Colin Atkinson was told he had ‘violated’ his contract by revealing he had been disciplined for having the symbol on the dashboard of his company van. Senior managers told the 64-year-old grandfather he could no longer work at the depot because he had ‘upset his workmates’. He has been moved to another depot but fears he will be sacked in days.
Despite Wakefield District Housing’s ‘anti-Christian’ rules, Mr Atkinson’s boss, Denis Doody, is allowed to display a poster of communist revolutionary Che Guevara in his office. It is believed Mr Doody is one of the ‘upset’ colleagues.
Mr Atkinson’s plight has been championed by senior church figures including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who said: ‘I think this is absolutely astonishing. This man has every right to stand up for his beliefs. It is clearly very important for him to have the cross in the cabin of his van. I hope that his bosses see that no good will come out of this.’
A Church of England spokesman said: ‘At this time of year the palm cross is a very potent symbol of the Christian faith and we would hope that these difficulties can be resolved.’
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, said: ‘You have to wonder if Mr Atkinson had displayed a symbol from another religion whether he would have been disciplined.’
Mr Atkinson’s ordeal began last year after bosses received an anonymous letter claiming tenants may be offended by the eight-inch cross in the van. Mr Atkinson and his Unite union rep had argued there was nothing in company rules prohibiting the cross. Hindu and Sikh colleagues appeared as witnesses in his defence.
WDH promotes its inclusive policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols – including burkas – at work.
A group called Muslims Against Crusades has applied for permission to protest outside Westminster Abbey on the day of the royal wedding, Scotland Yard said. The force said it had rejected the application by Muslims Against Crusades to stage the demonstration outside the historic venue on April 29.
But officers said they were in "on-going discussions" about whether demonstrations at other nearby locations would be blocked. Police have powers to ban any major protests along the main route that Prince William and his bride-to-be will take. But they are unable to rule out "static" protests taking place at other nearby locations in central London.
Officers have also been contacted by the English Defence League, which has warned it could protest as a result of the Muslims Against Crusades action. EDL leadership have confirmed via the EDL website that they have NOT made any request for a protest despite what is reported by the BBC. This is the press release issued 10 minutes ago.
The English Defence League (EDL) will not be counter protesting at the Royal Wedding against the Muslims Against Crusade member’s intent on disrupting the Royal Wedding.
The EDL will however be celebrating the Royal Wedding as general members of the public, not in EDL colours, . . .
The EDL also know which Mosques the leading MAC members attend and if they go ahead with their plans to disrupt the Royal Wedding then the EDL will protest at their Mosques.
Earlier this month Firebrand cleric Anjem Choudary warned that a terror attack is 'highly likely' at the Royal wedding. He told all Muslims to stay away from Westminster Abbey on April 29, describing it as 'a prime target'. "Maybe when the priest says "is there anyone who objects to this wedding speak now or forever hold your tongue" - who knows what will happen at that time?"
Choudhary says the disruption to the Royal wedding could include hardliners from the group setting fire to Union Jack flags.
The use of the phrase 'a group called' puts them in their place. Who are yer?
The school of thought among most members of the EDL is that MAC should not be countered on that day. Partly so that any trouble maring the celerbations is placed clearly at the door of islam, partly so that a wider audience can see the beliefs of that which menaces us and partly to give the public/police/servicemen on duty a chance to deal with them.
Government approves bill lifting emergency law, in place for 48 years, following demands by pro-democracy protesters.
April 19, 2011
Protesters have been calling for an end to emergency rule, which has been in place since 1963 [Reuters]
Syria's government has passed a bill lifting the country's emergency law, in place for 48 years, just hours after security forces fired on protesters.
Tuesday's move is a key demand of pro-reform demonstrators who have been holding protests across the country for weeks.
A senior lawyer said Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, was yet to sign the legislation, but that his signature was a formality.
According to the country's official SANA news agency the government also abolished the state security court, which handled the trials of political prisoners, and approved a new law allowing the right to peaceful protests.
However the interior ministry also passed a law that says citizens must obtain permission to demonstrate, the agency said, hours after the ministry imposed a total ban on political gatherings.
Syria's emergency law gave the government a free hand to arrest people without charge and extended the state's authority into virtually every aspect of citizens' lives.
Cal Perry, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Damascus, said the three steps were a major concession to protesters.
"The people on the ground here really wanted to see not only that court dissolved but also the state of emergency lifted because of these abitrary detentions, as they would put it.
"But the government is certainly going to draw a line between what they call peaceful protesting and an armed insurrection."
Hours before the decision, security forces had fired on protesters in the city of Hom, killing at least six people.
Rights groups say that more than 200 people have been killed in the protests which started in the southern city of Daraa one month ago, inspired by uprisings gripping Arab nations.
