Monday, July 31, 2006

"Look what you made me do"

It's always someone else's fault isn't it.

'How can we stand by and allow this to go on?'
Robert Fisk
Published: 31 July 2006

They wrote the names of the dead children on their plastic shrouds. " Mehdi Hashem, aged seven ­ Qana," was written in felt pen on the bag in which the little boy's body lay. "Hussein al-Mohamed, aged 12 ­ Qana", "Abbas al-Shalhoub, aged one ­ Qana.'' And when the Lebanese soldier went to pick up Abbas's little body, it bounced on his shoulder as the boy might have done on his father's shoulder on Saturday. In all, there were 56 corpses brought to the Tyre government hospital and other surgeries, and 34 of them were children. When they ran out of plastic bags, they wrapped the small corpses in carpets. Their hair was matted with dust, most had blood running from their noses.

You must have a heart of stone not to feel the outrage that those of us watching this experienced yesterday. This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity ­ yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the " pinpoint accuracy'' it claims, this was also a war crime. Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbollah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana ­ as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about "Muslim terror" threatening " western civilisation" ­ as if the Hizbollah had killed all these poor people.

It used to be the domain of small boys - throw a stone at your brother, he ducks, the stone goes through a window...

"Now look what you've made me do."

"His fault mum, he ducked."

That culture has crept into adult public life, so now we have our politicians routinely refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

This is just another example.

*Read the full dispatch from Robert Fisk in The Independent here

Please also read Babykaos' beautifully written item 'Baby's Black Balloon'.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Far too late Dr Rice.

It's time to talk ceasefire, says US
THE 19-day-old war in the Middle East has reached a turning point, with Israel's deadliest attack yet killing 54 people in southern Lebanon and the United States declaring it is time for a ceasefire.

Images of dead children - 37 children, police said - being dragged from the building in Qana, southern Lebanon provoked international condemnation and shattered the ceasefire talks.

While an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel regretted the
death of innocent civilians, the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, vowed the offensive in Lebanon would continue.

In Jerusalem, Dr Rice said she was saddened by the attack: "I think it is time to get to a ceasefire. We actually have to try and put one in place. My work towards a ceasefire is really here today."

Sydney Morning Herald. Photo: AP/Nasser Nasser

Hundreds of innocent people killed, very many of them children, on both sides of the border, lives torn apart, thousands have lost their homes, their livelihoods...and the best we can get from the one country that could have stopped it, but refused to do so, is "I think it is time to get to a ceasefire."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Foodies' delight

In Singapore last week we had plenty of excellent food, fresh ingredients cooked in open kitchens where we could see it all.

One evening out with a dozen people in a restaurant way off the tourist track, this is one of the many dishes that appeared on the table:

I didn't sample this one myself, but it couldn't have been fresher - less than five minutes earlier it was this:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A terrifying future

Of all the horrific photos coming out of Lebanon/Israel/Gaza this is the one that disturbed me the most.

I draw no distinction between nationalities. Whether these schoolgirls were Israeli or Palestinian or anything else I would be appalled. To teach such hatred, such disregard for human life, to children is a despicable, disgusting, irresponsible, inhuman act. These shells are going to kill or maim other people, quite possibly other children. Teaching children to gloat over that is a crime against humanity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel has the right to defend itself...

I'm naive I know, but I believe that all countries and people have the right to defend themselves.

However, in the current climate pre-emptive strikes and defending yourself is the right of a very small select club. Non-members are terrorists if they dare to even think about it.

Hypocrisy came to mind yet again this morning when the following thread appeared on one of my regular Forum sites:

Peace in Israel

Posted: Sun July 16 23:40:18 2006

I hope all members in Haifa are safe.

Well I hope that too, but Haifa only? No thought for Forum members from Lebanon. Not surprisingly, given the way the news is managed and presented in the Land Of The Free, the poster is American.

No thought for the people in Lebanon so here are photos from today's Gulf News. This is what's happening on the streets in Lebanon...

They're people too, just like the rest of us.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oh COME ON it's illegal! Fix it!

From 7Days:

One day after promising to return them, the management of Skycom, a call centre in Dubai Internet City, is continuing to illegally hold its employees’ passports. In a meeting between the staff and the management on Saturday, the company agreed to return all the passports it was holding but employees told 7DAYS yesterday that Skycom has failed to do so.
Rashad Akbar, global operations manager of Skycom, told 7DAYS yesterday that he would only return passports of workers who were leaving the company. “We will send them back and return their passports at the airport,” he said, refusing to comment on the rest of his employees.

I simply don't understand. Holding employees' passports is illegal under UAE law. Why is no action being taken against this company? And others who also routinely break the law?

What is the point of passing laws if you're not going to enforce them.

Here are the full stories from yesterday & today

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Changing times in the City of Dust

Each time I come into Dubai Airport I swear the hike from the aircraft to the taxi stand takes almost as long as the flight. Is there another airport with such huge distances to walk?

Somehow I always land between two and three am after a sleepless night flight, then have to stumble miles along a seemingly endless corridor, climbing over the dozens of sleeping bodies strewn all over the place - not a good look for a self-proclaimed up-market destination I always think. When I do eventually reach the end and turn the corner...there's another identical miles-long corridor stretching beyond the horizon.

Eventually I do come to the end of it all and then into the e-gate machine. What a great time-saving invention that is, full marks for that. On to the taxi stand and, for the second consecutive time, a female taxi driver. Smart & clean in her uniform, polite, drove all the way down Sheikh Zayed Road to Dubai Marina below the speed limit and correctly using the indicators. I'll repeat that - below the speed limit and correctly using the indicators.

