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Uk World News Reviewed By The Bitch A Weekly Column

(category: Current-Events, Word count: 1240)
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Well darlings,

Whoa up, now! This last week in politics has been better than watching one of those loveable old Laurel and Hardy films, hasn't it? That's another fine mess you've got us into, Tony! And another, and another...

In education, after eight years and twelve White Papers that have had schools reeling from one disaster after another, it looks like we're going right back to where we started. I do hope everyone enjoyed that rather bumpy trip around the block. Fun, wasn't it? Education, education, education? It certainly has been!

The ban on smoking rules has got everyone mystified. Neither those for or against a ban seem happy with the result, and nobody seems to be able to explain the rules clearly. Do the little bowls of heavily salted peanuts left nonchalantly on bars, the ones that are really there to entice you to have a free nibble to develop your thirst further, do they qualify as food? They are free to be taken and are not charged for or served, so how does the law stand on these? And how about the little packs of Cheddars, or even crisps, those that come sealed in airtight bags and so cannot be contaminated - are they food in the sense of the law? Do they make the ban compulsory if they are displayed, or nibbled? Will all licensed B & Bs have to stop serving breakfasts to remain within the law if they have a multi-purpose room and wish to permit smoking? Their licensing regulations are very similar to those of a pub landlord and their rights of refusal are exactly the same - so how do they stand? Ask any two politicians any of these questions and, if you should be lucky enough to get a straight answer, they'll probably give you two different interpretations of the same rule.

In Ireland many landlords are finding ways around their total ban in a desperate attempt to save their businesses. The licensed premises, bars and restaurants, remain no smoking areas according to the letter of the law - but outside, in the gardens and in the car parks, various lean-tos, conservatories, garden shed type erections, and even a few old busses have now been left easily accessible for the smoker to use. They are not designated smoking areas, no-one is told or encouraged to use them, and the no smoking law is not being broken as they do not constitute a part of the licensed premises. It's all a nod and a wink job. The fact that alcoholic drinking is now taking place off of the licensed premises, and may be breaking another law, seems to be of little consequence - nobody appears to be bothered. Will such a "get out" be received here with equally blind and sympathetic eyes? Again, nobody seems to know.

Such a hotch-potch was this law turning into that Tony Blair seemed to wash his hands of it entirely; content in leaving Jack Straw to try and sort it all out. Little wonder the result has been the last straw in absurdity!

That is to say, it was the last straw in absurdity until once more our Tony started wagging his forefinger! Groan, and double-groan! Here we go again! Unlike Iraq, where Saddam Hussein was telling the truth and the investigators failed to find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction either before or after the war, Iran is openly going nuclear, and that coupled with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's outright declaration that Israel should be "wiped off the map" has had many western politicians reeling and wondering what to do about it. It's becoming generally accepted that whatever the UN may say, and any sanctions that it may impose, will hardly do much to solve this fast escalating threat to world peace.

I'm sure this time around we don't need intelligence reports (for what use they are!), or any dossiers - sexed up or not - to tell us what is going on here. Iran, with all that heat and sun in the summer, and sitting on all that oil for the winter and the dull periods, is one of the last places on earth where a nuclear power station would be genuinely needed. Like North Korea (another tinderbox), Iran has bided its time and waited until the West had played its hand. The war on Iraq has left us with a costly and a no-end-in-sight disaster - a weeping sore that will have us tied up there for years. Everyone with more than two brain cells trying to mate knows that there is no appetite left in either the UK or in America to become embroiled in yet another war. And with both Bush and Blair having lost favour and credibility over the Iraq fiasco, for them to be able to take their countries into battle on a new front is very much an improbability.

So, with our hand played out like the greatest premature ejaculation the world has ever known - we can only wait, embarrassed, to see how the game will finally end. My money is on a surprise by Israel, should the Iranians progress too far with their plans - and that surprise might be another biggest thing the world has ever known! But then that's life isn't it? If you suffer from PE then it can't be that uncommon for someone else to do the banging, can it? Shock and Awe? More like fed-up and sore!

Talking of banging: American research at Baltimore's John Hopkins University has found that Viagra is good for the heart and may prevent heart attacks by counteracting the effect of adrenaline, thereby putting "a brake" on the organ should it attempt to work too hard. It's also been suggested that: "We may not be too far away from taking Viagra one-a-day instead of aspirin." That'll certainly extend the stiff upper lip a bit over here, won't it?

I find this beneficial revelation to be quite strange as it comes only days after other bodies have been calling for the government to force the manufacturers to add warnings to the labels of Viagra (and other impotence drugs) telling users that people have gone blind through using the drug. Do you think it might be some sort of a governmental wheeze to keep the people happy, but in the dark? Shock and Awe? Who said that? Who's there? Who is it? Put the ruddy light on - I've just fallen over a broom! At least, I think it was a broom...

The facts I've found:

Non-arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy, a loss of vision that is frequently irreversible, is one of the most common causes of sudden blindness (especially in older people) with an estimated 1,000 to 6,000 cases a year occurring in America. (I can't find any UK figures for it.) People mostly at risk are those with diabetes and / or heart disease which, as they are also two of the leading causes of impotence, make it hard to prove that the tablets are actually to blame.

And finally, I don't like what I'm seeing at the Beeb and I bet I'm not alone. Ten foreign language services, with the loss of more than 200 jobs, are to be axed from the BBC World Service in order to fund a new

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Ministry Sends Prayers To Hurricane Survivors

(category: Current-Events, Word count: 277)
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People throughout the country are struggling with how to handle the powerful emotions evoked by the scenes of destruction in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes.

Silent Unity, one of the world's oldest and largest prayer ministries, began receiving prayer requests for people in the path of the hurricanes as soon as the news coverage mentioned the approaches of the huge storms.

Here is one such request, shared by Silent Unity with the writer's permission:

What can I do? I can't even find the right words to say in a prayer because so many lives have been lost and so many people are in need of help. It seems like any words I could pray are not enough to really help in such an overwhelming situation.

We understand your feelings. Many people are seeking reassurance and an affirmation that God is present in the situation, regardless of how dire it appears at the moment. We invite you to keep the faith for all those affected by the hurricanes by affirming the following:

* We affirm peace, protection, healing and divine order;

* the love of God comforts and soothes you;

* the light of God guides you and keeps you safe;

* the life of God heals and renews you;

* the power of God works through you to restore order and rebuild your life;

* you are sustained in body, mind and spirit by the ever-renewing presence of God.

Silent Unity has been praying with people of all faiths for more than 100 years. Its 300 employees respond to each request for prayer support with reverence and complete confidentiality.

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Neo Containment For A Nuclear Iran

(category: Current-Events, Word count: 1449)
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As anyone who has opened a newspaper or watched the news over the past few years knows, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been pursuing nuclear capability. Iran's government insists its only goal is to develop nuclear power plants that would not threaten anyone. The United Nations, though, is concerned Iran might instead covet nuclear weapons. The United States is convinced that is the case. In any event, for an aggressive and fanatical theocracy such as Iran to research nuclear technology is worrisome. This is especially true in light of statements by Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declaring he would share nuclear capability with other repressive Muslim nations and wishing for the destruction of Israel.

So, what can the United States do about the situation? To answer that question, knowledge of Iran's historical circumstances, as well as of the history of its nuclear program, is essential.

I. Historical Background

To predict how Iran will react to an American or UN stratagem, one must consider the history that will inform Iranian actions. This history is one of both foreign exploitation and increasing clerical power. The 19th century would be a good point at which to begin telling the tale.

Fath 'Ali Shah, the first sovereign of the Qajar dynasty, ruled from 1797 to 1834. His realm had suffered through decades of warfare, leaving his government's coffers unable to pay operational costs. Therefore, Fath turned to the British to help fund government activities, which gave the British Empire influence in the country. Meanwhile, after more wars that resulted in the Treaty of Golestat in 1813 and the Treaty of Turkmanchay in 1828, Iran had to cede the Caucuses to Russia. The Turkmanchay treaty also opened Iran to Russian merchants and diplomats. This development sparked nearly a century of diplomatic feuding between Britain and Russia, with the two nations vying for dominance in Iran, that would have dire consequences for Iran in the 20th century.

Even before then, though, Iran slipped more and more under the umbrella of the West, and not to Iran's benefit. As European influence expanded and transportation systems developed, tying Europe and the Middle East more closely together, Iran's economy shifted in the process. The economy became more susceptible to "global market fluctuations and... periodic famine." But the shahs of the Qajar dynasty did nothing to slow the pace of European encroachment. Instead, to raise money, they sold land to wealthy capitalists, hindering customary patterns of land usage and harming the economy even more. To raise more money, Naser al-Din Shah, who ruled from 1848 to 1896, granted "excessive concessions" to foreigners over trade issues in exchange for hard cash. This, he did not spent on his people or his country, but on his court and his luxurious vacations to Europe. The shah's behavior, in collaboration with foreigners, enraged many Iranians. [1]

The Tobacco Riots of 1890 constituted the start of backlash against the shahs. Naser al-Sin had given the British massive concessions on tobacco trading in Iran. Angry protests and a boycott of tobacco forced Naser to rescind the concession. The events of 1890 showed:

1. Iranian merchants could organize and whip up public support.

2. The Iranian people could curtail the power of the shah.

3. The Shi'a clergy, men to whom Iranians traditionally turned for guidance for hundreds of years, who had helped agitate the people against the tobacco concession, were increasing in power.[2]

With these factors at work, the Tobacco Riots would serve as a preview of future events, including the Islamic Revolution nearly a century later, as well as something much sooner...

Concurrently with Iran's increasing interaction with the West, newly arisen Iranian intellectual circles interested themselves in democratic procedures. These intellectuals found solace in the 1905 Russian Revolution[3] during which popular uprisings convinced Tsar Nicholas II to substitute Russia's absolutist state with a constitutional monarchy.[4] After the shah's government beat some Iranian merchants, the intellectuals united with the merchants and the clergy to stage colossal strikes and protests against the government. Eventually, to appease the Iranian masses, the shah allowed for the writing of a constitution in 1906. (This was the first alignment of all these forces that would prove strong in 1978-1979.)

Foreign intervention would spell the doom of the constitutional government. First, in 1907, the almost century-old squabbles between Britain and Russia culminated in the Anglo-Russian Convention. This Convention carved for the two empires "exclusive spheres of influence in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tibet." In Iran, as per the treaty, Britain controlled areas "along the Persian Gulf," and Russia regions "in northern Iran and the Caucuses." As a result of the agreement, then, both Russia and Britain had large stakes in the internal politics of Iran.[5]

Four years later, in 1911, Iran's constitutional regime paid an American consultant, William Morgan Schuster, to advise the government regarding finances. Schuster recommended aggressive means to obtain funds from all over Iran. This upset the British and the Russians, from whose spheres the Iranians would also acquire money under Schuster's plan. Russia demanded the Iranian government fire Schuster; upon said government's refusal, the Russians deployed soldiers to march on Tehran. Facing this threat, the shah sent Schuster home and terminated the constitutional regime.

Until World War I, the Russians acted as the de facto masters of the Iran outside its official sphere of influence. The Great War, however, forced the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from the country. Unfortunately for Iran, its respite did not last long. The Russians soon came back, along with the British, the Germans, and the Turks, who fought battles amongst themselves in Iranian territory.

In 1917, though, the new Soviet Union ended Russia's claims in Iran, engendering much Iranian love for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (despite the elites' dread of Communist ideas spreading to their country). A few years later, in 1921, the British also abandoned their spheres of influence in Iran, after "international pressure." Britain did not leave Iran without a parting gift: It supported an Iranian military officer, Reza Khan, who in 1920 had been crucial in suppressing a Communist revolt. Reza Khan seized control of the Iranian military and eventually overthrew the last Qajar shah, after which he anointed himself Reza Shah Pahlavi, the first shah of the Pahlavi dynasty.[6]

Reza secularized Iran somewhat through educational and judicial changes. He shifted jurisdiction over many issues from Shi'a religious tribunals to state courts or government agencies. He instituted secular schools. But the new shah was not a liberal dedicated to the welfare of his people. His government censored the media and prohibited unions and political parties. The shah also renewed trade concessions for oil, which would inflame Iranian wrath for decades.[7]

Iran's shah was not a complete stooge of the West, although he chose an unethical way to show it. In the 1930's, afraid of the Soviet Union and desperate for more commerce, Reza increased trade and enhanced relations with the Third Reich. When Reza would not renege on his deals with the Nazis, the British and the Russians invaded Iran in 1941 and deposed him. The familiar conquerors elevated Reza's son to Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Ironically, during World War II, foreign rule increased media freedom, political liberty, and economic prosperity. New political parties and trade unions arose. At the same time, the Shi'a clergy enhanced their strength, with the dissolution of the previous shah's secularization initiatives. After the war, when the foreign occupiers withdrew, moderate leftists, Iranian nationalists, and some clergymen loosely coalesced into the National Front, under the leadership of Mohammed Mosaddeq. The purpose of the National Front was to limit the shah's and the clerics' power (although the latter goal caused tensions in the political alliance). Another objective of the National Front was to achieve Iranian control of Iranian natural resources, ending "foreign exploitation" of them.[8]

Toward that end, after Mosaddeq became prime minister in 1951, he nationalized all of Iran's oil. Britain, the primary recipient of Iran's oil largesse, hated Mosaddeq's action and, ergo, placed trade sanctions on Iran. Subsequently, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and current British Prime Minister Anthony Eden advocated a combined United States-United Kingdom operation to topple Mosaddeq. Nothing quite that grandiose occurred. Despite that, August 1953 saw the end of Mosaddeq's administration. Mosaddeq's grip on the state's helm had been loosening because his social democratic programs had been alienating his clerical supporters. Following the shah's hasty departure from Iran after a political conflict with Mosaddeq, the Iranian prime minister lost his already tenuous position to a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored coup. Mohammed Reza resumed his position within a week of his flight.

