Daily Archives: August 15, 2008

EU wants peacekeepers ‘on the ground’ in Georgia

Related

Russia-Georgia Conflict Offers Glimpse at New World Order

EUOBSERVER | Aug 15, 2008

By PHILIPPA RUNNER

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – EU foreign ministers on Wednesday (13 August) agreed to send peacekeepers to help supervise the fragile Russia-Georgia ceasefire, putting off discussions on potential diplomatic sanctions against Russia until next month.

“The European Union must be prepared to commit itself, including on the ground,” the EU joint statement said, asking EU top diplomat Javier Solana to draft more detailed proposals for the ministers’ next meeting on 5 September.

“Many countries have said that they are ready to join in,” French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said, adding that any EU move would require a UN mandate. “We are encouraged by what we saw this morning, but we have to go through the United Nations.”

Ministers did not specify if the EU mission will compose EU-badge wearing soldiers, policemen or civilian monitors. It also remains unclear if it would be part of a wider force involving the UN and the OSCE, or when deployment might start.

“You call it peacekeeping troops, I don’t call it that…but controllers, monitors, European facilitators, I think the Russians would accept that,” Mr Kouchner told reporters.

The Georgian government has called for an EU presence in its rebel-held Abkhazia and South Ossetia provinces for at least three years, but the EU has always maintained that Russia and the Russian-backed separatists must agree first.

Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb voiced optimism that Russia will now back the new initiative. “I’m convinced at the end of the day we will find an international peacekeeping [force] in the region, with the EU at its heart,” he said, according to AFP.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Reuters he was less sure. “There are no signs of the Russians letting in anyone else…I don’t really see it happening – at the moment the Russians are firmly in control.”

The EU statement avoided any criticism of Moscow, despite widespread feeling among EU members that Russia’s massive assault on Georgia has overshadowed Georgia’s initial attack on the rebel town of Tskhinvali.

On Wednesday night, Russian soldiers continued to attack abandoned Georgian military facilities while Ossetian paramilitaries burned ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia and looted the Georgian town of Gori.

“I do not think we should get lost today in long discussions about responsibility or who caused the escalation of the last few days,” German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said.

Russia sanctions debate

A discussion on the potential suspension of talks on a new EU-Russia strategic pact or other diplomatic sanctions against Russia has been scheduled for the next EU foreign ministers meeting in September.

“We will speak very specifically about that,” France’s Mr Kouchner said.

“The European Union will want to consider how it proceeds with the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement,” UK foreign minister, David Miliband, said. “The sight of Russian tanks in Gori, Russian tanks in Senaki, a Russian blockade of Poti, the Georgian port are a chilling reminder of times that I think we had hoped had gone by.”

The Polish and Lithuanian ministers echoed the British position.

“Of course some consequences must appear of the aggression,” Lithuanian foreign minister, Petras Vaitiekunas, said. “There was clearly disproportionate force used by the Russians,” Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski added.

In a separate event in Warsaw on Wednesday, the leaders of four former-communist EU states went further by calling for NATO to put Georgia firmly on the path to membership in order to “prevent similar acts of agression and occupation” in future.

The presidents of Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and the prime minister of Latvia also criticised the EU’s endorsement of the six-point Russia-Georgia peace plan, saying “the principal element – the respect of teritorial integrity of Georgia – is missing.”

The UK and eastern European states stand close to an increasingly hostile US line on excluding Russia from “the international system” and “international institutions” in punishment for the war.

‘This is not 1968’

“This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it,” US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said on Wednesday, before flying to Paris and Tbilisi this week.

Meanwhile, Russia is blaming the US for training and arming Georgian forces in a geopolitcal “project.”

“It is clear that Georgia wants this dispute to become something more than a short if bloody conflict in the region,” Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said.

“For decision-makers in the NATO countries of the West, it would be worth considering whether in future you want the men and women of your armed services to be answerable to [Georgian president] Mr Saakashvili’s declarations of war.”

Maoist guerrilla chieftain takes power in Nepal

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

–    Mao Zedong

Former rebel leader Prachanda smiles in the Constituent Assembly after being elected prime minister in Kathmandu August 15, 2008. Lawmakers elected a Maoist who led a decade-long insurgency against the Hindu monarchy as Nepal’s new prime minister on Friday, marking the Himalayan nation’s radical change into a democratic republic. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar (NEPAL)

Related

‘Maoist Republic’ on its way

Nepal Maoists hail global revival of Communism

The Maoist leader becomes the most powerful politician in the country

BBC | Aug 15, 2008

Members of Nepal’s parliament have overwhelmingly elected the Maoist leader Prachanda as the country’s new prime minister.

The 53-year-old won 80% of votes to defeat his only rival, the Congress Party candidate, Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Maoists won a surprise victory in April elections, and two other key parties supported Prachanda in the vote.

Last month, Nepal swore in a mainly ceremonial president, Ram Baran Yadav, after the monarchy was scrapped in May.

‘Lenin or Napoleon’

It is only two years since Prachanda emerged from more than two decades underground as a militant communist leader.
“I am very happy and very emotional,” he said as he left the constituent assembly after the vote, reported AFP news agency.

What the Maoists called their “people’s war” had left 13,000 people dead, tens of thousands displaced and much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed.

The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says that now the former guerrilla will be the most powerful politician in the Himalayan country, after 464 lawmakers gave him their vote and only 113 rejected him.

The Maoists’ deputy leader, Baburam Bhattarai, said: “Today is a day of pride and it will be written with golden letters in the history of the nation.”

He predicted earlier that Prachanda would be a leader “for a new era”, comparable to Lenin or Napoleon.

Friday’s ballot ends months of political deadlock that had followed the sacking of the unpopular King Gyanendra and the abolition of the 240-year-old monarchy.

Our correspondent says that Prachanda’s elevation had long seemed inevitable after his party scored its convincing win in April.

Prachanda was almost guaranteed victory because he had the support of three parties – his own, the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and the MJF (Madheshi Janadhikar Forum).

The Maoists’ Congress Party rivals accused them before the vote of plotting to set up a totalitarian communist regime, a suggestion they strongly denied.

A former agricultural science teacher-turned-revolutionary, Prachanda was originally named Pushpa Kamal Dahal, but he still uses his guerrilla nom de guerre.

Related

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

– George Santayana

Pol Pot (L) was elected prime minister of the new communist government in 1976

Pol Pot and his army, called the Khmer Rouge, came to power in Cambodia (Kampuchea) in 1975. He was named prime minister of the new communist government in 1976 and began a program of violent reform. The Khmer Rouge abolished currency, religion and private property and evacuated cities in the hopes of creating a Maoist agrarian society free of Western influence (though, like Mao, Pol Pot had studied the works of V. I. Lenin and Karl Marx in Europe). Under his regime, forced labor, executions and famine killed between 1.5 and 2 million Cambodians (more than 20% of the population

Pol Pot is frequently named among the baddest guys in history, along with Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler… He was also referred to by his followers as “Brother Number One”… the countryside of Cambodia was dubbed “the killing fields” because of the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Cambodia’s Murderous Mystery Man
Philip Short writes in his superb, authoritative account of the man and the madness that transformed Cambodia, almost overnight, into hell on earth. “Individual rights were not curtailed in favor of the collective, but extinguished altogether. Individual creativity, initiative, originality were condemned per se. Individual consciousness was systematically demolished.”

Catholic Inquisition reigns supreme in Depp movie under development

Dr. Julien Sauniere gets into trouble with Nazis in the comic book, Rex Mundi

Rex Mundi is set in an alternate history where Martin Luther was assassinated, the Reformation never took place, and the Catholic Church still reigns supreme. The comics take place in the 1930’s, in a world where the Inquisition still runs rampant, Europe is ruled by monarchs, but magic manages to exist.

Cinematical | Aug 14, 2008

Johnny Depp’s ‘Rex Mundi’ Has Script, Needs Director

by Elisabeth Rappe

It’s been a while since we heard anything about Johnny Depp’s second foray into the world of comic book adaptation, otherwise known as Rex Mundi. Back in 2006, Depp purchased the rights to Arvid Nelson’s Dark Horse series under his Infinitum Nihil banner, with the intention to star as Dr. Julien Sauniere.

To refresh your memory, Rex Mundi is set in an alternate history where Martin Luther was assassinated, the Reformation never took place, and the Catholic Church still reigns supreme. The comics take place in the 1930’s, in a world where the Inquisition still runs rampant, Europe is ruled by monarchs, but magic manages to exist. Into this walks Dr. Sauniere, who finds himself investigating the disappearance of a medieval scroll, and a trail of horrific ritual murders. You can find out more on its official site, if you’re interested. Depp was drawn to the project not because he’s a comic reader, but because he’s keenly interested in the Templar Knights, and “loves that kind of research” according to Barry Levine, who’s co-producing.

According to MTV, Rex now has a script, penned by Jim Uhls, and is looking for a director. Depp has been right in the thick of all the decision making, says his co-producer Barry Levine. “The second draft is now coming in from Jim, and Warner Bros. is pretty excited about it. They came up with a couple of names for directors, so now we just need Johnny to look at the list. It all begins and ends with Johnny. He’s got to be happy with the script, and he gave his notes, so we’ll see what happens next.”

As the original story dealt with a now predictable search for the Holy Grail and descendant of Jesus, it’s been changed around a bit. (Damn you, DaVinci Code!) With that worrying development, it’s difficult to say how this could end up — it all hinges on who they hire to direct, and if the story can hold up. The world Nelson has created could be really brilliant on screen. But I fear another From Hell or The Ninth Gate.

Related

Synopsis: Rex Mundi is set in Paris, 1933, but not the Paris of our world. For a number of reasons, foremost the assassination of Martin Luther in 1521, this Europe is still in the dark ages. A handful of aristocrats hold all the power, and the church maintains a permanent Inquisition with all the license of the Gestapo in Nazi Europe. The rites and rituals of spell-casting are steeped in the occult, based on Judeo-Christian mysticism and cabala.

China’s choreographed detentions

Expelled U.S. protesters tell of hospitality and haranguing


Washington Post | Aug 14, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 14 — As he sat munching Kentucky Fried Chicken with his captors at a Beijing police station last week, the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney couldn’t help thinking that he was going to be used as a star in an upcoming Chinese propaganda film.

Along with two other Americans, Mahoney had been dragged from Tiananmen Square just a couple of hours earlier, as they attempted to unfurl a “Jesus Christ Is King” banner and protest human rights abuses in China, including forced abortions. Such public expressions of belief are illegal in this country.

Now Mahoney and the others were being subjected to a classic good-cop, bad-cop interrogation routine, in this case augmented with official Chinese photographers. With the good cop in charge, out came the cameras, recording everything. When the bad cop came in, no shutters clicked.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness. I can see it now. The Chinese, accused of harsh and brutal tactics against human rights protesters, show that they serve KFC and tea to their prisoners.’ They wanted to document our treatment,” Mahoney said in a telephone interview after he returned to Washington this week, the Chinese visa in his passport stamped with red ink: Expelled, Aug. 7, 2008.

Before the Olympic Games opened, Chinese leaders publicly exhorted their 100,000-plus security team in Beijing to guard against public demonstrations that could mar China’s international image.

The focus of their strategy for handling protests by foreigners, emerging now after about half a dozen small-scale incidents, seems to be to limit the force used to subdue participants — especially in an age of cellphone cameras and YouTube — while documenting any gentle treatment in custody. Those detained, some of them seasoned religious and political activists who expect arrest, said another police goal is to get them to admit they broke a Chinese law against disturbing public order.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau information office has declined to comment on specific cases, except to say its officers take action when anyone, including foreigners, is “conducting activities against Chinese law.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press briefing on Wednesday that “just as in other countries, assemblies, processions and demonstrations must be held according to relevant legal regulations and procedures, and shall not be carried out without approval from relevant authorities.”

The Olympics have long been seen by protesters as an opportunity to air their grievances against host countries. Many host countries, in turn, have tried to contain demonstrations by setting aside special protest zones, as China has done. But in Beijing, there have been no reports of anyone using the “protest pens,” and some Chinese who have tried to obtain permits to do so have been detained.

Unwilling to detain foreign protesters for long periods, the Chinese have decided instead to hustle them out of the country. Their strategy is not without precedent. During the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norwegian authorities deported 12 Americans who were apparently planning an antiabortion protest. During the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, two American sprinters were expelled after bowing their heads and saluting in a nod to black power on the medal stand. So far in Beijing, no athlete has attempted a political statement on the stand.

But Beijing has shown exceptional concern about its image, according to those deported so far.

“They had an extreme commitment to order and appearance,” said Mahoney, a veteran activist who directs the antiabortion Christian Defense Coalition.

Full Story