This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, November 30, 2012

As convicted terrorists face possible release, Canada faced with growing problem: how do you rehabilitate them?

Stewart Bell | Nov 30, 2012 10:17 PM ET
Postmedia News files
Postmedia News files Zakaria Amara (L), Said Namouh (M), and Momin Khawaja — shown along with materials seized at his home and entered as evidence in his terrorism trial — have all been sentenced for links to terror plots.
Angered the Canadian military was in Afghanistan, Saad Gaya and Saad Khalid joined a terrorist group that plotted truck bombings in downtown Toronto. Caught in 2006, they are now imprisoned for terrorism.

But not necessarily for much longer.

Gaya became eligible for unescorted temporary absences in September, while Khalid will be eligible next week, which has some asking questions about what the government has been doing to help convicted extremists like them abandon their violent beliefs.

From the guilty pleas and convictions of the Toronto 18 ringleaders to the return of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay, Canada is experiencing a bulge in the number of prisoners behind bars for terrorism-related offences.

Although they still number only a handful, they are a growing part of the inmate population and their imprisonment has created fundamental challenges for the government — foremost how to rehabilitate them so they don’t continue their terror campaigns once they are released.

While the Correctional Service of Canada declined to comment, those familiar with the issue said in interviews they were concerned not enough was being done. “There’s zero help,” said Ibrahim Downey, who has counseled prisoners in Toronto since the 1980s. He said extremist inmates needed more support, both in prison and after they are released. “If they’ve come now to change themselves and they’ve left behind some of this radical behaviour, don’t they deserve a second chance?”
HandoutOmar Khadr, who was returned to Canada from Guantanamo Bay in September, is Canada's highest-profile terrorism-related prisoner.
The government itself has been raising alarms about those it calls radicalized offenders. “Given their unique risk factors, standard correctional programs are unlikely to meaningfully influence the recidivism of violent extremists,” Public Safety Canada wrote in 2009.

The CSC’s 2011 annual planning report warned that, “Adequate resources that are required to address the risks posed by radicalized offenders may not be in place.” The 2012 report said the CSC “cannot sustain results with regard to radicalized offenders.”

Canadians need only read the headlines to see what is at stake: rather than reforming terrorists, prisons have a record of breeding them, from the planner of the 2004 Madrid bombings to the members of the Assembly for Authentic Islam, which formed in a California prison and was planning attacks in the U.S.

There are signs it is happening in Canada as well. While awaiting trial, Ali Mohamed Dirie, a member of the Toronto 18 terrorist group who considered white people “filthy” and said he hated non-Muslims, tried to indoctrinate other inmates and recruit them into his terrorist group. He was released last October.

The Correctional Service’s former chief psychologist sees it as a growing problem. Dr. Wagdy Loza authored a 2009 study that found some Canadian offenders held extreme Middle Eastern ideologies characterized by support for the establishment of non-democratic government, hatred for Western culture and a belief in violence for the revival of Islam.
‘This is all based on their fundamental belief that they’re doing the right thing, they’re doing God’s will, so that’s a really challenging thing to overcome’
Prisons are fertile ground for spreading extremist views, said Dr. Loza, past chair of the Canadian Psychological Association’s extremism and terrorism section. “The majority of them are young, frustrated, angry at whatever or maybe at the system. They feel that they are hard done by society. So when you have this, it’s very easy to convert to a radical view.”

Not including Khadr, seven inmates convicted of Anti-Terrorism Act offenses are currently in federal institutions. Five more are awaiting trial in Ontario and Quebec and two Winnipeg men who joined al-Qaeda are wanted on outstanding RCMP warrants. Canada also routinely detains terror suspects pending deportation and extradition.

All those now serving sentences were convicted of crimes motivated by what could be loosely categorized as Islamist extremism, an intolerant anti-democratic and virulently anti-Western worldview that preaches that violence against non-believers is a religious duty and a path to paradise.

“This is all based on their fundamental belief that they’re doing the right thing, they’re doing God’s will, so that’s a really challenging thing to overcome for a correction service,” said Ray Boisvert, a retired former senior CSIS official.

The Correctional Service and CSIS are currently finalizing a joint study on prison radicalization but a government source familiar with the issue said there were signs it may not be as bad as feared and terror convicts were having little success recruiting other inmates.
Lars Hagberg for National Post
Lars Hagberg for National PostDr. Wagdy Loza says Canada is making a mistake treating those imprisoned for terrorism as if they had committed traditional crimes like thefts.
The government has opted to keep convicted terrorists together rather than spreading them across the prison system. Most are held at the Special Handling Unit, the super-max prison in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Que., which houses about 90 inmates considered the most dangerous in Canada.

“You run the potential they can conspire,” Mr. Boisvert said. “That’s the problem with organized criminal groups when they spend too much time together in federal penitentiaries. By the time they get released they’re ready to roll. But on the other side, ultimately you can keep a better handle on them and they don’t infect others.”

The most contentious debate is whether corrections officials should be striving to de-radicalize inmates, so they will reject extremist ideology, or whether it is enough to disengage them so they at least abandon violent methods.

The CSC’s current approach is to focus on changing violent behaviour rather than ideological or religious beliefs, the government source said. Each offender has a customized correctional plan — a mix of spiritual counseling and social and educational programs. The CSC works with the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy to provide religious support for offenders.

“This focus is appropriate, given that while some extremists never give up the ideology they may nevertheless be convinced to abandon pursuit of acts of violence through existing correctional programs,” said the source. “That said, the CSC approach contains many of the elements that the programs of other countries highlight as essential.”
‘De-radicalization often entails digging deeply into the religious and ideological roots of political violence, and challenging their legitimacy’
But Dr. Loza said the CSC was making the mistake of assessing and treating those imprisoned for terrorism as if they had committed traditional crimes like thefts and assaults. “This is a unique population and you need unique treatments for them.”

Treating terrorists means tackling the belief system that got them involved in terrorism in the first place — everything from their us-versus-them outlook to the view that their religion is superior to all other faiths and the skewed sense that Muslims suffer disproportionate injustice and that violence is therefore justified, he said.

To do that, the corrections system needs expertise in religion, culture, language and world political events that it currently lacks, he said. “If you don’t have that, you don’t have a clue what you are dealing with,” said the Queen’s University adjunct assistant professor of psychology.

But even a well-funded Saudi program has had mixed success. To reform captured al-Qaeda adherents, the Saudis use a combination of religious instruction, psychological counseling and assistance after release that includes money to buy homes and help finding wives. But it doesn’t always work. One graduate of the program went on to become the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen.
By contrast, Canada has relatively few terror convicts but that should allow the government to build a “tailored and highly-individualized” program for each one, said Alex Wilner, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies in Zurich.

“Doing so should greatly improve the odds of proper rehabilitation and diminish rates of recidivism,” said Mr. Wilner, who wrote a paper on Canadian prison radicalization published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

The paper recommended: denying extremist inmates access to other prisoners; excluding radical religious leaders from prison; screening prison libraries for radical literature; and investigating de-radicalization and disengagement programs to see what works.

“Effective de-radicalization is more difficult to achieve than disengagement, so Canadians may not have much of a choice in the matter,” Mr. Wilner said. “But more importantly, de-radicalization often entails digging deeply into the religious and ideological roots of political violence, and challenging their legitimacy. I’m not sure Canada will be particularly effective in that regard.”

Khalid and Gaya were “helpers” in the plot to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS office on Front Street and a military base. Both university students, aged 18 and 19 at the time, they were unloading three tons of ammonium nitrate from a delivery truck when they were arrested. Police found literature about jihad in Khalid’s bedroom.

At their sentencing, the judge was optimistic about their chances of rehabilitation. He said they were young, had no previous record and were remorseful. Gaya said he was ashamed and denounced violence in the name of political and ideological causes.

While the details of their correctional plans are not known, the government source said one Anti-Terrorism Act offender’s rehabilitation program includes psychological counseling to address his extreme thinking, radical ideological beliefs, emotions and thought processes about the perceived injustice towards Muslims. Spiritual counseling is also helping him challenge his extremist religious views. Canadians will find out soon how well it worked.

National Post

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Alarabiya.net EnglishSaudi cleric under fire for labelling waitresses as ‘prostitutes’

Jeddah branches of American fast-food chain, Hardee’s, recently began hiring female employees (photo credit: http://www.touchesvelvet.com)
Jeddah branches of American fast-food chain, Hardee’s, recently began hiring female employees (photo credit: http://www.touchesvelvet.com)
A Twitter post ignited a battle of arguments over a post tweeted by a Saudi cleric describing the newly-introduced waitress at a fast-food restaurant in Saudi Arabia as “prostitutes”.

The debated topic sparked when Saudi Sheikh Ali Al Mutairi reacted to a number of Saudi tweets calling for the boycott of popular American fast-food restaurant, Hardee’s.

The reason?

The burger chain had recently allowed women – for the first time – to work as waitresses at their branches across the coastal city of Jeddah.

“At the beginning of her shift she’s a waitress. When her shift ends she becomes a prostitute. The more she’s around men the easier it becomes to get closer to her”, tweeted Al-Mutairi, whose twitter account (@4aalmutairi ) boasts more than 5,000 followers.

Despite this cleric’s views reflecting an existing frustration amongst some conservative segments in Saudi Arabia which oppose women’s right to work and fear that allowing females to mix with men may lead to unwanted social behaviours, Mutari’s rather controversial tweet was deemed too extreme to many Saudis on Twitter.

“Prostitution is not in working trying to survive but it is in corrupted minds that use religion to distort other’s reputation,” posted one male in response to Mutar’s tweet.

“Prostitute? So any female employee in my country is a whore now?” wrote a female tweep by the handle of @Sulafa_97.
A screen grab of some of Sheikh Al-Mutari’s tweets (Al Arabiya)
Many commented by telling Sheikh Al Mutairi that through doubting the morality of ‘chaste’ women and describing them in the way he did, the cleric would be committing a serious vice, according to well-known Islamic teachings.

Another tweep posted pictures of some Hardee’s waitresses posted over social media by saying “These women are all covered up that I wouldn’t look at them, plus if your sister goes to that restaurant would you prefer a man or a woman taking her order?”

Despite the reaction to Sheikh Al-Mutairi’s views being mostly critical, there were some supportive tweets like one which says, “We know your intention and we give you the benefit of the doubt; stay as you are, a splinter in the throats of liberals”.

As reactions mounted and a hashtag was created to discuss his tweet, Al-Mutairi replied to many of his critics saying:

“In the name of God, I have seen this hashtag and some are asking to apologise because they think I have defamed Hardee’s waitresses – the truth is I warned from the dangers of sexes mixing, at the beginning she is a waitress and in the end they will want her to become a prostitute and between are the devil’s steps”, tweeted the sheikh.

“As for hypocrites who shave their beards and moustache (a common way of describing liberals in Saudi Arabia), there is no apology for them because their zeal isn’t for God,” he added.

The Saudi Ministry of Labour has been implementing a strategy which aims at creating more job opportunities and workplaces for women. However, segregation of sexes is applied in most public venues across Saudi Arabia.

Labels: , , , ,

Egypt: Mass Protests After Constitution Draft Approved

An Egyptian panel rushes through a draft constitution seen as undermining basic freedoms, resulting in mass protests in Cairo.

By Elad Benari, Canada - Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 11/30/2012, 9:30 PM

Tahrir Square
Tahrir Square
AFP photo
An Egyptian panel rushed through a draft constitution seen as undermining basic freedoms on Friday, resulting in mass protests in Cairo.

AFP reported that tens of thousands of protesters rallied as the opposition piled pressure on President Mohammed Morsi.

"Down with the constitutional assembly," vast crowds armed with megaphones chanted as they filed into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

Banners condemned "dictatorial Morsi" while protesters shouted "down with the rule of the Guide," a reference to the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, through whose ranks Morsi rose before becoming president.

The marches, led by opposition figures, set off from several Cairo districts early in the day to join the protesters in the square.

The Islamist-dominated assembly, tasked with drafting a new charter to replace the one suspended after Mubarak's ouster, approved the draft early on Friday after an almost 24 hour-long session boycotted by liberals and Christians.

The panel's head, Hossam el-Ghiriani, said a delegation from the Constituent Assembly would visit Morsi on Saturday to present him the draft constitution. Morsi is expected to call for a referendum within two weeks.

Rights activists say the charter undermines freedoms of women and religious minorities while the opposition says it was rushed through to force an early referendum.

The constitution has taken center stage in the country's worst political crisis since Morsi's election in June, squaring largely Islamist forces against liberal opposition groups.

The crisis was sparked when Morsi issued a decree on November 22 giving himself sweeping powers and placing his decisions beyond judicial review.

His decree prevented the constitutional court from ruling on the constituent assembly's legality, as it was meant to do on Sunday. A court had disbanded an earlier panel.

Rights activists have lambasted the draft charter, with Human Rights Watch saying it "protects some rights but undermines others".

"Rushing through a draft while serious concerns about key rights protections remain unaddressed will create huge problems down the road that won’t be easy to fix," the organizations Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement quoted by AFP.

The document retained a vague Mubarak-era constitution article stating that the "principles of Islamic law" are the main source of legislation.

But it added a new provision stipulating that the principles of Islamic law were to be interpreted according to the tenets of Sunni Islamic rulings, a clause Christian churches have opposed.

The draft also allows that state a role in "protecting ethics and morals" and bans "insulting humans," which rights activists say could censor political criticism of the president.

In a pre-recorded interview broadcast on Thursday night, Morsi repeated that his new powers, in which he can make decisions beyond judicial review, will expire once the constitution is ratified.

"This constitutional declaration is temporary, and it will end once the people have approved the constitution." Morsi told state television.

More on this topic

Labels: , , , , , ,

Egypt's Travails

The legal minds in Egypt are too mired in the nuances and letter-of-the-law they insist on observing to realize that they are being out-smarted by a canny adversarial mind that learns swiftly on the job.  No one expected too much of Mohammed Morsi other than as a flabby-minded front for the Muslim Brotherhood, but now it's difficult to determine who is leading whom...?

On the other hand, one can only wonder whether the president's decree that has placed him, his party and their joint intentions above the law would have been put out there to contest the peoples' will had he been able to anticipate the outcry and defiance it would bring to the fore.  Most Egyptians seemed prepared to settle for what they got in the election that brought the Brotherhood and the Salafists to power, that they could tough it out and hope for the best.

Now, it seems the best they can tough out is too tough for them to grin and bear it.  While hopes were pinned on a gradual evolution that would bring more freedoms and respect to the fore, along with an enhanced economy with the usual investors abroad reassured that deposing Hosni Mubarak didn't spell the end of investment security, the status quo seems to have returned with the vengeance of the recently elected to become as hostile to democracy as possible.

The regime that was forced to surrender to mass protests initiated by poor economic conditions, unemployment and despair in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria has been replaced by a duly elected regime that is emulating and even surpassing the one it took over from.  But not to worry, since President Morsi has been swift to reassure his critics that the decrees he has promulgated are a requirement to protect the "revolution".

After all, the most important thing in the minds of the liberals, the leftists, the minorities, was to democratize the nation.  And so, it was quite necessary to provide the 100-member panel constructed mostly of Islamists with the security they require to draft the new constitution without fear of being once again assailed by the courts.

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court thought it was playing hardball when it stated it planned to proceed with its intention to rule on whether to dissolve the assembly writing up the new constitution, but in so doing they gave away the game.  The Islamists so busy over the past months constructing that shiny new constitution for Egypt have sped up their game, going all out to present a fait accompli before Sunday.

And their determination to enshrine Sharia law in the most populous of Arab countries will proceed on their accelerated schedule; game over.  Muslim clerics may gain oversight over legislation, bringing restrictions to bear on freedom of speech, women's rights and other liberties that the original protesters had agitated to achieve.  The more things change the more mired they are in sameness.

The assembly has put their collective nose to the grindstone for completion of the 230-article draft in an amazing time warp.  And they've had the freedom to do so unobstructed by protests from those liberal, secular and Christian members who had a minority presence on the panel, since in their great wisdom they chose to withdraw in protest of the Islamists' hijacking of the process.

As though Egypt hasn't enough problems.  The country's highest appeal courts went on strike in protest of the presidential decree.  Judges insist they will not return to work until the president rescinds those decrees.  "This is the highest form of protest", said Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, refusing to believe that Morsi's bid for the buck to stop with him will become law.

So the courts are temporarily in high dudgeon, virtually moribund, and so is the economy, while crime runs its course fairly unimpeded in a one-size-fits-all frame of reference; if the president of the country can take the law into his own hands, why not every petty criminal roaming the streets if the mood takes them, when the time to strike seems right?

President Morsi is promising a nationwide referendum "very soon", to ratify the draft, to bring it into law through due process.  Absent the Supreme Constitutional Court input.  End run on an end run.

Labels: , , , ,

Celebrating Distortion, Deception and Fabrication

"Our people have witnessed, and continue to witness, an unprecedented intensification of military assaults, the blockade, settlement activities and ethnic cleansing, particularly in occupied east Jerusalem, and mass arrests, attacks by settlers and other practices by which this Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Mr. Abbas uses the incendiary language of suggestive and mendacious slander to great advantage.  He has learned the verbiage most appreciated by those who respond to words like 'colonial occupation', 'apartheid', 'racism', 'hatred' and 'incitement'.  Completely ignored is the reality that debunks the accusations, that Israel is an inclusive state with a sizeable population of Arab Muslims, Christians and Kurds among its Jewish population.

Jews do not live among Muslims in most Arab countries for they were exiled from their homes in Arab countries, in 1948, their property expropriated without recompense when those same Arab countries exhorted Palestinian Arabs to temporarily leave the area that Jews now called Israel, until such time in the very brief future when an assembled army of Arab military states succeeded in removing the upstart Jews. 

In a series of wars through all of which Israel prevailed, additional land was taken and incorporated into Israel possession.  Most notable of all, the primary holy sites of Judaism were freed from Arab control and Jews were finally given access to their most sacred places.  And despite that under Arab rule Jews were forbidden entry to those places, the sacred sites of Islam and Christianity remain freely available to those believers under Israeli stewardship.

For the past sixty years the PLO, the military arm of Fatah which now rules the Palestinian Authority, has launched guerrilla and suicide attacks on Israel and its people, as well as outside the Middle East, targeting Jews wherever they live.  These acts of terror represent the dedication to peace of the Arab tribal mind.  When violence did not succeed, the politics of public relations and the viral success of slander proved far more successful.  Leaving the ongoing violence to Hamas, Fatah's rival challenger for leadership of the PA.

And that slander saw its culmination in the PA's Mahmoud Abbas's address to the UN General Assembly before the vote set for the date in history when the UN issued its partition proclamation resulting in the General Assembly assenting to the PA's request which succeeded in its recognition as a state-in-waiting; a diplomatic coup for a nascent nation that has used every means at its disposal to avoid signing a peace treaty with Israel that would lead to a two-state solution to the ongoing state of war by any other nomenclature.

"Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel.  The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine", declaimed Mr. Abbas magisterially.  Of course 65 years ago the Palestinians declined with rancour the offer to take their partitioned portion for a state. And much earlier in history "historic" Palestine was Jewish Palestine.

They have now changed their mind.  Bypassing the legal process that the formation of such a state requires under the 1995 Oslo II Agreement which they co-signed with Israel, and which countries like the EU, the Russian Federation, the U.S., Egypt and Norway also witnessed along with the UN.  The very same principals who have now, with few exceptions, voted to give the Palestinian Authority non-member "observer status".

The world accepts with willing complacency the accusations by the Palestinians of 'ethnic cleansing' and 'genocide' levelled against Israel, without a murmur of dissent.  The instigators of 'ethnic cleansing' and 'genocide' are all represented by Arab and Muslim states along with their proxy jihadist militias like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad whose raison d'etre is written in their constitutions, to destroy Israel and wash the Jews into the sea.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu identified Mahmoud Abbas's vitriolic and viciously violent characterization of Israel for what it is: "hostile and poisonous", full of "false propaganda".  But then the Arab and Muslim world is full of those whose grasp of history and reality verges on the fantastic rather than reflecting the truth of reality.  Just as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad casts aspersions on the reality of the Holocaust, Mahmoud Abbas's university dissertation questioned the veracity of the Holocaust:
The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism (Arabic: al-Wajh al-Akhar: al-'Alaqat as-Sirriya bayna an-Naziya wa's-Sihyuniya. Publisher: Dar Ibn Rushd, Amman, Jordan. 1984) is a book by Mahmoud Abbas,[1] published in Arabic.[1] It is based on his CandSc thesis,[2] completed in 1982 at Patrice Lumumba University (now the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia) under the title The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement (Russian: Связи между сионизмом и нацизмом. 1933–1945), and defended at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
In the book, Abbas argues that the Nazi Holocaust had been exaggerated and that Zionists created "the myth" of six million murdered Jews, which he called a "fantastic lie".[3][4][5] He further claimed that those Jews which were killed by the Nazis were actually the victims of a Zionist-Nazi plot aimed to fuel vengeance against Jews and to expand their mass extermination.[6] The book also discussed topics such as the Haavara Agreement, in which the Third Reich agreed with the Jewish Agency to facilitate Jewish emigration from Germany to Mandate Palestine.[2]
 This reprehensible scholarly study represents the tribal mentality and inherent antipathy of a people of whom Mahmoud Abbas is held as a symbol of moderation in an otherwise immoderate, excitable, prone-to-violence population.  The long-suffering Palestinian people, reliant on the intelligence and responsibility of those who assign themselves the duty of representing the future of the Palestinians deserve far better than what they have.

They have been so immersed in and schooled with a ferocious suspicion and hatred of Jews, fuelled by a deliberate exposure to curricula describing the Jews as the enemy, the land upon which Israel sits illegally and criminally wrested from the Palestinians who claim a heritage that history does not support and in the process malign and seek to destroy true heritage sites of Judaism that it would take a miracle of persuasion for them to see their neighbours as anxious for peace.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Ottawa to recall diplomats after Baird’s strong rebuke of Palestinian vote

Kathryn Blaze Carlson | Nov 30, 2012 8:10 AM ET | Last Updated: Nov 30, 2012 10:34 AM ET
More from Kathryn Blaze Carlson | @KBlazeCarlson
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images Palestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 29, 2012 after the General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. 
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will meet as soon as early next week with the Canadian diplomats the federal government is recalling from Israel, the West Bank and the UN.

In an interview with the National Post, Mr. Baird said he will meet with those representatives in Ottawa for a frank discussion on Canada’s next move after Thursday’s UN vote that implicitly recognized a Palestinian state.

Despite widespread speculation, Mr. Baird said Canada is not considering breaking off relations with the Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and deferred questions about Canadian aid to International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino.

“We want to get the advice and counsel of the representatives closest to the file,” Mr. Baird said in a telephone interview from New York, where he joined the United States and Israel in vehemently opposing the Palestinian bid Thursday. “We’re not looking at breaking off relations with the Palestinian Authority, but we do want to look at what we do going forward.”

He would not speculate on how Canada might express its displeasure, saying only, “We’re going to consult first. I’m not going to speculate … We’re going to be responsible and deliberate.”

Canada has given some $300-million in aid to the Palestinian Authority since December 2007 — a five-year commitment that will soon be up for reconsideration. “The projects we’re funding are coming to an end, and my colleague, Julian Fantino would have to look at what he plans or intends to do going forward,” he said. “I’ll leave that issue with him.”

When asked about the future of Canada’s financial support to the UN itself, Mr. Baird said Ottawa is “not making any threats in that regard.” He pointed out, though, that when UNESCO approved a Palestinian bid for full membership, the U.S. cut millions in funding to the UN.

“I was clear then that the UN better not pass the hat around and expect that Canada make up for those types of reductions,” Mr. Baird said.

Echoing the Obama administration, Mr. Baird said his “key” concern is the prospect of the Palestinian Authority seeking access to the International Criminal Court, where it could move to try Israel for war crimes.
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty ImagesJohn Baird, Canada's Foreign Minister, speaks to the United Nations General Assembly before the body votes on a resolution to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to a nonmember observer state November 29, 2012 at UN headquarters in New York. 
“That’s why I want to sit down and consult with our representative to Ramallah and our UN ambassadors to get a sense of what the road ahead could look like,” he said.

The Palestinians have said privately they will not head to the International Criminal court, but they rejected American and British requests to make an explicit promise in their bid language.

“They had an opportunity to assuage fears on that, and they declined to do so,” he said.
Mr. Baird said he also wants to speak with Ottawa’s representative in Ramallah about recently reported threats by the Palestinian Liberation Organization that Canada will suffer consequences for its vote against the UN bid.

The Harper government has long said the path to peace lies not in unilateral moves — Mr. Baird equated the UN bid with “end-running” negotiations — but rather in bilateral talks with Israel itself. Mr. Baird said Canada will do anything it can to support the peace process, but added: “There isn’t much to support.”

“We have to be realistic. This process has to be led by the two parties,” he said. “They’re the ones that have to step up to the plate and make difficult decisions and concessions. That can’t be imposed by anyone else — not the UN, not Canada, not anyone.”
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 29, 2012 after the General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state.
He also said that upcoming Israeli elections only reduce the chances of negotiations any time soon. While Mr. Baird said he is “disappointed” by the Palestinian leader’s tone yesterday at the UN, he said, “let’s use this as an opportunity to get back to the negotiating table and find a lasting peace.”
When asked whether that was imminent or highly plausible: “We’ll see. That’s why I want to talk to our folks from the UN and in Ramallah.”
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty ImagesPalestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 29, 2012 after the General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state.

Labels: , , , , ,

European Nations 'Capitulated' in Approving PA Bid at UN

ADL: European nations acted “without courage" and "capitulat[ed] to Arab intimidation" during PA's bid for upgraded UN status.

By Rachel Hirshfeld- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 11/30/2012, 12:59 PM

PA delegation to UN
PA delegation to UN
European nations have acted “without courage" and have "capitulat[ed] to Arab intimidation and pressure" by voting in favor of, or abstaining from, the Palestinian Authority’s bid at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday to be granted an upgraded status of “non-member” observer state, announced the Anti-Defamation League, upon hearing the results of the vote.

“It was more in sorrow than in anger that we watched the European nations revert back to the traditional anti-Israel, knee-jerk response at the United Nations,” asserted ADL National Director, Abraham H. Foxman. “They have acted without courage and capitulated to Arab intimidation and pressure.”

“Recently, we thought that European nations had taken a balanced position that enabled them to be a player in helping to resolve the conflict,” said Foxman. “But in failing to reject the Palestinian initiative, they again evidenced their bias and lack of objectivity.  They were intimidated at a cost, and they have lost the credibility to play a serious role in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together.”

“While the Czech Republic distinguished itself with a principled vote against the Palestinian upgrade, the rest of Europe failed to oppose a Palestinian tactic that will only place more obstacles on the path to peace,” he added. “European governments knew exactly what was at stake with their votes, since the resolution was going to pass in any case.”

“After the Palestinians rejected the U.K. request for assurances that they would return to negotiations without pre-conditions and not complicate those negotiations even further by pursuing Israelis at the International Criminal Court, all of Europe should have stood with Israel and the United States and said, ‘No. Negotiations are the only way to statehood,’” concluded Foxman.

The League praised the United States and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for her strong statement on the U.N. floor and for her efforts to encourage other countries to follow the U.S. lead in rejecting the Palestinian Authority resolution, which was approved by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions.

"Today's grand announcements will soon fade and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow to find little of their lives has changed, save (that) the prospects of a durable peace have receded," Rice said.

"This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state," she said, echoing an earlier speech made by Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Proser. "Today's vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for UN membership."

Rice affirmed that "only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and the Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve."

More on this topic

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Taking (sigh) Editing Liberties

UN vote gives Palestinians new diplomatic powers

Palestinian youth waves a flag in front of Israeli soldiers (29 November 2012) Palestinians see the vote as a clear sign that the tide of opinion is turning their way
When the weak November sun rose on the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday morning, it revealed, naturally enough, a city little changed from the night before.  (Triumphant jubilation makes all the difference a city energized by the prospect and success of having won 'one-up' once again on the 'Occupier', through yet another form of 'resistance', besmirched by charges of 'genocide' and 'Apartheid', the buzzwords so significant to the majority of nations within that bastion of fairness and justice.)

Palestinian society remains divided politically and geographically between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The economic weaknesses remain of course, as do all the difficulties of living under an Israeli occupation, which stretches back to the Six-Day War in 1967. And of course there is the chronic problem of the moribund peace process with Israel.

For all those reasons the decision of the UN in New York to upgrade the status of the Palestinians by an overwhelming majority could be seen as largely symbolic. But the point is that in the Middle East, symbolism matters.

Plenty of attention in the build-up to the vote was centred on a technical question about UN procedures which could have far-reaching political implications - would this upgraded status give the Palestinians access to UN agencies and the International Criminal Court?  (You bet; this is the diplomacy-slander end-game, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of authorized UN recognition...)

If it did, then they would be able in theory to pursue Israel for its settlement policies on the West Bank - widely seen as a clear breach of international law.

Israel rejects that legal interpretation - but it may not be anxious to see the issue tested in court.
Even if the Palestinians didn't decide to exercise that option immediately, the threat that they might do so at a moment of their choosing would be a powerful diplomatic tool.

Israeli officials say all of this is already pushing back any prospects of peace talks. Palestinians I've spoken to argue that process was already so moribund that it was simple common sense for them to pursue an alternative path.

In the build-up to the vote in New York, Israel worked hard to derail the Palestinian strategy - or at least to try to ensure the backing of a network of powerful allies.

But that strategy failed - France voted for the Palestinians, and both Germany and the UK abstained.
The United States naturally remained in Israel's corner but, alongside it, was to be found largely a small collection of diplomatic minnows including the Western Pacific Territories of Palau and Micronesia.  (A statement clearly designed to make a mockery of those who did vote with the moral conscience, a country, for example, like Canada.  Making the exercise of this article both informative and slanted, a bit of unethical journalism in other words.)

There is a natural tendency at such moments to look forward and try to work out what events in New York might mean for the future of the two-state solution and relations between Israelis and Palestinians in general.

But it's worth looking at last night's vote in New York as a snapshot of where international sentiment lies right now on an issue which has bedevilled global diplomacy for decades.
Israeli soldiers patrol near a Jewish settlement After the vote, Israel announced 3,000 settler homes would be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank
Palestinians see the scale of the vote as clear evidence that a tide of opinion is turning their way. Whether they can translate that sentiment into some sort of concrete political progress is hard to determine.  (What tide of opinion exactly...since the 'tide of opinion' has long since turned against Israel and to the favour of the 'Palestinian cause'; decidedly not the 'cause' of peace and final settlement of a grievance played out for political effect for far too long in the victimization game...)

And nothing in the Middle East is simple.(Now there's the classical mother-of-all understatements.)

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza would have boosted the standing of the Palestinian militant organisation in the eyes of the Arab world.

It is the more moderate PA based in the West Bank which has invested in the diplomatic strategy through the UN. (Labelling the Fatah-based PA 'moderate' is to do a huge disservice to truth and reality and the recent past of the movement, let alone its remaining foundational covenant ruthlessly antipathetic to the presence of the State of Israel.)

So some of the countries which abstained on the vote or voted for the Palestinians may have intended to boost the more moderate secularists of the PA against the Islamists of Hamas rather than the Palestinians in general against the Israelis. (That, in any event, is the screen behind which those failing the grade in morality and ethics tender to shelter themselves and their decision-making pratfalls.)

It's not yet certain how Israel will respond to its diplomatic defeat. It may delay any reprisals until it's clear when and in what circumstances the Palestinians would make their move on the issue of the International Criminal Court.

Having failed to block the Palestinian bid - or rally a large number of significant countries against it - Israel suddenly switched its own diplomatic tack earlier this week and began playing down the significance of the proceedings in New York, in effect hoping that toning down its own response would somehow play down the Palestinian achievement.  (Resilience and endurance is the standard byword for a nation that alone among the countries of this world must endure the ongoing vicious attacks of violent jihadists and the bland acquiescence of the outside world to their predations; it describes what it means to be a Jew.)

A first indication of Israeli anger, though, came less than 24 hours after the vote was taken at the UN.
A senior Israeli official confirmed that the government is approving the construction of 3,000 new homes in settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and speeding up the processing of 1,000 existing planning permissions.

The Palestinians may well have been expecting this - or something like it - but it's a reminder that the gulf between the two on the settlement issue remains huge - and that events in New York and this reaction to them will do nothing to solve it.

It's also worth re-iterating that a shift in status at the UN to the same status as that enjoyed by the Vatican won't fix a single road or feed a single child here in the West Bank or in Gaza.

But symbolism really does matter.

And on that subject, here's a final point to consider.

We have grown used to referring to this dispute as one between Israel - the proper noun denoting a nation state - and the Palestinians - the use of a collective noun describing a people rather than a defined political entity.

Does the UN's upgrade mean that the use of the title Palestine for that entity now enters the daily lexicon of diplomacy and journalism? And if it doesn't, when does it ?

Something for them to ponder over in the foreign ministries and editorial conference chambers of the world in the coming days.
(What?  Ponder the moral legitimacy of stamping approval on the purloining of history, heritage and legitimacy by hijacking even the name "Palestinian", from its original meaning relating to Jewish presence in the Middle East to that of the Arabs-come-lately?)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Victims of Freedom

Israel, seeking to defend itself from continued assaults against its people from its unfriendly border communities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, responding with artillery fire from rocket launching sites, is accused of genocidal intent. 

Gaza's rulers, Hamas, along with other jihadist militias like Islamic Jihad deliberately use Palestinian civilians within Gaza as pawns, as human shields, deploying their munitions from within crowded civilian enclaves with the purpose of accusing Israel of human-rights violations when it protects its own population by attempting to still the rocket fire from Gaza, when Palestinian Gazans become victims.

And the world stands in horror of the duplicitous Jewish state which is accused of committing disproportionate response to hundreds of rockets launched against its towns, villages and cities. 

The grievance narrative of the victims, the falsified video footage that display the aggression of the Jews and the piteous condition of the beleaguered Palestinians squeezes the tender hearts of the international community, happy to once again condemn those Jews for victimizing helpless Palestinians.

The very same mindset of blessed martyrdom and the achievement of honourable mention in the pursuit of Islamist justice compels radical Muslim groups fighting alongside other rebel units in Syria to commit atrocities against Syrian civilians. 

Although Israel has nothing whatever to do with the conflicts that take place in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab and Muslim world, the presence of the Jewish nation in their midst is cited as a provocation and the cause of tribal and sectarian violence among Arab countries.

Within Syria the rebel groups are increasingly infiltrated by groups of Islamist extremists and foreign fighters.  Who see nothing wrong and everything right with suicide bombings.  Such as the two explosions that have latterly killed 34 civilians in Damascus, in a mostly religious minority enclave. 

At a time of day when people are lining up to look for employment, ensuring groups of people in a concentrated area. When the initial blast sent people into a panic, shattering nearby infrastructure, people soon returned with the intention of aiding the wounded and counting the dead. 

And that is precisely when a second explosion was set to go off, killing and wounding those who had returned to the scene of the disaster.  One witness verified there were no troops around the district.  Civilians were deliberately and with malice aforethought, targeted.

"Is this the freedom which they want?" asked a young teacher, of the rebel action.  Little wonder Syrian Christians and Kurds view the rebel agenda with suspicion and cling to the hope that the regime will survive, in the hope they will be protected from the Islamist depravity of slaughter for the sake of killing, and all in the name of the Islamist creed of jihad and martyrdom for the greater glory of Islam.

Labels: , , , , ,

Giving Offence

Omigawd!  There goes Canada again.  Off on its mission to reform the human-rights-abusing countries of the world.  Well, hardly.  There are simply too many of them performing that life disqualifying task to tackle.  But those whose abuses are that well-known and -observed as to qualify for especial notice - to make it abundantly clear that their oppressive miseries are not overlooked - that does merit concentrated attention.

At least, at the very least, to make it an annual obligation to bring to task through the auspices of one of those United Nations-inspired humanitarian committees, to bring forward the names and humanitarian crime-commissions of the outstanding offenders.  Canada has brought forward time and time again the human-rights abuses of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Much to Iran's chagrin and offence, and they do take offence.

In taking offence, they also take pot-shots at Canada, accusing Canada of the very human rights violations that they themselves are guilty of.  But this is a regime that has become exceedingly skilled at turning the charges brought against them that have their basis in stark reality, against those leading the charge against them who are in reality innocent of those same charges that make a mockery of decency and due process.

Seems, on reflection, Canada is becoming a glutton for punishment.  Turning aside from the counter-charges to resolutely charge ahead to commit to calling it the way it is.  Not precisely making any new friends in the enterprise of revealing and denouncing the world's most egregious human rights abusers, but doing so to mount a defence of the defenceless, to have them know that they are not alone and forgotten.

And so, for the second time within two succeeding days, Canada has irritated the hell out of yet another nasty regime, calling to account at the same UN humanitarian committee, the face of inhumanity toward humanity that exists within the Republic of North Korea.  Just as Iran was mortally, if not morally, offended, so too is North Korea outraged at this calling out in such an "insulting" manner by the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Guillermo Rishchynski.

"The passing of totalitarian leader Kim Jong-il presented an opportunity for the regime to emerge from six decades of self-inflicted misery and isolation.  Canada calls on the regime to close its concentration camps and to abide by its human rights obligations.  Even the strongest dictatorship cannot withstand faith, it cannot withstand truth, and it cannot withstand freedom.  The people of North Korea deserve to have freedom and are entitled to the basic rights that all should enjoy.  We hope to one day see this day."

"Groundless allegations", according to North Korean envoy to the UN Kim Sook.  Who urged Canada to "give up its hostile policy against" his country.  Canada's lead on the non-binding resolution drafted by the European Union, adopted by the 193-nation committee through consensus was slated to pass at the General Assembly.

But not without an indignant response from Mr. Sook who deplored the insult to his country's "Supreme Authority".  "We never think of our country without his name.  Under the wise leadership of great leader and comrade Kim Jong-il, Korean people [have] made great achievement so far and we will develop in the future, too", he pledged defensively.  Obviously taken aback at the slur to the sacred name of the great leader and unskilled at pointed repartee, having much yet to learn from Iran.

As for the resolution on North Korea, which Canada has declared it has no intention of backing down from, insisting on calling for improved human rights conditions in North Korea, that country need not fear, for it has friends in low places.  Iran, along with China, Cuba and Venezuela rejected the resolution put forward in the UN on North Korea. 

Proving yet again that old adage that birds of a feather stick together.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

 Taking Offence

Alas, Canada has succeeded yet again in offending.  In its appearance at the United Nations Canada has turned from being an acquiescent, accommodating, co-operative member-state, complacently agreeable to the fact that among its coeval states there exist those whose human rights abuses are so domineeringly egregious as to be difficult to overlook, but with a concentrated determination, can be, and have been.

The new Canada on the international stage, under the Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen a different path, and that fork in the road finally taken has caused great consternation, not only within the United Nations and among its member democracy-states, but even at home where the opposition political parties fondly recall a more timid, entirely less aggressive approach to human rights defence.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is so incensed at Canada's intolerable effrontery at once again leading the demeaning charge of accusing the Republic of dreadful human rights abuses, it has turned its diplomatic face of contempt and accusation against Canada, in its stead.  Canada, Iran charges, is "racist" and "self-centred"; obviously, incurably so.

Canada, said Iran's ambassador scathingly, has "a long list of human rights violations" committed against "immigrants, Muslims, aboriginals and Afro-Canadian women".  The country is guilty of "abusing human rights mechanisms to advance its self-centred political interests", the most obvious manifestation of which, therefore is the continued annual and unforgivable assault on Iran's reputation within the United Nations.

"In fact, if any country had to get a resolution, [Canada] would have deserved it more than others because of their unsparing support of a regime [Israel] that has frequently committed genocide in the Palestinian Occupied Territories", fumed Mohammad Khazaee in a statement to the UN General Assembly Plenary.  How does one 'frequently commit genocide'?

Israel, among the 42 co-sponsors of the resolution passed by the UN humanitarian affairs committee condemning Iranian abuses, represents an outrageous irony, since within the UN, in incendiary slanderous motions led by countries like Iran, Syria and Cuba, Israel is held to be the world's most notorious human-rights abuser.

At issue, needless to say, is Iran's use of torture and the death penalty, its execution of minors, its restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, its violence against women, and the arrest of leading opposition figures.  Its persecution of Baha'i, its use of violent force in putting down popular protest gatherings of Iranians prepared to endanger themselves through public protest.
  "We won't stand still in the face of these egregious actions.  We will continue to express serious concern about the ongoing and pervasive human rights violations in Iran, including the persecution of religious minorities. Canada is a vigorous defender of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world, and we will continue to urge Iran to uphold its international obligations, to allow for freedom of religion and to respect the fundamental rights of its people." 
Rick Roth, Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Labels: , , , , , ,

 Universal Peace and Goodwill

"They can get pieces of paper from the UN but they are not going to move peace forward, they are not going to make a Palestinian statehood more real.
"They boycott Israel.  They refuse to talk to us.  Who do they plan to make peace with?"
Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman

Who to make peace with?  None in particular.  Perhaps the PA and Mahmoud Abbas, operating an illegal government, one which hangs on despite a lack of legal authority through the polls which voted a majority share of responsibility to Hamas, and with which group Fatah has a severe, irreconcilable falling-out, has no idea how next to proceed, but by fumbling ahead.

He may not have a legal mandate to rule the West Bank through elections that are promised but never held for fear of yet another popular vote that will this time boot Fatah out of the running and acclaim Hamas triumphant in the political home of Fatah, but he has sought legal standing in the United Nations, and there, where a gross collective misunderstanding of the most elemental principles of human rights reign supreme, that standing was conferred.
Gary Clement/National Post
Not nationhood, but nascent nationhood affirmed.  Nationhood without subterfuge could have been achieved but since it was never authentically striven for through the creation and management of all the infrastructures and structures of a meaningful and working national institution of government with all its responsibilities effectively in place and pursued, Palestinians have satisfied themselves with the pale imitation.

Why make peace with Israel when there is no will nor wish to do so?  The straitjacket of an invincible hatred has achieved a status difficult to dissolve through mere face-to-face negotiations.  The potent imagery of an enemy whose ardent pursuit of military punishment for impoverished, victimized refugees who have never risen above international beggar status is one that more than adequately fills the national aspiration.

The impassioned plea with which PA President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the General Assembly used imagery and words that belied authenticity and reality, an invention of the mindset of a people incapable of working toward an amicable conclusion to too many long years of strife and turmoil.  This is Fatah, remember, which saw birth as the Palestine Liberation Organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

And if they were unable to destroy Israel itself because of its collective will to endure, they did their utmost with ferocious determination to slaughter as many Israelis as possible.  That torch was handed on to Hamas, with Fatah taking a diplomatic bow from perpetuating conspicuous violence, resorting instead to the violence of incendiary slander aimed toward a most appreciative audience, both at large and within the United Nations.

Observe:  "Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace and because its people, as proven in past days, are in desperate need of it,” he said, insisting that recognizing “Palestine” as a non-member observer state is “the last chance to save the two-state solution."

"We have heard and you too have heard specifically over the past months the incessant flood of Israeli threats in response to our peaceful, political and diplomatic endeavor for Palestine to acquire non-member observer state in the United Nations,” said Abbas. “And, you have surely witnessed how some of these threats have been carried out in a barbaric and horrific manner just days ago in the Gaza Strip.

