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Security Council Votes for Hariri Tribunal

Filed under: Middle East

The 15 state members of the UNSCR voted the UN Resolution 1757 establishing a tribunal to try those accused of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri. The resolution was sponsored by the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Slovakia and Italy and brought in at the request of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and of 70 Lebanese MPs.

An Nahar reported that people celebrated in the streets this first important victory, and Saad Hariri thanked the people and the international community for supporting this initiative from the get go.

The tribunal is necessary, not just for Hariri, but also for Pierre Gemayel, Gebran Tueni, Kasir, all good men who have publicly stated that they want a Lebanon free of Syrian interference. And we should not forget that before these assassinations there were others who were eliminated by Damascus, like Bashir Gemayel, Rene Mouwad, Kamal Jumblatt and so on. SOLIDA does a wonderful job reminding the Lebanese and the world that tens of thousands of Lebanese individuals have been illegally detained, many murdered by the heinous Syrian Baath regime in the past 30 years. Not surprisingly, Syria denies it. Actually, Syria refuses to admit that it has ever harm Lebanon or the Lebanese. Go figure! After 30 years of military/intelligence occupation that is a very stupid affirmation even for the Syrian Baath and Assad.

Hezbollah also expressed its criticism of the International Tribunal. If it has nothing to hide, why fear the IT? The same goes for Damascus. Actually SANA the state run news agency said that, "Setting up the court under Chapter 7 (of the UN Charter) violates Lebanese sovereignty and could result in further deterioration of the situation in the Lebanese arena." That means that Syria realizes that it is trapped in its own wrongdoings, but not ready to give up without a fight.

Hezbollah ministers resigned some months ago in order to put pressure on Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora; HA orchestrated the summer war with Israel, the violent street strikes and later on the, mostly peaceful sit-ins in front of the government building. They had the FPM support, but it looks like General Aoun in his ambition to become President, choose the wrong camp.

It is good that the efforts of Syria, HA and its allies (Fatah al Islam, SSNP, FPM etc ) failed to accomplish any of their objectives. Now that justice is on the verge of being made, I bet Syria will do its best to create chaos in Lebanon. If the Lebanese made it so far, lets hope they won't let the criminals' escape prosecution.

In brief: UNSCR Resolutions regarding Lebanon (before 1757)

UN 1559 asking the:
-Withdrawing Syrian forces from Lebanon
-Disbanding and disarming the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias
-Lebanese independence and sovereignty
-Government control over all Lebanese territory (South and Beqaa included)

UN 1680
-Urging Syria to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon

UN 1664
-Asking for the establishment of the international tribunal

UN 1701
-Full cessation of hostilities
-Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in parallel with Lebanese and UNIFIL soldiers deploying throughout the South
-Disarming HA
-Full control of Lebanon by the government of Lebanon
-No paramilitary forces, including Hezbollah, will be located south of the Litani river
And it stresses the urgency of solving the problem of the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by HA - fact that lead to the war in the 1st place

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All Hell Breaks Loose In Caracas

Filed under: Venezuela

College students protest the shutdown of RCTV and demand free speech
Source: Associated Press, via Philly Burbs

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez sent in these riot police to take on 'dangerous' protesting babes in Caracas who seek free speech.
Source: Associated Press, via Philly Burbs

Students went on strike all over Venezuela today, shutting down every major university in the name of free speech. El Universal reports that it's about eight big ones with all the kids marching onto OAS headquarters to urge the hemisphere's democracy-certifier to grow a spine. Miguel has a live report about what he saw in the streets, as well as photos. It sounds like turmoil and now troops have opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas to break up the protests.

Taking down 'oligarchs' - Hugo Chavez sicced his thugs on college students seeking free speech
Source: Reuters, via Yahoo! News

These began last night - they are well chronicled by Jim at GatewayPundit here - and have extended through to today. Megaresistencia, citing Union Radio, reports that numerous students at Simon Bolivar University were injured in tear gas and rubber bullet attacks by Chavista troops here.


Chavista riot police take aim at dreaded 'capitalists' and 'class enemies'
Source: Reuters, via Yahoo! News

Police chased students with tear gas at Plaza Brion in Chacaito
Source: EFE, via Megaresistencia

It all began because last night, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez shut down RCTV, Venezuela's largest and most popular television network. He did this by decree, for he rules by decree. This time he pulled RCTV's 53-year license. The clever yank-their-license approach gave his move an appearance of legality to outsiders. However, it was motivated by pure political revenge. Were Venezuela a real democracy, no politician would ever do a move so unpopular. Only one unafraid of popular retribution at the ballot box or any other kind of backlash would. Hugo fears nothing now.

RCTV owner Marcel Granier watches as his lifework is seized by Chavista thugs in the name of communist collectivism
Source: Associated Press

That wasn't all he did. Chavez sent in troops to steal -err, temporarily protect - the station's broadcasting assets and presumably hand them over to his chavista television worker collectives, barbaric groups of slum ignoramuses of no professionalism or commitment to news whatsoever. I know. I visited some when I was in Caracas, and I know who they are. Their sole purpose is propaganda and revenge on enemies. They don't actually know anything, they just want to indoctrinate. Lots of them are 'intellectuals' from the '60s who could never make it as real academics.

A college student throws a rock back at the Chavista goon squad
Source: AP, via BBC Mundo

That lack of professionalism is showing already - AP reported that the Chavista station that has replaced RCTV, known as Teves, has already showed its direction by singing Kim Il-Sung-style songs about how wonderful Hugo Chavez really is. The cult of personality has begun. Can you imagine losing your favorite television shows to be replaced by Marxist indoctrination by Marxist ideologues?

The UniMet student's sign says 'No To Oppression.' Hugo says 'Quick, get the tear gas'
Source: Agencia EFE, via Yahoo! Mexico

So not only is free speech dead in Venezuela, so are all other kinds of expression. And it all follows a long slide downhill on free speech rights, as described here, that is now continuing on to the harassment of CNN, Globovision and other Web sites, showing that Chavistas will stop at nothing to silence all free speech. As coda, blogger Tomas Sancio says it will only last as long as Venezuela's economy does.

Students flee from tear gas - notice how much they used on this 'enemy'
Source: AFP, via BBC Mundo

Now troops are firing on 'dangerous' students who don't want their last right to speak out taken away in the emerging Venezuelan dictatorship.

Students march at the University of Central Venezuela in Caracas
Source: Tal Cual, via Megaresistencia

UPDATE: Radio and TV stations in El Salvador and Costa Rica went dark in solidarity with RCTV.

