Monday, March 11, 2013

China distances itself from North Korea but is still trapped in a paranoid mindset of its own

In 1966, when France withdrew from NATO’s military command, Charles de Gaulle issued a demand that all American forces leave French soil. It is said that Lyndon Johnson’s reply was to ask whether this included the dead American soldiers buried in military cemeteries. This was not, of course, a genuine question, but rather a way of reminding de Gaulle of what America had sacrificed on French soil in two world wars.

Years later, the story became hopelessly distorted, with internet sources claiming that America’s fallen had actually been exhumed and deported by the French. Obviously, the reports were false. De Gaulle, even at his most difficult, would never have treated a wartime ally with such dishonour.

Not so the North Korean regime, it would seem:

    “As early as the 1960s, North Korea rewrote the history of the [Korean] war. To establish the absolute authority of Kim Il-sung, its founder, North Korea removed from historical record the contribution of the hundreds of thousands of sons and daughters of China who sacrificed themselves to beat the UN troops back to the 38th parallel that now divides the peninsula. Many cemeteries commemorating the volunteer soldier heroes have been levelled, and Kim Il-sung was given all the credit for the offensive.”

Writing in Financial Times, Deng Yuwen argues that it is time for China to disown its North Korean ally:

    “...a relationship between states based on ideology is dangerous. If we were to choose our allies on ideology alone, China’s relationship with the west today would not exist. Although both countries are socialist, their differences are much larger than those between China and the west.
    “...basing China’s strategic security on North Korea’s value as a geopolitical ally is outdated. Even if North Korea was a useful friend during the cold war, its usefulness today is doubtful.”

The remarkable thing about this article is that Deng Yuwen is a Chinese Communist Party official –not an especially senior one, but he wouldn’t be writing for a western newspaper without approval from the top.

No doubt, this is more about firing a warning shot at Pyongyang than signaling a major shift in Chinese foreign policy. Still, as warning shots go, it's pretty close to the mark:

    “Considering these arguments, China should consider abandoning North Korea. The best way of giving up on Pyongyang is to take the initiative to facilitate North Korea’s unification with South Korea. Bringing about the peninsula’s unification would help undermine the strategic alliance between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul; ease the geopolitical pressure on China from northeast Asia; and be helpful to the resolution of the Taiwan question.”

One has ask though: what is this “geopolitical pressure” that the Chinese imagine is directed at them? Yes, there are tensions with the US over a number of issues, but set against the enormous benefit that China has derived from access to western investment, technology and export markets they pale in comparison.

Perhaps what China’s communist government really fears is America’s stated desire to spread democracy around the world. If so, they needn’t worry. When western government have an interest in the stability of a regime (as they certainly do in China) then its surprising just how little democracy they’re willing to accept. Just ask the Saudis.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Currie Cup final a showcase for SA’s natural talent

AN OUTSTANDING victory for John Mitchell’s Lions and what a fantastic statement from the South African rugby supporter about South African rugby this weekend.

Clearly a team of champions fills a stadium, regardless of where it is in the world. There is something special about Ellis Park when it is filled to capacity and something equally haunting about the stadium when empty seats visually dominate.

There was nothing to spook the Lions in the Currie Cup final and from what I am told they played in the final just like they have for most of the Currie Cup.

Having been in New Zealand for the past eight weeks watching another tournament, the first glimpse I got of the Lions was in the final and the boys deserve every cuddle they’ll be getting until the start of the Super Rugby season.

Then it all starts again, but unlike earlier in the year when there was hope among Lions followers, this time there will be conviction that once again the Lions can realistically be spoken of as a top-six tournament team.

The Lions, not disrupted by national call-ups this year , managed to build continuity in selection and performance and 12 of the starting XV played in 13 of the league matches. You can’t simulate that kind of continuity and it was a telling advantage in the final.

The Lions are very well coached. This was already evident during the Super Rugby season, but then they lacked confidence in their own ability and possibly didn’t have the trust in each other. Not so in the final, as they played like a unit aware of their strengths and also mindful of individual weakness.

The Sharks, having rushed back their World Cup Springboks for the semifinal and final, played like a team of individuals. We know the talents of those who represented the Boks at the World Cup, but this was another lesson that a team will always beat a bunch of individuals.

The Sharks’ World Cup Boks tried hard, but they looked out of sorts and emotionally drained. Even the world’s best hooker, Bismarck du Plessis, played with the emotional fatigue of a man who just wanted the season to end.

The Sharks struggled for cohesion and lacked discipline. The players conceded penalties regularly and it was as if the desire wasn’t quite there to trust the defensive systems. One team looked like they had to be there; the other like they wanted to.

It was a very good result for South African rugby and it was particularly rewarding for those who entrusted Mitchell to find a roar last heard when another former All Blacks coach (Laurie Mains) enjoyed success in Gauteng.

The Lions pack, lacking the individual skill of the Sharks forwards, didn’t want for anything else; and again the desire, the conviction and the control came from the less fancied names . More of that in the 2012 Super 15 and those names will be spoken of as potential Springboks.

One Lions player who has a Bok jersey is Elton Jantjies. He got it a year ago against the Barbarians at Twickenham, and he looked like a kid asked to do a man’s job. He struggled in a mix-and-match outfit, played from too deep and kicked poorly.

Jantjies at Ellis Park on Saturday played with authority and composure. He never missed a kick and he never mis- hit a line kick. He defended well and commanded respect with a flyhalf performance as good as any in the history of the Currie Cup final.

Mitchell, a year ago, questioned the wisdom of Jantjies being chosen to tour with the Boks.

The Lions coach felt the youngster’s tuition as a professional player was still in its infancy. Mitchell was spot on because it needed six months (and a torrid Super Rugby campaign) to get Jantjies back to being as influential as his teenage sporting pedigree suggested he could be.

Jantjies and fullback Jaco Taute have huge promise as Test players, but more importantly in the context of South African rugby is the potential of the Lions in next year’s Super Rugby competition.

The final again showcased how much natural talent there is in this country and why the expectation should always be for premium return.

The support for rugby in SA is unrivalled. New Zealanders may consider their land to be the spiritual home of rugby, but my experience is the Kiwis love the All Blacks more than rugby. Here we simply love rugby.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Texas And Antarctica Were Once Connected

Long before the supercontinent Pangea formed, parts of North America and Antarctica were connected. That is according to an international team of researchers who have discovered that rocks collected from both locations have the exact same composition of lead isotopes.
The work, published online in the journal Geology, strengthens support for the so-called SWEAT hypothesis, which posits that ancestral North America and East Antarctica were joined in an earlier supercontinent called Rodinia more than 1.1 billion years ago.
Staci Loewy, a geochemist at California State University, Bakersfield, who led the study, commented: “I can go to the Franklin Mountains in West Texas and stand next to what was once part of Coats Land in Antarctica”.
Loewy and her colleagues discovered that rocks collected from both locations were the exact same age and had the same chemical and geologic properties.
The approximately 1.1 billion year old North American Mid-continent Rift System extends across the continent from the Great Lakes to Texas. Volcanic rocks associated with the rift, which appears to represent an aborted tectonic attempt to split the ancestral North American continent of Laurentia, are well exposed in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from which they take their name, the Keweenawan large igneous province. The rift extends in the subsurface beneath Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to the Franklin Mountains near El Paso, Texas where related rocks are exposed.
In this latest report, Loewy, Ian Dalziel, research professor at The University of Texas at Austin, Richard Hanson of Texas Christian University and colleagues from several overseas institutions, find that rocks barely peeking through the ice in Coats Land, a remote part of the Antarctic continent south of the Atlantic Ocean basin, reflect a former continuation of the North American rift system. Loewy began her collaboration with Dalziel several years ago as a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin.
The research team used new lead (Pb) isotopic data from the 1.1-billion-year-old rocks from Coats Land, to constrain the positions of Laurentia (ancestral North America) and Kalahari (ancestral southern Africa) in the 1-billion-year-old supercontinent, Rodinia. The Coats Land rocks are identical in age to both the Keweenawan large igneous province of the North American mid-continent rift and the contemporaneous Umkondo large igneous province of southern Africa.
Comparison of the isotopic compositions, however, unequivocally links the Coats Land rocks with the Keweenawan province. Together with paleomagnetic data this suggests that the Coats Land block was a piece of Laurentia near west Texas 1.1 billion years ago. Furthermore, the Coats Land block collided with the Kalahari Precambrian craton of Africa during a 1-billion-year-old collision. Based on this reconstruction, Laurentia collided with Kalahari along Antarctica’s Maud mountain belt, which would represent a continuation of the 1-billion-year-old Grenville mountain belt of eastern and southern North America.
Thus the tiny Coats Land block of Antarctica is a ‘tectonic tracer’ providing critical clues to the geographic relationships between three of the major continents of the planet in the time interval 1.1 – 1.0 billion years ago, just prior to the opening of the Pacific Ocean basin, the hypothesised ‘Snowball Earth’ glaciations, and the rise of multi-cellular life.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Benue South: Can Mark also survive the banana peels at home?

THE attention of Nigerians and the global community would be on the Benue South senatorial District where the Senate Present David Mark of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP would slug it out with retired General Lawrence Onoja of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN; who was at a time the former General Staff Officer to Late Head of State General Sanni Abacha.
Mark is gunning for a record fourth term at the Senate of the Federal Republic, and his election has become a major attraction of some sort for all keen observers of the nation’s evolving democracy.
The reason for this is not far fetched, if he wins the senatorial seat he would be in pole position to seek another term as Senate President after his record breaking era on the seat.
This accounts for the interest many have shown in Mark’s reelection bid which is also responsible for the deep rivalry between Mark and Onoja.
The rivalry between these two sons of Idoma land dates back to the Abacha era and they have vehemently refused to bury the hatchet despite its attendant consequences on the socio-economic development of the Idoma kingdom.
It has indeed almost become a ritual for the duo to confront one another at every opportunity.
The duo were at it again at the last PDP primaries in Otukpo but it was Mark who coasted home after overwhelming Onoja by 1680 votes to 316 votes, cast by PDP delegates.
However at the end of the day Gen. Onoja lamented what he described as the intimidation and harassment of delegates and the state government’s influence to ensure that Senator Mark emerged victorious.
But not satisfied with the PDP primaries, Gen Onoja pulled out of the ruling PDP and headed for the opposition ACN where he secured the party’s nomination as its flag bearer for the Benue South Senatorial race.
Onoja’s ticket has become an issue of litigation at a Makurdi Federal High where some factional leaders of the party are asking the courts to nullify the candidature of all the 44 ACN candidates in the forthcoming general elections in Benue State.
That notwithstanding the race for the Benue South senatorial district is a clear cut fight between Mark and Onoja and both Generals are not leaving anything to chance.
Senator Mark has given everything to ensure that he emerges victorious at the forthcoming polls and it would not be out of place to state here that in the last few months the Senate President, through his reelection campaign organization has embarked on the most robust, aggressive and far reaching campaigns ever seen in the zone’s political history. General Onoja has struggled also in the same direction, albeit less optimistically.
For now, the prospect of Mark making it back to the Senate looks bright because he has a broad support base that includes all major stakeholders in the area.
Senator Mark seems to enjoy overwhelming support from his zone. His dominance of the politics of Benue south district was few months back boosted by his coronation as the ‘Okpokpowulu K’Idoma’ meaning (the Indomitable Lion of the Idoma Kingdom) by no other than the paramount ruler of the Idoma nation, HRH Elias Ikoyi Obekpa. This singular honour was indeed an affirmation of his leadership position in Idoma land.
The senatorial race in Benue South was until recently said to have been a done deal for Mark until the recent upsurge of support for the ACN. Besides Onoja, his legendary foe, Alhaji Abubakar Usman popularly known as Young Alhaji is also mustering support to confront Mark and the PDP establishment in the coming election.
Young Alhaji is now the deputy gubernatorial candidate of the ACN and is actively collaborating with Onoja to upturn the political apple cart in Benue South. The result of the election in Benue South would be observed from across the nation especially from senatorial contenders who have a sight on the seat of Senate President.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mark in civil rights commemorated

Considering the many people of African heritage who have excelled in sports over the years, some might find it startling that decades ago they wouldn’t have seen a black person on a white team’s bench.
A landmark turnaround of that kind of injustice was celebrated Monday in Montreal.
In happy acknowledgment of a gain in civil rights, U.S. diplomats unveiled a commemorative plaque at the apartment baseball great Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel had there in the summer of 1946.
In his climb through the ranks of professional sport, Robinson made history that year. He was added to the roster of the minor-league Montreal Royals for one season. It was a penultimate step for the athlete before breaking the infamous colour barrier in Major League Baseball the next year with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
If it’s difficult to imagine professional sports teams with a distinct lack of racial representation, also hard to fathom is the treatment Robinson and his wife faced over the years. Challenges they typically encountered in the U.S. were whites-only flights, hotels, restaurants and even ballparks. In some cities, they were chased out of town.
In Montreal, on the other hand, Robinson was greeted as one would hope – a sports hero – and he helped ignite baseball fever as the Royals won the Little World Series that season. Robinson’s widow, now 88, fondly remembers Montreal as a refuge after the treatment the couple routinely received in the deep south.
Upon first locating the apartment that was commemorated on Monday, Rachel Robinson recalls that she was received very pleasantly by the landlady. It was a white neighbourhood and she said they fit in quite well.
It’s a happy story from the early days of a long struggle toward greater, more widespread equality. But entirely defeating racism is a struggle that continues. With continued enlightenment, we hope it’s an attitude that will become as odd and outdated as the idea of race barriers in a sports league.