Tuesday 31 July 2007


August 20, the most powerful president in the world will be arriving in Montebello, Quebec for a two-day conference. President George W. Bush will be meeting with Stephen Harper and their Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon. So far, the silence from the Canadian and American media has been deafening.

Talk to 90% of people on the street and they won’t know about this upcoming conference, and if by a slim chance they do, they won’t know the purpose of the meeting or why the leaders of Canada, United States and Mexico are meeting in the dog days of summer under what amounts to a veil of secrecy.

So, what’s this upcoming conference all about, and why are the newspapers, radio and television keeping silent about it?

The purpose of the upcoming conference is to ratify the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which was initiated by Bush, Martin and Fox in 2005 in Waco, Texas. Essentially, this so-called ‘partnership’ will result in what the politicians refer to as ‘continental integration’-newspeak for a North American Union- and basically a harmonization of 100’s of regulations, policies and laws.

In layman’s terms, it means that once this ‘partnership’ has been ratified which is a fait accompli; we will be following in the footsteps of the European Union. It will mean that Canada will become part of the North American Union by 2010, and that our resources, agricultural, health and environment issues, to name a few, will be controlled not by Canada, but by the government of the North American Union.

A huge ‘NAFTA’ highway, one quarter of a mile wide, is already being built in Texas, where private land is being expropriated, and will eventually reach the Manitoba border.

Water will be the ‘issue’ of this century, as more than 25 states in the U.S. are currently in desperate need. Where do you think they will get the water they need?

The United States is already guaranteed 60% of our natural gas resources from NAFTA, which mean that even during emergencies when we need energy, we will have to import it, while we are forced to export gas to the U.S. This is just one example of how Canada is being shortchanged, and it’s only going to get worse.

Why has there been absolutely NO public consultation on the biggest issue (North American Union) facing Canadians since Confederation? Why isn’t Guy Lauzon, our local MP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, holding town hall meetings, bringing in cabinet ministers and explaining how the emerging North American Union will affect our Canadian way of life? Ask the citizens of Canada for their feedback. Isn’t that how democracy is supposed to work?

Folks, I suggest that Mr. Lauzon isn’t even aware of the SPP or the North American Union, which explains why the Conservative government has denied all Canadians information to which they are entitled. If he does have something to say about it, then let him raise the issue in our riding.

Furthermore, the example of the North American Union illustrates that our government claims to be democratic, but in fact, does it act like one, or does it prefer to make the big decisions at committee level behind closed doors, while masking its real intentions?

The ratification of the SPP, and the emergence of the North American Union have been organized entirely by government committees and private enterprise. I refer readers www.realitycheck.typepad.com for further information on the North American Union.

If our citizenry allows the North American Union to come into existence, then our way of life will change drastically, for the years to come. With privatization of our resources, increased foreign ownership, and a Canadian government with less and less authority, our children and grandchildren will be come ‘North Americans’ and our quality of life will drastically decline. The founding fathers of Canada must be rolling over in their graves.



Victories Against the North American Union

Friday 27 July 2007


How did I come to Islam? Or did Islam come to me? I have no idea of just when it began but happen it did and here I am. Sometimes I don’t think I am a very good Muslim. I miss my prayers and do not read the Qur’an often enough. But when it comes to day-to-day living, I am right on target. According to Muslim beliefs I was born Muslim and steered on a different path by the family I was born into. They say I was born pure and that by reverting, was purified of my old life and “crimes”. Being born pure always made more sense to me than the concept of being born in “sin” as Catholicism teaches. That never made sense, that guilt for the past, at birth. How could a baby be dirty in spirit? However I have long since realized that that element of spiritual pollution is a strong building block of most organized religions that creeps in and dangerously effects the health of your very soul.

Mine was the privileged life of suburban North America in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Big Roman Catholic family, Dad working “in the city”, full time at-home Mom, white picket fence, family dog, dinner of meat n potatoes on the table every night by 6, Mass on Sundays and all the usual holidays; it was a very sheltered but good life when I look back on it. We were allowed to be children. There was no TV until I was 7. My first TV memories are Elvis Presley and the A-bomb film that haunted me all my life. It still does bit at times only now I understand why. My parents had an enduring marriage that lasted through thick and thin, fully committed to family and their vows; thoughts of separation, I am sure, never even crossed their minds. And believe me, we were a lively rebellious Irish brood that pushed their limits at times.

To escape housecleaning and my four younger brothers, I tended to disappear a lot into fields and forests around our suburban home. A book, an apple, and I was off for hours at a time. My father had built a log cabin up on our very large forest plot on a private lake in the Muskoka area of Ontario that the family used extensively. I was conceived there on my parents’ honeymoon, so the place is definitely in my blood! My childhood is filled with memories of that wonderful place where most of my character was shaped. From June to September we lived there, long days spent in the waters and forests, canoeing, learning about the natural world. I would imagine this is where I became the natural pagan child that I finally expressed when I grew older. I certainly became a loner and a seeker in this environment.

Every Sunday, however, was the detested ritual of waking early, breakfasting on juice, toast, bacon and eggs, then, dressed in our Sunday best, speeding old curved roads for 50 miles to the closest Catholic Church for Mass. I still gag at the thought of fried eggs! But, as I say, my parents were devout Catholics, active in the local church, and raised us according to their standards. Despite all the Catholic propaganda, and we had a lot of it in private school, I turned out a free thinker, oftentimes, attending Mass with a good novel in the covers of my prayer book. There, during Mass I absorbed such books such as The Agony and the Ecstasy or treatises by Jean Paul Sartre. I delved into philosophies that, with no life experience, I did not understand and applied inappropriately, often with miserable results, to my life. (Existentialism is surely an accursed movement inspired by the imps of Shaytan.)

Eventually, in high school, I managed to fail religion class and be transferred out into the regular school system. Fail religion class? Easily done! All one need do is defend a position that goes against formal Catholic doctrine and no matter your argument, you are failed! In my case the issue was a woman’s rights to control her own reproduction. Nor did they ever answer serious questions to my satisfaction. I would ask about creationism or the trilogy and be put off, told to trust or some such nonsense which I just could not accept. I wanted to KNOW, goddammit.

It was a natural transition, although I never realized it, to paganism and then on to witchcraft over the long years that followed. I was a child of the times and fell for the lies we were fed by the popular press. For example, despite growing up in a solid home provided for by a good albeit patriarchal man, I fell into the women’s liberation male-bashing movement never realizing to where it would lead us, as a nation, me as an individual. My generation declared God was dead, only to be found reborn within oneself. With the loss of a God or dogma to follow, and much behind the scenes manipulation, we became lost and when “free love” was thrown into the mix, marriage as an institution just fell to the wayside in importance. We explored other options. Who needed “god” or “dog” anyhow? We were omnipotent human beings!

Many of us found some obscure religion from a far part of the world. Personally, I never felt much of a draw to the Far East and concentrated on Egypt and even more ancient times. Eventually I dumped college, joined the hippie movement and, foole that I was, went along with the majority of my generation and became a lost drugged soul for many years. Despite physical and psychological abuses, I remained a very spiritual person and managed to avoid the pitfalls that befell so many of my peers. Even Hells Angels called me “mom” and treated me with respect because of my ethics! Of course, I was never so foolish as to go party with them either! My phobia of needles certainly served its purpose at the time, a phobia that I have long since overcome. Perhaps Allah had other plans for me. Alhamdulillah, I survived this time with minimal difficulties.

Finally I left the drug movement, got my license as a professional Massage Therapist, and established my own little business in a house of aesthetics. I will leave out all the stuff in between, but suffice it to say I had an over-abundance of spiritual adventures, studies in tarot, astrology, yoga, vibrational healing, and other such new age pursuits. I found I had a definite “power” that I could use for good or bad. In my naivite, at the start, I even studied the works of Aliester Crowley, a creature whom I quickly yanked from my life and instinctively developed zero tolerance for. Oddly, these many years later, I know my instincts served me well! Little did I know then that this vile creature had already changed the very world I lived in! I always only wanted to do good, selfishness was not, I thought, part of my equation. Even when I wished to conduct a healing, I contacted the person I wished to help for their expressed permission. Nor did I ever dabble in love spells simply because they are unethical. However, it all caught up to me but that comes later.

Eventually I met “the guy” and in the way of the times, we began to live together and over the years had two beautiful daughters together. Although I stuck with him for 13 years, things finally came to an end when his abuse and alcoholism were becoming just too much for me to handle. I did not want our daughters to deal with such damage and became a single mother, a very full time career. I know I did well, my daughters are fine young women of solid values. While with him, my spiritual tendencies had been dulled and parenthood had taken over. As it should, of course. After we parted, to reclaim my womanhood, I threw myself into ever deeper studies of female power. I never really did goddesses or gods, the usual pagan image, as such. It seemed to me to be a strange thing to do having rejected the patriarchal Christian god, but I did embrace the duality concept based on natural energies. Finally I found the balance of the two and moved onward.

It would take too long to go into the adventures and levels of learning I absorbed as I incorporated these things as well as reincarnation into my life, my daily life. By now I already was doing much spiritual work working with astrology and begun to incorporate it into my medical and reincarnational studies. I had begun this path in the early 1970’s and my many powerful experiences left me in no doubt of the thin veil of time between me and the past. Foolishly, blithely unaware of the dangers, I purposefully probed and went to places I had no business being in. Oftentimes memories resurfaced and I learned and grew from the experience ~ or so I thought ~ at the time. Certainly much of my life today, including the one to have children and become the parent I did, was the result of decisions I made at that time.

However, one evening I met a man who immediately sparked memories we had ostensibly shared long ago. I know now he and his companion were satanic in intent and purposefully set out to drive me to madness. Over the months the memories he sparked took over my life and I almost lost my mind. I became as one possessed and did not know what era I lived in, 11th century Wales or 20th century Canada! This was a most tragic time of my life and I became truly lost. I managed to function as a parent but my tears and so on frightened my children. The mail sat unopened for months at a time.

I do not know how it happened, but that is when I met the great love of my life, who recognized my danger and basically brought me around to the present again. He was a Gypsy born to Catholicism, a very powerful man spiritually. We met and he immediately set out to rectify the mess I was in. It was very hard work for both of us but our mutual devotion was staggering and if I believed in “soul mates” I would say he was the one. Alas, our time was short and I was widowed all too soon. But his family recognize their own and tend to keep them within the family if possible and so I was “adopted” kept within the clan. There I was, a modern liberated western woman, involved in a new (to me) culture of which I knew absolutely nothing. All I recognized was the deep spirituality that encompassed their every action, their every thought. I loved how they lived, their clear speech, which I realize now is the traditional pre-Biblical form of Islam, long before division set in.

The Patriarch of the clan introduced me to his son, in hopes that we might suit each other and ease each other’s souls due to mutual loss of our partners. It was a good match and, in our way, we fell very deeply in love. Little did I know, I was paired to one of the finest Sufi dancers around! I did not even know I was amongst Sufi, for these secrets were not mine to have as of yet. He was taking his time telling me about his family life in some ways, for fear I might reject him as a Muslim. Sadly health issues got in between and I lost this love as well. However, he gave me gifts that have only recently have I truly understood the value of.

A few months after his passing, I had a full day of visions that I cannot deny. I knew nothing of Islam at the time but one vision was still impossible for me to put into words and even remembering it thrills me to the core. I know now, he took me as close as possible to Allah. Constantly I look for art that even remotely captures what I saw, and only the work of John Pitres even comes close to capturing what I saw.

After his passing, I was lost, ready to end my life to join my darling. It was only my children who kept me alive. Two beloveds passing in under a year was almost too much to bear and I became almost lost in the process of grieving. I still wear the jewellery they gave me, however, and shall till the end. I had ferocious anger and began to manifest many dark emotions. I was irresponsible and called down curses on people I loved when the fits took me. This is a dark period of my life.

Around this time, as I began to become uncontrollable in my anger, a certain gentleman of the tribe took an interest in me and my spiritual welfare, although I had no idea of this at the time. I knew he was highly esteemed because of the honour given him by everyone of the clan, and they addressed him formally, but because I was his western Barbarian, (my nickname was Barbie Barbarian) I got away with being much more casual with him. I had no idea how privileged I was to be given such freedoms let alone his tutoring and attentions.

Over five years of conversations and lessons, often held over the backgammon board, this Imam changed my thinking, my complete approach to the universe. He opened my mind and showed me different ways to look at everything. He told me I had many things that made me special and different from most Western women but I really had no clue of what he spoke about; I was just myself and not even aware of how he was reshaping me. I learned objectivity and impartiality, and how to ruthlessly seek and evaluate my every thought and action, to take full responsibility for my actions and to always look beyond the obvious. In everything! He taught me not to judge but to still know what is right and what is wrong, a very fine line today ~ and to adhere to the straight path. He deepened my understanding of the universe in ways I cannot begin to describe. Needless to say, over the years, I feel deeply in love, as did he.

Finally about three years ago, this man I loved above all else proposed and I eagerly accepted. In the Islamic way, we hammered out our marriage contract, had it drawn up and set a date 8 months in advance due to immigration and his occupation. He drew up plans, had his house built on to and created my “woman’s quarters”. I was ever so excited. Before he went away for a 6 month business assignment, he asked me to consider wearing the hijab while he was away to see if I could handle it. He added, “I cannot wait to get your a$$ out of those jeans and into modest skirts, woman!” There was never a word about my reverting to Muslim; this was just to see if I could live by the conditions he expected of his wife. Immediately I went out, bought a few scarves, and learned to make headwraps and my hair has been a private thing ever since.

In his absence, I began to explore Islam. I read and compared sites with a few on line sisters I had known for many years and we supported each other a lot. Bit by bit I learned and liked what I found. Once I found out that many of the family were devout Muslim/Sufi, doors were opened and my acceptance reached a new level. Everything I learned from foods to polygamy made complete and utter sense to me. I was ready for this religion but had to be sure before taking my Shahada. I had a long lifetime of powerful spiritual adventures to come to terms with first, many of them very unIslamic in scope and I could not bring myself to damn them for they had been part of what brought me to the beautiful place I was in at the time. I don’t take these things lightly at all.

Then, just before we were to marry, due to horrific life circumstances, our wedding was cancelled. He was gone ~ I was abandoned and alone with only Islam to console me as I wrestled with my anguish. Despite the strong emotions and the pain I suffered I never lost track of what this man had done for me and the gifts he gave me over the years. These spiritual gifts are beyond price so that, no matter what happened, I will always feel warmth towards him for bringing me to Allah in his slow thorough fashion.

Six months later I took my Shahada witnessed by a group of Muslim women studying up at the university. I just went there to do it because I knew I would find Muslims there! Otherwise all my support was from my Sisters on line whom I had known for 10 years or so, also reverting at this time. They all cried; it was beautiful. There are very few Muslims in my town, and I go for many months without seeing another scarf, but that is ok. I went to the small local mosque a few times but I can truly say that, as a single, older white revert, I had little in common with the young muslimahs who spoke no English and absorbed completely in their hordes of beautiful dark eyed children.

My family accepted my reversion because I went about it rather slowly. When it was time to tell them I had taken my Shahada, they did not bat an eyelash. They always stock sparkling waters for me at family meals and offer an alternative if pork is on their menu. I found, to be honest, giving up bacon about the hardest thing to do, but now the thought of all that grease makes me gag. Alcohol? Well despite my youthful excesses, alcohol was never one of them. I am proud of being Muslim and wear my scarves with pleasure. It is funny because I am still very much a western woman and prone to enjoy good rhythm n blues, rock n roll and the pleasure of dogs. But all in all, Insha Allah, I am happy as a Muslim, albeit a tolerant one.

No one has ever challenged my decision. I get asked questions by all sorts of people but since I am an easy going person, I always handle them with lightness, honesty and humour. Usually, the questioner knows a bit more about Islam when I am done with my 30 words or less spiel. When I am in full hijab and walking big dogs I must admit I get a few looks from strangers, but I am a dog person, always have been, and have known all the dog owners around for years. I figure I set a bit of an example actually, just by remaining myself while being Muslim.

So, that is how I got to this place now, my friends ~ the place of, I pray, a good Muslim woman. Perhaps one day my daughters will revert, but I am not holding my breath, just setting an example and praying they do the right thing some day. I have had a few very times where life has almost overwhelmed me since reverting, but have found that implicit trust in Allah has saved me at the last possible moment several times. I think of the worst possible scenarios, my options in case, and then just leave everything to Allah. So far, I have found this works beautifully. It is a feeling of peace that avoided me previously for all of my life.

It is the strength of Islam that enables me to delve into the horrors I study and stay sane, to face the filthiest of realities, and not weaken. It is Islam that has enabled me to have the over view of humanity that I have, that encompasses thousands upon thousands of thousands of years and opened my eyes to so many wonderful things. It is Islam that tells me, no matter what happens today, goodness shall prevail eventually. So here I am. Thanks for reading this ramble. This was long but you have NO IDEA how much I omitted LOL. Be grateful for small mercies…

Thursday 26 July 2007


I feel privileged to live where I live ~ there is no other way to put it. The air is as clean as the ocean breezes can make it, the skies magnificent. We can actually see stars and constellations at night. From my window where I sit now, over the rooftops I see the ocean and the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Rain or shine, the view is magnificent. So I thought I would share parts of my island home with you all. Some of the following are my own photos; some are borrowed. Enjoy the trip.

These stairs lead up to my friend's old home up on Chesterman Beach
near Tofino. Terribly slippery when wet, very dangerous with eager dogs frisking about one's ankles, but oh so very lovely. Like much of the home itself, these stairs are a combination of local natural products and milled wood.

From the bottom of those steps, the surf roars to exclusion of all else, deafening, but oh, so refreshing! The power of the water causes the ground to shake with each thunderous wave. I never failed to awaken early refreshed and ready to walk the beaches with the dogs! You walk through the bushes pushing branches of dew dripping leaves to the side, and there, stretching before you into the distance, are mile after mile of beautiful beaches begging for exploration.

I shot this sunset one August evening on Chesterman Beach..

This is a lovely winding pathway along the shore of Denman Island, another beautiful universe away from the world. Each island has its own distinct culture of inhabitants who have escaped the humdrum world to live a different type of existence.

These smiling ladies share a large organic apple and fruit farm and make a respectable living selling their produce, including this very nummy juice from their roadside stand. There are roadside stands selling just about everything from the hundreds of small farms scattered around the islands. Every community also has its own weekly farmer's markets where growers and artisans sell their wares.

This is the most common sight in BC ~ the ferries that keep our islands connected. Originally built as part of the highway system, in the past few decades the ferries have been privatized and the cost of such transport has become prohibitive for many people. It certainly does add to the cost of living. This is Active Pass and the natives in this area hear the horns 24 hours a day. When I travel, I prefer to land in Vancouver so that on the ferry home I have time to be grateful for living in such a special place so far from many of the horrors of th
e world.

On one of the Queen Charlotte islands can be found this rare subspecies of bear, the Kermode, a genetic variation of the common black bear. The natives called this rare beautiful beast "The Spirit Bear". Imagine seeing one such animal materializing out of the mists and heavy dark winter rains: it could seem to be truly a creature of another world. The Kermode has been receiving international attention since logging interests threatened to destroy their home.

This could be an early morning in any one of thousands of such coves around the Islands. The only sounds are the gentle lapping of the water and the raucous croaks of ravens, perhaps the small shrill of an eagle floating overhead. A few friendly seals might be hanging around waiting for scraps! Some lucky mornings you will be gifted by the sight of a pod of orca swimming by.

This is another beautiful forest grove in Sir Francis King Park, a lovely forest retreat on the outskirts of Victoria.

Heavy rain forest is something you just have to experience. This shot from somewhere around Tofino captures a bit of the dark ethereal beauty of the lower ground levels.

This is a lovely little inlet somewhere on Hornby Island. These sheltered inner passage Islands, between Vancouver Island and the mainland are usually much calmer than the wild and windy west side facing the Pacific.

All around the island, on any beach removed from "civilization" you will find glorious tide pools crammed with little universes of ocean life. This is from Chesterman Beach on the West Coast.

In the Carmanagh forests they have created a humane way to get to the bottom of the hills causing minimal damage to the environment. It is also much easier for parents with small children.

This merry bubbling little stream in the Carmanagh Valley is truly exquisite. There are thousands of such magical feeling glens. It is quite easy to rest in such a place for hours. Lean back on a mossy log, close your eyes, breathe deeply and become one with the forest about you, the sounds, the scents, the energy of life, Allah's gift to us all.

So there I was, snapping photos of a white swan in the estuary when I heard a snuffle behind me. Slowly I turned to see this shaggy black bear, hungry after winter hibernation and eagerly looking for food about 20 feet uphill from me. Abandoning my best sunglasses where I had put them, avoiding eye to eye contact, I smoothly but quickly slipped into my car and got this shot before he began to walk towards me. Black bears are very common on the Island. Caution is necessary because every year there is at least one bear mauling or death ~ usually unnecessary if the human had followed a few rules.

Here is an old bridge I found along a backroad on the west side of the Island around the Cowichan River.

This is the foot of the street where I last lived. The Dallas Road/Clover Point walk along the sea shore is very popular amongst residents and often chockablock with all ages out strolling, jogging, flying kites, or watching the "crazies" playing on their airborne surfboards in wild weather.

Seals and sea lions are very common sights along the city beaches. In the winter their barking is almost deafening at times.

Stairs such as these are found all along the walkways to access the beaches.

This is Holland Point, one of the local little beaches, and playgrounds for the kids. I liked to take the kids down there after school on the way home, just to let off a bunch of little kid steam!

The whole city is surrounded by beaches such as this one. Many are sandier and more people friendly however. The tide pools in the rocks are just wonderful little worlds to study with small children! I must have spent months on these beaches when my babies were young enough to be excited by seaweed and building driftwood houses. Oh, and the occasional dead seal!

Many people live at this set of docks downtown called Fisherman's Wharf. With this locale, Barb's Place has the freshest fish n chips around, of course. I find it a tad too cool to sit and eat there 3/4 of the time.

Here is a little corner of paradise in the middle of the city, Beacon Hill Park, a lovely retreat full of cultivated gardens and natural wildlife.

Beacon Hill is also the annual home of a very large nesting heron population. Every spring upwards of 120 families build their nests right in the middle of the city. They may not return next year because this spring a "rogue" bald eagle came in one day and killed most of the young in an inexplicable fury. The protests of the alarmed parents rang out all over the city deafening even traffic for a few moment. Usually the nesting eagles might only take a few herons a year so this might throw the balance off.

A few years ago heavy winter winds blew over a tree that had nested eagles in the city for 80 years or so. When they were cleaning up the debris they found at least 100 collars and tags for small dogs and cats long since missing!

It is in this lovely corner of the park that ~ on one sunny afternoon ~ my second daughter took her first steps.

An albino peacock in the park struts his stuff for the ladies. These noisy birds constantly escape the park and found wandering our streets and yards!

This is another delightful spring grove in Beacon Hill Park in its full glory, very beautiful as you can see. This is where many familes take their our old parents to stroll on Sundays and for nice outings.

Tuesday 17 July 2007


Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush spent most of their time at the “lobster summit” at Kennebunkport, Maine, discussing how to prevent the growing tensions between their two countries from getting out of hand.

The media and international affairs experts have been portraying missile defense in Europe and the final status of Kosovo as the two most contentious issues between Russia and the United States, with mutual recriminations over “democracy standards” providing the background for the much anticipated onset of a new Cold War. But while this may well be true for today, the stage has been quietly set for a much more serious confrontation in the non-too-distant future between Russia and the United States – along with Canada, Norway and Denmark.

Russia has recently laid claim to a vast 1,191,000 sq km (460,800 sq miles) chunk of the ice-covered Arctic seabed. The claim is not really about territory, but rather about the huge hydrocarbon reserves that are hidden on the seabed under the Arctic ice cap. These newly discovered energy reserves will play a crucial role in the global energy balance as the existing reserves of oil and gas are depleted over the next 20 years.

Russia has the world's largest gas reserves and is the second largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia, but its oil and gas production is slated to decline after 2010 as currently operational reserves dwindle. Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry estimates that the country’s existing oil reserves will be depleted by 2030.

The 2005 BP World Energy Survey projects that U.S. oil reserves will last another 10 years if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not opened for oil exploration, Norway’s reserves are good for about seven years and British North Sea reserves will last no more than five years – which is why the Arctic reserves, which are still largely unexplored, will be of such crucial importance to the world’s energy future. Scientists estimate that the territory contains more than 10 billion tons of gas and oil deposits. The shelf is about 200 meters (650 feet) deep and the challenges of extracting oil and gas there appear to be surmountable, particularly if the oil prices stay where they are now – over $70 a barrel.

The Kremlin wants to secure Russia's long-term dominance over global energy markets. To ensure this, Russia needs to find new sources of fuel and the Arctic seems like the only place left to go. But there is a problem: International law does not recognize Russia’s right to the entire Arctic seabed north of the Russian coastline.

The 1982 International Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes a 12 mile zone for territorial waters and a larger 200 mile economic zone in which a country has exclusive drilling rights for hydrocarbon and other resources.

Russia claims that the entire swath of Arctic seabed in the triangle that ends at the North Pole belongs to Russia, but the United Nations Committee that administers the Law of the Sea Convention has so far refused to recognize Russia’s claim to the entire Arctic seabed.

In order to legally claim that Russia’s economic zone in the Arctic extends far beyond the 200 mile zone, it is necessary to present viable scientific evidence showing that the Arctic Ocean’s sea shelf to the north of Russian shores is a continuation of the Siberian continental platform. In 2001, Russia submitted documents to the UN commission on the limits of the continental shelf seeking to push Russia's maritime borders beyond the 200 mile zone. It was rejected.

Now Russian scientists assert there is new evidence that Russia’s northern Arctic region is directly linked to the North Pole via an underwater shelf. Last week a group of Russian geologists returned from a six-week voyage to the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater shelf in Russia's remote eastern Arctic Ocean. They claimed the ridge was linked to Russian Federation territory, boosting Russia's claim over the oil- and gas-rich triangle.

The latest findings are likely to prompt Russia to lodge another bid at the UN to secure its rights over the Arctic sea shelf. If no other power challenges Russia’s claim, it will likely go through unchallenged.

But Washington seems to have a different view and is seeking to block the anticipated Russian bid. On May 16, 2007, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a statement encouraging the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, as the Bush Administration wants. The Reagan administration negotiated the Convention, but the Senate refused to ratify it for fear that it would unduly limit the U.S. freedom of action on the high seas.

Lugar used the following justification in his plea for the United States to ratify the convention: “Russia has used its rights under the convention to claim large parts of the Arctic Ocean in the hope of claiming potential oil and gas deposits that might become available as the polar ice cap recedes due to global warming. If the United States did not ratify the convention, Russia would be able to press its claims without the United States at the negotiating table. This would be directly damaging to U.S. national interests.” President Bush urged the Senate to ratify the convention during its current session, which ends in 2008.

The United States has been jealous of Russia’s attempts to project its dominance in the energy sector and has sought to limit opportunities for Russia to control export routes and energy deposits outside Russia’s territory. But the Arctic shelf is something that Russia has traditionally regarded as its own. For decades, international powers have pressed no claims to Russia’s Arctic sector for obvious reasons of remoteness and inhospitability, but no longer.

Now, as the world’s major economic powers brace for the battle for the last barrel of oil, it is not surprising that the United States would seek to intrude on Russia’s home turf. It is obvious that Moscow would try to resist this U.S. intrusion and would view any U.S. efforts to block Russia’s claim to its Arctic sector as unfriendly and overtly provocative. Furthermore, such a policy would actually help the Kremlin justify its hardline position. It would certainly prove right Moscow’s assertion that U.S. policy towards Russia is really driven by the desire to get guaranteed and privileged access to Russia’s energy resources.

It promises to be a tough fight.

Monday 16 July 2007


What does the Israeli military occupation really mean?

Forty years ago next week, Israel began the war that led to its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed on Nov. 22, 1967, adopted the
"land for peace" principle, which calls for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in the 1967 war in exchange for recognition within secure borders. The international community later recognized the right of Palestinians to establish a state in the areas from which Israel withdrew.

An entire generation of Palestinians has grown up never knowing anything but Israeli military occupation. What does military occupation really mean for them?

The Palestinian experience under occupation has changed over time. In the early 1970's, Israel had an "open borders" policy with the Occupied Territories. Palestinians could travel freely between the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. Families who had been separated since 1948 were reconnected. However bittersweet, Palestinian refugees living in West Bank and Gaza camps could, for the first time since 1948, step foot in their native villages and catch glimpses of their homes.

Since 1967, Israel has established some 200 Jewish-only settlements and moved more than 400,000 settlers into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on land confiscated from Palestinians. Two sets of people are now living on the same land with differing rights. Jewish settlers travel on separate roads, live in segregated housing, are subject to separate laws and courts, and consume about five times as much water per capita as Palestinians.

Palestinian resistance to occupation grew over time, and Israeli policies in the territories became increasingly harsh. Today, the policies are the most repressive they have ever been.

Palestinians perform the traditional dance 'dabka' at a festival next to Israel's separation wall in Bethlehem. (Haytham Othman, Maan Images)
(Palestinian boys perform a traditional dance, dabka, at Israel's separation wall in Bethlehem.)

Daily Life. Palestinian life is characterized by a profound lack of personal security. Daily activities - whether farming the land, walking to school, or shopping for the family - can be disrupted without notice by occupation forces, making advance planning virtually impossible. Heavily-armed soldiers and settlers, checkpoints and roadblocks, tanks and bulldozers, curfews and closures, are the daily realities of the occupation. Palestinians face each day with ever-present risk of arrest, injury, or death, no matter their age, vocation, political beliefs or activities.
  • Since September 2000 alone, more than 4,400 Palestinians have been killed and more than 31,300 wounded. The majority were civilians. About 20 percent of those killed were children. Over the same time period, more than 1,000 Israelis also lost their lives in the conflict.

  • Since 1967, Israel has detained more than 600,000 Palestinians. Detainees can be held without charges or trial. Physical abuse amounting to torture is common.

  • According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs there were 537 checkpoints and physical roadblocks in the West Bank in April 2007. No Palestinian is exempted. Lengthy waits are typical, even for children going to school, women in labor and sick people requiring medical treatment.

  • Since October 2003, Israel has been constructing a "separation barrier" in the West Bank, much of it on lands confiscated from Palestinian landowners. Some Palestinian towns and villages have been almost completely surrounded, and Palestinian farmers separated from their lands. Approximately 242,000 Palestinians will remain on the western side of the wall, isolating them from the rest of the West Bank.

  • Since 1967, Israel has demolished more than 34,000 Palestinian homes and refugee shelters. The demolitions are often carried out without warning, leaving Palestinians little or no time to gather their belongings.
Economy. The Palestinian economy was traditionally based on agriculture, small family industry and services. Israel's confiscation of Palestinian land and restrictions on movement devastated these sectors and led many Palestinians to seek wage labor in Israel. B'Tselem estimates that Israel has taken about half of the land in the West Bank and~~ until the 2005 disengagement~~ about 40 percent of the land in Gaza.

Since 1967, Israel has controlled all entry and exit of goods and people between the Occupied Territories and other countries, permitting it to treat them as captive markets for Israeli goods. Israel also prevented Palestinian exports other than to Israel, and barred or restricted enterprises in the Occupied Territories that would have competed with Israeli businesses.

The Occupied Territories' economic dependence on Israel, and vulnerability to its control, was not fundamentally changed by the creation of the Palestinian Authority through the Oslo Accords of 1993. In the mid-'90s, Israel tightened restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement. As a result, tens of thousands of Palestinians were prevented from reaching jobs in Israel, and were replaced by migrant workers from other countries. These restrictions were increased in September 2000, and have been only minimally eased since.

Education and Art. Palestinians have invested heavily in education, a portable asset. Under occupation, Palestinians established 11 universities in the West Bank and Gaza. Birzeit University near Ramallah and An-Najah National University in Nablus are two leading institutions in the West Bank. Almost 50% of university students are women.

Palestinian women perform a traditional dance at a festival of culture in the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia. (Khaleel Reash, Maan Images)

(Palestinian women perform a traditional dance at a festival of culture in the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia.)