Keep an eye on Miguel's blog, which has updates through the day, and Daniel's blog, too, which will probably have the same shortly.

Feathers has lots of local links of developments and YouTubes, it's worth a click here. And keep an eye out for updates on Venezuela Today, too, which watches everything.

TV Wars - The television entrepreneur and the thug who loves the spotlight alone
Source: AP, via Yahoo! Mexico

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Iran and the United States Hold First Bilateral Meeting Since 1979

Filed under: Iran

Today, the US Ambassador Ryan Crocker met with the Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi at al Maliki's office in Baghdad. The Iraqis were represented at the talks by Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the National Security Adviser. The discussions were about Iraq's fragile to some, non existent to others, security status.

The United States and the Iraqis know that Iran is supporting the Shiias militias (al Hakim and al Sadr) and when it suits its interests even the Sunni terror cells. For their part the Iranians will most likely deny such allegations, and ask for an immediate timetable for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq.

Bottom line: the United States wants Iran to stay out of Iraqi affairs, and Iran wants the United States and coalition troops out of Iraq. I bet they'd (Iranians) want the US troops out of the region, but thats not going to happen anytime soon.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said about the meeting, "We are hopeful that Washington's realistic approach to the current issues of Iraq by confessing its failed policy in Iraq and the region and by showing a determination to changing the policy guarantees success of the talks and possible further talks."

Iran's nuclear program was not discussed at this time.

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Rallying Big For Free Speech In Venezuela

Filed under: Venezuela

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans demonstrate for free speech in Caracas
Source: AP, via Drudge Report

Imagine a world with no free press. For many Venezuelans, it's dawned for the first time that this is no imaginative fear anymore. It's real. Chavista supporters and poor voters have taken to the streets alongside their middle-class brethren to call for free speech as the biggest television station, RCTV is shut down by Chavista decree.

A Venezuelan babe paints herself in the logos of RCTV
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez put a stop to free speech today by pulling the license of RCTV, the one TV station that has gone out of its way to oppose him, to blast his incompetence, to slam his theft of property, to warn he's running the country into the ground. They made no secret of opposing his power. Today the dictator ever so procedurally refused to renew the 53-year license of Radio Caracas Television, not because there's a public interest in seeing this station disappear, but because his own whim said so. When you are unable to distinguish yourself from the state, it gets easy.

Chavista military goons menaced demonstrating students Friday
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Chavez sent tanks, armored personnel carriers and goons to the scene of the demonstrations, a first, to intimidate
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, however, felt differently. 80% of them opposed the end of their TV station - the soap operas, the political commentaries, the news, the dramas, the reality TV, the dance and song shows, enough to march in the streets. Gone! Yanked!

These Venezuelan babes say it all about the importance of the issue.
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

College kids rallied in great numbers, even with nearby tanks menacing
Source: Getty Images

And what it's to be replaced with is repulsive - government programming that's one part mind-numbing Marxist indoctrination done by the post office and another part bullets, razorblades, cuss words and motorcycle thugs. I kid you not. I was there and I already saw it.

Students went on strike at the Catholic University for free speech
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

A Venezuelan babe holds up a sign showing dead TV sets
Source:Reuters via Yahoo! News

RCTV is the most popular station in Venezuela, loved by both Chavistas in the slums and middle class people in neighborhoods like Altamira. In fact, it's the equivalent of ABC or CBS. It's a huge popular station that's done the moon landing, done the coups, done Nixon's visit where he was mobbed, done the Vargas floods, done plane crashes, oil strikes and beauty pageants. It's the universal community of television. Again, now gone black.

In the mysterious dynamic of a spontaneous demonstration, there's a still a party feel in protest, a defiant 'happy' anger of being unified in a common cause
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

RCTV owner Marcel Granier (the Bolton lookalike), a good and noble man, participates in the rally, too. He must be exhausted.
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

It's not just Venezuelans who are gonna suffer from this. We all are, because we all consume Venezuelan news. Venezuela's press is among the most vigorous and competitive in the world. All foreign correspondents take their cues from the tone set by the local press, and RCTV is the leader. That in fact is why news coverage is so good on Venezuela. The excellence of the local press keeps news organizations like the NYT and WashPost honest because word gets out easily if they get something wrong. And the willingness of the press to keep covering huge demonstrations reminds the world that not all is well under chavismo. That's the people and the media speaking together against tyranny.

Yep, an oligarch all right. The babe's gag says 'Don't close RCTV.'
Source:Reuters via Yahoo! News

You can see it's hot out - and they came anyway
Source:AFP via Yahoo! News

The destruction of the biggest player among the entire media, with a 40% TV market share, is a warning to other press pipsqueaks that no one is immune from the wrath of chavismo, that all are subject to the whim of chavismo, that all must bow down before the chavista moloch or else face annihilation. If RCTV can't defend itself, then neither can they. A dictatorial monolith has risen. The message sent by the destruction of RCTV is lost on no one.

Whistling as loud as she can for the right to not remain silent
Source:Reuters via Yahoo! News

All ages attended the free speech rally to save RCTV in Caracas. Can you imagine such a crowd coming to defend CBS?
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

That's why the destruction of RCTV matters, even to us. If RCTV goes, they all eventually will go, and Chavez's boldness in this move, against almost all public opinion shows that there's no craziness he will stop at. Venezuelans must be asking themselves what the future holds because it's extremely dour now.

The mouth we'd really like to see shut, the sign says
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

It will get uglier. And there will be no media to cover it. The food shortages, the riots, the violence, the rage in the streets, the Chavista corruption - there will be no one to check it. The broad unity of the people and their big television station will be broken, and again, all that will be left is chavismo, the chavista monolith. This is a real beginning of the end for Venezuela.

And we may hear very little about it because the free press is fading fast.

Venezuelan babes wore zippers across their faces to demand free speech
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

On the frontlines, Venezuelan journalists showed up en masse to demand free speech
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Blog Roundup

Daniel at Venezuela News & Views has live, on-the-ground, minute-by-minute reporting of all he's seeing in Caracas around the final protests at the TV station. It's a must-see here. And thisthoughtful four-point analysis, too.

Miguel at Devil's Excrement has up-too-close photos of the Chavista thuggery at Globovision, here, along with observations here, news of official threats here, and an angry local Venezuelan political cartoon here.

Fausta at Fausta's blog has an excellent updated podcast of all the major Venezuelan bloggers who enlighten and inform about the ongoing events here. She also has a really good reporting on events of her own, and lots of links here.

Jim at GatewayPundit has a good summary of events and links galore in this post here. He's got a followup post showing chavista thuggery at the end of the rally today, very disturbing pictures.

Aleks Boyd, returning to blogging after an interval, says the RCTV shutdown is a blow for freedom of the press as well as illegal here.

Francisco at Caracas Chronicles has a good piece on the retreat of the radical left as Chavez goes off the deep end, forcing many to rethink their positions, or else resort to ever more irrational defenses here. He's got a lot of good stuff, click here and just keep scrolling.

For full coverage, click on Venezuela Today which has all the latest and most complete updates, changing by the hour here.

The Sumate signs represent different states, like Sucre and Cojedes
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

The banner reads: Freedom of Expression, SOS!
Source:AP via Yahoo! News

Newspaper Editorials Roundups

Editorial leaders are the official consensus positions of a newspaper's editorial leadership. That's why they have no bylines. As a result of the destruction of RCTV and the terrible implications of freedom of the press, nearly all major newspapers have come out against this move, as have all media watchdogs like 'Reporters San Fronteres' and the rest. Nearly all newspapers, from left to right, have blasted Chavez over this, some seeing him clearly for the first time ever. This represents a major strategic shift in world sentiment. Here are some newspaper editorials, and a couple of signed op-eds and columns from some extremely diverse newspapers, all saying the same thing.

Le Monde, as leftwing as a French newspaper can get, the Pepe Le Peu of French newspapers, fiercedly condemned Chavez's assault on freedom of speech in this major shift in sentiment over RCTV.

Investor's Business Daily, the second-biggest U.S. business newspaper and one that's editorially as far to the right as Le Monde is to the left, blasted the Chavez move as totally illegitimate in Venezuela yet dangerous to American interests too.

ABC Madrid, a great big Spanish newspaper, probably leftwing like they all are, condemned this move as contrary to democracy in this translated editorial.

The Wall Street Journal, the biggest U.S. business newspaper, warned that Chavez's shutdown of RCTV is undoubtedly a bid to preempt scrutiny of all the evil things he's planning now, a reasonable inteference, given what we are seeing.

El Nacional, Venezuela's equivalent of The New York Times, a highgrade, slightly left-leaning newspaper, the second biggest in Venezuela, has a huge frontpage editorial against a blackened television set graphic, powerfully sending a message of trouble ahead as this fatal mistake takes effect and worse follows.

The Washington Post, in a fine readable column written by Jackson Diehl, warned that freedom of the press in Venezuela should concern us all. He explains what RCTV is and what it means for Venezuela's history and speaks of all the innovations it's made.

Miami Herald, printing an essay by Rep. Tom Lantos, who was once a Hungarian democratic revolutionary who escaped communism, decried the horror of going after the press, explaining that the press is at the forefront of all modern revolutions.

'No to closure!' the sign reads
Source:Manuel Cifuentes, El Universal

The demonstration was spontaneous
Source:EFE via El Universal


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Saudi Arabia promotes religious tolerance

Filed under: Middle East

The tolerance of Saudi Arabia towards non Muslims (Christians, Jews and others) is known worldwide, as well as its tolerance and respect of minority (like Shiias), women, homosexuals, etc rights and liberties. That is why when the Saudi police found a Christian man working in Mecca they immediately arrested him. That is actually a good thing because just few years ago Christians faced torture or worse.


For more information's on Saudi courtesy towards its citizens, residents and visitors, please check this link and this one

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Is it only me or is this a (zillion time) deja vu?

Filed under: Middle East

The moronic Syrian Baath tries to cover its illegitimacy, corruption and abuse of its own people by pointing to: what do you think? the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And while we are at it, do you remember who else blames the darn Zionists each time they fail to deliver? Take a look at the three best buddies ever and you'll have the answer.


I guess accountability is just not part of most of Arab/Muslim state and clan leaders vocabulary.

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Can dignity be truly found in killing and revenge ?

Filed under: Egypt


"Palestinian to interviewer: 'By my life, I don't know if the shell that fell on us was from Israel, from Fatah or from Hamas!", Source: Akhbar Al-Yawm, Egypt, May 20, 2007

Not long ago, in an editorial Fadhil Rashad explained that the mentality of Al-Jahiliya (pre-Islamic culture) of killing and revenge continues to dominate the Arab Muslim mind. This type of mentality has horrific consequences for all parties involved. Can't they say enough is enough?!

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Islamic Police in Iran torturing youths in public

Filed under: Iran

Please, see by yourself the state terrorism practised by the Islamic Republic regime against the Iranian people. See these youths being literally tortured in public by the Bassijis/Hezbollah ’security forces’.
These youths are accused of being anti-regime activists, non-observing the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code or looking at the security forces 'in a certain manner'. This is the State Terrorism practed by the Terrorist regime founded by Khomeini with the complicity of the European and American Left, mainly Giscard Estaing and Jimmy Carter, America's worst former president. Photos courtesy of SMCCDI.

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Lebanon under attack

Filed under: Middle East

Fatah al-Islam terrorists paid and used as proxy by Bashar al Assad to create havoc in Lebanon triggered a bloody street battle today in Tripoli (second city as importance after Beirut) The good news is that the national Lebanese army is now in control of the situation.

I strongly believe that the UN investigation in Hariri's assassinations (and let us not forget the chain of assassinations and attempts of assassinations that followed) is close to publicly affirm, not only suggest as it did so far, the extent of Syrian involvement in these crimes. Truth is nearing the surface and this is the reason of the recent violent clashes.

The Palestinians brought destruction in the '70s to Lebanon and if let, they will do it once again. I truly hope that Siniora's government will act bold and promptly against the terrorists, be they Palestinian or Lebanese (hint: Hezbollah) who threaten the already fragile stability of the country.

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Sunday evening after the cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail that only the Lebanese army and security forces should carry weapons. He added, "We are determined to confront conspiracy."

The Lebanese must understand that without full sovereignty, they cannot enjoy freedom, liberty, rights or security. If Lebanon continues to be used by Iran and Syria in order to settle scores with the United States, Israel and the world soon it will collapse into a state of total chaos and lawlessness just as Gaza is today. And that is exactly what Tehran and Damascus would want.

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President Bush Continues to Disappoint on Russia

Filed under: Russia

Bush_confused%5B2%5D.jpg If one hoped that U.S. President George W. Bush would have reconsidered his initially appalling stance on the anti-democratic Putin regime (Bush infamously "looked into the eyes" of Putin and found him trustworthy), one was sorely disappointed in recent days as the Bush administration has taken a much-deserved bashing in the media over its betrayal of the struggle for democracy in Russia.