“We have not heard one word from any Israeli official expressing any sincere concern to save the peace process. On the contrary, our people have witnessed, and continue to witness, an unprecedented intensification of military assaults, the blockade, settlement activities and ethnic cleansing, particularly in occupied east Jerusalem, and mass arrests, attacks by settlers and other practices by which this Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement."

This is a masterfully outstanding example of inverse reasoning, beloved of those who succeed in mastering the art of slanderous propaganda, portraying themselves as innocent victims of a malignant power intent on using any horrific means possible to obliterate a rival challenger for ownership of a territory that will empower the winner to emerge triumphant in its final possession.

The vote to accommodate the desire of the Palestinian Authority was overwhelmingly in favour.  A paltry few moral-minded UN members voted against, with yet another relative handful abstaining and a few absenting themselves with deliberate aforethought.  Canada, stating its position as favouring a two-state solution requiring the Palestinian Authority to return to the bargaining table and talks with Israel was blunt about its "no" vote.
"That will not be accomplished, in reality, unless and until the Palestinian Authority returns to the negotiating table and is able to get a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel.  And we will not support any other shortcuts, or any other ways of trying to arrive at that solution without such a peace agreement."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
But symbolism can be a powerful aphrodisiac.  The Palestinian Authority has already signalled its preparedness to join other United Nations committees, such as a reactivated UN Anti-Apartheid Committee, and another for membership in the Forum against Racism and Discrimination, and in all likelihood ask permission to lodge a case against Israel at the International Criminal Court, which with UN nationhood recognition it may do. 

Israel, slurred and labelled as anti-Apartheid provides powerful, colonialist, imperialist imagery that the non-aligned-countries bloc find most appealing, and prepared to accept in their generalized loathing of the Jewish State.  Israel in fact is meant to be a Jewish state.  It favours and prides itself as a Jewish state.  Not too different from the states that surround it in the Middle East which give citizenship to their own and none other, unlike Israel.

The truth of the matter is, Israel has no partner for peace.  It has a neighbour that has demonstrated, time and again, that it is not averse to expressing its racial hatred of Jews, and its contempt for a religion other than Islam.  That neighbour looks too for a Final Solution.  One that would permanently remove Israel from the map of the Middle East and return it in its entirety to the Arab/Muslim world.

It is a desire that has a wide acceptance in that neighbourhood.  Which, for over sixty years has engaged in its utmost endeavours to engineer that final scenario.  Despite which, their distorted logic, which has wide appeal outside the Middle East as well, is that Israel is the aggressor, the racist, the Apartheid state, the genocidal agent in the area, the nation that must be destroyed to bring peace.

And, with Israel absent from the scene, the Arab countries would finally find the peace they claim has been absent since the intolerable engineering  of an earlier incarnation of the United Nations still reeling from the effects of the Second World War, and not yet overtaken by the zeitgeist of exalted victimhood status turned judge and executioner, under the rubric of universal peace and goodwill.
 November 21 editorial cartoon

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NASA is actually working on a faster than light warp drive, but it might blow up any planet it travels to

Handout The concept of warp travel on Star Trek worked a lot like the Alcubierre drive, even if the engines themselves are the wrong shape
Faster than light (FTL) travel has always been a hallmark of science fiction, but buzz kill scientists have always said the concept was impossible because it violates the cardinal rule of Einstein’s relativity, namely that the very building blocks of the universe mean that nothing can go faster than light.

Now NASA may have found a loophole, enabling them to travel to distant stars that are several light years away, all without violating relativity. The only problem? It might blow up whatever is waiting at its destination.

Back in 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre came up with a novel way to get around the relativity problem: warping space-time. He proposed a mechanism where a vehicle would move forward by contracting space-time in front and expanding space-time behind. This would be accomplished through placing a spheroid object within specifically shaped concentric rings creating a space-time warp bubble. This warp bubble would push the ship forward through the universe faster than light while its relative speed remained zero.

Of course this process would take a tremendous amount of energy. The reason scientists didn’t start building Alcubierre warp engines back in 1994 was that the theory also figured that huge amounts of energy would be needed to power up the drive. Like the total mass energy of the planet of Jupiter massive. So the Alccubierre drive was shelved as one of those things that would remain theoretical.
However, a few months ago, physicist Harold White announced that his team at NASA was working on an Alcubierre drive and that it would use just a infinitesimal fraction of the energy earlier theorized. So what changed? io9 interviewed White to explain the change.

“My early results suggested I had discovered something that was in the math all along,” he told io9. “I suddenly realized that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger — like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape — and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required — perhaps making the idea plausible.”

Essentially, White simply proposed shifting the shape of the rings around the spheroid. This little change, White says, reduced the amount of energy needed from the mass of Jupiter, to that of a traditional rocket. Quite a feat.

Now, all of this is still theoretical at this point, so it might not work exactly how NASA thinks it will or at all. And even if it does work, the human race probably won’t be zipping around like the James T. Kirk quite yet. There is the little detail that the Alcubierre drive will probably destroy or at least irradiate anything at its target destination. Universe Today explains:
Researchers from the University of Sydney have done some advanced crunching of numbers regarding the effects of FTL space travel via Alcubierre drive, taking into consideration the many types of cosmic particles that would be encountered along the way. Space is not just an empty void between point A and point B… rather, it’s full of particles that have mass (as well as some that do not.) What the research team — led by Brendan McMonigal, Geraint Lewis, and Philip O’Byrne — has found is that these particles can get “swept up” into the warp bubble and focused into regions before and behind the ship, as well as within the warp bubble itself.
When the Alcubierre-driven ship decelerates from superluminal speed, the particles its bubble has gathered are released in energetic outbursts. In the case of forward-facing particles the outburst can be very energetic — enough to destroy anyone at the destination directly in front of the ship.
Now, this might be something that can be fixed by stopping early or slightly off from the destination in question, or it might be something that makes the whole engine unworkable. The real issue lies in the fact that there is no theoretical limit to how much energy could be stored this way. Basically, if the Alubierre ship travels far enough it could accumulate enough energy to blow up whole planets or even more. And the energy would be released in all directions, making safe parking more than a little dicey.

Thoughts of exploding planets are a touch premature though. ”I’m not ready to discuss much beyond the math and very controlled modest approaches in the lab,” White told io9. That said, this is FTL travel seems 100% more possible now than before NASA started this program.

Labels: , , ,

() Follow @rheytah Tweet