For lack of a real person finds it surprising that only 64% voted against the ban on gun sales in Brazil, and suggests that with 36,000 annual gun deaths in Brazil, Americans should stop complaining about their 2000 Iraq war dead. Huh? Why?
Here are photos from the 2000 too many peace protest in New York's Times Square the day before yesterday. The NY Times has a chilling online interactive feature with the faces, names and ages of the (mostly) young men who died.
How's this for perspective instead? At least 26,732 Iraqi civilians dead, according to Iraq Body Count.
Bombs don't kill people
oD friend, Hossein Derakhshan says in today's Guardian (UK), that the world should worry more about whether Iran has a democratic government than whether it has nuclear weapons.
"Beware the bomber, not the bomb," goes the headline - reminds me of the old mantra of the US National Rifle Association, "Guns don't kill people, people do". I suppose a country has the right to defend itself, but don't tell me nuclear bombs don't kill people. Hossein's argument is more thoughtful than that, take a look.
Foreign aid for America
I pledged to send some money to victims of Katrina the other day, and was surprised to receive a few emails and comments from friends and family who had consciously decided not to donate because they felt the US should help itself - or rather - learn to help its poor instead of wasting all their resources making a mess of Iraq. I think it's bizarrely optimistic to expect anything good to come out of not sending food, soap and water to desperate people. Or maybe I should call it cynicism. Strange, that intense anger and frustration over the images on TV should cause people to do nothing instead of something.
Well. The US has received official offers of aid from 95 countries in the past weeks (about a billion dollars worth), and judging by this transcript from the foreign press briefing at the US Department of State yesterday there is no lack of cynicism with regard to the offers or the responses to them. Fidel Castro offered 1,500 doctors only weeks after snubbing a US offer of US$50,000 aid to help with hurricane Dennis in Cuba. Iran offered 20 million barrels of oil, but only on the condition that America lifted sanctions against the country. Is it too late to make my offer conditional on better behaviour of the Bush administration?
23 July: Downing Street Memo 3rd anniversary
If pre-war intelligence was intentionally manipulated the world deserves to know. Over 150 events have been planned on 23 July across the United States by a giant coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, known as AfterDowningStreet.org, to campaign for the US Congress to begin a formal investigation into the revelations of the Downing Street Memo.
At least eight events will be hosted by or participated in by members of Congress. The office of Congressman Conyers in Detroit has organised a further 105 house parties through their website. In London, on Downing Street itself (2pm) a group of activists will perform a recreation of the Downing Street Memo as a Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
Check out the cool map, and see if there is an event near you.
Help: Iran's leading dissident is dying
We've been covering this over in Iran Scan 1384. Journalist and human rights champion Akbar Ganji is on hunger strike in an Iranian prison, and his supporters seriously fear for his life. There's been some coverage in the Western press - mostly thanks to the New York Sun's Eli Lake (an Iran Scan contributor) who even seems to have managed to provoke comment in support of Ganji by President Bush.
Activists are rallying together at the Release Ganji! campaign. And today I received a phone call from Human Rights First asking me to post this link: Click Here to Take Action. Please click on it, and visit Iran Scan for more links. Sign a petition, write a letter, and spread the word. It will make a difference.
Today, we also received this article with the latest statement from Ganji's lawyer Shirin Ebadi.
By Veronique Mistiaen
Iran's most prominent jailed dissident, journalist Akbar Ganji has now been on hunger strike for more than month in Tehran's Evin prison, and his life is in danger. Ganji's lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner 2003, expressed grave concerns over his state of health and urged people around the world to publicize his plight and call for his release.
Under attack in Ethiopia
This report from Addis Ababa on recent brutality in the Ethiopian capital "done in the name of democracy" came in late yesterday through Glenn Brigaldino (an oD reader and writer). It has been posted elsewhere too but Glenn wanted to make sure the report and its call for international attention reached oD's democracy-minded readership.
Yesterday (June 10,2005), the brutal security forces of the TPLF arrested a lot of people who are suspected of being supporters of the opposition parties. The security forces arrested these young men by breaking into selected houses of those who had supported or organized people to support the CUD and UEDF (Coalition for Unity and Democracy and United Ethiopian Democratic Forces). A lot of people are missing in Addis Ababa these days and most of the arrests are carried out at night by cutting off electric light in the areas selected for the mission...
Sisters doing it in the Middle East
This week I've happened on a few articles about women in the Middle East that are worth sharing. I wish more of it were good news. But I definitely get the feeling things are getting shook up a little. Call me an optimist. There is still a long way to go.
First, the news of Iranian women busting into a stadium in Tehran for a pre-qualification game for the World Cup in spite of a stupid ban on women attending sporting events in Iran. Keep an eye on Iran Scan 1384 for more about the role of women in their upcoming election.
Second, a brave Saudi legislator, Mohamed al-Zolfa put forward a proposal on lifting the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia. If you can't chain women's legs, at least you can chain their wheels. The proposal has not been welcomed by the men in power.
Then there was this article from Egypt about several hundreds of men and women coming together to protest a sexual assault that happened on a small group of women in plain, daylight view of the police.
"Overnight we have become national symbols," said one of the women, a lawyer, who was "groped" in the attack.
Finally, depressing news about the dangers women still face in Afghanistan. A female television host of a popular music programme was shot in her own home after receiving numerous death threats. And this woman's "shelter" in Kabul reportedly beats women if they try to escape. Check out Amnesty International's new report on the systemic failure to protect women in Afghanistan.
On the Crisis of Being French
Much has been written of the political and emotional state of a nation ahead of Sunday's referendum on the EU constitution. Called by President Chirac, the French referendum is being touted as the deciding vote on the future of the EU, and looks like backfiring on the government. With the "non" vote gaining the ascendence through an unholy alliance of far left, far right and dissident gaullists, Krzysztof Bobinski writes on the injustice of such French self-importance for the rest of Europe, and the cowardice of the British in relying upon it. Johannes Willms argues that the debate in France reveals a nation torn, and exposes deep-seated fears over national identity, whilst Frank Vibert urges the French to do us all a favour and ditch a constitutional "turkey". The BBC's correspondent in Paris John Simpson says the result is too close to call, but that its clearly touched a nerve in the ongoing debate on national life. The BBC also offers a breakdown of arguments for and against here. There is a lot of talk about identity, but the French crisis must be about more than a threat to baguettes non? Europe news offers a selection of reports from all over the world, whilst European Democracy has some interesting discussions of the implications union-wide.
Darth Vader and the Neocons
I hope I'm not giving away too much of the plot, but there's one scene in the new Star Wars film where Darth Vadar says, "If you're not with me; you are my enemy" and Jedi Master Obe Wan Kenobi responds that only Siths (bad guys) "deal in absolutes" and proceeds to (try to) kill him with his light saber. The dialogue in the movie is so construed, I couldn't help wonder whether it was subsversive nod to Bush's mantra on good and evil.
Apparently others are making similar connections. Laura Rozen from War & Piece invites her readers to chuckle at an opinion piece by Ami Eden at The Forward that asks whether Darth Vader was the Galaxy's original Neoconservative.
Taiwan a pawn in Pope's pursuit of China
The NY Times today reports thawing relations between the new Pope and the Chinese government. Eager to help persecuted Chinese Catholics and of course expand the market of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI has signalled willingness to sever Vatican ties with Taiwan in order to make buddies with China.
Getting Taiwan struck from the lists of international organisations helps confirm China's argument that Taiwan is not a real country but a breakaway province. Witness the battle over Taiwan's status in the World Health Organisation (particularly heated during the SARS crisis in 2003).