May 27, 2007

Immigrants and Immigration - Turkey - Germany

Last June, Seyran Ates, a lawyer, was waiting for a U-Bahn train in Berlin's Mockernbrucke subway station with a client for whom she had secured a divorce when the client's husband stormed onto the platform. He began beating up his ex-wife. Then he turned on Ates. Ates recalls seeing a number of men standing around, watching it all happen, as she danced from side to side with her attaché case, trying to fend off his heavy punches and kicks. It was not the first time she had been attacked in the line of duty.

A Turk of partly Kurdish descent, Ates arrived with her parents in the West Berlin neighborhood of Wedding in the late 1960s, when she was 6. Her parents were loving, but it was a traditional kind of love that involved much scolding, grounding and disciplinary slapping. School was Ates's only escape from the house, and she excelled at it. She knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Just before her 18th birthday, as her mother and aunt were beginning to make plans to marry her off, she ran away. This flight was not a simple abandonment of her family, to whom Ates remains close. Nor was it an abandonment of her ancestral culture. True, Ates has built her career in law around a German — and to many Turks, idiosyncratic and hostile — conception of women's rights. Yet she speaks to her young daughter in Turkish because, she says, "I want her to understand why I cry when I hear my favorite Turkish songs."

May 26, 2007

Train Kills Man Trying to Kill Woman

LOS ANGELES - A man trying to kill his girlfriend by stopping a car in front of an approaching train was himself killed Monday when the train hit the vehicle and launched it into him as he tried to flee, police said.

The girlfriend survived.

The man drove the car in front of a group of other vehicles stopped at a railroad crossing in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Sunland, Officer Mike Lopez said.

The driver, who was seen arguing with his girlfriend, parked the car on the tracks and jumped out, leaving her behind, Lopez said.

A northbound commuter train hit the rear of the car, hurling it into the man. The girlfriend was taken to the hospital, where she was in stable condition, Lopez said.

"She gets hit by a train and lives. He gets hit by his own car and he dies," Lopez said.

The train was heading from downtown to Lancaster in northern Los Angeles County at the time of the 12:08 p.m. crash, said Denise Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Metrolink.

There were no injuries on the train, which carried 132 passengers and crew members, Tyrrell said. The train had superficial damage.

The train's speed wasn't immediately known. The limit in the area is 79 mph, Tyrrell said. At that speed, it would take one-third of a mile to stop, she said.

It is highly unusual for someone to survive being struck by a train, Tyrrell said.

"The train to your car is like your car to a soda pop can. It's just not going to be a fair fight," Tyrrell said.

Cheap, Cheerful and Chinese

The global factory is gearing up for a change of shift. The streets of Dongguan are still relatively deserted -- filled only by the rising heat and swirling dust. Trucks rattle along the multilane thoroughfares, thousands every hour. They keep the supplies coming for the plants that line the streets, mile after mile, like gigantic military compounds.

Then, suddenly, Dongguan explodes into life. It's the same bustling picture every day, morning and night: Workers, most of them women, stream in from every direction, with uniforms in every color of the rainbow. Laminated company IDs dangle from their necks -- IBM, Siemens, Nokia, Duracell, Sanyo -- to name but a few of the major international brands that have set up shop here. 

Most of the workers look like schoolgirls. Holding hands, some are returning to their hostels exhausted, while others dutifully head off to the night shift. Outside the factories, the flags of the world have been hoisted to announce where the employers come from and what their employees are producing: cables for Germany, batteries for the United States, computer components for Japan, cellphones for Finland, clothing for France, toys for Hong Kong, shoes for Taiwan. There is almost nothing that this city of 1.5 million and its roughly 5 million migrant workers cannot supply.

Dongguan is only a small part of the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone, which is booming like scarcely any other region on the planet. Export plants are mushrooming from the red earth all along the highway that leads to the nearby industrial center of Shenzhen. Here, as everywhere in China, international corporations have turned the battle cry of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' 1848 Communist Manifesto, "Workers of the World, Unite!" into its opposite: "Producers of the World, Unite!"

May 25, 2007

One Day in the World's Most Dangerous City

Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alussi from the Iraqi National Party is sitting in the Grill Room at the Hotel Rashid, an 18-story building in the Green Zone. Many members of parliament live in the hotel because living anyplace else in Baghdad would be too dangerous for them. But the militias occasionally even fire at the Rashid from the distance.

Alussi discusses the current hot-button issues in Iraqi politics: the oil law that is meant to ensure equitable distribution of the country's oil revenues that the political parties can't seem to agree on; the question of whether former members of Saddam's Baath Party should continue to be excluded from public service, which the Shiites favor and the Sunnis oppose and, finally, the question of parliamentary vacation, which ...

Alussi is interrupted in mid-sentence as the lights suddenly go out. There is deafening roar in the distance and the room has fallen silent.

+++ 2:45 p.m. A car bomb explodes on the busy Wathba Square in central Baghdad. Seventeen people die and 46 are wounded. Television reports show a crater in the ground filled with rubble, splintered wood, bits of metal and a tire. Iraqi and US soldiers secure the area. A similar attack nearby on April 18 claimed 127 lives. +++


May 11, 2007

The middle of nowhere

Why are middle east experts so unfailingly wrong? The lesson of history is that men never learn from history, but middle east experts, like the rest of us, should at least learn from their past mistakes. Instead, they just keep repeating them.
The first mistake is "five minutes to midnight" catastrophism. The late King Hussein of Jordan was the undisputed master of this genre. Wearing his gravest aspect, he would warn us that with patience finally exhausted the Arab-Israeli conflict was about to explode, that all past conflicts would be dwarfed by what was about to happen unless, unless… And then came the remedy—usually something rather tame when compared with the immense catastrophe predicted, such as resuming this or that stalled negotiation, or getting an American envoy to the scene to make the usual promises to the Palestinians and apply the usual pressures on Israel. We read versions of the standard King Hussein speech in countless newspaper columns, hear identical invocations in the grindingly repetitive radio and television appearances of the usual middle east experts, and are now faced with Hussein's son Abdullah periodically repeating his father's speech almost verbatim.