Thanks to American intervention in Iran

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Aclu Or Aclj The Difference Is Like Night And Day

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The ACLU has championed many causes since it was founded in 1920 by Mr. Roger Baldwin. Some of the most notable causes or rulings the ACLU supported have to do with abortion rights, homosexual and lesbian rights and removal of prayer from the public schools. Some of its most notable positions were of lesser significance but created much more press because they bordered on the frivolous and were more a nuisance than a legitimate cause. They adopted positions against bible studies and prayer groups in public schools and the removal of manger scenes in public during the Christmas season. Can't you hear the voices of many grateful Americans in a resounding...gee thanks?

Not to be mistaken for something that actually qualifies as the protection of our civil liberties is the new battlefield conjured up by the ACLU in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The three crosses adorning the city logo is a point of pride and history for the residents there but for the ACLU, they have given cause for it to rear its head and wield the battle axe. It has resulted in making "what ever happened to common sense" being the most oft used phrase in internet blogging history. But wait, it doesn't stop there.

The latest fit the ACLU has begun; concerns prayer offered by the U.S. military's chaplains. In short the ACLU thinks it should be stopped. Whew! That's good thinking. I don't know about you but the last thing I would want to have happen to me just before I went to battle for my country is to have my country tell me I couldn't go to God in prayer. In particular they are trying to stop chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus Christ. In a volunteer force made up of mostly Christian men and women isn't that an infringement of their religious freedom? In fact it is more than that.

The constitution says "Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or to infringe the rights of conscience." What genius does it take to see that the ACLU is actually crying "unconstitutional" while they are proposing laws that are clearly unconstitutional? Don't want to be crass but perhaps the ACLU lawyers and aides should all take a day off to watch Forrest Gump together. If I remember correctly the most often repeated line in that movie is, "stupid is, as stupid does"

Diametrically opposite the ACLU is the newly formed but no less formidable, ACLJ. The American Center for Law and Justice founded in 1990 is headed by Jay Sekulow who is the ACLJ's Chief Counsel. He is a well respected advocate for constitutional freedoms and has argued many cases before the U.S, Supreme Court.

The Center for Law and Justice has successfully argued cases and supported positions in other cases which resulted in an impressive list of good common sense decisions and rulings. A short list of the accomplishments of the ACLJ is as follows.

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The Sales Boom In Diesel Motorhomes Defies The Economic Forecasts

(category: Current-Events, Word count: 735)
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Thor Industries Chief Executive Wade Thompson, whose business is the globe's largest allocator of diesel pusher motor coaches and travel trailers, is looking forward to the holiday ramble industry's overall product shipments to ascend in 2005 for the fourth straight yearly performance period.

Thompson and chief executives of three rivals pronounced they are projecting to quest after extra product delivery staff and originate industrial facilities to deal with rising demand. They were interviewed while visiting the National Recreational Vehicle Production Convention that was held last week in Louisville, Ky., where the organizations registered sales orders for 2005's first two fiscal quarters. The business leaders far from pesimistic view point discounts a market estimation narrated by the University of Michigan that cites mounting crude rates and costs and rate of interest as negative market indicators for the future.

Thor, Fleetwood Enterprises, Winnebago Industries and subsidiary rv loan canada producers anticipate overall product shipments to spring up fourteen percent this season to 364,900 units, the best since 1978, as an increasing number of people between ages 50 and 64 retire from their jobs and as people move around the country side more inside the U.S.A. due to circumstances attributed to cares about terrorism overseas.

"We had seen the market start to soften but then November is strong again, and I expect next year to rise 8 percent to 10 percent," Thompson, 64, arrogated from the living room of a Thor travel trailer on location at the Holiday Coach Trade Show.

The University of Michigan maket place estimation calls for overall product deliveries next financial year to fall 3.3 percent to 352,700. The market forecast is molded on a pattern that mentions historical references and is researched by Richard Curtin, the Ann Arbor, Michigan based university's directing manager of surveys, who in addition grooms its consumer confidence index.

Industry executives and the industry's leaders dealers disregard his market prognosis.

"We just don't foresee doing any fewer sales next year," Ted McKay, sales manager at Media Camping Center in Hatfield, Pa., stated. He anticipates sales to spring up from the current 60 newmar diesel motorhomes and go on trips trailers every month with finance cost for recreational based vehicle loans on the vehicles at 5.75 percent, still lower than the 10-year average of 7.5 percent.

"Rates just aren't high enough to hurt sales," Barry Vogel, an market data forcaster and analyst while on loacation at Barry Vogel & Associates in White Plains, N.Y., declared. "The industry is still healthy."

Fleetwood admitted 1,000 production employees in the past yearly reporting term and probably will add 300 to 400 more while appearing at Pennsylvania and California rVs manufacturing plants in the next year, CEO Ed Caudill, 61, claimed. The Riverside, Calif.-formed commercial enterprise had shed 9,000 product delivery staff from 2000 to 2003 to cut costs.

Thor plans to about twice monitary disbursal to $50 million this financial reporting term from $27 million as the Jackson Center, Ohio-molded company constructs at least seven futuristic production facilities, Thompson claimed. Winnebago, which employed 1,000 fresh employees in the endure yearly performance period, likewise doubts gross product deliveries will fall next financial reporting term, CEO Bruce Hertzke said.

"We haven't even been able to meet demand three of the last four years," declared Hertzke, 53. "Not only are more people retiring but a wider age group, people as young as 35, are starting to buy recreational vehicles."

Coachmen Industries' sales reveunes slacked approaching the prevent of the summer and ricochetted in November, said Chief management leader Claire Skinner, 50.

The Elkhart, Ind.-dependent corporate organization received about 400 people in the latter month and very possibly add further next twelve month period if total sales spring up, she announced. The unenmployment conditions in the Elkhart metropolitan area is 3.7 percent as a result of the manufacturing revival, she announced. "A month ago I probably would have said I agreed shipments might fall, but since the presidential election it seems like things are opening again," Skinner proclaimed in an discussion with reporters.

A Bloomberg index based on shares of the five most bombastic suppliers of bank of america rv loan has heightened 7.9 percent this season, more than the 7.1 percent gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index of big U.S.A. producers.

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Bird Flu Worst Case Scenario

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There has been a lot of buzz about bird flu or the avian influenza and how it could become a global pandemic. What would a pandemic really mean? The federal government just launched a 7 billion dollar program to help the prevention and out break of a bird flu pandemic. There have only been 83 deaths from avian flu worldwide since 2003. Health experts have not yet seen evidence of human to human transmission. So what does it mean? And why is everyone so worried about a pandemic?

This new strain of flu virus would be more resistant than other normal flu strains and if it turns into a form that passes easily from person to person, we would have little immunity to it. Millions could become ill and millions would die. Once it starts to spread it could move rapidly around the world infecting millions and affecting the lives of everyone. The World Bank, which has estimated that a bird flu pandemic lasting a year could, cost the global economy up to $800 billion. The economic toll on the world economy will be catastrophic. What is the worst-case scenario and how might it develop?

Here is how a bird flu pandemic might unfold:

Outbreaks of avian flu in birds continue in several additional countries outside of Southeast Asia including Russia, Africa and the Middle East

Human cases of bird flu increase

Health experts confirm first human-to-human transmissions

Flu screening is stepped up at airports around the world for passengers coming from infected countries

Health care workers show signs of increased exposure

Air travel spreads virus to all corners of the globe within 3 months

First confirmed human transmission cases appear in Europe Russia, and the United States

Outbreaks continue, becoming more widespread reaching epidemic status

Regional stockpiles of antivirals quickly dwindle, new high volume production and distribution is 6 months off

International flights are reduced or eliminated to help contain spread of the flu

Billions are lost on international commerce, affecting millions of jobs around the world

US imports from Asian factories halted as Asian workers fall ill, US inventories drop

International trade devastated

US economy feels effects of loss of productivity due to millions of workers out sick

Financial markets hit by panic selling, gold prices soar

Run on banks as investors convert to cash

Hospitals see surge in flu patients overwhelming staff and supplies, only those most likely to live given access to limited available ventilators

Healthcare workers and first responders out sick or stay home to care for ill family members

Public events are canceled and schools are closed

Government offices closed, non essential services shut down

Social services reduced or eliminated. Services still functioning are overwhelmed

Public transportation halted

Air traffic halted due to air traffic controllers, airport staff and flight crews out sick

Interstate commerce greatly reduced with truck drivers, warehouse and rail workers out sick

Food deliveries, gas deliveries, other essential supplies all reduced or eliminated

Grocery stores close due to shipments being eliminated

Food distribution chain from farm to stores breaks down

Travel restricted, quarantines mandatory, enforced by National Guard

Widespread looting and riots over food shortages and access to healthcare

Local, State police and National Guard overwhelmed

Social structure breaks down

Domestic violence increases as people are forced to stay home

Loss of workers affects all businesses across the economy, including finance, sanitation, utilities, internet, distribution, energy, retail, tourism and travel

Utility outages increase as coal shipments are reduced and minimum required staffs at power plants and water plants are out sick

Funeral homes are overwhelmed as bodies stack up

2nd wave of pandemic bird flu hits

Global economy will take years to recover from catastrophic losses and loss of trained employees who died

Does the above scare you? Think it won't happen? Well this is the exact scenario your local, state and federal governments are training and planning for. How would you survive? It has always been recommended to keep 3 days of supplies on hand to survive a natural disaster. We have seen how the federal government handles natural disasters. The above scenario isn

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Bhutanese Refugees In Nepal

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This has made Bhutan one of the highest per capita refugee generators in the world due to the implementation of the "Driglam Namzha" (Cultural Code of the Ruling Elite) with a "One Nation, One People" policy which imposed the language, dress code, and customs of the northern Bhutanese on the entire population. The crackdown on the southern Bhutanese continued as the government began closing schools and hospitals in an attempt to force out those of Nepali origin.

Often the countries most overburdened with refugees are already among the poorest in the world. Nepal continues to be ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of human development yet hosts more than 100,000 Bhutanese and 20,000 Tibetan refugees. Nepals inadequate social and physical infrastructural services are overstrained by such an

influx of refugees.

There are seven camps with a population of 101,000 refugees, about half of whom are located in Beldangi camp. The camps are situated on the plains of east Nepal, spanning two districts (Jhapa and Morang) which are the most heavily populated in Nepal.

To get to the refugee camps, one has to drive on winding dirt roads through fields or forested land for at least half an hour. The forest clears out all of sudden and distinct rows of huts appear in the clearing. It seems as if you have come upon a civilization long hidden from the rest of the world.

In the seven camps there are 45 schools, 40,000 pupils and 956 teachers. The

student/teacher ratio is an average 40:1 but in reality the classes are much bigger than this as the number of teachers includes headmasters and teacher trainers which are given very few periods, if any at all.

A school environment provides more than just basic needs to read and write, but also provides an outlet for children to experience a sense of normality, safety and routine after many years upheaval.

Most of the classrooms are temporary structures (often made of a mixture of brick, bamboo and grass) due to the limited life-span of the camps. Many of the lower classes do not have desks and the children are sitting on jute mats which have been manufactured in the camps during the income generating activities initiated by Oxfam. However, all classrooms are provided with a table and chair for the teacher. The blackboards are portable with an easel.

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Epidemic Of Anger As Smokers Go To War

(category: Current-Events, Word count: 625)
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Going to burn both ends of the candle with this subject on the smoking ban in public places.

The government have already taken away our parental rights where a prison sentence hangs over our heads if we chastise our children with a smack.

Children today get away with murder and why you may well ask? The reason is because the government knows best.

Kids are resorting to blackmailing mum and dad with threats of social service involvement. By doing this parents are forced into submission to allow the kids to do as they please.

Sorry this is one parent that would fight to the death to protect her family, but also one who is willing to do time if under threat from her own flesh and blood. What happened to the days when a clip round the ear solved any unruly behaviour?

Let us compare our generation to that of today when no such government ruling was enforced. I rest my case.

Give us back our parental role as nature intended to deal with our kid's in our own way. I do not condone any abuse or beating of a child but one hell of a good hiding made us think twice before doing wrong a second time.

Why so many rebellious riots are going on in the world to today is, because governments know what's best. These political powers enforce new laws and expect the nation to sit back and accept.

We have a lot of educated people out there who know when they are being fleeced. Then you have the ordinary few like me that are not fully aware of the government's sneaky moves to take their hard earned cash. Prepare your self all governing bodies because people are getting wiser when they see the food on their tables rationed. .

Now we have the non smoking ban in public places put into force. Top priorities are restaurants cafes where food is served, which is definitely a justified move and one that I am 100% in favour of.

There is not an ounce of doubt in my mind that smoking is a very serious health risk. This is a medical issue of importance that has to be addressed, but once again members of parliament have not thought this through. An even bigger health matter may be on their hands by this imposed law.

Have they gave any consideration to the people who's lives are going to be affected where there livelihood is at stake, all because they provide a socialising atmosphere where smokers and non smokers alike gather through their own choice.

Take the food from their mouths then face the consequences of an epidemic of anger.

A major health risk can escalate out of this ban if smokers go to war

I myself am a non smoker but there are things I enjoy in life and should they be taken from me then I am afraid I would not be very pleased.

What right do our government have to dictate to us what is right and wrong, Moses did that when he handed down the Ten Commandments.

Hypocrites of the system still preach with what they think they know is best. Well it has to end. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Are all these rules laid out for the nation, adhered to by the enforcers? I don't think so.

Remember the lords saying. He who is without sin cast the first stone. Well if the Muppets in the house of parliament can hold their hand up to this, then I gladly give up my rights if they say so.

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The Costs Of Coalition Building

(category: Current-Events, Word count: 1879)
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Foreign aid, foreign trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) have become weapons of mass persuasion, deployed in the building of both the pro-war, pro-American coalition of the willing and the French-led counter "coalition of the squealing".

By now it is clear that the United States will have to bear the bulk of the direct costs of the actual fighting, optimistically pegged at c. $200 billion. The previous skirmish in Iraq in 1991 consumed $80 billion in 2002 terms - nine tenths of which were shelled out by grateful allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Even so, the USA had to forgive $7 billion of Egyptian debt. According to the General Accounting Office, another $3 billion were parceled at the time among Turkey, Israel and other collaborators, partly in the form of donations of surplus materiel and partly in subsidized military sales.

This time around, old and newfound friends - such as Jordan, an erstwhile staunch supporter of Saddam Hussein - are likely to carve up c. $10 billion between them, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jordan alone has demanded $1 billion.

According to the Knight Ridder Newspapers, in February 2003, an Israeli delegation has requested an extra $4-5 billion in military aid over the next 2-3 years plus $8 billion in loan guarantees. Israel, the largest American foreign and military aid recipient, is already collecting c. $3 billion annually. It is followed by Egypt with $1.3 billion a year - another rumored beneficiary of $1 billion in American largesse.

Turkey stands to receive c. $6 billion for making itself available (however reluctantly, belatedly, and fitfully) as staging grounds for the forces attacking Iraq. Another $20 billion in loan guarantees and $1 billion in Saudi and Kuwaiti oil have been mooted.

In the thick of the tough bargaining, with Turkey demurring and refusing to grant the USA access to its territory, the International Monetary Fund - thought by many to be the long arm of US foreign policy - suddenly halted the disbursement of money under a two years old standby arrangement with the impoverished country.

It implausibly claimed to have just unearthed breaches of the agreement by the Turkish authorities. This systemic non-compliance was being meticulously chronicled - and scrupulously ignored by the IMF - for well over a year now by both indigenous and foreign media alike.

Days after a common statement in support of the American stance, the IMF clinched a standby arrangement with Macedonia, the first in two turbulent years. On the same day, Bulgaria received glowing - and counterfactual - reviews from yet another IMF mission, clearing the way for the release of a tranche of $36 million out of a loan of $330 million. Bulgaria has also received $130 million in direct US aid between 2001-3, mainly through the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) program.

But the IMF is only one tool in the administration's shed. President Bush has increased America's foreign aid by an unprecedented 50 percent between 2003-6 to $15 billion. A similar amount was made available between 2003-8 to tackle AIDS, mainly in Africa.

Half this increase was ploughed into a Millennium Challenge Account. It will benefit countries committed to democracy, free trade, good governance, purging corruption and nurturing the private sector. By 2005, the Account contained close to $5 billion and is being replenished annually to maintain this level.

This expensive charm offensive was intended to lure and neutralize the natural constituencies of the pacifistic camp: non government organizations, activists, development experts, developing countries and international organizations.

As the war drew nearer, the E10 - the elected members of the Security Council - also cashed in their chips.

The United States has softened its position on trade tariffs in its negotiations of a free trade agreement with Chile. Immigration regulations were relaxed to allow in more Mexican seasonal workers. Chile received $2 million in military aid and Mexico $44 million in development finance.

US companies cooperated with Angola on the development of offshore oilfields in the politically contentious exclave of Cabinda. Guinea and Cameroon absorbed dollops of development aid. Currently, Angola receives c. $19 million in development assistance.

Cameroon already benefits from military training and surplus US arms under the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program as well as enjoying trade benefits in the framework of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Guinea gets c. $26 million in economic aid annually plus $3 million in military grants and trade concessions.

The United States has also pledged to cause Iraq to pay its outstanding debts, mainly to countries in Central and East Europe, notably to Russia and Bulgaria. Iraq owes the Russian Federation alone close to $9 billion. Some of the Russian contracts with the Iraqi oil industry, thought to be worth dozens of billions of dollars, may even be honored by the victors, promised the Bush administration. It reneged on both promises. Debt relief reduced Iraq's debt by 90% and all Saddam Hussein era contracts were vitiated.

Thus, the outlays on warfare are likely be dwarfed by the price tag of the avaricious constituents of president Bush's ramshackle coalition. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman aptly christened this mass bribery, "The Martial Plan". Quoting "some observers", he wrote:

"The administration has turned the regular foreign aid budget into a tool of war diplomacy. Small countries that currently have seats on the U.N. Security Council have suddenly received favorable treatment for aid requests, in an obvious attempt to influence their votes. Cynics say that the 'coalition of the willing' President Bush spoke of turns out to be a 'coalition of the bought off' instead'."

But this is nothing new. When Yemen cast its vote against a November 1990 United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to evict Iraq from Kuwait - the United states scratched $700 million in aid to the renegade country over the following decade.

Nor is the United States famous for keeping its antebellum promises.

Turkey complains that the USA has still to honor its aid commitments made prior to the first Gulf War. Hence its insistence on written guarantees, signed by the president himself. Similarly, vigorous pledges to the contrary aside, the Bush administration has allocated a pittance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan in its budgets - and only after it is prompted to by an astounded Congress.

Macedonia hasn't been paid in full for NATO's presence on its soil during the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Though it enjoyed $1 billion in forgiven debt and some cash, Pakistan is still waiting for quotas on its textiles to be eased, based on an agreement it reached with the Bush administration prior to the campaign to oust the Taliban.

Congress is a convenient scapegoat. Asked whether Turkey could rely on a further dose of American undertakings, Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman, responded truthfully: "I think everybody is familiar with our congressional process."

Yet, the USA, despite all its shortcomings, is the only game in town. The European Union cannot be thought of as an alternative benefactor.

Even when it promotes the rare coherent foreign policy regarding the Middle East, the European Union is no match to America's pecuniary determination and well-honed pragmatism. In 2002, EU spending within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership amounted to a meager $700 million.

The EU signed association agreements with some countries in the region and in North Africa. The "Barcelona Process", launched in 1995, is supposed to culminate by 2010 in a free trade zone incorporating the European Union, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Turkey. Libya has an observer status and Cyprus and Malta have joined the EU in the meantime.

According to the International Trade Monitor, published by the Theodore Goddard law firm, the Agadir Agreement, the first intra-Mediterranean free trade compact, was concluded In March 2003 between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. It is a clear achievement of the EU.

The European Union signed a Cooperation Agreement with Yemen and, in 1989, with the Gulf Cooperation Council, comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. A more comprehensive free trade agreement covering goods, services, government procurement and intellectual property rights is in the works. The GCC has recently established a customs union as well.

Despite the acrimony over Iran's not-so-civilian nuclear program, the EU may soon ink a similar set of treaties with Iran with which the EU has a balanced trade position - c. $7 billion of imports versus a little less in exports.

The EU's annual imports from Iraq - at c. $4 billion - are more than 50 percent higher than they were prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It purchases more than one quarter of Iraq's exports. The EU exports to Iraq close to $2 billion worth of goods, far less than it did in the 1980s, but still a considerable value and one fifth of the country's imports. EU aid to Iraq since 1991 exceeds $300 million.

But Europe's emphasis on trade and regional integration as foreign policy instruments in the Mediterranean is largely impracticable. America's cash is far more effective. Charlene Barshefsky, the former United States trade representative from 1997 to 2001, explained why in an opinion piece in the New York Times:

"The Middle East … has more trade barriers than any other part of the world. Muslim countries in the region trade less with one another than do African countries, and much less than do Asian, Latin American or European countries. This reflects both high trade barriers … and the deep isolation Iran, Iraq and Libya have brought on themselves through violence and support for terrorist groups … 8 of (the region's) 11 largest economies remain outside the WTO."

Moreover, in typical EU fashion, the Europeans benefit from their relationships in the region disproportionately.

Bilateral EU-GCC trade, for instance, amounts to a respectable $50 billion annually - but European investment in the region declined precipitously from $3 billion in 1999 to half that in 2000. The GCC, on its part, has been consistently investing $4-5 billion annually in the EU economies.

It also runs an annual trade deficit of c. $9 billion with the EU. Destitute Yemen alone imports $600 million from the EU and exports a meager $100 million to it. The imbalance is partly attributable to European non-tariff trade barriers such as sanitary regulations and to EU-wide export subsidies.

Nor does European development aid compensate for the EU's egregious trade protectionism. Since 1978, the EU has ploughed only $210 million into Yemen's economy, for instance. A third of this amount was in the form of food support. The EU is providing only one fifth of the total donor assistance to the country.

In the meantime, the USA is busy signing trade agreements with all and sundry, subverting what little leverage the EU could have possessed. In the footsteps of a free trade agreement with Israel, America has concluded one with Jordan in 2000. The kingdom's exports to the United States responded by soaring from $16 million in 1998 to c. $400 million in 2002. Washington negotiated a similar deal with Morocco. It is usurping the EU's role on its own turf. Who can blame French president Jacques Chirac for blowing his lid?

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