Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Freakout

We know what day it is!

WikiLeaks barred by the Great Firewall of China:

Links to the WikiLeaks website were blocked within China on Wednesday amid potentially embarrassing claims made in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables posted to the site.

Attempts to access and were met with a notice saying the connection had been reset. That's the standard response when a website is being blocked by Chinese authorities who exert rigid controls over Internet content.

It wasn't clear when the blocks were imposed, although a vast swath of the Internet is inaccessible behind China's firewall, including social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Human rights and political dissent-themed sites are also routinely banned, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called "Great Firewall" with proxy servers or other alternatives.

WikiLeaks may have been singled out because of some of the assertions made in the leaked cables, including some sent from the U.S. Embassies in Seoul and Beijing focusing on China's ally North Korea.

Surprise, surprise.

Related (because it is funny):

And where are the intelligence agencies on which we lavish $80 billion a year? Assange has gone missing. Well, he's no cave-dwelling jihadi ascetic. Find him. Start with every five-star hotel in England and work your way down. 

South Korea needs to wear its Big Boy Pants. Now:

South Korea's next defence chief threatened Friday that jets would bomb the North if it stages another attack like last week's deadly shelling as he outlined a tough new military policy toward the rival neighbour.

President Lee Myung-bak's government is suffering intense criticism that its response to North Korea's Nov. 23 barrage on a South Korean island was weak, and over the stunning revelation that the South's spy chief dismissed information in August indicating the North might attack the front-line island of Yeonpyeong.

Lee's nominee, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary confirmation hearing that further North Korean aggression will result in airstrikes. He said South Korea will use all its combat capabilities to retaliate....

Despite the bold declarations, questions have been raised about Lee's readiness — and even willingness — to stand up to the North. The president has been criticized for leading a military whose response to the attack was seen as too slow and too weak. The North fired 170 rounds, compared with 80 returned by South Korea.

Satellite photos showed only about 10 South Korean rounds landed near North Korea's army barracks along the west coast, according to the office of lawmaker Kwon Young-se, who said he saw the images provided Thursday by the National Intelligence Service.

Despite the pressure, Lee must balance calls for a harsh response with the knowledge that Seoul — a city of more than 10 million people and the economic heart of the country — lies only 30 miles (50 kilometres) from the Koreas' heavily militarized border and within easy range of North Korean artillery.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Friday that North Korea has recently improved its ability to hit the capital: North Korea now has 5,200 rockets, about 100 more than it used to, the agency said, citing an unidentified South Korean military source. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said it could not confirm the report because it involves military intelligence.

There should be no reason for slow responses. North Korea needs to understand the immediate ramifications of unprovoked shelling do not include resuming aid and six-party talks.

Kim Jong-Il is a monster:

North Korea is a giant prison. Worse than a prison, in fact, because prisoners in normal countries don't have to forage for wild grass, or catch rats, to stay alive. For most Westerners, who aren't permitted to see this real-life Mordor with their own eyes, the country's horrors are so vast that they lie in a surreal place beyond our political imaginations. North Korea seems less an actual country than a sort of sovereign theme park dedicated to the glorification of evil....
Norbert Vollertsen, a blond middle-aged German doctor, first travelled to North Korea in 1999, as part of his charity work with an international NGO. Taking shifts in a Pyongyang emergency room, he was horrified by the scenes he witnessed. Even patients with treatable diseases such as diabetes and tuberculosis lay dying on gurneys. Meanwhile, the medication that had been sent from Germany to save their lives was on sale for American dollars at a special Pyongyang store reserved for foreign diplomats. 

One day, Vollertsen saw a line-up in front of his hospital. He learned that a tractor-factory worker had been severely burned by molten metal, and that the people queuing up were donating pieces of their own skin so that the man could be saved. Such scenes, Vollertsen learned, were common in North Korea: Some of the hospital nurses had gone through this procedure so many times that their whole bodies were covered with scars. Vollertsen made the fateful decision to join the line-up, as a gesture of solidarity with the patients he was treating. 

At first, his hosts were skeptical: Some worried that this German's skin might be affected with exotic Western germs. But they took his donation anyway, and word spread about his unusual gesture. 

A week later, Vollertsen was asked to make another skin donation. But this time, when he showed up at the hospital, North Korean TV cameras filmed the whole thing. The event was broadcast on the country's (only) newscast, and Vollertsen was celebrated as a national hero -- the German who loved North Korea so much he was willing to give his very flesh. The regime even awarded him the "North Korean Friendship medal" and -- more importantly -- a driver's licence that permitted him to roam the North Korean countryside unimpeded. No Western journalist has ever had such access. 

Nothing Vollertsen had seen in Pyongyang prepared him for the even more piteous scenes he witnessed in the rural provinces. 

All around were desolate landscapes -- the forests having been chopped down for firewood. Starvation was rampant: Most peasants survived on bags of donated rice from the West (which the North Korean government claimed to be a form of "tribute" delivered from fearful Western powers). "I know about hunger in Africa and in other poor Asian nations -- I have seen it," Vollertsen told me. "But in North Korea, the situation is more severe, because the people are afflicted not only with hunger, but by brutal cold weather. In Africa, the warm temperatures can sustain people to a certain extent. But people will die quickly in the cold unless they have enough calories. After a night of minus-25 degrees, old people especially simply will not wake up." 

The patients Vollertsen treated in children's clinics were scarcely more animated than corpses. He recalled to me one particularly haunting specimen -- an emaciated 12-year-old whose striped pajamas, reminiscent of a Nazi concentration camp prisoner, struck a grim historical chord with Vollertsen. "He looked straight into my eyes," the German doctor remembers, "so full of sorrow and despair. No future. No hope. Nothing. It reminded me of the photos of the people you see at the Washington Holocaust museum." 

The next day, the child died. But before he did, Vollertsen snapped his photo -- along with shots of dozens of other children. Ordinarily, such usage of cameras is banned in North Korea. But Vollertsen told the doctors that the photos would be useful for soliciting donations from Germany. 

It was around this time that something snapped in Vollertsen's mind. He no longer wanted to provide mere palliative care to North Korea's walking dead. He wanted to awaken the world to the massive scale of the country's horrors. "As a German who always had felt guilty about the Nazi past, that was the moment when I realized I couldn't remain silent about what I was seeing," he told me. "That was when I began my protest."

Using his privileged access, Vollertsen secretly chauffeured visiting foreigners to sites beyond Pyongyang's Potemkin village. The result was an Oct. 25, 2000 Washington Post scoop in which North Korean destitution was laid bare. Shortly thereafter, Vollertsen was expelled, and moved to a new life in South Korea as a human-rights activist. (The regime in Pyongyang now calls him a mentally unstable Western agitator.) 

Since 2000, Vollertsen has written books, testified to Congress in Washington, treated sick North Korean refugees in China, and spoken to any journalist who would listen. Yet despite his amazing eyewitness reports, he's often had trouble attracting interest, even from fellow Western activists. 

"When I talk to people, often all they want to discuss is how horrible things are in Guantanamo, or Gaza. They're focused on Israel and the United States. Sometimes, they even accuse me of working for the CIA, or being too 'pro-Western.' " It's a phenomenon he finds maddening. 

Even in South Korea, he tells me, it is hard to arouse interest in the horrors unfolding just across the border -- especially in the case of young adults, who have no memory of the Korean War. "This is something I saw in Germany when I was growing up: Young people felt a sense of kinship with the East German communists to piss off their parents," he tells me. "Exactly the same thing is happening in South Korea. Young South Koreans know nothing about the reality in the north, and they are effectively pro-Pyongyang."

There is a way to reach these young South Koreans. Take away their cell phones. Tell them their kimbap and Starbucks cards are next. Watch the tears of sympathy flow. Their grandparents and parents knew about loss. Taking away their cell phones might be the only way to shake them from complacency. Let it not be said that materialism is good.


It's all that global warming and tar sands and such:

The death toll from a deep freeze in Poland has increased to 30 with a dozen more deaths overnight, officials said Friday, while some of the worst floods in a century devastated parts of the Balkans.

Many of those who died in Poland are drunks or homeless people and police canvassed the streets in the hopes of preventing more from freezing to death. Temperatures across most of Poland were around -15 C (5 F).

Authorities, meanwhile, declared a state of emergency in three Balkan countries — Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro — and evacuated hundreds of people after heavy rainfall caused severe flooding along the Drina River — the worst in 104 years. But floodwaters receded significantly overnight in Bosnia, leaving a trail of mud and debris in many areas.

Bosnian authorities used rafts to rescue people Thursday from apartments in Foca, and on the other side of the river, hundreds of people were evacuated in Serbia and Montenegro as the Drina flooded farms and roads. Schools were closed, many people had no electricity or heat, and water supplies were contaminated along the river in all three countries.

Thousands of people and livestock were also evacuated from northwestern Albania after severe floods. A state of emergency was declared in the city of Shkodra, which remains isolated from the rest of the country by days of heavy rain.

The frigid weather has also caused travel chaos across parts of Europe with airport closure reported in several countries Thursday.

Notorious daughter-killer cannot counsel the disabled:

Robert Latimer is not permitted to make decisions for "significantly disabled people" as it would elevate his risk to reoffend, the National Parole Board has ruled. 

Latimer, a farmer from Wilkie, Sask., is expected to return to his family after being granted full parole last week. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1997 for the 1993 carbon monoxide poisoning death of his daughter, Tracy, 13, who was born with cerebral palsy and lived with severe chronic pain. 

The case, which Latimer described as a mercy killing, sparked a nationwide debate on euthanasia.

"Your long-term goal is to rejoin your family in another province," reads a National Parole Board document released Wednesday. 

The document also says Latimer, 57, must abide by two special conditions when he walks free on Monday: he must not have responsibility for those with significant disabilities and he must attend psychological counselling. 

It should be crystal-clear why this is.

Why post-secondary education should be de-funded:
The denouement of the historic Struggle To Wrest $700 From The Zionist Clutches Of The UBC Alma Mater Society unfolded Wednesday night with a glorious victory going to the heroic forces of Omar “F*** Canada” Shaban (with whom the Canadian Arab Federation is too embarassed to associate), thus conclusively ending “two weeks of hardline anti-Palestine rhetoric and bullying on campus by pro-Israeli government groups.”

Two quick corrections to the historic record are immediately necessary.

1. The “hardline anti-Palestine bullying” claim appears to have construed events backwards and sideways. The campus rumpus actually started when AMS President Bijan Ahmadian, “shaken from the physical intimidation,” had to call security to escort Shaban from his office.

2. Despite what the headlines say, the measly $700 Shaban and his friends so valiantly procured from the UBC AMS budget is not going to be spent on “aid for Gaza.” Their $300,000 fundraising target is confined to funding the costs of a “boat and crew,” not aid to Gaza. It’s not clear whether their boat is intended to carry anything to Gaza at all. 

These flotilla spectacles are objectively pro-Hamas moral-exhibitionism displays, and anyone who says it’s necessary to ply trade with Hamas in order to get aid to the Palestinians of Gaza is lying to you.

If you really want to help the people of Gaza, you don’t need to give your money to creeps like Shaban. In fact, all you need to do is pay your taxes. You can always do more — please do. But paying your taxes will get a thousand times more help into the hands of the people of Gaza than all the money in the bags of cash George Galloway handed over to Hamas strongman Ismael Haniya, and all the flotilla masquerades, and all the Omar Shaban catharsis-shows combined.

Harper stands with Israel but we stand with cap in hand to these total tools. And to think universities are meant to train doctors and teachers- you know- useful people. 

And now, a dog on a two pedestals.

No comments: