These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 24, 2012.
Friday, 24 February 2012
Nigeria: Killers slit Christian woman's throat. Schools also burnt.
Maiduguri - Police discovered the body of a 79-year-old Christian woman killed in northeast Nigeria, with a note in Arabic left on her chest reading: "We will get you soon", a witness said.
The slaying raises religious tensions in Nigeria as a radical Islamist sect increasingly targets Christians in its bloody attacks. While police said on Thursday they knew of no immediate suspects in the killing, witnesses blamed the attack on the sect known as Boko Haram
The dead woman was identified as Shetu Haruna Malgwi, a Christian living in the city of Maiduguri in Nigeria's Muslim north. Assailants apparently attacked Malgwi on Wednesday, a day after she returned home from receiving an eye treatment in the city of Kaduna, Borno state police spokesperson Samuel Tizhe said.
Her killers slit the woman's throat, then wrote a note with red pen they left on her chest, witness Audu Ibrahim said. Ibrahim said the woman's family believes the message is for her son, who is a pastor of a local church where the 79-year-old sang in the choir. Authorities found a Bible placed under the woman's feet, Ibrahim said.
Maiduguri is the sect's spiritual home, though its members have carried out attacks across the north. This year, a spokesman for the sect warned it would begin specifically targeting Christians living in the north.
And from the Vanguard: Gunmen burnt down a school in Maiduguri, the second such attack in two days in an area rocked by Boko Haram Islamist raids, an official said Thursday. A group of unknown gunmen stormed Budun primary school in central Maiduguri Wednesday evening and set fire to classrooms and a store after seizing the security guard at gunpoint, according to state education commissioner, Tijjani Abba Ari.
“We are dealing with an emerging trend that is quite disturbing because this is the second time in two days that a school was burnt by armed arsonists,” Ari said. No one was hurt in the incident but the arson created panic in the city with pupils staying away from schools on Thursday
Islamist Boko Haram group, which opposes western-type education, had threatened to attack public schools in retaliation for alleged desecration of the Koran and a raid on an Islamic seminary in the city by security agents. Sect leader Abubakar Shekau issued the threat last month in an audio message in which his group claimed responsibility for a January 20 attack in the northern city of Kano that killed 185 people.
Posted on 02/24/2012 2:36 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 24 February 2012
New York Judge orders anonymous jury for trial of would-be subway suicide bomber
From the New York Daily News
A federal judge has ordered an anonymous jury for the upcoming trial of a would-be suicide bomber who planned to detonate homemade explosives in Manhattan subway trains.
Judge Raymond Dearie said Wednesday that he would issue a written order explaining his reasons. He reserved decision on whether U.S. marshals should escort the jury daily to and from their homes to Brooklyn Federal Court.
Federal prosecutors had sought the special security measures for the jury due to the "extraordinarily compelling facts" that surround the case of accused terrorist Adis Medunjanin. "One need not conjure up worst-case scenarios to observe that even the mere possibility that the defendant's co-conspirator in Al Qaeda, or their sympathizers, might threaten the judicial process in this case is a valid concern," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bitkower argued in court papers.
The prosecutor cited Al Qaeda's "global reach and a history of targeting civilians in New York City" and substantial media coverage of the trial as justification for empaneling an anonymous panel.
Anonymous juries have been used in several terrorism cases in Brooklyn in recent years, including the trials of wannabe terrorists who plotted to blow up fuel lines at Kennedy Airport and travel overseas to kill U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan.
When the 500 prospective jurors arrive at the courthouse on April 2 to fill out a questionnaire for Medunjanin's trial, they will be assigned a number. Their names will be sealed in a vault and never disclosed to prosecutors, defense lawyers or even the judge.
Posted on 02/24/2012 2:55 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 24 February 2012
Islamic meeting: Mohammed Abdin jailed for Canton threats
That's Canton the district of Cardiff in Wales, not the Chinese language From the BBC which report contains a very illuminating video.
A man has been jailed for eight months after threatening to shoot police and council officials at an anti-terror raid on a Muslim meeting in Cardiff. Mohammed Abdin, 21, from Grangetown, Cardiff, threatened officers who broke up a meeting of the Supporters of Tawheed at Canton Community Hall.
He committed the offence days after receiving a suspended sentence for affray on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Abdin, who admitted the offence, was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court.
The court heard Abdin became very aggressive and shouted at police, "I'm going to cut your head off" and "I'm going to shoot you with a machine gun". The court was told that when arrested, he told a police officer: "In 10 to 15 years when we rule, I'm going to hunt you down and kill you. You're going to burn to death".
Abdin previously pleaded guilty at Cardiff Magistrates' Court.
Abdin's father Mohammed Abdin Snr angrily claimed outside court that his son was innocent. "This boy is one of the brightest," he said. "Just because he's got a beard and is a Muslim boy, that's why this is happening. He's a graduate. Because of something that's happened he's got sacked by his work. He's got paid wrongly because he's a Muslim."
Do watch the video of this concerned father (and his shouded and silent daughter).
Posted on 02/24/2012 4:56 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 24 February 2012
Fouad Ajami Thinks "The Syrian People" Exist, And Are Under Assault
Here is an article by Fouad Ajami, with occasional comments interpolated in the text by me:
There are the Friends of Syria, and there are the Friends of the Syrian Regime. The former, a large group—the United States, the Europeans and the bulk of Arab governments—is casting about for a way to end the Assad regime's assault on its own people there is irresolution and endless talk about the complications and the uniqueness of the Syrian case.
No such uncertainty detains the Friends of the Syrian Regime—Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and to a lesser extent China. In this camp, there is a will to prevail, a knowledge of the stakes in this cruel contest, and material assistance for the Damascus dictatorship.
In the face of the barbarism unleashed on the helpless people of Homs, the Friends of Syria squirm and hope to be delivered from any meaningful burdens. Still, they are meeting Friday in Tunis to discuss their options. But Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad needn't worry. The Tunisian hosts themselves proclaimed that this convocation held on their soil precluded a decision in favor of foreign military intervention.
Syria is not Libya, the mantra goes, especially in Washington. The provision of arms to the Syrian opposition is "premature," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stated. We don't know the Syrian opposition, another alibi has it—they are of uncertain provenance and are internally divided. Our weapons could end up in the wrong hands, and besides, we would be "militarizing" this conflict.
Those speaking in such ways seem to overlook the disparity in firepower between the Damascus ruler with his tanks and artillery, and the civilian population aided by defectors who had their fill with official terror.
The borders of Syria offer another exculpation for passivity. Look at the map, say the naysayers. Syria is bordered by Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. Intervention here is certain to become a regional affair.
Grant the Syrians sympathy, their struggle unfolds in the midst of an American presidential contest. And the incumbent has his lines at the ready for his acceptance speech in Charlotte, N.C. He's done what he had promised during his first presidential run, shutting down the war in Iraq and ending the American presence. This sure applause line precludes the acceptance of a new burden just on the other side of the Syria-Iraq frontier.
The silence of President Obama on the matter of Syria reveals the general retreat of American power in the Middle East. In Istanbul some days ago, a Turkish intellectual and political writer put the matter starkly to me: We don't think and talk much about America these days, he said. [the Friedmanian note -- the anecdotal quote. from someone suddenly endowed with authority and significance-- in this case that "Turkish intellectual and political writer" -- who has personally conveyed to the writer (Ajami or Tom Friedman) -- a personal judgment that is not subject, apparently, to questioning, and that has the from-the-horse's-mouth authority that the Friedmans of this world -- and other journalists too -- like to think makes their work more authoritative, the way American television newscasts like someone to be shown standing in some foreign land, delivering the kind of banal repoort, devoid of any analysis or understanding, that is made more "authentic" than if it were simply delivered by the newsreader sitting at the studio desk.]
Yet the tortured dissertations on the uniqueness of Syria's strategic landscape are in fact proofs for why we must thwart the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah nexus. Topple the Syrian dictatorship and the access of Iran to the Mediterranean is severed, leaving the brigands of Hamas and Hezbollah scrambling for a new way. The democracies would demonstrate that regimes of plunder and cruelty, perpetrators of terror, have been cut down to size. [would it not be better to weaken Iran directly, rather than become involved in Syria, as a substitute for dealing adequately, another excuse for failing to deal properly, with the nuclear project of the Islamic Republic of Iran?]