A male taxi driver who overtook us seemed to find a female driver a novelty. He glanced into our cab as he screamed passed, dropped back then pulled alongside gabbling at his three European passengers while pointing at our driveress. Stayed alongside for about a kilometre, eventually got bored so did the big macho number and hit the accelerator hard.

Singapore daytime was 31C and 'orribly 'umid - Dubai was the same at 3am. I actually found the humidity there much more oppressive, but I sure didn't miss the dust that swamped us as we drove through 'New Dubai'.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

*Gasp*...I agree with Gulf News!


Published: 07/12/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)

A campaign of dubious merit

The Dubai Police have started yet another road safety campaign to encourage safe driving. The nine-month promotion, titled "It's cool to be safe," is aimed at 18-30-year-olds, hence the "catchy" phrase used.

Over 100,000 specially designed car stickers will be distributed, which motorists are encouraged to sign and display as a pledge to be a safe driver.

However, instead of expending vast sums of money in campaigns, it is best to determine how effective they are, and whether increased fines and proactive policing would be better.

Moderately priced fines for errant motorists driving expensive sports cars and limousines do not act as a deterrent.

Nor does the "discovery" at the time of registration, maybe a year later, that fines await payment is likely to change dangerous and selfish driving.

It is better to get such drivers off the road for one or two years while they rethink their driving attitudes.

I've said it many times before...of course we need an ongoing education programme, of course we need awareness campaigns, of course we need to explain safety issues to people who don't understand them.

But that's all long term strategy.

Innocent people are being killed and maimed right now and we have an urgent need to get killer drivers off the road. Fines, licence removal are useless, only vehicle confiscation and jail terms will give us any protection from them.

PS to Dallas Austin's pardon...

Iranian couple acquitted of possessing illegal substances

By Bassam Za'za', Staff Reporter

Dubai: A middle-aged couple detained for seven months while on a holiday in Dubai were acquitted on Wednesday of possessing drugs containing illegal substances.

The Dubai Court of First Instance acquitted the Iranian couple - H.J. and M.A. - for lack of evidence.

Dubai Public Prosecution charged the suspects with smuggling and possessing drugs for personal use.

Police said the Iranians arrived at Dubai International Airport in December.
Customs inspectors found several pills and a syrup containing banned substances in their possession.

Earlier, the suspects' lawyer told the court that the drugs were prescribed by doctors in Iran.
"They came here on a seven-day vacation. They were detained for around seven months before they were bailed out, after we submitted their medical prescriptions to the court."

"Both my clients are over 50 years of age. H.J. suffers from 10 conditions, including back pain, constant headaches and mental health problems," said the lawyer. M.A. is also a heart patient, he said.

The syrup was a pain-killer which is legally sold in pharmacies, said the lawyer.

The defence lawyer said the actions taken against his clients were illegal.

He accused the customs inspector of violating the Criminal Procedures Law [Article 33] because he "stopped, searched, detained and referred the suspects to the Anti-Narcotics Department at Dubai Police.

"The inspector played the role of a law-enforcement officer which is a violation of the law."

Gulf News

It doesn't need a comment does it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Humidity worse than Dubai...

Been in Singapore this week...I've never been comfortable in the humidity here but it seems worse than ever this time. Even after the first week of July in Dubai it feels worse here, so I'm looking forward to coming back to the more comfortable City of Dust. Well, as far as humidity goes that is.

The novelty of quite a bit of rain here too, and of course greenery everywhere. And non-aggressive drivers who even stop for pedestrians when they're supposed to. And who park in designated parking spaces - just imagine, traffic-free footpaths! We've been here six days and haven't seen one traffic accident...that's another novelty for someone who lives in Dubai.

Back on Saturday morning, bleary-eyed I'm sure. All international flights into Dubai seem to arrive between 2 and 3 in the morning - the downside of being ideally located halfway between everywhere I guess.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Do not complain!

An astonishing attack on the English language press by Ayesha Sultan in Al Bayan and reprinted in Gulf News. It seems to have been triggered by comments about the Emiratisation of HR & secretarial positions.

Let me say straight away that I fully agree with her complaint that readers letters are often insulting. Gratuitous insults have no place in any society and Letters Editors should be far more effective in their decisions about which letters to print. Racial slurs are simply not acceptable and the Letters Editors should not print them.

But the article is in essence telling her readers that the English language press is subversive, destructive, provocative, publishing reports "with the aim of provoking UAE nationals...insulting a society, its individuals, policies and strategies..."

She is demanding high-level official action to stop the "outrageous campaign aimed at destroying values and rules of the UAE."

No-one should complain because: "Foreign workers are treated with respect and nicely as long as they do not cause any harm to the country and its standard policies." Unfortunately, too many workers are not treated well at all, not necessarily by Emirati management, but nevertheless it is a fact that they are treated badly without having caused any 'harm to the country.'

I hope that Ayesha's opinion that discussion, comment, complaints are such a huge danger to the country is very much a minority view. I don't see it as dangerous, as trying to insult or destroy the country's values or as provoking its nationals - quite the opposite. I see it as useful, in any country, for the people to be interested in government policies, for there to be open debate about those policies and their effects, to express their concerns if they believe the policies could be improved, to suggest alternatives.

This is the way that countries move forward.

And as a sign-off, Ayesha says "Strangers should always be polite and this is the dominant golden rule followed everywhere in the world." Sorry, but the first word should not be strangers, it should be "everybody".

You can read the article here