These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 4, 2012.
Saturday, 4 August 2012
American Policy And Christians In Syria
From The Washington Times:
Islamic extremists threaten Syria’s Christians
Obama must not ignore sacrifice of religious minorities
More than a year has elapsed since the United States aligned itself with Syria's Sunni-dominated opposition and the Middle East's Sunni powers to overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. While the United States pursues this goal in the name of the Syrian people, it is clear that its ultimate strategic objective is to render Syria, Shiite Iran's most important regional ally, useless in its struggle for mastery of the Middle East.
To achieve its goal, the United States is employing economic sanctions, political backing for the Syrian opposition and lethal military support to the Free Syrian Army and other Sunni-dominated armed groups, channeled through Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey -- all American allies with considerable democratic deficits, especially in the realm of religious and ethnic minority rights.
As the Syrian state has degraded, the people of Syria have experienced an upsurge of death, displacement and destruction. The United States' active support for regime change in Syria has signaled an anarchic scramble for power and influence, as neighboring states and terrorist groups such as al Qaeda vie for a share of the collapsing state. The Syrian civil war has become, in the words of Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, "a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control."
During Syria's slow-motion descent into chaos, the State Department has vigorously publicized and condemned atrocities committed by forces loyal to President Assad. But Syrian opposition forces increasingly match the Assad regime's disdain for the lives and liberty of the Syrian people, especially Christians and other non-Sunnis, who constitute about 25 percent of Syria's population.
Human rights monitors and church officials have reported cases of the armed opposition kidnapping, torturing, displacing, murdering and using civilians as human shields. Such crimes often are accompanied by cries of "Allahu Akbar," "Death to unbelievers" and other expressions of Islamic jihad.
Before the outbreak of anti-government violence in the spring of 2011, the strain of Sunni supremacism within the opposition was evident. "Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the coffin," became a refrain at public protests. (The Alawites belong an offshoot sect of Islam and are seen as heretics by most Sunnis. The Assad family and most of its top lieutenants are Alawite.) Within a year, Islamist rebels had religiously cleansed 90 percent of the Christians from Homs, and they reportedly are holding 200 as hostages. This month, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo expressed fear that the same fate awaits the Christian community in his besieged see and in Damascus.
A July 31 article in The Washington Times told the story of a Syrian Alawite man who attempted to join a rebel group in Lattakia, only to be rebuffed by rebels who said, "We don't need Alawi pigs with us."
The United Nations secretary-general's special advisers on the prevention of genocide and on the responsibility to protect warned last month that with "deepening sectarian tensions [in Syria], the risk of further mass atrocity crimes is high."
In January 2011, former President Amine Gemayel of Lebanon broke a taboo of the international community when he declared that Islamic extremists were committing "genocide" against the Christians of the Middle East. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France soon followed suit by describing this genocide process as "religious cleansing." Syria has surpassed Iraq as the epicenter of this regional catastrophe.
In President Obama's May 2011 address on the Arab uprisings, he pledged to defend "universal rights" in the Middle East -- including religious freedom -- with "all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal." The United States must lose no more time translating those fine words into a concrete, implementable policy.
Mr. Obama should call on the Syrian opposition and its foreign supporters -- especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey -- to declare support for minority rights, religious liberty and religiously neutral government and to condemn all forms of religious supremacism. He furthermore should unveil without delay a policy response to the U.N. secretary-general's special advisers' appeal for "immediate, decisive action" to "protect populations at risk of further atrocity crimes in Syria."
Washington must not sacrifice the religious minorities of Syria in its efforts to build a Sunni Islamist bloc against the regional ambitions of Shiite Iran. Failure of the United States and its allies to guarantee the human rights of religious minorities will only cause these communities to cling tighter to the Assad regime for protection and thereby deepen and prolong the civil war.
John Eibner is CEO of Christian Solidarity International.
Posted on 08/04/2012 7:58 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 August 2012
Esperanto Enthusiasts (plus one dissenter) Write
Since Dr. Berdichevsky’s article on Esperanto in December, 2007, comments continue to arrive. A lengthy excerpt of the article has been translated into Esperanto and will shortly appear through the combined efforts of Vera Barandovska-Frank and Prof. Helmar Frank, Institute for Cybernetic Pedagogy at the University of Paderborn, Germany. Comments range from the use of Esperanto in hip-hop music, an anthology of dirty jokes, where to go on the net to rapidly learn Esperanto by the teach yourself method, important literary translations of works from “minor languages” such as Finnish and Bulgarian (untranslated into any other language), and the experiences of others in the usefulness of Esperanto while travelling…..
1 Dec 2007
Thank you for such a well-written and extensive article - it's not often that one finds something like this in English, actually based on facts, not suppositions, about Esperanto! I think you have dealt fairly with the issues. The only things I would like to add are
1) a mention of the seven points of the Prague Manifesto:
2) a daily calendar of events in Esperanto around the world: http://www.eventoj.hu/2007.htm
and 3) the daily podcasts in Esperanto from Radio Polonia:
(so that one may hear what the language sounds like in actual use).
2 Dec 2007
Thank you for that thorough and informative essay. It is easy enough to ignore Esperanto, and the fact that most people do requires no explanation. Most people ignore most languages other than their own, unless required to do otherwise. Few people are required to learn or pay attention to Esperanto. That some people, mostly intellectuals, feel a need to oppose Esperanto and the very idea of a planned language is something else again.
Why do educated people persist in claiming that Esperanto (and, by implication, any other planned language) "failed" and "cannot work," despite the clearly documented fact that it has been functioning very well, in all the ways described in your essay, for over a century?
Granted, there is a sense in which Esperanto has failed. It is not yet, and may never be, the recognized and accepted interlanguage of the world. Although Esperanto speakers are found all over the world, they are not so numerous that one can plan on encountering them by chance. But that fact doesn't diminish the success of Esperanto as a fully functional language, with its own cultural diaspora. I suppose the peculiar opposition from many intellectuals is based on something like, "If Esperanto had any value I'd already know about it. Since I don't, I should have something dismissive to say." The easiest way to do this is to take the stance that "we" (those in the know about these things) already know that artificial languages are deeply flawed in principle. If pressed to explain that principle, the best tactic is to mutter something about culture, then try to change the subject. Esperanto, whatever its defects, has succeeded to an extent that no other planned language has. That fact is indeed a nugget of cultural literacy that is at least as significant as Humpty Dumpty.
2 Dec 2007
For an alternative - admittedly light-hearted - view, see my December 2006 article here.
I have no doubt that there are many enthusiastic Esperanto speakers around the world. Perhaps their number will increase, and perhaps they will write some wonderful novels, poems and jokes in Esperanto. The problem is, however, that the purpose of this enthusiasm, of these novels, poems and jokes (I find jokes the most difficult to imagine) is Esperanto. Esperanto is an end in itself. Other languages are not.
Artificial languages are flawed in principle, partly because they are an end in themselves, but mainly because they will not be able to cope with language change and still retain whatever it was that made them "better" than real languages. From my article:
Then there is the regularity of the made-up language, a regularity which, according to its founder and its proponents, will ensure that it is successful. This idea is Utopian. It presupposes, as did Communism and Socialism, that human beings will behave in a predictable and ideal way. Neither humans nor their languages have ever been regular. Even if a language has been created regular, to be successful it must cease to be artificial and come alive. If it does so, like all languages, indeed all living things, it will change. Languages always change. Itï¿½ will develop irregularities, dialects, slang, pidgins or Creoles. Some dialects - those of aï¿½ commercially or politically dominant group -ï¿½will come to prominence, and perhaps, in time, becomeï¿½languages in their own right; others will die out. Language change will be seen as decay. Curmudgeons will write to the Daily Telegraph, or Doelligkhyy Tugglibarf, complaining how young Volapukes today say ï¿½vï¿½delikï¿½ when they mean ï¿½nindukolï¿½sï¿½.
5 Dec 2007
Excellent and very honest article, respecting historical facts and also based on the writer's personal experiences.
I really enjoyed reading this historical review about such an important phenomenon, which - regrettably - is untill now unsufficiently known and appreciated in our modern world. This world however is in dire need of such a common, simple, neutral and second language for all its citizens.
Korajn salutojn el Belgio
PS: More information:
5 Dec 2007
I am glad that this very informative article about Esperanto by Norman Berdichevsky has been published in NEW ENGLISH REVIEW. More people need to know about this language for the future.
But in the section on Esperanto culture, I wish that he would have noted that, although Esperanto has no national culture, it does have an international or global culture. Furthermore, that is just what is needed as humanity moves from the inter-nationalism of the 20th century to the globalism of the 21st century. On these points the reader might want to check my articles "La Kulturo de Esperanto" in INTERNACIA PEDAGOGIA REVUO, 2005/4, pp. 3-6 and "Esperanto kaj Mondcivitaneco" in IPR, 2006/4, pp. 7-10.
I also think that Berdichevsky 's references to THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR article (Winter 2006) "Exploring Esperantoland" by Arika Okrent are somewhat misleading. The two sentences he quotes from her (not him!) are her description of the attitude of others, not her own view. The article as a whole is very complimentary to Esperanto and Esperantists as well as being very informative about what it is like for a non-Esperantist to enter the world of Esperanto.
Mary Jackson should realize that some of us Esperantists are motivated by the desire to be citizens of a global community, not just visitors to a few countries, and that we are able to attain that goal by becoming a member of the Esperanto community. Just as national languages are the basis of national community, so we need a global language to become part of a global community. I can do this even if quantitatively there are not that many of us.
Communicating with non-English speakers in English just doesn't do it. What arrogance and unfairness! Native speakers of English are less than 6 per cent of the world's population, and that percentage is declining. Are you ready to learn Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Arabic?
There is no way that I can learn even half of the 22 languages in the world which are spoken by more than 50 million native speakers, so the neutral non-national (global) language Esperanto is the realistic solution.
To see how quickly you too can learn Esperanto, go to <http://www.lernu.net>. For children,<http://www.icxlm.org>.
5 Dec 2007
Mary Jackson should realize that some of us Esperantists are motivated by the desire to be citizens of a global community, not just visitors to a few countries, and that we are able to attain that goal by becoming a member of the Esperanto community. Just as national languages are the basis of national community, so we need a global language to become part of a global community.
That's one of the ways in which I differ from an Esperantist or a Volapucian. I have no desire whatsoever to be part of a "global community". The very idea makes me shudder.
I don't like "communities" of any sort. They are the work of the devil.
5 Dec 2007
Thanks to those who have commented on my article. To those who still persist in labeling Esperanto an "artificial" language, please let me explain that although devised, it is a living language as much as modern Hebrew or Nynorsk (one of the two official languages in Norway).
One hundred and thirty years ago there was not a single native, primary or habitual speaker of any of these languages. They were "devised" by devoted linguists and deeply dedicated men convinced that Yiddish or Dano-Norwegian (the languages most commonly spoken by East European Jews and educated urban Norwegians respectively) could NOT serve as "national languages" - the vehicle embodying the culture, future national development and historical literature of these two peoples.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and Ivar Aasen, like Zamenhof , struggled to draw upon the legacy of the past to formulate a new modern literary and spoken language. Esperanto differs in that it is not the speech of a distinct nation or ethnic group but a self-chosen diaspora of those who use it for practical utilitarian purposes and for a minority as their chosen vehicle for the expression of a new cosmopolitan culture.
All three languages - Esperanto, Modern Hebrew and Nynorsk are LIVING languages changing as a result of the usage of those who speak and write them. Each has had an "Academy" but it has been the daily decisions of speakers in contact through correspondence, visits, seminars, conferences and the production of a massive literature and cultural creativity, Not the Academy, that have changed and developed each language, its idiomatic expressions and slang.
5 Dec 2007
Mary Jackson's comment here is a good illustration of the lack of informed criticism and analysis of the Esperanto phenomenon by well educated people. She "finds jokes the most difficult to imagine", and she asserts that Esperanto is used solely incestuously, to talk about Esperanto.
There exists an amazing and quite wonderful Esperanto joke book, "Kruko kaj Baniko en Bervalo", which is full of marvelous dirty jokes, marvelous not only in terms of how funny they are but also in giving men and women equal time and status, something dirty jokes rarely do. I've had the great satisfaction of telling some of these jokes to non-Esperantist friends who laughed as heartily as I did. Some of the jokes do refer to the culture and community of Esperanto, to great and hilarious effect, but a) most of the jokes incorporate universal truths, and b) it is a proof of the vitality of Esperanto culture that it IS possible to base jokes on that culture, including dirty jokes. (Years ago Umberto Eco gave a lecture in which he asserted that obviously the artificiality of Esperanto menat that you couldn't make love in it. A lovely young lady spoke up and said that she had. This induced Eco to realize that he actually knew essentially nothing about Esperanto, and he got interested and even wrote a book about constructed languages.)
A recent beautful book is "Bildoj pri Norda Lando", images in the form of short stories, miniatures, autobiographical in nature, about a young Italian man working in Sweden in the 1950's (the author is Sen Rodin, pen name of Filippo Franceschi). The book has little to do with Esperanto, other than being an artful expression of the intellectual curiosity and transcultural searching characteristic of many speakers of Esperanto.
Then there is the rich literature of books translated into Esperanto, which offers vistas closed to most people. I have read with pleasure and profit fine, important works from Bulgaria and Finland in excellent Esperanto versions. Works selected and translated by translators embedded in "minor" cultures have significant advantages over translations from these smaller-scale cultures done by outsiders. Is "Sub la Jugo", a national epic of a failed revolt of the Bulgarians against the Turks, or the comedies of the Finnish humorist Alexis Kivi an Esperanto "end in itself"?
Lack of knowledge of this small but culturally interesting community is understandable, not only because it is small but also because most discourse on the topic has been woefully uninformed or even mindlessly derogatory. But it would be good if people would think twice about saying anything about Esperanto without knowing something of its culture.
5 Dec 2007
Mary Jackson states:
"I have no desire whatsoever to be part of a "global community". The very idea makes me shudder.
I don't like "communities" of any sort. They are the work of the devil."
This can lead me to assume one of the following: she is either joking and horribly self-deluded, or, she's off her rocker.
One thing is clear, she has no understanding of the subject of her article or perhaps SHE is "the work of the devil."
6 Dec 2007
Jokes in Esperanto? That’s a plus. No Esperanto hip hop? That’s a huge plus. Now I’m interested.
Seriously, thanks Norman. I didn’t know all that.
Of course, I still plan to learn Latin and Greek before I learn Esperanto because of there’s much I’d like to read in the original. After that maybe I'll relearn German and add Italian. Any Esperanto Bel Canto? Or do they not call it Bel Canto?
13 Dec 2007
Hopefully this won't dissuade you, Jason, but there actually is Esperanto hip-hop, believe it or not.
One of the better-known bands is the Finnish Dolchamar. You can sample some of their tracks online at Music Express, for example the track Äˆu vi pretas?. Be forewarned, however: it's quite catchy. You may not be able to get it out of your head for a while...
14 Dec 2007
A real hip hop Esperanto group: http://www.myspace.com/lapafklik
More Esperanto music:
19 Dec 2007
William R. Harmon
A comprehensive and well-written article, presenting in an even-handed manner the merits of Esperanto and other constructed languages. This article should be required reading for educators in the field of languages and linguistics.
Reporters have asked me on many occasions why I dedicate so much of my personal time and energy to promoting the international language Esperanto. My answer to them is that I feel obligated to help keep it alive and well until the world catches up to it.
11 Jan 2008
The DATE at the top says December 2008. But that must be a mistake of some inbuilt programme, I presume.
Also, there is an early mention of a Noble prize. Later the real prize, the Nobel Prize, is mentioned.
The whole article was WONDERFUL. Mi lauxdas vin!
14 Jan 2008
Thanks for an interesting and sweeping overview. It is natural that an error or two will creep in to such a work, but I found the facts generally in harmony with other sources that I have read. I will mention a few things that might merit correction or modification.
The 1986 World Esperanto Congress in China was a milestone in many ways, but most Esperantists consider 1987 to be the 100 year anniversary. The largest of the many gatherings that year was the one in Warsaw, Poland, which had more than 7000 registrants.
Couturat launched Ido in 1907, we are told, [in part] because "French nationalists and linguists were beginning to fear Esperantoï¿½s progress and favorable mention might eventually lead to a proposal to introduce it alongside of French and English as an official language in the League of Nations." The League of Nations was founded more than a decade later, in 1919. So while Berdichevsky is probably right about some of the motivations for Couturat and other Ido-supporters, the paragraph seems to indicate that the League of Nations predates the launch of Ido, rather than the reverse.
I believe that Iran/Persia did propose the use of Esperanto in the League of Nations, and that the French government was successful in blocking consideration of that proposal.
11 Feb 2008
Thank you very much for a really interesting article, it is constructive and informative even for us esperantists. I wonder how it comes that I have not seen anything about it in Esperantio. I will now start to make attention to this site... Koran dankon pro bonega artikolo, Norman Berdichevsky!
31 Jan 2009
E James Lieberman
Thanks for this fine essay. I first encountered Esperanto at 19, traveling in Yugoslavia. It has enhanced my understanding and use of my mother tongue, brought me in touch with individuals, groups, and cultures I would not have known otherwise, maybe even kept some neural circuits humming. Esperanto is one of the few subjects that intellectuals are permitted to attack without knowing anything about it.
30 Nov 2010
Mi dankegas, sinjoro Berdycxevsky!
7 Jan 2011
Yes, Esperanto is different, entirely different. Because it was naturally conceived by a child of genius in a proper age under unique coincidence of specific historic-ethnic-familial circumstances. It matured through the initiator's adolescence and survived a unique unsanctioned sociolinguistic experiment through 6 generations. In spite of inadequate approach to teaching, ignoring the very structure and nature of its coherent morphonemic structure, strict division of explicit grammatical markers and lexical items. Zamenhof succeeded in making a genuine genome of language, able to revive from a mere pocket book. He launched it as a working model with transparent mechanism, playable after a short instruction w/o passing through routine graded courses, just reading texts, nowadays - listening to audiobooks. It is a language to be taught by yourself, and it is a pity teachers usurped it as something easy to teach .
Approximately at the same time Tok Pisin origined and evolved to the official language of Papua - New Guinea Republic.
25 Feb 2011
A fine general article, suitable for passing to enquirers. Esperanto is not an end in itself; it was created to help further peace between different ethnic and linguistic communities. I believe that it has yet to prove itself. Its chance may come when dialogue in a common language about an international dispute brings about an understanding that cannot be achieved through interpreters, because the breakthrough requires people dealing with people directly. I believe that such a success will require its inner ideals playing a part.
26 Feb 2011
Messias J Souza
I really appreciated your article about ESPERANTO. I am an English teacher and also an Esperantist in Brazil. I lived more than five years in USA and I have good knowledge of English. Although I like English for the precise meaning in most cases, the English Language has an enormous vocabulary and is of difficult pronunciation. Many people commit the mistake saying that English is easy to learn. The fact is that most people that say that know English to survive as tourist only. No Language that can express a complete meaning in everything can be called an easy Language. At least Esperanto is a Language that can express everything and is much easier to learn. Some people say that Esperanto is six times easier than English. At least for us speakers of direct Latin derived Languages, Esperanto is much easier. I still believe that Esperanto should have more attention.
Posted on 08/04/2012 9:07 AM by NER
Saturday, 4 August 2012
The Letter That Reflects The Spirit Of The Age
I started to read a large employment ad -- on page 17 in a recent (July 28, 2012) Economist -- which had been placed by UNRWA. That organization, as all educated people know, was established in 1949, for "Arab refugees" (even then the word "refugee" was being applied inaccurately), that is those who had left -- beginning in November 1947 -- the area of Mandatory Palestine to get out of the way while the five Arab armies, in mid-May 1948, attacked, with everyone on the Arab side quite complacently expecting that, as Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League (and great-uncle to Ayman Al-Zawahiri) said, the Jews would soon suffer "a war of extermination" for "it will be a momentous massacre to be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades".UNRWA still exists, and has gotten out of U.N. control, or rather, it is protected by the Muslim and Arab bloc from critical scrutiny of its finances, its stafffing, its promotion of Arab propaganda. And those "Arab refugees" after 1967 metamorphosed, for political reasons, into "Palestinian refugees," and wherever this particular subset of Sunni Muslim Arabs live (there are a handful of Christians among them, hanging on by constantly showing -- see, for example, George Habash -- their anti-Israel fervor), among other Sunni Muslim Arabs, that is among people indistinguishable from themselves in any important way, they are on the permanent dole of the Western taxpayers who, through the U.N., fund UNRWA, and have done so for 63 ridiculous years. But we all know why those "Palestinians" are kept in non-camp camps, in Syria, in Jordan, and so on, and why they are not, in most of those places, among Arabs identical to them, they are not permitted to obtain citizenship or, in some cases, to work outside. Lt. Gen. Sir Alexander Galloway famously noted:
The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die.
I notice that the advertisement by UNRWA includes editorializing in its self-descripton: "Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip [how can one be a "refugee" if one is still in Gaza, or still in those parts of the former Mandatory Palestine that the Arabs renamed the "West Bank"?] to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight." [the only "solution" to their Arab-caused "plight" is for these people to be integrated into the surrounding population of other Arabs. In a very different period, the 1950s, when there were still international civil servants who had not been bewitched by decades of Arab and Muslim propaganda against Israel, based most successfully on the invention, after the defeat in the Six-Day War, of a "Palestinian people." , in a different period, Mr. Elfan Rees, Secretary of the United Nations Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, described how the Arab states themselves prevented the integration of those Arabs.
In The Refugee Problem Today and Tomorrow Rees wrote:
"I hold the view that, political issues aside, the Arab refugee problem is byfar the easiest postwar refugee problem to solve by integration. By faith, by language, by race and by social organization, they are indistinguishable from their fellows of the host countries. There is room for them, and land for them, in Syria and in Iraq. There is a developing demand for the kind of manpower that they represent. More unusually still, there is the money to make this integration possible."
But it isn't UNRWA, with its rolls full of local Arabs -- never "refugees" and never, some of them, from "Palestine" -- who saw a good thing, and have been on the international dole ever since -- a list where no one ever dies and lots and lots of people are born, and apparently being an "Arab" or now a "Palestinian" refugee is something that is transferred genetically -- that most infuriates.
No, what most infuriates is the non-English, the gobbledygook, in which the second paragraph, the one spelling out the qualifications and duties of the person whom UNRWA wishes to hire.
Here it is, in its dismal entirety:
Solutions Architect/Integration Manager, P-5
Based at Headquarters Amman, the Solutions Architect/Integration Manager is primarily responsible for the overall business and software architecture of the integrated ERP solution across the entire landscape and functional areas, as well as ensuring the appropriate design and m,plementation of process and techincal integration, in close cooerdinaton with Functional Strems.
This is something, of course. But what is it? It's the Letter that reflects the Spirit of the Age.
How do you like the Letter? How do you like the Spirit?
Posted on 08/04/2012 9:58 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 August 2012
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Pettin' In The Park (Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler)
Posted on 08/04/2012 10:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 August 2012
In Aleppo, Rebels "Bring Back Morality And Civilisation To Our Country"
Rebels fill Aleppo power vacuum, some disapprove
By Hadeel Al Shalchi
ALEPPO, Syria (Reuters) - Blindfolded, shuffling along in his slippers, the skinny young man is dragged across a rebel base in Aleppo by armed fighters who slap his back, head and face.
One of a handful of men held captive in the former school by rebels who control much of Syria's biggest city, he disappears down a flight of stairs to the basement, from where sounds of beating and screams emerge.
The 20-year-old man is being held because of a complaint of domestic assault, rebels say, alongside petty criminals and suspected members of the shabbiha militia which supports President Bashar al-Assad.
The fighters say they are trying to impose the rule of law over the areas they control, filling the vacuum left by the collapse of local authority and keeping public services running.
But not everyone in Aleppo and its rural hinterland is happy with the Free Syrian Army rebels, some saying their vigilante operations are often barely disguised vendettas and that they are arrogant and interfering.
"If they don't like the actions of a person they tie him up, beat him and arrest him," said a man who identified himself as Abu Ahmed in the town of Azaz, north of Aleppo.
At the Aleppo base, rebel guards escort a series of limping, blindfolded men to the bathroom throughout the day, one man clutching his stomach in pain after a beating session.
Abu Zaher, a 40-year-old commander and administrative leader of the fighters at this base, says his men are working to maintain order across their area of control.
"We are not just a fighting army," he said. "We are also a group with a vision for reform, we want to bring back morality and civilization to our country."
Military commander Abu Ali said the rebels "organize flour to be delivered to the ovens to keep the flow of bread baked for the neighbors, and we deal with domestic issues between couples who come for our protection."
"We fight petty theft in the streets to keep thieves away."
A stream of people walk through the entrance of the base during the day with a range of requests - donations for fuel, help rebuilding a house, requests to release cars confiscated by the police for traffic violations.
Abu Ali said they had also tried to keep salaries flowing to the cleaning services in the city to pick up trash.
"We are trying to control the situation so that when Assad falls completely there is little chaos," Abu Zaher said. "There are those carrying weapons and pretending to be part of the Free Syrian Army, but who are in fact thieves."
"We have caught men who fill up fuel cans with water and sell it to people as though it is petrol," he said, adding that his men dispense Sharia (religious law) against thieves.
Many of those inside the basement prison are accused of being members of the shabbiha, the pro-Assad militia. Their confiscated weapons sit in a pile in Abu Zaher's office.
Abu Ali said that many of those they catch are released, if they agree to defect to the rebels or can prove they were forced to work against the revolution.
"We caught this guy ordering people at a protest not to chant against Assad," Abu Ali said of the skinny man, dressed in jeans with a mop of curly hair, who was blindfolded and beaten as he was walked across the base.
"He's a shabbiha, but he now says he has reformed and wants to be part of the Free Syrian Army so we're letting him go."
But those found guilty of killing civilians or rebel fighters will be sent to "courts" in Azaz to be judged by the top commander of the Amr bin al-Aas brigade, identified only as Ahmed.
"We use Sharia (Islamic law) to judge our prisoners," Ahmed says in Azaz. "We use a number of judges who are have studied Islamic law and a number of witnesses and judge them accordingly."
"The Islamic ruling for the killer is that he must be killed - so only those who we know have murdered people in this war are shot dead wherever they stand."
REBELS ALARM RESIDENTS
The growing clout of the rebels, and signs of rivalry and infighting among them, have alarmed some residents.
"The Free Syria Army is causing us headaches now," said Abu Ahmed, who works with journalists in Azaz. People the rebels don't like are beaten and arrested, he said.
"Personality differences between brigade members are being settled using kidnappings and force. They are self-righteous and we are not happy about it."
He said that on Friday they heard of a man from the town who was taken hostage because he was selling vegetables to a number of Kurds near the Turkish border.
"Because the Kurds didn't stand with us in the revolution and the Free Syrian Army doesn't like them, they decided to arrest him and also asked for a ransom of 25,000 pounds ($400) to let him go."
Abu Zayd, a 22-year-old law student, said the rebels were interfering in Azaz. "They started bossing us around in our neighborhoods," he said.
"They would try to organize the bread lines but then would let their armed friends cut ahead of the civilians in the line, and use their connections within the army to give each other preferential treatment," he said.
"That's why civilians are very focused now to send a message to the Free Syrian Army that we appreciate their work but they need to keep away from our civilian life. If they don't, we will keep taking to the streets against them."
Posted on 08/04/2012 10:53 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 August 2012
Fascicle O-S Of Esperanto-Volapuk Dictionary Now Available
A posting at NER today about Esperanto prompted me to inquire from the Trowbridge Press in Aberystwyth as to whether the long-promised 0-S Fascicle of the Esperanto-Volapul Dictionary was at long last ready for publication. And I am glad to say that, a little late -- for O-S was originally promised for publication the end of 2011 (but you know how these fascicles always take more time than anyone anticipates) it now is. For more on this, I have reprinted below the original post from December 2007:
Monday, 10 December 2007
The staff of Trowbridge Press at 23 Bryn Mill Road, Aberystwyth, Wales is pleased to announce to readers of the New English Review that the second fascicle, H-N, of our ongoing project, the Esperanto-Volapuk Dictionary, has just been published. It can be ordered directly from the publisher for 230 pounds (or $30,000 American dollars) and also may be found at leading booksellers (Foyle's, Blackwell's, Heffer's, Heywood Hill) or bought on-line. At the same time, one can still order, from the publisher, or those booksellers, or on-line, copies of the first fascicle, A-G, which remains in print.
We are keenly aware that eleven years have passed since that first fascicle was published, but we are convinced that the remaining two fascicles will appear at much shorter intervals than the latest one. This speeding-up is due to both technological advances, such as the replacement of the office's single Apple IIe by two Dell Inspirons, and to the enlargement of our full-time staff from one to two. We expect that the third fascicle, O-S, will be published within four years, and the final fascicle T-Z, is now scheduled to appear three years after that.
Indeed, so sure are we of our ability to bring the present project to completion in timely fashion that we are already busily engaged in doing research on generous transatlantic foundations, in order to apply for multi-year grants that will be used to support our next project. And despite the impoverished American dollar, we are hoping that the size of the grants we receive will offset that decrease in that poor dollar's value.
Still in the planning stages, that future project is one that we believe can best be undertaken, and successfully brought to completion, by our new team. And that future project, dreamed of by so many scholars for so long, follows almost naturally from our present one. It is nothing less than the compilation of the first Volapuk-Esperanto Dictionary. No doubt this will require plenty of hard and dedicated work. There will be, no doubt, discouragements along the way. Some welll-wishers have already told us that they believe a Volapuk-Esperanto Dictionary will prove to be much more difficult an undertaking than the Esperanto-Volapuk dictionary. They have counselled caution, told us we should not try to push ourselves or rush things, or to assume that such a dictionary can be completed in less time than it is taking to complete the one now still underway.
We are mindful of such advice from those who wish us only well. But we remain confident. Dedicated lexicographers are not easily fazed.
Posted on 08/04/2012 10:58 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 August 2012
James Hansen On Climate Change
From The Washington Post:
Study by ‘global warming godfather’: Texas drought, Europe heat waves are climate change
By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The relentless, weather-gone-crazy type of heat that has blistered the United States and other parts of the world in recent years is so rare that it can’t be anything but man-made global warming, says a new statistical analysis from a top government scientist.
The research by a man often called the “godfather of global warming” says that the likelihood of such temperatures occurring from the 1950s through the 1980s was rarer than 1 in 300. Now, the odds are closer to 1 in 10, according to the study by NASA scientist James Hansen. He says that statistically what’s happening is not random or normal, but pure and simple climate change.
“This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact,” Hansen told The Associated Press in an interview.
Hansen is a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and a professor at Columbia University. But he is also a strident activist who has called for government action to curb greenhouse gases for years. While his study was published online Saturday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, it is unlikely to sway opinion among the remaining climate change skeptics.
However, several climate scientists praised the new work.
In a blunt departure from most climate research, Hansen’s study — based on statistics, not the more typical climate modeling — blames these three heat waves purely on global warming:
—Last year’s devastating Texas-Oklahoma drought.
—The 2010 heat waves in Russia and the Middle East, which led to thousands of deaths.
—The 2003 European heat wave blamed for tens of thousands of deaths, especially among the elderly in France.
The analysis was written before the current drought and record-breaking temperatures that have seared much of the United States this year. But Hansen believes this too is another prime example of global warming at its worst.
The new research makes the case for the severity of global warming in a different way than most scientific studies and uses simple math instead of relying on complex climate models or an understanding of atmospheric physics. It also doesn’t bother with the usual caveats about individual weather events having numerous causes.
The increase in the chance of extreme heat, drought and heavy downpours in certain regions is so huge that scientists should stop hemming and hawing, Hansen said. “This is happening often enough, over a big enough area that people can see it happening,” he said.
Scientists have generally responded that it’s impossible to say whether single events are caused by global warming, because of the influence of natural weather variability.
However, that position has been shifting in recent months, as other studies too have concluded climate change is happening right before our eyes.
Hansen hopes his new study will shift people’s thinking about climate change and goad governments into action. He wrote an op-ed piece that appeared online Friday in the Washington Post.
“There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time,” he wrote.
The science in Hansen’s study is excellent “and reframes the question,” said Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who was a member of the Nobel Prize-winning international panel of climate scientists that issued a series of reports on global warming.
“Rather than say, ‘Is this because of climate change?’ That’s the wrong question. What you can say is, ‘How likely is this to have occurred with the absence of global warming?’ It’s so extraordinarily unlikely that it has to be due to global warming,” Weaver said.
For years scientists have run complex computer models using combinations of various factors to see how likely a weather event would happen without global warming and with it. About 25 different aspects of climate change have been formally attributed to man-made greenhouse gases in dozens of formal studies. But these are generally broad and non-specific, such as more heat waves in some regions and heavy rainfall in others.
Another upcoming study by Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, links the 2010 Russian heat wave to global warming by looking at the underlying weather that caused the heat wave. He called Hansen’s paper an important one that helps communicate the problem.
But there is bound to be continued disagreement. Previous studies had been unable to link the two, and one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that the Russian drought, which also led to devastating wildfires, was not related to global warming.
White House science adviser John Holdren praised the paper’s findings in a statement. But he also said it is true that scientists can’t blame single events on global warming: “This work, which finds that extremely hot summers are over 10 times more common than they used to be, reinforces many other lines of evidence showing that climate change is occurring and that it is harmful.”
Skeptical scientist John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville said Hansen shouldn’t have compared recent years to the 1950s-1980s time period because he said that was a quiet time for extremes.
But Derek Arndt, director of climate monitoring for the federal government’s National Climatic Data Center, said that range is a fair one and often used because it is the “golden era” for good statistics.
Granger Morgan, head of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, called Hansen’s study “an important next step in what I expect will be a growing set of statistically-based arguments.”
In a landmark 1988 study, Hansen predicted that if greenhouse gas emissions continue, which they have, Washington, D.C., would have about nine days each year of 95 degrees or warmer in the decade of the 2010s. So far this year, with about four more weeks of summer, the city has had 23 days with 95 degrees or hotter temperatures.
Hansen says now he underestimated how bad things would get.
And while he hopes this will spur action including a tax on the burning of fossil fuels, which emit carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, others doubt it.
Science policy expert [!]Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado said Hansen clearly doesn’t understand social science, thinking a study like his could spur action. Just because something ought to happen, doesn’t mean it will, he said.
In an email, he wrote: “Hansen is pursuing a deeply flawed model of policy change, one that will prove ineffectual and with its most lasting consequence a further politicization of climate science (if that is possible!).”
Posted on 08/04/2012 9:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 4 August 2012
Egyptian Government Demands Release Of Egyptian Prisoner At Guantanamo
Egypt demands release of Guantanamo detainee
By Ernesto Londoño and Ingy Hassieb
CAIRO — The Egyptian government requested this week that the United States release the sole Egyptian detained at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, language that amounts to a stark demand by a country that has been among Washington’s most reliable counterterrorism allies in the Middle East.
The case of Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed al-Sawah, 54, whom the United States accuses of belonging to al-Qaeda, has the potential to become the first thorn in the relationship between the two governments since the election of Egypt’s new Islamist president.
Amr Roushdy, a spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, said Friday that the country’s embassy in Washington had formally made the request to the State Department on Tuesday.
“He was not charged with any crime until now,” Roushdy said. “He is an Egyptian citizen detained in an illegal manner.”
The Defense Department charged Sawah in 2008 with providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy, alleging that he was a member of al-Qaeda who specialized in explosives. His case is also significant because he has become one of the most valuable informants detained at the U.S. military camp in Cuba. The charges were dropped in March and no new ones have been filed.
Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said the military does not comment on individual inmates unless they are in court proceedings or are being resettled. He added that “detention in wartime until the end of hostilities has long been recognized as legitimate under international law.”
Brock Johnson, a spokesman at the State Department, said in a written statement that U.S. officials were “working with the Egyptian government on this matter.”
Roushdy did not comment on the allegations against Sawah, who has been confined for 11 years, but said that Egypt is worried about what he called the inmate’s declining health. “He’s an old man,” the spokesman added.
“We are excited that the country of Egypt has asked for Sawah to be repatriated there,” said Sawah’s military attorney, Maj. Sean Gleason. “He has a strong extended family network in Alexandria. It would be the ideal place for him.”
Egyptian analysts said the timing of the request, coming roughly a month after Mohamed Morsi became president, should come as no surprise. Morsi is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a venerable Islamist group that carried out violent acts decades ago in the pursuit of political goals. The group has long since abandoned violence as a tactic.
Military documents say that Sawah was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood when he attended secondary school in the coastal city of Alexandria in the 1970s.
Khaled Abu Bakr, a member of the international lawyers group Union Internationale des Avocats, said Egypt’s ascendant Islamist groups, which rallied around Morsi, are adamantly opposed to the detention of Muslims by the United States.
“There’s no doubt, and we must be honest, that we are now before a president with a religious background,” he said, explaining that by making the demand, Morsi could be trying to deliver on his promises to Islamist voters. “Now is the time to pay the bills.”
Sawah, who is also a citizen of Bosnia, was taken into custody after he was wounded in eastern Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, according to a U.S. military summary sheet of his designation as an enemy combatant that was made public by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The sheet says that Sawah admitted that he was a member of al-Qaeda. The military also alleged in the document that Sawah attended terror-training camps and once met the group’s leader, the late Osama bin Laden.
U.S. officials have said that Sawah is among Guantanamo's most cooperative detainees, a distinction that has earned him a few perks in custody, such as secluded housing and the right to garden, write and paint.
Egypt, which receives about $1.3 billion annually in U.S. military aid, was among Washington’s most dependable Middle East partners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that sparked a worldwide hunt for members of al-Qaeda. The CIA sent terror suspects to Egypt for interrogation as part of its “extraordinary rendition” program. Egypt’s security forces had a well-known history of using torture.
The relationship between Cairo and Washington has been tested since the wintertime 2011 revolution that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and some U.S. officials have expressed concern about the future of cooperation on security matters in the post-Mubarak era.
Nabil Fahmy, dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo, said the country’s new president is probably making a statement that his administration will not be as malleable as the last one.
“Irrespective of the merits of this case, I think Egypt will be more insistent that normal legal procedures are applied on Egyptians accused of any criminal offenses abroad and this will be the new policy,” he said. “We will respect the laws of other countries when normal legal procedures are being applied.”
Posted on 08/04/2012 10:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald