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Robert Fisk: Leaders lie, civilians die, and lessons of history are ignored December 30, 2008

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dari: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-leaders-lie-civilians-die-and-lessons-of-history-are-ignored-1215045.html

We’ve got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don’t care any more – providing we don’t offend the Israelis. It’s not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel’s side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs – who, as we all know, only understand force.

Ever since 1948, we’ve been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis – just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist “death wagon” will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be “liberated”. And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise “restraint” – as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas’s home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.

The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel’s anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas’s anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which … See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and … Got it? And we demand security for Israel – rightly – but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel. It was Madeleine Albright who once said that Israel was “under siege” – as if Palestinian tanks were in the streets of Tel Aviv.

By last night, the exchange rate stood at 296 Palestinians dead for one dead Israeli. Back in 2006, it was 10 Lebanese dead for one Israeli dead. This weekend was the most inflationary exchange rate in a single day since – the 1973 Middle East War? The 1967 Six Day War? The 1956 Suez War? The 1948 Independence/Nakba War? It’s obscene, a gruesome game – which Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, unconsciously admitted when he spoke this weekend to Fox TV. “Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game,” Barak said.

Exactly. Only the “rules” of the game don’t change. This is a further slippage on the Arab-Israeli exchanges, a percentage slide more awesome than Wall Street’s crashing shares, though of not much interest in the US which – let us remember – made the F-18s and the Hellfire missiles which the Bush administration pleads with Israel to use sparingly.

Quite a lot of the dead this weekend appear to have been Hamas members, but what is it supposed to solve? Is Hamas going to say: “Wow, this blitz is awesome – we’d better recognise the state of Israel, fall in line with the Palestinian Authority, lay down our weapons and pray we are taken prisoner and locked up indefinitely and support a new American ‘peace process’ in the Middle East!” Is that what the Israelis and the Americans and Gordon Brown think Hamas is going to do?

Yes, let’s remember Hamas’s cynicism, the cynicism of all armed Islamist groups. Their need for Muslim martyrs is as crucial to them as Israel’s need to create them. The lesson Israel thinks it is teaching – come to heel or we will crush you – is not the lesson Hamas is learning. Hamas needs violence to emphasise the oppression of the Palestinians – and relies on Israel to provide it. A few rockets into Israel and Israel obliges.

Not a whimper from Tony Blair, the peace envoy to the Middle East who’s never been to Gaza in his current incarnation. Not a bloody word.

We hear the usual Israeli line. General Yaakov Amidror, the former head of the Israeli army’s “research and assessment division” announced that “no country in the world would allow its citizens to be made the target of rocket attacks without taking vigorous steps to defend them”. Quite so. But when the IRA were firing mortars over the border into Northern Ireland, when their guerrillas were crossing from the Republic to attack police stations and Protestants, did Britain unleash the RAF on the Irish Republic? Did the RAF bomb churches and tankers and police stations and zap 300 civilians to teach the Irish a lesson? No, it did not. Because the world would have seen it as criminal behaviour. We didn’t want to lower ourselves to the IRA’s level.

Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated “terrorism”. So what was the reaction last night? The Israelis threaten ground attacks. Hamas waits for another battle. Our Western politicians crouch in their funk holes. And somewhere to the east – in a cave? a basement? on a mountainside? – a well-known man in a turban smiles.

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‘Viagra lure’ for Afghan warlords December 28, 2008

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America’s CIA has found a novel way to gain information from fickle Afghan warlords – supplying sex-enhancing drug Viagra, a US media report says.

The Washington Post said it was one of a number of enticements being used.

In one case, a 60-year-old warlord with four wives was given four pills and four days later detailed Taleban movements in return for more.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people,” the Post quoted one agent as saying.

“Whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra.”

‘Silver bullet’

The newspaper said the use of Viagra had to be handled sensitively as the drug was not always known about in rural areas.

It quoted one retired agent as saying: “You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones.”

In the case of the 60-year-old warlord – the head of a clan in southern Afghanistan who had not co-operated – operatives saw he had four younger wives.

The pills were explained and offered. Four days later the agents returned.

“He came up to us beaming,” the Post quoted an agent as saying. “He said, ‘You are a great man.’

“And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area.”

The pills could put chieftains “back in an authoritative position”, another official said.

The paper said the CIA had a long line of inducements for the notoriously fickle warlords, including dental work, visas, toys and medicine.

It quoted one private security official as saying that simply handing over large sums of money would raise suspicions about newfound wealth.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7800549.stm

Al Qaeda is More of a U.S. Propaganda Campaign than a Real Organization December 27, 2008

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http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/

Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook wrote:

Al-Qaida, literally “the database”, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told the Senate that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”.

And see this Los Angeles Times Article, reviewing a BBC documentary entitled “The Power of Nightmares”, which shows that the threat from Al Qaeda has been vastly overblown (and see this article on the people within the U.S. who are behind the hype).

Not only has the U.S. government hyped Al Qaeda, but it has issued numerous fake terror alerts to scare people.

There is a word for intentionally creating fear in order to manipulate opinion for political ends: terrorism.

Note: I had originally started this essay with the following quote:

“Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook says:

The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the TV watcher to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US.”

However, I did a little digging, and discovered that the quote was misattributed to Cook. It was actually made by former French intelligence and military officer Pierre-Henri Bunel in this speech.

Windows XP Extensions Reflect Vista’s Woes December 25, 2008

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Microsoft needs to keep its older operating system on the market in order to appease business customers.


Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) in the past week announced yet another life extension for its supposedly retired Windows XP operating system, a sign that, despite almost two years on the market, Windows Vista is a no-go for most businesses.Only 10% of 700 business executives recently surveyed by the Information Technology Industry Council and Sunbelt Software said their companies are using Windows Vista in the enterprise.

The numbers are consistent with other industry data and anecdotal observations.

A survey released in October by the United Kingdom’s Corporate IT Forum showed that only 4% of businesses in that country are using Windows Vista on workplace systems, while 35% said they were “not yet interested” in Vista. Fifty-eight percent said they were still using Windows XP, now 7 years old.

Meanwhile, IT officials for the state of Maine say their organization plans to skip Vista for state workers and will jump directly from XP to Windows 7, which Microsoft has said it plans to release in 2010.

Why such resistance to Vista? IT managers have complained about the operating system’s resource requirements — it takes considerably more PC horsepower and memory to run than XP — and its lack of compatibility with older software. In particular, new security features built into Vista’s kernel tend to break applications built for previous versions of Windows.

As a result, Microsoft is under considerable pressure from business customers to maintain XP’s availability.

On Friday, the company said it’s extending the deadline for Windows XP sales to custom PC builders.

Under the plan, system builders will be allowed to take delivery of XP licenses and media through May 30. Previously, Microsoft had announced a Jan. 31 XP cutoff date for system builders, which are typically smaller, build-to-order vendors. The news was first reported by InformationWeek.com sister site ChannelWeb.

It’s the latest in a string of reprieves for XP. Microsoft also originally planned to stop distributing Windows XP media to large OEMs, like Dell and Hewlett-Packard, on Jan. 31. But the company announced in October that it would move that deadline to July 31.

If Microsoft is on schedule with Windows 7, that would leave a gap of about just six months between the end of the XP program in most markets and Windows 7’s general availability in early 2010. It’s a sign of Microsoft’s concession that Vista has flopped in the key corporate marketplace.

Ketua Umno Bahagian PJ Selatan sah sertai Pas December 24, 2008

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http://www.bharian.com.my/Current_News/BH/Wednesday/Mutakhir/20081224124906/Article

KUALA LUMPUR: Ketua Umno bahagian Petaling Jaya Selatan, Datuk Zahar Hashim hari ini mengesahkan bahawa beliau keluar Umno dan menyertai Pas.

Beliau bagaimanapun mempertahankan tindakannya menyertai Pas itu bukan mengkhianati Umno.

Sebaliknya, beliau menuduh Umno yang mengkhianat beliau biarpun selepas 20 tahun bersama menyumbang kepada parti.

Beliau berkata demikian pada sidang akhbar mengenai keputusannya menyertai parti pembangkang di sini, hari ini.

Gapena Beri Kerajaan Tempoh Sehingga 31 Disember December 24, 2008

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http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/bm/newsgeneral.php?id=380182

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 Dis (Bernama) — Gabungan Persatuan Penulis Nasional(Gapena) memberi tempoh sehingga 31 Disember ini untuk kerajaan membuat keputusan sama ada mahu meneruskan pengajaran dan pembelajaraan sains dan matematik (PPSMI) ke Bahasa Inggeris atau sebaliknya.

Ketua II Gapena Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Abu Bakar berkata gabungan itu mahukan supaya kerajaan bertegas dan mengambil kata putus dalam isu berkenaan secepat mungkin.

“Menteri Pelajaraan boleh cakap kami beremosi. Hakikatnya kami memang beremosi, tetapi ini ialah demi mempertahankan martabat Bahasa Melayu seperti yang terkandung di bawah Perlembagaan,” katanya pada pemberita selepas majlis makan malam Gapena bersama media, di sini, malam ini.

Gapena sebelum ini mendesak kerajaan supaya membuat keputusan untuk menukar kembali pengajaran dan pembelajaran kedua-dua subjek itu kepada Bahasa Melayu.

