Daily Archives: February 7, 2009

Removal of Israeli cluster bombs from Lebanon at risk over lack of funding

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Twelve-year-old Mohamed Samer Elhaz Mouss, photographed in October 2006, was injured by Israeli cluster bomblets delivered by Israeli warplanes during the Israeli aggression on Lebanon. On 9 August 2006, in the Rashidieh Camp outside of Sour, Mohamed was running from attacking Israeli warplanes and hid behind a tree where he came into contact with unexploded bomblets. (Sam Costanza) ELECTRONIC LEBANON

De-mining operations in South at risk over lack of funding

IRIN News | Feb 6, 2009

BEIRUT: Waning international interest and funding is harming efforts to rid southern Lebanon of its hundreds of thousands of remaining cluster bomblets, posing a continuing threat to farmers and children, according to mine clearance organizations. Israel dropped a large number of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon during the summer 2006 war. Each bomb can release hundreds of individual bomblets, and about a quarter failed to explode on impact, effectively becoming landmines that can kill or maim.

“For almost all the organizations, it’s a continuous struggle to generate enough interest and funding to keep the teams on the ground working, which obviously has an impact on the amount of cluster bombs [bomblets] they can clear,” said Tekimiti Gilbert, the UN Mine Action Coordination Center’s (UNMACC) acting program manager.

This year started with 33 teams on the ground, down from 44 last year, he said. But six of those teams, hired by the UK-based NGO Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Denmark’s DanChurchAid, have been dropped since then.

“We stand to lose a further six teams by the end of March if the situation doesn’t change; and if it still doesn’t change, we’ll continue to lose more throughout the course of the year,” Gilbert told IRIN, adding that the further six at risk were from the Swedish Rescue Services Agency and private company BACTEC International.

Cutting demining operations will slow clearance of the estimated 12 million square meters remaining of contaminated land, a quarter of the estimated original strike area.

In 2008, 44 teams cleared just over 10 million square meters, Gilbert said. All 12 million square meters have been defined as “high priority” – either farmland people rely on for their livelihoods or close to populated areas and a risk to safety.

In the aftermath of the 2006 war, the UN put the figure of unexploded duds at about one million. So far deminers in south Lebanon have cleared about 155,000 cluster bomblets, though the rate of new discovery is slowing. By January 2008, deminers had cleared 137,000 bomblets, meaning only around 18,000 bomblets were cleared in the past year.

Though the initial number of duds estimated by the UN now appears to have been too high, Gilbert said the only certainty was that there were “hundreds of thousands” of unexploded duds left in south Lebanon after the war and many thousands still left to clear.

“We don’t know exactly what is left for the simple reason the Israelis haven’t told us,” he said. Israeli has ignored repeated demands by the UN to hand over strike data. Not having the strike information forces teams to search non-contaminated land unnecessarily, Gilbert said, a painstaking and costly process.

Israel’s showering of south Lebanon was one of the worst uses of cluster bombs in history and spurred the formation of an international treaty banning the use, production and sale of cluster bombs. A total of 95 countries signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, Norway, last December.

The treaty, the most significant advance in the field of disarmament since the 1997 ban on antipersonnel mines, will enter into force after being ratified by 30 states; as of the end January four states have ratified it and another 91 have signed but not yet ratified it.

Key weapons-producing states the United States, Russia, China and Israel refused to sign up, arguing for their right to use cluster bombs in self defense, but France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Lebanon are signatories. – IRIN

Obama stresses unity among religions, prepares faith office

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Obama with Cardinal Egan. The White House Office of Faith-Based Partnerships has drawn criticism for blurring the line separating church and state

Earth Times | Feb 5, 2009

Washington – US President Barack Obama on Thursday reached out to believers of all faiths as he expanded the White House office of faith-based partnerships. Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Obama acknowledged differences among religions, but stressed the common beliefs of all faiths to care for others.

“Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times,” he said.

“This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships that I’m announcing later today.”

Former president George W Bush created a White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives that helped religious groups seek grants to provide social services. Obama, who signed an order later Thursday creating his own programme, is expected to keep a similar structure. He has also created a council of religious advisors from various backgrounds to provide input on policy.

The office has drawn criticism for blurring the line separating church and state, but Obama insisted his work would not favour religious groups over secular ones but simply allow all organizations to provide services to their communities.

Obama made an effort during his election campaign to reach out to religious groups, even designating staff specifically to the task. He faced controversies, however, over inflammatory statements made by his then-pastor and rumours that he was a Muslim.

At the breakfast, Obama outlined his religious journey as the child of a Muslim father who became an atheist and non-religious mother, and how he became a Christian as an adult while working with disadvantaged residents in Chicago.

The breakfast draws thousands, including many legislators and religious leaders, each year. Former British prime minister Tony Blair gave the key note address, speaking of religion’s attack from extremists within and non-believers.

Haitian President Rene Preval, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam also attended.

“Hate speech” sprayed on Masonic lodges in Canada

Hagersville lodge has been spraypainted with the words:

“(expletive) Your Secrets. We don’t want you anymore. Get out.”

Hamilton Spectator | Feb 6, 2009

‘Hateful words’ spraypainted on Haldimand Masonic lodges

By Daniel Nolan

Ontario Provincial Police are conducting a hate crime investigation after three Masonic lodges in Haldimand County had what police describe as “hateful words and phrases” spraypainted on the outside walls of their lodges.

The lodges in Caledonia, Cayuga and Hagersville were defaced sometime between Feb. 2 and Feb. 5.

“This is the first time this kind of vandalism has occurred at such properties,” said Constable Paula Wright.

Peter Duns, secretary of the lodge on Main Street in Hagersville, said members are “shocked” at the turn of the events. He said all three lodges have been in the county for about a century.

“It’s a very perplexing thing,” he said. “It’s obviously someone who has got some kind of an impression of the masons. We have no idea who it could be or where it is coming from. We’re surprised by anything like this.”

Duns, who is also a member of the lodge on Argyle Street North in Caledonia, said both lodges have been spraypainted with what he described as a red squiggly line and the attached words ‘In Victor.’ He said the Hagersville lodge has also been spraypainted with the words ‘(expletive) Your Secrets. We don’t want you anymore. Get out.”

He can’t say it isn’t just teenage vandals, but said targeting all three lodges is something different. The Cayuga lodge is in an old church building on Munsee Street (Highway 54), near Talbot Road (Highway 3).

“It must be someone beyond the age of a local high school kid,” he said. “They probably don’t understand what we are all about.”

According to Wikipedia, Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century.

Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around 5 million (including around 480,000 in England, Scotland and Ireland alone, and just under two million in the United States).

The various forms all share moral and metaphysical ideals, which include, in most cases, a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being.

Duns said masons promote the brotherhood of man and do lots of charity work.

“Our whole idea is to take a man and make him good and to take a good man and make him better,” he added.

The OPP are asking that if anyone saw anything suspicious near the lodges earlier this week, or if they have any other information, to please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or http://www.helpsolvecrime.com.