Springtime for India and Pakistan – in Russia


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

It was a meeting that lasted less than an hour, with a tense, photo-op grip and grin on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Russia. But as the first meeting between India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year, the brief encounter was freighted with expectations of a fresh opening between the countries.

Mr. Zardari flashed his customary broad grin for the cameras, but Mr. Singh had only his usual tight smile and terse words to offer.

“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism,” Mr. Singh told Mr. Zardari when they met before the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional group of nations, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Reuters reported.

Yet beneath the frosty surface and well beyond the for-the-cameras pleasantries, a slow but perceptible thaw between the countries has been taking place.

Former senior diplomats close to the foreign policy establishment here say that back-channel negotiations on Kashmir — the contested border territory that is the central dispute between the nations — are set to begin again, something the United States has quietly urged…

In his first address to Parliament since being reappointed as prime minister following his party’s big election victory in May, Mr. Singh appeared to open the door to new talks, saying India would meet Pakistan “more than halfway,” if Pakistan took concrete steps to combat militant groups operating in its territory.

In addition, he and Mr. Zardari said they would meet again on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Egypt next month to talk about the results of a meeting between India’s and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries about terrorism.

Taken together, these developments point to a resumption of some sort of talks sooner rather than later. Such talks could help ease tensions and aid stability in the region — something that would serve the interests of both India and the United States as Pakistan’s weak civilian government struggles against a resurgent Taliban.

So, they broke the ice. Better that neighboring countries should negotiate over doing business with each other – decide common interests as shared interests – than perpetuate hatreds leftover in no small part from the decades of colonial rule they both suffered.

Control freak Judge jails woman who says ‘love you’ to her brother

A Baltimore circuit judge, who has three times been the subject of judicial disciplinary investigations, ordered a spectator to jail for 10 days for crying out “love you” to her handcuffed brother in the courtroom – and then reversed himself after a public defender spoke up on her behalf.

As Tamika Clevenger left a Baltimore courtroom Friday, she shouted, “Love you, Nick,” which set off Judge Alfred Nance. He ordered a sheriff to pull Clevenger from the hallway and found the 24-year-old in contempt.

Nance undid the sentence about a half-hour later at the request of Jill Trivas, a public defender who was in court for a different case but told Nance she felt that he had been too harsh.

“I respect Judge Nance a lot; he’s one of the judges here who will give you a fair trial,” Trivas said. “But it still upset me to see this girl get locked up. She had started to cry. She had children who were dependent upon her…”

Nance asked Clevenger her name and age, and then swiftly pronounced the punishment: “Ten days, Baltimore City Detention Center.”

“I didn’t do nothing,” a shocked Clevenger said…

Worried about her child at home, Clevenger began to cry.

Your baby will be there” when you get out, Nance said. “You want me to send him to social services? I’ll send him [to jail] too.”

Maybe he doesn’t need judge-lessons; but, he certainly needs human being-lessons.

GM’s sale of Saab to Koenigsegg gets the green light


SAAB Turbo-Hybrid E85 concept

General Motors has reached a tentative agreement to sell Saab to the Swedish sports car manufacturer Koenigsegg.

GM said that as part of the deal there would be $600m (£367m) of funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB), guaranteed by the Swedish government.

It is the latest part of GM’s reorganisation, which is also set to see the Opel and Vauxhall brands going to Canada’s Magna…

Koenigsegg produces 18 cars a year and employs 45 people, and there has been some doubt as to whether it has the expertise to run Saab, which sold 93,000 cars in 2008.

Saab employs about 3,400 people in Sweden and about 12,000 other jobs in the country are dependent on Saab and its suppliers.

But GM Europe’s president Carl-Peter Forster said: “Koenigsegg Group’s unique combination of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and financial strength… made it the right choice for Saab as well as for General Motors”.

The Swedish government has been keen to avoid bailing out its carmakers as long as they are owned by US parent companies.

That’s no surprise is it?

I haven’t posted on the rumors because I didn’t think Koenigsegg could pull it off. Their core investor is an industrial design firm, Baard Eker, also talented and stylish.

Personally, I’d love to see the other half of the original dangerous duo from Sweden back on the streets and highways. SAAB has the world of experience, tradition of building solid, safe motor vehicles – often advanced because of their aerospace roots.

Judge rules against anonymity for “Night Jack” police blogger

The High Court has refused to preserve the anonymity of an award-winning policeman who has blogged about the force and government ministers.

Mr Justice Eady refused an injunction to prevent the Times identifying serving officer “Night Jack”, winner of an Orwell prize for blogging.

The judge said said blogging was “essentially a public rather than a private activity“.

Night Jack’s lawyer said preserving his anonymity was in the public interest.

Hugh Tomlinson QC said the thousands who communicated via the internet under a cloak of anonymity would be “horrified” to think the law would do nothing to protect their identities if someone carried out the necessary detective work to unmask them.

But the judge ruled any right of privacy on the part of the blogger would be likely to be
outweighed by a countervailing public interest in revealing that a particular police officer had been making such contributions.

In his blog “Night Jack – An English Detective” the unnamed officer chronicled his working life in an unnamed UK town: descriptions of local criminals and his struggle with police bureaucracy.

Like most bloggers, I disagree with the Judge’s decision. The quality of anonymity is what draws many to speaking out, identifying and discussing what they feel needs examination within their nation and society.

This decision lays a blanket of suffocating bureaucratic oversight on the process.

Oh, the photo? That’s some Lancashire copper named Richard Horton.

Air Force intends to rely on unmanned aircraft rather than pilots


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The Air Force will train more drone operators than fighter and bomber pilots combined for the first time this year, signaling a fundamental shift for the 61-year-old service.

The growing ranks of drone operators mark a turning point for the Air Force as it looks to a future that relies increasingly on unmanned aircraft. Over the next few decades, the Air Force plans to develop drones that would serve as fighters, bombers and tankers, the heart of its manned fleet, according to its Unmanned System Update. The document says piloted aircraft will be used in concert with drones…

The Air Force will train 240 pilots to fly Predator and Reaper drones compared with 214 fighter and bomber pilots for the budget year that ends in September. Overall, there are 550 drone pilots compared with 3,700 fighter and 900 bomber pilots. The current emphasis for drones reflects the need for persistent, eye-in-the-sky surveillance to track and kill insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The capability provided by the unmanned aircraft is game-changing,” Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, told USA TODAY in an e-mailed statement. “We can have eyes 24/7 on our adversaries. The importance of that is clear in the feedback from the ground troops — this is a capability they don’t want to be without.”

Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, said intelligence gathering has been a weakness for the Pentagon for years but has improved recently. “The Air Force has now gotten the message that it’s important to be responsive to the war fighters on the ground,” he said.

Uh-oh. I have a few buddies – military pilots – who will find this really disturbing. I am certain they will raise more technical questions than I might about this strategic decision.

Will this lessen the number of required fighter and bomber pilots – or simply involve an increased number of gamers/drone pilots? It looks like the reduction has already begun.

Georgia Supreme Court says kids can meet dad’s gay friends

Well, they made it almost into the 21st Century. Some rightwing newspapers headlined the story so it sounded like the chance of catching plague had been reduced. Slightly.

Georgia political hacks want Edwards on the state Supreme Court

The Georgia Supreme Court has thrown out a judge’s order that prohibited children in a divorce case from having any contact with their father’s gay and lesbian friends.

The ruling was hailed by gay rights groups who said the decision focuses on the needs of children instead of perpetuating a stigma on the basis of sexual orientation.

The state high court’s decision overturned Fayette County Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards’ blanket prohibition against exposing the children to their father’s gay partners and friends…

The Fayette County judge’s prohibition “assumes, without evidentiary support, that the children will suffer harm from any such contact,” Justice Robert Benham wrote. But there is no evidence that any member of the gay and lesbian community has engaged in inappropriate conduct in the presence of the children or that the children would be adversely affected by being exposed to members of that community, he said…

Beth Littrell, staff attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Atlanta, said the visitation order was the most sweeping of its kind she had seen in Georgia.

“Placing a blanket ban on children’s association with gay people not only hurts this father’s relationship with his children, it is blatant discrimination,” Littrell said. “The court has done the right thing today by focusing on the needs of the children instead of perpetuating stigma on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Littrell was pleased the ruling took decisions like this away from “the prejudices of individual judges.”

Of course, the kids still run the risk of the case being carried up to the U.S. Supreme Court and the prejudices of 4 or 5 reactionary judges who work very hard at standing in the way of change.

Take a look at the history of American Supreme Courts sometime and you realize there’s nothing new about a court being characterized as standing in the way of progress for the whole nation. Despicable and foolish.

Pic of the Day

A giant panda lies on an ice block to cool itself at the Wuhan Zoo in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei Province, June 15, 2009. The zoo used lots of ice to adjust temperature for animals on Monday when the highest temperature surpassed 35 degrees centigrade.