Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I won't be able to post for a few days while my computer is in the shop.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I hope this starts a revolution.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Marx was right: the state will evaporate

Marx was right: the "state" will evaporate and cease to have useful meaning as a form of human organization

From the earliest Babylonian and Chinese moments of "civilization", we have agreed that human affairs depend on an organizing power in the hands of a few people (usually with religious charisma to undergird their authority) who reside in a functionally central location. "Political science" assumes in its etymology the "polis" or city-state of Greece as the model for community and government.

But it is remarkable how little of human excellence and achievement has ever taken place in capital cities and around those elites, whose cultural history is one of self-mockery and implicit acceptance of the marginalization of the powerful. Borderlands and frontiers (and even suburbs) are where the action is.

But as long as technologies of transportation and military force emphasized geographic centralization and concentration of forces, the general or emperor or president in his capital with armies at his beck and call was the most obvious focus of power. Enlightened government constructed mechanisms to restrain and channel such centralized authority, but did not effectively challenge it.

So what advantage is there today to the nation state? Boundaries between states enshrine and exacerbate inequalities and prevent the free movement of peoples. Large and prosperous state and state-related organizations and locations attract the envy and hostility of others and are sitting duck targets for terrorist action. Technologies of communication and transportation now make geographically-defined communities increasingly irrelevant and provide the new elites and new entrepreneurs with ample opportunity to stand outside them. Economies construct themselves in spite of state management and money flees taxation as relentlessly as water follows gravity.

Who will undergo the greatest destabilization as the state evaporates and its artificial protections and obstacles disappear? The sooner it happens, the more likely it is to be the United States. The longer it takes ... well, perhaps the new Chinese empire isn't quite the landscape-dominating leviathan of the future that it wants to be. Perhaps in the end it will be Mao who was right, and a hundred flowers will bloom there.

This is from a great website, btw, especially for those interested in science.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country's powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.

As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.

But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.

It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.


Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion.

Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.

The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University's School of Theology.

Fr Felix Koerner, a Christian theologian who has observed the project, says some of the sayings - also known individually as "hadiths" - can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.

"Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim - or pseudo-Muslim - practice of female genital mutilation," he says.

"You can find messages which say 'that is what the Prophet ordered us to do'. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition."

The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control.

Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.


Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.

Women are re-examining their portrayal in the scriptures
But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.

Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example.

"There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband's permission and they are genuine.

"But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet's time it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons."

The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.

Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said "he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone".

So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet's goal was.

Original spirit

Yet, until now, the ban has remained in the text, and helps to restrict the free movement of some Muslim women to this day.

There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment... This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them
Hulya Koc, a "vaize"
As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called "vaizes".

They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey's vast interior.

One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran - one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.

She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women.

"There are honour killings," she explains.

"We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love.

"There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them."

'New Islam'

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam - changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.

He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.

"This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation," he says.

"Not exactly the same, but if you think, it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. "

Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.

Now, he says, "they are trying to fashion a new Islam."

Significantly, the "Ankara School" of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.

They have also taken an even bolder step - rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.

"You have to see them as a whole," says Fadi Hakura.

"You can't say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.

"I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is."

The Forgotten War: Sonali Kolhatkar on Why Afghanistan is “Just as Bad as Iraq”

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to our last segment today, to Afghanistan. While the Iraq war has created some marginal divisions between Democrats and Republicans, the US occupation of Afghanistan remains decidedly bipartisan. Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama was in Kabul on Sunday, where called Afghanistan a central front in the so-called war on terror. The visit came just days after Obama proposed sending 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan as part of his strategy to shift the military’s focus from Iraq.

