June 23, 2007

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Thanks for your patience.



On the move

June 15, 2007

Dear reader,

Tinyplanet has packed its bags and its moving to a new domain. Come and visit at

Abandon hope

June 14, 2007

The Palestinian civil war has put paid to hopes for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

The more moderate Fatah movement has been over-run in the Gaza Strip, with the Islamist Hamas taking key security posts all across the region. It has now captured Fatah headquarters in Gaza.

The image of the green Hamas flag flying above the building is possibly the most defining of the day.

All too late, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has ordered his presidential guard to strike back. Yesterday, Fatah officials said there had been confusion: were they allowed to fight back or not?

Their resistance has crumbled; I have a feeling the claims of confusion were a desperate attempt to explain away just how easily Hamas has crushed its rivals.

“We are telling our people that the past era has ended and will not return, ” Islam Shahawan, a spokesman for Hamas’ militia, told Hamas radio. “The era of justice and Islamic rule have arrived.” (AP)

Given that Hamas is apparently executing Fatah policemen the definition of “justice” seems rather elastic, wouldn’t you say?

There is no hope for a negotiated solution between Hamas and Israel. Fatah’s decline, which began with an election drubbing fueled by a widespread perception of corruption and inefficiency, is complete (at least in the Gaza Strip).

The ambition had been for a two-state solution in the Middle East. The Palestinian state would consist of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, both of which are fenced off from Israel.

The only viable way for such a split Palestinian state would be a highway crossing Israel; this was planned but there is no way Israel will allow militants such easy access to its territory.

And it must be pointed out that not all Palestinians back either Hamas or Fatah. One wrote to al-Jazeera earlier today: “Hamas and Fatah should go to hell and leave the Palestinian people alone.”

Hamas is unlikely to repeat its success in the larger and more populous West Bank, where Fatah is taking the initiative. I actually laughed when I read an AP report saying Abbas was considering withdrawing from the ruling coalition with Hamas. Strikes me as the first thing he should have done this morning.

The likelihood of an Israeli incursion into Gaza, which it evacuated in 2005, has soared. Hamas are not going to sit back on their Gazan victory, they will press an attack on Israel. It does not recognise the nation’s right to exist and has been firing rockets over the border for some time.

We now face the possibility of separate Hamas and Fatah states. EU humanitarian aid has been suspended. The UN can not distribute the aid which so many Palestinian people rely on. Egypt should be bracing itself for a flood of refugees and the formation of an Islamist nation on its northeastern border.

The dream of peace which was fostered by the 1993 Oslo Accords is shattered. All hope is lost.

Movement at last

June 12, 2007

Sudan has agreed to the deployment of a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur. The mission will consist of 17,500-19,600 soldiers and 6,000 police.

Not only that, but the Sudanese government has backed the need for a ceasefire and a more inclusive political process.

Now, those are all pretty words but of course there’s no guarantee the plan will be fully enforced. The UN is always stretched and strapped for cash, and the AU has long said its resources were fairly thin. But the fact that Khartoum is weighing in behind the deal is cause for celebration.

More than 200,000 people have been killed in the last four years, while about two million have fled their homes. Khartoum says only 9,000 have died since the conflict erupted and denies enlisting the Janjaweed militia to crush the rebellion.

BBC said there was no concrete timetable for deployment, which would not be before next year. There is also no definitive decision on the make-up of any such force, although it is likely to have as many African soldiers as possible. Sudan wanted nothing to do with an all-UN force as it considered that a Western invasion.

I am cautiously optimistic. This is huge news, but the follow-through may be sorely lacking. There’s no guarantee Sudan will fully co-operate with the mission, although the fact it has agreed to the force implies it should have government backing. The phrase is a cliché, but we will have to wait and see.

Fingers crossed that there could be a (relatively) happy ending to this one.

Get outta my data, Google

June 12, 2007

Google is to limit the amount of time it retains users’ search data to 18 months from 18-24 months.

The Financial Times sees this as a concession to the EU, which wrote to the internet giant last month asking Google to justify its policy.

Google’s move relates to terms entered in the search engine and the address of various servers, but not more personal information it has collected with users’ express permission.

However, company’s privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said future data retention laws may obligate the firm to keep the data for 24 months after all. But hey, at least they’re not keeping it indefinitely any more.

Fleischer wrote on the official Google blog:

“The internet is a global medium, and the principles at stake – privacy, security, innovation and legal obligations to retain data – have an impact beyond Europe, and outside of the realm of privacy. These principles sometimes conflict: while shorter retention periods are good for privacy, longer retention periods are needed for security, innovation and compliance reasons. We believe we’ve struck a reasonable balance between these various factors.”

You can read his full post here, where he also outlines the reasons why Google believes it should retain search data.

At least it’s movement on the company’s part to tackle concerns over how it uses data — a British watchdog at the weekend branded the firm among the worst on the web when it came to users’ privacy.

I’d rather they keep my search data for no longer than six months, but there you go. I enjoy my privacy and have been known to defend it fiercely — surely I’m not the only one?

Please indulge me for a moment

June 8, 2007

I know this is especially childish of me, but please allow me just this one moment of mild insanity after hearing Paris Hilton is going back to jail for her full 45-day term:



I thank you for your patience.


Sorry. That one just slipped out.

On a serious note, allowing her to escape her punishment would be wrong, oh so very wrong. Nobody else would be allowed home from prison after three days just because he or she wasn’t adjusting very well. The lack of documentation to support this “medical reason” leads me to suspect it wasn’t valid to begin with.

Tough shit, Paris. Welcome to real life.

It’s all kicking off

June 6, 2007

Turkish troops have entered Iraq in a move that can not be good for anyone.

No Turkish official is willing to put their name to the story confirming the operation, while the Foreign Minister has openly denied anything happened. But as Selcan Hacaoglu of the Associated Press notes, the nation’s authorities rarely acknowledge such activity.

Estimates of the number of troops ranges from thousands to several hundred — initial speculation put the figure at 50,000, which was the case in 1997 — but what runs consistent is that the military is pursuing Kurdish fighters.

It may only have been a couple of miles across the frontier, but it is troubling.

The military has for some time been pushing for a large-scale incursion to tackle the Kurdish separatists, the PKK, which Turkey considers terrorists. The Turkish army has been massing along the border in preparation; last week the country’s top general, Yasar Buyukanit, said his forces were awaiting government permission to cross into Iraq.

Turkey’s alliance with the US will grant it some degree of protection should it decide to step up its campaign against the PKK, which launches attacks from bases in Iraq. However, a full-scale incursion can only add to Iraq’s instability.

The introduction of this hostile actor in such a volatile stage will have unpredictable and uncontrollable results. The Kurds — who dwell in a stretch of territory that includes south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq — will be squeezed into a corner. The Iraqi government will be in an intolerable position: if it allows a Turkish incursion its claim to govern its national territory will be null and void, while if it resists it faces provoking a conflict with its neighbour.

I am struck by the absence of international condemnation.

Imagine the outcry if the US was pushing for a military operation inside Canada, or China in Japan, or Britain in Ireland.