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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 21, 2012.
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Mrs McMenemy ~ 'We can start to grieve for Alan properly'

From the Herald Scotland

The widow of murdered hostage Alan McMenemy said she will now be able to grieve properly for her husband after his body was finally handed back to the British authorities, some 1700 days after he was kidnapped in Iraq. Alan McMenemy, 34, from Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, was one of four British bodyguards seized during an ambush at a government building in Bagdad in May 2007.

Their protection target, IT consultant Peter Moore, was also kidnapped but lived through the ordeal which saw the men blindfolded, tortured and subjected to frequent mock executions at the hands of their captors. The return of Mr McMenemy's body comes more than two years after Mr Moore and the remains of his colleagues were released by the militia.

Roseleen McMenemy spoke last night of the "terrible uncertainty and distress" she and her family has endured. We now know that we will shortly have Alan home again, this will allow us to properly grieve for him and we will draw some comfort from the fact that we have him home at last. I would like to thank my wider family, all our friends, colleagues, the many organisations and others too numerous to name who have stood with us over this most difficult of times. Without their support we would not have made it through these dark days. I would respectfully ask that we as a family are allowed the space and time to grieve in our own way, and if at all possible to attempt to return to some form of normal life."

An inquest held last year returned a verdict of unlawful killing into the three other hostages, with the coroner rejecting claims they died trying to flee their captors, given their injuries and the fact that two of the bodies were returned bound at the ankles and wrists.

Last night Prime Minister David Cameron said of Mr McMenemy's family: "They have waited so long for his return and I hope that this will allow them to find some peace after an ordeal that no family should ever have to suffer. At this time we should also take time to remember the families of Margaret Hassan and Ken Bigley who are still waiting for the return of their loved ones."

Ms Hassan, was abducted and shot dead in Baghdad in 2004 and Mr Bigley, an engineer, was beheaded the same year.

Posted on 01/21/2012 5:12 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Obligatory Courage

Courage is a virtue and heroism is admirable, but do we have a right to demand them? Which of us cannot look back on his or her own life and remember decisions, or compromises made, or silences kept because of cowardice, even when the penalties for courage were negligible?

If we are cowardly in small things, shall we be brave in large? Have we the right to point the finger until we have been tested ourselves? When we read of the seemingly lamentable conduct of the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, who left his passengers to their fate, do we say, “There but for the grace of God go I”?

Of course, leadership entails an obligation to be courageous – morally, physically or both. It is the price of leadership; it is why leaders are more highly regarded and rewarded than the rest of us. But even subordinates in certain professions have the duty to be brave, as the rest of us do not. A soldier is expected unquestioningly to put himself in the way of bullets as a civilian is not.

I have witnessed some very fine instances of bravery. Once, as a junior doctor, I was walking through the hospital grounds when I noticed a patient sitting on a bench slashing his wrists with a broken bottle of vodka whose contents he had just drunk. I asked him to come into the hospital where I could sew him up (sobering him up was beyond my powers). He refused and I went to fetch a porter to drag him in by force.

By the time we returned, he had climbed up the fire escape (it was a Victorian building) and clambered over the railings on to a narrow ledge three storeys up, on which he was swaying drunkenly. The porter and I went up the fire escape: the man threatened to jump if we came nearer.

We decided we had to make a grab for him; as we did so, he jumped. We held him suspended by his arms three storeys up. First he shouted, “Let me go, you bastards!” and then, “Help, I’m falling!” – a metaphor for the whole of human life, when you come to think of it.

We were not strong enough to haul him over the ledge or even to hang on to him for long. By the luckiest chance, two policemen arrived at the hospital and, hearing the commotion and grasping the situation, they rushed up the fire escape to our assistance. Without a moment’s hesitation, they climbed on to the ledge themselves and hauled the man to safety. If he had put up the slightest struggle, they would all three have fallen to their deaths.

They brushed away my commendation, and even my thanks; in their own opinion, they had only done their duty, what they were expected, and expected themselves, to do. Of course, if they had done otherwise, a man’s life would have been lost, and four men would have been prey to a lifetime of painful self-examination. The policemen would have wondered whether they should have saved the man; the porter and I would have wondered whether, in grabbing the man, we had acted recklessly and irresponsibly.

I witnessed another instance of great bravery many years later, when times were changed. It was in the prison in which I worked as a doctor. A prisoner set fire to his mattress in his cell, and years of research by the Home Office seemed to have gone into disproving the old saying that there is no smoke without fire, for the mattress produced the thickest, most acrid, black smoke that I have ever encountered, without much in the way of flame. Moreover, the building being very new and expensive, the architect had omitted to consider the question of ventilation that would allow smoke to escape in the event of fire – unlike Victorian architects. The prison was a penal Costa Concordia.

With no thought for his own safety, a prison officer entered the cell and pulled the prisoner to safety. I have no doubt that he saved the man’s life. As I sent the officer to hospital to be treated for possible smoke inhalation, I praised him highly and said I expected he would receive an official commendation.

He smiled pityingly at my naivety and said: “A reprimand more likely.” And so it proved: he had not followed procedure, which was to leave it for the fire brigade. The man would have been dead, of course, but at least the official inquiry afterwards could have been assured that he died by the book, that procedure had been followed.

A world in which a man can be reprimanded for bravely saving another’s life is not propitious for the widespread practice of bravery. Virtues tend to disappear in the dissolving acid of rationality.

What, then, might Captain Schettino say in his defence? Let us, for the sake of argument, leave aside the possibility that the whole disaster was an error of his seamanship, and suppose instead that it was what some people call “one of those things”.

In a world used to the utilitarian zeitgeist, he might say that if he had stayed on board and gone down with his ship, nobody who died would have been spared. We imagine a captain on his deck, as he slips under the waves, but this is quixotic romanticism if in fact no one is saved. A captain’s life is worth as much as anyone else’s; nobody’s interest is served by his needless death.

Can we be sure that if Captain Schettino had kept calm and carried on, fewer people would have died? Can it be wholly his fault if the crew were not properly trained and members of it were not even able to communicate with each other, let alone with all the passengers? He could, of course, have refused his command: but how many of us resign our jobs on a matter of principle? If we were to do so, the unemployment rate would be nearly 100 per cent.

All this is special pleading, ex post facto rationalisation. Before the event, the captain accepted his own authority without difficulty or reservation. He was, however, tried and found wanting, perhaps for reasons partly personal but perhaps partly cultural: not because he was Italian but because he was modern – that is to say, without an unthinking allegiance to a standard of conduct that in some circumstances might be, or might appear, ridiculous or counterproductive but in others is essential to the performance of difficult duty.

Hard cases make bad law and even worse sociology, though they are the stock in trade of philosophy, and there is no wickedness or weakness under the sun that is without precedent. Captain Schettino’s story appears human, all too human: possibly a vainglorious man (but there are worse crimes than vainglory) who panicked at the one crucial moment of his career, and who will now spend the rest of his life in a state of bitter remorse and regret.

Could he have known in advance that he was not up to the mark, that no man was less fitted than he for such an emergency? I hope it is not taken for lack of sympathy for the victims and their relations to say that, on the scale of human monstrosity, the captain does not climb very high. His place on the scale of human weakness is another matter.