Pacifica radio host Sonali Kolhatkar of Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles has been among this country’s leading voices against the occupation of Afghanistan. She is co-author of the book Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords and the Propaganda of Silence, and she is also co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a group that works in solidarity with Afghans to help improve health and educational facilities for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Last month, Sonali spoke at the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis about what she called the widespread misconceptions about the occupation of Afghanistan.
SONALI KOLHATKAR: My specialty is Afghanistan, and I want to focus a little bit on it, primarily because it is a war that we have forgotten, that our media has forgotten. And if it’s one major thing that the media learned from Afghanistan that they applied to Iraq, it is that Americans are willing to sanction a war if they believe that that war will save those brown people over there. And Americans tend to respond well to what I call the rhetoric of liberation. We’ve heard it a lot over the past several years since 9/11. We’ve heard it a lot. We heard it ad nauseam in the lead-up to the war with Afghanistan. We fell for it—those burqa-clad women, the women who needed saving, and the majority of Americans felt that, of course, in addition to wreaking vengeance for 9/11, we would have the added bonus of saving a country and its women.
And this is what BusinessWeek had to say in December 2001 on the aftermath of the fall of the Taliban. They said, “The victory over Taliban tyrants is a victory for humanist values. The scenes of joy in the streets of Kabul evoke nothing less than the images of Paris liberated from the Nazis. Women taking to the streets to bask in the Afghan sun, free at last to show their faces. Children gathering to fly kites, a once forbidden pastime. Old people dancing to music, banned for many years.
“The liberation of Afghanistan,” says BusinessWeek, “from the tyranny of the Taliban is a watershed event that could reverberate for years. The warm embrace by ordinary people of the freedom to do ordinary things is a major victory for Western humanist values.”
Now, this works very well. This kind of rhetoric works very well for a media that is part of the fabric of this society and for a citizenry that has remained blind to the fact that the only changes in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban are on paper.
In fact, things are getting worse and worse. How many of you know about the fact that violence is up 50 percent since last year in Afghanistan? Afghanistan is a country that’s, by the way, 50 percent bigger in size than Iraq, has a population four million more than Iraq. This is not about a hierarchy of oppression; it’s simply for comparison purposes. So, last year, violence up by 50 percent; 140 suicide bombings in a country that had never really seen suicide bombings as a phenomenon before December 2005; over 50,000 NATO troops, of which about half are US soldiers; US soldiers dying at a rate higher than dying in Iraq, that is, per soldier, more US soldiers dying in Afghanistan than in Iraq.
And we have not heard this from the media. Certainly, the media coverage of Iraq has dipped, and by the same token, media coverage of Afghanistan is almost completely nil. You hear about it in the English-speaking press of NATO countries, because they care very much about Afghanistan. Their troops are there. Canada, the UK and various other European nations, Afghanistan is their Iraq.
But the failure of the Iraq war is relatively clear to most Americans, right? You look at poll numbers. Despite the failure of the coverage of the Iraq war in this country by the mainstream media, most Americans are able to get information about Iraq and are aware, because of alternative media’s coverage, certainly, of the debacle in Iraq, of the failure of the Iraq war. But not so Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is just as much a failure as Iraq, OK? We are using the same tactics. We are rounding people up, detaining them, bombing civilians. Associated Press did a count earlier in the year of how many civilians the Taliban had claimed to kill versus how many officially killed by NATO. Guess what? NATO was winning that count. NATO had killed actually more civilians than the Taliban. And we have not heard about that. Afghanistan, just as much a failure as Iraq.
But what are major presidential candidates saying about Afghanistan? Let’s look at the one that most people are excited about saving us from the war in Iraq, Barack Obama, saying the Iraq war has distracted us from Afghanistan. The real war is Afghanistan, according to Barack Obama. He may get us out of Iraq. He may. And he will get us deeper into Afghanistan.
And the only way that we can hold him accountable is if we know what’s really happening there, if we hear the voices of women like Malalai Joya, the Afghan parliamentarian, a young intrepid social worker risen to fame in her country, known as the most famous woman in Afghanistan. You hear her more often on my program, Uprising, and Democracy Now!—Amy has interviewed Malalai several times—than you do in the mainstream media. What is Malalai Joya, this woman that we supposedly have enabled her liberation, what is she saying? She wants the US out of Afghanistan, because they’re doing more damage than good, OK?
The alternative media, unfortunately, are just—you know, are not that much better than the mainstream media on Afghanistan. We could do so much more. We could do so much better on Afghanistan than we have done.
And so, just to go back to that question of what the media have learned from both these wars, is that humanitarian concerns are something that can be manipulated to justify war, that Americans will be hooked on the notion that we can save those brown peoples over there, that we will support war if it’s based on the premise of saving lives, rather than to secure oil flows, etc., capitalizing on a mass sense of well-intentioned superiority that exists in this country that our armed troops can save those brown peoples. The media knows this, because it is part of this fabric. It capitalizes on it, parading a series of grateful spokespeople as proof, rather than giving voice to a majority represented by women like Malalai Joya, who are perfectly capable of saving themselves.
So, if we want to know—if we want to know whether the US media has learned anything about war coverage, let’s just examine the coverage in the lead-up to the war that may or may not happen with Iran, and you’ll have your answer. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama campaign hires Muslim liaison

Obama's campaign has created a Muslim liaison, according to two sources familiar with the move.

The sources said the job was likely to be filled by Haim Nawas, a Jordanian-American who filled a similar role for the campaign of General Wesley Clark in 2004.

The job is complicated by the fact that Obama has been forced repeatedly to deny that he is Muslim, a situation that grates on some Muslim-Americans.

Nawas wrote in 2005 that the Bush Administration should take a more nuanced approach to public diplomacy directed at Muslim women.

"We need to recognise that the social structure in the Muslim world is very different from America's," she wrote. "American women need to understand that what is best for them is not necessarily what is best for Muslim women. Advocacy of women’s rights in the Muslim world must show sensitivity to local political realities."

Sensitivity? Meaning what? Don't push for women's right so as to not upset useful, yet dictatorial allies? Although of course, it will also upset the conservative Muslim public in those countries.

The Saudi Guide To Piety (from the Angry Arab)

Here is a multiple-choice question from a recent edition of a Saudi fourth-grade textbook, "Monotheism and Jurisprudence," in a section that attempts to teach children to distinguish between "true" and "false" belief in God:

Q. "Is belief true in the following instances:

(a) A man prays but hates those who are virtuous.

(b) A man professes that there is no deity other than God but loves the unbelievers.

(c) A man worships God alone, loves the believers, and hates the unbelievers."

The correct answer, of course, is (c): According to the Wahhabi imams who wrote this textbook, it isn't enough to simply worship God or just to love other believers; it is important to hate unbelievers, too. By the same token, (b) is wrong as well: Even a man who worships God cannot be said to have "true belief" if he also loves unbelievers.

"Unbelievers," in this context, are Christians and Jews. In fact, any child who attends Saudi schools until ninth grade will eventually be taught outright that "Jews and Christians are enemies of believers." They will also be taught that Jews conspire to "gain sole control over the world," that the Christian crusades never ended, and that on Judgment Day "the rocks or the trees" will call out to Muslims to kill Jews.

These passages, it should be noted, are from new, "revised" Saudi textbooks, designed to be less harsh on the infidels. After an analysis of earlier textbooks caused an outcry in 2006, American diplomats approached their Saudi counterparts about modifying the more disturbing passages, and the Saudis agreed to conduct a "comprehensive revision . . . to weed out disparaging remarks toward religious groups."

Normally, the contents of another country's textbooks would be of no interest, and, indeed, I'm sure that there are plenty of American textbooks that contain insane, incorrect or otherwise unacceptable information. Saudi schoolbooks, however, are a special case. They are written and produced by the Saudi government and are distributed, free, to Saudi-sponsored Muslim schools as far afield as Lagos and Buenos Aires. This doesn't mean every child who reads them will hate non-Muslims, but Americans are not the only ones who worry about the influence of these books: In Britain, a small political storm broke out last year when Saudi books calling on Muslims to kill all apostates were found in mosques there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rendering public opinion irrelevant

The worldwide consensus is crystal clear -- citizens want their Governments to be neutral and even-handed in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, not tilted towards either side. And that consensus is shared not just by a majority of American citizens, but by the overwhelming majority. Few political views, particularly on controversial issues, attract more than 70% support among American citizens. But the proposition that the U.S. Government should be even-handed -- rather than tilting towards Israel -- attracts that much support. That's not an "anti-Israeli" view -- to the contrary, it's a position that America can and should resolve that violent, four-decades-long dispute by being even-handed rather than one-sided.

Thanks, Abe.

9/11 conspiracy theories

After shopping at my local food co-op tonight, I was approached by a young guy looking for signatures for a campaign to have an independent commission investigate 9/11. I asked, wasn't it already investigated? He said, yes, but there are still unanswered questions. I said, I don't have any unanswered questions. He said, what about how did building 7 collapse. I said that I was sure that had been answered at some point, and mentioned this article. My friend called out that he didn't believe in conspiracy theories. His partner was busy getting signature after signature. I didn't want to waste taxpayer money on another investigation because I think that the idea that the totally inept Bush administration could plan and carry out something that complex is ludicrous. I would only go so far to say that they may have suspected something was up, but purposely didn't do anything, so as to facilitate their wars. What do you think? Oh, and by the way, my dad was actually there that day but escaped.

A rare bit of good news: Killer Karadzic arrested

PARIS: Bosnia's Serb wartime president, Radovan Karadzic, one of the world's most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, has been arrested, Serbian President Boris Tadic's office said on Monday.

Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said in a statement late Monday that Karadzic would be transferred to The Hague, but "the date will be determined in due course."

Karadzic's place of arrest was not announced, but Serbian government officials said Karadzic had been arrested by the Serbian secret police at a site not far from Belgrade, Serbia's capital, nearly 13 years after he was first indicted on war crimes.

"This is a very important day for the victims who have waited for this arrest for over a decade," Brammertz said. "It is also an important day for international justice because it clearly demonstrates that nobody is beyond the reach of the law and that sooner or later all fugitives will be brought to justice."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election

A leading cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has fresh evidence regarding election fraud on Diebold electronic voting machines during the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial and senatorial elections.

People sometimes ask, "Why does Palestine get so much attention? There are so many others suffering." This is why.

In his recent book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Hedges tells a chilling story from his trip to the Gaza Strip during the heydays of the Intifada, or the second Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation.

Hedges watched how ten- and eleven-year-old Palestinian children were lured to their neighborhood’s perimeter fence by taunts from a loudspeaker on the Israeli side. “Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!” The Israeli voice barked insults at the boys’ mothers. The boys responded by hurling their rocks at the jeep with the loudspeaker. The Israelis shot at them with M-16s fitted with silencers. Hedges found the victims in the hospital, children with their stomachs ripped out, and with gaping holes in their limbs.

Writing for “Harper’s Magazine” (see The Nation, March 11, 2002), Hedges wrote: “Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered. Death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights in Sarajevo, but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.”

Another “expression of love”: In November 2001, an undercover unit of the Israeli army buried a mine in the sand that flows around Abdullah Siyam Primary School in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

A few hours later, as Palestinian children headed to school, the mine exploded. Five school kids were instantly reduced to broken flesh. The youngest was six. All the victims came from the same extended family: Akram Naim Astal, 6 and his brother Mohammed, 13; Omar Idris Astal, 12 and his brother Anis, 10; and their cousin Muhamed Sultan Astal, 12. Their young bodies were mutilated beyond recognition. The limbs of one child were found 50 meters away. Some of the kids could only be identified by their school bags, brightly colored and spattered with blood, still dangling from their butchered bodies.

Hasbara doctors in Israel might seek to extenuate the gravity or even whitewash these crimes by claiming that these were “individual acts” that didn’t reflect the overall policy of the Israeli government and army.

However, this is a big lie. In 2001, the noted Israeli award-wining journalist Amira Hass interviewed an Israeli sniper in which the soldier described the commands he received from his superiors:

“Twelve and up, you are allowed to shoot. That is what they tell us,” the soldier said. “So,” responded the reporter, “according to the IDF, the appropriate minimum age group at which to shoot is 12.” The soldier replied: “this is according to what the IDF says to its soldiers. I don’t know if this is what the IDF says to the media.”

A further “expression of love and humanity of Israeli culture” manifested itself, also in Gaza, in 2004, when an Israeli occupation army soldier, dubbed Captain-R, shot a Palestinian girl, Iman al Hums, who was on her way to school. However, the soldier was not sure whether the 13-year-girl died or not. Hence, he walked to the bleeding child, and instead of trying to save her life, he shot her 25 times, emptying his entire magazine of bullets into her innocent body “ to verify the kill,” a standard Israeli army practice in such circumstances.

Now, the reader might be prompted to think that the murderer was arrested and made to stand trial for his hair-raising crime. Well, the opposite happened. The soldier not only was exonerated of any wrongdoing but was also awarded tens of thousands of dollars for being “damaged by unfavorable media coverage.”

In truth, it is not only Israeli army soldiers and officers who play the Nazi game. Zionist rabbis routinely issue religious edicts that would allow Israeli troops to murder non-Jewish children knowingly and deliberately without having to worry about any ramifications, moral or otherwise.

In May 2007, shortly before Israeli occupation soldiers murdered two Gaza children who apparently were searching for scrap metal to sell for a few cents in order help feed their impoverished families, the former Israeli Chief Rabbi, Mordechai Elyahu, petitioned the Israeli government to carry out a series of carpet bombings of Gaza cities.

Elyahu argued that a ground invasion of the world’s most crowded spot would endanger Israeli soldiers. He said, “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand. And if they do not stop after a thousand, then we must kill ten thousand. If they still don’t stop we must kill one hundred thousand, even a million, whatever it takes to make them stop.”

Earlier, Elyahu, a prominent Talmudic sage, called on the Israeli occupation army not to refrain from killing Palestinian children if that means saving the lives of Israeli soldiers.

The above-mentioned are only sporadic examples of the barbarian spirit inculcated in Israelis, especially soldiers dispatched to the occupied Palestinian territories. It is this barbarian mindset that makes Israeli soldiers abduct Palestinian school children and take them to nearby Jewish settlements where they are used as “training objects” by Jewish youngsters. It is this barbarian mentality that makes Jewish soldiers force helpless Palestinian laborers to do certain depraved acts such as drinking soldiers’ urine and singing, individually or in unison, “wahad Hommas, wahad fool, Allah Iyhay-yee Mishmar Gvul” (one ‘dish’ hummus, one broad beans, may Allah greet the Border Police)!!!

Israeli forces attack summer camp, terrorize children

Jerusalem / Maisa Abu Ghazaleh – Israeli forces attacked East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina Social Club late this week. They scattered the contents of the rooms on to the floor, turning furniture upside down and terrorizing the 220 boys and girls who were there for summer camp.

Head of the Gathering of Civil Institutions in Jerusalem, Hazem El Gharably, denounced this attack which comes as part of the Israeli campaign targeting Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and private organizations.

He stressed that such acts lead to a blurring of the political horizon and the possibility of coexistence and a peaceful solution on the issue of Jerusalem. The Israeli actions and its quest to annex East Jerusalem to the Israeli government, which is being cleansed of its population while they are imprisoned by the Wall and settlements at the same time, contravene all international law. Charters, the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, none of these are being heeded by the Israeli government.

El Gharably has demanded that the international community provide protection and international observers within the city of Jerusalem to protect the Palestinians from the oppression perpetrated by Israeli forces, which raided the club, attacked and intimidate innocent children and prevented them from exercising their right to assemble. And this is the treatment of children. The treatment of adults becomes far worse. He also called on human rights bodies to “protect our children from the onslaught on them and their rights.”

Secretary of the Jerusalem Bureau, businessman Yousef Mekhemar said that the attack on the summer camp is part of the strategy of to empty and Judaize the city. Home seizures and destruction, land theft and attacks, arrests and putting in the Wall and settlements where the Palestinians lived until being kicked out of their homes and businesses, are the rule, not the exception. Just this month Israeli forces have demolished 20 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and issued 40 more demolition orders. The general campaign of racism is on the rise as well, continues Mekhemar, who says that attacks on Palestinian workers are becoming more frequent, as are random arrests.

Regarding the attack on the summer camp, Fateh said, “We denounce this act and consider it a type of terrorism against Palestinian children and an assault on one of the national institutions in Jerusalem which is a social and sports club. We will expose this to the international community.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

'The girl screamed. I don't remember anything else'

"Dan Haran was standing there, looking at us. The little girl was with him. When we arrived, he was sitting on the bed, as if he were waiting for someone. But as soon as we entered the bedroom, he stood up. He started talking to me in English. I didn't understand much; just a few words. He was trying to explain that I should not hurt him. I told my comrade in Arabic, 'Don't shoot.'

"I tried to calm him with gestures. I said to him, 'Come.' He started speaking to me in a mixture of Hebrew and English. He held his daughter tightly. The girl did not make a sound. She was wearing pyjamas. I tried to tell him to leave her there, but he did not understand. I tried telling him 'come.' But he did not want to come with me. I understood he was trying to give the police time to arrive. He was afraid.

"My comrade, Muhammad Ali, did not understand why we were waiting. I tried explaining to Haran again, using Arabic and hand gestures. He understood, but he was completely unwilling to come with me. I tried to separate him from the little girl. Then I heard shots outside. It was 2.45am. I said, 'He is delaying us.'

"I grabbed him in a hurry, with the girl in his arms. I said, 'Yalla, imshi ['Let's go, move it']. We left the building surrounding Haran, who was holding his daughter in his arms, and went to the beach. Haran kept halting and talking, trying to delay us. But we had to get to the boat. They were waiting for us in Lebanon.

"As we approached the rubber dinghy, we heard a lot of voices. Then shots were fired in our direction. We approached the boat from the rocks, and Ali took Danny on board. That's when they started to shoot at us really hard. I returned fire, but it wasn't enough. Ali and Danny got off the boat. I ordered everyone to take a position on the rocks and return fire. Danny was behind us. His daughter was near him. Haran waved at the soldiers and called out to them in Hebrew.

"They continued to fire heavily. I ducked down to put a fresh magazine into my rifle. Haran waved again, while they were still firing, and he was wounded.

"The little girl screamed. That was the first time we heard her. That's it. I don't remember anything else.

"The battle continued until around 5.30am. Ahmed was wounded in the forehead. Ali was killed. I took five bullets and lost a lot of blood. I was not focused.

"What happened to the girl? During the interrogation they told me, 'You must admit that you wounded the girl with your rifle.' I told them, 'Write whatever you want.' I idd not see anything and I did not hear anything. It was total chaos there. I was focused on the goal. I don't mind admitting to things that I did. I don't want to admit to things that I did not do."

Arab league criticizes Sudan charges

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Arab League criticized the International Criminal Court's prosecutor for seeking the arrest of Sudan's president on genocide charges, saying diplomacy should be given a priority to solve the conflict in Darfur.

Arab foreign ministers, holding an emergency meeting in Cairo on Saturday, said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa would head to Khartoum on Sunday to inform the Sudanese leadership of a plan to defuse the crisis. Moussa said he would announce the details within two days.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has asked the court for a warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on suspicion of masterminding crimes against humanity in his country's troubled Darfur region.

Moreno-Ocampo accused Bashir of running a campaign of genocide that killed 35,000 people outright, at least another 100,000 through a "slow death" and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes in Darfur.

The final communique of the meeting said the ministers "called for giving the priority for political settlement ... and called for an international high-profile summit to push the political process in Darfur."

Earlier in the day, Algeria urged other Arab nations to press the United Nations Security Council to prevent the ICC from issuing the arrest warrant for Bashir.

"What the prosecutor of the court has done is a dangerous precedent," Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told his Arab counterparts. Continued...

OK, it's one thing to say that there are leaders of other nations who should be indicted as well (as the angry Arab will no doubt say), but I don't hear them saying that , and this just seem hypocritical to me. Would they say the same if some non-Arab league leader was indicted? If the Arab league wanted to give diplomacy a chance, what efforts have they been making for diplomacy while thousands have been getting slaughtered? On the other hand, if the court does not have the power to jail him, what's the point? Rhetoric about the rule of law will help anyone.

Some southern Sudanese are happy, though.

From the Angry Arab (well, actually, from the Guardian)

"Guantánamo's child prisoners came from all over the world: they were Afghan, Yemeni, Saudi, Russian, Uighuri, and Canadian. Five of them are still there. They are: Mohammed el Gharani, aged 14-15 when he was seized while praying in a Karachi mosque; Hassan bin Attash, aged 16-17 when seized in Pakistan, and rendered to Jordan where he endured 16 months of torture before being transferred; Faris Muslim Al Ansari, an Afghan-Yemeni who was 17 when captured; Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan who was 17 when seized and faces trial by military commission; and Omar Khadr."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Obama Wants to Shrink One War, But Expand Two Others

Barack Obama has restated his phased withdrawal plan for Iraq in response to public questioning, but committed himself to expanding the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Any proposal to transfer American troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan is sure to cause debate and questions among peace activists and rank-and-file Democrats. The proposal potentially represents a wider quagmire for the US government and military.

Contractors electrocute soldiers

A Senate investigation has found sub-par electrical work by private contractors on US military bases in Iraq has been more widespread and dangerous than the Pentagon has disclosed. The New York Times reports many more US soldiers have reported being electrocuted in Iraq than the thirteen acknowledged by the Pentagon. At one building in Baghdad, US soldiers reported being electrocuted in their living quarters almost daily. In one six-month period beginning in August 2006, at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged US military facilities. The shocks have led to at least one death and dozens of serious injuries. The Pentagon has ordered a review of all buildings maintained by the military contractor KBR in Iraq.

Seven years on, no answer from White House on anthrax attacks

It's been almost seven years since — in the weeks immediately following 9/11 — anthrax powder sent through the mail killed five people, threatened the lives of two Democratic senators, terrorized the entire nation, and helped prod a panicky Congress into passing the so-called Patriot Act.

In the intervening years, not only has the killer remained free, but missteps in the investigation have had major negative consequences. Just last month, in fact, the Department of Justice agreed to pay $4.6 million to former bioweapons expert Stephen Hatfill to settle a lawsuit Hatfill brought against the Justice Department, the FBI, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft for destroying his reputation and career by publicly implicating him in the case. And Glenn Greenwald has pointed out that in 2001, ABC News was fed false information by several "well-placed sources" (presumably officials in the Bush administration) suggesting an Iraq-anthrax link. That imaginary link was widely cited by pro-war cheerleaders.

At Monday's White House briefing, I asked if President Bush was satisfied with the progress of the investigation into the attacks. Press Secretary Dana Perino told me that she didn't even "know if he has had an update on it."

Iran Rising

Gas for Europe, Gas for India & Pakistan...Sanctions? Israel? No Problem

The rise of Iran continues. And that rise was made abundantly clear during the 19th World Petroleum Congress in Madrid in early July.

A large, supremely confident Iranian delegation attended the triennial gathering that brings together energy officials from all over the world. The Iranian contingent in Madrid was many times larger than the one that attended the 18th World Petroleum Congress in Johannesburg in 2005. Then, the National Iranian Oil Company had a small booth in the rear of the exhibit hall in Sandton, consisting of a small sign, two tables, a handful of chairs, and a couple bowls of pistachio nuts. This year, the Iranians had a huge installation inside the sprawling Madrid Fair exhibition space near the airport. The N.I.O.C. had a glitzy raised platform of glass, plastic, and colorful placards that rivaled the scale and flash of those of other national oil companies, including China’s Sinopec and the Kuwait Petroleum Company. Indeed, the Iranians’ exhibit was immediately next to (and almost exactly the same size as) Saudi Aramco’s, the world’s biggest oil producer.

The Iranians’ confidence was fully apparent during the July 2 “ministerial session” presentation made by Gholam-Hossein Nozari, Iran’s minister of petroleum. Speaking in Farsi, Nozari said that Iran plans to increase its oil and gas output dramatically over the next few years. He claimed that by 2014, Iran’s oil output will jump to 5.3 million barrels per day, from the current 4.35 MMbbl/d. Natural gas output is projected to soar to 1.5 billion cubic meters per day, from the current 540 million cubic meters per day. The Iranians also said they would invest some $141 billion on new projects between 2005 and 2014. And the high price of oil is allowing them to finance much of that amount themselves, with some $63 billion being provided internally.

Of course, the broader question about Iran’s energy sector is not about oil or gas. It’s about nuclear power.

Idir: Denia

Not the best video, but I love the song

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rising Muslim-Christian Strife in Egypt

Increasing violence between Egypt's Muslims and Coptic Christians is raising alarms that the sectarian hostility besetting Lebanon and Iraq may take root in the Middle East's most populous country.

Egypt's reputation for a live-and-let-live ethos is under assault following recent murders of Copts in Cairo, street fighting in cities including Alexandria and a pitched battle between Muslims and Coptic monks at an ancient desert monastery.

``The divisions are deepening,'' Hala Mustafa, editor of the political journal Democracy Review, said in a telephone interview. ``There's a growing Islamization of Egypt, and the Copts respond by turning inward in a defensive stance.''

Muslims and Copts -- who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 78 million citizens and are the country's most-populous minority -- increasingly identify themselves primarily by religion, Mustafa said.

Copts view with distress a trend toward adoption of Muslim mores exemplified by the growing prevalence of veiled women in the streets; the increasing national clout of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic opposition organization; and the government's recent decision to declare Islamic law as a source of civil legislation, Mustafa said. Muslims complain that Christians are claiming discrimination to win political advantages, she added.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded in Alexandria during the first century by Mark, one of the apostles of Jesus. After an Arab army conquered Egypt in the seventh century, Islam gradually became the country's dominant religion.

Tensions, reported in the government-controlled and independent press, have been building for several years. In 2004, Christians in Cairo claimed that the wife of a Coptic priest was forced to convert to Islam; after a riot in which 50 people were injured, the government ordered her returned to her Coptic family. In 2005, Muslims in Alexandria demonstrated against a church DVD version of a play in which a Coptic youth converts to Islam and then changes his mind.

Suspected Extremists

In 2006, a Muslim man stabbed Coptic worshippers in two Alexandria churches, killing one person and injuring five. Some attacks appear specifically aimed to terrorize: Targets of April 2006 bombings by suspected Islamic extremists in the Red Sea resort of Dahab included a pair of shops owned by Copts.

Muslims have tried to stop Copts from building or expanding churches in several towns, including Behma, 40 miles south of Cairo, where Muslim mobs set fire to Christian homes and shops last year.

On May 28 of this year, gunmen fired machine guns at a Coptic-owned jewelry store in Cairo, killing four Christians. The assailants haven't been captured. Three days later, dozens of Muslims attacked the 1,700-year-old Abu Fana monastery 300 miles south of Cairo.

A serene outpost of the Coptic Church, the monastery's domed chapels, guest rooms and ancient ruins sit on a sandy rise above the Nile River valley in south central Egypt, 200 yards from a village of peanut and vegetable farms. Muslim neighbors, claiming that the monks were stealing land, tore down new walls meant to keep the desert at bay and tried to destroy olive and lemon trees.

Riot Squad

While one Muslim attacker died by bullet, there is a dispute over who fired at whom and who killed him. Fourteen Muslims remain jailed because of the incident, and police have posted a riot squad in nearby villages.

``This happened because we are Christian,'' said Father Antonius, 35, one of 18 monks who reside at the complex. ``The Muslims want this monastery erased from the earth.'' Three monks were held captive and forced to pledge allegiance to Islam before being released, he said.

Samir Lulu, a Muslim resident from Hur, an adjacent village, said the monks are ``fanatics'' who pressure the government into granting them land denied to villagers. ``They are trying to spread the belief that Egypt is actually a Coptic nation and Muslims just visitors,'' Lulu said.

Ahmed Diaaddin, the governor of Minya province, where Abu Fana is located, declined a request for an interview.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Omar Khadr

The most distressing anecdote from Gould's report, however, which, bizarrely, he portrayed as an example of Omar "hav[ing] some feelings," followed a session with an interrogator from the Department of Defense, who had shown him a photo of his family, only for Omar to deny that he knew anyone in the picture. "Left alone with the picture and despite his shackles," the report continued, "Omar urinated on the picture. The MPs cleaned him, the picture, and floor and again left him alone with the picture – after shortening his shackles so that he couldn't urinate on the picture again. But, with the flexibility of youth, he was able to lower his trousers and again urinated on the picture. Again the MPs cleaned up and left him alone with the picture on a table in front of him. After two and a half hours alone and probably assuming that he was no longer being watched, Omar laid his head down on the table beside the picture in what was seen as an affectionate manner."

As Dr. Eric Trupin, who has conducted extensive research on the effects of incarceration on adolescents, explained in 2005 after reviewing the results of mental status tests administered by Omar's U.S. lawyers, which followed three years of interrogations that began as soon as Omar was captured, and which had a cumulative effect that the Canadians either could not or would not consider:

"The impact of these harsh interrogation techniques on an adolescent such as O.K. [Omar], who also has been isolated for almost three years, is potentially catastrophic to his future development. Long-term consequences of harsh interrogation techniques are both more pronounced for adolescents and more difficult to remediate or treat even after such interrogations are discontinued, particularly if the victim is uncertain as to whether they will resume. It is my opinion, to a reasonable scientific certainty, that O.K.'s continued subjection to the threat of physical and mental abuse places him at significant risk for future psychiatric deterioration, which may include irreversible psychiatric symptoms and disorders, such as a psychosis with treatment-resistant hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and persistent self-harming attempts."

Triyng to think of funny caption...something to do with Smoky and the Bandit?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

U.S.: Torture, murder at Iraqi juvenile prison

American investigators probing allegations of torture at an Iraqi-run juvenile prison in Baghdad found clear evidence earlier this year that Sunni children had been murdered by their Shiite captors, according to a lead officer on the investigative team.
"The security detail came in literally as they were cleaning the blood from the floor - they had just killed two Sunni kids," said Lt. Col. Craig J. Simper, a Judge Advocate General Corps officer from the Utah-based 419th Fighter Wing, who helped arrange the inspection. "The explanation was that these guys were trying to escape, but our investigation concluded that they were actually scheduled for release."

Under the social affairs ministry, juvenile detention centers are supposed to offer academic and vocational training, but Simper described "a prison in the very worst sense . . . it was worse than the adult prisons."
"We found lots of evidence of torture, of physical and sexual abuse, just deplorable conditions," he said. "The rats were the size of Chihuahuas and the juveniles were being housed 50 to a cell."
Simper said the boys being held in the prison were as young as 6 years old. The two boys who were killed were in their midteens, he said.
But speaking on background, a senior official of the task force still in Bagdad gave a different account. The official said that there were "unsubstantiated allegations that two Sunni juveniles were executed on the street outside the facility after they were released" and that the task force "found no records of the incident and no documentary evidence."

No Comic Relief: Uproar as Yemeni Comedian Jailed for Presidential Imitation

Fahd Al-Qarani faced the judge in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz. The nationally-beloved comedian-singer (dubbed by some the Adam Sandler of Yemen) was being charged by the government for “insulting Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.” To prove their case, prosecutors played a tape of one of his sketches. The entire courtroom burst out laughing – and prosecutors rushed to demand a recess as police intervened.

Clearly, Al-Qarani is a pretty funny guy. Because much of Yemen’s population is illiterate, his recordings reach a much wider audience than opposition newspapers, and his concerts draw thousands of spectators. One of Al-Qarani’s most popular sketches features a taxi driver who, though never named, speaks in a dead-on imitation of President Saleh. The skit is both hilarious and blunt: Yemen is being taken for a ride by a reckless driver.

While Yemeni crowds were laughing – inside and outside of courtrooms – President Saleh was not. After repeated attempts to silence Al-Qarani, the government won its case on July 9, as the comic was sentenced to 18 months in jail plus a $2,500 fine. But Al-Qarani seems to be relishing the notoriety of being sent to jail for being too funny. He called on his fans to come celebrate the verdict, and hundreds poured out into the streets demanding his release and a commitment by the government to protect freedom of expression.

In the showdown between Saleh and Al-Qarani, it remains to be seen who will get the last laugh.

Monday, July 14, 2008

President of the fifth grade?

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

Obama on Islam and the Middle East

ZAKARIA: Do you believe, when looking at the world today, that Islamic extremism is the transcendent challenge of the 21st century?
OBAMA: I think the problems of terrorism and groups that are resisting modernity, whether because of their ethnic identities or religious identities, and the fact that they can be driven into extremist ideologies, is one of the severe threats that we face. I don't think it's the only threat that we face.

ZAKARIA: But how do you view the problem within Islam? As somebody who saw it in Indonesia ... the largest Muslim country in the world?
OBAMA: Well, it was interesting. When I lived in Indonesia -- this would be '67, '68, late '60s, early '70s -- Indonesia was never the same culture as the Arab Middle East. The brand of Islam was always different. But around the world, there was no -- there was not the sense that Islam was inherently opposed to the West, or inherently opposed to modern life, or inherently opposed to universal traditions like rule of law. And now in Indonesia, you see some of those extremist elements. And what's interesting is, you can see some correlation between the economic crash during the Asian financial crisis, where about a third of Indonesia's GDP was wiped out, and the acceleration of these Islamic extremist forces. It isn't to say that there is a direct correlation, but what is absolutely true is that there has been a shift in Islam that I believe is connected to the failures of governments and the failures of the West to work with many of these countries, in order to make sure that opportunities are there, that there's bottom-up economic growth. You know, the way we have to approach, I think, this problem of Islamic extremism ... is we have to hunt down those who would resort to violence to move their agenda, their ideology forward. We should be going after al Qaeda and those networks fiercely and effectively.
But what we also want to do is to shrink the pool of potential recruits. And that involves engaging the Islamic world rather than vilifying it, and making sure that we understand that not only are those in Islam who would resort to violence a tiny fraction of the Islamic world, but that also, the Islamic world itself is diverse. And that lumping together Shia extremists with Sunni extremists, assuming that Persian culture is the same as Arab culture, that those kinds of errors in lumping Islam together result in us not only being less effective in hunting down and isolating terrorists, but also in alienating what need to be our long-term allies on a whole host of issues. ZAKARIA: If U.S. forces in Afghanistan captured Osama bin Laden, what would you do with him, and you were president?
OBAMA: Well, I think that, if he was -- if he was captured alive, then we would make a decision to bring the full weight of not only U.S. justice, but world justice down on him. And I think that -- and I've said this before -- that I am not a cheerleader for the death penalty. I think it has to be reserved for only the most heinous crimes. But I certainly think plotting and engineering the death of 3,000 Americans justifies such an approach.

Now, I think this is a big hypothetical, though. Let's catch him first. And the fact that we have failed to seriously go after al Qaeda over the last five years, because of the distraction of Iraq, I think we are now seeing the consequences of that in Afghanistan.

That's not the only problem we have in Afghanistan. We have not dealt with the narco-trafficking that's taking place there. We have not provided farmers there an option beyond poppy. I think the Karzai government has not gotten out of the bunker and helped organize Afghanistan and government, the judiciary, police forces, in ways that would give people confidence.

So, there are a lot of problems there. But a big chunk of the issue is that we allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to regenerate itself when we had them on the ropes. That was a big mistake, and it's one I'm going to correct when I'm president.


ZAKARIA: [...] Now, why not support the Clinton plan, which envisions a divided Jerusalem, the Arab half being the capital of a Palestinian state, the Jewish half being the capital of the Jewish state?

OBAMA: You know, the truth is that this was an example where we had some poor phrasing in the speech. And we immediately tried to correct the interpretation that was given.

The point we were simply making was, is that we don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the '67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent.

I was not trying to predetermine what are essentially final status issues. I think the Clinton formulation provides a starting point for discussions between the parties.

And it is an example of us making sure that we are careful in terms of our syntax. But the intention was never to move away from that basic, core idea that they -- that those parties are going to have to negotiate these issues on their own, with the strong engagement of the United States.

And if you look at the overall tenor of that speech and what I've said historically about this issue, you know, Israel has an interest not just in bunkering down. They've got to recognize that their long-term viability as a Jewish state is going to depend on their ability to create peace with their neighbors.

The Palestinian leadership has to acknowledge that the battles that they've been fighting, and the direction that they've been going in and the rhetoric they've been employing, has not delivered for their people. And it is very hard, given the history of that region and the sense of grievance on both sides, to step back and say, let's be practical and figure out what works. But I think that's what the people of Israel and the people in the West Bank and Gaza are desperate for, is just some practical, commonsense approaches that would result in them feeling safe, secure and able to live their lives and educate their children.
ZAKARIA: You've also said that the chief beneficiary of the Iraq war has been Iran, which now poses a significant strategic threat to, or challenge to, the United States in the region.
If we were to leave Iraq entirely, would that not cede the field to them and allow Iran to consolidate its gains in the region and in the country?

OBAMA: I don't think so. Look, first of all, I have never talked about leaving the field entirely. What I've said is that we would get our combat troops out of Iraq, that we would not have permanent bases in Iraq.

I've talked about maintaining a residual force there to ensure that al Qaeda does not re-form in Iraq, that we're making sure that we are providing logistical support and potential training to Iraqi forces -- so long as we're not training sectarian armies that are then fighting each other -- to protect our diplomats, to protect humanitarian efforts in the region.

So, nobody's talking about abandoning the field.

ZAKARIA: That might be a large force.

OBAMA: Well, it -- you know, I'm going to make sure that we determine, based on conditions on the ground, how we effectively carry out those limited, temporary missions.

But what is going to prevent Iran from having significant influence inside of Iraq -- or at least, so much influence that Iraq is not functioning -- is to make sure that the government has stood up, that it has capacity, that the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds have come to the sort of political accommodation that allows them to divide oil revenues that are now coming in quite handsomely, that ensures that, in fact, we're serious about ending corruption in some of the ministries, that provincial federalist approaches to governance are being observed.

The stronger the Iraqi government is on its own -- not with us, but on its own -- the less likely that Iran is going to exert its influence.

And again, this is -- you know this better than I do, Fareed -- the assumption that, because many in Iraq are Shia, that they automatically are going to align themselves with Iran, ignores the fact that you've got Arab and Persian cultures that are very different. And there's -- if Iraqi Shias feel that their government is actually functioning, then I think their identity as Iraqis reasserts itself.

France denies citizenship to woman because of her veil

A French court has denied citizenship to a Muslim woman from Morocco, ruling that her practice of "radical" Islam is not compatible with French values. The 32-year-old woman, known as Faiza M, has lived in France since 2000 with her husband - a French national - and their three French-born children. Social services reports said the burqa-wearing Faiza M lived in "total submission to her male relatives". Faiza M said she has never challenged the fundamental values of France.
Her initial application for French citizenship was rejected in 2005 on the grounds of "insufficient assimilation" into France. She appealed, and late last month the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative body which also acts as a high court, upheld the decision to deny her citizenship.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Iraq asks for pullout timetable

Iraq's prime minister has for the first time publicly called for a US troop withdrawal timetable.

Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday that a military agreement the two countries are negotiating should include provisions for the withdrawal of American troops.

In a meeting with Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates on Monday, al-Maliki said Iraq had proposed a short-term interim memorandum of agreement rather than the more formal status of forces agreement the two sides have been negotiating.

"Negotiations are ongoing with the US side and the current attitude is to reach a memorandum of understanding either for immediate US forces withdrawal or timetable withdrawal," he said on Monday.

The memorandum "now on the table" includes a formula for the withdrawal of US troops, he said.

"The goal is to end the presence [of foreign troops]," al-Maliki said.

The Bush administration's response was muted, saying it was not negotiating for a "hard date" to withdraw its troops.

The Fbi needs these titles (thanks Angry Arab)

LI 001, 0143034669 GHOST WARS , 150, EA;
LI 002, 006050532X TERROR IN THE NAME OF GOD , 180, EA;
LI 003, 1400030846 LOOMING TOWER , 370, EA;
LI 004, 1857023811 HEZBOLLAH , 150, EA;
LI 006, 1934852023 2008 FEDERAL CRIMINAL CODE RULES BOOK , 100, EA;
LI 007, 0743234955 HOLY WAR INC , 30, EA;
LI 010, 1931930252 UNDERSTANDING ARABS : A GUIDE , 30, EA;
LI 011, 1883219825 FRANKLIN COREY STYLE GUIDE , 4, EA;
LI 012, 0743234359 AMERICAN JIHAD : THE TERRORIST , 30, EA;
LI 015, 0979660742 THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE , 4, EA;
LI 016, 0060505915 THE TRUE BELIEVER, 385, EA;
LI 017, 1862075735 A FURY FOR GOD: THE ISLAMIST ATTACK , 30, EA;
LI 018, 081296618X ISLAMIA : A SHORT STORY , 30, EA;
LI 020, 0764538837 MICROSOFT OFFICE 2003 FOR DUMMIES , 4, EA;
LI 021, 0764538810 ACCESS 2003 FOR DUMMIES , 4, EA;
LI 022, 0764539671 EXCEL 2003 BIBLE BY JOHN WALKENBACH , 2, EA;
LI 023, 0764539086 POWERPOINT 2003 FOR DUMMIES , 3, EA;
LI 026, 0140445587 THE KORAN (PENGUIN CLASSICS), 130, EA;

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time...

“This should shake our basic view of Christianity,” he (Israel Knohl) said as he sat in his office of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem where he is a senior fellow in addition to being the Yehezkel Kaufman Professor of Biblical Studies at Hebrew University. “Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story.”

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Souad Massi- the "anti-Haifa"

beautiful, beautiful singing

Saturday, July 5, 2008

La Belle Rosina (1847)
Antoine Wiertz

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Leader of Kifaya dies

Prolific writer and scholar Abdel Wahab Al-Messiri has died. Al-Messiri, who led an Egyptian movement demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's rule, died of cancer on Wednesday, said Hossam Tokan, director of the Palestine Hospital in Cairo. The umbrella movement was set up in 2004 to oppose the reelection of Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981. "He was always there in the middle of demonstrations, undeterred by repression and threats," Eskander said. "He will always be present through his work and legacy among Arab intellectuals and in the hearts of the Egyptian people."

I found this very sad. Egypt is probably the Arab country most ripe for a revolution, and certainly has the population to accomplish it, even against the brutality of Mubarak's thugs. Obviously the Muslim Brotherhood would win hands down any fair election in Egypt, and of course much of their legislation would not be welcomed by secularists. But the question is: would the life of the average Egyptian be any better than under Mubarak? Would bread be affordable? Would more decent jobs be available, would there be less corruption, etc.? Even if the MB could not/would not make this happen (and of course the chances are higher than under Mubarak), at least when the people saw this, they would be able to vote them out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Christopher Hitchens gets tortured!

African Dictatorships and Double Standards

The Bush administration has justifiably criticized the Zimbabwean regime of liberator-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe. It has joined a unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the campaign of violence unleashed upon pro-democracy activists and calling for increased diplomatic sanctions in the face of yet another sham election. In addition, both the House and the Senate have passed strongly worded resolutions of solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in support of their struggle for freedom and democracy.

However, the United States currently provides economic aid and security assistance to such repressive African regimes as Swaziland, Congo, Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Gabon, Egypt, and Tunisia. None of these countries holds free elections, and all have severely suppressed their political opposition.

Among the worst of these African tyrannies has been the regime of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. Obiang has been in power even longer than the 28-year reign of Mugabe and, according to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent, makes the Zimbabwean dictator "seem stable and benign" by comparison. Obiang originally seized power in a 1979 coup by murdering his uncle...