These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 17, 2011.
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Theodore Dalrymple observes how students appear to walk around rainy Manchester in constant need fear of dehydration:
A fair proportion of the students carried a plastic bottle, complete with something uncommonly like a dummy's teat, as if global warming had transformed the road into the Sahara Desert.
That water bottle is a fashion accessory, and a very silly one. From The Telegraph leader:
On a train, at a concert, even in church, people habitually drink from bottles of water or suck from those fitted with a teat arrangement. No one wishes them to become dehydrated, but this is very strange behaviour.
It is a mirror image of being prohibited from smoking indoors, even in pubs or private clubs. As carrying a bottle and glugging from it at intervals is voluntary, it is all the more baffling. Do the swiggers think they will wither and fall like leaves to the ground, if they wait a few minutes?
Today, as we report, a doctor in a learned journal calls the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day “nonsense”. That is not how manufacturers of bottled water see it.
Yet, by and large, tapwater in Britain tastes good, and it is certainly clean. When food has gone up by 12 per cent in a year, we might satisfy our thirst doubly from the cheap and private kitchen tap.
What are those teat things for? If you want to have a proper drink you have to take the whole wretched thing off, otherwise you have to suck as you would when being breast-fed – or so I imagine, because that was a long time ago.
Bottled water is absurd, unless it is sparking water, in which case the bubbles add value. Bottled still water is no better for you than tap water. If you live in London or other hard water areas, you can buy a water filter to get rid of the chalky taste and fill up the same bottle. You will be saving money, which can be put towards a decent bottle of wine. Talking of which, those plastic water bottles have their uses, as long as you buy only one or two and re-use them. When you go to the theatre, instead of paying £5 for a glass of very mediocre wine at the interval, take a plastic bottle with a better wine, and more of it, bought for a fraction of the price. Nobody will notice, and if they do, who cares?
On a wildly different note, Nabokov fans will know that the name “Dalrymple” appears somewhere near the climax of Lolita, not long after the word “jaunty”, which was also mentioned at this site. “Jaunty” comes more than a hundred pages after “genteel”, which is how it should be, and is next to, or near, a rather miserable word, “disconsolate” or something. This cannot be a coincidence. Nabokov's Cecilia Dalrymple Ramble later appears in the names of several characters in double-entendreful radio comedy show Round the Horne, and is a lot funnier than those muffin jokes in Speak, Memory.
Posted on 07/17/2011 8:23 AM by Mary Jackson
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Taliban hide Afghan killer of British soldier
From The Telegraph
The Taliban have given sanctuary to a rogue Afghan soldier who shot dead a British colleague, in the third incident of its kind involving the British Army in two years. The Afghan fled after killing the unnamed soldier from the 9th/12th Royal Lancers during a patrol on Saturday morning in Helmand province. Insurgent sources said they had granted the killer protection when he fled to them after the murder, although there were no previous links.
The Nato coaliton launched an investigation into the shooting in Nahr-e Saraj district, which followed a spate of incidents where Afghan forces have turned their guns on foreign troops. The killings have heightened fears the burgeoning Afghan police and army are infiltrated by insurgent sympathisers. . . classified military research published earlier this year warned the shootings were becoming a "rapidly growing" systemic threat.
Infiltration, personal quarrels and apparent psychological breakdowns have been blamed for the death of around 60 foreign troops at the hands of Afghan forces since 2007, breeding what the research called a "crisis of confidence and trust" between the ranks.
An Afghan army officer in Helmand told the Daily Telegraph: "He killed a British soldier and then ran away to the Taliban. He took at least two weapons with him." He was from Paghman, west of Kabul, and served in the 215 Maiwand Corps.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, named the killer as Abdul Rahman and said the shooting had been near Barah village in the Babaji area which witnessed 2009's Panther's Claw operation. He said: "We didn't have any contact with him before, but we have since given him protection."
Col Rasul Mohammad Safai, spokesman for the corps, said: "We still don't know exactly if he was one of the Afghan National Army, or whether he was just disguised in our uniform." The British soldier was killed following the progress of a foot patrol from his Jackal vehicle. The foot patrol was returning to the vehicle when both teams came under small arms fire.