As it happens, one of the great books of our literature, Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, deals with a similar case. The hero, if that is quite the word for him, is mate on an old rust bucket that is taking 800 Muslim pilgrims to Arabia. The boat sinks and Jim saves his skin, an act of cowardice for which he pays for the rest of his life. Marlow, the narrator of the story, describes his fate in words that resonate today:

“Nothing more awful than to watch a man who has been found out, not in a crime but in a more than criminal weakness. The commonest sort of fortitude prevents us from becoming criminals in the legal sense; it is from weakness unknown, but perhaps suspected, as in some parts of the world you suspect a deadly snake in every bush – from weakness that may lie hidden, watched or unwatched, prayed against or manfully scorned, repressed or maybe ignored more than half a lifetime, not one of us is safe.”

First published in The Telegaph.

Posted on 01/21/2012 6:18 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Saturday, 21 January 2012
IDF Arrests Hamas Speaker of PA Parliament Who Met UC Irvine Students


Hamas PA Parliament Speaker Aziz Dweik

On Thursday, the IDF arrested the Hamas Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, Aziz Dweik near Ramallah.  Dweik had been detained by the IDF in 2006. Dweik had figured prominently in the controversial Olive Tree Initiative at U.C. Irvine, when students had met students had met with Dweik during a visit to the West Bank  in 2009.  Orange County Jewish activist, Dee Sterling of Ha-Emet, the Truth had discovered through a California Public Records search evidenced that a Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC) affiliate, the Rose Project, had funded the Olive Tree Initiative program at U.C. Irvine.

Here is the Jerusalem Post report on Dweik’s arrest, “IDF nabs head of PA parliament” near Ramallah:

IDF soldiers arrested senior Hamas official, Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Authority parliament on suspicion of involvement with terrorist groups on Thursday, the IDF and Hamas said.

Hamas said Dweik was taken into custody at a checkpoint near Ramallah and it accused Israel of trying to prevent rival Palestinian factions from completing a unity deal. Dweik was arrested by Israel in 2006 and spent two years in jail.

Hamas won a parliamentary election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a brief civil war a year later, since when parliament has been inactive.

Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction agreed a reconciliation deal last year, but it has yet to be implemented.

We noted the encounter between Dweik, the UC Irvine students and the involvement of the JFOC in a July 2011 NER investigative article, “Does the Olive Tree Initiative Lack Credibility?”

JFOC loses its Credibility- the smoking gun letter.

The JFOC’s credibility problem surfaced from a response to a California Public Records Act (PRA) request by local activists from Ha’Emet. That information surfaced a "smoking gun" letter sent by JFOC President Elcott to UCI Chancellor Drake in October, 2009 revealing a meeting between OTI students and Hamas representative Dweik. The JFOC leaders seized upon this letter as evidence that they had brought this to the attention of UCI administrators seeking an investigation. The JFOC leaders never informed the community.

In the JFOC letter the authors wring their hands about the fact that Jewish students on the 2009 OTI trip inadvertently met with a Hamas leader of the West Bank, Aziz Dweik, on September 16th. The students were told by an unidentified person, presumably, the field co-coordinator for the OTI program, to say nothing while passing through Israel or upon arrival back in California, as it might look as if under our laws they were giving material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Here are some excerpts of the JFOC letter to Chancellor Drake:

On Sunday, September 20, 2009, the second class of the Olive tree Initiative (OTI) returned from their travels in Israel and the west Bank. As its largest funder, Jewish Federation has strongly supported the concept and development of OTI from its inception.

{. . .}  We expected, and believed we had received, full disclosure about program details. This is why we were quite surprised to learn, following the recent return of the OTI group, that they conducted an unapproved, off-itinerary meeting on September 16thwith Aziz Dweik, a notable Hamas figure.

One UCI faculty member and two UCI doctoral candidates were in charge of arrangements on the ground. [Name redacted] was well aware of Jewish Federation's ‘redlines’ – what could or could not be done on an OTI trip. Taking UCI [students] to meet a Hamas leader crossed those red lines, and put the University and Jewish Federation in a precarious position. We are deeply troubled that this incident could potentially derail the substantial progress we have made together in building multicultural bridges at UCI.

Elcott goes on to wring his hands about the untoward consequences of this OTI Hamas meeting:

We expect that many in our Jewish community – in Orange County, nationally and around the world - - will be astonished and furious that a Jewish organization would sponsor any program that directly exposed students to a leader of a recognized terrorist organization. Our community’s relations with the Israeli government may be affected, and there may be cause for action by our parent organization, United Jewish Communities.

Towards the end of this letter to Chancellor Drake, the authors  try "to connect the dots" between September, 2009 OTI Hamas meeting on the West Bank with the May, 2009 George Galloway Viva Palestina MSU fundraiser on the  UCI campus that we wrote about in an NER investigative article, “Coming to a Mosque Near You: “Pimping for terrorists”.

The ZOA has reason to believe that this fundraiser may have provided material support to Hamas in July, 2009. While this is an entirely separate issue from the OTI concerns, you should take into account the possibility that both issues involving Hamas could be linked in any media story.

If JFOC President Elcott and Rose Project co-heads Margolis and Weiss wanted to inform Chancellor Drake and preserve the OTI program, why did they write this letter, instead of personally arranging a meeting with Drake, presenting the facts and getting the situation squared away quietly? Because the letter has so many co-authors we suspect that the counsel for JFOC suggested this approach so as to put the onus on the University. The existence of this letter was like a ticking time bomb in the JFOC’s files. They knew it was only a matter of time before someone would discover and disclose it.

Then there was the matter of whether the Rose project provided funds to the OTI.

From the PRA discovery documents secured by Ha’Emet it appears that JFOC donated nearly $60,000 to the OTI over the period from 2009 to the present. Moreover, UCI provided $10,000 in support of the 2010 OTI trip in November, 2009 just weeks after the exchange of the JFOC letter with Chancellor Drake.

As noted in a recent FrontPageMagazine
article, “The Patrons of Anti-Israelism”, U.Cal Chancellor Yudoff also provided funds to OTI:

. . . only a matter of weeks after the Hamas meeting was made known to Drake, University of California Chancellor Mark Yudoff donated $5000 to the OTI via the Lumina Foundation for Education. This was followed in May 2010 with a $2000 award to the STUDENT LEADERS OF OTI by Yudoff for the university’s Presidential Leadership Award.

These PRA disclosures began the unraveling of a conspiracy by JFOC and the Rose project to cover up the truth about the OTI.

Several Jewish Federations across the US have engaging in programs like the OTI that conflicted with Israeli government policies regarding encounters with Hamas representatives or sponsoring programs with anti-Israel groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and B’Tselem that espouse Boycott, Divestment Sanctions against the Jewish State. Then there is J Street which alleges it is pro-peace and pro-Israel while pro-Zionist Z Street has accused it of seeking an immediate declaration of a Palestinian state. Some Federations like the Sarasota- Manatee County Federation in Florida have adopted pledges against such activities.  Groups like the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana, JCC Watch in Manhattan, and the newly created National Council on Jewish Affairs have engaged in combating, “ what Harvard Medical School Psychiatrist, historian and author Dr. Kenneth Levin called The Oslo Syndrome: delusions of a People under Siege.”

