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Candide’s Latest: December 11, 2006

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British Wisdom
End of the “War on Terror”

No, it's not a game

From the UK Observer: “Cabinet ministers have been told by the Foreign Office to drop the phrase 'war on terror' and other terms seen as liable to anger British Muslims and increase tensions more broadly in the Islamic world. The shift marks a turning point in British political thinking about the strategy against extremism and underlines the growing gulf between the British and American approaches to the continuing problem of radical Islamic militancy. It comes amid increasingly evident disagreements between President George Bush and Tony Blair over policy in the Middle East. Experts have welcomed the move away from one of the phrases that has most defined the debate on Islamic extremism, but called it 'belated'. […] A Foreign Office spokesman said the government wanted to 'avoid reinforcing and giving succour to the terrorists' narrative by using language that, taken out of context, could be counter-productive'. The same message has been sent to British diplomats and official spokespeople around the world. […] Many senior British politicians and counter-terrorism specialists have always been uneasy with the term 'the war on terror', coined by the White House in the week following the 9/11 attacks, arguing that the term risked inflaming opinions worldwide. Other critics said that it was too 'military' and did not adequately describe the nature of the diverse efforts made to counter the new threat.” The full story…

Insurgent Americans
Secret Iraq Negotiations Fail

From the UK Times: “Secret talks in which senior American officials came face-to-face with some of their most bitter enemies in the Iraqi insurgency broke down after two months of meetings, rebel commanders have disclosed. The meetings, hosted by Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, brought insurgent commanders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, together for the first time. After months of delicate negotiations Allawi, a former Ba’athist and a secular Shi’ite, persuaded three rebel leaders to travel to his villa in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to see Khalilzad in January. […] Last week the long-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former secretary of state, and Lee Hamilton, a former congressman, called for America to seek to engage with all parties in Iraq, with the exception of Al-Qaeda. However, the insurgents’ account of the hushed-up meetings reveals that concerted attempts to engage them in negotiations had already failed earlier this year. […] The trio of Iraqi negotiators claimed to represent three-quarters of the “resistance”. It included Ansar al- Sunnah, the group responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 22 in a US army canteen in Mosul in December 2004, and also the 1920 Revolution Brigade, which has carried out many kidnappings and claimed to have shot down a British Hercules aircraft near Tikrit in January 2005, in which 10 people died.” The full story…

Lebanon’s New Mob
As Shiites Hit the Fan

Anthony Shadid in The Post: “Once the country's most downtrodden, entrenched in feudal misery, Lebanon's Shiites stand today on the verge of their greatest political power in the history of a diverse country defined by its fractious religious communities: Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Druze and Christians. But their ascent is a story of contradictions: Now at the peak of that power, confident of victory, the community is still shaped by its own sense of vulnerability and weakness. Its leaders rely on age-old notions of backroom, under-the-table Lebanese politics replete with patronage, a cult of leadership and the influence money buys. But they may be reshaped by leaving a legacy of turning to the street with populist demands. And in pursuit of power, through the protests that began Dec. 1, the Shiites, the country's single-largest community, may end up breaking a system that appears to be buckling under the stress of Lebanon's most acute crisis since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990. The drama unfolding here draws on a long history of persecution, both real and perceived, but is propelled by the most recent events in Lebanon, as Shiites try to shape the country following the Syrian withdrawal last year and, as important, the war with Israel this summer.” The full story…

L’infâme: Creationism’s Cretins
Hiding Fossils

From the Observer: “The world's most important collection of human fossils may soon be hidden from public view - if religious leaders get their way. In a move that has stunned scientists, senior clergy have demanded that the bones and skulls currently exhibited in Nairobi's National Museum of Kenya be removed from display to prevent young Africans from being corrupted. 'It's creating a big weapon against Christians that's killing our faith,' said Bishop Boniface Adoyo, who is leading the hide-the-bones campaign. 'When children go to museums they'll start believing we evolved from these apes.' Not surprisingly, the bishop's remarks have infuriated scientists who consider the museum's collection to be unrivalled anywhere else in the world. Its fossils include those of the 4 million-year-old apeman, Australopithecus anamensis, the 1.5 million-year-old remains of the Nariokotome boy, the most complete skeleton of an ancient human ever found, and a series of other bones that highlight crucial phases of our evolutionary past. Many of these fossils were discovered by palaeontologists Louis and Mary Leakey in areas around Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana and are generally regarded as providing stark demonstrations of how our species was shaped by natural selection.” The full story…

  • The item provoked this reflection, and a must-read essay on censorship, by Natasha at Pacific Views: “We're governed by people who are nothing but holes through which food flows in the process of accumulating more flesh, without even the sense to care what might happen to their grandchildren in a world they're systematically dismantling for their extravagant feasts of power and luxurious consumption. Useless fucking nihilsts all.” The full essay…

South Africa 2010
World Cup 1, Wetlands 0

From the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian: “A wetland has been bulldozed in Nelspruit as part of plans to construct a new stadium for the 2010 soccer World Cup. The wetland was not bulldozed to make way for the Mbombela stadium itself but for a school that will have to be temporarily relocated because it is currently on the site where the stadium will be built. No environmental impact assessment was done before the bulldozers moved into the wetland. The stadium, one of 10 venues in South Africa planned for 2010, will seat 45 000 spectators. Located on open land 6km west of Nelspruit, the stadium will be the centrepiece of a proposed sports and conference precinct, with a panoramic view over the city. Construction is due to start next year. The department of public works in the province is handling the relocation of the school. But spokesperson Ina Georgala told the Mail & Guardian that public works only did what its client, the Mpumalanga department of education, had requested it to do.” The full story…

Pre-9/11 NSA Peeping
Bugging Diana

From The Age: “US intelligence listened to Princess Diana's telephone calls without British approval on the night she died in a Paris car accident, The Observer newspaper said today, citing findings of a long-awaited report. The surveillance arm of the US government admitted to Lord John Stevens, who led an independent probe that confirms the crash was an accident, that it had listened to her conversations while she stayed at the Ritz Hotel, it said. It failed to notify MI6, Britain's overseas intelligence agency, the weekly said, adding the issue will raise new questions about trans-Atlantic agreements on intelligence sharing. Stevens was apparently assured that the 39 classified documents concerning her final conversations did not contain material that might help explain her death, The Observer said. No explanation for the alleged eavesdropping was given.” The full story…

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