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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ It’s time to stamp out piracy ]

It’s time to stamp out piracy

WHAT A remarkable week ladies and gentlemen, and others. So much has happened I don't know where to start.

On Friday, the curious were treated to the sight of a Swiss man, Yves Rossy, flying over the English Channel on nothing but a wing and a prayer. Rossy became the first human ever to fly over the Channel using a jet-propelled Kevlar wing strapped to his back. It was literally just this Swiss madman soaring through the air using the movement of his head to steer his... well, himself through the air. Amazing. Well done Rossy.

On Thursday, the somewhat tenuous relationship between Pakistan and the US took a further plunge when Pakistani ground troops fired at two American helicopters on the Afghan-Pakistani border. It's all a bit hazy as to what happened with both sides giving different accounts.

The Pakistanis claim they fired warning “flares” at the helicopters after they crossed into Pakistan territory. The helicopters returned fire and then turned back. The American version is that they were in Afghan territory when they were fired at by Pakistani troops. US ground troops returned fire with warning shots after which the Pakistanis fired back (probably more warning shots hinting that everyone should stop firing warning shots). The whole thing ended without injury or damage and everyone went home, apart from the local residents who were already home, trembling under the kitchen table: happy that Pakistan was defending its sovereignty but fearful of a US retaliation.

Speaking from the UN in New York, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari maintained that his troops had only fired flares not shots, as a friendly gesture to let the helicopters know that they had accidentally crossed the “rugged and poorly marked” border.

Condoleezza Rice agreed that the austere landscape was the culprit of this little exchange of warnings, characterising the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan as “very, very unclear”.

So, to adopt the language of our friends across the Atlantic, we can safely conclude that the helicopters “kinda did, kinda didn't” enter Pakistan.

What's more worrying, however, is the fact that their equivocation on the border comes less than a month after a Bush-authorised incursion by American Special Operations forces and a US missile strike in Pakistan that killed a whole bunch of people, including women and children.

Look, if this is rattling the moderates within Pakistan, imagine what it's doing to the rest.

Luckily, it's not all doom and gloom, as Wednesday's meeting between Zardari and Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, proved. The slain Benazir Bhutto might have been a pin-up model for women across the Muslim world, but her mourning husband has taken on a rather different role. Perhaps not displaying the best aspects of Pakistani charm, Zardari, also known as “Mr 10 per cent” for his alleged corruption, acted as if he was in a London night club when he met the former Alaskan mayor.

As cameras flashed away, Zardari, beaming a super white smile, told Palin she was “even more gorgeous in life” than in pictures, adding, “now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you”. When Palin's aide asked her to shake his hand once more for the cameras, Zardari offered to hug her if required.

Careful Mr President, Palin is no stranger to guns. You might end up losing more than just 10 per cent.

And in case you think I'm joking: speaking to CBS News later that week, Palin suggested a surge in Afghanistan could replicate the “victory” in Iraq. She then offered a succinct and detailed analysis of why Israel's desire to attack Iran should not be “second-guessed”:

“It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth. That’s not a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States, in my world, those are the good guys.”

Moving swiftly on from the incredulous to the incredible. Last Thursday, a bunch of opportunistic Somalian pirates got a little more than they bargained for when they captured a Ukrainian vessel destined for Kenya carrying $30 million worth of military equipment.

The waters off the Somali coastline are now considered the most dangerous in the world, with pirates showing equal zeal for small yachts and large oil tankers. Ships are frequently looted, while a ransom demanded, and usually received, for return of crew and vessel. Only this time, they might have punched a little above their weight.

The vessel is filled with grenade launchers, copious amounts of ammunition and 33 Russian T-72 tanks, weighing 80,000 pounds each. The likelihood of tanks being taken off the ship and onto the pirate dingy boats is remote. But there's a good chance they'll help themselves to the grenade launchers and ammunition, which could easily land in the laps of the Islamist movement currently waging war in Mogadishu. It's no surprise Russia and the US have both sent warships after the audacious pirates.

The only act more audacious than the brazen piracy of Somalian fishermen last week was the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street. It really defies belief when the former head of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, tries to use American taxpayers' money to save his old colleagues from getting their hands burnt for speculative and shoddy investments.

Rather than shake-up the industry that has made the pursuit of self-interest sound more patriotic and pious than devotion to God, the US Treasury Secretary is asking the average taxpayer to dish out $700 billion to guarantee next year's bonuses. I wonder what the Secretaries of Education and Health have to say about that.

Bush delivered a prime-time address to the nation, warning that if the bankers' bailout was not approved pronto, the entire economy would collapse. To paraphrase, he said: “Your retirement, your home, your business, your farm, your job, your new car, your children's college fees will all suffer if we don't pass this bill now.”

At a time when Americans should really be scratching their heads asking, “How did we come to this?” and “What is this bailout for?”, Paulson is asking Congress to pass a bill, which effectively hands $700 billion over to the White House to do what it wishes with whomever it likes.

Paulson, the former investment banker, has actually asked in print for a licence to act with impunity. No joke, Section Eight of the document seeks exemption from accountability and judicial review.

Section Two specifies that the government can hire who it likes to administer the bailout while the contractors would not have to answer to public law. Think US soldiers in Iraq. Or as Naomi Klein puts it, think companies responsible for the bailout being appointed to distribute the $700 billion without the laws on conflict of interest or whistleblowing even being applicable.

The only reason the proposal has yet to be passed is not because Democrats are tying this in with radical changes to the system, but because Republicans are actually seeking to tag more deregulation to the bill, like scrapping capital gains tax.

People of the world, it is time to stamp out piracy. It's not very nice.

stefanos@cyprus-mail.com



(Source: Cyprus Mail)



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