Posted on 01/21/2012 5:03 AM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Ken Timmerman, Author and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Declares for Maryland 8th CD GOP Primary

Kenneth Timmerman, declared candidate

for MD. 8th CD GOP primary

Kenneth Timmerman, noted author, veteran Iran watcher and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has thrown his hat in the ring for the Republican primary for the re-designed Maryland 8th CD. The Democrat incumbent, Chris Van Hollen is an assistant to US House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and was a member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the Super Committee, that failed to resolve the dispute over reigning in the towering budget deficit and national debt growth. This is not the first political race in which Timmerman has been involved. In 2000 he ran in the primary  for a US Senate seat in Maryland. We had interviewed Timmerman in the March 2011 NER about his career as a noted investigative journalist, author and human rights advocate –see “Obama likes radical Islamic rule.” A wide ranging interview with Kenneth Timmerman.

In our interview with Timmerman, he told the story of how both he and former US UN Ambassador John Bolton were nominated for their two decade investigation of Iran’s development of nuclear weapons:

 Gordon:  How did both you and former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?

Timmerman:  I received a call one day in late 2005 from Per Ahlmark, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, saying that he wanted to nominate us. I was obviously thrilled and honored. I couldn’t believe it at first and so I asked him how the process worked. He explained to me that the only people who have the authority to make official nominations for Nobel Peace Prize are current or former members of the governments of Sweden, Norway or Denmark. So I said “Wow,” that is quite an honor. He wrote a six page letter to the Nobel nominating committee where he detailed my work in exposing Iran’s nuclear weapons work years before the International Atomic Energy Agency became aware of it, and detailing John Bolton’s work to set up the Proliferation Security Initiative. He argued that our efforts were worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize because they helped to prevent the spread of technologies that enabled regimes like Iran to build nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

Timmerman has already received the endorsement of Republican House Member of the Maryland delegation, Roscoe Bartlett in the neighboring 6th CD. Here is what Timmerman noted in his January 18th announcement made in Frederick, Maryland:

Here’s the statement from Roscoe Bartlett delivered by his wife, Ellen Bartlett, at my announcement in Frederick, MD.

“Like me Ken Timmerman is not a career politician and I would welcome a chance to serve in Congress with Ken. He will bring to Congress a life time of experience in foreign affairs and investigative reporting which would serve Congress well in its oversight role over the executive branch of government. As the past President of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, Ken Timmerman has the heart for the taxpayers and understands that the true wealth of the nation comes from the citizens not the government.”

  • Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06), Jan. 18, 2012.

Timmerman informed me that when approached about signing the No Tax pledge authored by controversial Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, he refused. Not because of the economic issue, rather it was Norquist’s role in facilitating infiltration of Muslim Brotherhood representatives at the highest levels of our national government and alliance with groups like the ACLU. Timmerman is a good friend of Israel with wide-ranging experience and contacts at the highest levels there. His assessment of  the Palestinian and fundamentalist Islamic causes was gained the hard way, when he was kidnapped and held briefly as a prisoner in Beirut. He has been a valued friend of the ex-pat Iranianian communities in the West and here in the US fighting for regime change in Tehran and implementation of tougher sanctions against the Islamic regime's  nuclear program.

He will be off to California next weekend holding a series of parlor meetings seeking funding for his Maryland primary run in early April. To keep up with Timmerman's cmapaign schedule check out his website:

Timmerman believes he has a decent chance to win the April 3rd GOP primary in the  Maryland 8th CD and go on to contest the redesigned district against incumbent Van Hollen, ranking member of the House Budget Committee. Here is his rationale:

Why Ken Timmerman can beat Rep. Chris Van Hollen

District 8 has been dramatically redrawn to accommodate the desires of Democrat Party bosses to defeat Roscoe Bartlett in the neighboring 6th district.

Until now, District 8 has been 3-1 Democrat, and included the some of the most reliable Democrat precincts in the State, outside of Baltimore City. All district 8 precincts were in the densely populated, liberal Washington, DC suburbs.

But this year all has changed. Around 100,000 Democrats have been lopped off and thrown into the 6th district and replaced with Republicans in rural Carroll and Frederick County. For the first time ever, Van Hollen will have to confront heavily Republican, conservative, rural Maryland, which until now he has considered “fly-over” country.

In his campaign, Ken will focus hard on the economy and the huge expansion of federal government power we have seen under Obama. He will promote an opportunity agenda of creating jobs through economic growth, as well as the need for a strong national defense in the face of resolute enemies and future competitors.

Ken is a well-known investigative reporter and author. He has lived overseas for 18 years, covered many wars, and was co-nominated for the Nobel Peace prize with John Bolton in 2006 by the former deputy premier of Sweden. He was also the President of the Maryland Taxpayers Association from 2000-2002. A resident of Kensington, he and his wife Christina have five children and 1 grandchild.

His top priority if elected will be to Repeal Obamacare; then to rein in federal regulatory agencies such as the EPA and the NLRB.

During his campaign, Ken will use his skills as an investigative reporter and communicator to drive a wedge between Chris Van Hollen and voters who are increasingly worried about the economy and unsure about the performance of their Congressman, who sat on the “Super-Committee” and failed to offer any credible solution to the nation’s debt and spending crisis.

Ken is an authentic expert on national defense and intelligence issues who has testified before Congress on Russian missile sales, Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and other issues. He is currently a guest lecturer (on Iran) at the Joint Counter-Intelligence Training Academy in Quantico, Va. He is also the president of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (, and has worked with pro-democracy groups in Iran for two decades. He has appeared on hundreds of TV and thousands of talk radio shows.

He intends to challenge his opponent to a series of town hall debates in rural Maryland, something Van Hollen has never done before.

For the past seven years, Ken has been the lead investigator for families of 9/11 victims in a civil lawsuit against Iran. Based on Ken’s evidence, a federal district judge ruled just before Christmas that Iran “shared responsibility” for the 9/11 terrorist attacks with al Qaeda, and had provided “direct, material support” for the attacks.

We wish our colleague well on this first step in ultimately contesting Democrat incumbent Chris Van Hollen in the Maryland 8th CD.  We will keep you apprised of Timmerman’s progress. Should he win the GOP primary and goes on to do battle with Van Hollen in town hall debates over bedrock fiscal and national security issues, Timmerman’s skills as an investigative journalist and public speaker should make him a formidable candidate. His addition to the Maryland Congressional delegation would cap a lifetime of valued achievements in both domestic and foreign affairs. Stay tuned for further developments.

Posted on 01/21/2012 6:41 AM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 21 January 2012
One More Thing Money Can't Buy

hat tip: Maggies Farm

Posted on 01/21/2012 7:18 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Sharia law debate attracts threat of violence at Queen Mary university

From the East London Advertiser.

Students attending a debate about sharia law at an East End university were threatened by a man who stormed into their lecture theatre and told them he would “track them down”.

The man also filmed attendees at Queen Mary, University of London’s Mile End Road site before threatening them with violence if they said anything negative about the Prophet Muhammad.

Campaigner Anne Marie Waters had been invited to give a speech by the university’s Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society when the drama unfolded on Monday evening.

 She said  “Just before I was due to start, a young man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front of the room with a camera and proceeded to film everyone in the audience. That done, he informed us that he knew who we were, where we lived and if he heard a single negative word about the Prophet, he would track us down.”

