Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Lugovoi - lemon in the vodka

So the whole world waited for Russia to announce its retaliation against the expulsion of its diplomats regarding the Litvinenko case, and ... nothing. What was that? It was a show of having steel in your blood.
But the twist of lemon in the vodka is that someone tried to kill the thief Boris Berezovsky, who naturally blames everything on Vlad Putin. As if Putin, the FSB or anyone related to the Russian govenment would be so stupid as to try to assassinate this man while the whole world watches. Apparently the clumsy would-be killer thought shooting him in a hotel room would be the best option. How convenient for him to have been seen "buying weapons" and to have been caught. How "awful" that he would have a CHILD with him. No doubt a full video confession will soon follow, and if uncle Boris has anything to do with it, there will be a Hollywood movie too.
The fact that the maffia has for years been trying to kill uncle Boris does not seem to have entered into anyone's head. Once again this man is doing all he can to make mischief for Russia and more particularly for Mr Putin.
It would be easy for Putin to kick out some UK diplomats and then the UK would have to respond and Russia would have to respond again and the next thing you know everyone is staring down the barrel of a gun because some stupid prison guard snorted radioactive material.
In this case Russia is being the bigger man.
Alexander Grushko is exactly right when he says Russia is being punished for upholding its constitution. There are 21 Russians living in the UK, some of who have been given citizenship, who are wanted in Russia on different charges, which include murder and terrorism. Indeed, two are directly involved in this case, Boris Berezovsky wanted for embezzeling millions, and the spokesman for Chechen muslim terrorists Akhmed Zakayev. And yet Russia does not go around threatening and trying to bring the world to crisis over this.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown might think he has scored some points but he has been shown up for being hot headed and unstable. Europe will be making up its own mind. And given the push by the US to put the star wars shield on european territory this could be just what europe needs to decide where to place its trust.
It would seem not likely that Germany, Italy and France will throw their money in with the UK's singular bid to make more out of this case than there is. They are dependant on Russian energy and big deals have been signed with Gazprom and Total.
There are too many big financial deals on the table with Russia for this to be made so serious by Brown. Even for his own country, relations with Russia have been good for a long time.
They hysteria whipped up in the UK by uncle Boris and his PR minions has made it impossible for Lugovoi to have a fair trial. It will be another Lockerbie trial. You can see where this is going when the Guardian newspaper says all the expelled diplomats are "spies" who are also FSB agents. To this we can only say "Doh!". This is like the Kremlin acting surprised to find out that British diplomats also work for MI6.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Things still falling apart in Zimbabwe

We might not think about Zimbabwe every day. But life is crazy for the ordinary man in the street. Recently Mad Bob Mugabe decided the only way to curb inflation would be to force shops to sell things more cheaply. Of course the shops buckled as they could not buy their goods more cheaply.

Dear Family and Friends,

Shoe polish, dishwashing liquid and light bulbs were the three most plentifulproducts in a major supermarket in my home town by this weekend.
This isn't a little family shop on the corner, its a branch of a national supermarket chain with outlets in most towns and cities around the country. Almost none of the basics of daily life are available a fortnight after enforced price cuts.
Imagine trying to run a home, school or institution with no rice, flour, maize meal, margarine, meat, milk or eggs. No salt, sugar, biscuits, porridge, dried fish, dried beans or powdered milk. No soap, candles or matches - and this at atime when electricity cuts are occurring daily and last for 15 hours at a time.
Behind the great mountains of shoe polish there are other products too but mostly not items in regular use and even their stocks are dwindling fast. These goods stand in long and plaintive lines, side by side along the front of the shelf, remove one and you can see the back wall - a visible echo shouts at you!
Mid week it was announced that the licences of all private abattoirs had been cancelled and that all slaughtering and meat supplies had been taken over by the virtually defunct government owned Cold Storage Commission. In Marondera the CSChas been completely closed for at least the last five years but on Thursday hundreds of people jostled outside their premises. It was mayhem: the first meat in the town for a fortnight. No one questioned what conditions were like inside the buildings which have stood deserted all these years. No one asked if fixtures and fittings had been replaced, if the buildings had been fumigated, if corroded pipes had been changed. No one even asked to see the paperwork proving that the premises had been checked by Health Inspectors or if the buildings had been declared hygienic and fit to handle meat for human consumption.
It was utter chaos and the local department of Health said nothing and did nothing.
Towards the end of the week almost 2000 businessmen around the country had been arrested for not cutting their prices. Most buses and public transport vehicles had stopped operating as fuel supplies ran out and transporters were ordered to charge prices way below their costs.
The government price cutting task force have now announced that medicines are next in line to have prices cut and a cold panic is spreading amongst people on life preserving medicines - as supplies of drugs run down and are not replaced, how will they survive?
Zimbabwe is on a knife edge and everywhere you look there is a potential crisis unfolding. Queues containing many hundreds of people form rapidly as a rumour circulates. Perhaps there is sugar, salt or flour and suddenly people are running to line up at the back of supermarkets, outside locked butchery doors, in alleyways, along pavements.
The lines this week have contained more people than most of us have ever seen before.
Four people standing abreast and then four behind them and so on and the mass goes around the corner, around the block and back on itself again. This is what 80% unemployment looks like, and also the face of the collapse of a country which just seven years ago was a major regional food exporter. Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy
Copyright cathy buckle 14th July 2007.www.cathybuckle.comMy books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from:orders@africabookcentre.comTo subscribe/unsubscribe to this newsletter, please write to:


Putin's big gamble

Russia has decided to pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty in an open test to see if the EU will fall with the US on the missile defense shield. There is not much Russia can directly to do the US to stop the shield being placed next to its borders so it seems Putin has decided to "check" the US by trying to scare the shit out of Europe. But that is not all it is about.
The treaty limits the deployment of forces in eastern and central Europe and is very important to arms control in the region. It was signed in 1990 between the Warsaw Pact and Nato, and changed again in 1990.
Putin is also looking to rewrite the rules of play that were written when Russia was weak. Now Russia is strong again and a major player in both European and Asian affairs. Putin wants the new rules to show that.
Putin has warned Bush so many times that the stupid defence shield will start another arms race. Russia is not ready to become part of the enemy Nato and does not want its neighbors to be part of its enemy too. And why should it let them?
Already Putin has tried to nicely show Bush that he is making a big mistake, with the test firing of missiles that can make the defense shield useless. But I suppose when he has friends who have famlies to keep in furs and caviar - like the people in the arms industry, he will stop at nothing and once again, the stupid American people will pay.
Now it will be Europe that will pay too because the treaty is more important to European countries than it is to the US.
There are already problems in the Russian EU relationships and also the relationship with Britain is being troubled by the thief uncle Boris and his people.
But there will be very little change to troop movements and ranks in the area. All that will happen is that the two sides will trust each other even less and there will be fewer PR exercises.
Turning the threat back on to Europe Russia is forcing it to think more carefully about missile defence. The Kremlin was not happy when Europe is backed Bush plans to put anti-missile radar in the Czech Republic. Do they think Russia held the Czechs so closely all this time for friendship? The Americans know full well that those batteries and the interceptor rockets they want to put in Poland will push out of balance the status quo as it is now in Europe - just when people where settling down to trade and mutual friendship. Trust the US jackboot to fall right there.
The gamble for Putin is how the Europeans will act. We know that Bush has done America no favours in Europe with his wars torture renditions. But do the Europeans see that he is threatening Russia or do they think Russia is the threat? If they think the latter they might join the US in this matter.
There are a lot of issues that are bothering Russia at the moment and Europe will not be fooled into thinking this is just about missiles. The EU knows there are also economic issues that need to be brought into the open and discussion. Putin has not put this on the menu yet, but he will wait and see how Brussels reacts before he does. This can be a big push for Russia to gain power and influence at the expense of America, or it can lose badly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


No free pass for Jews

"To our Christian sisters and brothers I say - do not, out of a sense of guilt for anti-Semitism, give the Jewish people a free pass. Do not confuse anti-Semitism with critique of Israel, and in so doing fail to hold Jews accountable for our choices and our actions, as members of the human community, as individuals, and as a nation state -- especially as a nation state. To make this mistake, to allow yourselves to be - I will use the word - bullied by the threat of the charge of anti-Semitism, is to commit a pernicious fallacy." - Mark Braverman
Dr. Mark Braverman, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace who serves on the Boards of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Partners for Peace and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Bag dad in Lan Kwai Fong

If you had to ask people what Hongkongers' national sport is, it would be "Shopping". They (and I say they because I've never figured out the art of shopping) LOVE to shop. They go on tours to Japan, to shop, they visit Malaysia to shop, and Dubai to shop. They think one of the greatest tourist attractions of Hong Kong is its shopping. In fact living in Hong Kong is like living in one giant shopping mall.
I think this comes as a result of living in such tiny flats. But I cannot for the life of me see where anyone could put all of the loot from the "shopping".
Nowhere was the spirit of bargain hunting more alive than last week at the launch of a designer (Hindermarch) canvass bag bearing the words "I'm not a plastic bag". It sold for about $120 (US$2.8).
Now, canvass bags are not new in Hong Kong. You can buy them at the local supers and use them instead of plastic bags. It's something that's encouraged as you get a few cents off your shopping. There are designer bags galore in Hong Kong, Coco and Vuitton and all those inbetween.
Fair enough the Hindermarch was a limited edition and had fetched a few extra bob on ebay. But the mentality of shoppers was an exercise in psychology.
First off, the shop was giving out certificates to shoppers the day before the bag went on sale, so that the following day they would know they could get what they were waiting for.
Yet the queues started early and soon potential customers were becoming disgruntled. Not to be unexpected because the weather was hot and wet. But a quick survey of the expectant crowd found that some people didn't even know what they were queuing for!
They were quite prepared to spend the night on the wet, hot and by now considerably dirty street for a US2.8 canvass bag.
Was this an environmental statement? Not bloodly likely. Not judging by the litter left over by the crowd.
How sad are people's lives that they feel the urge to do this. Does it give them elevated status in the eyes of their friends for all of 30 minutes? Or is it just Hongkongers needing to make a few extra bucks.
The company released a few bags early, hoping the crowd would go away.
It didn't, it grew.
One indigant customer complained that she was a VIP shopper and should not have to queue with the hoi poloi.
The following day the situation had worsened, with hundreds of people queuing outside in the strees, causing foot traffic congestion and demanding their "rights" to a darn bag. What? Rights?
One woman even missed her flight to San Francisco so that the customer relations people would "explain to her why she couldn't have a bag".
No doubt she will sue them for the money it cost her to change her ticket.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Curse of the Kursk

Hey Boys, do you think before Putin goes he will answer the questions about the Kursk? Do you think he will finally admit what everyone knows?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?