds itself surrounded by an arc of hate stretching from Beirut and Damascus in the north, to Teheran in the east, and back to Gaza in the south. Along each chord of this arc, our foes are diligently arming themselves and preparing for battle, both verbally and in practice. It seems safe to assume that these coordinated efforts are no coincidence, and that they are all linked to the seemingly inevitable confrontation that is looming over the region regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Just as Iran sought to send a message to Israel and the US this summer by provoking an outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon, so too Teheran now appears determined to lay the groundwork for a much greater, and far more ambitious, flare-up, one that would threaten to consume the entire region. The Iranians presumably view this as their trump card, thinking that it will give them the means of forestalling a possible US or Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities.

As a result, they have been working to strengthen the extremists throughout the region, who share their desire to hit America and Israel. In all probability, they are merely waiting for the opportune moment with which to set in motion the next provocative act, which will be aimed at igniting the entire Middle East.

HOW SHOULD Israel react to this growing threat? First, we must learn the lesson of this summer's Lebanon war, which was disastrous precisely because we sat back and allowed our enemies to build up their military infrastructure over time.

Instead of making this same mistake once again, Israel should take whatever steps are necessary to interdict weapons shipments to the terrorists, seal off their supply routes, and hit hard at those who are sending them the weapons in the first place.

Second, the government needs to begin seriously contemplating the possibility of launching preemptive and wide-ranging military strikes. Our foes are openly preparing for war, so why should we allow them the luxury to choose when it starts?

Passivity and indecisiveness cost us dearly in the past, and especially in Lebanon this summer. We can not allow ourselves to play by the enemy's rules, or even by his schedule, should this scenario once again come to pass.

I truly hope that I am wrong, and that diplomacy and common sense will somehow prevail. The last thing Israel needs right now is another painful conflict, and we should all pray to God for His mercy and intervention.

But as in the past, our enemies may leave us with no other choice but to fight. This time around, let's just make sure we are ready for the challenge.

Politics & Religion / Lebanon
« on: July 16, 2006, 03:55:38 PM »
Since my friend Craft Dog likes to talk about politics I think it is appropriate to post these thoughts about Lebanon. The post was originally a comment I made at a Venezuela blog to a totally unrelated post that got to talk about the war in the Middle East. The post features a curious video titled: "The Extremely Abridged History of Venezuela."

My comments:

Lebanon is not the problem for Israel. Iran, Syria and their proxies Hamas and Hezbollah are the problem.

If you take a good look at what is being targeted in Lebanon you will realize that it is an effort to isolate and destroy Hezbollah. The targets besides Hezbollah proper are communications: airports, bridges, oil storage, gas stations, cell phone towers, radar and such. Israel is trying to prevent Iran and Syria from resupplying Hezbollah.

Unfortunately for the Lebanese, they have not had an independent country for decades. They have been occupied by Palestinians, Israel and Syria in turn. Until Lebanon can regain its full independence and that includes getting rid of Hezbollah, it will suffer from foreign intervention, it will continue to have to live with surrogate wars started by Iran and Syria.

Jordan and Egypt have learned to live in peace with Israel. Why can't Lebanon? Because Iran and Syria don't want it to and Lebanon is too weak to have its own way. If Jordan can control its Palestinian citizens, why can't Lebanon? Same answer, they are too weak.

You might have noticed that there has been no great international outcry for Israel to stop. This would be very strange indeed if it didn't have a realistic explanation. Not even the Arab summit in Cairo managed to call for a ceasefire and for a condemnation of Israel. The reason, at least for me, is clear: everyone except Iran and Syria would be very happy if Hamas and Hezbollah were destroyed because they, along with al Qaeda, are destabilizing the whole world.

Please be clear about my position. When it comes to the actual fighting, I'm on the side of Israel, no doubt about it. When it comes to the international scene, I would like nothing better than peace in the Middle East. Egypt and Jordan have managed to make peace with Israel. Turkey is most happy to trade with Israel. I guess we have to look at the motivation of Iran and Syria to keep the flames of war alive. How do they profit from it? Let's face it, Iran is trying to face down the Great Satan via its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. This is in part a distraction for the G8 meeting so they have something else to worry about besides Iran's nuclear ambitions. Clearly the Group of 8 is not buying it.

Coming back home (Venezuela), Chavez blames the Great Satan for all our ills and the Arabs blame Israel for all their ills. How is one different from the other? If Chavez is wrong then so are the Arabs. If the Arabs are right, then so is Chavez. We have to take responsibility for our actions and our destiny. We cannot blame others for everything and make progress at the same time. We make progress when we take responsibility for our lives and work to improve them.

Sorry about the long post but I had to get it off my chest. Thank you for listening.

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