Whether Clinton, Bush or Obamaâ€™s DOJ-They Didnâ€™t Prosecute CAIR Given Compelling Evidence
Josh Gerstein’s POLITCO blog, “Under The Radar” has a follow up to the stunning expose by Patrick Poole in Pajamas Media about the Obama DOJ under Attorney General Holder not pursuing indictments against CAIR and the other leading Muslim Brotherhood fronts in America given the weight of evidence compiled on the record in the Holy Land Foundation trial and convictions in 2008 and released in 2009. Gerstein’s POLITICO blog post, Source: Bush Justice Department nixed CAIR indictment in 2004, while playing the ‘blame Bush game’ surfaces comments from Poole and Andy McCarthy, the former US Attorney and prosecutor of the 1993 first WTC bombing perpetrated by the Egyptian blind Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, that indicate that three successive White House Administrations had the opportunity to bring CAIR and its leaders to justice but gave the group a pass, despite compelling evidence to prosecute. The Bush Attorney General Ashcroft as Poole noted may have said “not now,’ while Obama AG Holder said “not ever.”
Poole had surfaced comments from senior DOJ sources about the efforts of Attorney General Holder to deny carrying out the recommendations by Judge Solis in the Holy Land Foundation trial and convictions.
Note these comments from the Gerstein POLITCO blog post;
Under President George W. Bush, the Justice Department considered and rejected criminal charges against the Council on American-Islamic Relations for alleged support of Hamas, a knowledgeable source told POLITICO Monday.
The decision not to indict CAIR came in 2004 as prosecutors in Dallas were preparing to seek an indictment of the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials, the source said. Some prosecutors wanted to include CAIR and others in the case at that time. However, senior Justice Department officials elected not to, the source said. (The Attorney General at the time was John Ashcroft.)
The disclosure of a Bush-era decision not to indict CAIR is noteworthy because some conservatives have alleged in recent days that a Justice Department decision last year to decline prosecution of CAIR, co-founder Omar Ahmad, and others was motivated by politics and a desire to preserve outreach efforts to U.S. Muslim groups.
Pajamas Media, which broke news of the 2010 decision last week, said the "indictments were scuttled last year at the direction of top-level political appointees within the Department of Justice (DOJ) — and possibly even the White House."
"This was a political decision from the get-go,” the source told Pajamas' Patrick Poole. "It was always the plan to initially go after the [Holy Land Foundation] leaders first and then go after the rest of the accomplices in a second round of prosecutions....We tried to do what we could during the Bush administration....To say things are different under Obama and Holder would be an understatement."
[. . .]
Poole told me Monday night that he was aware of discussion of prosecuting a broader case in 2004 and saw no conflict between what he reported and what my source told me.
"I have no doubt there was some discussion about whether we were going to try everybody" in 2004, Poole said. "I don’t think that at all contradicts what my source said. They decided to get the bigger fish after they convicted the smaller fish."
"'Not now' is quite different than what the Obama Justice Department said, which is 'Not ever,'" Poole added.
"Would it surprise me? No," McCarthy said Monday. "That was the time to do the case, then and there. They had the proof and when you have the proof you should do the case. Cases don't get better as they get more stale."
McCarthy noted, accurately, that he has unleashed withering criticism in his columns and books on the Bush, Obama and even Clinton administrations for allegedly coddling what he calls "Islamists."
"I've been screaming that they should bring these cases. I have not gone easy on the Bush administration. I'm not absolving the Bush administration of anything," McCarthy added, noting that elements in the Bush White House also wanted to pursue robust outreach efforts to U.S. Muslim groups that prosecutors believe have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. "These cases should have been done eons ago. This is a bipartisan problem."
McCarthy said it's possible that officials had legitimate strategic reasons for not indicting CAIR and others as part of the Holy Land Foundation case, which led to a hung jury on most charges in 2007 and a conviction of all five charged officials in 2008. However, the former prosecutor said desires to preserve relationships with groups in the Muslim community often color decisions about the scope of cases. So, too, do concerns about photos and stories emerging about government officials who held outreach or political meetings with the defendants, he said.
"There is a current of thought in government that you can sculpt cases and you're ostensibly doing it for strategic reasons but people frequently have an agenda not to embarrass themselves," McCarthy said.
[. . .]
It's unclear how much more information about CAIR and Ahmad the Justice Department had at the time of the 2010 decision not to prosecute versus what was in prosecutors' hands in 2004. Most if not all of the evidence they cited in court during the Holy Land case was already in the government's hands by 2004. The FBI and prosecutors did get a trove of internal CAIR records in 2009 via a grand jury subpoena delivered to an author who led an undercover sting of the group.
McCarthy also points out that the 2008 conviction of the Holy Land defendants was an indication that jurors accepted the general thrust of the government's case. And Poole notes that by 2010 prosecutors also had a judge's ruling that there was "ample evidence" linking CAIR and two other major U.S. Muslim organizations to Hamas.
Norman A. Stillman Reviews A Book on the Cairo Geniza:
Sacred Trash:The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole
Schocken/Nextbook, 304 pp., $26.95
In 1896, two Scottish sisters came to Solomon Schechter, then a Reader in Talmudic and Rabbinic Literature at Cambridge University, and showed him some moldy scraps of manuscript they had purchased in Egypt. Schechter immediately recognized them as fragments of the long-lost Hebrew original of the Apocryphal book of Ben Sira (known in the Christian tradition as Ecclesiasticus). Soon thereafter he rushed off to Cairo, where he found the enormous cache of discarded manuscripts that had been deposited in the geniza (a traditional storage place for worn or discarded Hebrew texts containing the Divine Name) of the Ben Ezra Synagogue of Fustat (Old Cairo).
The approximately 200,000 pieces he brought back to Cambridge constituted the largest collection of medieval Jewish documents ever assembled. What made the Cairo Geniza different from every other geniza was that it contained not only Hebrew and Aramaic religious writings, such as Torah scrolls, prayerbooks, and tefillin and mezuza parchments, but also secular materials in a several languages and scripts (mainly in Judeo-Arabic). Works of Jewish scholarship and literature that had been lost were rediscovered, and a formative period in Jewish history was illuminated. This was the age of the Exilarchs (Babylon-based "heads of the diaspora" who traced their lineage back to the royal House of David); of Jewish philosophers and theologians such as Saadya Gaon and Maimonides; of sublime poets from the Golden Age of Sephardic Hebrew letters such as Shmuel Hanagid and Yehuda Halevi, and of Jewish merchants who sailed back and forth across the Mediterranean and from Egypt to places as far as India and Ceylon.
The broad outlines of this tale of discovery and rescue are quite familiar, having been repeated in academic and semi-academic books and articles many times over. Scholars like Stefan Reif, the author of A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo, have done an excellent job of describing the collection in Cambridge and its significance for Jewish scholarship.But the real behind-the-scenes story of the Geniza and the Western scholars who retrieved and studied it is—not surprisingly—far more complicated and far more fascinating. It is also a very human story, as the husband-and-wife team of Peter Cole and Adina Hoffman show in their charming and unobtrusively erudite new book Sacred Trash.
Using published memoirs, unpublished diaries, personal correspondence, archival sources, and interviews with friends, families, students, and colleagues, Hoffman and Cole have produced colorful portraits of the Geniza scholars, their intellectual passions, their scholarly agendas and controversies, and in some cases, their personal egos and jealousies. Although they have adorned the cover of their book with the iconic and carefully self-staged photograph of Solomon Schechter, "a rabbinic version of Rodin's The Thinker," sitting and contemplating the Geniza treasure trove at Cambridge, they don't indulge in hagiography. They present him as a flesh-and-blood human being, a visionary scholar, a loving husband, a committed Jew, but also "a man of no small appetites" who could "orchestrate, on the sly, his Indiana Jones-like expedition to Egypt."
Hoffman and Cole are equally skillful in portraying other pioneer historians of the Geniza. Wisely, they devote an entire chapter to the great Shelomo Dov Goitein. As the authors rightly observe, if Schechter was the discoverer of the Cairo Geniza, Goitein was its "rediscoverer." While most of the work of scholars before Goitein had been devoted to the literary and spiritual texts of the Geniza, Goitein was the first to see the historical value of what many regarded as "worthless" material for the reconstruction of the lives of ordinary people. Basing himself on more than 25,000 seemingly humdrum documents that included merchants' correspondence, bills of lading, trousseau lists, communal and court records, deathbed wills and declarations (mainly in Judeo-Arabic), Goitein produced a panoramic five-volume study of Mediterranean life in the High Middle Ages entitled A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. It is one of the great achievements of historical and humanistic scholarship of the 20th century, a work that has shed a bright new light upon a little-known but formative period in Jewish history. Hoffman and Cole fully appreciate Goitein's significance, and also understand his special role as a teacher who trained or inspired an entire generation of scholars to continue studying the historical Geniza.
Hoffman and Cole devote as much attention to the spiritual and literary side of the Geniza as they do to the mundane. Cole himself is a noted poet and translator as well as the editor of the prize-winning anthology The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, and many of Sacred Trash's quotations from medieval Hebrew poetry represent his own translations. Cole and Hoffman's explanations of the nature of piyyut (Hebrew liturgical poetry)—both the earlier Byzantine and later Sephardic—nicely elucidate an extremely complicated subject for the non-specialist. The portraits of scholars such as Israel Davidson, Menahem Zulay, Hayyim Schirmann, and Ezra Fleischer, who devoted themselves to recovering, indentifying, and interpreting the enormous poetic corpus from the Geniza, are sensitively drawn and the nature of their individual contributions are given their due. Not only did they add to the repertoire of renowned poets such as Dunash ben Labrat, Solomon ibn Gabirol, and Moses ibn Ezra, but also retrieved the lost works of poets who were known by name only, such as Joseph ibn Abitur and Menahem ben Saruk. They also revealed the hitherto-unknown work of the only female poet so far found in the Geniza, the wife of Dunash ben Labrat. Her moving lament for her absent husband still moves the reader eleven centuries later:
Will her love remember his graceful doe,
her only son in her arms as he parted?
On her left hand he placed a ring from his right,
on his wrist she placed his bracelet.
As a keepsake she took his mantle from him,
and he in turn took hers from her.
