Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Airport Security: No Empty Bottles, Please

Yesterday afternoon I returned to Oslo from a short trip to Flanders. These days, airport security is mostly focused on preventing people from bringing any potentially liquid substances on the plane, so I emptied the little bottle of water I had before I proceeded to security control. I didn't help though: the empty bottle was confiscated, because as it happens, empty bottles are on the black list too. I'm not sure whether it were the remaining drops of water inside the bottle, or the possibility that I would fill the bottle up with water again afterwards, but I certainly wasn't allowed to take it with me.

The present airport security measures can be best described as systemized nonsense. One thing is that it is very well possible that the result of the current «war on liquids» is that it now has become easier than ever to smuggle solid explosives onto a plane. Another one is that the metal detectors currently seem to react at such a low threshold that you don't need much more than a simple watch to be taken out of the line for an extra check. Much time to watch how people are behaving during security control can't be left, even though that's how the real terrorists will have to be stopped.

As to the liquids, my impression from a few hours of reading on the Internet is that one can, with large certainty, exclude that it would be practically possible to blow up a plane using liquid explosives. Basically these kinds of explosives can be divided into two classes: either they're so unstable that you need half a chemical laboratory to bring them onto the plane in a safe way, or they're so stable that you need such a detonator to start the explosion that it would be noticed at the security control. Conclusion: the present security measures have been motivated more by incompetence and panic –always a bad combination– then by anything else. That some British would be terrorists had absolutely no sense for practical chemistry doesn't seem to be a good enough reason to me to confiscate tubes of toothpaste and bottles of water at airports all over the world.

But let's say though, for the sake of the argument, that there would be a case to screen for all sorts of liquids, would it then still make sense to confiscate empty bottles of water? None of the people involved yesterday afternoon doubted that my bottle really was empty, i.e. that there was no liquid in it and that I couldn't do anything dangerous with it on the plane. Actually, you can buy lots of bottles full of water a few yards from the security control. The message I got was that empty bottles were on the list, and therefore I couldn't take it with me. I wonder who put it on the list in the first place. The only thing I can imagine is that empty bottles are forbidden by association: liquids are dangerous, liquids can be transported in bottles, therefore bottles are dangerous too. What will be next? Am I still allowed to carry empty boxes with me? You never know there's a terrorist out there planning to smuggle explosives onto a plane using a box…

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Imam Raed Hlayhel Leaving Denmark

The controversial imam Raed Hlayhel, who was very active one year ago stirring up the mood against Denmark in the Arab world, said Monday he's leaving Denmark and will never come back:

I have said the whole time that if the Danish courts don't punish the morning paper Jyllands-Posten, then I will leave this country. And I won't come back.
As far as I know nobody has asked him to come back yet. I wonder why…

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Quota for Homosexual Clergymen?

Not everybody in the Norwegian Lutheran Church has accepted homosexual clergymen yet, but nevertheless, the Norwegian Association for Lesbian and Homosexual Emancipation (LLH, Landsforeningen for lesbisk og homofil frigjøring) yesterday said that it would like to see quota introduced for them. Another organization, the Open Church Group (Åpen kirkegruppe), stated that in dioceses that had a positive view towards homosexual clergymen should actively go out and recruit them for their parishes.

The LLH notes that homosexual clergymen aren't everywhere welcome yet, and in some cases their applications aren't even considered when a new vicar has to be appointed. The spokesman of the association, Nils Riedl, even made the point that the fight for homosexual clergymen can be compared to the fight for female clergymen. Therefore the association wants to improve the position of the lesbians and homosexual within the Norwegian Lutheran Church by imposing quota. In a reaction to the proposal both the social democratic Labor Party (Ap, Arbeiderpartiet) and the conservative Right (H, Høyre) said they supported the organization's objectives, but not the quota. They think they would damage the interests of the homosexual in the long run.

One can be irritated by the demand of the LLH, or react in a rather humorous way and wonder whether we'll soon see a demand for atheistic clergymen too. If you opt for the latter approach, maybe you should be reminded of the story of the Danish vicar Thorkild Grosbøll a few months ago. At first he had expressed he didn't believe in God, but after a row and a short suspension from his job he seemed to have regained his faith in God and could continue his work.

So what else could there be in this tale of quota and surrealistic proposals? Some Muslim clergymen perhaps? Believe it or not, but in Sweden the question whether the Swedish part in the name of the Svenska Kyrkan should be removed has already popped up because it may be too hostile against immigrants. Some say that in a multicultural society, the Church should become multicultural and hence include immigrants too. References to the Swedishnes of the Swedish Church should therefore be avoided. I assume that once they start to go down that road, Muslim vicars shouldn't be excluded either.

Two thousand years ago, Christianity was founded by a white, young, religious man, and if there's any truth in The Da Vinci Code, He was heterosexual too. If for example the Open Church Group gets it as it wants, soon enough vicars like Him will rather be the exception than the rule in the «enlightened» dioceses. Next time God wants to save the world, He'd better send His black lesbian daughter who doesn't believe too much in Him or her brother.

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