First, the Boston Globe issued a stinging editorial lambasting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent trip to Moscow for failing to attempt any serious confrontation over democracy issues and focusing obsessively on fence mending. Although Rice did conduct a few low-profile meetings with democracy advocates and made an appearance on maverick radio station Echo of Moscow, always a thorn in the Kremlin's side, Rice said nothing of real significance on the program, much less did she confront Putin over Russia's outrageous conduct towards Estonia or take up the invitation of the Wall Street Journal to confront the Kremlin publicly over its harassment of leading human rights attorney Katerina Moskalenko, who represents Garry Kasparov and, as we have previously reported, is facing politically motivated disbarrment proceedings. Her limp posture couldn't have more starkly contrasted with the in-your-face attitude of German Chancellor Angel Merkel, who challenged Putin directly, in his presence, over the supression of the "Other Russia" movement. Scenting blood in the water, the Daily Kos jumped on the bandwagon.

{Read about the other jackboot dropping after the jump}

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The Saudi plan is just another deceiving tool

Filed under: Palestine

Israel has always been open and willing to conclude peace agreements with Arab and Muslim countries, as long as its existence and security is not put in danger. In the Arab world, many believe that the road to Washington runs via Jerusalem. Even if this is not the case (anymore), this belief served everyone's interest; Jordan and Egypt gained better relations to the US as well as considerable financial aid, and Israel attained (cold) peace with two Arab nations and more recently (1996) a trade partnership with Qatar. Since the coalition is pretty much trapped in Iraq's quagmire, the situation in the region changed dramatically. Iran and the Shiias are on the wave and they have found themselves powerful satellites, namely Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas. For the time being it does not matter that Hamas is Sunni and Iran Shiia, as long as they are fighting a common enemy.

There was Madrid, Oslo and Camp David, Beirut summit, the famous Road Map and now the Saudi plan, which is actually the resuscitated plan of King Abdullah, presented earlier at the Beirut summit.

The Media Line reported that, "Members of the Arab League, meeting in Riyadh, have unanimously approved the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. One abstention came from Ismail Haniyye, the Hamas leader who serves as prime minister in the Palestinian government. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas voted in favor. In his remarks to the assemblage, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal threatened that, 'If Israel refuses (to accept the plan) that means it doesn't want peace. Then (the conflict) goes back into the hands of the lords of war.' But European Union foreign affairs envoy Javier Solana urged the league not to see the plan as a take it or leave it proposition, but rather to "get the negotiations started. In any negotiations there are changes in positions, because negotiations are like that." After the plan was initially unveiled in 2002, the issue of a Palestinian "right of return" was added. Recently, Israeli leaders have called on the Arab world to drop that provision, seen as a deal-breaker by the Israelis, so that progress can be made in negotiations based upon the plan. The Arab leaders (as expected) rejected the idea."

Some of the obstacles are as follows:

-decades old hatred (both sides) and the urge to gain through revenge the lost dignity of the Islamic Ummah (that is one sided), status of Jerusalem and that of refugees - which are two of the points Hamas always said that are not negotiable, normalization of relations with Syria (by returning the Golan heights, the Arab brevetted invention called 'peace for land' -- going back to 1967 borders while there is in place the Hudna, a period of calm till Arab Muslims and Iran grow strong enough to eradicate Israel.

I did not even mention the Israeli security concerns because they become completely irrelevant when its partners won't settle for anything less than its destruction.

At the Riyadh summit, the Saudis made efforts to stabilize the relationship between Hamas and Fatah, not for the sake of the Palestinians, as some idealists would hope, but rather to minimize the Iranian role in the Palestinian affairs and the region. Saudi Arabia is a family owned business whose sole priority is retention of power for a family only three generations away from herding camels in the desert. They cannot allow Shiias (it is common knowledge by now that the Wahhabi abuses the Shiia minority) to take over their land and consequently over the wealth.

It is always good to remember that Hamas is actually acting as the Muslim Brotherhood branch in the territories. The fact that it carries a different name does not alter its ideology and core principles. Far from being a democratic leader, although that is what he claims to be, President Mubarak at least recognized the Muslim Brotherhood cancerous ideology that spread from Egypt to Gaza long before 1948 and much more virulently afterwards. Briefly put the MB is as perilous as the Nazi ideology was because they want to establish the perfect, global Islamic Caliphate. Obviously they not only promote violence and terror against the others (non Muslims) but their clerics release fatwas saying that the Jihhadists (translating, criminals) are emissaries of God, which is actually conform with the teachings on Quran, Hadith and Sunnah. From this perspective the writings of Sayyed Qutb, Michel Aflaq and al Banna are intellectually challenging and revealing from an ideological point of view. As Shahada says, which is the initial declaring of faith, "There is no sovereign legislator other than Allah and Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is His slave and final Messenger." The Caliphate being established after God's rule rises above all principles, theories etc we can come up as simple human beings. MB (as Hizb ut Tahrir) summarizes the Islamic foreign policy as following: 1) dawah (primary invitation to the true belief and the only God) followed by intellectual debate/discussions with the elites of the Jews and Christians, namely the People of the Book. The others are considered apostates from the get go and they do not deserve to be engaged at an intellectual level since they cannot appreciate the greatness of God in the first place. 2) There will be a period of toleration when the non Muslims - male only - will be required to pay the jizya, the protection tax and 3) preparation for an offensive Jihad. As in the past, the Catholic church/Crusaders helped people understand, by any necessary means, how unsafe and foolish of them is to reject the gospel preached I can say today that what goes around comes around, even if centuries later.

At the surface the conflict may involve the desire of acquiring more wealth, of becoming regional and global players, etc but the essence of this struggle is the search and recognition of our moral identities as human beings. I would have thought that in a Godless world (or close to be so), religion is the last thing we can be greatly influenced by, but in the light of the past years this assessment proves to be, if not a fallacy, then at least a loophole vision of the current events.

I do not doubt for a minute that the Palestinians have freely chosen Hamas, knowing well that Hamas represents the forces of Islamic terrorism. They also overwhelmingly backed Fatah and Arafat when he aligned himself with the Soviets back in the cold war. This is exactly why the Palestinian people have lived in misery and will continue to do so. Given a choice, they always chose the forces of hatred and fanaticism. Therefore, it is pointless to proceed with any peace plans, much less the idiotic plans set up by the Saudis of all extremists! The phony negotiations with the unrepresentative and endlessly dishonest Abbas are delaying what is the only practical path to eventual peace -- the complete destruction of Hamas just as Nazism had to be completely annihilated to allow peace to come to Europe. The leftists are still deluding themselves that peace and stability can be achieved with terrorist entities.

But how do you deal with an extremist, terrorist movement when those who are part of it have a creed so strong, so irrational and yet so very convincing to themselves that they see death in the struggle against oppression as a victory not a defeat. In fact they yearn not for victory of this world but the next. Prophet Muhammad says that the best action in Islam is fighting oppression, better than any prayer, fasting, charity or kindness is to deliver mankind from the oppression of man made and man imposed rules to the rule of the Just, and who is more Just that the one who Created Man? How exactly can one fight this ideology with reason and diplomacy? No more need to be said.

Writing about the "eagerness" of the Arab Muslims to live peacefully side by side with Israel, Charles Krauthammer said, "The world will soon be awash with 40th anniversary retrospectives on the war -- and on the peace of the ages that awaits if Israel would only return to June 4, 1967. But Israelis are cautious. They remember the terror of that unbearable May when, with Israel possessing no occupied territories whatsoever, the entire Arab world was furiously preparing Israel's imminent extinction. And the world did nothing." Hamas simply does not negotiate, it dictates. Do we let the terrorists take over while we stick our heads in sand?! I hope not.

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The Saudi Initiative - A Genuine Opportunity

Filed under: Egypt ~ International Institutions ~ Middle East ~ Palestine

The famous Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once quipped that "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity [for peace]." With Israel's refusal to-date to accept the recently re-tabled Saudi Peace initiative offering Israel peace with the entire Arab World, it seems that it may be Israel this time that is guilty of Abba's charge. For years there has been no substantive progress concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Israeli position has been that there is no "viable" partner from the Palestinian side to negotiate with. It seems as though the tide has changed in dramatic fashion over the course of the past few months.

Much of this is due to the assertion of the Saudis as the regional diplomatic powerhouse. In February, Saudi King Abdullah helped facilitate the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas that put an end to the internecine factional violence between the two parties. The Arab League summit, hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reinvigorated the previously inert Saudi Initiative.

This is a window of opportunity that Israel must seize; all 22 Arab countries are willing to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the Arab territories it occupied since 1967.

So what is the problem? Israel is not willing to negotiate with the new Palestinian Unity Government that includes Hamas because it has yet to meet the Quartet’s (composed of the E.U, U.N., U.S., and Russia) conditions (recognize Israel, renounce violence, respect all previous agreements). Furthermore, despite some positive pronouncements, Israel refuses to accept the Saudi Initiative because of clauses regarding the Palestinian refuges and borders.

This refusal is unwarranted because while the Initiative does call for a sovereign, independent Palestinian state with its capital in Arab East Jerusalem, it does so on the basis of the internationally recognized 1967 borders. In terms of the Palestinian refugees, it calls for a "just" and "agreed upon" solution to the refugee problem. Equally critical, the Arab League Initiative has stated that as long as Israel accepts the Initiative "In Principle", then everything is open for negotiations

Israel's refusal to negotiate is contradictory to American economic interests and Israeli security interests. By achieving regional peace, Israel can finally be fully integrated into the Middle East. The Palestinians will have their state and the Israelis the security they have been unable to achieve since Israel's establishment. One need only look at the Recent G.C.C. (the Gulf Cooperative Council) involvement in major economic outreach programs with Asian countries, such as India and China, to realize the economic potential of peace. Billions of dollars are flowing back and forth between the oil rich Gulf States and Asia.

Instead of exploiting the new opportunity for peace presented by the Saudi Initiative, for peace in the region and a new epoch of economic prosperity for all parties involved, Israel is sitting on its diplomatic hands waiting for the ever important "pre-conditions" to be met. The onus is often put on increasing weakness of the Olmert administration and its lack of political capital. Yet, a majority of Israel citizens desire a two-state solution. There is no other act that an Israeli Prime Minister could perform to galvanize more internal support.

For the U.S., a serious and meaningful role as an honest mediator in the peace process could repair its dwindled and demonized image in the Middle East and Muslim world, with all the attendant benefits of Arab cooperation on Iraq. King Abdullah is not calling for the Israelis to simply sign the Saudi Initiative. Negotiations are expected over the Palestinian refugees, East Jerusalem and final borders before a final agreement is reached.

Israel's continuous claim that it wants peace stands tested by whether it accepts the Saudi Initiative in principle as the framework for a regional peace agreement. The U.S. stands at a fork in the Mid-East and the path it chooses will have serious ramifications on its national security and future economic opportunities in the region. Using our influence with our number one ally in the Middle East to reconsider the Saudi Initiative is our best hope today for securing both our interests and peace.

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A daring woman in Putin's Russia

Filed under: Russia

Ms Karinna Moskalenko one of Russia most dignified human rights lawyer said, "It isn't necessary to put all the businessmen in jail. It is necessary to jail the richest, the most independent, the most well-connected. It isn't necessary to kill all the journalists. Just kill the most outstanding, the bravest, and the others will get the message. Nobody is untouchable."

This is a piece worth reading

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General Petraeus Letter

Filed under: Middle East

General David Petraeus, Commander of Coalition forces in Iraq has written an important letter that should be read by all of us who are following Iraq's developments.

"Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force-Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we, not our enemies occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months."
For more please check this link

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Assad the troublemaker

Filed under: Middle East

Diplomatic sources revealed to Naharnet (Lebanese Arabic Daily known for denouncing the Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs) that President Assad in a phone conversation with Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of ONU threteaned to "to set the region on fire, from the Caspian to the Mediterranean, over differences with the United Nations regarding Lebanon's stability."

In fact Assad is afraid that he will be caught red handed in Rafiq Hariri's assassination, possible Pierre Gemayel's one and in numerous other heinous crimes the Syrian bath orchestrated during the 29 occupation of Lebanon. Is is time Assad and his accomplices from Syria and Lebanon pay for their deeds! We have yet to see whether UN will establish the international tribunal under the VII chapter but the prospects are good.

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Syrian Pharaoh?

Filed under: Middle East

The Syrian Parliament (Majlis Al Shaab) unanimously approved President Bashar Al-Assad as the solely candidate for the presidency, for a second mandate of 7 years. President Assad came to power in July 2000 with more than 90% of the electorate votes. A referendum will be held at the end of June, but the decision was already taken by the Syrian Baath party. As expected, in an authoritative regime, people will is unimportant.

