Friday, 28 August 2009

China: Reinforce armed police with legal backing

Source: Global Times [00:19 August 27 2009]

Nearly 27 years since its formation, the mobilization and deployment of the Chinese armed police force has operated under an embarrassingly blank legal situation. This has severely crippled its ability to respond to domestic emergencies and security threats.

This legal weakness will be addressed in the first law regarding the Chinese armed police force, scheduled to pass this week at the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

During a second reading of the draft, legislators made it clear that it is within the armed police's duties to handle riots, unrest, large-scale violent crimes, terrorist attacks, and other security incidents.

Many modern countries have adopted the principle of deploying the military for overseas security missions and relying on armed police to ensure domestic security.

The National Guard of the US, for example, is a major domestic security force for the nation.

The estimated 1.5-million-strong Chinese armed police shoulder the responsibility of ensuring the safety of 1.3 billion citizens, a pressing challenge made increasingly grave by fast social transformation.

In recent years, the country has been confronted with more mass incidents, riots and unrest. These increasingly complex security challenges have required a greater role for the armed police, making a clear legal framework a necessity.

Contrary to the prevailing misconception that the Chinese armed police force is sometimes abusively used in quelling unrest, a less known fact is that the armed police were unable to fully perform their duties in some recent massive riots, resulting in severe civilian casualties.

In the Xinjiang riots last month, one armed police officer was stoned to death by the rioters while he was told to remain on standby. This tragedy illustrates the urgency of creating a law clearly defining the role and responsibility of armed police in such emergencies.

Understandably, the legislative move raised the concern of the possibility of abusive use of the armed police. The widespread misuse of power in China's law enforcement agencies has been the source of public uproar lately.

In dealing with mass incidents, local governments have sometimes been too quick to call the armed police to the scene in a bid to deter possible rioters, failing to realize their presence would actually provoke further confrontation.
The fact is such abuse can only be avoided through clear legislation. The draft law canceled a stipulation that gives county-level governments authority to mobilize the armed police.

The draft law makes it clear that deployment of the armed police must be in line with the rules of the State Council and the Central Military Commission, and armed police should report to higher authorities in the event of an improper deployment ordered locally.

By clearly delineating the duties of the armed police, the legislators took a right and necessary step in protecting the safety of civilians.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Was Lockerbie suspect, Abu Nidal, working for US intelligence?

Date: 27 October 2008
By David Maddox
The Scotsman

CAMPAIGNERS yesterday renewed calls for the United States to answer fresh questions over a Lockerbie bombing suspect.

Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell and Edinburgh law professor Robert Black urged the Scottish and UK governments to answer reports there is evidence Abu Nidal was a US agent.

They have long believed Abu Nidal, who died in Iraq in 2002, and his Popula
ADVERTISEMENTr Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command were responsible for co-ordinating the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988 with the loss of 270 lives.

Intelligence reports, said to have been drawn up for Saddam Hussein's security services, said Kuwaitis had asked Abu Nidal, whose real name was Sabri al-Banna, to find out if al-Qaeda was present in Iraq.

The reports referred to Abu Nidal's "collusion with both the American and Kuwaiti intelligence apparatuses in co-ordination with Egyptian intelligence".

And campaigners said the latest evidence adds weight to the claims that Libyan secret agent Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – who was found guilty of the atrocity in 2001 – and the Libyan government were scapegoats to cover up a wider plot.

Mr Dalyell said the reports added weight to the theory that Lockerbie was a "tit-for-tat" attack for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger airliner by the warship USS Vincennes in 1988, and was allowed by the US administration.

He said the claims that Abu Nidal was working for the Americans would explain some of the mysteries that surrounded the Lockerbie outrage. These included a notice that went up at the American embassy in Moscow warning diplomats not to travel on Pan Am flights, and senior South African figures being "hauled off" the plane before its final flight.

The diplomats were replaced by students, who lost their lives.

Added to that is the mystery over why then prime minister Margaret Thatcher overruled her transport secretary, Cecil Parkinson, and stopped a public inquiry into the attack. It has been claimed this was because the US administration did not want an inquiry.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Mr Dalyell and Prof Black said: "If the American public had known of a link with Abu Nidal, and had known that the US government knew enough to pull VIPs off the plane and let home-going students take their place, there would have been fury at a time of transition between the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr.

"The fact that the Iraqi government either executed Abu Nidal or forced him to commit suicide suggests they had discovered he was an American spy."

Mr Dalyell and Prof Black – who with Lockerbie relative Dr Jim Swire persuaded the Libyan government to hand over Megrahi for trial – said they were "deeply and personally concerned" about the Libyan, who is suffering from cancer

Friday, 21 August 2009

Glasgow has more loyalist parades than Belfast and Derry combined

Exclusive by GERRY BRAIDEN
The Herald August 21 2009

YEAR TOTALS: Figures of 247 Protestant Loyal Orders marches in Glasgow and 217 in Belfast and Londonderry shows things are out of hand' according to senior council source.

Glasgow plays host to more Protestant Loyal Orders and Irish Republican parades than Northern Ireland's two biggest cities combined, The Herald can reveal.

Figures from Glasgow City Council and the Parades Commission of Northern Ireland show that during a period when there were 217 marches by the Orange Order, the Apprentice Boys and Royal Black Chapter on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry, in Glasgow there were 247.

Various Republican organisations, including Sinn Fein, National Graves and other commemoration groups, held 19 parades in Glasgow compared to eight in the two Northern Ireland cities.

The figures, which cover the year from April 2008 to March this year, emerged as it was revealed that a recent contentious parade by the Royal Black Chapter, an elite wing of the Orange Order, in Dumbarton a fortnight ago cost more than £100,000 to police.

The demonstration, which West Dunbartonshire Council banned following police concerns of disorder before the decision was overturned by the Sheriff Court, later sparked a riot on Glasgow's Gallowgate as a return "feeder" parade to nearby Bridgeton attempted to march through the area.

Police reports, which put their total costs at £108,000, include statistics which show a large rise in incidents of disorder in Dumbarton on the day of the march.

They included marchers banging on the shutters of a pub, theft from the local Co-op store, youths stockpiling bricks and, bizarrely, a male stabbing himself in the face.

It also emerged yesterday that Glasgow City Council have instructed the Republican group Cairde Na hEireann to change the route of a planned parade, described as an anti-racism demonstration, away from George Square following police concerns about counter- demonstrations by Loyalists. The decision may be challenged in the courts.

The comparisons between Northern Ireland and Glasgow have been pulled together by the city council to strengthen its case for a wholesale reduction in parades in the city. The authority claimed that, if anything, its figures are conservative.

One senior council source said: "We now have a situation where we have more parades in Glasgow than in the two largest cities in Northern Ireland put together.

"Given that the history and ideology that underpin this entire tradition are so closely linked to that part of the world that is simply absurd.

"This demonstrates exactly why there needs to be a serious reduction in parades - and also why the organisations that march in Glasgow need to show a bit of perspective and be proactive in that process.

"When the Apprentice Boys of Derry march five times as often in Glasgow as they do in Derry, there can be absolutely no argument that things are out of hand.

"If Londonderry has fewer than 20 parades, why would Glasgow need hundreds?"

Sandra White, a Glasgow SNP MSP, added: "Questions have to be asked as to why we have this level of parade and nature of parade in Glasgow.The Orange Order for one should ask themselves why this is the case. It's pretty disproportionate with some real cost implications."

Glasgow MSP and Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said: "We have a major issue here with the costs of policing marches and I really do think that some self-denying ordinance may be necessary. I'm pleased that the Orange Order, for example, are prepared to sit down and talk about this."

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

When zombies attack: science meets Shaun of the Dead


When a science journalist gets an email from Neil Ferguson, with the subject "An important new piece of infectious disease modelling research", one tends to take notice. Dr Ferguson, Professor of Mathematical Biology at Imperial, College, London, is one of the world's leading epidemiologists, who advises both the World Health Organisation and the UK Government on the current swine flu pandemic. Where infectious disease is concerned, he is a source of some authority.

The attached study, he said, highlighted "a problem we should wake up to -- this paper shows only the harshest control measures would give us a chance." Just what might this terrifying new threat be?

In my eagerness for a story, I hadn't noticed that Neil had added a smiley face at the end of his email. And when I opened the attachment, I discovered a paper entitled: "When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection".

Move over swine flu. The zombies are coming...

The paper is a chapter in a new book called Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress, by four Canadian mathematicians -- Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad, and Robert J. Smith?. And no, that last name isn't a typo -- Smith?, of the University of Ottawa, really spells his name with a question mark at the end. The abstract reads:

"Zombies are a popular figure in pop culture/entertainment and they are usually portrayed as being brought about through an outbreak or epidemic. Consequently, we model a zombie attack, using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movements. We introduce a basic model for zombie infection, determine equilibria and their stability, and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions. We then refine the model to include the effects of possible quarantine or a cure. Finally, we examine the impact of regular, impulsive reductions in the number of zombies and derive conditions under which eradication can occur.

"We show that only quick, aggressive attacks can stave off the doomsday scenario: the collapse of society as zombies overtake us all."

The model is based on the "classical pop-culture zombie: slow-moving, cannibalistic, and undead", rather than the more independent-minded zombies of more recent movies such as Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. We're talking here about the undead of the Night of the Living Dead, Resident Evil, and Shaun of the Dead (trailer above) -- though please do share your observations on the most appropriate comparison in the comments below.

There are three basic groups in the study -- susceptibles, S (you and me), zombies, Z (self-explanatory), and removed, R (susceptibles who have died of other causes). Susceptibles become zombies if defeated in an encounter (by being bitten), while zombies who lose such encounters are killed -- "this can be done by removing the head or destroying the brain of the zombie". Zombies can also be created by another route: the resurrection of the removed.

If zombies instantaneously infect the susecptibles they defeat, "it follows that, in a short outbreak, zombies will likely infect everyone." Only if there is a period of latency, when people are infected but not symptomatic, as with most real diseases, does humanity stand a chance of survival.

Quarantine measures might just work, but only if perfectly enforced. Were a treatment available that could save infected people before they become zombies, "humans are not eradicated, but only exist in low numbers." The only control strategy that could save the world as we know it is "strategically destroying them at such times that our resources permit." A very aggressive approach could eliminate the undead in 10 days. The authors conclude:

"In summary, a zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilisation, unless it is dealt with quickly. While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble."

Professor Ferguson finds little fault with the mathematical model. But fortunately, he assures me that there aren't any known pathogens out there that mirror this pattern of infection -- and there certainly aren't any that can infect the dead.

This is a study, though, that deserves proper recognition. I hope the judges of the IgNobel prizes -- for research that cannot, or should not be replicated -- are paying attention.

Posted by Mark Henderson on August 17, 2009 in Mathematics , Pop Science , Public Health |

Monday, 17 August 2009

Fears for Barack Obama's safety as healthcare debate fuels extremism

As storm over Barack Obama's healthcare reforms rages, surge in rightwing extremism is fanned by opponents

Paul Harris in New York The Observer, Sunday 16 August 2009

The message was clear. The sign carried by a 51-year-old man last week outside a raucous town hall meeting on healthcare in Hagerstown, Maryland, read "Death to Obama". Just to emphasise his point, a second message was also scrawled on the cardboard placard. "Death to Obama, Michelle and 2 stupid kids," it stated.

Welcome to the disturbing new face of the radical right in America. Across the country, extremism is surging, inflamed by conservative talkshow hosts, encouraged by Republican leaders and propagating a series of wild conspiracy theories. Many fear it might end in tragedy.

Obama has been labelled as a threat to democracy and an anti-white racist by senior presenters on the TV channel Fox News. Republicans, seizing on the fierce debate over Obama's plans to reform healthcare, have called him a socialist who plans "death panels" for the elderly. Rumours have circulated that Obama was not born in America and that he plans to ban firearms. Despite having no basis in fact, they have become widely believed. A recent poll in Virginia showed only 53% of voters believed Obama was born in the US. In neighbouring North Carolina, 54% of voters shared that opinion.

Such extremism is becoming a major security issue, prompting fears of an attack on Obama's life or some other incident of domestic terrorism. "This is a very dangerous situation that can spin off 'lone wolf' individuals who decide now is the time to act against people they see as an enemy," said Chip Berlet, author of a book on rightwing extremists.

Federal authorities have launched a programme to try to detect any individuals who might be planning rightwing attacks similar to those that in recent months have killed a Kansas abortion doctor and a black security guard at Washington DC's Holocaust Museum.

At the same time, the watchdog group the Southern Poverty Law Centre has issued a report that warns of rising numbers of potentially violent rightwing militia groups. The number of hate groups has grown from 602 in 2000 to 926, the organisation found. Its report quoted one senior federal law enforcement official, Bart McEntire, as saying: "This is the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years. All it's lacking is a spark."

Many experts believe that spark is no longer missing. Critics say that Republican politicians have let loose a wave of anger tied to the healthcare debate. Fuelled by racial issues and the economic crisis, it may be impossible to control. "The idea that they are going to be able to control what they have unleashed is plain wrong," said Professor James Corcoran of Simmons College, the author of two books on US domestic terrorism.

Republican leaders have moved to scupper Obama's healthcare plans by inflaming myths and lies about the system. Sarah Palin has refused to back away from her comments over "death panels" despite the fact that the part of the healthcare bill she is referring to does not set up such things and was drawn up by a fellow Republican. Other Republicans have been equally vociferous in attacking Obama.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley warned his constituents that Obama's plan could "pull the plug on grandma". Former senator Rick Santorum, who is a possible 2012 presidential hopeful, recently sent out an email warning that Obama was "determined to remake America as a socialist utopia". Oklahoma congressman John Sullivan told supporters in his home state that Obama was creating an "enemies list" of those opposed to healthcare.

The cacophony of gibes and unfounded claims is loudest, however, on rightwing TV and radio. Fox News presenter Glenn Beck, who last week came to British attention following a negative interview about the NHS with Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, has claimed Obama dislikes white people. "This guy is, I believe, a racist," Beck said. Beck has also discussed allegations that Obama is setting up a network of secret internment camps and joked about poisoning Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh, whose weekly radio show is listened to by millions of Americans, has compared the Democrats to the Nazi party. Perhaps taking him at his word, some healthcare protesters have carried signs featuring swastikas and Obama with a "Hitler" moustache.

It is in the so-called "birther" movement that the radical right has gained the most traction. The myth, which has been debunked, holds that Obama was not born in America. Numerous Republican politicians have floated the idea based on the false allegation that Obama cannot provide a birth certificate. The theme has been picked up by the media, including mainstream outlets such as CNN. Experts say such rhetoric inflames individuals who might already be planning acts of violence. "It is a climate where extremists in society will start to believe their views are mainstream," said Corcoran.

The SPLC report warns that the militia movement in the US had a long history of smaller attacks in the 1990s, leading up to the terrorist bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh in 1995. It believes the same pattern could be about to repeat itself and points to numerous incidents in recent years. Last week, William Kostric, a gun-rights advocate, turned up at an Obama town hall meeting in New Hampshire with a loaded handgun strapped to his leg.

Some were more worried, however, by the sign that Kostric carried which referred to a Thomas Jefferson quote about refreshing the "tree of liberty" with the blood of patriots. That was the same quote on a T-shirt McVeigh was wearing when he was arrested.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

'Hundred people an hour' joining Pirate Party UK

The Pirate Party UK is hoping to emulate the success of its Swedish counterpart, which recently won a seat in the European parliament

The Pirate Party, a political group which hopes to legalise internet filesharing, has attracted a huge number of new members since announcing its plans to contest seats at the next election.
By Claudine Beaumont, Technology Editor - Daily Telegraph
Published: 12:50PM BST 14 Aug 2009

Andrew Peter Robinson, the leader of the Pirate Party, said they had been flooded by enquiries from people who wanted to join the group. At its peak, he said, around 100 people an hour were signing up to become party members.

"It has exceeded all expectations," he said. "Put it this way – donations have been coming in so fast that PayPal were concerned we were a fraudulent site."

The Pirate Party was recognised as an official political party in the UK on July 30. The group has a presence in 37 countries, including Sweden and Germany, although all parties operate independently. However, they have some common aims, including campaigning for reforms to intellectual property and copyright laws, particularly in the digital space.

The UK Pirate Party wants to legalise non-commercial file sharing and reduce what it calls the "excessive length" of copyright protection while still ensuring artists are financially rewarded. It also calls for an overhaul of the patents system so that innovation is not stifled and life-saving drugs are not "so expensive that patients die".

"We're not going to win any seats but we can get these issues discussed," said Robinson.

Prospective supporters of the Pirate Party can become a member for £10, though voters aged between 18 and 21 pay a reduced fee of £2. Members are entitled to vote on the policy line taken by the party on specific issues, and can also decide who runs the party or stands as a representative for election.

The Pirate Party hopes to have at least 5,000 members by the time the next European elections take place in 2014. It also plans to contest seats in the next general election, standing in as many constituencies as funds allow. The Party may even consider standing at a by-election if one occurs before the next general election, but will need a significant war chest in order to pay the deposit levied for contesting a seat, as well as publicity and campaign material.

In June, the Swedish version of the Pirate Party won a seat in the European parliament after capturing 7.1 per cent of votes in Sweden.


Thursday, 13 August 2009

PKK Forces Await Orders from Imprisoned Leader Abdullah Ocalan

Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Reports indicate that Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (Parti Karkerani Kurdistan - PKK), will release a "roadmap" for resolving Turkey's decades-old Kurdish insurgency on August 15 (see Terrorism Monitor, August 6). Branches of the PKK continue to operate in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region both on the political and the military levels, despite Turkish military and diplomatic pressure. It seems that the political branch of the PKK is heavily restrained inside Iraq's Kurdistan region, but military operations against the PKK are unlikely to resume in the near future.

The PKK Waits for Ocalan's Roadmap

The Kurdistan Democratic Confederation (Koma Civaken Kurdistan - KCK), the umbrella organization bringing together Kurdish militant groups and political branches in Iran (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistane - PJAK), Iraq (Partiya Careseri u Demokrasiya Kurdistan - PCDK), Syria (Partiya Yekiti ya Demokratîk - PYD), and Turkey (PKK), is waiting for new orders from Abdullah Ocalan. The KCK's Executive Council operates in the Haftanin, Metina, Zap, Gara, Avasin, Hakurk, and Qandil camps. The PKK also maintains a strong presence in the Mahkmur camp, which is controlled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR).

According to PKK member Roj Welat, the PKK's series of unilateral ceasefires is not a new strategy born out of weakness. [1] During this period the guerrillas have refrained from carrying out offensive operations. Welat says it is a strategy to solve the Kurdish issue peacefully, although the Turkish state believes the PKK's five unilateral ceasefires are a sign of weakness.

KCK vice-president and PKK general Bozan Tekin says they will support the roadmap to the end; "In fact we do not know what this roadmap is, but Ocalan said he is working on preparing it." Tekin says it might look like the Basque or Scottish democratic model. [2]

Tekin said the PKK wants its own protection force, the release of the PKK leader and freedom of politics and identity. The PKK is ready to form a Kurdish PKK unit within the Turkish military if a solution is reached. But if Turkey does not accept Ocalan's roadmap, "we are ready to defend our country till our last drop of blood." Although Ocalan says he will remain silent if the state does not listen to his "last roadmap for peace," PKK members emphasize that Ocalan will remain the leader of PKK and that it is not a dead-end for the PKK-leader if his proposals are not accepted.

The PCDK Has More Problems with Iraq than the Kurdish Regional Government

Besides the KCK leadership and military forces that operate in the near-inaccessible mountains, there is also a political branch of the PKK that operates in Iraq and the Kurdistan region. This organization is called the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PCDK), which tried to participate in the Kurdistan regional elections of July 25 with its political slate "Hiwa" (Hope). The logo of the list was a combination of the flag of the PKK and the logo of the legal Kurdish opposition party in Turkey, the DTP (Demokratik Toplum Partisi - Democratic Society Party).

The PCDK was banned by Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in June and is considered an illegal party in the Kurdistan Region. Najiba Omar, the female president of the Hiwa list, said they were informed by the IHEC that the list could not operate because the PCDK is not considered a legal party. [3] The Hiwa list believes that the KRG pressured IHEC to ban them.

The PCDK's offices were also closed down in the provinces of Erbil and Sulaimaniya. According to Najiba Omar, "We cannot have offices in regions controlled by the KRG. We do not have a problem with the Iraqi government, but with the Kurdish government." While the PCDK is seeking support among Kurds, it cannot operate in KRG-administered regions; therefore the main headquarters of the PCDK is in Kirkuk.

The PCDK has other offices in Baghdad and Mosul while members operate from their own homes in the Kurdistan region. The PCDK also has party meetings and offices in villages near the border regions controlled by the PKK. Members of the party are not usually arrested, but after protests against the Hiwa list ban in June, some members were arrested for a short time.

The main aim of the PCDK is to change Kurdish society according to the principles of Abdullah Ocalan. The PCDK is suspicious of northern Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which have dominated the region since 1991. The PCDK is also wary of the new Kurdish "Change list," a reform party that separated from the PUK and received a number of seats in the new parliament. The Change list will also participate in the Iraqi elections and Kurdistan local elections and could become stronger within the Kurdistan region. However, the PCDK suspects them of being supported by outside forces and thinks they will not change the policies of the KRG.

The Kurdistan Regional Government's PKK Policy

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG's Department of Foreign Relations, says that the KRG will make sure that their territories are not used as a launching pad by the PKK. "For us it is important to have good relations with our neighbours. We do not want our people to pay the price, we want a peaceful solution." [4]

The KRG says it has taken the following measures:

• Cordoning off the mountain areas on the border with Turkey to cut PKK supply routes.

• Stopping foreign and Kurdish journalists from visiting PKK camps near the border regions.

• Closing down offices of the PKK's political fronts in Erbil and Sulaymaniya.

• Monitoring airports to ensure that no PKK personnel enter or leave the region.

• Preventing PKK demonstrations in KRG territory and curtailing their activities.

• Banning PKK-affiliated political parties.

• Sharing intelligence with Turkey and the United States.

In February a tripartite U.S.-Turkish-KRG intelligence center was established in Erbil, Kurdistan's political capital, to coordinate efforts and share intelligence in the fight against the PKK (Taraf, July 24). The KRG Foreign Minister says this does not mean that the KRG supports military action against the PKK but that the center only collects information on the PKK.

The Kurdistan government also supports the PKK's ceasefire; Bakir says the government hopes the ceasefire "will help the peace process and [ensure] stability and we hope this will be maintained." The KRG is against solving the PKK issue with military actions. "We do not believe there is a military solution towards the PKK issue; there is no more need for violence or weapons."

The PKK confirms that it is unlikely that the KRG will send forces to attack the PKK. "There is a red line among Kurds, that there will not be another brother war [civil war] again. We do not think this will happen. Kurds have learned from the past," says KCK member Bozan Tekin. Tekin also denies claims that the PKK gets support from the KRG. "These are lies by Turkey to put pressure on the KRG."

Independent Kurdish journalist Kamal Chomani says that the Kurdish government fears the PKK as a strong alternative and therefore tries to stop them from operating. [5] However, despite KRG measures, foreign and Kurdish journalists can still visit the PKK through "secret" roads and bypass KRG checkpoints.

The PKK also still manages to organize its own logistics, media campaigns, and support from surrounding villages, because the mountains are impossible to control without a massive deployment of Iraqi or Kurdish military forces. The PKK has checkpoints with PKK flags near the Qandil mountains.

Kamal Chomani says that even during the time of Saddam a complete mountain cordon was impossible. Chomani emphasizes that the triangular area with four borders was never controlled by any force. "This is a haven for rebel forces."

Members of Peshmerga forces that fought against the PKK in the past confirmed that it would be very difficult to remove PKK forces from the mountains without many casualties. For the moment, the KRG seems more interested in controlling the regions it disputes with Baghdad than in the PKK camps in the border regions with Turkey and Iran.

The Central Government's PKK Policy

Baghdad's policy does not differ much from that of the KRG. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told a Kurdish newspaper that Iraq is not in favor of military operations against the PKK, nor does it want to close down the Makhmur refugee camp (Rudaw, August 6). "Iraq is against the PKK using its territory, but we do not support Turkey in performing military operations against this party. We help the KRG to limit and decrease their presence inside Iraq and end their problem with Turkey."

Although no PKK military forces are located in the territory controlled by the Iraqi central government, the political branch of the movement, the PCDK, has more freedom there than in the region controlled by the KRG. The PCDK headquarters was moved from Erbil to Kirkuk after the closure of PCDK offices in northern Iraq. PCDK official Najiba Omar says this is because, legally speaking, the Iraqi government cannot ban PCDK offices or activities in Iraq.

Assessing the PKK's Future

The PKK indicates that they will renew their insurgency if the Turkish government does not listen to Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK wants the government to accept a Kurdish identity and release the PKK leader, which is unlikely.

The KRG has successfully curtailed PKK political activities in the Kurdistan region, but cannot eliminate the PKK's border camps without starting military operations against the PKK, which does not serve their own interests. The KRG maintains the belief that the PKK is not a KRG problem, but an internal Turkish problem. It is unlikely, therefore, that the KRG will attack the PKK.

The Iraqi government might close down PCDK offices in its territory if pressured by the United States and Turkey, which would effectively leave the PCDK dysfunctional and cripple their level of support. The Kurdish and Iraqi governments will continue to share intelligence with Turkey, but will not support military operations against the PKK. The Iraqi army is not trained for counterinsurgency campaigns in the mountains nor does it have a sufficient amount of troops near PKK camps.

Therefore it is unlikely that the PKK will leave Qandil in the near future and will keep pressuring Turkey with attacks to solve the Kurdish issue. The PKK's military forces and commanders will only leave the mountains if the PKK and Turkey reach a solution. Even the launch of Turkish military operations against the PKK inside Iraqi territory is unlikely to dislodge the PKK and will only result in more media attention for the PKK.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg studies Journalism and New Media at Leiden University and Political History and International Relations at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and is currently traveling in Northern Iraq.


1. Author's interview with PKK official Roj Welat in the Qandil mountains, August 5.
2. Author's interview with PKK vice-president Bozan Tekin in the Qandil mountains, August 5.
3. Author's interview with head of the Hiwa list, Najiba Omar, in Erbil province, Iraq, August 7.
4. Author's interview with Falah Mustafa Bakir in Erbil, August 6.
5. Author's correspondence with Kamal Chomani, a freelance journalist who writes for Livin magazine and the Kurdish newspaper Awena in northern Iraq, August 5.

Monday, 10 August 2009

'Patriot' league plots more clashes with anti-fascist activists

• Thirty-five arrests after city-centre confrontation
• Group claims it is opposed to Islamist extremism, Sunday 9 August 2009 22.26 BST

Groups that say they are opposed to Islamist extremism are plotting fresh clashes with anti-fascist organisations this summer after violent battles between the two sides in Birmingham city centre led to 35 arrests over the weekend.

The English Defence League and Casuals United, two linked groups, are planning protests against what they see as militant Islam in Manchester, Luton, Harrow and other as yet secret locations, according to a website.

The move comes after their supporters fought battles with Asian men backed by Unite Against Fascism activists in front of shocked shoppers at the Bull Ring shopping centre.

In ugly scenes that began after the groups assembled at about 5pm on Saturday, wooden planks, bottles and placards were thrown, and groups kicked and stamped on victims on the ground while men engaged in fights.

"It was chaos," said Hannah Taylor, 24, from London. "I had only come up to do a bit of shopping, and found myself in the middle of a full-blown riot. People with small children were running into shops for cover. The whole city centre just descended into some kind of war zone."

Three people were injured and there were several reports of property damage, including to a car.

The conflicts began after backers of the English Defence League, which describes itself as "a mixed race group of English people, from businessmen and women, to football hooligans", gathered outside Waterstone's bookshop in a planned demonstration against militant Islam.

Unite Against Fascism mounted a counter demonstration, telling its supporters that "everyone in the area should come along and show these thugs that their brand of vicious racism is not wanted in Birmingham or the West Midlands". Scores of police officers hemmed in the chanting protest group, which denies it is racist. There were violent skirmishes around the fringes of the demonstration.

The website of Casuals United yesterday used photographs of a man being kicked and stamped on the ground by Asian men as a recruiting aid for fresh protests. "Next time will be bigger now, thanks to the photos of the disgusting attacks on British people trying to speak up against extremists and their supporters," it warned. "We will arrive unannounced and neither the police or the scum will know any details."

Over the August bank holiday weekend, the group is planning a protest against a sharia court at Harrow central mosque and in Luton, which it claims is "home of some of the most unsavoury al-Qaida supporters in the UK". Manchester city centre will be a target in early October, it says.

West Midlands police said that to prevent a repeat of Saturday's disturbances, it would consider injunctions stopping potential troublemakers going to Birmingham and the surrounding area.

The threat of further trouble came as the government announced plans to reshape its policy towards the Muslim community in Britain, partly by pledging to tackle far-right extremism as well as Islamist extremism. Revised guidance is to be drawn up this summer on the operation of the £45m Prevent strategy, which is designed to challenge violent extremist ideology and disrupt those who promote it.

The fresh approach is expected to ensure that funding goes to a wider range of organisations, and a more explicit strategy to resist white racist extremism is also being developed.

"You speak to any Muslim on the street anywhere in this country and they will say they are as opposed as you and I are to extremism, to terrorism, but the frustration is that they are constantly linked with terrorism as a community as a whole," said Shahid Malik, the Dewsbury MP and minister for cohesion. "We cannot dismiss or underestimate the threat from the far right. There are white areas which are severely neglected. What we want to do is engage in those white communities to make sure that they are listened to, they feel they are respected."

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham, said yesterday that tensions between the rival groups needed to be taken more seriously. "I think the groups ought to know better, and certainly if there was going to be rallies by both these groups at the same time it would always lead to this sort of confrontation. My issue is not just that it took place, but that it took place in the city centre, where families and children were just going about their normal lives. To put that at risk is terrible."

Chief Inspector Mark Payne, of West Midlands police, described Birmingham's city centre as one that remained "a safe place to live, shop and visit".

Sunday, 9 August 2009

New pension plan to benefit China’s 900 million farmers

Hu Xiaoyi, vice minister of the Department of Human Resources and Social Security (DHRSS) announced that a trial pension plan would be implemented across China by October. (Photo:

Farmers will soon enjoy the same guaranteed incomes later in life as urban workers do, as the government yesterday announced that a trial pension plan would be implemented across China by October.

Sponsored by the government, farmers over the age of 60 will be able to receive a monthly endowment of varying amounts according to certain areas’ income standards, Hu Xiaoyi, vice minister of the Department of Human Resources and Social Security (DHRSS), said yesterday at a press conference.

“The new system is paid for by the farmers, collective benefits and government subsidy, which is totally different from the old system, paid by farmers themselves, with no subsidy from the government,” Hu said.

He also said that the payment for the insurance comprised two different parts: basic insurance, which is fully provided by State financing, and the personal pension account, paid by farmers themselves.

The old insurance system has benefited 80 million farmers in China since the 1990s. However, the system virtually failed, as it required payment solely from farmers, who eventually gave up because of a lack of money.

In June, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao decided to launch the trial projects in 10 percent of counties to promote the new insurance during the State Council executive meeting.

A total of 3 billion yuan from the central government was provided to subsidize local governments, ensuring that farmers can get enough basic insurance. According to the DHRSS, the subsidies for western provinces, the central region, and the eastern provinces are different, based on the minimum standards for pensions.

Rural residents over 16, who are not students and do not participate in the basic pension plans for urban workers, can take part in the new insurance scheme, according to the DHRSS.

Some richer areas along the Yangtze River Delta, and some coastal cities, have been trying out similar rural pension plans since 2003.

Donghai County, in Jiangsu Province, is one of the pilot sites. Wang Tonghua, who participated in the new endowment insurance plan last year, was happy with the new system. “I’ve always been jealous of the elderly in cities who receive retirement pensions, now I finally get my own,” Wang told Xinhua.

In Donghai in 2008, the payment for insurance was based on 20 percent of the local per capita income of that year, of which 80 percent was paid by individuals, and the remaining 20 percent by governments at county and village level.

In 2008, the lowest payment was 800 yuan. Wang paid 640 yuan, and the subsidy from the county and village governments was 160 yuan per month, respectively. She will therefore receive no less than 260 yuan after retirement.

“I feel happy that farmers can get a pension now, although it’s not that much. As you know, only workers in the cities can get it,” Chen Dajin, a 63-year-old farmer in Tangwei county, Suzhou, said, adding that he and his wife can get 300 yuan in pension every month.

In Suzhou, a city in Jiangsu, men over 60 and women over 55 can receive the retirement pension each month, without paying any money.

The biggest obstacle in applying for the new insurance is the low revenue of local governments.

“Local governments with low revenue have no capability to promote the new policy. With no financial support from the local government, the related department has no enthusiasm to promote the new insurance,” said Ding Yifan, a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council.

While the old insurance allowed for management fees for the government, the new one prohibits the local government from extracting any management fees from the funds.
“The new insurance policy strives to achieve two things: one, to reduce the economic and policy gap between urban and rural areas, and the other is to solve the difficulties faced by the elderly in rural areas and help with implementing a rural population policy,” Ding said.

Once put into action, the trial program will have a huge influence on China’s social security system, as it encourages farmers to purchase endowment insurance for a more secure life, according to Ding.

Ding suggested that the governments make a reasonable and balanced financial contribution.

He also called on the government to promote and implement this new endowment insurance policy as soon as possible.

Zhang Han contributed to this story

Thursday, 6 August 2009

‘Let Iranians solve their own problems’

By Deirdre Griswold
New York

Published Aug 5, 2009 4:17 PM
Even a country that possesses arms as powerful as those of the United States cannot conquer through military might alone.

That is the lesson of this period of seemingly endless U.S. imperialist invasions and occupations that began with the assault on Korea in 1950 and continues to the present.

The desire for self-determination of peoples who have known the horrors and humiliation of colonial and imperial domination and have decided to resist, whatever the cost, can and has worn down the invaders. It has eroded the political grip of the war hawks over the people in the imperialist countries and around the world. That happened in Korea and Vietnam. It is happening today in the Middle East.

The strategists in Washington who ponder world domination know this. They know that they must win at least a modicum of support at home to pursue military adventures abroad. If their effort to do this is too crude—as in the lies spun by the Bush/Cheney administration to justify its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan—it can backfire and eventually lead to their ouster.

For some time the spin masters for war have been directing a well-orchestrated campaign of demonization against Iran, which is literally surrounded by U.S. military bases and warships. It reached a crescendo when Iran recently held its national elections.

At a forum held in the Solidarity Center here on Aug. 1, Iranians as well as U.S. speakers examined the complexity of the political situation in that country and took a strong stand against imperialist intervention of any kind. They urged others in the U.S. progressive movement to take a good look at who is behind the current campaign to invalidate the recent elections in Iran and bring about regime change there.

Sara Flounders, a co-chair of Stop War on Iran and the International Action Center, set the tone for the discussion in her opening remarks.

She reminded the audience that “We are confronted with enormous propaganda. When the media 24/7 grabs an issue; when the Congress without any discussion or debate unanimously votes to allocate tens of millions of dollars to intervene directly into Iranian affairs, as it did again just last week; when Vice President Biden assures three times on a national interview that Israel has a sovereign right to bomb Iran; and when there is a whole new round of threats, sanctions and deadlines on Iran, then we need to take time to remind activists of the ugly role of past U.S. interventions. ...”

“There are issues that arise in the political movement that become a dividing line, a watershed for years to come. It is important to note that imperialism has been able to capture mass movements in the past, even workers’ movements with genuine grievances, to use as a battering ram against a government that imperialism is working overtime to subvert and destabilize. We have seen this against struggling socialist countries and against anti-imperialist and nationalist governments in developing countries.”

Who the ‘reformers’ are

Ardeshir Ommani, a co-founder of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee, shed light on the political forces inside Iran who are accusing the current government of Prime Minister Ahmadinejad of being undemocratic:

“A former president of Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran’s wealthiest men, who is publicly known as ‘The Shark’ regarding financial transactions that led to his family’s massive accumulation of wealth during his presidency, led Friday prayer at Tehran University about a month and a half ago. In his sermon, Rafsanjani put stress on the ‘impending crisis’ which in his opinion has engulfed the country. ...

“As a reaction to this criticism, the pro-Ahmadinejad and Khamenei forces in attendance began chanting, ‘Down with the USA.’ Suddenly, as a clear expression of their class position, the pro-Rafsanjani forces began yelling out, ‘Down with China’ and ‘Down with Russia.’ ...

“In the White House, Zbigniew Brzezinski has been advising President Obama about the essentiality of breaking up Beijing-Moscow-Tehran relations. As we know, China, Russia and Iran, along with many countries of Africa and Latin America, strongly advocate that the current unipolar world order has to be replaced by a multipolar arrangement which would enhance the role of other nations, especially a multitude of smaller countries, in the running of world affairs. Furthermore, these three countries have seriously enacted the policy of replacing the U.S. dollar, as a sole world reserve currency, with a new basket of currencies that would reduce the arbitrary pressure of the United States on the currencies of other countries.”

Ommani added that the reformists seek to transfer a major part of the Iranian economy from public to private control and also to “remove the encumbrances in the way of U.S. Big Oil from reaching the Iranian oil reserves in the Caspian Sea.”

Phil Wilayto, who wrote the book “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey Through the Islamic Republic,” pointed out that few of the people in the U.S. who are being swept up in the anti-Iran campaign ask about the view of the workers, who have been Ahmadinejad’s main political base.

“You may have heard about the poll by the ‘Terror-Free Tomorrow’ group three weeks before the election in Iran,” said Wilayto. “It was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, so this was not a leftist poll. And it predicted that Ahmadinejad would win two thirds of the vote, based on the support that he had in the country.” Ahmadinejad did win the election, but the opposition has accused the government of rigging it.

Wilayto cited a World Bank report showing that poverty had been drastically reduced in Iran, along with a narrowing of the income gap, showing why the current regime is popular with the masses. Oil revenues, which used to be siphoned off by U.S. and British imperialism, have also allowed Iran to provide health and education to the vast majority, including in rural areas, he said.

Manijeh Sabeh, an Iranian human rights and women’s rights activist, said that the situation in Iran “is very difficult for me, I tend not to see things in black and white.” She added, however, that “No matter where we come from, there should never be any support for the U.S. or any outside forces intervening in any country. There should be no sanctions.

“I am for a secular government and the Iranian government has a lot of problems. It is very repressive—I cannot close my eyes to that. Despite all this, Iran is a very progressive society and has always been and women have been at the forefront of the Iranian movement.” Sabeh emphasized that “The Iranian people are capable of taking care of their own issues and they don’t need outsiders to tell them what is right and what is wrong.”

Dustin Langley, a Navy veteran and organizer with the Stop War on Iran Campaign, reviewed the hundreds of millions of dollars the U.S. government has spent on manipulating public opinion here and in Iran in an effort to bring down the government. Much of this money has been funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy.

“The protests in Iran,” he said, “no doubt have many sincere participants with legitimate grievances and concerns. But these protests are not spontaneous and the organizations behind them have received millions of dollars from the NED, from George Soros and from other sources in the United States.

“In the U.S.,” said Langley, “a group calling itself United4Iran came out of nowhere and the next day had protests in 105 cities with offices, phone numbers, fax machines, emails and staff. It makes me wonder where the money comes from.”

The final scheduled speaker was John Catalinotto, a managing editor of Workers World newspaper who reminded the audience of U.S. imperialism’s long history of interventions, especially its recent offensive to seize energy resources. “It is entirely consistent with their past misdeeds,” concluded Catalinotto, “that the corporate media and all imperialist politicians—at least in North America and Europe—have targeted the Iranian government over the elections and have praised the opposition demonstrations. They have exaggerated the support for the opposition, have exaggerated the state repression, and have given enormous publicity to the Iranian events compared, for example, to their treatment of the Honduran military coup.

“Whatever the motive of the protesters themselves in Tehran, the imperialists’ motive is to eliminate Iranian sovereignty and reverse the 1979 revolution.”

In the discussion period that followed, quite a few Iranians took the floor to elaborate on the main points that had been raised. They praised the International Action Center for informing the anti-imperialist left on this question and expressed hope that broader sectors of the progressive movement can be won over to support self-determination for Iran. The speeches can be seen and heard at

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Oppose the Racism of the British State! Defend the Rights of All!

Today, August 5, sees the official formation of the UK Border Agency, charged with carrying out the agenda of the current Labour government in the areas of border control, political asylum and economic migration. This is a significant landmark in the development of the reactionary and divisive programme of the British state in regard to immigration and migrants, which has seen increasingly repressive and racist legislation being introduced at regular intervals over the past 30 years and more.

The racist policy of the British state is evident in the formation of the UK Border Agency, along with the further announcements by the government regarding measures for the “earning” of citizenship. This racist policy is guided by criteria based on 19th century conceptions of the “white man's burden”, bolstered by the chauvinist disinformation that immigration is “running out of control” because of hordes of unworthy people wanting to take advantage of Britain’s way of life, and the outlook that citizenship is a privilege. It is in contempt of the principle that rights belong to people by virtue of their being human. The British government’s racist policy of denying the human rights of immigrants and refugees must be brought to an end.

The government, by means of this racist programme, is attacking the rights of all. The history of the state’s immigration policy demonstrates its racist agenda and how it has been used to serve the needs of the owners of capital to exploit the working class at home and continue its colonial exploitation throughout the globe. It has been used to attempt to divert the people from uniting to solve the problems facing society, as well as to recruit both cheap labour and skilled labour from abroad. When it has served it to pass racist immigration laws to prevent an “influx” of “Asian immigrants”, “non-patrial subjects” or other categories of refugees and immigrants, it has not hesitated to stoop to do so. The whole logic of an “influx” is itself a Hitlerite justification based on numbers of non-white immigrants “swamping” the country and imputes to the people as a whole the racism which actually originates from the state itself. It is evident that the immigration policy of the government and the hysteria about illegal immigrants is designed with no other purpose but to provide the owners of capital with exactly the kind of “human capital” that they need to make themselves competitive in the global marketplace. As competition is rendered more intense by the process of globalisation, so are the numbers of human beings throughout the world caught as its victims increasing. In conjunction, the immigration policies of Britain and the other EU powers are being geared increasingly to letting into the country only those who fit the criteria dictated by the monopolies.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill of 1961 effectively prevented further mass immigration to Britain from parts of its former Empire, and this was followed by several further pieces of legislation which aimed to further divide the working class and was founded on a racist policy of immigration control. The propaganda for a “flood” of non-white immigration in 1968 was followed by an Act which barred Kenyan Asians from obtaining British passports and drew the distinction between “patrial” citizens of Britain and those who were not.

The 1981 British Nationality Act was a racist and chauvinist measure which further attacked the rights of all, and which created three categories of British citizenship and further reduced the criteria for eligibility for citizenship. It violated internationally established norms and principles, conflating and deliberately mixing up the distinct categories of citizenship and nationality, and institutionalising a false notion of “British nationality”.

The 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act placed great restrictions on political refugees, through a policy of “dispersal” throughout Britain which left refugees isolated from their communities and through the introduction of “support vouchers” rather than cash for the purchase of basic necessities.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act of 2002 put in place further powers of detention and removal for asylum seekers and migrant workers, and removed the ability of this section of the working class to organise and survive by removing the right of asylum seekers to work and removing all support for those whose asylum claims were not successful.

The Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 placed further limitations on the criteria for applying for asylum, made destroying travel or personal documentation illegal and gave Immigration Officers further powers of arrest, search and seizure in relation to “immigration offences”.

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 created further exclusions from eligibility for asylum and gave the state more powers to persecute undocumented workers.

The UK Borders Act 2007 made further changes to the criteria for citizenship and allowed for an increased use of biometrics, as well as introducing the Points Based System for migrant workers, criminalising employers of "illegal migrant workers" and passing the financial cost of application onto the workers themselves.

This month, the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 created a “Border Force” where officers combining immigration and customs duties operate at the border, as well creating Local Immigration Teams which would see the linking of immigration and policed forces to undermine community cohesion and exploit “community concerns” on immigration.

Such substantial moves since New Labour came to power have seen the growth of what could be called a neo-military approach to the immigration system, which will be formalised under current Conservative plans to create a Border Police force which would be led by Special Branch.

These policies represent an attack on the rights of refugees, immigrants and workers to organise, to flee persecution, to provide for their families, to work and to live freely without detention or persecution, and are attack on the rights of all. WDIE calls on the working class and people to step up the organising of practical opposition to the government’s agenda and to defend asylum seekers and migrant workers from attack. The “one nation” politics of New Labour to rally all behind its ideology to entrench monopoly right must be challenged and opposed. Citizenship must be given a modern definition consistent with the rights which belong to all people by virtue of being human.

An Injury to One Is An Injury to All!
No to the Racist Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act!
Defend the Rights of All!

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