Sudanese pres. officially declares signing of peace agreement with JEM
Saba / February 20, 2010
KHARTOUM — Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir officially proclaimed here Saturday that his government signed a peace agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the biggest rebel movement in Darfur, led by the chad-based Khalil Ibrahim, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
Bashir, who made this announcement in an address delivered before thousands of women at the fairgrounds in Bari district in Khartoum, did not go into the agreement’s details, though he asserted that his government will sign a final peace accord with all Darfurian rebel movements within two days in the Qatari capital of Doha.
Further, Bashir announced the abolition of all death penalties issued against those belonging to the JEM who took part in the offensive against the Sudanese capital in May 2008 and ordered the immediate release of 30 percent of them.
Bashir also hailed the role played by the Chadian president Idriss Deby in pushing the negotiations with the JEM as well as the efforts exerted by the Amir of the state of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Egyptian president Honsi Mubarak, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and other countries that helped make the peace overtures in Darfur a success.
JEM had declared earlier today that they signed a framework agreement with the Sudanese government in the Chadian capital N’Djamena that sets modalities for a ceasefire agreement between the two sides.
This declaration comes a day following the Sudanese president’s assertion that reaching an agreement with the JEM is around the corner.
This agreement comes following three-day talks between a JEM delegation and a Sudanese government delegation in the Chadian capital N’Djamena brokered by president Dibi in what coincided with consultations held by Darfur rebels with a Sudanese government delegation under the sponsorship of Qatar and with the participation of the United Nations and the African Union.
By Kirk McElhearn | Macworld.com | February 19, 2010
For a company whose unofficial slogan is “Don’t Be Evil,” Google has been ignoring its so-called core value with alarming frequency as of late. And because of that, I decided to delete my Gmail account, along with all other Google services that I am able to do without. I have also deleted as much personal information as possible from my Google profile.
I still need to use some Google services–I have clients who share a couple of documents via Google Docs, I need to access one private blog on Blogger, and I will continue to use Google search (though I plan on exploring alternatives, such as Bing and Yahoo). But for the most part, I’m dropping Google wherever I can.
It was a combination of recent incidents that drove me to this point. One was the introduction of Google Buzz, which, in some cases, disclosed contact information that users thought was private. When Google launched Buzz, its “social networking tool,” the company didn’t let users opt into the program, but automatically applied it to all of the millions of users of the company’s free Gmail. Google quickly backtracked, but it is not clear whether the “turn off Buzz” link at the bottom of Gmail pages truly purges the links that Google created.
The second incident was the recent deletion of a number of music blogs from Google’s Blogger and Blogspot platforms without even notifying the owners of the blogs or attempting to determine whether the shutdowns were valid. This is not the first time that Google has pulled the plug on music blogs because of DMCA complaints, but some bloggers claim that their blogs were perfectly legal), because they had permission for every track they posted. While MP3 and music blogs are a popular way of distributing copyrighted content without the owners’ permission, not every such blog is violating the law. A similar shutdown of blogs last year lead to Google’s developing new guidelines, but this current incident shows that someone at Google didn’t read the new rules.
Google’s actions in these incidents were certainly not accidental, and they are part of a growing trend. Whether it be Google’s censorship of search results for Chinese users–the company helped build the Great Firewall of China before it was against it–or Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s flip comment regarding privacy (“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”), Google has become a corporation that has strayed from its initial values. By choosing an opt-out model for Buzz that basically forced all Gmail users to become a part of this service, Google simply hoped that everyone would ignore this lack of choice and accept it tacitly, so the next time it wanted to impose new features, people would consider it normal. That choice failed, fortunately.
Google has become so monolithic that it has reached the point of a near-monopoly in certain areas. To be fair, no other search engine comes close to Google in quality, and, while the company should be lauded for that, it’s the way Google uses that search engine, and related services, that makes it the Standard Oil of the 21st century. (I won’t discuss the potential issues involving Google Books; or how the company is milking news organizations via Google News; or the many other issues that one could raise about the company.)
But not only does Google dominate the search (and, hence, advertising) market, it also knows a lot about you. By adding more and more “free” services–free in exchange for the annoyance of ads, and for users’ giving up their privacy–Google accumulates a wealth of information about your interests, your browsing habits, your contacts, the blogs you visit (using your Google profile), pictures of your home, and much more. (Do you know how much information Google has connected to your Gmail address? Check here: You may be surprised.) Not only does Google have this information on its servers, but if anyone were to be able to hack into your Google account, they’d have a wealth of information about you too (and your business, if you use Google Docs for business documents).
(Note that, for those who use Firefox, there’s an add-on, Google Sharing, that lets you use most Google tools without sharing any private data.)
And all that information, and all those “free” services, are amassed and provided for one simple goal: to follow your every movement on the Internet and show you ads related to your searches, e-mails and documents. Many people accept the “free” services in spite of those ads, which, when you look closely, often depend on the content of your personal e-mails. Is the Trojan horse of free e-mail, YouTube videos, and online word processing documents worth giving up one’s privacy, all so a company can make billions from ads? (Your personal information and search habits earned Google more than $6 billion in profits last year.) For me, it’s not.
Google knows more about you than the NSA, and has recently shown that it doesn’t give a hoot about your privacy. The company has gotten too big, and has turned into just another corporation trying to maximize its assets–and those assets are you. Who’s to say Google won’t progressively loosen its privacy controls and monetize more and more personal information?
I’m ditching Google as much as I can, and when a competitor develops a search engine as good as Google, I’ll stop searching with Google, too. The trend that Google has been following has been looking darker and darker as the company nibbles away at the limits of privacy. This is no longer a company I trust.
Ma’an – 20/02/2010
Tulkarem – The Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights called attention to the urgent case of a 52-year-old Physics Professor in an Israeli prison suffering from a bevy of untreated medical problems, including kidney disease and high blood pressure, a report said.
Director of the center, Fuad Al-Khufesh, described the failure of Israeli prison officials to treat the man as “medical negligence,” and said Israel would be held accountable for his health and well being.
The prisoner, professor of physics at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Isam Rashed Al-Ashqa, is from the town of Seida in the Tulkarem governorate.
“Rashed is slowly dying … because of medical negligence and lack of medications,” Al-Khufesh said, noting the professor only receives light painkillers for treatment.
Rashed obtained his bachelor of sciences in Physics from the Jordanian University in Al-Yarmouk in 1980 and his master of science from the University of Jordan in 1982. He went on to teach at An-Najah between 1982-4, and then traveled to the US for his doctoral studies at Toledo University, Ohio.
When he returned from Ohio, Rashed founded the department of Physics at An-Najah.
Rashed has been under administrative detention since 19 March 2009. He has not stood before a judge and has not been charged. This is his third detention.
Dutch troops will almost certainly be withdrawn from Afghanistan this year following the collapse of the coalition government in The Hague.
The Telegraph | February 20, 2010
The government fell because of a dispute between its main partners over how long its soldiers should stay in the war.
A withdrawal, expected to begin in August and be completed by December, would come as a major blow to Nato efforts to battle the Taliban and reassure Afghans that the West will stay and protect them.
For several years thousands of Dutch troops have been based in Uruzgan Province, to the north of Helmand where British soldiers are engaged in deadly fighting against insurgents.
A withdrawal of 2000 Dutch soldiers – whose operation has won the respect of Nato commanders – could put more pressure on overstretched British soldiers in southern Afghanistan, who may be called on to plug the gap which would be left by a Dutch withdrawal.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, leader of the centre-right Christian Democrats, announced on Saturday that the coalition government he has led for nearly three years could not continue. Mr Balkenende had wanted to extend the deployment of Dutch troops beyond an August deadline, but the Labour Party, his junior partner in the coalition, was opposed.
Dutch troops had already extended their stay after originally planning to withdraw in 2008. Their deployment has long been controversial with an electorate more at ease with peacekeeping operations than fighting a war. Twenty-one Dutch soldiers have died in Afghanistan. The province where they are based, Uruzgan, is a mountainous area of the south where Taliban support is strong.
If the Dutch do withdraw, as seems almost certain now, they would be the first of the ten major Nato contributing nations to pull out of Afghanistan – handing a major propaganda victory to the Taliban, which believes it simply has to wait for western powers to tire of the costly war.
The coalition collapse came after more than 15 hours of talks that lasted until early on Saturday, and acrimonious exchanges throughout the week. Months of political turmoil could lie ahead for the Netherlands. Elections are likely later this year, and the big winner could be the controversial Right-winger Geert Wilders.
Opinion polls predict that his anti-immigration Freedom Party could become the second-largest or even largest party, making him the likely power broker in Dutch politics.