Police confirmed they are investigating the incident and the university said it is conducting its own probe

Posted on 01/21/2012 8:42 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Boko Haram claim responsibility for last nights bombings in Nigeria - death toll now at 121

AFP KANO, Nigeria — Coordinated bomb attacks targeting security forces and gun battles have killed at least 121 people in Nigeria's second-largest city of Kano, with bodies littering the streets on Saturday. A curfew was imposed on Kano in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north after it exploded into violence on Friday evening, with eight police and immigration offices or residences targeted.

The main newspaper in the north said that a purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram had claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was in response to authorities' refusal to release their members from custody.

"Many agencies are involved in the evacuation of corpses from the streets," a Red Cross source said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly. "From our tally, we have 121 so far." An AFP correspondent counted at least 80 bodies in the morgue at Kano's main hospital, many of them with gunshot wounds. Around 100 people waited outside the morgue to collect their relatives' remains.

Details began to emerge of the attacks, which were said to include at least two suicide bombers. At state police headquarters, a would-be suicide bomber sought to join the convoy of the police commissioner, the police source said, but jumped out of the car and sought to escape when officers opened fire. He was shot dead, the source said. According to a resident, the car rolled over and a huge explosion followed after the would-be bomber tried to flee.

Posted on 01/21/2012 9:08 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Those Who Want Islam And Only Islam Win 70 Percent Of The Seats In Egypt

From Reuters:

January 21, 2012

Islamists secure top spot in new Egypt parliament

10:54am EST

By Marwa Awad and Lin Noueihed

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Muslim Brotherhood won by far the biggest share of seats allocated to party lists in Egypt's first freely-elected parliament in decades, final results confirmed, giving it a major role in drafting the country's new constitution.

Banned under former leader Hosni Mubarak and his predecessors, the Brotherhood has emerged as the winner from his overthrow. Islamists of various stripes have taken about two thirds of seats in the assembly, broadly in line with their own forecasts. [not "about two thirds" but, more accurately, 70%]

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has promised all Egyptians will have a voice in the new parliament, but Islamists are now set to wield major influence over a new constitution to be drafted by a 100-strong body parliament will help pick.

Under a complex electoral system, two thirds or 332 of the seats in lower house are decided by proportional representation on closed party lists. The other third are contested by individual candidates.

According to final results of the staggered election issued by the High Elections Committee on Saturday, the Brotherhood's electoral alliance took a 38 percent share of the seats allocated to lists.

The hardline Islamist Al-Nour Party won 29 percent of list seats. The liberal New Wafd and Egyptian Bloc coalition came third and fourth respectively.

The Revolution Continues coalition, dominated by youth groups at the forefront of the protests that toppled Mubarak, attracted less than a million votes and took just seven of the 498 seats up for grabs in the lower house.

The elections committee did not give results for individual seats, but the FJP's alliance said on Saturday it now expected to take more than 47 percent of all seats in the lower house.

Posted on 01/21/2012 10:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
A Musical Interlude: My Kinda Love (Ben Pollack, Jack Teagarden)

Listen here to both Ben Pollack and Jack Teagarden beginning at 2.01. 

"My Kinda Love" is preceded and followed by short opening and closing numbers.

Posted on 01/21/2012 10:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
French Readers Comment On The Effort In Afghanistan
Read some of the 220 comments here.
Posted on 01/21/2012 10:47 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Sándor Fehér, Violinist

Had Sandor Feher gone back to his cabin at once to get his violin, he would likely have survived. But he took the time to calm, and put lifejackets on, crying children -- a task he undertook, no doubt, because the crew was not doing what it should have been doing, in the atmosphere of sauve-qui-peut that prevailed.

It is a stretch, I know, to be put in mind of  Liviu Librescu, at Virginia Tech, who deliberately sacrificed himself to save his students or, even more of a stretch, of Janusz Korczak who accompanied the Jewish orphans in his care -- telling them stories along the way, to keep their spirits up -- to their, and his, certain death . But I can't help myself, I have been put in mind of both. And you, perhaps, will have been, too.

Violinist Sándor Fehér (1973-2012) -- victim of cruise ship disaster

January 18, 2012

The first victim identified in the cruise ship Costa Concordia disaster in Italy is a violinist from Hungary who worked as an entertainer aboard the ship, who had apparently gone back to his cabin to pack up his violin.

Sándor Fehér, 38, was among 11 people confirmed dead so far in the accident, which occurred when the ship carrying 4,200 passengers collided with a reef Friday and turned on its side.


Fehér had helped a number of crying children to put on lifejackets, and he was wearing a lifejacket himself when he apparently went back to his cabin to pack his violin, pianist Jozsef Balog said, according to several news reports.

Fehér came from a musical family -- both his father and grandfather played the violin -- and started playing the violin when he was six years old, according to a video clip that the violinist had posted on YouTube in December. He graduated in 1998 from the Franz Lizst Academy in Budapest, where he studied with László Dénes.

He taught violin lessons to students ages six through 20 and believed strongly in a method devised by his teacher Dénes, as well as by Rudolf Nemeth and Judit Szaszne-Reger, called Violin ABC. The method is known better in Hungary and Germany than in the United States. He described it as a method that included folk songs from all over the world, and he said he aspired to teach in other countries and to "use this amazing system for the next generation of violin players."

Posted on 01/21/2012 11:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
A Drink A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

From Science Daily:

Tiny Amounts of Alcohol Dramatically Extend a Worm's Life, but Why?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 20, 2012) — Minuscule amounts of ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, can more than double the life span of a tiny worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans, which is used frequently as a model in aging studies, UCLA biochemists report. The scientists said they find their discovery difficult to explain.

"This finding floored us -- it's shocking," said Steven Clarke, a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry and the senior author of the study, published Jan. 18 in the online journal PLoS ONE, a publication of the Public Library of Science.

In humans, alcohol consumption is generally harmful, Clarke said, and if the worms are given much higher concentrations of ethanol, they experience harmful neurological effects and die, other research has shown.

"We used far lower levels, where it may be beneficial," said Clarke, who studies the biochemistry of aging.

The worms, which grow from an egg to an adult in just a few days, are found throughout the world in soil, where they eat bacteria. Clarke's research team -- Paola Castro, Shilpi Khare and Brian Young -- studied thousands of these worms during the first hours of their lives, while they were still in a larval stage. The worms normally live for about 15 days and can survive with nothing to eat for roughly 10 to 12 days.

"Our finding is that tiny amounts of ethanol can make them survive 20 to 40 days," Clarke said.

Initially, Clarke's laboratory intended to test the effect of cholesterol on the worms. "Cholesterol is crucial for humans," Clarke said. "We need it in our membranes, but it can be dangerous in our bloodstream."

The scientists fed the worms cholesterol, and the worms lived longer, apparently due to the cholesterol. They had dissolved the cholesterol in ethanol, often used as a solvent, which they diluted 1,000-fold.

"It's just a solvent, but it turns out the solvent was having the longevity effect," Clarke said. "The cholesterol did nothing. We found that not only does ethanol work at a 1-to-1,000 dilution, it works at a 1-to-20,000 dilution. That tiny bit shouldn't have made any difference, but it turns out it can be so beneficial."

