Homophobia and Minority Rights

My recent post on identity and Amin Maalouf seems to have drawn an absolute blank here, even though I personally consider the points he raises to be at the heart of the WoT and related issues. Over in Canada, Randy McDonald has picked up the thread, and relates Maalouf’s ideas to the issue of homophobia, taking as his starting point the recent execution of two young men in Iran for what appears to have been their sexual orientation:

I was saddened, though not altogether surprised, when Ikram Saeed recently commented that criticizing those Muslims who believed that their religion requires the ritualized torture-killings of non-heterosexuals is an act of racism. I say “not altogether surprised,” since Ikram had earlier commented that people victimized under shari’a law were “wimpy” if they lacked the capital–social, economic, political–that they needed to escape. This sort of morally blind privatization of public goods that ends with the privatization of human rights, the kind of process that reduces rights from universal goods to things that you can have only if you were lucky, serves bigots’ ends quite nicely.
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More On Abu Hafs Al Masri

The Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino has just stated that he considers threats against Italy by the Islamic militant group Abu Hafs Al Masri Brigade to be credible.

OBL expert and former US government adviser Michael Scheur also takes them seriously (and confirms the el mundo story indirectly):

On the tactical and strategic levels, the London attacks were quintessentially al-Qaeda operations. At the tactical level, the attacks were preceded by the usual al-Qaeda warning that an operation in Europe was near. On 29 May 2005, the AHMB’s “European General” posted a statement on the Internet that foreshadowed the events of 7 July. In part, the statement said:

“We direct a message to America and all its allies around the world that the desecration of the Holy Qur’an will not go by without a response. In fact, the retaliation will come soon in the near future, God willing.

All this, of course, if confirmed would bring us back to the Madrid bombings, and the Van Gogh killing in the Netherlands.

Iraq, or Kashmir?

I have already indicated that I consider attemps to deny all Iraq war connection to recent events in London pretty much stupid. I wonder how many people in the UK beyond Tony Blair and Jack Straw actually believe the contrary to be the case (assuming for the moment that even they themselves believe it, rather than believing it to be a political necessity to say it). (See this post, and this one). I’m happy to accept the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center June document view that:

?Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the U.K.?

But clearly the main issue is that there is no ‘one cause’ to be found here. If we want to get to grips with this, we need an explanatory model that has a number of levels, and which bases itself on multiple causality. Within that model, the situation in Kashmir would undoubtedly figure.
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Yoghurt With Soda Anyone?

Well, this about beats the lot of them. Yesterday the shares Groupe Danone SA went through the roof on rumours of a takeover by PepsiCo Inc. Dominique de Vil-pin also went through the roof:

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Danone was “among the jewels of our industry”…. “We plan to defend France’s interests,” Villepin said after a cabinet meeting at his official Matignon residence, although he insisted he was “not commenting on any rum“.

Jewels of French industry… defend France’s interests, well readers might be surprised to learn that Danone originated in Catalonia after local entrepreneur Isaac Carasso brought the formula for Bulgarian yoghurt back to Barcelona and set up shop in 1911. As the encyclopaedia entry notes:

Ten years later, the first French factory was built, but during WWII, (Isaac’s son) Daniel moved the company to New York, where Dannon Milk Products Inc. was founded. In the United States, Daniel changed the brand name to Dannon to sound more American. Then in 1958, the company returned to Paris, where its headquarters are located today“.

My interpretation is that if Vil-pin is defending any French interests here, then they would be imperial ones. Possibly another example of how some still consider the Tractat dels Pirineus a licence to do and say what they want.

Live Blogging in London

Robin Grant continues to do some great up to the minute live blogging over at perfect.co.uk. He has the just released CCTV photos of the 4 most recent suspects (and suggests that the man shot dead this morning may not have been one of them). Speaking of photos, I have posted on my own blog this from the Times this morning, which, if you’ll pardon my English, really takes the biscuit. And while you’re in the mood for reading, Nosemonkey and Tim Worstall are on it too.

A curious trend in the Balkans

2000-2004: Under the rule of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Romania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Romania’s GDP increases by an average of nearly 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Romania joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

December 2004: voters reject Nastase and PSD, voting in the opposition in a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the National Movement Simeon II (NDST) and Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburgotski, Bulgaria enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Bulgaria’s GDP increases by an average of around 5% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Bulgaria joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

June 2005: Voters reject Saxecoburgotski and NDST, voting in the opposition, which now appears likely to form a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the Socialist Party and Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Albania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Albania’s GDP increases by an average of about 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Albania is accepted into the Partnership for Peace and moves from being an impoverished semi-pariah to a serious candidate for EU accession sometime in the next decade.

July 2005: Voters reject Nano and the Socialists, returning to former President Sali Berisha, out of office since 1997. Berisha will form a coalition government with several minor parties.

What’s going on here?
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UK Economy Slowing

The UK economy showed its weakest year-on-year performance for 12 years during the second quarter of this year, and manufacturing seemed to enter recession. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth on a 12-month comparison stood at 1.7 percent during the second quarter — the weakest 12-month performance since the first quarter of 1993.

The annual growth rate dropped from 2.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent, which marks the lowest rate of growth since the first quarter of 1993 and almost half of the 3.2 per cent growth rate achieved only in 2004.

Output by manufacturing companies declined 0.7 per cent after a fall of 0.9 per cent in the first quarter, confirming that the sector had dropped into a technical recession, which is defined as two consecutive quarters of falling output.

China Imports To EU Continue Their Rise

The latest EU25 trade data from Eurostat highlight the competitive challenge some European companies face from the fast-growing Chinese economy:

Imports from China in the first four months of this year, at ?45.3bn ($54.5bn, ?31.5bn), were 19 per cent higher than the same period a year before. Imports from the US remained almost flat at ?52.6bn. In contrast, EU exports to China fell by 1 per cent to ?15.2bn, while exports to the US rose by 2 per cent…..

China?s economic expansion suggests the rate of growth of exports to the EU is likely to be maintained. By the end of this year, imports from China could be almost three times higher than the level in 1999. That increases the pressure on domestic producers, as well as eurozone exporters.

Financial Times

EU25 trade was characterised by an increase in the EU25 surplus with the USA (+24.2 bn euro in January-April 2005 compared with +23.0 bn in Januar y-April 2004 ) and Switzerland (+ 6.0 bn compared with +3.8 bn). The EU25 trade deficit grew with China (-30.1 bn compared with -22.8 bn), Russia (-16.3 bn compared with -11.5 bn) and Norway (-10.0 bn compared with -8.0 bn), and fell with Japan (-9.9 bn compared with -11.5 bn).

Concerning the total trade of Member States, the largest surplus was observed in Germany (+ 55.0 bn euro in January-April 2005 ), followed by the Netherlands (+ 11.8 bn), Ireland (+ 10.8 bn) and Sweden (+ 5.8 bn) . The
United Kingdom (-30.7 bn) registered the largest deficit, followed by Spain (-22.6 bn) , Greece (-10.4 bn) and France (-9.9 bn).

Source: Eurostat

Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade Claim Attack

In a website posting yesterday the Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade have one more time claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks, in this case yesterdays bombs in London. It should be remembered that this group also claimed the Madrid bombings and the July 7 bombs. Just how much credibility should be accorded to all this?
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