Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Human rights fears 'block security'

Measures which could help security at airports are already available, but not widely implemented because of human rights concerns, it has been claimed. Flight International magazine operations and safety editor David Learmount said low dose x-ray machines could scan passengers for secreted items, even those hidden in body cavities.

But Mr Learmount said the reason they were not used was because of civil liberties' worries about the violation of privacy: "The technological advances are out there, but they are not being used. There may well have to be law changes and attitude changes and those are not easy to bring about." He added: "People have frequently tried to carry drugs in body cavities, so why not components of explosives?"

He cited procedures at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, which changed after two female suicide bombers hid their explosives under voluminous Muslim dress, boarded separate planes and detonated blasts moments apart in mid-air in August 2004. "Domodedovo has since evolved a policy whereby if Muslim women will not be wanded or hand searched, they have to stand in an x-ray machine. It is a low dose x-ray machine. "I went and stood in it, and they told me how many years I had been smoking, how many years ago I gave up, they could see every filling in my head ... If I had tried doing anything with secreting a bag of explosive material in plastic, material in a body cavity, that would have been totally visible. Why do we not do this? Human rights."

He said there were various forms of such systems, with others giving a low dose of radiation, but not using x-rays. He cited another "quite clever" system, which can "see" through layers of soft material, its makers said, using incidental millimetre-wave radiation reflected off the human body. Mr Learmount said the technology had been tested on random volunteers at British airports but, in indicating problems, pointed to the high profile case of singer Diana Ross, who was arrested, but later freed without charge after an altercation with a security guard who had frisked her at Heathrow Airport in 1999.


"Vilification" confusion in the Australian State of Victoria

In multicultural Victoria, it's quite a feat to infuriate the Jewish and Muslim communities at the same time. Yet that is precisely what Liberal leader Ted Baillieu has done this week with his jumbled stance on racial vilification laws. He managed to find himself wedged on the issue even though the laws were passed five years ago and last amended more than three months ago.

The catalyst for his woes was a rally outside parliament led by firebrand Christian cleric Danny Nalliah, who was found to have vilified Muslims after his church dubbed them demons. liars and terrorists. On the eve of the rally, Baillieu reportedly decided to drop his predecessor Robert Doyle's opposition to the laws.

The problem was, Liberal justice spokesman Andrew McIntosh was scheduled to address the rally of evangelical Christians, who had been worked into a lather by Nalliah's fiery rhetoric. At the rally, Mclntosh was heckled over his party's new stance; before long, he declared, the Liberals would "repeal and rewrite" the relevant act. His comments, although short on specifics, satisfied the 400 or so people on parliament's steps, sparked concerns within the Muslim and Jewish communities.

In a rare example of unity, Jewish and Muslim leaders told The Australian this week they shared deep concerns about any move to repeal protections against religious vilification. Both communities rushed out statements condemning the Liberals' apparent backflip.

Baillieu's problem is that once again he has tried to walk both sides of the street in a bid to please sectional interest groups. It suits the Liberals to oppose the laws in the outer suburbs, where evangelical churches are gaining popularity. But the Liberals are also anxious to court the Jewish community to secure the seat of Caulfield - held by Baillieu ally and health spokeswoman Helen Shardey - as well as some much-needed campaign donations from Jewish business leaders.

The Jewish and Muslim communities regard the laws as a vital bulwark against racial and religious hate attacks, while the evangelists believe they stifle free speech. So, Baillieu found himself sucked into a battle over an issue that was only a small blip on the political radar. After some tortuous internal wrangling over the issue, Baillieu's stance appears to be that the laws have flaws and the Liberals will alter them in government, but he refuses to say which sections he will scrap.

However, doubts persist. The Australian asked Jewish and Muslim leaders, as well as one of Baillieu's MPs, whether they were clear on what the Liberal position was. All said no, although the community leaders were clear in their view that Baillieu's support for the laws appears to be wavering.

If the issue has cast fresh doubts on Baillieu's judgment, it has also thrown new light on the judgment of federal Treasurer Peter Costello, who has lent his support to Nalliah, even though the preacher has been found guilty of vilification and believes Muslims are taking over Australia. Nalliah, fellow preacher Daniel Scot and the Catch the Fire Ministries were found to have breached the racial vilification laws in 2004 after Muslims were labelled as demons, liars and terrorists at a seminar and in several publications. They are appealing the ruling.

In a letter dated August 7 that was read out at the rally, Costello tells Nalliah: "I applaud your effort to repeal the offensive parts of this act." It's perfectly acceptable for the Treasurer to share Nalliah's belief that the laws stifle free speech, but he has failed to distance himself from Nalliah and Catch the Fire's more controversial beliefs.

The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on 12 August, 2006


By Ruben Navarrette

A few years ago, my friend Juan Williams told me that he thought we had something in common -- namely, how those who represent our communities, or claim to represent them, view us with suspicion and resentment. In interviews with Hispanic members of Congress, the National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News commentator said he had detected that some of them were uneasy about me, and much of what I write. He said it reminded him of how the members of the Congressional Black Caucus felt about him.

Now many African American members of Congress -- along with local and state officials, academics, the civil rights establishment -- will trust him even less. That's because my friend has written a provocative and immensely important book that challenges a lot of what they're selling to the masses. Titled "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- And What We Can Do About It," the book is a good read. But it's also a good deed. And you can bet it won't go unpunished.

You see, it ain't easy being Juan Williams. As a panelist on "Fox News Sunday," my friend comes across as a common-sense liberal dueling with conservatives who spend all their time in a right-wing bubble. But put him around those individuals whom we in the media generously refer to as "black leaders," and suddenly Williams is a common-sense conservative dueling with liberals who are trapped in a left-wing bubble.

As you can guess from the title of his book, Williams has had a bellyful of African Americans acting as their own worst enemy. He's tired of their not having good leadership and instead settling for professional grievance brokers -- the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, etc. -- who "misinform, mismanage and miseducate [the African American community] by refusing to articulate established truths about what it takes to get ahead: strong families, education and hard work," and who do all this for their own financial and political benefit because keeping people weak is a way to keep them dependent on their "leaders." Can I get an amen?

Convinced that many of the problems that African Americans face today can be solved by African Americans, Williams doesn't think the answer is to embrace victimhood, blame all your troubles on racism and wait for white America to bail out black America in what he calls the "blacks-as-beggars" approach. And he's particularly incensed that you don't have more African American leaders getting in the faces of African American youths and telling them that -- in order to be a success -- you have to stay in school, study hard, speak proper English, stay away from crack and stop defining what it means to be authentically black as someone who is acting like a thug and "dressing like a convict." Can I get another amen?

This should sound familiar. Williams draws much of his inspiration from the now-infamous speech delivered by comedian Bill Cosby on May 17, 2004, to a few thousand members of the African American elite who gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Instead of basking in how far African Americans have come in the past half-century, Cosby lobbed grenades. He talked about dropout rates, out-of-wedlock births, drug abuse, high rates of incarceration and other forms of self-defeating behavior that plague the African American community, and how no one seemed to be doing anything about it. Cosby was criticized -- not because what he said wasn't true, but because he aired dirty laundry and said publicly things that many African Americans talk about only behind closed doors.

Now Williams has done the same thing. And besides diagnosing the illness, he has offered a prescription. "It's so simple," he told me. "It's all about education. You've got to say to young people who are thinking of dropping out of school: 'Don't do it. It's a death sentence.' After you graduate, take any job you can find and work hard. You can move up from there." It's a solid message, not just for African Americans, but also for all Americans. And the African American community owes the messenger a debt of gratitude for having the courage to spread it.


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