How little ethanol is that?

"The concentrations correspond to a tablespoon of ethanol in a bathtub full of water or the alcohol in one beer diluted into a hundred gallons of water," Clarke said.

Why would such little ethanol have such an effect on longevity?

"We don't know all the answers," Clarke acknowledged. "It's possible there is a trivial explanation, but I don't think that's the case. We know that if we increase the ethanol concentration, they do not live longer. This extremely low level is the maximum that is beneficial for them."

The scientists found that when they raised the ethanol level by a factor of 80, it did not increase the life span of the worms.

The research raises, but does not answer, the question of whether tiny amounts of ethanol can be helpful for human health. Whether this mechanism has something in common with findings that moderate alcohol consumption in humans may have a cardiovascular health benefit is unknown, but Clarke said the possibilities are intriguing.

In follow-up research, Clarke's laboratory is trying to identify the mechanism that extends the worms' life span.

About half the genes in the worms have human counterparts, Clarke said, so if the researchers can identify a gene that extends the life of the worm, that may have implications for human aging.

"It is important for other scientists to know that such a low concentration of the widely used solvent ethanol can have such a big effect in C. elegans," said lead author Paola Castro, who conducted the research as an undergraduate in Clarke's laboratory before earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from UCLA in 2010 and joining the Ph.D. program in bioengineering at UC Santa Cruz. "What is even more interesting is the fact that the worms are in a stressed developmental stage. At high magnifications under the microscope, it was amazing to see how the worms given a little ethanol looked significantly more robust than worms not given ethanol."

"While the physiological effects of high alcohol consumption have been established to be detrimental in humans, current research shows that low to moderate alcohol consumption, equivalent to one or two glasses of wine or beer a day, results in a reduction in cardiovascular disease and increased longevity," said co-author Shilpi Khare, a former Ph.D. student in UCLA's biochemistry and molecular biology program who is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego. "While these benefits are fascinating, our understanding of the underlying biochemistry involved in these processes remains in its infancy.

"We show that very low doses of ethanol can be a worm 'lifesaver' under starvation stress conditions," Khare added. "While the mechanism of action is still not clearly understood, our evidence indicates that these 1 millimeter-long roundworms could be utilizing ethanol directly as a precursor for biosynthesis of high-energy metabolic intermediates or indirectly as a signal to extend life span. These findings could potentially aid researchers in determining how human physiology is altered to induce cardio-protective and other beneficial effects in response to low alcohol consumption."

Clarke's laboratory identified the first protein-repair enzyme in the early 1980s, and his research has shown that repairing proteins is important to cells. In the current study, the biochemists reported that life span is significantly reduced under stress conditions in larval worms that lack this repair enzyme. (More than 150 enzymes are involved in repairing DNA damage, and about a dozen protein-repair enzymes have been identified.)

"Our molecules live for only weeks or months," Clarke said. "If we want to live long lives, we have to outlive our molecules. The way we do that is with enzymes that repair our DNA -- and with proteins, a combination of replacement and repair."

Researcher Brian Young, now an M.D./Ph.D. student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is a co-author on the research.

The research was federally funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Posted on 01/21/2012 12:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
A Musical Interlude: Your Guess Is As Good As Mine (Vali Racz, Tibor Weigand)
Listen here.
Posted on 01/21/2012 12:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
"Some Say Egypt Could Be One Of The World’s Top 10 Economies In A Generation"

Editorial in The New York Times, January 21, 2012

Egypt’s Economic Crisis

In the year since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Egypt has faced many challenges: the military-led government’s brutality against protesters and pro-democracy groups, its resistance to handing power to civilian leaders and the rise of Islamists in the country’s first free elections. Now worsening economic conditions are further sabotaging hopes for a democratic future.

The country’s foreign currency reserves have fallen from a peak of $36 billion to about $10 billion and could run out entirely by March. The currency is under severe pressure, and a steep drop in the exchange rate could bring painful inflation and more social unrest. Youth unemployment is about 25 percent, a dangerous situation where 60 percent of the citizens are 30 and under.

Egyptians want jobs, education and a say in governance. Many are justifiably angry about the military’s autocratic control — and will be angrier still if economic conditions deteriorate further. They aren’t the only ones with a stake in the outcome. Egypt is the fourth-largest economy in the Middle East. Its success, or failure, will have a huge impact on the region and beyond.

Egypt’s military rulers are now realizing how big a threat the collapsing economy is — and they clearly don’t want to be blamed. In May, they rejected a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, saying it would infringe on Egypt’s sovereignty. They wanted the money, but with no strings attached — no mandatory reforms or austerity measures, like cutting food and fuel subsidies. Now desperate, they resurrected the loan request this week and welcomed an I.M.F. delegation to discuss possible components of an economic program. The I.M.F. probably won’t make a decision on that request until March.

The fund’s officials say that they do not intend to impose conditions on the loan. But even without conditions, Egypt must make reforms if it wants to spur private business ventures, foreign investment and growth. Such measures can never be sustained without public support.

In a recent interview with Reuters news service, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s economic committee, Ashraf Badr el-Din, suggested that the Brotherhood and other main parties are moving toward consensus on managing the economy. If true, that’s a good sign. The United States, the European Union and the gulf states last year promised billions of dollars in assistance to Egypt, but most of it has not materialized as they waited for signs of political stability. If the I.M.F. negotiations over the loan terms succeed, those countries should move quickly on their commitments, including offers to begin free-trade talks with Egypt.

Washington and its allies may not have much sway with the military rulers or the newly elected political leaders in the short term, but they have to build long-term relationships with all segments of civil society. Some say Egypt could be one of the world’s top 10 economies in a generation. [This remark is ridiculous. Why does the Times call its own editorial, its own understanding of Egyptian reality -- Egypt is sinking economically, and nothing can stop it -- into question by even repeating -  with that comically vague "some say" by way of authority -- such an absurdity?]That’s a goal worth working toward.

Posted on 01/21/2012 1:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Hand Grenades Offer Access To Political Headquarters In Benghazi

From AP:

Protesters storm grounds of Libya’s interim government’s headquarters in Benghazi

January 21

BENGHAZI, Libya — Hundreds of angry Libyans on Saturday stormed the transitional government’s headquarters in the eastern city of Benghazi, carting off computers, chairs, and desks while the country’s interim leader was still holed up in the building.

Libyans have grown increasingly frustrated with the pace and direction of reforms in the country more than three months after the end of the civil war that ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Those concerns spurred residents in Benghazi, where the uprising against longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi broke out in February, to begin protests nearly two weeks ago to demand transparency and justice from the country’s new leaders.

The melee at the National Transitional Council’s headquarters began after protesters broke through the gates using hand grenades and streamed into the grounds of the headquarters. They banged on the building’s doors and demanded officials meet with them.

In a bid to calm tensions, NTC chief Mustafa Abdul-Jalil tried to address the crowd from a second-floor window, but protesters began throwing bottles at him.

Protesters then torched Abdul-Jalil’s armored Land Cruiser and broke into the headquarters itself, smashing windows to get inside and cart off furniture and electronics.

A security official in the building said a team of some 50 guards dressed as civilians were trying to calm the protesters.

The official, who served as a revolutionary commander during the civil war, said Abdul-Jalil was still in the building and was refusing to leave. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Some of the protesters pitched tents weeks ago outside the NTC’s headquarters to protest a set of election laws they say were drafted by the interim leaders without consulting the public.

“The election laws have not been approved by thousands of Libyans and do not honor those who died for our freedom,” said Tamer al-Jahani, a lawyer taking part in the protest. “We don’t want to replace one tyrant with another.”

The NTC is expected to soon pass the packet of laws, which specify how elections for a transitional parliament will be held. The council only took into account public suggestions through an online survey.

The NTC’s handling of the draft laws has sparked criticism that the council is not living up to its democratic ideals.

Last week, NTC official Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga was assaulted in Benghazi by protesters angry at what they said is the NTC’s lack of transparency.

Some demonstrators were demanding more rights for fighters wounded during the civil war.

Protester Ahmed Boras accused the NTC of sidelining anti-Gadhafi fighters.

“It seems to us that these people are no different than Gadhafi and they only speak the language of force,” he said.

Posted on 01/21/2012 4:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Turks In Europe Attempt Through Street Demonstrations To Intimidate The French Government


ARCHIVES. Un nouveau rassemblement pour manifester contre le projet de loi réprimant la négation du génocide arménien, a eu lieu à Paris. Elle a regroupé environ 15 000 Européens d'origine turque.

ARCHIVES. Un nouveau rassemblement pour manifester contre le projet de loi réprimant la négation du génocide arménien, a eu lieu à Paris. Elle a regroupé environ 15 000 Européens d'origine turque. | AFP / MARTIN BUREAU

La Turquie a redoublé d'efforts samedi pour convaincre le français de rejeter une loi pénalisant la négation du génocide arménien. Des milliers de manifestants ont défilé à et Ankara, menaçant la France de «sanctions» permanentes si elle ne change pas de position. Le texte, qui prévoit de punir d'un an de prison et 45 000 euros d'amende la négation d'un génocide reconnu par la loi française, a déclenché une majeure entre Paris et Ankara.


La pression turque s'est matérialisée samedi dans les rues de Paris, où au moins 15 000 Européens d'origine turque ont défilé pour réclamer le rejet du texte. «Nous manifestons pour dénoncer ce harcèlement. Il se passe quelque chose de très grave», a déclaré Ahmet Ogras, un des organisateurs de la manifestation qui a rassemblé, selon lui, «30 000 à 40 000» personnes.

Les manifestants venaient de France mais également de Belgique, des Pays-Bas et du Luxembourg. Selon la préfecture de police de Paris, «14 500 personnes» ont participé. Le Comité de Coordination des associations franco-turques de France, qui affirme représenter près de 500 associations et plus de 600 000 franco-turcs, a publié une lettre ouverte dans plusieurs quotidiens affirmant «qu'il est immoral d'instrumentaliser une tragédie historique à des fins politiques».

Une riposte turque sur le front commercial et économique

Les Arméniens de France ont répliqué, dans une lettre ouverte publiée dans Le Monde, par un appel au «respect pour les victimes du génocide arménien» et à la «ratification par le Sénat dans la législature actuelle». Le président Nicolas Sarkozy avait tenté vendredi d'apaiser la colère des Turcs. Dans une lettre au Premier ministre Recep Tayyip Erdogan, il avait demandé de «faire prévaloir la raison». Après le vote des députés, la Turquie a gelé sa coopération militaire et politique avec Paris et prévenu que l'adoption finale du texte aura sans doute pour conséquence un deuxième volet de sanctions.

De source proche du gouvernement, on souligne que la Turquie a prévu de rappeler sine die son ambassadeur à Paris. Ankara exigerait aussi le départ de l'ambassadeur de France en Turquie et pourrait réduire le niveau de sa représentation diplomatique en France. Une riposte dans le domaine commercial et économique est aussi d'actualité. La commission des lois du Sénat a rejeté mercredi ce texte, exprimant les fortes réticences d'une partie des sénateurs. Mais ce texte devrait toutefois être voté en séance, une majorité semblant se dessiner en sa faveur.

La Turquie réfute le terme de génocide, même si elle reconnaît que des massacres ont été commis et que quelque 500 000 Arméniens ont péri en Anatolie entre 1915 et 1917, les Arméniens évoquant quant à eux 1,5 million de morts.

Posted on 01/21/2012 6:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
Israeli Arab MK, A Hamas Supporter, Met with UC Irvine Olive Tree Initiative Program

Israeli Arab MK, Ibrahim Sarsour, Hamas Supporter

When IDF soldiers arrested Dr. Aziz Dweik of Hamas, PA Legislative Council Speaker on Thursday, they found photographs of several Israeli Arab MKs who had met with a Hamas Women’s representative from Gaza. Read our earlier post on Dr. Dweik's arrest, here.  An Arutz-Sheva-Israel National News article reported who was involved,” More Arab MKs caught with Hamas officials”.

MK Hanin Zoabi, who rubbed elbows with well-known Hamas figures and was photographed during the act, is not alone, it was revealed on Friday.

Photos found by Israeli security forces after the arrest of senior Hamas official Dr. Aziz Dweik on Thursday found that Arab MKs Ibrahim Sarsour and Masud Ghnaim came to Dweik’s home in Hevron in 2009, after he was released from a previous arrest, to congratulate him.

Dweik, who has served as the Speaker of the Palestiian Legislative Council (PLC) since January 2006, was arrested at a security checkpoint near Ramallah on Thursday. Israel believes he was involved in terror activities.

His arrest came just hours after the picture of Zoabi with him and another Hamas official, Mariam Saleh, the former minister for women's affairs in Hamas-run Gaza, was made public.

Zoabi is notorious for her support of the Iran nuclear project with its intent of wiping Israeli off the map of the world, a Third Intifada against Israel  and prosecution of Israel’s leaders over the Mavi Marmara raid during the 2010 Free Gaza Flotilla.

Sarsour can be seen in this You Tube video, espousing the Hamas line of establishing a Caliphate in Jerusalem, supplanting the Jewish State of Israel. The voice over translation was done by Walid Shoebat with titling by Vladtepes blog.  Watch here:

Dee Sterling of Ha-Emet, the Truth pointed out that Sarsour has met repeatedly with U.C. Irvine Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) board and students during the last three years. This further revelation about Hamas connections raises questions about the wisdom of the Jewish Federation of Orange County (California) (JFOC) affiliated Rose Project underwriting of the U.C. Irvine OTI program. Moreover, this outreach to Israel’s enemies should be of concern to parents and alumni of other UCAL system and private universities where OTI programs have been established in the US. 

Israeli Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsour and U.C. Irvine Olive Tree Initiative Board

Sterling sent this picture of a meeting of the OTI board with Sarsour on the extreme left. Daniel Wehrenfennig, co-founder of the OTI, is on the right hand side with his hands raised. 

Here is what we wrote about Wehrenfennig in our July, 2011 investigative article, “Does the Olive Tree Initiative have Credibility?”

The Pied Pipers of Muddled Minds

The driving forces at UCI behind the OTI are two international multi-culturalists, Paula Garb and Daniel Wehrenfennig.

[. . .]

Wehrenfennig had organized the OTI programs, developing speaker contacts and established itineraries for the more than two dozen students who went on annual  trips to Israel and the West Bank. His rationale for OTI is captured in a UCI article on the program, “Sowing the Seeds of Peace”:

Olive Tree has opened up a new platform for dialogue. As long as there is conflict in the Middle East, there will be conflict on campus. For such a young organization, the Olive Tree Initiative has done quite a bit to encourage discussion on these issues. . . . We hope to replicate vision in that region so more people can share their narratives and start working on a solution. It would be a waste of time if we did this here and it didn’t have an effect over there.

After the 2010 OTI trip there was a vigorous exchange of views between Wehrenfennig and Tammi Rossman – Benjamin, an adjunct member of the U.C. Santa Cruz faculty that was published by the OC Task Force on Antisemitism. Ms. Rossman-Benjamin had criticized the predominance of anti-Israel, alleged antisemitic Palestinian speakers, who were engaged in development of BDS initiatives: Mazin Qumsiyeh, George Rishmawi and Sam Bahour. She noted among other criticisms the core problems of OTI, furthering the doctrine of moral equivalence of Israeli versus Palestinian "narratives" and exploiting Jewish community funding for this purpose.

That is because I believe these pro-Israel speakers are being unwittingly used to provide a fig leaf of “balance” for the OTI and to give the false impression that pro-Israel and anti-Israel speakers are not only equally represented numerically, but that these two perspectives are somehow objectively equal — simply two different but equally legitimate narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, this is the kind of thinking that underlies your philosophy of “360-degree education.” However, I find such thinking to be both logically and morally flawed.

Do you honestly believe that the argument in favor of BDS is equal and opposite to the argument against it, or that advocating for the elimination of the Jewish state and against the elimination of the Jewish state are equally legitimate positions?

However, by pairing them as you have with legitimate arguments made in defense of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people; you have given respectability and legitimacy to illegitimate, Antisemitic perspectives.  In my opinion, it is despicable that you have used Jewish communal funds for this morally reprehensible purpose.

You assert that the OTI has “become an important hub for bridge-building, dialogue and cooperation between individual students and student groups,” although you have produced no evidence of this being the case.  

In fact, the campus climate for Jewish students at UCI has not improved since the establishment of the OTI, and in some ways it has significantly deteriorated.

Wehrenfennig in his reply gave some credence to Rossman-Benjamin’s criticism:

I will not discuss or challenge the information Tammi Rossman-Benjamin has provided about 15 of the speakers and organizations we allegedly visited with, some of which we didn’t meet with. Though others probably would challenge her categorization and analysis of these speakers. Let’s assume, however, for argument’s sake that it is true that these 15 organizations and speakers expressed strong anti-Israel tendencies (which they did not in their actual presentations). But they are still only 15 of the over 70 speakers we met with.

It is alleged that Wehrenfennig might have arranged the encounter with Hamas Representative Dweik. No doubt that inadvertent meeting with Dweik was an effort to maintain equivalence in presenting contrasting views from a group, Hamas, whose charter seeks the obliteration of the Jewish State of Israel.

To wit, Marc Prowisor's  comment on the One Israel Fund Facebook page to our Iconoclast post on Dr. Dwiek’s arrest:

Perhaps those of you with children in US universities should check out just who is feeding them information. And while you are at it, see just who your federation is backing.

Posted on 01/21/2012 1:56 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 21 January 2012
The Cultural Damage Done By The Uncultivated Rich

From The New Republic for Nov. 23, 2011:

Dirty Money

"The Uprising" by Diego Rivera c/o Museum of Modern Art

They are selling postcards of Hitler in the gift shop at the Guggenheim Museum. To be precise, they are selling photographic reproductions of a work entitled Him, a polyester portrayal of the Führer that is one of the works by Maurizio Cattelan in his retrospective at the museum. I can imagine being outraged or at least troubled by the postcards in the gift shop, except that by the time I saw them I had already been bombarded by this exhibition in which nearly all of Cattelan’s oversized neo-Dadaist baubles have been hung from the ceiling of Frank Lloyd Wright’s rotunda. Cattelan’s Hitler doll—like his Picasso doll, his bicycle, his dinosaur, and the rest of the 128 items in this stupefyingly sophomoric show—is engineered for offense, irony, comedy, or who knows what else. Those who are bothered by the Hitler postcards in the gift shop are naturally going to be dismissed as insufficiently hip. The same goes for those who are disturbed by the sight of one of the world’s greatest public spaces once again turned over to an art world charlatan as his personal playpen. My own feeling is that the postcards, however misbegotten, are speech we accept, although not necessarily embrace, in a society we prize for its openness. What is really disquieting is the event that has occasioned these postcards. “Maurizio Cattelan: All”—that’s the title of the show—amounts to hate speech directed at the sponsoring institution.

I’m sorry to be a party pooper. From what I could see when I visited the other day, museumgoers were perfectly content as they meandered up and down the ramps at the Guggenheim, snapping pics of Cattelan’s pixies on their iPhones. Of course, museumgoers also seemed happy—maybe more happy, I’m not sure—looking at the Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings in a gallery off the rotunda. And everybody was definitely all smiles as they came out of the Guggenheim into a spectacularly lovely November afternoon. The truth is that Cattelan’s presence at the Guggenheim has nothing to do with what the public may or may not want. Cattelan is at the Guggenheim because the big money in the art business is behind him. The other day, one of his minor works, a miniature model of two elevator doors, sold for just over a million dollars at Christie’s. (It comes in an edition of ten, one of which is hanging on Fifth Avenue and 89th Street.) And that was one of the more modest prices at Christie’s contemporary sale on November 8, where a Robert Gober Prison Window went for $3.3 million and a 1961 Roy Lichtenstein for $43.2 million.

The collector Eli Broad was quoted, at the end of the auction, explaining that “People would rather have art than gold or paper.” To which it seems to me the only response is that people who have millions of dollars to spend on a Cattelan, a Gober, or a Lichtenstein are not what used to be known as “the people.” Never mind. What “the people” are more and more seeing when they go to museums is what Eli Broad and a few other collectors and dealers with very deep pockets think they should see. At that same Christie’s auction, the gallerist Larry Gagosian bought an early Cy Twombly for $5.2 million. Twombly, who died in July, is nowadays regarded by some as one of the giants of modern art. His reputation is so high that over the summer the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London mounted an exhibition, “Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters,” that paired him with the seventeenth-century French artist who redefined classicism for the modern world. Whatever one may think of Twombly—and I like some of his earlier work quite a bit—the Dulwich show was a rather astonishing example of reputation inflation. And who, pray tell, sponsored “Twombly and Poussin”? I can’t say I was surprised, on opening the exhibition catalogue, to discover that the sponsor was none other than Larry Gagosian.

Money and culture have never been easily disentangled, nor would one want them to be, considering that culture is by no means cost efficient. But there are different forms of patronage and different kinds of entanglements. And culture is now in retreat before the brute force of money. Even the most easygoing commentators can see the writing on the wall, and some critics who might have been expected to be amused by the Cattelan retrospective have not enjoyed the show. Who knows? Maybe they’re tired of partying in a funhouse where they will never be more than dinner guests. As for the people who buy and sell Maurizio Cattelan, my guess is they don’t give a damn what critics—or for that matter museumgoers—say.

So where do we go from here? I have spent years asking myself that question, and if anything I’m farther from an answer than ever before. I would, however, recommend that anybody who wonders about these matters take a look at “Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art,” a fascinating exhibition at MoMA accompanied by an important catalogue. In 1931 Diego Rivera was the second artist selected for a one man show at MoMA; Matisse had been the first. One of the moving forces in the founding of the museum, just two years old at the time, was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who took an interest in Rivera’s work and lent financial support to the exhibition. She was much involved in getting Rivera, an avowed Leftist, the commission for a vast mural at Rockefeller Center, a building project dedicated to the glories of capitalism. The mural was to be devoted to the theme of man at the crossroads. And the project was nearing completion when it was scrapped by the Rockefellers, who paid Rivera the rest of his fee, sent him packing, and destroyed the mural, unwilling to accept either Rivera’s flattering portrait of Lenin or his unflattering portrait of John D. Rockefeller Jr. or both, it is not clear. This ugly history is retold in a catalogue essay by Leah Dickerman, the MoMA curator who organized the exhibition and has emerged in recent years as one of our most lucid and persuasive students of early twentieth-century art. To the tangled relations between the Rockefellers and Rivera, Dickerman offers no simple explanation, but rather a complex dynamic, with modernism and capitalism and Leftism sometimes at loggerheads, although not always. The portrait she gives of Rivera’s time in New York is tantalizing.

Rivera created for the MoMA exhibition a group of portable frescoes meant to give a taste of the immense wall decorations he was painting in Mexico at the time. They make a striking temporary display in the museum today, where they have been set into the walls so that we feel their planar force. Some of the frescoes recapitulate passages from his Mexican work. Others, done after he arrived in New York, are direct responses to the city as it descended into the Depression, with the towers of the Art Deco city looming above a wharf where homeless people sleep in a dormitory. Rivera’s work here is compelling and coarse, strong on journalistic rhetoric and weak on pictorial invention. The exhibition—and here I feel the same fine curatorial imagination that Dickerman brought to her collaboration with architecture and design curator Barry Bergdoll on MoMA’s great 2009 Bauhaus show—enriches and complicates our understanding of the Museum of Modern Art’s own history. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the museum’s founding director, is too often nowadays regarded as a rigid formalist. Nothing could be farther from the truth. And in reminding us that among his first great projects was a show dedicated to the Mexican Leftist Diego Rivera, whom Barr had met in Moscow, Dickerman takes us one step closer to reclaiming the extraordinarily complex story of the Museum of Modern Art.

There was no aspect of modern experience that did not interest Barr. He was moved by the evangelical power of abstract art, and also believed that representational art of one kind or another had a future. (America’s abstract avant-garde sometimes criticized Barr as hopelessly conservative.) One of the minor delights of this show are the pages of Rivera’s 1928 Moscow Sketchbook, with view after view of parades awash in red flags and banners, the cumulative effect cinematic, fueled by Rivera’s feeling for surging crowds and populist exhilaration. During the period Rivera was in Moscow filling his sketchbook, Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party, and by the time Rivera arrived in New York for the MoMA show he was a Trotskyite and thus aware of the Stalinist perils that no amount of brilliant red banners could disguise. Rivera’s Moscow Sketchbook was owned by none other than Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who gave it to the Museum of Modern Art, a souvenir of the pageantry of Soviet Communism deposited in an American museum by the matriarch of one of capitalism’s defining dynasties. The ironies are almost incalculable. And we must not forget that Rivera was himself a fashionable figure in the early 1930s, at home in café society. As I said before, art and money can never be disentangled, nor would we want them to be. But there is money and there is money. And what Rockefeller money did for American art in the 1930s is a far cry from what the rich are doing to American art eighty years later.

Posted on 01/21/2012 2:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 21 January 2012
What Islam Unconstrained Means For Tunisia

From amnestyinternational:

Tunisia must drop charges against TV boss over ‘Persepolis’ screening

Nabil Karoui could face three years prison for screening 'Persepolis'

Nabil Karoui could face three years prison for screening 'Persepolis'

© Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

The Tunisian authorities must uphold Nabil Karoui’s right to freedom of expression and drop these charges immediately
                      --- Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa
Criminal proceedings against the owner of a Tunisian TV station that screened the film Persepolis are an affront to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said ahead of his trial on Monday.

Nabil Karoui, the owner of Nessma TV, faces trial in Tunis on 23 January on charges of “violating sacred values” and “disturbing the public order” after his station broadcast the animated French film Persepolis, which has been criticized for being blasphemous because of a scene showing a representation of God. 

If convicted, Nabil Karoui faces up to three years in prison.

“Putting Nabil Karoui on trial simply for screening a film which shows fantasy scenes of God is a very troubling development,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s interim Director for Middle East and North Africa.

“The Tunisian authorities must uphold Nabil Karoui’s right to freedom of expression and drop these charges immediately,” he said.

Persepolis, an award-winning film on Iran’s 1979 revolution told from the perspective of a young girl, provoked angry reactions when Nessma TV aired it in October.

The home of Nabil Karoui was firebombed on 14 October following a protest outside the Nessma TV offices in central Tunis. Salafist activists are believed to have carried out the attack.

A complaint by 144 lawyers and others was filed against the TV boss and two other Nessma TV employees.

Tunisian journalists have faced numerous attacks in recent months, reportedly carried out by both security officers and others.

Mohamed Ali Ltifi from the Al Oula newspaper was beaten by police and forced off a train after he displayed his press card while travelling on public transport in Tunis on Wednesday. They gave no reason for doing so.

Nessma TV reporter Sofiene Bin Hamida was physically assaulted on 11 January
while covering a protest in front of the Ministry of Interior.

The demonstration was organized by police over the suspension of a police officer believed to be involved in the death of protesters during the uprising.

Sofiene Ben Hamida has told Amnesty International that he believed the attackers belonged to an extremist group from a simultaneous counter-protest.

Earlier this month, two female journalists - Sanaa Farhat from the French-language daily Le Temps and Maha Ouelhezi, a writer for the news website Web Manager Center - were assaulted by plain-clothes police officers while covering a demonstration outside the Ministry of Higher Education.

Sanaa Farhat was dragged by her hair and beaten by security officers.

“While Tunisia is making progress in some human rights areas, clearly there is still a great deal of work to be done when it comes to respecting the right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther.

Amnesty International's recent report Year of Rebellion: The state of human rights in the Middle East and North Africa documents how Tunisia's interim government is yet to deliver the comprehensive human rights reform that protesters were calling for a year ago.

A year after former President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, the authorities have taken some positive initial steps, including signing up to key human rights treaties and, in general, allowing greater freedom for media and human rights organizations.

But the country's security forces remain largely unaccountable and victims of human rights violations are still waiting for justice, the report said.

In March 2011 the feared Department of State Security (DSS), responsible for years of abuse under Ben Ali, was abolished. But there are fears DSS members have simply been integrated into other security forces, which remain opaque and unaccountable.

Amnesty International has documented a number of incidents since Ben Ali stepped down where peaceful protests and sit-ins have been forcibly dispersed and protesters beaten up.

Posted on 01/21/2012 7:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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