Plainly, the Syrian tyranny's writ has expired. Assad has implicated his own Alawite community in a war to defend his family's reign. The ambiguity that allowed the Assad tyranny to conceal its minority, schismatic identity, to hide behind a co-opted Sunni religious class, has been torn asunder. [see the discussion of Baa'thism, in Syria and in Iraq, here and here and here] Calls for a jihad, a holy war, against a godless lot have been made in Sunni religious circles everywhere.
Ironically, it was the Assad tyranny itself that had summoned those furies [part of Ajami's characteristic, pitched-much-too-high, idiolect] - cruel, cruelty, plunder and cruelty, this cruel contest, this cruel land, this cruel fate, this cruel tyranny, the furies of fate -- Ajami has always, even when what he says is reasonable, an overheated prose that has the effect of making those he talks about never masters, but always victims, and of something impersonal and vague and inexplicable and in the air, when what he is really talking about, or should be, is the baleful affect of Islam, on Muslims and on non-Muslims who live with, and under the threat of domination by, Muslims, alike] in its campaign against the American war in Iraq. It had provided transit and sanctuary for jihadists who crossed into Iraq to do battle against the Americans and the Shiites; it even released its own Islamist prisoners and dispatched them to Iraq with the promise of pardon. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and an Alawite community beyond the bounds of Islam is facing a religious war in all but name.[but Ajami writes as if suddenly, because of the Alawites, there is now a "religious war" that never existed in Syria before. But this "religious war" is nothing new; it's been going on for decades, under the surface. And its last violent manifestation was in the early 1980s, with the attacks by the Ikhwan, in Homs and Hama, and especially that which killed more than 80 Alawite cadets graduating from the military academy, was a "religious war" and any Armenian in Aleppo could testify as to the pervasive fear of Sunni Muslims, and gratitude, by Christians, to the Alawite regime for the necessary ruthlessness with which the "real Muslims" have been held in check.]
This schism cannot be viewed with American indifference. It is an inescapable fate that the U.S. is the provider of order in that region. We can lend a hand to the embattled Syrians or risk turning Syria into a devil's playground of religious extremism. Syria can become that self-fulfilling prophesy: a population abandoned by the powers but offered false solace and the promise of redemption by the forces of extremism and ruin.
We make much of the "opaqueness" of the Syrian rebellion and the divisions within its leadership. But there is no great mystery that attends this rebellion: An oppressed people, done with a tyranny of four decades, was stirred to life and conquered its fear after witnessing the upheaval that had earlier overtaken Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.[again, which "oppressed people" are these? This cannot refer to g not everyone in Syria. It may not be a majority of people in Syria, for some of the Sunnis are sufficiently advanced, or corrupt, or compromised, or all three, to wish the regime in power to stay in power]/
In Istanbul this month, I encountered the variety, and the normalcy, of this rebellion in extended discussions with prominent figures of the Syrian National Council. There was the senior diplomat who had grown weary of being a functionary of so sullied a regime. There was a businessman of means, from Aleppo, who was drawn into the opposition by the retrogression of his country.
There was a young prayer leader, from Banyas, on the Syrian coast, who had taken up the cause because the young people in his town had pressed him to speak a word of truth in the face of evil. Even the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Riad al-Shaqfa, in exile for three decades, acknowledged the pluralism of his country and the weakness of the Brotherhood, banned since 1980.
We frighten ourselves with phantoms of our own making. No one is asking or expecting the U.S. Marines to storm the shores of Latakia. This Syrian tyranny is merciless in its battles against the people of Homs and Zabadani, but its army is demoralized and riven with factionalism and sectarian enmities. It could be brought down by defectors given training and weapons; safe havens could give disaffected soldiers an incentive, and the space, to defect.
