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These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 31, 2007.
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
US Troops Vulnerable To Iranian Attack In Iraq

This story illustrates another problem with keeping our troops in Iraq indefinitely. One Hugh Fitzgerald has warned of for years. They are sitting ducks for Iranian bombs. We can be certain that Iran has the Green Zone and any other semi-permanent US installation in Iraq within the crosshairs of their missiles and high on the target list for their bombers.

LATimes: WASHINGTON -- While the White House dwells on Iran's nuclear program, senior U.S. diplomats and military officers fear that an incident on the ground in Iraq is a more likely trigger for a possible confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

In one sign of their concern, U.S. military policymakers are weighing whether to release some of the Iranian personnel they have taken into custody in Iraq. Doing so could reduce the risk that radical Iranian elements might seize U.S. military or diplomatic personnel to retaliate, thus raising the danger of an escalation, a senior Defense official said.

The Bush administration has charged that Iran is funding anti-American fighters in Iraq and sending in sophisticated explosives to bleed the U.S. mission, although some of the administration's charges are disputed by Iraqis as well as the Iranians. Still, the diplomatic and military officials say they fear that the overreaching of a confident Iran, combined with growing U.S. frustrations, could set off a dangerous collision.

An unintended clash over Iraq "is very much on people's minds," said an American diplomat, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly express his views.

A U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, despite recent heated rhetoric from the White House, today "seems more remote," he added.

An on-the-ground clash could be sparked, say current and former officials, by a confrontation along the 900-mile-long border between Iran and Iraq, or in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Or it could be ignited over one of the periodic U.S. attempts to arrest those the Americans assert are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq.

The U.S. military might also retaliate if a bombing in Iraq killed a large number of U.S. troops and there was clear evidence of Iranian involvement, U.S. officials have warned.

Posted on 10/31/2007 7:12 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Springtime In Rawalpindi

"Chloe Mulderig ‘05, who identifies as a 'moderate Muslim'...."
-- from this article in the Dartmouth paper

What made her do it? A nice Pakistani roommate, the daughter of a zamindar, with whom she shared a room in boarding school? Or perhaps a roommate now, someone who soulfully introduced her, perhaps, to the love poetry of Rumi, and made her think that this was Islam? A professor, of the MESANostran kind (google "Mesa Nostra" and "Jihad Watch" for more) who spotted her as a vulnerable target, and instead of exploiting her in the way that some teachers used to get away with more easily, chose instead to mess with her mind? How did Chloe become a "Muslim" (moderate, forsooth!) and what's more, such a meretricious Defender of the Faith?

Is there hope for her yet? Might she actually read, and re-read, and come to understand, the texts of Islam, and then the tenets of Islam, and then the atmospherics of Islam? Give this girl a term off to study Arabic in Cairo and Damascus, or perhaps spring in Rawalpindi. The bulbuls sing beautifully that time of year.

Posted on 10/31/2007 7:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
A Musical Interlude: The Teddy Bear's Picnic
Posted on 10/31/2007 7:42 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
The Wall Street Journal To Launch Islamic and Ethical Finance Conference

Selling us down the river, one institution at a time. From AMEInfo (with thanks to Jeffrey Imm):

Islamic finance, the fastest-growing of all the financial sectors around the world, will be the focus of a full-day event at DIFCweek, November 17 - 23.

The event, held in association with The Wall Street Journal, will be entitled Islamic and Ethical Finance, and marks the first collaboration of its kind between Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the world's leading business publication.

The appetite for Shariah products for consumers and investors worldwide is increasing exponentially, with the current Islamic finance market estimated at $500 billion with expected annual growth of 10 to 15 per cent.

Meanwhile, financial capitals around the world, regardless of their location, are expanding their infrastructure to build sound and regulated Islamic finance systems.

Nasser Al Shaali, CEO of DIFC Authority, said: 'Islamic banking has contributed to economic development in many Muslim countries. And, there have also been substantial benefits to institutions, investors, companies and economies that are not necessarily a part of the Muslim world.

'Globally, the increased intermediation provided by Islamic instruments has helped unlock assets previously unavailable to global capital markets. It has also increased the efficiency with which capital can be allocated, both within the Muslim world and internationally.

'Non-Islamic institutions and governments are issuing Islamic securities, while non-Islamic investors are purchasing Sharia-compliant securities. This means greater access to funding, investment channels, innovation and opportunities for both Islamic and non-Islamic investors,' he added.

"The Wall Street Journal is delighted to be associated with DIFCweek," said Michael Bergmeijer, managing director, Dow Jones consumer media group in Europe.

"The Middle East offers exciting economic growth opportunities, and we support the work the DIFC does in contributing to the overall development of the region and in its advancement of Islamic and ethical finance - themes we'll be exploring in more detail at our conference in November." ...

Posted on 10/31/2007 7:48 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Teddy bear's nit-pick

Why "Teddy Bear's Picnic" and not "Teddy Bears' Picnic"? Today is, after all, the day the teddy bears have their picnic. "Every bear that ever there was," which is about as plural as you can get. And Lord knows it isn't much fun having a picnic on your own, so that final apostrophe should have been packed along with the honey and the corkscrew.

But there's no mistaking it - the song title, accurately reproduced by Hugh, says "Teddy Bear's picnic", as if there were only one teddy bear. Perhaps teddy has a lot of imaginary friends, or perhaps he has a very big ego, such that the other bears are just furry pawns in his game.

Perhaps, on the other hand,  I'm a couple of sandwiches short of a nit-pick. Or, since this is Halloween, perhaps that should be "sand-witches", a good reason to avoid picnicking in the desert.

Posted on 10/31/2007 7:58 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
The Two Faces Of Fatah

IsraelNN (with thanks to Laurie): A new music video appearing regularly on Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority television over the past week promises the elimination of Israel and the restoration of the "Arab identity" of cities throughout the Jewish State. The propaganda clip stands in stark contrast to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's recent declarations in support of reconciliation with Israel, issued ahead of the upcoming multinational Middle East peace conference organized by the United States.

As explained by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook of Palestinian Media Watch, "While the Palestinian Authority announces in English its demand for a two-state solution, to its own people in Arabic it continues to define all of Israel as 'Palestine,' and to promise Israel's destruction. A new video clip, broadcast numerous times daily since it first appeared on Fatah-controlled TV last week, passionately promises 'Mother' that every Israeli city will be 'liberated' because its 'identity is Arab' and 'Palestinian.'"

"We will liberate the Land..." the PA singer chants, "[which] is Arab in history and identity, Palestine is Arab in history and identity." The "Palestine" that is to be "liberated," according to the song, includes cities such as Jerusalem, Acre, Haifa, Bethlehem, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva, Tiberias, Hevron and Ramle, as well as the Galilee. Most of those cities listed are located within pre-1967 Israel.

"This is significant not only because it was broadcast on Fatah TV," note Marcus and Crook, "but because the constant repetition of this clip promising Israel's destruction comes at the very time that the world is preparing for a peace conference."

The PMW analysts termed the juxtaposition of English-language messages of peace and Arabic-language internal propaganda that is virulently anti-Israel "duplicity," and said that Yasser Arafat, as chairman of the PA, was a "notorious" deceiver in this regard. "Israel paid dearly for its trust in Arafat's English pronouncements," according to Marcus and Crook, "with more than 1,000 killed and tens of thousands wounded in the Palestinian Authority-led terror war.

"Today's leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was Arafat's right hand man and partner during the first duplicity period. To Israel and the U.S. in English, he is talking peace. To his people in Arabic, through his TV and schoolbooks, he is promoting hatred and promising the destruction of Israel. Is Abbas following Arafat's successful duplicity tactic? It is incumbent upon Israel and the world to verify this before going further," conclude the PMW directors.

Posted on 10/31/2007 8:32 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
British School Makes Teachers & Students Dress As Muslims For A Day

I'm not sure how reliable The Sun is in Britain, but this story was linked on Drudge:

A SCHOOL was yesterday accused of MAKING teachers dress up as Asians for a day – to celebrate a Muslim festival.

Kids at the 257-pupil primary have also been told to don ethnic garb even though most are Christians.

The morning assembly will be open to all parents – but dads are BARRED from a women-only party in the afternoon because Muslim husbands object to wives mixing with other men.

Just two members of staff – a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant – are Muslim.

Yesterday a relative of one of the 39 others said: “Staff have got to go along with it – or let’s face it, they would be branded racist.

“Who would put their job on the line? They have been told they have to embrace the day to show their diversity. But they are not all happy.”

The day aims to belatedly mark Eid, the end of Ramadan.

Sally Bloomer, head of Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands, insisted: “I have not heard of any complaints.

“It’s all part of a diversity project to promote multi-culturalism.”

Posted on 10/31/2007 11:08 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
French thinkers in a flap

Quel désastre. From The Times, a couple of days ago:

A row has split radical chic Parisian intellectuals over the relocation of their college from the affluent Left Bank to an impoverished, multiethnic suburb where they fear being deprived of bistros and boutiques.

Some of France’s most eminent academics are campaigning to stop the elite College of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS) from moving to Aubervilliers in the Seine-Saint-Denis département north of the capital. But the move’s backers say that the real concern of the intelligentsia is to remain within walking distance of cafés in Saint Germain des Prés and shops selling Prada clothes, Ferragamo shoes, wholemeal bread and smoked salmon...

We all know that French intellectuals need the right clothes - and the right pens.

Philosophers, historians, economists and sociologists have lined up to denounce the suburb as a cultural desert, far removed from the Parisian café society they have known since the days of Jean-Paul Sartre. They say Seine-Saint-Denis – infamous as the centre of the 2005 race riots in France and known from its registration number, 93, as le Neuf-Trois – is a “zone lacking all the necessary tools for intellectual work”.

But surely a true Bohemian doesn't need any props? Can't the indomitable intellectual French spirit simply rise above its unsavoury milieu? Or is there another reason for their opposition?