Palestinian artists in the Occupied Territories were invigorated after 1967. Art took on urgent political meaning, featuring images of resistance and reaffirming Palestinian culture. Attending exhibitions in the Occupied Territories became a political act and a celebration of identity. In 1980, Israel banned art exhibitions and paintings of "political significance." Using the colors of the Palestinian flag in a painting was also forbidden. These restrictions have since eased.

In 2003, Made in Palestine became the first museum exhibit of Palestinian contemporary art to be shown in the United States.

Recent Developments. In August 2005, Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza, but still patrols its borders, coast, airspace, and supplies its water, electricity and other vital services. Thus, it still exercises "effective control" over Gaza - the international legal standard for military occupation.

Since the disengagement, Israel has fired thousands of artillery shells into Gaza with the stated purpose of countering the firing of homemade rockets by Palestinian groups into Israel. In June 2006, Israeli forces re-invaded Gaza, mounting two major military offensives resulting in the deaths of 387 Palestinians. Israel withdrew from Gaza on November 15, 2006, yet continually threatens to re-invade.

In Hebron's Old City, 400 illegal Israeli settlers, and the 1,200 Israeli soldiers placed inside the city to protect them, restrict the movement of thousands of Palestinians residing and working in the Old City and its immediate neighborhoods.

A boy studies for his high school exams in Dheisheh refugee camp. Located near Bethlehem, Dheisheh houses refugees from 45 villages who fled what is now Israel during the 1948 war. Over 12,000 people inhabit an area less than 1/2 square mile.

In the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, a Palestinian shop owner looks out into the empty market, past a column marked with a Star of David.

Palestinians in the West Bank village of Abu Dis, many of whom hold Jerusalem residency cards, must apply for permits and wait at gates or checkpoints to reach East Jerusalem. Others, like those here, find a place to cross through one of the holes in Israel's separation wall.

In the West Bank, twelve main checkpoints, such as this one in Qalandia, between Ramallah and Jerusalem, have been converted into what are being called 'terminals' or hi-tech crossing points with metal detectors, x-ray machines and video cameras. Checkpoints, roadblocks, identification and permit requirements have made movement throughout the West Bank nearly impossible, increasingly isolating people from one another.

A woman in the West Bank village of Jayyous at a gate in Israel's separation wall. In the village, the wall deviates up to 6km from the Green Line, encircles about 500 homes and separates the people of Jayyous from 75% of their agricultural land, including greenhouses, citrus orchards and olive groves.

Lisa Nessan is a Jewish American photographer from the San Francisco Bay Area who lived in the West Bank from September 2002-August 2005. Her photography and writing can be seen at www.freckle.blogs.com.

Sunday 15 July 2007


I came across the following "quote" a few years ago. It is the writings from some unnamed German fellow after WW2. He wrote how Nazism seemed to creep up on his people and before they knew it, they were enslaved by the Third Reich. It is understated but sincere and descriptive.

I took his piece from a slightly disjointed ramble and made it comprehensible, also adding pertinent links throughout the whole piece. The links usually lead to a corresponding situation going on in the world today.

What no one seemed to notice was the ever widening gap

between the government and the people.

And it became always wider,

the whole process of its coming into being

was above all diverting.

It provided an excuse not to think

and entertained people who did not want to think anyway.

It gave us dreadful, fundamental things to think about

and divided us with

artificially manufactured philosophical differences.

They kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises',

and ever so many were oh! so fascinated!

by the machinations of the 'national enemies,

~ without and within,

all of them against us, the "good guy",

that we had no time to think

about these dreadful things

that were growing, little by little, all around us.

walls of fear, walls of poverty,

walls of anger and hatred, walls of despair;

Most steps were so small, so inconsequential, so well explained

or, on occasion, even 'regretted,' that,

unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle,

what all these 'little measures' must some day lead to.

However, one no more saw it developing from day to day

than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing.

Each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse.

You wait for the next and the next...and the next...

always wondering if THIS is the last one.

You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking and praying

that others, when such a shock comes, will join you

resisting the vileness.

Even when the big shocks come,

no one speaks for fear of reprisal.

No one.

You don't want to act, or even talk, alone.

You don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.

But that one great shocking occasion,

when tens or hundreds or thousands join with you, never comes!

Or when it does, they are too blinded to react.

That's the difficulty.

The forms are all there, untouched, all reassuring,

the houses, the shops, the jobs,

the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts,

the entertainments such as television and

the cinema, the holidays.

But the spirit, which you never noticed because

you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms,

is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear,

and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves.

When everyone is transformed, no one is transformed.

You have accepted things

you would not have accepted five years ago,

a year ago

things your father,

and your forefathers could never have imagined.

What will our descendants have to say of us?