Wednesday, May 21, 2008

AP's flawed 'Factbox' about Golan

Facts about the Golan Heights

Original - Additions in bold

Associated Press - Wed May 21, 9:42 AM ET

JERUSALEM - Israel and Syria said Wednesday they are holding peace talks through Turkish mediators on a dispute that centers on the Golan Heights. Some facts about the territory:

• Plateau at southwestern corner of Syria overlooking Sea of Galilee and northern Israel, roughly 40 miles long and 15 miles wide.

• Soldiers shelled northern Israel from the Golan Heights between 1948 and 1967. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it in 1981. No country recognized the annexation.

HC - No they [Syrian soldiers] didn't. This contains zero reference to the actions the Israeli military were taking in that period, when they were systematically advancing into the "demilitarized zone" that had been declared by the United Nations along the seam-line between the Israeli and Syrian armies in 1949, and the associated attacks the IDF maintained throughout that period against Syrian farmers, the Syrian military, and even UNTSO peacekeepers.

RP - The seam-line and demilitarized zone (green) are shown in the map above, which was taken from an article named 'Israel's Diminishing Borders', written, as usual by a hasbara.

HC - According to the AP version, the Syrians forces in Golan were just gratuitously shelling Israeli positions?

Excuse me?

• Most of the 100,000 Syrian residents of the Golan Heights fled during the 1967 war and were not allowed to return. A few of the roughly 17,000 left have accepted Israeli citizenship. About 18,000 Israelis live in 32 settlements built since 1967.

HC - Zero mention of the fact that these Israeli settlements are completely illegal under international law.

RP - Or of another 100,000 inhabitants driven from their ancestral lands by Israeli miltary activities, and not allowed to return.

HC - How about we have some mention of the plight of Syrian families split up by Israel's continued occupation of Golan and of the dire human-rights situation of the indigenous Golanis?

Israel-Syria peace talks broke down in 2000. Israel offered to withdraw from all of the Golan Heights down to the international border in exchange for full peace. Syria insisted on recovering land across the border.

HC - That is quite simply not true. The reason the peace bid that Israeli PM belatedly made in 2000 got absolutely nowhere was precisely because he pulled back on assurances PM Yitzhak Rabin had earlier given that Israel would withdraw to the international border. Barak was not prepared to do that, but Pres. Hafez al-Asad insisted as always that that was the only basis on which he would conclude a peace deal.

Asad did not ask for-- far less insist on-- a single inch of land that was not Syria's under international law.

• Syria fought in three wars against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 and battled Israel when it invaded Lebanon in 1982. Damascus backs Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is a close ally of Iran. Israeli warplanes carried out a September attack on a Syrian installation that the U.S. has said was an unfinished nuclear reactor built by North Korea.

RP - Israel started a colonial war of occupation in 1948, another 'pre-emptive' one in 1967, was surprised by a counter-attack into Israeli-occupied Sinai in 1973, and invaded Lebanon in 1982, occupying 20% of the country for 18 years

Is this a "peace-loving democracy"? I don't think so.

Thanks to Helena Cobban for 95% of the counter-comments (in bold) above.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Siargao Pythons

Python skull, Siargao, PhilippinesI am running out of things to say about my life; it's a wee bit humdrum, so:

About two years ago, I started a temporary zoo of local animals and featured some of the photos I took in my website section on Early Human Diet.

That shows the obvious fact that along shorelines from East Africa to right out to here, the mammals and reptiles are very much the same.

See mammals here and this particular species of reptile here.

My first python died, before I could even get him home.

He'd been attacked by a bunch of local timber-stealers, and was moribund when we found him. He died, and decayed, on the 4 hour trip home, and we couldn't even recover his beautiful skin, that had been hacked around by the timber-stealers' machetes.

But we did render down his skull:

As you can see, he had vicious, back hooked, and very sharp teeth.

It was a bit too much trouble to reconstruct the bones. If we had, we would have demonstrated the very flexibleskull structure of the snake, with the bones joined by cartilage and sinew, and not rigidly fused together.

This allows the snake to stretch its jaws to the maximum when trying to swallow anything large. The back-hooked teeth ensure that anything it is trying to swallow has great difficulty in getting out again.

Pythons are not poisonous, but are not very friendly either. If you get a body part into a python's jaws, it's very difficult to get it out again.

Besides which, their 'wrapping muscles' are really, very very strong.

My second python was brought to me from Consuelo, just up the way, where it was caught trying to cross the (only) road.

He's the fellow shown top right. Only about 3 feet long, but he definitely didn't have a 'good' character.

I f***ed up the photo just following that, because he suddenly attacked, and I panicked. (I'd already been through the problem of taking him out of his chicken-coop, and having him wrap around my lower arm while he proceeded to bite my thumb).

After that insult to my hospitality (I had local kids bringing rats and mice for his dinner) I took him back to another jungle village and let him go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Junior Rat Catcher

I have just acquired a new member of my expanding household.

I spend a lot of time at my desk and computer, in front of a window that looks out to my garden.

A cheeky mouse, or perhaps a small rat, often ran across the window ledge in front of me.

So I welcomed Music, as Shedney calls her (I prefer Junior Rat Catcher, but she'll never answer to her name anyway, so why bother?).
As you can see, she has adapted very well to life on the desk of an old fart, but I do hope she will demonstrate a little more enthusiasm next time the cheeky mouse crosses the window ledge.

Island Rape

I haven't been off the island for months, because the boat service has been so dire. But I went to Surigao City last Friday. It was a hell of a trip, on the Britphil (the name gives me some pride, but not much) a lancha - that's a big outrigger. The boat was over-filled, and it was raining heavily when I boarded, so I had to squat under a leaking tarpaulin on whatever that decking built out from the boat's hull is called. That was not much fun.

On the way, we passed south of the first small island (Talavera) of the minor archipelago that precedes Surigao City. Sensible boat captains follow this route, rather then the obvious one a bit further north, to avoid the strong tidal whirlpools, etc.

So I saw this, on Talavera, as we passed:

The big orange cloud is dust being kicked up by massive Chinese earthmovers (unlicensed copies of Caterpillars).

A Chinese company has taken up the nickel-mining concessions around Surigao City.
They are taking away the islands, literally, and dumping the ore into freighters that take it to China for processing. You can see one of the freighters to the right in the photo.
The Philippines gets absolutely nothing, except a bung to some politician.

The fishermen and coconut growers who live on the islands get even less. Their peaceful, but very poor, life is disrupted. The fishing is fucked up by mining residue, full of awful elemental poisons, and their coconut trees are destroyed by induced landslides.

So, tough on them. Maybe they can give up their ancient and peaceful lifestyle, and move to Surigao (or some other) City, and be beggars or mendicants of some sort.

All so the Chinese can emulate Americans, with chrome-plated stuff, and nickel-content stainless steel.