Meanwhile, we should recognize the Syrian National Council as the country's rightful leaders. This stamp of legitimacy would embolden the opposition and give them heart in this brutal season. Such recognition would put the governments of Lebanon and Iraq on notice that they are on the side of a brigand, lawless regime. There is Arab wealth that can sustain this struggle, and in Turkey there is a sympathetic government that can join this fight under American leadership.
The world does not always oblige our desires for peace; some struggles are thrown our way and have to be taken up. In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama dissociated himself from those who preach the doctrine of America's decline.
Never mind that he himself had been a declinist and had risen to power as an exponent of America's guilt in foreign lands. We should take him at his word. In a battered Syria, a desperate people await America's help and puzzle over its leader's passivity.
A longer comment on Ajami's phrase "Assad regime's assault on ts own people"
The phrase "its own people"implies that there exists "a Syrian people" -- a phrase as misleading as such phrases as "the Iraqi people" (hiding the Arab-Kurd and Sunni-Shi'a fissures) -- when a great many of the people in Syria, not only the Alawites, but those who feel protected by Alawite rule, which includes the Arab and Armenian Christians, and at least some of the other non-Sunnis and non-Arabs, such as the Druse and the Kurds, continue to support the regime, not because they are wicked or "cruel" (Fouad Ajami's favorite adjective, that has become one among many of his textual tics) but because they have a good sense, based on their own experience, of what their lives would be like under Sunni Arab rule (no matter what sweetness-and-light promises are offered to the Western world today, or believed in, as other hopes and dreams about "uprisings for freedom and democracy" would mean have been dashed in Egypt, in Libya, in Tunisia, in Yemen, each in its own way, to the dismay of secularists in Tunisia, and secularists and Copts in Egypt, and Libyan nationalists in Libya, and those who just thought there might be, with Saleh's removal, some change in the political atmosphere of non-stop violence and low-level oppression, in Yemen.
Next to Baba Amr in Homs are districts -- some with Alawites -- that are untouched. Syria is full of people who do not wish the regime to fall, even as they recognize how unpleasant it is. For them, what would replace it would be more unpleasant still. The refusal of Fouad Ajami -- a great supporter of the Iraq venture, someone who enjoys telling the West, and the Americans, what it should do to make life better for Muslim Arabs, what sacrifices it "should" make, or it "must" make, if Americans are to sleep well a'nights, and because he cannot allow himself to recognize that the West should always and everywhere do not what makes life better for Muslim Arabs, but protect non-Muslims, as best it can, and to act always with one goal in mind: to weaken the Camp of Islam. And in Syria, the Alawites are in the remarkable position of holding onto power, most unpleasantly, and deplorably, but they stand against Sunni Muslims taking control. And now they are permanently weakened, and a welcome drain on the resources of their main ally, Iran (though Shi'a in Lebanon and Iraq are not unsympathetic), and can do less damage outside Syria, can contribute less, for example, to supporting Hezbollah, and as they have their hands now permanently full with staying in control of Syria, this situation will not end. From the Western viewpoint -- that viewpoint doesn't have to be expressed publicly -- continued Alawite control, with a necessary weakening of interest in what goes on outside Syria, is desirable. What is not desirable is a Sunni Arab state in Syria, not for the non-Muslims and non-Arabs in Syria, and not for the world's non-Muslims, in and out of the Middle East.
Posted on 02/24/2012 8:51 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 24 February 2012
WELL I never thought I should come to the defence of John Prescott but I am on his side when it comes to his failure to hug his son (as he revealed on Desert Island Discs) or tell him on air (during the Jeremy Vine show) that he loved him.
The very fact that he should have been asked to do so demonstrates how our increasing tendency to express emotion in public, both in word and deed, actually undermines our ability to distinguish genuine from bogus feeling. There is no reason to suppose that Lord Prescott is other than a loving father. He does not need to hug his son or tell him he loves him for his love to be evident, it is clear from his whole manner of treating and being with him, not from gestures such as hugs.
One of the greatest works of our literature, Shakespeare’s King Lear, is (at least in part) about the difference between real and bogus emotion. Lear, you remember, having reached old age, intends to divide his kingdom between his three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. Before he does so he asks them how much they love him The two wicked daughters are able easily to deceive him with extravagant expressions of love that they do not feel but Cordelia refuses to “use that glib and oily art”.
