Showing posts from March, 2011


Should children accompany their parents on protest marches?

I guess the answer would be: "it depends". Yes, on whether there is any danger or not. That seems fairly obvious. Yesterday, on the small island of Lampedusa, the local population (5,000) beset by waves of immigrants that are now more numerous than they are (over 6,000), decided to protest. They stormed public buildings and blocked the road to the port. Women and children joined the protesters. One can understand them: so far the Rome government has done precious little, the local structures for welcoming immigrants have collapsed long ago, and there are reports that over a thousand immigrants are going hungry because there's not enough food for them on the island! Today, Berlusconi is reportedly taking a trip to Lampedusa to survey the disaster in person. He really could have done that a little sooner, and more importantly, not wait yet another day (till tomorrow, for the Council of Ministers) to take a decis…


South Coast of LampedusaImage via Wikipedia
Italy is at the forefront of the Tsunami of illegal immigrants invading Europe as a result of the "Arab Spring". That was the immediate unwanted effect of the upheavals in the Middle East (from Europe's point of view).

The small Italian island of Lampedusa - the nearest to North Africa, off the coast of Sicily - is particularly hit by this new wave of immigrants: as I write, the island's native population - some 5,000 people - are up in arms blocking the port where immigrants are landing. Since the start of the year, some 20,000 immigrants have arrived and there are more immigrants milling about on this rocky island than there are residents. Just last night 1,973 new immigrants landed! No wonder they are fed up! The local people are panicked: their touristic season about to begin with the warm season - the main source of income besides fishing - is clearly at risk.

Since about two days, the Rome government has made a small …

Warning: Digital Tsunami Over the Publishing World!

Image by charlesdyer via Flickr
This week NYT bestseller author Barry Eisler walked away from a $500,000 advance from his publisher, St. Martin's Press, because he's going to self-publish his next book (one of a successful series) in digital form. And within days, famous indie publisher Amanda Hocking who made more than one million in self-publishing her YA paranormal trilogy on Kindle and other e-readers, got an advance of over $2 million for her next 4 books from... guess who? The St. Martin's Press.

That caused an unprecedented tsunami both in the printed media and the blogosphere. All aspiring writers and newbies are salivating and publishers are pulling their hair. I've listed some of the more interesting blogs and articles below, and here is my own take on it.

Can publishers prevent the likes of Eisler from walking away? No, I don't think so. Is this a real problem? Probably not. Let's face it, not too many authors are like Eisler. You can walk away O…

The Chinese on Nuclear Energy: Ahead of Everybody!

Image by freestylee via Flickr
Nuclear energy has taken a beating since Japan's Fukushima crisis. Most political leaders in Western democracies, reacting to a panicking public opinion, have declared some form of moratorium on nuclear energy plans. With the exception of France of course, the only Western country truly committed to nuclear energy.

But there are others who are quietly moving ahead, first and foremost Russia, busy selling its technology around the world, claiming to all and sundry that it has learned from its Chernobyl disaster and knows how to make "safe" reactors. Hardly a convincing argument, mostly because the technology it promotes is the standard 1970s one. Russia even plans to build a nuclear plant in Kaliningrad, right in the heart of the Baltic. It will be interesting to see how countries around it - the Baltic states, Finland, Sweden, Poland and Germany - will react.

Actually, there is a rather wide range of countries in the Third World that are no…

The Battle for Libya: Everyone Involved has Different Motives!

Arab leagueImage via Wikipedia
Five days ago, it looked like the international community had a clear idea about what UN Security Council Resolution 1973 was all about: protecting the civilian population in Libya. It said so in so many words, there could be no misunderstanding. And none either regarding the means to be employed: that's what the no-fly zone was supposed to do, and any additional measure needed to achieve civilian protection was permitted, bar the sending of ground troops.

All simple and clear? No!

Within a day of the start of operations, the Arab League which had been a prime promoter of the no-fly zone relented. Remember, operations were started by French planes who took off late in the afternoon of Saturday 19 March, right after the "coordination" meeting at the Elysée in Paris called for by Sarkozy and which was attended by, inter alia, Amr Moussa, the Arab League's Secretary General. Remarkably, rather than shelling the Libyan radar bases strung a…

The Battle for Libya: Protecting the Civilians is NUMBER ONE Objective!

Image via Wikipedia
A no-fly zone is not an objective per se: it  is merely a means to an end. So what is the objective? Protecting the civilian populations, stoopid!  In fact, the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is clear on that point: it allows for all "measures necessary to protect the civilian population".

I felt like saying "stoopid"  yesterday at my television set as I watched the unfolding battle for Libya and heard the comments. Perhaps the most surprising, and politically disturbing comment came from the Arab League, when its Secretary General, Amr Moussa, suddenly came out against the military intervention, lamenting the (mostly French) bombardments around Benghazi.

Those who surely didn't lament the bombardments were the opponents to Qaddafi's regime. You could see hundreds of cars streaming out of Benghazi on Sunday morning, bringing locals to stare at the bombed out  military vehicles along the road and gloat over them. They touched the twi…

Italy celebrates150 years while the world falls apart...

Cavour's castle at Grinzane Image by mastino70 via Flickr
In the face of war waged by Qaddafi in Libya, just across the sea, at perhaps 15 or 20 minutes by military jet, Italy tried yesterday to celebrate its 150 years of unification.

Why 17 March?

Because that's the date - 17 March 1861 - when the newly assembled Italian Parliament voted to turn Italy into a monarchy with the King of Sardegna, Piedmont and Savoia, served so well by Cavour (in the role of Prime Minister since 1852) as King of Italy.

The coronation of Vittorio Emmanuele II marked the final point of Cavour's efforts to unify Italy against numerous contrary winds, not least blowing from the South with the Bourbons of Naples who viewed Giuseppe Garibaldi's famous expedition in Southern Italy as a bunch of bandits causing havoc.  Three months later, on 6 June 1861, Cavour was dead, apparently of malaria, a disease he had contracted in his youth.

The celebration comes at such a difficult time for Italy that …


Check this surprising and illuminating video that puts traditional economic theory on its head. We are not solely guided by the profit motive and that's really encouraging, considering all the ghastly and stupid things that we are seeing happening around us in the world...

Nuclear Catastrophy in Japan and Massacre in Libya!

Image via Wikipedia
In Japan, experts knew back in the 1970s that the design of the Japanese nuclear reactors was faulty - in the sense of WEAK, i.e. prone to explode in case of emergencies! See Tom Zeller's article in the New York Times.

In Libya, Qaddafi announces he is going to retake Benghazi, the rebels' stronghold in Cirenaica within the next 48 hours...while the international community is paralyzed - in particular the Americans who should be democracy's champions...

What is the world coming to???

Japan's Nuclear Emergency

Image via Wikipedia
Japan, after the earthquake and the tsunami, is now facing the threat of nuclear devastation. It seems so unreal and unfair and tragic, particularly for a country like Japan that has suffered through Hiroshima and Nagasaki! As I write it is still too soon to tell how it will turn out and we all fervently hope that the several nuclear reactors can be put under control and tragedy averted.

So much has been written about Japan over the last four days since the earthquake that I have nothing new to add. As you know, I always post after events have finished unfolding so that it becomes possible to step back and take stock. For the Japanese nuclear nightmare, it is still too soon to do that.

But news are worrying, including the Japanese officially requesting American help. So I just thought I'd put together for you what in my (humble) opinion are a few of the better articles and analysis written about this tragedy.

Related articlesJapan battles nuclear nightmare (thew…

No-Fly Zone over Lybia? No consensus among the G-8!

Image via Wikipedia
Check out this excellent analysis put out by The Economist online. The G-8 meeting in Paris (14 March) has given no results, as Russia stays stuck on its position of refusal and Americans (and Canadians) continue to show skepticism, even though the Arab League has called for the imposition of a no-fly zone...A real disappointment for Juppé, the French Foreign Affairs Minister who hosted the meeting. Meanwhile no UN resolution has come out of the United Nations Security Council and the rebels are about to fall to Qaddafi's advancing mercenary army. What will it take to get the international community moving??Can the colonel be stopped? Mar 14th 2011, 17:19 by X.S. | CAIRO

CALLS for a no-fly zone over Libya are becoming much stronger, now that the Arab League has "unanimously" backed the idea (though in reality Algeria, Sudan and Syria, all repressive and undemocratic regimes, were unhappy about it). At an earlier meeting last week, the six-country…

Libya: Too Late, Too Little for the Rebels?

This has been a hectic week for Libya. On Thursday, the French government recognized Libya's rebels and said it would send an ambassador to Benghazi. The UK was expected to follow suit shortly and, although Italy had at first declared such a move "premature", by Friday evening all the EU governments had agreed to "officially talk" to the opposition National Council and ask Gaddafi to step down. 

What about the US?

Nothing so far. This may well be the first time since the Middle East crisis started that the Americans are moving after the Europeans. On Tunisia and Egypt the Americans were much faster in reacting to the uprisings - the "Arab spring revolution", as some like to call it. Why the delay on Libya? Perhaps because the US has already bombed Muammar al-Gaddafi's Libya once, back in 1986. Presumably Obama is leery of sending out the wrong signals. Arabs are notoriously sensitive and Gaddafi has been using every possible misleading argument in…