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Iranian Woman Fights Back Against a veiled Islamist

Filed under: Iran

Whenever I see such things, I think we should give the Nobel Prize to the Iranian women for their courage to resist Islamic misogyny and the imposition of the Islamic "dress code".

A friend in Iran sent me the follow videoclip showing a maverick Iranian girl fighting back against the attempt of a black ninja (Islamist Bassiji and Hezbollah militiawomen) to arrest her over her "non-respect of Islamic dress code".

Please, don't miss to see the videoclip and don't forget that this is not the first time a woman defends herself against the Islamists in Iran.

See videoclip here (Video Player requires Flashplayer).

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Iranian Woman wearing bra in public in Iran!

Filed under: Iran

Here is a video of a very brave Iranian woman who took off the imposed Islamic dress in protest of the Islamic Republic occupying Iran - fellow bystanders urge her to put her clothes on fearing for her safety, as she is showing herself wearing a bra in public in a street of Tehran.

You won't believe it. Just take a look. One needs to have guts to do such a courageous protest action.. This is a form of exasperation result of misogyny.

See the amazing video here.

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Pragmatism Towards Turkey's Military

Filed under:

In the past month, worries about foreign minister Abdullah Gul of the AK Party being nominated to the position of President came to a head with over a million marching in Istanbul for secularism preceded by a thinly veiled threat by the general staff of the Turkish army to intervene. The Western medias response was positive towards a Middle Eastern and predominately Muslim nation having large public shows of support for secularism but tempered by the possibility of another military coup to defend this position, leading the Economist to declare ‘If Turks have to choose, democracy is more important than secularism’. The majority of the reasoning led towards a questioning of the Turkish military’s role, a role that seems foreign to industrialized nations where the military is typically subordinate to civil governments.

While this speaks to an ideal of a coexistence of democracy and secularism, the reality is that there is popular support for the AK Party that outnumbers the secular opposition – if elections are to be held in July, they will most likely be dominated by the AK. While this shouldn’t be declared as an Islamist majority or secular minority, the ambitions of the AK Party are unclear in regards to their Islamist roots (to be fair, the majority of their rule has respected secularism and presided over a period of sustained economic development).

In this predicament, the military shouldn’t be discounted as the self-appointed defender of Ataturk’s secular legacy. The West’s difficulty with its position is obvious: in a global memory bereft of military juntas that turned countries into prisons, the capability of a military to interfere in politics in a positive, progressive manner seems negligible. But the reality is the military has acted as an institution maintaining Western values in a country that is a member of NATO and seeking future membership in the European Union.

While the Turkish system may not be the best of all worlds, in a region where Hamas in Palestine, Lieberman in Israel, and Ahmadinejad in Iran all attained power democratically, the short falls of an unchecked democracy should be apparent. More importantly, the Turkish military has acted as an arbiter of power and primarily maintained a stable political system while countries around it have welted into Islamic regimes and authoritarian police states. Given the climate of perpetual conflict and chaos in the Middle East, there needs to be a pragmatic approach towards the forces of secularism and modernization, including the Turkish military.

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More dissidents in Syria

Filed under: Middle East

A faction decided to leave the SSNP (Syrian National Pan-Arab Social party) because of the outrageous manipulation and terrorization of the Alawite regime of President Bashar al Assad. It's good to see that people still find the power to rebel against dictators even if such audacity can cost their freedom and even their lives.

Activist Anwar Bunni is held in jail for the "sin" of speaking against the regime while many others are closely watched by the Syrian Mukhabarat (secret services) and forbidden to leave the country.

update: the Criminal Court of Damascus sentenced today the Syrian dissident, Dr Kamal Labwani to life in prison, which was then reduced by judge Mehiddeene al-Hallak to 12 years in jail; Labwani is accused of contacting a foreign nation, the United States for the purport of instigating attacks against Syria
The Reform Party of Syria reported that Labwani arrived the US in the fall of 2005 where he met with high US officials to discuss oppression of Syrians and human rights in Syria

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Hamas 'concessions' equals Israel's destruction

Filed under:

Osama Hamdan, Hamas representative in Lebanon said on Al Manar,"I will not accept a agreement saying that at the end of the day, Haifa, Jaffa, and Acre are Israeli cities, and part of the Israeli land. It should, at the very least, say that these cities cannot be liberated or regained today (...)"

He went on saying, "Seeking peace with it (Israel) is a waste of time. What should be sought is a true solution, which will restore all the Palestinian rights, and will lead to an end to the existence of this entity in the region."

And Hamas moderated after the Riyadh summit?! Yeah, right.

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Mexico Gets Back To Normal

Filed under: Americas ~ Humor

Remember this anxious crowd at the Zocalo in Mexico City last summer? At the time, supporters of Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador demonstrated and agonized over the narrow presidential election returns that they saw as depriving their presidential candidate of legitimate victory. They were so upset they gathered in Mexico City's public square and camped out. They refused to budge. They shut down the city. And there were questions as to whether Mexican democracy could survive at all:

Source: AP, via

Today, Mexico's democracy is alive and well, and it's got a popular president who's loved on all sides of the political spectrum. Felipe Calderon today commands a 65% political approval rating by Mexicans as citizens grow confident that he's the right man for the job and he won that job fairly. But that doesn't mean the Zocalo is empty, not by any means. It just means that the crowd scene there is now something very different:


Nekkid people! Everybody taking it off and showing their birthday suits. Errrr, I mean, doing art! Yes, art photographer Spenser Tunick is back, and has he ever brought out the naked people to downtown Mexico City! Like last AMLO Summer, the crowds are as big as ever in pursuit of a common purpose. But this time, instead of common political misery, it's all about common participation in art and feelin' groovy. Lotsa art! Mexico's changed since AMLO's vigil, and for most, it's for the better!

Or at least a happy ending! Viva Mexico!

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Big Victory For Sarkozy In France!

Filed under: France

It finally hits him - he's won! Nicolas Sarkozy wins France's election
Source: Le Figaro

Rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy, is sailing toward a landslide presidential victory in France. The polls have closed in Paris and foreign exit polls signal that Sarko is taking a 10 point margin of victory over his socialist opponent, Segolene Royal. It's the first victory of a genuine rightwinger in memory. Oh Sarko has roots in the nationalistic command-economy style of the Gaullists, but France has never seen anyone with such radical views about national identity, competitiveness, law and order, and a sustainable economy as Sarkozy. His victory represents a real move toward change.

Not only that, he believes in democratic revolution! Look! From his victory speech, we can see it for ourselves:

Tolerance and tyranny

I want to issue a call to everyone in the world who believes in the values of tolerance, freedom, democracy, humanism, to all those who are persecuted by tyranny, by dictatorships. I want to tell all of the children throughout the world, all of the ill-treated women throughout the world - I want to tell them that it will be France's pride and its duty to be at their side.

France will be at the side of the Libyan nurses [Bulgarian nurses imprisoned in Libya], imprisoned for eight years. France will not abandon Ingrid Betancourt [held by Farc rebels in Colombia]. France will not abandon the women condemned to wear the burqa. France will not abandon the women who do not have freedom. France will be on the side of the oppressed of the world. This is France's message, it is France's identity, it is France's history.

I want to blow kisses at him, especially because he blasts the filthy FARC.

Sarkozy supporters gather at the Place de la Concorde in Paris to celebrate
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France


After all, isn't France the country that four years ago was branded 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' for its opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq? Wasn't France solidly socialist to the bone? Weren't there a lot of analyses out saying that the French abhorred change, couldn't lift itself from its cafes, hated globalization and definitely didn't want a wild man like Sarkozy as president out wrecking the country? It's just amazing how mistaken so many observers were. There's a whole different country out there that none of them, neither enemy nor familiar, really seemed to know.

French Presidential contenders Segolene Royal and Nicolaus Sarkozy
Source: Agence France-Presse, via Brisbane Times

There's no doubt Sarko wants change. But he wants it for different reasons than leftists often do. Leftists want to create a New Man. Sarko wants to save France so that it can be France, not turn it into another cookie-cutter Berkeley or Ann Arbor, as has been happening. Sarko's a flag-waver. He's extremely passionate and energetic, and he will make a difference. His proposed economic programs to keep France powerful and competitive, will do just that, as French voters read it, because that's a big issue that resonated.

Sarko's voters wave le tricoleur around Paris
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France

Sarko's victory is fascinating because even though he is rightwing and Sego is leftwing, that's not as important as the fact that he ran as the revolutionary, while Sego ran as the conservator. In Latin America, the dynamic might have been the other way around with the rightwinger being the conservator and the leftwinger seeking revolution.

But there's no arguing she's a babe - Segolene Royal on the campaign trail
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France

But not so France, which has been socialist for decades, at least since the end of World War II. The election of a flaming rightwinger who doesn't even apologize for being 'a man of the right' is rather dramatic news that will knock the left's complacency about its special role in bringing revolutionary change off its axis. In fact, they were the Marie-Antoinettes without even realizing it.

French babes celebrate at the fountain at the Place de La Concorde in Paris
Source: Agence France-Presse, via Yahoo! France

Apparently, not all of Sarko's supporters were oldsters. Sarko babes celebrate!
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France

Not only has France been socialist, it has been stagnant. That it's true is one thing, but that's less important than whether the French believed this. They did. The French are not clueless. They saw unchecked crime, unassimilated immigration, unjobbed youth and the unlovely social results of it all as a problem in itself and decided to fix it instead of crawl under a rock and pretend things would be ok. So, Sarko won.

She's like a modern Delacroix painting. She's cheering for Sarko.
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France

French Revolutionary: A French babe sings La Marseillaise at Place de la Concorde, echoing the French revolutionaries of 1793
Source: Getty Images, via New York Times

Obviously, this girl would like to experience a job at some point in her life.
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! News

Another Sarko babe, one of many. Any bets she thinks Hippies Stink?
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! News

Sarko is their rock star. The babes of France have spoken.
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France

More very French babes celebrating Sarko's victory in Paris
Source: AP, via Yahoo! News

Party hearty, these French babes love Sarko .... or else!
Source: AP, via News24

The babes came out for Sarko, and France seems to be full of them.
Source: AP, via Yahoo! News

Sarko supporters come out to cheer - notice how high the youth count is. Anecdotally, this counters media reports of a young-old divide in the voting
Source: AP, via Yahoo! News

How do I know this? Well, Sarko kept getting explosive pops in the polls in the last days of the election, and for signficant reasons related to this.

1. The first blow was when French thugs rioted in Gare Du Nord station and said they were smashing shop windows and burning tires because they didn't like Sarkozy (and didn't like paying subway fares either). Like Evo Morales of Bolivia, these thugs hoped to intimidate French voters into voting for someone else by promising violence. Sarko blasted them, said he'd come get them good if he were president. When he was criticized for his tough stance, he refused to back down and won a huge and definitive lead in the polls.

2. Sarko made a dazzling speech at a final campaign rally in France last Sunday, blaming the spirit of 1968 for France's current malaise. In other words he told the French 'Hippies Stink.' His words resonated with the French who must have sensed something gone off the rails over the yeras. Also his words were intriguingly intellectual because he seemed to want to trace the root cause of France's problems straight to its origins. He cited a bunch of philosphers, too, only in France can a politician get away with that, but it impressed the hell out of me. In that speech, Sarko articulated the unspoken thoughts of millions of Frenchmen who'd been smothered with a culture of political correctness for decades and who were told they were racists if they thought anything differently. Net result, another boost for Sarko in the polls.

3. The debate on May 2, really clinched it. Sarko calmly laid out his economic and political plans while his opponent, Segolene Royal, flew off the handle and postured and puffed about starving babies, trying to get an emotional vote. Sarko quietly told her to calm down and act presidential, showing that wonderful Gallic value for logic and sang-froid, one of those reasons the rest of us just love the French. Sarko's lead extended.

4. Finally, there was the Bin Laden Effect. Banlieue thugs (who are neither Muslim nor Islamofascist nor leftist, just pure thugs who deal drugs and act like South Central Los Angeles lowlife) vowed to riot and burn cars if Frnech voters dared elect Sarkozy. It was an echo of Osama Bin Laden's threat to destroy U.S. Red States if their voters dared vote for Bush. In both cases, it backfired. The more they showed their faces, the more French voters wanted the firm hand of Sarko to make things right.

Now, it looks like his lead is approaching ten points above that of Segolene.

What does this say? It says the French want revolution again - against thugs, against political correctness and against stagnant social policy. They want the Louie the Sixteenths out again. Upstart Sarko is a little short guy like Napoleon and vows to restore order. He's so French.

Vive La France!


Sarko campaigning in the French Alps
Source: AFP, via Yahoo! France



Nidra Poller at Pajamas Mediais liveblogging from Paris and has fantastic coverage of what's going on over there - she tells us what she's seeing, the things she smells in the streets, the weird stickers on walls, the illegal posters, the stuff she hears on the radio - cripes, you feel you are there. Her work is a must-read here.

Pajamas Media also has a wonderful straight roundup that's easy to scroll through and read here.

Fausta at Fausta's Blog has some awesome minute-by-minute coverage of all the happenings, and lots of video clips, it's a must-see here.

Daniel at Venezuela News & Views, who is French, has a kickass bunch of posts and a longer analysis of what's going on and why it matters, I really liked it, just click and scroll here.

Political Scientist Matthew Shugart at Fruits and Votes has some observations about distorted media coverage and explains how a government forms in France, with some dates to watch for. He cheers for Sego. Read it here.

Jim at GatewayPundit's got a hilarious photo-filled roundup, naturally, with a strong focus on the babe component, as you might imagine. See it here!

Meanwhile, the FuckFrance site (sorry about the name!) has all the racaille car-burning updates, as you might imagine, here.

Watch the elections results, live, come in Department by Department (that's like counties for us) in this terrific AFP map here. Looks like the departments around Alsace, Languedoc, Corsica, Tahiti, French Guiana, and Normandy are going Sarko. The Caribbean departments, the Rhone river valley, Gascony and Brittany seem to be more solidly Sego.

Bloomberg reports Sarko is victorious and Sego has conceded defeat in a new update.

Yahoo! France says the score is Sarkozy 53.3%, Segolene 46.7% thus far, not sure if it is the final one.

BBC has a video of Sarko's victory speech and written excerpts to the side, here.

The Sarko babes celebrate in the streets - unfortunately, I can't hotlink them on this Le Figaro gallerie, so click here.

Bush has congratulated Sarko, and Sarko has extended his friendship to the U.S. - His first message? Global Warming, he tells us to get on with it. Ralf. I guess that's what we can expect. I hope it wasn't all he had to say to us. Item here.

Buy French champagne! French winemakers, from the already-competitive powerhouse provinces of Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy, were bigtime supporters of Sarko and his freemarket message. No doubt they are celebrating themselves. Buy French wine!

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Economic boost needed in Lebanon

Filed under: Middle East

In spite of the political mayhem, the Arab Economic Forum is holding its 15th annual meeting in Beirut today. The Al-Iktissad Walamal magazine organized the two day event where approximately 500 persons representing 18 countries will be present, including the governors of the central banks of the major oil exporting countries.

After the July 2006 war with Israel (war started by Hezbollah), Lebanon received $7.6 billion in pledges from the Paris III conference to help rebuild the country and reduce the external debt.
This forum will test the willingness of the participants to address and further support Lebanon's needs for privatization, development and investments. The hope is that economic development will also calm the political tensions between Fuad Siniora's government and Hezbollah-FPM alliance.

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Why Don't People in the Developing World Wait in Line?

Filed under: Economics

Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame writes on his blog about his recent trip to Poland, in which he cannot understand why people there continuously cut in line. He surmises that it must be some sort of economic incentive that drives such a force.
What surprised me most about the line cutting was that having lived under communism for so long, I would have thought that the Poles would have perfected standing in line. I would have predicted even greater courtesy than you find elsewhere. Perhaps, I just got the theory backwards. With so many years of shortages, the rewards for becoming an expert line cutter were much greater in Poland than in the U.S. So they did perfect standing in lines — perfection means being able to cut in front of people and feel no guilt.
I think there is a definite link between scarcity and line-cutting. When I was in Chile during the economic crisis of 1999, people would cut lines and hide stuff in their coats all the time. Blatantly being in line and having someone just jump in front of you can be incredibly annoying, and it's only exacerbated by the fact that they likely chose your line because you're a foreigner (you're less likely to do something about it). There is a notion that if you wait in line, you will never get what you need. It's every man for himself. Relying on yourself to get to the front is the best and most satisfying option.

This markedly changed by 2003. I never really saw anyone cutting in line once the depression was over.

Another factor that plays into this equation is socio-cultural. In the United States, since kindergarten, we are taught to line up in every situation. This may not be our natural instinct, though, as kids only form lines when the teacher tells them to; otherwise they just scatter around. It's an practiced instinct. As adults we do it unconsciously, and often feel the piercing eyes of others if we try to cut in line. Making lines is just a cultural norm in the United States, one that preserves order and fairness, especially in a country that so developed comparatively.

This kind of relates to Levitt's trip to Poland. When I was in Ukraine and Belarus last August, I could not for the life of me figure out why people kept cutting me in line. I don't speak any Russian so it isn't like I could ask. My friend Andy was able to explain it to me though. In Ukraine, people will form a line just about anywhere, but you can also be easily cut at just about any time. What you have to do, when entering a line, is ask the person in front of you if he is in the line. That will confirm that you, now, are in the line. Similarly, whoever gets behind you will ask you this same question. If you don't tell the person in front of you, though, there will be the dire consequence of people cutting you in line because you didn't confirm your own placement.

Perhaps it's the same way in Poland! Thoughts?

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Khatami visits the Pope

Filed under: Europe

Mohammad Khatami, Iranian former President is scheduled to meet this week with Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. He will also hold separate meetings with Premier Romano Prodi and Foreign Minister D'Alema.

I wonder what is he up to... any ideas?

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Turkish Protest Babes Defend Secularism

Filed under: Protest Babes

There is something we the women can't stand the most: religious fundamentalism, which denies our individual liberty. There is, in my opinion, a religion that oppresses the women more than all the others in the recent history: Islam. And its political wing, Islamism, is a totalitarian ideology that makes of oppression of the woman its raison d'etre.

That is why, the protest babes are always on the side of secularism, compared to the old, black-dressed Islamist women.

Turkey also has its protest babes, and they are there to defend secularism against the Islamist threat.

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Gul's out

Filed under: Europe

Over 1 million Turks protested against AK party government and against Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's presidency. Turks made it clear to AK party that Islamists are not welcome to rule the country. Although, Gul's agenda would have been presumably less religious than that of
Premier Tayyip Erdogan, the general feeling was that his succession to the presidential chair will bring to an end the secularism and the political openness that began with Kemal Atatürk revolution of 1923.

Turkey's army has been the guarantor of the laic political system since 1923. The Turkish General Staff issued a warning on April 27 directed against those who would seek to change the secular identity of Turkey and to irremediably alter Turkey's chance to be ever accepted into the EU.

Today Turkey's highest court has reached a verdict to annul the presidential election. This move brings into spot light the scenario of early elections for a new parliament.

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