Lear’s adviser the Earl of Kent warns Lear that: Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least, Nor are those empty-hearted, whose low sounds Reverb no hollowness. Lear takes no notice of this timely warning that empty vessels make the most noise, he assumes Goneril and Regan love him because they say so. The subsequent tragedy results from his failure to understand that words and emotion are not necessarily connected in a simple fashion. He learns the lesson far too late.
If I had to describe our age I should call it the age of reverberating hollowness. We no longer accept the implicit – for example, the fact that John Prescott’s love for his son is evident from his conduct towards him over many years.
No, we want him to hug him and even tell him in public, in front of an audience of millions, that he loves him. If he refuses to do so, well then, he does not really love his son because we think that there is no love without public demonstration of it. The problem with this is that it makes us crude and exhibitionistic. It sets up a kind of arms race in which people have to express themselves more and more extravagantly in order to persuade other people, and perhaps even themselves, that they feel anything at all.
You can see this even in our advertisements When an advertiser nowadays wants to persuade us that his product will make us happy he shows someone leaping, screaming mouth wide open, punching the air like a footballer who has just scored a goal, rather than someone smiling or being quietly content. But the problem is that words and gestures are easy to fake.
Nothing is easier than to hug someone but it is much harder to be a true friend to him or her, to be prepared actually to sacrifice something for his or her sake. I do not need to tell my friends of 40 years that they are my friends: they know it by now. In my generation (the same as Prescott’s), homes varied in emotional warmth just as now but not in the numbers of hugs or open expressions of love. My home was cold to freezing point, the homes of my friends nice and warm but the difference was not in the number of hugs .
Of course I do not mean to say that everyone who hugs someone else is insincere, nor do I mean that acting and speaking coldly is best. Physical gestures and words of affection are often consoling, though usually more so if they are infrequently employed, just as swear words mean more in the mouths of the polite than in those of the foul-mouthed. But real human warmth consists of far more than hugs and declarations of love.
Let us resolve then to reverb hollowness no more and to demand it of no one else either, including John Prescott.
First published in the Daily Express.
Posted on 02/24/2012 10:46 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Friday, 24 February 2012
Hamas Bites The Hand That Fed It For So Long
Hamas ditches Assad, backs Syrian revolt
By Omar Fahmy and Nidal al-Mughrabi
CAIRO/GAZA, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas turned publicly against their long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, endorsing the revolt aimed at overthrowing his dynastic rule.
The policy shift deprives Assad of one of his few remaining Sunni Muslim supporters in the Arab world and deepens his international isolation. It was announced in Hamas speeches at Friday prayers in Cairo and a rally in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas went public after nearly a year of equivocating as Assad's army, largely led by fellow members of the president's Alawite sect, has crushed mainly Sunni protesters and rebels.
In a Middle East split along sectarian lines between Shi'ite and Sunni Islam, the public abandonment of Assad casts immediate questions over Hamas's future ties with its principal backer Iran, which has stuck by its ally Assad, as well as with Iran's fellow Shi'ite allies in Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
"I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, visiting Egypt from the Gaza Strip, told thousands of Friday worshippers at Cairo's al-Azhar mosque.
"We are marching towards Syria, with millions of martyrs," chanted worshippers at al-Azhar, home to one of the Sunni world's highest seats of learning. "No Hezbollah and no Iran.
"The Syrian revolution is an Arab revolution."
Contemporary political rivalries have exacerbated tensions that date back centuries between Sunnis - the vast majority of Arabs - and Shi'ites, who form substantial Arab populations, notably in Lebanon and Iraq, and who dominate in non-Arab Iran.
Hamas and Hezbollah, confronting Israel on its southwestern and northern borders, have long had a strategic alliance against the Jewish state, despite opposing positions on the sectarian divide. Both have fought wars with Israel in the past six years.
But as the Sunni-Shi'ite split in the Middle East deepens, Hamas appears to have cast its lot with the powerful, Egypt-based Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose star has been in the ascendant since the Arab Spring revolts last year.
HAMAS MAKES ITS CHOICE
"This is considered a big step in the direction of cutting ties with Syria," said Hany al-Masri, a Palestinian political commentator. Damascus might now opt to formally expel Hamas's exile headquarters from Syria, he told Reuters.
Banned by deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood has moved to the centre of public life. It is the ideological parent of Hamas, which was founded 25 years ago among the Palestinians, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.
Shi'ite Hezbollah still supports the Assad family, from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, which has maintained authoritarian rule over Syria's Sunni majority for four decades but now may have its back to the wall.
Hamas, however, has been deeply embarrassed among Palestinians by its association with Assad, as the death toll in his crackdown on opponents has risen into the thousands.
In Gaza, senior Hamas member Salah al-Bardaweel addressed thousands of supporters at a rally in Khan Younis refugee camp, sending "a message to the peoples who have not been liberated yet, those free peoples who are still bleeding every day."
"The hearts of the Palestinian people bleed with every drop of bloodshed in Syria," Bardaweel said. "No political considerations will make us turn a blind eye to what is happening on the soil of Syria." [now that we have made our judgement as to which way the wind is blowing]
ANTI-ISRAEL AXIS WEAKENED
The divorce between Hamas and Damascus had been coming for months. The Palestinian group had angered Assad last year when it refused a request to hold public rallies in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria in support of his government.
Hamas's exile political leader Khaled Meshaal and his associates quietly quit their headquarters in Damascus and have stayed away from Syria for months now, although Hamas tried to deny their absence had anything to do with the revolt.
Haniyeh visited Iran earlier this month on a mission to shore up ties with the power that has provided Hamas with money and weapons to fight Israel. It is not clear what the outcome of his visit has been, though the tone of the latest Hamas comments is hardly compatible with continued warm relations with Tehran.
Rallies in favor of Syria's Sunni majority have been rare in the coastal enclave but on Friday it seemed the Islamist rulers of the territory had decided to break the silence.
"Nations do not get defeated. They do not retreat and they do not get broken. We are on your side and on the side of all free peoples," said Bardaweel.
"God is Greatest," the crowd chanted. "Victory to the people of Syria."
Hamas-Hezbollah relations have been good in the past. But Hamas did not attack Israel when it was fighting Hezbollah in 2006 and Hezbollah did not join in when Israel mounted a major offensive against Hamas in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
Anything that divides Hamas and Hezbollah is likely to be welcomed by Israel, which has been watching warily recent moves by Hamas to reconcile differences with its Palestinian rivals in Fatah, the movement of President Mahmoud Abbas.
There was no immediate Israeli comment on Friday's speeches.
Posted on 02/24/2012 4:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 24 February 2012
State Dept. Wants To Help Overturn Assad, Which Could Lead To A Loss Of Syrian Government Control Over WMD, Which Could Lead....
State Department Reportedly Quietly Warning Syrian Neighbors About WMDs
24 Feb 2012,
(NewsCore) - The US State Department has begun coordinating with Syria's neighbors on how to handle President Bashar al Assad's weapons of mass destruction in the event his government collapses, Foreign Policy magazine's blog The Cable reported Friday.
The Cable said that three officials of President Barack Obama's administration confirmed that the State Department this week used private diplomatic communications to warn Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia about the possibility of Syrian WMDs crossing their borders and offering US assistance.
According to The Cable, Syria is believed to have a substantial chemical weapons program that includes mustard gas as well as sophisticated nerve agents, such as sarin gas, and biological weapons. It is also not known if its nuclear weapons program is still in operation.
The communications indicate Washington is developing plans to deal with the dangers of a post-Assad Syria, The Cable said.
In response to questions, a State Department official said Friday, "We believe Syria's chemical weapons stockpile remains under Syrian government control, and we will continue to work closely with like-minded countries to prevent proliferation of Syria's chemical weapons program."
Posted on 02/24/2012 4:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 24 February 2012
Poetic 'Terlude - Something that 'Spired Me
I just membered this, went off and looked it up then came back and posted it here for you joyment:
I know a little man both ept and ert.
An intro-? extro-? No, he's just a vert.
Sheveled and couth and kempt, pecunious, ane,
His image trudes upon the ceptive brain.
When life turns sipid and the mind is traught,
The spirit soars as I would sist it ought.
Chalantly then, like any gainly goof,
My digent self is sertive, choate, loof.
Gloss, by David McCord
from 'The Oxford Book of American Light Verse'
Posted on 02/24/2012 7:38 PM by John M Joyce
Friday, 24 February 2012
A Musical Interlude: I'm Following You (Annette Hanshaw)
Posted on 02/24/2012 8:53 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 24 February 2012
A Tourist Destination Off-Limits To Infidels, If They Know What's Good For Them
Once Qaeda stronghold, Iraq’s Madain seeks tourism revival
Historic Iraqi town hopes to return to its previous status as centre for archaeology, tourism following years of armed conflict.
By Sammy Ketz - MADAIN (Iraq)
Suspected of being a biological weapons site under Saddam Hussein and later an Al-Qaeda stronghold, an Iraqi town wants to return to its previous status as a centre for archaeology and tourism.
Madain, a town of some 7,000 inhabitants, was founded by the Parthian King Mithridates I more than 2,000 years ago.
It now lies between the two main highways linking the capital with southern Iraq, as do historical sites such as the Arch of Ctesiphon and the tomb of Salman Pak -- one of the companions of the Prophet Mohammed.
"We want to restore life to this place and make it one of the beautiful places for tourism," said Abdelhadi Hassan, director of antiquities in the town, 30 kilometres (18 miles) south of Baghdad.
He said that both Iraqis and foreigners used to visit the gardens and parks in the town.
"Because of negligence the gardens and parks disappeared," he said. Maintenance work was stopped "because of the wars of the former regime."
Postcards from the 1970s show luxuriant gardens and arbours, but today there is little foliage because the irrigation pipes were destroyed and the trees were cut down for firewood by inhabitants during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.
And the museum was looted in 2003 following the US-led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein, who was later executed.
A yellow brick palace, built by Shapur I (241-272 AD) of the Persian Sassanid dynasty, features the Arch of Ctesiphon, which at 37 metres (122 feet) tall and 48 metres (158 feet) deep, is the largest in the world.
About two kilometres (1.2 miles) away lies the tomb of Salman Pak ("The Pure" in Persian).
According to tradition, Salman Pak was originally Zoroastrian but converted to Christianity, and was later sold into slavery to a Jewish family in Medina in present-day Saudi Arabia, before converting to Islam.
Though it once was a centre for tourism and still features historical sites, Madain has had a notorious reputation in recent decades.
In 1986, according to the UN, the Iraqi biological weapons programme was developed in the area, and during the 2003 invasion, American forces said they captured Egyptians and Sudanese in a "terrorist training camp" in the town.
'Return to the old days'
Al-Qaeda in 2005 made the town its stronghold, manufacturing car bombs and other explosive devices, while its fighters attacked the police and US forces, and constructed "dungeons" in the orchards in the area to detain victims kidnapped from the nearby highways.
Former Iraqi intelligence chief General Mohammed Shahwani dubbed it a "guerrilla hideout."
"This region was a site of armed conflict, but now that is all over," Hassan said.
But the military and police still patrol both on foot and in armoured vehicles between the Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods, as the wounds from the conflict between the two communities are far from healed.
The Shiites cannot forget the terrible years from 2005 to 2008 during which insurgents carried out murders, abductions and attacks on their places of worship.
Abu Ali al-Shimmari, a 56-year-old restaurant owner, is still traumatised because of one day in 2005 when three armed men told him: "You have three days to leave, or we will kill you."
So he and his family left the town until 2008, by which time the security situation had improved.
Both Sunnis and Shiites want to see Madain become a tourist destination once again.
"I really want us to return to the old days," Shimmari said.
Adnan Khideir, a 42-year-old retired Sunni official, agreed: "The state must rebuild the town, especially now that the security situation is better."
He said he wants the gardens and public parks to be restored and an old hotel to be renovated.
But for now, the palace and the Arch of Ctesiphon remain a desolate place guarded by security forces.
The site has not even been registered as a UNESCO world heritage site, nor has such a request been made, an official from the international organisation said.
Posted on 02/24/2012 9:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 24 February 2012
An Arab Force To Take The Sunni Side In Syria -- A Wonderful Idea
Feb. 24, 2012
Syrie : la Tunisie et le Qatar pour l'envoi d'une force arabe
À Homs, dans le centre de la Syrie, le quartier de Bab Amro est bombardé sans relâche par l'armée de Bachar el-Assad. Crédits photo : HANDOUT/REUTERS
Aux «Amis de la Syrie» réunis vendredi à Tunis, les militants syriens ont réclamé «des actes». Finalement, la conférence a appelé Damas à l'arrêt des violences et s'est engagée à renforcer les sanctions contre le régime.
• Les militants syriens réclament «des actes»
Plus de soixante pays «amis de la Syrie» (arabes, européens, Turquie, États-Unis...) et des représentants de l'opposition syrienne se sont réunis vendredi après-midi dans un hôtel de la banlieue nord de Tunis. Objet de cette conférence: aider le peuple syrien et obtenir de Damas la fin des tueries. Moscou et Pékin ont boycotté la réunion.
Avant le début de la conférence, des militants syriens ont appelé les pays concernés à enfin privilégier les actes aux paroles. «Plus vous parlez sans agir, plus le régime va se venger de nous», a affirmé Hadi Abdallah, militant de la Commission générale de la révolution syrienne présent dans la ville de Homs. «Si le monde ne veut pas agir, nous préférons qu'il se taise. Aux pays arabes, nous disons en particulier, assez de condamnations, nous voulons des actes», a-t-il ajouté.
• La Tunisie et le Qatar proposent une force arabe
«La situation actuelle exige une intervention arabe dans le cadre de la Ligue arabe, une force arabe pour préserver la paix et la sécurité, et pour accompagner les efforts diplomatiques», a estimé lors de cette conférence le président tunisien Moncef Marzouki. Une volonté qui rejoint celle du Qatar, dont le ministre des Affaire étrangères a proposé «la formation d'une force arabe internationale de maintien de la sécurité». De son côté, le ministre saoudien des Affaires étrangères Saoud al-Fayçal a jugé «excellente» l'idée d'armer l'opposition syrienne.
Quant aux pays occidentaux, ils sont restés sur le terrain des sanctions. Dès lundi, a annoncé le chef de la diplomatie française Alain Juppé, l'Union européenne prendra «de nouvelles mesures fortes, notamment un gel des avoirs de la Banque centrale syrienne». Le régime syrien «paiera le prix fort s'il continue d'ignorer la voix de la communauté internationale et de violer les droits de l'homme», a déclaré son homologue américaine Hillary Clinton, qui a également appelé la communauté internationale à «regarder attentivement» ce qu'elle peut faire pour «accentuer la pression» sur Damas. Pour agir face à l'urgence humanitaire en Syrie - en particulier à Homs, pilonnée sans relâche depuis trois semaines - elle a offert 10 millions de dollars d'aide.
En conclusion de cette demi-journée de réunions à Tunis, la conférence a appelé Damas à «cesser immédiatement toute forme de violence» afin de permettre l'accès de l'aide humanitaire et s'est «engagée à prendre des mesures pour appliquer et renforcer les sanctions sur le régime». «Encouragé» par l'unité internationale qui s'est manifestée à Tunis, le président américain Barack Obama s'est déclaré prêt à prendre «tous les outils disponibles pour empêcher les massacres» en Syrie.
Le Français et l'Américaine ont par ailleurs apporté leur soutien à l'opposition syrienne, en appuyant particulièrement sa principale composante, le Conseil national syrien (CNS). Sans aller jusqu'à une reconnaissance formelle, Hillary Clinton a jugé le CNS «crédible», estimant qu'il offre une «alternative» au régime de Bachar el-Assad. De même, Alain Juppé a déclaré qu'il considérait le Conseil national syrien (CNS) comme «l'interlocuteur légitime» de la communauté internationale, sans s'engager plus avant.
Posted on 02/24/2012 9:37 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald