In the Sudan, In Somalia, in the Congo, in Bosnia and in so many other places and in so many other wars, women are the spoils of war and also used as temporary payments and more insidiously as a means of ethnic cleansing (in Bosnia, for instance, women were selectively raped/ impregnated by Croats and Serbs as as a means of destroying the Bosnian muslim race) and of population control (forced marriage),... in Somalia, the al-Shabaab, force parents to hand over their daughters for arranged marriages that last for a week or so, just another form of sexual slavery. They claim that as "holy" warriors,that they are defending the purity of Islam and so they seize women and girls and gang-rape and otherwise abuse them. Raped, robbed, mutilated and killed with impunity. Those who manage to live, are shuned by their family and must fend for themselves as refugees, where they become victims again . "I don't know what religion they are", a 17 yr old who witnessed her friend buried up to her neck so she can be stoned to death and for what? refusing to marry an al-Shabaab commander. She was later gang-raped by them after being told that "you are next" by men who claim to be on a jihad and that any resistance is a crime against Islam. The year is ending and even in this seaon of peace and goodwill, the hatred, the killings, the raw under-belly of society lay exposed. In the Old Testament, soldiers are told to go into villages, kill all the men but not the women....spoils of war, ethnic cleansing.
An eight year -old girl is harsassed and spat upon by a middle-aged ultra Orthodox in Beit Shemesh, Israel, on her way to school, accusing her of dressing immodestly. This is not an isolated case. The ultras, more and more are demanding strict adherence to their values; gender segregation, signs telling women to stay away from certain streets in their areas, women must sit at the back of buses ( hello Alabama etc), and shops are told to stop posting photographs of women or even employing them in shops patronized by ultras......these weak-minded zealots are so easily discomfited by women. Why? "We are fighting for the soulof the nation and the essence of the state" Pres. Shimon Peres, calling on the entire nation to mobilise "to rescue the majority from the claws of a small minority"
This small minority and its brother -in arms, the settlers have too long been allwed to run rampant. Now is the time of reckoning and the threat to the dream of a democratic, secular Israel is palpable.
In Egypt, a youg woman is brutally beaten, stomped on , undressed and drag away to prison. Others are forced to undergo "virginity tests'. They are beaten, electrocuted, accused of being prostitutes and otherwise forcibly examined. This was justified by a top army officer, saying that they were necessary to head off possible charges of rape (he wasn't smirking). An Egyptian court has ordered the army to stop the virginity tests, after a human rights group sued, calling the practice " torture and sexual violence".
In Afghanistan, a woman who was raped by her brother-in klaw was sentenced to prison for adultery. The perpetrator was not punished. After the case was publicised, Pres. Karzai pardoned the woman but stipulated that she must marry the rapist (a child was born from this abuse). This is doubling the penalty to the woman. There is widespread practice of men raping women, and while doing so, repeatefld uttering, "I marry you, I marry you" and that makes it ok. How gisgusting, especially as this practice is widespread and condoned. Women live in constant fear. They cannot work, go to school, go out without male consent and at home they are subjected to rape by relatives and then are condemned as adulterous, and subject to "honor killing". Where is the honor?
The lot of women is daunting. Even in so-called developed society such as ours, they are subject to the whims, fears, weaknesses, strictures of men. We talk of "equality of rights", but we continue to limit the rights of women. We may not have "honcr killing" or call it so, but women...wifves/girl-friend/children are still brutalised/killed in our society. In 2008 9 of 11 killed in conjugal violence were women and 23 of 27 attempted murders were committed against women.i Let's hope that the new year will bring about the necessary changes and make lives better for all, for in limiting the rights of others ,we limit our rights also and we deny the individual geniuses that can make the difference.
Federalism is a bargaining relationship. It is a synthesis of Unitray(centralised eg. Britain and Confederal (decentralised eg. USA under The Articles of Confederation, Switzerland) syatems of government. The constituent units (states/provinces) have local/regional powers (sec.92) and the national govt. has national powers (sec.91, defence etc). There are some areas of concurrent powers.
In Canada, there has been a tussle between the two levels of govt. over the years but through compromises and decisions of the Supreme Court an understanding was reached, whereby differences will be settled through dialogue at the ministerial level or failing that at the leadership level at Federal/ Provincial meetings. This has led to what has been called "co-operative federalism" and with a few exceptions (Trudeau and the Energy Policy, Bi-lingualism; Mulrooney on Free Trade . Meech Lake ), had come to define the relationship between the rwo levels of government. A form of "Executive Federalism" was established to bring the Prime Minister and the Provincial Premiers together on a regular basis . This has worked to remove tensions within the system and had established stability in the system, more stability than in any other federation (of course the one "boogaboo' has continued to be but with less and less danger, the issue of Quebec's place in the federation).
The majority victory of the Ref-Con (Reform/ Conservative) in the last election has seen the politics of consensus replaced by the politics of polarisation, as it applies to the provinces and the federal govt. and between the Govt. and the other political parties. This was bluntly present at the meeting of finance ministers recently, when federal Finance minister Flaherty stunned his provincial counter-parts with his plan to fund medicare. No negotiations. No provincial input. No compromises, just take or leave it. Health care funding will be 6% ( as agreed upon before) up to 2016-17. After that. increases will be tied to economic growth, including inflation, but would not fall below 3%. Provinces will be urged to be"accountable", but there will be no intrusion on how health care is delivered. as long as it is publicly funded. This has caused a split among the provinces, with the West not complaining, but the others led by Ontario are furious. The complaint is not only about the threats to the single payer, publicly-funded, universally accessible with national programs with common standards, but the manner in which it was done. This debate will be ongoing, especially after Canadians become aware of what has been done, the possible threats to medicare ( remember the attempts by Klein and Harris to undermine the Canada Health Act) and the high-handed manner in which it has been done.
There is a pattern being followed here by the Harper government, especially by the Reform wing, (the stronger part , Kenny Toews, Baird, Flaherty etc). Bills are being rammed through parliament. Closures and time constraint are used to cut off or limit debates, whether it be the bill to close the gun registry, climate change and withdrawal from Kyoto (without any replacement), or the omnibus crime bill (up to nine different bills stuck together for quick passage) which was done so hurriedly that the Justice Minister Toews had to rush amendments to the committees after the bill was passed second reading ( he refused to accept opposition amendments).
There is tension in the House (members shouting profanities...Trudeau calling Kent " a piece of shit" for his treatment of an NDP member whom he accused of not going to Durban, when he prevented her accreditation; Martin tweeting about the "f'...ing" govt. restricting debates and others shouting. whistling and stomping, with the Speaker unable to control proceedings). The fall session ended in anger and rancour.
The provinces are angry not only about the health funding (Ontario), but about Kyoto and climate change ; about the crime bill, especially Quebec,which is also angry about the gun registry.
Harper's approach is to divide and govern. It may work in the short term, but it undermines the sysyem and will bring to the fore the things that divide us. That is a threat to the stability, that has been the hallmark of the Canadian Federation.
This is government by stealth, by secrecy, by division, by dictat.
Iraq is one of the long line of wars started by lies. The Spanish-American war of 1898 (the sinking of the Maine ...did not happen, the Hearst newspaper were complicit), Pearl Harbour (Japan was going to attack and take out the American Pacific Fleet but the Americans had broken the Japanese code and knew about impending attack and was able to move enough of the fleet and not deter the Japanese..suck them in "day of infamy?". The Gulf of Tonkin resolution to widen the Vietnam War; the threat to American students in Grenada and the building of a huge runway were excuses for Regan to invade; the overthrow of Noreiga (an ally in the drug war and the war in Nicaragua) by older Bush because he was a liability to him , an embarassing inconvenience (photos of them together when Bush was head of CIA); the first Iraqi war (Saddam was an ally in the war against Iran, armed and advised, but after the war he had to be dealt with and so he was tricked into invading Kuwait. He had complained that the Kuwaitis was stealing Iraqi oil by slant drilling. He complained to the American ambassador, April Glaspie, who made it clear to Saddam that "Americans don't have much to say about Arab-Arab differences...........all we hope is that you solve those matters quickly". Saddam saw this as a green light and so a few days later he invaded, Bush saw an opportunity. "This will not stand", he thundered and launched his attack on Iraq. Eleven years later George W. Bush using the lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction ordered the invaiion of Iraq.
Nine years later the United States withdrew from Iraq. They had failed to convince the Iraqi government to grant special status to American forces, if they remian in Iraq. So nine years, 45,000 Americans killed, 100, 000+ Iraqis killed, tens of thousands wounded, a trillion$ spent, a country largely destroyed, millions displaced and water, electricity, housing, medical care largely missing and a people trying to cope with deprivation and lawlessness. This is the legacy. There is no democray. Yes, elections were held and the Shia(60%) majority control power, but the Sunnis (who had enjoyed power under Saddam) are shut out from power and from the economy, their area largely left unbuilt and the Kurds in the north where a lot of oil is located want their own country. This is a recipe for civil war and it is coming. Iran which had lost the war with Saddam in the 80s, is riding high.
The Americans have withdrawn their military, but there will be between 16,000-17,0000 diplomats, CIA, DEA, contractors etc. remaining in Iraq. In Basra, they are building a giant consulate and in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the world is being built. Iraq is still very important to the Americans. First, there is all that oil and secondly there is Iran, possibly the next target.
Many in the Shia leadership had lived in exile in Iran when Saddam was in power. They speak Parsi and are fellow Shias and have a close relationship with the Iranian regime. Iran is now the regional power and this will not sit lightly with the Americans and its Israeli ally. That is the reason why there have been mounting pressures on Iran and its "nuclear programme". So far China and Russia (India also) are not in favor of additional sanctions. Obama is too busy holding off the Republicans, so expect nothing more drastic from him, unless of course, Iran does or is accused of doing something that can be used to galvanize the country to war (most Americans are war weary and it would take something extra-ordinary to get them war-hooping) and of course help his re-election. Any action therefore, on Iran will be by Israel, but this will be very dangerous
So here we are. Nine years and the situation is more volatile. There is greater uincertainty, greater instability, greater insecurity. Criminal waste.
"You are leaving Canada, and you are not even saying goodbye",quipped the Indian Environment minister to his Canadian counterpart, Kent, the former newsreader. Kent had been threatening to leave Kyoto agreement, but in the end, the European Union,the Alliance of Small Island States and the least- developed countries were able to lead the Durban conference to a deal. It was not ideal but practical, given the opposition of United States, Canada and Japan and the concerns of India and China.
It was agreed that Kyoto will be extended the end of 2017 (it was scheduled to end in 2012). Secondly, a legally binding treaty will be decided by 2015, through the process called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, that will be "applicable to all Parties to the UN climate convention". There will be more transparency in the actions of all countries. Thirdly a fund, the Green Climate Fund will channel up to $100 billion by 2020 to poorer nations.
the 195 members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed that this regime will be finalised by 2015 and that emissions will be cut no later than 2020. Negotiations will be difficult, as indicated by the fact that Canada, United States and Japan have decided not to participate in the extended Kyoto agreement, until and unless China and India and other large emitters make their own committments. Canada has also refused to provide any new money for the Fund "until the recepients committed to targets and transparent reporting of their efforts"The Ref/Con government played their hands, trying derailing and delaying tactics , and they have gotten 4 years to play around with. The develpoment of the Tar Sands is their major concern. The Tar Sands will be developed, there is no stopping it. The United States, China have a voracious appetite for fossil fuels and this will continue to grow and thus they will want to see its development. What must be addrssed is the amount of damage that this will have on the environment and how to limit that damage.
Durham achieved a small victory. This must be built on.
26 of the 27 nations of the Euro zone have agreed to a more integrative economic union. The only holdout is Britain, and they risked being isolated. The British want to protect the London financial centre by having a veto on a proposed financial tax, but the others did grant this and so in a huff Cameron,who was described as a "clumsy"negotiator by a senior Eurpoean diplomat, decided against joining the others. He was immediately criticised by his coalition partner deputy prime minister Clegg and this may jeopardised his government.
The new pact call for national budget deficit to be below 0.5%. Also there will ne automatic penalties for those who exceed the 3% debt ceiling and must report how much debt they plan to take on through bond sales. A new permenent bailout fund, to be called the European Stability Mechanism will take over the current rescue fund in July 2012. Finally, the most significant new element of the agreement is a green light for the euro area to provide the IMF with up to 200 billion euros
($268 billion) to help debt-ridden members. Germany's Merkel and France's Sarkozy have bet their political future on this "new beginning'. Both are facing elections next year and they both need a boost as they are sagging in the polls. This is not a done deal as some of the 26 have to hold a referendum . The next three months are crucial. Sarkozy was elated. Merkel was cautious and Cameron was stunned (once he said he was out, it took mere minutes for the other 26 to agree) One EU diplomat summed up the outcome this wat "Britain seethes, Germany sulks, and France gloats"
The people spoke and their message was clear. In Egypt the Islamists won a combine 61% of the votes, split between the Islamic Brotherhood and its ultra -conservative Salafists rivals.Putting on a pragmatic image the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party won 36.6% and the Salafi al-Nour won 24.5, while the liberal Egyptian Bloc won 13.4% in the first round. If this holds and there is no reason why it should not (except for the fact that many voters stayed away who may be supporters of the "liberals"), it will set up a struggle with the military over Egypt's political future.(We should keep in mind, what happened in Algeria in 1991, when fundamentalists won the election but the military took power, with a civilian front). Elections are scheduled to be completed in January 2012.
In Russia the 12 year domination of Putin and his United Russia Party, has ended. Voters sent a clear message that they are tired of his hard-lined security policies and his showmanship and that they have lost trust in him and Medvedev. Exit polls suggest that United Russia received only between 45.5% and 48.5% of the votes for the Duma, a drop from 64.3% in 2007. The Communist party (20%) and other parties have complained of widespread fraud. Putin is expected to win the presidential election in March, but will not have his way. In the past United Russia, with its two-third majority could do what they wanted, from waging war in Chechnya, reasserting Russian control over the regions, changing the constitution to presiding over economic revival after the disaster of Yelstin. Now he will be forced to work with the opposition. Medvedev is expected to be the fall guy, which would allow Putin to name another Prime Minister. If Putin wins , and in all likelihood he will, he may be in power until2024.
In Guyana, the governing Peoples Progressive Party lost its majotity, losing 4 seats to fall to 32 of the 65 seats (48.8%) distributed on the basis of proportional representation. They have been in power sine 1992 (after la grande noirceur...the great darkness of the previous 24 years of racial division and violence) and had suceeded in reviving the economy and bringing some racial peace in the South American republic. The renamed Peoples National Congress (A Partnership for National Unity..APNU), which had helg power from 1968-1992, won 26 seats with 40% of the votes and the Alliance for Change,,AFC won 7 seats and 10.3% of the votes
. Infighting in the PPP, "a collision of ambitions" which saw some long-standing members breaking away and joining the AFC and taking some voters with them led to this situation. The former Secretary of the PPP, Donald Ramotar, a mostly backroom player with litle experience in governance (this was where the "collision of ambitions" took place), was its presidential candidate and was sworn in as the 7th president. He has a great opportunity to use this"'setback" to continue the healing process, by forming a coalition government, bringing in some members the opposing parties. That is, if he has not neen soured by his years in the backroom, plotting strategy against these opponents.
The voters of Guyana have shown great maturity. They sent a message to the PPP that they will not be taken for granted. That they will not reward shoddy governance and at least in the case of Moses Nagamootoo will not forget his great contribution and sacrifices for the PPP and the country. Now it is time for the leadership to show their maturity. It is time for healing. Carpe diem...Grab it.