“Kami bersedia untuk mengambil tindakan tegas termasuk membawa perkara ini ke mahkamah,” katanya.

Majlis itu turut dihadiri oleh Ketua Setiausaha Kementerian Penerangan Datuk Kamaruddin Siaraf.

Pada majlis yang sama, Pertubuhan Berita Nasional Malaysia (BERNAMA) dan akhbar Utusan Malaysia menerima anugerah sulung Anugerah Citra Gapena.

— BERNAMA

Novel Cinta Dan Majalah Pilihan Masyarakat December 23, 2008

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http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/bm/newsgeneral.php?id=379982

KUALA LUMPUR, 22 Dis (Bernama) — Novel-novel cinta dan majalah berunsur hiburan masih menjadi pilihan sebahagian besar masyarakat berbanding bahan bacaan ilmiah, kata Timbalan Ketua Pengarah Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) Kamarul Zaman Shaharuddin.

Beliau berkata novel-novel cinta laris di pasaran serta diletakkan di rak-rak depan kedai buku dan majalah hiburan seperti Mangga mempunyai pengedaran yang tinggi.

“Kita sedih sedikit kerana masyarakat kita lebih tertumpu pada bahan bacaan seperti ini, walhal dalam soal pembinaan bangsa dan pembinaan jati diri banyak lagi bidang-bidang lain yang patut diberi tumpuan,” katanya selepas menghadiri majlis menandatangani Memorandum Persefahaman (MOU) Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) dengan DBP dan pelancaran buku biografi “Sulaiman Md Yassin: Dian Di Perantauan”, di sini, Isnin.

Beliau berkata DBP tidak berhasrat untuk menerbitkan novel-novel komersial sebaliknya akan meneruskan usaha menerbitan buku dan majalah berunsur ilmiah.

“Syarikat penerbit swasta yang ada sudah mampu untuk mengembangkan karya-karya komersial, DBP hanya fokus pada penerbitan buku dan majalah yang bermutu dalam bahasa Melayu,” katanya.

Kamarul Zaman juga menepis tanggapan bahawa penerbitan buku Sains dan Matematik dalam bahasa Melayu tidak lagi relevan, walaupun kerajaan buat masa ini menetapkan bahasa pengantar untuk pembelajaran kedua-dua subjek itu ialah bahasa Inggeris.

“Ini sebenarnya tidak menjadi masalah, buku Sains dan Matematik dalam bahasa Melayu masih diperlukan dan kita sebenarnya ada pasaran, kita ada 300 juta penutur bahasa Melayu di seluruh dunia… tanggapan bahawa buku dalam bahasa Melayu tidak mengandungi nilai komersial adalah persepsi masyarakat semata-mata,” katanya lagi.

Sementara itu, Naib Canselor UMT Prof Datuk Dr Sulaiman Md Yassin berkata tujuan utama MoU itu adalah untuk menjalinkan kerjasama antara UMT dan DBP dalam penerbitan buku khususnya dalam bidang Sains Maritim, selain mengembangkan bahasa dan persuratan Melayu.

Beliau berkata masih banyak lagi yang perlu dikaji dalam bidang Sains Maritim dan UMT bercita-cita untuk mengembangkan ilmu itu dalam bahasa Melayu.

“Biografi ini adalah buku pertama yang kami hasilkan dengan kerjasama DBP, selepas ini banyak lagi buku berbentuk ilmiah yang akan diterbitkan,” katanya.

— BERNAMA

Pasir Johor hendak diangkut ke mana? December 20, 2008

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http://utusan.com.my/utusan/info.asp?y=2008&dt=1204&pub=Utusan_Malaysia&sec=Muka_Hadapan&pg=mh_02.htm

KOTA TINGGI 3 Dis. – Kewujudan tiga kawah besar yang setiap satu berkeluasan kira-kira 12 hektar di Teluk Ramunia, 80 kilometer dari sini menimbulkan kebimbangan dan keresahan di kalangan penduduk setempat.

gondolpasirjohor-mh_021

Kawah yang mencapai kedalaman 15 tingkat bangunan itu adalah kesan daripada kegiatan mengorek tiga buah bukit yang terletak kira-kira 650 meter dari pantai Teluk Ramunia, antaranya bagi mendapatkan batu granit.

Apa yang menjadi kegusaran kira-kira 10,000 penduduk di sekitar Teluk Ramunia, Punggai, Kampung Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, Sungai Rengit dan beberapa kawasan berhampiran ialah tiada usaha pemulihan dilakukan oleh syarikat perlombongan berkenaan.

Tinjauan Utusan Malaysia ke kawasan itu mendapati para penduduk bimbang kegiatan tersebut boleh mengundang pelbagai bencana seperti ditenggalami air akibat ketiadaan penahan sama ada apabila berlaku hujan lebat dan ombak besar.

Georgia judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf December 18, 2008

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dipetik dari: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081217/ap_on_re_us/muslim_headscarf_arrest;_ylt=AjvumzQKRmmOutc4iWTTqOdvzwcF

ATLANTA – A Muslim woman arrested for refusing to take off her head scarf at a courthouse security checkpoint said Wednesday that she felt her human and civil rights were violated. A judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court, said police in Douglasville, a city of about 20,000 people on Atlanta’s west suburban outskirts.

Valentine violated a court policy that prohibits people from wearing any headgear in court, police said after they arrested her Tuesday.

Kelley Jackson, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said state law doesn’t permit or prohibit head scarfs.

“It’s at the discretion of the judge and the sheriffs and is up to the security officers in the court house to enforce their decision,” she said.

Valentine, who recently moved to Georgia from New Haven, Conn., said the incident reminded her of stories she’d heard of the civil rights-era South.

“I just felt stripped of my civil, my human rights,” she said Wednesday from her home. She said she was unexpectedly released after the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations urged federal authorities to investigate the incident as well as others in Georgia.

The group cited a report that the same judge removed a woman and her 14-year-old daughter from the courtroom last week because they were wearing Muslim head scarves.

Jail officials declined to say why she was freed and municipal Court Judge Keith Rollins said that “it would not be appropriate” for him to comment on the case.

Last year, a judge in Valdosta in southern Georgia barred a Muslim woman from entering a courtroom because she would not remove her head scarf. There have been similar cases in other states, including Michigan, where a Muslim woman in Detroit filed a federal lawsuit in February 2007 after a judge dismissed her small-claims court case when she refused to remove a head and face veil.

Valentine’s husband, Omar Hall, said his wife was accompanying her nephew to a traffic citation hearing when officials stopped her at the metal detector and told her she would not be allowed in the courtroom with the head scarf, known as a hijab.

Hall said Valentine, an insurance underwriter, told the bailiff that she had been in courtrooms before with the scarf on and that removing it would be a religious violation. When she turned to leave and uttered an expletive, Hall said a bailiff handcuffed her and took her before the judge.

___

Associated Press writer Kate Brumback in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Nik Aziz Yakin Pas Akan Menang Besar Pilihan Raya Kecil Terengganu December 18, 2008

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Nik Aziz Yakin Pas Akan Menang Besar Pilihan Raya Kecil Terengganu

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By: Ramjit

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KOTA BAHARU, 17 Dis (Bernama) — Belum pun penamaan calon bagi pilihan raya kecil Parlimen Kuala Terengganu diumumkan oleh mana-mana parti yang bertanding, Mursyidul Am Pas, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat hari ini berkata beliau begitu yakin Pas akan menang besar pada pilihan raya itu, 17 Januari depan.

Menteri Besar Kelantan itu berkata keyakinan itu berikutan calon Pas yang akan bertanding pada pilihan raya itu pastinya antara yang terbaik.

“Calon memang tak bahas lagi, tapi kita bercakap pada dasar dan kita yakin sangat akan menang, kalau tidak yakin macam mana nak jadi orang Islam kerana Islam memerlukan keyakinan.

“Bukan itu sahaja, segala apa yang Umno buat selama ini Pas juga boleh buat, pembangunan, Pas boleh buat, nak jaga Melayu, Pas boleh jaga, tak ada sebab langsung untuk Umno dipilih,” katanya kepada pemberita selepas Mesyuarat Exco Kerajaan Negeri di sini.

Sebelum ini Nik Aziz sudah mempunyai calon pilihan iaitu Mohamad Sabu (Mat Sabu) untuk bertanding bagi kerusi tersebut.

Bagaimanapun, berlaku pergolakan di dalam jawatan kuasa Pas pusat menolak pilihan Nik Aziz itu kerana Mat Sabu dikatakan bukan calon sesuai biarpun pernah bertanding bagi kerusi parlimen itu.

Pesuruhjaya Pas Terengganu, Datuk Mustapa Ali; dan Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) Pas Batu Buruk, Doktor Syed Azman Syed Ahmad antara calon yang disebut-sebut akan bertanding dalam pilihan raya itu.

Pas akan mengumumkan secara rasmi calonnya pada 21 Disember ini.

Selain itu Nik Aziz berkata, rakyat daripada pelbagai kaum dan agama juga dilihat memberi sokongan penuh terhadap parti itu yang sentiasa mempertahan dan bertunjangkan kebenaran.

Beliau berkata, sokongan segenap lapisan rakyat itu turut terbukti apabila kaum Cina dan India telah secara sukarela menubuhkan kelab penyokong Pas.

— BERNAMA