Lt Col Tim Purbrick, spokesman for British troops in Helmand, said: "It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of a soldier from the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales's).
The magnitude of such rogue killings "may be unprecedented between 'allies' in modern history", classified American military research into the incidents has suggested.
These are not "rogue" killings. Mohammed said "War is deceit."
Posted on 07/17/2011 9:44 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Why has Britain turned into a giant rubbish bin?
On a recent visit to Manchester I walked down Oxford Road. The thoroughfare is the haunt of students, there being two universities along it, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan. I do not recall a filthier street anywhere, and I have visited more than 80 countries.
One positively waded through litter, kicking aside the detritus of a million refreshments taken on the hoof. A fair proportion of the students carried a plastic bottle, complete with something uncommonly like a dummy's teat, as if global warming had transformed the road into the Sahara Desert. I assume that the students at the universities are mainly middle-class.
Perhaps it isn't their fault, though. No one has ever told them that to eat or drink in the street is a degraded thing to do; and if they were told it would only make it more attractive to them, for what more sincere expression of sympathy for those who suffer from bad behaviour is there than imitation of it?
I wrote to complain to the Lord Mayor; I said that while I understood that the behaviour of people in Britain was generally disgusting, it was nevertheless the council's duty to keep the streets clean. I did not receive a reply, no doubt because everyone was too busy. Manchester Council has a 48-page document describing its anti-discrimination policy, the latter including monthly ethnic monitoring of the staff.
I wrote a similar letter to the Lord Mayor of Birmingham after a recent visit there. At least he replied, through a minion.
Manchester and Birmingham are filthy because England is filthy. An Englishman's street is now his dining room, and his country is his litter-bin. When Englishmen – or a sizeable number to judge by the results – arrive at a beauty-spot their first impulse is to chuck at it a vividly coloured empty bottle or tin of revolting drink with which they have recently refreshed themselves.
Drive down the A14 from the M6 to Huntingdon or Cambridge and every verge, every roundabout, is littered by the thousand, or the million. Such filth is not the handiwork of a handful. Until I drove down and saw it flapping in the trees, I hadn't appreciated how much polythene there was in the world. Where does it come from? Who knows? Even more to the point, who cares? Certainly not the local authorities, that have so many other bigger worries – like how to pay the pensions of staff who took early retirement.
Dreadfully incompetent and dishonest as public authorities are, our pavements are not mottled by discarded chewing gum because of them; and it is not only because of them that our streets are the filthiest in Europe, if not the world.
Not long ago I had the humiliation of being answered with an aggressive and flat refusal. Perfectly politely, I asked a woman, who threw her cigarette end down at my feet as we entered Euston Station, to pick it up. If in retaliation I had criticised her slovenliness, I should no doubt have been arrested for insulting behaviour. In the absence of any sense of civic duty, we have no defence against litterers.
Britain was not always so filthy. I suspect that it is the result of a toxic mixture of excessive individualism (there is no such thing as society), and of an easily inflamed awareness of inalienable rights (who are you to tell me what to do? I know my rights). What I do is right because it is I who do it; the customer is always right, and life is my supermarket.
The virtual world has become more real and all-encompassing to us than what used to be called the real world. Those who toss rubbish from cars are in a bubble, and in a trance; separated physically from the world, bathed in music, usually trance-inducing, they glide past everything around them like ghosts in haunted houses.
The study of so despised a thing as litter brings us close to deep questions of philosophy: how should we live, what are we here for, what do I owe my neighbour? The answer that we have given to the latter in Britain is 'Nothing.'
[Originally published in The Telegraph.]
Litter: How Other People's Rubbish Shapes Our Lives' by Theodore Dalrymple (Gibson Square, £9.99) is available from Telegraph Books at £9.99 plus 99p p&p.
Posted on 07/17/2011 6:41 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Lahore - Sikhs kept out of their own temple for Shab-e-Barat
From the Express Tribune and the Indian Express
The Sikh community in Lahore have been prevented from observing a religious celebration at a gurdwara, their musical equipment thrown out and their entry barred, after a religious group persuaded the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) that celebrating the Muslim holy day of Shab-e-Barat was more important than the Sikh religious festival.
Police have been deployed outside the temple to prevent the Sikhs from conducting their religious ceremonies until the end of Shab-e-Barat, which falls on July 18 this year. The Sikh community wanted to commemorate an eighteenth-century saint on July 16.
The Gurdwara Shaheed Bhai Taru Singh, in Naulakha Bazaar, Lahore, is built to honour the memory of a Sikh saint who was executed in 1745 on the orders of the Mughal governor of Punjab, Zakaria Khan. Every July, the Sikh community has held religious ceremonies to commemorate his sacrifice in the service of humanity.
While the temple was taken over by the ETPB after Partition, the Sikh community had been allowed to continue using it with relatively few restrictions. Until four years ago.
It was then that a gang of young men from the Dawat-e-Islami, a Barelvi proselytising group, claimed that the gurdwara was located on the site of the burial place of a fifteenth century Muslim saint, Pir Shah Kaku. The group claims that Kaku was the grandson of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar, an implausible claim since Ganjshakar died in 1280, while they claim that Kaku died almost 200 years later, in 1477.
The Sikh community had approached the ETPB, which had then allowed both communities to observe their religious rituals according to their own beliefs at the temple. The group used it every Thursday for prayer services while the Sikh community used it once a year for the anniversary of Taru Singh’s martyrdom.
This year, however, when young men from the Sikh community went in to set up their musical instruments on July 13, they were thrown out by the men from Dawat-e-Islami and prevented from re-entering.
Members of the Sikh community, many of whom fear to be identified, said that the leader of the group of men, Sohail Butt, claimed that the temple was now a mosque and that they would not be allowed to bring in their musical instruments any more. Butt admitted to preventing the Sikhs from performing their ritual, claiming that the temple was inside the courtyard of the mosque. “Shab-e-Barat is more important than the Sikh ritual,” Butt said,
ETPB Deputy Administrator Faraz Abbas, who deals with Sikh affairs across the country, even admitted that they had been denied entry into the temple though denied that any musical instruments had been thrown out of the gurdwara. ETPB Chairman Asif Hashmi was not available for comment as he is abroad.
The incident, however, has been highly distressing for the Sikh community. Gurunanak Mission President Sardar Bishon Singh told The Express Tribune that the ETPB’s decision to bar Sikhs from entering their temple was against the constitution. Singh claimed that the ETPB is planning to gradually eliminate and sell all gurdwaras from Pakistan, alarming for Sikhs around the world.
Posted on 07/17/2011 1:44 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Taseer, Son Of The Murdered Governor Of Punjab, And A Truthteller, Offers A Good, Though Incomplete, Diagnosis Of Wretched Pakistan
From The Wall Street Journal:
Why My Father Hated India
Aatish Taseer, the son of an assassinated Pakistani leader, explains the history and hysteria behind a deadly relationship
Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: "Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice."
My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan's largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India's misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan's unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.
Though my father's attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.
To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan's animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.
The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India's Muslims would realize their "political and ethical essence." Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture.
Iqbal's vision took concrete shape in August 1947. Despite the partition of British India, it had seemed at first that there would be no transfer of populations. But violence erupted, and it quickly became clear that in the new homeland for India's Muslims, there would be no place for its non-Muslim communities.[but the reverse was not true: there are more than 150 million Muslims now living in India, while the small numbers of Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians in Pakistan, and to a lesser extent in Bangladesh (with Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians), are always diminishing]. Pakistan and India came into being at the cost of a million lives and the largest migration in history.
This shared experience of carnage and loss is the foundation of the modern relationship between the two countries. In human terms, it meant that each of my parents, my father in Pakistan and my mother in India, grew up around symmetrically violent stories of uprooting and homelessness.
But in Pakistan, the partition had another, deeper meaning. It raised big questions, in cultural and civilizational terms, about what its separation from India would mean.
In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India.[no, Pakistan defined itself as a Muslim state, of by and for Muslims, and that, in turn, meant it would always be opposed to Hindu-dominated India, a place where Muslims had once ruled and so, by Islamic doctrine, higheset on the list of those places that deserved to be first conquered for Muslims again. The other obvious example is Israel]. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.
Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favor of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabized Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself. [Pakistan, unlike Indonesia or Iran, has no pre-islamic past still vivid, and no non-Islamic elements in its makeup, either, to modify the harshness of Islam, undiluted. This Mr. Taseer does not say, as elsewhere he cannot apparently allow him to interpret events correctly, as reflecting Islam in its natural, undilutated state. He recognizes the disease, but he cannot allow himself to offer a full diagnosis, where Islam is to be blamed, and those who take Islam most to heart. Still, as an acute observer of the Pakistani mess -- google "David McCutchion" for more -- he comes close, and one should be grateful for that.]
But there was one problem: India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.
Pakistan's existential confusion made itself apparent in the political turmoil of the decades after partition. The state failed to perform a single legal transfer of power; coups were commonplace. ["coups were commonplace" in Pakistan as they have been in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and many Arab countries. The more undiluted the Islam, the more unlikely it is, or even impossible it is, for democracy in the true sense to take root, for the political theory of Islam is based not on locating legitimacy in the will expressed by the people, but in the will expressed by Allah in the Qur'an, as glossed by the Sunnah. And the violence and aggression that are everywhere to be found in Qur'an and Hadith explain the nature of Pakistani society, and Pakistani rulers, and the central significance of the armed forces and of control of the military, in Pakistan as in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, and almost everywhere else -- there are some exceptions -- in those Muslim lands, such as the Arab ones, and Pakistan, where, because there is Islam and nothing but Islam, the hold of the Belief-System is strongest]And yet, in 1980, my father would still have felt that the partition had not been a mistake, for one critical reason: India, for all its democracy and pluralism, was an economic disaster.
Pakistan had better roads, better cars; Pakistani businesses were thriving; its citizens could take foreign currency abroad. Compared with starving, socialist India, they were on much surer ground. So what if India had democracy? It had brought nothing but drought and famine.
But in the early 1990s, a reversal began to occur in the fortunes of the two countries. The advantage that Pakistan had seemed to enjoy in the years after independence evaporated, as it became clear that the quest to rid itself of its Indian identity had come at a price: the emergence of a new and dangerous brand of Islam.[that "reversal" was inevitable, for Pakisetan is held back by its stratokleptocracy, and by the backward nature of Islam, with its inshallah-fatalism, its mental and other forms of torpor, and its collectrivism that creates people hostile to individual effort and talent].
As India rose, thanks to economic liberalization, Pakistan withered. The country that had begun as a poet's utopia was reduced to ruin and insolvency.
The primary agent of this decline has been the Pakistani army. The beneficiary of vast amounts of American assistance and money—$11 billion since 9/11—the military has diverted a significant amount of these resources to arming itself against India. In Afghanistan, it has sought neither security nor stability but rather a backyard, which—once the Americans leave—might provide Pakistan with "strategic depth" against India.
In order to realize these objectives, the Pakistani army has led the U.S. in a dance, in which it had to be seen to be fighting the war on terror, but never so much as to actually win it, for its extension meant the continuing flow of American money. All this time the army kept alive a double game, in which some terror was fought and some—such as Laskhar-e-Tayyba's 2008 attack on Mumbai—actively supported.
The army's duplicity was exposed decisively this May, with the killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. It was only the last and most incriminating charge against an institution whose activities over the years have included the creation of the Taliban, the financing of international terrorism and the running of a lucrative trade in nuclear secrets.
This army, whose might has always been justified by the imaginary threat from India, has been more harmful to Pakistan than to anybody else. It has consumed annually a quarter of the country's wealth, undermined one civilian government after another and enriched itself through a range of economic interests, from bakeries and shopping malls to huge property holdings.
The reversal in the fortunes of the two countries—India's sudden prosperity and cultural power, seen next to the calamity of Muhammad Iqbal's unrealized utopia—is what explains the bitterness of my father's tweet just days before he died. It captures the rage of being forced to reject a culture of which you feel effortlessly a part—a culture that Pakistanis, via Bollywood, experience daily in their homes.
This rage is what makes it impossible to reduce Pakistan's obsession with India to matters of security or a land dispute in Kashmir. It can heal only when the wounds of 1947 are healed. And it should provoke no triumphalism in India, for behind the bluster and the bravado, there is arid pain and sadness.
—Mr. Taseer is the author of "Stranger to History: A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands." His second novel, "Noon," will be published in the U.S. in September.
Posted on 07/17/2011 7:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 17 July 2011
A Musical Interlude: I'm Sure Of Everything But You (Annette Hanshaw)
Posted on 07/17/2011 10:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Naive Dreams Of Sudden Soldiers; Desert Mirages Of Mllites Gloriosi
From The Washington Post:
Among Libyan rebels, reluctant warriors
JADU, Libya — As armed rebellions go, the enthusiastic revolutionaries here in Libya’s western mountains are amateurs, many schooled in battle from playing video games. They confess they sometimes fire their rifles over the heads of their enemies because they don’t like the sight of blood.
But being bad at war might turn out to be a good thing for Libya.
As a few thousand poorly armed, barely trained young rebels wearing flip-flops and soccer jerseys advance and retreat against the loyalist forces of Moammar Gaddafi, a quiet but perhaps equally important revolution is taking place here behind the front lines, where people are reassembling a society after four decades of dictatorship, trying to hammer concepts such as democracy onto ancient tribal ways.
At a checkpoint near the front lines in the town of al-Qualish, as the two sides lobbed rockets at each other, a young rebel fighter with a rifle dating from the Italian occupation in the first half of the 20th century shouted to a reporter, “Thomas Jefferson good!”
Where once there was the paranoid silence of state censorship, now there are over-caffeinated “media centers” with satellite Internet and lots of ashtrays, staffed by eager young volunteers speaking bits of Manchester English, obsessed with this brand-new thing called free Internet access.
At the Wazin border crossing with Tunisia, where the charred remains of a couple of tanks line the empty roads, the Free Libya passport control officer demanded, “Hey, friend me!”
Each of the uprisings of the Arab Spring has its own narrative and personality, and here in the mountains south of Tripoli, where Berber shepherds still tend flocks beside the crumbling walls of thousand-year-old granaries, the vibe is eager, confident, hopeful.
The rebels want to take Tripoli, they want to remove Gaddafi and his sons, but they don’t want to slaughter a lot of people to do it. That is, at least, what they say now.
“Because later, we will have to make a country together,” said Ibrahim Taher, a teacher who commands 130 men.
Members of the new city councils are as likely to quote Martin Luther King Jr. as the Koran. Rebel military commanders say they wish they didn’t have to shoot at fellow Libyans. They are slightly less squeamish about shooting at foreign fighters dragged into the conflict from poor nations such as Mali and Niger.
A common reason given for the slowness of the advance toward Tripoli?
“There are too many families in the way,” said Jamu Ibrahim, a top rebel leader in Zintan.
Whether this attitude will persist if fighting becomes more intense is hard to predict. But there are few calls for revenge or bloodletting. It is not unusual for rebel commanders to have been officers in Gaddafi’s military. Their troops accept them.
“Who knows Gaddafi best but the ones who served him? If they leave his army with pure hearts, we can use their help,” said Muftah Fitoure, a teacher who mans an antiaircraft gun, mounted in the bed of a pickup truck and repurposed to shoot horizontally. He says the first time he fired it was in battle.
Some days, it seems that half of the rebel leaders are engineers — and the other half are schoolteachers. “Most of our battalion are university graduates,” said Mabrouk Saleh, a lawyer who commands 130 men in Zintan, a center for the rebel forces, where 115 fighters have died in the five-month civil war.
With Gaddafi forces only a few miles away, there is very little yelling. Instead, there are invitations to lunch. The daytime heat is intense. Both forces nap in the afternoons and fight in the mornings and evenings.
The mountain rebels are conservative and devout; the soldiers pray at roadside berms, parade grounds and, on Fridays, at the mosque. But they do not follow firebrand clerics. “We are good Muslims, not crazy Muslims,” said Muhammad Ali, who spent his college years in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The rebels are not anti-American, but neither do they seem particularly in love with the United States. They said thank you very much when they heard the announcement last week by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the United States would recognize their Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya. And then they got back to pestering NATO to supply them with weapons and cash.
Life is harsh but beautiful in the Nafusa Mountains. The area looks like West Texas, but with camels and smaller pickup trucks. Water comes from wells, homes are concrete bunkers, and there is no cellphone service.
But there are newspapers now — produced with a photocopier — in every town in the high, rugged plateau where there were none before.
Asked what kind of government they would like to see if Gaddafi surrenders power, a member of the Jadu transitional government, the animated Salem Badrini, said, “First, we want a country of love, where all are equal, all the same. We all say these things: We want justice, democracy and freedom, no arguments, no problems, okay?”
That is a fairly typical answer.
The first radio station in Jadu began broadcasting a few weeks ago, airing news, talk, pop and propaganda. A young disc jockey reveled in his newfound freedom to play schmaltzy pop in the ancient Berber language Amazigh, forbidden under Gaddafi.
“It is like smelling freedom. We can say what we want, speak on the radio, everything is open to us now,” said Jalid Sifaw, director of Radio Free Nafusa, 89.1 FM, whose signal reaches listeners from Tunisia to Tripoli.
The station offers advice to Gaddafi soldiers who might be tuning in. “We tell them, ‘Hey guys, stop fighting us,’ ” Sifaw said.
And just recently, the station began giving rebel soldiers religious advice, telling them how to treat prisoners and warning against looting.
Rebels here were stung by a report last week from the group Human Rights Watch, which found that in four towns captured by rebels in the past month, rebel fighters burned homes; looted hospitals, homes and shops; and beat individuals alleged to have supported government forces.
“We want to live in the middle, not at the extremes,” said Nadia Haris, who founded an association in Jadu to support the rights of her fellow Berber women. The group asked the rebels not to show their weapons on the streets or fire them in the air.
“This has a psychological effect on the children,” Haris said. “Also we want to remind everyone, this is a civil place. We are not just about guns and fighting.”
Posted on 07/17/2011 10:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Heartening News From Syria: Alawites Take On Sunnis Right Near Iraq's Anbar Province
From The New York Times:
July 17, 2011
Syrian Forces Mass Near Town Where Many Soldiers Have Defected
By NADA BAKRI
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Security forces massed on Sunday near a key town in eastern Syria where dozens of soldiers have defected to join the four-month-old uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to activists and residents there.
At least 1,000 troops, some backed by tanks and others flown in on helicopters, descended on the town, Albokamal, which is near the border with Iraq and that nation’s Sunni Muslim heartland.
The Syrian forces surrounded the town and appeared to be preparing for a major military operation to quell dissent there, residents said.
Al-Watan, a pro-government newspaper, reported on Sunday that the situation in Albokamal was “explosive” and that the army was “preparing to intervene.”
It also said that the Syrian authorities feared the possibility of an armed revolt in the border town, where insurgents “can easily find logistical and political support.”
The military had largely stayed out of Albokamal, and Deir el-Zour, another town in northeastern Syria that is near Iraq, since antigovernment protests began in mid-March. Activists say the military has remained outside Albokamal because of fear that its presence there could ignite the anger of the region’s tribes.
The tribes wield great influence and have extended relations with tribes in the Iraqi province of Anbar, which endured some of the worst violence during Iraq’s sectarian insurgency.
Although Sunni Muslims make up the majority of Syria’s population, the Assad clan, which is part of the minority Alawite sect, has governed for four decades.
“I expect the regime to send more troops to seize the city and punish those soldiers who defected,” said a resident of Albokamal who arrived in Damascus on Sunday. “It will be a big mistake to let the army enter our city. We want democratic peaceful change, not a civil war.”
The troops arrived a day after the security forces and armed men in plain clothes killed five protesters in the town, including a 14-year-old boy. The killings angered residents, bringing thousands into the streets and overwhelming the security forces.
Residents said soldiers from at least four armored vehicles joined the popular uprising, along with dozens of personnel from Syria’s Air Force. Their accounts could not be independently verified, because the government has barred foreign journalists from entering the country. [so the Alawites allow Sunnis to be in the Air Force -- would they allow them, at this point, to get near planes? To maintain or fly them? What do you think?]
A video uploaded to YouTube, which was said to be from Albokamal, showed residents standing on two tanks and an armored personnel carrier and chanting, “The people and the army are one hand.” The slogan was widely heard during the Egyptian uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Also on Sunday, Syrian security forces stormed Zabadani, a town 25 miles northwest of Damascus and near the Lebanese border, cutting electricity, phone lines and Internet connections, activists said.
Posted on 07/17/2011 7:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Mom-And-Pop Quiz #2
Who is the most memorable person to have been born in Karachi in the last century, someone who, furthermore, spoke both Urdu and English from an early age?
Posted on 07/17/2011 7:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Egyptology Gains As Corrupt Clown Zaki Hawass Fired
Egypt's iconic antiquities chief fired
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's antiquities minister, whose trademark Indiana Jones hat made him one the country's best known figures around the world, was fired Sunday after months of pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of having been too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Zahi Hawass, long chided as publicity loving and short on scientific knowledge, lost his job along with about a dozen other ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to ease pressure from protesters seeking to purge remnants of Mubarak's regime.
"He was the Mubarak of antiquities," said Nora Shalaby, an activist and archaeologist. "He acted as if he owned Egypt's antiquities, and not that they belonged to the people of Egypt."
Despite the criticism, he was credited with helping boost interest in archaeology in Egypt and tourism, a pillar of the country's economy.
But after Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11 in a popular uprising, pressure began to build for him to step down.
Hawass was among a list of Cabinet ministers protesters wanted to see gone because they were associated with the former regime.
And archaeology students and professors blasted him for what they saw as his lack of serious research.
Shalaby said Hawass didn't tolerate criticism. She said most his finds were about self-promotion, with many "rediscoveries" in search of the limelight.
Hawass prided himself in being the "keeper and guardian" of Egypt's heritage. He told an Egyptian lifestyle magazine, Enigma, in 2009 that George Lucas, the maker of the "Indian Jones" films, had come to visit him in Egypt "to meet the real Indiana Jones."
Hawass, 64, started out as an inspector of antiquities in 1969 and rose to become one of the most recognizable names in Egyptology. He became the general director of antiquities at the Giza plateau in the late 1980s, before being named Egypt's top archaeologist in 2002.
In one of Mubarak's final official acts as president, Hawass' position was elevated to that of a Cabinet minister. After Mubarak's ouster, Hawass submitted his resignation but he was reinstated before finally being removed Sunday.
His name has been associated with most new archaeological digs in Egypt, with grand discoveries such as the excavation of the Valley of the Golden Mummies in Bahariya Oasis in 1999 and the discovery of the mummy of Egypt's Queen Hatshepsut almost a decade later.
He was also a staple on the Discovery Channel, which accompanied him on the find of Hatshepsut's mummy. He started his own reality show on the History Channel called "Chasing the Mummies." The channel introduces him as "the man behind the mummies."
Hawass has long campaigned to bring home ancient artifacts spirited out of the country during colonial times. He said since he became top archaeologist, he managed to recover 5,000 artifacts.
In January, just before anti-government protests erupted, he formally requested the return of the 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti that has been in a Berlin museum for decades.
Hawass also had a fashion line, including his hat, for which he organized a photo-shoot in the Egyptian Museum, something that drew the ire of many archeologists.
"He was a personality created by the media," said Abdel-Halim Abdel-Nour, the president of the Association of Egyptian Archeologists.
He said many campaigned for Hawass's removal, including on Facebook and in Tahrir Square, the center of Egypt's protests.
Just before news of his departure, Hawass was heckled near his office Sunday as he left on foot. Protesters tried to block his way, until he jumped into a taxi to get away from the melee, the taxi driver, Mohammed Abdu, said.
Hawass was replaced by Abdel-Fattah el-Banna, an associate professor in restoration. He was frequently present in Tahrir Square during the protests.
Posted on 07/17/2011 10:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald