Archive for October, 2010

The Invisible Black Hand of Censorship

Protesters in Hong Kong carry placards of the Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo during a march to demand his release. Photograph: Ym Yik/EPA

A week before Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, a number of Chinese dissidents and reformers signed an open letter to the NPC calling for the honouring of promises for press-freedom which appear on paper, at least, in the Chinese constitution; and which appeared on the Hong Kong-based website of the Chinese Media Project.

One signatory and former defence official, Xin Ziling has appealed to supposedly deeply-held PRC principles of Marxism to elicit a sense of awareness by asking how Karl Marx would have circumvented Chinese censorship laws to publish The Communist Manifesto (my guess is, if refused, he would have gone-off to boff another maid). One point this appears to miss is that, despite Liu Xiaobo’s incarceration for endorsing Charter 08 (which used the 60th anniversary of the inception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to call for its incorporation into Chinese legislation), virtually all the other signatories of this escaped imprisonment.


Voight-Kampff Tests


This image of fainting kittens is, apparently, part of a Voight-Kampff Test.

Winter and Hungry Birds


(Taken from the living room, so some reflection on the window.)

What remains of the buddlia bush has become hooks for various bird-feeders, which are attracting up to two dozen small birds at a time.  Plenty of opportunity to fat and useless cats to stare in agonized envy.

Work Commences of Tesco Store in Thurso


Almost six months after I wrote about the go-ahead for work on the new Tesco store at School Brae in Thurso, I walked past the site today and saw the diggers moving-in.

There has been much spectulation of landbanking, but at last work is being done.

Caithness Man Tortured in Portugal


Much of the national press is carrying reports of a Wick native, James Ross who has escaped from a fortnight of captivity in Portugal, during which he had been subjected to mutilation-torture.

It appears that he had travelled to Portugal in connexion to a substantial drug-related which he hoped to settle through indentured work after threats against his family. For whatever reason, this was not accepted and, after missing-report reports to Wick Police, contacts were made with their Portuguese counterparts.

On 15 October, some gang-members were arrested by Portuguese Police. Although the investigation geared itself towards body-recovery, it appears the arrests panicked the rest of the gang into releasing Ross who then flagged down a passing driver near the village of Boliqueime.

Menzies Campbell on Spending Review


… as this post goes live, the Shadow Chancellor will be announcing his new script for a Fiscal Wonder.

Menzies Campbell just has appeared on BBC News to justify the wording.  His view, and this may not be a verbatim quotation, is that “it would be irresponsible to leave for future generations the responsibility of sorting out the debts caused by the current generation”.

Lettuce sea. Even if it is the case that the effects felt in Britain of the international credit crisis can be laid, in its entirety, at the feet of the previous Government; the current generation, in its entirety, has not been party to Government economic decisions.

Even if the current generation should take the good and bad (or, more accurately, both) effects of the current Government’s economic decisions (as they will and should); I doubt Campbell, as an individual, will endure any of the negative effects.

On rhetoric, at least, fail.

Benefits Cheats are Mugging the Taxpayers…



… says George Osbourne when announcing anti-fraud initiatives including a three year suspension of benefits rights following a “three strikes” conviction (apparently based on an American sporting term), and £50 fines for deliberately or inadvertently providing misinformation of claim-forms.

An acquaintance of mine obtained menial work at a supermarket which barely surpassed the money he was receiving through benefit.  He carried on claiming for a few weeks, with the intention of clearing one outstanding debt, but was rumbled.

A court trial followed, with full repayment demanded and community service (although, unlike some, this did not presage failure which puts in mind of the Protocols of the Elders of Capel Seion).

Another acquaintance is on the minimum state pension, and has just been informed that some £600 have been overpaid.  It looks as if he will be required to repay this through reduced payments, despite having accepted it in good faith.

Fortunately, I live in the Calvinistic Republic of Scotland where Alex Salmond has promised a two year freeze of rises in council tax, believes in “bobbies not boundaries” and finally has found a small (semi)-independent country which offers a credible promise of economically viable self-rule.

Bloodhound Units Seeking North Korean Refugees

North Korean snipers on border with China. They have orders to shoot anyone attempting to enter or leave their country (Copyright Chang Chien-chi).

Recently, Channel4 broadcast Orchestra United, a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary about the Hallé Harmony Orchestra which trained-up 350 teenagers with no previous experience of performing in a classical orchestra.

One member with 18 year old Yu Min, an 18 year old who, with her mother, had sought political asylum from North Korea.

I do not know her background story, but she undoubtedly has fared better than many of her compatriots during their first stage of escape. The Chosun Ilbo carries reports of North Korean Secret Police and local Chinese agencies acting in concert to locate and forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees.

In 2002, the UNHCR estimated that there were 50,000 North Korean refugees in China, plus another couple of hundred thousand migrant workers with sufficient reason to fear the long-reach of Pyongyang; and Beijing had its restricted access for NGOs to the border-area with North Korea since 1999. It also was reported that Beijing was criminalizing the assisting of refugees by Chinese citizens, as well as offering rewards to informers.

At this time, North Korean spooks operating with impunity on the Chinese side are assumed to have kidnapped a Korean American minister, Kim Dong-shik who was assisting refugees and whose case was quietly filed-away by his then President, George W. Bush and then Senator, Barack Obama. (In January 2010, GI Korea at RoK Drop linked to reports that a North Korean infiltrator linked to this was under interrogation by South Korean authorities).


I Once Spent Two Hours in John o’Groats…


… but even that was not nearly as bad as two months down a Chilean mine.

Toyota Divests from Burma Vehicle Manufacturer


Someone must have put vim in the Norwegian water-supply, as another humanitarian prize has gone to a critic of an autocratic and paranoiac regieme. Although Viktor Biak Lian’s activities have not brought him the same restrictions as Liu Xiaobo, this ethnic Chin activist has maintained an opposition to the Burmese junta inside and outwith the country: the newly instigated Norwegian Mission to the East now has awarded him the St. Shephan Prize for “outstanding contribution to human rights, reconciliation and religious freedoms in Burma”.

Elsewhere, Toyota Motors has announced that its affiliate, Toyota Tsusho has divested from a manufacturing venture held with the Burmese ruling Generals.

Myanmar Suzuki Motors produces high-end cars and motorcycles at sites in Burma in which, it now has been reported, Toyota sold its share back in June due to pressure from various advocacy groups. The parent company, Suzuki has no plans to halt its activities in Burma.