Supporters of the relocation say that it could help to bridge the gulf separating Paris’s white and wealthy city centre from a periphery marked by immigration, unemployment and violence. Catherine Sautter, a member of the college administration, said: “Maybe our intellectuals are not that intelligent at the end of the day.”

Intellectuals, especially French intellectuals, are rarely intelligent. The fashionable anti-establishment Bohemianism of the Left Bank is as false and empty as Marie-Antoinette's professed empathy with the peasants when she played shepherdess. Besides, French intellectuals - especially the chic ones - are irritating, and deserve to have their silly French noses put out of joint - or at least assailed with genuinely proletarian odours. But Schadenfreude is not the whole of my reaction. Perhaps the move will be good for them. Consider what has been studiously omitted from the description of the new location, with its circumlocutory references to "immigration", "violence" and "race riots": Islam. Left Bankers - meet the real anti-establishment, who would disestablish French rule and establish Sharia. Then grow up, read the Koran and put that intellect to good use.

Michel Foucault returned to Paris from a visit Iran enraptured by the "beauty" of the Ayatollah's regime, proof - if proof were needed - that there is no fool like a French fool. Had he studied, or lived, among the beurs of le Neuf-Trois, he might have had his eyes forcibly opened, not least when they torched his "magnificent beige Jaguar".

Posted on 10/31/2007 10:49 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Radical or Mainstream?

After $11B in U.S. aid to Pakistan since 9/11, the Washington Post reports:

A poll in August conducted for the Washington-based nonprofit group Terror Free Tomorrow found that 19 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States, down from 26 percent the previous year. Osama bin Laden had a far higher approval rating, at 46 percent, than either [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf (38 percent) or President Bush (9 percent).

Posted on 10/31/2007 12:02 PM by Andy McCarthy
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
And they have also lost their marbles

From This is London
Labour's favourite think tank was ridiculed today after it cast doubt on the celebration of Christmas.
In a call for a more multi-cultural Britain, the Institute of Public Policy Research said if we can't get rid of Christmas then we must mark other big religious festivals too.
But shadow communities secretary Baroness Warsi hit out at the leaked report which also called for Parliament and the monarchy to be stripped of Christian rituals. (A Muslim, I believe.)
Ms. Warsi said: "Gordon Brown's favoured think tank's advisers have clearly lost the plot. Their comments betray a breathtaking misunderstanding of what it is to be British. These proposals could actually damage our community cohesion." She's not wrong.
The research institute's in-depth report, due to be published tomorrow, offers a range of ideas to boost race relations. To help new immigrants, the authors suggest dismantling as many "national culture" barriers as possible.
The report says: " Evenhandedness dictates that we provide public recognition to minority cultures and traditions. "If we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas - and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to - then public organisations should mark other major religious festivals too."
Oh and I bet they would dearly love to abolish celebration of the birth of Christ.  Easter can be hard to get one's head round, but few can fail to understand the message of Christmas in the birth of the Christ Child.  Despite attempts to commercialise it, that is what makes Christmas so much more dangerous as a festival, in certain eyes.

Posted on 10/31/2007 11:54 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Madrid bombers sentenced to 40,000 years

From The Telegraph
A Spanish court has convicted three men of murder for their part in the Madrid train bombings.
Another accused ringleader and six others were acquitted in the culmination of a politically divisive trial over Europe's worst Islamic terror attack.
The men received symbolic sentences of more than 39,000 years each but under Spanish law they will only serve a maximum of 40 years in jail (w
hich still means that they will be old men when they come out).
Two Moroccan men Jamal Zougam, 33, and Othman Gnaoui, 32, were both found guilty of planning and carrying out the attacks on four commuter trains on March 11, 2004 which killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800.
A former Spanish miner, Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, 30, was found guilty of supplying the explosives used in the blasts and was also sentenced to almost 40,000 years.
A total of 18 other people were found guilty of involvement in the bombings and given lesser sentences.

Posted on 10/31/2007 12:49 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Halloween and the Celtic Samhain

This article from The Scotsman is 2 years old  but when talking about customs which ago back millennia 2 years is as nothing.  It is also the best article I can find while our dinner cooks about Samhain, the Celtic festival between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice which we know as Halloween.
Samhain was not just about year's end and the coming of winter. It was also the feast of the dead, the season of the earth’s decay when evil was held to wander the planet. The shield of the female warrior Skathcach was lowered, and the barrier between the two worlds faded. The forces of chaos invaded our globe, and the world of the living joined with the world of the dead.
With so much evil pricking the night, man’s response was clear. Fire! Light! Illuminate the dark and cast out the shadows. Banish the witches and warlocks with ritual and rite. Druids built fires, disguising themselves in order to confuse and baffle the evil spirits. They scooped out turnips and fashioned them into skulls and placed them, lit, around their fire to keep evil at bay.
The bonfires of Guy Fawkes on November 5th are much older than the gunpowder plot of 1605. Read more
here. 

Posted on 10/31/2007 1:02 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax

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