If the authors' rendition of Hebrew verse is exquisite, their expository prose is charmingly breezy. They describe a palimpsest "as a kind of medieval Etch A Sketch pad," and quite rightly compare some of the work of Geniza scholars to the popular television gameshow Jeopardy!, where the answer is provided, and the trick is to come up with the question that prompted it. Though aimed at the wider public, Sacred Trash has much to satisfy the academic reader as well. The authors' grasp of the scholarly issues in Geniza research and the rich, discursive endnotes show that they have read a great deal of the academic literature in Hebrew and English. Most readers will skip the endnotes, but they are well worth reading for anyone who wants to pursue the topic.
Hoffman and Cole have fittingly chosen to end their account of the founding fathers of Geniza research with Goitein. However, in a brief Afterword, they survey some of the recent scholarly trends, including the study of magic texts, and ongoing efforts to preserve and digitize the documents. The Cairo Geniza's "sacred trash" will continue to yield historical treasure for quite some time.
Samuel L. Jackson: "I'm Sorry -- Did I Spoil Your Concentration?"
9 April 2011
US air controller suspended after watching film at work
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said he was "infuriated" by the mishaps involving controllers
A US air traffic controller has been suspended for watching a film when he was supposed to be monitoring aircraft, in the wake of a series of reports of controllers sleeping at work.
The incident occurred on Sunday at a radar centre in Oberlin in Ohio, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The worker's microphone inadvertently transmitted the movie's audio to all nearby planes, the FAA said.
The FAA has suspended nine controllers and supervisors since late March.
Former FAA chief Hank Krakowski, who oversaw the day-to-day operations of 15,000 controllers at 400 airports, resigned last week.
In the latest incident, the transmission of the audio - from the 2007 movie Cleaner, starring Samuel L Jackson - apparently prevented the controller from hearing radio calls or issuing instructions to aircraft.
The transmission to all aircraft in the airspace the worker was supposed to be monitoring lasted three minutes, the FAA said in a statement on Monday.
The controller - who was using a DVD player - learned of the mishap early on Sunday when he was contacted by a military pilot, the FAA said. The administration has suspended the controller and a manager at the centre.
Sleeping at work
The day before the incident, a controller fell asleep while working an overnight shift at regional radar facility in Miami in the state of Florida.
The FAA has suspended a total of nine controllers and supervisors since late March over incidents involving workers sleeping on the job.
Almost all of the incidents occurred during overnight shifts.
Early on Monday, before the air traffic control agency disclosed the incident in Ohio, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said he was "infuriated" that air traffic controllers had been caught sleeping at work recently.
"None of us in this business can... tolerate any of this," Mr Babbitt said.
"It absolutely has to stop," he added.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has expressed his concern about the incidents in a series of television interviews during the past several days.
The head of the FAA, Hank Krakowski, who oversaw the day-to-day operations of 15,000 controllers at 400 airports, resigned on Thursday.
The agency has recently said it will require controllers to have an extra hour off between shifts.
After the changes take effect, controllers will have a minimum of nine hours off between shifts - an increase from the current minimum of eight.
Lampedusa, arrivato un barcone
con 760 migranti a bordo
Tra di loro ci sono 63 donne (molte incinte) e 7 bambini, alcuni dei quali neonati
MILANO - Non si fermano gli sbarchi di immigrati a Lampedusa. Sono circa 760, i migranti sul barcone approdato circa un'ora fa a Lampedusa, dopo essere stato soccorso dalle motovedette della Guardia costiera.Tra di loro 63 donne (molte incinte) e 7 bambini, alcuni dei quali neonati.
ARRIVATI DALLA LIBIA - Sono sbarcati dalla «carretta», un vecchio motopesca in ferro di circa 25 metri, profughi che hanno detto di essere partiti due giorni fa dalla Libia. È uno degli sbarchi più numerosi mai registrati sull'isola.
I SOCCORSI - Per assistere i migranti sono al lavoro 26 volontari della Croce rossa italiana, tra cui il direttore sanitario Fabio Romitelli, 3 medici, 8 infermieri e personale addetto alla logistica. «Con i nostri volontari - spiega Fabio Romitelli - abbiamo prestato soccorso immediato al molo, al momento dello sbarco, e al posto medico avanzato della Cri, dove abbiamo effettuato 27 prestazioni sanitarie. I migranti presentano sintomi di ipotermia, disidratazione, patologie addominali, traumi toracici, diabete scompensato. La Croce rossa italiana ha assicurato loro il triage e la stabilizzazione dei parametri clinici».
Monty Python's revolutionaries demanded the right for men to have babies. They can't, but that isn't the point. And being the point isn't the point.
Decades later, life imitates art, indeed it goes one better. David Thompson:
AC1 and the mighty Iowahawk steer us to an item of possible interest over at Feministing, where ideological extremity is the currency of status, and where Lori Adelman tells us,
Why I won’t be talking about abortion as a “women’s issue” anymore.
Readers hoping that the issue might be opened up as one also involving the male partners of women who choose abortion will, I fear, be disappointed. The ladies at Feministing have repeatedly made their feelings on that subject quite clear. Male grief at the loss of a child-to-be is - and can only be - “inauthentic,” “illegitimate” and an artefact of the all-powerful patriarchy. For a man to feel he has lost a child due to his partner’s termination is “appalling,” a “fantasy” and not to be “pandered” to.
Instead, Ms Adelman has stumbled across something much more pressing. Something that is,
Tangible, practical, and incredibly straightforward that we can all start doing right now to strengthen our trans activism and our reproductive justice work.
Those practical and straightforward steps include,
Stop saying and stop thinking that abortion is a women’s issue. That’s it. Pretty simple right? But incredibly important.
Why so, you ask?
Cause, the thing is, it’s not just women that have abortions.
She is of course referring to the world-shaking insights of activist and gender trendsetter Jos Truitt, whose ponderings reveal,
Trans men have abortions. Gender queer people have abortions. Two spirit people have abortions. People who do not fit into the box of ‘woman’ have abortions. That’s the reality we live in.
Reality is a subject to which Ms Truitt refers on more than one occasion. Hers, though, appears to have features not commonly recognised:
The reality that men can have abortions, men can get pregnant and give birth.
News that may astound our more buttoned-down, stuffy and patriarchal readers. Indeed, several Feministing commenters anticipate such reservations:
Obviously, we’ll never have the support of the conservative right.
Others strike a more optimistic note:
To get people on board… they need to be educated.
Jos Truitt can be seen here educating an audience with tremendously deep and radical thought, thereby confirming Hampshire College’s status as a “radical space.” We learn, shockingly, that sex change surgery from female to male typically entails the patient losing the ability to bear children. This is described by Ms Truitt as “an issue of eugenics” and an affront to “reproductive justice.” Rather than, say, an obvious consequence of choosing to have the necessary organs removed in order to become more like the gender that, by definition, doesn’t bear children. Presumably a woman who feels male and wishes to undergo extreme surgery to gain some semblance of physical maleness should also retain a functional uterus and associated organs, perhaps cleverly connected to a decorative penis. An intriguing challenge for any ambitious surgeon.
Sharp-eyed readers may note that despite railing against the heinous “gender binary” that apparently oppresses all of us, Ms Truitt still chooses to present herself as an ostensibly female person. (Note, however, that Ms Truitt isn’t the panellist wearing the fetching little princess crown.) When not telling us about reality and how it really is, Jos Truitt enjoys bike-riding, bread making and “producing colourful abstract images about her gender identity.”
Double the trouble and twice the fun in our bookshops. Thanks to Lugo - both of them - for providing a link (or two) to an explanation of the term "two-spirit people", about which I was in two minds, or possibly four. One world, one hyphen, two sets of spirits:
Two-Spirit People (also Two Spirit or Twospirit), an English term that emerged in 1990 out of the third annual inter-tribal Native American/First Nations gay/lesbian American conference in Winnipeg, describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups. The mixed gender roles encompassed by the term historically included wearing the clothing and performing the work associated with both men and women.
A direct translation of the Ojibwe term, Niizh manidoowag, "two-spirited" or "two-spirit" is usually used to indicate a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit and a feminine spirit. The term can also be used more abstractly, to indicate presence of two contrasting human spirits (such as Warrior and Clan Mother) or two contrasting animal spirits (which, depending on the culture, might be Eagle and Coyote). However, these uses, while descriptive of some aboriginal cultural practices and beliefs, depart somewhat from the 1990 purposes of promoting the term.
According to Brian Joseph Gilly, the presence of male two-spirits "was a fundamental institution among most tribal peoples." Will Roscoe writes that male and female two-spirits have been "documented in over 130 tribes, in every region of North America, among every type of native culture.
The animals came in two by two, the two-spirit people four by four. Two more rivers, and both the rivers of Jordan .... Re-double your efforts and keep up.
Russ Baker at Business Insider comments on Tom Friedman, Greg Mortenson, and the practice of journalism:
Tom Friedman on July 19, 2009:
I confess, I find it hard to come to Afghanistan and not ask: Why are we here? Who cares about the Taliban? Al Qaeda is gone. And if its leaders come back, well, that’s why God created cruise missiles.
But every time I start writing that column, something stills my hand. This week it was something very powerful. I watched Greg Mortenson, the famed author of “Three Cups of Tea,” open one of his schools for girls in this remote Afghan village in the Hindu Kush mountains. I must say, after witnessing the delight in the faces of those little Afghan girls crowded three to a desk waiting to learn, I found it very hard to write, “Let’s just get out of here.”
Let’s just pause here for a moment for a summary of the story that CBS 60 Minutes ran April 17:
Greg Mortenson is a former mountain climber, best-selling author, humanitarian, and philanthropist. His non-profit organization, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), is dedicated to promoting education, especially for girls, in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and according to its website, has established more than 140 schools there.
President Obama donated $100,000 to the group from the proceeds of his Nobel Prize. Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea, has sold more than four million copies and is required reading for U.S. servicemen bound for Afghanistan.
But last fall, we began investigating complaints from former donors, board members, staffers, and charity watchdogs about Mortenson and the way he is running his non-profit organization. And we found there are serious questions about how millions of dollars have been spent, whether Mortenson is personally benefiting, and whether some of the most dramatic and inspiring stories in his books are even true.
Greg Mortenson’s books have made him a publishing phenomenon and sought-after speaker on the lecture circuit, where he has attained a cult-like status. He regularly draws crowds of several thousand people and $30,000 per engagement.
And everywhere Mortenson goes, he brings an inspirational message built around a story that forms the cornerstone of Three Cups of Tea and his various ventures – how, in 1993, he tried and failed to reach the summit of K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, to honor his dead sister, how he got lost and separated from his party on the descent and stumbled into a tiny village called Korphe.
Greg Mortenson (speaking on big T.V. screen): My pants were ripped in half and I hadn’t taken a bath in 84 days.
Mortenson (in T.V. interview): And I stumbled into a little village called Korphe, where I was befriended by the people and…
Mortenson (in another T.V. interview): They gave me everything they had: their yak butter, their tea. They put warm blankets over me, and they helped nurse me back to health.
Mortenson tells how he discovered 84 children in the back of the village writing their school lessons with sticks in the dust.
Mortenson (speaking on stage): And when a young girl named Chocho came up to me and said…
Mortenson (speaking on another stage): Can you help us build a school? I made a rash promise that day and I said, “I promise I’ll help build a school.” Little did I know it would change my life forever.
It’s a powerful and heart-warming tale that has motivated millions of people to buy his book and contribute nearly $60 million to his charity.
Jon Krakauer: It’s a beautiful story, and it’s a lie.
Jon Krakauer is also a best-selling author and mountaineer, who wrote Into Thin Air and Into The Wild. He was one of Mortenson’s earliest backers, donating $75,000 to his non-profit organization.
But after a few years, Krakauer says he withdrew his support over concerns that the charity was being mismanaged, and he later learned that the Korphe tale that launched Mortenson into prominence was simply not true.
Steve Kroft: Did he stumble into this village weak in a weakened state?
Krakauer: Absolutely not.
Kroft: Nobody helped him out. And nursed him back to health.
Krakauer: Absolutely not. I have spoken to one of his companions, a close friend, who hiked out from K2 with him and this companion said Greg never heard of Korphe till a year later.
Strangely enough, Krakauer’s version of events is backed up by Greg Mortenson himself, in his earliest telling of the story. In an article he wrote for the newsletter of The American Himalayan Foundation after his descent from K2, Mortenson makes no mention of his experience in Korphe, although he did write that he hoped to build a school in another village called Khane.
To get the full import of the revelations, including how many of the purported schools Mortenson helped are actually empty, or don’t exist, or say they got no help from him, and how Mortenson allegedly transformed villagers who were helping him into Taliban who had kidnapped him, you need to watch the full 60 Minutes segment.
Ok, back to journalist Thomas Friedman:
Indeed, Mortenson’s efforts remind us what the essence of the “war on terrorism” is about. It’s about the war of ideas within Islam — a war between religious zealots who glorify martyrdom and want to keep Islam untouched by modernity and isolated from other faiths, with its women disempowered, and those who want to embrace modernity, open Islam to new ideas and empower Muslim women as much as men. America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were, in part, an effort to create the space for the Muslim progressives to fight and win so that the real engine of change, something that takes nine months and 21 years to produce — a new generation — can be educated and raised differently.
Which is why it was no accident that Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — spent half a day in order to reach Mortenson’s newest school and cut the ribbon. Getting there was fun. Our Chinook helicopter threaded its way between mountain peaks, from Kabul up through the Panjshir Valley, before landing in a cloud of dust at the village of Pushghar. Imagine if someone put a new, one-story school on the moon, and you’ll appreciate the rocky desolateness of this landscape.
But there, out front, was Mortenson, dressed in traditional Afghan garb. He was surrounded by bearded village elders and scores of young Afghan boys and girls, who were agog at the helicopter, and not quite believing that America’s “warrior chief” — as Admiral Mullen’s title was loosely translated into Urdu — was coming to open the new school.
While the admiral passed out notebooks, Mortenson told me why he has devoted his life to building 131 secular schools for girls in Pakistan and another 48 in Afghanistan: “The money is money well spent. These are secular schools that will bring a new generation of kids that will have a broader view of the world. We focus on areas where there is no education. Religious extremism flourishes in areas of isolation and conflict.
…It is no accident, Mortenson noted, that since 2007, the Taliban and its allies have bombed, burned or shut down more than 640 schools in Afghanistan and 350 schools in Pakistan, of which about 80 percent are schools for girls. This valley, controlled by Tajik fighters, is secure, but down south in Helmand Province, where the worst fighting is today, the deputy minister of education said that Taliban extremists have shut 75 of the 228 schools in the last year. This is the real war of ideas. The Taliban want public mosques, not public schools. The Muslim militants recruit among the illiterate and impoverished in society, so the more of them the better, said Mortenson.
This new school teaches grades one through six. I asked some girls through an interpreter what they wanted to be when they grow up: “Teacher,” shouted one. “Doctor,” shouted another. Living here, those are the only two educated role models these girls encounter. Where were they going to school before Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute and the U.S. State Department joined with the village elders to get this secular public school built? “The mosque,” the girls said.
Mortenson said he was originally critical of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s changed his views: “The U.S. military has gone through a huge learning curve. They really get it. It’s all about building relationships from the ground up, listening more and serving the people of Afghanistan.”
So there you have it. In grand strategic terms, I still don’t know if this Afghan war makes sense anymore. I was dubious before I arrived, and I still am. But when you see two little Afghan girls crouched on the front steps of their new school, clutching tightly with both arms the notebooks handed to them by a U.S. admiral — as if they were their first dolls — it’s hard to say: “Let’s just walk away.” Not yet.
It does seem, at times like this, that we ought not simply treat matters like the Mortenson Affair as isolated cases, with the suddenly-embarrassing fellow hastily shown the door, nervous coughs all around.
We need to examine the uses of major media for propaganda purposes, and what responsibility, if any, host publications have to consider the impact of giving such propaganda their platform, without any due diligence.
Vietnam, after all, was not really all that long ago. And, as CBS noted in its report, those who knew Mortenson well, including staff, board members, and others, had been saying for many years that something was deeply wrong.
VENTIMIGLIA, Italy — In the American Bar, across the square from the train station here, they have had enough. “The Tunisians are everywhere,” the waitress said. “It’s been like this for a month. They sleep in the station and on the streets, and we’ve lost a lot of customers.”
Mara Scasso, an emergency room nurse, said she had never seen so many police officers in this western edge of Italy, on the French border. “Helping the refugees is a moral duty,” she said. “But here we have one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy; it’s a dead zone. I don’t see how we can help them.”
Thirty yards away, about 70 young Tunisian men sat around the lip of a dry fountain in Piazza Battisti, drinking coffee, asking for money and giving interviews. Some of them have been sent between Italy and France several times, and the police and immigration officers carefully monitor the trains and stations on the Riviera tourist route between Nice, Menton and Ventimiglia, stopping every young man who looks Tunisian.These young men — there are no women — are a kind of Ping-Pong ball in a French-Italian political soap opera: economic migrants from a newly free but chaotic Tunisia who have dared the seas to find opportunity in a European Union that does not want them.
Italy has started issuing temporary six-month residence permits to Tunisians who arrived before April 5, saying that European Union rules under the Schengen treaty, which allows passport-free travel, would let them travel into France and elsewhere. The French are turning many of them back if they lack other documentation or sufficient money, or if they simply cannot satisfactorily explain, at least to officials, the nature and duration of their visit. As a French policeman in the Nice train station said of the permits, “The Italians have created a beautiful stupidity.”
But the Italians feel put upon, given their proximity to Tunisia and the arrival of some 25,700 Tunisian refugees this year, and they are worried about an even larger influx from Libya. They are asking for “European solidarity” from a European Union that has no uniform policy on economic migrants, refugees or even political asylum, and some Italian politicians have even threatened, idly, to quit the European Union if it does not help Italy with the influx. But the Italians are most angry with France, which is where most of the Tunisians say they want to go. [there needs to be two thngs: 1) a naval blockade that will keep boats from arriving from North Africa and 2) a strip of land, somewhere in LIbya, guarded by NATO forces, to which all civilians who claim they are threatened can go to, and remain in until they feel safe enough to return to their homes in Libya -- or can be repatriated to their African and Asian countries of origin. And those are the only things that NATO ought to be doing.]
As Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told the daily La Repubblica: “The problem of immigration is becoming a bit like the nuclear issue. Everyone wants to say something about it, but no one wants it in their backyard.”
Mohamed Haddaji is a good example. In January, he paid about $2,100 to travel to Lampedusa, an Italian island near Tunisia, on a small boat. Single and 25, he worked in a Tunis bakery, but with the collapse of state authority he took his chance to go to France, where he has family, he said, to have a better life.
The Italian authorities are pleasant, he said; the French are not. “We sleep in the streets in France,” he said. He came with $1,400; he is decently dressed and has various phone cards in his wallet for Tunisia, Italy and France. Like his friend Jalel, 23, he says he wants to earn money and return to Tunisia.[only a fool would believe a word of this desire-promise to "return to Tunisia"]
But he has no papers, except for a card with his name and photograph from an Italian charity, and the French police told him to go back to Italy to get some. Even if he gets a six-month residency card and can show the French a valid train ticket from Italy, he may still get sent back, said Francis Lamy, the prefect of France’s Alpes-Maritimes department.
The French police have the right and duty, Mr. Lamy said in an interview in Nice, to ask a foreigner “to justify the reason for his visit and the duration, and to demonstrate the means to pay for this stay,” he said — usually $88 a day. “If the person acts suspicious or the answers are not satisfactory, the state can, under Schengen, send the person back, in this case to Italy, and Italy has an obligation to retake him.”
Mr. Lamy has told police officers under his command — as well as the 240 in three mobile units sent from Paris to help him deal with the Tunisians — “to follow the rules strictly.” Those rules, he said, along with a new French security law passed last month, allow officers within 12 miles of the border to stop people for identity and security checks if they are suspected of violating the law, crossing illegally or smuggling.
The police have arrested 100 human traffickers, Mr. Lamy said. In March alone, he said, French authorities arrested 2,800 foreigners, nearly all Tunisian, of whom 1,700 were expelled from France. Of those, 1,450 were returned to Italy, and some 250 were returned directly to Tunisia. There was not a single woman or application for political asylum, he said, insisting that each case is treated separately and with judicial oversight.
Just this week, said a worker for the state-financed legal aid group, Forum Réfugiés, Tunisians who first came to her for help a month ago had been told to return to Italy to get papers. When they re-enter France, even with the papers, they are sent back to Italy for not having enough money. “Normally to have an identity check, the police need suspicion of an infraction,” said the worker, Maud, who works in a state detention center in Nice and asked that her last name not be used. “Today there is racial profiling.” [no, but this line fits what the reporters, and the Times, wants us always to think about -- race, racism, racists, instead of grasping the nature of minds and hearts on Islam]
There is significant political pressure on both sets of police from their governments, which loudly denounce illegal immigration and seem less than rigorous in applying European Union regulations that forbid racial profiling, though they deny it. [it is not racial, but ideological, profiling, and the writers know this perfectly well]
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, unpopular in opinion polls, has taken a strong anti-immigrant stance, personified by his new interior minister, Claude Guéant, who says France also wants to cut legal immigration.
Italy’s coalition government gets support from the Northern League, which runs on an anti-immigration platform, while Mr. Sarkozy “has a similar problem” with the far-right National Front. “And in a moment when presidential elections are looming, he cannot afford to be seen as weak in immigration,” said Marta Dassu, director of Aspen Institute Italia, a research group.
A good example of the tensions and hyperbole over the issue erupted on Sunday, when the French prefect, Mr. Lamy, asked the state railway company to halt trains from Ventimiglia to France because of a planned demonstration supporting the Tunisians. He acted on his own, he said, because he had evidence from his Italian counterpart that the protesters, who had no permit to demonstrate and included a group of “possibly 50 violent activists,” presented “a serious risk to public order.”
Italy reacted angrily, sending its ambassador in Paris to protest what it said was a border closing in violation of European Union laws and principles. In the end, the disruption of train traffic lasted only several hours, and the European Union said France had acted correctly.
But the issue remains hot. Christian Estrosi, the deputy mayor of Nice and a legislator from Mr. Sarkozy’s party, said, “It is a little too easy for Italy to be generous with the territory of others.”
At the dry fountain in Ventimiglia, a young man named Ali was spinning tales about Tunisia, claiming to be the brother of the vegetable seller who immolated himself and set off the Tunisian revolution, and then asking for money. “The Europeans are racist,” he said angrily. “They don’t like the Arabs.”
"The large-scale presence of Muslims in the Lands of the Infidels has brought about a situation, for those indigenous Infidels (and also for other non-indigenous arrivals, non-Muslim immigrants), that is unpleasant, expensive (the costs of monitoring, the costs of security, spiralling ever upward), and physically dangerous."
Or express it just a bit differently:
"The large-scale presence of Muslims in [your Western country here] has created a situation, for the indigenous non-Muslims, and also for non-Muslim immigrants, that is far more unpleasant, expensive and physically dangerous than would be the case without that large-scale presence."
Oh, say it any way you please.
But you can't deny this, can you?
Of course you can't.
Now, from this melancholy and undeniable conclusion, work to formulate a policy, for the Western world, that will halt, and reverse, this presence. Don't be timid. But none of this "be good sweet maid and let who will be clever." No time for that. You be clever. You figure it out.
A senior Iranian official admitted that the Stuxnet malware, which infected tens of thousands of computers and servers used in Iran's nuclear weapons complex inflicted serious damage on Iran's nuclear program, including large-scale accidents and loss of life
Jalali heads of the Iranian Passive Defense Organization /
A senior Iranian official admitted that the Stuxnet malware, which infected tens of thousands of computers and servers used in Iran’s nuclear weapons complex inflicted serious damage on Iran’s nuclear program, including large-scale accidents and loss of life.
Some of these computers controlled operations at uranium-enrichment centrifuge farms, others were controlling operations at the Bushehr nuclear reactor, where Iran will be producing plutonium for nuclear weapons. The Silicon Valley Mercury News reports that on Saturday, Gholam Reza Jalali, head of a military unit in charge of combatting sabotage, said Iranian experts have determined that the United States and Israel were behind Stuxnet, which can take over the control systems of industrial sites like power plants.
Jalali said Iranian computer experts had averted even more serious and costly accidents.
In recent weeks, Iranian media reported about dozens of large-scale accidents and explosions in Iran’s industrial sites, especially facilities dealing with oil and petrochemicals. Iran reported at least ten deaths in these explosions.
“Enemies have attacked industrial infrastructure and undermined industrial production through cyber attacks. This was a hostile action against our country,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Jalali as saying. “If it had not been confronted on time, much material damage and human loss could have been inflicted.”
Jalali also blamed the German engineering conglomerate Siemens, the equipment and software of which is used at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, where technical issues have halted its planned startup.
“Siemens should explain why and how it provided the enemies with the codes of the SCADA software and paved the way for a cyber attack against us,” IRNA quoted him as saying.