November 26th, 2010

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“Human Rights in the Middle East” by Robert L. Bernstein

You may wonder why a man just shy of his 88th birthday would get up at 5 in the morning to fly to Omaha to give a speech. Frankly, since accepting this kind offer, I’ve wondered myself. Here’s why. Having devoted much of my life to trying to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come alive in many places in the world, I have become alarmed at how some human rights organizations, including the one I founded, are reporting on human rights in the Middle East.


In reading about the discussions and actions of students on American campuses, I learned, of course, that the Israel-Palestine issues were very polarized, sometimes hostile, and that a lot of the hostility was by students angered over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the endless process of trying to establish a second state.

I know we all believe in free speech. We believe in equality for women. We believe in tolerance of each other’s religious beliefs and in an open campus. When I go back to New York, tomorrow night, I will be attending the 150th anniversary of Bard College, a college very involved in the Middle East, as it has a combined degree program with Al-Quds, the Palestinian university in Ramallah. Here is what Leon Botstein, Bard’s President, says about education: “Education is a safeguard against the disappearance of liberty, but only if it invites rigorous inquiry, scrutiny, and the open discussion of issues.”

Believing in all these values and the others of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what is taking place on American campuses puzzles me. It seems to me that the State of Israel has all the values we just outlined. It is surrounded by 22 Arab states occupying 99-1/2% of the land in the Middle East and these states do not share these values. Israel, which occupies less than ½ of 1%, does share these values. There is a battle about two things: First, the size of the 23rd state, the new Palestinian state, which at present has many of the same values as the other 22 states. Secondly, the claims of many Arab states, Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, about the very legitimacy of the State of Israel. I don’t think human rights organizations alone can solve this mess but I do wonder about the discussions on many campuses, particularly about Israeli abuses, regardless of what you believe about them, and whether they are constructive. I don’t see how discussions of Israeli abuses can take such precedence over the kind of state that will be next to Israel. That is, not only internally, although human rights advocates should care about that more than they do, but in its foreign policy toward its neighbor Israel.

With this and similar thoughts on my mind, I decided that accepting the honor of speaking here tonight would make me sort things out about the difficult situation that exists and then take this one opportunity to try and articulate my thoughts. So, here I am to do that. 

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Robert L. Bernstein, the former president and chief executive of Random House, was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998. This speech was delivered at The Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights, University of Nebraska at Omaha on November 10, 2010. Here is the last year NYT op-ed he mentioned in the speech Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast


No 'junk touching' in Canada, Transport Minister says

OTTAWA— From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 7:30PM EST

The burgeoning “don’t touch my junk” movement in the United States has prompted the Harper government to quietly request the installation of special privacy dividers at security lanes in Canada’s major airports.

The physical search stalls are beginning to appear now, in time for the peak holiday travel season. The U.S. backlash against intrusive searches prompted the Conservative government to act.

Transport Minister Chuck Strahl announced the new privacy measure in Question Period on Wednesday.

He insisted, however, the government will not institute aggressive U.S.-style pat-downs. He also said the full body-scan machines Canada is using “do not pose the same health risk [as those in the United States] because they use a millimetre wave technology rather than X-ray technology.”

“So passenger security is extremely important, and our government is committed to balancing that by ensuring that passengers are treated respectfully and properly,” he said.

Important – and seemingly, comical.

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DAMMIT, Iggy, I was just starting to like you. And isn't this the same Conservative government that did away with the long-form census because it's too "invasive and coercive"? What the dickens are they doing trying to move airport security behind closed doors instead of decrying the TSA's approach?

Toxic extinguisher fired at student protesters by police medic

A police medic sprayed a fire extinguisher at point-blank range into a crowd of student campaigners, it was revealed on Thursday night.

In pictures, the officer can be seen discharging the halon device – banned for civilian use because of its environmental impact – above the head of a demonstrator during Wednesday’s march against increased tuition fees.

The protester shuts his eyes as someone behind him shields their face with their hands.

One witness was quoted on Indymedia as saying: ‘I saw the shocking sight of a police medic putting his arm through the officers in front of him and spraying a BCF halon fire extinguisher at the faces of some of the protesters caught at the front of the crowd.’

Halon extinguishers contain toxic elements such as bromine and fluorine, and have been linked to breathing difficulties, skin and eye irritation, dizziness and even unconsciousness.

Metropolitan Police denied using the extinguishers for crowd control and said halon devices were chiefly deployed to put out fires on people.

Footage from the demonstration in Whitehall showed a bus shelter and piles of placards on fire but, in photographs of the police medic, flames cannot be seen. The Met said some student demonstrators had been igniting aerosol sprays and that paramedics had treated burns victims.

A spokesman added: ‘Given this information, it is correct operational procedure that officers would have the fire extinguisher in their hands ready for immediate use if presented with this situation.

‘The pin is always removed so its use is instantaneous.

‘By design, these fire extinguishers are extremely sensitive and can easily be discharged by sudden movement or pressure.’

Police forces are exempt from the ban on halon devices, as ruled by the Home Office.

Source: The Metro

Minor, ex-chem student nitpick: Halon contains bromine and fluorine in the same way salt contains flammable and caustic sodium metal. Still certainly not something one should spray in people's faces, but not deadly in the way those chemicals would be. Nice to see the medics are just as bad as the other pigs though, eh?
TV | Roger Sterling Jr.

Shenanigans Friday, November 26, 2010.

"I was also going to give a graduation speech in LOLizona [...] But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me." — Gov. Schwarzenegger

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Why Sarah Palin Might Become President

‘Stunning the Halibut’

If the Democrats think things are bad now, wait until Sarah Palin grabs them by their bleeding hearts.

When Democrats and progressive pundits start whining about how we’re having an anti-intellectual moment, it can mean only one thing: they just got their butts handed to them in an election. It’s not often you see the lefty New Republic and the righty National Review use the same Obama quote on their covers to describe anything, but they did after the Nov. 2 midterms: “Shellacking.”

It may be good news for the Democrats that many people didn’t seem to get the word about this big event, or even exactly which party is in charge. According to a Pew Research Center poll released last week, “Fewer than half (46%) know that the Republicans will have a majority only in the House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January, while 38% can identify John Boehner as the incoming House speaker.” Nancy Pelosi should just keep showing up every day as if nothing has changed, like Milton Waddams in Office Space. She can go cubicle to cubicle asking if anyone has her red stapler, and see how long it takes to get tossed out on her ear.


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US judge says lesbians can be ‘cured’ by male soldiers

Joe Rehyansky, a part-time magistrate and Vietnam veteran, wrote on conservative news site The Daily Caller that lesbians should be allowed to serve in the military because straight male soldiers could “convert” them.

The Daily Caller swiftly removed some of his remarks but not before they were picked up by other websites.

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Source. Better Source.

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[smith] ever afters
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More TSA Fuckery

This lady misses her flight because the TSA don't know (and apparently don't follow either when presented with the law) their own rules about breast milk.


I think I'm done visiting America for the foreseeable future until this bull is sorted

Well-intentioned Westerners do little to alleviate poverty-stricken children in developing countries

The Guardian

By Ian Birrell

Once again, clumsy attempts to do good end up harming communities we want to help. We have seen it with foreign aid, corrosive in so many countries by propping up despots, fostering corruption and destroying local enterprises. We have seen it with the dumping of cheap food and clothes, devastating industries and encouraging a dependency culture. And now we see it with “voluntourism”, the fastest-growing sector of one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet.

Insiders call them guilt trips. All those teenagers heading off on gap years, fired up with enthusiasm. Those middle-aged professionals spending a small fortune to give something back to society. And those new retirees determined to spend their downtime spreading a little happiness.

Now the flipside of these well-intentioned dreams has been laid bare in an incendiary report by South African and British academics which focuses on “Aids orphan tourism” in southern Africa, but challenges many cherished beliefs.

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