Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bush. Vs. Kerry - Part III

A quick interesting note: The New York subway system turned 100 years old yesterday.

Last night was the final time both presidential candidates were on the stage debating issues - this time, domestic policies. Again, I think Bush fared a lot better than the past 2 but Kerry did a brilliant job overall. Bush made some very cheesy remarks like "I don't know" to the question whether homosexuality is innate or a learned behavior. I also don't think he realizes that some networks show both of them at all times even if one of them is not talking - many times when Kerry was talking, Bush was smirking. I was also annoyed at Bush's attempt to claim that Kerry's health policies were "socialist," which it is not. Bush laid out a bait to Kerry that didn't bite, when he referred to Europe & their health system. For one, Western Europeans have better health policies than we do & two, Kerry was smart not to say anything - any reference to Europe's sensible policies would have branded him a "socialist" - something Americans cannot tolerate. Kerry did talk in more religious tones to counter Bush's faith-based supporters.I was very disappointed that the moderator did not have any questions pertaining to the environment or the Patriot Act. With a few weeks left to go before the US Presidential elections, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has quietly begun a series of new interrogations of individuals in Arab and Muslim communities across America. While these "voluntary interviews" (officially called the "Fall Threat Task Force" but dubbed by critics as the "October Plan") are in many ways an extension of the scrutiny of Muslims since September 11, 2001, the political overtones (and timing) have brought charges of an attempt to stifle political expression. Many foreigners feel that the US elections affect the whole world. So, according to this report, some Brits are trying to sway undecided voters in Ohio , to vote for Kerry. "It's called Operation Clark County, sponsored by the 400,000-circulation Guardian newspaper in London. Here's how the paper sees it: "The result of the U.S. election will affect the lives of millions around the world, but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it - until now."

From AFP: "Senior army officers warned Thursday that Israel's ongoing operation in northern Gaza, which has left more than 120 Palestinians dead since its launch last month, has run on for too long and is now counterproductive." The Daily Star is reporting that "The Israeli Army on Wednesday suspended a platoon commander on suspicion he emptied an ammunition clip into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl from close range after she had already collapsed under fire. The officer was not charged, but came under investigation after fellow soldiers said he engaged in an illegal practice known as "verifying a kill." This means that he shot the girl numerous times to make sure she was dead. While Al Jazeera is reporting that "Unrestrained by the Israeli Government, Jewish settlers in various parts of the West Bank are terrorising Palestinian farmers at the onset of the olive-picking season...The army is well aware of what the settlers are doing. Israeli troops often look on while the settlers attack peaceful Palestinian farmers picking their crops." The settlers employ a variety of intimidatory tactics, including burning down olive groves, shooting at farmers, closing off roads used by Palestinians and, most recently, poisoning water sources in the area. Last year, a number of influential Jewish rabbis issued an edict allowing the settlers to steal Palestinian olive crops." On the other hand, from Haaretz: "For years, the olive harvest in Israel has relied on the labor of Palestinians from the territories, mostly from the region of Yamun near Jenin. However,the large number of security alerts has resulted in a total denial of passage for Palestinian laborers into Israel. The small number of exceptional permits arrived "too few and too late", say the growers."

From The Financial Times: "A leading Republican says President George W. Bush is"mesmerised" by Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, and that the Bush administration's recent co-operation with the United Nations and Nato in Afghanistan and Iraq is a desperate move to"rescue a failing venture". Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser and close collaborator of former president George H. W. Bush, told the Financial Times that the US administration's "unilateralist" stance had contributed to the decline of the transatlantic relationship...Mr Scowcroft, who served as mentor to Condoleezza Rice...warned Mr Bush against rushing into a war in Iraq."

"The most senior Muslim terrorists so far captured by the United States are being held in an ultra-secret "ghost" prison in Jordan run by the CIA, according to a report published yesterday by a respected security expert. "Their detention outside the US enables CIA interrogators to apply interrogation methods banned by US law, and to do so in a country where co-operation with the Americans is particularly close, thereby reducing the danger of leaks," Mr Melman wrote. From the Haaretz: "Peres Center for Peace's, Muasher said he"categorically denied" the claim, which he stressed had originated with an American human rights organization. He said the Jordanians had demanded that the organization prove the existence of such a facility."

From Iraq, "Government security forces have repeatedly threatened to shut down the offices of women's organizations for their political activity, including the regional offices of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and the Women's Protection Centre. Fern Holland, an American lawyer, went to Iraq in July 2003 to help bring democracy and rule of law to Iraq, advocating human rights through women's centers and organized human rights groups...Women engaged in the defense of human rights must be protected, a maxim that was tragically overlooked in the case of Fern Holland. Her death came as a great shock to everyone involved, a sign that no one, not even those dedicating their lives to help make positive changes in Iraqi lives, is safe."

Lastly, the danger of locusts in Africa has been largely ignored by the media. From The Christian Science Monitor: "when rains are plentiful and the desert foliage blooms, millions of locusts in West Africa merge into massive swarms, change to a dusty-yellow color, and swirl into a munching frenzy.This year, otherwise welcome rains have paradoxically spawned the worst plague of locusts in the region since the 1980s. One swarm is reportedly more than 40 miles long. They eat their weight in food every day - and are denuding what was supposed to be a bumper crop. Now they're moving northward. A few have even reached Italy. The plague may last several years and could, one UN official says, cause more destruction than any current African conflict, including Sudan's humanitarian tragedy. But there is hope of stopping it. Pest-control efforts include locals burying flightless locusts in trenches and scouts with global positioning devices calling in crop dusters, including six from the US that arrived this week. Some $200 million has been spent so far, but experts say more is needed."